It’s called the “The Eleventh Commandment,” and it was popularized by former President Ronald Reagan. The commandment states, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
As the 2012 Republican primary season nears its boiling point, some conservatives are concerned poisonous rhetoric among candidates is alienating middle-of-the-road voters.
"You have to move the mushy middle,” says Craig Copland, author of 2012 Conservative Election Handbook (www.conservawiki.com), a guide to winning campaigns at any level. He contends it is always better to elect a “soft conservative” over a “soft liberal.” Those are two categories of voters, along with independents, rounding out the “mushy middle.”
With more than 600,000 elected offices at stake throughout the United States, “the GOP has got to stop circling the wagons and shooting inwards,” Copland says. His goal is to fill every one of those positions with a conservative.
Here are ways to get more conservatives elected:
• The “Four Box” method: This includes talking points that can be used for and against your candidate, and points used for and against his or her opponent. This method allows campaign managers to easily navigate and accentuate key points. Knowledge is power.
• Narrative & Emotion: In politics, “a good story always beats a rational argument,” says Copland.Use strong emotions to move people into action. A compelling anecdote about wasteful tax-and-spend liberals elicits deeper feelings than a list of budget items.
• Target, Target, Target: Among the five categories of voters, two are predictable – hard-core conservatives and hard-core liberals. Those votes are taken, which is why it is essential to focus a proactive conservative message on soft conservatives, independents, and soft liberals. Fight for what is available.
• Media cluster: Getting the word out most effectively means using all tools at your disposal, including television, radio, print, media events, debates, speeches, and the internet.
• Content matters: There is a common denominator between Google searches and a campaign message – content. A candidate’s visibility matters only if his or her message is properly managed.
“You may have the purest conservative credentials,” says Copland. “But if you can’t win the election, then you’re only entertainment.”
Entertainment value has been a key ingredient during this primary cycle, with nearly every conservative candidate enjoying front-runner status, at least for a short while. Copland is skeptical, however, about whether all publicity is good publicity.
“In politics, a single gaffe can end an election and ruin a career,” Copeland says.
Along with proactive measures are the missteps to avoid. These mistakes include adultery, conflicts of interest, lies, breaking election rules, and embarrassing records such as video footage, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts.
“This is a handbook,” says Copland. “It contains no theory, no stories – only instructions. It tries to be honest and blunt."