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In March, I reported on the first signs of new life from the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the disastrous 2012 election cycle, in which conservatives lost ground in the US Senate despite expectations of actually taking over that chamber of congress. Given the rise of new media and the stagnation of legacy media, the NRSC has taken the initiative to facilitate communications by creating a new blogger outreach position. Now, it appears that this initiative is starting to include other new marketing efforts.
Yesterday, the NRSC released the following web ad, clearly designed to improve and repair the Republican brand:
The tone of the ad is undeniably positive, and strikes a chord. This is what they have to say in describing their new tone:
Republicans are sometimes criticized as being the party of No.
That's not actually the case. We say YES a lot.
But too often our ads focus on winning the Washington argument, but we forget to speak to the average American and define that we ARE about helping people.
That's why we created the 'Yes' campaign. We say YES on liberty, jobs and opportunity for ALL Americans.
But the unresolved question is whether the NRSC will apply the same self-critical analysis when choosing candidates to back. Too many times, it seems, the wrong horse has been pushed onto the track. Will this new makeover include candidates who will stand on principle, or will we be given another round of compromisers who govern based more on polling data than doing what's right for the limited government movement?
And this leads me to a consistent gripe I've had with many issue and candidate campaigns for the past several years, both on a local and national level. Too often the consultant class has settled for a campaign-in-a-box style of message that is stale, stilted and disconnected from the target audience. How many commercials have we seen that had no connection to the issues you and I care about? How much negative advertising must we slog through in the run-up to Election Day? And how many candidates won't take a stand on issues for fear of upsetting someone? When the consultants are more interested with their own egos than connecting with voters, they've already lost.
The question remains, however: is this merely an effort to change surface appearances, or will this lead to a more coordinated and comprehensive attempt to fundamentally change the Republican message? Web ads can be very powerful, and can really deliver a strong message - but all that can be completely undone by a tin-eared candidate who doesn't really understand how to listen to his or her potential constituency.
And to be fair, video ads alone find easier success when focused on a single issue - a ballot initiative, say, or a recruitment drive. When meant to back up candidates, they can backfire if the voters perceive that the candidate doesn't match the rhetoric of the organization backing him.
All in all, this is an intriguing new approach, and the message is undeniably attractive. Now let's go find some conservative Senate candidates who can take this and put it into their own words to attract voters to their cause - and not let this effort backfire. Because if the candidates don't match the rhetoric, the Republican Party will find itself in the unenviable position of being even less trusted by the voters.