In my experience in strategic planning, developing a strategic plan at the organizational level involves at some level answering the following simple questions:
- What do we do?
- Who do we do it for?
- What’s our reason for doing it?
In business this is pretty easy to align to customers, competition, driving performance, shareholder return etc.
Along to the way organizations create vision statements, stakes in the ground if you will for their groups to rally around, they create goals and objectives and tactics to deliver on those objectives and they attempt to deliver on the strategy.
Great organizations constantly review those three questions and add two more questions to the classic list:
- What ecosystem do we live in?
I’m not referring to some rainforest environmental psycho-babble here, I’m referring the environment every organization finds itself existing in and reacting too.
- What are we great at?
Soar with you strengths, a focused organization is more successful than a generalist company that tries to be great at everything.
And now, my point-
Applying this thinking to the Presidential campaign, I’m absolutely flabbergasted, although I don’t know exactly why, at how the Republican Party can absolutely drop the ball on what should be a core competency of theirs; strategic planning.
I believe there is the opportunity this election cycle for the Republicans to walk away with the White House as easily as President Obama did in 2008, if they but take a few minutes to consider a more mainstream and populist strategy. A simple one they could have borrowed from Democratic strategist and human/lizard hybrid James Carville; “It’s the economy stupid.”
The economy is the one issue that resonates across the political spectrum, and its one issue that President and the Democrats have a difficult time defending. Not because they have done it all wrong and the Republicans have a plan which will do it right, the economy is a great issue for the politicians you can always attack the party in power about it and no one really knows how to do anything about it.
Hence the reason economists are more like weather forecasters than scientists. I’ve long thought that that really, there’s very little a President can do to improve an economy by policy, it’s too complicated, and too many factors come into play.
Economic debates are perfect political fodder because you can move opinions and you can take positions and still not alienate voters, you simply have to sound like you know what you’re talking about and you’ll be able to generate support, and you can always do that against the party in power.
When the Tea Party came along in 2010 or so, the message they tried to get out was this;
“We’re a non-partisan movement focused only on taxes and deficit reduction”. Implied in there was the idea that social issues were not of concern.
That lasted about 4 minutes. Not because I think the Tea Party wasn’t sincere in their statements, rather because the early adopters we’re anything but non-partisan, they’re as quick to adopt populist ideas about taxes and economics as they are conservative social positions.
Interesting side note, when Gov. Romney suggests that 47% of America feel that they’re victims I think the Governor is off by about 57%. The Tea Parties focus is on their own victimhood, they’re being oppressed by a big spending, big tax government that’s trying to redistribute their wealth. Just say’n.
For the Republicans all of their strategies are moot if they can’t get their candidate elected, and at the moment they seem to be doing all they can to keep that from happening.
In order to win, they have to sway voters in the middle. They should be studying those voters, understanding what’s important to them and hitting those messages hard. They should also be mitigating their weaknesses with those voters, and in doing so reducing the effectiveness of the opposition’s arguments against them. It’s this last point they’re missing big time.
Rather than focus on the issues the Republicans, have allowed themselves to be dragged into a series of red herring issues that will turn the middle right back to the President.
- Immigration. Hispanics may like conservative values, but they sure don’t like being singled out for their papers like the Arizona law suggests. The Republicans, playing to their base, have supported this law, and alienated all but the staunchest Hispanic conservative voters.
- Dream Act- Romney would send kids who have lived here all their lives back to where they came from, aliens in their own land, because of decisions their parents made. Not going to endear them to Hispanics.
- Abortion. We’re still talking about this in 2012. I would hamper to guess that no one has changed their mind on this issue in 30 years. This issue polarizes the opposition and is a litmus test for many voters. No expectations for rape or incest, not only misogynistic, but probably alienates another 30% of women voters to the Dem side. Best to leave this alone.
- 47%- this gaffe probably not as damaging as it seems unless it resonates with the 15% undecided. But the bigger problem with this, it gives the dems an arsenal of pointed material for the ad campaigns. And they’re going to need it because the Romney side is going to outspend the Democrats by an estimated 2:1.
The Republican base, represented by the Tea Party these days, there is no circumstance where they would vote for Obama, they hate him for so many reasons it’s not funny. They represent about 25% of the electorate. The 47% on Obama side.. well I think it’s more like 40%, they’re a lost cause forget about them.
The Middle, what local Right Winger Jason Lewis calls road kill, have decided every presidential election in my lifetime. If Romney could find some of his old self, the one that was more centrist, the one that was elected governor of Massachusetts, that Romney would waltz into the White house. Instead he’s giving voters who would otherwise support him on economic issues reasons to vote against him. The Republicans are the minority party, they need to win voters from the other side, not give them reasons to vote against them.