The midterm elections are history. Republicans retook the United States Senate for the first time since 2006. In the United States House of Representatives they increased their majority to the largest since the presidency of Herbert Hoover. The Republican campaign theme was one of opposition to President Obama and his policies and voters responded with one of the greatest repudiations of a sitting President’s party since Harry Truman in 1946.
A negative communications strategy of opposition to President Obama gave the Republicans their victory. But now that they have won, how must their communication strategy change if they hope to maintain and even expand their majorities?
- Republicans must change their communication strategy from one of simply being opposed to Barack Obama to one that offers positive conservative alternatives. The Republicans need to show voters what they are for and what they believe in. To be successful, Republicans need to communicate their ideas that they believe will solve the nation’s problems in a way different then politics as usual. They need to show a vision. In short, they need to take a leaf out of their icon, Ronald Reagan’s playbook.
- The Republicans need to communicate that they are willing to work with President Obama as a partner if he is willing to reach across the aisle to them. Many voters have complained about the lack of willingness of each side to try to come together to offer concrete solutions. By making that statement, Republicans would seize the high ground in terms of a communication strategy.
- Use effective spokespersons. Republicans have suffered lately because many of their spokespersons have come across as grumpy old white men. With a large number of female legislators such as Mia Love and Joni Ernst, and an African-American Senator in South Carolina’s Tim Scott, Republican leaders should put these leaders at the forefront in communicating the Republican message and showing minorities that their party is an inclusive party.
- Communicate their opposition to President Obama in positive terms. Many voters agree with the Republican message of opposition to President Obama. The voters don’t like it conveyed in harsh and biting rhetoric. Republicans need to frame their opposition in positive ways, keep it from being personal, and let voters know how their opposition to President Obama will benefit voters.
- Keep the message on results. One of the great failings Republicans in the House of Representatives have had is in communicating what they have accomplished. This failure has led many to dub the outgoing Congress, a do-nothing Congress and register some of the lowest approval numbers ever. The challenge for Republicans is to communicate to voters what they are achieving.
Republicans won a historic landslide with a communication strategy of negative attacks. As they now seek to maintain and increase their majority, they must change communication strategies or their majority will be short lived.