Politics and Grassroots

Gingrich and his “campaign on ideas”

Newt Gingrich’s assertion that he and his consultants had a “strategic difference” over the colour and the shape of his Presidential campaign called to mind a slogan from years gone by: “In your heart, you know he’s right.”

Gingrich’s stated goal is admirable: a campaign based on ideas and “solutions” rather than… well, rather than whatever it is that campaigns are based on.  Depending on whose chatter you believe, his consultants felt that the campaign should have been more oriented toward grassroots retail politics that feature the candidate spending lots of time in Iowa, attending campaign events, and engaging in the type of retail politics that end with him asking voters for their support.

There’s a reason that many consultants like that approach: it leads to victories, and consultants are paid to win.  When Gingrich reached the apex of his power in 1995, the “consultant mindset” on political races was very different: political pros were high on television ads, which were expensive and profitable.  Especially in the last ten years, there has been a better appreciation of the grassroots ground game – starting with Democratic efforts in 2000 and cemented into the DNA of both parties by the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign.

For Gingrich to criticize the “consultant culture” now is less powerful than it would have been 15 years ago.

Ideas cannot survive without tactics which convey those ideas to the voters; tactics that reach the voters without ideas will not win elections.  The two sides represent a ying and yang of campaign politics that Gingrich appears ready to ignore.

In 1964, supporters of Barry Goldwater understood that their candidate had all the right ideas.  The fact that we was defeated so soundly led many to realize that isn’t enough to win an elections.

Elections are fought for ideas, not with ideas.  Gingrich’s words and the campaign exodus suggest he is pursuing the latter.  If his actions match his words over the next few months, he might as well not even participate in the Republican primary.

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