Now that the dust has settled on the 2010 midterm elections, it’s slowly becoming clear just how monumental the results really are. We saw an extreme left-wing agenda suffer a crushing defeat. At the ballot box, voters took Obamacare and the stimulus and wrapped them right around the necks of those same House members and senators who had arrogantly dismissed the concerns voiced in countless town halls and Tea Party rallies up and down the country. Voters sent commonsense conservatives a clear mandate to hold the line against the Obama agenda. […]
The first lesson is simple: Set the narrative. This year it wasn’t too difficult to tell the story of the election: It was about stopping an out-of-control Congress and an out-of-touch White House. In races across the country, Republican candidates ran on the message that the Left was bankrupting America with budget-busting spending bills that mortgage our children’s future, burden the private sector with uncertainty, and cripple our much-needed job growth. […]
In the next two years, if all we end up doing is adopting some tax hikes here, some Obama-agenda compromises there, and a thousand little measures that do nothing to get us out of the economic mess we’re in, the same voters that put the GOP in office will vote them out in the next election. If that happens, the story of 2012 may well be that of the GOP going the way of the Whigs. No, the American people are expecting us to be bold and big in our economic reform to allow the private sector to create jobs and soar! […]
In the coming weeks there will also be a debate about the viability of particular candidates. Anyone with the courage to throw his or her hat in the ring and stand up and be counted always has my respect. Some of them were stronger candidates than others, but they all had the courage to be “in the arena.” The second lesson of this election is one a number of the candidates had to learn to their cost: Fight back the lies immediately and consistently. Some candidates assumed that, once they received their party’s nomination, the conservative message would automatically carry the day. Unfortunately, political contests aren’t always about truth and justice. Powerful vested interests will combine to keep bad candidates in place and good candidates out of office. Once they let themselves be defined as “unfit” (decorated war hero Joe Miller) or “heartless” (pro-life, international women’s rights champion Carly Fiorina), good candidates often find it virtually impossible to get their message across. The moral of their stories: You must be prepared to fight for your right to be heard.
Another important lesson is that we will need the mother of all GOTV efforts if we wish to win in 2012. Sending donations isn’t enough when push comes to shove. Millions of boots on the ground are needed, and voter-fraud prevention must be addressed before election eve.
The last, and possibly most important, lesson is that a winning conservative message must always be carefully crafted. If candidates are going to talk boldly on the campaign trail about entitlement reform and reducing the size of government, they must be prepared to word it in such a way as to minimize the inevitable fear-mongering accusations of “extremism.” We are quickly approaching a fiscal turning point where these crucial reform discussions will be mandatory. We need to speak about them in a way that the public will embrace. During his first run for the presidency in 1976, Ronald Reagan found out that election campaigns aren’t necessarily the best settings for quasi-academic discussions about issues like Social Security reform. So for his next campaign, he resolved to build his platform out of tried and tested policies like tax cuts. Successful candidates in the next election cycle will have to test and develop similar policy platforms that address the crucial issues of entitlement reform and shrinking government in a way that the voters will find pragmatic and even attractive....
— Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president.