- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2008


If there is one thing this year’s Presidential election brought to light, it is that Republicans clearly need a new message.

Democrats were able to control the salient issues of the campaign, largely because the actions of national Republicans allowed them to do so. The economy was the overwhelming issue on the minds of voters. Democrats were able to define the meaning of this issue based primarily on the extreme increases in federal spending under Republican control, combined with a severe downturn in the economy. Once it was clear that the economy was going to be the deciding factor in this race, the Republicans were simply unable to frame this issue in a way in which voters could relate.

The Republican revolution of 1994 was significant in that Republicans were able to define the issues of salience. Republicans were successful in blaming Congress for many of the nation’s woes. Many of the tenants of the 1994 Republican Contract with America were directed at reforming the administration of Congress itself. The GOP also successfully made the case that fiscal responsibility needed to be introduced into the federal government. Albeit, framing these issues was made easier with the relatively unpopular President Clinton. Clinton’s 45 percent approval rating in 1994, combined with the success of the GOP in defining the issues, resulted in a 54-seat gain in the House and an 8-seat gain in the Senate. The GOP was finally in charge of Congress. The GOP also picked up numerous gubernatorial and state legislative seats.

Another factor in the 1994 GOP victory was the shift in Americans’ ideology. Americans drifted from the Left during the post-Watergate era to the Right over the succeeding thirty years. I would submit that Americans have continued to shift to the Right, particularly on the issue of fiscal responsibility. The 2008 elections are not evidence that Americans have shifted to the Left on fiscal responsibility. The elections did show that the Republican Party needs to be able to stick to an agenda of fiscal responsibility and effectively communicate that agenda.

In order to accomplish this, the GOP will need to have a national agenda that focuses on fiscal responsibility and provide meaning to that issue that resonates with the voters. If Republicans are to regain control of Congress and eventually the Presidency, voters must see the connection between true fiscal responsibility and their own well being.

Obviously, communicating effectively with the American public requires an effective communicator.

I know of no Republican on the national stage who is a better communicator than Michael Steele, a leading candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Mr. Steele is the current chairman of GOPAC, a leading Republican candidate recruiting and training organization. Mr. Steele is also the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Mr. Steele, backing up former Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., was able to help Republicans take the Maryland Governor’s Mansion for the first time in 36 years. It would be a monumental understatement to say that this was not an easy task.

Mr. Steele’s communication abilities are unsurpassed. He has a complete mastery of public speaking, as well as significant experience with national broadcast media. His exceedingly well-received speaking appearances at two consecutive Republican National Conventions helped propel him onto the national stage. He has also has charisma that is very rare among our leaders today.

Mr. Steele also has the conservative credentials needed to energize the Republican Party, but in a way that will resonate with the American people. The best hope for the GOP is that Mr. Steele will be successful in his bid for chairmanship of the RNC. I submit that his mastery of communication skills is essential for the Republican Party to get back on the path to success.

Michael A. Geppi is 3rd Vice Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

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