McCain vs. the Republican Brand

I want to spend some time this morning taking a realistic look at the Republican brand. Let’s recall back in 2004, when sites like RedState began to appear, the idea was to engage the Internet community in order to build a strong party identity, and begin to turn the Blue states Red. We were looking at a significant Presidential win, a 5 seat Senate majority and control of the House.

For whatever reasons, that momentum was squandered by 2006.

We can blame Congress, the President, the war, or ourselves, but the bottom line is that we lost our momentum and are in a poor political position. Ironically, our presidential candidate is outperforming our brand, significantly.

Yesterday, Rasmussen released a detailed look at voter trust on issues for both McCain and for the generic parties. The results are good for McCain, but not for Republicans.Let’s start with McCain.

We are now midway through August and the polls remain close. The left and the media are still fantisizing about an Obama landslide. This Politico story is another example of what makes me tear my hair out in frustration due to lack of understanding of polling history (I seem to be the only one in the world who has noticed the historic center-right shift in 9 out of the last 10 elections).

Obama will not only not win in a landslide, he likely won’t even win. McCain should beat him easily, and this Rasmussen data shows why.

The voter ranking of top issues looks like this (from highest to lowest, percentage of respondants listing issue as very important):

Economy (79%), National Security/GWOT (66%), Gov’t Ethics & Corruption (59%), Iraq (59%), Health Care (59%), Education (59%), Social Security (55%), Taxes (55%), Immigration (48%), Abortion (37%).

There are a couple takeaways from this list. First of all gas and food prices, and secondarily the housing crisis is, by far the top issue for voters. Second, national security does matter a lot, while slightly less, but still high numbers rate ethics, the war, health, education, social security and taxes as very important. The issue that most people just don’t give a damn about is abortion. This last point is important to remember when talking about Obama’s abortion stance, and making decisions on which issues to raise with the voters.

On these issues, McCain and Obama are individually trusted as follows:

Economy: McCain leads 45-44, but on energy he leads 46-42, balance the budget 43-40 and trade agreement 45-40. This is a slight advantage toward McCain in all topics related to the economy. It means that on the most important issue to voters, McCain has a slight edge.

National Security: McCain leads 51-40. This is a huge advantage toward McCain on the second most important issue for the voters. If there were only two issues, then the choice would be obvious. However, we have 6 other issues that are tied for third in the minds of the voters.

Ethics: Obama leads 46-44, giving him a slight advantage.

Iraq: McCain leads 51-39, giving him a huge advantage on this issue.

Health Care: Obama leads 46-41, giving him a comfortable lead on this issue. If Obama can make this a topic of the campaign, he could generate movement toward him with the voters.

Education: Obama leads 43-39, giving Obama a slight lead, however these numbers are very low for both candidates. Again, if Obama could make this a topic of the election, he could get traction.

Social Security: McCain leads 44-38, giving him a decent edge in what has always been a strong issue for Democrats. This is unmined territory for McCain.

Taxes: McCain leads 47-40, giving him a decent advantage in a signature Republican issue.

Immigration: McCain leads 45-36, a surprisingly strong lead in an issue that is important to slightly less than half the voters.

Abortion: McCain leads 40-34, a decent lead on an issue most voters don’t care about.

Putting it all together, McCain is even with Obama on the top issue of the day, which is likely the reason for the tightness of the polls. But as people start to consider their decisions more carefully, and respond to the campaigns, then the lower ranked issues become large factors in the decision. McCain has strong leads in 5 of these 8 issues, compared to slight Obama leads in 3 of the 8 issues. Abortion, when it matters, is a McCain strength. The most important point is that the three issues where Obama leads (Ethics, Health Care, and Education) are not part of the campaign rhetoric.

Now for the bad news. Ignoring McCain, and looking at just the Republican brand, we are losing badly.

Economy: Democrats lead 51-39.

National Security: Democrats lead 48-44.

Ethics: Democrats lead 44-28.

Iraq: Democrats lead 49-40.

Health Care: Democrats lead 52-37.

Education: Democrats lead 46-36.

Social Security: Democrats lead 45-37.

Taxes: Taxes Republicans lead 44-41.

Immigration: Democrats lead 45-35.

Abortion: Democrats lead 43-36.

This is a damning result, and points to utter and abject failure on our part to communicate our ideas and sell them to the electorate. The fact that Democrats lead on National Security and Iraq, after their total failure on the surge, should be a wake up call. I’m sorry Gang of 5, comity and civility is simply guaranteeing that Republicans remain in a permanent minority.

The issue that really pisses me off is Ethics. Our self imposed policy of throwing all ethical lapses under the bus, while refusing to challenge the Democrat ethical lapses has resulted in Republicans considered crooks, while Democrats get a pass.

In summary, McCain will most likely win, and we are catching a break with the gas price issue that will limit our losses. But without a concerted effort to educate and sell the Republican brand to the voters, we will be looking at a very long time in the wilderness.