Opinion
A Talking Heads album cover that never was, by Anita Kunz. A Talking Heads album cover that never was, by Anita Kunz.  

BEDFORD: The tyranny of the political consultants

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Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

Which brings us to the first question: What needs to change?

November 2012 wasn’t a clean Barry Goldwater conservative defeat or a Bob Dole moderate defeat: The Republicans ran a moderate-liberal Mormon candidate on a conservative platform. Which ideology they decide to blame will play out over the next couple years and will be nasty. But we’re going to out a different factor: The tyranny of the political consultants.

We’re talking about the guys who go with gut feelings. The ones that make the calls on polling, TV advertising, direct mail. The old-fashioned ones with decades of experience, who put their finger in the air and shoot from the hip while the Democrats talk to their data nerds and take careful aim. On Tuesday, the Democrats didn’t just pull the trigger — they squeezed it.

The Democrats have the best ground game in the country, and without unions at their call, the GOP is unlikely to catch up. But the Democrats also have the worst ideas in the country, and with Obama at their head, they are unlikely to catch up. So there is room to win again, and it is going to come down to closing the data gap: Knowing what works and what doesn’t; knowing who the voter base is and where they live; knowing how to reach out, touch them, mobilize them. In short, how to move that meter.

Conservative, establishment, whatever. Republicans can get to that tomorrow. The gap in field intelligence, however, cannot wait. These things take time. These things take years. These things take money, and they take resources, and they take a whole lot of smarts.

And the Democrats are not stopping. Just moments after the election was called, the president’s campaign sent out a fundraising ask. Their war rooms will not close, and their campaigns will go on. Republicans have a lot of catching up to do.

Super PACs may be sexy, but they aren’t winning the war. So please, bring us the heads of the consultants. And bring on the nerds. And get to work.

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