So if it Wasn’t Twitter, How Did Obama Win the Messaging War?
The president of the United State commands the most powerful bully pulpit in history. And as Mr. Henninger rightly points out, Mr. Obama has elected to use that platform to broadcast “virtually wall-to-wall propaganda.” OK, now what? So, Republicans are still terrible at social messaging?
“Barack Obama is Romneyizing the Republicans,” Mr. Henninger concludes. “He’s doing to Ted Cruz and the House Republicans what he did to Mitt Romney and the 1%.”
But Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee have learned the lessons of 2012 — at least in regards to the example Mr. Henninger chose to dwell on, Twitter. (RELATED: Study: Twittersphere is a liberal, myopic, negative place)
A lot of things contributed to Mr. Romney’s loss, in particular Mr. Obama’s voter-turnout apparatus, a true marvel of modern engineering that, despite its best efforts, has not found a way to transform electoral success into legislative victories. Why? The House and Senate are made up of a much smaller group of individuals with, frankly, more complicated incentives than a citizen voter. So just hold the requiem music a minute. (OFA: How Obama and his PAC lost on gun control)
This kind of panicking from a smart and talented writer in the pages of a venerable center-right editorial section gives a glimpse into the poll-number panic engulfing other pieces in the same vein. My goodness, we’re told, The polls show “that the Cruz-led effort has largely backfired among the public.”
Again, we ask, to what end? Will these polls matter? Will people vote on them?
Some of the shutdown panic reminds us of the old Reaganite who points out that Americans overwhelmingly support missile defense and “In God we trust,” so the GOP should run on that platform. But knowing the American people think something is very different from whether it is a motivator when they vote. (Hint: Those aren’t.)
Exhibit A: On the same day the Messrs. Cruz and Obama sent the aforementioned tweets — at the peak of hand-wringing over the national hatred of the GOP and, especially, the tea party — there was a little regarded special election in New Jersey.
In the blue corner, a young, charismatic and handsome rising star in the Democratic Party who was publicly supported by the president, the Clintons, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of celebrities. In the red corner, an uncharismatic, blind and unapologetic tea party candidate who had practically no help from his party or governor. Despite early landslide predictions — and a government shutdown — the Democrats pulled this one off by a mere 10 points. Christie not withstanding, this solid turnout took place in solidly blue state that Mr. Obama won by 18 points in a regular election just 11 months prior. (RELATED: How Cruz, Lee and Paul shut down Obama’s agenda)
There were obvious mistakes in the defund strategy, and with not a little help from demagogues on the left and hand-wringers on the right, Mr. Obama won a symbolic victory.
But what can we actually glean from this?
Consider this: The reason Messrs. Lee and Cruz led the charge is because there was nothing — zero, kaput — from Republican “leadership.” And while those two were able to rally enough of the conservatives to hold Speaker of the House John Boehner hostage and stage a mock battle, without official leadership they were unable to rein in Republican defectors, who took to the media to attack their colleagues’ plan.
Would a solid Republican front have carried the day and defunded Obamacare? No. But the options playing out in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s head sure would have looked a lot different if he’d seen a united front marching on him.
The real lessons of this fight are that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Boehner and their friends can’t afford not to lead — and lead against the Democrats. There are those in both chambers who are ready, willing and determined to fight, and now they are in contact across the chambers — coordination that has been depressingly difficult for conservatives to achieve.
No, it isn’t Mr. Obama who threatens to “Romneyize” the Republicans — it’s leadership.
And they hopefully know that now.
*Author’s note: This article originally overstated the percent of Mr. Lee’s follower engagement.