You can’t successfully market a product or a candidate without a clear brand. And that’s been the biggest problem with Mitt Romney and Republicans. They haven’t had a clear brand, other than attacking President Obama’s policies. And since the Romney camp didn’t really have a brand, they let the Obama team box them into a negative one.
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That changed last night.
The re-branding of Romney and the entire GOP at the Republican convention was smart, efficient (with precision timing), and inspired. Melding the character of America's diversity with the uncompromising principles of the tea party was brilliant. Juxtaposing the “You didn’t build that” theme of the Democratic Party with the “We Built That” theme of the diverse candidates and personalities on display last night must have the Chicago-Dem attack dogs scratching their heads and wondering how they can re-write their game plan.
For months now, the game plan of the Obama Administration -- working in tandem with a generally compliant media -- has been to brand Romney and the entire GOP in increasingly harsh tones. First there was the supposed “war on women.” Then there were the anti-Bain ads, putting forth the absurd notion that Romney and Bain were in business to destroy businesses and jobs. And just this week, a new low, when Obama campaign surrogate Chris Matthews began leading the desperate charge that Republicans are racist because they want to reform welfare in much the same way that Bill Clinton did.
All these attacks are weak, but they were getting traction specifically because there wasn’t a strong brand to run against them.
Frankly, I always thought that the Romney brand was pretty easy to build. In fact, he’s just that -- a builder. We finally have an opportunity to change the American lexicon, to substitute the obnoxious term “worker” with the much more positive term “builder.” Americans are more than “workers” -- which implies worker ants or sheep that can be easily led by unions or big government. We are builders, who create things, on our own initiative.
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Of course, President Obama said “You didn’t build that.” Juxtapose that sound bite with the record of what Romney actually built, at Bain and elsewhere. And don’t take Republicans’ word for it. Democrats Bill Clinton, Corey Booker, Ed Rendell, Devall Patrick and Steve Rattner are all on record saying so. Quote them. Romney built companies and capital, just like small businesses do. Use the record; don’t get flogged by lies about it. That way you answer the negative ads, without dignifying the lies in them.
And now, it seems that’s exactly what the Republicans are doing. The backdrop at the Convention last night was “We Built It.” And the builders on display last night were a wonderful blend of the diversity that makes America unique. Folks are focusing on Mrs. Romney or Chris Christie as the highlight of the evening. But I really think it was the amalgam of all the fresh talent they had to showcase that was their strongest point last night, and solidified the face of the brand.
Mayor Mia Love, businesswoman Sher Valenzuela, Ted Cruz, Gov. Nikki Haley -- this is the diverse backbone of the Republicans and the tea party, and it puts the final nail in the coffin of the cheap argument that there’s something racist about Republican ideals.
Of course, the lead brand has yet to appear, except for a brief cameo with his wife last night. Will he carry the “builder” brand successfully through the campaign? There’s no way of knowing. And there’s no question it took too long to flesh out the brand that Democrats had been creating to Romney’s detriment. But now that they’ve synthesized the core of his character and the uniting factor in the diverse Republican/tea party movement, the Republicans just may have found the right horse to ride into November and to help rebuild America.