As an incumbent who won re-election during economic stagnation there are plenty of lessons for the Conservatives from Obama’s comprehensive victory. Team Obama is undoubtedly one of the most impressive campaigning machines. First Hillary Clinton, then John McCain and now Mitt Romney have been strategically outsmarted.
Have a professional ground operation
Will all those who voted Conservative last time vote for us again? What will get us new voters in the 40/40 target seats?
Team Obama targeted those who ensured a 1% victory in the battleground states, and made certain these people voted – often early. He may only have won by a few 100,000 votes, but he gained more than 100 electoral college points over Romney. Obama’s victory was not down to chance and Romney was not close to becoming President. For the past two years his campaign team has targeted the ‘progressive coalition’, making sure those who propelled him to the White House four years ago voted again. Tactics included sending non-party political communications on issues that mattered to specific individuals. When the election arrived these people joined the dots between “maintaining a woman’s right to choose” and voting for Obama.
Be a leader, not a panderer
Can David Cameron lead his party, as well as the country?
Obama had a massive advantage here, as he was already President. But Romney did not convince enough people that he was a leader, rather than a dog strapped onto the roof of the conservative movement. By trying to be all things to all people – in what are polarising debates – many on all sides mistrusted his intentions. We live in difficult times where people know that there are big issues, but very few know what the solution is. They want a leader more than they want answers. The GOP needs leading, the USA needs leading. Romney didn’t convince that he would lead.
The auto industry bailout was a meaningful policy
In 2015 will the Conservatives be associated with a policy that defines who they are? Will this key policy resonate with voters?
In the key states jobs was a more important issue than the economy. 6 out of 10 voters in Ohio said that the auto industry bailout was at the forefront of their minds. Obama made a big policy decision that had a material impact on voters’ lives. Romney rejected the auto bailout and because of ideological inflexibility was unable to pivot on this crucial matter. High-level arguments about the future direction of the economy are intellectually important, but the feeling of safety in having a job now had greater impact.
Be on the right side of social trends
Will British voters believe that the Conservative Party “gets” them and modern Britain?
One of the interesting things to note from the election is how abortion has turned from being a GOP vote-winner to being a Democratic campaigning tool. To a lesser extent the same could be said about immigration. While political parties rarely get credit for being ahead of the social curve, they need to show they are comfortable with where society is heading.