A Focus on Policy Will Win

BY: HANK BUTEHORN

Republicans and many conservatives are so worried and fearful about losing the presidential election next year they are not focusing on what is necessary to win the election. However, it is exactly that mindset, and decisions based upon that worry and lack of focus, that will lead to the result they fear.

What do I mean by the first sentence? Well, many primary voters are basing their support for a candidate primarily upon the perception that that candidate has the best chance to beat the Democrat challenger in the general election. The voters are basing their decision on “politics” and not “policy.”

This is unfortunate because politics can change in a heartbeat; basing support on politics, and a hoped for result, can fall apart in that same amount of time. And let us not forget, those candidates whose campaign is based on politics without principled policy will change with the politics as quickly as the politics change.

No one can say what will happen in 11 months, and no current poll can predict what will happen over that time; the only poll that counts is election day. However, the best policy is the best politics and will win with the American people.

At the end of the day, those who are supporting candidates who lack consistent principled policy – or giving candidates attention and credibility – primarily because they are perceived as likely victors against a Democrat might be doing a disservice to themselves, conservatism, and the Republican party.

Contrary to politics, policy – and the principles upon which the best policy is based – remains constant. The best policy – a consistent conservative policy upon conservative principles – is that which will win next November. Therefore, the candidate who has put forth specific plans based upon those policies, and has the most consistent history of support for same, and will win; Republicans (especially conservatives) should be basing their decisions upon which candidate fits that mold.

The most recent Republican debate exemplifies why policy, and not politics, should be the basis of support …. and is evidence that the best policy – the most consistent conservative – will always prevail.

Frank Luntz, the communications expert who performs focus groups for Fox News Channel and has outlined – based upon those groups and his “instant Response dial sessions” – what Republican voters are looking for from their candidate and the answers that elicit the best responses, said the candidate who stood out at the debate was Fred Thompson.

But, most still turn a blind eye to that which is staring them in the face and continue their prior course. They maintain focus on front runners who are perceived to have the best chance of winning a general election despite the inability of those candidates to discuss specific substance or policy.

The debate highlighted the difficulties some candidates (such as Romney and Rudy) encounter due to their inconsistent record and principles, lack of conservative record and principles, and their failure to outline specific policy proposals to address the issues of today. Those candidates are easily forced into defensive positions to explain prior actions such as to prevent their ability to talk about future goals and plans; this will only be worse in a general election and make it more difficult for Republicans to win.

The back and forth between Mitt and Rudy is one example in this regard; they were boxed into defensive and accusatory positions that sidetracked discussion about substantive solutions. This will be even worse in a general election.

Moreover, a Rudy candidacy takes abortion, illegal immigration (one of the two most important issues of 2008, and the most important to Republicans), and ethics off the table because of his background and record; Romney’s history and record makes those issues more difficult to champion. This will make the Republican chances in a general election more difficult.

When politics is placed above policy to the extent it has in this primary it results in a candidate who lacks the crucial substantive distinction on policy that is necessary to win come November; it will result in a candidate who has to defend prior transgressions and – especially where there is a lack of substance – prevent the discussion voters want to hear about ….. the future that candidate will lead towards, and how their plans are different from the opponents, and how their plans will get us there.

This feeds right into the Democrats’ hands because they lack any substance the people want and they hope to keep the debate as far away from conservative policy as possible. Democrats will define the debate while the Republican is busy defending his past and/or lacks the specific conservative substance for our future. And, worse yet, it gives false credibility to liberal argument that there is no support for conservative solutions.

Thompson, in contrast, stood firm on his conservative principles and consistent conservative record, and outlined various detailed policy plans to lead America into the future along those lines. He pointed to his detailed and broad reaching policy positions, and exhibited all that which the focus group participants thought others did not. His credentials prevent any claims of “flip-flopping” to prevent Democrat rhetoric that will detract focus from the issues and policy positions to negative attacks and need to defend records. As pointed out by the Luntz observations, consistent conservative policy – as expressed by Thompson – will win.

Yet, despite all of this the main stream media – and some talking heads and commentators who are purportedly conservatives – continue to keep attention away from Thompson; they continue to focus on Rudy and Romney based upon the perception they are best suited to match against the Democrats.

While Republicans decry the debate format, the questions and questioners, or CNN’s agenda, they are hindering themselves by failing to discuss the candidate – Fred Thompson – who did so well despite those objections.

To ensure their victory Republicans must put forth a candidate, like Thompson, who has laid out specific policy plans based upon conservative principles, has the consistent conservative record to keep the focus on those plans for the future, and can provide a contrast to the Democrat agenda on ALL the most important issues.

Unless Republicans and conservatives start focusing on policy rather than the politics, Democrats could walk into the White House in January 2009. As always, the best policy makes the best politics.

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