Changing The Game Plan
In the business world there are relatively few stories about people who became a success "overnight." Typically even businesses that are on the fast track to success have laid the ground work, done years of due diligence and secured a financial base before achieving public notoriety as the up and coming business.
Not so in Maryland's Republican politics.
Each election cycle we have people who spring up out of nowhere with a notion that winning a statewide or congressional election is similar to campaigning for mayor of a small municipality. They are clueless on the depth and breadth it takes to manage or fund such a campaign. I am, however, nearly always impressed at their drive and determination.
In the business world, most people consider Yahoo, Facebook, Google or Microsoft to be overnight successes. Yahoo was the quickest at two-and-a-half years before public offering... Microsoft was 11 years! With each of these companies the founders had an idea, found financial backing, marketed their idea and then were crowned a success.
U.S. Rep. Andrew Harris is the Maryland Republican Party's (MDGOP) latest Bill Gates. Andy did it right. He started as a community activist who ran for state senate, winning on a conservative platform in a moderately conservative district. He then worked in the political trenches building a base of supporters, a reputation of working hard and developed a structure for financial support; all before his "initial public offering" of running for Congress.
Congressman Harris is a role model every future congressional or statewide GOP candidate should emulate – do your homework and you can win. Do not expect unwavering support from strangers only due to registration demographics. Volunteers and donors need to feel comfortable with their investment of time and money. Earn that respect first.
In the 2010 gubernatorial election there were approximately 1.8 million total votes cast for governor statewide; 42% about 773,000 were cast for Bob Ehrlich; the only Republican to have previously won a statewide race since Sen. Charles "Mac" Mathias in 1980.
The pinnacle of Mr. Ehrlich's elective career was his four year term as governor (2003-2006). By 2010 he had 100% name recognition, the ability to raise over $10 million in less than eight months, and a network of campaign volunteers statewide – yet he lost, in large part, due to statewide party registration disparity and being outspent in overall communication genres.
In Harris' portion of the state he fundraised on a dollar for dollar basis with his Democrat opponent, maintained media disparity, had a much better overall regional registration demographic and was victorious in his second attempt. Both men did their homework, were trusted and known commodities that both investors and voters alike felt a comfort level. Both men had created an identity unique to themselves.
My party is currently struggling with identity. No complaint from me. Sometimes struggle defines a person or entity. Republicans in Maryland need to be redefined, if we are to be effective in the future. We need, however, to be realistic about our current situation and do not need to be perceived as angry or unwilling to listen as we go about selling our party's platform and values.
President Ronald Reagan was known as the Great Communicator. It was because he could express his thoughts in terms citizens could understand and because he knew how to listen, too. You see, communication is a two-way street.
The GOP in Maryland is, in part, becoming polarized. My conservative grassroots friends are anxious to express themselves and have witnessed many victories in non-urban areas within Maryland. They know that they can win and be successful within their microcosm of the state.
The problem lies when you factor the enormity of population in the urban areas within our state. Those citizens have different paradigms in their daily lives and are looking for less "edge" in their representation. The GOP needs to listen, be less angry and a little more realistic in its presentation of their platform.
President Reagan understood that communication – two-way communication – was the key. My conservative GOP friends need to realize that listening and reasoning does not mean compromise of principles; it means understanding where the other side stands and learning how to reach out to them.
New candidates stepping up to the plate for the first time is a good sign for the MDGOP; it reflects hope in our party. Those that exhibit the planning and persistence of a Bob Ehrlich, or an Andy Harris, will eventually be successful, I am sure. Those who grab for the brass ring the first time around and miss – just to walk away – should have never entered the political arena in the first place.
Republicans in Maryland will continue working to grow their party and will become successful in the future because we are fighters. Many of Maryland's citizens uphold Republican values and don't realize it. Those citizens just need to be educated of the values they share with GOP candidates.
We as a party need to listen more and shout a little less, and then we will win.