President Obama's State of the Union address was the final victory speech of the 2012 election. Using the occasion to unveil a laundry list of left wing priorities, even many Democrats in the audience knew that most of the goals Obama listed were impossible to achieve. More importantly, it was the culmination of a successful effort to portray Republicans as an out-of-touch party that only cares about the wealthiest Americans. The speech was an official declaration of war this against the GOP this year with the hopes of completely destroying its brand.
Despite the serious political downturn, there is hope for the Republican Party and its brand has real opportunities to make a comeback someday. The soul searching among the Republicans struggling to find the path back out of the wilderness should look no farther than to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. They are developing core messages to help rebrand Republicans and help reconnect them with voters.
Showing true leadership, Chairman Priebus led the charge explaining to Republicans that if we keep talking to ourselves, we are a doomed party. It is a tough responsibility to tell Republicans what they are doing wrong. Preibus rightfully said, we must adopt a permanent, campaign-like mentality of pushing the Republican brand on a daily basis to groups who voted against us in 2012. This includes broadcasting our message to Hispanic voters, female voters, young voters, and anyone else who isn't a white male or a senior citizen.
While the RNC chairman is pounding this home, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is providing Republican rank-and-file members with positive messages. "Making Life Work" is the smartest message move we have seen from Capitol Hill Republicans in quite some time. There is no question that major budget issues will continue to dominate the news. However, Cantor is giving Republicans a branding gift they can use for the long haul by talking about what Americans really care about. They worry over making ends meet, educating their children, keeping their families healthy, and making sure they have jobs. Instead of talking about the concerns of backroom politicians over billions and trillions of dollars, Cantor is correctly encouraging all elected Republicans to speak from the perspective of concerned parents and families.
Finally, Sen. Marco Rubio was a brilliant choice to provide the response to the State of the Union. Drinking a bottle of water was a distraction, but Rubio was a Republican star because he delivered the first Republican response to the speech that was broadcast in a second language. Republicans should take note at the words of the potential 2016 nominee. He called for conservatives to govern by their principles and also appealed to voters who voted for Obama.
Rubio carefully contrasted Republican positions from Obama's and used Reaganesque-like language to help make the connection. "More government isn't going to help you get ahead," he said. "It's going to hold you back. More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them. And more government isn't going to inspire new ideas, new businesses, and new private sector jobs. It's going to create uncertainty."
We all know that Republicans took a beating at the polls, but the real fear was that many in our party did not quite understand just how devastating the damage was from the 2012 election disaster. We are now seeing glimmers of hope and recognition that the audiences and messages must change if we are ever going to become a truly governing party in Washington.