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February 9, 2012 - 2:13 pm

Okay, as promised earlier today, here’s how the GOP nominee–whoever he is–can beat Obama.

To start with, Obama has been compared to Carter quite often in the last 3 years. (Just as a sampling, see here, and here, and here.) The solution to beating Obama, therefore, is the same way Reagan beat Carter.

In 1980, Reagan ran what I would call a “balanced” campaign. He definitely had his negative moments, for example when he said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” However, mostly he criticized the specific policies of Carter without venturing into personal attacks against his opponent.

This is a very fine line to walk, but it’s gotta be walked this year, or else the voters might turn to Obama out of sympathy, especially if the media starts a blitz of reports on how “mean-spirited” the GOP nominee is being. The only defense against that sort of blitz is to carefully keep one’s criticisms leveled at the policies, with as little hint of being a personal attack as possible.

The other half of Reagan’s strategy was just as important as the first, if not more important. Reagan inspired Americans to vote for him by articulating his vision of an America that was once again, as he said, the shining city on a hill. Reagan didn’t  just ask Americans to vote against Carter (though, as I said above, the “get Carter out of office” theme was still there).

In short, Reagan balanced his negative attacks against Carter with a very positive vision of what America under his leadership would look like. That is what we need out of the GOP nominee this time in order to defeat Obama. Just going negative won’t do it, neither will just painting a rosy future; both halves are needed.

It’s also worth remembering what CFIF said about Reagan on his 101st birthday:

What far too few politicians do today is to work hard at making both an art and a craft of communicating great things. Persuasion isn’t mere rhetoric; persuasion takes serious labor. Ronald Reagan did not shy from that labor. That’s why he communicated greatly: He melded his excellent principles with the persuasive skills gained from long striving. They were complementary assets. Without each and both of them, he would not have succeeded.

Do any of our candidates have both the principles and the persuasive skills? Can they walk the fine line between criticizing Obama’s policies and attacking him personally? Can they simultaneously point out Obama’s many failings while articulating a positive American future? I’m sure the partisans of each candidate will say their guy does, but I remain to be convinced. However, that’s what we need to beat Obama. I seriously doubt anything less will work this year.

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