Ideas for Ron Paul: Some Constructive Criticism

January 4, 2012 5:23 PM ~  
Today, as Ron Paul supporters around the internet react to the Iowa Caucus results, knowing that Ron Paul should have done better but still did pretty well, there have been many suggestions for how Ron Paul, his campaign, and the SuperPACs could tweak their messaging to attract more voters.

Here's the problem everyone seems to agree upon: Ron Paul is having a hard time convincing people over 40 that he would be a good candidate. The two main reasons for this are they believe he will end Social Security and Medicare on day 1, and that he blames America for 9/11 (or that he wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb.)

I believe this stems from the nature in which the campaign has been run to this point. He has run a campaign of (great) ideas, and he has espoused the philosophy of freedom and the principles of a free society. All of these are great things. However, the only actionable plan he has put forth is his Plan to Restore America, which cuts $1 trillion and eliminates 5 executive branch bureaucracies. It's a great plan, so why is this a problem?

Simple: nobody reads the plan. Sure, I've read it. I'm sure other Paul supporters have read it. But nobody who's undecided or currently favoring another GOP candidate is going to read the plan. They just aren't.

What this leads to is a bunch of scared voters who think Paul is going to slash the military down to such a small size that we'll be invaded by China and he's going to zero out Medicare and Social Security on day one so the elderly will be left out in the cold. These people hear "cut $1 trillion" and they immediately assume that their favorite government program is on the chopping block.

Now to be fair, this isn't only because of the campaign or because of lazy voters, the mainstream media has a lot to do with it. Ron Paul's philosophy is right on and his plan is great, including transition periods and sustainable government, etc. but the media always condenses things down to small, simple, concrete statements that are totally wrong more often than not. So when Paul says he's going to cut the government by $1 trillion and provides a report to give the details, the media skips the report and just says he's going to throw old people over a cliff.

So how can Ron Paul get around this? How can his campaign attract many more voters who are very receptive to his "cut spending" message but fear the actual ramifications of cutting spending? Well, that's where all the suggestions come in. I'll list a few that I've observed online today and provide my comments:

1) Paul should say "Government" and "Feds" and "Washington" instead of "we" and "America."

This is extremely important. When Ron Paul talks about foreign policy he often times says "we installed a puppet Shah in Iran" or "we trained Al Quaeda" and things of that nature. These things are true, and powerful, when talking about the US government. However, "we" the people didn't do these things, and "we" the voters don't like to be blamed for it. I personally understand that Paul means the government, but a lot of people react defensively when they hear these statements, and if it was phrased differently, they wouldn't.

One side note - before anybody says "but we're responsible for the government" - I wasn't alive when we installed the Shah of Iran, so sorry, that theory doesn't hold up.

 2) Paul should clearly and simply outline a plan to save Social Security and Medicare

In all of the polling, virtually none of the voters over 50 favor Ron Paul. Most of them think that he will eliminate Medicare and Social Security on day one. We know this isn't true, and in fact, it is spelled out in his plan to Restore America.

Again - so what? The campaign and Paul need to go after this aggressively and point out that: a) If we don't cut spending, there won't be any money available for those programs. b) The Paul plan would actually guarantee payouts to current beneficiaries, and c) Ron Paul will fulfill the government's promises to seniors while allowing future generations to opt out.

The message needs to be clear, the plan concise, the guarantees firm. Someone watching Wheel of Fortune catching a 30 second ad needs to be able to comprehend it. Ron Paul needs to be able to get the point across in a quick response either at a debate or in an interview.

We can no longer afford to talk about the constitutionality of the programs or the principles of a government safety net or a free society. Those things can be outlined in long speeches, but not in quick answers or in quick commercials. The voters need to be reassured and then convinced that Ron Paul is the only one with a plan that saves these programs.

3) Paul should outline a plan to deal with Iran

Again, the same principle: less philosophy talk, more practical planning talk. The campaign and Paul need clear messaging that reassures people that Paul will have a strong national defense and that Paul will defend this country against threats.

Additionally, we need more aggressive messaging that the US government is currently picking a fight with Iran through sanctions and that this will accelerate their nuclear ambitions and the risk of war.

4) Go Positive, go Practical

The Ron Paul campaign doesn't need to attack any of the other candidates any more. Everybody knows what's wrong with Romney. Everybody knows Santorum has no campaigning capability outside of Iowa. Everybody knows what's wrong with Newt. Nobody else is a threat.

Get positive in the ads, get aggressive with the messaging, and take the concrete realities to the media rather than allowing them to fill in the blanks. I'll say it again: outline practical plans and illustrate the positive results that Ron Paul will generate for the voters.

Enough "life in a free society is great," bring on the "I will do X and Y and you can expect Z."

That is all I have for now. I'm sure there is more. I hope someone from the Paul campaign is paying attention. I also hope people don't take this as a hit piece on the Paul campaign. I think they have done a great job so far. There are several strategic decisions that are very intelligent and the message of liberty is very powerful. For example: Paul's answer to the third party question is perfect. It keeps them guessing and that's great.

Now is the time to win over voters as rapidly as possible. A movement has been started by Dr. Paul and the message of liberty, and that movement will educate and inspire voters once they've warmed up to Dr. Paul. Right now though, the focus has to be on breaking down people's barriers and getting them to consider Ron Paul as someone to vote for in the here and now.