Under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, House Republicans in the minority came up with a brilliant concept. They called it the “Contract with America”. This contract was signed by all Republicans in the House. The promise was that they, if elected in the midterms that year, they would promise to get things done that were on the minds of most people at that time. This “Contract” was introduced in a timely fashion, on the Capitol steps in Washington DC on September 27, 1994. Midterms were that November, and with this messaging the Republicans took the House gaining 54 new seats, and the Senate gaining 8 additional seats. It was a blowout that stymied Bill Clinton’s radical leftist agenda, and forced him to negotiate with the opposing party!
What was promised? Tax cuts, a permanent line-item veto, measures to reduce crime and middle-class tax relief, and Constitutional Amendments requiring term limits and a balanced budget. This was the messaging that the Republicans drove home making it possible for them to have a Red Wave, and those promises were not hollow. With the exception of term limits, they accomplished everything on that list, and made it possible for Bill Clinton to sign them all into law. In fact, at one point, Bill Clinton remarked that “The era of big government is over”! Proof positive that if your messaging is on point, and is driven home nationwide, a party can win many seats and implement change. Fast forward to midterms 2022.
What were the Republicans running on? Let’s see? Oh yea, inflation bad, recession bad, crime bad, open borders bad, green new deal bad, all the while trying to duck the abortion question. They did not present real solutions, just a litany of gripes about how the government is currently run. Still, they expected that they would have a Red Tidal Wave seeing that the numerous missteps by the Biden Administration would bury the Democrats in the midterms. That of course did not happen. Democrats held onto the Senate, although it looks like Republicans will gain a slim majority in the House.
Democrats played on young voters 18-25 and Suburban housewives with the abortion issue, implying that abortion would be dead and gone if Republicans took over the Senate and the House with big majorities. It turned out that the Republican calculation that this would not be a major issue was wrong, and both these demographics came out heavily for Democrat Candidates, effectively giving the Democrats the Senate.
Where did Republican go wrong? They really had no messaging that resonated with Swing and Independent voters. The Democrats did not have any real messaging either, except the lie that the Republicans, if elected would nationalize an abortion ban on the whole nation. Even so, that was enough to blunt any possibility of a Red Wave!
If Republicans want to win major elections in the future, they need to focus on clear, concise messaging that directly addresses the needs of their constituents. Voters need to see a benefit in changing governments course. Simply going against the opposing party’s policies without definitive plans that could be implemented to solve real problems will not be a winning solution. Republicans should learn from Newt Gingrich and his House members who did just that! Most of all, they must instill trust that they actually will do what they promise! Otherwise, this strategy would only work once, if at all!