I think I figured out the general Republican strategy against Obama in 2012. It's obvious that the eventual nominee won't be able to run on the far-right sociopolitical message that has recently dominated the Republican primary. If Santorum wants to rely on banning partial birth abortion or Romney wants to focus on opposition to gay marriage, they will do so at their own peril. With a suspect economy, surging gas prices and Middle East war/instability, the notion of bringing ultrasound issues or prohibiting access to free condoms is not a winner. Whoever gets the nod will have to do an extreme pivot into the general election.
But just because the GOP has shifted to appeasing the narrow religious right, doesn't meant the mainstream elements of the party have lost their mind. And history has told us one immutable fact -
you still need a positive, forward thinking message. Barring a complete economic collapse or another 9/11, you can't run on a "totally negative, everything anti-Obama" platform. It's good to draw tons of distinctions, but in the end, you ultimately have to be FOR something (other than cutting taxes and being patriotic).
You'll need a brand new series of talking points and its imperative to change the overall dialogue. Especially if you're the Republican nominee because you've already been painted into such an insulated corner. The answer - STATES' RIGHTS. If I were designing the Republican platform, this is where I'd focus all my energy. The federal government is NOT the answer. I have a greater level of trust in the city, county and state governments to determine what is right. And most of all, I trust you, the voter. I don't want the federal government running the day to day lives of American citizens. And stress the routine, general notions of freedom and liberty that have become emphasized (as nauseum) by the conservative media (Fox, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, et al).
This has to be your overriding talking point. Then, you can divide it up into a slew of focused subcategories tailor made for each battleground state. Obviously, illegal immigration is not a hot button issue in Vermont... as opposed to Arizona. Energy policy plays a different role in Appalachia than it does in... Kansas. Gay marriage, guns, abortion... leave the controversial matters to the states and the citizens. Emphasize this point at will - I trust the people, not the federal government to make decisions. Ironic, because the Christian majority loves to impose their will. You just have to ignore that unfortunate reality and hope for the best. I think this works well because Fox has incessantly rammed "freedom and liberty" down everyone's collective throats ever since Palin vaulted onto the national scene in 2008.
"I trust the people here in Ohio, not the bureaucrats in DC."
"I want the people of Iowa to worship as as they see fit. If they want a statue of the ten commandments in the town square, than that's up to them. The federal government doesn't get to decide."
"I want the auto manufacturers to build the kinds of cars they think reflect consumer demand. I don't want a federal govt. enforcing higher fuel efficiency standards."
"I want the local school boards to have a more active role in the student curriculum, not the behemoth Dept. of Education."
"I want the states to decide if they should build a pipeline, not the radical environmental lobbyists."
And on it goes. I could write down another 20.
And most important - find concrete, real examples for each subtopic. Use a 4-time deployed, purple heart veteran of the Afghanistan war to attack Obama foreign policy. Use the 11 year old girl that couldn't bring mommy's cupcakes to school. Remember Joe the Plumber? Well, don't use him again. But find some other people to exploit. Preferably middle class citizens trying to achieve the "American dream." Use those teachers who can't teach the way the want. Use a county commissioner who can't get something done because of Washington bureaucracy. Think in those terms. But always provide real examples with real lives.
All these talking points are already out there, so it isn't much of a stretch. And if you poll American voters, they'll likely say they trust their family, friends, neighbors, towns, counties and states. As opposed to say... trusting the federal government. Personalize the hell out of everything. Who do you really trust?
At every turn, bad mouth the federal government and any of the agencies Rick Perry managed to recall. This is the likely strategy. It's a very populist and would play well across the general population. Obama will position himself as a populist as well, much like Al Gore did in 2000 (we can do better). Of course, it's all bait and switch nonsense eerily reminiscent of... well I dunno... how about "YES WE CAN." Whatever, the Republicans do, barring a major catastrophe, if they let Obama own the populist message, I think they lose bigtime. And by the way, pick Rubio for VP or go with a complete wildcard outside the political spectrum. That one's a no-brainer. You can't write off the Hispanics and the blacks. Yeah, I know, the GOP has Herman Cain. Not good enough. Think more big picture. Don't try to win over the minorities. Be reasonable. Just try to make a dent in their vote. Hit them up with the standard refrain on religious and social issues.
On a final note, regardless of who gets the nod (probably Romney when the dust settles), I think the Republican slogan for the election should be something like "RIGHT COUNTRY, WRONG PATH"
Maybe not that, but something very similar. I like the dual meaning with the term "right." It implies the customary, "we're the greatest country on the planet" blather, but also manifests itself in the conservative innuendo "not the socialistic, leftist" material. "Wrong path" is a little risky - the idea of closing on a negative, but I like it because it's powerful. Maybe sub "wrong path" with "wrong vision." "Vision" is a little softer and sounds wiser.
I have a hunch that Obama's slogan will be "Winning the Future" (yawn). Not horrible but very "yes we cannish."