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Brand W and the Midterm Elections

March 29, 2006

Facing dismal poll ratings and the potential loss of both the House and Senate, the Republican National Committee appears set with its 2006 mid-term election strategy. Call it "Brand W."
That is the central message in a memo from GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman. Acknowledging the GOP's current challenges, van Lohuizen says the key to maintaining Republican control of Congress is reenergizing and mobilizing the Party's dispirited base. To do that, the memo claims, the Congressional GOP must stand firm behind a president who enjoys rock-solid support among conservative voters:

The President is seen universally as the face of the Republican Party. We are now brand W. Republicans...President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Attacking the President is counter productive for all Republicans, not just the candidates launching the attacks. If he drops, we all drop.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Brand W doesn't have the most positive connotations among consumers (that is, voters). As any marketer will tell you, an important indicator of any company or product is consumers' "unaided brand awareness," that is, whether and what potential buyers already know about it without prompting.
As the Pew Research Center recently reported, consumer awareness of Brand W is high, and the perception is strongly negative. Asked to offer a one-word description of President Bush, the most common response of survey respondents was "incompetent," followed closely by "liar" and "idiot." Positive terms such as "honest," "strong," "good," and "integrity," which dominated the Pew rankings in February 2005, are now found well down the list. It's no wonder President Bush's approval rating registered a moribund 33% in the Pew poll.

At both the national and grassroots level, Democrats are readying campaigns of their own to further undermine the Republicans Brand W. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already running against the "Rubber Stamp Congress". That effort is being bolstered by liberal blogs such as FireDogLake. And with an endless parade of scandals and fiascos from PlameGate and Abramoff to Medicare Part D and the Dubai ports dustup, Democrats can add terms like "corrupt" and "out-of-touch," just to name a few, to the definition of Brand W. No friend of Democrats, Newt Gingrich suggested a two word slogan for their 2006 campaign: "Had Enough?"
As Time Magazine reports this week, Republicans are downtrodden and depressed about their prospects in the '06 midterms. A Time poll shows Democrats enjoying a 9% lead in generic Congressional party preference polls. (Other recent polls show even larger gaps between the parties.) The same poll shows respondents believe the Democrats are better able to address virtually every major policy issue, including terrorism and Iraq.
What is the Democratic response to Ken Mehlman and the Republican National Committee over its planned "Brand W" campaign in 2006? To appropriate another famous brand message, "Just Do It."

2 comments on “Brand W and the Midterm Elections”

  1. Don't be so sure about Bush being so tainted. Everyone constantly "misunderestimates" him and yet he ends up being the one laughing.

  2. I don't agree gary, people are getting fed up with him. I say let them run on brand w.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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