By DOTTY NIST
“We are prosperity and the American dream,” Brian Swensen, political director for the Republican Party of Florida, said of the GOP.
Addressing members of the South Walton Republican Club Miramar Beach on May 2, Swensen announced plans for the party to “tell that message louder.”
Swensen spoke of the party’s campaign in Florida leading up to the 2012 elections with a shudder. He explained that along with presidential elections comes pressure from folks on the national level that can negatively impact the party’s campaign in the state. Romney’s operational approach was a “top down mechanism,” he said.
In contrast, Swensen told attendees, the Obama people ran a grass-roots campaign. The Democrats actually succeeded, he explained, in getting people who normally refuse to be in the same room together to vote together.
“I am a conservative before I am a Republican,” Swensen said, adding that it is difficult to see the country now going in a direction that conservatives do not want to see it go.
He assured the group that they would see a much different campaign in Florida for 2014, minus the influence of the “Romney folks.”
While calling Mitt Romney a “great guy,” Swensen was critical of the 2012 presidential candidate for “hiring the same yes men” to run his compaign.
“The beautiful thing about Florida is that it is six or seven states in one,” Swensen observed. “We know how to message our state…you don’t take a one-size-fits-all package,” he explained.
Personal voter contact will be emphasized, he said, and the party also plans to invest in technology to reach more voters.
Swensen saw the GOP’s turn away from grass-roots campaigning over 20 years ago as a mistake. Democrats maintained the grass-roots strategy, and it has worked for them, he noted.
The RPOF is now starting to guild a precinct leadership program, Swensen revealed, that will emphasize communication between these party leaders and their neighbors.
He spoke to the need for the party to do a better job of “controlling the rhetoric” that appears in the media. “We’re pegged as the party of no,” he observed.
When saying “no” to Obamacare, Republicans did not have their own solution to reforming health care, he complained. In the process of opposing illegal immigration, Republican have also failed to take the opportunity to emphasize how much immigration is part of the “roots of America,” he added.
The party’s rhetoric, Swensen urged, needs to be directed more toward solving problems.
He maintained that the Republican Party does not get credit for its actual diversity. The difference, he commented, is in attitude toward minorities. “We’re wired differently…we see a person as just the American who wants to work and have a happy life,” Swensen commented.
“If we’re going to survive, we’ve got to unite,” Swensen told the members. He could not understand Republicans trying to tear down Gov. Rick Scott, saying that Scott has not gotten nearly the credit he deserves for this accomplishments. Swensen was also in favor of embracing the libertarian element of the party.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Swensen told the gathering.
Accompanying Swensen was Will Torres, special assistant to RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry.
The May 2 meeting was the third for the South Walton Republican Club since its recent reactivation following several years of dormancy. Club Secretary Charlotte Flynt told the group that membership had increased from 11 to 23. Club President Tim Norris announced that a charter for the club had been obtained the previous week.
The next meeting of the South Walton Republican Club is scheduled for Sept. 2. Additional details on that meeting will be forthcoming.