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The power of positive campaigning
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With just under six weeks to the Nov. 4 Election Day, the pressure is on. With a Democratic sitting president with a low 44 percent approval rating, many Republican races across the nation are being run by tying the Democratic candidate to the president. In many cases, this might indeed create distaste for the Democratic candidate by the voters and lead to a Republican victory. But, with no clear path forward, who is to say that the voters won’t be just as disgruntled in a few years with Republicans?

The Republicans are forecasted to maintain their House majority, and there are some who are already counting on the Senate turning Republican as well. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote this past Monday, “As of today, then, all three models agree that Republicans are slight favorites to win the Senate majority. The Post’s Election Lab is the most bullish (65 percent probability of a Republican majority), while the Times LEO model pegs the chance at 55 percent, and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight puts it at a shade under 55 percent.”

While it looks as if the turn of the Senate into a Republican body is probably the opposite, the retention of the Democrats is very possible. Even if the Republicans manage to take over Capitol Hill, there is no clear agenda understood by voters that will inform and enforce the legislative agenda of the House and Senate. Based on the way many races are being run, it appears as though the plan would be to wait for President Barack Obama to unveil a proposal and to be against whatever it is.

While I am being a bit harsh, and Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans have been pushing forward with ideas, they have not been shared and endorsed throughout the nation, by both legislative houses. What is needed is a clear positive agenda — think a Readers’ Digest version that you and I can understand.

This week marks the 20-year anniversary of the unveiling of the Contract of America, which did just that. The Contract, which was printed in the Reader’s Digest as a positive campaign ad, included eight specific reforms and 10 bills to be voted upon once the Republicans took control. When the then-House Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia first introduced the idea of a Contract with America in front of the nation in a speech in the House of Representatives on Sept. 22, 2014, he spelled out two reasons for having a clear positive contract. “The first reason is that people are so frustrated, people are so hostile, people are so angry, that you do not need to go out and get them madder. You don’t have to go out and beat up on President Clinton or beat up on the Congress. People get it. They are already fed up. ...There is a second reason, I would argue, why it would be good to actually try to have a debate in October on the issues.”

Gingrich would be joined by more than 300 elected officials and candidates on the steps of the Capitol five days later to publicly unveil the specifics of the Contract with America. After four decades of Democratic control, Gingrich and Republicans were challenging the status quo.

The eight reforms included in the contract were to be enacted immediately. The bills, which were to be taken to the floor of the House during the first 100 days, ranged from welfare reform to a balanced budget amendment.

The result of laying out a national, positive, issues contact and running together on clear changes? Republicans gained 54 seats in the House of Representatives and nine Senate seats. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, and Newt Gingrich became Speaker.

For those that argue 20 years is two lifetimes in politics, the vote last week regarding Scotland’s independence provided an example of how positive messaging works in politics today. Shawn Pogatchnik of the Associate Press wrote on Sept. 20. “Political analysts said Brown’s bigger role in delivering defeat of the Scottish nationalists was to realize, months before others, that the pro-independence side could win unless Better Together emphasized positive pride in Britain, not fear of how an independent Scotland might stumble.”

Republicans would do well to remember the power of positive campaigning.

To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit