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5/17/15

USA: Why the GOP Can't Get No Satisfaction - Jim Messina

One of the savviest political observers I’ve come across is Mick Jagger. I was invited to a dinner that included the legendary rocker in London before the British election (I took about 9,000 selfies), when I discovered that Mick has been a bit of a political junkie his whole life.

While he’s on tour he has a lot of down time, which he spends reading, he explained to me, and I learned that he’s become a master observer not only of UK politics but of the American political scene as well (although he's not an activist and doesn't take sides). “You’re going to win,” Mick told me at dinner, despite some polls showing that my client, Prime Minister David Cameron, was still trailing in the race.

 “Why do you think so?” I asked. Mick replied that while he wasn't supporting any candidate himself, “the average guy thinks Cameron makes tough decisions and things are getting a bit better. They won’t change from that." The opposition, Jagger explained, was percieved as a retreat to the past.

Mick was right, of course. No matter where you go, successful election campaigns are always about the future, not the past. Ed Miliband was an old-style Labour leader, unlike Tony Blair, and he paid dearly for that on Election Day.

Mick’s advice, in fact, reminds of something another rather savvy political observer, Bill Clinton, told me in 2011, as we were preparing President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign: "All national elections are always a referendum on the future, and the candidate that can grasp that mantle wins."

In all major elections after the Great Recession, the candidate who provided the clearest economic vision looking ahead prevailed. President Obama won two elections on that exact premise.

In the United Kingdom’s general election, Prime Minister Cameron won on a vision of a dynamic, competitive Britain as a land of future opportunity for working families. Miliband was promising them only a return to the past: 1970s-style rent control, re-nationalization of some services, and energy price controls were, bizarrely, the main policy initiatives highlighted by Labour.

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