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Hector Barajas

The Power of The Story

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Hector Barajas

These last few weeks have proven that Republicans still haven’t figured out the power of the story. After all the posturing and debating, Obamacare remains fully funded, the debt ceiling was raised, and the government shutdown ended without the Democrats or the President having to give up a single thing.

The day after the government was re-opened, House Speaker John Boehner stated to an Ohio radio station, “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” Recent poll numbers show that Boehner comment was right.

This goes to show that facts don’t always win arguments. Political and legislative positions, and the messaging to match, need to be translated into a language that John and Jane Doe and the 99% of Americans who don’t spend all day refreshing their Twitter feeds for the latest political update can understand.

Here are the sound bites that the President and Democrat Senator Harry Reid delivered:

“House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is the only thing standing between an end to the shutdown. ‘Right now, hundreds of thousands of Americans — hard-working Americans — suddenly aren’t receiving their paychecks.’”

“President Barack Obama weighed in Tuesday, the start of the fiscal year, by lambasting the Republicans for being ‘reckless’ in their apparent willingness to take down the government in order to take down the law overhauling major aspects of health care coverage.”

This unified Democratic message was repeated over and over again, poisoning public perception and leading to the common belief that Republicans want to slash everyone’s health care coverage, take joy in denying cancer patients the life-saving treatment they need, and would rather play politics than reach a compromise while hundreds of thousands of Americans weren’t receiving their paychecks.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll highlighted how badly Republicans had been out-messaged. The poll showed that 70% of Americans believed Republicans were putting politics ahead of what is best for the country, while fewer than 5% thought that of Obama.

Funding for the government is set to expire in January and our country is set to hit the new $17 trillion debt limit in February. Republicans need to quickly lick their wounds, regroup, and map out a new communications strategy that will resonate with the public.

I would hope that with all the communications directors, consultants, lawyers, and media experts at their disposal, Republicans on the Hill would be able to get across the intuitive impacts of continued borrowing and increased debt on the lives of all Americans.

A good place to start might be Barack Obama’s thoughts as a Senator, when he articulated his opposition to raising the debt limit:

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

If nothing else, one must concede that Obama can talk. Now, hopefully, it’s the Republicans’ turn.

Hector Barajas is Vice President at Revolvis Consulting. A nationally recognized political strategist and communications and media relations expert. In 2012, the Hearst named Hector as one of 20 Latino Political Rising Stars in America. Hector also serves as an on-air political analyst for Univision, Telemundo, and CNN Español and has appeared on the BBC, Mega TV, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News.