The GOP’s Failed Crisis Management Strategy and the Downfall of the Republican Brand

All eyes are trained on the United States as the Republican and Democratic candidates continue to duke it out, fighting to be the guy who’s left in the ultimate game of “Who’s Who in American Politics”.

But as these candidates continue to brawl, claw and spend millions of dollars, Americans and other Earthly citizens are witnessing one delicious and disastrous example of crisis management did wrong – so very wrong.

Crisis management is intended to be a series of strategies designed to help an organization cope with a sudden and serious event that threatens the brand. But looking at the GOP’s approach to usurp Donald Trump’s forecasted nomination as the Republican candidate, it’s pretty clear that the GOP was too focused on strong-arming and obstructing POTUS to realize the ominous threat of Trump.

The GOP is struggling with its brand image. Though they wish to appear as the noble inheritors of Honest Abe’s Good Old Party, the real brand is widely seen as white males of privilege who are out-of-touch, out-of-date and certainly out-of-time.

Paired with the realization that their expansive field of establishment candidates are and have been summarily executed by a billionaire businessman turned demagogue, the GOP is scrambling to salvage the deteriorating party’s brand. While the GOP tries to get in front of one of the biggest crisis threats to its brand since the Tea Party movement’s emergence in the mid-2000s, we’re all left wondering, is it too late?

I’ll lay out how the GOP’s zealousness to upset the 8-year-long Democratic hold of the White House has led to a splintering within the Republican Party brand.

Clearly the GOP’s biggest and possibly deadliest mistake (catch back up with me in 6 more months) was not considering Trump a serious contender for the race to the White House. Instead of focusing efforts to disfranchise the business mogul immediately after his announcement in June of 2015, the GOP and running candidates elected to eviscerate each other.

The dozen or so candidates were too focused on eliminating the other congressional Republicans, pursuing a variation of political cannibalism. Just look at the  Republican debate before the New Hampshire primary, where Cris Cristie bludgeoned Marco Rubio for his establishment ties and memorized 30-second speeches. Meanwhile, Trump capitalized on the frustrations, anger, and fear laying dormant – now flowing like boiling lava – in the Republican base. Since voters have become increasingly frustrated by the GOP’s obstructionism and failure to provide policy alternatives for nearly a decade, Trump’s blunt rhetoric and vigorous attacks on politicians have garnered him massive support among blue collar workers, moderate Republicans, and citizens who have likely never voted before.

The GOP’s crisis management team consists of big congressional players like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and, of course, the party’s biggest donors and super PACs.

This mix of senators and big-money donors alike are frantically proposing plans to market their party’s political appeal in contrast to Trump’s 62% unfavorable rating. But as these politicians meet behind not-so-closed doors and propose radical ‘solutions’ like brokering the Republican convention if Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates, Trump supporters and possibly undeclared Republican voters are likely to strengthen their resolve for a Trump candidacy.

If in fact Trump somehow doesn’t clinch the Republican nomination – not likely as there are 1,059 available delegates left and Trump only needs about 50% of that – the idea that the Republican Congress will disregard its party’s voters for appointing another establishment politician, will undoubtedly lead to chaos.

Trump himself warned that there would probably be riots if he didn’t secure the Republican nomination. Other Republicans like Ted Cruz have said that “I think the people would quite rightly revolt. The way to beat Donald Trump is at the ballot box.”

But can they?

Even when the GOP whipped out the Big Guns, aka former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, to publicly attack Trump in an attempt to invalidate him to Republican voters, Trump supporters and frustrated Republicans only strengthened their resolve not to nominate another establishment figurehead.

Romney described how Trump was “playing the American public for suckers”, accusing him of being a phony, dishonest and “very, very not smart”. Just two days after Romney’s speech Trump seized victories in the Kentucky caucus and Louisiana primary.

To seemingly double-down on managing the Trump Crisis, the GOP and dedicated Super PACs have spent millions on political attack ads. Five super PACs alone have run more than 365 attack ads per day combined attacking Trump before the primaries in Ohio and Florida. Some reports indicate that this coalition of super PACs spent more than $10 million on negative political ads targeting Trump, in Florida alone.

The amount of money spent on negative political Trump ads targeting viewers through television, social media, and even Google Ad Words banners is fairly high, yet not surprising. But the amount of free media exposure Trump has earned this past year is astounding.

Trump has only spent roughly $10 million in ad spending, yet he has received roughly $2 billion in free media exposure this past year. Mainstream media like MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News have been absurdly focused on delivering news coverage of Trump’s speeches and events, going so far as to broadcast his empty podium for 30 minutes, despite both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton addressing their supporters.

The media is essentially bankrolling Trump’s candidacy, looping news coverage of his latest outrage or controversial rhetoric and dedicating hundreds of segments to dissecting his key messages. And the GOP is doing no better, with continued talks of side-stepping democracy to appoint a more suitably conservative candidate with published articles insinuating the GOP’s potential desire to launch a third-party, independent bid.

As the media and GOP continue to center the political conversation on Trump, he is undoubtedly basking in the limelight and filing his smaller than average nails as he gears up for the 2016 Republican National Convention.