What, no triumphant headlines or gloating from the GOP? Has it suddenly discovered a new level of modesty? Days after the sequester debate has reached the end of its life cycle, the GOP and Republican politicians seem remarkably low key about their latest political triumph. Puzzling, to say the least.
From the get go, President Obama has been clear: He hated the sequester. A bad and clumsy mechanism to reduce spending that would only hurt middle and low-income earners. Bad for the economy, bad for the recovery. In PR terms, his case was an easy read.
Republicans, on the other hand, made it clear that spending needed to be reined in. This showdown was going to highlight their resolve to cut spending and bring the deficit back in line. But since then, the triumphant tone in Republican communication has been increasingly limp and muddled. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I didn’t like it anymore than anybody else liked it,” while other Congressional peers including Jim Jordan said: “The sequester should happen… That is good.” Sen. Lindsey Graham told the media, “The cumulative effect of sequestration is bad for defense.” So, is the GOP happy with the cuts or not? What is the official party line – or is there one?
THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging. Confusing at best.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t air your doubt in public. Just weeks ago, GOP messaging was clear: Government spending was out of hand, and the American electorate had handed them a mandate to rein it in. Now that the cuts are in place, the PR messaging is confused and contradictory, playing straight into concerns that the cuts are iron-fisted and potentially damaging to the fragile recovery. What changed in the space of a couple of weeks? Now is the time for the GOP to revisit and unify its messaging. Public displays of ambivalence in moments like this rarely offers any protection against public reactions of hostility. Without a change, the GOP and Republican Congress is unintentionally poised to take the blame for a later slow-down. Of course, if that was their intention, well, mission accomplished.