Dr. Politics: Questions that the Press Likes to ask Republicans

By Dwight Patel, MCGOP First Vice Chairman

It is getting close to the candidates’ filing deadline date, which is Tuesday, February 27, 2018 by 9:00pm.  So, please, if you haven’t done so already, go to the MD Board of Elections website and download the forms to file for the office you wish to run for. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about preparing for questions you will most likely get, and the right and wrong way of answering them.

Each and every one of you will get this question from the media at some point. “Are you for or against abortion?” Or they may phrase it, “Do you believe in a woman’s right to choose?”  However they configure the question, you have to answer it the most honest way possible. 

Here are some pointers on how to deal with this question:

If you are Pro-Life
Answer honestly by letting them know you are pro-life and you believe in the sanctity of life. Then move away from the topic quickly, since this could be a major sand trap for pro-life candidates. Focus their attention on the alternatives such as adoption, then pivot to quality of life, such as how under Democrat representation, traffic has more than doubled, schools are failing, and so on.

If you are Pro-Choice
Again, answer honestly. Don’t say it is settled law, since a certain candidate for Congress got burned by answering the question that way. Nothing drives people crazier than when they hear a candidate giving a political answer.  A good answer is “…I am personally against abortion, since I believe that better options are available, such as  putting a child up for adoption. Millions of families are waiting to adopt a newborn…” 

You could also state that while you are pro-choice, you are also concerned about the thousands of kids who are going to failing public schools. Mention that you are really disappointed in the focus of the press if they believe that the most burning issue in the minds of the electorate is abortion, as opposed to the state of failing public schools in Maryland.   

If you are personally pro-choice, then your answer could include mentioning that this is a deep and personal issue that doesn’t belong in the context of a campaign, since millions of women struggle with making this decision every day; then pivot to the fact that taxes are going up, schools are failing and quality of life is going down.  You want to talk about how you will work with Governor Hogan on issues like widening I-270 and the Beltway. Again, this can turn into a sand trap, so get out fast and pivot to your core issues. 

In any of the answers that you choose, bring everything back home to quality of life issues.

The media have a habit of mentioning some tragedy that occurred as a pretext for moving into the “guns are evil” question.

Your answer should start with something like “… that was a horrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the victims…” before you segue into mentioning that further gun regulations only harm law abiding citizens.  Mention that while Baltimore, Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws on the books, every day there is a murder. Rather than enacting more laws that regulate law abiding citizens, we need enforcement of the laws already on the books.  Studies show that no new law that is being proposed would have prevented the “…tragedy they ask about…”

Since remaining on this topic could easily result in another sand trap situation, move your answer to the question back to your core message. Don’t let them take you off message.  Howard Phillips, one of America’s great conservative leaders, was a master of bringing people back.

The media like to bring up public schools and education, particularly if they can focus on the benefits of increased public education spending vs. the downside of charter schools, vouchers and other private initiatives.

  • Spending for Schools – This is a classic, going back to 1972 when SAT scores were the lowest in a ten year period.  The message of the NEA and the AFT local boards of education was spend, spend, spend. In fact, spending more than doubled in public schools.  In 1998, the Association of Concerned Taxpayers (AOCTP) did a study comparing the SAT test scores since 1972 to the proportion of spending in public schools.  The study results showed that while SAT scores had pretty much flat lined since 1972, spending on average had more than doubled.   

If spending had been the solution, then test scores should have gone up, along with spending. The answer is that we need to try everything, from charter schools to vouchers and tax credits.  Moreover, we shouldn’t let a zip code be a death sentence that forces students to attend underperforming schools.  We need tax credits that would allow parents to send kids to parochial or other private schools. 

Vouchers would allow low income families to send their children to private schools where they can get a better education than being stuck in failing public schools. 

President Trump
The one question that every Republican running in 2018 will be asked is, do you support President Trump, or something to that effect.

Your best answer is that President Trump isn’t on the ballot in 2018. Mention that while you support Governor Hogan’s priorities, like transportation and addressing the opioid crisis in Maryland, you also want to help Governor Hogan create jobs and build on the theme of “Maryland is Open for Business.”  While Maryland was close to the bottom of the list of job creators four years ago, today we have moved close to the top of every list.  Mention that quality of life has improved greatly for Marylanders, and add that you want to work with Governor Hogan to keep changing Maryland for the better.

Final Thoughts
Since we are getting very close to the filing deadline, I recommend that you and your prospective campaign staffers become familiar with the Advantage the walk App, which is part of the Digital Tool Kit.  Also, put the finishing touches on your campaign announcement. 

NOTE: Here are some noteworthy dates to keep in mind: The Montgomery County GOP will be holding candidate recruitment meetings every Saturday from 1-6-2018 thru 2-23-2018.  Our January training sessions will also include training for campaign treasurers. Training sessions will be held from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm every Saturday. Our Montgomery County GOP Convention date is TBD, but we usually hold it the first or second Saturday in February. If you have any questions, I can be reached at [email protected] or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dwight.patel.  

Montgomery County Republican Party