After Jack Ryan’s exit from the race, forfeit or fight?

Jack Ryan’s exit from the U.S. Senate campaign has all but given Barack Obama a November election victory in June. Unless…unless the Republican leadership picks the right candidate to take his place.

If they make the wrong choice, it will be obvious and their motivations will be highly scrutinized. The excuses they’re already drafting for that likelihood will be ignored. They will own any sizable margin of defeat.

There are many activists happy to just let that happen. I am not among them. I don’t think we should give Barack Obama a free pass. I’d like to see them pick the best possible candidate and fight to retain this seat for Republicans.

Yes, there’s only four months to work with, but that can be good news if it’s seized upon as the opportunity to run a different kind of campaign.

Political campaigns are the most underused vehicle in the public square today. It’s long past time for political candidates and officeholders to throw off the bad advice and stale strategies of the political consulting class and hire real pros.

Every day in America creative advertising, aggressive marketing, and wise public relations experts make their living by showing private sector businesses how to sell goods, services, and how to connect with busy people.

Communication of serious content takes place. Substantive messages are conveyed. New products and services are launched. Appetites are created for never before seen conveniences or tools. Industries are built.

Advertising has come a long way in the last thirty years. Today it’s not uncommon, for example, for TV ads to be more entertaining than the regular programming. With political ads it’s a much different story. Most political ads look no different now than they did in 1974.

Political consultants always do what worked for them the last time. But it’s a simple fact that in two way political races, one loses and one wins in spite of themselves.

Part of the job of successfully conveying important public policy information to a busy and sophisticated population is to create a buzz, a news story, and be inventive in your approach to getting your message out.

An unconventional race can’t be run if the ILGOP doesn’t pick the right person.

If it’s going to be a horse race they need a good horse, one with heart and who is willing to argue the case. Someone who can think and talk at the same time, but is not enamored of his or her own ability.

It has to be someone who can shake things up, get creative, and look to the non-political sector for modern communication expertise. Things could get interesting if they genuinely seek to re-cast how a campaign is run.

Integral to this plan is to relegate political consultants to the backbench. Let them fill the role they should fill – organizing the grassroots, conducting polling, making ad buys, and fundraising. Keep them out of the room when important decisions are made, particularly about message.

About this time the political campaign experts chime in about what’s not possible. But those same people didn’t think the 2000 Bush campaign would break all fundraising records or that Howard Dean would raise as much money as he did in the Democrat primaries. Things can and do change, it’s only the calcified politicos who don’t.

Barack Obama might be an attractive, accomplished guy, but he can be beaten. The majority of Illinois voters do not subscribe to his radical left wing agenda. They will, however, cast their ballot for him for the sake of making history if Republicans don’t put up an articulate and attractive alternative.

We are an evenly divided country because our side hasn’t come anywhere near to effectively presenting how Republicans would govern if they governed according to Republican principles. I’m convinced we’ll start winning in landslides – even in Illinois – when we do.

Put together the right candidate, message, and unconventional campaign and we don’t have to forfeit the opportunity created by Ryan’s exit. We might even be able to enjoy this campaign after all.