No. 1: First and foremost, no, it is not about "distancing yourself from Trump." Donald Trump did not create the anger of Americans furious at seeing their country attacked from within and their views mischaracterized as ignorance and bigotry. Trump won in 2016 — and received even more votes in 2020 — because he listened to those Americans, when Democrats and RINO Republicans ignored them. He unabashedly put America first, was unafraid to jump into the culture wars, removed regulatory burdens from small businesses, engaged minorities on the issues that matter to them and called out the worst impulses of the left, including the deceit of the media. If you "distance yourself" from that, you're toast.
No. 2: Forget courting the national media. If you're running for office with anything other than a "D" after your name, they will smear you and lie about your policies. Trump proved that there are plenty of ways to take your message directly to the American public. Use them.
No. 3: Be honest with the public. Present facts and evidence. Avoid like the plague advisers who insist that they're the smartest person in the room. Americans come from long lines of people who have endured plenty, here and elsewhere; they can handle the truth. Whether it's COVID-19, critical race theory or climate change, they're fed up with a government that lies to them.
No. 4: Respect people's experience. Two-thirds of Americans do not have college degrees. They've built this country, and it cannot run without them. Treat them as the invaluable contributors to our society that they are.
No. 5: Make clear that you can be tough on crime, support police, and avoid the kinds of profiling and abuse that make headlines and undermine public confidence in justice. Promote our many minority cops. Emphasize neighborhood partnerships and give citizens a prominent place in the creation of your platforms and policies on safe neighborhoods.
No. 6: Support local businesses. Promise to abolish policies that ignore theft. Retail theft is money coming out of business owners' pockets and their employees' paychecks. It contributes to a climate of lawlessness that affects everyone adversely. Inform yourself about the statistics of small business ownership in this country and tell everyone who will listen. "Business" in America is small business and family business. All voters can understand this, and many more need to.
No. 7: Stand up for parents. One of COVID's rare blessings was the opportunity for many families to see the poisonous garbage their children are being taught. The recent surge of participation at school board meetings has also revealed destructive school policies and disdain for parents. Most parents want the best for their children and all children. Most teachers and administrators want the same. Empower those who do and expose those who don't.
No. 8: Stop playing by the old rules and stop listening to political consultants who tell you they apply; they don't. (I'm convinced most "consultants" are either highly paid Democratic National Committee plants whose job it is to ensure that Republicans lose, or so removed from most Americans' reality that their advice is worse than worthless.) Don't fall for the "electability" or "bipartisan" shtick; that's just D.C. swamp-speak for milquetoasts without the courage of their convictions. Republicans will not win by watering down their message to be more "moderate" or "centrist." Those who try that approach will never gain Democrat voters and will lose conservative ones.
No. 9: Embrace and engage constituencies you've been told "don't vote for Republicans." That means actively courting Black people, Hispanic people, single moms, immigrants and others as voters, campaign workers and candidates. Democrats are no longer the party of the little guy, the working class or the poor. The wealthiest zip codes in the country overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Democratic policies have wrought havoc in our cities, increased homelessness and crime, and not done a thing to alleviate poverty. Conservative policies promote economic opportunity, safe neighborhoods and strong families. Recent victories by Republicans (Glenn Youngkin won 54% of the Hispanic vote in Virginia) demonstrate that when these policies are effectively communicated, they're persuasive to broad cross-sections of the population.
No. 10: Be fierce but be courteous. I'll be honest: I love Trump's brusque demeanor and the way he gives the left a taste of their own medicine. But many Americans found Trump's approach distasteful. The left exploited this incessantly (and hypocritically). This is not about trying to cultivate better treatment from the press. (See No. 2 above.) This is about reaching Americans who are seeking candidates who are straightforward but statesmanlike. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a great example of that combination. Republicans who strike that balance will win.
No. 11: Finally, nothing you do will matter if our elections are not secure. Do not let up on efforts to ensure election integrity. Every state needs statutes and policies that protect the actual votes of its citizens and prevent deceit and fraud. Call out all those who characterize these policies as "racist." It should be abundantly clear by now that "racism" is the argument the left trots out when it has nothing else — which is most of the time.