Earlier I wondered why the Democrats, despite having a lock on the best minds in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue, have consistently been outspun by the Republicans. I think the explanation must be that politics isn't about packaging, but rather about salesmanship -- and while marketing may be the domain of Democrats, sales is the domain of Republicans.
One of the things that salespeople work on relentlessly is coming up with a good "elevator pitch" for the product they sell. An elevator pitch is called that because it should be short enough to deliver on an elevator ride between floors when someone you've never met asks you, "What does your product do?" In no more than three sentences, an elevator pitch is supposed to explain what the product does, who it's for, how it's different from the competition, and the benefit a customer can expect to get from buying the product.
Coming up with a good elevator pitch is a painful exercise, especially when you work on a complex product that has many possible uses, that costs a huge amount of money, and that people have highly varying degrees of satisfaction with. People with a mind for complexity and nuance generally loathe the elevator pitch exercise, which is by its nature reductionist. But coming up with a good elevator pitch is essential to marketing and selling a product: it's the core proposition that everything else you say and do harkens back to, the anchor of your entire messaging strategy.
The Republicans have done a far better job than the Democrats of coming up with an elevator pitch for their party. Josh Marshall provides a good rendition of what the Republican elevator pitch might be: "They're for lowering taxes in exchange for giving up whatever it is the government pretends to do for us, (at a minimum) riding the brakes on the on-going transformation of American culture, and kicking ass abroad."
The product may lousy, but that's a good elevator pitch. And as anyone who knows anything about sales knows, it's not always the best product that wins.