What are GOP presidential hopefuls missing? The big message
© Greg Nash, Getty

State of the 2016 Race
A column for The Hill analyzing the current state of the 2016 presidential race.

The key to the 2016 presidential race is the "big message":

1. Which is more important in politics and campaigns: having gobs and gobs of campaign cash, but no compelling campaign message — or being short on funds and donations but having a powerful, inspiring vision for the future?

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2. If you ask most campaign professionals and media people they would choose option No. 1, as they are all obsessed with money and Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing reports and "cash on hand." These types believe "money is the mother's milk of politics," as  former California State Treasurer Jesse Unruh (D) once said.

3. But in an age of hundreds of TV channels and untold websites, all the money in the world cannot buy an election on its own.

4. No, what is more powerful than plain old dough is that simple but compelling message that makes the listener stop and then nod his or her head in agreement — and then hopefully vote for that message's messenger.

5. Oh, donations will then come to that powerful message, too.

6. In the 2016 presidential election cycle, no GOP candidate has yet unveiled a powerful, cut-through-the-clutter, awe-inspiring message.

7. In fact, it doesn't even appear that any of them are trying. Or even want to.

8. Instead, when given that crucial seven-second sound-bite opportunity, they all prefer to go negative, often blasting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or President Obama.

9. They are squandering their chances to elevate themselves above their competitors.

10. What, you ask, would such a "compelling, powerful" message sound like?

11. How about this: "America, let me ask you a simple question: Have we become a corrupt nation where lying and cheating are what gets you ahead? Where the system is rigged by the powerful for themselves and their buddies? Where Super Bowl quarterbacks cheat, where baseball sluggers take steroids, where powerful political families 'game' the system for their own personal financial gain?

12. "Is this the America we want to live in — and have our children live in?

13. "Or, should we make this election our opportunity to put a stop to this? By voting out the status quo — and voting for new people who are devoted to restoring honor and honesty?"

14. That message is off the top of my head and written at 6 a.m. — but it is better than anything I am hearing from today's candidates.

15. It is also predicated on the underlying belief — widespread among the American people but never mentioned within the political class — that America's future is imperiled and there is a deep sense of long-term pessimism among the American people.

16. None of the candidates are connecting with the people on this.

17. (Let me add in one thing here — before I am inundated with emails telling me how naive I am — that the American people are not corrupt or inclined toward dishonesty; quite to the contrary, they are baffled over what has happened to their country.)

18. Amazingly the 15 or so GOP candidates are always invoking President Reagan, but none seem to have listened to him. Old Dutch, who was kind and funny and pleasant — and knew that how you looked on TV was as important as what you said — would die all over again if he saw the angry, sneering, turndown faces of today's GOP candidates. And he would decry their incessant negativity, when they should be projecting an inspiring, positive vision for our country's future.

19. Oh, how far downward the Republican Party has descended since the heady days of the Reagan Revolution.

20. The GOP lived off of Reagan for a generation.

21. But that has run out.

22. And now it is time for the Republicans to come up with a new leader who can articulate a message that transforms not only the party, but the country.

LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel, Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. He will be writing weekly pieces in the Contributors section on the "State of the 2016 Race."