The GOP’s November Strategy, considered.

From Arizona to Kentucky to Indiana to that one sex club in Los Angeles, the GOP has been in one imbroglio after another. In the “election of the angry-at-anything-voter”, what is the GOP strategy for victory in November?

To be honest, I do not know if they quite have one at this point. I mean, it looked like the Tea Party was going to be the catalyst for a Republican landslide last year. These conservatives were fired up and ready to demolish the Democrats over weak leadership, an “unpopular” health care bill, and a general sense of depression among liberal activists over the seemingly insurmountable odds staring them in the face with regards to the implementation of the Democratic agenda that swept into office only months before.

A few things have changed since then, the most pressing thing being the position of the Tea Party in the Republican Party. While they were simply seen as a force for protest in 2009, they have become a monster all their own, and the Republican Party may end up being its own biggest casualty. Tea Party-backed candidates have triumphed in Utah, where three-term conservative Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) will not appear on the Republican primary ballot after failing to garner enough votes at the Utah State GOP Convention. They have also triumphed in Kentucky, where Dr. Rand Paul is now the Republican nominee to face Attorney General Jack Conway in that state’s U.S. Senate race.

The problem, though, is that these candidates may not be very polished and, by extension, worse candidates. Take the Paul conundrum over civil rights. Now, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 46 years ago and is settled law. When asked about his views, he could have simply said, “I feel that the de jure racism of our past is a settled matter. I support freedom for all, regardless of creed or color. Period.” Yet, he could not resist making his libertarian defense of freedom from regulation, and it may cost the Republicans a safe seat in the U.S. Senate. Now, can anyone tell me that Trey Grayson would have somehow been less conservative? That is what I thought, too.

The same situation has played out in Arizona, where pressure from Tea Party operatives and right-wing immigration groups forced Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R-AZ) hand in signing some of the most regressive immigration policy since the internment camps of World War II. This will have a grave effect on efforts to recruit Latino support for Republican candidates in the fall. The much ballyhooed strategy to recruit minority GOP candidates may have been seriously damaged by these events.

Then, you have the sex scandals. Their effect on depressing the GOP faithful needs no further explanation besides to say that I’m pretty shocked that a party rocked by these sorts of events in 2006 would not have learned its lesson by now.

So, my question is this: given all this, what is the path for Republican victory?  First, we must define victory.  A victory must be more than usual; simply winning 20-25 House seats and 4-5 Senate seats is no victory.  That is normal for a first-term President’s first midterm election.  A victory would constitute a 30+ seat gain in the House and a 7+ seat gain in the Senate.  How possible is this?  On the House side, it is quite possible.  With the bulk of new Democratic Congresspeople coming from places like Idaho-1 or Virginia-5 (rural, conservative districts that strongly tilt red in federal elections), I would expect that a lot of these will be swept out of office.  They would still need a few swing districts, and after the Critz victory in Pennsylvania, those doors may not be as open as once thought, especially if the economy continues to tick upward.  In the Senate, it is nearly impossible.  Winning all five tossups plus a Connecticut or a Washington?  I do not see that happening.  The GOP will campaign on the deficit, and that will get people fired up for sure.  However, how many people can even say what the federal deficit is?  How about the national debt?

This election will come down to GOTV; midterms always do.  But with the recent missteps from the GOP, the tidal wave that appeared to be ready to thunder onto the electoral shores of November may end up gliding in like a gentle wave.  It will sure be fun to watch.

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8 Responses to The GOP’s November Strategy, considered.

  1. Troy says:

    Careful on the sex scandal issue as those lines could be used to evaluate either party.

    I tend to have a different view than most on the outcome of the upcoming election. I think the Democrats will lose about 4 seats in the Senate and somewhere around 12-15 in the House. The economy will continue to improve and this spring there have been significant legislative achievements that should increase Democratic turnout and bring some Independents back into the fold. The main thing Democrats need to focus on now is show a serious commitment to reducing wasteful spending regardless of the amount.

    As I’ve said for the last year (or more) this election won’t be about political issues per se. It will be about management and budget. In other words, competent administration. In that vein, there are two natural questions in people’s minds as they think about the election:
    1) Do I believe the Democrats shown themselves to be competent leaders?
    2) Two years later and after being swept out of office after many years in power, should I trust the Republicans to be *more* effective leaders than the Democrats?

    • Douglas says:

      Yes, the sex scandals have hit both parties. However, I do not remember Democrats having this many problems with that issue so deep into an election cycle. This has not happened just once either; this will be the second election out of the last three where Republicans have faced trouble with “family values” so close to an election date.

      • craigs2040 says:

        I’d be careful to overgeneralize Douglas. You infer that Democrats don’t exhibit “family values” or try to play it up. Democrats play it up as much as Republicans, especially in rural Missouri. “Family values” aren’t just something that Republicans fight for. Everyone (regardless of party) wants to be viewed as having “family values” and depending on the specifics of reach race, both parties play up or play down “family values.”

        • Douglas says:

          I do not infer that Democrats do not fight for “family values” or campaign on them. I do think that today’s Democratic voter sees “family values” as something that is way different from the Republican voter, however. I also think that Democratic candidates do not make as overt an appeal to the traditional “family values” issues (marriage and abortion) as Republicans do, and that is why these scandals tend to hit Republicans harder than they do Democrats.

          In 2006, U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) has to resign because he had merely sent inappropriate text messages to pages. However, in 1973, Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA; he was the first openly gay House member) actually slept with a 17-year old page, for which he was censured for 10 years later. He never lost one election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and served until 1997.

          This is a matter that tends to further depress Republican turnout, not Democratic turnout.

          • Troy says:

            I think the main difference is how generalized the use of family values in campaigns is in each party and, as Craig mentioned, that can lead to over-generalization. It’s easy to look at the face of each party and get the impression there is a vast difference in the approach to family values. But when you look at the ground level and nationwide, you see something very different. You will find family values Democrats, including pro-life Democrats, all over the place. If there’s a divide on family values at all, it’s more of a rural-urban split than a Democrat-Republican split.

  2. Marcia Ferris says:

    We will soon begin calling the 2008 caucus attendees (1,000 in Crow Wing County) that did not attend caucus in 2010. I shall be interested to hear what they have to say and if they still consider themselves Democrats. One problem I am encountering is some far left leaning friends that are upset with Obama not being ‘left enough.’ And of course there are lots of people that hate Obama for being ‘too left.’ The poor guy can’t seem to please anyone. I think he’s done the best he can with the mess he inherited and we know that ‘change’ does not occur overnight. He does need to exhibit some backbone though. When GWB won he didn’t try to take a center position. I do admire Obama for trying to change the tone in DC, and the country, but it appears hopeless. Comments?

  3. Troy says:

    Changing people’s mindsets can take years. I hope he stays steady at the wheel and continues being a thoughtful/pragmatic leader, refusing to buckle to either extreme.

  4. Michael says:

    Grayson was a delegate for Bill Clinton in 1992, so yes, I do think he would have been less conservative. Paul would be one of, if not the, most conservative members of the Senate. Your larger point about the Republican party still not being sure of how to utilize the Tea Party movement (and the Tea Party not wanting to be a partisan movement) is a good one, though.

    Also, the “regressive” AZ immigration law essentially makes a federal crime also a state crime. It allows state law enforcement to do the work federal law enforcement is not, for whatever reason. Most would say the reason is that pro-amnesty policy makers refuse to take measures to secure the border (a federal responsibility) until mass legalization takes place. Now, I don’t want to turn this into a discussion on what immigration reform should look like; I just wanted to point out that Arizona is suffering the consequences of federal inaction, and therefore made a law to help them deal with it. It does not make previously legal behavior illegal; it makes what was already a federal crime a state crime. That is all. The law also does not require anyone to show police their identification without the preexisting requirements, such as after a traffic stop or other intervention. Outrage over the law seems to be a result of people thinking that the first word in the phrase “illegal alien” should not matter despite the damage done to the US and especially to those who are legally trying to enter and work in the country.

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