Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wringing hands and noticeable worries

I'm not going to sugarcoat this: November is looking more and more bleak for Congressional Republicans. Last night the GOP was shellacked again in the third straight special elections, which has increased the Democrat stranglehold in the House to 236. The Hill weighs in on this today but we don't think they're pointing to the right problem:

The GOP loss in Mississippi’s special election Tuesday is the strongest sign yet that the Republican Party is in shambles. And while some Republicans see a light at the end of the tunnel, that light more likely represents the Democratic train that is primed to mow down more Republicans in November.

The third straight House special election loss in three conservative districts this year is a clear indication that the GOP brand is turning off voters and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is in disarray.

In the wake of the devastating loss, the first question facing House Republican leaders is whether they will keep Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) as NRCC chairman. Speculation has been rampant that Cole would be asked to step down should Republicans lose in Mississippi, and on Tuesday that chatter intensified.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will be under tremendous pressure to do something dramatic after the trio of losses. Boehner has publicly clashed with Cole over staffing and lackluster fundraising numbers but despite their differences, their political futures are tied together.

Significant gains by House Democrats this fall would likely lead to Boehner and Cole losing their leadership posts. Travis Childers (D), who narrowly defeated Greg Davis (R) on Tuesday, will push the Democrats’ total in the House to 236 members. With six months to go until the elections, political analysts and observers are suggesting Democrats could reach 250 in the next Congress.
Some Republican conference members have criticized Boehner for not effectively managing Cole.

GOP strategists and lobbyists have also questioned Boehner’s leadership. One Republican source noted that, after Boehner called for staffing changes at the NRCC, Cole refused and triumphed in the showdown.

Former Republican leaders, such as Reps. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and Tom DeLay (Texas), would not have backed down, the source said. Boehner, in fact, later rewarded Cole with a promise to be on the Appropriations Committee next year.

Republicans downplayed the special elections in Illinois and Louisiana, saying they were plagued with sub-par candidates but there is little they can spin on the loss in Mississippi. Despite a desperate last-minute fundraising drive and an appearance by Vice President Cheney they still fell short. ...

K Street insiders fault the NRCC for not reaching out to them more. A few lobbyists have said they were regularly called by the NRCC for donations in previous cycles but have not been urged to give in 2008.

Cole has cited morale as one of the biggest challenges that faces his colleagues this cycle.
In a January interview with The Hill, Cole said, “My biggest problem is not money or candidates. It’s Republican morale. There’s no reason to be this down. The worst is behind us.”

The NRCC chairman has been dealt a bad hand, as scandals have continued to hit the GOP.
Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) has been indicted and married Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) was recently arrested and subsequently admitted to an affair and fathering a child out-of-wedlock.

In February, the NRCC announced that it was the victim of an internal accounting fraud and that the losses could total in the millions on dollars. ...

Cole told The Hill in January that the buck stops with him: “At the end of the day, I know who is going to be held accountable for what goes on over here….I know this business better than anyone else. There aren’t a lot of other guys in Congress who can run their party’s campaign. I am going to make the final call.”

The NRCC and Boehner’s office did not comment for this article but, after the Mississippi race was called, Cole said in a release he was disappointed with the loss. He added, “Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for.”

Boehner stated that the result “should serve as a wake-up call to Republican candidates nationwide. As I’ve said before, this is a change election, and if we want Americans to vote for us we have to convince them that we can fix Washington.”

These guys don't get it. The piece cites scandals that have rocked the GOP, but that's not the totality of the problem. To put it as simply as I can, the problem comes in the fact that they still haven't learned from the lessons of 2006. Instead of launching a full-scale turnaround, and engaging in a strategy that could bring forth a new, updated "Contract with America" Republicans in both the House and the Senate have continued to act as though nothing has changed.

People are fed up with the Democrats and their wild and woolly ways with our money, but it's even worse when the party of smaller government, less taxation, and fiscal responsibility seems to have tossed off that legacy in favor of the expanse of government and an increase in worthless spending. When you act like a liberal, you'll be trusted like a liberal; that being, you won't be trusted. This is going to be a rough election cycle if the GOP doesn't make some significant changes.

The first change that has to come is Cole needs to be removed. Do the House vote to remove him, but he needs to go. Trent Franks or Jeff Flake could serve as replacements, if they wanted to take up the mantle, which right now is one that many don't want.

Second, there needs to be some serious soul-searching going on when it comes to the House leadership. We like John Boehner, but he's been ineffective in this realm. We were willing to keep him on after the 2006 rout because the failures of 2006 weren't entirely his fault. He'd only been Majority Leader for a short time. But as the last two years have shown he has a problem controlling the party. A firmer hand might be needed now, and that could come in the form of Eric Cantor or John Shadegg, who narrowly lost the Whip position to Roy Blunt.

Third, the leadership needs to reevaluate itself and it's caucus. They need to find a way to regain the trust of voters. It could come in a new Contract, as I pointed out above, and it would be a good idea to assemble it, and run on it, for November. If nothing else, they could very well stem the bleeding, and continue to hammer home the point that the House GOP needs to lead the way when it comes to returning to the ideology that swept them into power in 1994.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently warned the House GOP that unless they changed something drastically, they were heading for disaster this November. A few scoffed at the notion. No one's laughing now. At least they'd better not be if they still want a job come January of next year.

The GOP could easily turn this around. They may not be able to retake either House in Congress, but they could make significant gains. Remember that Chuck Schumer has set his sights on having 57 seats after November in the Senate. If he nails that number, he guarantees the Democrats will have the numbers to filibuster almost anything; the flip side is he'll have the votes to break any filibuster the GOP mounts.

Both House and Senate leadership had better wake up. We're six months out, and if things don't change, we'll watch a drubbing that none of us want to see. And, in that regard, it won't matter who's in the White House. If it's McCain, he won't get his agenda pushed through. If it's Obama, he'll have a ready-and-willing rubber-stamp Congress at his beck and call.

Publius II


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