Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2008

House losses just one sign of GOP’s sorry state

May 18, 2008


— One way of measuring the current miserable state of the Republican Party is to note that in the past 10 weeks, 55 years of Republican seniority in the House of Representatives were wiped out in three special elections.

Another gauge is that President Bush's 31 percent job approval score in this month's Washington Post poll is one of the lowest ever recorded for a chief executive.

However one measures it, this is surely the springtime of the GOP's discontent - a condition that led one Capitol Hill Republican to say, "Thank God we've still got almost six months until Election Day."

There's no telling what may happen between now and Nov. 4, but we know that John McCain is bucking a powerful head wind as he seeks the White House, while Barack Obama (or maybe Hillary Clinton) can enjoy at least a favoring breeze.

The situation is reminiscent of 1980. Six months before that election, it was evident that the country had grown weary of Jimmy Carter and his administration. What remained to be determined was the degree of comfort voters felt with Ronald Reagan as his successor. Would Reagan be seen as a B-movie actor and TV host, peddling eccentric and maybe dangerous notions, or as someone who had governed California successfully for eight years and could restore some sanity to a dysfunctional Washington? Once he delivered the necessary reassurances, the election was over.

The threshold for Obama now is no higher than what Reagan faced, but the mental exercise of placing Obama in the Oval Office requires more imagination than did moving Reagan from the silver screen to Pennsylvania Avenue. Obama's name, his face, his whole biography are precedent-setting. People need time to adjust. That's the reason it has been a mistake for him to all but avoid campaigning before skeptical voters in West Virginia and Kentucky. He has to earn the trust of voters like them - and he can't postpone that effort until the fall.

If he can make it past the credibility threshold, as Reagan did, a happy prospect awaits him. The voters clearly are ready to expand the Democratic numbers in the House and Senate.

The special-election victories in recent congressional races have toppled one Republican stronghold after another: Louisiana and Mississippi districts that had been Republican for 33 and 13 years, respectively; and former Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat in Illinois, which had gone Democratic only once in the last 50 years.

House Minority Leader John Boehner called the Mississippi race last week "a wake-up call" to all his embattled flock, but it seems more like a nightmare to many of them, portending large losses in November.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the unlucky campaign chairman for the House GOP, tried to put the best gloss on the situation, telling reporters that the avowedly conservative Democrats who won in Louisiana and Mississippi cannot be role models. Come November, with Obama likely to be atop the ticket and defining the Democratic message, "it will be harder for Democrats to run against their party," Cole said.

That remains to be seen. What's driving the vote now is not just opposition to Bush but a failing grade for Republicans. John Anzalone, a polling consultant for the winners in Louisiana and Mississippi, told me that those races - which featured Republican efforts to link the local Democratic candidates to Obama, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - showed "in hard times like these, the kitchen-table issues supersede the wedge issues" the GOP employed.

In the Post poll, Democrats led Republicans, 53 percent to 32 percent, as the party more trusted to cope with the main problems facing the country - twice as big as the GOP deficit in the summer of 2006, approaching the election that stripped Republicans of their congressional majorities.

Cole said that McCain, with his reputation for independence, can pull in votes not available to any other Republican. He's right. The same Post poll showed him trailing Obama by only seven percentage points and running far ahead of his party. But Lord, what a party.

David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Brent Garner 10 years ago

IF the GOP suffers large losses in the house and senate this fall it will be a result of their having "drifted" away from the people who got them there. While the war in Iraq had some impact in 2006, far less than the democrats claim, what really upset conservatives around the country was the failure of the GOP dominated Congress to adhere to conservative concepts. The GOP literally seemed to go out of its way to spend like democrats. This kind of fiscal irresponsibility coupled with a few scandals led many conservatives to either not vote or vote other than GOP. It is interesting to note that in 2006 the "losses" among conservative GOP office holders were fairly minimal while those among their moderate fellows was significant. The lesson learned should have been if you act like democrats, spend like democrats, talk like democrats, then don't be surprised if a democrat beats you in the next election.

Rex Russell 10 years ago

Much like the obvious slant he assails Broder for, CTE shows his partisan leanings also. This says a lot about his objectivity. To start with, Broder is'nt the flaming liberal he discribes. He's more of the middle of the road centrists that neo-cons hate more than left-wing liberals. They can always easily dismiss those guys, but moderate,sensible centrists are the biggest threat. Retaking the GOP back from the neo-cons who sullied the good name of the Republican Party is the real fight to be had in the future. I will predict that Obama will defeat McCain in the general election,in part, because moderate sensible Republicans want the party back. The politics of the Bush years have shamed the name. The moderates and independants see what these years were. A profiteering money grab. Too make it worse, we were acting like Democrats and spending $$$$ we don't have with disregard. I don't think they can do much better, but the message has to be sent. I will be voting as an independant until Republicans start sounding and acting like Rupublicans, and less like what Cato and other neo-cons sound like.

cato_the_elder 10 years ago

Broder's recent columns have clearly displayed his long-established bias in favor of Democrats (which is why he's so fondly regarded as a "moderate" in academic and liberal D.C. circles). His column is simply another attempt by a liberal member of the media to deflect prior reporting about the Dems' impending meltdown, and coincides with a number of electronic media (especially CNN) reports on this same subject that, to no one's surprise, have all begun appearing at the same time. The fact that a few local Republicans made strategic mistakes in a few elections, which will actually benefit the Party in strategic planning later in the day, is all that needs to be said, but of course columnists like Broder feel a great need to jump on anything they can to make it look like the GOP is going down the tubes. If Senator Obama runs, barring a major gaffe by Senator McCain, or another Republican misstep a la Mark Foley or Larry Craig, McCain will win - and could win big if the Dems' family feuding continues at its present pace and/or the Bush Adminstration is able to catch a break on the international scene. Senator Clinton clearly would have been the better candidate, and it looks like the Dems are well on their way to blowing it again. And yes, afterward Broder will chide his fellow Dems for how badly they screwed it up, again failing to realize that a sizeable majority of Americans who are outside of academia, are not left-wing political operatives, are reasonably mature in age and thought and can be counted on to vote, do not wish to buy into the radical leftist philosophies that Senator Obama and his wife and "friends" will have tried to sell to the public.

jayhawklawrence 10 years ago

The Republicans have been able to fool the electorate and even themselves that they have the superior ideology and hold the moral high ground. The task now is for them to overcome their cult like denial of reality and reform themselves with new leadership. The reason they will lose the elections is because the average American voter is not as dumb as they thought or susceptible to the same propaganda. When the average voter watches the Enronization of the energy market and the same thing happening in the agricultural industry, they no longer believe the hype that the Democrats are socialists or communists or the party of the devil. Rather, the Republicans look more and more like what they really are. The party of arrogant rich people having a party at the expense of Americans.There are very few people in the world left who believe the hype that led us into and keeps us remaining in Iraq and not doing our job in Afghanistan. I hope the Republican party reforms itself by dumping its current leadership but that probably will not happen until they get their well deserved beating by the electorate.

acoupstick 10 years ago

Now that "conservatives" have the disfavor that they have earned, they can no longer demonize their opposition by calling them "liberals." Afterall, "liberal" is the opposite of "conservative" and people might actually start to think that "liberals" might not be so bad. I recommend that "conservatives" start calling anyone whose views are contrary to theirs a "socialist." Accuse them of secretly practicing "socialism" and claim that any policy they propose is motivated by a desire to change our country into a "socialist" state. Soon, even moderates and some liberals will start to distrust the opposition. Let's be honest, the faces of "socialism" in the world are the French and Hugo Chavez, and everyone hates those guys.Turdblossom politics at its best (worst).

JohnBrown 10 years ago

The problem with the Republican party is that they lied. They lied about wanting smaller government. They lied about wanting to spend less taxpayer dollars, not more. They lied about being a party of family values, preferring instead, to protect members of their majority who were molesting House pages. They lied about "making the US safer". Voters now realize that Iran is only growing stronger because Bush took away Iran's major enemy, Iraq, and replaced it with an Irani-friendly government.They lied about "getting Osama...dead or alive".They lied about "honoring our troops" by stretching the military to the breaking point, with no reserve brigades for the unexpected, and by opposing the new GI bill of rights.And most recently, Bush showed his ignorance of history by confusing straight talk with dictators with "appeasement".Americans are sick of the lies, the fear-mongering, the falling dollar, and rising gas prices.And I haven't even mentioned Republican incompetence, such as dealing with Katrina, or the failure to prevent the sub-prime mortgage market fiasco.Republicans have only demonstrated a few unfaltering traits: do and say anything to stay in power, wear American flag lapel pins, and call anyone who questions their policies unpatriotic.Enough is enough

jayhawklawrence 10 years ago

coolthe federal budget?Great link. Thanks.Reinforces the fear that the lights are on in Congress but nobody is home.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.