March 1, 2010

The Republican hurdles on the horizon

It's eight months and a few days to the November mid-term elections and things are looking fairly good for the Republicans in terms of being in a position the day after the elections to slam the brakes on everything Obama. It's nearly morning in America again. The sun for conservatives will come out tomorrow. Health care cap and trade need only;y be stemmed until then, and afterwards there will no longer be a threat to American civilization. The countdown to freeing America from the bonds of progressivism is well under way. There won't be any hurdles.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, there's a list of possible hurdles the GOP faces. Any of these could cause problems for the GOP's prospects in November 2010, but the real danger is the possibility of more than one of these factors coming into play. Sure, it might seem paranoid and counter-productive to think things in such a negative way, but I've always been one who believed that planning is at least half the battle. Anticipate problems and have a risk mitigation plan at the ready. Politics is like chess - you need to think a few moves ahead of your opponent if you want an advantage.

The risks

1. An ineffectual GOP in messaging. As I mentioned previously, it would seem the Tea Party crowd (not using that in any derogatory way, since I'd count myself among them) haven't all heard the GOP message that they've heard the Tea Party message and have mended their ways. When you have someone like Glenn Beck saying he doesn't think they've heard, then the message isn't filtering through loudly enough. There's plenty of time for things to go wrong, but here's an opportunity for things to go right. The negative here is NOT GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT. The GOP has 6 months to let people know that they are going to do things right.

The trick is making sure people hear it. If the voters don't hear it, it could dampen turnout in November. Furthermore, failure to get the message out allows your opponent to be the one to describe you - and you don't want that happening, ever. Failure to get your own story out there is a recipe for disaster. I suspect it wouldn't be for a lack of effort, but the media represents an uphill challenge for the GOP so a smarter effort will be necessary.

2. A resurgent Obama in either popularity or at least rhetorical impact. President Obama proved yet again with the State of the Union address that he can still swing polling numbers, even if it is only temporarily. He still believes in his own swagger. A few riveting speeches in late September and through October could be enough to swing a few key seats back his way. The way to counteract that, sadly enough, is to damage the brand before then. The only way to do that is to pound the faults with his agenda at every opportunity. Jobs, debt, misguided health care, and an expensive belief in Cap and Trade, based on dubious science. Hammer those themes every day. Yes, offer your own ideas, but they must always be coupled with a 'why'; the Democrats' solutions are counter-productive and they insist on forcing them upon you. Look at how they've performed on jobs, debt, misguided health care, and unnecessary Cap and Trade.

3. A wave of non-incumbent Democrats with bona fides on outsider status, could argue that they, not the GOP represent the real change. They have learned from the mistakes of both parties and they represent the real fresh blood that the Capitol needs. Okay, I don't even buy that as a fleeting possibility. Next.

4. Third Party Spoilers. A wave of third party spoilers is not likely. But nevertheless, eating up a possible seat or two by splitting the conservative vote could count if the swing to the GOP ends up at around 40 seats in Congress and 8-10 seats in the Senate. I see this as being more of a potential Congressional impact than a Senate influencing factor. Still, despite this being a small risk, the GOP should do everything they can to make sure their tent is big enough to include Tea Party issues in as an inclusive way as possible. There's a fine line though - you want to avoid the kook factor so that Chris Matthews doesn't get to play up the Tea Party wacko factor.

5. Economic recovery/prosperity in full gear by election day. Jim Geraghty at National Review asks the right question - is the GOP peaking too soon? His answer is heartening for GOP prospects in that there's no reason to believe that the job recovery will be in full swing by September. But I think it misses one critical point to an as yet, unmeasurable extent. That is, that perception is reality. A couple of quarters of positive GDP would be followed by a flood of Democrat and MSM messaging that the Democrats' approach was sound and we just need to give them time to let the recovery play out - business is booming, jobs are sure to follow. True or not, there's going to be heavy spinning of the story. It would seem quite easy to counter the spin. If they were talking about green shoots of recovery last year, why is it taking so long? But again all that's really needed is some positive signs over the next few months and it will be portrayed as the start of a tsunami of job creation. Reality will bear out the truth if the jobless rate is still over 9.5% Anything lower and you'll see the "we've turned the corner on the Bush failings" argument. Above 9.5% I don't see how that distortion can hold water.

6. Impact on 2012. A lot of people have speculated that the economic recovery will be anemic at best and that by winning in 2010 the GOP invite upon themselves some of the animus currently reserved for Democrats. The anger it is argued is with Washington, and right now that means Democrats. Is 2012 more important than 2010? Maybe to the Mayans, but in terms of political wins, I say score when you can, as often as you can. You don't go for a field goal on 2nd and 10 in order to play the clock smarter. That philosophy pre-supposes that the GOP have no value to add over the ensuing two years, and that the resulting gridlock between Republican bills and Presidential vetoes will be blamed on Republicans.

I see that as a golden opportunity. If Obama won't go along with GOP proposals, instead of the GOP watering down their efforts to be bi-partisan, it provides a fantastic example of where the real hard partisanship is coming from. A President who just wanted a Democratic controlled Congress to just get something on his desk to sign, will suddenly be seen as being axiomatically against GOP bills and clearly, not post-partisan.

Furthermore, the GOP will be presented with a strong electoral victory the chance to prove they stand for something rather than just against something. While they should be proving that now anyway, a victory allows them the opportunity to prove in practices what they are now mouthing in theory only; we heard you, we share your ideals, and we have the right ideas - just watch us.

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