What Does It Mean?: Miss. Special Election (Pt. 5)
The shadows grow longer this afternoon, as does the list of questions raised by yesterday's special election in Mississippi.
You closed your last message with: "I'm interested in what you think the two or three core issues Republicans should use to united an obviously fractured party. Or do you think such agreement is impossible in this political climate and a go-it-alone strategy is the only one that will work?"
Funny you should ask, because Capitol Briefing this afternoon attended a press conference with about two-dozen House Republicans that was meant to be the roll-out of the party's fancy new message document: "American Families Agenda: Assuring the American Dream." It's a melange of proposals large and small, most of them not new, on domestic issues like energy, health care and crime. But on a larger scale, can the GOP agree on a few core issues that will actually get voters' blood racing?
On gas prices, the number one economic issue at the moment (and the focus of Travis Childers' winning campaign in Mississippi), Republicans' basic message is: The Democrats won't let us drill for more oil or build more refineries and nuclear power plants. Democrats' message is: The big oil companies and their Republican allies are sticking it to us at the gas pump. Which message do you think works better?
On Iraq, most Republicans still support the war (President Bush and John McCain certainly do), while most Democrats think the troops should be brought home ASAP. You've seen the polls. Which message do you think works better?
On taxes, Republicans still believe that voters are scared to death of Democratic tax increases. As we speak, Democrats are working to push through the House a plan to tax millionaires to pay for college for veterans. Republicans say this is actually a tax on small businesses, while Democrats say the GOP cares more about the rich than about veterans. Again, which message do you think works better?
The point here is that the electorate is angry, fearful and disillusioned. The econonomy is bad and the Iraq war remains a huge drag on the GOP brand. So in answer to your question, Mr. Fix, no, it does not seem possible for Republicans to agree on a few core issues that will be effective in elections across the land UNLESS the party actually shifts to the middle, or at least toward a more populist series of policy positions. That's why it makes sense for GOP candidates to run against Bush and against their own GOP leadership whenever they feel it necessary.
Now back to one of my original questions: Is Tom Cole going to remain chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee? As of this writing, it appears he will. Is there anything he should have/could have done differently in Mississippi, Louisiana and Illinois to prevent those losses? Is he actually doing a bad job running the NRCC?
Awaiting your response with baited breath,
May 14, 2008; 8:00 PM ET
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