Blunt Bullish on GOP Electoral Prospects
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) expressed confidence today that the GOP was on the right political side on a host of hot-button policy issues, and predicted that his party's prospects for November were far less dire than they've been portrayed in the media.
In a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, Blunt suggested that Republicans were aligned with popular sentiment, particularly on energy, that the GOP's ideas would trump Democrats' enthusiasm for their presidential nominee and that tales of a lack of energy on the Republican side were trite and overblown.
"I think it's a story that's been written often, even in my lifetime," Blunt said. "It's not a new story. It's a story that the media likes to write. ... I don't think it's accurate.
As for Barack Obama, Blunt said his "candidacy has created a lot of excitement about 'change,' but I don't get a sense that there are any specifics as to what that change would be. ... The excitement may be on the other side but I think the ideas are still on our side. My view is that the ideas eventually will overwhelm the excitement and that very well could happen on Election Day this year."
Blunt was largely dismissive of polls giving Democrats a national advantage, both on the "generic" congressional ballot and on job approval of each party in Congress.
"I think that whole generic congressional rating doesn't have any impact on anything," Blunt said. "The lesson for us is that we need to do a better job talking about what we're for [and] explaining why it didn't happen the six years we had the House, the Senate and the White House."
Blunt added that the fact that Republicans have many more open House seats to defend this November than Democrats did not necessarily portend more GOP losses, since Republicans have had more open seats to defend in most recent elections.
"We're not going to lose many of these open seats. We may not lose any of them," he said.
"I just think you have to look at each individual district. You've got to realize that 90 days is a long time in politics. ... If you've got a Congress with 14 percent approval, that should be to the disadvantage of the people that have the most seats in that Congress."
Blunt expressed the view common among Republicans on the Hill -- whatever differences they may have or have had with John McCain, he gives them the best chance in many downballot races.
"As it turns out I think we nominated the guy who probably, in this environment, is the most helpful to our candidates than anybody we could have nominated," Blunt said.
On the vice presidential front, Blunt recommended that McCain select an experienced ticket-mate with solid credentials on economic policy.
"My advice to [the McCain campaign] would be ... you don't give away the No. 1 issue, which is that Obama's not ready, and then you look at the list you've got ... and you go as strongly economic as you could," he said. "John McCain's going to win on the foreign policy, commander-in-chief side of this equation, and I think having a running mate with strong economic credentials is where I think he would want to wind up, and I hope he does."
Blunt said Mitt Romney "meets the criteria, and others would too -- Rob Portman would meet the criteria."
As for the congressional agenda, Blunt said he believed -- and polling backs it up -- that the public supports the GOP's push to open more domestic land and offshore territory to oil and gas exploration. He acknowledged that while Republicans have been consistent in their call for more drilling, their views weren't always so popular as they are now.
Democrats "have been wrong on these issues for so long ... but when they were on that side they were on the side that people were on. To their credit, they at least were reflecting the majority of the American people on issues like nuclear and deep-water drilling and refinery sitings."
Blunt also dispensed with the suggestion that the GOP felt any pressure to cave on the pending housing rescue bill, and predicted that if President Bush is willing to veto the measure, House Republicans could marshal enough votes to sustain it. But Blunt did say it was vital for Congress to complete the measure before leaving town for the August recess.
"I think there would be a lot of reluctance to go home [without a housing bill] because of what might happen in the marketplace," Blunt said. "I'm not sure anything would happen, but I wouldn't think you'd want to take that chance."
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