Monday, March 31, 2008



Bad vibes: Cole & Boehner

A few days ago the NY Times published a kind of a preview/promo for a major article, "The End of Republican America," they were promising for Sunday's Magazine section. It is the story of NRCC Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) and the Times's teaser was in a section about how dire everything looks for the Republicans in Congress:
Many conservative activists have become so dissatisfied with the party’s heresies, particularly on immigration and government spending, that as Cole’s staff took over, the committee’s fund-raising pleas were being ignored and, on at least one occasion, returned in an envelope stuffed with feces.

But the news is far worse than an envelope stuffed with right-wing feces here and there. As we've been mentioning, the Republicans have been unable to attract credible candidates, First-tier candidates are out of the question-- as Cole sadly explained in a story about trying to find an opponent for mediocre Blue Dog freshman Joe Donnelly (D-IN)-- and the GOP is starting to realize that even second tier candidates are out of their grasp.
After 2006, most observers thought that those results suggested a onetime event, a so-called wave election, and predicted that come 2008, Republicans would reclaim some of those seats, the usual correction after a wave like this passes. But now, seven months before the 2008 election, that does not seem likely. The influential, independent Cook Political Report recently concluded that 12 of the 14 districts most vulnerable to change parties in this election will belong to Republicans, suggesting that Cole’s party is likely to end up in an even deeper hole.

As always, Cook is a lagging indicator and extremely conservative in his predictions. If the Republicans were to lose only a dozen seats in November, it would be an occasion of great rejoicing. They're basically trying to keep losses down to as few as they came-- probably a couple dozen-- and then hope they can start making up the lost ground in 2010. Cole, himself a far right loon and across-the-board extremist, speculates that the reason normal Americans have grown to hate the GOP brand is because the part is too far from the mainstream. "This isn’t an ideologically conservative country, and maybe some of us overreached in thinking that it was, and have been corrected for that. But I believe that it is still a center-right country, and I think this election will show that." He isn't taking his own implied advice and continues, lemming-like, to vote hard right on every single issue that comes before the House, like most of the reflexive rubber stampers. Cole, of course, tries to present himself as optimistic that the Republicans will fare well under his leadership. He doesn't sound very convincing and at one point gets wistful about how a North Carolina reactionary freshman really belongs in the GOP. "Heath Shuler, the North Carolina Democrat, 'who is,' Cole says, with a certain envy, 'to the right of Genghis Khan.'”

The fact that Emanuel nabbed Shuler instead of Tom Reynolds (then NRCC head who tried convincing Shuler to run as a Republican in Tennessee) isn't anything Cole can do anything about. He has his own problems and can't even recruit credible candidate in pretty red districts. "It is possible to interpret this as a recruiting failure by Cole’s committee. But it’s also possible to see the void in these districts as an acknowledgment by up-and-coming Republican politicians that something has changed, and that this land has been swallowed by the tide." And it isn't a red tide.
In their intimacy with the numbers, many Republican operatives now worry that crucial segments of the electorate are slipping away from them. Republicans had traditionally won the votes of independents; in 2006, they lost them by 18 percent. Hispanic voters, who gave the Democrats less than 60 percent of their votes in 2004, cast more than 70 percent of their votes for Democrats in 2006. Suburban voters, long a Republican constituency, favored Democrats in 2006 for the first time since 1992. And Democrats won their largest share of voters under 30 in the modern era, a number particularly troubling for some Republicans, since it seems to indicate the preferences of an entire generation.

“What is concerning is that we lost ground in every one of the highest-growth demographics,” said Mehlman, the former R.N.C. chairman and Bush political adviser, who is now a lawyer at the lobbying firm Akin Gump.

For operatives like Cole, focused on expanding the party’s appeal, the conservative movement had become too demanding: its aggressive rhetoric on some social issues alienated young voters, its swagger on immigration hardened Hispanic voters against Republicans and its emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthy made it difficult for the party to appeal to populist voters. Buffeted by those movement passions, the great thing at the center of it all-- the party-- began to fray. “If there are Republicans out there who think that 2006 was a year that could be changed by a few votes in a few districts, they need to wake up,” Mehlman told me. “It was a rejection.”

Maybe the primaries woke them up. Even in deeply red states, as many as double the number of Democrats turned out as Republicans. Among the states Bush won in 2004, half a dozen of them saw Obama alone take more than both top getting Republicans together: Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Carolina. They can spin that all they want but in November they'll be eating it with their cold porridge.

And spinning is what Cole does-- although not very convincingly. I was excited though when he promised that the GOP would take Jim Marshall's seat. They're welcome to it. But overall Cole's strategy is based on a firmly held belief that voters are stupider than the feces that was mailed in to the NRCC. "At a moment when Washington is deeply unpopular, he wants his candidates to run as insurgents, but voters still identify Republicans with what they don’t like about Washington-- they prefer a generic Democratic Congressional candidate by a margin of 49 percent to 35 percent, according to a March 7-10 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll; in an ABC/Washington Post poll released in early February, they preferred Democrats to Republicans on seven out of seven issues." He'll combat that by a smear campaign against Nancy Pelosi, trying to take back Congress by running millions of dollars-- not too many millions though; they're broke-- calling her a "San Francisco liberal." It may well help them... in Macon, but Cole's most prescient statement was, when asked what it would mean if a Democrat beat Hastert's handpicked successor in Illinois, "My God, it’s the end of the Republican Party.” Hold that thought 'til November 'cause you ain't seen nothin' yet.

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At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not be writing anybody off at this point .... there is lots of money out there for Republicans, lots of media and the ability to manufacture good news for McCain and other candidates, not to mention so much of the system has been "gamed" in their favor (justice, supremes, FEC, and on and on) plus for many the appeal of hate, bigotry, greed and selfishness is the only motivation they need.

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I predict MANY more Republican resignations to spend time with family...maybe an unfortunate breakdown or two.

Don't be surprised. I mean OF COURSE the Republicans are big-hearted family people people.

Who would have EVER thought they would have been so big on nation-building in Iraq after they campaigned AGAINST nation building? Republicans LOVE the Iraqi people, they REALLY love them.
It wasn't about WMD's or Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Republicans LOVE building Iraq while skools, hospitals and firestations close here.

The Republican brand is so OVER.

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cole's strategy is based on a firmly held belief that voters are stupider than the feces that was mailed in to the NRCC"

Having watched the last several elections, I find it difficult to disagree with that sentiment.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a smear campaign against Nancy Pelosi"

Wow, he's just said TWO things I wholeheartedly agree with. Are you sure he's a bad guy?

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So long as Republicans have the media gently protecting us from news of their worst excesses, and the deep-pocketed profiteers recognize that their avaricious dreams start to dim without a red majority, we will have a battle come this Fall.

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what about McCain? I mean, he's so hero-ish and reformed everything, and he dates hot blondes into downers and he singlehandedly won Vietnam and secured a Baghdad market. And nobody hugged Bush more or better than he did, not even Laura. And he didn't really mean it about taking away the taxcuts on the wealthy. And Jerry Falwell made him see the Light. And he's a centrist, and EVERYONE loves John, especially Chris Matthews and every patriotic American Christianite.

He'll save the GOP because he's a superfreak and American voters are so into that right now.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republican Party reminds me of a herbicide that causes weeds to grow so fast that they naturally burn out. The arrogance of power had the same effect on them.


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