GOP Takes a Licking at the Polls
Some straight talk. The Grand Old Party (GOP) and the Republican brand took a licking at the polls in the November 2008 election. At the national level, the GOP has lost Congressional seats in the past two elections. The trend may continue in 2010, unless the Dems overreach the political center from their left leaning majority position in Congress and the Congressional Republicans get back to conservative basics. The GOP positions during the later Bush years that tolerated bigger government, more spending and open-ended wars played to the Democrats strengths. Why support Democrat-lite (GOP) when you can vote for the real thing (full-throated Democrats)?
For example, in the past two election cycles Colorado lost both Republican held US Senate seats (Campbell, Allard). These contested open seats were won by Democrats (Salazar, Udall). And the Governor’s mansion in Colorado is now held by Democrat Governor Bill Ritter. In New Mexico, the open US Senate seat due to the retirement of the legendary Republican Pete Domenici was picked up the other Udall (Democrat Tom Udall). And both Republican Congress members from New Mexico (Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce) chose to run for US Senate, thereby leaving their US Congressional seats open, which were lost to Democrat candidates. So New Mexico, like Colorado has 2 Democrat US Senators, a solid Democrat group of Congressional members (NM has 3 Dems, Colorado is 5 Dems, 2 Reps) and both states have Democrat Governors (Richardson, Ritter).
Pundits, pollsters and politicos will dissect, deliberate and determine a variety of reasons. From a campaign perspective at the national level, the GOP ran a traditional political campaign: fire up the Republican base, capture some independents and don’t worry about the Democrats. The Obama campaign ran as a movement: The traditional Democrat party apparatus was only a part of the coalition. Like-minded 527’s, complimentary organizations (like ACORN) and interest groups aligned their political resources as a team. Add to that approach the electronic and web media, a favorable Main Stream Media (advocacy) and countless volunteers, supplemented by a well-organized Obama ground game. The Presidential election result: Blue states were even more blue, swings states went blue and some red states swung to the blue electoral result. Congratulations to President Elect Obama, who was elected along with increased Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.
The Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton? years are finally over. It is unlikely that a Bush or Clinton will ever serve in the White House again. So what will we see? It is likely that the Obama machine plans on running in 2012. Why not see if the movement can dominate the weakened (and disorganized) Republican Party again? Meanwhile, the GOP has to regroup, refocus and rebuild. More of same (fuzzy on conservative principles, lack of out reach to independents, straying from the conservative message) by the GOP will yield a similar result (loosing elections).
But shouldn’t we as Republicans be more moderate to win the middle? This may sound like a logical approach, but it the best way to loose an election. In Colorado, the voter registration is split three ways: Republicans, Unaffiliated and Democrats. Assuming the party candidate (Democrat or Republican) can maintain their base (and loose the opponents base), the real battle in for the middle. In a swing state like Colorado, not voter can be taken for granted; most voters will split their ticket; so the quality of the candidate and their campaign matters. So can a conservative Republican win in a blue state or blue district? Sure, it is more challenging, but if our approach is to look like a Democrat, then the voters will probably go for the real thing (vote Democrat). Rather, a principled conservative approach that reaches out to the unaffiliated voter and the conservative leaning Democrat is the winning combination. More on the common sense conservative approach that gets results (using La Plata County, Colorado example) in an upcoming Four Corners Media post.
© 2008, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media, www.jasperwelch.org