Most pundits and political professionals expect the GOP to have a good showing in the midterm elections. Historically, the opposition picks up seats in the 6th year of a President’s tenure. Obama’s approval ratings are at rock bottom and the ObamaCare rollout continues to cause headaches for Democrats. A number of incumbent Senators, who last won during Obama’s wave election in 2008, face heavy headwinds in enough states to give Republicans control.
Yet, the GOP could still pull defeat from the jaws of victory. There are three very real risks that could jeopardize the party’s potential gains. Unfortunately, the party seems to have set in motion at least one of them.
1. Alienate Conservative Voters.
Republicans in Washington are convinced the party needs to keep Tea Party conservatives “in line.” Speaker Boehner won plaudits from the DC consultant class when he loudly criticized conservatives who were critical of a budget deal that increased spending. The US Chamber of Commerce has pledged to spend $50 million targeting conservatives in Republican primaries, including sitting members of Congress.
Much of this bluster by the political class is to distract from their epic failure in 2012. It was the second presidential election where the party nominated the more “moderate”, electable candidate, only to see millions of conservative voters stay home on election. Party consultants spent nearly $1 billion and lost numerous winnable seats. The consultants want to blame conservatives, but far more establishment candidates went down to uninspiring defeat.
The party has already retreated on spending cuts. It will possibly retreat on the debt ceiling fight next month. By returning to its spend-thrift ways last decade, the GOP risks turning off conservative voters and losing crucial votes. After all, there is another term to describe Tea Party conservatives — the Republican base.
2. Pass an Amnesty-First Immigration Reform Bill
No issue highlights the divide between the Republican base and business interests more than the current debate on immigration reform. Few people question whether or not we need to reform our immigration system. A great many question whether this reform ought to be based on principles offered by President Obama and Sens. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.
Yet, that seems to be exactly what House GOP leadership is planning to do this Spring. Mostly at the behest of big business and corporations, House Republicans are planning to tackle on issue that excites no one in their base. The only excitement on the issue, in fact, is in opposition to House GOP plans.
The need for the GOP to pass an immigration bill along the lines of what passed the Senate is the political myth of the century. Any problem the GOP has with Hispanic voters is due to the fact that the party has historically never engaged with them. Hispanics overwhelmingly voted against President George HW Bush, just two years after the Administration he served in passed a sweeping amnesty bill. His son, however, received an historic share of the Hispanic vote long before he proposed his own immigration reform proposal. The party should engage, not pander.
3. Muddle Their Own Message
The disastrous rollout of ObamaCare and the growing realization that critics of the law were right has produced the most favorable issue environment for any party in history. Polling across the country shows even Democrats who were considered safe are potentially vulnerable this year. In spite of this, both the US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have vowed to “fix” ObamaCare rather than “repeal” it. Now, there’s a slogan that will really turnout voters.
The DC Brahmins all say that Republicans have to be “for” something. Unfortunately, they are never advised to be “for” the Constitution, but, rather, be “for” some new government tweaking of existing law or policy.
As if on cue, GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch, Richard Burr and Tom Coburn have offered an “alternative” to ObamaCare. It is less a policy proposal and more of a roadmap for the media and Democrats to demonize Republicans on issue the GOP was winning.
If the party really feels the need to be “for” something, why doesn’t it try being “for” cutting spending and “for” tax reform. It could be “for” getting government out of our health care to the greatest extent possible.
It certainly seemed to work in 2010.