The Republicans are set to reap major gains in November, but a civil war in the party will do more harm than good.
Early indicators are quite favorable for GOP success in congressional elections in November. The stakes are extremely high because 2010 elections also will decide the makeup of statehouses and governorships across the nation.
These state races are critical because the 2010 Census will be followed by reapportionment of state legislative and congressional districts.
The Republicans have within their grasp the brass ring: not only winning the Senate and the House this year but also setting legislative district boundaries for the next decade.
The GOP can win this – unless they blow it.
So far, this year is turning out to be a good Republican year, not because of the party itself, but the growing anti-Obama sentiment.
Already, the Republicans have won, unbelievably, Teddy Kennedy’s old seat in Massachusetts. They swept the Virginia’s governor race by a wide margin and snatched the governorship in Democratic New Jersey.
In the wake of these results, congressional Democrats have begun announcing their retirements.
Good omens, indeed. But the public mood is wild and in flux.
Independent voters and the Republican base – Reaganite conservatives – are not happy with the party. The main reason was that President Bush and Republicans in Congress oversaw the largest increase in social spending in history as they also pushed for expensive wars that have led the United States to the brink of economic ruin.
Slowly, the GOP, being the main force for stopping President Obama’s titanic plan to bring national control over healthcare, has won some stripes from a panicked public.
President Obama’s insistence on a massive stimulus, deficit spending, and higher taxes also will yield more popular support for the Republicans.
Rather than focus on the Democrats and President Obama, the tea party movement and others have decided to engage in party fratricide.
In Arizona, popular radio host and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth is challenging Sen. John McCain.
No matter that McCain has been a fierce opponent of President Obama’s legislative initiatives in the Senate or that McCain ran a good race against Obama as the GOP’s presidential candidate just over a year ago – some think he has to go.
The fact is that McCain is good on all the core issues for Reagan conservatives: spending, taxes, national defense, pro-life, pro gun rights.
A challenge against him makes no sense. It is a waste of resources that should be focused on beating Democrats in November.
Similarly, we are seeing in Florida a parallel effort to bounce Charlie Crist from public office.
Crist has been a successful Republican governor in the Sunshine State. Though he has been conservative on many core issues, he has been a maverick on several issues that have ticked off the tea party folks.
Clearly, Crist has made some mistakes, such as embracing President Obama in his campaign for the stimulus.
For the moment, I think it is too early to kick out the country’s most popular Republican governor.
Crist’s challenger, Marco Rubio, has shot up in the polls as a result of this grass-roots anger. He is a bright, emerging figure.
But before I cast my vote, I would like to see Crist and Rubio debate a few times, hear their take on the issues, and examine their records, side by side.
This unbridled anger in the GOP was demonstrated again in February when newly elected Sen. Scott Brown crossed party lines to vote for a Democratic jobs bill. Weeks ago Brown was viewed as a party savior. Today, many consider him a villain.
Michael Reagan wrote about Scott Brown in his blog on Newsmax in an article headlined: “Give Scott Brown His Room.”
Mike isn’t joining “the off-with-his-head” movement against Brown, and says his dad wouldn't either.
"I subscribe fully to my father's 80/20 rule,” Mike wrote. “As long as a Republican elected official or candidate is likely to support the party and its core principles and philosophies 80 percent of the time, I can live with a 20 percent crossover, especially when compared with the alternative — a Democrat with whom I will disagree 80 percent of the time!"
Such thinking allows for a strong, broad and sturdy political movement. A narrow one will kill off electoral chances for Republicans in the long run.
It should be remembered that demographics, including a rise in Latino and ethnic voting blocs, are working against Republicans.
Pollster John Zogby notes that independent voters, which he defines as middle voters who are not simply disaffected Republican voters, control the balance of power in this country, at least for the moment.
In the 2008 election, these voters were terrified by Republicans.
Today they are terrified by President Obama and the Democrats. If the Republicans go off the deep end, the GOP could turn off these swing voters.
It’s early still — only March — and the Republican leadership has the ability to rebuild the confidence of voters by stopping Obama’s agenda from passing Congress, creating a fresh agenda to rally the nation and create a broad party that sticks to core beliefs but reaches out to Latinos and other minorities.
If they do this, they not only will win in November but also will become a governing party for a long time.
More Posts by Christopher Ruddy
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