GOP Aims to Cultivate Grass Roots for Midterms

Monday, 24 May 2010 01:46 PM

By Dan Weil

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Although the outlook remains rosy for Republicans in November’s congressional elections, the party has several problems to overcome, according to a story in Monday’s New York Times.

“There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day,” the story says.

“They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned.”

One issue for Republicans is determining a platform of ideas to run upon rather than simply criticizing the Democrats.

“Democrats still need to be really worried,” Joe Gaylord, a Republican strategist who helped engineer the GOP’s congressional takeover in 1994, told The Times.

“But there has to be a message that we are for something, and that if you elect Republicans, there will be some change.”

Another Republican strategist, Phil Musser, put it in even more stark terms.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is, the Republican Party brand is still pretty weak,” he told The Times.

“We need an overhaul, and there is a big opportunity to rebrand around a few unifying themes besides just opposition to Obama.”

House Republicans have just begun the “America Speaking Out” program. The idea is that lawmakers will go to their supporters in a listening mode, rather than simply imposing their own ideas.

After gathering their constituents’ thoughts, Republican leaders say that during the fall they will turn them into specific policy proposals for the next Congress.

Another tricky question is how to integrate the volatile tea party movement into the GOP fold. Some tea partyers are angry with both the Democrats and Republicans.

In addition, if Republicans go too far toward accommodating the tea party movement, they risk alienating moderate independent voters.

Although some Republicans say nothing short of winning control of the House in November is acceptable, others suggest more temperate goals.

“You’ve got a country that is in a surly mood and is skeptical of incumbents generally,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., told The Times.

“But some people have put the expectations so high, even if Republicans do reasonably well this fall, it could look like we haven’t done as well as we should have.”

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel says the tea party movement is pushing Republicans too far against government.

“If it’s efficient government versus no government, we win,” he told The Times.

To be sure, Republicans still appear to be in the driver’s seat. Crack strategists Dick Morris and Ed Gillespie both told Newsmax that the GOP has a good chance to win control of both chambers of Congress in November.

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