As the Republican defeat (everyone agrees it was, even those who disagree about the rest) seeps into the marrow of politicians, pundits and citizens, the Meaning Of It All continues to be debated. While we know there'll be a GOP civil war between those who want to retake the middle and those who want to tack hard to the Right, the winning moves won't be apparent until 2008. however, the foundations are being built now. Chuck Todd:
Turnout for the Republican base was good. Maybe not great like '04, but decent enough to hold some districts that I thought would fall in a wave (like those three seats in Ohio that the GOP somehow held).
Dems were only going to win Ohio-01, Ohio-02 and Ohio-15 with some deflation in the GOP turnout. But the base was there. What killed various Republican candidates everywhere else was their inability to woo the middle.
There was a time when I believed the Angry Independent wasn't going to vote in '06 because Democrats hadn't made a compelling case for change. If that had turned out to be the case, Republicans would have been safe in the Senate and certainly would have held the House losses to less than two dozen. But a combination of events, possibly triggered by the Mark Foley scandal, awakened the Angry Independent.
There is an important lesson for the GOP to learn when studying these returns. When a political party gets shellacked, the intra-party feud becomes dominated by the base, not the moderates. The base will swear, in this case, that the party needed more true-blue conservatives running, or that it should have been more conservative in its congressional governance. And then these losses would have been avoided.
There are some shreds of truth in that thinking, but the GOP will only isolate itself even more if it takes a turn to the right. Republicans will not regain the majority if they continue to grow away from the inner-suburban voter. Missouri and Virginia, for instance, sent that message loud and clear.
If congressional Republicans turn to the right, they risk creating more problems for themselves in the two battlegrounds of this country: the Midwest and the West. But I think there's a good chance that cooler heads will prevail for the GOP, and that they'll direct their ire toward the proper place: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The Bush administration said on Sunday that it would strenuously oppose one of the Democrats' top priorities for the new Congress: legislation authorizing the government to negotiate with drug companies to secure lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
The above stance is why Chris Murphy is the new Congressman from CT-05 (it's Nancy Johnson's bill). But as for the Congressional reaction, keep an eye on the Minority Leader fight between movement conservative Mike Pence and legacy leader John Boehner (who currently has the edge, but not the passion of the troops). As to Congressional attitudes:
Republicans must resolve their own questions: Can they reconstitute conservatism to make it attractive once again beyond the party's base? GOP strategist Mary Matalin said the Reaganite model of low taxes, smaller government and strong defense can again serve the party well, if it is updated. "It needs to put some Britney Spears clothes on it," she said.
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said the party should ignore moderates' calls to spend money to attract new groups of voters. But the GOP has seen erosion among one group that it has spent years wooing -- Hispanics, who defected apparently over the party's tough stand on illegal immigration, which included passage of legislation for a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Between Latinos, Reagan Democrats and self-described moderates, the GOP has an image problem, caused by policy problems, fueled by an ideology problem. So, as we and the media concentrate on evaluating the Democrats (there'll be plenty of that, not to worry), don't lose sight of what's happening within the GOP. Watching their leadership struggles (including the RNC replacement of ken Mehlman) will speak volumes about what kind of party they wish to be. And because Rove's base strategy has failed this country miserably (reducing losses is not a success), there's a great deal at stake in terms of governance and direction (the link is about Iraq policy) that only partially has to do with 2008.