Whoa! Republicans Haven't Won Yet

Let's not uncork the bubbly just yet. John Boehner better not be eyeing curtains for the Speaker's office. While all the signs point to substantial GOP gains in U.S. House and Senate contests this November, the fat lady hasn't sung. Two critical factors will determine if the GOP makes the sort of gains that give it control of the House and, possibly, the Senate. One is turnout. The other is a platform, which is the stuff of a mandate. 

Where is the GOP's platform?   

House Republicans have yet to announce a platform for the autumn campaign. That's not a good thing, as Fred Barnes, among a few others, has pointed out. It's conceivable that the November congressional elections will be a pure referendum on the majority Democrats. If that occurs, GOP candidates may be the recipients of a big gift: voters casting ballots for anyone but the incumbent, or in the case of open seats, anyone but the Democrat.

If voters are so riled and disgusted with the Democrats, Republicans may need only whistle Dixie and give voters a little two-step. But don't count on it -- not entirely. Covering bases is a very good thing to do in politics, electoral politics included. As campaigns move into crunch time (after Labor Day, but certainly in the October window), a good portion of the voting public will focus more intently on the choices for Congress. These voters may begin asking the question: "Just what do the candidates stand for?" And not just what they stand against.

No doubt, Republicans will make solid gains this November just by not being Democrats. But critical to putting the GOP in the majority may be independent voters who want candidates to articulate a forward-looking agenda. Being the "Party of No" has been an effective and necessary strategy for outgunned Republicans in the 111th Congress. A critical mass of voters, though, may evaluate the GOP on its ideas and ability to lead come January. These voters may prove the difference between a Speaker Boehner and another go at the Wicked Witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi.

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan has offered an excellent road map to get America back on track. But word out of Washington is that GOP leaders and strategists are squeamish about embracing it as an election-year platform. There's infighting among Washington Republicans about any road map. 

The fear is that Ryan's plan isn't a happy pill. It's a realistic -- one can say mature -- approach to straightening out the mess the nation is in. Following the Ryan plan means that the nation would experience some short-term pain for long term gain. The thinking goes that voters in their heart of hearts really don't want straight talk or tough-minded remedies to the nation's ills.     

Remember, though, that many of Washington's GOP leaders are the same ones who led Republicans off the cliff in the first decade of this century. Washington is the land of the insulated, the myopic, the inbred, and the establishment-bound. Voters are in no mood for happy talk or happy pills. Democrat-bashing will go only so far. Sure, most voters are angry at Democrats for economic policies that don't work, for too much government, outrageous spending and debt, and for broken promises about tax hikes (coming this January, compliments of Mr. Obama and his loony lefties). But voters are in a no-nonsense mood, and they're starved for commonsense polices and leadership. Americans were misled in 2008 by Mr. Obama, who posed as a centrist Democrat only to reveal himself as left-winger. Americans don't want to be burned again.     

Voters have a right to know what the GOP plans to do if it captures majorities in the House and Senate this November. Mandates aren't just nice; they're critically important. A platform that earns voter buy-in means no surprises when that platform is translated into a legislative agenda. Truth in advertising reduces buyer remorse. 

The years 2010 and 2012 are merely opportunities for the GOP to reclaim the loyalties of a majority of Americans. Voters seem willing to throw out the bums and give the GOP another go. For the GOP's own good, and the nation's, Republicans need to lay out an action plan. And come January, assuming at least a House majority, Republicans need to hit the ground running based on the plan they give voters. But that's a topic for another day -- provided the GOP makes the gains.

Will something on the order of Paul Ryan's plan attract or repel voters? Add to the GOP's vote totals or lessen them? Gut instinct is that voters will welcome straight talk and solutions-driven proposals. With the nation facing dire economic problems, with job losses high and mounting, with families to raise and bills to pay, Americans want smart ways out the nation's economic dilemma consistent with less government and more freedom. The electorate is ready to be engaged as adults.          

Turnout is another caveat when it comes to winning elections, especially midterms. There's no such thing as a reliable turnout model. Pollsters always try to project turnout, but they'd admit that, at best, they're doing no more than educated guesswork. There are just too many variables that go into a person's decision to go vote -- or even vote by mail -- to make an accurate determination about turnout, much less break it out by candidate or party. 

Right-thinking Americans should be encouraged by polling and trend lines that show the GOP beating the Democrats handily in generic congressional matchups. The nation's right track/wrong track numbers are lopsidedly wrong track, and that should cut heavily against Democrats. But turnout boils down to motivating your target voters to actually cast ballots.  That takes organization and the right arguments. 

The Democrats concede that they'll lose seats this November. But the magnitude of their losses counts, of course. With Democrats' backs to the wall, they'll do what they do best, and have begun to do already: fear-monger among their hardcore constituencies, namely minorities and liberals. Message: GOP success spells doom for them. Unions and Democratic shills in black and Hispanic communities will be working overtime to whip up a Republican-hating frenzy. Will this effort succeed enough to blunt Republican gains in marginal or competitive districts and states? We'll know on election night.

Meanwhile, what's the GOP counter to get their target voters out? Does the GOP need only stoke the fear and disgust their voters have for Democrats and liberals? That fire is already burning hotly. To rev up turnout, what Republicans need is a road map for America's future, to borrow a phrase. Beyond the GOP's base voters, independents are critical and gettable, but they want to be gotten with smart ideas, determination, and courage. Whether the GOP embraces the Ryan plan itself, some amalgam -- that includes elements of Paul Ryan's tough, smart ideas -- is what's needed. Are Republicans shrewd enough to understand this? It's less than a 50-50 bet right now that they are.
Let's not uncork the bubbly just yet. John Boehner better not be eyeing curtains for the Speaker's office. While all the signs point to substantial GOP gains in U.S. House and Senate contests this November, the fat lady hasn't sung. Two critical factors will determine if the GOP makes the sort of gains that give it control of the House and, possibly, the Senate. One is turnout. The other is a platform, which is the stuff of a mandate. 

Where is the GOP's platform?   

House Republicans have yet to announce a platform for the autumn campaign. That's not a good thing, as Fred Barnes, among a few others, has pointed out. It's conceivable that the November congressional elections will be a pure referendum on the majority Democrats. If that occurs, GOP candidates may be the recipients of a big gift: voters casting ballots for anyone but the incumbent, or in the case of open seats, anyone but the Democrat.

If voters are so riled and disgusted with the Democrats, Republicans may need only whistle Dixie and give voters a little two-step. But don't count on it -- not entirely. Covering bases is a very good thing to do in politics, electoral politics included. As campaigns move into crunch time (after Labor Day, but certainly in the October window), a good portion of the voting public will focus more intently on the choices for Congress. These voters may begin asking the question: "Just what do the candidates stand for?" And not just what they stand against.

No doubt, Republicans will make solid gains this November just by not being Democrats. But critical to putting the GOP in the majority may be independent voters who want candidates to articulate a forward-looking agenda. Being the "Party of No" has been an effective and necessary strategy for outgunned Republicans in the 111th Congress. A critical mass of voters, though, may evaluate the GOP on its ideas and ability to lead come January. These voters may prove the difference between a Speaker Boehner and another go at the Wicked Witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi.

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan has offered an excellent road map to get America back on track. But word out of Washington is that GOP leaders and strategists are squeamish about embracing it as an election-year platform. There's infighting among Washington Republicans about any road map. 

The fear is that Ryan's plan isn't a happy pill. It's a realistic -- one can say mature -- approach to straightening out the mess the nation is in. Following the Ryan plan means that the nation would experience some short-term pain for long term gain. The thinking goes that voters in their heart of hearts really don't want straight talk or tough-minded remedies to the nation's ills.     

Remember, though, that many of Washington's GOP leaders are the same ones who led Republicans off the cliff in the first decade of this century. Washington is the land of the insulated, the myopic, the inbred, and the establishment-bound. Voters are in no mood for happy talk or happy pills. Democrat-bashing will go only so far. Sure, most voters are angry at Democrats for economic policies that don't work, for too much government, outrageous spending and debt, and for broken promises about tax hikes (coming this January, compliments of Mr. Obama and his loony lefties). But voters are in a no-nonsense mood, and they're starved for commonsense polices and leadership. Americans were misled in 2008 by Mr. Obama, who posed as a centrist Democrat only to reveal himself as left-winger. Americans don't want to be burned again.     

Voters have a right to know what the GOP plans to do if it captures majorities in the House and Senate this November. Mandates aren't just nice; they're critically important. A platform that earns voter buy-in means no surprises when that platform is translated into a legislative agenda. Truth in advertising reduces buyer remorse. 

The years 2010 and 2012 are merely opportunities for the GOP to reclaim the loyalties of a majority of Americans. Voters seem willing to throw out the bums and give the GOP another go. For the GOP's own good, and the nation's, Republicans need to lay out an action plan. And come January, assuming at least a House majority, Republicans need to hit the ground running based on the plan they give voters. But that's a topic for another day -- provided the GOP makes the gains.

Will something on the order of Paul Ryan's plan attract or repel voters? Add to the GOP's vote totals or lessen them? Gut instinct is that voters will welcome straight talk and solutions-driven proposals. With the nation facing dire economic problems, with job losses high and mounting, with families to raise and bills to pay, Americans want smart ways out the nation's economic dilemma consistent with less government and more freedom. The electorate is ready to be engaged as adults.          

Turnout is another caveat when it comes to winning elections, especially midterms. There's no such thing as a reliable turnout model. Pollsters always try to project turnout, but they'd admit that, at best, they're doing no more than educated guesswork. There are just too many variables that go into a person's decision to go vote -- or even vote by mail -- to make an accurate determination about turnout, much less break it out by candidate or party. 

Right-thinking Americans should be encouraged by polling and trend lines that show the GOP beating the Democrats handily in generic congressional matchups. The nation's right track/wrong track numbers are lopsidedly wrong track, and that should cut heavily against Democrats. But turnout boils down to motivating your target voters to actually cast ballots.  That takes organization and the right arguments. 

The Democrats concede that they'll lose seats this November. But the magnitude of their losses counts, of course. With Democrats' backs to the wall, they'll do what they do best, and have begun to do already: fear-monger among their hardcore constituencies, namely minorities and liberals. Message: GOP success spells doom for them. Unions and Democratic shills in black and Hispanic communities will be working overtime to whip up a Republican-hating frenzy. Will this effort succeed enough to blunt Republican gains in marginal or competitive districts and states? We'll know on election night.

Meanwhile, what's the GOP counter to get their target voters out? Does the GOP need only stoke the fear and disgust their voters have for Democrats and liberals? That fire is already burning hotly. To rev up turnout, what Republicans need is a road map for America's future, to borrow a phrase. Beyond the GOP's base voters, independents are critical and gettable, but they want to be gotten with smart ideas, determination, and courage. Whether the GOP embraces the Ryan plan itself, some amalgam -- that includes elements of Paul Ryan's tough, smart ideas -- is what's needed. Are Republicans shrewd enough to understand this? It's less than a 50-50 bet right now that they are.

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