New Gingrich sent a letter to his former colleagues in the House on Monday that said in no uncertain terms that unless the party is willing to embrace change, sharpen its message, and unite, the Democrats will sweep the table this fall:
Gingrich points to two recent special elections - one in Louisiana and one in Illinois - as proof that unless the GOP gets its act together, things are going to get very ugly in the fall:
The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.
This model has already been tested with disastrous results.
In 2006, there were six incumbent Republican Senators who had plenty of money, the advantage of incumbency, and traditionally successful consultants.
But the voters in all six states had adopted a simple position: "Not you." No matter what the GOP Senators attacked their opponents with, the voters shrugged off the attacks and returned to, "Not you."
The danger for House and Senate Republicans in 2008 is that the voters will say, "Not the Republicans."
Saturday's loss was in a district that President Bush carried by 19 percentage points in 2004 and that the Republicans have held since 1975. This defeat follows on the loss of Speaker Hastert's seat in Illinois. That seat had been held by a Republican for 76 years with the single exception of the 1974 Watergate election when the Democrats held it for one term. That same seat had been carried by President Bush 55-44% in 2004. The "depths of Watergate" in 1974 brought the Democrats a 54 seat edge in that election. With 29 open seats in the House as a result of retirements, it is concievable that the party could be looking at another 50 seat blowout in 2008.
These two special elections validate a national polling pattern that is bad news for Republicans. According to a New York Times/CBS Poll, Americans disapprove of the President's job performance by 63 to 28 (and he has been below 40% job approval since December 2006, the longest such period for any president in the history of polling).
A separate New York Times/CBS Poll shows that a full 81 percent of Americans believe the economy is on the wrong track.
The current generic ballot for Congress according to the NY Times/CBS poll is 50 to 32 in favor of the Democrats. That is an 18-point margin, reminiscent of the depths of the Watergate disaster.
Gingrich's solution? Better leadership to start with. Better ideas, better fundraising, better candidate recruitment as well. But most of all, the Republican party should be committed to change as much as the Democrats.
Otherwise, there will be many long faces on election night among GOP House and Senate members.