By Alan Caruba
Writing in the fall edition of the Republican National Committee magazine, “Rising Tide”, David H. Winston analyzed “The Lessons of the 2006 Election” and warned that, “the party’s prospects for future victories hinge on whether we can learn from our mistakes.”
“The 2006 election turned out to be a traditional national election. Exit polls found that 60 percent of people said that national issues mattered most to them in deciding their vote,” noted Winston, adding that, “After Republicans lost the Congress in November, many political pundits speculated that an unhappy Republican base had stayed home. They couldn’t have been more wrong.” The base did turn out, but the independent and swing voters—the “Middle”—gave the election to the Democrats by a whopping 18-point margin.
“We failed to win the support of this important voter group, which includes married women with children, Catholics, Hispanics, and others, because we stopped talking to them about the issues they cared about and failed to address those concerns with legislative actions.”
Winston writes a weekly column in Roll Call and has solid credentials and experience in the political jungle of Washington, D.C. He is the founder of The Winston Group that provides counsel to Republican candidates.
“The bad news is that our majority coalition fell apart in 2006.”
In my opinion, the bad news in 2008 is that it is likely to get worse. What I know about politics you could put in a bug’s ear, but like every other voter, I am watching and listening as the primaries unfold, demonstrating a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of Republican voters. They are not showing up to vote in anywhere near the numbers of Democrats.
Republicans are disenchanted and dispirited. We have a right to be. The President and the Party has pretty much let us down on a whole range of issues from immigration to education. They have long since ceased to be the party of small government, fiscal prudence, and national defense.
In Congress, Republicans ran up a huge deficit without a single veto from the President for six years, nor have they shown much enthusiasm for solving the problems associated with the many entitlement programs sucking up an increasing portion of the national budget. They even managed to worsen the problem by adding a huge prescription add-on to Medicare.
It’s not that Democrats are any better. Indeed, neither Sen. Clinton, nor Sen. Obama, show any inclination to slow down the financial apocalypse the nation is heading toward. Talk of universal healthcare at a time when there will be fewer taxpayers and workers to under gird the present entitlement programs is nothing less than madness.
“There is no structural change in ideology,” noted Winston. “America remains a center-right country, with 32 percent of voters calling themselves conservative, 47 percent moderate, and only 20 percent liberal.”
Winston believes the Democrats are positioning themselves out of the mainstream of American thought. Tell that to the crowds showing up to listen to the Pied Piper of Chicago, Sen. Obama, orate about “change” and “hope.”
It’s giving Hillary Clinton fits and it should. She has nothing to run on but her universal health program and that was rejected in the first term of husband Bill, followed by the 1994 control of Congress when Republicans actually laid out a program of policy objectives called the Contract with America.
Winston said the GOP has to rebuild the majority coalition that won them the Congress and the White House, but that coalition is demonstrating that it is no longer a sure thing as Christian evangelicals continue to embrace Gov. Mike Huckabee, despite the delegates that Sen. John McCain has secured. Assuming Sen. McCain will be the GOP candidate for President in 2008, I do not believe the evangelicals will turn out for him in sufficient numbers.
As Pat Buchanan has noted, the only thing that would unify the Republican voters would be a Hillary Clinton candidacy. He’s right, but that is beginning to look uncertain at this writing.
Winston urged GOP candidates to avoid negative attack strategies. To put it another way, Republicans have to take the path of identifying the major concerns of voters and providing programs to respond to them.
That will not happen with Sen. McCain whose solution for illegal immigration is to make them all citizens, guaranteeing an even greater influx of illegal aliens. That will not happen with Sen. McCain who believes in global warming despite the near total lack of real science for this international hoax being run out of the United Nations.
Sen. McCain’s only strength is his position on the Iraq War and it remains a largely unpopular one which he openly projects will keep us in the Middle East for a very long time. By contrast, both Democrat candidates are promising to pull the U.S. out of the conflicts there, an astonishingly stupid action, but one that appeals to a lot of voters, particularly young ones.
President Bush was narrowly elected a second time on the strength of attacking the Jihadists where they live. That was not enough to keep control of Congress in 2006 and his popularity—along with Congress—is as low as it has ever historically been.
That has all the indications of a huge Democrat victory in November. Republicans are unhappy with their party. Democrats feel they have a real chance to reclaim power in both Congress and the White House. That relatively small margin of self-identified liberals may well exceed the “middle” if they decide to stay home in November.
The attack on Sen. McCain by talk show hosts may well have wounded McCain so seriously he cannot recover by November. He may say he’s a conservative, but he is not when it comes to the major issues, not the least of which is the state of the nation’s economy.
What I keep hearing from Republican strategists, pundits, and candidates is a lot of wishful thinking, despite Winston’s analysis that comes down to issues, issues, and issues. For a lot of Republicans, Sen. McCain is on the wrong side of too many of them.
If Pat Buchanan is right—and I think he is—the GOP better hope that Sen. Clinton is the Democrat Party choice. She is vulnerable in many ways, not the least of which is a fellow named Bill Clinton.
The Democrats are the same party that nominated McGovern, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. And gave us President Jimmy Carter. Republicans need to get lucky again.