You’ve had a week to hear from everyone else on why Republicans were defeated in the elections and what we need to do to win in the future. Many good points have been made by Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, and James Taranto. I had a different take over a month ago (Issue #36) and I stand by it. Everyone seems to agree that The President (Iraq) and Congress (Corruption) share the blame for last Tuesday’s defeat. Here’s my take on the future:
Nationally: Last Wednesday, the race for 2008 officially began. The decision Republicans make in the next 12 months will decide our fate in ’08. There are only four men who matter in the race for President: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Newt is angling for the VP slot on the ticket. Being a strong conservative from the South (Georgia) gives him the inside track. So the Republican Party must choose between the other three. Mitt will be wooing the conservative base while the other two try to make the case that they are more electable.
McCain is the candidate I worry about most. He is loathed by the party faithful for a host of reasons. The only thing that sells him is his strong support of the War on Terror. His candidacy is a lose-lose. If he loses in the General Election it will be because the base was never energized to work hard for him. If he wins, Republican principals will be betrayed on a daily basis and he’ll cut the heart out of the movement during his time in office.
Giulianni is a much better alternative. He can sell himself as a fiscal conservative but he has real problems on the social issues. Currently, he is too strident to be acceptable to many Republican voters. For instance, he can not continue to support partial-birth abortion. If he can find some common ground with social conservatives and convince them he will appoint Supreme Court judges similar to Roberts and Alito, I believe he can win the nomination. A Giuliani-Gingrich ticket is probably unbeatable.
Romney is charismatic and could win the nomination if he is perceived to be the “Solid Conservative” in the race. He’ll get one shot at defining himself to an electorate that knows very little about him. A Romney-Gingrich ticket would definitely be more Republican, but it might not be a winner.
Winning back control of Congress will require Republicans to re-group and get back to running on the issues of smaller-government and lower taxes. Who we choose to be the national face of our party in ’08 will be 75% of the battle. I believe Democrat control will be temporary (See: A History Lesson, below) but only if we go on the offense.
Locally: Here in Oregon, Republicans were completely defeated. Our candidate for Governor, who spent $7 million, didn’t even come close. Democrats also took over complete control of the Legislature. Tax hikes, more regulations and bigger government will pass easily. Oregon is clearly a blue state and the trends are not in our favor. More losses will follow and at this point, I’d say our one statewide office holder, U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, is beatable. If former Governor John Kitzhaber, for instance, were to run against him, I believe Smith would lose.
Republicans in Oregon must pare down their issues and present a tight, coherent and popular list of objectives to the public. They also need to get on one page and start working together. When you have fewer voices, speaking in unison can help to magnify the volume.
Here’s a specific bit of advice: Abandon all support for large corporations. First of all, many of the people who run our state’s largest corporations vote Democrat and support socialist causes. They’re rich enough not to care and they have their own army of lawyers and lobbyists to fight for their interests. There are a few exceptions and they should be specifically supported. But in general, Republicans in Oregon would do well to champion small businesses instead, support efforts to eliminate corporate tax breaks and refuse to get out in front on opposing corporate tax hikes.
Most of the large corporations don’t stand with Republicans. What do we get by supporting them? The dirty little secret about large corporations is they don’t really support the free-market system. They’re powerful enough to get government protection and tax breaks. In addition, government regulation tends to block emerging competitors who don’t have the resources to comply.
In Blue Oregon, statewide offices will remain unattainable until the level of scandal among Democrats rises so high that the smell creates an opening. In the short-run (the next 10 years) more modest goals of taking back the House (currently 31- 29) are far more realistic.