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You Fight The Election With The Awful Leadership You Have

Eric Cantor, the Republican leader, told me yesterday that he assumed they would assume the majority in November. ~Mark Shields [1]

If there is one thing from the last week that should deeply discourage Republicans, it is the realization that for all of the real successes in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, their party in Congress is still led by the same people who presided over two very large consecutive electoral defeats, most of those leaders were complicit in the bailouts their constituents hate, and these leaders continue to have no correct understanding of why they were voted out of the majority. That doesn’t mean that voters know or care about Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Kyl themselves. Voters never knew or cared about Pelosi and Reid, either, and campaigns that tried to drag down effective Democratic candidates by attaching them to their leadership never worked. That said, party leaders in Congress are not irrelevant when the party is in the minority.

These are the people who are the functioning political leadership of the GOP, and they have been unusually unsuccessful in repairing the image of their party, crafting anything resembling a coherent opposition agenda and providing the public with any reason to believe that they would handle another turn in the majority with any competence. On top of it, if Cantor is any indication, they seem to be no better at analyzing the national political landscape. If Cantor actually assumes that the GOP will win back the House in November, he is engaged in wishful thinking or has simply spent too much time listening to flattering, unrealistic claims made by other Republicans.

Republicans would need to gain 40 seats to win the majority again, and that will give them the bare minimum of 218. At most, they might realistically net 13-16 [2], and that is assuming that things continue to go their way. Even if every seat listed as “lean Democratic” by CQPolitics today fell to a Republican candidate, and the GOP won all other vulnerable Democratic seats, that would be only a net of 37. That would be a significant and remarkable gain and larger than the Democratic pick-up in 2006, but that is as high as the GOP wave can possibly crest. In the last 36 34 years, Presidents with approval ratings above 40% [3] do not normally lose 30+ seats in the House. 1994 is the one exception, and that result was greatly aided by the huge number of retirements of members of the majority in that year. At the moment, Republican House retirements still outnumber Democratic retirements.

If Cantor automatically assumes that the GOP will do better than this in one cycle, he is dreaming and complacent. That tells me that the GOP simply expects victory to happen, which makes it more likely that they are going to be unprepared to fight the election effectively and they will end up being badly disappointed.

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9 Comments To "You Fight The Election With The Awful Leadership You Have"

#1 Comment By Jim Dooley On January 23, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

And if perchance they are not, within at most a year, their supporters and everybody else will be looking for yet another quick fix. The reason is simple: the republican party is a) devoid of leadership b) without a program and c) in denial that they were at the helm for 2 failed wonderful wars, the collapse of the economy, the imminent collapse of not a few states because manufacturing was exported to countries where there was slave labor, benefiting mostly Wall Street but apparently not enough, and d) etc, etc, etc. Their monument over the rubble and ruin of 8 years: big fat momma TSA blowing yellow smoke rings over the land of the free and the home of the brave. Contrition? Who you lookin’ at Willis?!
I am not buying Obama’s act either because he contemplated the implications of a through d and promptly impaled himself on the bluntest of swords, 2500 pages of health care reform. As Marlon said to Rod, you should have taught me something, I could of been class.
If the MSM were capable of covering a game with more than 2 players there might be some hope. As it is, there is none; and there is no salvation whatever in watching these two pitiful, malicious obesities gnawing at each others necks for what amounts to all eternity.

#2 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On January 23, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

Assume? Make an ass out of me and you. If “me” and “you” both mean House Republicans. While the Democrats are sure good at shooting themselves in the foot, recently Republicans capped their own knees, so they’ve got a ways to go.

Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and Kyl. “These are the people who are the functioning political leadership of the GOP.” Really? Official congressional leadership, yes, functioning (de facto), no way. Besides political junkies, nobody even knows these guys’ names. Limbaugh, Beck, Palin are functioning leadership.

“[C]ampaigns that tried to drag down effective Democratic candidates by attaching them to their leadership never worked.” Well, this is another fact that Republicans are avoiding cause all I hear is Reid and Pelosi are both the Antichrist.

#3 Comment By David Tomlin On January 23, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

I wouldn’t assume Cantor believes what he says. More likely he thinks optimism about regaining the majority is a good way to motivate Republican donors.

#4 Comment By David Tomlin On January 23, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

Limbaugh, Beck, Palin are functioning leadership.

That’s what leftist spin machines want people to believe, but I see no evidence of it. The meme confuses celebrity with leadership.

The GOP nominated McCain despite Limbaugh’s denunciation. Since the election his hobbyhorse has been closing Republican primaries to ensure nomination of a conservative, and I haven’t heard of a single other prominent Republican show any interest in that cause.

Most Republicans have seen through Palin. She is still a celebrity and gets lots of attention, much of it tabloidish. But her actual support is mostly limited to evangelicals. She is no more a leader of the party than Huckabee.

Glen Beck went on an erratic ideological journey, almost embracing Paulism for a time. Did the Republican party follow him? Again, a celebrity, not a leader.

#5 Comment By Jayhawk On January 24, 2010 @ 8:19 am

“The GOP nominated McCain despite Limbaugh’s denunciation.”

He didn’t say “was,” he said “are.”

#6 Comment By Gordianus On January 24, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

After all the tortured forensic deconstruction of the Republican sentiments and prospects, David Tomlin has it right. Just because a politician says something doesn’t mean he believes it. Politicians say things for effect all the time.

A party out of power has no real central leadership. It’s a collection of egos and players. Still I have to agree that the GOP congressional leadership one sees on TV are singularly unimpressive. But so is the collection of characters on the other side of the isle. The public is habituated to the concept of charisma. They seem to demand a certain novelty and star quality of their leaders – thus Obama.

The RNC has a better tool for analyzing what the New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts returns say about the public’s mentality. They have the internal polling of the campaigns, which are almost always more detailed and accurate than anything you read in the press.

#7 Comment By Bilejones On January 24, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

The R’s are screwed until they dump the Neocon filth. It’s a testimony as to how foul the democrat was that Brown won in MA.

#8 Comment By herb On January 25, 2010 @ 7:31 am

“Again, a celebrity, not a leader.”

This is no doubt true, but all of the conservative Republican voters I know look to them much more than they look to Boehner, Cantor, or McConnell.

Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck may not be leading the party. But many of the party faithful are following them anyway.

#9 Comment By BarryD On January 26, 2010 @ 7:09 am

Another: “Limbaugh, Beck, Palin are functioning leadership.”

David Tomlin: “That’s what leftist spin machines want people to believe, but I see no evidence of it. The meme confuses celebrity with leadership.”

I’ve heard with my own ears one GOP rep and one RNC chair apologize to Rush; not too many other people who can back them down instantly.