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Rebirth of the Phoenix: A Republican Strategy to Retaking Congress and the White House November 5, 2008

Posted by SV in Election 2008, Immigration, Politics, President Obama, Republican Party.
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Yesterday’s election saw a shake-up of the electoral map beyond what most pundits had predicted would happen. Obama broke the GOP clutch on the “Solid South,” expanded the Democrat’s territory into the Mid-Atlantic states, solidified the upper Midwest, and split open the Republican strongholds of the West. He also brought in a significant number of representatives from reliably red districts on his coattails. In response to Adam’s discussion of how the GOP can make a “comeback” (to quote David Frum’s book title) and reorient itself to readopt a more traditional and compassionate conservatism, I would like to highlight a geographic strategy that can reverse Republican fortunes and avoid repeating 2006 and 2008 in 2010 or 2012.

The GOP needs to figure out why it lost (and lost big) where it did. Obviously, no party can win everywhere, but the Democrats have exhibited a surprising ability to make significant inroads in traditionally Republican states and districts (Indiana, New Hampshire, Montana). These regions offer the best possibilities of turning the tables on the Democrats.

-New England: this region, until about the middle of the century, was a reliable Republican bastion. Even Nixon (with the exception of MA) and Reagan were able to sweep it in 1972 and 1984. The best strategy towards breaking into “liberal New England” is to stop purging the GOP of officials who don’t toe the party line on every issue, particularly social issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.). It also needs to stop lambasting “intellectualism” and instead make its case logically and honestly to the citizens of New England, who place a high premium on education and philosophical pragmatism. Start in the former Republican states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

-The Rust Belt: roughly, the string of states from Michigan to Pennsylvania, also at one time reliably red. Jobs and the economy reign supreme in these states (people don’t care about social issues when they are drawing unemployment). McCain had an innovate approach to solving the jobs issue: saying bluntly that manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and offering a job training program to help people transition to 21st-century jobs that won’t be shipped overseas. If Republican candidates turn this into a centerpiece of their campaigns, it could play very well here. Target the middle class and blue-collar workers in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan to help swing House and Senate seats back to the GOP.

-The West: in particular, states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Montana. The strategy in these states requires an innovative and diverse approach. First of all, the GOP has to make a better case to Hispanic voters why it stands for their interests – support for small businesses, family values, cracking down on crime. It also has to stop playing to the Tom Tancredo-wing of the Republican Party that directs public anger at immigrants attempting to make a living. Radical responses to the illegal immigration issue have become a noose that the Republicans are tightening around themselves. To reverse this trend, the GOP needs to push for a “path to citizenship” approach and encourage teaching children English and Spanish in order to bridge the cultural divide. Also, try to divide the Democrats on this issue, who are pushed by labor unions to resist expanded immigration and guest worker programs. The other big issue that needs emphasized in the West is the environment. This should include adopting a platform of “Green Conservatism” that promotes water conservation, alternative energy (wind corridors in MT, plenty of sun in the Southwest), and stewardship of the environment. Focus on Montana, Colorado, and even California (for House seats) to reestablish GOP presence in this Democratic-trending region.

The strategy outlined here is not a panacea to solve all of the GOP’s problems or even provide electoral victory in 2012. Through emphasizing the issues of pro-intellectualism and pragmatism, job creation, and pro-immigration and green conservatism, the Republican Party could significantly improve the percentage of voters who identify with it. This strategy, while providing a strong plan for offense, would need to be complemented by an equally vigorous effort to shore up Republican support in the South and Midwest. Fortunately, at least one of the major issues highlighted here will play strong in every region of the country. To quote Jesse Ventura in “Predator,” the GOP “ain’t got time to bleed;” it needs to reinvigorate itself immediately. While the path to Republican resurgence lies through a philosophical renaissance, the road to electoral victory lies in bringing these new ideas and positions to Concord, Cleveland, and Carson City.

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