A portent. An augury. An omen. You don't need a crystal ball or psychic ability to recognize that Tuesday's Republican House seat loss in Mississippi, the third such recent special election House loss in a previously safe Republican district is spelling out potential catastrophe for Republicans in November. Reid Wilson on Real Clear Politics spells out some of the very troubling behind-the-scenes reactions in Washington:
"The political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general," Cole continued. "I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election."
Still, losing heavily Republican seats in the Deep South is a big blow to the Washington GOP. "To lose two Southern seats in two weeks, I mean, oh my God," the leadership aide said. The aide told Real Clear Politics that something new is going to happen at the NRCC. "People look at Cole, and they say, 'What are you going to do to change?' And if he doesn't want to change, change is going to be forced on him."
A top adviser to a Republican incumbent who has a difficult race in November already says his boss is not looking to the NRCC for the same help he got in 2006. "This chairman badly underestimated how important it is to have top-flight staff," the adviser said, adding that some NRCC staffers are "toiling" under supervisors with less campaign experience. "We had been planning all along to operate without much help from them."
The leadership aide suggested that a former NRCc chairman, Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, could take on a larger role in the coming months. Davis, who is retiring after this session of Congress, ran the committee earlier this decade and currently serves as chairman of the NRCC executive committee. The adviser suggested, instead, that the wounded NRCC presents an opportunity for other members of the caucus to help out their fellow Republicans with political action committee donations, setting up future advancement for themselves.
The troubling thing about this insider info is that while the Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall the only thing they seem to be able to think to do in response is fine-tune their campaign machinery. Well that's ok. You need to be well organized in order to win an election. What they seem not to understand is that you also need a message.
The reason Republicans are held in such low regard is that they went from being Bob Michel country-club Republicans to being Newt Gingrich rebel-young-Turk Republicans and then right back to being country clubbers again. They have become the epitome of big spending, out of touch pols, more interested in perks than people. What they need is a revitalized message built on Reagan-Gingrich style principles. It is probably too late at this point. You can't show up at the 11th hour and say "Forget the last ten years. Now we believe in something again." The credibility just isn't there.
While salvaging November may no longer be possible, it isn't too early to recommit to conservative policies as a foundation from which to run in future elections. The head of the ticket (John McCain - boo hiss) certainly isn't going to energize the base but the stirrings of some real commitment to conservative principles, even now, might be enough to save some House and Senate seats.
On Brit Hume's show on Fox tonight I saw House Minority Leader John Boehner saying that, yep, this is "another wake-up call." He looked awake alright but he didn't look like he knew what to do with his new found consciousness. I'm glad you're awake, Mr. Boehner, now please just act like a conservative. When you think about it, it isn't that much to ask for, is it?
Liberty Pundit shares in the disgust
And so does Below The Beltway