A Welcome Set of Distractions for a Floundering GOP

When your policies aren't popular, any old distraction will do.

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Drew Sheneman

The president's problems come at a good time for Republicans. In the last couple of months the GOP has been repeating the mistakes that led it to defeat in 2012. The media focus on President Obama might just get the GOP off the hook.

Republican obstructionism cost the party seats in both the Senate and House last year, but House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't get the message.

Senate Republicans, with some Democratic help, managed to kill a common sense proposal to require background checks for gun buyers. No law abiding gun owner had any reason to fear background checks, which is why national surveys showed that about nine of every 10 Americans favored the proposal.

But that didn't stop the GOP from shooting itself in the foot. One of the Republicans who voted against this modest attempt to curb gun violence was New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte's job rating has dropped 15 percent since the vote.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

House Republicans have voted 37 times in futile attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The GOP hasn't voted even once on the American Jobs Act, Obama's proposal to create more jobs.

Right after seven of every 10 Hispanic voters supported the president's re-election, Republicans tripped all over themselves to announce their support for immigration reform. But when push came to shove, Republicans just couldn't do it. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was part of a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators who agreed to a compromise immigration proposal. But after taking flack from right-wing extremists, Rubio has backed away from his own proposal. Not exactly a profile in courage for a possible presidential candidate. If Republicans block immigration reform, the party will do even worse with the growing Latino voting population in 2016 than it did in 2012.

Things aren't going much better for the GOP off Capitol Hill either. Early this year, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told his party that it needed to present a kinder, gentler and tolerant face to the public. Apparently very few Republicans got the memo.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

In California last month, Celeste Grieg, president of the California Republican Assembly, reprised the argument that killed the Senate campaigns of Republicans Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana last year. Grieg said that the stress of rape makes it unlikely that a woman will become pregnant. I'm sure this must have come as a surprise to the thousands of women in California who became pregnant after a sexual assault. Ronald Reagan once called Grieg the "conscience" of the GOP. If former president Reagan was right, that would explain why the Republican Party is circling the drain in the Great Bear Republic.

In Illinois, the GOP state committee pushed Chairman Pat Brady out of his job. Brady's crime was to support marriage equality, which Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman and a large majority of voters in the state favor.

Last week, a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, the incubator of many Republican policy ideas, released a report that was critical of the immigration reform proposal that Rubio and John McCain supported. Unfortunately, the co-author of the report, Jason Richwine, had written that Latinos are genetically inferior to whites intellectually. Meanwhile, Pablo Pantoja, the Hispanic outreach director for the Republican National Committee in Florida, resigned in protest and announced that he would become a Democrat.

The prognosis on the GOP's attempts to recreate itself after last year's electoral setbacks is not promising. Since the GOP is such a mess, the party will focus on the president's problems to distract Americans. The GOP can't help itself. All Republicans can do is to hurt the president.

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