By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Politico is reporting today that there is a growing debate within the GOP over what should be in the new “Contract with America”-style document that might help the party win back the House this fall. Of course, this story becomes much more interesting to reporters if they can portray it as a “split” within the Republicans, with “peril” on both sides. In sort of a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t way, Politico reports that if Republicans include too many specifics they’ll risk turning off moderates and independents; if they don’t include enough specifics they won’t be taken seriously.
Give me a break. The news here is not that they’re arguing over content, but that they’ve agreed to go forward with an organizing document. It’s great news that the GOP is putting together a document that tells voters what Republican candidates will stand for if they’re elected. I think most voters would love to see that document. Because while there has been some value in the Republicans opposing the Obama agenda, now is a good time to also say what they’re for, and what they’ll do if they win control of Congress.
I worked at the RNC during the original Contract with America, and the items that were included in it were actual pieces of legislation that were explained in a sentence or two of easy-to-understand language. That’s one reason it was so popular. Much of the original contract in 1995 was passed by the House Republicans, but then most of it died in the Senate. And while some of it is outdated now (there was a crime bill in there, for example, and some Social Security reforms that would be different now), it did include some core items that would still be very popular today--such as term limits, a balanced budget amendment, tort reform, the line-item veto, and a requirement that all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress. Why not start with those?
When it comes to the remaining planks, Republicans would be wise to stick with the winning strategy used by Bob McDonnell and Scott Brown in their victories: They should stay away from social hot-buttons like abortion and immigration and instead stick with fiscal responsibility and economic priorities. It will have broader appeal to young people, independents and women--three groups that could win a lot of elections for Republicans this fall.