The Republican March to Majority Is Stalling

To win in November, it is not enough to not be the other guy; you have to stand for something.

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The latest Gallup Poll shows, as my bloleague Robert Schlesinger wrote here Wednesday, that registered U.S. voters now--by a narrow margin--prefer to have the Democrats in charge in Congress after the next election.

Ostensibly there is no reason for this. Another Gallup survey just out shows Congress is one of the least respected institutions in the nation. The Pelosi-Reid legislative agenda is largely moribund, despite claims by the Democrats that this has been the most successful Congress in many decades. Of course these claims are made by many of the same people who say nothing has been accomplished because the Republicans have blocked everything. Perhaps one can have their cake and eat it too. [See who supports Reid.]

The Gallup analysis suggests the shift in preference for which party should control Congress in the future can be accounted for by a change in the opinions of the self-described independent voters, who probably hold the balance of power in the upcoming election. Independents are motivated by ideas rather than by party affiliation. At least they tell themselves that they are. The change in the polling should suggest to the Republicans that they need to propose a positive, reformist agenda as the basis of the upcoming campaign.

[See a slide show of 5 key issues in the 2010 elections.]

The Republicans will not win back control of Congress if their candidates just stand around like Frankie and Annette Moon expecting to surf into office on an anti-Obama wave. Yet this is just what many of their consultants are advising them to do, lest they say something that will alienate the voters.

To win in November the Republicans, while not needing to replicate the Contract with America, need to develop a consistent set of themes that set them apart from the majority. It is not enough to not be the other guy; you have to stand for something--a concept that House Minority Leader John Boehner seems to get.

[See who gave the most to Boehner.]

A veteran of the Contract, Boehner has been incrementally assembling a series of proposals that could form the basis of a positive, proreform agenda. The latest, which he unveiled Thursday through the GOP’s America Speaking Out website, is to support legislation originally offered by Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson to require that all bills be available online for at least three days before Congress votes on them. [See who supports Culberson.]

A proreform idea, it stands in sharp contrast to the way Reid and Pelosi managed the healthcare bill and may load down the lame duck session with additional surprises. It’s the kind of thing that Washington insiders easily dismiss as fluff but that real Americans understand and, more importantly, vote on.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on the 2010 campaigns.
  • Follow the money in Congress.
  • See a slide show of 5 key issues in the 2010 elections.