The GOP's Road Forward: No Black Knight Hubris, Just Reality Re: 2014

Hugh Hewitt

10/17/2013 9:09:00 AM - Hugh Hewitt

This past weekend the Cleveland Browns went up on the Detroit Lions 17-7 as halftime neared.

I was at that point perhaps a bit ungracious on Twitter with my pal Larry O'Connor, a Michigan native, and the morning drive man on D.C.'s WMAL, not to mention an alumni guest host of my radio show.

The Browns lost the Lions' game 31-17, and Craigslist featured a fake ad for a new Browns QB --another in an endless round of deserved stabs at the plight of the franchise --the request for Browns pallbearers to let down a deceased fan one more time, Mike Polk's epic Factory of Sadness video, the QB jersey, etc etc. The O'Connor payback was deserved.

Point is, Browns fans know futility. The GOP doesn't know futility. And thank God the GOP is playing a President Obama-led Democratic Party. Right now the Dems enjoy the same sort of lead the Browns did last Sunday. President Obama could very well turn in the same sort of performance that Brandon Weedon did after a strong first quarter. In fact, since that is how the president has acted in the past, expect it now.

The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, floating off the coast of Greece, has the advantage of physical distance and provides a take on the GOP's retreat that isn't infected by the frenzy of D.C.'s past ten days or the media amplification of it (CNN's wholly fake "default countdown clock" being the best example of the levels of MSM absurdity on behalf of the Democrats' talking points.)

I share Bill's optimism that this is going to turn out very well for the Republicans in 2014 provided peace breaks out between the GOP Hatfields and McCoys.

These two camps are personified by two senators --Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. The former led the charge up the hill, the latter was on CNN last night with Anderson Cooper before the House even voted slagging Cruz and the rest of the GOP that wanted to fight.

This latter bit of theater enraged my audience --I played clips of Graham bashing Cruz-- and I turned the last half hour of the show over to callers only from my South Carolina affiliates, all of whom are practically begging Congressman Mick Mulvaney to take on Lindsey in the GOP primary next year. Mulvaney would easily raise millions for the Tea Party activists and the long time anti-Graham conservatives across the country, and even if unsuccessful would be positioned to succeed Nikki Haley as governor down the road, but he could win that primary. Watch that space.

A place and a race to focus anti-Beltway rage would actually be useful to the national GOP, because that anger --real and deep, fueled by the constant attacks on Cruz whom the base believe rightly to be courageous and bold-- could threaten other mainstream conservatives who don't deserve the anger, chief among them Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell did a masterful job getting the GOP off the beaches of its political Dunkirk yesterday, and there's a reason Senator Rand Paul is 100% behind McConnell --the wily Kentucky senator is a master of the Senate and the GOP needs him there. The democrats, as Karl Rove told my audience yesterday, are fully invested in doing to McConnell what the GOP did to Tom Daschle in 2004 via the election of Senator John Thune. (The transcript of my chat with Rove, including his predictions on the House and Senate in 2014, is here.)

So long-simmering GOP grassroots anger at perceived Beltway indifference if not outright condescension could poison a lot of wells next spring and summer, or it could focus on the real problem, which is the president and Harry Reid.

Imagine how this could have been different if the GOP had not punted away its Senate chances in 2010 and 2012. Well, the same opportunity is coming around a year from now, and the key Senate contests are listed here. How much better if the GOP anger streams into the battle for the Senate, not the battle to assign blame.

Look, it was a nasty defeat. No Black Knight nonsense here. But there is zero upside in making a bad situation worse with the equivalent of a GOP mob war.

Thus should the critics of Cruz stuff it, and the high lords of Castle Revenge sit down and cool off. The problem is the president and the nightmare is the combination of Obamacare eating away at domestic prosperity and security and a nuclear Iran emboldened by the president's catastrophic handling of the Syrian fiasco. It will take a weekend to let the mark wear off, but the GOP doesn't have the luxury of time to brood or scold, nor does the country.

What follows now in D.C. will depend on the conference appointees sent by the GOP to the big budget sit-down. House leadership will almost certainly disappoint the base by sending a lot of the old bulls instead of encouraging it by dispatching the new and brightest members of the Caucus to accompany Paul Ryan to the table. Another missed opportunity to message effectively probably, but who knows. It is really hard to imagine falling off this floor.