In another recent example of a Republican-leaning congressional seat in the Deep South going Democrat, the battle to replace Mississippi Congressman Roger Wicker proved bad news for the GOP. He lost a special election this week.
After a similar debacle for Republicans just weeks earlier in Louisiana, my old colleague, Newt Gingrich, wrote a piece for Human Events that cautioned his fellow Republicans to wake up and smell the coffee. I know from having talked to several GOP House members that Gingrich's message, when first delivered, received some blowback from some of his former colleagues.
Nobody knows better than I that Newt can come across as the slightly condescending professor. But forget the issues of style. He's absolutely right this time, and the Mississippi election's result merely confirms the urgency of his message.
Here are Newt's main points:
-- Congressional Republicans can't take comfort in McCain's polling numbers. Newt accurately notes that McCain's non-traditional Republican image is what has him in the ballgame. A more typical Republican candidate would be running much further behind.
-- Being anti-Obama, anti-Clinton, anti-(Jeremiah) Wright is not a model that will work this year. Again, "The Great One" has hit the nail on the head. As he correctly points out, the Republican brand has been so badly damaged that just running "anti" to anything will get the party's candidates nowhere.
-- Republicans have lost the advantage on every issue being polled. Name a topic, and Americans tell those of us who poll that the Democrats can handle it better. Tough news, but as I say, most polls don't lie -- only pollsters do!
-- House members should call an emergency, members-only conference. This isn't to say that Newt's nearly endless succession of conference meetings were a smashing success when he was U.S. House speaker. And he knows it. Even so, he's now urging the House GOP caucus to at least bring back his tradition of creating a sense of urgency, and leveraging off of that sentiment by creating a realistic plan for formulating a genuinely new message and legislative agenda for public consumption. And by the way, the "members only" qualification is to avoid the meddling influence of staff and others, who inevitably cause members to pull their punches, and who position themselves for beneficial press leaks after these meetings.
Gingrich next suggests a list of immediate actions, including:
-- The repeal of the gas tax for the summer and the cutting of domestic discretionary spending in Congress to pay for it.
-- A redirection of oil now going into the national petroleum reserve. It should flow into the open market instead.