Michael Barone

So which is it -- go moderate or go bold? My reading is that there's not as much conflict as initially appears. One reason is that the analogies go only so far.

Galston and Kamarck surely understand that Republicans aren't in as bad shape as Democrats were in 1989. Then Democrats had lost the presidential popular vote in the last six elections by an average of 10 percent. The corresponding figure for Republicans today is 4 percent.

Moreover, Republicans have won House majorities in eight of the last 10 elections, on platforms similar to that of their presidential candidates. The party faces challenges but not doom.

And of course Australia is not the United States. Abbott was helped by ferocious splits in the governing Labor Party. Nothing similar is happening, yet, with America's Democrats.

I think the American Democrats and the British Conservatives are offering similar advice in two respects.

Run on the issues of tomorrow, they say, not the issues of yesterday. Kamarck and Galston note that many Republicans offer policies modeled on Ronald Reagan's. But the country faces different problems today.

In Australia, Abbott did not run on the platform of 1996-2007 Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. He called for an expensive parental leave program to encourage childbearing, for example.

Most of all -- and here is the second point of agreement -- the center-right victories in Australia and in Norway two days later owe much to the unpopularity of center-left government policies.

Abbott promised to repeal Labor's carbon tax. Norway's Ema Solberg called for business-friendly reforms to produce the economic growth necessary for an expensive welfare state.

There is no shortage of unpopular Obama policies. Obamacare, for starters, is unpopular and may be headed for a train wreck when it goes into effect next month. Blocking the Keystone pipeline irritates most everyone except hardline environmentalists. Then there's -- James Carville's phrase -- the economy, stupid. Big government isn't working as promised.

Republicans need to present attractive policies that address future needs. Good policy, more than ideological positioning, is the key to political success.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM