Michael Tanner

Do you remember in the days leading up to the Republican electoral victory in 2010, how the Tea Party marched on Washington with signs saying “Birth Control Is Bad”?

Neither do I.

Less than a year and a half after Republicans swept to the biggest midterm congressional landslide since Grover Cleveland's second term, they are struggling against a president presiding over a struggling economy, rising gas prices, and an approval rating in the low 40s. Prospects for a Senate takeover, once a foregone conclusion, are now tenuous. Even the newly won House majority is in jeopardy.

What has changed?

Some may blame this on a nasty primary between three of the least inspiring presidential candidates since Bob Dole. But the current GOP seems to have lost any semblance of a coherent message.

The 2010 Republican victories, and the tea-party movement that drove them, were based on a few critical issues: the crushing burden of our national debt; opposition to wasteful government spending, including bailouts and the stimulus; and a desire for limited constitutional government. It stood in opposition to the big-government nostrums of both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

These were issues that had broad support, not just from the Republican base, but from independents as well, including crucial suburban moderates. But Republicans have spent the last several months ignoring these issues.

Take Obamacare, for example. A new study by scholars at the University of Denver suggests that the health-care law cost Democrats as many as 25 seats in 2010. On average, Democrats who voted for the health-care law ran six percentage points behind those who didn't. And Obamacare is as unpopular as ever, with polls showing that large majorities favor its repeal. Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he will not bring any repeal efforts to the floor until after the election.

Michael Tanner

Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.