Des Moines, IA -- I hate the fact that I agree with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). On Meet the Press yesterday Schumer said (according to the NBC.com website):
"… in the 2014 campaign the GOP was at risk of over-emphasizing the IRS and other controversies and likened next year's election to 1998 when Republicans counted on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal to make gains and ended up losing seats in the House."
I ran GOPAC in 1998 which was the sixth year of Bill Clinton's Presidency. I wasn't a principal architect of the Congressional election strategy, but neither was I smart enough to throw myself in front of the train.
Republicans believed we would pick up between 10 and 15 seats in that mid-term election. We ended up losing (as I remember) five. Gingrich lost the confidence of his troops and announced later in the election week that he would not take his seat in the next Congress and (even though it was Constitutionally possible) would not be running for re-election as Speaker.
We had convinced ourselves that the country would vote against Democrats for Congress because they were so opposed to the way Bill Clinton had conducted himself - literally - in the Oval Office.
The House Republicans impeached Clinton (in December, a month after the elections) but the Senate did not convict.
The short answer is: The GOP didn't give voters many reasons to vote FOR the Republican candidate, they only hammered home why they should punish Democrats for Bill Clinton.
It appears we are headed down that same path en route the 2014 elections - the sixth year of President Obama's Administration.
I am not at all opposed to giving Obama a Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap to the back of the head over the IRS, the Department of Justice, the State Department and any number of other misdeeds by senior officials in his Administration.
But, we know that unless voters have a reason to vote for GOP candidates, we are likely to see a reprise the unhappy result of 1998.
In an essay a couple of weeks ago, the sainted son, Reed Galen, wrote:
“We sell the GOP and its candidates short by making everything a referendum on Obama. When we make all our fights and efforts about being the anti-president, we devalue our principles."
The American political class has become so efficient in the design and execution of negative ads in campaigns that we are no longer able think in terms of positive solutions in governing.
The GOP needs to come up with easy-to-digest messages for
-- Unemployment - especially among minorities and younger Americans;
-- Health care - being anti-Obamacare is not enough;
-- Education - the public primary and secondary system is collapsing before our eyes and higher education is becoming affordable only to the children of the wealthy.
-- Government spending - the GOP should take aim at some of the favorite programs of the Right to have the standing to cut programs favored by the Left.
There are plenty of issues that are crying out for positive solutions. And passing "gotcha bills" in the GOP-controlled House that everyone knows will never see the light of day in the Senate is not a substitute for providing leadership that can actually help generate solutions, not just press releases.
Obama is not a good President. Even Chris Matthews has come to that conclusion. Let's take that as read.
The Obama Administration is suffering the same second term slump as many of his predecessors and his team has no capacity to get ahead of the growing list of scandals.
But, if the Republicans in the House and Senate - and at the Republican National Committee - believe that's enough to swing close elections,
Obama may not be able to govern, but he's a hell of a campaigner and if the mid-term elections turn on who runs the better technical campaign, the GOP is in for some disappointments.
They won't lose control of the House, but they may see another wasted cycle in the Senate. Immediately after the mid-term elections are over, we will be in the full flush of the 2016 Presidential campaign with all of the competing themes and messages as perhaps 20 candidates from both sides try to elbow their way to the front of the pack.
Republicans in the House and Senate have very limited amount of time to become the Party of Solutions. If they continue being the party of Not-Obama, they will suffer at the polls and the nation will continue to drift aimlessly.