Tony Blankley

However, that is not the end of the story of public opinion and political strategy in 1994-97. Just as Newt won the Health and Human Services vote based on shrewd public-opinion management in August, Mr. Clinton beat us over the shutdown adventure in the winter.

Again, in 1996, Mr. Clinton, Newt, GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole and the two parties fought over welfare reform. Newt won that one -- Mr. Clinton caved and signed the tough GOP bill rather than his own squishy, non-reform "reform" bill. But Mr. Dole lost, too, as the GOP separated the Medicaid reform bill from the welfare bill -- and Mr. Dole didn't want to give Mr. Clinton a third chance to sign it. He had vetoed it twice. The battles are not always just between parties. After the bungled shutdown issue, the House GOP demanded a political victory from Newt -- and they got it in that tough, divided welfare reform.

Likewise, Newt's (and the GOP's) 1996-97 balanced-budget success -- the first time the feds balanced the budget since before Vietnam -- reflected the GOP's ability to win the public opinion battles after the shutdown fiasco.

Now, fast-forward to 2011. Let's assume the Republicans hold a majority in the House -- say they net a pickup of 60 House seats and eight Senate seats, resulting in 49 Republicans, 51 Democrats.

Let's assume between 55 percent and 64 percent of the public want to repeal Obamacare and the GOP brings it to the floor. Is it possible that there are 11 surviving Democratic senators (or those up for re-election in 2012 such as Dianne Feinstein) who might decide to cover their political backsides and vote for the repeal? Yup.

Also, in the deficit and tax fights that are likely to dominate the congressional year, neither tea party freshmen nor the GOP House nor the GOP Senate nor Mr. Obama nor his congressional parties alone can dominate the political process. How the case is presented to the public will determine which positions will feel the pressure from the public. Will tea partiers support congressmen across the board who actually cut entitlements, or will they flinch and penalize congressmen who have the guts to do so?

Either this is just the end of a big election that rolls back a few important mistakes, but basically changes little besides who gets the good parking spaces and whose staffers get to cash in for a few years. Or this is the beginning a great reformation that will take America back for liberty. It's up to the people. We are so close. In 50 years in politics, I have never seen as large a percentage of the public self-motivated for reformation. For those of us who believe we are a providential country, now is the chance for the public to demonstrate it.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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