Why the GOP won't take the House - The Explorer: Editorials

Why the GOP won't take the House

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Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:12 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Assuming poll numbers stay where they have all year and no major event overtakes them, Republicans will not gain the 39 seats needed to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. They could. They won't.

Too many Republicans bring a knife to a gunfight. That's a Chicago term. I use it because they are up against a basically Chicago crowd with Chicago political values justifying whatever it takes to win.

Historically, the party holding the White House loses ground in off-year Congressional elections. Usually but not always. Ask Newt Gingrich about 1998, when it didn't happen and he got dumped as Speaker.

The GOP and conservatives owe Newt a lot. After 40 years of Democrat control, he's the party leader who actually believed Republicans could win the House and he nationalized the election with the Contract for America, designed to appeal to the Perot voting independent. Republicans are trying that again but not sure how or with whom.

Mediocre political strategists share with mediocre generals fighting the last war. 2010 isn't 1994. Democrats know losing big is possible and won't be caught unaware again. Republicans will try to run the same race 100 times with too much cookie-cutter material, while Democrats will run 100 different races and adjust better to local conditions. See Pennsylvania.

Ironically, the party preaching smaller government and less control from Washington, D.C., is the most centralized in determining campaign strategy for its candidates. Four party entities are in the act.

GOP gubernatorial candidates face the obvious necessity to run on local issues and personalities and do business with the Republican Governor's Conference, an outfit led by that rare entity, a competent GOP leader, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

The Republican National Committee has problems with Chairman Michael Steele. Because he's black, some members have been hesitant to criticize him. Note one of the folks Steele beat was Ken Blackwell, whose primary characteristic wasn't also being black but actually being a conservative.

Steele and company crowed about winning a Hawaiian special election. That should also mean they eat the three districts in New York and Pennsylvania they lost. Steele's private jets and 79 percent overhead costs aren't exactly RNC confidence builders.

The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee under Texan John Cornyn got burned early committing the primary sin of both parties' DC operations, sticking its nose in primaries. RSCC early Florida endorsement of now-independent Charlie Crist hopefully taught them a lesson.

The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee are even slower learners. Under Texan Jeff Sessions (who's predecessor was beaten for his own seat in 2008) they are still involved in candidate selection pre-primary. That ruffles feathers but could be justified if they picked winners and ran imaginative campaigns. They don't.

In AZCD8, their 2006 pick couldn't even win the primary. In 2008 they talked everybody out for a better state legislator who was also creamed. In the two NY races they again went with incumbent legislators. As Carly Fiorina said of Barbara Boxer's hair, "that's so yesterday." Voters lately prefer new faces or real mavericks.

Since the NYCD23 debacle, the RNCCC keeps a lower profile but makes it obvious to candidates that for ultimate support they must use a select group of vendors – pollsters, media techs, etc. – that the RNCCC approves. Local GOP money guys roll over for this because of – money. That leaves candidates with well-financed, out-of-town teams often clueless about local matters.

Those who really want to make a difference should give money and time straight to the candidate of their choice. After that, look for a locally run independent committee that won't blow it on their cronies.

Around here that's the Conservatives for Congress Committee. Full disclosure – I helped form it.

Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. KVOI 1030AM.

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