The Republican Party, which should have the wind at its back, enters 2014 in disarray bordering on open warfare.That is how the Pulitzer Prize winner begins this column in today's Washington Post
The "should" can be derived from the recent CNN poll showing a 5 point preference for a generic Republican over a generic Democrat for Congress, at 49-44, a significant turn-around in the last few months, fueled largely by the bumpy roll-out of the Affordable Care Act's sign-up provisions (which I might note has been exacerbated both by how the press has covered it and by the administration's somewhat ham-handed responses).
He cautions that this far out such polls, representing a 13 point swing from the 50-42 Democratic advantage a while back, are not determinative of what WILL happen, but can be a real indicator of an opportunity for the party leading in the poll.
But as Robinson notes, there is a key problem that prevents Republicans from truly taken advantage of the situation, which is:
If only the GOP had a message.Please keep reading.
The problem can be stated fairly succinctly: while almost all Republicans oppose ACA, they are have strong disagreement on what to do about it.
And those internecine battles have the potential to be truly divisive. Or as Robinson, with his gift for words, puts it:
For Republicans — to invert a classic George W. Bush bon mot — Obamacare has somehow become a divider, not a uniter. In a year when the GOP may have a legitimate chance of capturing the Senate, several primary contests appear likely to devolve into bloody battles over Obama’s health-care reforms — not whether to oppose them, but how.He gives the example of Georgia, when very conservative Republican Representative Jack Kingston, who has vote many times to defund "Obamacare," suggested that might not be responsible to simply step back and let the health care law fail on its own he was severely savaged by his primary opponents. Here I might note that the Tea Party types seem determined to keep going down the paths that have cost the Republicans severely in previous elections - defunding Obamacare, shutting down the government either by blocking debt limit increases (still on the table) or refusing a reasonable Continuing Resolution to fund the government (off the table for now with the agreement negotiated by Ryan and Murray). While some of he battles have been postponed until after the deadline to file for primaries in some states to avoid generating more extreme primary opponents, the danger has not gone away, and in states like Georgia the possibility of someone very extreme getting the nomination fuels some optimism by Democrats of taking back that Senate seat, especially given the Democratic nominee is almost certainly going to be the highly regarded daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn.
Of course, it is not just on healthcare that we can see the divide:
On a range of issues, this is the party’s essential dilemma. Ideologues want to continue the practice of massive, uncompromising resistance to anything Obama tries to accomplish. Pragmatists want the GOP to demonstrate that it can be reasonable and trustworthy, on the theory that voters want their government to function well and won’t put a bunch of anti-government extremists in charge of running it.But somehow those on the extreme right have forgotten how poorly candidates like Ken Buck, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akins, Christine O'Donnell, and Sharron Angle have done in the past two Senate elections, which is why the Democrats remain in control.
The question of how the GOP should proceed really should be a no-brainer. But after cynically taking advantage of the huge jolt of energy provided by tea party activists, the Republican establishment is finding that these true believers don’t necessarily listen when they’re told to go sit in a corner and shut up.Especially when the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are fomenting those true believers as a means of generating support for their own ambitions for the Presidency.
Robinson observes the recent pronouncements by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce that it wants "no loser candidates" running for the Senate. When they say their mantra is "no losers on our ticket" he offer sthis brief rejoinder to end his column:
Wanna bet?I truly hope the Republicans make ACA an issue - by election time the positive effects will be evident, and absent a unified Republican alternative that maintain some of the benefits people are already receiving - no pre-existing conditions, kids staying on parents' policies until 26 - Republicans will be seen as trying to take away a benefit that increasing numbers of people are valuing.
It would of course help were the coverage by the main stream media not so histrionic, not so determined to see more of a crisis than exists, more willing to discuss the benefits now being received by people who previously could not afford health care coverage. Perhaps we are seeing some of that. And in some states the results are truly problematic for Republicans, for example, in Kentucky, where Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell faces a real dilemma of a strong primary opponent to his right and should he survive a centrist Democrat in Alison Lundergarn Grimes.
No losers on the Republican ticket?
I think I agree with Robinson: