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The Right Way? Republicans Rethink, Reload 2014

The Right Way? Republicans Rethink, Reload 2014

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The Right Way? Republicans Rethink, Reload 2014

177 pagine
2 ore
Aug 19, 2014


The 2014 midterm elections offer the Republican Party an opportunity to retake both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006. Their outcome will have major implications for the legislature’s relationship with an outgoing President Barack Obama, the race to win the White House in 2016, and the future of the GOP. This e-book, with a foreword by The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib, collects the WSJ’s reporting on the party’s struggle to regroup – and, perhaps, unify its sometimes-fractured elements – after Mr. Obama’s 2012 victory, all in hopes of a comeback.

Aug 19, 2014

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The Right Way? Republicans Rethink, Reload 2014 - The Wall Street Journal


The Right Way? Republicans Rethink, Reload for 2014

The Wall Street Journal

Copyright 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Smashwords Edition

For GOP, Midterm Elections Will Measure Party’s Resurgence

By Gerald F. Seib

The morning after the 2012 election, The Wall Street Journal’s front page carried this summary of the political landscape: A campaign year that began with great hope for Republicans….instead ended Tuesday night with the GOP in a cloud of gloom.

It wasn’t just that Democratic President Barack Obama had won re-election. It was that he won even though his job approval had been stuck below 50% for months, and the unemployment rate had hovered around 8% for most of the year. He won relatively easily, holding intact the coalition of young, female and minority voters that first put him in the White House. A presidential campaign that once looked very winnable for the GOP had gone awry.

Many Republicans also believed they had blown a chance to reclaim control of the Senate, and blamed tea party activists who took control of the nominating process in some states and produced candidates who were easily caricatured as extremists. The party’s most-energized activists, the party establishment felt, had undermined its fortunes.

Republicans had maintained control of the House. Even there, though, they had lost the national popular vote in House races to the Democrats, 48% to 47%. Only favorable mapping of congressional districts saved House control, small solace at a time when the GOP seemed to have had a legitimate chance to win the House, Senate and White House at once.

In the election’s aftermath, the party wasn’t in agreement on what the problem was. Some thought that, because Republican nominee Mitt Romney had lost despite winning more white votes than any GOP candidate since the 1980s, the outcome was a sign that the party needed to broaden its coalition to include more young and minority voters. Others urged a recommitment to conservative principles that would energize the party’s existing base.

Such disappointments and disagreements can set a party into a bout of soul-searching. That’s exactly what happened to the Republicans, who embarked on perhaps the most public period of introspection by either party since Democrats tried to regroup after Richard Nixon destroyed George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus appointed five veteran GOP campaign operatives to form a task force, fan out across the country, and conduct thousands of interviews and focus groups with party regulars. The group returned in March 2013 with a report a Journal story called a scathing self-analysis of the party’s problems.

Public perception of the party is at record lows, the report said. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.

The task force also found that there was no single view of what the Republican party ought to stand for —but, rather, several views, often in conflict.

The task force said the party should embrace an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system to appeal to Hispanic voters, but House Republicans balked at immigration plans that provided any path to citizenship for the millions of Hispanics in the country illegally. And while many in the party’s leadership—not least House Speaker John Boehner—thought the GOP’s image as a party that could be trusted to govern effectively would be enhanced by negotiating a broad budget deal with President Obama, the House tea party faction repeatedly blocked that path.

The tea party caucus in the House became a kind of guerrilla force in its own right. It was personified in many ways by Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a first-term congressman who, within weeks of his election, was spearheading an unsuccessful coup against Mr. Boehner. That gambit didn’t work, but Mr. Massie and like-minded colleagues discovered that they had the power to stop other things the party establishment wanted, such as passage of a farm bill, an increase in the government’s debt ceiling and an increase in the federal debt ceiling. These were conflicting impulses no task force could resolve, and with which the party has continued to grapple in the halls of Congress.

In many ways, however, the more interesting introspection and experimentation has been happening not in the Capitol or a task-force hearing room but in statehouse buildings around the country and in conversations Republicans launched with voters far from Washington. Those are the places The Wall Street Journal’s political reporting staff visited to chronicle much of the party’s attempts to find its footing, compiling many of the stories collected here.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback set out to create a red-state model he thought could be a model for the party nationally. The model was designed not to smooth off the corners of conservative views, but to sharpen them. He passed the largest income tax cut in state history, and set out to make more fundamental changes in the state’s tax code. He was confident the result would be robust economic growth, but even some Republicans worried about the sales tax increase needed to fill part of the revenue hole, and the fate of the state’s education system under decreased funding became a hot topic of debate.

In Ohio, another Republican governor, John Kasich, tried to blaze a different trail. He pushed tax cuts but, citing his strong Christian beliefs, argued that Republicans benefit from showing a compassionate side, cooperated with the Obama administration by undertaking an ambitious expansion of the Medicaid health program for the poor. The fact that the strategy aligned him with a health-care overhaul—Obamacare, as Republicans called it l—widely despised within his party seemed not to trouble the governor at all.

I know this is going to upset a lot of you guys, but we have to use government to reach out to people living in the shadows, he told one conservative group.

Meanwhile, Republicans grappled with what many considered the party’s biggest long-term political liability: its poor performance among the nation’s burgeoning Hispanic population. Many turned to Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico for guidance and inspiration. The Journal’s profile of him summed up his importance to his party succinctly, calling him the rarest of Republican Party officeholders, a very conservative Anglo who keeps winning elections from a predominantly Latino electorate.

The Pearce prescription is simple: Engage, rather than shy away from Hispanics. You just have to show up all the time, everywhere, he said. Most Republicans don’t bother. I do. I bother.

In South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham had a different problem. When he supported an immigration reform plan that provided a path to legal status for illegal immigrants, he found that though many party leaders agreed with his course, convincing voters back home was a harder sell. He has stuck to his position in the face of voter skepticism, working to buttress his position by stressing his conservative credentials on other issues.

The party’s conflicts remain largely unresolved. Still, by the end of 2013, something interesting began happening: Things started to come easier for Republicans. Some of the tea party faction’s impulses subsided, enough of them standing aside that their congressional leaders could shepherd through Congress a two-year budget plan that put to rest the politically harmful talk of a government shutdown.

The rebels, despite their disdain for government borrowing, also allowed their leaders to work out a plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, ending the fear—especially acute in the financial and business communities—that the U.S. might default on its debt. Republicans seemed to have decided that proving they could govern smoothly and effectively was perhaps as important as showing they would stand for small government and fiscal responsibility.

As it happened, Republicans had cleared the decks of those questions just in time for President Obama to run into the buzz-saw of problems emanating from his signature domestic-policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act. The rollout of the law turned into a disaster when Americans found it nearly impossible to perform the seemingly simple task of going online to sign up for insurance coverage.

The results showed in public perceptions. Mr. Obama’s job-approval rating began sliding. By March 2014 it had reached 41%, the lowest of his presidency. The share of Americans who said they wanted the 2014 mid-term elections to produce Republican control of Congress inched higher than the share who wanted Democratic control.

None of that represented a magical turnaround for Republicans, of course. Indeed, 45% of Americans said they held negative views about the party, while only about a quarter had positive feelings. If Republican fortunes were improving, that appeared to have as much to do with the problems facing the opposition as much as positive moves by Republicans.

What those mixed signals will produce in the crucial 2014 mid-terms, which in turn will determine control of Congress for the next two years and the arc of the remainder of the Obama presidency, remain very much an open question.

The situation as spring arrived in 2014 was the culmination of a long and bumpy journey Republicans began after election night in 2012. It was a journey in an attempt to find—as a series of Journal stories framed the question—the Right Way.

The stories that follow chronicle that journey.

Gerald F. Seib is The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief.

The GOP’s Internal Debate Plays Out in Congress

Freshmen GOP Lawmakers Revel in Maverick Power

Heritage Foundation Becomes a Handful for the GOP

Utah Senator Pays Price Back Home for Shutdown

Government Shutdown Is Defining Moment for Boehner

Boehner Plea Runs Into GOP Rebellion

Hal Rogers, a Republican Team Player, Chides His Own

House Conservatives Gird for Next Budget Battles

Cruz Vows to Keep Pressing Against Health-Care Law

Elections Underscore a GOP Civil War

Mitch McConnell Campaigns on Clout Despite Anti-Insider Mood

Idaho Race Shows Split in GOP Donor Base

GOP Hawks Are on the Rise

GOP, Business Recast Message

Tea Party Faces Test of Its Clout in Primaries

Across the Country, Republicans Seek a Way Forward

Party Eyes ‘Red-State Model’ to Drive Republican Revival

One GOP Lawmaker Shows How to Woo Latino Voters

Deep in the Red of Texas, Republicans Fight the Blues

As Prisons Squeeze Budgets, GOP Rethinks Crime Focus

An Ohio Prescription for GOP: Lower Taxes, More Aid for Poor

Republicans Shy Away From Their Own Health Plan

Governors, GOP Allies Clash Over Tax Cuts

Evangelical Leader Preaches a Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars

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