Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seeking, Buffering: GOP strategy @ 48.8 bps

Some interesting leaks this weekend regarding GOP strategy as it relates to stimulus, Obama, and Congressional Democrats.

1. Elana Schor documents GOP triangulation against Pelosi and Reid.

But don't tell Republicans that it's Obama's stimulus plan they're rejecting. GOPers are subtly aiming to capitalize on two very different numbers: the Democratic Congress' sub-30% approval rating and Obama's impressive 64% approval.

"The problem lies squarely with congressional Democrats," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters after the vote. "My conversation with the president was clear; he said, 'it's the Speaker [Pelosi] and the Leader [Reid] running these chambers, they have the ability to control this process.'"

2. Rep. Cantor is the real leader of the House Republicans these days. He's been considered a rising star for some time and his name was bandied about when John McCain was looking at potential running mates this past summer. Now, as head whip, he's really started to realize his influence on GOP politics. He's BFF with Newt Gingrich and they talk on the phone several times a week about the latest sitcoms and dramas.

You can start to see a new generation of leadership crystallizing around some of the organizing and messaging principles laid out by Newt Gingrich since 2006ish. I've tracked this on and off since the election but it's worth bringing full-circle. Gingrich and Bobby Jindal are clearly cozy and the two employ a very similar rhetoric about "solutions." Gingrich also not-so-quietly supported Michael Steele's campaign for the GOP Chairmanship. And now the Gingrich protege Eric Cantor represents the 'anointed one' in Congress.

Watch those four names very closely: Cantor, Gingrich, Jindal, and Steele. I'm curious to see who else is looking to do business with master Newt.

3. Getting back to point 1, Josh Marshall interprets Elana's digging:

In fact, it even goes deeper than this. As Elana noted yesterday, the plan of the congressional GOP -- to the degree they have one -- is to faux cozy up to Obama and say that they both face a common foe in the Democratic Congress. The idea being that since "Congress" is really unpopular they can run against Congress.

But there's a very big problem with this strategy above and beyond the absurdity of the argument. "Congress" may be really unpopular. And the Democrats now control Congress. But politics is a zero sum game. At the end of the day, in almost every case, you've got to pick a Republican or a Democrat when you vote. And if you look at the numbers, congressional Democrats are pretty popular. And congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular. If you look at the number, the Dems are at about 50% or higher in most recent polls, while the GOP is down in the 30s.

From my armless chair, I trace a lot of this weekend's recalibration as it relates to interpreting GOP strategy to Andrew Sullivan's reaction to overall GOP tactics related to the stimulus vote and the Gregg withdrawal.

Their clear and open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot). They want failure. Even now. Even after the last eight years. Even in a recession as steeply dangerous as this one.

I think an abundance of disbelief related to Andrew's dark assessment has caused a lot of pundits to convince themselves of a contrived GOP triangulation against Congressional Democrats.

The GOP is really just kind of using a stumble upon strategy, reevaluating their position at the end of every tactically-contrived media cycle.

Maybe they have indeed come up with a medium-term plan to work against Pelosi and Reid in lieu of Obama. But this is most certainly NOT something that the wingnut base is going to endorse.

4. And for all the stories about the death of bipartisanship and the unpatriotic GOP war of insurgency, there's this from Arlen Spector:

"When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today," said Specter, "one of my colleagues said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' My Republican colleague said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' I said, 'Are you going to vote with me?' And he said, 'No, I might have a primary.' And I said, 'Well, you know very well I'm going to have a primary.'"

Specter, along with centrist Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joined with Democrats last week to move the stimulus bill forward. Specter said he doubted there would be any more Republican votes than those three Friday night.

"I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation," he said.

Specter was asked, How many of your colleagues?

"I think a sizable number," he said. "I think a good part of the caucus agrees with the person I quoted, but I wouldn't want to begin to speculate on numbers."

Now Arlen has a certain way of making a tactical lie seem like refreshing candor but it's worth taking note. I wonder how this changed the printout coming from the Marshall and Sullivan Megapolitics3000 supercomputer.


So basically I think that Obama needs to continue doing exactly what he's been doing as far as political strategy is concerned. It's amazing how often I'll read thousands of words from people freaking out left, right, and center and ultimately conclude that Barack Obama's game plan is generally the right way to proceed. Pick the issue, reach out to skeptical parties, make a couple of changes, pass the law.

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