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November 27, 2007

GOP Facing an Uphill Battle

Tuesday, the Washington Post will have an interesting article on the GOP's current minority status and the increasingly difficult task we have ahead of us.

[GOP] Party officials insist that the retirements -- 17 members of the House and six senators -- are simply the result of individual decisions and not indicative of a broader negative sentiment within the party. "I don't hear a drumbeat that 'We're not effective and I don't like it here anymore,' " said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).


Many retirements have come in seats and states that are competitive between the parties. Republican senators' retirements in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico have created races in which Democrats are favored to win next November. The same holds true in the House, where open GOP districts in Ohio, Arizona and Illinois are primed to go to Democrats.

Emboldened by the House and Senate majorities they won last year, Democrats have had almost no retirements. Five members of the House are stepping down or running for higher office in 2008, but none of the vacated seats is expected to be competitive. No Senate Democrat up for reelection this cycle has announced plans to retire.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott officially announced his retirement early today; Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert made a surprise announcement that he had officially resigned.

The article dances around the idea that Republicans are "getting while the getting is still good." I think that low morale, caused by the prospect of years in the minority, is contributing to the problem, especially for members of Congress who saw their power peak during the early Bush years. Members who were toppled by the 2006 election are noticing that the GOP won't be retaking their committee chairs anytime in their congressional careers.

Part of the problem is that there is no one in the party that can credibly ask members that are thinking about leaving to stay. The obvious choice for that role, President Bush, doesn't seem up to the task, either by choice or because he's too busy fighting the war and the Democrats in Congress at the same time. The GOP just doesn't have many promises to give for incumbents who are ready to call it quits.

I don't mean to be Mr. Doom & Gloom, but Republicans need to be aware that, barring some unusual event, they will not be taking Congress back any time soon. The WaPo article notes that the Democrats have us outmatched when it comes to money, too:

Republicans also face a daunting financial gap at the congressional level, the likes of which they have not seen in decades. At the end of October, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $29 million in the bank to spend on House races -- roughly 14 times the $2.56 million its Republican counterpart had at that time.

The disparity on the Senate side is smaller but no less significant. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed $23.4 million on hand at the end of October, compared with $9.5 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The difference in funds to some degree reflects low morale among Republican donors, too. And if Republican congressfolk and Republican donors are having a mopey moment, you can bet that Republican voters are, too.

Things aren't all bad, though. The positive news coming out of Iraq is slowly working its way into the public mind. At this point, Democrats cannot benefit at all from good news in the War on Terror. Unfortunately, I doubt very much that Election 2008 will focus so exhaustively on the war like the elections in 2004 and 2006.

Economic indicators are also generally good (and have been), which reflects well on the President who--against all reason--wears the Chief Economist hat. That, too, is suspiciously taking its sweet time getting into the think skulls of Economic Eeyores. However slowly people learn of it, some of that good news will hopefully be taken up by the Republican presidential candidates credible promises of more to come.

In short, the GOP is facing an uphill battle, one that is getting steeper. I'm praying for a leader who will pull the party back together. God willing, whichever presidential candidate we select will be that leader. If not, it's going to be a long eight years.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:12 AM

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