Friday, December 12, 2008

Republicans Should Quit Celebrating and Face Reality

By Nathan L. Gonzales

It’s understandable that Republicans are looking for any glimmer of good news after getting drubbed in consecutive election cycles. But their celebration over recent victories in Georgia and Louisiana is over the top and leaves the party ignoring electoral reality.

“Our success in Georgia with U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss and in the two Louisiana Congressional races makes for three wins in a row for a GOP that was supposed to be destroyed, demoralized, and humiliated on Election Day,” Ron Kaufman, the Republican National Committee Budget Committee chairman, wrote in a memo this week to RNC members.

Republicans look like the football team dancing in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a game when they’re down by 40 points.

“It would seem that the media reports of our demise and of how long it would take for Republicans to catch up were greatly exaggerated,” Kaufman chided in the memo, which also included the potential creation of a Center for Republican Renewal, an RNC Speakers Bureau, and Partnership 2010, which would include a paid RNC staffer for every state.

Kaufman’s memo comes on the heels of House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) memo, “The Future is Cao,” after attorney Ahn Cao (R) defeated indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D) in Louisiana’s 2nd district.

“As House Republicans look ahead to the next two years, the Cao victory is a symbol of what can be achieved when we think big, present a positive alternative, and work aggressively to earn the trust of the American people,” Boehner wrote.

Republicans clearly have their theme, and they’re sticking to it, even if the latest three victories don’t pave any path back to electoral significance.

While it’s nice to claim victory in the first three contests of the Obama era, Republicans should not forget that they held a GOP seat in Georgia, held a GOP seat in Louisiana’s 4th district and defeated an indicted Democrat who hid $90,000 cash in his freezer in Louisiana’s 2nd district.

The Georgia race should not have even made it to a runoff, so to boast about a Chambliss victory is a bit disingenuous. The GOP Senator outspent his Democratic challenger by more than 4 to 1 through Oct. 15, in a state that President George W. Bush carried by 17 points in 2004 and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried by 5 points on Nov. 4.

It’s like congratulating the New York Giants on defeating the Detroit Lions on a last-second field goal in overtime.

Democrats have enjoyed recent success in districts similar to Louisiana’s 4th, and Republicans had a very competitive primary there, but GOP leaders should not get too excited about holding a district Bush carried with 59 percent four years ago.

Looking to the future, Republicans cannot regain the majorities in the House and the Senate just by holding their own seats and defeating incumbents with frozen cash on hand.

Instead, Republicans should face the reality of the current electoral landscape. Over the last two cycles, they have lost more than 50 seats in the House and at least 13 seats in the Senate. Republicans have dug a tremendous hole for themselves, and it will take more than talking points to dig out.

Republicans need to come to terms with the fact that over the last four years, Democrats have gained control of every level of government.

In the House, Republicans had a 232-202 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have a 257-178 edge. In the Senate, Republicans had a 55-45 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have 58 or 59 Senate seats.

After the 2004 election, Republicans held 28 governorships compared with 22 for the Democrats. After Nov. 4, Democrats held 29 governorships compared with 21 for the Republicans, although the GOP will gain one back if Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) leaves, as expected, to join Obama’s Cabinet.

After the 2004 election, Republicans controlled the state legislature in 20 states compared with 19 Democratic-controlled states. Now, Democrats control the state legislature in 27 states, with the Republicans holding only 14.

And there are over 800 more Democratic state legislators than Republicans in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site. Four years ago, Democrats had a mere 10-seat edge out of more than 7,000 nationwide.

Given this new GOP optimism, if Democrats keep their cash in banks rather than in appliances, they could be in the majority for a very long time.

This story first appeared on on December 10, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.