Republicans have been at the kids’ table since January 2009. Effectively shut out by the Democratic supermajority — fought tooth and nail for — conservatives in particular, were only included when Congressional leaders deigned to invite them, or when they forced their way in by swaying moderate Dems to their cause. With only 40 members in the Senate, the GOP had no traction. With 41 they do. Scott Brown is the harbinger of the revived GOP message.
GOP severely damaged by 2008
It cannot be over-stated how seriously damaged the Republican party was by the end of 2008. The GOP knew it was in danger when they lost their majority in 2006, and by 2008, President GW Bush had so humiliated his own party, they were even willing to accept defeat to get rid of him. During the primaries, 56% of polled Republican lawmakers indicated a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, while John McCain was still floundering in 3rd place. The image and the message of the GOP was so degraded, they preferred a Democrat over most of their own. John McCain tried his best to craft a new platform, to draw the party back to its core principles but with a forward thinking agenda, and failed. However, he did succeed in rallying what he terms the “loyal opposition,” and although it sparked an internal struggle inside the GOP, it has also revived debate and discourse on exactly what the party stands for. McCain also succeeded in getting his reform theme inserted into the GOP stance; it has been interpreted as fiscal reserve, transparency demands, and resistance to big government, however, those things are also Republican core beliefs. The irony is that the GOP needed to reform to get back to its core beliefs.
Palin’s politics take the the airwaves, continues to spark debate
There is a sense of condescending scorn toward Sarah Palin as well, even from some corners of the Republican party. However, she has energized the party in a very good way. She fires up the base, which is always good, and she has sparked a debate about successful women in conservative circles. Some say she is a demagogue, others a firebrand.
She has proved her mettle no matter what. She fumbled with her endorsement of Doug Hoffman in NY-23, however she bounced back very quickly, getting on board with Gov. Rick Perry in Texas and scoring a high-profile GOP presidential pow-wow event, the SRLC, and will be keynote speaker at the first Tea Party Convention. She has also accepted a freelance position with Fox News as a news analyst, which means Sarah Palin’s politics are going to take to the airwaves again. And they will be distributed by the primary conservative news network in the US.
GOP beginning to find its footing, Brown an unexpected gift
The GOP has been in a tailspin since the final disgrace of Election Day 2008, and what has emerged in a year’s time is the beginnings of a new beginning. Several key election victories have carved out the niche by which Republicans are winning back their constituents. And the near-legendary upset victory by Scott Brown, snatching a long-held Democratic Senate seat from an establishment favorite, and tipping the power balance in the Senate at the same time, has given the GOP some much-needed credibility. Their message is hitting home, they are right about a few things, and they are going to be heard. The balance has not tipped back to the Red, but it has tipped back to a point where fairness and inclusion can happen. The Democratic party squandered a year of near-absolute power with in-fighting, now they are scrambling to salvage their own agenda. Once Scott Brown is sworn in, the GOP has the power to control debate again, which means they have the leverage they need to get their platform inserted into legislation again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wielded considerable power in 2009, and shuttled a good deal of the Democratic agenda through the House unscathed. However, the Senate threw her under the bus by waffling and by outspending the House, and the GOP seized the opportunity. The extreme partisan nature of the Senate — much greater than that of the House — opened the flood gates for a GOP comeback: oppose big government, oppose big spending, oppose big taxes, which so far have all failed to staunch the bleeding of the “Great Recession.” All of this on the backdrop of greedy bankers cashing multi-million dollar bonus checks while unemployment is soaring out of control, and working class Americans are still losing their homes and jobs. The polls are telling; Americans in general approve of President Obama’s policies, but they don’t like how the government is going about implementing them. And the GOP is listening to that and saying, “We’ll do it your way,” or as Scott Brown said, “This is the people’s seat.”
GOP moving into Democratic territory, retaking some old turf, too
The GOP is moving into the bread-and-butter areas that are typically Democratic territory. The days of the staunch old man might be over, and the day of the Wal-Mart Republican is on the rise. Northeastern Republicans are seeing their day again, that is certain. New England Republicans in particular are doing well because they are naturally more moderate, being in Democratic territory. Just like Southern Democrats are more moderate because they are on Republican territory. Virginia and New Jersey have already swayed back to Republicans after Obama’s upset victories there in 2008. However, states are often more conservative locally than in national politics, so although VA and NJ are not direct referendums on Obama, they are still bellwethers. McConnell’s Virginia landslide and Christie’s within-margin win in New Jersey show that the electorate is impatient with Democrats.
Obama talked a big game in 2008, but little has been visibly delivered on those promises. At the 100 day mark it looked a lot more promising than it does at the 1-year mark. Now, a year in, the disparaging voices sound more valid. Spin doctors on the full spectrum of the Democratic party instantly began trying to throw Martha Coakley under the bus when she lost to Scott Brown. “She ran a bad campaign,” and then she alienated voters over her refusal to shake hands in Boston, and she didn’t know who Kurt Schilling was. And of course Scott Brown’s camp is trumpeting the come-from-behind victory as a loud and clear message to Washington that it is time to shape up. The truth of course is somewhere in the middle. Martha Coakley did make some mistakes, but Scott Brown also came through with a better message. And the fact remains that a Democratic stronghold in Massachusetts and in the US Senate has been breached, and that the GOP will be taking their place at the adult’s table again.
Brown win is energizing GOP candidates nationwide
In Florida, Brown’s victory has boosted both Republicans in primary for the state’s open US Senate seat. Moderate Gov. Charlie Crist and conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio both issued congratulations to Brown, stressing their support of him. Crist used the opportunity to highlight his anti-Obama stance, having taken a serious hit with the GOP over his perceived sympathies to the President’s politics. Rubio’s campaign sent out a fund raising letter, from US Sen. Jim DeMint, saying that conservatives nationwide had rallied to raise money for Scott Borwn, and he hopes they will do the same thing for Marco Rubio. Nationwide, some analysts are predicting that if all Republican candidates do as well as Brown in the 2010 mid-terms, the Democratic majority could be in urgent danger, saying as many as 155 House Democrats could lose their seats.
Polls are suggesting that even senior Senate leadership and long-tenured Blue senators are in danger. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at this point is almost certain to lose his seat, with polls showing him losing to both of his potential Republican opponents by more than 10 points. Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) who has carved out a place as a key moderate, has been forced to distance herself from Obama to buoy her candidacy. And ex-GOP Sen. Arlen Specter (now D-PA) is in danger as well, and while he may be seen as a Benedict Arnold, the Democratic party allowed him to keep all of his seniority. Which means if Specter loses, they lose a long-tenured Senator, and a vote on the Senate floor, which are getting scarce all of a sudden.
The House Democrats are in hot water, too. Generic ballot polls throughout the month of January have shown House Republicans winning by as much as 8 points. The shadow of 1996 is hanging long over the Democratic party now. It is too soon to predict gloom and doom for Democrats in November, however, warning shots have been fired, and the GOP is prepared this time. They have a message, and it is being heard. Brown’s win has validated and emboldened Republican candidates nationwide.