Karl Rove looks at recent GOP special election losses, and talks about the Party’s future prospects.
The GOP can’t take “safe” seats for granted when Democrats run conservatives who distance themselves from their national party leaders. The string of defeats should cure Republicans of the habit of simply shouting “liberal! liberal! liberal!” in hopes of winning an election. They need to press a reform agenda full of sharp contrasts with the Democrats.
Why is it tough sledding for Republicans? Public revulsion at GOP scandals was a large factor in the party’s 2006 congressional defeat. Some brand damage remains, as does the downward pull of the president’s approval ratings. But the principal elements are the Iraq war and a struggling economy. …
What is clear is that John McCain and Republicans will prevail only if they convince voters that there are profound consequences at stake in Iraq, and that more and better jobs will follow from the GOP’s approach of lowering taxes, opening trade, and ending earmarks and other pro-growth policies.
Republicans also face challenges with the young (whose opposition to the war and attraction to Mr. Obama have made them Democrats) and Hispanics (the fastest-growing part of the electorate). A recent survey offers some encouraging news. Mr. McCain is polling as high as 41% with Hispanics â€“ close to President Bush’s 44% in 2004.
Democrats shouldn’t be complacent after Tuesday. Their problems start with Mr. Obama’s 41-point loss to Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. Mr. Obama lost the primary because the rejection of him by blue-collar voters is hardening. The last Democrat to win the presidency without carrying the Mountain State was Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
Barely half of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia say they’re ready to support Mr. Obama against Mr. McCain today. Without solid support from these voters, Mr. Obama will be in trouble in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin and other battlegrounds.
So far, Mr. Obama owes his success to elites captivated by his personality. But in the general election, most folks will care more about a candidate’s philosophy and stand on the issues. And what’s considered mainstream values in a general election is different than in a primary.
Rove’s conclusion is that GOP can win, but it will require persuading voters that difference in philosophy between our candidates and theirs matters. John McCain is not exactly the ideal Republican spokesman for principled Conservatism.