Ken Mehlmans advice to Republicans meeting in Colorado is, of course, the right advice: (1) there will be losses in Congress in the off-year; (2) strive to run campaigns that energize the base rather than panic and court votes by being independent of the national administration; (3) running a campaign like, say (this isnt Mehlman saying this but me) Bill Brady who tried going agnostic on Topinka but leveled firing power on Oberweis, spurs a confusion in the base that causes it to either stay home or drift elsewhere.
The fact is that the biggest unifying element in the Republican message is the chaos the Democrats present on foreign and domestic policy. All you have to do to gain Republican base unity is to speak about potential House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who is even opposed, secretly, by Rahm Emanuel as being too dovish. Here in Illinois, one of the farthest left incumbents (my own Congressman) is Jan Schakowsky who is at least two notches to the left of Howard Dean. Believe it or not shes teamed up in a campaign appearance with, believe it or not, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the multi-decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam who made national headlines urging an immediate pull-out from Iraq. Their foreign-defense policies are rendered indistinguishableget-out-with-the-white-flag-flying-and-run-as-fast-as-you-can.
Marrying those two together does a disservice to ideologies both have to-date represented: Schakowskys and Murthas. Schakowsky is a pretty vibrant character, a Molly Pitcher of the left, loading the cannonades, campaigning in the brie-and-white-wine suburbs as a full blown Deaniac, decrying huge military spending, the White Houses domestic spying programin short becoming a walking-talking replica of the ACLU position paper to which is added the economic philosophy of The Nation magazine.
She decries tax cuts for the wealthy and massive spending in behalf of a Marshall Plan for energy plus even more ferocious programs for affirmative action and wide open doors for illegal immigrants. Socially, shes for gay marriage with all the trimmings. Now one of Schakowsky is not bad if youre a guilt-ridden exurbanite because you can smoke funny weeds, fly the black flag of anarchy and sing the Internationale. But teaming her with Murtha who is a jowly old soldier and Pentagon shill who very late has come to get the dove religion? Its bound to turn off both the lefties and the moderates because the cynicism reigns supreme.
Bad as the Republican status is, its not difficult to carve out additions to the base after hearing those two: they are an impossible marriage politically, and accomplished through the machinations of Pelosi, not Rahm Emanuel who is far more astute than to tolerate that nonsense. Running as a Republican you cite those two, the wildness of Schakowsky and the rather cynical late-hour espousal of the left by Murtha. Following which it shouldnt be difficult to calculate the wreckage the economy would find itself in with the Ways and Means chairmanship of Charlie Rangel who would replace the retiring intellectually peerless ex-economic prof Bill Thomas. And thats only for starters.
I am far less pessimistic about Republican chances than are some of the professional prognosticators. The only way the Republicans can lose control of Congress is to be panicked into a stampede, the way they were in 1954 (pardon a senior citizens allusion) when because of moderate depression on the farms in the Midwest, Engine Charlies misinterpreted comments about GM and some minor league scandals, they ran like scared antelopes with Republicans calling for high price supports and turning tail on their administration. The turn-off deflected the GOP turn-out and the Dems were elected. Take the leaders of Congress a Democratic victory would produce: Hang-Dog Harry Reid who frequently has to wipe his nose with a Kleenex (better than his sleeve which he has been known to do) and Nancy Pelosi who has difficulty smiling because of the Botox tightening her facial muscles. Yes, we have defections in our group: those who voted for those two presidential winners Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul
but generally with an aggressive marketing campaign we should be all right. Bring `em on, I say!