GOPers Running Left?
Bill Scher notes how several GOP Senate candidates are running left on right-leaning Real Clear Politics.
Several Republican candidates in the year’s most competitive Senate races have begun their fall sprint to Election Day, not by embracing Tea Party-fueled conservatism but by defensively tacking leftward.[icopyright one button toolbar]
Why are these candidates blurring partisan and ideological lines in the homestretch? Granted, it’s hardly unprecedented for candidates to follow the wisdom of Richard Nixon, who once told presidential candidate Bob Dole that to win the Republican nomination “you have to run as far as you can to the right” but in the general election “you have to run as fast as you can back to the middle, because only about 4 percent of the nation’s voters are on the extreme right wing.”
But that was more than 20 years ago. This year was supposed to be different. Obama’s numbers are at their lowest ebb, threatening to drag down Democrats across the country. In July, Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican in charge of the House midterm campaigns, was predicting a “wave” election because of those numbers…These hardheaded Republican candidates are wisely eschewing the assumption that Greg Walden embraced, which was presuming Obama’s that low poll numbers are proof that a rightward shifting electorate is eager to vote in more Republicans.
The problem with that analysis is it ignores the Republican Party’s own poll numbers, which are demonstrably worse than Obama’s and those of the Democratic Party. GOP favorability is generally in the mid-30s. In the most recent CBS poll, Republicans scraped bottom at 29 percent, while Democrats earned a relatively healthier 41 percent.
Republican insiders are aware of the hurdles they’ve created for themselves. As Politico reported last week, “Nearly a year after the government shutdown, Republicans privately say the party’s tattered public image is dragging down candidates in key races.” Two years of heavy obstruction, minimal cooperation, and little idea generation has cemented the public impression of Republicans as unserious about governing, and unreformed, despite the economic debacle that capped the George W. Bush presidency.
None of this means Republicans can’t have a good Election Day. The Senate 2014 map is tinted red, with several incumbent Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Romney won two years ago. But without a real lurch to the right among the electorate, the map can only work in the GOP’s favor if some political lines are blurred.
Credit these Republicans’ political skills for recognizing the need to resist ideological rigidity, and avoiding the pitfalls of 2012 goats Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Though if it’s their dexterity that makes the difference in November, they will have think hard about how they should govern starting in January.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center