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GOP Gloomy in Wake of Louisiana

Gingrich proposed that if the majority of Members want change, Boehner and his team should develop a plan that would include a change in legislative, communications and campaign strategies and also a complete overhaul of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Gingrich wrote that if most Members vote to proceed with the status quo, the Members who want change should proceed independently.

“If a majority of the House Republicans are opposed to acting then the minority who are activists should establish a parallel organization dedicated to real change,” Gingrich wrote. “This group should focus its energies on creating the changes necessary to survive despite a conference with a minority mindset that accepts defeat rather than fights for real change (which is what we had when I entered Congress in 1978).”

Without directly addressing Gingrich’s idea for an emergency meeting, GOP Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) said Members already meet regularly and those meetings will continue.

Foremost on the minds of most Members at Tuesday’s Conference meeting was the GOP’s loss of former Rep. Richard Baker’s (La.) seat and the prospects that the party could lose another GOP seat in Mississippi on May 13.

After the meeting, many Republicans privately grumbled that NRCC Chairman Tom Cole’s (Okla.) explanation for what happened in Louisiana closely resembled the excuse for why Republicans lost the special election to replace former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) earlier this year: a flawed candidate. Former Louisiana legislator Woody Jenkins (R), like millionaire businessman Jim Oberweis (R) in Illinois, had high negatives. But there are overarching concerns about campaign strategy as well.

“People realize that in Louisiana and Illinois, we had candidates who were flawed, and that was a principal reason for their defeats,” said one Republican Member. “But there’s concern, too, about the overall political environment. A lot of Members realize that we need to be drawing sharper contrasts with Democrats.”

There is also building frustration among Members about some of the NRCC’s strategic decisions in the Louisiana race as well as the committee’s policy of not getting involved in primaries this cycle.

In previous cycles, Republicans didn’t hesitate to maneuver behind the scenes — and sometimes in public — to get their desired candidate as the nominee in competitive races.

“I think there’s a general consensus now that not engaging in the primaries in Illinois and Louisiana, it hurt us greatly,” said one Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified.

“At least covertly, you need to be involved in that process,” added a GOP leadership aide.

There has also been some grumbling about the NRCC’s decision to inject Obama into the Louisiana race as part of an effort to link national Democrats to newly sworn-in Rep. Don Cazayoux (D). Louisiana’s 6th district has about a 30 percent black voting-age population, and anecdotal evidence indicates that black voter turnout was huge in Saturday’s election.

Another GOP lawmaker said Republicans were encouraged by American Viewpoint polling results presented during their morning huddle. That survey showed that based on what they’ve learned over the last three months, 49 percent of voters said they are less likely to vote for Obama, compared with 40 percent who said they are more likely to support him. “His poll results have flipped upside down,” the lawmaker said.

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