A political dynamic that features a restive Republican base and aggressive House and Senate freshman classes with tea party roots could present Congressional Republicans with unique challenges as the party’s presidential candidates become more vocal.
Some Republicans on the Hill are wary the GOP’s 2012 hopefuls may create a sense of false expectation among the party’s base regarding what they can accomplish given that the Democrats still control the Senate and the White House.
Not all in the party are concerned, arguing that political posturing to show leadership is typical presidential campaign behavior that will have little influence on how the GOP operates on Capitol Hill. But others, particularly House and Senate leaders, concede that public advice from the hopefuls on how to handle key issues could prove politically problematic.
Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune — who contemplated a 2012 bid before declining to run — said GOP White House candidates’ assertions on how to address government spending, health care and other contentious policy issues might put unwarranted pressure on Congressional Republicans to deliver unachievable results.
“People’s expectations, I think, have to be realistic about what’s achievable,” the South Dakotan said. “There’s going to have to be on our end a recognition — and hopefully a recognition by people and our supporters out there [that] yes, we also share the same goals. ... We just have to figure out, how do you do that in a place which literally, for the most part, is still run by Democrats?”
Since Republicans assumed control of the House in January, the GOP has worked to minimize expectations of what it can accomplish, emphasizing that Democrats still run the Senate and that President Barack Obama sits poised to veto conservative-minded legislation. That isn’t necessarily the message Republican activists are likely to hear from Republican presidential candidates over the next year.
House Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam said GOP presidential candidates could be most useful to Congressional Republicans by focusing their attention on Obama and Senate Democrats.
“It’s helpful if they’re able to focus on areas that are realistic and make sense,” the Illinois Republican said.
Last week, during an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, likely presidential candidate and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said House Republicans have been too timid in negotiations on the federal budget and other matters.
Gingrich, who is scheduled to speak to a private gathering of House Republican freshmen on Thursday, went on to recommend that Congressional Republicans insist that Obama agree to repeal the health care reform law in exchange for GOP support to raise the debt ceiling.