Republicans Plan to Stay the Course for Now

Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:22pm

House and Senate Republicans will stick to largely the same road map for 2010, following a “death by 1,000 cuts— strategy to attack the Democrats and their agenda.

Since early last year, Republicans have used a scattershot approach to attacking Democrats and President Barack Obama, going after them on issues including the debt, spending, health care and energy. By talking about multiple issues throughout the year — rather than focusing on one issue at a time — Republicans believe they have been able to build momentum and take advantage of a disillusioned electorate.

Republicans saw Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s (R) special election win last week over state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) as a validation of their strategy.

During a House GOP leadership retreat in Annapolis, Md., earlier this month, Members focused on how they can take advantage of the country’s dissatisfaction with the Democratic agenda and use it to win back the majority, according to GOP aides. Congress continues to be viewed unfavorably by the public, and Obama’s popularity continues to slip — facts Republicans are hoping will translate into ballot box gains come November.

One GOP leadership aide said the midterm elections are a referendum on the “failure— of Democratic policies to address important “kitchen table— issues.

“From Day One, Republicans have been focused on providing common-sense solutions [to] the most important issues facing middle-class families, like job creation and providing financial security for those working hard and struggling to pay their bills on time,— the aide said. “We will continue to do that.—

Although Senate Republicans are scheduled to have their own retreat later this month, aides said they are mapping out a similar strategy — criticizing Democratic policies and their solutions to dealing with priority issues such as the economy and jobs and national security.

“Those will remain firmly consistent,— a senior GOP Senate aide said, adding that the goal for Republicans is to have the White House and Congressional Democrats spending “all next year defending the stimulus, defending bringing terrorists to America from Guantánamo Bay and defending out-of-control spending.—

When asked about the multi-issue attacks, Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) said, “I think it just gets more readily apparent [that Republicans have the advantage] because [Democrats] have got to figure out their budget challenges. They have to deal with a health care plan that the American people don’t like.—

Price said Republicans would have to balance attacking the Democratic agenda with promoting their own ideas. “It’s gotta be even,— he said. “It’s important to connect what they are doing with what we are doing. Neither can work without the other.—

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his Members during a recent closed-door meeting that it was important to build on the “better solutions— they have offered as alternatives to the Democratic agenda, according to sources inside the meeting.

Boehner said the effort, which could take the form of a new platform similar to the “Contract With America,— would involve Members as well as GOP candidates. Republicans are gearing up for gains in both chambers this year, although winning back the majority in either the House or Senate would be a near-impossible lift. Republicans hold 41 seats in the Senate and 178 in the House.

Senate aides aren’t eyeing a Contract With America-type blueprint for 2010, but they do plan to expand their offensive. Republicans have had some success arguing that the Democrats’ massive health care reform bill is part of a broader “extremist agenda.— Senate Republicans spent much of December using the floor to attack the health care reform bill piece by piece, tying many of their arguments to the effect the measure would have on the economy.

House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recruitment effort, said Democratic retirements in GOP-leaning districts have also helped build Republican confidence across the country. Nine Democrats have announced plans to retire at the end of the 111th Congress, while 14 Republicans have said they are headed for the exits.

“They feel the momentum,— McCarthy said.

He said the fact that senior Democrats are retiring and that others, such as Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), are having to mount serious re-election campaigns for the first time in years has emboldened the GOP.

McCarthy predicted that the momentum would also cause Members to loosen their grips on their war chests as they begin to see that the GOP chances are improving.

“The only place that you have an unlimited amount of money is from Members,— he said.

“For the last two cycles Democrats have been on the offense,— he said. “When Republicans are challenged, naturally you hold on to your money.—