House Republicans In Turmoil

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

Lot of stories covering this, but this one spells it out nicely:

They said the first was an outlier. The second, a fluke. But after losing their third seat this year in a special election, House Republicans faced the possibility on Wednesday that if they don’t repair their image with voters, they could be in for another rough November.

A Democratic pick-up streak that started with Rep. Bill Foster’s upset victory in the March election to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) crested Tuesday night, when Democrat Travis Childers won a solidly Republican open seat in Mississippi.

The GOP spent one-fifth of its available national party cash for House races on the Mississippi seat. Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned there. President George W. Bush and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain pitched in with automated phone calls. Their candidate lost anyway. Meanwhile, reeling House Republicans unveiled a new slogan this week–"Change you deserve" –only to watch Democrats gleefully note that it is already used to market an antidepressant.

Several House Republicans say the losses reveal a voter disconnect with their party, rooted in dissatisfaction with Bush, which GOP candidates will have to repair district-by-district this fall. Some, including McCain and several members of the Illinois congressional delegation, appear to believe that to "re-brand" the Republican Party, they must first distance themselves from it.

"What we’ve got right now is a deficiency in our message and a loss of confidence by the American people that we will do what we say we are going to do," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a conference call with reporters.

Freshman Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) likened the climate to 2006, when Democrats surged to control of the House and Senate. "There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the direction of the country," he said. "No incumbent should underestimate the attitude of the American people, Republican or Democrat."

The parties share power in Washington. Polls show Bush and Congress faring dismally in voter approval ratings, driven by anxieties from a slowing economy and continued dissatisfaction with the Iraq War. But politicians and analysts say it appears, at least at this point in the campaign, that voter frustration is hurting Republicans more.

Chalk up part of that to recruiting, analysts say. The three House seats to flip to Democratic this spring all lie in districts Bush carried in 2004. The Democrats who won them all ran as moderate agents of change who support troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The New York Times adds this morning

Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia and former leader of his party’s Congressional campaign committee, issued a dire warning that the Republican Party had been severely damaged, in no small part because of its identification with President Bush. Mr. Davis said that, unless Republican candidates changed course, they could lose 20 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate.

“They are canaries in the coal mine, warning of far greater losses in the fall, if steps are not taken to remedy the current climate,” Mr. Davis said in a memorandum. “The political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate and is far more toxic than it was in 2006.”

Cry me a river.