Inside the Capitol

Friday, April 12, 2013

4-17 A new GOP?

41713 GOP Failing?

SANTA FE – The National Republican Party is getting long of tooth. So say many of its current leaders. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Chairman, says yes. He wants to get on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and her morning TV friends.
Priebus is quoted as saying we have to stop divorcing ourselves from the American culture. The party chair and several other top Republican strategists have laid out a plan to rebuild the GOP. The plan has been embraced by Newt Gingrich, House Speaker John Boehner and Deputy Eric Cantor.
It is something the GOP should have done four years ago when the national and state rumblings were that the party was dead, gone the way of the Whigs in 1850. But they caught a break when new President Barack Obama chose to make health care reform his major project.
Suddenly, the uproar at the grass roots was deafening. The Tea Party was born. Democrats suffered for it nationwide. In New Mexico, Democrats lost the governor's office, the 2nd Congressional District and for the first time since 1930, they lost the secretary of state race.
Losing our southern congressional district wasn't a big surprise. But the governor's office? Then Lt. Gov. Diane Denish had been running for it for years. During that time she built up a two million war chest. She scared out other Democrats. And Republicans couldn't attract any big name to run against her.
As you know 2010 was one of Republicans biggest years ever. They captured gubernatorial races nationwide. Many state legislatures switched to republican just in time for redistricting. Democrats won't recover from that for 10 years.
But in presidential politics, Democrats still carry the day. And they are best positioned to profit from the intense changes our culture currently is going through. As polls show, the majority of Americans are fed up with wars, marriage inequality, immigration laws and gun violence; Democrats seem ready to tackle those issues. But Republicans are fearful of losing their conservative base, which includes the Tea Party. Consequently they have become labeled as a party of old, white, cranky men.
But they will survive. Democrats had the same problem during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Their Southern Democrat wing held them back until Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy made most of them Republicans.
Republicans also had their problems in 1930 when the Great Depression caused a Democratic takeover at the state and national level. It took20 years until New Mexico elected a Republican governor and 22 years until a Republican was elected president. Republicans still have trouble gaining a majority in the New Mexico Legislature but they still are very much a major party in the state.
Barack Obama surprised the world by getting elected U.S. president twice. In 2008, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin chortled "What's a community organizer?" She and the Republican Party found out when the GOP ticket got outorganized without realizing what was happening. It took a second drubbing in 2012 to figure out what Obama was doing.
Priebus understands and leading Republicans are beginning to jump on board with the goal of rivaling Democrats in data gathering, volunteer recruitment, voter targeting, outreach, turnout, online fundraising, ad placement and campaign talent.
Volunteer recruitment may be the most important factor of all. Mitt Romney thought he could match Obama's recruitment efforts with extra paid staff. But he was missing a key ingredient. Small government and low taxes don't turn on potential volunteers like the issues Democrats address.
Depending on how the gun debate develops in Congress and the states, Republicans may be able to draw volunteers from the NRA and other gun rights supporters. But the demographics may not be right. Gun rights supporters tend to be mostly older men, while Democrat issues such as immigration and marriage equality attract young people with energy and vision.


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