John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The Biggest Threat to the GOP

Posted on October 20, 2009



The latest poll numbers don’t tell a very good story for the Republican Party. Their national approval ratings aren’t very good (in fact they are really bad). Their Congressional approval ratings aren’t much better. But those approval ratings aren’t the thing that worry me the most.



I still believe that come next year, most Americans are going to want a check on the power of the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats. That should give Republicans a clear shot at taking back the House and doing much better in the Senate than most believe.



And yet, Republicans have a huge problem that is playing out in two elections this fall. Chris Christie should be beating John Corzine handily. And in the race to replace now Army Secretary John McHugh, Republican Dede Scozzafava should be beating Democrat Bill Owens in a solidly Republican district.



But, in both races, conservative independent third party candidates are running insurgent campaigns that just may give the election to the Democrats.



In fact, the Club for Growth, a nominally Republican-leaning but actually Republican-slaying organization, is pouring money into the third party candidate in the New York race, attacking the Republican candidate. The third party challenger has no chance of winning, so this seems like a conspiracy to give the Democrats another seat in a Republican district. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich weighed in, endorsing Scozzafava, making that very point. The mysterious Dick Armey, once the House Majority Leader and now Tea Party provocateur, has weighed in the side of the Democrats and the independent Club for Growth.



Part of this is caused by disenchantment of the particular Republican candidates (Christie and Scozzafava) by the hard right-wing, and part of it is disenchantment with the Republican brand in general.



The hard-rock conservatives don’t seem to in much of a mood to make accommodations to a broader base. And that could spell doom for Republicans as they try to take back the House and make inroads in the Senate.



It seems to me that Republicans have to get to work on a real reform agenda that will unite the hard-core conservative base and more moderate elements. Simply opposing Obama is not enough, because as of now, opposition to Obama has not yet made the Republicans somehow more palatable to those independent elements who feel the need to run third party candidacies.



Republicans do better as reformers. They need to get to work soon on a reform agenda that can better unite those who oppose the radical agenda of Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration.