John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on January 24, 2013

John Boehner might be right.  The President may very well want to annihilate the Republican Party.  But if that is true it is going to take far longer than Mr. Obama thinks.

Obama’s speech on Monday and his efforts to force gun control on an unwilling Senate served two invaluable purposes for the GOP.  First, it unified them to an extent that they haven’t been unified in a long while.  Second, it made it awfully hard for Harry Reid to keep control of the Senate.

The House is going to stay in Republican hands for the next decade.  I am pretty sure of that fact.  Mitt Romney won more than 220 of the districts won by House Republicans, making the House majority one big safe seat.

There are about 8 Congressional districts that Romney won that are still held by Democrats, putting the Republicans on the offense for next election in the House.

As we know, Republicans in the Obama era do a lot better in midterm elections than they do in Presidential elections.  That spells trouble for Senate Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, West Virginia, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Louisiana.

I don’t know if you know this but they really love their guns in those States.    The more Obama pushes gun control, the lower the odds that Harry Reid (who is an NRA supporter himself) keeps control of the upper chamber.

Obama’s vigorous defense of left-wing liberalism played very well with his political base, but it fell flat with anybody living in Red State America.

Has Obama portrayed himself as a centrist, Republicans would have been screwed.  They have been so hopelessly divided against themselves, that most conservative organizations get more energy attacking big business and other Republicans than do from attacking Obama.

But with his speech on Monday, Obama made it far easier for conservatives and Republicans to join together in opposing his policies.

The problem for Republicans is that the more they are unified in opposing Obama, the less they will be preoccupied in rebuilding the party for the long-term.

They will fall into the trap, if they are not careful, of being a House party and not a Presidential party.

The Republicans can survive by controlling the House for the next decade, but if they don’t reverse the demographic trends that became evident in the last Presidential election, they will not win the White House for forty years.

The problem with being really satisfied with an oppositional strategy is that it makes it awfully hard to be for something.   And if you are not for something, you will never get on offense.  And if you never get on offense, you can’t build out your coalition.  And if the GOP can’t build out its coalition, than it won’t be able to compete for the White House.

It is entirely possible that Barack Obama understands all of this.   And it is entirely possible that the President has been needlessly partisan not because he wants to accomplish anything, but rather because he wants to keep the Republicans on the defensive so that he can destroy them for the long-term.

For Republicans, that means that they have to take some risks.  They have to be willing to go beyond their base on issues which helps them to build a long-term coalition.  Fighting the debt is not much a risk and it is not much of a political strategy, because nobody votes on debt even though everybody is against it.

Taking risks means putting immigration reform behind them, embracing Obama’s position on same-sex marriage (or at least not fighting it), ending the war on drugs, offering a real anti-poverty agenda, and fighting for real campaign reform.

It means not being content to let Obama and his party fall on their collective swords in the 2014 election, but boldly putting together ideas that attract new voters to the party.

The Republicans won’t lose in opposing Obama in the short-term.  But they won’t win if they don’t come up with a positive agenda to attract new voters in the long-term.