John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Beyond Obama – Via

Posted on July 27, 2010
In the early days of Saturday Night Live, a recurring character on the show, a retired baseball player named Chico Escuela (played by Garret Morris), had an iconic line: Baseball has been bery, bery good to me.

In the spirit of Chico Escuela, let me say Barack Obama has been very, very good for the Republican Party.

No single figure has done more to help the GOP get its groove back than Mr. Obama. His failed stimulus package, his hostile takeover of General Motors, his plans to tax energy, and, of course, his hugely expensive and hugely destructive health care reform plan, all have united diverse parts of the Republican coalition.

Social conservatives are smiling at economic conservatives again. Country club Republicans are giving money to libertarians. Pro-choice and pro-gay Republicans are conspiring with pro-life and pro-traditional family GOPers. Even independent voters are turning away from the once inspirational Obama and turning to anybody who can stop him from spending our way into bankruptcy.

Glen Bolger, who recently conducted a poll for National Public Radio that surveyed the seventy most competitive House districts in the country, had this to say about the electorate: "When you look at the generic ballot for Congress in the Democrat-held seats, the Republican is up by 5 [points]. But among those who rate their interest as 8 to 10, you know, the high-interest voters, the Republican leads in those Democratic seats 53 to 39…And what that means is that is in a close election, the Republican enthusiasm will put Republicans over the top, just like in '06 and '08, the Democratic enthusiasm put the Democrats over the top."

This is going to be a good election year for Republicans, mostly because people have lost confidence in the President’s leadership. According to a new Washington Post poll, 6 in 10 have little or no confidence that the President will make right decisions for the country’s future.

For Republicans, this is a great opportunity to get back in the game. They have enthusiasm, passion and energy and their side, all critical ingredients in a winning election strategy.

What they don’t have is an agenda that will carry them beyond the election and help them create a winning political coalition for the long-term.

Indeed, while Republicans seem to be faring well in comparison to the President and his Democratic allies, they don’t fare particularly well in isolation. In fact, in the same Washington Post poll cited above, three out of four voters have little faith in the Republican Party to make the right decisions for the future.

So, in the short term, Republicans will do well politically. In the long term? Well, that is an open question.

Demographically, America is changing. It is becoming less white, more Hispanic, less European, more Asian, with fewer male voters and more female voters. The Republican Party has to change with the demographic changes that are going on in the country. It has to develop a message that appeals not just to white men, but to all Americans. Otherwise, its time is going to run out.

Republicans also have to spend some quality time getting its many different factions to agree to a common set of principles. In my view, the GOP should simplify its message so that it can unite its base. It should stress political virtues like thrift, transparency, accountability, and honesty. And it should seek to enforce Reagan’s 11th Commandment, which should limit the political infighting and help to move the party forward.

America faces daunting challenges in the future. Entitlements threaten to gobble up the entire discretionary budget unless they are checked. There is a widening gap between the employed and the unemployable. Debt threatens to undermine economic growth. Crime, drugs, and the threat of terror undermine personal security. And there is a gnawing sense that the United States is losing a step, that it won’t be able to lead the world into the future.

Republicans need to answer the call for the future, and they can, as long as they stick to common-sense conservative principles that will put civic virtues above political expediency.

I feel good about the short-term prospects for the GOP. Beyond Obama, the future of the GOP is a work in progress.

For Karen Finney's response, visit