John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


We got them just where we want them

Posted on May 20, 2010
“We got them just where we want them.”

That was my initial sardonic reaction to the fact that Republicans lost a not very close race in the 12th District of Pennsylvania.

It is hard to spin this loss as anything more than a set-back for the GOP.

The only thing I can really come up with is that it may make the Democrats over-confident about their prospects in November.  And there is some evidence that the Majority Party is letting their guard down a bit.

For Republican Congressional leaders, this election was a wake-up call.  Something is not right in the way the GOP is contesting special elections.  I say that because Republicans haven’t won a special election in a long time.  And special elections usually give you a pretty good sense of how things are going to go in the general election.

Perhaps the message was all wrong in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic.  Instead of making fun of Nancy Pelosi, a close friend of John Murtha, an older woman of Italian descent, and a Catholic, maybe the Republicans should have made this election a referendum on Barack Obama.  After all, Obama got beat pretty soundly in this district by both Hillary Clinton and by John McCain.

I looked at the Tim Burns website.  He is an attractive candidate, but I could find not one mention of Barack Obama on the entire site.  I also didn’t see one mention of job creation on the entire site.  Now, it seems to me, that if you want to win in a district that doesn’t like President Obama and desperately needs jobs, you would prominently mention how you are going to go to Washington to serve as a check on the President’s liberal over-reaching and how you are going to fight for more jobs in the district.

Perhaps it wasn’t very wise for Burns to open himself up to the charge that he wasn’t being respectful to the memory of John Murtha.  Murtha made a lot of friends over the years in this district, and brought home a lot of pork.  That pork may not work well on the national stage, but in a district that has been hard hit by the Great Recession, it means jobs.

Republicans are not going to win this coming election by talking about the FAIR tax, or by talking about how they are going to repeal the health care bill, or about how they are going cut Medicare or about how they are going to raise the retirement age.

They are going to win this election by saying they will serve as an effective check on the President’s grab for power.

I know that many Tea Party types think they are on the march and that they can win this battle of ideas with the President, and that they get a lot of credit for being intellectually honest and intellectually pure.

And in the primary races, that may be true.  After all, Rand Paul just smacked Trey Grayson down hard in the primary race in Kentucky.

But as we have seen in Pennsylvania 12, primary races are far different than general elections.

In Republican primary races, the most important demographic are white men.   And white men are generally very macho in their political leanings.  They like freedom more than they care about security.  They want less government, they want lower taxes, they love the tougher rhetoric.

In general election races, the most important voters are white women.  If white women are scared by the extremism of the Republican candidate, if they think that the GOP is being disrespectful to Nancy Pelosi, if they think the Republicans will push for policies that will make their own lives less secure, they will vote for the Democrat.  Tim Burns found that out the hard way, and my fear is that Rand Paul will too.

Republicans have a great opportunity to win in November, but they better learn their lessons from Tuesday’s election quickly.  We may have them right where we want them, but we better figure out how to take advantage of this situation or the Democrats will have another 2 years to run the country into the ground without anyone to stop them.

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