The Corner

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State of the Republicans


Yesterday, I spoke to a smart, well-connected Republican strategist who has been out of step with his party for the last few years. I agree with most of what he had to say, and thought you might find it interesting.


He has never seen as much of a “power vacuum” as he does now. Who has more power, he asks, Trent Lott or Mitch McConnell? Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi or Steny Hoyer? John Boehner or Mike Pence? Neither party, he notes, has particularly strong front-runners. “One thing I do know: this vacuum will be filled.”


The problem is worse for the Republicans. “There is no consensus on why we lost.” The division over the issue hasn’t fallen on moderate vs. conservative lines. Rather, it pits Congress vs. the White House. The congressional party emphasizes Iraq, and especially the decision to keep Rumsfeld on through the elections; the White House blames scandals and earmarks. (Can’t they both be right?) “We went down the wrong road and now we are wandering, and we aren’t wandering together; we’re wandering individually.”


He adds, “There is little trust [on the part of congressmen] in President Bush. There is zero trust in Karl Rove.” The congressmen feel that the White House is looking backward–trying to come up with a plan for the next two years that redeems the previous six—while they want a plan that will set the stage for the following few years. This strategist thinks that some presidential vetoes will rebuild trust.


Much of the congressional party remains wedded to earmarks. Republicans run the risk of becoming a caucus of complainers if they don’t offer conservative alternatives—if they can come up with them. “I don’t know what we stand for,” he concludes. “I know we’re for big business, and I know we like spending.” He’s glad the party lost.