Politics & Policy

No Wave for the GOP

GOP’s Oregon senate candidate Monica Wehby
Republicans need to fire the consultants who urge the party to mute social issues.

The latest polls suggest the GOP now has only a 50–­50 chance of retaking the Senate. 

There needs to be a mass layoff — of highly paid GOP consultants. Otherwise we risk a repeat of 2012, when overconfident Republicans in the middle of the worst economy since the 1970s became convinced that all they had to do to win was not be Obama. And they lost.

Romney’s strategy was simple. On the social issues, avoid, downplay, mute. On the economic issues, sound vague, promise to help job creators, and wait for the other team to self-destruct.

The RNC’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election reinforced the idea that doing more of what didn’t work would be the pathway to victory. If only we add more women and more diverse ethnicities to the GOP ticket while avoiding Akin-esque gaffes, we can win. “Don’t do stupid stuff,” while always good advice, is no more a winning strategy for the GOP than it is a foreign policy for a great nation.

It didn’t work then, and it is not working now.

In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove acknowledged that despite the horrible environment for Democrats “a GOP senate majority is still in doubt.” Why? The Architect is convinced that his model is sound — donors just need to open their wallets to the consultants to script more TV ads.

While Democrats are out-spending Republicans, and GOP donors should take notice and correct this, the relatively narrow spending gap would not make the difference in a wave election.

Take Monica Wehby’s struggling campaign in Oregon. The state is an outlier for Republicans today, so a Wehby victory there would represent a profound rejection of Democrats. Perhaps that is not to be expected. But she is the perfect test case for the RNC “autopsy” strategy: an attractive professional single mom who is pro-choice, and now pro–gay marriage. The Koch brothers have spent $1.6 million in TV ads, and yet Wehby’s poll numbers show she is losing ground. I think economic ads like this one are part of the reason why:

“Small business” polls better than big business does, but it is still a business-first economic message, reinforcing the idea that Republicans do not know or care what average middle-class workers are going through.

Now in a Hail Mary pass, Wehby is actually spending her own money to tout her conversion from silence on gay marriage to a full pro-gay-marriage position. She’s airing an ad that features the union ceremony of two men who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit asking the courts to overturn the state’s marriage amendment.

Expecting Monica Wehby to win in Oregon might be expecting too much. But how come this poster child for the RNC’s supposedly winning “autopsy” strategy can’t seem to move the dial closer with actual voters? What will it take to get donors to reject consultants whose advice fails? 

The Romney strategy failed in 2012. And regardless of whether or not Republicans narrowly retake the Senate this November, the neo-Romney strategy is in danger of failing massively to deliver what America really needs in 2014: a “wave election” in which the country definitively rejects the Obamanomics that are strangling average Americans’ economic prospects while producing a Wall Street boomlet. Wall Street, with its downside subsidized by taxpayers, is getting richer and donating money to the Democrats. The great middle class feels our dream dying, and most people aren’t sure why.

And too many GOP candidates, listening to consultants who get paid whether or not the candidates lose, and listening to the donors who foolishly continue to believe the consultants, are reenacting a failing strategy before our eyes.

— Maggie Gallagher, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, writes at MaggieGallagher.com.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More