Why moderate Republicans do better than Palin Republicans - Macleans.ca

Why moderate Republicans do better than Palin Republicans

If the GOP could get its act together, it could challenge Obama


7599916-slideIt was not what Barack Obama expected one year after his historic victory. The Republican party showed it is far from extinct, winning governorships in both New Jersey and Virginia, two states that had until then been held by Democrats. A third contest with national implications was held in the 23rd congressional district of New York state, where the Democrats took a seat that had been in Republican hands for nearly a century.

Though both parties can claim to have made some inroads, this was a GOP night. The loss of Virginia by a wide margin suggests a large-scale defection of independent voters away from the Democrats. While the loss of New Jersey may have had more to do with an unpopular governor, there too, independents appear to have abandoned the Democratic party. That should not go unnoticed by Democratic strategists preparing for next year’s mid terms. The Obama coalition of a year ago was simply not in effect in this off-year election. Of course, Democrats can argue that Obama was not on the ballot. But unless they take note of Tuesday’s results and react accordingly, they are in for a rude awakening next November.

The temptation to interpret this off-year election as a rejection of President Obama and his agenda is certainly tempting to the more conservative commentators and to Fox News in particular. Democratic talking heads are in spin mode—as one would expect—but they have not been terribly convincing. Still, the results contained a lesson for the Republicans as well the Democrats: as New York’s 23rd district showed, a split within GOP ranks can be costly. Bob McDonnell (Virginia) and Chris Christie (New Jersey) won mainly as centrist Republicans preaching conservative principles and campaigning mostly on local issues. Doug Hoffman, who lost in New York’s 23rd district, was a Palin-endorsed Republican who ran under the Conservative, rather than Republican, banner. His right-wing populist platform bore many similarities to that of the former Alaska governor. The official Republican candidate was openly challenged by pro-Palin types and it was not a pretty sight. Dierdre Scozzafava eventually withdrew from the race and threw her support to the Democratic candidate. In the end, the purge of moderate Republican voices from the race salvaged the night for Obama’s spinmeisters.

There is a growing movement within Republican circles to challenge moderate GOP candidates in future party primaries in a bid to replace them with vociferous right-wing types. Florida’s moderate Republican senatorial candidate, Charles Crist, for instance, is being challenged by Mark Rubio, a candidate supported by the far-right. This is happening when party identification with the Republicans is at 20 per cent, the lowest in a quarter century. Of course, this does not mean people are defecting to the Democrats. Rather, it reflects the discomfort many Republicans feel with the shrill rhetoric of the far-right and the Beck-Limbaugh types. While America may be more centre-right as a nation, it usually chooses a governing party that is closer to the center than the fringes.

Make no mistake: Palin Republicans are a force to be reckoned with. But the GOP does not have a hope of getting back to power if it keeps shedding those they suspect are not real Republicans. The party needs all its constituencies to win in 2010 and 2012. Republicans like McCain, Pawlenty, and Romney should be able to cohabitate with a Snowe, a Gingrich, and a Scarborough. The big tent approach is what brought Reagan and the Bushes to power and, if Tuesday night’s results proved anything, it is just how effective that approach remains.


Why moderate Republicans do better than Palin Republicans

  1. But the GOP does not have a hope of getting back to power if it keeps shedding those they suspect are not real Republicans.

    If the only "Republicans" they can manage to run are Scozzafava types – more liberal, even, than the Democrat in the district – then why even bother contesting a race?

    In any event, the right message was sent: don't try to run candidates that appall the party base, purely on the basis of "winnability." There's a difference between a big tent, and nominating candidates that actually don't believe in anything significant the party supposedly stands for.

    • I saw this exact comment earlier today. On WingNutDaily.

    • Not so avr . That is why they lost the 23 rd.

  2. What's happening to Dems right now is why you need some basic agreement on ideology/policies. Dems have filibuster proof majorities in both branches of congress but can't pass any legislation. Dems are gridlocked within their own caucus and I think voters will sort that out for them next November.

  3. I'm sorry, but how can you take trends in only two states involving only two governors and apply them to the national scene and say OMG THE SKY IS FALLING. I mean, look at Canadian politics. Results in provincial elections have almost no bearing on federal elections. Maybe the US is a little different, but I don't see it.

  4. "Moderate" Republicans? Why not just be upfront and say what you mean instead of using this manipulative designation to hide an uncomfortable fact – a "moderate" is a liberal. Says it, write it – "liberal," instead of the dumb, made up "moderate". It's not honest.

    A 'moderate" Republican is hardly a conservative in any meaningful, traditional definition of the word. It is interesting that in the mainstream media there are only moderate and far right-wing political designations. "conservatives" and "liberals" very conveniently don't exist in their dictionary. You wouldn't want the people to actually know what is going on, would you?

    • You sound very confused. Of course there is such a thing as a moderate Republican. Party ID and ideology are separate things. Secondly, of course a moderate Republican is not a conservative – that is true by definition. What I seem to gather is that you consider most so-called liberals in the US to be moderates. That might be true internationally (most Democrats would be considered moderate in Canada), but makes no sense in the US. To be moderate, something must be between two extremes. Ideological markers are relative, not absolute.

    • iT'S even more confusing because 99% of Amercian politicians are conservative. YOu have to keep slicing these thin little lines because the political climate is so very homogenous.

  5. "Parisella is buying the notion (happily put forward by Obama) that most Republicans are on the ideological fringes"

    1) Fox News has more than twice the viewers than any other cable news network.
    2) Glenn Beck is on at 5:00 pm but regularly has more viewers than most other cable news show in primetime
    3) "Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal." Gallup, Oct 26. '09
    4) "A majority of Americans now see President Barack Obama as governing from the left. Specifically, 54% say his policies as president have been mostly liberal while 34% call them mostly moderate". Gallup, Nov '09
    5) Rush Limbaugh number one talk radio personality.

    The list goes on.

    I have to believe Parisella calls it the fringe because he is a partisan and torques his posts occasionally or else he is spectacularly unaware of American politics. More of a cudgel than ignorance.

    • He uses the word fringe in every post. He loves to call all republicans and conservatives "fringe". I think he likes to use the word to be provocative.

      • It seems the wingnuts are out in legion tonight . I want the Republicans to lose and I hate it when Parisella makes a plea for moderates . It is better to have the wingnuts like beck , jolyon , avr , scf and Limbaugh. I wish Palin runs.This way ,you get Obama for 8 years. Do NOT listen to Parisella . Stay nuts like hotohoosier !
        Four more years ! Four more years!

        • Hey Kandu, how's it going? Why is it you only show up on Parisella's blog?

    • Fox has about equal the number of views of CNN and MSNBC combined – they are "splitting the left" if you believe in bias. I'd say they're splitting the centre, but whatever.

      On average in prime time, Fox has just over 2 million viewers, which tells me that approximately 298 million American are not watching Fox news on any given night.

      In contrast, Dancing with stars regularly averages around 20 million viewers a night.

      I guess a lesson in all this is that the Republicans should not be more moderate or more conservative; just more fabulous.

  6. palin lost my respect when she quit. QUITTER!

  7. "The official Republican candidate was openly challenged by pro-Palin types and it was not a pretty sight."

    I thought it was a very pretty sight. Someone finally stood up and said "I don't give a skunk's arse about the party's nomination, I'm going to run on my principles and see how many people support me." He damn near won too. If the lefty Republican hadn't thrown her support behind the Democrat he would have.

    Anyway, Parisella is suggesting that the Republicans run success stories like Scozzafava, McCain, and Bush Sr. Not socially conservative electoral disasters like McDonnell, Bush Jr., and Reagan. No doubt Parisella would be delighted if conservatives follow his advice.

    Thankfully, I think conservatives are starting to realize how awful that kind of advice has been.

    • "He damn near won too."

      He damn near won a seat that the GOP has damn well won since, what, the 1910's? If that's victory, I'd like to see defeat.

      • Wikipedia: "A large portion, including the largest city, Watertown, has not been represented by a Democrat since the 1850s."

        So: New Jersey changes hands when a hugely unpopular Democratic governor runs a lousy campaign: dire news for Obama.

        Republicans purge a shoe-in candidate for being insufficiently Palinesque, and lose the district in the process for the first time in 160 years: finally "conservatives" are escaping awful advice.

        Pass the popcorn and go, Palin, go!

  8. Parisella overlooks a key point: the Hoffman campaign wouldn't have even gotten off the ground if Scozzafava had earned the nod in a primary rather than been hand-picked by the party executive.

    Right or Centre-Right, what's happening now in Florida between Crist and Rubio is the way it should work.

  9. At the end of Mr. Parisella's last post I wrote the following comment:

    "Republicans have taken the governorship of New Jersey, a Democratic stronghold.

    Republicans have taken the Virginia governorship from the Democrats.

    Obama had personally campaigned for both losing candidates.

    Over to you Mr. Parisella to explain all this away."

    What does Mr. Parisella do? He changes the subject. I take it he wasn't up to the challenge to explain it away. So instead, it's nothing to see here folks. The problem with columnists or writers with biases is that they screen out objective data that challenges their assumptions. The effect is that it misleads readers or leaves them in the dark.

  10. Since Mr. Parisella can't or won't enlighten his readers on the political events down side, let me step in. Again, and forgive me for quoting myself yet again. But my prediction on what was going to happen in New Jersey and Virginia and the reason for it was posted on Mr. Parisella's previous post, early on election day:

    "And to the extent Obama's change agenda involves imposing socialism on the U.S., he'll hit a brick wall.

    The Americans may be many things, but socialists they are not.

    That's Obama's connundrum, he has no mandate to impose socialism and as he tries he'll get creamed electorally. He will try because he knows nothing else.

    It looks like the electoral fallout will start today."

    I think I called this one. Both the result and the reason for it. Americans don't want Obama's loony-left policies.

    • Actually, according to exit polls (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/11/04/nyr… New Jersey voters focused on national issues (health care, economy, jobs) voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat, Corzine.

      Voters focused on local issues (property taxes, corruption in government), broke overwhelmingly for Christie.

      To extrapolate these results as a groundswell of voters displeased with Obama is belied by the facts.

      • "…belied by the facts."

        TJCook spreading White House talking points courtesy of the New York Times, which spreads them like germs.

        TJ, let me quote from an article from Michael Gerson, of the equally liberal Washington Post, but who at least isn't in the tank for Obama which is a little more realistic than the Democratic "don't worry, be happy" talking points:

        "The White House now dismisses Tuesday's losses as the reflection of "local issues" — as though the Virginia outcome was determined by zoning disputes on the proposed site of a new 7-Eleven. When one of the primary concerns of the electorate is the direction of the economy, all politics is national.

        By creating deficits unequaled as a percentage of the economy since World War II, by proposing to nearly triple the national debt in the next 10 years, by using the economic crisis as an excuse for the massive expansion of government authority over health care, Obama has become a polarizing figure."

        Any more kool-aid drinkers out there needing some remedial reading?

        • First: my link got mangled. Here it is again: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/11/04/nyr

          Second: since my link got mangled, you posted your reply with no idea what I was referencing. You jumped to the conclusion that I was posting an opinion from NYT and reacted without even having read it. Just about what I've come to expect from you.

          Third: if you actually click on my reference, you'd find there is *nothing* there whatsoever except exit poll data from the NJ race. No opinion, no liberal vs conservative, no talking points. Nothing but data.

          Fourth: those data say exactly what I said: that Corzine supporters were focused on national issues while Christie voters were motivated by local issues.

          The next time you get snarky about "remedial reading" you should probably go through the motions of reading it yourself first.

          • ddHow worried are you about the direction of the nation's economy in the next year?

            Pct. of voters Corzine Christie Daggett
            89% Worried 43% 51% 5%
            10% Not worried 65% 28% 6%

            Thanks for fixing the link. What do the above stats from your exit poll tell you?

            You're still spouting White House talking points.

            But let's not get worked up, at least I'm not going to. This is the beginning of the end for Obama.

          • "What do the above stats from your exit poll tell you?"

            1) That you finally bothered to look at my reference, instead of just spouting off, and

            2) You missed the stats below which place the issue of the economy in the context of all the major issues on the minds of NJ voters:

            "Which one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for governor?"

            Pct. Corzine Christie Daggett
            17% Health care 78% 19% 3%
            26% Property taxes 25% 67% 8%
            32% Economy and jobs 58% 36% 5%
            20% Corruption in government 25% 68% 6%

            Again: voters most concerned about local issues broke very strongly for Christie. Voters most concerned about national issues voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat Corzine, *including* voters who were primarily concerned with the economy.

          • Nearly 90% of respondents said they were worried about the direction of the economy according to the exit poll you cited, which I've referred to above. Of those who did, they split Republican 51-43 in this very blue state. I'll repeat the Gerson quote from my response above since it doesn't seem to have sunken in. He said:

            "When one of the primary concerns of the electorate is the direction of the economy, all politics is national."

            Your own statistics prove Gerson's point and my point, TJ. You're entitled to whistle in the graveyard, it's a free country. And I'm entitled to point out that you're doing. We'll see who's right around this time next year. A lot can happen between now and then, but, and here I agree with Mr. Parisella, unless the Democrats change course they'll be in trouble. Only, I don't think Mr. Obama is capable of changing course, he's too ideological for that.

          • "When one of the primary concerns of the electorate is the direction of the economy, all politics is national."

            And the data I listed showed that the economy was the primary concern for only 32% of the voters in NJ. And of the 32% for whom the economy was the primary issue, 58% voted Democrat.

            If your folksy Gerson quote turns out to be correct, that bodes well for Obama.

          • Not if the U.S. economy continues to make the kind of headlines that came out today it won't:

            "Jobless rate tops 10 pct. for first time since '83"

    • Not sure if you understand what socialism is. It is the massive nationalization of the means of production and organization of society along collective lines. No individual ownership of business. I can go on and on . Jarrid has no understanding except what he hears from Fox news . Obama is a friggin' capitalist . Only you and your blind teachers from the RIGHT fail to see it .
      read up on Karl Marx , buddy!Not the Marx brothers like Groucho .

  11. I was hoping this was another Obama puff piece by Parisella.

    He won a nobel peace prize for being awesome!

  12. This article is nuts. A third party runs to the right of the republican in a race the Democrats planned to win. The conservative trounces the Republican and takes a realistic shot at the Democrat. The moral of the story is…Republicans need to nominate more leftist candidates?

    How about this for a lesson? Nominates candidates with the ideology of Hoffman and as much competence as you can find. Clearly, if they had taken that advice a month ago, they would be in power in New Your right now.

  13. Hoffman was not well versed on local issues regardless of his *conservativeness* which has increasingly broad appeal in a time when people are becoming frightened by the moral freefall we are in. He would likely have made a better showing if he had been more in touch with voters and local issues.

  14. plain is a quitter and a fascist and the republicans are "tone deaf" about leading from the center.