January 23, 2009

GOP 2010: News From The Grapevine And Why Republicans Should Borrow A Page From The Democrats' Playbook

Face The State has a new report on the "rumor mill" making the rounds within the GOP for the upcoming 2010 midterm election.

The speculation is not unsubstantiated beyond FTS, as SP has heard good things about Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier beyond insider comments, with Frazer responding to FTS that "It’s fair to say that right now I’m considering where I can have the greatest impact going forward"--and SP is looking to candidates in the Frazier mold to step up and begin to refill the tattered GOP bench.

Why is this important? The GOP can't win in 2010 (just as the GOP didn't win in 2006 or 2008) by using the same candidates, political operatives, and electoral strategies that worked from 1980 to 2004 any more than the Denver Broncos were able to use the same coaches, players, and playbook from their back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the late 1990s. Just ask Mike Shanahan or Pat Bowlen.

The idea that the normal cursus honorum or "paying your dues" processes that produced the "Contract with America" class of GOP politicians is still viable will only doom a newer generation of conservatives and GOP-leaning libertarians (roughly those 25-45) to wait through potentially more disastrous election cycles in the near future, and forsaking long-term goals to rebuild the party locally and nationally by wanting to avoid stepping on the toes of those who believe that this is "their time." Incumbents of any age and viable candidates of all backgrounds should be given the opportunity to throw their hat into the ring, especially if the GOP wishes to mount anything approaching Howard Dean's 50 state strategy and fellow blogger Joshua Sharf's call to run in every district in Colorado.

Quick-fix celebrity recruits aside (the often-rumored John Elway, for example), every race should have a viable candidate, even in difficult areas where incumbency or voter registrations numbers are a disadvantage. GOP primaries should not necessarily be avoided, and multiple competing candidates at the bench level should see a wide variety of opportunities given the Democrat Party advantage in governorships, state legislatures, and Congress. There is no reason why the GOP shouldn't be anything but a national party and not simply a regional party of "get-out-the-base" voters, volunteers, and fundraisers. We haven't conceded anything on the core principles of the "big tent"--free markets, smaller government, and individual rights/liberty--so why concede districts just because they are held by Democrats?

The 2010 election in Colorado will feature several state-wide races--Governor, a US Senate seat, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. Voting in the aggregate matters, especially at the state level in midterm elections, and turning out GOP and GOP-leaning center-right and independent voters will be the key to victory. Renewed interest in local races in typically uncompetitive districts currently held by Democrats will play a huge role in reengaging those voters set adrift by strategies that look to maximize votes in supportive areas while ignoring others in the hopes that the GOP brand will be enough to get folks to vote. President Barack Obama's campaign presciently and effectively--obviously, he is the President--eschewed such a course. Even without him on the ballot in 2010, much of the party infrastructure and institutional knowledge will still be in place, and the Democrats are no doubt hoping that this built-in advantage will discourage any GOP efforts at revamping campaigns off-line or on-line. To do so would be to ignore (forgive the gratuitous Star Wars reference) Admiral Ackbar's admonition--"It's a trap!"

It is still too early in 2009 to endorse those candidates who have formally filed, those who have been mentioned or have shown an interest, and those whose candidacy is merely speculation. But it is not too early to begin reengaging the dispirited GOP rank-and-file, to propose bold new visions for the party, to toss out discredited strategies, to effectively communicate our principles, to avoid becoming a party of "NO!" by offering alternative solutions instead of whining about the other side of the aisle, or to turn into debased imitators of the most vitriolic smear-merchants in the Democrat Party.

Opportunities to perform a true house-cleaning and not simply rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic don't come very often. GOP elites, fundraisers, powerbrokers, political operatives and especially the bench itself is going to be put on notice (as if it hasn't already been in the two most recent electoral abbatoirs)--lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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