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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, December 17, 2010

GOP Strategy

In The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes outlines House GOP strategy:

The Republicans' strategy is to use the House as a battering ram to force their proposals and ideas to the top of Washington's list of priorities. By passing spending cuts—a new one every week—and curbs on government activism, the goal is to put Democrats and the president on the defensive.

"They're going to vote against everything," says Ohio's Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, the influential group of House conservatives. "Democrats are going to be the party of no." And they're going have a lot to say no to.


To succeed, Republicans must prove that three hardy perennials of Washington thinking are wrong or misleading, at least at the moment.

One is that the president always sets the agenda. John Boehner, who will be the new House Speaker, endorsed that notion on election night in November. But that's no longer what Republican leaders are saying. "We're better prepared to control the agenda than the Senate or the president," says California's Kevin McCarthy, who will be majority whip in the new Republican leadership. In their Pledge to America, Republicans laid out an agenda that includes slashing spending to "pre-stimulus, pre-bailout" levels. "From day one, we're ready to move," Mr. McCarthy says, while Democrats and Mr. Obama are in disarray.

The second Washington oldie is that voters favor spending cuts and smaller government in the abstract but balk at individual reductions that may actually affect them. With a looming debt crisis, "this time it's different," Mr. Ryan says. Adds Mr. McCarthy: "You haven't had this kind of election since the '30s. You haven't had this kind of [high and steady] unemployment since the '30s."

The third maxim is that you can't govern from Capitol Hill. True enough, Newt Gingrich failed when he tried to do so as House speaker from 1994 to 1999. The GOP strategy today is different. Republicans aren't trying to govern. They're aiming to do what voters have asked for, but with little expectation of enacting legislation. And they're determined to play up ideas to help elect a Republican president in 2012.

The game plan is simple: Take on the federal behemoth in Washington. "We can't be daunted," says Mr. Ryan. "We shouldn't be intimidated. We can put our ideas out there in a very clear way. That's not by splitting hairs and being bland."