The Republican Party is undergoing a messy but unmistakable 20-month transformation from fanatically anti-Obama to fanatically anti-spending, providing top party officials a new and intriguing playbook for recapturing the White House in 2012.
The new formula can be seen in the big policy fights gripping the nation - and in the political figures leading the charge.
Republicans in Congress, key states such as Wisconsin and around the country are all consumed with one thing: cutting spending at the federal, state and local levels. The shouts of most activists have changed from “Show me your birth certificate” in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency, to “Show me your budget cuts” today. (See: Wisconsin's Scott Walker gets union bill ) (See: Anti-Obama or anti-spending? on The Arena)
That has allowed conservatives who are credible in a governing context – Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and others – to dominate the national debate instead of more flamboyant and controversial figures such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, who hogged the headlines in the spring of 2009. (See : Daniels sticks to his call for truce)
Republicans are aware of the danger of coming across as too dour, and a senior administration official said that could be the one trap in their new strategy.
“A conundrum for them is that if they look too narrow and vindictive, they won’t get credit for whatever recovery there is,” the official said. A well-known Democratic adviser, however, said “the nightmare scenario” for Obama would be a fragile, job-poor economy, and Republicans “nominate someone who is competent and is able to offer a comprehensive vision of economic change.”
But Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and Bush White House counselor, said the party will have to watch its language. “The greatest temptation,” he said, “is to overreach.”