Alexander Burns and Jake Sherman write at Politico that a small group of House Republicans spoil party messaging by saying stupid things (e.g., Trent Franks on rape).
“The good work of so many Republicans, conservatives and moderates alike, is being nullified by the ignorance and ego of the very few,” said Brock McCleary, the former deputy executive director of the House GOP’s campaign arm.
He questioned whether there was much more the party could do to rein in its most wildly unhelpful members. “If public humiliation is not a sufficient deterrent,” McCleary said, “what can the party possibly do to prevent it?”
In the age of digital and cable news, there are virtually unlimited opportunities for politicians to embarrass themselves. Any caucus is going to have some percentage of doofuses, and in 2013 there’s an explicitly liberal-leaning wing of the media — MSNBC, Talking Points Memo, etc. — that’s eager to put those people on vivid display.
“Whoever the party is in the White House has a single spokesperson. Everyone focuses on things they say. The party that’s out of power, you’ve got random scattered voices everywhere,” acknowledged Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford, a member of the GOP leadership. “I think [a lawmaker’s] first priority really is to represent your district. I really do. But I think you should have in the back of your mind, ‘Does this help us in the rest of the country as well, in articulating this message?’”
Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said that on issues related to abortion and rape, in particular, Republicans “always have to be worried about an Akin eruption.”
“Many members in our party do not like being branded by individuals who make these incendiary and uninformed comments,” said Dent, whose suggestion for minimizing Akin moments was: “You avoid issues like this. That’s one way.”
Another Republican lawmaker was blunter about his dozen-or-so chronically off-message colleagues: “These are the same people who try to drive a wagon with a square wheel.”