Newt Gingrich has been looking around, and he doesn’t like what he sees. In a toughly worded column this morning — posted on Human Events and emailed to supporters — Gingrich sets out a pretty grim scenario facing Republicans.
Saturday’s GOP loss in a special Louisiana House race — a district President Bush carried by 19 points in 2004 — and the failure to hold on to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s seat in Illinois (that one had been Republican for 76 years, with a brief, Watergate exception) are the latest evidence that Republicans are in trouble, Gingrich writes.
And they shouldn’t take comfort in John McCain’s decent poll performance — about 16 percentage points ahead of the generic congressional ballot. As Gingrich sees it, "McCain’s lead is a sign of the gap between the McCain brand of independence and the GOP brand….It is a sign of how much McCain is a non-traditional Republican that he is sustaining his personal popularity despite his party’s collapse."
Gingrich sees the risk that the GOP’s weakness could ultimately overwhelm McCain’s personal appeal "and drag his candidacy into defeat."
What should Republicans do? Well, Gingrich thinks their brand has been so damaged that it won’t work to just run an "anti-Obama, anti-Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign." That model was tried in 2006, Gingrich said, and voters in six states didn’t care how Republicans attacked their opponents. They simply looked at GOP Senate candidates and said, "Not you."
Instead, Gingrich says the Republicans who now run the House should call a quick meeting and face up to a stark choice: "real change or certain defeat."
Gingrich is betting they’ll go for change, and thinks John Boehner, the Republican leader, should move fast to seize it, reporting back to his conference before Memorial Day with a strategy for going forward. "This plan should involve real change in legislative, communications, and campaign strategy and involve immediate, real action, including a complete overhaul of the Congressional Campaign Committee.
(Question for Gingrich: Can we call it a new Contract with America?)
To get things started, Gingrich even offers "Nine Acts of Real Change That Could Restore the GOP Brand." There’s something for everyone:
1. Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending.
2. Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.
3. Introduce a "more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security bill" as a replacement for the Warner-Lieberman "tax and trade" bill.
4. Establish an earmark moratorium for one year and pledge to uphold the presidential veto of bills with earmarks through the end of 2009.
5. Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically.
6. Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.
7. Declare English the official language of government.
8. Protect the workers’ right to a secret ballot.
9. Remind Americans that judges matter.
Interestingly, if a majority of House Republicans opts for defeat instead of change, Gingrich says "the minority who are activists should establish a parallel organization dedicated to real change." Doesn’t every revolution need a leader?
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