The Atlantic's Molly Ball says Republicans don't think they have to do any rebranding -- and, unfortunately, I agree with them:
Without changing a thing, Republicans are very well positioned for the midterm elections this year and even for the 2016 presidential election. As the University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato recently noted, Republicans are almost guaranteed to keep the House of Representatives in November; they have about a 50-50 chance of taking the majority in the U.S. Senate; and they are likely to keep their majority of the nation's governor's mansions. The erosion of public trust in Obama and Democrats spurred by the botched introduction of the healthcare exchanges continues to reverberate in public polling of contests up and down the ballot, erasing the public-opinion edge Democrats gained from the government shutdown and tilting more and more contests in the GOP's favor, according to Sabato, who on Thursday revised his ratings of three Senate contests, tilting all of them more toward Republicans.Notice that this is not because the Republican Party is popular -- congressional Republicans, in particular, are staggeringly unpopular. Notice that it's not because Republicans are proposing ideas that reverberate with the public, nor is it because the existing Republican agenda is in sync with what the American public thinks. Americans support a higher minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits and higher taxes on the wealthy and universal firearm background checks and, these days, same-sex marriage. Republicans support none of these things. And yet they're in great shape.
What's working for Republicans is precisely what always works for Republicans: having a noise machine that flings one charge after another at Democrats, waits for Democratic errors so they can be exploited (no thought is ever given to actually fixing any such problems), and creating or exacerbating other problems so they can be blamed on Democrats. The Republican "agenda" is to make swing voters distrust Democrats (for economic hardship that Republicans don't want alleviated, for Obamacare flaws that Republicans don't want corrected) and to make the base despise Democrats (for Benghazi, for IRS scrutiny of the tea party, for a mythical vendetta against the likes of Chris Christie and Dinesh D'Souza, for a thousand more things betwen now and the next election).
So next time you hear that Republicans "can't just be 'the party of no,'" the correct response is: apparently they can.
Ahh, but what about the presidential election in 2016? Ball says they're looking pretty good there, too:
The political scientist John Sides recently ran a back-of-the-envelope calculation using a model that, taking into account just three factors -- economic growth, the president's approval rating, and whether there’s an incumbent on the ballot -- previously predicted the result of the 2012 election within a percentage point.... If the first two factors look in 2016 the way they look now, and with no incumbent a given, Republicans will have a 64 percent chance of victory, according to the model.By blocking or watering down any measure that would strengthen the middle class and help the poor, Republicans can limit economic growth (note, for instance, how their refusal to renew extended unemployment benefits reduced GDP). So that's factor #1. Factor #2 is the president's approval rating, and the GOP is determined to demonize him by any means necessary.
On the other hand, BooMan says the deck is stacked against Republicans in presidential elections, so Republicans do have to keep thinking about rebranding:
The bigger reason for rebranding is to do something about the structural advantage the Democrats have in the Electoral College.Yeah, maybe. My sense is that Democrats have the inside track for 2016, at least if Hillary Clinton is their nominee.
But does that even matter? BooMan goes on to say this:
When a party holds the White House for twelve or more consecutive years, it changes the country. We saw that when the Dems had a twenty-year reign from 1933-1953, and we saw it when the Republicans held the White House from 1981-1993. There is a ripple effect that is felt decades down the line.But I think that's true only if the party in the White House for twelve or more years is actually allowed to govern. Democrats certainly were for most of the FDR-Truman era, as were Republicans under Reagan and Poppy Bush.
But Barack Obama has been mostly stymied, apart from his health care law (which Republicans have tried to hobble dozens of different ways). If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, it won't be because America wants more of the same -- it'll be because we still want what we voted for in 2008 and 2012, but never got.
And we still won't get it after 2016, because Republicans will stymie Hillary, too.
And then they'll probably score big gains in the 2018 midterms, running against "the failed Hillary Clinton presidency."