Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Massachusetts provides a strategy for GOP in '08

Yesterday, residents of Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District voted in a special election to replace Marty Meehan, who stepped down to become president of Univ. of Mass.--Lowell. Nikki Tsongas, wife of former Massachusetts congressman Paul Tsongas, claimed the Democratic banner, running as a Washington insider and bringing Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and other Washington Democrats to stump for her. Her Republican opponent, Jim Ogonowski, a local farmer, is the brother of United flight 93 airline pilot John Ogonowski, whose plane was hijacked on 9/11 and crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Ogonowski ran a grassroots campaign, thumbing his nose to the Republican establishment and running to retain the 2003 tax cuts and end illegal immigration. Ogonowski was the quintessential, anti-establishment, outsider candidate with no previous political experience: his entire campaign was focused on running against congress and against the status quo: everything a former congressman's wife represented.

Ogonowski didn't win but he did shockingly well--coming within 6 points of Tsongas (45 percent to 51 percent) in a district that gave John Kerry a 16 point margin of victory in 2004 and in a state that hasn't sent a Republican to congress in over 20 years.
The fact that a Republican could do so well in the bluest of blue states at a time when voters are angry at the president and frustrated with the pace of the war gives Republicans an opening for 2008. They should follow Ogonowski's lead and embrace this three-tier strategy.

1. Run against Hillary Clinton. With a 48 percent disapproval rating, Hillary will drive Republican turnout in '08 and turnout among Independents and new voters cringing at the prospect of continuing a 20-year revolving reign between the Bush and Clinton dynasties. Republicans should seize on this, as Hillary's polarizing persona will hurt Democratic incumbents and challengers alike in down-ballot races, especially in the south and midwest (A recent internal Democratic poll leaked to the press confirmed this effect: Rudy Giuliani leads Hillary in 31 swing congressional districts won by Democrats in '06).

2. Run against Congress. Only one person/entity has lower approval ratings than President Bush and that is the Democratic-controlled congress. With congress at record low approval ratings (currently at 23 percent, far lower than the ratings of the GOP-controlled congress before the '06 midterms), Americans are apathetic and ready for change. Run as an outsider, challenge the establishment, hammer away that Congress is not working and failes to represent its constituents and that we need independent, honest leadership not beholden to party politics and special interests. From politically-motivated hearings to an impasse on Iraq and passing meaningless resolutions upsetting allies like Turkey in the Mideast, Nancy Pelosi has not led. Run against Pelosi and run against congress--we can do better. Tie your opponent (most likely an incumbent) to the unpopular congress and Washington establishment.

3. Illegal Immigration. Relegated to 4th or 5th in importance in previous elections, immigration is now a top-tier issue if not the #1 issue not only for residents of the southwest border states but also for farmers in the heartland. The economic and social impact affects the entire country, and voters are tired of the rhetoric and want action. Republicans must run to the right of Bush on this issue--and not hesitate to criticize him for it--while promising to seal the border, punish employers who hire illegals, and deport all criminal illegals back their countries of origin. This issue was central to Ogonowski's campaign and enabled him to gain 45 percent of the vote in a district where Republicans only comprise 14 percent of the electorate. Illegal immigration is now the third rail of politics--seize it and propose bold, reformation-like solutions.

Many say the 2005 special election in Ohio where Democratic challenger Paul Hackett came within 4 points of beating Republican Jean Schmidt in a GOP-leaning district was a bellwhether for the Democratic rout in '06. Maybe the GOP's close margin this year in one of the bluest districts in the county could signal a change in '08--the Democrats cannot take anything for granted.

1 comment:

KU Blue said...


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