Friday, 5 November 2010

The Republican Dilema

Now that they have used the wave of Tea Party media coverage and feeling to sweep the House of Representative the Republicans now have some serious problems to face. They conducted a well managed and targetted campaign against an either naive or haplessly inept Democrat campaign, where they must have believed Obama fever would have carried them through.

The problem is using the Tea Party publicity machine is a dangerous thing as the Tea Party is something not easily controlled. Not only did they mess up potential senate wins (which would have given them a majority in the Senate as well) in Delaware and Arizona, but the Tea Party agenda is to log-jam government, which is not in the interests of either the GOP or the government. Of the new representatives 40 are Tea Party backed and there are others who might join a Tea Party caucus in Congress. GOP leaders do not have to pay it much attention as they can still defeat the Democrats without these votes but how to deal with them without upsetting Tea Party sentiment in the country that they used to get elected. They certainly cannot repeal the healthcare bill as Obama can veto, so as they say their only chance is to make sure he does not win another term. There lies the catch.

Parties are usually run by a ruling committee (in the UK we call them the grandees for the Conservative party and this is a useful term) and the Tea Party like all grass-roots movements hates committees but is also subject to control by a charismatic leader. One possible leader is Sarah Palin but she might be damaged seriously by the result in Alaska, where the Tea Party will lose to the GOP. Rand Paul is another possibility, but he does not have broad appeal and he is not a great speaker. So this leaves Rubio who is the most likely leader for the movement in congress.

The biggest dilema facing the Republican leadership is who will be the candidate for 2012.

Now if I was the Democrat leadership I would be hoping the Tea Party bubble amongst core Republican voters keeps going for until the end of the primaries, and hope that Palin recovers from her set-backs. Then she will be the presidential candidate and the "hockey mom" is a sitting duck for an effective political campaign by the Democrats. Between her and Obama their is no comparison no matter how much the people hate him. The GOP know this and they know that any credible candidate could beat Obama while he remains this unpopular, but can they get the nomination for a credible (and most likely non-Tea Party) candidate.

The options that will be in the mind of the GOP grandees planning for the 2012 nomination boil down to:
  1. Unelectable Tea Party candidate wins Republican nomination, GOP defeated by Tea Party (Palin, Gingritch or Paul come to mind).
  2. Electable Tea Party candidate wins Republican nomination (Rubio comes to mind), becomes president and then applies his own agenda not the GOP agenda, effectively an Independent Tea Party President.
  3. Electable Tea Party candidate wins Republican nomination and Presidency, GOP surrenders to Tea Party control.
  4. A GOP non-Tea Party candidate wins the Republican nomination and the Presidency and the Tea Party fades into history.

Note in their thinking there is only one way they can lose from the current position in the polls and that is if like in Delaware they get an unelectable candidate. For the GOP option 4 is the best outome, but 2 might do depending on how radically diferent the Tea Party and GOP agendas become. So what to do with the Tea Party?

  1. Start under-mining them now but this will harm the GOP as well as the Tea Party.
  2. Embrace the Tea Party agenda knowing that two years is enough time that it might blow up in your face.
  3. Selectively destroy the reputations of potential Tea Party nominations for the Presidency.
  4. Start praying and do nothing.
I will leave Karl Rove to decide the strategy but I suspect he will go for number three.