GOP Must Stay On Message

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 27, 2010

The dust has yet to settle on the Massachusetts election heard ‘round the world.

Let’s be honest. Regardless of your political affectation, this was one heck of an upset. I mean, it would be like the vacant seat of retired U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye going to Sam Slom! The sun would stop shining, the beaches would recede and Canadian tourists would actually tip. The world as we know it would change.

Republican Scott Brown will be the next senator from Massachusetts. He will occupy the seat that was held for more than 40 years by the Liberal Lion, Sen. Edward Kennedy. I am certain there are the liberal faithful who called in sick to work the day after the election. In their minds, the impossible has happened. It’s an abomination. How can this happen?

First, we have to understand that Massachusetts is the liberal darling of the political world. Sure, there was a hiccup with Mitt Romney as governor, but for the most part, liberal Democrats have dominated the state. Names like Kennedy and Kerry are synonymous with Massachusetts politics. The number of registered Democrats in the state outnumber Republicans 3-1. And did I mention unions? Well, that goes without saying.

So how did Brown win? Like John Houseman says in the old Smith-Barney ad, “He earned it.” Yes, hustle and hard work were obvious qualities, but the referendum on our present state of the union is the more appropriate conclusion. There is no doubt the final tally was a repudiation of the Obama administration, Democrat leadership in Congress and the financial and social policies articulated by both. It was a rejection of healthcare reform. It was a rejection of increased taxes. It was a rejection of overwhelming budget deficits. It was one of those rare political moments when the inconceivable becomes a reality.

Sure, Martha Coakley’s candidacy and campaign were a mess. Her apparent belief that it was her seat by coronation rather than election was political suicide. Her gaffes on the trail were damaging. Statement that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan and that Boston Red Sox legend Curt Schilling is a Yankees fan revealed an unusual lack of knowledge. Were the media eviscerating her as they would (and did) Sarah Palin? Her statements were so outrageous that people didn’t need the media to help them with their impression of Coakley. They figured it out for themselves.

The overwhelming message from the Brown victory is obvious. If a Democrat can lose an election in Massachusetts, a Democrat can lose anywhere in the U.S.

Yes, that includes Hawaii. Another message is clear, too: President Barack Obama, in one short year, has gone from arguably the most popular president to an approval rating drop of almost 30 points. More importantly, his political capital seems to have been expended. He stood side by side in trying to help Democrat candidates in New Jersey, Virginia and now Massachusetts. Despite his presence, each lost. Obama is now becoming the equivalent of a casino “cooler.” He’s the guy you send in when a player or a table is too hot. He’ll make sure you lose.

Yes, the midterm elections are 10 months away. A lot can happen in what is a lifetime in politics. Can the Democrats get their mojo back? Not if they insist on ramming things through without consideration of the general public’s interest. If Obama insists on passing healthcare reform, he will continue the political alienation of millions - millions who vote. If there is another bailout, if there is another TARP, if there is cap-and-trade or if there is another tax increase, the Democrats will lose Congress. They will lose gubernatorial seats. There will be a revisitation of 1994, but on a grander scale.

The key for Republicans is to keep their focus and message precise. If the GOP can continue to successfully stand for principles that contrast with Democrats, be consistent and remain steadfast in the fiscal and social positions, they can win - and win big - in 2010.

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