Sunday, September 03, 2006

The GOP Is Losing its Message Discipline

Over the last two elections cycles, Republicans have displayed formidable message discipline. No longer. The Washington Post reports that Republicans are increasingly worried about losing control of the House of Representatives:
Other GOP officials, while nervous, believe they can hold the House with aggressive local campaigns and a national effort to focus on terrorism and security to raise voter fears about the consequences of Democratic control.
All predict one of the most negative midterm elections in memory, with virtually no positive advertising from the national GOP committees or individual GOP candidates.
But will GOP candidates fall in line? The New York Times reports that New Jersey senate contender Thomas Kean, Jr. has joined the ranks of GOP candidates calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign:
Still, Mr. Kean’s call for Mr. Rumsfeld to step down comes as more Republicans are distancing themselves, however gingerly, from Mr. Bush and an unpopular war.
Nowhere has this change of heart been more prevalent, perhaps, than in places where Republicans are engaged in close races. In Rhode Island, Stephen Laffey, a populist Republican who is challenging Senator Lincoln Chafee in a hotly contested primary, has called on Mr. Rumsfeld to resign. In Connecticut, Representative Christopher Shays recently changed his mind on a phased withdrawal and now supports a timetable, something that many Democrats have long advocated.
And then there is New Jersey, where Mr. Kean is locked in a tough fight with his Democratic opponent, Senator Robert Menendez. While Mr. Kean says that he would have voted for the original resolution authorizing the use of force, he agrees that the United States has made some “egregious mistakes.”
In years past, Karl Rove would be calling the shots in campaign season. But, as the Times reports, Republican candidates are no longer getting in line behind Rove:
In Michigan last week, Dick DeVos, a Republican candidate for governor and a longtime contributor to Mr. Bush, startled national Republican Party leaders with a searing attack on the president for failing to meet with the leaders of the Big Three automakers. “We’re being ignored here in Michigan by the White House, and it has got to stop,” Mr. DeVos said.
His communications director, John Truscott, said the attack was timed to coincide with Mr. Rove’s visit to Michigan for a fund-raiser, in an effort to goad Mr. Bush into a response. Asked if the DeVos campaign was worried about angering Mr. Rove, Mr. Truscott said, “That never even crossed our mind.”


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