Republicans need to show beef or they'll get the hoof 

It should embarrass Republicans to be debating whether to tell voters why they should be elected this fall.

Rep. Pete Sessions, who leads the GOP's House campaign arm, has been running away from questions about the GOP agenda like a man chased by angry bees. Senate campaign boss John Cornyn, who's known for his ability to speak off the cuff, sounds like he's been stunned by a sharp blow to the head.

The fact that House Minority Leader John Boehner is getting pushback from the campaign committees over his decision to come up with a successor to the Contract with America shows how disoriented many in the GOP have become.

They have forgotten that it doesn't matter who is in Congress but rather what laws Congress produces.

But even leaving aside the basics of good government, this aversion to policy is very bad politics.

Detractors and admirers of President Obama both overestimate the political powers of his organization. For their part, the members of Team Obama are finding that their seeming control of the political process really was an illusion.

Obama rode a wave in 2008. He didn't walk on water.

Convinced of their own breathtaking genius, the two Davids -- Obama's political consigliere David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe -- embraced a risky strategy for Obama in office. They weren't just going to succeed, they were going to transform American politics.

But the shock and awe of Obama's social welfare agenda is causing a political backlash seldom seen in American history.

Having a new, untested president immediately try to broadly redefine the relationship between the government and the governed was certainly audacious. Doing so when the economy was in tatters was just foolish.

The Davids expected some blowback, but figured House Democrats could absorb the pain and leave Obama mostly unscarred. Instead, Obama has lost credibility even with his electoral base and changed his image from one of a dreamer to that of an out-of-touch elite.

Obama's symbolic, history-making candidacy brought many new voters to the polls in 2008 looking for warm fuzzies for supporting the first black presidential contender, who also had a campaign platform that sounded like the lyrics of a John Lennon song.

But now, a different bunch of unlikely voters has flooded into the electorate. Middle-class America, usually a sleepy bunch politically, has been energized and inflamed by what's going on in Washington. And since the president has lost the affection of the electorate, quelling the outrage has proven impossible.

The president has tried to be less scary since the ghastly White House partisan pep rally to celebrate the passage of Obamacare in March. But it is not in his nature to reassure. He might lecture or scold, but he is no comfort to those whose high hopes for his presidency have turned to dread about a government both massive and incompetent.

But just because Obama's operatives have committed an astonishing political blunder doesn't mean they're wrong about everything.

The Davids are right when they point out the lack of Republican credibility. The only thing American voters like less than Democrats right now is Republicans. The Davids are also right that Republicans have been in control recently enough for voters to acutely recall the failures that led to the GOP's 2006 ouster.

The temptation for Republicans to stay quiet and hope to benefit from the Democratic meltdown is understandable, but misguided.

Running as the "anti" party this fall would surely produce substantial gains for Republicans. And even a very general policy outline risks turning off some voters, risks divisions in the party and allows Democrats to change the subject from their own failures.

But the Republican Party's credibility on issues like spending, ethics, and foreign policy is so battered, that 2010 needs to be a time for re-branding, not a parasitic consumption of America's Obama misery.

Republicans must listen to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and others who warn that 2010 is only a dress rehearsal for 2012. If the GOP tries to slip through 2010 without confronting its past policy failures and reassuring Americans that the next time will be different, the wave of voters brought into the system by Obama's grandiose government will recede just as quickly.

Obama has seen what happens when new voters become disillusioned. If Republicans don't offer some substance to the fed up Americans heading to the polls this fall, they'll find out for themselves in 2012.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Chris Stirewalt

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Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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