Secret Democrat memo details challenges Tea Party candidates should consider 

Republicans and conservatives have expressed confidence that they’ll be able to capture the U.S. House from Democrats in November. Democrats, as you would expect, are not buying that logic. A memo currently circulating on Capitol Hill obtained by liberal Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent lists several reasons why they think this:

  • There are not enough open Democratic seats that can actually be captured by Republicans: “If Republicans have a great election night, they would still only win 50 percent of the Democratic open seats.”
  • Democrats are poised to win at least a few GOP seats which means that Republicans will need to win at least 43 seats, a difficult task since Democrats enjoy significant fund-raising advantages in the at-risk seats
  • The third point concerns the Tea Party. Instead of insisting that the public perceives the center-right movement as a group of extremists (something only liberal Democrats believe), the memo focuses on the policies which are being advocated by Tea Party-aligned Republican candidates which are definitely not as popular nationally–abolishing various federal departments, repealing the Seventeenth Amendment allowing for the direct election of senators, etc.–and argues that these policies will be a drag on candidates that insist upon talking about them.

Of these talking points, I would say the last is the most significant. The second point about campaign warchest sizes, as  pointed out numerous times by free speech advocates like the Center for Competitive Politics, is not nearly as significant as candidate quality and issue climate. Just ask former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine or former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle.

The first point about open seats being key to house turnovers is true from a historical perspective, however, past is no determiner of the future, something that Republicans learned during the presidency of Bill Clinton following his impeachment when they, as the party out of the White House, lost seats in an off-year election.

The last point is one that conservatives and libertarians should notice. Talking about new issues that have not been widely advocated before is uncharted territory for politicians. Regardless of whether or not one’s position on, say, the flat tax is “accurate” or not, the fact is that few people know much about it. Ditto with the Seventeenth Amendment or discussions about the individual rights implications of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s something that some people feel very strongly about but it’s not something that has wide understanding or interest.

Tea Party-aligned candidates are doing the GOP a favor by helping it break free of the traditional center-left political discussion (it’s center-left because the media are dominated by liberals and are mostly ignorant of conservative or libertarian ideas) but in starting this discussion up, conservative candidates need to be very deliberate in how they do it, always harkening back to larger themes that voters can understand and avoiding attempts to resuscitate discussions that aren’t worth it.

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Matthew Sheffield

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