With a rainbow coalition of voters propelling President Obama to a decisive Electoral College victory in which all but one battleground state turned blue, election night 2012 was a wake-up call for many Republicans. Now, the GOP is beginning to delve into a long and likely divisive period of self-examination over what it can do to right itself with a rapidly changing America.
The consensus among many top Republican strategists and politicos, from Karl Rove to formerArkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to Sen. Marco Rubio is this: If the GOP can't rebuild a foundation more welcoming to key subsets of the electorate, it runs the risk of being shut out of the White House for good.
But grapple it must, warns Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, "or else [it will be] wiped off the electoral map."
That means immigration reform.
"It's very simple," says Mr. O'Connell, chairman of the Civic Forum PAC in Washington. "We've got to take control of immigration reform."
Republicans can look to rising stars like Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Senator Rubio of Florida for leadership on reform, including a better system to admit temporary workers and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – an ongoing point of contention in the party. Amnesty should be an option "if we can come up with a plan to secure the border," O'Connell adds.
Obamacare may be the law of the land for now. But if the program's overall costs become too burdensome to manage or the federal government can't effectively implement the state exchanges, that could change.
One could argue the most important skill in politics today is that of naming the various crises we confront.
The current crisis du jour—the fiscal cliff—is a good example. It's actually two things happening at once—tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at year's end; the looming sequester, which will impose what amounts to across-the-board 9 percent spending cuts as a result of the budget deal struck last year; and as an added bonus, we're about to run up against the debt limit again.
The name implies swift and certain doom if we don't—what? Raise taxes? Let the Bush tax cuts expire? Stick it to the wealthy and corporations?
The president views this as his big chance. So should House Republicans. If they play it right, they can emerge as the true source of legislative answers and perhaps win the battle to save America from itself.
I applaud Minority Leader Pelosi for not stepping aside and allowing her ego to get the best of her.
Pelosi’s decision to stay in leadership prohibits a new generation of Democrats from taking charge, and her presence alone as the face of House Democrats is the single best gift she could have given the GOP as it tries to rebuild itself in the wake of its crushing defeat at the ballot box in 2012.
So how do Republicans recover?
They get their first chance this week, when Congress returns to address the fiscal cliff. They need not pre-emptively agree to raise taxes, but they do need to ensure Speaker of the House John Boehner has enough room to negotiate so the blame—if this fails—won't rest entirely on him. Americans understand that he and the president have a complicated relationship, and they don't demand capitulation. But they do demand reasonableness. Republicans must appear reasonable, and they must appear to negotiate in good faith.
For Republicans, the blame game is in full force. It was communications. It was mechanics of the campaign. It was outreach. It was social conservatives. It was economic conservatives. If Republicans kicked everyone out of the party the blamers suggest, there wouldn't be much of a party left.
On the other hand, it can't keep losing female voters by double digits, the youth vote by 20 points, and Hispanics by 40 and hope to win the White House.
[Simply put, the] Republicans' present approach doesn't add up or make sense or portend future electoral success.
The relationship between House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) will be tested in the months ahead as political forces pull them in different directions.
Boehner is under pressure to persuade conservatives in his caucus to accept deals raising taxes and addressing an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country.
McConnell’s job is to help get major bipartisan deals through the Senate, but he also has to worry about reelection in 2014 and a possible challenge from the right in a GOP primary.
Already, the two leaders have struck different tones on the prospect of boosting federal tax revenues. Boehner has adopted a conciliatory tenor, while McConnell has taken a harder-nosed approach.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, said, “The reelection is really weighing on McConnell’s mind.
“Kentucky is more of a right-leaning state,” he added.
He said McConnell has to worry about a primary and a general-election challenge in 2014. He needs to figure out how to move possibly controversial deals on taxes and immigration reform through the Senate without damaging his standing with the party’s base.
O’Connell predicted that McConnell would let Boehner take the lead in tax and immigration reform talks, which would give him more flexibility to let deals move through the Senate.
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie copes with the devastation that Superstorm Sandy wreaked on his state, some Republicans fear Christie may have thrown President Obama a last-minute political lifeline by praising the president for his response to the storm.
Christie, a keynote speaker at this year's Republican National Convention, greeted Obama warmly on Wednesday after Marine One touched down on the Jersey Shore so the president could survey the storm damage.
The governor praised the federal government's help in coping with the disaster, saying the job done by the president was "outstanding" and "wonderful."
Conservatives took note of Christie's photo-op with Obama, in addition to what appeared to be a dismissive attitude on the governor's part about a possible visit to New Jersey by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Others suggested Christie embraced Obama in preparation for a potentially difficult re-election bid he'll face in 2013 in a traditionally Democratic state. Christie may face popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat.
"I think Chris Christie is doing what is in Chris Christie's best interest," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Washington Examiner. "He has constituents to worry about, and he's up for re-election."
While they differ with former Massachusetts governor Romney on many policies and suspect his conservative credentials, they are working independently to help him win over undecided voters in swing states such as Ohio.
Fiercely opposed to the reelection of Democratic President Barack Obama, conservatives are trying to employ technology they used successfully earlier this year in a recall vote in Wisconsin to help Romney overcome Obama's narrow Ohio lead in the polls.
"I'm not doing this for Romney or the Republicans," said Chris Littleton, who is training some 50 volunteers to use the app. "I'm doing this because I'm against Obama."
Independent groups wandering around battleground states pose some risks for the Romney campaign. In the age of YouTube and Twitter, some officials worry that a canvasser could be caught on tape saying something too extreme for mainstream voters.
But asked about the Tea Party efforts, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: "Voters across the political spectrum are supporting Mitt Romney because they understand he is a leader who can deliver real change and a real recovery."
"The Romney campaign shouldn't really worry about why folks are out there trying to fire the other guy," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "His campaign should be happy to have all the help it can get."
Mitt Romney and President Obama will re-emerge on the presidential trail on Wednesday, but in starkly different ways.
Romney will hold a trio of events in the swing state of Florida with prominent Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Obama will also appear with a prominent Republican: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will be giving the president a tour of the damage in his state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The divergent paths underscore the challenge both campaigns have faced in recent days, trying to best balance the demands of a presidential race and the need to project the appropriate sensitivity as the Eastern Seaboard grapples with the aftermath of the catastrophic storm.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, meanwhile, said that “as long as Obama looks like he’s at the head of the government, he’s getting some political points, too. There’s some advantage to looking as though you’re in charge.”
“The biggest risk is looking too political, but at the same time we’re six days out and the show must go on,” said O’Connell.
A tense and unpredictable race for the White House became even more so on Monday, as mammoth storm Sandy created delicate political challenges for President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney and raised the possibility of a chaotic voting process.
As the deadly storm barreled ashore on the paralyzed East Coast, the presidential campaign went into what amounted to a deep freeze just when Obama and Romney had planned to launch their final push for votes in the November 6 election.
It also forces the Republican challenger to walk a fine line when considering whether to launch political attacks against Obama as the president deals with a crisis.
And if the government's response to the storm is broadly deemed a success, it could be a stark reminder that Romney has advocated dramatically cutting back funding for federal relief agencies, saying that such duties should be shifted to the states or perhaps the private sector.
"This throws a monkey wrench into the campaign for both sides," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "Nobody wants to look political in the middle of a crisis."