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September 02, 2014 12:05 PM Making Waves

By Ed Kilgore

While you can find plenty of arguments about whether or not there’s some sort of Republican “wave” that will add three or four points to the vote percentage of most GOPers this November, there’s no longer much talk among Republicans about what if anything they can do as a party to boost their prospects—probably less talk than you hear among Democrats about the possibility of pulling upsets via more intensive “populism.” So it’s interesting that the Editors of National Review are warning (and complaining) that a GOP without a positive national message is certain to fall short of its potential midterm performance:

Republicans continue to lack any strategy for winning the November elections beyond avoiding mistakes and hoping that President Obama’s unpopularity, especially in key states, delivers control of the Senate to them. It must be said that the party has executed this passive count-on-a-wave strategy fairly well, selecting presentable and sometimes admirable candidates. The strategy could even work. But it will not maximize the Republican opportunity, because it does nothing to dispel the public’s justifiable doubts about whether Republican rule would be good for the country.
Too many Republicans are running on the promise that they will “check” the president in some unspecified way. They are running as people who dislike Obamacare but have no plans to replace or alter it. But there are persuadable voters who worry that they will lose their health coverage if Republicans get their way, and ones who worry that Republicans will settle for Obamacare Lite. By keeping their plans on health care (and everything else) vague, Republicans are asking these voters to trust them. Yet the polls consistently show that the party does not have a lot of trust on which to rely.

After laying out an Obamacare alternative they think Republicans should be championing, the NR editors call on individual candidates to make their own waves by being for something:

With the exception of Tom Cotton in Arkansas, how many candidates are pledging to reverse the dangerous drawdown in our defense capabilities? Who besides Ben Sasse of Nebraska is talking about breaking the higher-education cartel? In Iowa, in Michigan, in North Carolina, in Kentucky, voters would like to see a tax code that is better for growth and better for families. But they won’t see that desire as relevant to their voting choices unless someone makes the case that it is.
The party is not going to do any of this corporately, so individual candidates should step up.

Remember this argument if Republicans do under-perform in November. You’ll be hearing it a lot during the 2016 cycle.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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