Friday, November 5, 2010

Mid-term losers have an unnerving pattern of winning reelection

Mr. McConnell took some time this week to talk me through the GOP game plan. Let's just say he isn't apologizing for recently suggesting that his priority is to deny President Obama a second term. This week's message was that the American people want a repeal of health-care reform and an end to overspending and job-killing initiatives. If Republicans intend to make good on these public demands, says Mr. McConnell, the end goal has to be putting someone in the White House who won't veto that progress.

History doesn't inspire optimism. Over the past 100 years, every time a president two years into his first term lost Congress, he went on to re-election: Truman in '48, Eisenhower in '56, Clinton in '96. Newt Gingrich even wrote a book, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," about the GOP mistakes in the wake of 1994. It boiled down to Republicans over-promising and under-delivering—becoming the foil off of which President Clinton was able to skillfully pivot away from his own liabilities.

Mr. McConnell says he too has been through the history books. "I've spent a lot time studying the two years after the opposition took over—or in the case of this week, had a really good day—asking myself and my staff to analyze why the next election turned out the way it did." This time, the GOP has got "to work smarter, and to leave behind for our nominee a playing field that is competitive."

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