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Obama Ignores Mandate to Govern From Middle

By Nolan Finley, Detroit News - November 5, 2009

Republicans seem to finally have found a stopper to four years of Election Day disasters.

After being routed in 2006 and destroyed in 2008, it's understandable that the GOP is seizing on their gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia as evidence of a Republican resurgence.

But whether Tuesday represents a rogue wave or a rising tide will depend on how well each party reads the vote.

If Republicans interpret it as a sudden hard right lurch by the electorate and place their bets on the Sarah Palin wing of the party, they risk squandering what is shaping up to be a marvelous opportunity for a comeback in 2010. They'll be making the same mistake as Democrats in ignoring the influence of independent voters.

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Independents now make up the most powerful voting bloc, and they have a singular motivation: that the nation not be pulled too far in one direction or the other.

These moderate voters pummeled Republicans in the past two election cycles for enabling the extremism of an ideological president.

New Jersey and Virginia offer the hint that they are now poised to similarly punish Democrats.

President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress used independent voters to gain control of Washington. Once they got it, they discarded the mandate to govern from the middle and pressed a left-wing agenda.

Some Democrats understand, particularly those recently elected from Republican-leaning districts. They're balking at the economy-busting elements of the president's health care and climate change proposals. But they haven't yet mustered the courage they'll need to prevail.

If they don't, they're doomed.

The GOP's challenge is to accept that the void is in the middle, and rush there.

Their traditional conservative fiscal values should play well to an electorate frustrated that the Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid team is preoccupied with social issues while the economy continues to falter. The votes in New Jersey and Virginia reflect that disappointment.

Republicans must continue to expose the enormous costs and extreme disruptions that will occur under Obama's health care and climate change plans. But they also must convince voters they have a better idea.

And Republicans must learn to stick together.

On Tuesday, they lost a House seat they'd held for 100 years in upstate New York because of an intra-party feud over who had the right to be called a Republican.

This "RINO" -- Republican in Name Only -- nonsense must stop. It's self-destructive and ignores the reality that it takes different types of candidates to win in different races.

The ideologues have already cost Michigan a solid Republican congressman. They defeated Joe Schwarz, who could be counted on to deliver fiscally conservative votes, and ultimately turned the seat over to liberal Democrat Mark Schauer, who votes the way Pelosi tells him to.

And now they've handed the Democrats another liberal vote from a district that should have been safe for the GOP.

If they're going to get anywhere in 2010, Republicans must decide that the goal is denying Pelosi and Reid votes.

The tea party tax protesters, if harnessed, can be as potent a force for Republicans as the moveon.org automatons are for Obama.

But they have to accept that the challenge goes beyond energizing conservatives. They also must excite independents.

Republicans have to make themselves tolerable allies for middle-of-the-road voters who have been abandoned by Democrats. As we saw Tuesday, these unaligned voters are in the mood to extract a price. If courted, they could help end the GOP's brief era of irrelevance.

After being routed in 2006 and destroyed in 2008, it's understandable that the GOP is seizing on their gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia as evidence of a Republican resurgence.

But whether Tuesday represents a rogue wave or a rising tide will depend on how well each party reads the vote.

If Republicans interpret it as a sudden hard right lurch by the electorate and place their bets on the Sarah Palin wing of the party, they risk squandering what is shaping up to be a marvelous opportunity for a comeback in 2010. They'll be making the same mistake as Democrats in ignoring the influence of independent voters.

Advertisement

Independents now make up the most powerful voting bloc, and they have a singular motivation: that the nation not be pulled too far in one direction or the other.

These moderate voters pummeled Republicans in the past two election cycles for enabling the extremism of an ideological president.

New Jersey and Virginia offer the hint that they are now poised to similarly punish Democrats.

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