RealClearPolitics Cross Tabs Blog

Edited by Kevin Sullivan

March 09, 2009

Obama: Obsessed with Infamy?

By Andrea Tantaros

There's a saying: "You can never be too rich, too thin, or go too far too fast." Our current President seems to subscribe to the latter. Being the first African American to be elected to the White House doesn't appear to be good enough for Barack Obama. He's got to be ultra infamous, and that means going far-fast.

While many Presidents have laid out what they have believed to be "bold" policy plans for the future, it's typically a broad theme or two that echoes their campaign promises and is accepted as somewhat attainable. But Obama is making it his mission to address every issue this country faces by sounding the alarm of urgency to get his way. From greenhouse gas to healthcare to government contracts, he's made them all priorities. But are his initiatives really about us, or about his own obsession with infamy?

Obama says "this country can't afford to wait on healthcare." More like, this country can't afford universal healthcare. However, if Obama were to completely socialize medicine he'd surely earn his place in the history books while simultaneously thumbing his nose at the Clintons. If he can shove his cap and trade program through he'd be hailed an environmental savior, out greening even Al Gore. He's gone after executive pay, proposed a budget that seeks to grow government, cripple investment, and impose a host of punitive wealth transfer programs turning us into Europe.

Many economists are editorializing that what he's preaching isn't even possible due to our country's limited financial bandwidth. But Obama doesn't seem to care. He is charging ahead and planning to charge all of his proposals on the country's already maxed out credit card. Most puzzlingly, he is devoid of a plan to address the most pressing problem facing the nation: a credit crisis.

Is Obama's pathological narcissism and pursuit for unparalleled notoriety driving our nation into the ground?

Many politicians are egomaniacs from Nixon to Clinton. Samuel Vaknin, Ph.D., and a known expert on pathology and narcissism writes:

"David Koresh, Charles Manson, Joseph Koni, Shoko Asahara, Stalin, Saddam, Mao, Kim Jong Ill and Adolph Hitler; They created a personality cult around themselves and with their blazing speeches elevated their admirers, filled their hearts with enthusiasm and instilled in their minds a new zest for life. They gave them hope! They promised them the moon, but alas, invariably they brought them to their doom. When you are a victim of a cult of personality, you don't know it until it is too late."

The personalized emblems, the presumptuous presidential seals before he won office, the cultish iconography, the desire to silence any kind of dissent among his detractors, all of these things point to a man who seems to be obsessively driven by his own self interest.

With each policy push and passing day that Wall Street suffers, we are seeing that with Obama, reality and fantasy are intertwined. Let's hope the country wakes up in time, before his quest for greatness sacrifices the nation's best interests.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative political commentator and former Press Secretary to the House Republican Conference. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com.

February 24, 2009

Could the GOP Pick Off a Senate Seat in Illinois?

By Greg Bobrinskoy

This past Friday marked a crushing blow to Roland Burris's chances of remaining the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, as Gov. Pat Quinn (former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's replacement) called for Burris's resignation. In his speech Friday, Quinn stated that while he had known him for 37 years, Burris should never have accepted the job from Blagojevich. Furthermore, he said the Senate's current proceedings are too important for Burris to remain in with the degree of criticism currently surrounding him. Quinn referenced the barely-approved stimulus, stating "It needed every single vote in order to pass."

Also on Friday, President Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs came just short of calling for his resignation, stating "The appointment of Senator Burris was based largely on the representations that he made, factual representations that he made to the people of Illinois through interviews and through his testimony to the impeachment committee... some of those stories seem to be at variance with what's happened."

Both statements arrived shortly after Burris seemed to reverse his positions after speaking with a panel of Illinois lawmakers. Burris had initially claimed he made no contacts with the Blagojevich administration before his appointment but told the panel that he indeed spoke with aides to Blagojevich and the governor's brother. Burris said money was requested from him but that he was unable to find contributors. Burris has not commented to the media about these revelations since. Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and the state's U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have also joined in, with Durbin stating that Burris' "future in the Senate seat is in question", yet leaders in both parties have said the U.S. Senate will not look to expel him.

The Illinois Republican Party, which has been calling for a special election since the Blagojevich firestorm began, released a statement declaring, "Blagojevich Democrats created this embarrassing mess for the people of Illinois and as the party in power it is their responsibility to find a solution. We are pleased Governor Quinn chose to join Republicans in our call for a special election. [Illinois Democrats] have turned Illinois into a national embarrassment and the people deserve a vote to choose a senator they can have confidence in."

The Illinois Legislature is currently sifting through several proposals for how and when a special election would occur if it indeed does. One amendment would set a certain date for a vote after removing Burris from office. The Senate President has said he would support removing Burris meaning it may come down to the Speaker of the Illinois House. Quinn offered a proposal that the state legislature create a process for a special election to occur 115 days after a vacancy which the governor would fill with a temporary Senator until the election.

As to whether Republicans have a prayer at taking the President's former seat is debatable. Democrats currently hold every statewide office. They have dominated recent Presidential elections and have a large double-digit voter id advantage over Republicans. However, several names of potential Republican nominees for the seat have floated around as potentials if a special election occurs. The three most frequently referenced are Congressmen Mark Kirk (IL-10), Peter Roskam (IL-6), and John Shimkus (IL-19). Kirk, in particular, is a viable candidate, winning reelection by 6 points in a district that voted over 60 percent for Obama. Peter Roskam's Press Secretary, Matt Vriesema stood strong on the issue, telling RealClearPolitics, "We didn't have to be in this situation. They could've taken care of this months ago and had a special election then. Now we have an embattled Senator with no pull there, leaving our state with one Senator." Vriesema added that Roskam is taking a good look at the seat while Kirk's office could not be reached for comment.

Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Andy McKenna, told RCP, "We think Illinois deserves a special election. The people of Illinois have no confidence in Senator Burris. We have a strong Republican delegation, my guess is they all have interest and are looking into it and waiting for the process to play out." Whoever Republicans choose to run for the seat, the decision carries the added bonus of not jeopardizing their current House seat as the special election will not take place during their respective reelection bids.

One Illinois Republican operative stated that Republican hopes rest on the fact that "Democrats control everything. This is the mess they created. They called for a special election - Durbin started it - Republicans jumped on board, Democrats backed out, then Rod made the appointment. Republicans proposed the Senate removing him from office; there's the option of him resigning. Either way it's a disaster for the Democrats." He pointed to an Illinois statewide poll conducted on December 15 by McLaughlin & Associates which when asked if they'd support a candidate for office who endorsed Blagojevich for Governor in 2006 "even though he was already under investigation for 3 years", 70 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for that candidate.

Republicans will clearly have enough ammunition to fill commercials should a special and general election occur for Obama's former seat. The question is whether Republicans can win in such a heavily Democratic state, one even prouder of that fact that their former Senator sits in the Oval Office.

Greg Bobrinskoy is an associate editor as RealClearPolitics.

Two Obamas: Which Will Show Up Tonight?

By Andrea Tantaros

When Barack Obama was a senator, he was much more upbeat. In fact, he was ultra-positive and almost too cheery and idealistic to be credible. We heard him on the campaign trail speaking incessantly about a gauzy vision of hope and change, while his supporters snorted his every amorphous and vague word in the quest for the euphoric Obama-high.

President Obama is a much different orator. He's replaced the flowery can-do language with a daily diatribe of doomsday. Like any drug, this one has given way to the harsh reality that coming down from his apex of hope isn't as fun as inhaling it was. "Yes we can!" has been replaced with "We can -- but only if we can make sacrifices NOW."

So which Obama will show up for tonight's address? The Obama who propagates the notion that our best days are ahead of us, or the one who invokes a melancholy vision and stresses that things will further decline before they improve?

After advice from the always helpful Bill Clinton and a market plunge, Obama likely knows he needs to stop accentuating the negative. But how else will he get his grand plans passed if he doesn't sound the alarm?
One thing Obama the senator and Obama the president have been consistent on is using "the fierce urgency of now" for whatever it is he wants. He has mastered the art of invoking gravity and extremity to manipulate popular opinion so he can either get elected, or pass his policy initiatives. Whether he is lambasting the last eight years to spur change or stoking panic about our current economic calamity to move the masses -- capitalizing on a crisis is one of his core competencies.

No matter which Obama shows up to speak to before Congress and the nations, one thing is certain: he must explain why things haven't gotten better. He will make excuses for why we've yet to see the rainbow-colored bunting, gold-encrusted streets and sugar-coated dreams he promised us from the stump. He can't blame all our ills on George Bush, but he'll try.

Here's my advice: If anyone is planning a drinking game tonight don't take a sip each time he says "the last eight years" unless you're looking to get sauced.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative political commentator and former Press Secretary to the House Republican Conference. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com.

January 28, 2009

Memo to GOP: Don't Cave on the Stimulus

By Andrea Tantaros

House and Senate Republicans should back away from the bloated, pork filled spending bill that Democrats are masking as a stimulus. New computers for State Department bureaucrats? Food stamps? $335 million to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (someone please tell me how preventing the clap is going to revive the economy)?

The New York Times, likely in jubilation, reveals exactly what many opponents have been arguing (and fearing) for a long time in a front page headline today: "Stimulus Plan Offers Road to Retooling Social Policy." With expanded entitlements and experiments in socialized medicine -- don't forget the family planning money that was recently stripped -- the bill is the largest, liberal spending boon this nation has ever seen.

The key to a successful stimulus is one that puts money directly into the hands of the people, not borderline bankrupt states and the bureaucrats who run them to pay off debt. Besides creating a lobbyist feeding frenzy, the bill does little to create long term jobs. It might create short term work, but that is what we saw with the New Deal, and that is why it failed. While new roads are nice, you can't rebuild a road five times.

While it's true the bill doesn't contain earmarks -- as Obama likes to boast -- the money gets directly funneled to the states and the bureaucrats decide how to best spend it (with the help of overzealous and overpaid lobbyists). This makes it extremely challenging for the American people to maintain oversight, something we desperately need. The Democrats have perpetrated a fraud: there is nothing that remotely resembles change in this excessive, leftist boondoggle. As the Wall Street Journal said today: "only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus" and that it appears to be comprised of "every pent up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years."

Almost as troubling as the contents of the package and how it will be spent is the speed at which the left is attempting to jam it down the throats of the American people. "It's urgent," they howl. What's urgent is the need for Democrats to ram this thing through so Republicans have little time to publicly oppose it. Whenever the opposition starts obstructing, the media gets involved and constituents begin to pay attention, giving the opposition -- and their arguments -- traction. The bill was written in the House under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, with zero Republican input.

I caution Republicans: do not fall for Obama's eleventh hour plea to get on board. You might appreciate his overtures to you but his motives are transparent. To Obama, GOP support is only ideal so Democrats aren't solely to blame when voters see that almost $1 trillion of their taxpayer money was used to lavishly reward our new president's supporters and advance a radical agenda instead of helping struggling businesses and families.

The crux of our problem is a credit crisis. This bill does absolutely nothing to fix that. And though what's about to happen on Capitol Hill is frightening, it presents an opportunity for the GOP. We were thrown out of the White House because we acted like Democrats. It's time to stand up, stand strong and return to our principles of low taxes for everyone, private sector growth, and long term job creation through incentives that aren't handouts for a select few. There is no better time than now.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative commentator and Fox News.com contributor. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com and www.FoxNews.com/opinion.

RNC Chair Race Reaches Finish Line

By Greg Bobrinskoy

With this Friday's RNC Chair election fast approaching, the divide between what committee members are looking for has come down to the two buzzwords of competency versus change. The race has been seen as a virtual tie among two or three candidates all along because no candidate has convincingly proved himself a man of both attributes. The current Pledged Vote race according to Your RNC stands at Duncan: 36, Dawson: 19, Steele: 18, Anuzis: 16, Blackwell: 13, Saltsman: 0.

Atop the competency column lies incumbent Mike Duncan whom every committee member supporting him says is the best fundraiser, organizer, and leader of what one committee chairman argued is basically a $300 million corporation to be run for the next two years. While change was what everyone originally looked for, he said, it is now competency. As one committee member stated, "Most members of the committee went in after the previous election wanting change, wanting a chairman of Romney, Gingrich, Jeb Bush. But as we got farther away from the two election cycles people realized that Superman's not running and the most important quality is competence to run the rebuilding of the party, raise money, and spend it wisely." Duncan needs competency to rule the day on Friday.

Close behind Duncan in reputation for competency is Katon Dawson who frequently speaks of his long time involvement in the RNC and his success in turning around the Republican South Carolina Party. National Committee Chairwoman Demetra DeMonte, who has endorsed Dawson, told RCP yesterday that Katon "is a nuts and bolts guy. He knows the importance of organization, he's great at raising money and getting Republicans elected." Dawson knows that Duncan is the establishment, experienced pick and thus has also tried very hard to attain the 'change' label as well - citing his ability to grow the party's grassroots infrastructure. Dawson seems to have impressed many in one-on-one conversations with committee members, showcasing his very likable, gracious personality. Yet to no fault of his own, Dawson is exactly what some members seeking change are not looking for: a white southerner - especially one who's only national exposure had been news about his previous membership in an all white country club. An attack piece was distributed this week picturing what USA Today's headline would be if Dawson were to win.

Atop the Change column is Michael Steele. He has continued to impress Committee members with communication skills many had witnessed during his frequent appearances on Fox News. National Committeeman Pat Brady told RCP he endorsed Steele "because it's very important that the Republican Party have the best possible messenger, and that person is Steele". Not many outside of the race would disagree with that, the question is whether Steele's previous endorsements of moderates in the party and questionable fundraising skills will significantly hurt him. While Steele has not framed his campaign around his race, he does have the notable advantage of being an African American in a party desperately needing to bring in minority voters in future elections. His election to RNC Chair would be the surest 'Change' message the RNC could send to voters.

As mentioned in our previous update, Saul Anuzis of Michigan, Duncan, and Dawson have an important advantage in being RNC committee members themselves because members often like to pick one of their own. One potential variable is whether a thirst for change will cause an opposite effect this time around.

The importance of this election should not be overlooked. The RNC Chair will control the party's agenda for the next two years and unlike the previous eight, there will be no one above him in the party's ranks. The election held Friday will be determined by the vote of 168 RNC committee members. A majority of the voters, 85, is needed to win on the first ballot. Rumors circulated earlier this week that Steele and Duncan had made a deal in which Duncan would throw his support to Steele if he does not win on the first ballot, something many believe is crucial to his chances. Steele categorically denied the rumor, saying he declined the request out of hand.

Depending on who you talk to, the top tier candidates vary from Duncan and Dawson, Duncan and Steele, or all three with some even throwing Anuzis in third place. Ken Blackwell looks to be behind all three and Chip Saltsman is considered all but finished. This election looks to be a nail biter.

Greg Bobrinskoy is an associate editor at RealClearPolitics.

January 16, 2009

The True Bush Legacy

By Andrea Tantaros

As I watched President Bush say his final farewell to the nation last night, my emotions were mixed. Though I admired the humility of his speech, I was left to wonder where that President Bush, and that tone, had been hiding for the last eight years. Puzzlingly, there was no real acknowledgement of our economic calamity, or at minimum a reassurance that the situation was top of mind, and that he and President-elect Obama were working together to ensure a seamless switch. Many of the points he did hit were noteworthy and noble, but he wouldn't have had to argue his case if his communications team had been articulating it all along. Disappointingly, I saw a man desperately trying to promote his Presidency in the eleventh hour.

While he still remains a somewhat popular figure in the Republican Party, Bush has angered many in the GOP, including me. That is not to say I don't respect my President. I do. But Bush and I have something in common: we both are always going to tell you exactly what we think - politically correct or not - no matter whom we piss off.

President Bush will largely be known for two things: the decision to invade Iraq and for presiding over the largest and most dramatic expansion of government this country has ever seen, which is a long term threat to liberty. While his compassionate conservatism produced positive results like an unprecedented level of funding to combat AIDS in Africa, it also bought into the notion that it is the federal government's job to provide material success to people - a terrible premise to operate from.

On foreign policy, he rightly supported Israel and refused to back down to radical Islamic Jihadists. His tough-talkin', cavalier character put the fundamentalists who seek to destroy us on notice, but his second inaugural was an ideological orgy of democracy promotion. As a conservative, I do not want the United States to be a crusader for democracy. That is Napoleonic.

Domestically, Bush created a massive fault line in the Republican Party with his proposal for easy immigration. He saw successes with Medicare Part D and CAFTA, but the back story to each was filled with late night votes and congressional cloakroom arm twisting. By the time Hurricane Katrina had rolled around it seemed as though he given up. He politicized his decision making by having Rove in all his policy meetings, and he put allegiance above ability when it came to selecting a staff whose modus operandi was insular, bullish, close-minded and off putting. Sadly, this has left the Republican Party badly bruised, divided and disoriented.

While he deserves enormous credit for keeping this country safe, his most overlooked achievements were his admirable positions on the judiciary and the social issues. He genuinely struggled to formulate an ethical position on stem cells. He picked outstanding justices, and that is his biggest, most untold legacy. He also picked a wife that could arguably be the most gracious and respected First Lady in United States' history. Moreover, as a person, he is a man of class and grace, a role model as a father and a man with a genuine conscience. It is hard not to admire him for that reason.

When it comes to his legacy, President Bush deserves more credit than he will get, especially when it comes to the mainstream media. In order for Obama to be a success, they must paint Bush as a failure. However, no president is perfect. Bush's biggest downfall was not that his intentions were malevolent, it was that he forgot how to communicate with the American people. The last week of one's presidency is a terrible time to remember.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican political commentator and Fox News.com contributor. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com and www.FoxNews.com/opinion.

January 15, 2009

RNC Chair Update

By Greg Bobrinskoy

With the vote for RNC chair set for January 31, the six candidates in the race are working overtime to win votes from the 168 committee members. For background on the race, read here.

CNN reported this morning that Michael Steele will release a memo today announcing the names of a dozen RNC members who have pledged to vote for him. Yesterday National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, who has pledged to vote for incumbent Mike Duncan, spoke with RCP about the state of the race, saying it now stands as a four way tie between Duncan, Steele, Katon Dawson, and Saul Anuzis.

The 3 committee chairmen running (Duncan, Dawson, and Anuzis) carry a notable advantage, he said, due to Committee members wanting to pick one of their own rather than an outsider. Kaufman compared the scenario to the House of Representatives picking a non-Congressman as Speaker of the House. While most were originally looking for change in the new RNC Chair, Kaufman said competence is the quality voters are now looking for.

Katon Dawson spoke to RCP earlier today, saying his status as the fourth longest serving state chairman is a crucial factor in the race, as is his record of turning around the South Carolina state party. Dawson stressed the importance of "having a unique understanding of the job, as everything you do besides being spokesman of the party is the tactical part of running an organization."

As our previous update detailed, Michael Steele had an impressive debate performance last week demonstrating his strong communication skills. Mike Duncan seems to have the greatest advantage in networking within the committee. Anuzis has been running the most hard working, tech savvy campaign. And Katon Dawson has impressed many as a likeable and competent manager. The bottom line: this race remains wide open.

January 14, 2009

Obama's Stimulus Package: A Pricey Experiment

By Andrea Tantaros

President-elect Barack Obama is prepping to jam another massive stimulus plan down our throats. Lately, the president-elect has been hitting the media circuit to sell this monstrosity and each time he launches into his pitch he proves that what he lacks in actual specifics he makes up for in vocabulary. But is this bloated bill just a ruse for another big, federally funded bailout for struggling states?

According to Obama, his road and sewer stimulus package would pump billions into things like "infrastructure" and "green jobs." Wait a minute: nobody is saying that the failure to spend over $700 billion on roads and sewers created this mess, and no one saying that new sewers will get us out of it. Obama has insisted that we must invest in what works. How do we know green jobs will work and provide a return? We don't. And it's quite a pricey experiment to find out.

What's most troubling is the notion that more taxpayer money is heading right for states that are in the red. Just a few weeks ago, governors and mayors made their way to Washington, DC to hound Obama for a handout. Now mayors across America have submitted over 11,000 proposals for some bailout cash including one to fund a mob museum in Vegas. Talk about a real gamble in Sin City. Is Tony "The Ant" Spilotro really our best bet?

Take New York for example, a state that's in financial ruin. The Empire State is facing a $15 billion budget deficit. Why would we encourage a state that spent itself into disaster to spend more? There are workers already repairing sewers and roads around the Big Apple and America. Will Obama give money that will be spent on existing jobs or hire thousands of new sewer workers?

According to Obama, "only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy...where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit." What our future president doesn't understand is that the vicious cycles were caused by the government through the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the refusal to regulate, in part because there was a belief that a regulation would prevent the prosperity associated with owning a home. How do we expect government to be part of the solution? According to CNBC we have allocated 7 trillion to fix our economic crisis and there is $300 billion currently left in TARP. Is that not enough?

Obama is refusing to ask the same question that homeowners didn't answer when the mortgage mess was going on: Can we afford to borrow this money? At some point we are mortgaging our national security by letting developing countries buy our debt. The more we spend the less we have to spend on our national defense. What if China develops distaste for buying our debt? Maybe refusing to borrow more money might be the best thing for us. Sort of like the way parents cut off a frivolous child's allowance.

On the campaign trail Obama campaigned for balanced budgets. This might be his first broken promise. While we wait to hear answers about what this massive deficit spending will do to our currency, to inflation and to our national security even Obama admits that his recovery plan alone will not solve all the problems that led us into this crisis.

But for a trillion dollars, it better.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican political commentator and Fox News columnist. Her commentary can be found at www.andreatantaros.com.

January 06, 2009

The Race for RNC Chair

By Greg Bobrinskoy

The six candidates running for chairman of the Republican National Committee were in Washington Monday at a debate sponsored by the Americans for Tax Reform. Attendees included state chairs Katon Dawson of South Carolina and Saul Anuzis of Michigan; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele; Chip Saltsman, the former campaign manager for Mike Huckabee; and incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan. Each is trying to win a plurality of votes among the 168 RNC members who will gather in the nation's capital at the end of the month. Other than a question about how many guns each candidate owns, the discussion centered almost exclusively on fiscal policy and the future of the party. Each candidate emphasized the party's need to close the technology gap with Democrats and to expand the party's appeal to minority groups.

Here is a rundown of each candidate, including their background, debate performance and an analysis of their place in the race:


Katon Dawson

Background: Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party. Dawson hasn't been helped by the fact that the biggest news surrounding his candidacy has been his former membership and recent resignation from an all-white country club in Columbia, S.C.

Debate: Dawson argued that South Carolina's state party was in disarray in 2002 until he stepped in and led the party's financial and electoral turnaround with Mark Sanford elected governor, two Republicans sent to the U.S. Senate, and 8 of 9 state-wide offices won. "Winning is possible", he concluded. Yet, as Ken Blackwell joked on stage, South Carolina is hardly a battleground state.

Analysis: Dawson seemed lost in the shuffle as he failed to convey an adequate set of credentials or aura of change (Southern white guy) that the Republican Party may be looking for.


Saul Anuzis

Background: Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. Anuzis has done as much if not more than any candidate to create name recognition for his candicacy among Republicans and those in the media. His blog, That's Saul, Folks, has given him a tech-savvy rep and essentially put him on the map.

Debate: Anuzis painted himself as the Tim Pawlenty-like blue collar Republican best able to attract 'Reagan Democrats' back to the party. He cited his background as Lithuanian, having not learned English until he was seven, and a resident of suburban Michigan where his working class neighbors are leaving the party in droves. Referencing his previous membership in the Teamsters and as a Republican in a blue state, Anuzis did his best to come across as the strongest fighter among the bunch.

Analysis: Anuzis displayed a strong grasp of specific policy issues as a former backer of Jack Kemp and knowledge of the technical party politics ranging from the local to state level. He has obviously spent significant time working in the nuts and bolts of the party and his hard effort to become noticed among better known candidates may make him the dark horse of the race.


Ken Blackwell

Background: Former Secretary of State of Ohio and the first African American candidate to run for the state's governorship from a major party. He is Vice Chairman of the RNC Platform Committee and is regarded as a strong social conservative. Blackwell gained stature among Republican activists for his role in helping President Bush's 2004 re-election in Ohio and leading the move that banned same sex marriages in the state. Blackwell was a late entry into the field and recently released a list of supporters for his chairmanship which included Steve Forbes and James Dobson.

Debate: Blackwell referred to his candidacy as a "shareholders revolt". He spoke of the need to reinvigorate the conservative base, of which he has many supporters. He cited his experience of over 30 years as a party activist and officeholder, stating "I know how to win elections." Blackwell was not referring to his 2006 bid for Governor of Ohio in which he lost to Democrat Ted Strickland by a margin of 24 percent.

Analysis: Heading into the debate, Blackwell was definitely considered to be a top contender for the RNC position. Yet depending upon the importance of the debate in the minds of voting members (which no one knows), Blackwell's performance was far from spectacular. His playful comments added spark to a sometimes monotonous debate but he seemed overshadowed by Steele's greater ability to connect with the audience.


Michael Steele

Background: GOPAC chairman, and former lieutenant governor and state party chairman of Maryland. Steele is the most recognizable of the six contenders because of his frequent appearances on Fox News and the rare position of being a prominent African American in the Republican Party. Steele has been criticized by some conservatives as too moderate, with his involvement with the Republican Leadership Council, an organization of Republican moderates, as the greatest example (though Steele has said that he no longer is part of the organization because of its involvement in GOP primaries). Steele has also received criticism for his willingness to support moderate candidates in the party such as Wayne Gilchrest, a former Maryland congressman defeated in a 2008 primary. Yet despite the questioning by some of his conservative credentials, it has never seemed to hurt him politically. He was able to win Republicans' support during his 2006 run for the Senate, which he lost; and despite his association with moderate to liberal Republicans like Christine Todd Whitman and John Danforth, he is personally in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and is against government funding for stem-cell research.

Debate: Steele said he sees the state of the Republican Party with a "glass half-full" attitude despite what he referred to as two consecutive "devastating" losses. He had no problem criticizing the Bush administration for its shortcomings, such as "a failure to communicate, Katrina, the bailout." At numerous times during the debate he emphasized the lack of influence the RNC chair has in creating significant change in the party, from attracting minorities to reorganizing its local infrastructure. Steele was easily the best communicator of the debate, speaking lively and clearly about his intentions for the party. Yet what was most notable was his organizational advantage, as "Steele" posters lined the balconies while many attendees wore "Steele" name labels or carried signs across the room.

Analysis: Steele gave the best performance of the debate, though how much that will influence RNC voters is unknown. He is the most charismatic and telegenic of the six running. Questions remain about whether his past support for a more moderate party or relatively weak fundraising record will hurt him. If the debate and chatter are any measure, Steele appears to have the edge in this race.


Chip Saltsman

Background: Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 1999 to 2001 and manager of Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Saltsman created the biggest news surrounding his candidacy when he sent out a collection of songs to members of the RNC, one of which was titled "Barack the Magic Negro." Newt Gingrich and Mike Duncan criticized Saltsman for the move while Blackwell stood in his defense saying it showed the "hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race."

Debate: Saltsman talked extensively about his work fighting tax hikes in the state of Tennessee. He said his motive to run for the position is not about the party but about the country, so that more voices can be heard. Citing statistics showing that young Americans describe themselves as entrepreneurs wanting to run a business, he described his vision for a party platform of an "opportunity society" that could bring back the youth vote that Democrats have dominated in recent elections.

Analysis: While his experience in Tennessee politics and managing Mike Huckabee's campaign were clearly impressive he, like Dawson, failed to stand out enough to be seen as a top tier contender.


Mike Duncan

Background: The incumbent, Mike Duncan was elected to replace former RNC chair Ken Mehlman in 2007. Duncan was dubbed the 'Invisible Chairman' by California RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel in a December Politico article, in which Steel said Duncan was "installed in January 2007 by Karl Rove to be unobtrusive -- a mission he has carried out brilliantly. Many, if not most, Republican leaders and activists don't know who he is." There is some truth to Steel's criticism: During the 2008 election, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, consistently appeared on major television networks and cable news shows defending Democratic candidates and attacking Republicans. Duncan hardly ever presented his views through the media. Duncan's advantage, however, was the prowess he showed in fundraising which allowed the RNC to significantly fund John McCain's campaign, allowing it to run almost neck and neck with Obama's fundraising machine until the last two months of the campaign. Duncan is also disliked by many in the conservative blogosphere and grassroots. Some have claimed he deserves credit for wins in the two runoff elections in Georgia and Louisiana, but as the incumbent he also bears the burden of Republicans' many crushing defeats.

Debate: Duncan noted the RNC's strong fundraising in the 2008 election, which enabled McCain to stay close to Obama and helped Republican congressional candidates across the country. Duncan also tried to characterize himself as an agent of change, a difficult theme for an incumbent to sell, especially one seemingly without strong communicative skills.

Analysis: Duncan proved himself to be the opposite choice to Steele. As a white Southerner lacking the ability to strongly convey his views to Americans through the media, Duncan's strengths lie in organization, experience, and fundraising skills.

Talk after the debate seemed to suggest that the race was a Blackwell-Steele contest. Yet this came mostly from party activists and media types, not necessarily those who will vote. Duncan's advantage with networking RNC members should not be overlooked. As of now, it seems an open race between Blackwell, Steele, and Duncan, with the vote set to take place Jan. 31 at the RNC winter meeting.

Greg Bobrinskoy is an Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics.

December 19, 2008

If Caroline's Last Name Was Palin

By Andrea Tantaros

What has she done in her career? Does she have the experience to govern? Isn't she just a name and a pretty face in expensive clothes? All of these and more were the questions asked by Democrats regarding Sarah Palin as McCain's pick for Vice President.

But Caroline Kennedy - a similarly intriguing and attractive outsider decked in designer duds and a thin resume - isn't put under the same kind of scrutiny.

The left is just plain giddy with excitement over a return to Camelot, and the New York press corps, the most selectively tough in the business, is following suit. One thing is certain: if Kennedy's last name were Palin she wouldn't even be a consideration for Hillary Clinton's vacant senate seat.

Hillary has been telling her supporters to stop trashing Kennedy, but not because she wants to do Caroline any favors. Caroline and her Uncle Judas Iscariot Kennedy turned on the former first lady in her hour of need, arguably a turning point in the Democratic primary process. The last thing Hillary wants is a discussion and comparison to her lack of experience when she ran for the Senate in the Empire State almost a decade ago.

Obama is certainly pushing for his ally, no doubt. It could only benefit him to have a high-profile advocate on the Hill and Kennedy will certainly be more malleable than Clinton.

And what about this concept of change? The Kennedy family is an institution. They've been around for decades and have been consistently plagued by scandal and drama. Hardly what I'd call a new viewpoint.

As Kennedy travels around the state of New York, not saying much and refusing to answer questions about her lack of experience, I'm curious if she'll sit down with some prominent Big Apple media fixtures like ABC's Charlie Gibson or CBS's Katie Couric and subject herself to their murder boards. As a resident New Yorker I would like to hear Couric ask Kennedy about her feelings on the Peace Bridge in Western New York or Indian gaming in the Catskills. I suspect there would be some stuttering and stammering in her responses, but she'd hardly be called a fool as Palin was.

We always knew the Democrats had a double standard. They nominated the most inexperienced candidate in nearly a century to run for president, while they sought to destroy the Republican nominee for vice president because she wasn't elitist or experienced enough. What they need to learn is that stature is not a substitute for substance, even in New York. But apparently, qualifications don't matter to the left as long as you don't hunt moose.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican Political Commentator and Fox News Channel columnist. You can find her commentary at www.andreatantaros.com.

November 20, 2008

The Future of Conservatism

By Greg Bobrinskoy

National Review and Hillsdale College hosted a panel yesterday entitled 'The Future of Conservatism' with panelists Ross Douthat of The Atlantic, David Bobb of Hillsdale College, Gene Healy of the CATO Institute, and Ramesh Ponnuru and Jonah Goldberg of National Review.

Underscoring the influence of David Brooks' bi-weekly column, the parameters of the debate revolved almost exclusively around Brooks' column from November 10 entitled 'Darkness at Dusk' in which he described the current debate amongst conservatives as split between 'Reformists' and 'Traditionalists.' Brooks wrote of the Traditionalists as conservatives who believed the Republicans sold out their small government principles to win elections, which ironically caused them to lose. Reformers, said Brooks, seek a modernized conservatism willing to use government "to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety." David placed Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, himself, and a few others in the Reformist group and placed Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as leaders of the Traditionalists (perhaps to imply something about the latter group's intellectual capacity).

Ross Douthat described his own 'Reformist' philosophy as pro-family - with the philosophy that government can be used to strengthen this bedrock of American society. In the process more Republican voters would form as single and divorced individuals vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Douthat outlined three traps facing the right: Demographically, Douthat said the Judis/Teixeira theory of an Emerging Democratic Majority may ultimately prove true. The McGovern coalition of educated whites and minorities are increasingly Democratic, while Republican groups such as white men are declining. Douthat argued that the second trap, socio-economic, is the result of an economic growth in America that has caused high inequality and stagnant wages among the working class - good news for political liberals. Third, Douthat said conservatives have failed to apply old views to new principles. In debates such as climate change and public school reform, conservatives have largely stayed out of the debate while the only struggle has been between liberal reformers and entrenched special interests.

Gene Healy, the token Libertarian of the group - and thus a Traditionalist - admitted he knew nothing about winning elections and didn't care how to win them. Conservatives, he argued, should try to convince people of their views, not try to be relevant or cool. His arguments were summarized by his question, "When did it become the public intellectual's role to see what ideas can pass politically?"

Ponnuru, shifting back to the reformist viewpoint argued that conservatives forget that innovation is a conservative tradition. Reagan adjusted from Goldwater on taxes, socialism and others. Citing Reagan's famous quote, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem," Ponnuru noted that conservatives forget Reagan's preface, "In this present crisis..." Something is wrong with a political movement, he claimed, that deems our economy as great while wages remain stagnant. This election was a case study, he explained, of how out of touch Republicans and conservatives are with problems of everyday Americans.

Jonah Goldberg, who will probably be the first and last conservative panelist ever to cite 'Jaws 2' in making an argument, rebuked what he saw as the Reformist tendency to act as an army of 'Karl Roves' rather than pushing politics to the right as conservatives, not Republicans. The purpose of conservatives, echoing Healy, is to say what's true even if the result is defeat. Goldberg also noted that the failure of George W. Bush (he could have also mentioned John McCain) had already proven that the Reformists' desire for bigger government conservatism does not work politically or in implementing policy.

Despite this overwhelming negativity about the current state of conservatism, there was one point of optimism touched on by both Douthat and Goldberg. As Douthat noted, the Democratic tent has grown enormously larger over the last eight years. It now encompasses (especially among the young) almost any individual opposed to Bush's performance as president. There is hardly a unified set of principles from which these various factions agree on. As Peter Beinart wrote in Time last week, there are cultural issues in Obama's coalition that will significantly divide different groups. Obama, as many have agreed, was a blank slate from which people placed their differing desires for change. Thus, the argument goes, the overflowing Democratic tent is now bound to see real fissures open up as Democrats finally implement their own ideas. Goldberg inadvertently touched on this point when he used this quote from Edmund Burke: "Example is the school of mankind." While the Democrats have grown with the unpopularity of Bush, Goldberg seemed giddy with his declaration, "Okay Democrats, now govern."

In summation, Brooks noted that the panelists displayed a greater detachment from the Republican Party than he'd seen in years past. But it was the Reformist/Traditionalist debate among conservatives that appears likely to continue as long as conservatives remain in the political wilderness.

Greg Bobrinskoy is an Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics.

November 15, 2008

Keep Your Friends Close (and Your Enemies Under Your Thumb)

By Andrea Tantaros

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? That's what reports are saying. According to officials, Obama has narrowed the possibilities for secretary of state and Senator Hillary Clinton is among those being strongly considered. Some officials are even calling her the favorite.

Obama offering Clinton the position of secretary of state exemplifies the notion of keeping your friends close and your enemies -- not just close -- but under your thumb. The last thing Barack Obama wants is a supercharged Hillary Clinton potentially causing trouble in the Senate. (The last thing Hillary wants is to be under a man's thumb, I thought). If she accepts the job, she's shackled to his administration, which is smart if he wants to fend off attacks from the Clintons in 2012 -- a win for Obama and Democratic Party unity.

It's all politics, shrewd politics. So is Obama's upcoming meeting with John McCain. The President elect ran on bi-partisanship. Now the onus is on him to deliver. But most importantly, he wants shore up two terms early. And he can do that by mollifying his detractors and appeasing potential opponents.

If Hillary doesn't accept the job she looks like a sore loser, unwilling to cooperate. But Obama is smart enough not to publicly ask her without knowing she'll accept.

I'm not sure why she would want the position. Sure it's prestigious, but if she signs on Obama will own her. She will serve at his pleasure. In the Senate, nobody owns Hillary, especially now. She is poised to assume the role of lioness in the Senate in Ted Kennedy's absence. And secretary of state may seem old hat for the former First Lady. She likely considered herself Madeline Albright's boss when Bill was Commander in Chief.

To the Senator's credit, she is the most hawkish out of the names being floated thus far.

My hunch is the Clintons have already brokered a deal with President elect Obama. The question is, is this it?

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican political commentator and Foxnews.com contributor. Her commentary can be a found at Foxnews.com and www.andreatantaros.com.

November 13, 2008

Palin is the Future of the GOP

By Andrea Tantaros

The next generation of the Republican Party is Governor Sarah Palin, despite the political malpractice of the McCain camp, and the current rumblings of the old guard (emphasis on old) of the GOP establishment.
 
In this year's election she was our most valuable player, and like any MVP her political athletic ability is a force to be reckoned with. She has youth on her side which will make her viable for the next two decades (at least). She possesses the supernatural ability to draw tens of thousands to a rally.  Her fundraising potential is boundless and her biography is politically seductive. 
 
She is slightly damaged from the Presidential election, not by anything she did, which is why it is possible to overcome the hurdles, the naysayers and heal her two biggest bruises:
 
First, the one trick ponies on the McCain campaign tried to staff her as they did George W. Bush: as a propped up, stilted, artificial attack dog and full throated conservative, because McCain needed that base to succeed. But this is not the real Sarah Palin.  Most Alaskans will vouch for that, especially the Republicans.
 
Palin is a populist powerhouse who has spent years taking on her own party's corruption. She seemingly works better with Democrats to put points on the board for the benefit of her state rather than get locked in the partisan gridlock and posturing that cripples male politicians. She is razor sharp and savvy when it comes to maneuvering. (Too bad she outmaneuvered her McCain handlers too late).
 
Second, Team McCain was fairly anemic when it came to assets this election cycle, but one thing they did have on their side was time. Instead of choosing Palin earlier in the summer which would have given her weeks for preparation on issues like national security and the economy, they shoved her into the fray before she spent sufficient time grappling with complex national issues. Imagine the Couric murder board taking place in early summer and not late fall?
 
Time is now on her side. Here's what she needs to do:
 
Give major policy speeches. She dazzles the audience when she addresses the energy issue. This is a logical starting point.
 
Campaign and fundraise on behalf of Republicans. It will be imperative for her to build an army of allies. The next RNC Chair should be her first priority.
 
Begin to harness the power of her grassroots support. I'm fairly certain Palin doesn't have access to the McCain fundraising and grassroots lists of this past election, which is why she needs to create her own. Palin has millions of Americans at her beck and call. She needs to start organizing this asset by collecting names, emails and phone numbers.
 
Write a book (on substance, not moose chili). It's time to get serious. The snowmobiling was cute for a while but the current state of our nation requires thoughtful policy and real deal solutions. We're faced with crisis of ethics. As someone who cleaned up Alaska, she should write about the lessons she learned and apply them to kitchen table concerns.
 
Get some ink in her passport. Obama has very little but was somehow inoculated from criticism after he took a highly publicized trip east. She should do the same, frequently.
 
Do a weekly radio address. The topics should be major issues of national importance.  She should do the research and writing herself.
 
Appoint herself to the US Senate. If Senator Ted Stevens is elected -- and then kicked out of the Senate by his colleagues as is widely expected, which can be accomplished with a simple majority vote -- Stevens' temporary replacement would be appointed by Governor Palin.  Imagine Hillary, McCain and Palin on Capitol Hill and Obama and Biden in the White House? It would be Shakespearian! What better way for her to shake up the Senate, stay on the national stage and keep an eye on the party?
 
With the doom and gloom of the current economic climate and total Democratic rule set in place to govern, the ground will be seeded for a Palin comeback in 2012, though it won't be easy. She'll have the far right behind her, but she must run as herself this time, as the pragmatic, centrist reformer she is to truly be successful.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican political commentator and FoxNews.com contributor. Her commentary can be found at FoxNews.com and www.andreatantaros.com.

November 12, 2008

The GOP's Growing Latino Problem

By Greg Bobrinskoy

Dramatic Republican losses in the past two election cycles have been attributed to various factors. Yet the Republicans' decreasing support among Latinos should be among the most important problems to Republicans fearful of remaining in the political wilderness.

According to the Pew Research Center, whites represented 57% of Americans in 2005 with Latinos bypassing African Americans to become 14% of the population. By 2050, Latinos are projected to double in population to 29% with whites representing 47%. In the 2004 election, President Bush performed very well among Latinos for a Republican nominee, gaining 44% of their vote to Kerry's 53%. This year, Obama crushed McCain among Latino voters by a margin of 67 to 31 percent. The number of Latino voters increased by almost 25 percent compared to four years ago. According to the AP, 28% of Latinos polled had voted for the first time, compared to 12% for the entire electorate. Among these new Latino voters, Obama won by a resounding 76 to 23 percent.

One example of the power of the Latino vote is their influence in heavily blue states like Illinois and California. In 2004, Bush won a majority of white voters in both states despite losing them by double digits overall. The reason Bush lost was that he carried only 32% of the Latino vote in California and a meager 23% in Illinois. In the crucial state of Florida, however, Bush won the Latino vote 56 to 44 percent and carried the state.

In an increasingly diverse nation, Republican nominees will have to start winning astronomical percentages of the white vote to keep up with their drastically low support among Latinos and other minorities. Obama increased Kerry's percentage of the white vote by only 2%. He increased African American support from Kerry's 88% to 95%. Yet in states such as North Carolina and Virginia - where the African American percentage of the vote was high - their proportion of the vote was actually slightly less than 2004. Along with their increased percentage of the population and their rising voting numbers, Latinos were highly represented in key battleground states such as Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.

In Florida, for example, there are many reasons Obama won the state other than increasing his support among Latinos. As the Miami Herald reported, Obama's campaign registered 200,000 new voters, put in 50 field offices, brought in 600,000 volunteers and poured $40 million into the state. However, we can see that by comparing Florida's results in 2004 and 2008, it was the Latino vote that turned Florida from red to blue.

In 2004, Bush won Florida 52 percent to Kerry's 47 percent. This year, Obama won the state 51 to 49 percent. Obama's support among Florida's white voters was the same as Kerry's in 2004. In the tables below we can see that if McCain had maintained Bush's share of Florida's Latino vote, he would have won Florida despite Obama receiving 10 percentage points more of the African American vote than Kerry.

2004 Florida

White-70%

Black-12%

Latino-15%

TOTAL

(R) Bush

57%

13%

56%

52%

(D) Kerry

42%

86%

44%

47%

 

2008 Florida

White-71%

Black-13%

Latino-14%

TOTAL

(R) McCain

56% (-1)

4% (-9)

42% (-14)

49% (-3)

(D) Obama

42% (-)

96% (+10)

57% (+13)

51% (+4)

 

 

2008 FL Revised

White-71%

Black-13%

Latino-14%

TOTAL

(R) McCain

56% (-1)

4% (-9)

56%

51%

(D) Obama

42% (-)

96% (+10)

44%

49%

In Colorado, McCain actually outperformed Bush's percentage of the Latino vote. Yet this was hardly cause for McCain to celebrate. Bush lost Colorado's Latino vote 68-30, while McCain lost their vote 61-38. To make matters worse for McCain, Latinos increased their percentage of the Colorado electorate from 8% in 2004 to 13% in 2008. In 2004, Bush won Nevada 51%-48%, this year Obama won the state by double digits, 55% to 43%. Latinos increased their percentage of the vote by 5 points, from 10% to 15%. And while Kerry performed well among Latinos in Nevada, winning over the demographic 60-39, Obama crushed McCain 76 to 22 percent. Once again, McCain's percentage of the white vote was only slightly changed from Bush's percentage in 2004 when Bush won the state. Obama changed Nevada from red to blue because of the Latino vote.

The most obvious case of McCain suffering from low support among Latinos is New Mexico. In 2004, Bush won New Mexico 50% to 49%. This year, McCain lost New Mexico in a landslide, receiving just 42% of the overall vote to Obama's 57%. What explains this 16 point turnaround for the Democrats? Hint: It's not the white vote. Bush won among New Mexico's white voters 56-43, with white voters compromising 57% of the vote. McCain was able to keep up with Bush's 56-43 margin among white voters with a 56-42 margin over Obama. But in 2004, New Mexico's Latino vote made up 32% of the vote and voted for Kerry 56-44. In 2008, Latinos increased their percentage of the electorate by 9 points up to a dramatic 41% of the vote. They also gave Obama a 13 point boost from four years ago for a 69-30 percent blowout. White voters comprised only 50% of the New Mexico vote this year, down 7 points from 4 years ago. In summation, although McCain was able to win by double digits among New Mexico's white voters as Bush had in 2004, McCain was still routed by 15 points because of the shift by Hispanics to the Democratic candidate and their surge in the percentage of the vote. Once again it was the Latino vote that proved the crushing blow for McCain.

Had McCain, the Republican Party's most Latino-friendly candidate, not won the nomination of his party this year, we might assume that Obama would have performed even better than he did among Latinos. This data speaks volumes about the future of the Republican Party in an increasingly racially diverse America. When Bob Dole lost to Bill Clinton in 1996, white voters made up 83% of the electorate. This year, white voters compromised 74% of the vote. Latinos are still voting at disproportionately low numbers in comparison to their percentage of the population. One can assume that as Latinos become more assimilated in American society, the higher their percentage of the electorate will become. The future of the Republican Party depends on winning back their dwindling support among Latinos.

Greg Bobrinskoy is an Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics.

November 04, 2008

Obama Victory the GOP's Best Hope

By Andrea Tantaros

Win or lose on Election Day, one truth is absolute: The Republican Party needs a rebirth. I'm not talking about a few deep breaths, a reboot or even a makeover; I'm proposing one giant housecleaning.

Our identity is lost. When it comes to fresh ideas, we're bankrupt. Our strategies are stale, our talking points robotic and regurgitated, and our direction is unclear. We've forgotten how to communicate with the American people. Our message is adrift and our messenger-in-chief, George W. Bush, is bloodied and badly bruised. Scratch that: We don't even have a messenger (thank God for Rush Limbaugh, our wise political Sherpa).

The future of the Republican Party depends on an Obama victory. There, I've said it. I waited this entire cycle to express my concern, and I'm glad I did, because I now believe more than ever that my hypothesis is true. Call it tough love, call it treason; I call it the truth.

The campaign of John McCain has only solidified my argument. From day one it has struggled to find a clear and rationally persuasive theme. It has operated under an outdated playbook that focuses on personal associations (bafflingly, even in the throes of an economic meltdown). These moves worked in 2004, but to take one's eyes off the ball--that being the economy--for one moment in this election was truly his gravest error.

Sadly, the campaign has operated with gimmicky stunts, a snarky tone and the most stomach-churning of sarcasm. What did we expect? McCain's advisors are Bush's old guard. They're tired, divorced from reality and devoid of creativity. They failed to capitalize on McCain's strengths and grossly mismanaged Palin.

I find it all too perfect that it took a plumber to unclog the McCain machine's message constipation. Joe may have helped in the short term, but the need for major renovations remains. And here's how we'll do it:

As my Greek father always says: "The fish stinks from the head." If the Republican party is the stinky fish, then George Bush is its head. The nation doesn't have faith in how our party governs, thanks to its management - or perceived mismanagement - of Katrina and the war in Iraq. Republicans somehow got the black eye from a housing crisis that was caused by the Democrats' belief that every man, woman, child, dog, cat and goldfish has a right to a home, whether they can afford one or not. How did we get this black eye? Because we are the party in power - and the head stinks ... at communicating. Failing to correct the record would have been bad enough. But our inability to correct the record was a failure of monumental proportions.

The hybrid, hapless Bush/McCain operation isn't the only case for reform. Congressional Republicans are equally as guilty for our demise. To turn the ship around, Congress should be our starting point. All the bridges to nowhere, the support for bloated spending bills, entitlement expansion and unethical practices must be replaced with fiscal responsibility; a zero-tolerance policy on corruption and a one-strike-and-you're-out mantra. Yes, Senators Stevens, Craig and Vitter: I'm talking to you.

With McCain as President or back in the Senate, The Grand Old Party needs a new attitude, a new guard and a mobilization of the next generation. We must repackage our core values and ideals of limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility. Into this platform, we must incorporate new planks on alternative energy and rising college tuition costs. And we must have the cajones to take on retirement security.

Our agenda should involve reviving seductive issues like medical malpractice and American exceptionalism in education. We must churn out the best, most educated workforce in the world, but not through greater federal involvement and tired singsong saw of mo' money, mo' money. It is also critical that we expand our outreach and invest in talent recruitment to harvest a new crop of diverse candidates to seek office. The party of the old, white male needs to finally be over - so over.

Republicans, if we lose this election we cannot run off and skulk. We must fight (much harder than we are fighting today) for what we believe, and be vigilant and focused on holding the Democrats accountable.

Our nation will suffer under the trio of doom: Pelosi, Reid and Obama. Their incompetence will be showcased very quickly to the electorate and because of it Republicans will re-emerge stronger than ever in four years. I've never been one to believe we must lose an election in order to win, but only if we recalibrate and regenerate will we have a chance to rise again and lead this great nation.

To be clear, this is not an endorsement of Barack Obama. This is recognition of an opportunity for our party. I believe Senator Obama is troublingly unqualified. His punitive wealth-transfer dogma will lead our country into further economic ruin and his ingenuous, popularity-contest approach to foreign policy will jeopardize our global gravitas.

John McCain is tested and ready, and though I suspect he'd have a challenging time governing as President while simultaneously leading the Republican Party further into the wilderness, he is a much more comforting and sensible option.

The GOP has suffered from adversity, but lucky for us, adversity never leaves people where it finds them. It's up to us to control our fate. Now is the time to conduct an honest self-evaluation on the state of our union and stand ready to perform significant alterations, win or lose the White House.

The right's been getting it wrong. An Obama Presidency presents us with a chance to change, not our values, but our behavior and the way we govern. It's up to us to have the courage to do it.

Get ready. A renaissance is in order.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican Political Commentator and Fox News.com contributor. Her columns can be found at www.andreatantaros.com and at FoxNews.com.