Opinion Columns & Blogs

If GOP gains majority, it will need to focus

Republicans shouldn't let the favorable poll numbers and talk of a "wave" election go to their heads.

Check out this e-mail from a reader whose first vote for president went to Ike:

"I, along with many friends, are totally fed up with BOTH major parties and want real change in our country. Surely the entrenched Democrats will not deliver that, and looking back on the Bush years, this crop of Republicans are also likely to guarantee business as usual."

Pollster Scott Rasmussen confirmed those sentiments last week: "Voters are ready to deliver the same message in 2010 that they delivered in 2006 and 2008 as they prepare to vote against the party in power for the third straight election. These results suggest a fundamental rejection of both political parties."

I hope GOP leaders are paying attention. Too often after a big win, politicians get too full of themselves. Remember the talk of a "permanent Republican majority" after 2000? James Carville was predicting 40 years of Democratic dominance just two years ago. Maybe he'll prove prophetic. Or maybe all the polls are correct, and a "refudiation" of the crazed lurch to the left is coming.

If so, Republicans should resist the temptation to pack 40 years of their own goofiness into a crazed lurch to the right (as in questioning whether President Obama really is a U.S. citizen and whether to amend the 14th Amendment, the one with all that due process and equal protection stuff).

Instead, they should focus. Think economic recovery and job growth. Period. Gross domestic product, housing and unemployment numbers are abysmal, and Americans don't like what they're seeing. Rasmussen said last week that 55 percent of consumers and 54 percent of investors rate the economy as poor. A scant 9 percent of consumers — and just 7 percent of investors — consider the economy good or excellent.

Those numbers represent a mandate for change. And it appears President Obama is getting the message, with his recent embrace of some pro-growth tax policies that have long been advocated by Republicans. He's still not quite there on extending the Bush tax cuts, and the spending reflex is still on overdrive, but Republicans stand ready to bring him along.

Last week on "Good Morning America," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was open to the president's call for tax cuts and credits for small businesses. It just wasn't enough. Boehner wants to see discretionary spending cut to 2008 levels and the current tax rates extended for two years. Now. Before the election.

"If we're able to do this together, I think we'll show the American people that we understand what's going on in the country and we'll be able to get our economy moving again," he said.

He and House Republicans have also outlined $1.3 trillion in spending cuts — $925 billion alone from reverting to '08 budget numbers.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana also weighed in last week. Daniels, mentioned as a presidential contender for 2012, has managed to keep his state fiscally sound while others drown in debt. In a Wall Street Journal commentary, he suggested that a "time-limited, emergency growth program aimed at triggering new private investment . . . should be a primary goal of the next Congress — one hopes on a bipartisan basis."

He urged a temporary suspension or reduction of the Social Security payroll tax, paid for in part by not spending what's left of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and stimulus funds, as well as curtailing federal hiring and pay. "Cut federal pay, which now vastly outstrips private-sector wages, by 10 percent during the emergency term, and freeze it after that," he wrote.

Some will be tempted to dismiss these ideas as more of the same from the GOP's economic songbook. But remember that the president is starting to sing along. Of course, that's not enough. There's no road to fiscal sanity with Obama's current backup group, the Spendapaloozas. Replace them with a disciplined, focused GOP majority, and perhaps the real change can begin.