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LOOKING AHEAD: REPUBLICAN CHALLENGES

The Wall Street Journal reported on a new poll on what voters think of Republicans. Steve Moore for the WSJ reports with our italicized comments interspersed:

The first comprehensive poll on why voters voted the way they did in November has just been released by the communications firm Target Point Consulting. I received a full briefing from the pollster Alex Lundry on what these 1,000 voters think of Republicans. The short answer is: not much.

The GOP is "in great disfavor with the electorate right now. Republicans are blamed for fiscal mismanagement, overspending, and the bad economy," says Mr. Lundry.

Fiscal mismanagement when in office. Absolutely. Overspending. Absolutely. The bad economy. The burden of the party with executive power, the prior "good" economic times forgotten -- and the media never even acknowledged those good times when they were happening. As for the worldwide financial crisis we are experiencing, this was triggered by Democrats and Democratic policies on housing that Republicans unsuccessfully tried to change, but the media didn't report it that way and the fast-talking Democrats were quicker and better at pointing the finger than the Republicans -- a key Republican failing.

"Democrats are seen as a center-right party, while Republicans are seen as dominated by the right." That's a big problem because even though 84% of voters say they are center or right on the ideological spectrum, the 48% in the middle, i.e., independents, are tilting heavily toward Democrats.

This view is so hilariously wrong but nonetheless extremely disturbing. That voters think Democrats are "center-right" seems impossible, considering they nominated the most far-left senator in the party who advocates a "spread the wealth around" policy is astounding and fast-talking liberals like Barney Frank are praising expanded welfare. It shows the skill of Democratic PR aided by the left wing mainstream media. For example, the myth that man is responsible for climate change, a concept embraced by the Democratic Party, and will require actions that will thrust millions into poverty, is deemed reasonable and mainstream by the media. The Republican position that growth of the world economy is paramount and man's impact on climate is either minimal or altogether unproven is deemed by the media as extreme far-right thinking. That such false impressions have developed is proof of Republican ineptness in the age of instant media.

The fairly narrow victory by Barack Obama in the popular vote disguises an "enthusiasm gap" among Democratic and Republican voters. Some 65% of Obama voters "strongly supported" him, whereas only 33% of John McCain voters "strongly supported" the Arizona Republican. This helps explain the river of money for Mr. Obama and the massive grassroots advantage for the Democrats.

This isn't such a big problem for the long run. Voters "wanted" the first black president to show they weren't racist and Obama fanned that feeling skillfully if despicably by unfounded but effective charges of racism against Clinton and McCain. Also, McCain wasn't much of a conservative and left too many in the base sitting on their hands.

Issue by issue, when the issues are clearly understood, the Republican positions are held by a substantial majority. Telling the story well with credible spokesmen is what's needed. The handicap of the left-wing media -- and what Sam Huntington called the "de-nationalized elites" in academia and elsewhere -- is a fact that has to be addressed in all communication plans. For example, when Democrats and the elites belittle traditional American ethics and morality, patriotism and military service, and Republicans allow them to get away with it, they are missing huge opportunities. Republicans have not been forceful enough in standing up for positions that a majority of Americans agree with, fearing the backlash from the leftwing media. For example, the left wing attacks aggressively on the extreme position on gay marriage, crying "bigotry" and "denial of civil rights," and conservative spokesmen cringe instead of issuing forceful rejoinders, even though the majority of people vote for the traditional concept of marriage. But if conservaties allow the one-sided debate to continue as it is, conservative positions will be eroded, to the vast injury of American society. "Anything goes" is not an American value.

But the biggest problem revealed by the poll for Republicans is that "voters no longer believe that the party cares about the middle class in a meaningful or credible way," Mr. Lundry explains. "Democrats cleverly frame every issue as for the middle class."

Most everybody thinks they belong to the middle class. Democrats though are aiming to solidify their voting support among Americans who will be delighted with handouts from the government. The more they can make people dependent on government, the larger their support base. This is the age-old struggle between Marxist equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity that this nation was built on. Rob Peter to pay Paul. The nation is very close to having more Pauls than Peters, since so many now pay no income tax. Consequently, they have no regard for Peter, who is the middle class person footing the government bills. This is a huge problem and Obama with his pledge to "spread the wealth" will make it worse. He would transform our society into a European-style one, which is already staggering under its unsustainable socialist burdens.

What issues have Republicans hurt themselves most on? Three that jump out are immigration, where Republicans are seen as too strident; the War in Iraq, where voters are eager for closure; and bailouts, where voters have become angry and resentful at throwing money at failing giant corporations. Furthermore, as economic anxieties have escalated, independent voters are now more favorably inclined toward protectionist trade policies. Free marketeers need to make a better case for the positive benefits of international trade or more restrictions are certainly on the way.

The statements here are questionable. Overwhelmingly, Americans disapproved of all the proposed immigration plans, including McCain's and the President's. No sensible conservative proposal entered the debate; conservatives only operated at the margins or, with Tom Tancredo, at the extreme. The borders must be made secure, first and foremost. Any path to citizenship must include English and thorough Americanization and assimilation, so that the kinds of separatism and hostility shown by La Raza and the pro-Mexico rallies in Los Angeles would be disqualifying for citizenship and permanent residency. Legal immigration should be based on what America needs by way of skills rather than on family relations.

As for the economic problems and the bailouts, again it is Republican failure to characterize the situation accurately that allowed the Democrats and the media to blame the Republicans, especially the Bush Administration. Democrats instantly blamed Bush and Wall Street, when it was Democrats like Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and, yes, Barack Obama, who brought on the subprime loan failure fiasco that triggered the world financial panic. To this day how many average voters knew of Bush and Senate Republican efforts to reverse Clinton subprime loan policies and rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that were blocked by Democrats led by Frank and Dodd and supported by Senator Obama? As for pinning Wall Street on the Republicans, that's a joke: Obama raised several times more money from Wall Street than McCain did. Republicans are for small business and entrepreneurship, not "Wall Street greed," greed that feeds Democratic coffers very generously. President Bush has often been faulted for not responding forcefully to criticism, fair and unfair, and in that respect he did serve the country and conservatism well. Unfortunately, Congress at this time doesn't have impressive Republican spokesmen to make the case, either.

Democrats and the leftwing media did a disservice to the country by politicizing the Iraq war. However, it will fade as any kind of positive issue for the Democrats and should emerge as a success that Republicans can take credit for - a tyrant and his threat to his neighbors and America removed, a democratic country functioning in the Middle East assisting in the war against violent Islam and, soon, substantially more oil in the world supply. A more aggressive response by the White House to the avalanche of Democratic criticism would have helped.

The good news is that voters are very fearful that Democrats will go too far with their liberal agenda. When voters are asked what they "like least about the Democrats," the most common answers volunteered were: "taxes going up," "big government," "liberal," "raise spending," and even "socialism." These broad economic and fiscal principles appear to present the GOP with its biggest opening.

Again, these Democratic positions will not become the albatrosses they should be unless Republicans are forceful and aggressive. They must find their voices and their spokesmen. Also, the damage that the global warning myth and the economically disastrous Democratic plans to counter it will do to the average citizen must be aggressivley exposed and discredited. This is a major issue to get on the side of the middle class against the environmental elites who own the Democratic Party.

The poll also reveals that Republicans can win back voters by opposing Democrats on several specific policies coming down the pike in 2009: card-check labor union elections, bailouts for banks and auto makers, welfare expansions and affirmative action.

Denying workers the vote in union elections is outrageous. Bailing out the auto unions, which is what will happen, is outrageous. Explaining why getting a hand up instead of a handout is better for the individual, the family and America is a challenge but must be done. As for affirmative action, the voters have just elected the first affirmative action president, so, who knows how big an issue that will be.

The key for the months ahead is for Republicans to posture themselves, advises Mr. Lundry, "not as obstructionists, but as a check on the Obama agenda."

Too many are being lulled by Obama's excellent appointment for defense and economics into thinking he will go mainstream. He will show his extremist side very soon: His pro-abortion agenda is breathtaking in its scope. He intends to expand abortion far beyond Roe v. Wade. Even some of his backers are arguing that infanticide is just an extension of abortion. His "spread the wealth" plan has the potential to expand the handout class into a majority for the Democratic Party. There are many, including minorities, particularly Hispanics, who may rebel against his cultural policies who can be captured for the conservative cause. Obama says he wants to transform America and what he is proposing, based on his Marxist socialist background and associations and his support for abortion without limits, is an ugly America.

We knew Obama was all for driver's licenses for illegal aliens, but he wants them to get Social Security, too? And health care that taxpayers will also pay for? No way.

The National Republican Trust has created an ad pointing out the danger of Barack Obama's plan to issue driver's licenses to all illegal aliens.

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