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Obama wearing Reagan’s Teflon suit

President Obama is operating in a way that deprives Congressional Republicans of their best political weapon and preferred and perfected mode of operation—the politics of personal destruction. Because he is nice to them, eloquent in public, hard-working, optimistic, and apparently competent, their attempts to portray him as a villain backfire.  Obama has said he admires the transformations of the Reagan administration, and it seems he's emulating a style that coated Reagan with Teflon and was so instrumental in his effectiveness.

So long as the Teflon holds up, Congressional Republicans have nothing left but strategies that are less effective for them. They are particularly weak on their understanding of and interest in new policies that voters find credible, and their legacy policies are very unpopular. During the 2008 campaign, Republican leaders were saying the GOP brand was broken, but a year ago polls showed that the public hated GOP policies more than their brand.  Since Obama has forced the GOP to park the big attack artillery, they are trying to advance behind a barrage of angry and confused mumbling. 

Not only has the GOP not had a new policy idea since Newt Gingrich left Congress, but its base is being fractured by internal dissention as they attempt to agree on policies to get beyond "tax cuts, deregulation, and every man for himself personal responsibility."  They have evangelicals who are populists and environmentalists and believe in community and helping the needy.  They have business leaders who want the federal government to step in and save them.  They have governors who have serious budget problems and a sense of responsibility.  They have visionaries pointing out that the GOP is doomed demographically if it cannot recruit millions of minorities. And, increasingly, they have insiders and conservative thought leaders who are saying, "It didn't work, and it won't work now; we have to do something different."  It appears they are presently the party of "No" precisely because that is the only thing they can agree on.  That depresses David Brooks and entertains me. 

It seems the national GOP devotes 100% of its thinking to crafting talking points that sound policy-like instead of figuring out how to solve real government-size problems as perceived by voters. Obviously, every party and every politician has to think about the next election, but not thinking at all beyond that is irresponsible and (if there is a God) self-defeating. 

Voters are starting to hold Congressional Republicans accountable and will do so even more as the economy sinks deeper and puts more Independents out of work and Independents realize their 401(k)s are not going to recover soon.  In swing districts, I think GOP candidates railing against "government deficits that burden future generations" will not resonate as much as Democratic calls for dramatic government actions to fix the economy now.  But, the future lies ahead, and Obama and the Dems could easily blow their lead. 

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