Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty
10-05-2009
This past weekend, we were treated to a few moments of reflection from New Hampshire Republican Party chairman and former governor John H. Sununu. The occasion was a gathering of regional GOP leaders in Newport, Rhode Island.  Sununu’s prescription for the 2010 midterm elections – recruit strong candidates, raise a lot of money, and hit hard on fiscal policy – sounds pretty straightforward to me, especially if the party can avoid elevating to campaign dogma some of the conspiracy theories currently circulating among the far right fringe of the party.
 
What really caught my attention, however, was Sununu’s explanation for recent GOP losses. He concluded with regard to New Hampshire and the state Democratic Party that, "It went blue because they did the nitty gritty of politics better than we did." This would mean that Sununu is in part blaming former state Republican chairman Fergus Cullen and the previous state party apparatus for losses at the polls.
 
I have heard this argument before, that GOP losses in 2006 and 2008 were a function of flaws in the party’s ground game. My response continues to be that they were actually due primarily to changing state demographics (increasingly blue) and genuine voter anger at Bush and the GOP on Iraq and the economy. Given the current weak economy and lingering questions about Afghanistan, Republicans may very well benefit this time around, much in the same way that Democrats did in the past two election cycles. But that would be a function of policy and circumstance, not tactics, and the party will still need to contend with the demographic issue.


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