We have always assumed that John McCain is the only Republican candidate who can win a general election match-up against the Democrats in 2008.
But let's assume for the moment that John McCain is not the Republican nominee. Let's assume that Mitt Romney is instead. Still a possibility if, and only if, Romney wins Florida tomorrow.
Can any smart man or woman tell us what a successful Romney message (which becomes the GOP down ticket message) would be in the 2008 general election?
Change? Washington "outsider"? "Successful" businessman? "Successful" Governor? The struggling economy's Mr. Fix-It? My opponent is a raging liberal!
But can any smart man or woman see any of those cookie-cutter, 20th century GOP messages resonating well enough in the dozen or so battleground states to put Romney over the top with Clinton/Obama/Edwards? Especially after almost 8 years of (pretty crappy) one party Republican rule in Washington? Especially after the Mitt-Flop narrative has been baked in during the primary?
No. Romney will get crushed. And he'll take a chunk of incumbent Republicans with him.
But we think that a Republican drubbing in November would be the 2nd best possible outcome for the GOP long-term (the best possible outcome, and far less painful, would be to elect John McCain President to transition the GOP into the 21st century).
Because on November 5th the Republicans would wake-up without control of the House, the Senate or the White House. And they would have to ask themselves seriously, for the first time in a very long time, what the f*ck happened?!?!
And there will be no place to hide for the defenders (profiteers) of the GOP's business as usual crowd.
Which will, we think, force the Republican Party to break their addiction to the Amtrak corridor between DC and New York and begin building a 21st century message that will attract younger voters and independents to grow and re-build the party on a national scale.
Or the GOP will do nothing, hunker down in some steak house on K Street and prepare themselves for the ash bin of history (but boy we hope not).
But now for two pieces of good news.
First, a "new 21st century message" is not much different from the GOP's 20th century message - national security, limited government and life.
National security/limited government/life is still a good macro message.
The Republicans simply have to update the innards of their original message to bring it up to date with what voters are talking about and care about in 2008. And the Republicans should be able to do that under the national security/limited government/life umbrella.
For example - global warming. Independent voters and the young love the issue of global warming.
Maybe independents and the young have genuine concerns about the zillions of automobile tailpipes spewing exhaust into the atmosphere. Or maybe they care about global warming because they are looking to score with the pot smoking hippie chick that lives next door to them at the University of Vermont. But who cares?
The "why" is not important. And for the GOP to get caught up in "why" is distracting. Voters care about global warming, that ship has sailed.
What the Republican Party should care about is bringing the global warming voters into the GOP without alienating their base. But how to do that?
Two words - National Security.
A Republican Party wrapped snugly and safely in the mantle of (true) national security can run to the left of the Democrats on the issue of global warming. Which immediately draws independents and the young to the GOP at the expense of the Democrats.
Yes, the Republicans lose a good chunk of oil company revenue, yes the Saudis go bananas, but remember, it's November 5th and the Republicans are out in the cold.
And we are fairly certain that there is a whole bunch of clean-tech money out in California (and other places) just waiting to flood into the slot that Exxon Mobile once occupied (and doesn't everyone think it's time to move away from fossil fuels anyhow?).
Global warming is just one example.
With proper messaging the Republicans should be able to pick-up independent and young voters while holding onto their base with true immigration reform (national security), combating global poverty and disease (national security, life/moral), true ethics reform (limited government) and real fiscal reform (national security, life/moral, limited government).
The post November 4th world is the GOP's oyster if they want it to be. That's the first piece of good news.
The second piece of good news for the GOP is that when Democrats control the House, Senate and White House the Democratic Party will be forced to actually govern.
Which the Democratic Party is about as ready and able to do as they are ready and able to sprout wings and fly around the Smithsonian.
As out of touch and as screwed up as we think the Republican Party currently is, we feel the same way about the Democrats. The only difference is that the Democrats have been able to skate on the "we're not George Bush" message for the last 7 years.
That message fades away when the Democrats get their hands on all the levers of power in 2009, which should set the Republicans up for a good mid-term in 2010.
If the GOP can get their act together.
We're just saying.