Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too

by
May 24, 2010

By JEFF ZELENY and CARL HULSE, The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington.

There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned.

Republicans are working to find a balance between simply running against Democrats and promoting a specific alternative agenda. And they are struggling with how to integrate the passions of the Tea Party movement — with its anti-government ideology, anti-incumbent bent and often-rough political edges — into the Republican Partyapparatus.

This week, House Republicans are beginning a program they call “America Speaking Out.” Their message is that lawmakers will be listening to their supporters over the summer, not simply dictating an agenda. In the fall, Republican leaders said, they plan to turn the ideas into specific policy proposals for the next Congress.

A series of events last week prompted a re-examination among Republicans of where the party stands less than six months before the midterm elections. In Pennsylvania, a Republican House candidate, Tim Burns, lost a special election by 8 points in a swing district of the sort the party needs to capture to have a shot of regaining the majority. And in a Republican primary for a Senate seat from Kentucky, Rand Paul, a leading emblem of the Tea Party, won a commanding victory.

“Democrats still need to be really worried,” said Joe Gaylord, a Republican strategist who helped guide the party’s sweeping Congressional victories in 1994. “But there has to be a message that we are for something, and that if you elect Republicans, there will be some change.”

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/us/politics/24repubs.html

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