By JONATHAN MARTIN, Politico
Political history and the mood of the electorate would seem to indicate Democrats are on their way to significant losses this fall.
But they may have some help in mitigating the damage â€” from Republicans.
The GOP is wrestling with a series of challenges, some familiar and some new, that could dampen the partyâ€™s prospects for recapturing Congress this November.
All were on vivid display Tuesday.
In the Kentucky Senate primary, the weakness of the partyâ€™s national leadership and the double-edged nature of the tea party movement were revealed in full measure as the candidate tapped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the father of the modern Kentucky GOP, couldnâ€™t come within 20 points of Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning political outsider who wonâ€™t even commit to supporting McConnell for leader.
And while Paulâ€™s romp speaks to the energy GOP candidates can derive from tapping into the tea party movement, the quickness with which Democrats pounced on the GOP nomineeâ€™s positions on, for example, eliminating the Department of Education and ending farm subsidies illustrates the political risk Republicans take in nominating ideological purists.
In the Pennsylvania special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha, Republicans proved that they havenâ€™t yet determined how to win in the sort of districts theyâ€™ll need to carry to take back the majority. Paint-by-numbers attacks on Democrats as water carriers for President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wonâ€™t cut it if the opposition doesnâ€™t have actual ties or a record connecting the candidate to the partyâ€™s national leadership. Itâ€™s as ineffectual as the most recent Democratic efforts to link Republicans to former President George W. Bush. If thereâ€™s no predicate laid and if the accused candidate can believably dismiss the charge as political hyperbole, voters wonâ€™t buy it.
The GOP also has yet to find a satisfactory answer to the following question: Why should voters return the keys to Congress to them when Republicans donâ€™t seem to have learned their lesson from 2006 when it comes to scandal? Rep. Mark Souderâ€™s admission Tuesday that he had an affair with a staffer makes him only the latest family values-preaching Republican to practice adultery. At least Souder resigned immediately â€” Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and David Vitter of Louisiana, not to mention South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, remain in office, reminding voters about Republican hypocrisy when it comes to sex.
Publicly, congressional Republicans downplayed concerns about Tuesdayâ€™s results and reiterated that they were optimistic about this fall. But there is plainly some worry about how the party is approaching what should be a fruitful election cycle and, in the wake of the 8-point Pennsylvania House loss, exactly how resources should be directed.
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