July 11, 2013
John Boehner and Eric Cantor (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
House Speaker JOhn Boehner, left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Looking at broad political dynamics, it’s hard to see one issue the Republicans are winning right now and easy to find several where they are doing themselves damage.

Let’s start with health care, where Republicans are emboldened by the disarray in implementation of the new law. There is no question that the Obama administration looks feckless, but will this be an advantage for Republicans? On balance, no. First, the administration alone is responsible for the successful roll-out of the law, so it’s hard to make this a tidy partisan issue. Congressional Democrats can triangulate, supporting the law’s provisions, but decrying the administration’s failures in implementation. Second, when the frame reverts to goals of the law, rather than the troubles with enacting them, the Republicans are on “terra infirma” again; many of the individual provisions of the law, such as insurance reforms, are popular, and Republicans will be quickly exposed for having no constructive plan of their own. In effect, Republicans are chasing a mirage: health care appears an issue that offers their parched political throats a drink, but it is another dry hole.

If the politics of health care at first appear murky, those on abortion and immigration are crystal clear. Despite the repeated admonitions of establishment Republicans to pursue policies of inclusion and tolerance, the emerging Republican base continues to do everything it can to alienate vast swaths of the electorate. It appears immigration reform will be killed in the House with Republican zealots holding the weapon. Across the nation, and in Washington, Republicans are pursuing radical anti-abortion measures that will do the party lasting harm. It isn’t that this is a particularly good time to be a Democrat: the economy is weak, income disparity is shameful, the signature accomplishment of the Obama Administration is in trouble. But it is an even worse time to be a Republican if your ultimate goal is winning a national election.