Bob Dole is right. But, Republicans can’t follow his advice.

May 28, 2013

Bob Dole is right.


Bob Dole, left, and Bill Clinton.

During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," the former Senate Majority Leader gave his fellow Republicans a piece of advice: "I think they ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agenda."

Ask any Republican and they probably agree with Dole. The party suffered two resounding defeats in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races, and gains made in the 2010 midterms look like the exception rather than the rule. The party continues to feud openly in the Senate over its direction.

But, of course, that's not how politics works. The party has to try and reinvent -- or at least refocus -- itself while continuing to compete in races around the country.  They don't have the luxury of shuttering the Republican National Committee to develop a policy agenda around which the broad swath of the party has to rally.

Instead, Republicans have to try to elect Ken Cuccinelli as governor of Virginia and reelect Chris Christie as New Jersey governor. They have to deal with the 2014 election, hoping to avoid -- particularly in the Senate -- the primary problems that have cost them somewhere between two and five seats over the past two cycles. And then there is the already-underway 2016 presidential race.

Unfortunately for Republicans, it's a near certainty that they will remain in this sort of political no man's land until they pick a presidential nominee and he or she provides the policy direction that the GOP so badly needs. "Somebody has to stand up and say, we're going to do this," Dole said, explaining the Senate gridlock, but in a statement that could hold well for the broader party.

But there is simply no one with the profile and power within the party at the moment to do that. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) seem to have the best cases to make, but the former doesn't seem interested in playing that role at the moment and the latter is still a bit politically green.

This sort of inability to lead/be guided out of the political wilderness isn't a new thing. Remember that Democrats were in a similar state for 12 years during the 1980s and early 1990s until Bill Clinton and his "new Democrat" policy agenda emerged out of Arkansas.

Republicans have to hope that they have a Clinton-in-waiting come 2016. In the meantime, they will have to muddle through -- accepting the policy disagreements and warring factions as unavoidable side effects of trying to re-imagine the party while also trying to win races.

Obama, Christie to review storm recovery effort: Later this morning, President Obama will arrive in New Jersey where he will review the effort at the Jersey Shore to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Obama will be joined by Christie, reprising a pairing that caused some controversy shortly before the 2012 election. When Christie joined the president to tour storm damage in the week before Election Day, some Republicans complained about the governor welcoming a political opponent with open arms. But back home, Christie's response to the storm was very well-received.

Today's visit should further boost the governor's bipartisan credentials in the year he faces reelection. But it's also likely to set off a new round of questions about what Republicans outside the Garden State think about another warm reception Christie is giving to Obama.

Fixbits: 

Obama reportedly plans to simultaneously nominate three judges to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The president delivered remarks (and a hug) in a Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama was in Moore, Oklahoma on Sunday, to visit the town hit recently by a deadly tornado.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) won't run for the Senate in 2014. Expect a potentially wide-open race for the GOP nomination.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited rebels in Syria on Monday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tweeted a picture of himself walking in a Memorial Day parade with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Who might portray Clinton in an upcoming movie about her?

Another poll shows most Americans oppose the federal health-care law.

Must-reads:

"Conservatives stymied in attempts to weaken immigration reform law" -- David Nakamura, Washington Post

"In North Carolina, unimpeded GOP drives state hard to the right" -- Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post

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Juliet Eilperin · May 27, 2013