There is plenty of bad news for the Republican Party these days, but just a month after an election defeat, positive signs abound. Here are 10:
1. The Hill reports: “Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus says he has locked up the support needed for a second term. . . .Both former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele had floated the idea of challenging Priebus, but committee sources had previously told The Hill that the current chairman had the backing of most of the committee.” Priebus is on track to repair the damage done to the party under his predecessor and to extract the lessons from the 2012 campaign that are needed to modernize the party apparatus. (“Priebus took over an organization that was in dire financial straits and helped turn it into a fundraising”). He’s not the star of the GOP and doesn’t need to be; he is competent and “acknowledges the party’s need to expand its base, by appealing to women and minorities,” which is precisely what the RNC chairman’s job calls for right now.
2. It was a really good week for flexible reformers and a really bad week for the all-or-nothing crowd. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) shone at the Jack Kemp Policy Foundation dinner, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) talked to me about immigration reform, and House Republicans rallied to the speaker of the House, recognizing the need for pragmatism in the battle with the president on the fiscal cliff. And the nemesis of compromise, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), left the Senate for a job at a foundation whose tax status prohibits overt electioneering and partisan politics. I am certain he, as a law-and-order guy, will be a stickler on that one. (One suspects the “think tank” part of Heritage, a shell of its 1980s self with few top-flight scholars, may disappear entirely; in practice it has sunk below the radar as the Heritage Action Network has taken a high-visibility, hyper-partisan role.)
3. Republicans may have a wild card candidate for Virginia governor in Ken Cuccinelli, but the Democrats are realizing their man, Terry McAuliffe, may be a disaster. A local news report found that his explanation wasn’t true as to why he “chose to open a manufacturing plant for his Green Car company in Mississippi instead of here in Virginia.” Apparently McAuliffe’s bid for Virginia state money wasn’t rejected as he claimed; he just never filled out the paperwork. Caution, Republicans: There is plenty of time for the Democrats to come up with an alternative to McAuliffe.
4. Senate Democrats are getting antsy about the White House stonewall strategy on the fiscal cliff. The latest nervous pol is Sen.-elect Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who “sounded an alarm over the Obama administration’s claim that it was willing to go over the fiscal cliff — allowing massive tax increases and spending cuts to take effect in January — if congressional Republicans refuse to meet the president’s demands, chief among them a tax increase for those earning more than $250,000 a year.”
5. A Gallup poll provided ammunition for those in the GOP who want to move on from opposition to gay marriage. “53% of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages — tying with May 2011 as the highest level of support Gallup has found since it began tracking the issue in 1996. . . .The biggest differences by age in support for same-sex marriage occur at the extremes, with 34 percentage points separating 18- to 29-year-olds and those 65 and older. Support among Americans aged 30 to 64 is basically split, mirroring the national average.” Hopefully, the insistence that opposition to gay marriage be a federal issue is fading with each generation (and at a faster clip than the GOP is losing ground in presidential elections).
6. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s approval ratings are sky-high, likely chasing off serious competition in his reelection bid and allowing the GOP to pour resources and time into the Virginia gubernatorial race. That will also give Christie some breathing room to mend fences with the right, which became annoyed with his bear-hug of the president in the final days of the campaign. (Working in his favor is the even more annoying Romney consultant squad, which keeps blaming Romney’s loss on Sandy; who wants to agree with that crowd?)
7. Don’t look now but Christian conservatives are joining forces with business leaders on immigration reform.
8. Both state houses in the Michigan (!) legislature passed right-to-work legislation. As the Associated Press noted, “Just hours after they were introduced, both chambers approved measures prohibiting private unions from requiring that nonunion employees pay fees. The Senate quickly followed by voting to impose the same requirement on most public unions. Although rumors had circulated for weeks that right-to-work measures might surface during the session’s waning days, the speed with which the GOP-dominated Legislature acted Thursday caught many onlookers by surprise.” Funny, the AP never said Democrats “slammed” through Obamacare.
9. While the Obama administration may be adrift on foreign policy, there is respectful, important debate going on in conservative circles about the U.S. role in the world, the Arab Spring and human rights. Last week it was a Foreign Policy Initiative conference; this week it was the gathering hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The GOP might be licking its electoral wounds, but conservative intellectuals are in high gear and spirits.
10. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), one of the Senate’s smartest voices on foreign policy and a Republican who learned to win in a deep blue state, will return to the Senate chambers in January following recovery from his stroke.
See, there really is good news.