The New York Times reports today on the rising popularity of President Obama, and the parallels to be drawn from Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, whose parties suffered Congressional losses in mid-term elections only to re-elect their party figurehead to a second term as president two years later.
“He’s more likable in many ways than Clinton, though less charming,” observed Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, who is considering a 2012 presidential bid.
As a result, Mr. Gingrich said, Republicans’ success now turns on demonstrating that their different approach to government’s role will make America more prosperous. House Republicans call it a “cut and grow” approach to reducing spending and fostering private sector growth.
Mr. Weber worries that, in pushing to cut federal programs and roll back Mr. Obama’s health policy, Republicans risk ceding the high ground for future-oriented optimism that conservatives like Mr. Reagan and Jack Kemp once commanded. Mr. Obama sounded that note over the weekend by declaring, “We can outcompete any other nation.”
A second challenge, for a party fueled by energy from the right, is fashioning a coherent appeal to hold the political center. The Republican ad-maker Kim Alfano, who advises Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said the key was “reasonable, rational” voices, rather than more boisterous conservatives who strike mainstream voters as “kooky.”
Republican leaders heeded such advice in selecting their chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to respond to the State of the Union. But Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Tea Party favorite, plans to deliver her own response as well.