News / USA

    US Republicans Move to Soften Their Image

    Republicans Look to Rebuild National Imagei
    X
    February 19, 2014 10:42 PM
    Republican Party leaders in Washington seem to be guiding the party in a less confrontational direction. As VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington, the change in tactics could reap dividends for Republicans in November’s congressional midterm elections.
    After a long and difficult winter in Washington, the winds of change are blowing through the Capital, and the end result could spell trouble for Democrats in November.  Republican Party leaders seem to be guiding the party in a new direction after they got most of the blame for last October’s unpopular shutdown of the federal government.
     
    In recent weeks Republican congressional leaders have somewhat neutralized Tea Party factions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate who in the past have demanded a ‘scorched earth’ approach on budget and spending issues that often led to confrontation and stalemate.  That in turn caused approval numbers for the Republican Party to plummet in national opinion polls.  To counter this, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell engineered clean passage of a debt ceiling extension in both the House and Senate that effectively bypassed conservative factions who in the past demanded spending cuts before they would agree to raising the debt ceiling.
     
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, as they make their way to a GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2013.House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, as they make their way to a GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2013.
    x
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, as they make their way to a GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2013.
    House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, as they make their way to a GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2013.
    ​It’s the latest example of how Boehner and McConnell are being more aggressive in beating back Tea Party interference.  McConnell even cast what could turn out for him to be a troubling Senate vote to end debate on the debt ceiling when Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a likely Republican presidential contender two years from now, tried to block the measure.  McConnell faces a Tea Party-backed challenger in his primary this year in Kentucky and well-funded conservative groups around the country are looking for any excuse to pour money into that Kentucky race in hopes of replacing McConnell with a more conservative Republican.
     
    Eyes on November
     
    This more pragmatic Republican approach means steering clear of polarizing battles over the debt ceiling and endless legislative attempts to repeal Obamacare.  It’s also seen as a rebuke to the well-funded outside conservative groups who pressure Republicans in Congress to be more confrontational.  These groups have made Boehner’s job trying to lead House Republicans extremely complicated.

    “Frankly I think they are misleading their followers.  I think they are pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be.  And frankly I just think that they have lost all credibility”, Boehner told reporters recently.
     
    The Republican reset away from confrontation will allow the party to refocus on jobs, energy and education and keep their political salvos aimed directly at President Obama, especially the president’s health care law, which remains very unpopular in Republican congressional districts and Republican-leaning states.
     
    But this new Republican reset will go only so far to please moderates.  One victim appears to be immigration reform.  House conservatives pushed back hard against Speaker Boehner when he raised the prospect of moving  ahead on reform this year, and for the moment it remains stuck in the House.  The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last year offering a path to eventual citizenship for millions of people who entered the country illegally.  But many conservatives oppose offering a path to citizenship because they fear being attacked in primaries as supporting amnesty for illegals, a non-starter in so-called Red Republican states and districts. 

    As Republican Congressman Peter King of New York told CBS’ Face the Nation, “I think nationwide it is something the Republican Party should do.  But when you take it district by district, it’s hard to get a majority of Republicans to sign on to it.”
     
    Democrats will try to exploit the Republican reluctance to move ahead on immigration reform, but they have bigger problems in trying to keep Senate seats in seven states that Mitt Romney won in 2012.  Republicans are favored to keep or expand their 17-seat majority in the House and need a gain of six seats to take control of the Senate.  And if President Obama’s poor approval ratings remain mired under 50 percent, Democrats will have a tall order trying to save incumbent Democratic senators in southern states like Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina where Republican candidates are eager to run on a platform of dismantling Obamacare.
     
    The 2016 Factor
     
    Republicans may have some success this year in tamping down the Tea Party loyalists and implementing a mid-course correction that should make the party more palatable to independent voters this November.  But how long will this last?  Once the 2014 election returns are in, the race for the White House in 2016 basically begins and any number of young and hungry Republicans will move aggressively to enter the race.  Tea Party supporters should have plenty of favorites to choose from in the 2016 primaries.  Texas Senator Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are all considered likely contenders who will compete for Tea Party support.
     
    But as we saw in the primaries in 2012, a large Republican field well populated by conservatives tends to pull the party to the right, something that hurt Mitt Romney in his general election matchup with President Obama. 

    As American University political historian Allan Lichtman sees it, “The war within the Republican Party still rages.  There are even some on the far right who have taken some joy in the difficulties of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie because he was kind of the great hope of the moderates.”
     
    So all the work the Republican Party does this year to position itself as more attractive to moderate and independent voters could easily come undone in the shrill debates and raucous primary battles that will take place two years from now.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora