Wednesday, December 29, 2010

POLITICS - Who DOES Speak for Republicans

"Who speaks for the Republicans?" by Ezra Klein, Washington Post 12/29/2010

When the inevitable showdown between the revived Republican Party and the Obama White House occurs, who will speak for the Republicans? In 1994, they had Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, both of whom were nationally credible leaders, at least at the time. But looking through Gallup's "most admired" poll, Republicans haven't coalesced around any similarly serious names -- or really anyone at all.

The most admired man in America, by a wide margin, is Barack Obama. Three of the four most-admired women in America are associated with either the Obama campaign or the Obama presidency (Hillary Clinton clocks in at No. 1, and Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama take the third and fourth slots).

The closest thing the GOP has to a Dole or a Gingrich is Sarah Palin, whose interests and messages frequently diverge from those of the Republican Party and who polls very poorly among the broader populace.

Perhaps the idea that you need a leader to deliver your message is outdated in an age when Fox News and other outlets that are willing to create and push the message on their own. But I rather doubt it, particularly as Obama's brand remains surprisingly strong and the Republican brand surprisingly weak despite the results of the 2010 election. One reason for that strength, I think, is the absence of a viable alternative.

It's sort of a shame for the GOP that Mitt Romney turned out to be such an unlikable and untrustworthy candidate. His business experience and executive accomplishments would've made him a good standard-bearer in this political climate. And you could certainly imagine a world in which John McCain had run a different campaign in 2008 and, though he'd lost, remained broadly admired among the public. Add in some savvy positioning during the last two years, and people might have begun wondering whether they'd made the right choice. But in the world we're in, he doesn't even register on the Republican side of the poll.

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