Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Political intrigue is thick in Washington, D.C.

Published: Sunday, May 11 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Politics is rather quiet on the home front. But in Washington, D.C., political intrigue is thick. Here are some of the issues.

The Republican Party, in general, isn’t well liked nationally. And yet Republicans are poised to pick up U.S. House and Senate seats all over the country. Why?

Pignanelli: "Many think of the GOP as the party of business. ... However, Republicans failed to do the one thing that any businessman knows is key — connect with the target market." — Cristina Costantini Republicans are suffering from a form of battered victim syndrome. A majority of the governor mansions and statehouses are in GOP hands. The Democratic president they despise, and his signature programs, are unpopular. Further, most election experts are predicting GOP control of the House and the Senate next year. Everything is trending their way. Yet, when asked about the incoming tidal wave of victory, the usual Republican response is a shrug and a mumble "Only if we don't mess it up again."

Historically, the second term of a President — even a popular one (i.e. Ronald Reagan) — delivers midterm gains to the opposition party. (I am living proof!) The exception is when the opposition overreaches — as Republicans did with the impeachment proceedings against Pres. Bill Clinton. So the question is begged: Will 2014 be a repeat of 2006 (when control of the Senate flipped) or 1998 (when Democrats bucked history)? To prevail in November, all the GOP has to do is to keep hurling rocks at Democrats; AND not say anything stupid about women, minorities, the poor or same-sex marriage. So far, mainstream Republicans have muzzled their crazies. But Election Day is six months away, and ...

Webb: By shutting down the government and taking other far-right stands, the GOP has tarnished its brand. Still, America is a center-right country and the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are out-of-touch with mainstream voters. They badly overreached with Obamacare and may do so again with climate change regulations. If Democrats increase the cost of energy and force lifestyle changes to appease the global warming doomsayers, citizens will rebel and Democrats will endure even bigger losses.

Republicans can still goof this up by being too right-wing and scary. But if they keep defeating Tea Party candidates and propose mainstream solutions to the nation’s problems (immigration, tax reform, deficit reduction, entitlement reform), then 2014 is going to be a big Republican year.

If Republicans do well, what opportunities and challenges await Utah’s congressional delegation?

Pignanelli: In a Republican U.S. Senate, Orrin Hatch will be chairman of the Finance Committee. This is a big, big deal. Utah's senior senator will have extraordinary influence on national policies. Further, Hatch's well-known bipartisan manner will allow him to craft practical solutions (i.e. tax reform) that appeals to a wide base. Others in the Utah delegation will likely secure committee chairmanships — so again our state will be punching above its weight class.

Webb: Lots of opportunities await. Republicans have done well as critics. Eventually they must demonstrate they can lead. It would be terrific if Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and (probably) Mia Love showed leadership by putting forth mainstream, balanced, conservative solutions on issues like federalism, immigration, public lands management, environmental regulatory reform, energy, transportation and health care. It really is possible to take forward-looking, practical, conservative positions on all of those issues without scaring people. That would help them deal with Obama for his last two years and set them up nicely for 2016.

Is President Obama doomed to be an ineffective lame duck for the rest of his presidency?

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