Published October 31, 2013
Joe Lhota, running to be mayor of New York, is perhaps the first Republican whose campaign is being torched by the Cruz-ade that shut down the federal government, but he’s unlikely to be the last.
In Virginia, Attorney General Ken Cucinelli is trailing in his bid to become the state’s next governor.
He’s running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, whose buffoonery and shady business dealings are so unsavory that in his last race even the liberal Washington Post failed to endorse him.
At a recent press event, Cucinelli fielded innumerable challenging questions about the budget imbroglio; in a state full of federal employees, the GOP-led furloughs were none too popular.
The fall-out from the misguided and mishandled effort to de-fund ObamaCare will doubtless taint other races, and especially if GOP candidates succumb to playing defense.
In New York, Lhota has failed to offer voters a real choice. His inability to articulate a pro-jobs, pro-growth message leaves him trailing an insubstantial, uber-liberal candidate with an unpopular platform by more than 40 points.
In Virginia, Cucinelli has broken with the “all jobs all the time” campaigning that vaulted his predecessor Bob McDonnell to a landslide victory.
He, too, is behind. Let this be a lesson to wobbly Republicans who forget their reason for being.
And, who forget that President Obama has yet to deliver a robust recovery -- instead, handing the country the most partisan White House of our lifetimes. As well as, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 6.7 million more people living in poverty, a 5% decline in real household income, a 49% jump in Americans on food stamps, and an 89% increase in federal debt owed to the public.
The media is still celebrating President Obama’s so-called “victory” over the GOP. His accomplishment, in brief, is that he didn’t negotiate with Republicans on re-opening the government and on raising the debt ceiling.
After many months of zero wins, perhaps this qualifies as a victory, but surely it is small potatoes compared to passing gun control or immigration reform, or other items on the president’s agenda. And, it hasn't helped the president much, as is evident from his swoon to record-low approval ratings in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
The only real “win” for the White House is that the budget fracas diverted attention for a whole week from the horrific roll-out of Mr. Obama’s pet healthcare project, and back-burnered numerous simmering issues like the IRS scandal, NSA snooping, Democrats’ divisions over Larry Summers and Obama’s mortifying stumble on Syria.
Ted Cruz temporarily saved the president’s lunch, and should not be forgiven.
He also put Republicans on the defensive after months in which voters were warming to the loyal opposition.
Polling showed the GOP had scored welcome gains across the board on foreign policy, dealing with the economy, and reducing the federal deficit.
One poll actually showed the public trusting Republicans more than Democrats on healthcare – a first. That momentum was blown by Mr. Cruz’ showboating.
The budget deal should not, however, have Republicans cowering in their corners.
The ObamaCare fiasco is just heating up; even when the Healthcare.gov website is fixed, the false promises about being able to keep your insurance and about lower premiums will haunt Democrats running in 2014.
Also, the economy continues to falter.
These two issues – ObamaCare and the tepid recovery -- should prove golden for the GOP -- but only if candidates stick to the script.
If they don’t, they will follow Mr. Lohta, who is sinking fast as he runs from his “Republican” label.
New York surely leans left, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans 6 to 1, but for the past 12 years the city has enjoyed a mayor who put job growth first, and whose business-friendly policies have enjoyed enormous success.
New Yorkers are perhaps weary of their insouciant mayor, but they are not indifferent to the safe streets and healthy economy that he has delivered.
Similarly, in Virginia, Cucinelli has distanced himself from his predecessor Bob McDonnell, a fellow Republican who is in hot water over a gifts scandal. However, it is worth noting that in spite of ethics lapses, McDonnell retains approval ratings higher than President Obama.
Why? Because he has focused on economic development, and has brought Virginia’s unemployment rate down to 5.7% from 7.4%.
While the United States as a whole has seen a similar drop in the unemployment rate, the decline has mainly stemmed from a fall-off in the number of people looking for work.
Not so in Virginia, where the labor force has grown by more than 110,000 workers, and the number of employed has risen 173,000. And this, in a state where fully 17% of the workforce toils for Uncle Sam, a sector that has shown little growth.
There is a lesson here – for all GOP candidates. According to a newly-released poll from CBS News, Americans still rank jobs as their number one priority – by a large margin.
Mitt Romney ran away from his fabulously successful business career – a career that prepared him to grow the economy – failing to convince voters that he could provide jobs.
Lhota is not banging away on this central issue, nor is Cucinelli.
How many more Republicans will go down in flames before they realize that this is their strong suit? Not gay marriage, not abortion, not immigration – jobs.
After the November election, Governor Bob McDonnell said Republicans needed to better articulate the "conservative message of an opportunity society" for America. He is so right.