Friday, January 21, 2011

GOP starting to look more like Democrats

At least in the traditional sense that Democrats can't keep a consistent message to save their lives win an election, the Republican party is starting to adopt their maladaptive tendencies. Tea Party action figure Michelle Bachmann will deliver a rogue response to the President's State of the Union address next Tuesday in addition to the actual Republican leader that the party has asked to deliver a response. The Republican response to the State of the Union Address will be Paul Ryan, the House Republican budget czar.

The Tea Party Express, a national umbrella group funded by Koch Bros Inc., will be live streaming her response. It is unclear whether her response will directly conflict with Representative Ryan's response.

Either way, there is no way this can be good for the Republican party. The largest problem is that it diverts the faithful from the leadership. If a Republican activist is going to watch the SOTU and then seek out the a Republican response, she will now have to choose between party leadership's handpicked budget man or Michelle Bachmann. Following the year of the "uniquely motivated voter" many of those activists will choose to listen into the Tea Party communique. This will probably shrink the pool of activists who will watch Ryan's address, as really, who has the energy to sit down and watch three speeches in a night? (I'm giving way too much credence to the idea that Republican activists care enough about the State of the Union to watch Obama's speech here, but you get the point). Ryan's speech presents an opportunity to bring the uniquely motivated voter into the GOP fold for the next year at least, inviting them to align with the House leadership. Michelle Bachmann's address will definitely be to the right of Ryan's address, making her look like a more natural leader in the upcoming fights. Multiple leaders heading into a legislative effort will create crossfire among the splintered Republican factions, quibbling over small priority differences instead of presenting a united front against the Democrats.

This scenario is the one that Democrats always find themselves in, but was particularly evident during the health care slog. There was a lot of sniping from the wings of the party about details instead of driving home the message that health insurance companies had gotten out of hand and needed to be reined in.

The second audience who will watch Bachmann's address is political junkies, journalists, and bloggers. There's not going to be much oxygen in the traditional media for Bachmann stories over the next few days after her address, but she could still provide an embarrassing moment for her party. On a night when the President speaks, he will get the vast majority of media attention. The coverage coming out of the speech will be driven by his message, with some mention of the Republican response.

Now that there are two Republican responses, Ryan could have trouble driving the Republican message. If Bachmann says anything newsworthy, it will cut into Ryan's coverage in the national media. If she doesn't, it could still provide a distraction. In a nightmare scenario for the Republican message, the two might contradict each other, making the main story coming out of the SOTU "Obama working hard for American people, Republicans bicker among themselves."

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