GOP Struggles To Define Its Message for 2006 ElectionsWhen asked to explain the Republicans' apparent turnaround, House majority leader Roy Blunt explained that the incumbent party doesn't have to prove themselves to voters the way the opposition does. He may be have a point there, but it's still always a bad sign when you start resting on your laurels.
While it is a Republican refrain that Democrats criticize Bush but have no positive vision, for now the governing party also has no national platform around which lawmakers are prepared to rally.
Every effort so far to produce such a platform has stumbled.
Republicans are engaged in a face-off in Congress over two sharply different views of how to deal with illegal immigration -- with no compromise in sight. The split between the White House and congressional Republicans over the Dubai port deal underscores cracks in the party's national security consensus and has given Democrats an opening to challenge the GOP on what has long been a core strength. Republicans do remain united behind Bush's Iraq policy, albeit nervously, with widespread concern that a violent and open-ended commitment in that nation will be a liability in November.
Because of these realities, Republicans have adopted a midterm strategy designed to avoid making the election a national referendum on their performance or one that focuses on their policy divisions. Their goal is to concentrate less on the kind of positive message they have challenged the Democrats to produce and more on framing a choice that says, however unhappy voters may be right now with the Republicans' leadership, things would be worse if Democrats were in charge.