Silver Linings

The electoral aftermath of President Obama's election began a chain reaction of appointments that can only be a silver lining among the storm clouds for Republicans.

The two most controversial appointments, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Roland Burris (D-Ill.), emerged from a process that can only be termed national jokes. Not a day passed when, whether on “The Daily Show,” David Letterman or Jay Leno, the respective sideshows that were the selection processes weren’t held up for ridicule.

These two Democrats are sure to face bitter, divisive primaries should they run to be seated for a full term. In New York, the two Carolyns — not to be confused with The Two Coreys — Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy, are criticizing Gillibrand's experience and voting record, with McCarthy threatening a primary. Echoing this is New York GOP Congressman Pete King, who called the pick — which angered both the Kennedy and Cuomo dynasties — a "fraud."

The fiasco that led to Burris's selection all but guarantees stiff challenges in the primary and general. Perhaps that is one of the reasons President Obama selected former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) to serve in his Cabinet — to prevent LaHood from mounting a campaign for the seat. As Nicholas Wapshott noted in Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, President Gerald Ford used the same reasoning for offering Reagan a place in the Cabinet or an ambassadorship, knowing that "to become a subordinate in an administration imposed a duty of loyalty."

These newly sworn-in senators, along with Colorado's Michael Bennet, will feel a pressure to perform — and perform quickly — to properly position themselves for primary challenges that may be all but inevitable.

As the GOP works to re-make itself, which speaks to the core question of the race for chairman of the Republican National Committee — "What is the future of the Republican Party?" — Republicans must know that from struggle comes opportunity.

The opportunities are there. Aside from the three previously mentioned Senate races, GOP pickup opportunities exist in Gillibrand's Republican-leaning congressional seat, the Governor's Mansion in Arizona and, in what promises to be a national spectacle, the campaign to replace Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

But let's wait and see what he says on "The View" first ...