For the right, a lone bastion left

The Republican Party is now almost exclusively a creature of the House of Representatives.
 
Perhaps that is why Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate.
 
From the House perspective, it was a pretty good night.
 
They picked up a few seats despite a relatively easy victory by President Obama.
 
When you look at that sea of red in the map of the United States, that is all represented by House Republicans. Only a few of those districts voted for Barack Obama in this election.
 
As a guy who used to work for the House Speaker, I understand the strengths and the limitations of the lower chamber.
 
House Republicans tend to be much more conservative than Republicans in general. They are most vulnerable to primary challenges from the right, so they have to take all kinds of positions that wouldn’t make sense on a bigger stage.
 

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Because of redistricting, most of those seats are safe from challenge from the left. You can’t be too conservative in districts like these. But you can too conservative in states, even if they are red states, when you run for the Senate.

That is why the GOP is losing too many seats it should win in the Senate

Richard Mourdock was too conservative. Todd Akin was too conservative. Sharron Angle was too conservative. And the list goes on. They can’t win on the state level, especially if they make big mistakes.

Republicans are better when their governors are taking the lead. Governors have to run things. They have to make pragmatic choices. They don’t say things like “I want to get rid of FEMA.”

Romney used to be that kind of pragmatic governor. But then he had to run against a bunch of former members of the House (Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul) and he had to adopt many of their policy prescriptions just to get himself nominated.

The primary process was not kind to Romney. He had to take extreme positions during that process that systematically alienated key constituencies for the general election. He made himself vulnerable to charges that he would ban abortion, that he hated illegal immigrants, that he didn’t believe in climate change, that he wanted to get rid of all regulations, and so on. All of those moments found their way into Obama campaign commercials and helped to drive possible swing voters against him.

Romney’s worst moment was when he wrote an op-ed coming out against the Obama auto bailout. It was a stupid fight, but for many (but not all) House Republicans, it was exactly the right thing for Romney to say. And it killed him in Ohio. It absolutely killed him.

John Boehner is going to have his hands full as he navigates the next two years. He has to make certain that the House party doesn’t go so far to the right as to make it impossible for the Republican Party to be able to build an effective governing coalition to someday take back the White House.

Republicans are not without some power. But if that power is only used to obstruct the president instead of getting stuff done, it will further brand the party as out of touch and incapable of responsible leadership.