The newest GOP group aimed at re-energizing the troubled party will hold a second event next week, but political observers say a Republican comeback depends more on Democrats screwing up.
“For the out party to come back, the in party has to screw up. That's history,” said John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.
“A lot of [the national political scene] is beyond their control," Pitney said.
The National Council for New America, the group launched in early May by House Republican Whip Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (Va.), will host another event on July 22, The Hill reported Thursday. On Friday, Cantor announced the event would focus on healthcare and will feature Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.).
Cantor is a rising star in the party, and his group is intended to be a GOP think-tank that will help the party come up with the new arguments and ideas to return to power.
But political observers are skeptical of what new ideas will emerge. They also say it might not matter.
“Are there any new ideas in the Republican Party? I don't think so. Does it matter in the short term? Probably not,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report. “They're going to succeed in the short term by throwing rocks and by attacking.”
Cantor, for one, has earned headlines in recent days by attacking the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law by Obama as a bust.
Republicans can probably learn from Democrats, who only recently emerged from the wilderness. The unpopular war in Iraq and ethical lapses by Republicans helped Democrats take back Congress, and later the White House.
Now that they’re in charge, Democrats have ownership of the government. The GOP, meanwhile, isn't in charge and therefore is under little pressure to offer alternatives that will never be considered.
Instead, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats pursue major healthcare reform on top of cap and trade legislation and the economic stimulus plan, Republicans can attack.
But the GOP may have a long wait before Democrats and the president plummet to earth. Polls have shown the American electorate is skeptical about some of Obama's plans, but voters still overwhelmingly trust the president over Congressional Republicans to handle every issue from the national deficit to health care reform to the economy and even the threat of terrorism.
Meanwhile, Republicans face constant questions about who, if anyone, leads the party; voters view Congressional Republican leaders unfavorably, if they know them at all; and seemingly constant revelations about affairs Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) had undermine the party's stated commitment to family values.
And all that comes before the hangover left over by President Bush, who remains unpopular and who polls show still shoulders blame for the recessed economy.
As Democratic approval ratings shrink, however slowly, Cantor's organization is putting itself in a political position to be able to capitalize if Americans turn to the minority party for ideas.
“Our goal was to engage members of Congress in a dialogue, and that dialogue is an ongoing process in which we look at the the problems of the American people and figure out relevant conservative policies to address those problems,” said Rob Collins, a Cantor spokesman.
Democrats, noting the group hasn’t been seen in more than two months, argue Cantor is engaging in little more than a public relations stunt.
Still, the organization could help Cantor's national stature, and while they may have to wait for Democratic missteps, the GOP wants to be in a position to pounce.
“We're going to be addressing policies like healthcare, like cap and trade, like tax hikes, that Democrats are pushing through Congress, and working to develop policies that show the American people there are alternatives to these big government, big spending, big borrowing programs,” Collins said.