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10 things Republicans must do in 10 weeks

By Ed Hornick, CNN
Members of the Republican House leadership introduce the party's "America Speaking Out" campaign in May. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is at far right.
Members of the Republican House leadership introduce the party's "America Speaking Out" campaign in May. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is at far right.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Republicans must focus on creating jobs and improving the economy, strategist says
  • GOP needs to be the party of ideas, CNN's Mark Preston says
  • Republicans are also urged to appeal to independents
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Washington (CNN) -- With the midterm elections just 10 weeks away, analysts expect big wins for Republicans.

But strategists and analysts say there are some key things the GOP must do to win over the American people and have a chance of taking back control of Congress.

1. Focus on jobs, jobs, jobs

Ron Christie, a Republican strategist who worked for former President George W. Bush, said that Republicans must play up how Democrats have focused too much energy on issues other than jobs.

"I think Republicans are poised to make significant gains in the House, if not outright control, and bolster their significant minority status in the Senate by talking about one thing, and that's jobs," he added. "And within the jobs mantra, it's how they would strengthen the economy."

Christie said that it's incumbent upon Republicans to make the case why they should be trusted with the "keys to the car" and why they should be "given the chance to drive the cars of government once again."

2. Become the party of solutions, not "no"

Democrats have argued throughout policy debates in Congress that Republicans are the "party of no" and the "party of obstruction" -- standing firm against important legislation simply to undermine Democrats. Republicans argue they are trying to stop the Democrats' radical agenda from becoming law.

"One of the biggest challenges for Republicans heading into November is that they need to be the party of ideas," said Mark Preston, CNN senior political editor. "They just can't be the party of obstruction ... but to also offer solutions to some of the problems that are facing the nation."

Christie added that in order to win over voters, his party needs to "rebuild the breach of trust" they've lost in articulating their vision and ideas to fix kitchen table issues.

Related: 10 things Obama must do in 10 weeks

3. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist, noted it's important for Republicans to look forward as they campaign.

"Fundamentally, every midterm election is a contest about the future, what you're going to do, what the next day's going to look like," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "And whether or not the voters want to see a relitigation of the past at a time where they are obviously very angry about the present and not too hopeful about the future is a very big mistake."

Christie said that health care policy is a case in point:

"Just saying no to health insurance is not the way forward for Republicans in this election," he said.

4. Offense is the best defense

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the first to admit his party is on the offense this election cycle and is confident his party will prevail in November.

"The American public has taken a look at this administration," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday. "They think it's spending too much, borrowing too much, taking over too much of the private sector and now raising taxes on top of it. ... There are 70 some odd days between now and the election. I'm optimistic."

The Republican Party by most accounts was left for dead in 2009, with no real leader and a party apparatus in disarray, Preston said. But things quickly changed.

House Republicans, he said, were the "first glue to try to pull the party back together and that was their opposition to the stimulus. And from there, they were able to build upon that."

5. Offer a "Contract with a America" Part II

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been credited with Republicans taking back control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections. His "Contract with America" -- a set of party principles and policy solutions -- resonated with voters.

It's something Republicans should use once again to drive home their message to the electorate, Christie said.

"Republicans need to articulate why they should be given the trust and the responsibility to drive the course of the nation," he said. "I think if there are five or 10 specific areas that, if given the trust, the Republicans would do and would enact within an amount of time, I think that would be very strong because people could look very clearly and delineate what the Republican message and what the Republicans platform is expressed to be."

6) Embrace tea party support with caution

While the tea party is not an official political party, it is a visible and vocal movement. It's concerned about government spending and a growing deficit, which are traditional conservative issues.

McConnell noted on Sunday that the movement has been "extremely helpful" and has "produced a lot of energy in our primaries and I think it's going to produce victories in November."

But Preston warned that Republicans should proceed with caution, because the tea party movement "really prides itself on being very independent and not tied to Washington."

"While Republicans need to embrace them, they can't try to pull them in into their wings and have them be their soldiers heading into November," he added.

7. Avoid social issues

In a year when the economy is issue No. 1, observers argue Republicans don't need to bring up hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage, which normally revs up the base. This year, they say, the base is energized and ready to take back control.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian group, said that Republicans should be "consistently maintaining a general drumbeat of messaging on core conservative principles of individual liberty, individual responsibility, free-market economy, tax reform, strong national defense and a confident foreign policy" rather than weighing in on same-sex marriage.

8. Appeal to independents

Independents are widely credited for helping Barack Obama win office in 2008. But a lot has changed since then. Polls show that independents have drifted away from the president and his party.

Courting independents, then, is vital.

"The Republicans know that independents were an absolutely critical partner to Obama in the presidential election in 2008," said Jacqueline Salit, president of independentvoting.org, a national strategy and organizing center for independents. "So there's a lot of energy going into trying to peel independents away and turn them back to center-right."

9. Channel Bill Clinton (yes, Bill Clinton)

Perhaps surprisingly, Christie said Republicans should channel former President Bill Clinton's optimism and love of country when on the campaign trail.

"President Clinton was very much a strong supporter of this country. He loved this country. He clearly connected with the constituents that elected him," he said. "You contrast that with a president who seems self-pitying; who seems to loathe political opposition; who seems to be in a position that 'I'm somehow above the fray and that these are my policies, take 'em or leave 'em.' "

10. Turn the Bush blame game around

Obama has recently begun to blast Bush and his administration for causing the country's current economic conditions. Republicans jumped on that criticism, saying it shows a party that is afraid to run on its legislative record.

While polls show that Bush is still unpopular with most Americans, Republicans may be able use the Bush blame game against Democrats.

"I think rather than Republicans playing defense or speaking about President Bush or President Bush's record, they need to say that Democrats aren't willing to talk about moving forward. And we are," Christie said. "And the longer that they dwell on the past, it shows that they are not up to the task of leading us forward in these difficult times."

 
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