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January 20, 2018

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Republicans’ rocky road

Check out yesterday's Sunday New York Times Magazine for a great piece on how the political landscape has shifted considerably in just a short couple of years, with Republicans losing once-safe districts and facing the prospect of a long night in the wilderness.

The piece's main character is Rep. Tom Cole, a former political consultant turned pol who heads up the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Key section: "Cole maintains that the 2006 election was an event of equal scale and significance to the Republican victory in 1994 ‹ 'in many ways, it’s a flip.' Republican operatives now worry that the social conservatism that helped seal Rove’s majorities might create for them a deficit that lasts a generation, that the party’s position on social issues like gay marriage may permanently alienate younger, more moderate voters."

The problems: Less affluent, socially conservative voters looking to Democrats on bread and butter economic issues. They were given very little relief during the Bush years, when wages have stagnated but costs of gas and food have soared. Also, the young, who have turned away from Republicans

more than any demographic has shunned a party in memory. Finally, middle class suburban voters have left the Republican Party, as Democrats have captured the center.

There's the possibility for a comeback: Mainly that the Republican presidential nominee has been chosen, and the Arizona Sen. John McCain has some crossover appeal that could help Republicans in parts of the country where they've become persona non grata. But Cole seems to acknowledge that we don't live in a far-right country and never really have. Karl Rove overreached -- big time, to use a V.P. Cheney phrase.

Rep. Jon Porter is the Nevadan with the most at stake in this shifting landscape, and he appears to realize it, voting in lock-step with the conservatives far less than in previous terms and pushing a "suburban agenda" that seeks to deal with concrete problems average people are experiencing.

Mike Mishak and I wrote a piece a year ago about Republican malaise. Read it here.

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