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Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Posted: August 24, 2010 12:31 PM

The name of the game for the Obama administration comes down to three words: the House of Representatives, not Congress, just the House. If the GOP takes it back it will spell disaster for the Obama administration. A GOP-run House will stall, dodge, and effectively stymie any and every spending initiative and bill that President Obama proposes. The GOP then will turn around and paint the administration as hostile, confrontational, ineffectual, and a promoter of gridlock.

GOP leaders have concocted a masterful strategy to grab the House. The ploy is this: appear statesmanlike, pragmatic and thoughtful. This means downplay the GOP's stock inflammatory, wedge issues of abortion, and gay marriage. At the same time, avoid capitalizing on fringe, controversial and impassioned issues, such as the looming battle over the "Ground Zero Mosque," Obama's birth certificate, and his religion, scotch any talk of repealing the 14th Amendment, and do not openly renew the battle over the health care reform law. Relentlessly play to the two major fears and concerns of Americans: the economy and government spending. In the process, stress openness and flexibility. This makes it appear that the GOP is prepared to take the political and principled high ground and shed the image of itself and Congress as a deal-making, clubby, disconnected, alien presence that a majority of Americans now hold in contempt.

Next, clean up the GOP's horrible image of a party that let its House members run wild and engage in influence peddling, taking bribes, campaign pay-offs, and tax cheating. The GOP will solemnly pledge to be vigilant and hawk-like in policing Congress and crack down on any and all ethics violations by Democrat and Republican lawmakers. They will preach bipartisanship to the public. This is especially crucial since polls show that voters are fed up and disgusted with the partisan bickering of the past two years. Much of the blame for that has fallen on the heads of the GOP. This has richly earned it the tag as the party of no, negativism, and know-nothing.

GOP House leaders also remember the past when it took back the House in 1994. They were roundly assailed for doing everything they could to shut down government by blocking then President Bill Clinton's spending programs. It backfired. Democrats jumped all over this and hammered House Speaker Newt Gingrich as petty, vindictive and hurtful to the country for the House budget standoff with Clinton. The odor and backlash from this almost certainly contributed to Clinton's re-election in November 1996.

Craft a moderate, conservative blueprint for change, that casts GOP leaders as wise, visionary, and defenders of the public pocketbook. The aim is to sufficiently prod the base to turn out in big enough numbers to swing several potential cliff hanging races to GOP candidates and incumbents.

GOP House leaders have ripped a page from Gingrich's old playbook, the Contract with America in 1994, and plan to roll out their plan for running the House in the fall with the catchy and populist sounding title Speaking Out Project. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who likely would be the House majority leader if the GOP ploy works, has gone further and announced that he and several other House GOP conservatives will put out their own book that lays out a sweeping GOP agenda for the country.

The GOP must appear at all times to make nice about Obama when touting their agenda and plan for House governance on the campaign trail in the fall. They will say and do nothing to raise warning flags that a GOP-run House will be mean-spirited, extremist and hateful of Obama. This would simply stack up more ammunition for Obama and the Democrats to blast the GOP as unfit to lead.

GOP congressional leaders have tested parts of the strategy by keeping strict silence on the mosque flap and the 14th Amendment controversy. They have focused their campaign prep talks on the economy. The test of course, will be in November. The GOP banks that public anger and disgust at the Democrats, the dropping approval numbers for Obama, the traditional gains the party out of power makes in mid-term elections, and the stagnating economy, will make enough voters see the GOP as the sensible, alternative to an allegedly profligate spending, ethics scandal plagued, much too liberal House and Obama administration that's way out of touch with American voters. It's this frightening possibility that the GOP will succeed that spells disaster for the Obama administration.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson