Throw Out Atwater, Rove Playbook: GOP Can Only Re-Brand with New Voices

06/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Cheney likes Limbaugh and didn't know Powell was a Republican. Ron Christie says Powell does not represent the Republican party on MSNBC this morning. No one even says Senator John McCain's name any more, which could have a little something to do with why he lost as badly as he did after ending up the GOP Nominee.

The lack of GOP discipline, something they spent a long time being better at than the Democratic Party, is getting pretty extreme when this is what Republicans are saying. The ad asking whether it is 1996 or 2009 is a question Republicans should be asking themselves before they position leaders or say things that will only alienate the very voters they are losing.

I agree with the David Brooks philosophy, that Republicans need the center more than the far right, and won't create a winning formula until they do. But apparently Brooks doesn't have a lot of say in this. looked at the major national polls as they relate to party identification and found an 11-point margin for Democrats: 37 percent for Democrats, 26 percent for Republicans. Independents did 8 points better than Republicans, a trend that has been playing out for ten years in New Hampshire, as well as in other bellweather states.

The era of the Silent Majority, and Lee Atwater's playbook are over. Karl Rove's assumptions for winning worked in 2000 and 2004, but don't apply anymore. The Republicans don't just need to rebrand, they need new ideas and new voices.

The real action is in the 2010 Senate races. Pickups there are a more realistic focus now than trying to rebrand when there aren't any suitable spokespeople being listed by Republicans themselves. Imagine if a Democratic talk show host on the far left of the party who had been treated for drug abuse and said the kinds of things Limbaugh has were the titular head of the party?

If Florida Governor Crist becomes Senate-candidate Charlie Frist, that could be a good start for the Republican party. If Sen. Judd Gregg were to run for re-election in 2010 (mind you he didn't say he wouldn't, just that he probably wouldn't). In a recent UNH Granite State poll, Gregg leads Rep. Hodes, the only announced Democratic challenger, 52-36. Gregg's favorability rating is 57%. This is revealed in a different way in recent polls which show President Obama's approval rating in the mid-60s, about twice that of the approval rating of the Democratic-led Congress. That indicates an opportunity for Republican pickups.

If the GOP is intentionally positioning Limbaugh as its titular party head, or if he is simply the only person Republicans can think of, then the GOP's best chance for movement is clearly outside the beltway.