THE BLOG
07/03/2006 08:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Republicans' Fall Election Theme Preview

Americans are now in the midst of the July 4th summer driving season with the backdrop of the highest gasoline prices ever. And to top it off, we were recently treated to the pronouncement by Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman and other Republican spokesmen that if the Democrats take control of Congress in November, gas prices would go to $3.75 per gallon. This is the worse kind of desperation fear politics -- something Democrats did for years with Social Security. I deplore both sides for employing gutter level politics, but since Republicans are currently in charge, their actions have more significance and thus deserve more attention. Besides, the President's program to reform Social Security only confirmed many Democrats' fears about Republican plans for Social Security.

The gas price increase assertion needs to be addressed first for the fallacy in the charge itself, and second because it further provides a glimpse of what we can look forward to as the overall Republican fall campaign theme. First, the gas increase charge. Republicans have always argued that it makes no sense to charge oil companies and their executives with collusion and price gouging because oil prices are determined by the forces of a free market where prices are impacted by the competitive dictates of supply and demand. Furthermore, they more recently argue that in this new global economy, the energy demands of China and India, coupled with uncertainty in world security and natural disaster production interruptions have all had more impact on prices than any unproved charge that they just want to increase industry profits.

Fine. But if this is true, then the only way a Ken Mehlman or any other Republican could make the charge that gas prices will go to $3.75 if Democrats take control in November would be if they knew of or were part of a conspiracy or collusion by oil companies to deliberately manipulate prices upward if Democrats win. The goal would be to embarrass the Dems and cause them to lose favor with the American people. I for one don't believe for a second that the Bush Administration is championing such deplorable activity. Instead, I just think that Mehlman and other Republicans forgot that they are public servants who should always place the public interest above partisan politics and who should not use politics of fear or personal destruction to make their point. If this was happening for the first time, we could forgive and forget. But since this scenario happens so frequently with this Administration, we may forgive, but instead of forgetting, we should remember this at least until November 2.

And how convenient is it that gas prices have shot up again this week just in time for the heavy July 4th travel weekend after dropping a bit after the Memorial Day increase. Must be purely coincidence.

But equally as important as refuting the charge that a Democratic controlled Congress would drive gas prices to $3.75, the charge itself reveals the fall campaign strategy that Republicans hope will enable them to retain control of the Congress. Their theme message here is that no matter how bad you think things are now, it will be so much worse if the Democrats win. Frankly, there is no tradition in America of electing candidates to office in off year mid-term elections based on "how much worse it will be if their opponents win."

Americans elect candidates based on the positive message they present, their likability, or their ability to convince us that they have the best solutions to the problems we face in the society at that time. And if they are already serving in office, then Americans re-elect them based on evaluating their performance while serving -- and this is particularly true during Midterm elections.

That's why the Presidential Party in power almost always loses seats during off-year mid term elections. And the characteristics of this year's election look worse for Republicans than they did for Democrats in 1994, when Dems were swept out of power in both Houses. Candidates up for re-election either run on their record, or they run away from it. But they don't run and win by concentrating on the potential damage the other guy's unknown record might cause. And there certainly is no reason to start now.

Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and some suggest, the Supreme Court. Yet, they want to make the November elections a referendum on the performance of Democrats. Good luck with that. And with the Iraq war still draining 10 billion a month from US Taxpayers, violence there not reduced with Al Zaquawi's death, gas prices up again, immigration reform stalled, and proposals for ethics reforms in Congress stalled, this Republican controlled Congress is devoting its time to flag burning amendments and banning gay marriage. And even more hypocritical, Democrats propose a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq that Republicans condemn as "cut and run" and the President attacks as "giving the enemy a chance to plan based on our intentions." Two days later, General Casey, on behalf of the Administration, announces virtually the same plan except his plan calls for FEWER troops still left by the end of 2007, and they label his plan a bold new move to win the peace. Again, I close with the Newt Gingrich suggested theme for Democrats in the fall campaign -- "HAD ENOUGH?"