Case in point, GS, note all the marketing lingo used by the pols here. The Republican "product" is damaged, the "name brand" is down, etc:
Republican Election Losses Stir Fall Fears
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By ADAM NAGOURNEY and CARL HULSE
Published: May 15, 2008
WASHINGTON ‚ÄĒ The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall.
he victory by Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat elected in a once-steadfast Republican district on Tuesday, was the third defeat of a Republican in a special Congressional race this year. In addition to foreshadowing more losses for the party in November, the outcome appeared to call into question the belief that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois could be a heavy liability for his party‚Äôs down-ticket candidates in conservative regions.
Republicans had sought to link Mr. Childers to Mr. Obama in an advertising campaign there. Republican leaders said they were looking to Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, as a model whose independent reputation appears to allow him to rise above party in a year when the Republican label seems tarnished.
But Mr. McCain‚Äôs advisers said the Mississippi race underlined his intention to distance himself as much as possible from Congressional Republicans. Mr. McCain has already been openly critical of some of President Bush‚Äôs strategies.
The level of distress was evident in remarks by senior party officials throughout the day.
‚ÄúThis was a real wake-up call for us,‚ÄĚ Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview. ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt let the Democrats take our issues. We can‚Äôt let them pretend to be conservatives and co-opt the middle and win these elections. We have to get the attention of our incumbents and candidates and make sure they understand this.‚ÄĚ
Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia and former leader of his party‚Äôs Congressional campaign committee, issued a dire warning that the Republican Party had been severely damaged, in no small part because of its identification with President Bush. Mr. Davis said that, unless Republican candidates changed course, they could lose 20 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate.
‚ÄúThey are canaries in the coal mine, warning of far greater losses in the fall, if steps are not taken to remedy the current climate,‚ÄĚ Mr. Davis said in a memorandum. ‚ÄúThe political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate and is far more toxic than it was in 2006.‚ÄĚ
The result in Mississippi, and what Republicans said was a surge in African-American turnout, suggested that Mr. Obama might have the effect of putting into play Southern seats that were once solidly Republican, rather than dragging down Democratic candidates.
Mr. McCain acknowledged the difficulties he and other Republicans face in this political environment. Asked at a news conference on Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, if the string of Republican losses suggested a problem with the Republican label and if he was worried it would spill over to him in November, Mr. McCain said, ‚ÄúSure, all of the above.‚ÄĚ
Mr. McCain added that he was confident that he would win, but said, ‚ÄúI have no illusions about this; this campaign will be a very difficult challenge.‚ÄĚ
At a tense, private post-mortem Wednesday morning, worried House Republicans demanded that their leadership come up with a plan to stave off potentially devastating losses in November. Republican officials said no leaders or top campaign strategists appeared to be in immediate danger of losing their positions, though in interviews, there was evidence of vast dissatisfaction, frustration and discouragement with the party‚Äôs position.
‚ÄúThe Republican brand is down, and it is going to be hard to get it back,‚ÄĚ said Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California.
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said it appeared that lawmakers might have to fend for themselves. ‚ÄúYou are going to have to run on who you are and establish some independence, and that is going to be tougher for some than others,‚ÄĚ Mr. King said.
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, did not go as far as his predecessor, Mr. Davis, in advising members to step away from Mr. Bush. But Mr. Cole, facing growing restiveness among Republicans about the party leadership, acknowledged the tumult in his party‚Äôs ranks and suggested that his committee would look for a change in strategy.
‚ÄúWhen you lose three of these in a row you have to get beyond campaign tactics and take a hard look and ask if there is something wrong with your product,‚ÄĚ he said.
Advisers to Mr. McCain said they thought the problems Congressional Republicans were having would not translate into significant problems for Mr. McCain. But they said it steeled their resolve to run a campaign that distinguished Mr. McCain from both Mr. Bush and a Congress where he has served, in the House and the Senate, since January 1983. They said Mr. McCain would seek ‚ÄĒ sometimes explicitly, sometimes not ‚ÄĒ to distance himself by speaking critically of what he has described as excessive spending in Washington, as well on issues like the environment.
There‚Äôs no question that the results in these special elections portend ominously for House Republicans, but they will have little impact on the presidential election campaign,‚ÄĚ said Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain.
The special election results left Democrats and Republicans in rare agreement about one thing: President Bush looms as a drag on Republicans. Democratic leaders said a combination of anxiety among voters about the state of the country and the prospect of an unusually heavy turnout of African-Americans meant that many new Senate and House seats could be in play, including those in states like North Carolina that just two years ago seemed out of reach for Democrats.
Woody Jenkins, a Louisiana Republican who lost in a special House election this month, said in an interview that the high African-American turnout in his district was ‚Äúprobably the decisive factor‚ÄĚ in his loss.
The election results also raised questions about what had been a main Republican strategy for the fall, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination: to link Democrats in conservative districts to Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama, campaigning in Sterling Heights, Mich., said the outcome in the Mississippi contest, to fill a ‚Äúhard-core Republican seat,‚ÄĚ proved that the strategy would not work.
‚ÄúThey lost it by eight points, and they did everything they could,‚ÄĚ Mr. Obama said. ‚ÄúThey ran ads with my face on it, and they said, ‚ÄėOh, you look at this, a former liberal, and his former pastor‚Äôs said offensive things. They were trying to do everything in the book to try to scare folks in Mississippi, and it didn‚Äôt work.‚ÄĚ
But Mr. Duncan, the Republican national chairman, said he thought the strategy would be effective as voters became aware of Mr. Obama‚Äôs liberal record in the months ahead.
The latest defeat prompted concern among Republican contributors as Mr. Obama has lapped Mr. McCain in raising money (though the Republican National Committee has outraised the Democratic National Committee).
Scott Reed, a former chief of staff to the Republican National Committee, said the defeat would dampen fund-raising. ‚ÄúRepublican leadership needs to really take a good look in the mirror,‚ÄĚ Mr. Reed said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre taking the party off the cliff.‚ÄĚ
Republican House members said the political terrain was tilted against them, and some expressed despair about the months ahead at the private meeting on Wednesday. One House Republican rated the panic expressed at the meeting as a 7 on a scale of 10.
Another Republican who spoke at the meeting, Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, said, ‚ÄúWe need to, No. 1, prove that we are listening to the American people, and, No. 2, show that we have a plan of action to respond to what they are telling us.‚ÄĚ
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address