Strassel’s Warning to Republicans

Kimberly Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has a warning for Republicans:

Simply, Republicans must make the moral case for smaller, less-intrusive government, using examples such as Solyndra and Obamacare to highlight federal government overreach.

Strassel notes that voters connect “overspending” to the general incompetence of Washington – and Republicans as well as Democrats carry the Beltway stigma.  If Republicans want to win in 2012, they need to create a clear contrast with Democrats by explaining why overspending is damaging to the country.  They must provide concrete examples of government failure and explain what they would do differently.

Citing swing-state focus groups conducted by American Crossroads, she explains:

While this constituency is deeply disappointed in the president, it is deeply skeptical that Republicans offer anything better. Take the case of the debt, which these voters list as their second largest concern (after the economy).  What quickly became clear in the focus groups is that voters see the size of the debt as a proxy for Washington incompetence.

As a result, the constant GOP refrain that Mr. Obama has overspent—the “fiscal” argument—washes over these voters; they are convinced anyone in Washington would do the same. What resonates instead is the “moral” argument about the size of government. Complain to voters that Mr. Obama has “overspent,” and they tune out. Explain to voters that Mr. Obama—in keeping with his vision of all-powerful federal government—wasted millions on Solyndra with a loan that impeded private markets and created no jobs, and they are enraged.

The warning for Republicans, simply put:

If Republicans want to take the White House or the Senate, the next 11 months have to be an exercise in crisp compare-and-contrast. They have to explain Mr. Obama’s tax and regulatory and energy and health-care policy and make the “moral” argument against it. But to do that effectively they must simultaneously embrace and sell their own sweeping alternative vision of the universe. If Mitt Romney thinks he can win by out-pandering Mr. Obama with the middle class, he’s never seen Democrats pander. All he does is muddy a debate that demands clarity.

Go read the whole thing.

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