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November 8, 2018

The Battle for the ‘Burbs

The darkest electoral cloud for Republicans is in the suburbs. That must change.

While the GOP did as well as could be expected in governors’ races (the loss of Scott Walker is a bitter blow) and secured a historic win in the Senate (netting a gain of three seats), the loss of the House is a significant setback for the party and perhaps the first sign of looming defeat in future years. Why? The areas where many Republicans lost were the suburbs, and that may portend trouble ahead.

The Wall Street Journal notes, “The GOP lost House seats in the suburbs of Denver, Dallas, Houston, Des Moines, Minneapolis (two seats), Kansas City, Chicago, Richmond, Phoenix, and even Oklahoma City. They also lost in the longtime GOP stronghold of Staten Island.”

There are a number of reasons the GOP lost in the suburbs. Pete Sessions blamed his loss in a Texas district he represented for 16 years on the late John McCain’s decisive vote against the limited ObamaCare repeal in 2017. Other Republicans may have lost in heavily red states for turning their back on President Donald Trump, or because they embraced him too tightly. In some cases, it was just lackluster candidates.

The fact is, the suburbs have become the crucial battleground, and Republicans fell short in holding what had been a key to their coalition. Some of it was just the historical pattern of midterm elections. Part of it is due to understandable discomfort with Trump’s rhetoric and brash style. A fair bit of it was due to the constant lies that Republicans are racist, usually when they don’t do what Democrats want on immigration or other issues. That so many Americans believe that is a testament to the power of the Leftmedia and Silicon Valley.

We can’t do much about Trump’s rhetoric. At 72 years old, he is set in his ways. While he speaks the truth about media bias and issues like border security and illegal immigration, he makes people who would otherwise be persuaded cringe with how he talks about them. He is a very good campaign asset — as four GOP senators who defeated Democrats in these midterms can attest to. Unfortunately, he’s also a liability in too many areas.

In any case, good strategy and tactics are hard to find on the GOP side, and both are necessary due to Democrats’ storytelling advantage. But there are some things the GOP can do policy-wise and on the candidate-recruitment side to make things better.

Health care is a big issue. For eight years, the GOP has opposed ObamaCare but had no coherent plan to replace it, and it finally bit them in the rear. Republicans need to start moving the ball forward in a free-market direction. Major changes are off the table until 2021 at the earliest, but they can nibble at the edges while they develop an election strategy.

Another move is to pursue a major military buildup. With Democrats promising defense cuts in the face of a more dangerous Russia and China, this should be a given. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard all need major boosts in their force structure.

Third, Republicans need to push for an end to lawless actions on all fronts. Not just immigration, but bureaucratic abuse, the violent acts of antifa, and even the actions taken in corporate boardrooms against the Second Amendment need to be exposed in oversight hearings. Executive action is also an option (Trump still has the pen and the phone).

Finally, the GOP needs better candidate recruitment. As Republicans have a habit of doing, there were some duds nominated. In Virginia, Corey Stewart dragged down GOP representatives who were at risk. On the flip side, Beto O'Rourke’s unexpectedly strong performance helped Democrats take some seats in Texas. The key will be to find candidates who can push a Trump-like agenda while being capable of fighting back when falsely smeared as racist, homophobic, or worse — all with a more suburb-friendly tone. In other words, not your stereotypical Republican.

The Battle for the Suburbs hasn’t ended; in some ways, it has just begun. But the stakes are enormous in 2020. We will either see Democrats take even more control, or we will have a chance to restore a government to its constitutional boundaries.

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