WASHINGTON - GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of 10 leaders who attended a strategy session in Annapolis, Md., this week, said the party will attack Democrats relentlessly for the stimulus, health care and cap-and-trade bills. Internally, Republicans call it the “80-20 strategy,” which, loosely interpreted, means spending 80 percent of the time whacking Democrats and the remainder talking up their own ideas.
Cantor said he is more confident than ever this gives Republicans an authentic chance of netting the 40 seats they need, especially after reviewing data provided by five GOP pollsters during the leadership retreat. It showed what other public surveys reveal: widespread unease with Democratic policies.
Cantor conceded that the public is far from thrilled with the GOP — in fact, the party’s image is worse than the Democrats’ — but he argues that Republicans will benefit most from the public loathing of Washington. “I don’t think that we Republicans can even remember what it feels like to have wind at our back,” Cantor said. “We can win back the majority.”
Is this really possible? Independent analysts say it’s doubtful — but not implausible, for the very reasons Cantor cites. More likely, Republicans will trim a big chunk of the majority, perhaps by two dozen or more, but fall short of the 40-seat pickup they’d need to reclaim the majority, those analysts say.
What follows is the Republicans’ case for how and why they can pull it off.