McCain and Graham Say Republicans in Trouble
Two Senate Republicans known for going against the party line, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, told the AP that their party would be in trouble if this were an election year.
With the war in Iraq, higher energy costs and breakneck government spending, the GOP faces a tough round of congressional elections in 2006 unless things change, two key Republican senators warned during a campaign appearance. “I think if this were not an odd-numbered year, we would have great difficulties,” said U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain and fellow-Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were interviewed by The Associated Press when they stopped here Sunday night to campaign for Republican state Attorney General Henry McMaster.
“But we can recover,” McCain said. “Reagan recovered. Clinton recovered. We can recover.” The party must show “progress in Iraq, we need a comprehensive energy package and we need to stop this profligate spending,” he warned.
“If the election were tomorrow, we’d be in trouble,” agreed Graham, who said the party must work to cut spending. “If we really want to do well in 2006, we need to have fiscal discipline like Republicans campaigned on,” he said. “We have lost our way as a party. Our base is deflated and taxpayers don’t see any difference between us and the Democrats.”
There’s little doubt that the public thinks things are on the wrong track and there has been quite a bit of polling blaming Republicans for it, which is reasonable enough given that they control the White House and, theoretically at least, the Congress. Most of those polls, though, show the Democrats are held in just as low regard.
McCain’s prescription sounds about right. Certainly, the war in Iraq is the biggest issue. One could reasonably argue that the elimination of a despotic regime, two successful national elections, and the ratification of a first-ever democratic constitution constitutes “progress” [Update: Cori Dauber agrees and expands on the point] but we need to establish security and hand the mission off to Iraqi forces.
Energy is probably the biggest domestic issue, even though gas prices are back down to pre-Katrina levels. It’s not at all clear what a “comprehensive policy” would entail, though. There is nothing like a consensus on what to do about the problem.
And while I agree on the need for “fiscal discipline,” it’s only a political winner in an abstract sense. Yes, people want the government to “live within its means.” But, no, they don’t want to pay more taxes or see popular programs cut. The combination of an expensive, long-term war, an ever-expanding social welfare state, and an aging population base is not conducive to spending restraint.
Update: I forgot to mention the article’s closing:
McCain has been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008. He said he will not make a decision on a race until after next year’s elections. McCain, looking at Graham, told the crowd of about 100 people that “some people have said this might be a very attractive vice presidential candidate.” The crowd clapped and whistled. Graham simply smiled.
Graham was a McCainiac in 2000, so it’s a natural fit. I’m not sure whether the party faithful could be energized by such a duo but think the odds are better than they were a year ago.