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.

McCain, Graham Warn GOP May Be in Trouble (AP)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DaveD says:

    I guess the first step on the road to recovery is recognizing that one has a problem. McCain and Graham recognize that. My question is whether the President also truly sees that there is a credibility problem and if so does he care enough about the Republican Party after his term in office is over to help do something about it. Regaining credibility might be very tough but I agree with you that, with the public also skeptical of the Democratic Party, it seems a relatively favorable environment in which the Republicans can make the effort. I’ll also add my two cents to your statement about fiscal discipline. I agree, everyone loves the concept but no one wants to be inconvenienced by it’s implementation. Heck, Americans have been trained to survive on credit.

  2. Fersboo says:

    I’d rather see Hillarious win then Maverick McCain. If it comes down to these two, I’m staying home.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “…given that they control the White House and, theoretically at least, the Congress.”

    “Theoretically?” Really? I had no idea that the Dems have some secret control of Congress that we don’t know about…

  4. James Joyner says:

    AIP: The key word is “control.” The GOP controls the House but, with far less than a veto proof majority, no one controls the Senate. One would rather be in the Republicans’ position that the Democrats’, to be sure, but the filibuster and other obstructionist capabilities built into Senate rules makes it hard for all but the strongest majorities to get their way.

  5. bithead says:

    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

    Would you expect them NOT to say this?
    After all, they’ve both been looking for a wedge to push their own politics for a long time.