CRP Blog

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Governor Schwarzenegger: Lessons for Republicans

There's been a good deal of discussion on what Republicans can learn from Governor Schwarzenegger. After all, in a year when Republicans suffered nationally, the Governor defeated his Democrat opponent (what's his name, again?) by 16% in a state with over a million more Democrats than Republicans.

As state party Chairman, I see the most important lesson of Governor Schwarzenegger for Republicans is this: concede no issue to the Democrats.

A traditional partisan election contest sees Republicans running on their core issues (taxes, national defense, family issues) while the Democrats run on theirs (education, environment, health care). That's an approach that works fine for us in a heavy Rep district, but not in competitive districts. And California is one big competitive district.

Governor Schwarzenegger's approach has been to concede no issue to the Democrats: environment, health care, education -- the Governor shows absolutely no hesitation in taking on these issues, and putting his ideas on the table. He's put big plans on the table for environmental protection and health care, and education is coming.

Yes, Republicans have different approaches on the best ways to address these big issues where the Democrats have long held an advantage. The key here is that the Governor has started the discussion on these issues, and having Republicans put competing ideas on the table for how to improve health care, give kids a better start in life through education, and keep the Golden State Golden is a great thing for our party.

Political scientists refer to what the Governor is doing as "issue trespass" -- when someone from one party charges in and shifts attention onto issues that are traditionally a strength for the other party. We all watched this drive the Democrats nuts during last year's campaign because it robbed them of the issues they needed to rally and save Phil Angelides' flagging campaign.

We're a big party, with a lot of people of different backgrounds and ideas, and those ideas are reflected in the different approaches we're seeing to issues where Democrats have long held a monopoly.

I suspect that as a result of the Governor's approach, we'll see more Republican candidates and elected officials boldly proposing quality, Republican solutions to the entire array of domestic issues of concern to Californians.

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