National Republican Party seeking consensus as 2016 election nears

By Saba Long

A few days ago, Arizona’s GOP leadership formally censored the state’s senior U.S. Sen. John McCain for what they deem to be a liberal voting record.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who infamously stated that the single most important thing the Republican Party could achieve was for President Barack Obama to be a one-term president, is facing primary opposition for not being a conservative Republican.

His opponent, Matt Bevin, has secured an endorsement from FreedomWorks and the Madison Project. The latter was instrumental in the election bids of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

(It is worth noting, Georgia’s 11th District candidate Barry Loudermilk is also one of the 14 candidates the Madison Project is endorsing this year.)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), another establishment Republican, is facing four primary opponents in his re-election bid. Why? He is not enough of an obstructionist.

On Tuesday, President Obama will give his fifth State of the Union address; the Republican response will resemble a repertory theatre of sorts.

Giving the official counter is U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington state — the evergreen state and the ranking Republican woman in Congress. Washington has voted Democrat in every presidential elections since Dukakis, and the majority of the state’s executives are Democrats.

Also, it is the only state in the union where recreational marijuana, same-sex marriage and assisted suicide are all legal. Perhaps in choosing U.S. Rep. Rodgers, the GOP leadership is showing an interest in relaxing its long-held opinions on some or all of these issues. Or, the party is looking for an answer to Hillary Clinton. Rodgers has called the so-called war on women — a “myth”.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R- Utah) is giving the official Tea Party response. That had been given by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in 2013; Georgia’s own Herman Cain in 2012; and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R- Minn.) who delivered the first Tea Party response in 2011.

Separate from Lee’s speech, Rand Paul is to deliver his own post-SOTU message via social media. Speaking recently with CNN’s Candy Crowley, the Kentucky libertarian remarked the state of the union is struggling and stagnant.

Of late, his message has been more practical and inclusive from calling for compromise where possible on Capitol Hill to addressing concerns in relation to the NSA’s domestic spying on U.S. citizens. While calling whistleblower Edward Snowden’s actions “against the law” he states labeling him a traitor is “overheated rhetoric”.

For independent voters in particular, Tuesday’s speeches amount to a partisan ping-pong match with words like patriot, compromise and opposition being tossed around. U.S. Rep. Rodgers will likely focus on unifying the party, smart negotiations with Democrats and attempt to erase gaffes like the recent comment from former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Meanwhile Sen. Lee represents the polar opposite. He’s a “dig your heels in the ground” conservative fervently focused on reducing big government. And Mr. Paul is carefully towing both lines.

The road to 2016 is looking rocky with many casualties along the way. Let’s hope the GOP doesn’t lose its way in the process.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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