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Have Republicans Diluted Their Brand Beyond Recognition?

This post originally appeared on the Washington Monthly. THE GANG THAT ONCE CONSIDERED ITSELF THE GROWN-UP PARTY.... In an op-ed this week, I made the case that Republicans are pursuing a strategy this year that breaks with a traditional model. After a couple of humiliating election cycles, the GOP could have moved away from the far-right and positioned itself as a more mainstream party, but instead, it moved even further to the right. If it's rewarded, the strategy will only encourage more political radicalism. The New York Times editorial board raises a related point this morning: Republicans sure have nominated a bunch of weirdos.
For months, it has been clear that Republican Congressional candidates would benefit from independent voters' dissatisfaction with President Obama. With the Republican field now largely in place, all voters might want to take a close look at who those candidates are. The party has nominated so many at the far right of the spectrum, as well as some other unusual choices -- Linda McMahon, the candidate for the United States Senate in Connecticut made millions running the sex-and-violence spectacle known as World Wrestling Entertainment -- that the Republican brand is barely recognizable.
That point about the GOP "brand" is especially interesting. For years, Republicans really had presented themselves to voters as responsible, dependable grown-ups, unlikely to do anything radical. That "brand" has deteriorated to the point of comedy. The editorial picked a handful of key statewide candidates -- the piece obviously could have been much longer -- but they're real doozies. The first is Ken Buck, the GOP's Senate candidate in Colorado, who wants to eliminate several cabinet agencies, repeal the 17th Amendment, and ignore church-state separation. The Times then notes Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, whose work you're probably familiar with. The editorial also highlights Mike Lee, the GOP's Senate candidate in Utah, who has problems with the 14th and 17th Amendments, and wants to lower the liability costs for oil companies that cause extensive environmental damage. Space concerns no doubt prevented the editorial from including more names, but if we're talking about Republicans running statewide who are very far to the right, it's only fair to also note Colorado's Dan Maes, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, Florida's Marco Rubio, and Minnesota's Tom Emmer. The NYT's editorial concluded, "These new Republican candidates are out of touch with mainstream American values of tolerance and pretty much everything else. They need to be challenged head-on." That makes sense, of course, but I also think it matters who's doing the challenging. In 2008, more than a few Republicans broke ranks and threw their support to Barack Obama. In 2010, are there still GOP leaders willing to stand up and say their party has fallen off the rails?
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