The Blog

Has the GOP Become the Grand 'Old' Party?

The battle over the Hagel nomination is really a 'proxy war' for control of the Republican Party.

Is the Republican Party so out of touch, bereaved of energy, leadership and ideas that their only hope of survival is to game the system Vegas style?

Since their resounding defeat in the presidential election, the GOP has been doing some soul searching looking for answers and an identity.

This past week in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Republicans had a retreat and this internal battle was on full and at times embarrassing display.

It seems that the Republican Party has decided that their basic identity - who they are and what they stand for - is not the problem.

Almost all of the Republican leaders continue to deny that their values and principles are the problem - refusing to adjust or update them to meet the changing times, attitudes and demographics.

It also seems that the Republican Party is unwilling to recognize that the next generation of their own party is not as anti-gay, pro-life, anti-immigrant or anti-environment as the older generation who currently form their base.

They are unwilling to recognize the few members of their own party who are brave enough to push for change and are trying modernize the views of the GOP from within.

Instead, they are intent on blaming the delivery of their message and particular messengers for their failures.

For example, they blame the Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks of their party for sullying their image but they refuse to oppose their underlying philosophy.

What they do openly admit is that there is a demographic problem which must be addressed or the GOP is headed toward extinction.

Since they refuse to deal with the fact that their views and message may simply not be appealing to enough of the American electorate to win, they have started looking for others ways to game the system.

In the last election many people believe that the GOP push for tighter Voter ID laws in many swing states was designed to suppress the minority vote which is traditionally Democratic.

Whatever the motivation, those rules had the opposite affect and motivated voters to go out and vote to protect their franchise.

The latest GOP idea is to change the way electoral votes are awarded on a state by state basis in a way that might give them an advantage in the Electoral College system.

The Republicans in several swing states are trying to change the rules that apportion Electoral College Votes in the presidential election - moving away from the "winner take all" approach of many states.

In these six states - Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia - the Republicans are trying to apportion the Electoral College Votes according to congressional districts won instead of to the presidential candidate who won the state overall.

Under this system, Electoral College Votes would be awarded to the candidate who wins each congressional district.

This system would have created an advantage for Republicans in the last election since the Republican state legislatures have drawn congressional district maps that pack as many Democrats into as few districts as possible.

In other words creating more Republican congressional districts in these states.

Under this system the winner of the popular vote in the state could end up with less Electoral College Votes in the presidential election.

In the last election Obama carried fewer congressional districts than Romney in all these states, but Obama won them by running up big margins in his congressional districts.

This was part of Obama's very tactical campaign strategy.

The electoral demographer Alan Abramowitz calculated that if these six states had used the method the GOP is proposing last year, Romney would have won the election 271-267.

He also reckoned that if every state had counted electoral votes this way, Romney would have won 276-262.

This would have given Romney a victory over Obama who won the election by five million more popular votes.

This legislative effort which at best is 'gaming the system' has been endorsed by the chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus.

There have been efforts in the past to 'fix' or eliminate the Electoral College. It was almost eliminated with bipartisan support in the early 1970s.

However, these efforts were focused on moving the system closer to electing the winner of the popular vote and not on finding a way to allow a candidate who looses the popular vote to become the victor.

We all remember the furor over Bush v Gore 2000!

Since the Democrats do not have control in many of these state legislatures and Governor's Mansions, these changes could become a reality.

Stay tuned! More to come!

Obama New Term - New Team

President Obama's second term team is taking shape. This time the President has picked a team of insiders and not a team of rivals.

In terms of Obama's nominations to key Cabinet positions, there is a clear emphasis on national security and economic and international affairs: Senator John Kerry for State, former senator Chuck Hagel for defense and White House chief of staff Jack Lew for Treasury.

John Kerry - Secretary of State

The John Kerry confirmation hearing was a 'love fest' as Kerry answered questions from his former colleagues on the same Senate Committee he has chaired for many years.

Kerry will be approved!

Chuck Hagel - Secretary of Defense

Thursday will be former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel's turn to defend himself before his former Senate colleagues.

Do not expect a love fest here. Several Republican Senators have already indicated they are planning to extract their pound of flesh.

In addition to his former Republican Senate colleagues who are no longer his friends - like John McCain - there are fiver Super PACs who have has raised over $500 million dollars to finance ad campaigns designed to defeat the Hagel nomination in key targeted states.

This is the first time a post Citizens United Super PAC will be used for this purpose.

These are the same types of Republican and Democratic Super PACs that played an active and significant role in the Republican Primaries and in the General Election.

They do not have to disclose who their donors are and several of them are now focused on the Hagel nomination - 'Americans for a Strong Defense', 'Use Your Mandate' and 'American Future Fund' are just a few.

The Hagel nomination will be attacked in ads from both the right and the left for different reasons.

Along with the Senators who are not fans and the Super PACs, Hagel also has to face the wrath of the George W Bush Neo-Cons including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Dan Senor, etc. who are already waging war against the former Vietnam War Veteran and Nebraska Senator.

This is a true battle royal for them since Hagel does not share their post 9-11 philosophy of preemptive war.

Hagel has also been criticized for his 'weak' support of Israel and for comments he made about an openly gay nominee for an Ambassador post during the Clinton administration.

The battle over the Hagel nomination is really a 'proxy war' for control of the Republican Party.

Hagel represents the 'old style' wing of the Republican Party that we last experienced with President George HW Bush, Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage - and he is indeed being challenged by the President GW Bush Neo-Cons and the like minded.

This will be a brutal process.

Most informed sources believe the odds are still good that Hagel will be confirmed unless he dramatically fails to give an impressive presentation before his former colleagues.

If the Senate Committee does not fold under outside pressure from these groups, my money is on Chuck Hagel to be confirmed.

Jack Lew - Secretary of the Treasury

A date for the Lew confirmation hearing has not been announced.

With the debt ceiling fight, Sequestration and the other budget battles all put off for another three months, Obama's opponents in the Republican Party are taking a politically calculated break on these issues.

This also has allowed Timothy Geithner, whose last day as secretary was on Friday, the freedom to say Good Bye!

This post also appears on Sky News.