Michael Barone is talking up the chances of a longshot Republican, Jim Ogonowski, who is running against Democrat Niki Tsongas in a special election in the Fifth District of Massachusetts. Ogonowski has become a cause of choice among members of the "rightroots," forward-looking Republicans like Patrick Ruffini who (in a neat historical reversal) are drawing on insights from the "netroots" on winning elections and shaping the ideological direction of their party.
Chances are that Ogonowski will lose. But how is it that Ogonowski is even remotely competitive in this deep blue district? Barone has a theory.
Ogonowski is running a 2007 campaign, emphasizing different issues from Republicans in 2004 or 2006. One is taxes. With the Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2010, taxes will go up unless Congress acts; Tsongas, like most House Democrats, wants to repeal some but not necessarily all of the cuts. Ogonowski says the average family in the district will pay $4,000 in additional taxes if the cuts are allowed to lapse. This is an affluent district, with a median income of $56,000 in 2000, well above the national average. The tax issue has not done much for Republicans in this decade. But with the tax cuts scheduled to expire, it may be more salient now.
Another sense in which Ogonowski is running a 2007 campaign is his approach to the Iraq war.
He says he was opposed to going to war in Iraq but now wants us to pursue success; he opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security.
This is an important and telling mix of positions, which will be crucially important to any Republican revival outside of the South. And a Republican revival outside of the South is particularly important for all the reasons Christopher Caldwell laid out in a very prescient article published almost ten years ago in The Atlantic and ably summarized here.
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