Quin summed up the major points that Mehlman focused on, and obviously Mehlman’s job is to stay on message, so he kept coming back to those points throughout. He also said that the RNC anticipated a challenging environment and “We have planned for this environment for a very long time.” There haven’t been surprises as far as the races that are competitive, he said. On the turnout front, he argued that there’s no evidence of a surge in Democratic participation and cited that in 36 of 39 Democratic primaries this year, turnout was lower than it was in 2002. Republicans, meanwhile, have still been volunteering in large numbers. He also was more confident about the Senate than the House, which shouldn’t surprise anybody, but he said that Republicans would maintain control of both chambers.
For those who have been debating whether Republicans would learn the right lessons were they to lose, Mehlman’s comments made me see this as less likely. He attributed the current challenging environment to a “6 year itch,” the Iraq War, and scandals. This could be a preview of the type of explanations that we’ll hear in the event of a Republican loss, rather than that skyrocketing spending sapped the enthusiasm of small government conservatives.
When asked about spending, Mehlman cited the decrease in the deficit, which of course has nothing to do with spending, but with higher tax revenue as a result of a stronger economy. He also cited earmark reform and President Bush’s drive for Social Security reform, which wasn’t backed up with action by Congressional Republicans. As Quin said, when he named the three key issues of the Republican message, it came down to tax cuts, judges and the War on Terror. Republicans can no longer credibly run on reducing the size of government.