This is different from a message of outreach, which the party also desperately needs, but is accomplished primarily in the field. It involves members explaining to younger constituents why old-fashioned principles of choice and freedom still work for modern problems like health care. It means transmitting a welcome to those attracted to even one part of the conservative philosophy --free markets, strong national security, social values -- even if not all. It requires recruiting candidates who aren't held to stiff litmus tests, but who have a shot of winning in the Northeast, say, or Illinois.But the Republicans need to worry about the basics first.
There's a great deal of commentary about the Republican Party becoming mostly a southern, Plains, and Rocky Mountains regional party.
But they're slipping in the South and on the Great Plains as well.
Obama won Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida and looked to have a shot in Georgia before fading. Some core Confederate states like South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana are safe. But the Republicans are much more likely to lose more of the South than they are to regain any footing in the Northeast or Midwest. If the Republicans are smart, they'll think first about protecting their dominant but slipping position in Texas and Georgia and maintaining their competitive status in Florida and North Carolina.
Better hold off on those dreams of reconquering the Northeast. There's a marker on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, PA that marks the "high water mark" of the Confederacy.
But right now, the Republicans are barely putting up a fight in Virginia, let alone Pennsylvania.
The same is the story in the Plains and Mountains. The Republicans are safe in Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, and Kansas, but Obama won Montana and Colorado, came very close in Missouri, took an electoral vote in Nebraska, and was competitive in North Dakota and even Alaska for awhile.
The Republicans need to worry first about maintaining their position in Missouri and remaining competitive in Colorado and Montana before they think too much about flipping states on the West Coast.
The Arlen Specter defection highlights just how bad things are for the Republicans now. But the Republicans are like General Motors. Things are likely to get worse and the Republicans need to focus on protecting what they still have before they don't have anything at all.