Steve Schmidt, who was John McCain’s chief strategist during the campaign, points out the problems facing the GOP in the years beyond 2008:

What can the Republican Party learn from what happened this cycle?

There are many lessons for the Republican Party out [of] this election, and the party having been roundly defeated is going to go through a period of debate, and finger-pointing, and recrimination, and blame-gaming, as it seeks to rebuild and become competitive again on the national stage.

If you look at the returns from the southwestern and mountain west states, with rising Latino populations, it’s clear that Latinos are repudiating the party, their anger about the tone of the immigration debate, and the party has to figure out a way to communicate that wanting to have a secure and sovereign southern border and respect for Latinos are not mutually exclusive. But if the party does not figure out a way to appeal to Latino voters, it will become increasingly difficult, and maybe impossible, to ever again win a national election.

The party in the Northeast is all but extinct; the party on the West Coast is all but extinct; the party has lost the mid-South states—Virginia, North Carolina—and the party is in deep trouble in the Rocky Mountain West, and there has to be a message and a vision that is compelling to people in order for them to come back and to give consideration to the Republican Party again.

The Republican Party was long known as the party that competently managed government. We’ve lost our claim to that. The Republican Party was known as the party that was serious on national security issues. The mismanagement of the war has stripped that away. So there is much to do in rebuilding the brand of the party, what it stands for, and what it’s about in a way that Americans find appealing. The country has just elected a—the country has just vested power—in a Democratic Party, across the board. And you will see a sharp left turn. The Republican Party wants to, needs to, be able to represent, you know, not only conservatives, but centrists as well. And the party that controls the center is the party that controls the American electorate.

Schmidt is, I think, absolutely correct.

Barack Obama won this election because he won the center, not because he made overt appeals to the left. John McCain, the Republican who was once the very definition of center-right politics, lost because lost the center and, while his running mate may have had great appeal among party loyalists, the evidence is rather apparent that she was not well-received by the great American center:

The key for the 44-year-old Palin will be whether she can broaden her base of support. An Election Day survey found that 81% of Democrats and, more importantly, 57% of unaffiliated voters had an unfavorable view of her.

Moving further to the right while ignoring the moderate center, especially on divisive social issues like abortion and stem-cell research, seems to be the advice that many conservative pundits are giving the GOP in the days after the election. It’s the same advice they always give when the GOP loses, and it never works.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Politics What’s Wrong With The GOP