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Rubin: How the GOP can take the Senate

Published January 29, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the past couple of days Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced that they are retiring. With West Virginia, there are at least three seats with no incumbent in 2014 up for grabs.

So how does the GOP avoid messing up as it did in 2010 and 2012 when winnable Senate seats slipped through its fingers?

First, in Georgia, the GOP can find the most conservative candidate, making sure to vet out undisciplined and inexperienced candidates to avoid a repeat of the Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock debacles.But let's be clear: Republicans do not have the luxury of selecting the most right-wing candidate or destroying viable center-right candidates in states such as West Virginia and Iowa.

Second, Republicans contesting these seats should go on the attack against the do-nothing Senate, which hasn't passed a budget, taken up tax reform, tackled entitlements or exercised proper oversight over executive-branch appointees. The senators are in essence nothing more than lackeys for President Obama's extreme agenda. Republicans should make the case that it is time to stop talking a good game back home and running interference for the collectivist president.

Third, don't give up on any seats now. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., for example, enjoys sky-high approval ratings, but he has voted for Obamacare and the stimulus and is doing nothing yet to prevent devastating sequestration cuts. In a year his approval rating may look quite different. Make Senate Democrats cast hard votes, and if they remain joined at the hip with Obama, Republicans should press for the advantage.

Fourth, just because the president has taken his eye off the ball doesn't mean Republicans should. North Carolina, Arkansas and Colorado have unemployment rates of more than 7 percent. So what pro-jobs and pro-growth policies have the Democratic senators in those states pushed for, and why do they think higher taxes are the answer?

Finally, Republicans will need a pro-growth agenda and the promise of problem solving to win the Senate. What good policies would already be law (the Keystone XL pipeline, for example) if the Senate didn't have Harry Reid as majority leader?

It is possible for the GOP to win the Senate, but it must choose nominees wisely, avoid extreme and undisciplined newcomers, press Democrats who have rubber-stamped the Obama agenda and present a can-do, reform-minded agenda. If so, Reid might finally join Rep. Nancy Pelosi, DCalif., as his body's minority leader.