Triangulation Now, Triangulation Forever? GOPers Hang Together

The advertising campaign against them didn’t matter. Entreaties from Republican governors didn’t matter. House Republicans stayed united against President Obama’s stimulus bill, and they looked plenty pleased about it today as the gavel came down and the measure passed despite their objections.

But don’t tell Republicans that it’s Obama’s stimulus plan they’re rejecting. GOPers are subtly aiming to capitalize on two very different numbers: the Democratic Congress’ sub-30% approval rating and Obama’s impressive 64% approval.

“The problem lies squarely with congressional Democrats,” House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters after the vote. “My conversation with the president was clear; he said, ‘it’s the Speaker [Pelosi] and the Leader [Reid] running these chambers, they have the ability to control this process.'”

As the Church Lady might say, How conveeeenient.Depicting the stimulus’ failings as solely the fault of congressional Dems, Cantor and his party get to pick on their already unpopular enemy and avoid opposing a popular president.

When President Clinton first perfected this strategy in the late ’90s (followed by Hillary during her runup to the 2008 campaign), it was dubbed triangulation. And it’s giving the GOP some newfound swagger.

When I talked to Rep. Aaron Schrock, the 27-year-old Illinois Republican who was called out by name by the president on national TV yesterday, he was unabashedly psyched about the opportunity to ride back to his district on Air Force One for an appearance with Obama. But the star-struck glimmer faded quickly, and Schrock was unflinching in his triangulating response to the stimulus:

At the end of the day, I want the president to succeed. I don’t want to make him look bad or the country look bad … but we have a responsibility to our constituents that doesn’t include rolling over and playing dead because we want to be bipartisan. … I don’t get excited about voting against President Obama. [Democrats] have every right to pass a bill with no Republican votes … just don’t go out there and demonize us.

In a narrow fashion, Republicans have a point about the stimulus– Obama used a high-profile outreach campaign to help put the bill over the top, but congressional Democrats controlled the drafting process for the recovery plan. Yet one wonders whether their mass opposition is a strategy that can be replicated for future legislation on energy, climate change, and financial regulation.

A Hill staffer we heard from yesterday put it best: the GOP is putting all its chips on “FAIL” and doubling down.