This coming week, House Republicans will gather in Williamsburg, Va., to discuss what went wrong in 2012. I’ve attended more than a dozen such congressional retreats since 1993, and I can already imagine how the conversations will go. Someone will undoubtedly come to the microphone to declare that what the GOP needs is a better brand, missing the essential point that candidates and political parties are about reputation, trust and ideas. You can’t sell them like soap or detergent.
But what you say in defense of those ideas matters, and what people hear matters even more.
Congressional Republicans are currently defined as nothing more than opponents of the president and friends of the powerful. This isn’t my opinion — it’s America’s opinion. My polling firm asked voters nationwide on election night to identify who or what the GOP was fighting for. Twice as many said “the wealthy” and “big business” than “hardworking taxpayers” or “small business.”
Their image is even worse today. The congressional Republicans’ message during the “fiscal cliff” debate last month was confused and chaotic. The debt-ceiling vote next month and the budget debate after that promise more of the same — unless House and Senate Republicans stop bickering and start coordinating and talking differently.