February 16th, 2009
04:15 PM ET

Republicans' fatal attraction

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/16/art.obama.01.14.jpg]

Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York.
Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

Perhaps it is the result of Valentine's Day and President's Day falling on the same weekend. But I cannot help wondering if President Obama's bipartisan game plan will lead to a very smart strategy, unrequited love or a fatal attraction. It is certainly not an affair to remember. Sorry for that but the Oscars are coming up.

While the media and pundit community obsess about whether the Obama Administration's strategy for bipartisanship is smart or successful, it is just as critical to explore the partisan strategy of Republican Congressional leaders and their members.

As the nation demands solutions for our critical and historically challenging economic problems, there is an outcry for our President and Congress to put the bickering and partisanship aside and change the tone in Washington. Mr. Obama campaigned on that theme and has pursued the bipartisan message in office. And his approval ratings are at record numbers: the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey put his approval rating at 76%. Other polls have Obama's approval ratings in the mid- to high 60s. Those strong ratings have given political confidence to newly elected conservative Senate Democrats from very Republican states to support his agenda. (Yes, if President Obama's numbers drop their support for his proposals could drift.)

The President's high approval ratings might also isolate his Republican congressional opponents. During the height of the debate about the stimulus package, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. reported that three out of four poll respondents said that President Obama is doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans in Congress but only 39% felt that congressional Republicans are cooperating with the President. In addition to three out of four Democrats supporting the bill, 51% of independents and 32% of Republicans also favor it.

While response from independents and Republicans at the grass roots may not appear overwhelming, it bears serious reflection. With the exception of Senators Collins, Snowe and Specter, the unanimous opposition from Republican House and Senate members demonstrates their disconnect from the mainstream and from a third of their already very limited base.

Now we all know the response from the Republican Congressional leadership. They claimed that they were not brought in as partners or included in the process. Their feelings were hurt when they were reminded that they lost the election. Now, I get a kick out of a good spin as much as anyone, but I need Dramamine to go with this one.

Yes, it was widely reported that the Republicans were courted with cocktails and a Super Bowl party which prompted some Republicans to say they were treated like a cheap date. The media did not report with the same attention that the Democratic congressional leadership cut almost $100 billion dollars from the economic stimulus package in an effort to earn more Republican support. I cannot speak for Republican dating habits, but $100 billion dollars certainly trumps flowers and chocolates if you want to say I care.

The Republican members of Congress were part of public hearings starting in October before three different Congressional committees on the stimulus package. They were given numerous opportunities to present amendments and a number changes were made in this bill including additional tax cuts and direct spending. They participated as much as they chose to. Of course, when the House Republican Leader John Boehner urged his members to oppose the President's plan even before he spoke before the entire House Republican conference, it did not take two-time NFL Coach of the Year Bill Belichick to figure out the game plan.

Yes, it is true that the Republicans are activating their base in this debate but it remains a very narrow one. It is also true that they have found their voice. However, that voice appears to belong to Rush Limbaugh. The Democrats capitalized on Rush Limbaugh's statement that he wants President Obama to fail. They argue that he articulates the thinking of the Republican leadership. Those Democratic claims sounded particularly exaggerated even to a Democrat like me. However, the conduct of the Republican members of Congress and their leaders in response to the economic stimulus debate only helps make the Democratic Party's case.

If the Republican Party and its members in Congress have any hope of broadening their base and appeal, then Limbaugh's script and his relationship with the Republican leadership could be their fatal attraction.°

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Marisa from New York

    Wonderful take on a very dangerous situation that is developing in Washington. The Republicans still don't seem to realize they lost the election – and not just the presidential election. They have wrapped themselves in ideological pigheadedness. Unfortunately, they are still pretty good at the spin game – even when their "solutions" are what caused most of the damage we are in, they can still make people believe that maybe we should stick with their "solutions." Hopefully the stimulus package and the financial market fix being put in place by the Obama administration will start showing results relatively soon – then we can pigeon-hole them where they belong....an out-of-touch group of yesterday's politicians who will soon be going the way of our previous president – into the sunset and not a moment too soon!

    Keep them on their toes Robert.

    February 17, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  2. StevG

    The republicans are not very good at instigating legistation. There
    main theme is cut taxes,be against everything else, attach proposals
    with no counter ideas, attack and blame the other party, for anything
    that goes wrong, and take credit when ever possible, and when ever
    attacked change the subject , and again blame the democrats.
    If your children acted like that, you would put them in time out.

    February 17, 2009 at 9:31 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    This article is exactly right and why Obama on his current Travels continues to appeal to the electorate as a whole.
    The polls and statistics say Republicans have it all wrong and have made Obama say he will still talk and listen to republicans but if you persist in resisting the people and promoting failed ideology, then the will of the people is more important to him than Bipartanship.
    His courage, expereince and skill and ability to be CIC were all questioned during his nomination.
    Has he been perfect since.. NO but right now he has delivered a clear message to Republicans. Think about what America needs and help or I'll use the power we democrats have to go where it is necessary to go. And he has admitted if he gets it wrong he'll be out at the next presidential election. Equals, he mat duffer the same fate as the bankers without the immediate golden parachutes they have!

    February 17, 2009 at 5:02 am |
  4. Karen- Alabama

    The republicans are becoming a party of whiners. If they only new just how silly they all appear. Hopefully we will be able to replace a few more of them with someone who really cares what happens to the people in the country in 2010!! They are making it a easy choice to vote them out of office!!

    February 17, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  5. Chris

    Bottom line is that Democratic policies got us into this mess. The entire economic crisis is due to the housing crisis, the bubble was created when the left decided to make policies to demand that lenders lend to unqualified buyers, therefore creating increased demand and thus housing prices soared and then plumeted when the bubble burst. Fact: under GWB there was eight consecutive years of increased GDP. When the democrats decided to legislate equal opportunity to have the American dream even to those who can't afford it or deserve it we took a wrong turn as a country.

    February 17, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  6. David

    Is Robert Zimmerman your real name? If so, that is awesome because it also happen to be Bob Dylan's real name.

    February 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  7. lynette

    I must have been mistaken to think that we selected our leaders as individuals to speak for the people who put them in office.The Republican party in my opinion are a huge disappointment.They seem to know full well how to pull together when it comes to their own selfish political ambitions.However,when it comes time to pull together on behalf of the citizens of America,it's time to "play" hardball!!

    February 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  8. Sage of Maryland

    I say Amen. Note that Republican Governors are begging for help from the stimulus because they are responsible for real citizens. the Repubs in the Senate and House are too far removed from their own constituents. They are listening to their own hard line supporters and need to understand that people are suffering. They also need to understand that there are many in their base privately praying for a stimulus but won't speak out because they don't want to be seen as needy. This is a real crisis man. There are a lot of red blooded Americans who did everything right and have yet lost their jobs and are close to losing their homes, cars and life savings. Somebody has to come to the rescue. This is no time for political gamesmanship. Roll up your sleeves Repubs and get to work to save this country.

    We are in greater danger than the great depression because we did not have enemies armed with nuclear weapons or wild eyed terrorists ready to destroy everyone including themselves just to make a point running around on our soil back in the 1920's and 30's. Thus keeping our country financially strong as well as defensively strong is paramount.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  9. Rose from NY

    Rush Limbaugh must be a very powerful and feared man given the number of times Democrats mention his name. I am an Independent who has never listened to Rush and I can also assure you, I have no wish for President Obama to fail.

    With that being said, I do not fault the Republicans for voting against the stimulus package. It is an obscene amount of taxpayer money being spent on a very speculative proposal.

    While the media continues to report the overwhelming support of this bill, I have yet to speak to one person of either party in support of it. This disconnect is a story that needs to be explored.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  10. Monica

    Let's call a spade a spade! When Mr. (?) Bush said jump the Republicans jumped. It's not about the money, it's about a Black man who is articulate, intelligent, people oriented, in touch with the infirmities of the people, compassionate, educated and can speak intelligently on any level, don't let me forget that the dirtiness of the House and Senate when Bush was in office. How appropriate that the last President' name is Bush because that is exactly where all the dirtiness is hiding in the Bush era. There are people trying to find any and everything they can to bring this man and his family down. Mr. Obama and your family keep yor head up and high you are appreciated and wanted by so many maybe we will meet one day.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  11. Dulcie - Denver


    We had a record Dow under Bush and six years of an all republican congress.

    Oh Please... It was all on paper and it collapsed like the proverbial house of cards. Sure, it was a record because the profits didn't really exist! They were all based on the derivatives on sub-prime mortgages that have now imploded!

    The only people who made any real money during those 8 years were those who were already wealthy. Everyone else has seen their life savings evaporate.

    So no, the GOP gets no credit from me for that. They were the *cause* of many of our problems.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  12. D.Page, North Carolina

    On the vote which passed the bill for 387 trillion stimulous package.
    It is my understanding that during a vote of that type (role call) that if a voting members name is called and there is no answer, that member is counted absent and does not have the right to vote. Furthermore, unless the quorum elects to allow that member to vote, that is the only way that he or she would be able too.

    I think that the republicans should look into this matter very closely and bring it before congress.

    It is my opinion that there were several issues on the night of the vote where a "point of order" should have been call and these issues worked out immediately.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm |
  13. LisaKfromTacWa

    I, for one, find the whole thing rather comical. These are extreme right wing tantrums. (McCain, admittedly is not far right, however he is just mad at every one and every thing for his loss). Thank goodness there are a few good "true" republicans left. They now have a lot of power, and in my mind have now earned that power. For they are the true conservatives, not these radicals who have hijacked the Grand Old Party. I am a democrat, and appreciate what these 3 brave patriots did by coming together with the dems to actually COMPROMISE. America, take notes... these far-right extreme right-wing conservatives are not here to make nice, serve you, pave the way for equality, liberty and freedom. They just proved it in the most unabashed way! They undermind our inalienable rights during the Bush years, (and in Clinton's time as well), and they will continue to undermine our core American values in exchange for power. I now say to you the fundamentalist radical republicans...(and those who blindly and faithfully genuflect for to you): Why do you hate America? This behavior is not very patriotic of you. America: For the sake of the country, vote for centrist/moderate republicans if you HAVE to vote that way. We democrats know who to vote for. I think B.O. and Co. are doing a great job. I'm sleeping better than I have in 8 years.

    February 16, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  14. Dorothy Uhrmacher

    For me the most distressing aspect of what is now referred to as the Republican Party is its steadfast beleif that the voters are simply not smart enough to comprehend the economic problem. Yet most voters have been dealing with it for the past four years on a daily basis......we
    were the ones asking how the housing market could mortgage what
    was never there?

    February 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  15. Eric From BC

    President Obama appears to be pursuing what he promised during the election. Democrat or Republican aside can anyone propose a different strategy for bipartisan strategy than the one he is following? He courts input, dissent, modifies proposals on the basis of input and in the end makes a decision which he admits leans in the Democrat direction (because he is a Democrat – and was elected as one – Duh?). In the end, however, he is only one leg of the three legged stool and perhaps those who are steeped in the "old ways" can only think in that direction. I believe this president has given the opportunity to craft a new Washington. Are the people and their representatives on board? Time will tell...

    February 16, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  16. Trish A

    Excuse Me? GWB signed Democratic bills into law? By using his Veto Pen? Dems caused the recession? What did they pass? Who started the Iraq War donating $10 bil per month in compensation payments for destroying Iraq? Who gave out Millions while in office to pet projects with no accountability required? Who gave out the first $350 and has no clue where it went to date? Gimme a Break.
    If Repubs want to talk about spending restraints they should have practiced some over the past eight years! Or fixed their mess before leaving!

    February 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  17. jim

    This reminds me of history.
    Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
    The republicans are going to whine and cry as America is burning

    February 16, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    I have been disappointed with the GOP at the Capitol – both in the House and the Senate. I have heard a lot of criticism but none of it constructive. I'm beginning to think that the GOP would rather the economy destroy the voters than help get the economy going again – cooperation and bipartisanship would go a long way in redeeming the GOPs fortunes right now. Perhaps they'll wake up and realize it before its too late.

    February 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  19. Stephanie Chapin

    The Republican President and the republican party had all of 2008 to do something, and nothing was done. Now they say, it is the President's fault, because he is not geting both parties to work together. Are these people ethical adults? We need out leaders to stop playing Reindeer games!

    February 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Justine

    Unanimous opposition to the stimulus package – including pressure from the Minority Whip – is just making the GOP look worse to the majority of the country that wants SOMETHING to happen.

    I can't wait to see how things turn out in next year's midterm elections.

    February 16, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  21. thad

    We had a record Dow under Bush and six years of an all republican congress. Two years ago, Democrats took over both houses, and GWB has signed nothing but Democratic bills into law. The result, an economic recession. I am tired of this being blamed on the republicans!!!

    February 16, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  22. Richard(Greenville,SC)

    The GOP are acting like children. SELFISH children. Can't they see, clearly, that they are the ones that made this country the way it is today? That's why the house and congress, oh yeah, and our President, are basically all Democrats now. It's because the American majority are tired of crap. Crap being politically defined as Republicans. They need to step aside if they're not going to be a part of the "team". They all seem to be useless anyway with how the last 8 years of most of our lives have been affected. Take note that John McCain's state of Arizona is rated the 3rd worst for home foreclosure in the nation. Lindsey Graham, of SC, runs a state that has been rated among the worst in education for years upon years. Money constantly being taken out of the education system for red lights that don't need replacing, or lines of the side of the road that could probably wait awhile before needing to be re-painted; just to name a couple of examples.Seems like the GOP are doing a GREAT job. lol. Maybe they should focus on their own issues as much as they seem to want to be a part of the Democratic Repair Team and their negative comments towards them.

    February 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm |

    Robert Zimmerman’s song and dance about Limbaugh hoping Obama will fail is flawed. Rush Limbaugh does not believe the so called stimulus package will stimulate the economy. It is just a tax and spend bill democrats are noted for. I agree with Rush Limbaugh that it will fail. As for our Socialist president Barack Hussein Obama’s approval ratings, Zimmerman should know that Democrat Jimmy Carter had high approval ratings when he took office. He wound up being the worst president in history. We are still paying for his blunders. Polls taken show that about 80% of Americans think this stimulus package won’t work. One was taken by Lou Dobbs from CNN. I believe the democrats will lose control of the house and senate due to their wreckless spending habits.

    February 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  24. Ed

    It is my opinion that both Lindsey Graham and John McCain should go before the people of their states and demand that Arizona and South Caroline reject accepting funds from the recent stimulus package as a token of their commitment and resolve, That would provide more funding to those that support the recovery plan. Then provide their respective states with their plans and why (in detail) their plans will do the job better.

    I don't want to hear only the failed plans of the past or some other political "snow Job" about tax breaks and special interest legislation. We all know that this nation's economy needs consumers - we are indeed a "CONSUMER ECONOMY" - TO SAY WE HAVE 10 TO 20% UNEMPLOYMENT doesn't fully address the problem because we have a 20-30% drop in the consumer market. The economic engine is running on fumes.

    February 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  25. Dollar Bill

    Let's just call a spade a spade, the GOP as a whole doesn't want the Obama administration to succeed. Last week an GOP senator in so many words basically said that the President Obama should pattern his administration after Pres Bush...it was the GOP that got us into most of this mess. And if the GOP doesn't want to roll with President Obama, then he should roll right over them. They had there turn, 8 years and they blew it. Now give the man a chance, we know that everything he does may not go as planned, but at least he's trying to put us on the right track.

    February 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm |
  26. maria pearson-hessels

    Anderson, acording to my calculations, the Republicans thought they were getting a President that would just sit and wait another eight years to start on the programs that he had promissed to the voters, wrong, I trust our President. Let the Republicans continue trusting the guy carrying their standard, Linbaugh. As far as we, the American People are concerned, all the Republican House Rep and Republicans Senators need help defining who they are and eho they serve. It certainly is not our country. I'm tired of the Republicans, they don't act and don't want anyone else to do either. They will have their wishes come true next elections. Then they will have plenty of time to carry Linbaugh's water. Thanks for letting me put in print what I see.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  27. Charles Jackson

    Great analysis – the Republicans are an intellectually bankrupt party increasingly boxed out from meaningful debate.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  28. Larry L.

    Republican do not want to leave their finger prints on the murder weapon since they had NOTHING to do with this crime.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  29. Mark Smith

    Movie references, sports metaphors. Zimmerman does it all – plus cuts through the bs.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  30. Fay - California

    Good article. The Republicans are so desperate to stay relevant that they can't even recognize that the most of the public is against them and have seen right through their political games – the country is in a serious economic crisis – no one is interested in the Republican's partisan schemes to regain their "voice" – they just don't get it.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  31. Annie

    Robert, you summed it up well.

    February 16, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  32. Sarah

    It's a cute column, but Robert is cuter on the air.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  33. Mike in NYC

    @ A. Elliott (GA), who wrote:

    "Watch out GOP because there is a new Sheriff in town."

    With a conspicuously white administration behind him.

    The media has always been in love with the O-Man. Even “Nazi” Fox has been cowed by his saintly aura.

    No matter how things go, BO will always be portrayed as nothing less than a success. "Racial progress" demands it. Next stop, Mt. Rushmore.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  34. Marilyn Murphy

    It's time President Obama, Our President, MY President quit kissing the Republican's butts! He has over-extended himself by going to Capital Hill, in the get-go, to try and get some support from them jerks. He has basically extended the "olive branch" to them and they turned their ugly noses up at him making excuses why they were not voting for the Stimulus Package. I don't know of any other president who has done such a thing. Obama is a good man, an intelligent man who does not have to "cow-tail" to those "old Farts" in the Republican party who are still on the same wave length as they were under the Bush Administration. I love our president and I support his hard, trying efforts because I know he is working hard for the average American citizen and their families. I will support him; I will pray for him; and I know, we the people, along with our president will prevail!
    Marilyn Murphy-Mancilla
    Sacramento, California

    February 16, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  35. vicki

    Someone may want to ask the GOP to account for the Billions & Billions spent on & in Iraq.
    Accountability? GOP, put your big boy & girl pants on and adapt.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  36. Patrick Feenan, from Belfast, Ireland.

    From where I'm sitting, it appears that the Republican Party are playing politics with the American people's future. They are carrying out a campaign of guerilla warfare, against President Obama, cutting – off their noses to spite their faces. They, the Republicans, are being very partizan, and the unemployed people in the USA are the meat in the sandwich because of Republican intransigence. Are they really worried about the economics of the country, or in their own wellbeing? Is it any wonder they lost the election? The party of the rich, while the ordinary American people could just " Go and eat cake, " and we know what happened, that caused the French Revolution! Will the American people forget the Republicans antics come the mid – term elections? I don't think so! I wouldn't.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  37. concern/denver Colorado

    Obama has tried in many ways to help the repubulicans to become creative ... But with mccain at the head they will never know how to embrace change ...and that is what has held them and this country back ...it is time for this country and the repubulicans to get a face lift ..and new ideals is the first part to that face lift ..and getting repubulicans like mccain out of office ..those old ways and ideals is what lead to his loss ...the repubulicans must learn how to embrace change ..that is what the people voted on and for ..

    February 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  38. Sue Filutze

    Having the Republicans give input on how to get us out of this mess, in my opinion, would be like asking a guy who stabbed you to stitch you up!

    February 16, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  39. Linda Carl

    The stimulus debate has been reduced to a blame game. The sad part is that popularity polls and the past are the focal point of the argument, when LOGIC and reason should be. Where is this money coming from? Who is going to pay the bill for the plan? Wake up America. Stop blaming and start reasoning.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  40. A. Elliott (GA)

    Great post, Mr. Zimmerman.
    I appreciate the unbiased view of both sides. The media and the GOP is acting like the President has been in office for the last eight years sitting on his laurels doing nothing. The guy just got there and they have decided, collectively, to "black ball" him. It won't work though because if it is one thing that every African-American have in common, that is a will to fight when the chips are stacked against you. We will make a dollar out of fifteen cents. We will stretch food, wear hand-me-down clothes, whatever it takes to get the job done. Watch out GOP because there is a new Sheriff in town.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  41. Jeanne, Granby, MA

    Excellent analysis! The party-first attitude of the Republicans in this time of national crisis is unconscionable. No matter what the question, their only answer is tax cuts, which in these times is no answer at all. That they all kiss Rush Limbaugh's rear is beyond disgusting. We need a strong two-party system, but the Republicans are committing suicide.

    February 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  42. JD Simpson

    How come the Republicans can cause this mess on their watch – but then be able to pretend they had nothing to do with it. I say they get on board the boat that is trying to fix their mess – or they build thier own boat – they gonna need it when they all have to leave town next year. Come on Mid-terms.

    February 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  43. Ryan, Portland OR

    Thanks Robert, you are one of the few contributors that can cut through the spin and see things as they are – better or worse.

    February 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm |