02.21.13 1:14 PM ET
The GOP's Two-Front Losing Strategy
President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent — cutting the budget deficit — even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama's approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.
The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party's message in the wake of disappointing losses last November for the White House and in the Senate.
Now just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.
It should be noted that Republican identification has shrunk not only because Americans prefer President Obama (although they do) but also because of disaffiliation from the party by people who want an even more conservative politics than offered by the GOP.
Which in fact creates this crisis for the GOP: at the very moment when they should be avoiding big slug-matches they must lose, and instead focusing on rethinking, rebuilding, and rebranding - the Republican party also feels under enormous pressure to slow the departure of its most conservative members by launching doomed fights against the president on issues where it cannot intelligently hope to prevail. That's been the party's tragedy since 2009, and it seems to be the party's destiny again this spring.