In the seven states where no GOP contender for the Senate has been successful since 2000, Pitney suggests looking to the GOP gubernatorial candidates who were successful in the last eight years. The issues that drive voters to elect governors are often different from the ones driving them to choose senators, but the fact that GOP candidates for governor could win in these states suggests that the Republican brand is not, in itself, DOA. There may be lessons these guys can offer of both a strategic and rhetorical nature.
Pitney also suggests studying the efforts of the other side. Howard Dean's controversial "50 state strategy" to rebuild party organizations that had withered now looks more like genius than insanity. The good news for the GOP is that they do not have to aim for radical transformations of the electorate. A plodding, careful, deliberate and principled chipping away at Democratic strongholds will make a big difference in electoral outcomes.
In case he is misunderstood, Pitney is careful to note that he is not suggesting capitulation on the issues that move the GOP base:
Such a strategy does not mean that Republicans must renounce the Second Amendment, embrace abortion, or endorse amnesty for illegal aliens. Indeed, it would make no sense to abandon the principles that matter to the party's most loyal supporters.Rather, Pitney suggests, persuasion is the thing we must engage in--not capitulation, Of course, persuasion has the disadvantage of being terribly hard work--and work that is made even more hard as a result of GOP electoral and political failures. But persuasion, at least, has the virtue of possibly working--if not immediately, perhaps over time. As Pitney said, chipping away at Democratic strongholds will do more than is apparent if one only looks at the massive scale of the Democratic sweep in this last election.
The GOP cannot abandon its principles and expect victory. But neither can it dig in its heels and cross its arms with a scowl directed at those who fail to embrace her. It is time for wooing and this will take patience. As Pitney put it, we cannot give in to what now passes for popular sentiment:
. . . [b]ut Republicans do have to frame [their] principles in terms that appeal to a wider array of voters. The party cannot think of growing if it depends on a base that is shrinking.