It is becoming clear that the tactics employed by the Republicans have been a disaster. Friday’s polls showed the lowest approval rating of the Republican Party in history! And while the Republicans have kept the nation’s focus on shutting down government and stalling when it comes to raising the national debt, they have kept the focus off the disastrous effects of the launch of Obamacare, which the nation should be focused on.

Republicans have been forced to drop Obamacare as an issue because it is impossible to win against both the Senate and a Presidential veto. That was obvious from the outset. For all their effort and sacrificing of their good names, they will come out of this whole thing with only marginal gains at best. They will be lucky if they can hold on to the House in 2014, and attaining control of the Senate is further from their grasp now, not closer.

If I were them I would take what I can get from the Democrats quickly and get out of the limelight. It was embarrassing last week as President Obama beat the hell out of the Republicans for over an hour at a news conference in front of the entire nation. It was a gift the Republicans gave to Obama, and totally unnecessary.  The pathetic Republican reply was only a few minutes long and probably heard by only a fraction of the audience the President had. You can’t win against the “bully pulpit” of the President of the United States. But they brought it on themselves and their strategists should be ashamed of themselves.

Politicians reflect public opinion, they don’t make it. Philosophical fights are almost worthless in the nation’s capital and usually accomplish nothing. Battles over philosophy and morality are best fought among the intellectuals outside of Washington – in class rooms and universities, and among the people at large, through books, articles, and speeches.

However, Obama and the Senate Democrats didn't come out of this entirely unscathed either. Both of their ratings have also fallen to all-time lows. Obama has fallen to an approval rating of 39% and 78% of Americans polled believe the country is going in the wrong direction. So all is not lost.

If I were the Republicans, I would extend the debt ceiling for a short period of time, say 6-8 weeks, and demand substantive talks on long term entitlement and tax reform. I would use the time leading up to the next debt ceiling increase to push home two points. First asking the Administration how much they want to raise the debt ceiling. Once getting that figure from them, I’d point out to the public the amount of money the President wants to spend; for a proposal to increase the debt ceiling is a guarantee of money spent.  If he wants to raise the debt ceiling to 18 trillion for example, sell the fact that this guarantees another trillion dollars of spending and another trillion dollars of debt in advance, with no plan as how the debt is to be repaid.

Second, I'd quote and re-quote the President’s statement that by raising the debt ceiling all we are doing is “paying for the bills we've already run up”. Republicans need to point out that what the President is proposing is to raise the debt ceiling without voting for higher spending. Instead he is asking Americans to spend more than were taking in, in the future. He’s asking for a blank check. He’s asking for a line of credit. A better plan would be to get our fiscal house in order so we will never have to raise the debt ceiling again and able to begin reducing the national debt. The discussion needs to change from how much money we can borrow to how much we can reduce spending.

Enter Paul Ryan, the only adult in the room. Ryan is a serious thinker. He knows the budget like no one else does in America. He wants to have a serious discussion of which methods would accomplish this goal. And he's willing to put everything on the table. This should be the main battle lines going into the 2014 congressional elections: Republicans who are fighting to restrain government spending and balance the budget and the Democrats who want to increase spending and raise taxes to spend more. It's the fiscal conservatives versus the tax and spend Democrats. Now that's a fight that's winnable.

Meanwhile if there are problems with Obamacare, the economy, or anything else for that matter over the next year, I'd simply refer all inquiries to Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate and to the Obama Administration.  After all, they're in control.

I hope the Republicans have learned their lesson. A temper tantrum is no substitute for a sound strategy. We need to move forward. Let's see how The Republicans handle the debt ceiling fight as we go to the brink in the next several days.

Paul Nathan
Paulnathan.biz