A bold and optimistic GOP can create a wave election

Barney Frank
Barney Frank versus Larry Kudlow   

If the Republican party adopts a clear, optimistic, growth-and-reform message to turn America around, it can win big in November. It could still be a wave election.


But so far it hasn't done it. The party is essentially asking voters to give it control of both houses of Congress. Yet it hasn't told voters what it would do with such a mandate.

That's why the GOP must present a true governing agenda. You can't ask for two-house support without telling voters what you're going to do with it.

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Right now, according to polling averages from RealClearPolitics, there are 10 key midterm Senate races that are too close to call. These 10 toss-ups will determine whether the GOP has a significant majority, or a majority at all.

But there will be no wave election unless the GOP has a clear message. In some cases there are specific bills to get behind. But in most cases the party needs to provide a real future vision.

This is not a new thought. In recent weeks, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Investor's Business Daily have called for a GOP agenda. IBD wants a new Contract with America. The WSJ asks, "Republicans for what?" NR editors say, "Republicans, make your case." I see my friend Ramesh Ponnuru, NR senior editor, has written an article about this. And I asked over a month ago, "Where's the GOP's better deal?"

Obama and the Democrats have already begun their usual class-warfare attacks on corporations, banks, and successful entrepreneurs. "Close their loopholes! Tax them more, so we have enough new money to enlarge government programs!"

This leftist approach has failed. And voters know this. But the GOP must call Democrats out on this. It must fight them with a different vision. The country is ready for it. Voters are ready for an alternative governing agenda.

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Now, within the Republican ranks, there are strong voices with good plans. The GOP leadership should tune in.

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Ohio senator Rob Portman is calling for common-sense health-care solutions, including health-savings accounts. He wants an energy program that approves the Keystone XL pipeline and opens up federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf. He urges tax reform, both individual and corporate, to spur economic growth. He'd stop the EPA from over-regulating greenhouse gases and destroying the coal industry. And he calls for education choice that allows parents to use federal dollars to send their kids to the schools they want.

Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have put serious policy papers on the table. And Representative Paul Ryan has a new anti-poverty agenda that would provide a real Republican makeover, and he's keeping up the fight against corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

The venerable George Schulz published a plan to get America moving again. It talks about tax reform, regulatory rollbacks, a Federal Reserve monetary rule, and much stronger defense. And former senator Phil Gramm echoes a plan set forth by fiscal expert Avik Roy, in which the Obamacare exchanges are turned into free-market platforms without any federal mandates.

And numerous Republicans in both houses favor immigration reform, as long as it emphasizes border security, and then moves to work permits, increased visas, and conditional legalization.

These are all good ideas, and there are plenty more. But so far the Republican leadership is playing small ball.

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Yes, they talk about the Keystone pipeline. And they want accelerated rules for overseas trade, faster federal reviews of natural-gas exports, and repeal of Obamacare's medical-device tax. Fine. But they need visionary priorities and a true national agenda.

It doesn't have to be a 75-page policy-wonk booklet. But there needs to be something concrete.

Senator Ron Johnson frets that the permanent political consulting class is using this as a "rejection election." In other words: "We're not Obama." But that's a risky approach. It's like using a prevent defense in football. It could backfire.

Just look at the congressional polling data. Democrats have higher approvals than Republicans. And so does President Obama, even with his rock-bottom national approval ratings.

My advice? Be bold, Republicans. Send the voters a vibrant message. Show them the GOP is a change agent.

And finally, heed the words of the brilliant Seth Lipsky, who believes optimism is the missing element in today's politics. "The GOP today has the policy chops," he writes, "but nailing the optimism is key."

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Republicans were far too pessimistic in the 2012 election. That's one reason why they lost.

State the problems. Then advance the solutions. The country has been in a funk for too long. Our weakness at home is translating to weakness abroad. But this can be changed — and rapidly.

If the GOP sends a clear, positive, and optimistic message, it can turn this election into a landslide.

Commentary by Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor at CNBC and economics editor of the National Review. Follow him on Twitter @Larry_Kudlow.