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Time for a New GOP Strategy?

Karl Rove
Jodie Coston | Photodisc | Getty Images
Karl Rove

Will the GOP go the way of the Whigs?

Or do the Republicans just need to have a good ol' family meeting? (Read More: Conservatives Tell GOP: Don't Mess With Debt Ceiling.)

There's nothing like losing two straight presidential elections to strike some end-of-life fear into a party and the usual "the other guys are irrelevant" talk from the opposing side.

After the Democrats were whipped in three straight presidential contests from 1980 to 1988, the party embraced a different kind of candidate in Bill Clinton. He often sounded more like a free market capitalist than some Republicans do today, (Google his 1992 DNC acceptance speech sometime and you'll see what I mean), and America bought it.

In retrospect, some of President Clinton's actual economic policies often were closer to the supply-side philosophy. That not only garnered Republican support in Congress, it helped fuel the economic boom of the late 1990's. (Read More: Why the GOP Is Backing Away From Business.)

Now one of the people urging the Republican party to take a good hard look at itself is MSNBC's "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough.

In recent months, Scarborough has urged his fellow Republicans to move to the center on gun control and distance itself at least a bit from the Tea Party. (Read More: Obama Seeks Assault Gun Ban, Background Checks.)

This week Scarborough has been writing and talking about how the GOP could go extinct if it doesn't do something to bring— how shall I put it?—"disappointed" Republicans like former Secretary of State Colin Powell back into the fold.

Powell appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday and discussed a wide range of issues that have left the former Joint Chiefs Chairman with doubts about remaining a part of the GOP.

He spoke of some racist and exclusionary elements that remain in the party, referring to comments he's heard personally and seen published in recent years.

But he also insisted that comments made by former Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for defense secretary, about the "Jewish Lobby" should be forgiven or even ignored. (Read More: Obama: Hagel Can Make 'Tough Fiscal Choices' at Pentagon.)

That seeming double standard has some conservatives confused.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial this week, columnist Brett Stephens noted that Powell had no problem alleging that some of his fellow Republicans were racists based on their comments but strongly castigated those who made similar assumptions about Hagel based on his comments.

And other conservatives like Rush Limbaugh say the public is being barraged with a new push to falsely characterize all of them as bigots and scare the public.

But Scarborough rejects this kind of criticism and the scrutiny of Powell. He insists that conservative icons like Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley would move Heaven and Earth to woo Powell despite it all.

Another issue splitting the Republicans now is their strategy on the ongoing spending battle on Capitol Hill. (Read More: Debt Ceiling Battle: Why No One Agrees on Anything.)

Some conservative standard bearers this week like the Koch Brothers have taken Larry Kudlow's advice and are vowing not to play chicken with the debt ceiling. (Read More: Koch Group Urges Restraint on Debt Talks.)

Others, like the Heritage Foundation, insist the debt ceiling threat must be used to make President Obama get serious on cutting spending.

When the debt ceiling battle erupted in 2011, Scarborough was outspoken, accusing President Obama and the Republicans of not really wanting to make a deal. He was half right in that both parties only worked out a temporary fix, and that leaves us with our current impasse.

—By CNBC's Jake Novak

Joe Scarborough joins the "The Kudlow Report" Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. ET. Follow "The Kudlow Report on Twitter at @thekudlowreport.

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