A couple of months ago, Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican and former chairman of the NRCC, told the WaPo, “The House Republican brand is so bad
May 12, 2008

A couple of months ago, Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican and former chairman of the NRCC, told the WaPo, “The House Republican brand is so bad right now that if it were a dog food, they’d take it off the shelf.”

GOP leaders probably didn’t care for the comparison, but they’ve been worried about the Republican “brand” for quite a while. Indeed, way back in October, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) quietly launched a re-branding initiative, working to with corporate advertising and rebranding experts to help Republicans turn things around.

Seven months later, we’re finally going to see what these guys have come up with. Subscription-only Roll Call reported:

After months working behind the scenes, House Republican leaders this week will finally start rolling out their rebranding effort aimed at rallying the party around a comprehensive policy and message agenda.

Titled “Reasons to Believe,” the plan is meant to provide House Republicans with a sales pitch to voters by focusing on four issue areas: the economy, energy, health care and security.

Leaders will present the package Wednesday at the weekly meeting of the Republican Conference.

According to a memo that will circulate to House Republicans today (and which Boehner’s office seemed willing to leak), the GOP caucus will get a relatively straightforward message: “Washington is broken, the American people want it fixed, and Democrats in Washington have proven unable or unwilling to get the job done. Republicans will. Americans have seen first-hand the change Democrats are making, and it is moving America in the wrong direction. To the American people, we say that Republicans will deliver ‘the change you deserve.’”

The closer one looks at the details, the more one wonders whether those corporate advertising and rebranding experts were overpaid.

Next week, Republicans will premier their energy policy, focused on boosting the supply of domestic production, bringing down gas prices and creating jobs, the memo states.

In following weeks, GOPers will roll out their visions for other issues:

* Health care — “Affordable, high-quality health care for every American by giving families greater choice and control, not through a massive expansion of government health care controlled by bureaucrats.”

* The economy — “A stronger economy by stopping the largest tax increase in American history, cutting wasteful Washington spending, balancing the budget by 2012, passing serious entitlement reform and strengthening our housing sector.”

* Security — “From threats our families face both at home and abroad by securing our borders once and for all, taking on the rising criminal threats in our communities and giving terrorists plotting new attacks no place to hide.”

Now, maybe it’s just me, but this sounds exactly like the Republican agenda we’ve seen for quite a while. The only substantive difference seems to be that the House GOP caucus is now willing to unveil some kind of “universal” healthcare bill, though it will probably look pretty similar to the McCain plan, which means, of course, that it leaves millions of Americans behind and does nothing to even try to control costs. (I am, however, delighted to see House Republicans endorse the notion that “every American” deserves “affordable, high-quality health care.”)

In other words, the re-branded Republican Party will look exactly like the old Republican Party, except now we’ll hear GOP candidates saying “change you deserve” an awful lot. (This, by the way, also happens to be the marketing slogan for a prescription anti-depressant.)

My sense is that Boehner & Co. are confused about the systemic and institutional problems burdening the party right now. The problem isn’t that the party has great ideas that it’s having trouble selling or a brilliant agenda lying just below the surface; the problem is the GOP’s “ideas” — I use the term loosely — are either unpopular, complete failures, or both.

This isn’t an old car in need of a fresh coat of paint; this is a car that only moves in reverse.

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