What The GOP Has Planned If They Win Big

According to many polls and political watchers, Republicans may make major gains in November's midterm election, including control of the House of Representatives. What might that mean? Host Scott Simon talks with Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard about the Republican Party's intended plan of action should the GOP win a sizeable margin in the November midterms.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

According to many polls and poll watchers, Republicans may make major gains in November's midterm elections, including control of the House of Representatives. What might that mean?

We're joined now by Matthew Continetti. He's the opinion editor of the Weekly Standard, and joins us in our studios. Matthew, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. MATTHEW CONTINETTI (Weekly Standard): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And we should explain, we're just going to take a look at the House, although there's an interesting statistic about the Senate.

Mr. CONTINETTI: That's right. A lot of people don't know this. Since 1930, control of House of Representatives has flipped seven times. And each time it flips, so does the Senate. Now, you've had elections in the past where the Senate will flip, like in 1980, but the House does not.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. CONTINETTI: But whenever the House goes, the Senate follows.

SIMON: Let's concentrate on the House for the moment. Firstly, is leadership all set?

Mr. CONTINETTI: I think so, yeah. You're looking at John Boehner as speaker. You're looking at Eric Cantor as majority leader. You're looking at Kevin McCarthy probably as conference chairman. And of course, at the committee level, I think the one to watch is Paul Ryan, who will be the next committee chairman of the House Budget Committee.

SIMON: And do they have what amounts to a program?

Mr. CONTINETTI: Well, Ryan has what amounts to a program. The Republican leadership has been very reluctant to endorse it wholeheartedly. Republicans have the pledge. But you know, with a lot of these campaign documents, they're immediately discarded once the election is over.

I think a lot of what happens is going to depend on what Barack Obama does, and how the president chooses to react to whatever gains the Republicans make on November 2nd.

SIMON: I mean, it does strike me that a lot of Republican candidates have gotten out front talking about what they see, the importance of tax cuts.

Mr. CONTINETTI: That's right. And a lot of Republicans think, of course, the public believes that the stimulus was not the correct way to address the economic downturn. And so you see Republican candidates run against stimulus and for some program of tax cuts. We'll see how far Republicans are able to push their position.

Let's not forget, you can't govern from Capitol Hill. And that's a lesson that Newt Gingrich learned to his chagrin in 1995. I this incoming Republican leadership understands that. So I think they're going to be treading carefully.

SIMON: And do you foresee any tensions between the Republican leadership and this newly emerging force that we call the Tea Party?

Mr. CONTINETTI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you see it with Tea Party leaders like Jim DeMint threatening to go third party. Sarah Palin recently saying that if the GOP doesn't learn its lesson, it may be time to contemplate third party. So you're going to have a huge influx of Republican congressmen who are very conservative when it comes to matters of budget and tax cuts.

And you're going to have some tension between the leadership, not only on spending issues, the next chairman - likely chairman, I should say, of the House Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis of California, the Republican, is known as a big spender. He's going to take a lot of heat from Tea Partiers.

And another issue is healthcare. You know, I think the Republican leadership is a little bit leery. They say they're for repealing Obamacare, but do they really want to do that, or do they want to change the program, make it more efficient, make it so it's less expensive.

Well, the Tea Party candidates who are going to in November, they want to repeal it. That's another area, I think, of potential conflict.

SIMON: I mean, you're inevitably reminded of the old bromide that there really is difference between campaigning and governing.

Mr. CONTINETTI: That's right. It's like the end of "The Candidate" with Robert Redford, where he wins the election and asks, What do I do now? I think a lot of Republicans are going to be asking that question on November 3rd.

SIMON: How might gaining control of the House and/or Senate change the position of the Republican party as they move toward a presidential election in 2012?

MR. CONTINETTI: Well, in some ways it will help the Republicans in the short term. In the long term, in 2012, it may hurt them, because whoever the Republican nominee is going to be will have to deal with the Republican House or Republican Congress, right?

And, of course, if you have someone in '96, Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader, he had - he was linked to the Gingrich Republicans, and Clinton played that very well in '96. So it depends on how well this next Congress does, or how well the next Republican congressmen do. Is the 2012 GOP nomination going to run with them, which is a potential? Is he or she going to be from them? Or, are they going to have to run against them, which would likely spell trouble for whoever that nominee may be?

SIMON: Matthew Continetti, opinion editor of the Weekly Standard. You're going to be part of our team on analysts on election night, aren't you?

Mr. CONTINETTI: That's right. I'm looking forward to commenting and analyzing the results with E.J. Dionne on November 2nd.

SIMON: The best political team on radio. Thanks very much, Matthew.

Mr. CONTINETTI: Thank you.

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