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SPOTLIGHT
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Focus on winning

Published on -12/24/2013, 9:21 AM

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Will Republicans ever learn?

Will they get their own house in order in time to take control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016?

Will they stop fighting with one another in public over internal family matters and focus the GOP's collective eye on those crucial political prizes before it's too late to save the country?

It sure doesn't look like it.

Republicans proved once again they've learned nothing from their past mistakes during the recent squabbling about the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal.

The GOP managed to do two things, both of them bad for the battered Republican brand.

The party again showed the public how dysfunctional it is. And it proved how little its leaders and internal wings and factions have learned in 2013.

Recently, House leader John Boehner made headlines by blasting the fiscal hardliners at Heritage Action, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks for denouncing the Ryan-Murray deal before they even saw it.

Then Boehner accused the tea-party wing of the GOP of "misleading their followers" and destroying their credibility.

It's hard to fault Boehner's outburst. For the entire year the GOP has been more interested in shooting down its own rising stars than breaking the Democrats' chokehold on Washington.

Conservative principles are great. But to little-tent conservatives who'd rather win Republican primaries in May than win general elections in November, it's still all about ideological purity in the short run and not about winning the war in the long run.

To the GOP's tea-party minority, Paul Ryan has gone from GOP poster boy to sell-out. Ditto Marco Rubio for his impure thoughts on immigration reform.

Ditto Chris Christie, first for embracing the president and second for not being sufficiently conservative while racking up a big win in the blue state of New Jersey.

One of these days the Republican Party is going to find out it is not the Conservative Party.

There are liberals, moderates and conservatives in the GOP -- and conservatives are going to have to understand they are in fact the minority.

Meanwhile, here's a radical idea for my good tea-party friends and soulmates.

If you want to see a federal budget you can abide, or if you want to have a smaller, kinder, gentler federal government that runs the way you want, I suggest you do what the Democrats do -- win.

Winning isn't easy. When Republicans only have the House, and not the Senate or the White House or the courts or the media, we're starting from ground zero.

We can't afford to throw rocks at each other in public or nit-pick at each other's ideological purity.

Winning back the Senate and the White House has to be the GOP's master plan, and it can't be sabotaged by things such as intramural budget fights.

Budget fights? In the real world, the federal budget never is going to be 100 percent of what anyone wants.

Is a budget fight to the death by hardliners really worth another government shutdown that causes future Ken Cuccinellis of the world to lose and makes the GOP look like the party of dumb bad guys?

I don't think so.

Once Republicans win back the White House and the Senate, conservatives can make all the budget changes they want.

Until then, if Republicans in Washington are going to attack each other, they should learn to do it behind closed doors.

Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution."

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