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GOP circus: The search for the new face of the Republican Party

(Credit: Politirazzi)

By Emily Ngo

They have a common opponent settled into the White House.

They have a common goal of winning back a Congressional majority.

But rather than battling to regain ground lost to President Barack Obama and the Democrats, the fractured Republican Party is fighting … itself.

“They’re beyond divisions,” said Scott Levenson, president of the Advance Group, a Democratic consulting firm. “They have crevices the size of the Grand Canyon in the Republican Party that begin and end with the fact that they do not stand for anything.”

And with the 2010 midterm elections looming, experts agree that they need to get their act together soon.

“One part of the Republican Party says we should go back to our basics, government is bad. Another part thinks no, we’ve really got to rethink the message,” said James Morone, a political science professor at Brown University. “And all Republicans have to decide where they stand on the continuum.”

Many conservatives are doing just that, but not without infighting. The very public barbs exchanged between veteran talk show host Rush Limbaugh and newly minted Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has highlighted just one disparity in visions for the party.

Steele — the committee’s first black leader — tagged Limbaugh “incendiary” and “an entertainer.” He later apologized, but Limbaugh had first suggested Steele should quit and slammed the GOP’s “sad-sack state.”

Steele’s stock plummeted in the same way that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s star dimmed after his widely panned response to Obama’s State of the Union-style speech.

No clear leader or plan has emerged to redefine and reunite the red team, experts said. If anything, the Republicans have made themselves more vulnerable to Democrats, who claim their strategy is to promote the divisive Limbaugh as the face of the GOP.

“There are people out there like Bobby Jindal, like Newt Gingrich, like Sarah Palin,” said Fordham University political science professor Costas Panagopoulos, “but what they’re doing collectively is far more important than what they’re doing individually.”

With the country’s tenor hovering at center-right, most political experts are advising a moderate and centrist path for the GOP.

“The numbers are such that it remains difficult for the GOP to drift to the right,” Panagopoulos said.

Some Republicans, however, promote a return to the party’s far-right roots, where Limbaugh is king.

“Rush will be here after Palin, after Steele, after Jindal,” said Karol Sheinin, of the right-wing blog Alarming News, adding the talk show host doesn’t alienate conservatives the way even former President George W. Bush did. “He will be here forever. … I think he wins at the end of all of this.”

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