The IRS scandal appears to be growing. The news that the Justice Department targeted Associated Press phone records has justifiably triggered a vociferous outcry. The Benghazi tale is mostly a bogus “scandal,” but it continues to be treated as the real thing by reporters who should know better. We’re looking at investigations that stretch over the horizon. The air is thick with talk about Obama’s “second term curse,” and the possibility that the administration could find its credibility damaged by the scandal pile-up is very real.
But cut through the noise and jubilation among Republicans and conservatives, and a basic fact about our current political dynamic remains in place: Republicans still need to figure out how to get their base to stop damaging the party’s efforts to remake itself.
As Politico puts it this morning, while the scandal-mania sweeping Washington contains great risks for Obama, it also carries a serious potential downside for Republicans:
The decision to engage in a multipronged attack against the Obama administration poses both risks and rewards for the Republican leadership. The party has yet to fully coalesce around a legislative agenda, a plan to raise the debt ceiling or a broad-based governing strategy. Republicans, who have tried to soften their image, now risk being defined by shouting matches. Their job-creating message is in danger of being overshadowed by scandal.
All the scandal-fueled excitement is about to run headlong into the reality of immigration reform. The Senate is likely to pass a reform compromise widely loathed by the right, and House Republicans will have to figure out a way to get the base to accept it — or to pass it with mostly Democratic support, which would badly damage John Boehner. Failure means the GOP gets saddled with the blame for killing reform — dealing a severe blow to hopes of repairing relations with Latinos, even as demographic reality marches on.
Republican leaders are still trying to figure out how to get House conservatives to accept the need for a debt ceiling hike; they face the very real prospect of getting caught up in a messy debt limit showdown that will only underscore the GOP addiction to…