The newly elected Republican caucus will go into this week full of hope for its future. But is the departure of Gingrich enough to clean up the Republican Party? The surveyed media indicated that it is not.
The resignation of Newt Gingrich was one of those rare political decisions that few anticipated. It immediately generated a media-wide assessment of the prospects for the Newt-less Republican Party. One of the main questions addressed was whether the Speaker's resignation was enough to get the GOP back on track.
More than half of the editorials and opinion pieces on Gingrich's resignation considered it a net gain for the Republican Party. While praised often as a visionary and a reformer, Gingrich was also described as a lightning rod, attracting criticism and diverting attention from the positive messages the GOP was trying to convey.
However, most reports noted that the resignation of Gingrich was a 'good first step,' but would not be enough, on its own, to improve the standing of the Republican Party. The problems in the Party were portrayed as more complex than the activities of one man. Other steps were needed and, as usual, the media was not shy about suggesting them.
The three most frequently mentioned recommendations were all related to the Republican agenda. First, the GOP was advised to change or refine its policies on the national level. Most often, the advice was to adopt more moderate stances, similar to those promoted by Republican governors around the country.
Second, reports commented that the Republicans already had a sufficient agenda on which to run, but had done a poor job articulating it to the public. Third, the media advised Republicans to focus on issues, not scandals.
In fact, many reports pointed to the Republicans' obsession with scandal and the Lewinsky investigation as a primary cause of the Democratic gains in the House.
The general election results, along with the resignation of Gingrich, triggered media discussion about other possible changes needed in the GOP leadership.
Among the House leaders, Majority Leader Dick Armey, part of the old Gingrich-Guard, was often singled out for removal. Another popular target was Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, described as being even less effective than Gingrich in promoting the Republican agenda.
The general consensus of media opinions on this subject was best summarized in the November 8th edition of the Indianapolis Star: 'It is essential that Republicans find new leadership that will forcefully pursue and articulate the party's historic commitment to lower taxes, small government and individual rights. They must identify folks with a positive message and good ideas, not just a proclivity to tear Democrats down.'
If they accept the media verdict, spring-cleaning might come early for the GOP.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www. carma.com.