U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't backing off his comment that the Republicans' top political priority is to hold President Obama to one term.
In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, McConnell said preventing Obama's re-election is the only way to get past presidential vetoes.
"Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office," McConnell said, NPR reported. "But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things. We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday's election. But we can't plan on it."
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See Kimberly Strassel, "The GOP's 2012 Game Plan":
"It's a great first step." That's the way Washington's resident realist, Mitch McConnell, is describing this week's GOP electoral triumph. The Senate Republican leader is known for his long game, and that's what's on his mind even in victory: "We're not going to be able to finish this job until 2012."
Mr. McConnell took some time this week to talk me through the GOP game plan. Let's just say he isn't apologizing for recently suggesting that his priority is to deny President Obama a second term. This week's message was that the American people want a repeal of health-care reform and an end to overspending and job-killing initiatives. If Republicans intend to make good on these public demands, says Mr. McConnell, the end goal has to be putting someone in the White House who won't veto that progress.
History doesn't inspire optimism. Over the past 100 years, every time a president two years into his first term lost Congress, he went on to re-election: Truman in '48, Eisenhower in '56, Clinton in '96. Newt Gingrich even wrote a book, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," about the GOP mistakes in the wake of 1994. It boiled down to Republicans over-promising and under-delivering—becoming the foil off of which President Clinton was able to skillfully pivot away from his own liabilities.
Mr. McConnell says he too has been through the history books. "I've spent a lot time studying the two years after the opposition took over—or in the case of this week, had a really good day—asking myself and my staff to analyze why the next election turned out the way it did." This time, the GOP has got "to work smarter, and to leave behind for our nominee a playing field that is competitive."
The first help will be the 13 new GOP senators Mr. McConnell welcomes in January. Republicans failed to gain the majority, but Mr. McConnell isn't complaining about a 47-strong caucus. "When you are down around 41, every man is a king and every woman a queen. Lose even one, and you are toast. Now I've got wiggle room." He adds, with his dry wit, that he's also got "23 Democrats up in 2012 who have a newfound appreciation for the problems of spending and debt."
He and House Speaker-elect John Boehner seem acutely aware of the perils of over-promising, and came out of the gate this week intent on managing expectations. One challenge will be reminding an impatient public that ultimate power still rests in the White House, not Congress. "We are not spiking the ball in the end zone, or acting like we took over the government when we didn't," says Mr. McConnell.
The broader strategy seems to hinge on keeping the focus on Mr. Obama's mistakes, offering him opportunities to correct them, and placing the burden on him if he won't. That means propelling the rollback of ObamaCare to the top of the national agenda, with repeated "proposals and votes for full repeal of health care." The fallback is going after it "piece by piece," attempting to defund it and delay it. The plan is to do the same with aspects of the financial services law and other damaging Obama regulations.
Mr. Obama can veto some of these efforts, but he'll have to defend his actions. House ownership also allows the GOP to start bringing "serious, not frivolous" oversight to the ballooning Obama bureaucracy created for his agenda—from the EPA to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ...