Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

March 29, 2013

Where is today's Jack Kemp?

AVON — The harsh assessment of the Republican National Committee "autopsy" committee would be that it talked to 2,600 people, yet one of its top proposals is reviving a minority inclusion council from the 1990s. It takes months of research to come up with this stuff?

But that would be too harsh. The autopsy is a good-faith effort to stare the Republican predicament straight in the face.

It's just that there are inherent limits to any such exercise. The party is not going to be saved by committee. The autopsy inevitably reflects the lowest common denominator of establishment Republican thinking on policy, recommending comprehensive immigration reform and hinting at surrender on gay marriage.

It is more interesting and useful when suggesting process changes, especially fewer primary debates. There were more than 20 of them last time. Can't every Republican agree that two debates moderated by ABC's Diane Sawyer are two debates too many?

The RNC autopsy has stirred up another round in an intraparty debate that is yeasty and entertaining, and will surely prove largely irrelevant to the Republican future.

One facet of that ongoing debate is the fight between the grass roots and the establishment over Senate primaries, which has been raging for months and got more fuel when speakers at the annual conservative gathering, the Conservative Political Action Conference, savaged the Republican consultant class. Rarely has so much heat been generated with so little light.

Some of the same grass-roots conservative leaders banging on the consultants believed that Christine O'Donnell would sweep to victory in the Delaware Senate race in 2010. Every time they are about to congratulate themselves on their electoral acuity, they should have to listen to three hours of floor speeches by Delaware's senator for life, Democrat Chris Coons.

On the other hand, the establishment was eager to deliver a Florida Senate seat to Charlie Crist, who is as real as a spray-on tan and as appealing as a cheesy billboard for legal services (which he appeared on after Marco Rubio unceremoniously dispatched him back to legal practice).

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