Pence and the ‘party of no’ label

PENCE AND THE ‘PARTY OF NO’ LABEL…. As a rhetorical matter, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has crafted a reasonable response to one of the standard Democratic criticisms. Here’s his message to the CPAC crowd this morning:

“Some folks like to call us the party of ‘no.’ Well, I say ‘No’ is way underrated in Washington, D.C. Sometimes ‘No’ is just what this town needs to hear.

“When it comes to more borrowing, the answer is No. When it comes to more spending, the answer is No. When it comes to more bailouts, the answer is No. And when it comes to a government takeover of health care, the answer is No.

“Conservative Republicans are back. We’re in the fight for fiscal discipline and limited government, and we are on the side of the American people.”

This has always been the downside of the “party of no” label — some Republicans seem to like it.

There are, however, some worthwhile takeaways from Pence’s rhetoric. For example, it should put to rest any notion that Democrats need to reach out to congressional Republicans to try to solve problems. The GOP is so reflexively opposed to everything, they even say “no” to ideas they support. Pence’s remarks are an unsubtle message to Democrats: please stop trying to work with us.

The prepared remarks should also make clear who’s responsible for partisan gridlock. Pence is effectively telling the public, “If you want more political paralysis, vote Republican.”

But on a more strategic level, I also wonder if Pence is pointing to an area of vulnerability for Republicans. After all, I can very easily imagine ads targeting potentially vulnerable Republican incumbents, reminding center-right voters about the GOP record. What do you suppose the reaction would be from conservative voters in “red” districts if they were reminded that Pence and Republicans like him voted to increase the budget deficit, voted to add $5 trillion to the debt, voted to increase government spending, voted for more earmarks, voted to increase the government’s role in health care (Medicare Part D), voted to increase the size and scope of the federal government’s powers (FISA, creation of DHS), and voted against one of the largest tax-cut packages in American history (the Recovery Act)? [Update: An emailer reminds me that these same Republicans also supported Mirandizing terrorists, trying them in civilian courts, and imprisoning them on U.S. soil.]

Maybe someone ought to remind voters about this.