How far the Republican Party has come in the years since President Reagan began eight highly successful years in the White House by declaring government the problem, not the solution, is seen in a recent survey commissioned by the Club for Growth. That survey found most voters perceive the GOP as the party of big government.
The Club for Growth survey talked to voters in 15 key battleground congressional districts in which neither major party candidate in the 2006 congressional election was tainted by scandals à la Randy Cunningham, William Jefferson or Mark Foley. All the seats were held either by incumbent Republicans seeking re-election or were held by retiring GOPers. The seats were distributed fairly evenly geographically, and 10 of the 15 were carried by President Bush in the 2004 presidential election against Democrat Sen. John Kerry.
But on Election Day Democrats took eight of the 15 previously GOP seats, providing more than half the 15 seats needed to wrest control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Republicans.
On the question asking which party most represents big government, nearly 40 percent of the voters chose the GOP, compared to only 28 percent choosing Democrats. On the question asking which party was most likely to eliminate wasteful spending, only 24 percent chose the GOP, while nearly 40 percent chose the Democrats.
But here’s the survey response that ought to really upset those who believe the GOP is still the party of limited government. Voters were asked whether they agree or disagree with this question:
"The Republicans used to be the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and limited government, but in recent years, too many Republicans in Washington have become just like the big spenders that they used to oppose." More than 65 percent agreed, with 85 percent of those strongly agreeing.
Those results make clear how right Club for Growth Chairman Pat Toomey was when he noted that the 2006 election "was not a repudiation of conservatives, but it was a repudiation of the Republican Party."
The same survey points to the GOP’s only hope for regaining power in the near future — a recovery of the limited government, pro individual and economic freedom agenda that was at the heart of the Reagan revolution. According to the Club for Growth survey, the results showed:
"Despite the clear rejection of the Republican Party on fiscal issues, there remains widespread majority appeal for the principles of lower taxes and smaller government. The same independent swing voters show strong majority support for extending the 2003 income, capital gains and dividend tax rate cuts, as well as permanently eliminating the death tax. They also show solid majority support for reducing federal spending, even if that means reducing spending in their own districts."