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The Daily Rundown
updated 5/13/2013 11:50:53 AM ET 2013-05-13T15:50:53

The GOP has no shortage of issues to address as it works to rebuild the party brand. But does Republican policy on the economy and the environment appeal to the average American?

Demographics, technology, candidate vetting—the Republican Party has no shortage of issues to address as it works to rebuild the party brand.

But the elephant in the room, so to speak, is sometimes overlooked—does GOP policy appeal to the average American?

A relevant recommendation can be found on page 5 of the Growth & Opportunity Project, the GOP’s self-analysis released in March: “If we are going to grow as a Party, our policies and actions must take into account that the middle class has struggled mightily and that far too many of our citizens live in poverty.”

The challenge for Republicans is how to show that party policy—particularly from conservatives—reflects that concern.

“With this upcoming debt ceiling fight, the hope on the part of House Republicans is to talk about tax reform as an economic policy and a job creator,” National Journal reporter Nancy Cook, who writes about the economic aspect of GOP soul-searching in the latest issue of the magazine, said on Monday’s The Daily Rundown.

“The question is can you explain changing the very complex tax code in a way that a nurse or a single mother in Chicago or a family of four in Nevada actually understands,” Cook said.

Another issue contributing to the GOP split—climate change. Worries about global warming have been on the rise in recent years and, according to a recent Gallup poll, the increase in concern has been highest among Republicans. But it’s an issue that has split the party leadership—some, like Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, argue that it’s time to seek solutions but others, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida downplay or dismiss the issue’s importance.

Coral Davenport, an energy and environment reporter for National Journal, said we shouldn’t be surprised if the two issues collide, forcing top Republicans to get on the same page.

“The more the budget starts to hurt as a result of paying out flood insurance, drought insurance, damages for these increased storm and extreme weather experiences, the more the Republican Party is going to have to look at this as a spending issue,” said Davenport.

Video: Policy problems plague the GOP

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    >>> well, there's no shortage of ideas when it comes to fixing the republican party , whether about how to pick a candidate, change to demographics. looking at specifically the issue of the economy and the environment. on the economy, conservatives are chomping at the bit to use the upcoming debt ceiling debate as a weapon to force new spending cuts and tax reform . the problem is, middle class americans may not see how the republican agenda helps them. in february, majority leader eric cantor suggested they have to explain why their plan is everyone, not just protecting the rich.

    >> for the next two years our house majority will pursue an agenda that is based on a shared vision of creating the conditions of health, prosperity for more americans and their families.

    >> haven't reflected the efforts to sell their policies as a benefit for the middle class , but others claim it could be done. this is how president reagan introduced his tax legislation before he signed it in 1986 .

    >> the bill i'm signing today is not only a historic overhaul of his tax code and sweeping victory for fairness, but also the best antipoverty bill, the best pro-family measure and the best job creation program ever to come out of the congress of the united states .

    >> another issue fueling party divisions is climate change downplayed or discussed by republican leaders. a an increasing number of voters are paying attention. gallup poll shows 58% of people are worried about global warming and 57% say it's manmade. what's more, a significant shift in how republicans view the issue and when asked if they are concerned about global warming , republicans saw the biggest two-year jump of any party. while some republicans like alaska senator encourage their colleagues to seek climate change solutions , other leaders have gone out of their way to criticize the president and his environmental agenda.

    >> when we point out that no matter how many job killing laws we pass, our government can't control the weather. he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

    >> joining me now two reporters who have been intensely examining the gop's policy soul search. their articles share the cover of the new issue of " national journal " this week. and nancy cooke is the economic and fiscal policy correspondent. welcome to you both.

    >> thanks.

    >> it seems as if this is basically about the same thing. which is how do the republican party look like they're in touch with the average american ? you focus, nancy , on the middle class stuff.

    >> yeah. so, really, there's this debate right now. a bunch of intellectual policy and strategists that are really focused on the republicans winning the white house in 2016 . the house republicans and those in power, look, if we want to win the white house , we need to talk about things that middle class americans care about. education, you know, lower taxes, things like that. but house republicans are still really focused at this point on tax reform and budget cuts. things like that that it's harder to translate and talk about to the average american .

    >> they're not winning the tax issue. if you look, always split down the middle. it seems that some people arguing that they're too, almost view taxes as an economic crutch.

    >> i think that's part of it. they're going to with this upcoming debt ceiling fight that we're going to fight in october and november, to talk about tax reform now as an economic policy and as a job creator. they've changed some of their messaging on that. but the question is, can you explain changing the very complex tax code in a way that let's say a nurse or a single mother in chicago or a family a in nevada actually understands.

    >> coral, on the issue of climate change , what's interesting thing here. republican leaders three years ago were on one side of this story and republicans rank and file were less inclined to believe it. now, everything is reversed.

    >> we really see this fasflating split in the party right now. we're seeing republican leaders. i think it's even a split between the leaders because you see leaders like marco rubio feeling very comfortable, essentially mocking or denying the science of climate change . on the other side, you see leaders like jeb bush who, at cpac this year, you know, not being seen as a party of antiscience. so, you're seeing them emerging among the leaders.

    >> a fiscal compoenent to this. you'll see the republican party if they unite around one way. it doesn't take a rocket sib scientist to figure out we're getting more hurricanes later in the alphabet than ever before.

    >> i think this is a place where you're going to start to see a shift in the debate. climate change becomes a budget issue and becomes a spend issue. i think that's what we'll see more and more changes in shifts in the republican party . sandy was a $60 billion event. it costs the federal government that much money. the more, and the federal government is the nation's flood insurance and the nation's drought insurer. the more the budget starts to hurt as a result of paying out flood insurance , drought insurance, damages for increased increased, you know, these increased storm and extreme weather experiences, the more the republican party is going to have to look at this as a spending issue.

    >> nancy , goes back, boat of these iss these issues go back to what do people at the kitchen table hear? they're hearing it must be for a bunch of rich people showing up at fund-raisers and they complain the most about their taxes.

    >> there is a sense from the 2012 presidential campaign where president obama successfully painted mitt romney as this out of touch who wanted to protect tax breaks .

    >> romney helped that along with his 47% remark.

    >> he absolutely did. but by the house republicans continuing to sort of harp on spending cuts and taxes and things like that, they're sort of continuing that message from the campaign and what some party members are saying, look, we need to scratch the scenario. we need to move away from that.

    >> i talked to some democrats who are arguing that they have to dump the phrase climate change , not just global warming has been dumped but climate change has been politicized too much. do other republicans agree with that?

    >> a little bit of a debate on what we call climate change or call it global warming ? a broader debate on sort of extreme weather adapitation now. now there's --

    >> all because somebody has politicized it.

    >> but you talk about kitchen table issues. this is something where people say something is happening with the weather.

    >> it's snowing in may, i mean, hello. weird things are happening.

    >> weird things are happening and it's costing money. we have to prepare for it and i think there's a conversation going on about whatever you call it, we need to prepare for it because it's costing money.

    >> thank you, both. cover story of " national journal ." long read, it's worth it.

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