GOP on the Comeback Trail

Ed Rendell then opened fire on Obama, according to this report:

"They have never been in an executive position before," Rendell said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "The rule of thumb is whatever you did, say it and get it over with and make it a one-day story as opposed to a three-day story. Politicians are always misjudging the intelligence of the American people."

Known for his blunt critiques of fellow Democrats, Rendell did not hold back during the interview.

The public, said Rendell, understands Obama and his aides would have an interest in who fills the Senate seat, and some contact with the governor's office -- and that Obama should have said as much at the outset.

"Did Rahm Emanuel who took Rod Blagojevich's seat in Congress have contact with Rod Blagojevich? Of course he did," Rendell said. "They may have thought he was the craziest S.O.B. in the world. But you still have to have contact with him."

Meanwhile, the Republicans pressed the Obama team to be more forthcoming and to reveal its connections not just to Blago, but the SEIU, which, according to the criminal complaint, was sought out by Blagojevich as an intermediary in his quest to get something valuable in exchange for Obama's open Senate seat. And that was all before it came to light that the next chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had discussions with Blago and provided him with a handy list of Obama-approved Senate candidates.

We saw over the last week that it is often easier to go on the attack from the vantage point of the opposition. Republicans are now freed from the burden of defending President Bush and their own bad actors (e.g., Sen. Ted Stevens). Instead, they can go on offense. Even the New York Times recognized the change of fortunes:

Congressional Republicans learned the hard way in 2006 that ethics transgressions and outright corruption could be molded into a potent campaign message. Now they are trying to turn the tables on Democrats who pressed a good-government theme in their successful drive to recapture Congress.

Spurred by a surprise election victory against an indicted House Democrat, the expanding ethics inquiry involving a powerful Democratic chairman, and now the scandal over the Illinois Senate seat, Republicans are emphasizing that the majority party should be held to its pledge to clean up Washington.

Similarly, Gerald Seib noted the sticky problem with Rangel:

For Mr. Obama, the Blagojevich investigation and prosecution soon will be something going on back home. The Rangel drama will play out right in the president-elect's new front yard. And while Gov. Blagojevich has little to say about the fate of the Obama legislative agenda, Rep. Rangel has a lot to say about that as long as he runs the Ways and Means Committee, wellspring of both tax and health legislation.

"A huge amount of the high-priority agenda of the Obama administration will work its way through the Ways and Means Committee," says Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. "Not having a strong chairman is clearly a liability."

So before the Republicans engage in more intra-party squabbling and reinvent the party, they might recall that much of politics is capitalizing on the other guy's errors, finding decent candidates, and just saying "no" when the other side comes up with bad legislation. In the last couple of weeks Republicans have made the most of their openings. And the conservative base once again has a spring in their collective step.

Who knew the Republicans' mood and fortunes would rebound this quickly? That's politics -- nothing lasts.