WASHINGTON – In corporate America, mere rumors of a tough quarter usually lead to negative analyst reports and, often, a small wave of short-selling. A few poor quarters and, either heads start to roll, or the RFPs for consultants start zipping through cyberspace. Some Republicans have taken the Blue Wave of 2006 in stride and accepted that they are party in desperate need of a re-brand.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) seems to be leading the charge of soul-searching, readily admitting that the Republican brand is in need of some serious re-thinking. Flake, a telegenic Arizona pragmatist, has long argued that the GOP has strayed from its fiscally-conservative moorings by bringing home too much bacon -- and left the public asking, "Where's the beef?" And Flake's 60 Minutes appearance certainly rankled some feathers inside the Republican caucus, charging that the GOP took the art of earmarking to a new level during their 12 years as the House majority.
Clearly, Flake is a savvy politician. In publicly sensing the winds of voter discontent in the months prior to the election, Flake cast himself as a crusading outsider, ready, willing, and able to take on a moribund Washington power structure, regardless of party affiliation. This is a message that works. Flake won reelection with over 74 percent of the vote – a higher margin than any Arizona incumbent. Could Flake be positioning himself as the next McCain? Could Flake be helping to frame the Republicans in 2008 as the party of "Reason and Responsibility" rather than 1999-2006's "Faith and Strength"?