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Traps could trip optimistic GOP

Republicans are pleased with themselves. The president is mired in scandals while the public does not believe they have overreached. And the GOP’s strongest leaders are riding high in the polls. Yet there are grounds for concern:

1. Immigration reform fails. Failure goes beyond another round of blame-the-Republicans and yet another opportunity to broaden the party’s appeal. It would be the triumph of Malthusians (more people scarcity) over the optimistic, pro-growth vision that has propelled the party the last 30 years.

2. Crackpottery prevails on national security. Between ludicrous misrepresentations (e.g. the government is listening to your phone calls) and a refusal to recognize that our success in connecting the dots is the most important prevention technique we have, otherwise thoughtful Republicans sound like Sarah Palin. Stop. Think. Make sure you’ve got the facts.

3. Republicans run only on scandals. Sure, the GOP might pick up a few seats in the House and Senate in 2014, but it probably won’t be enough to take the Senate and it surely won’t give Republicans a mandate or a chance to explain to the voters what they are for.

4. They remain fixated on the budget and tax reform. It isn’t happening. Move on.

5. They become paranoid grouches. Between the “NSA is reading your emails” to thundering at fellow conservatives who understand immigration is the lifeblood of America, they are displaying few happy warriors these days. Yes, things are rotten (from their perspective because of Obama policies), but they can be better.

6. They choose poor candidates again in 2014.

7. They run to the left of President Obama on foreign policy. Our half-hearted effort on Syria, Iran’s progress on nuclear weapons and China’s cyberterrorism are arguments for decisive, early action by the United States to help allies and keep foes in check.

8. They neglect to spell out what plan they’d substitute for Obamacare. They need to assure the public there is an alternative that provides better health care and lives up to the “affordable” promise of the Affordable Care Act.

9. They savage and undermine House Speaker John Boehner. When they have cut the legs out from under him, they have ended up with worse legislation (the Budget Control Act, voting against Plan B in the fiscal-cliff debate). When they have been united (such as on the sequester), they have been effective.

10. They pay more attention to right-wing pundits than to voters. Republican voters are more flexible and want more effective government than you’d think from reading right-wing blogs or listening to the loudest talk-show hosts. Lawmakers guided by such voices wind up out of sync with their constituents.

Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for the Washington Post.