In their midterm messaging, Republican say they want to repeal the federal health-care law, but replace it with what? They want to "secure" the border, but how do you accomplish that (and at what cost)? And they want to take the fight to ISIS in the Middle East, but aren't leaving the campaign trail to vote on authorizing U.S. military force there. [...] As Lou Zickar of the Ripon Society, a moderate GOP group, put it: The 1994 Contract with America "is a moment worth remembering because it was also a time when the GOP loudly and proudly proclaimed not what they stood against, but what they stood for."
When I interviewed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., he criticized Republicans who believed in playing it safe. "This idea of running as a referendum, assuming a wave, assuming you've got the wind at your back, assuming with an unpopular president we therefore by default will win, I don't buy that," he told me. "I think you gotta give people a reason to vote for you." Given Obama's unpopularity, Republicans could still have a politically successful election season without a clear agenda. But they will never win the policy debate if they run away from it.