We’re amidst an economy only Jimmy Carter’s mother could love, and yet Republicans are still having a hard time gaining political traction. The voters aren’t doing a stunning job either. Case in point: voters just picked Mark Sanford – “the Todd Akin of South Carolina” – in the primary for Tim Scott’s congressional seat.

Here’s hoping Republican voters start making smarter picks, but I’m not holding my breath. Until elections roll around, however, there is plenty Republicans can do to start looking like winners again.

March saw a mere 88,000 jobs created, even though unemployment fell to 7.6% – or, as Republicans should explain it, where Obama said it would be four years ago. Former Obama economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, called the numbers a “punch to the gut” and then blamed the sequester.

We can also expect to hear the numbers blamed on global warming, child obesity, and everything else Republicans LOVE, but that’s when Republicans step in and remind voters that Democrats have been largely in control since 2008.

As has been the case repeatedly, the lower unemployment is tied directly to the drop in labor force participation. Currently the rate is 63.3%, or, as Republicans should explain it, the level it was when Jimmy Carter was president.

If those who were looking for work last year hadn’t given up searching, unemployment would be at 8.3%.

This is the signature of the Obama economy: we get sporadic job reports that show growth, and then those looking for work give up, and unemployment lowers as a result even if job creation falls. This is what America got for the price tag of the Obama first term: magic tricks.

No Democratic nominee can offer anything different in 2016. Not one would have Obama divert from his tax-and-spend approach.

Why then would America want to wait until 2016 to kick these guys out? The Republican message for midterm elections should be: we can fix this now or we can fix this later. Couple this with electing safe candidates – no Akins, Sanfords, Sharron Angles, or Christine O’Donnells – in the primaries and we might have a chance at the Senate.

The second key issue to pounce on is Obamacare. People still don’t like it, and it’s easier prey because its other provisions are starting to kick in.

The convoluted train wreck of a law now will require tens of thousands of “navigators” to assist in its implementation. Government workers who will make more than you do will be sent to the states to help you benefit from all the healthcare overhaul has to offer.

Other than creating another bureaucracy for James O’Keefe to secretly record doing something evil, this offers no lasting benefit to the healthcare industry.

Obama’s champion health care reform has failed on every front. The three main promises, “that Obamacare would reduce costs, lower insurance premiums, and ensure healthcare coverage for all Americans” (as John Lott puts it in his new great new book At The Brink), turned out to be false.

Republicans don’t need to worry about a morale vacuum if they lead a successful attempt to repeal the law. As John Lott explains, using data from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, even four years before Obamacare’s passage the percentage of U.S. residents who were both without health insurance and dissatisfied with their medical care was a measly 2.3%.
With a Republican president in 2016, the GOP can finally get to implementing health care reform that isn’t seriously frightening in its girth of government control. This includes ending tax incentives for expensive employer-sponsored health insurance, block-granting Medicare, allowing purchasing insurance across state lines, and reforming malpractice laws, just to name a few.

For a more detailed explanation of the GOP’s ideas for health care see Ben Domenech’s fantastic pieces here and here.

Victory doesn’t have to be difficult for Republicans. Stop taking the bait to discuss gay marriage in terms of national policy (it’s now out of your hands), stop running risky candidates, and go after the easy victories Obama has taken the time to neatly lay out.