Conservative blogger Patrick Ruffini discusses Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher:

Joe the Plumber — a one or two day campaign gimmick — has become a poster boy for conservatism. To say that the McCain campaign milked Joe Wurzelbacher’s story and then some would be the understatement of the century. Now, conservatives are making him a foreign war correspondent and he is sure to be feted at CPAC — so I’m sure to get a certain amount of grief for what I’m writing now.

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

I think “gimmick-driven” is, quite possibly, the most astute criticism of the Republican Party I have ever heard.

Remember when John McCain “suspended” his Presidential campaign to fly to Washington and fix the economic crisis? Remember when McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate?

Remember the GOP’s response to the economic stimulus package, which turned into a never-ending circus of embarrassing political gimmicks? Republican lawmakers complained about how many pages the bill was, even though—obviously—the length of a bill has no impact whatsoever on whether or not it’s a good piece of legislation. They complained about the cost of the bill, which would have been a worthy criticism had they not made it in the stupidest way possible, gabbing on about how high a stack of 1 trillion $1 bills would reach or how, if you spent a million dollars a day since the birth of Jesus, you wouldn’t spend as much money as was contained in that bill.

Yes, the stimulus bill had a big price tag, but nobody was trying to hide it. President Obama and the Democrats said from the start that we needed a large stimulus package; it wasn’t like everyone needed the GOP to tell them what the bill cost.

The sheer cost of the bill wasn’t important; what was important was the return on investment, how much economic growth that money would create. In the end, the GOP gave no coherent, worthwhile reason to oppose the bill. Where was their economics?

The list of gimmicks goes on and on: embracing Twitter as quick-fix to their poor messaging, hosting pointless “tea parties,” forcing a Michael Steele hip-GOP image makeover, etc. The right is hoping they’ll stumble across a magic bullet that will rocket them back into the majority, which is the kind of short-sighted, shallow thinking that’s going to keep them in the minority.

As Ruffini says,

Conservatives should not need Joe the Plumber to prove their middle class bona fides. We are naturally the party of the middle, and we don’t need gimmicks to prove it.

I agree with part of Ruffini’s point–the GOP shouldn’t need gimmicks, their policies should  be able to speak for themselves.  For instance, picking a random middle-class person to read your talking points doesn’t prove you’re the party of the middle class; embracing policies that help the middle class prove you’re the party of the middle class.

Somewhere along the way, Republicans forgot that the underpinning of politics is policy and they jettisoned political substance in favor of whatever stunt they hope will win the day’s news cycle.  Getting the conservative movement to kick it’s gimmickry habit and getting them to be serious once again should be the first step toward any kind of Republican revival.