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New York Times: GOP Ditching 'Partisan Obstreperousness,' 'Tossing Their Teacups' in Favor of Moderation

Sunday's story by New York Times reporters Jennifer Steinhauer (pictured) and Jonathan Weisman attempted to put Tea Party Republicans in Congress on the back foot in the run-up to the November elections: "Some Republicans Try Out a New Campaign Theme: Bipartisanship." The text box added to the pressure: "Getting the blame for gridlock prompts a different approach."

A woman who appears in an advertisement supporting Representative Jon Runyan, a New Jersey Republican, boasts about how he works “with both parties.”

Richard E. Mourdock of Indiana, whose Senate campaign has been most notable for his derision of legislative compromise as feckless, now says he would “work with anyone.”

While out and about on the campaign trail, Representative Bobby Schilling, Republican of Illinois, talks so much about all the great things he has done with Representative Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from nearby Iowa, that one would think the two were related.

Partisan obstreperousness, the force that propelled Congressional Republicans to widespread victory in 2010, is suddenly for many of them as out of style as monocles. In campaign advertisements, some lawmakers who once dug in against Democrats now promote the wonders of bipartisanship. And legislatively, Republicans in tough races are seeking to soften their edges by moderating their votes, tossing their teacups and otherwise projecting a conciliatory image to voters.

The Republican quest for bipartisanship -- at least nominally -- is not hard to explain. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week and released this weekend showed that 44 percent of Americans see Republicans at fault for gridlock in Washington, compared with 29 percent who blame President Obama and the Democrats. Nineteen percent said both were to blame. That imbalance has persisted at almost exactly those proportions since last year.

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Even the most ardent conservatives appear to be trying to tone down their image. Last week, the Republican Study Committee, a group of right-leaning House members who often vote against their leadership’s spending measures as being too expansive, held a “poverty summit” meeting with black and Hispanic pastors to hear ideas about easing poverty -- not the kind of policy initiative the group is known for.

In December 2011 Steinhauer also characterized conservatives in Congress as isolated from mainstream politics, in a story on some members standing against a short-term extension of the payroll tax break.