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Monday, February 28, 2011

Karl Rove and American Crossroads

Joe Hagan writes in New York Magazine:

In November 2008, Rove published a column in Newsweek, “A Way Out of the Wilderness.” Rove now points to that column as the genesis for American Crossroads. “What is it that Democrats have that we don’t have?” Rove says he asked himself.

What Democrats had was a massive money machine of well-organized ­political-action committees that had ground McCain to dust with TV ads and get-out-the-vote drives. For Rove, McCain’s hand-­wringing over the influence of corporate money was all well and good, but money was the game, period. Rove has often been cast as the reincarnation of President William McKinley’s political adviser, Mark Hanna, who famously said there are only two things important in politics: money and “I can’t remember what the second one is.”

Under Michael Steele, RNC was failing in this respect, and thus created an opening.

In truth, Rove didn’t have to work very hard. The prospect of Obama’s cap-and-trade policy was giving major heartburn to energy companies. “It’s like your doctor says you’ve got cancer and he pulls out a road map to recovery,” says Jim Francis, a close associate of billionaire oil magnate Trevor Rees-Jones, who gave $2 million to American Crossroads. “People were anxious to be supportive. And praying that it would work.”

The article adds a little detail to an earlier post about the Weaver Terrace Group:

Last spring, Rove was ready to don the crown. He gathered the old tribes together and effectively anointed himself their leader, holding a breakfast at his house in D.C. with eighteen leaders of rival pacs, including former Nixon and Bush 41 confidant and GOP fund-raiser Fred Malek, of American Action Network, and Mary Cheney, Dick’s daughter, representing the Partnership for America’s Future. The anxious group was packed into Rove’s cramped living room, his two massive, ceiling-high shelves of history books looming over them. Rove, the man who had won big elections for them before and promised to win more again, let his star power do the work.

“They went so they could tell their friends that they went to Karl Rove’s house,” says Steven Law. “That’s why I went.”

Rove proposed they coordinate their strategies. American Crossroads would clearly have been first among equals; by default, Rove would be the figurehead, the credibility, the brand. Afterward, they would even give the meeting a self-­consciously historic name, ready-made for the second volume of Rove’s memoirs: the Weaver Terrace Group, after Karl Rove’s street address.

As an earlier post noted, Rove did not like Harry Reid. But other things were at work in Nevada.

Rove knew he had to inoculate himself against tea-party insurrectionists if he was to keep his footing in the party. So his first, and defining, strategy idea for American Crossroads was to support a tea-party candidate in a marquee race: Sharron Angle, she of the “Second Amendment remedies,” against Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

The investment was a classic Rovean gambit, a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose wager that put his new organization in the center of the action and on the right side, whichever side triumphed. If Angle won, American Crossroads had a huge Democratic pelt on the wall. If she lost, as she would, Rove’s skepticism of the tea party’s fringier elements would be proved correct. The bet was hedged. Rove, a realist prospecting for winners, his eyes fixed firmly on 2012, knew the deep-red base couldn’t win independents in a national race. As a former White House official who worked closely with Rove says, “Karl Rove is not a conservative. Karl Rove is a man who wins elections.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Web of Numbers

At Forbes, Joel Kotkin considers 2010 census numbers:

Despite all the media focus on an imagined “back to the city” movement, Americans continue to disperse to “opportunity regions” and toward the suburbs. As a result, expect generally conservative-leaning suburbs and exurbs to gain more power after reapportionment and core city influence to decline further.

Yet the Census numbers also have some unsettling aspects for Republicans. The increasing minority population even in heartland states such as Indiana, not to mention Texas, could undermine GOP gains, particularly if the party listens to its strong nativist wing. Diversification in the suburbs could ultimately turn some of these areas to the center or even left.

The new American generation arising in the census will be increasingly diverse. A growing portion will consist of the children of immigrants, and they will be predominately English-speaking. This suggests a more active and engaged minority population, perhaps susceptible to a pro-growth GOP message and the economy of “opportunity regions” but likely hostile to overtly anti-immigrants posturing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Union Power

Why do Democrats do GOTV better than Republicans? Reid Wilson explains at National Journal:

It is an oft-whispered complaint among Republicans in the party’s upper echelons. The once-vaunted 72-hour program is no longer the best in the business. Instead, thanks to the proliferation of early and absentee voting, Democrats have been able to build programs that spend a month turning out voters and banking ballots, rather than simply focusing on a rush during the last three days of a campaign.

The millions of dollars that Republican-friendly outside organizations are pouring into television advertising has a positive impact, but it’s not enough to overcome Democrats’ superior turnout operations. Once the polls open on Election Day, once the persuadable voters have been persuaded, Democrats in swing districts can build a large, sometimes insurmountable, lead.

To build that lead, Democrats depend on a key portion of their coalition: unions. Instead of spending their millions on television advertising, unions frequently focus on turnout operations. That’s why Republican-led initiatives to attack union funding erupting in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and in other states are smart moves for the GOP—and dangerous for Democrats.


“The strategy for Democrats has been public union growth. If we’re able to put any restraint on public union growth, it will put a significant restraint on their political clout,” said Saul Anuzis, chairman of, a group that works to inhibit unions’ political spending.

“The debate has come to a head. We’re out of money. All these states are running into deficit situations, and this is the perfect time to address these issues.”

Consider how crucial unions are to the Democratic coalition. As Republican-allied groups like American Crossroads and the American Action Network poured millions into television advertising, the single-largest outside actor in the 2010 elections was the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.


If unions fail to stop the GOP assault, Republican victories would represent a major chink in the Democratic armor. A loss of some collective-bargaining rights means a speedier decline in membership. In turn, that means fewer dues-paying members to fund political activities in 2012 and beyond.

But Republicans don’t even need to win every legislative battle to sap union resources. The battles themselves can suck up money that might otherwise go to turnout operations for Democratic candidates. The money spent on the public relations battle in Wisconsin alone, on the union side, is likely in the millions of dollars. That similar legislation is cropping up in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere—even though the campaigns will be far less cost-consuming—will only add to the tab.

The manpower is even more important, though, especially that of AFSCME and the National Education Association. The public-employee troops are concentrated, in absolute numbers and by percentage, in 18 states. In California alone, there are 1.4 million government employees represented by unions, according to AFL-CIO numbers. In Illinois, it's more than 400,000; in New York, 1.1 million.

Last fall, Republicans took away governorships in four of these public union-heavy states: Ohio (where 46.2 percent of public employees are represented by unions), Michigan (51.7 percent) , Pennsylvania (53.4 percent) and Wisconsin (49.6 percent). It was an impressive Rust Belt sweep.

But the GOP had been hoping for much more in other such states. They thought they had good chances in California (with 59.6 percent unionized public employees), Minnesota (59.2 percent), Oregon (56.9 percent), Illinois (52.6 percent), Connecticut (66.4 percent), Massachusetts (64.4 percent), New Hampshire (50.3 percent) and Rhode Island (66.6 percent).

Republicans lost them all, though many quite narrowly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crossroads GPS Goes Negative ... and Positive

Christopher Weber reports at Politics Daily:
Radio ads criticizing 12 House Democrats for their votes against a GOP bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year hit the airwaves this week, paid for by the independent conservative group Crossroads GPS.

The spots, costing $450,000, also praise 10 Republicans for voting for the legislation.

The bill, which passed over the weekend largely along party lines, trims nearly $61 billion in federal funding from March to October.

The ads slam the Democrats for voting to "continue the failed spending policies" of the White House and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"They just don't get it," the narrator intones.

"The new Congress was elected to deal with the fiscal mess left by the Pelosi-Obama spending spree over the past two years," Steven Law, director of Crossroads GPS, said in a statement Tuesday. "One of our top priorities this year is to use educational spots to frame the issue debate for congressional action on reining in spending, blocking job-killing regulations and dismantling ObamaCare, and we identified the President's Day recess as a key inflection point in the national debate."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Sitting Senators or House Members in the Race

Jonathan Martin observes at Politico:

Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) decision to pass on a presidential run means that no sitting member of Congress is openly pursuing a White House bid – a modern first that illustrates the lingering toxicity of the GOP’s congressional wing.

It’s an unusual state of affairs, particularly since the Senate is known for its ability to stoke the national ambitions of even its lesser members.

But Washington Republicans are still viewed with deep suspicion by many conservatives and tea party activists who believe the GOP drifted far from its small-government principles during the Bush years. Years of earmarking, an expensive prescription drug benefit and, especially, the 2008 bank bailout, have taken their toll, making it difficult for veteran congressmen and senators to use the Capitol as a launching pad.

Thune, for example, would have faced considerable unease among some in the party base over his support for TARP.

“A lot of the senators that stood up and voted for TARP paid a huge price for it,” observed former Senate GOP Leader Trent Lott, citing those Republicans who lost in both primaries and general elections in 2008 and 2010. “That last couple of years of the Bush administration were a real drag.”

And even while Bush’s numbers tick back up, the wariness of conservatives toward Beltway Republicans remains.

“Congress is a tough springboard for a presidential run under any circumstances, but it’s even harder in the anti-establishment political climate we’re in,” said GOP ad-maker Todd Harris. “Spending a few decades in Washington is probably not the best resume builder to be an outsider presidential candidate.”

For those Republican members of Congress who managed to survive the 2006 and 2008 general elections and the stormy 2010 primary season, some of their past positions would have surely haunted them.

Even an ardent conservative like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — one of the Republicans swept away in 2006 –already has been forced to offer a mea culpa over his support for earmarks as a member of the House and Senate.

The Colorado Strategy v. The Ohio Strategy

At The New Republic, William Galston identifies two developments that should concern Obama supporters:

The first was a Ron Brownstein interview with David Axelrod, who said that he saw Michael Bennet’s 2010 senatorial victory in Colorado as “particularly instructive.” As Brownstein noted, Bennet prevailed by mobilizing “enough minorities, young people, and socially liberal, well-educated white women to overcome a sharp turn toward the GOP among most of the other white voters in his state.” The second event was DNC chair Tim Kaine’s selection of educated, new economy Charlotte, North Carolina, as the site for the 2012 Democratic convention. In the process, he rejected three Midwestern finalists: St. Louis, Minneapolis, and, most notably, Cleveland.

Taken together, these clues suggest that the Obama’s 2012 campaign will focus more on the Democratic periphery—territory newly won in 2008—than on the heartland, where elections have been won and lost for the past half-century. This could turn out to be a mistake of epic proportions. Why? Because the United States looks a lot more like Ohio than like Colorado.

He goes on to explain that white working class voters still outnumber the highly educated professionals who make up the president's natural constituency.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thune Out

Preliminary winnowing is under way. Erin McPike of RealClearPolitics reports:

South Dakota Sen. John Thune announced in a statement today that he will not seek the presidency in 2012.

The Republican said in a statement posted to his Facebook page that he's received encouragement but "at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate."I want to thank those who have encouraged us and prayed for us during the past several months. We are forever grateful for all the support," he added.

Thune began flirting with a presidential bid last year in part because he received so much encouragement to run, and because the rest of the developing Republican 2012 field appeared weak.

He said he would announce his plans by the end of February, but he had seemed torn by the decision. He has not trekked into the early nominating states as other potential candidates have.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Republicans Gain in States

Gallup reports:

Gallup's analysis of party affiliation in the U.S. states shows a marked decline in the number of solidly Democratic states from 2008 (30) to 2010 (14). The number of politically competitive states increased over the same period, from 10 to 18, with more limited growth in the number of leaning or solidly Republican states.

Even with Democratic Party affiliation declining during the past two years, Democratic states still outnumbered Republican states by 23 to 10 last year, and there were 14 solidly Democratic states compared with 5 solidly Republican states.

Still, the political map this year looks very different from the Democratic-dominated map in 2008.

Looking more closely at the changes in state party affiliation since 2008, only one state moved from a Democratic positioning to a Republican positioning -- New Hampshire, which was solidly Democratic in 2008 but now is considered leaning Republican. Alabama, Kansas, Montana, and South Dakota moved from a competitive designation to solidly or leaning Republican status. A total of 12 states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- shifted from solidly or leaning Democratic to competitive. No states have moved in a more Democratic direction since 2008.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cuts and Stabs

Jeff Zeleny writes in The New York Times:
Budget deficits and the nation’s growing debt load have emerged in the last few weeks as the consuming issues in Washington and in state capitals, and they are now shaping the early stages of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Not a single candidate has formally opened a campaign yet — and some of those delivering the toughest talk on the budget may never do so — but the subject is giving focus and energy to a contest that has so far been largely unformed.

The growing profile of the issue has given Republicans an opportunity to cast President Obama as a weak leader, unwilling or unable to confront the tough issues, and has added fuel to the conservative drive for smaller government.

But it has also highlighted divisions among Republicans about how aggressively to cut domestic spending; the wisdom of supporting specific steps to address long-term problems in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and the proper balance between emphasizing fiscal issues and social ones like same-sex marriage.

With a budget-cutting and reform zeal unseen since the mid-1990s, a group of Republican chief executives are using difficult economic times to press an ambitious policy agenda that makes their GOP counterparts in Washington seem like timid incrementalists.

Their goal: to shatter a bipartisan consensus on public labor that’s shaped politics in the West, the Northeast and the Upper Midwest since the 1960s.

Welfare reform was the centerpiece legislation at issue for the new GOP governors in the 90s. Today, public employee rights and benefits are on the firing line. Between the two, there is an important distinction: the political stakes are much greater now.

Aside from social justice advocates and traditional liberals, welfare recipients had little political clout. To take on the well-organized and politically connected teachers and state workers, however, is to strike at the heart of the Democratic Party in many states.

If Walker, who is trying to curb collective-bargaining rights, and Christie, who is attempting to overhaul teacher tenure, manage to succeed, they’ll only embolden their counterparts elsewhere — and potentially do grave damage to what is one of the Democrats’ most important financial and grass-roots constituencies. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, among other Republicans, are watching carefully, bracing for similar showdowns.

Much of the attention in Wisconsin is devoted to Walker’s proposal to strip state employees of the right to bargain collectively for anything besides their pay and to make them pay more for their health care and pensions.

Yet another element of the legislation could have even greater political consequences. The Republican would end the automatic deduction from their workers paychecks and make the unions collect the dues themselves, a move that would almost surely result in less cash flowing into labor coffers. It would block unions from collecting money from consenting workers’ paychecks for political operations and it would force annual elections on whether state workers even want a union, a lethal threat to public sector labor.

Read more:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Wisconsin Fight and 2012

Politico reports:

Potential 2012 Republican candidates expressed solidarity on Friday with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as he tries to balance the state’s budget by wiping out long-cherished but costly union rights.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a statement praising the fellow Republican for making “tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin.”

“The nation’s governors don’t need a lecture from a President who has never balanced a budget,” Pawlenty said, referring to the White House’s support for the labor members, Democratic lawmakers and others who are opposing Walker’s actions.

Mitt Romney tweeted that he supported Walker "for doing what's necessary to rein in out-of-control public sector pay and benefits."

Read more:

Friday, February 18, 2011

American Crossroads v. DCCC

Gannett reports that DCCC is going after Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), among others. And American Crossroads is pushing back.

Duffy, R-Hayward, is one of 19 House Republicans being targeted by the DCCC ads. All represent districts that President Barack Obama won in 2008. Duffy’s district also voted for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.

The media blitz is part of the DCCC’s “Drive for 25” effort to regain a majority in the House. Duffy and Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Lawrence, were among 85 GOP freshmen elected in November, helping Republicans take a 242-193 advantage in the House.

On Thursday, American Crossroads mounted a counterattack to defend the 19 Republicans in the DCCC’s crosshairs. The conservative group’s ads use a standard 2010 strategy of linking Democrats to the liberal former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“A week after President Obama called on Congress to work together, Pelosi’s gang launched negative ads attacking Sean Duffy for doing the hard work of trying to fix the budget mess she created,” says one ad running in Duffy’s district. “We stand with Sean Duffy.”

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 60

The president has recently done interviews with several local television stations. The White House website offers no transcripts of these interviews. The stations are:

WCPO in Cincinnati:

WWBT in Richmond:

Daniels and the Truce

David Paul Kuhn writes at RCP:

Last year, Daniels told the Weekly Standard that the next president would have to call a "truce on the so-called social issues" to establish a coalition large enough to master America's debt crisis. He has stood by the comment.

"Unless he does a mea culpa--I was wrong--he has no chance of winning the nomination," said Richard Land, one of the nation's most politically seasoned social conservative leaders. "You can't win the nomination without pro life and pro family votes and they are not going to vote for him when he says you have to go to the back of the bus. Those days are over."

Daniels' words awakened social conservatives' enduring political anxiety. Christian right leaders--from Pat Robertson to the late Jerry Falwell to Land--all expressed to me over the years one unanimous gripe with the Republican professional class: the coalition that courts them to win office often forgets them in office. That critique faded with the younger Bush presidency. "Reagan talked a good game but I think Bush is delivering," Robertson told me in 2006. It's the unique context of the offense that therefore causes offense. "He opened up an old wound; it was not a comment made in a vacuum," Land agreed.

Daniels should not be in this situation. He has attended the same Presbyterian church for a half century. He helped found a private Christian primary school serving inner city Indianapolis. Daniels has consistently opposed abortion. He is no Rudy Giuliani.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christie at AEI

Kendra Marr writes at Politico: Experts: Chris Christie's moment is now

That’s the bottom line from a bipartisan panel of experts, who watched the New Jersey governor’s address on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute for POLITICO – and drew a sharp contrast between Christie and the cattle call of potential GOP hopefuls at the just-concluded conservative gathering.

“He has an electricity around him wholly absent around other candidates,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Even when they put on their best possible speech at CPAC, they still put people to sleep. Like or dislike Chris Christie, you could not fall asleep during that speech.”

The three-day CPAC gathering in DC, which ended Saturday, featured speeches by many potential 2012 contenders, including Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump, among others.

Also see Christie at a town hall meeting talking about education reform at a granular level:

Early Gallup Numbers on Obama Reelection

Gallup reports:
U.S. registered voters are evenly split about whether they would back President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012 (45%) or "the Republican Party's candidate" (45%). This is similar to the results for the same question when it was asked a year ago.

Younger voters are one element of Obama's original coalition that may not be intact heading into 2012. Gallup's 2008 pre-election poll found 63% of registered voters aged 18 to 34 choosing Obama, while 33% backed his Republican rival, John McCain. In addition, 53% of 35- to 54-year-old voters and 48% of those 55 and older supported Obama in that same poll. By contrast, today a bare majority of the 18- to 34-year-old group, 51%, and 43% of those 35 to 54 say they would vote to re-elect Obama.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Barbour on Purity, Mexico, and Confederate Plates

Andy Barr reports at Politico:

Christian Heinze writes at The Hill:

But Barbour seemed to take both sides of the issue in separate interviews.

After his address to CPAC, he sat for an interview with the pro-life website Life News, where he seemed to back away from his previous support for the truce. When asked if social issues should play second fiddle to economic ones, he replied: “I don’t believe that at all. Social issues do matter.”

He then said that as president, he would codify the Mexico City Policy — which prevents American tax dollars from funding groups that perform abortions abroad — into law and also warned that a second Obama term could lead to more pro-choice judges on the nation’s high court.

Barbour sounded a different note last week in an interview with the conservative magazine Human Events. “Unity is what we need that’ll help us win, and … purity is not a winner in politics,” Barbour said.

That’s not exactly a new sentiment from the former Republican National Committee chief. Soon after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat in a special election, Barbour remarked of the pro-choice Brown: “Well, he’s very much a moderate Republican, and I think it’s a reminder to Republicans that we don’t need purity.”

As he prepares for what advisers privately say is a probable presidential bid, Barbour will have to make another decision: Is purity on social issues mandatory, as many of his potential opponents claim, or should a truce extend those political concerns until economic ones are sorted out?

Andy Barr also reports:

Haley Barbour is pushing back against a report that he helped the government of Mexico push for "amnesty" during his time as a lobbyist.

Barbour's statement of denial on Monday came in response to a Time magazine story pointing to a lobbying disclosure form his firm BGR filed with the state department acknowledging that it had been hired by Mexico to help on legislation aimed at finding a "path to citizenship" for Mexican citizens living illegally in the United States.

Barbour issued a statement and fact sheet Monday night — and though neither explicitly says BGR did not work on citizenship issues for Mexicans living in the United States, it asserts that the firm Barbour founded "never advocated amnesty for illegal aliens."

AP reports:
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday after the energy speech in Jackson that he won’t denounce a Southern heritage group’s proposal for a state-issued license plate that would honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Barbour is a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

Barbour said he doesn’t think Mississippi legislators will approve the Forrest license plate proposed by the Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates over the next few years to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War -- or in its words, the “War Between the States.” The Forrest license plate would be slated for 2014.

Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said it’s “absurd” to honor a “racially divisive figure” such as Forrest. Johnson has also called on Barbour to denounce the license-plate idea.

Asked about the NAACP’s stance Tuesday, Barbour replied: “I don’t go around denouncing people. That’s not going to happen. I don’t even denounce the news media.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Santorum's Google Problem

If he runs for president, Rick Santorum has a problem. Most people don't know who he is. And if they Google him, well, Roll Call picks up the story:

Santorum’s Google problem began in 2003, when gay sex-advice columnist Dan Savage sought to mock Santorum’s comments on homosexuality. Then the third-most-powerful Republican in the Senate, Santorum told the Associated Press that April that gay sex could “undermine the fabric of our society.” The interview touched on a Supreme Court case related to sexual privacy, and Santorum compared homosexual acts to allowing for “man on child, man on dog” relationships.

“And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does,” he said at the time.

Savage soon created the website, tied to a contest in which he asked readers to submit definitions for the term “santorum.”

It would be among the first “Google bombs” in the modern political era. Using extensive links to other sites, Savage soon ensured that the winning definition would be among the top search results. (The search yields even less flattering sites if users search for the Republican’s last name alone.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Somebody's Doing Serious Oppo on Barbour, Continued

Time reports:

Barbour may be eager to showcase his record, but one of Barbour's foreign lobbying clients could cause him some troubles in the 2012 Republican primary, if he decides to run. According to a State Department filing by Barbour's former lobbying firm, The Embassy of Mexico decided to retain Barbour's services on August 15, 2001, to work on, among other things, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for foreigners living illegally in the United States—what opponents of immigration reform call “amnesty.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CPAC Winners

At Politico, Alexander Burns identified winners at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty didn’t win CPAC’s straw poll. Like most of the 2012 field, he ended up in the low single digits.

But Pawlenty still managed to show he’s not just the nice-guy candidate for president. Unlike another former governor who spoke at CPAC – Romney – Pawlenty proudly touted his record as chief executive of a liberal state to argue he’s ready to go toe to toe with Democrats and win at any cost.

“I set a record for vetoes … Had the first government shutdown in Minnesota’s history. Took one of the longest transit strikes in the country’s history to get public employee benefits under control,” Pawlenty said. “The federal government should do the same.”

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

If Mitch Daniels decides to run for president, this week will be remembered as the start of a brilliant rollout.

On Wednesday, Daniels reignited chatter about a potential presidential bid by telling POLITICO he believes he could assemble a powerful campaign operation. Two days later, he gave a well received address to CPAC that prescribed “bariatric surgery” for a “morbidly obese federal government.” The speech landed Daniels’s mug at the top of the Drudge Report, the right’s favorite required reading.

Daniels has left political observers guessing at his intentions – and often repeatedly changing their guesses – for months. At CPAC he handed in a solid performance that showed why he ought to be taken seriously in an unsettled presidential field.

Rich Lowry writes at National Review Corner:

Mitch Daniels gave an extraordinary speech at CPAC last night. As anyone who has ever done any public speaking at all knows, the hardest thing to do is to tell people things they don’t necessarily want to hear. For Daniels not to strike one pandering note, and even to challenge the audience at times, speaks to just how grounded he is. He even put in a good word for the occasional necessary compromise. Few potential presidential candidates would dare say such a thing in a CPAC speech.

Then, there was the amazingly frank core of Daniels speech: his endorsement of extensive changes in entitlement programs to ward off what he called the “red menace” of unsustainable debt. If Daniels runs for president and gets the nomination, Democrats will have an entire campaign’s worth of material to demagogue in just this one speech. It’s as forthright a presentation on these issues as you’re likely to hear this side of Paul Ryan.

Finally, as Maggie noted, Daniels didn’t even flinch on the (deeply mistaken, in my view) notion of a truce on the social issues, even though it has caused him untold political grief; he just disguised it a little. The logic of the truce is still in this line (somewhat hyperbolically) comparing the debt to an invading army: “If a foreign power advanced an army to the border of our land, everyone in this room would drop everything and look for a way to help.”

In short, a very notable speech, and one that makes you think after hearing it: “That guy should run for president–and probably won’t.”

Screenshot from Drudge, February 13:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't Mess with the Moose-Killer

At Politico, Andy Barr notes that Republicans pay a price for attacks on Sarah Palin. Rick Santorum learned the hard way:
In Santorum’s case, the former Pennsylvania senator got into trouble in a web-radio interview with conservative commentator S.E. Cupp. While his recent jibes at Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour landed without much notice, Santorum’s Palin comments blew up in his face.

Asked why he thought Palin wasn’t attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, he responded: “I have a feeling that she has some demands on her time, and a lot of them have financial benefit attached to them.” He added that Palin had “other business opportunities” as well as “all these kids” to look after as a mother, both of which caused constraints on her time.

Though Santorum later insisted otherwise, his comments seemed to imply that Palin was more interested in cashing in on her celebrity than running for office, a critique rarely voiced in public by Republican officials. And his mention of her children — an especially freighted reference — only compounded the situation.

Santorum’s remarks were delivered to a small audience via the Internet. Palin’s response came on Fox News. And she didn’t hold back, asserting that she took particular offense to his suggestion that she as a mother had “other responsibilities” that he as a father of seven does not.

“My kids don’t hold me back from attending a conference,” Palin said in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity. “I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. I’ll let his wife call him that instead.”

The story dominated conservative media, with Fox & Friends calling it the “first political kerfuffle of the 2012 presidential campaign.” Palin-friendly bloggers and pundits savaged Santorum for the remarks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Koch and Crossroads

At Politico, Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Smith point to a rift between the Crossroads approach to politics and that of ideological activists:

In fact, as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meets this week in Washington and conservatives assess the state of their movement, the Koch network of nonprofit groups, once centered on sleepy free-enterprise think tanks, seems to be emerging as a more ideological counterweight to the independent Republican political machine conceived by Bush-era GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie before the 2010 midterm elections.

The aggressive embrace of political activism by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, has cheered fiscal conservatives, who hope they will reorient the conservative political apparatus around free-market, small government principles and candidates, and away from the electability-over-principles approach they see Rove and Gillespie as embodying.


Technically, the Kochs don’t control any groups, rather they exert significant influence through their contributions, board positions and patronage of the leaders of outfits that have been prominently featured at their donor conferences, such as Americans for Prosperity and Themis, a fledgling voter micro-targeting initiative spearheaded by former Koch staffer Karl Crow that in some ways seems designed to compete with an effort launched last year by the Rove and Gillespie-backed Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.


While Koch-linked operatives communicated with representatives of the Crossroads groups and affiliated outfits during the midterms, an anonymous Republican fundraiser complained to NBC’s Michael Isikoff that during regular conference calls between the groups to coordinate midterm election spending plans, representatives of Koch-backed groups were reluctant to share information.

At the January 2010 Koch donor meeting, though, Noble and Gillespie sat on a panel together analyzing the coming midterm elections. Entitled “the opportunity of 2010: understanding voter attitudes and the electoral map,” the panel also featured the AFP director Pope and veteran GOP operative Jim Ellis, who had been indicted in 2005 on campaign finance charges , for which he is awaiting an April trial, in connection with his work for ex-House Republican Leader Tom Delay, who this year was convicted of campaign violations.

In the weeks before this year’s Rancho Mirage meeting, Ellis crafted a 501(c)4 proposal for Noble seeking $4.75 million for a group that would spread anti-Obama messages in key states in the run-up to the 2012 presidential race.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sound Advice on Hiring Staff

Tevi Troy writes at Politico:

We’re already starting the next presidential campaign. Political insiders are making predictions about who will run and which campaigns are ahead in the all-important “staff primary”: the race for talented personnel who help shape the outcome.

The glitz and glamour of loud, well-known personalities are tempting, but history recommends caution. To win the staff primary, talent scouts from both parties should look to campaign aides with strong work ethics — and low profiles.

In 1937, the Brownlow Commission recommended to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that he needed White House aides with a “passion for anonymity.” This advice may be even more necessary when it comes to political campaigns.

If failed campaigns past teach anything, it’s that the higher the staffers’ profiles, the worse they do at achieving the goal: getting their candidate elected.

In 2008, for instance, the McCain campaign suffered greatly from loose-lipped aides who cared more about their own reputations than the candidate's fate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

GOP Veekstakes: The Really Early Edition

At Politico, Alexander Burns reports on GOP enthusiasm for potential vice presidential candidates:

That group includes a throng of young politicians who aren’t yet 50 years old and one, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who isn’t even 40. There are three Latinos in the group, two Indian-Americans, numerous women and candidates from almost every swing state in the country.

“Any time that you have a hugely successful year, like we had in 2010, we put a lot of dynamic candidates on the board. A lot of them won and they excited a lot of different people from a lot of different parts of the party,” said Chip Saltsman, who managed Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008. “Whoever the presidential nominee is, I think he’s going to have a huge VP list out there that he’ll be able to choose from.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 59

In a Super Bowl interview with the president, Bill O'Reilly asked about redistribution:
O'REILLY: Do you deny the assessment? Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: You deny that?

OBAMA: Absolutely. I didn't raise taxes once, I lowered taxes over the last two years.
In court, however, the administration has argued that the penalties in the health bill are an exercise of the congressional power to lay and collect taxes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Left, Right, Inside, Outside, and 2012

In Upside Down and Inside Out: the 1992 Elections and American Politics, James Ceaser and Andrew Busch developed a typology of presidential candidates with two dimensions: liberal-conservative and outside-inside. At the 538 blog, Nate Silver uses something similar to classify potential GOP candidates for 2012.

I might quibble with some of the exact placements. For instance, Gingrich is not nearly as conservative as some think. Nevertheless, the table is a useful starting point.

Barbour Money

At Politico, Andy Barr and Zachary Abrahamson make a key point about Haley Barbour's political fundraising:

His main fundraising tool is a political action committee registered in Georgia – which has no limits on individual or corporate donations. The PAC is chaired by Henry Barbour, Haley’s nephew and a top-level Republican powerbroker in his own right — he was the key behind-the-scenes player in getting Reince Priebus elected RNC chairman.

In just the last year, 147 people and corporations have given a total of $523,174.52 to Barbour’s Georgia PAC — an average of more than $3,550.

Nine donors – two individuals and seven corporations — have given Barbour $295,000 over the last year through the Georgia PAC. If the PAC were federal, and covered by FEC guidelines, the most nine donors could have given Barbour over the last year is $45,000, as individual contributions are capped at the national level


Barbour uses the flush PAC to make contributions to candidates and pay pollsters and consultants – some of whom the governor has known for 30 years.

Money for the PAC goes out almost as fast as it comes in. After raising $540,000 last year, the Georgia PAC ended the year with $33,000.

Barbour’s Georgia PAC is only part of his operation. He also operates a federal PAC, as well as a second state PAC in Mississippi.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Crossroads Carries On

Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:

The conservative group Crossroads GPS is going up with radio ads in 19 districts to defend Republicans against a new attack from Democrats.

Crossroads is going up in the exact same 19 districts where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee went up with media campaigns earlier this week.

The DCCC's campaign included radio ads and phone calls. The ads hit Republicans for pushing to cut spending on education and research, saying those cuts would cost jobs. The Crossroads ads hit back by saying the country needs those members to "stop the bailouts and government spending" so that small businesses can thrive again.

Also at the Post, Rachel Weiner writes:

Now the DCCC is fighting back against Crossroads for defending one representative in particular.

"If Karl Rove and his American Crossroads special interest funders want to rush to the defense of Representative David Rivera that's up to them but voters should be concerned that a group like Rove's is ignoring Rivera's rap sheet and misdeeds," DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. "If this shadowy special interest funded group wants to come to the rescue of someone like David Rivera than it tells us all we need to know about the kind of candidates they'll chose to defend."


"Democrat[ic] leaders are in bed with the big spending interests and bureaucrat unions, are unwilling to propose real spending reductions, and are instead focused on negative attacks," said Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio. "Indeed, they're acting as though the 2010 electoral shellacking never occurred -- but with the same folks in power, why would anyone expect different results?"

The spat is an early sign that Crossroads will be a major player in the 2012 election -- not only funding ads but going to head-to-head with Democratic groups.

One of the targeted Republicans is Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY-25). The Auburn Citizen reports:

It is fascinating to see this level of campaign activity at this stage. The DCCC has been very active, with e-mails and campaigns of their own already underway. While there isn't a challenger for Buerkle and there may not be for some time, Democrats are letting Buerkle know that they plan on challenging her hard come 2012.

That is, of course, if redistricting doesn't eliminate her district.

What's just as intriguing is the involvement of Crossroads GPS. It is February 2011 and they are treating this like October 2012, coming to the defense of a candidate they support. Everyone knows 2012 will be a big election, not only because President Barack Obama is up for re-election, but because House Republicans will defend their majority and Senate Democrats must do the same.

Everyone who is a political observer knows 2012 will be big. But perhaps we didn't expect campaign-like activities to happen until 2012 arrived.


Friday, February 4, 2011

POTUS and Polarization

Gallup reports:
President Barack Obama's job approval ratings were even more polarized during his second year in office than during his first, when he registered the most polarized ratings for a first-year president. An average of 81% of Democrats and 13% of Republicans approved of the job Obama was doing as president during his second year. That 68-point gap in party ratings is up from 65 points in his first year and is easily the most polarized second year for a president since Dwight Eisenhower.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A 2012 Game Changer?

Politico reports on Senator John Thune's deliberations about a 2012 presidential race. He says that he likes being in the Senate, and the strong chance of a 2012 GOP takeover of the chamber adds to the attraction.

Another, more personal factor could keep him in the Senate. His wife, Kimberley, read “Game Change,” the blockbuster 2008 campaign book that revealed an array of candidate-spouse spats and depicted a brutal life on the campaign trail.

“It was not helpful,” he joked, calling the book a “downer.”

“But in spite of having read ‘Game Change,’ she’s somebody who really believes in public service, and she’s been a real trooper in all the campaigns. So however this ends up for us, she will be ready to go to work,” he added.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Michael Steele's Legacy

Andy Barr reports on Michael Steele's lingering damage to the Republican Party:

Monday's announcement that the Republican National Committee is $23 million in debt has many of the party’s top strategists concerned that the national party may be a drag on the eventual Republican presidential nominee.

Obama’s campaign is already kicking into gear, moving its top players to Chicago. And there is talk of raising up to $1 billion for the president’s reelection campaign.

The Obama campaign will be aided early in its fundraising push by higher contribution limits to the DNC — something none of the Republicans will be able to match until they become the nominee.

It may take months, however, before the RNC can get back to even, delaying its ability to stockpile cash to take on Obama.

Read more:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Party Images

Gallup reports:

Americans' opinions of the Republican Party have improved to the point where now more have a favorable [47%] than unfavorable [43%] opinion of the party. The last time more Americans viewed the GOP more positively than negatively was in 2005.


Americans' current 46% favorable and 47% unfavorable rating of the Democratic Party is among the worst for Democrats since 1992, but is an improvement from last year.


After a rancorous election year in 2010, Americans' opinions of both political parties are improving in early 2011. If the Republican Party is able to sustain its net positive image, this will indicate the party has completely recovered from the downturn it took beginning in 2005.

The Democratic Party's image, though improved, remains low for the party from a historical perspective.