Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Thune

Rubio Won’t Chair NRSC, Eyes on 2016?

As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

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As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

It’s easy to see why McConnell would want someone like Rubio revamping the NRSC and shielding it from some of the grassroots criticism, but there wasn’t much in it for Rubio if he’s looking at 2016. Not only would it have put him right in the middle of some of the goriest establishment-Tea Party fights for the next two years, but most of the big donors he’d meet through NRSC duty would already want to meet with him anyway. A lot to lose and little to gain.

The slot seems better suited for someone with longer-term Senate ambitions. Some other names being tossed around are Senators Roy Blunt, John Thune, Jerry Moran and Rob Portman. But Rubio’s rejection seems like a sign he sees the Senate as a path to bigger things rather than a place to build a career.

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Who Is Tim Pawlenty?

In the 2012 prognostications, Tim Pawlenty has sometimes been an afterthought. It’s not for lack of earnestness or for lack of a good track record as governor. He has both. But he’s yet to break through the clutter and explain why him — rather than Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, or Mitt Romney. That may change over time, and each of those four may fizzle or decide against a run. Pawlenty is inching closer to a decision, in the same methodical fashion in which he governed:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has not made a final decision on whether to make a White House bid, but he’s laying the groundwork and is confident he could run a serious and well-funded campaign if he decides to go ahead.

In a meeting with reporters last week in San Diego, Pawlenty said he is still contemplating whether he is the right person to lead the country out of an economic crisis.

“I haven’t made a final decision yet. I mean, we’re obviously looking at it. But as to whether we do it or don’t do it, I’m not going to make up my mind internally for probably a few months yet,” Pawlenty said. “I’ve got a set of experiences and skills that might benefit the country. But, I haven’t made a decision whether I’m the right person to do that, whether I’m the only person who can do that.”

For now, Pawlenty is mainly defined as what the other candidates are not. Sarah Palin quit the governorship, but Pawlenty makes the case that the key issue will be “‘as you look at the personal and political records of those individuals, what does that tell you about their fortitude personally? Do they have the record to actually back up the rhetoric?’ Pawlenty asked. ‘In other words, are they just giving you pretty rhetoric or do they actually get it done?'” He’s a Midwesterner from a Purple State, not a Southerner from a deep Red State as is Barbour. He’s been uncompromising on social issues rather than suggesting that such issues are irrelevant as McDaniels did. And he’s never supported ObamaCare lite. But being “not flawed like each of the others” isn’t likely to deliver the nomination.

Pawlenty could use a theme and a distinct persona. Once he has those, he would do well to start communicating what he is all about to the conservative electorate. If he doesn’t, he’s going to soon drift into the also-ran category, or if he’s solid (but unexceptional) on the campaign trail, the short list for VP candidates.

In the 2012 prognostications, Tim Pawlenty has sometimes been an afterthought. It’s not for lack of earnestness or for lack of a good track record as governor. He has both. But he’s yet to break through the clutter and explain why him — rather than Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, John Thune, or Mitt Romney. That may change over time, and each of those four may fizzle or decide against a run. Pawlenty is inching closer to a decision, in the same methodical fashion in which he governed:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has not made a final decision on whether to make a White House bid, but he’s laying the groundwork and is confident he could run a serious and well-funded campaign if he decides to go ahead.

In a meeting with reporters last week in San Diego, Pawlenty said he is still contemplating whether he is the right person to lead the country out of an economic crisis.

“I haven’t made a final decision yet. I mean, we’re obviously looking at it. But as to whether we do it or don’t do it, I’m not going to make up my mind internally for probably a few months yet,” Pawlenty said. “I’ve got a set of experiences and skills that might benefit the country. But, I haven’t made a decision whether I’m the right person to do that, whether I’m the only person who can do that.”

For now, Pawlenty is mainly defined as what the other candidates are not. Sarah Palin quit the governorship, but Pawlenty makes the case that the key issue will be “‘as you look at the personal and political records of those individuals, what does that tell you about their fortitude personally? Do they have the record to actually back up the rhetoric?’ Pawlenty asked. ‘In other words, are they just giving you pretty rhetoric or do they actually get it done?'” He’s a Midwesterner from a Purple State, not a Southerner from a deep Red State as is Barbour. He’s been uncompromising on social issues rather than suggesting that such issues are irrelevant as McDaniels did. And he’s never supported ObamaCare lite. But being “not flawed like each of the others” isn’t likely to deliver the nomination.

Pawlenty could use a theme and a distinct persona. Once he has those, he would do well to start communicating what he is all about to the conservative electorate. If he doesn’t, he’s going to soon drift into the also-ran category, or if he’s solid (but unexceptional) on the campaign trail, the short list for VP candidates.

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Pence Raises His Profile

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

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Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities — also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Who’ve They Got?

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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Forget the Rule Book

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

Ross Douthat looks at the pre-positioning for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. He explains that there are the populists — Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee — with devoted followers and equally devoted detractors, and that there is the “next in line” Republican — Mitt Romney. The name of the game, Douthat suggests, for establishment Republicans (the geniuses who preferred Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio?) is to stage “a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.” Douthat throws out some contenders: Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, and Haley Barbour. Douthat advises Romney to “co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee” exhibit without alienating the establishment.

What’s wrong with this analysis? It has no context, and Douthat treats the contenders as archetypes (“sober reformer,” “unpredictable populist,” etc.) rather than as actual contenders with personalities and histories. Romney’s biggest problem isn’t Palin or Huckabee or any other Republican; it is that he championed a health-care bill that looks very similar to ObamaCare, which is the object of the entire party’s ire. Oh, yes — that.

If we learned anything in 2008 it was that context matters. The “unbeatable” Hillary Clinton ran precisely the wrong campaign (“experience”) in a “change” election year. Obama never looked back after the financial meltdown, because the context had changed — wariness of George W. Bush had been transformed into fury over the economic collapse. So, yes, the GOP has a habit of giving the nod to the “runner-up” from the previous year; but we’ve had a political earthquake, and the past is not much of a guide to the new political landscape.

Moreover, if Romney or any candidate is banking on establishment Republicans, as Douthat explains, “to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative,” he really has not been paying attention. The “establishment” isn’t really in charge of much of anything any more. The party elders, for better or worse, are being ignored. Ask Rubio, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Sharon Angle, and the rest if endorsements by the establishment and big-name donors are the key to victory. The old rules for picking presidential nominees (No congressmen! Must be a household name!) and the creaky campaign customs (The former governor of Maryland endorses candidate X!) have been blown up — first by Obama and then by the Obama backlash.

Maybe Romney four years after his first run can close the sale and figure out a way to deal with RomneyCare. But he won’t do it by splitting the difference between the Tea Party and the Beltway or by ingratiating himself with insiders (the ones who took more than a year to figure out what the Tea Partiers were all about). That sort of thinking is so 2008. The context has changed. The rules — if there are any — are different.

It’s not clear whether outsiderness or executive acumen will carry the day. The only thing for certain is that the old rule book is of absolutely no help.

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Bayh the Way, You Guys Haven’t Done Anything

Try as they might to spin the Evan Bayh retirement as a sign of the generic failure of the political system or the nation’s ungovernability, the Democrats are seething. They aren’t thrilled that as gave the media yet another “Democrats in Distress!” headline, Bayh also handed the Republicans a pre-made political ad campaign. Politico reports: “In explaining his decision not to seek reelection, the Indiana Democrat has complained publicly about legislative gridlock, saying that Congress hasn’t done enough to prop up the economy and hasn’t created a single private-sector job in the past six months.”

Oops. Well, that’s certainly not going to help matters. Indeed, Democrats can’t understand why Bayh is dumping on them, as opposed to, you know, blaming the minority party for the nation’s woes:

“I just have no idea what he’s doing,” said one Democratic senator, whose face turned red as he threw up his hands after being asked about Bayh.

“We get some of the blame; we moved a little too slowly on health care,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “My only disappointment, and the only thing I’ll say about Sen. Bayh, is that I think a more accurate portrayal by him was how Republicans have tried to block everything that we’ve done.”

“It almost seems like he’s siding with” Republicans, said one top Democratic aide.

There are a few explanations for why Bayh is twisting the knife. Some think he’s out to build support for a 2012 primary challenge. Blaming Obama and the unpopular congressional leadership is one way to establish his challenger credentials. Yes, yes, Bayh was part of the Beltway establishment, but criticizing the leadership and the president is one way to establish a rationale for his own candidacy. A more immediate explanation for the dump-on-the-Democrats gambit is that Bayh is enjoying the limelight, relishing the media’s focus on the “Why is Obama failing?” storyline. He supplies a good answer: because they haven’t addressed voters’ most pressing issue.

But the real explanation, I think, is that Bayh is now free to speak his mind and tell the truth. It must be liberating not to have to spin the unspinnable tale of the stimulus plan’s success in creating all those jobs. After all the Democrats’ huffing and puffing, Bayh walked back his comment that if Obama could “create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.” But there is no walking back his central message — this president and the Democratic Congress haven’t gotten much done on the issue that matters most to voters. (“South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in GOP leadership, said Bayh’s comments were a ‘validation of what we’ve been saying’ — that the economic stimulus package and the Democratic Congress have failed to create jobs.”) And indeed, Bayh again stomped on his colleagues’ message, declaring that “some Democrats’ comments about the legislature’s productivity ‘show a major disconnect [between] what goes on in Washington and what goes on in the rest of the country.'”

Republicans are likely licking their chops, with visions of that Evan Bayh commercial whacking the Democrats. But really, Bayh is simply saying what pretty much every non-Kool-Aid drinker knows: the Democrats have been spectacularly unsuccessful in doing what voters want them to do, and instead have spent their time on something — a monstrous health-care bill — that voters don’t want. Bayh or no Bayh, Democrats are going to have a hard time making the case that voters should send them back to do more of the same.

Try as they might to spin the Evan Bayh retirement as a sign of the generic failure of the political system or the nation’s ungovernability, the Democrats are seething. They aren’t thrilled that as gave the media yet another “Democrats in Distress!” headline, Bayh also handed the Republicans a pre-made political ad campaign. Politico reports: “In explaining his decision not to seek reelection, the Indiana Democrat has complained publicly about legislative gridlock, saying that Congress hasn’t done enough to prop up the economy and hasn’t created a single private-sector job in the past six months.”

Oops. Well, that’s certainly not going to help matters. Indeed, Democrats can’t understand why Bayh is dumping on them, as opposed to, you know, blaming the minority party for the nation’s woes:

“I just have no idea what he’s doing,” said one Democratic senator, whose face turned red as he threw up his hands after being asked about Bayh.

“We get some of the blame; we moved a little too slowly on health care,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “My only disappointment, and the only thing I’ll say about Sen. Bayh, is that I think a more accurate portrayal by him was how Republicans have tried to block everything that we’ve done.”

“It almost seems like he’s siding with” Republicans, said one top Democratic aide.

There are a few explanations for why Bayh is twisting the knife. Some think he’s out to build support for a 2012 primary challenge. Blaming Obama and the unpopular congressional leadership is one way to establish his challenger credentials. Yes, yes, Bayh was part of the Beltway establishment, but criticizing the leadership and the president is one way to establish a rationale for his own candidacy. A more immediate explanation for the dump-on-the-Democrats gambit is that Bayh is enjoying the limelight, relishing the media’s focus on the “Why is Obama failing?” storyline. He supplies a good answer: because they haven’t addressed voters’ most pressing issue.

But the real explanation, I think, is that Bayh is now free to speak his mind and tell the truth. It must be liberating not to have to spin the unspinnable tale of the stimulus plan’s success in creating all those jobs. After all the Democrats’ huffing and puffing, Bayh walked back his comment that if Obama could “create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.” But there is no walking back his central message — this president and the Democratic Congress haven’t gotten much done on the issue that matters most to voters. (“South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in GOP leadership, said Bayh’s comments were a ‘validation of what we’ve been saying’ — that the economic stimulus package and the Democratic Congress have failed to create jobs.”) And indeed, Bayh again stomped on his colleagues’ message, declaring that “some Democrats’ comments about the legislature’s productivity ‘show a major disconnect [between] what goes on in Washington and what goes on in the rest of the country.'”

Republicans are likely licking their chops, with visions of that Evan Bayh commercial whacking the Democrats. But really, Bayh is simply saying what pretty much every non-Kool-Aid drinker knows: the Democrats have been spectacularly unsuccessful in doing what voters want them to do, and instead have spent their time on something — a monstrous health-care bill — that voters don’t want. Bayh or no Bayh, Democrats are going to have a hard time making the case that voters should send them back to do more of the same.

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Just Like Palin!

John Kerry gives us a peek at the psyche of the Left:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) lashed out at Scott Brown’s Massachusetts senatorial campaign on Monday for adopting “intimidation tactics” that he deemed “reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign rallies.”

These are the words liberals use to characterize conservative enthusiasm and activism: dangerous and intimidation. But this time, George Bush is a distant memory, John McCain is not at the top of the ticket, and the Republican is ahead in the polls.

Nevertheless, the reflexive reaction to delegitimize the opposition and associate the next political rock star on the Right with the Left’s bogeywoman is something to behold. (Imagine how the other 2012 contenders must grind their teeth when they hear that sort of stuff. Well, I suppose no one on the Left thinks supporters of Tim Pawlenty or John Thune are all that “dangerous.”)

The Democrats are, of course, in panic mode. Sam Stein tells us that “the White House, congressional Democrats and others were preparing for the fallout of an embarrassing loss on Tuesday and the implications it would have on the party’s agenda — drafting out legislative possibilities for passing health care reform and laying out arguments for who was to blame for the defeat.” One argument, as lame as it sounds, must be to blame the voters. Or if that fails, blame the newly energized grassroots movement that’s sweeping the country. We have come some way since last April, when the White House pretended not to notice the Tea Party protesters swarming across the street. Maybe they should have paid more attention.

The Democrats can pre- and post-spin all they like. The results will speak for themselves. If Brown wins, no amount of fear-mongering about those mean voters and those “dangerous” devotees of the former vice-presidential candidate will matter. But Kerry is right about one thing: incumbent Democrats should be very afraid. If Coakley loses, those angry voters, empowered by victory, will be coming after them.

John Kerry gives us a peek at the psyche of the Left:

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) lashed out at Scott Brown’s Massachusetts senatorial campaign on Monday for adopting “intimidation tactics” that he deemed “reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign rallies.”

These are the words liberals use to characterize conservative enthusiasm and activism: dangerous and intimidation. But this time, George Bush is a distant memory, John McCain is not at the top of the ticket, and the Republican is ahead in the polls.

Nevertheless, the reflexive reaction to delegitimize the opposition and associate the next political rock star on the Right with the Left’s bogeywoman is something to behold. (Imagine how the other 2012 contenders must grind their teeth when they hear that sort of stuff. Well, I suppose no one on the Left thinks supporters of Tim Pawlenty or John Thune are all that “dangerous.”)

The Democrats are, of course, in panic mode. Sam Stein tells us that “the White House, congressional Democrats and others were preparing for the fallout of an embarrassing loss on Tuesday and the implications it would have on the party’s agenda — drafting out legislative possibilities for passing health care reform and laying out arguments for who was to blame for the defeat.” One argument, as lame as it sounds, must be to blame the voters. Or if that fails, blame the newly energized grassroots movement that’s sweeping the country. We have come some way since last April, when the White House pretended not to notice the Tea Party protesters swarming across the street. Maybe they should have paid more attention.

The Democrats can pre- and post-spin all they like. The results will speak for themselves. If Brown wins, no amount of fear-mongering about those mean voters and those “dangerous” devotees of the former vice-presidential candidate will matter. But Kerry is right about one thing: incumbent Democrats should be very afraid. If Coakley loses, those angry voters, empowered by victory, will be coming after them.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

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It Can’t Be 2012 Thune Enough

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

Read Less




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