Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republican Governors Association

Dems & Media Put a Fork in Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s loyalists are still hoping that the media overkill on Bridgegate and the transparently partisan nature of the charges being lobbed at him and his administration will somehow turn public opinion in his favor. But though that hope might have seemed reasonable, if a bit optimistic, only a few days ago, after the latest development in the widening ring of scandals, such a perspective must now be viewed as a fantasy. After the charges levied at the Christie administration by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer about being shaken down to back a development project linked to a friend of the governor, further talks about his 2016 ambitions is pointless.

It may well be that the governor had no personal involvement in the bizarre traffic jam scheme or the alleged shake-down of the Hoboken mayor and that the several upcoming investigations by the state legislature and the U.S. attorney will find no criminal liability on his part or anyone close to him. But in terms of the political impact of the media feeding frenzy, the legal outcome is almost beside the point. What has happened to Christie this month is a textbook example of how scandals can sink a public figure. His guilt or innocence, the partisan nature of the charges about the use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds, and the fairness of the probes as well as the disproportionate media attention given to Christie scandal stories may well influence how posterity regards these unfolding events. But they will almost certainly make it impossible for Christie to lay the groundwork for what was widely assumed to be an inevitable presidential run as head of the Republican Governor’s Association or to do anything other than defend himself in the coming months or even years.

In other words, the Christie for President bandwagon is not only stopped in its tracks. In the space of a few weeks it has become a pipe dream.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s loyalists are still hoping that the media overkill on Bridgegate and the transparently partisan nature of the charges being lobbed at him and his administration will somehow turn public opinion in his favor. But though that hope might have seemed reasonable, if a bit optimistic, only a few days ago, after the latest development in the widening ring of scandals, such a perspective must now be viewed as a fantasy. After the charges levied at the Christie administration by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer about being shaken down to back a development project linked to a friend of the governor, further talks about his 2016 ambitions is pointless.

It may well be that the governor had no personal involvement in the bizarre traffic jam scheme or the alleged shake-down of the Hoboken mayor and that the several upcoming investigations by the state legislature and the U.S. attorney will find no criminal liability on his part or anyone close to him. But in terms of the political impact of the media feeding frenzy, the legal outcome is almost beside the point. What has happened to Christie this month is a textbook example of how scandals can sink a public figure. His guilt or innocence, the partisan nature of the charges about the use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds, and the fairness of the probes as well as the disproportionate media attention given to Christie scandal stories may well influence how posterity regards these unfolding events. But they will almost certainly make it impossible for Christie to lay the groundwork for what was widely assumed to be an inevitable presidential run as head of the Republican Governor’s Association or to do anything other than defend himself in the coming months or even years.

In other words, the Christie for President bandwagon is not only stopped in its tracks. In the space of a few weeks it has become a pipe dream.

There’s a lot about the Hoboken charges that should give Christie’s defenders pause. The allegations that the Christie administration was using federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds as patronage plums to be distributed to friends and denied to foes sounds like politics as usual in New Jersey and many other states. But it is political poison to a man who posed as the champion of those who were affected by the storm as well as someone who won applause for placing their needs above partisan loyalties. The governor’s attack on the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives for holding up the relief bill because of concerns about the money being diverted for patronage or unrelated causes now seems hypocritical.

But worse than that, it will set off another round of investigations by the U.S. attorney as well as the legislature that will mire him and all those around him in the scandal. As with other such investigations, the Justice Department is likely to keep digging until it finds someone to indict even if Christie himself is exonerated. Suffice it to say that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno—the person accused by Zimmer of threatening  her—will have to do better than today’s statement of denial in which she refused to answer questions or to specify exactly what she said to the Hoboken mayor.

The problem here isn’t so much the specifics of each part of the scandal, be it the traffic jams, the tourism ads that featured Christie, aid to Hoboken, or the various tales of Christie playing the bully with political foes. Indeed, the complicated nature of Mayor Zimmer’s claim that Hoboken was shorted on aid funds—a charge that the governor’s office refutes with its own set of facts and figures—makes it almost impossible for the public or the press to sort this out. 

What we do know is that the steady drumbeat of stories has overwhelmed Christie’s defenders. One scandal was hard enough. A series of scandals that are tied together only by the common thread of political thuggery on the part of Christie’s people establishes a narrative that becomes impossible to deny. While each may be refuted or questioned on its own—for example Zimmer’s failure to come forward with these very serious and potentially criminal charges until after the governor was already under siege is highly suspicious—taken as a whole they create a story line of scandal that is overwhelming. It no longer matters that the liberal mainstream media had a motive to take down the Republican who was surely the greatest threat to a Hillary Clinton coronation in 2016. All that counts now is that Christie is on the defensive and will remain there for the indefinite future. That means his utility as head of the Republican Governor’s Association is at an end and donors preparing to back his potential presidential candidacy would be wise to start looking elsewhere for a GOP contender in 2016.

Christie’s defenders will have plenty to do in the coming weeks and months sorting out the serious charges from the frivolous ones now pouring down on him. It is to be hoped that when the dust settles he will be able, once again, to address the serious reform agenda he so ably championed. But now even that is on hold. For Christie to contemplate anything more than holding on to the governorship, is at this point, utterly unrealistic.

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Christie and the RGA: Analyze This

Rarely are Republican Governors Association chairmanships as complex and overanalyzed as Chris Christie’s promises to be. Thanks to a confluence of circumstances, the New Jersey governor’s every action as RGA head now is assumed to be about something else entirely. The phrase “proxy war” is hovering above his young tenure at the RGA, but it’s not always immediately clear which proxy war his actions are conducting.

For example, one gubernatorial race on next year’s calendar is New York’s, where Andrew Cuomo will try to win a second term. The state GOP seems unlikely to put up a candidate who could make the race competitive, and Christie recently met with one prospective GOP nominee, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Someone told the New York Post’s Fred Dicker that, apparently, Christie was ready to back Astorino against Cuomo. Thus, as Dicker said, next year would provide the first real “Battle between Gov. Cuomo and Chris Christie.”

According to this story line, the possible Cuomo-Astorino race would be a proxy fight between Cuomo and Christie. But Cuomo immediately insisted that, in fact, Christie told him he would not back Cuomo’s opponent. Dicker reported the supposed about-face (Christie says he’s made no commitment) and quoted a GOP operative complaining about the head of the RGA not fully backing a Republican against a prominent Democrat:

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Rarely are Republican Governors Association chairmanships as complex and overanalyzed as Chris Christie’s promises to be. Thanks to a confluence of circumstances, the New Jersey governor’s every action as RGA head now is assumed to be about something else entirely. The phrase “proxy war” is hovering above his young tenure at the RGA, but it’s not always immediately clear which proxy war his actions are conducting.

For example, one gubernatorial race on next year’s calendar is New York’s, where Andrew Cuomo will try to win a second term. The state GOP seems unlikely to put up a candidate who could make the race competitive, and Christie recently met with one prospective GOP nominee, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Someone told the New York Post’s Fred Dicker that, apparently, Christie was ready to back Astorino against Cuomo. Thus, as Dicker said, next year would provide the first real “Battle between Gov. Cuomo and Chris Christie.”

According to this story line, the possible Cuomo-Astorino race would be a proxy fight between Cuomo and Christie. But Cuomo immediately insisted that, in fact, Christie told him he would not back Cuomo’s opponent. Dicker reported the supposed about-face (Christie says he’s made no commitment) and quoted a GOP operative complaining about the head of the RGA not fully backing a Republican against a prominent Democrat:

“Christie already has a problem with many Republicans refusing to forgive him because of his embrace of [President] Obama and his socially liberal policies,’’ said a nationally prominent GOP operative. “But this bizarre behavior in suggesting he won’t help a Republican defeat a Democratic governor, and a Cuomo no less, could finish off his chances of becoming his party’s nominee for president in 2016,’’ the operative continued.

And so a new proxy war entered the picture. Christie’s decision to back or not to back Astorino against Cuomo was really a geographic fight between a parochial Northeastern Republican and the national GOP, increasingly conservative and ever suspicious of its Northeastern brethren (see Romney, Mitt). Yet as Ben Jacobs notes at the Daily Beast, whether or not Christie devotes resources to backing Astorino would be a pretty silly litmus test for his overall motives:

After all, as head of the RGA, Christie can’t openly support any non-incumbent gubernatorial candidate who has yet to win the GOP’s nomination. Further, as even Dicker admits, Astorino doesn’t stand much of a chance in 2014. Any Republican running statewide in New York would face an uphill battle, let alone one running against a popular and well-financed incumbent like Cuomo. Plus, it’s unclear how much help Christie can offer even if the Westchester County Executive gets the Republican nomination.

The playing field for Republican governors in 2014 isn’t very favorable. The RGA will have to defend incumbents who were elected at the crest of the Tea Party wave in 2010, many of whom, like Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Florida Governor Rick Scott, are now deeply unpopular. With limited time and resources to devote to any one race, it might seem less than judicious for Christie to target a popular incumbent in the New York media market rather than focus his efforts on close races in swing states.

That last point is important: it’s expensive to compete in New York, and it will be difficult enough for the GOP to come out of the 2014 gubernatorial elections just holding steady, let alone losing some ground if some of these other contests can’t be salvaged.

But that brings up a third proxy war, and the one that seems like the main event: Christie vs. Cuomo for president. Christie is already expected to run in 2016 (hence the second-guessing from within his party), and Cuomo is thought to at least be considering a run. Cuomo’s decision will probably hinge on whether or not Hillary Clinton runs. If she does jump in the race, which she appears eager to do, a Cuomo decision might wait until some internal polling gets done. Clinton may want to clear the field because she thinks she’ll win anyway, but recent polling suggests she wants to clear the field because she would be far from inevitable if she had any competition.

But Christie surely doesn’t see this as a proxy fight between the two governors. Just as Christie would be mistaken to spend up precious resources fighting for New York as head of the RGA, so too would he be mistaken to spend political capital by hitching his wagon to an unknown underdog when he doesn’t have to. Nor would Christie want to earn the ire of New Yorkers if he can avoid it, since if he runs for president he’ll want New York’s delegates in the primary contest and he’ll want to force the eventual Democratic nominee to have to compete in the Northeast in the general election in states they would have won anyway, just to try to expand the map and spoil Democratic intentions to force the GOP to waste resources defending states like Texas.

And so it’s likely that those overanalyzing Christie’s every step are probably wasting their own time and energy for now. But it does offer some indication of the degree of scrutiny Christie can expect now that, as head of the RGA, he’s officially stepping into a national leadership role.

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Nerves of Steele

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

The contrast is great: one party can’t eliminate the personification of its problems, while the other is moving swiftly to dump its baggage. The Dems can’t bear to part with Nancy Pelosi, who gets another stint at the helm of the increasingly liberal House Democratic caucus. Yet the Republicans have no qualms when it comes to booting Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term dimmed Wednesday as Republicans went public with their concerns about the committee’s fundraising and two prominent governors indicated a preference for new leadership atop the party.

Asked in an interview at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) meeting here if there should be a new chairman of the party, Mississippi Gov. and outgoing RGA Chairman Haley Barbour flatly said: “Yes.”

Tim Pawlenty echoed that sentiment, citing a letter by outgoing RNC political director Gentry Collins. (“You have to have a high-functioning, effective ground game and the RNC has to be able to deliver that consistently every cycle and it appears based on this letter that that didn’t happen.”)

Unlike Pelosi, there is no “Steele constituency” pleading to keep the gaffe-prone chairman. And unlike the House Dems, the RNC isn’t about to pretend that everything is just swell at the RNC.

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Steele Will Go

Not surprising, efforts are underway to dislodge Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship. The New York Times, quite accurately, reports:

Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.

During the summer months, RNC committeemen made a calculated judgment: leave Steele in place for now, run a midterm campaign essentially without his help, and deal with him after the election. A veteran Republican on the national committee confided to me during the summer that there was general agreement that Steele would have to go.

Now, it is true that the Republicans managed a historic victory by virtue of Tea Party activists, a stunningly effective Republican Governors Association, a toxic president, and nearly 10 percent unemployment. But this is not the ideal way to run a party or an election. Moreover, Steele’s presence is a net negative for the party, a virtual “Not Ready for Prime Time” blinking sign.

Ask GOP operatives or potential staffers on the 2012 campaign who will replace Steele and you’ll get the same answer: “Almost anyone would be better.” The “who” is up for debate, but the question as to whether Steele should go, I would suggest, is virtually settled. Steele’s RNC operation may have demonstrated that national parties are not as critical as they once were, but the GOP isn’t about to test that proposition in a key presidential race. The Dems may decide to keep Pelosi and Reid, but be prepared to see the Republicans shed their deadwood, starting with their hapless chairman.

Not surprising, efforts are underway to dislodge Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship. The New York Times, quite accurately, reports:

Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.

During the summer months, RNC committeemen made a calculated judgment: leave Steele in place for now, run a midterm campaign essentially without his help, and deal with him after the election. A veteran Republican on the national committee confided to me during the summer that there was general agreement that Steele would have to go.

Now, it is true that the Republicans managed a historic victory by virtue of Tea Party activists, a stunningly effective Republican Governors Association, a toxic president, and nearly 10 percent unemployment. But this is not the ideal way to run a party or an election. Moreover, Steele’s presence is a net negative for the party, a virtual “Not Ready for Prime Time” blinking sign.

Ask GOP operatives or potential staffers on the 2012 campaign who will replace Steele and you’ll get the same answer: “Almost anyone would be better.” The “who” is up for debate, but the question as to whether Steele should go, I would suggest, is virtually settled. Steele’s RNC operation may have demonstrated that national parties are not as critical as they once were, but the GOP isn’t about to test that proposition in a key presidential race. The Dems may decide to keep Pelosi and Reid, but be prepared to see the Republicans shed their deadwood, starting with their hapless chairman.

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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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The Other Haley

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

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Money, Money

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama has managed to revive the conservative movement, drive independents into the GOP’s arms, sink his own party’s fortunes, bring Sarah Palin and Howard Dean together (on the Ground Zero mosque) — and convince more Americans he’s a Muslim. “A new survey reports a sharp increase in the number of Americans who, incorrectly, say President Obama is a Muslim. The increase has occurred over the last couple of years, and the poll was taken before the president stepped into the fray of the Ground Zero mosque controversy.” Wait until the next survey.

The State Department couldn’t manage to find a Muslim who didn’t blame the U.S. for 9/11? “American taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday.”

The GOP manages to find its party leader, and it’s not Michael Steele: “Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. Barbour, who runs the Republican Governors Association, has more money to spend on the 2010 elections — $40 million — than any other GOP leader around. And in private, numerous Republicans describe Barbour as the de facto chairman of the party.”

The GOP also manages to raise a ton of cash despite Steele: “With less than three months until Election Day, Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned that the independent groups they are counting on for support won’t have the money to counter what they fear will be an unprecedented advertising campaign waged by their Republican counterparts. Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits.” Maybe they don’t need an RNC chairman.

The White House manages to annoy more House Democrats: “Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed. … Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee that held the hearing, said the administration’s initial report this month — and the trumpeting of it — gave people a ‘false sense of confidence’ about the environmental risks that remain.”

Despite the work of its enemies, Israel manages to survive and, yes, flourish. An Israeli was “awarded the 2010 Fields Medal – considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ in the field.” There is no Nobel Prize for math, but Israel has nine of those.

It would be a minor miracle if Virginia House Democrats Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello manage to get re-elected. “Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, termed Perriello and Nye ‘extremely vulnerable’ in November. ‘It’s highly unlikely they’ll both survive a wave like the one that’s developing,’ Gonzales said.”

Chris Christie manages to become a movie star in his first year in office.

Obama has managed to revive the conservative movement, drive independents into the GOP’s arms, sink his own party’s fortunes, bring Sarah Palin and Howard Dean together (on the Ground Zero mosque) — and convince more Americans he’s a Muslim. “A new survey reports a sharp increase in the number of Americans who, incorrectly, say President Obama is a Muslim. The increase has occurred over the last couple of years, and the poll was taken before the president stepped into the fray of the Ground Zero mosque controversy.” Wait until the next survey.

The State Department couldn’t manage to find a Muslim who didn’t blame the U.S. for 9/11? “American taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday.”

The GOP manages to find its party leader, and it’s not Michael Steele: “Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most powerful Republican in American politics — at least for the next three months. Barbour, who runs the Republican Governors Association, has more money to spend on the 2010 elections — $40 million — than any other GOP leader around. And in private, numerous Republicans describe Barbour as the de facto chairman of the party.”

The GOP also manages to raise a ton of cash despite Steele: “With less than three months until Election Day, Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned that the independent groups they are counting on for support won’t have the money to counter what they fear will be an unprecedented advertising campaign waged by their Republican counterparts. Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits.” Maybe they don’t need an RNC chairman.

The White House manages to annoy more House Democrats: “Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed. … Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee that held the hearing, said the administration’s initial report this month — and the trumpeting of it — gave people a ‘false sense of confidence’ about the environmental risks that remain.”

Despite the work of its enemies, Israel manages to survive and, yes, flourish. An Israeli was “awarded the 2010 Fields Medal – considered the ‘Nobel Prize’ in the field.” There is no Nobel Prize for math, but Israel has nine of those.

It would be a minor miracle if Virginia House Democrats Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello manage to get re-elected. “Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, termed Perriello and Nye ‘extremely vulnerable’ in November. ‘It’s highly unlikely they’ll both survive a wave like the one that’s developing,’ Gonzales said.”

Chris Christie manages to become a movie star in his first year in office.

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Jeb in 2012?

It’s widely discussed among those conservatives who have not yet found the presidential candidate of their dreams for 2012 that Jeb Bush might, if not for the name, earn that distinction. He was a successful governor in a diverse state, combines wonkish devotion to policy with an accessible personality, and is intellectually and instinctively conservative. But it is widely assumed that he is not running and won’t, both because of his desire to make money in the private sector and because of the name. The New York Times provides an altogether favorable profile of him (which the Gray Lady sometimes is wont to do for conservatives who are not running for office and who can hence make those who are look poor by comparison). The report explains:

The party needs a messenger who can keep its Tea Party-type activists energized behind an agenda and a nominee. But Republicans will also be looking for someone who can reposition the party nationally and make its more strident ideology palatable to the wider American electorate.

This explains why some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012. He is a favorite of the anti-establishment crowd (he is said to have mentored Marco Rubio, the Senate challenger in Florida who gave the Tea Partiers a national lift), but he is also a political celebrity with a pronounced independent streak. As governor, for instance, Mr. Bush strongly opposed drilling in the shallow waters off Florida, and he favors increasing legal immigration, rather than restricting it.

There is this intriguing discussion about the family name:

Jeb Bush’s admirers insist, however, that whatever cloud existed over the name is lifting, as memories of the last Bush era recede, replaced by a hardened conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies. And those who know Mr. Bush say he has never concerned himself with it. “He’s the guy who cares about that the least,” said Nicholas Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. …

When I asked him whether Mr. Obama had a legitimate point — whether his brother’s administration did, in fact, bear responsibility for the country’s economic collapse — Mr. Bush paused and, for the only time in our interview, appeared to carefully assemble his words.

“Look, I think there was a whole series of decisions made over a long period of time, the cumulative effect of which created the financial meltdown that has created the hardship that we’re facing,” he said slowly. “Congress, the administration, everyone can accept some responsibility.”

“The issue to me is what we do now,” Jeb Bush said. “Who cares who’s to blame?”

Let’s be honest: most conventional wisdom about who can and cannot run or win has been blown to smithereens. If Obama, with no executive experience and a mere two undistinguished years in the Senate, can win, all bets are off. And more to the point, if Obama continues on his current trajectory and the public becomes desperate to find a fiscal reformer and a stalwart defender of American interests abroad, I suspect they won’t care all that much about that person’s last name. The only issue is whether Jeb Bush wants to be that man.

It’s widely discussed among those conservatives who have not yet found the presidential candidate of their dreams for 2012 that Jeb Bush might, if not for the name, earn that distinction. He was a successful governor in a diverse state, combines wonkish devotion to policy with an accessible personality, and is intellectually and instinctively conservative. But it is widely assumed that he is not running and won’t, both because of his desire to make money in the private sector and because of the name. The New York Times provides an altogether favorable profile of him (which the Gray Lady sometimes is wont to do for conservatives who are not running for office and who can hence make those who are look poor by comparison). The report explains:

The party needs a messenger who can keep its Tea Party-type activists energized behind an agenda and a nominee. But Republicans will also be looking for someone who can reposition the party nationally and make its more strident ideology palatable to the wider American electorate.

This explains why some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012. He is a favorite of the anti-establishment crowd (he is said to have mentored Marco Rubio, the Senate challenger in Florida who gave the Tea Partiers a national lift), but he is also a political celebrity with a pronounced independent streak. As governor, for instance, Mr. Bush strongly opposed drilling in the shallow waters off Florida, and he favors increasing legal immigration, rather than restricting it.

There is this intriguing discussion about the family name:

Jeb Bush’s admirers insist, however, that whatever cloud existed over the name is lifting, as memories of the last Bush era recede, replaced by a hardened conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies. And those who know Mr. Bush say he has never concerned himself with it. “He’s the guy who cares about that the least,” said Nicholas Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. …

When I asked him whether Mr. Obama had a legitimate point — whether his brother’s administration did, in fact, bear responsibility for the country’s economic collapse — Mr. Bush paused and, for the only time in our interview, appeared to carefully assemble his words.

“Look, I think there was a whole series of decisions made over a long period of time, the cumulative effect of which created the financial meltdown that has created the hardship that we’re facing,” he said slowly. “Congress, the administration, everyone can accept some responsibility.”

“The issue to me is what we do now,” Jeb Bush said. “Who cares who’s to blame?”

Let’s be honest: most conventional wisdom about who can and cannot run or win has been blown to smithereens. If Obama, with no executive experience and a mere two undistinguished years in the Senate, can win, all bets are off. And more to the point, if Obama continues on his current trajectory and the public becomes desperate to find a fiscal reformer and a stalwart defender of American interests abroad, I suspect they won’t care all that much about that person’s last name. The only issue is whether Jeb Bush wants to be that man.

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Nikki Fever

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Nikki Haley trounced her opponent by 30 points in the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary. She overcame smears about infidelity — which were never proven and seemed to make her all the more sympathetic. She weathered nasty attacks on her religion. She now is poised to become the state’s first woman governor. Chris Cillizza sounds like he’s starting a “Draft Nikki” campaign:

Even before Haley had officially become the nominee, the Republican Governors Association had all-but-endorsed her — recognizing that an Indian-American woman as their nominee was a terrific national storyline. Given Haley’s background and the primacy of South Carolina in the 2012 Republican presidential primary process, she will almost certainly become a national figure in short order.

She was endorsed and greatly aided by Sarah Palin, whose treatment by the media should serve as a warning. Beautiful conservative women are not treated well by the mainstream media. And Haley should keep in mind that liberals and their mainstream-media allies generally treat minorities who are conservative especially roughly. If they happen to be devout Christians, well then, they really need to watch out.

Haley should be wary, but she also has the benefit of others’ examples. The way for Haley to disarm the media and beat back the political attacks is, of course, to be at the top of her game. Although Chris Christie may be the un-Haley in outward appearance, his  approach is the right one: be the happy warrior, apply conservative values, reject the entreaties to “get along” with the political establishment, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It’s harder than it sounds. But in the end, the media can’t bring down a competent, likable politician — nor, as we have learned in the last 17 months, can they keep afloat an incompetent, snippy one.

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Nikki Haley trounced her opponent by 30 points in the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary. She overcame smears about infidelity — which were never proven and seemed to make her all the more sympathetic. She weathered nasty attacks on her religion. She now is poised to become the state’s first woman governor. Chris Cillizza sounds like he’s starting a “Draft Nikki” campaign:

Even before Haley had officially become the nominee, the Republican Governors Association had all-but-endorsed her — recognizing that an Indian-American woman as their nominee was a terrific national storyline. Given Haley’s background and the primacy of South Carolina in the 2012 Republican presidential primary process, she will almost certainly become a national figure in short order.

She was endorsed and greatly aided by Sarah Palin, whose treatment by the media should serve as a warning. Beautiful conservative women are not treated well by the mainstream media. And Haley should keep in mind that liberals and their mainstream-media allies generally treat minorities who are conservative especially roughly. If they happen to be devout Christians, well then, they really need to watch out.

Haley should be wary, but she also has the benefit of others’ examples. The way for Haley to disarm the media and beat back the political attacks is, of course, to be at the top of her game. Although Chris Christie may be the un-Haley in outward appearance, his  approach is the right one: be the happy warrior, apply conservative values, reject the entreaties to “get along” with the political establishment, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It’s harder than it sounds. But in the end, the media can’t bring down a competent, likable politician — nor, as we have learned in the last 17 months, can they keep afloat an incompetent, snippy one.

Read Less




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