Commentary Magazine


Topic: state House speaker

The Civil War

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

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Crist Struggles

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters “don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters “don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

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What It Takes to Win

Marco Rubio is now ahead by double digits in the Florida Republican primary race. Rasmussen reports: “Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now jumped to a 12-point lead over Governor Charlie Crist in Florida’s Republican Primary race for the U.S. Senate. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters in the state finds Rubio leading Crist 49% to 37%. Three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and 11% are undecided.”

This is a startling turnabout. In eight months, the race has swung approximately 50 points. (Charlie Crist was leading by more than 30 points last spring.) It is a lesson for the punditocracy about early poll numbers, which are generally a function of name recognition. It is also a reminder that with 24/7 news coverage, a talented candidate can rise quickly, and a listless one can plunge despite advantages of money, incumbency, and name ID.

This is also a cautionary tale: the conventional wisdom about what it takes to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters is often wrong. It is not necessarily the candidate with the mushiest brand of centrism or the one who has figured out how to split the difference on key issues who has such appeal. In this political environment, the successful candidate, as we saw with Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell, is rather one who can articulate a convincing message that appeals to the Center-Right segment of the electorate, present a dynamic and attractive image (let’s be candid, in politics appearance matters), and capture the anti-incumbent fervor that is very likely to continue as long as that sea of red ink and the high unemployment numbers create widespread unease among voters.

Rubio has not won the primary yet, and Crist may well put up a fight rather than pack it in, as many are speculating. But if Rubio cruises to an impressive win, he will join the ranks of new conservative rock stars that owe their emergence to one figure — Barack Obama. Without him and his increasingly toxic agenda, it is hard to imagine even a talented politician like Rubio rising so fast.

Marco Rubio is now ahead by double digits in the Florida Republican primary race. Rasmussen reports: “Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now jumped to a 12-point lead over Governor Charlie Crist in Florida’s Republican Primary race for the U.S. Senate. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters in the state finds Rubio leading Crist 49% to 37%. Three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and 11% are undecided.”

This is a startling turnabout. In eight months, the race has swung approximately 50 points. (Charlie Crist was leading by more than 30 points last spring.) It is a lesson for the punditocracy about early poll numbers, which are generally a function of name recognition. It is also a reminder that with 24/7 news coverage, a talented candidate can rise quickly, and a listless one can plunge despite advantages of money, incumbency, and name ID.

This is also a cautionary tale: the conventional wisdom about what it takes to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters is often wrong. It is not necessarily the candidate with the mushiest brand of centrism or the one who has figured out how to split the difference on key issues who has such appeal. In this political environment, the successful candidate, as we saw with Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell, is rather one who can articulate a convincing message that appeals to the Center-Right segment of the electorate, present a dynamic and attractive image (let’s be candid, in politics appearance matters), and capture the anti-incumbent fervor that is very likely to continue as long as that sea of red ink and the high unemployment numbers create widespread unease among voters.

Rubio has not won the primary yet, and Crist may well put up a fight rather than pack it in, as many are speculating. But if Rubio cruises to an impressive win, he will join the ranks of new conservative rock stars that owe their emergence to one figure — Barack Obama. Without him and his increasingly toxic agenda, it is hard to imagine even a talented politician like Rubio rising so fast.

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Media Spin: GOP at War!

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

Read Less




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