Here at CPAC, it’s evident that in the aftermath of the devastating November election conservatives are turning not on the losing candidates — Mitt Romney, for one, was warmly received – but on the people who ran their campaigns. With an eye to 2014 elections, some conservatives and tea partiers are pushing a new solution: Down with the consultants.
In an interview with NRO, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, blasted the professional political class, decrying “any consultant who thinks that they can come into a state and say, ‘this is who you need to have as your representative and we’re going to make sure that person is elected.’”
“That is the antithesis of what we’ve been talking about in this whole entire movement,” she said. “We want limited government. That means we don’t want Washington, D.C., making laws that limit how we live our lives, and we sure don’t want people from Washington, D.C. — consultants — telling us who is going to represent us.”
The rage reached its height during a panel on Thursday entitled “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” During the discussion, Democratic pollster Pat Caddell ranted against campaign consultants, saying, “they’re in the business in the lining of their pockets and preserving their power.”
“Any presidential candidate who allows consultant to run his campaign for president is a fool,” Caddell said, referring to Mitt Romney’s choice of campaign consultant Stuart Stevens as senior strategist. “And the worse executive I’ve ever seen is Mitt Romney.”
Caddell slammed Stevens by name, saying he was no more qualified to run a presidential campaign than Caddell was to fly. “The subtext of Stu Stevens running around the last several weeks has been a simple message: ‘Look, I threw the election for you, why don’t you like me?’” he joked.
But Jeff Roe, a Missouri-based GOP strategist, argued that, while the quality of consultants varies, the professionals do serve a valuable function. For candidates such as Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz, with very little to no political experience, consultants served as the “equalizer[s]”, employees who could keep a rookie candidate from making fatal mistakes against an experienced opponent.
Roe did rail against politicians who hire consultants with a record of losing. But that, he said, was a “candidate problem.”
Caddell urged activists to cut off the consultants, castigating “you people in the grassroots who allow yourself to be played for suckers” and “all of you for enabling because you allow it to happen.”
“You don’t tell candidates you won’t work [for them], you won’t support [them], and you won’t give them money if they’re going to be part of this,” he said. To plenty of conservatives, that may be one of the GOP’s biggest problems.