Tags: Mike Pence

Mike Pence: ‘Our State Governments Are Not Territorial Outposts of the National Government.’


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence offered very state-focused address at the NRA Convention, touting his state to the audience assembled in Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium. He mentioned gun rights issues, but offered a broad review of the conservative policies he’s enacted so far, and why they’ve helped his state prosper.

He mentioned Indiana has the lowest taxes in the Midwest, with additional tax cuts scheduled to go into effect each year for every year until 2021.

A not so subtle jab at Common Core, Pence said, “In the Hoosier State, we believe education is a state and local issue, and we believe decisions about curriculum, lesson plans and other matters should be made in the communities by the parents and the teachers and those who are affected by themselves the most.”

“Some of you know I served 12 years in Congress. If I only had 12 years left to live, I’d want to spend them in Congress again… because those were the longest 12 years of my life.”

If, as some predict, Pence throws his hat into the 2016 presidential ring, we can expect him to emphasize federalist approach, a bit like Rick Perry’s theme in 2012.

“Washington is not only broke, it’s broken. The cure for what ails this country will come more from our state capitals than it ever will from our national capital. Despite what some may think in Washington, our state governments are not territorial outposts of the national government. The states are the wellspring of the American experiment. It will not be enough to cut federal spending; the next generation of leaders must permanently reduce the size and scope of the federal government by returning to the states the rights, resources, and responsibilities that are rightfully theirs!”

He closed, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And that means freedom always wins.”

Tags: Mike Pence , NRA Convention , NRA Convention 2014

A Pair of Indiana Democrats Throw Their Hats in the Ring


Democrats will have at least one candidate for governor in Indiana; former state House Speaker John Gregg, who left office in 2002 and has spent most of the past decade working as a lobbyist.

Rep. Mike Pence is expected to run for governor on the Republican side.

In other Indiana political news, a Democrat has announced his intention to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon. Bucshon may have a lucky break in his opponent’s name, former state Rep. David L. Crooks.

I mean, in most races, “Don’t Vote for Crooks” is pretty safe advice. Or declaring, “we can’t afford to have Crooks in government!”

But it sounds like it may be a very high-minded race:

Ironically, Crooks hosted Rep. Bucshon in March on a Saturday morning political talk radio show that airs on WAMW 107.9 FM in Washington and on Sunday mornings on WFML 96.7 FM in Vincennes. Crooks’ media company also operates WAMW 1580 AM in Washington.

“I have nothing against Dr. Bucshon personally. I think he is a fine surgeon and a fine man. I definitely admire and respect him for what he has built in his career,” Crooks said. “I will keep it a very positive race, but there are some very important issues that need to be raised.”

Tags: David Crooks , John Gregg , Larry Bucshon , Mike Pence

Is a Pence Gubernatorial Announcement Coming Soon?


A reader in Indiana sends along word:

Pence at a small private fundraising dinner Thursday night:

“. . . we [Karen and he] are strongly considering a run for Governor next year.”

This is his first clear, explicit pronunciation of this — he has beat around the bush for months. The reaction was ovation. He is giving a big speech tomorrow to the Indianapolis Lincoln Roundtable to 400+ people over lunch. Expect a more public announcement to this tune.

This isn’t exactly surprising, as Pence already announced he wasn’t running for president, and the Republican Governors Association is heavily recruiting him.

Tags: Mike Pence

Which Indiana Democrat Is Willing to Lose to Mike Pence?


Democrats are looking for a gubernatorial candidate in Indiana, where Rep. Mike Pence is expected to run on the Republican side. They just received news that the lefties at Swing State Project characterize as “a major, and unexpected, bummer.

Keep looking, fellas:

Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel has opted not to seek the Democratic nomination for Indiana governor in 2012 because, he said, the rigors of a statewide campaign are too much right now while his children are young… His decision leaves Democrats without one of their top recruits, and means the party must now begin focusing on a list of candidates that includes U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly and former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg. Gregg had urged Weinzapfel to run and had said publicly he’d support the Evansville mayor. But Gregg also has not ruled out a potential campaign of his own. “John Gregg’s a dear friend, and I think he would be a great candidate and a great governor if he should win. If he decided he wanted to run, I would be as supportive as I could,” Weinzapfel said. He also mentioned Donnelly, former U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who has a statewide profile after a failed Senate bid in 2010, and former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill as possible candidates. Weinzapfel said he is not personally encouraging any of them to run.

Tags: Joe Donnelly , John Gregg , Jonathan Weinzapfel , Mike Pence

Republican Announces Bid for Indiana Governor


If Mike Pence runs for governor, he’ll have at least one GOP primary opponent: “Former Hamilton County Councilman Jim Wallace says he intends to seek the Republican nomination. Wallace says the next governor needs a business background to continue Indiana’s record of keeping spending under control. Wallace owns an Indianapolis financing firm for insurance companies, after stints as an executive with WellPoint and Conseco Health.”

Tags: Jim Wallace , Mike Pence

Of All Possible Flaws of Mike Pence... His TARP Opposition?


Over at FrumForum, Andrew Pavelyev argues that Republicans “dodged a bullet” with Mike Pence’s decision to not run for president; in an e-mail, he mentioned that his post was partially inspired by my disappointed reaction to the Pence news on the Three Martini Lunch.

At the heart of complaint with Pence is TARP, and that by leading the charge against TARP at the time, “Pence failed to discern the lesser of two evils correctly, [raising] serious questions about his judgment (as well as his understanding of conservative principles).”

Most Americans don’t follow the financial markets closely; almost all of us, including myself, wish we understood it better. In autumn of 2008, we were told that if TARP did not pass, financial Armageddon would soon follow. I recall believing at the time that the stakes made the distasteful steps necessary.

Even then, however, there were indications that the whole enterprise was a cynical game: Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was imploring House Republicans to get on board with the TARP proposal, while her lieutenant, Chris Van Hollen at the DCCC, was planning to use the vote in attack ads against Republicans in the 2008 House elections. In this light, Pence was trying to prevent his colleagues from acquiescing to a politically suicidal act spurred by bad-faith arguments.

Pavelyev can argue that the financial results since the enactment of TARP demonstrates it necessity; I’ll let the fiscal and economic pros argue that. But the populist outrage against TARP is not based on ignorance. The management and oversight of TARP since that vote represents a fundamental violation of trust with the American taxpayer, indicating TARP opponents had good reasons for their doubts. If you’re going to ask the federal government to give you gobs and gobs of taxpayer money to save your business because you claim the economy itself depends upon it, you had better treat that money as preciously as if it were water in the desert.  The governing class and our financial titans said, “we need the money badly; we need you to trust us.” Americans did so, and then they saw that trust abused.

We witnessed hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for bonus payments at AIG. Much of the money ended up in the coffers of bailed-out firms foreign partners. The rules and scope kept changing: TARP wasn’t set up to help domestic automakers, but Bush and Obama decided to expand it.  The Special Inspector General of TARP has charged 45 individuals with fraud and has 142 ongoing investigations, including 64 into executives at financial institutions that applied for ore received TARP funding, according to their most recent report to Congress. And at last count, 144 institutions had not made at least one scheduled dividend or interest payment.

To defend TARP, it takes more than, “the government gives taxpayer money to undeserving individuals and entities all the time. Life ain’t fair,” as Pavelyev writes. That’s about one step away from turning a blind eye to criminal fleecing of taxpayers. To really work effectively, the entire TARP enterprise required recipients and lawmakers to behave with responsibility, transparency, honesty and competency. We didn’t get that, which strengthens the argument of those who opposed it.

In short, almost nothing that was promised about TARP panned out, except that we could argue that we have indeed avoided financial Armageddon. Instead, we enjoy this milder, semi-miserable Armageddon Lite with a jobless recovery and a moribund housing market.

Tags: Mike Pence

The RGA’s All-Out Sales Pitch for a Pence Gubernatorial Bid


Well, this explains a bit: I’m told that Mike Pence was the first candidate recruitment call that Texas Gov. Rick Perry made as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and that RGA Vice Chairman Bob McDonnell and Executive Director Phil Cox had a follow-up meeting with Pence yesterday in Washington.

UPDATE: It’s official:

“In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana,” Pence, R-Columbus, said of himself and wife Karen in a letter being sent to supporters. “We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.”

He said he would make a decision “later this year” about what his next political step is, but by not running for president it is considered a virtual certainty that he will run for the GOP nomination for governor.


Tags: Bob McDonnell , Mike Pence , Rick Perry

Recalling When Mike Pence Looked Like a Promising Presidential Contender


The venue for his decision announcement suggested Mike Pence wasn’t going to run for president, and now his former aides are saying the answer is indeed, “no.”

I spoke to some Pence fans a few days ago.

I find this disappointing, as he struck me as the candidate with perhaps the best chance of uniting the, for lack of better terms, Tea Party and Establishment wings of the Republican Party. Pence is a thoroughly consistent conservative. But he doesn’t snarl, he’s rarely negative, and I can’t recall too many off-the-wall statements from him. A couple folks tried to persuade me he was boring, but I saw him address the NRA Convention last year, and he blew the doors off the place. My coverage of that speech:

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana: As a well-known figure, it’s hard to describe Pence as a breakout star, but he was the next-to-last big-name speaker, and while he joked that following Sarah Palin was like having R2-D2 follow Luke Skywalker, he most effectively matched the call for a broad conservative agenda to the audience before him.

The NRA cherishes having friends on both sides of the aisle, and prefer a pro-gun Democrat over a Republican who wavers; they bristle at the accusation that they are essentially a GOP organization. Pence came closest to arguing that while there is currently a pro-gun majority in Congress, this November Americans can elect a pro-gun conservative majority: “We Republicans didn’t just lose our majorities, we lost our way. I knew that if we kept acting like big-government liberals, the American people would eventually go with the professionals… I’m here to tell my friends at the NRA, from the floor of the House of Representatives, after fighting against that failed stimulus plan, after fighting against that runaway budget, and after opposing that government takeover of health care, my party, Republicans in Congress, are back in the fight, and we’re back in the fight on the right!”

Pence may have even forced the NRA’s hand on whether or not to score the Senate vote on Elena Kagan. The NRA scored the vote on Sonia Sotomayor, the first time they have scored a vote on a Supreme Court justice, a score that will knock down the grades of usually-reliable Democrats like Harry Reid of Nevada.

While various speakers made brief references to the Supreme Court, Pence went right after her: “In 1987 the Supreme Court was asked to take a case involving a D.C. man who had been convicted of carrying an unlicensed pistol. A lower court ruled that the Second Amendment applied to militias and not to individual gun rights. When the man appealed to the high court, Elena Kagan then a clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, urged Justice Marshall to vote against hearing the case. In her comment to the Justice, Kagan wrote that the D.C. man’s ‘sole contention is that the District of Columbia’s firearms statutes violate his constitutional right to keep and bear arms.’ To which she responded and concluded, ‘I’m not sympathetic.’ Sympathy for the express language of the Bill of Rights should be a prerequisite of service on the Highest Court in the land!” Pence’s roared final line got a sustained standing ovation; good luck to the NRA official who has to explain to the membership that the group will score the Sotomayor vote but not the one for Kagan.

Other sections from Pence’s address sound like they will fit in Iowa and New Hampshire in late 2011: “America is changing, and she is not changing for the better. A nation conceived in liberty has come of age in bondage to big government. We’ve lost respect in the world. We’re going broke. And our social and cultural fabric is unraveling. It was written long ago that, ‘without a vision, the people perish.’ In the face of failure of leadership at the national level, the people of this country long for a vision for a better America, that will return our national government to the common sense and common values of everyday Americans. A compelling vision, grounded in the timeless principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Pence may not intend to sound like a candidate, but he’s laying out a good theme for the 2012 Republican challenger. He even has the classic anecdote, recounting a meeting with a laid-off constituent in Newcastle, Indiana in late 2008 who thanked  him for voting against the Wall Street bailout. After Pence expressed sympathy for the guy’s recent layoff, the constituent responded, “I can get another job; I can’t get another country.”

Pence doesn’t want to run, it seems, but we may see a presidential campaign from Sharron Angle. Swell.

UPDATE: CNN reports he’s not running.

Tags: Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Presidential Decision Comes Tonight. Sounds Like a ‘No’?


Apparently we will hear from Indiana Republican Mike Pence very, very soon about whether or not he’s running for president in 2012.

Politico says the announcement will appear this evening in the Indianapolis Star.

I can’t help but think that if the answer is “yes,” he would announce it in person in front of television cameras during hours of high viewership. If the answer is “no,” he can do that in an interview with the biggest paper in his home state, particularly if he’s running for governor in 2012.

Tags: Mike Pence

Meet the Conservatives Hoping to Sway Mike Pence’s Decision


Will Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) run for president? His allies have indicated in the past that a decision on whether to run for the presidency or the governorship of his home state would come at the end of January.

One of the folks who are intensely hoping for a Pence presidential bid is Ralph Benko, former deputy counsel in the Reagan White House, principal at Capital City Partners, and author of the book The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World — who has set up a new site, The Conservative Champion, dedicated to the concept of Pence for President. 

I talked to Benko about how he, with the help of some other prominent conservatives and CRC Public Relations, have set up a public persuasion effort when their target is, ultimately, one man.

NRO: How do you and a PR firm that is usually involved in mass communications, trying to influence the views of a broad audience, go about an effort about influencing the decision of one man?

Benko: In addition to finding Mike Pence extraordinary, I also long-term card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. By the way, my serial number is 0002. Reagan was 0001, but when he passed on, we retired his number. I am a true dyed-in-the-wool right-winger.

I was hearing quietly from lots of people — conservative leaders, conservative rank-and-file — a remarkably positive opinion about Pence. And I thought, just under the surface there is enormous enthusiasm for the prospect of President Pence. I know a bit about the web, let me give it someplace to go, and see if it does. And see if it begins to trigger something — we don’t have a lot of time and we don’t have a lot of money. Let’s put a shovel in the ground and see if anything grows out of it. I think I was right. I’ve been very impressed with the level of enthusiasm that has come to the fore in this very brief amount of time.

So besides finding him extraordinary, I had anecdotal evidence that a lot of other conservatives who shared that opinion and just realized that there was an opportunity to encourage him to run and let him know that if he ran, he wouldn’t be running alone. It’s not a Quixotic effort.

The prospect of a Pence presidency draws forth enormous enthusiasm from conservatives, Tea partiers, populists, traditionalists, and even, I’m guessing, independents. From the impressions that I get, it’s better than my expectations . . .

NRO: If three million people visit the web site, and yet he says no, then it might be a success but not the result you wanted. So, short of renting a billboard and putting it on his front lawn, how do you get to him? How do you reach him?

Benko: We can’t talk to him, legally. So he has to read about it in National Review, which I am hoping he will. There has been a good deal of media about this, significant outlets have focused upon this, and there’s been a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm. According to what I’ve read in the media, about Mike Pence reading the media, he’s noticed this. (Pence’s former chief of staff, Mark Short, quoted in Politico: “It probably caught us a little bit off guard, and we’ve said, ‘Whoa, we need to look at that.’”) He’s a smart and discerning guy, and he reads the papers.

NRO: If Pence announces that he’s running, what happens to you guys? Do you close up shop and get folded into a campaign, or are there legal restrictions because of what you’ve established?

Benko: Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m focused on a very specific thing. I thought Mike Pence was extraordinary, and I suspected other people thought so too, and I wanted to give people a place to go with that. We have until the end of January to elicit some evidence of that.

In the wake of this, [we’ve seen comments encouraging Pence from] Dick Armey, Brent Bozell, Morton Blackwell, Richard Viguerie, [and former congressman] Jim Ryun as a derivative of this. Eleven state legislators have started organizing ‘South Carolina for Pence.’ It’s triggering things. It’s starting to cascade. How big that cascade will grow, if Mike Pence declares . . . well, I think it will grow huge.

Tags: Mike Pence

Mike Pence Met With Mitch Daniels Tuesday


Columbus, Indiana-based WCSI does the forensics on Mike Pence’s upcoming decision, and reports that he met with another Indiana Republican mentioned as a possible candidate:

Sixth district Congressman Mike Pence says the conservative activists publicly lobbying him to run for president have already done so privately. Pence says former Reagan administration attorney Ralph Benko advised him on the speech he delivered to the Detroit Economic Club after Thanksgiving, an address widely viewed as testing the waters for a White House bid. Benko and Former Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun are the only publicly named backers of the America’s President Committee, which on Monday launched an online petition drive aimed at gathering “tens of thousands” of signatures to urge Pence to run for President. Pence has been weighing whether to run for President or Governor, and says he intends to make a decision within the next couple of weeks. He isn’t ruling out running for reelection to his House seat.

The six-term Republican says he’s been consulting people nationally for the last several months about his next political move, and characterizes the public nudge from Benko and Ryun as one more element of that process. He says he’ll base his decision on what’s right for his family and where he believes he is most needed. Governor Mitch Daniels, who’s barred from seeking a third term, has also been delaying a decision on whether he’ll run for President. Pence says he met privately with the Governor Tuesday morning, and describes him as both a friend and “America’s best Governor.” Pence says he suspects he and Daniels are assessing their political plans in similar ways. Even if they end up facing off against each other in a Republican Presidential Primary, Pence says he believes it won’t damage their relationship.

I’m sure that both men would insist they’re making their decisions independently. But it’s easy to imagine their meeting beginning:

“So . . . you running?”

“I don’t know. How about you?”

Tags: Mike Pence , Mitch Daniels

Let’s Not Overanalyze Mike Pence’s Winter Schedule . . .


It is a strange world when a man failing to schedule events in Iowa or New Hampshire in January and February 2011 is interpreted as a certain sign someone won’t run for president in 2012.

But that, in fact, appears to be the world we’re living in:

Howey Politics Indiana got a peek at the Indiana Congressman’s schedule and says it never got started.  Mike Pence has filled his schedule for the next several weeks with appearances throughout Indiana, not Iowa or New Hampshire, meaning that either Pence has decided that Indiana’s late primary will be the key to a presidential nomination, or he’s running for Governor:

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence is scheduling Republican Lincoln Days Dinner all over Indiana, Howey Politics Indiana has learned. It is the best clue yet that he is preparing to launch a 2012 Indiana gubernatorial campaign, as opposed to seeking the presidency. ”He is scheduling larger counties,” a Republican source told HPI on Monday. “If he is running for President, it would be an interesting and novel strategy. We could call it the Win Indiana Strategy!” If Pence were to launch a presidential campaign, he would be more likely to spend this winter and spring in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the key early primary and caucus states.

I have a tough time believing that failing to visit the big early states before, say, summer somehow dooms the chances of a candidate’s winning that primary. And note that Pence was in South Carolina, helping out Joe Wilson, around the middle of last year.

Tags: Joe Wilson , Mike Pence

How the 2012 GOP Field May Be Shaped By... Becky Skillman.


If you live outside Indiana, you probably have never heard of Becky Skillman. But she could end up having a far-reaching impact on the 2012 Republican field, through a fascinating domino effect.

Skillman is the Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, and she recently decided to not run for governor in 2012, citing health issues. Because she won’t be running as a Republican and Evan Bayh isn’t running on the Democrat side, the field appears to be clear for Congressman Mike Pence to run for the job of governor if he wants it more than he wants to run for president.

At Ace of Spades, Drew M. follows the dominoes: “Pence’s decision is probably a pretty big domino in the race. He seems to be a candidate that fits Sarah Palin’s criteria, so if he runs, she may not. Obviously, the reverse is true (unless another candidate steps up). Palin’s decision probably has an impact on whether or not Mike Huckabee runs, since it seems there’s a good bit of overlap in their voters. Of course all of that will have an impact on Mitt Romney’s chances.”

If Pence runs for governor instead of president, that probably brings in Palin. (I also have a feeling that we wouldn’t see both Pence and Daniels run. As Hoosiers, their network of supporters and donors overlap somewhat, and there might not be enough support or media oxygen for both of them, even though their styles are different.)

Would Huckabee would hesitate in the face of Palin? I had a chance to hang around with the former Arkansas governor in a Fox News green room recently, and he reinforced my sense that it’s impossible to not like Huckabee personally. I won’t get into any specifics, since I think it’s rude to quote casual conversations, but I’d say he seems pretty happy doing his television show. He said to me — as he’s said elsewhere — that he doesn’t want to see the GOP primary turn into a “demolition derby” that ends with a battered nominee running low on cash. Would the presence of Palin make the GOP primary rougher or more congenial? She certainly hasn’t minded throwing a few elbows at “blue bloods” and the like.

Tags: Mike Huckabee , Mike Pence , Mitt Romney , Sarah Palin

Mike Pence: ‘I Will Not Vote for This Deal.’


Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican and a man increasingly mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, appearing on Sean Hannity’s show moments ago:

“I’ve been fighting since last summer to extend all the tax rates . . . We needed to make sure that no American faced a tax increase January 1.”

“I’ve struggled to determine what is right here. I know the American people did not vote for more stimulus, more debt, more uncertainty in the economy. I will not vote for this deal. I believe this is a bad deal for taxpayers, it will do little to create jobs, and I can’t support it.”

He mentioned he spent the morning ringing a Salvation Army bell in Muncie, Indiana, and said he asked a constituent about what he thought of the tax deal. Pence said that the man responded, “At first I thought it sounded pretty good, but the more I hear about it, the more it sounds like same old, same old in Washington, D.C.”

“This is a hard call. This is a tough one . . . The best thing we can do for the unemployed, the best thing we can do for the American people is put permanence in the tax code, and create certainty to begin to invest and create jobs.”

Tags: Mike Pence

Mitt Romney, Suddenly Quite Interested in Indiana



Mitt Romney will hand down a new group of endorsements Monday, backing a slate of GOP candidates in the state of Indiana. He’ll endorse former Sen. Dan Coats in the race for Evan Bayh’s open seat, back prosecutor Todd Young’s challenge to Democratic Rep. Baron Hill and state Rep. Jackie Walorski’s challenge to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, and endorse cardiologist Larry Bucshon and Secretary of State Todd Rokita for the open seats of Democrat Brad Ellsworth and Republican Steve Buyer. Romney’s PAC, Free and Strong America, is donating $5,000 to Coats and $2,500 to each of the House candidates. That puts the former Massachusetts governor’s mark on every competitive federal race in the state of Indiana and comes on top of the more than 100 candidate endorsements Romney’s made this cycle, and the more than $200,000 his PAC has given to candidates and causes.

Why would Indiana be such a focus for Romney? Obviously, the Senate race and three of the four House races represent competitive pickup opportunities for the GOP this cycle. But two potential 2012 contenders hail from the land of Hoosiers: Gov. Mitch Daniels and Rep. Mike Pence.

There’s always the chance that two high-profile contenders from the same state might cancel each other out, competing for the same base of support, but if Romney were to pick off the endorsement of a prominent Indiana Republican or two, it might be a feather in his cap.

Tags: Mike Pence , Mitch Daniels , Mitt Romney

Pence and Sensibility


Over on the home page, a look at this weekend’s NRA convention as a cattle call for 2012 Republican presidential contenders. I think the GOP official who may have impressed the audience here the most was Indiana Republican Mike Pence.

He said earlier in the year that he would think about running for president under the right circumstances.

Tags: Mike Pence

What Will Mike Pence Say About Elena Kagan?


Later today at the NRA convention, Rep. Mike Pence will address the attendees, and he is expected to talk about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. At first glance, it might seem surprising that a House member is talking about a potential justice, instead of one of the senators in attendance (Thune, Burr). But the senators probably need to appear open-minded on Kagan, while Pence can articulate all of the concern about her meager, and not promising, comments on the Second Amendment.

The NRA scored the vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, meaning that it counted towards the organization’s annual “grades” of candidates and potential endorsements. Pence has already compared Kagan to Harriet Miers (and he didn’t mean it as a compliment), and if he really hits Kagan hard today before an audience of tens of thousands of NRA members, he may make it difficult for the NRA to not score the Kagan vote.

One other wrinkle? As I noted earlier this week, the Florida Senate race represents a unique headache for the NRA, since their longtime ally Charlie Crist has alienated many conservatives and Republicans but been solid on the gun issue. Meanwhile, while many conservatives enthusiasically back Marco Rubio, the NRA was underwhelmed with Rubio’s effort on a bill that gave employees the right to keep guns in their cars when they park in workplace lots. The NRA is “evaluating the race”, and on paper, they appeared set to be Charlie Crist’s last ally . . . except that the Florida governor just declared about Kagan, “I think she’d do a great job.”

Tags: Charlie Crist , Marco Rubio , Mike Pence , NRA Convention

Gunning It


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In past years, some cities have faced a bit of controversy about hosting the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. Of course, those who hesitate cut off their noses to spite their wallets: “Organizers say they expect at least 70,000 visitors. Hotels are booked, restaurants will be packed, and the entire event is expected to pump $20 million into the local economy.” So far, from the crowds I’ve seen in the neighborhood around the convention center, it’s younger than you might picture — a lot of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, I suspect — and more women than you might expect. I’m told some folks make this their family vacations.

Cam had told me it was a big event, but the scope of it is really expansive; more than 500 booths with every possible product, service, and business relating to firearms, hunting, and personal protection. If you’re not a diehard gun guy, the sheer volume and variety of firearms and related equipment at the NRA convention is jaw-dropping. For example, there are booths for African Elephant Hair Bracelets, “The Concealment Shop,” Hillsdale College, and the “North South Skirmish Association,” booths dedicated entirely to “custom-fit hearing protection,” booths devoted entirely to binoculars, safaris to every corner of the world imaginable, and of course, an NRA Wine Club. (Perhaps you’re looking for a vintage of a higher caliber.)

While I’m not a diehard gun guy, I am a diehard 24 guy, and tomorrow in Booth 701 I can check out the model that is Jack Bauer’s gun, the Sig Sauer P229. I suspect each time you fire it, a voice shouts, “Who do you work for?” and the round tortures answers out of your target.

Sarah Palin is the headline speaker tomorrow; and no, she’s not taking a fee for this address. The other current and former GOP officials who are speaking — and whose appearance gives off a whiff of 2012 ambitions — include Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who appears Sunday. As far as I can tell, Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, is the lone representative of his party speaking. Sean Hannity was also scheduled to speak this weekend but had to cancel at the last minute; fellow Fox News host Glenn Beck will appear in his place.

By the way, for those mainstream-media folks looking for a quick and easy way to demonize all conventiongoers and NRA members as dangerous insurrectionists, an ad in the program for the new Benelli Vinci 12-gauge shotgun shows a masked man in camouflage holding the product beneath the slogan “LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN.” Of course, they pretty obviously mean a revolution in their product, and the ad print says “the new Benelli Vinci places the shotgun revolution in your hands.” But the facts have never meant much to those determined to paint gun owners as dangerous extremists, so I wanted to give you a heads-up on the next smear coming down the pike. The guy’s eyes look like they could belong to Texas governor Rick Perry, anyway.

Ironically, Charlotte is going to use its performance hosting this convention to help bolster its bid to host another big convention, a perhaps ironic subsequent event: the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Maybe Wayne LaPierre will leave a note at the convention center podium for President Obama.

Tags: Haley Barbour , John Thune , Mike Pence , Newt Gingrich , NRA Convention , Sarah Palin

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