Tags: Karl Rove

When Will the Shutdown Talk Get Shut Down?


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

When Will the Shutdown Talk Get Shut Down?

The issue with this threatened government shutdown is the same as all the preceding ones: If the federal government is shut down, and public opinion turns against Republicans . . . then what? What’s Plan B?

Yes, I know that ideally, given a choice between defunding Obamacare and a government shutdown, President Obama would fold and accept defunding in order to keep the government open. But let’s recognize that no president will ever defund legislation named after himself.

Karl Rove, discussing this idea on Sean Hannity, notes that the last government shutdown effectively ended the Gingrich Revolution. (Republicans kept control of the House through 2006, but one could argue that their desire and drive to cut spending died pretty quickly after 1995.)

“This time around when the government runs out of money on September 30, it runs out of money for all the discretionary parts of the government. So the military isn’t going to get paid, FBI agents are not going to get paid. Border patrol people aren’t going to get paid. Anything that requires discretionary outlays is not going to get paid.” He predicts a slew of heart-rending stories about military families struggling, necessary medical procedures not being performed, and so on.

Sen. Mike Lee insists that it’s a false choice; that the Republicans would be passing a budget to fund everything except Obamacare, and it would force Senate Democrats to say that they would rather shut down the government than give up Obamacare. Rove doubts that the Senate Democrats will cave; he predicts they’ll just amend the legislation to fund everything, including Obamacare, and then send it back to the House and dare Republicans to reject that.

“You mean to suggest that we’re not going to fight and we shouldn’t fight just for the reason we’re going to get blamed for it?” Lee said. “We’re afraid that the other side won’t cave, so we have to? We cave and we cave and we cave. And we get Obamacare and we get new entitlement programs that never go away. This is how we get into trouble.”

There’s an oft-cited, apparently apocryphal anecdote, mentioned in The Hunt for Red October, of Hernan Cortez burning his ships after reaching the New World, in order to ensure his men would be highly motivated. A certain portion of the GOP grassroots wants that kind of all-or-nothing brinksmanship, to put all of their remaining chips into the middle of the table and bet them all on winning one fight. You win, you win big — i.e., President Obama, capitulating in humiliation, signing legislation to repeal his signature domestic-policy achievement. The problem is that if you lose, you lose big.

Lee contends that Rove’s scenario amounts to “the other side is going to try to blame something bad on us.” Except that a government shutdown will garner coverage that makes the Fiscal Cliff look like a handicapped ramp. It will be like the sequester doomsday talk, except that the doomsday talk will be largely right, at least in the short term. The consequences of a government shutdown would be felt immediately and widespread.

For what it’s worth, Senator Lee is completely, totally convinced that if the government shuts down, Republicans will win the messaging fight. I’d rather live in a world where he’s right. But I don’t think he’s right.

This may be moot, as Bob Costa is about as plugged into the House Republicans as any man alive, and his sources say buckets of cold water are being tossed onto this idea:

My cloakroom sources tell me they’re now confident that House Republicans will not tread into a shutdown battle with the Obama White House. GOP firebrands may threaten a shutdown and theatrically insist it remains an option, but the party’s private appetite for one, even among the right flank, is dissipating. “The electorate expects Congress to govern,” explains pollster David Winston, a longtime adviser to the House leadership. “House Republicans are going to offer their health-care alternatives within that process.”

The House leadership’s aversion to the tea-party plan is driven not only by strategy but also by the fear that having a debate on tactics would devolve into a Republican civil war. Boehner and Cantor, in conversations with fellow members, have reportedly warned that a shutdown would almost undoubtedly end in intraparty strife, owing to the Senate’s Democratic majority. To pass a vote on defunding Obamacare, Republicans would need 14 Senate Democrats to join them, and if Democrats declined, all blame, the thinking goes, would fall back on the House GOP for refusing to pass legislation to fund federal services. In all likelihood, Republicans would then be pressured to rush through a continuing resolution, only to get hit with recriminations and chaos in the wake of a shutdown.

But Conn Carroll points out that congressional Republicans’ leverage on another spending fight is based upon the same basic principle as Lee’s Obamacare gambit: Make some concessions or we won’t fund anything:

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is also on record threatening not to raise the debt limit unless Obama agrees to dollar-for-dollar spending cuts. On July 24, Boehner said, “We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It’s as simple as that.” “I believe the so-called Boehner Rule is the right formula for getting that done,” he added, referring to his rule matching new debt authority with spending cuts.

House Republicans can’t announce they are willing to surrender on Obamacare funding in the CR because they are afraid they will be blamed for a government shutdown, and then turn right around and threaten not to raise the debt limit unless Obama agrees to more spending cuts. There is no reason anyone should take them seriously.

If anything, a government shutdown is much safer ground to fight on. Hitting the debt limit would trigger far harsher consequences than a government shutdown.

If Republicans in Washington don’t want to fight Obamacare through the CR, that’s fine. But they shouldn’t then pretend that Obama and the Democrats should take their debt limit threats seriously at all.

Tags: John Boehner , Barack Obama , Government Shutdown , Obamacare , Mike Lee , Karl Rove

Angst on the Right Over the ‘Conservative Victory Project’


Over the weekend, this article in the New York Times stirred up a hornet’s nest among some of the conservatives I’m in touch with:

The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.

The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the “super PAC” creating the new project. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

Erick Erickson is among those fuming: “The people who brought us No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, TARP, the GM bailout, Harriet Miers, etc., etc., etc. are really hacked off that people have been rejecting them… I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement.”

Keep in mind, American Crossroads is coming off a deeply disappointing cycle: The two related groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group, spent a combined $170 million in 2012. The Center for Responsive Politics summarizes:

Including Obama and Romney, American Crossroads spent money for or against 20 federal candidates in 14 races, while Crossroads GPS focused on 27 in 24 contests.By our calculations, American Crossroads came out on the winning side in three of its 14 races, with one still too close to call — that’s about 21 percent. GPS did only slightly better, getting its desired outcome in just seven of the 24 elections it spent on; one contest also remains undecided. GPS’ success rate comes to 29 percent. 

So, having failed to achieve what they wanted to do in 2012, American Crossroads has to go back to its donor base with a revised mission, one that donors will want to support. And their mission is, in short, “no more Todd Akins.”

Of course, the formation of this group – and the Times’ decision to feature it on page A1 of the Sunday edition — re-opens the old wound of whether one branch of the party is to blame for the 2012 results. As I’ve written before, this is not merely a moot or pointless debate but one that warps the perception of what happened last cycle, as candidates from every branch of the party failed.

Tea Party enthusiasts have to come to grips with Richard Mourdock losing a winnable Senate race in Indiana, Allen West losing in Florida, and Mia Love losing a winnable House race in Utah. But it not just Tea Party stalwarts who lost. Linda McMahon’s attempt to persuade Connecticut voters she was really an “independent” candidate didn’t work, and Scott Brown, perhaps the least conservative Republican in the Senate, lost to Elizabeth Warren, a flawed candidate in Massachusetts. The least conservative Republican in the House, Illinois’ Bob Dold, also lost.

Anyway, rehashing the establishment-vs-the-grassroots fight is premature until we see the lineups for the various 2014 Senate races.

The only race that is really discussed in the Times article is Iowa’s open seat Senate race, with those behind the self-proclaimed “Conservative Victory Project” expressing skepticism about Rep. Steve King.

Now, King strikes me as a tough sell statewide. (Katrina Trinko looks at his interest in the Senate seat here.) Then again, he did just beat Christie Vilsack, the wife of the former Iowa governor and current Secretary of Agriculture, in a year when Obama was winning the state pretty handily. So the entire debate is premature until we know:

  • if King really wants to run for Senate
  • who else is out there on the GOP side
  • who the Democrats are likely to nominate and
  • how the hypothetical head-to-head match-up polling looks. 

Maybe the 2014 races will be marked by gaffe-prone, predictable-liability self-proclaimed Tea Party candidates wrecking winnable races. Considering how the Democrats and the mainstream media turned Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock into national figures, it’s a phenomenon worth keeping an eye on and being ready to combat.

But for now, we have a Super-PAC project forming to fight a problem that hasn’t manifested itself, and people fuming about the formation of a group that hasn’t done anything yet.

Tags: American Crossroads , Iowa , Karl Rove , Steve King , Todd Akin

Rove: ‘Obama Will Have the Cash. But He Can’t Run on His Record.’


American Crossroads offers an electoral analysis and pep talk from Karl Rove, complete with snazzy moving graphics floating in the air beside him:

He suggests that the Obama path to victory will require vastly outspending the Republicans in states like Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida.

“President Obama will have the cash. But he can’t run on his record. What’s he going to say, ‘Vote for me because of the failed stimulus, all of those deficits, and that health-care bill you hate’?”

Rove’s path to 270: Keep the McCain states, flip back traditionally Republican Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia; win the regular swing states of Ohio and Florida, and then at least one of any other swing state: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or New Hampshire.

Tags: 2012 , Barack Obama , Karl Rove

Is This What Newsweek Meant When They Wrote Obama’s ‘Up to the Job’?


From today’s first post-cruise Jolt:

So This Would Make the 2010 Midterms a Landslide of Biblical Proportions, No?

Over in the New York Times, Jon Meacham, fresh off reducing the market value of Newsweek to one dollar, compares Obama to the Biblical Job.

I suppose this is what happens when the Times asks Meachum to write about “changes in Obama’s job approval.”

Over at Commentary, Rick Richman observes, “Meacham (who last year gave us the description of Obama as ‘sort of God’) has an essay in today’s New York Times Book Review entitled “Obama and the Book of Job,” a review of Robert Alter’s new translation of one of the most remarkable books of the Bible. This time, Meacham portrays Obama not as sort of God but sort of Job . . . As for Obama’s current problems, they do not seem biblical in proportion but rather simply those associated with the job he volunteered for and assured us he would solve (while bringing the sea level down). His situation seems less the work of a Cheney-like God than an illustration of the biblical admonition of what cometh before a fall.”

Over at Red State, Thomas A. Howe, Professor of the Bible and Biblical Languages, offers a detailed theological counter-argument, ultimately concluding, Obama is not like Job. Job was blameless and upright. Job feared God. Job held on to his integrity. Obama is no Job.”

I’m just tired of extremists like Meacham trying to turn this country into a theocracy.

Also, the entire first section is lessons from the cruise, high among them: “Karl Rove does a strikingly good Bill Clinton impresssion, and breaks into it with very little provocation.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Karl Rove

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