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Republicans Have to Stand for More Than ‘Just Win, Baby.’



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The first new Morning Jolt in a week is packed to the gills with news — but a key section looks at the fallout from last week’s Mississippi GOP Senate primary runoff: 

The Steep, Steep Price of Thad Cochran’s Victory in Mississippi

The Republican Party has to stand for more than “just win, baby.”

If you’re a Republican who went all out for Thad Cochran’s win last week, I hope you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and asking yourself whether Cochran’s victory was worth it. Because the price looks awfully steep – i.e., having a Republican candidate denounce the conservative positions of his opponent and a big chunk of the grassroots.

Great, a 76-year-old who wanted to retire is now a favorite to return for a seventh term. Look, I get it, Chris McDaniel had more rough edges than sandpaper origami, and yes, there was always the likelihood that the Democrats would attempt to turn him into the Todd Akin of this cycle. But anytime a Republican tries to beat another Republican by adopting the rhetoric of the Democrats, they’re playing with fire.

Was Thad Cochran’s victory worth having a Republican explicitly running on the glory of earmarks and the value of large federal spending projects in the state? Why not just hold up a giant flashing neon sign saying “WE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT”?

Was it worth running radio ads declaring, “By not voting, you’re saying, ‘Take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities”?

Was Cochran’s victory worth a flyer like this one, contending that the Tea Party is racist?

Yes, yes, the Cochran backers will insist they themselves had nothing to do with those radio ads or flyers. They just happened to benefit from messaging that demonized the positions of the grassroots.

Once a Republican candidate is running on those messages…how many differences with the Democrats are left? “Hi, I’m the candidate of bringing home the bacon and higher spending, and I think the Tea Party is racist. But I’m completely different from the Democrat, I swear!”

When a candidate campaigns on limited government and other conservative positions, he’s making a sales pitch for policy positions and a philosophy that some other candidate can run on in the future. When a candidate campaigns on his spot on the Appropriations Committee, and his seniority, and his long history of bringing back federal funding for state projects, he’s making a sales pitch that is completely non-transferrable to any other candidate, now or later. Next time around, some Democrat – some liberal Democrat! – will be able to make the plausible case that they’ll bring back more pork than the other guy. The arguments of the Cochran campaign helped their man – and by contending this is the proper criteria for electing senators, they’re also helping some populist Democrat in a couple of years.

Is this is the new strategy for Republicans? Abandon any pretense of being the party of limited government in an effort to win over the Democratic base?

Consider Ronny Barrett, a 56-year-old mechanic from Jackson and a black Democrat who voted for Cochran on June 3 and again Tuesday.

“Sen. Cochran has done a lot of things for the black community, and a lot of people in the black community know that,” Barrett said at Cochran’s victory party. “First time in my life I voted Republican. … I think I’ll vote Republican again.”

Because Mississippi voters don’t register by party, it’s impossible to know exactly how many Democrats or independents voted for Cochran. But turnout increased by almost 70,000 votes over the June 3 turnout, and Cochran improved his vote totals substantially in several key counties, including about 7,000 additional votes in Hinds, the seat of state government; more than 1,000 in Harrison and more than 1,200 in Jackson, both coastal counties.

The good news is that Ronny Barrett voted Republican and may vote Republican again. The bad news is that it doesn’t appear that the Cochran campaign made much of an argument to Barrett and other Democratic-leaning African-American voters other than, “I’ll bring home the federal spending that matters to you.”

A few Cochran backers are insisting this is a triumph of GOP outreach to minorities. But the methods of Cochran’s campaign aren’t transferrable to candidates who aren’t veteran porkmeister Appropriations Committee members. And what good is this method? Denounce your base and promise to give the other party’s base what they want? You might as well switch parties. Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist did.

Now Cochran’s new allies expect him to oppose efforts at voter ID:

NAACP Mississippi State President Derrick Johnson said in an interview that they are looking for Cochran’s support.

“Two things that we think should come immediately after the election [are] his support of the Voting Rights act… free of any provisions that would allow for voter ID and, second, to get the presidents of the black colleges to ask for his offices for help to make sure the mission of those institutions are carried out,” he said.

We can find all this frustrating, but not surprising. From the February 11 Morning Jolt:

McDaniel says he’s willing to draw a hard line on pork, but that’s another issue that seems to be more appealing in the abstract than when actual projects, jobs, and dollars are at stake. Bringing home federal spending hasn’t hurt Cochran in any of his previous six Senate campaigns, nor was it much of an issue for, say, former Mississippi senator Trent Lott. 

The “Just win, baby” motto is attributed to the late Al Davis, owner of the Oakland (and briefly Los Angeles) Raiders. Davis’ approach did work quite well for a while… and then from 1990 to 2010, they had seven seasons above .500. 

Tags: Thad Cochran , GOP , Chris McDaniel , Conservatism

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right



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Also in today’s Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes now:

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right

Conservatives sometimes lament that we can become our own echo chamber, convinced that we’re reaching a larger audience than we really are, unable to relate to or persuade those who don’t already agree with us. It’s a fair criticism. We need to address it.

But the same phenomenon does occur on the other side, and arguably with more severe consequences. Here’s the president, speaking at UC Irvine this weekend, discussing his climate-change and carbon-emission proposal:

It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.

President Obama is really, really, really bothered by the fact that some Americans don’t believe that human activity can significantly impact the climate. To him, this is something to fume about in public. It’s a top priority to him — even if climate change ranks near the bottom of the electorate’s priorities.

Here’s a Tweet from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Monday morning:

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The link is to an e-mail signup list for a U.S. State Department conference on oceans.

An audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that “more than 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for medical appointments at hospitals and clinics run by the VA, and nearly 64,000 others have been enrolled in the system for a decade but have still not been seen by doctors despite their requests,” and Monday brought new revelations of “dozens” of allegations of punishing whistleblowers who balked at falsifying records. One can reasonably argue that VA staffers ought to pay more attention to their actual jobs than to climate-change issues.

The U.S. State Department is currently evacuating nonessential personnel from Iraq, and by the time you read this, we may be evacuating essential personnel, too. They, too, may have more pressing concerns than promoting a conference on oceans.

But the Obama administration has set its agenda for 2014, and it’s not going to let little things like world events get in the way. Obama intends to run upon climate change, the minimum wage, the need for “common sense” gun control, and workplace equality.

He’ll campaign upon the need for “comprehensive immigration reform,” complete with a “path to citizenship,” even though we’re facing a humanitarian crisis on the border from a sudden influx of unattended children — an entirely predictable response to a policy change that provides a path to U.S. citizenship to children who enter the country illegally.

And he’ll spend the summer on his traditional golf and fundraising schedule.

If you ask a conservative what issues are on his mind, you might get a list that included the administration’s shameless dishonesty about the Benghazi terror attack, the national shame that is the VA scandal, and the sense that crises from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq to the South Pacific are spinning out of control. The border is unsecured. Obamacare is a mess, forcing people to buy coverage they don’t want, paying higher premiums than they expected, forced into narrow networks where they can’t keep the doctor they like. We’re letting the worst of the worst out of Guantanamo Bay for one imprisoned American.

You and I know those are legitimate concerns, but a lot of Americans don’t think about those topics much. If you asked those folks either in the middle or tuned out what worries them, and what they wish lawmakers would address, you would probably get a much simpler list.

People are having trouble finding jobs. The jobs don’t pay particularly well. It’s tough to find a good job with manageable hours and decent benefits. There’s no guarantee that your local public school will educate your kids particularly well. If your kids do make the grades they need to get into college, most schools are way too expensive. You can take out student loans, but you’ll spend half your life paying them back, and a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a well-paying job. Are young people able to start their lives, start their careers, get married, start families of their own? How long can young adults last in a perpetual adolescence? With all of these financial pressures coming at people from all directions, retirement seems like a more faraway goal.

It feels like a covenant with Americans, set a generation or two ago, is broken. Perhaps this is what Salena Zito is getting at when she describes the populist storm building in America’s heartland:

It is a cautionary thread — yet most people in Washington do not understand this moderate-in-tone populist wave. First, the wave is not going to take out every incumbent, so no “secret sauce” can “fix” it; second, it will have broad impact on both parties; third, it is relatively invisible because it has no name, no brand or party allegiance.

The problem is that while it’s easy to articulate what feels wrong about modern American life, it’s hard to put together a set of policy proposals that have a decent shot at fixing it. Ultimately, a lot of us would like to live in the America of the 1980s again — a booming economy capable of creating 500,000 new jobs in a month, a military buildup with no actual shooting wars going on, and Bill Cosby on our television screens.

It’s frustrating that the country’s middle or apolitical chunk of the electorate doesn’t share the concerns and priorities of the conservative grassroots. But they also don’t share the concerns and priorities of the progressive grassroots, either. President Obama is going to spend the next few months trying to get a country, beset by crisis after crisis, mess after mess, to ignore what’s worrying them and adopt the priorities of the Left.

Here’s the U.S. State Department home page right now:

Tags: Barack Obama , GOP , Conservatives

Reclaiming Reagan’s Economic Voice



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It was a positive May jobs report. And it’s good to see more Americans working. But there are still some serious warts in the jobs story. And overall economic growth is still trapped in a sub-par growth zone.

But what of the Republicans? Where are their growth policies? Alas, with some notable individual exceptions, I fail to see a united GOP growth message.

Read my full column here.

Tags: The Economy , GOP

What the GOP Must Hear: ‘No Approach Always Works Everywhere.’



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Here’s why the post-election “what should Republicans do?” discussion has been so maddening…

Everyone has an opinion, and it’s not likely that there’s going to be a one-size-fits-all answer. There are races in the near future where a more Libertarian approach will benefit the GOP. There are going to be races where appearing to abandon the social conservative grassroots will amount to political suicide. There are going to be parts of the country where a populist tone is going to work (West Virginia) and there are going to be places where the GOP will win votes by emphasizing the free market (Silicon Valley). There will be races where the party will benefit from spotlighting younger and more diverse candidates. And there will be races where an old white male will be just fine, as long as he offers the public a reassuring and trusted voice on the issues they care about.

Of course, recommending, “we need a little of this, and a little of that, depending on circumstances” doesn’t make for a very dramatic message. And to be heard, you need drama. Our modern political scene is a giant crowd of people, with each individual simultaneously trying to stand out from the crowd.

So instead of “my preferred vision will work in some races and circumstances, and not others,” the view that stands out the most is, “The GOP must do X!” regardless of circumstances. RINO Pride! Embrace Libertarianism! Kick out the RINOs! Dump Karl Rove!

Embrace “a more secular and modernizing conservatism that eschews most social issues!” Embrace Christie!

What wins votes in one part of the country isn’t going to work in another part of the country, and the GOP ought to have sufficient ideological flexibility to get their candidates elected anywhere. Sure, there’s an issue of what the party stands for nationally in its presidential choice, but there’s a lot of road ahead before we seriously confront that issue. We don’t know who’s running yet, and we don’t know what the state of the country will be in 2016.

Tags: GOP

Time for Republicans to Experiment in Getting Out the Vote



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

It’s Time for Republicans to Experiment in Getting Out the Vote

One of the recurring lines I’ve heard in my “where do Republicans/conservatives go from here” conversations is, “Why don’t the [Koch Brothers/Sheldon Adelson/wealthy GOP donors] take all the money they wasted on SuperPAC ads last year and this cycle spend it on [their preferred idea].”

Now, sometimes “[their preferred idea]” is a good one, sometimes it sounds like a bad one, and oftentimes we don’t really know if it’s a good one or a bad one, because it either hasn’t been tried, or it hasn’t been tried on the scale that the person is envisioning.

But usually the idea requires some massive investment of millions of dollars, and the speaker usually wants to be in charge of the budget for this multi-million project.

Now, there have to be some ideas out there that can be implemented without the support of a Koch brother or a Sheldon Adelson, ones that can be implemented by the grassroots. Because if our comeback is entirely dependent upon the wealthiest guys making the right choice when it comes to which political activity they want to finance, we’re in trouble.

The first congressional contest of this year is the special U.S. House election for Illinois’ 2nd congressional district in Chicago and a portion of its southern suburbs on April 9.

The district represents a steep challenge for Republicans; the district gave 90 percent of its vote to Barack Obama in 2008 and was until recently represented by Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr., who managed to easily win reelection in 2012 even though he was under criminal investigation and on medical leave. The district scores a D+32 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, it does have some less heavily Democratic sections, stretching from 53rd Street on the city’s South Side through the south suburbs of Chicago, all the way to Kankakee County.

There are five Republicans running; they’re all relatively unknown. Breitbart’s Rebel Pundit has talked to Paul McKinley and Dr. Eric Wallace. Earlier this month I spoke to the one candidate who has something of a media presence, syndicated radio commentator Lenny McAllister.

I don’t know if this guy is going to win the primary; and I have no illusions at the near-miracle it would take for the Republicans to win this seat. But every Republican who’s depressed by seeing the results of the November election agrees that our party has to get better at getting out the vote, in friendly districts, unfriendly districts, and everywhere in between. This is our first opportunity, and we have a few things going for us: A Democratic primary with 17 (!) candidates, and the low turnout of a special election. (When Rahm Emanuel left to become White House Chief of Staff, there was an open-seat race in another corner of Chicago in 2009. Total turnout: About 41,000 votes, with the winner claiming about 31,000. Rahm Emanuel himself didn’t vote in it, saying he forgot to file for an absentee ballot.) In November’s House race, with Jackson Jr. on the ballot, 67,396 voted for the Republican candidate, Brian Woodworth. How many of those 67,000 can Republicans get out to vote on April 9?

The low chances of success in this contest might actually be liberating. Suppose the Republicans in this district try an idea that backfires terribly; it’s not like a mistake like that would botch a seat we should have won. If it doesn’t work, we scratch it off the list and try another one. This is the time to experiment and try new things. This year we have two more special elections in not-terribly-competitive districts, the South Carolina first district seat on May 7, and the Missouri eighth district seat sometime in the spring (the date isn’t set yet). Then we have the bigger fish, the Massachusetts special Senate election (date to be determined, sometime in late spring, but perhaps as late as around July 4) and this November’s gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.

But note that these ideas are unlikely to come from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Governors Association, or the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It’s not that there are bad guys running those groups (although I know some of you disagree). It’s that they’re big institutions with large risks for putting resources – financial, time, manpower – into untested ideas. (You know the old anecdote – any CEO who needs an outside consultant goes with the biggest name, because they know they’ll never get grief for making the safe pick. If you hire somebody who’s relatively unknown, you look like a genius if it works out but you look like a fool if he falls flat on his face. You see the same phenomenon with the National Football League’s annual coaching carousel.)

Actions by the big party committees are guaranteed to attract scrutiny. If the NRCC tries some new strategy for direct mail or organizing volunteers online and it flops, you’ll hear the same mockery from the mainstream media about those hapless Republicans, and more grumbling from the grassroots, outside critics sneering they’re the gang who can’t shoot straight, etc. The grassroots organizers within these particular districts have a lot more leeway to try new ideas.

Patrick Ruffini continues his fascinating dissection of Obama’s successful 2012 campaign, examining the “legacy report” of the campaign:

“Three out of five team leaders and one in five team members volunteered 10 or more hours per week, much more than other volunteers.”

80% of Obama volunteers reported living within 10 miles of an office. 631 Obama offices in target states vs. 282 for Romney.

So, presuming you can afford it, a key step is having as many campaign offices as possible in as many different places as possible. You want your campaign to have a presence in every community, whether it’s red, blue, or purple, and to leave no vote unpursued…

Tags: Chicago , GOP , House of Representatives , Lenny McAllister

The Rice Withdrawal: The Best News for the GOP Since November



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Susan Rice’s decision to withdraw from consideration as secretary of state is the best news for Republicans since Election Day.

First, a quick reminder of why the Rice nomination mattered to Republicans: Opposition to Rice would have been garden-variety if not for Benghazi, which strikes many Republicans (and too few Americans as a whole) as a major scandal and a series of egregious, deadly misjudgments. Three major questions remain: why the requests for additional security were rejected in the weeks before the attack; precisely what actions were taken that night to rescue our staff in Benghazi; and why the explanations in the first days after the attack were erroneous.

The defense from Rice — I was only saying what I had been told by the intelligence community — doesn’t fly because the “error” aligned all too perfectly with the Obama campaign’s need at that moment: to dissuade the public from the notion that we had witnessed a major terror attack on September 11, and to assert that it was all the fault of some filmmaker who is now imprisoned by U.S. authorities on a probation violation.

Rice may have only been a minor player in the effort to insist that the events in Benghazi were not terrorism, but her role was sufficient to make any promotion to secretary of state an outrage. Her confirmation would be a brazen declaration that a U.S. official can lie to the public about life-and-death issues without consequence.

Now, indisputably, Benghazi has had a consequence for the administration. Not the consequence many on the right wanted, but at least the post-attack spin derailed the career ambitions of at least one participant.

An unexpected side effect of this decision is how much this turn of events is infuriating Obama’s allies. Both last night and today on Morning Joe, NBC News Andrea Mitchell reported, “A lot of Democrats are saying that the president did not show enough loyalty. A lot of women in the administration are very angry tonight, and I’m saying this at a very high level. Angry because they feel that she was not treated with respect, she was not given the support she needed and she was left to twist in the wind.”

Ruth Marcus, this morning (I’m quoting the print version; the online version is slightly different):

But, really, Mr. President, either nominate her or pick someone else — like, two weeks ago. Don’t leave her out there, fending for herself.

Thursday’s humiliating denouement fooled no one who has been around Washington for more than a minute and a half. If the president wanted Rice, her withdrawal never would have been accepted.

It never should have been allowed to come to this. On that score, Mr. President, I’ve got a problem with you.

Obama’s allies made two assumptions in recent weeks: First, that his victory in November would mean he would get what he wants in most ways in the coming years; second, that what they want is what he wants. Both of those assumptions were always destined to be disproven, but for liberals and fans of Rice, it’s like awakening to a bucket of cold water to see them disproven so soon.

There’s an argument that Republicans should be careful what they wish for, contending that Rice had a more hawkish outlook on foreign policy than John Kerry did. But the philosophical distance between the two figures is not that decisive, and in the end, the foreign policy will ultimately reflect the decision-making of President Obama — and he’ll make a lot of decisions Republicans will oppose and some they will support. (Of course, this discussion presumes there is still such a thing as a Republican foreign-policy consensus.)

Tags: Democratic National Convention , Barack Obama , GOP , John Kerry , Ron Barber

The Times’s ‘Magic Underwear’ Columnist Laments Bullying



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Over at the New York Times, Charles Blow, the columnist who wrote to Mitt Romney, “stick that in your magic underwear” laments the Republican party’s culture of “bullying.”

You’ll recall that the New York Times ombudsman did not find Blow’s comments worthy of coverage.

Tags: Charles Blow , GOP , The New York Times

Gallup’s New Numbers: Romney, Palin Remain Frontrunners



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Gallup has finally conducted another national survey of GOP presidential-campaign preferences, after the announcements from Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Mitch Daniels.

Mitt Romney (17%) and Sarah Palin (15%) now lead a smaller field of potential Republican presidential candidates in rank-and-file Republicans’ preferences for the party’s 2012 nominee. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain essentially tie for third, with Cain registering 8% support in his initial inclusion in Gallup “trial heat” polling. Notably, 22% of Republicans do not have a preference at this point.

Of the 10 candidates included in the newly reduced list, 7 have either officially announced their candidacies or established exploratory committees. Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann are nearing decisions and are expected to get in the race, while Palin’s status as a candidate is less certain.

There isn’t a huge change from previous polls, but notice Herman Cain is starting to creep up into the second tier . . .

The full listing of candidates

I feel bad for the 1 percent who volunteered Huckabee, even after he announced he’s not running.

Tags: GOP , Polling

‘A feeling that government is now a separate force beyond the people’s control.’



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Guess which Republican leader said this?

At the moment there appears to be a panic fear afloat in the air, partly due to a feeling that government is now a separate force beyond the people’s control, that their voices echo unheeded in the vast and multitudinous halls of government. I do not remember a time when so many Americans, regardless of their economic and social standing, have been so suspicious and apprehensive of the aims, the credibility, and the competence of the Federal establishment.

It sounds like Newt Gingrich, or Tim Pawlenty, or Mitt Romney, discussing the prevailing mood of the Tea Parties today.

But it was Ronald Reagan in 1968.

Another quote from him that era: “The fetish of complexity, the trick of making hard decisions harder to make- the art, finally, of rationalizing the non- decision, have made a ruin of American foreign policy.”

Sounds like someone discussing Egypt today, no?

Cam mentioned both quotes to me last night; he’s reading The Age of Reagan.

Tags: GOP

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