Patiently, I have waited to write… Okay, I have been buried with lots of other activities – not the least of which was some due diligence…. I have listened to pundits, consultants, and friends in multiple presidential campaign corners – some staff, some just affiliated thru friendship or other business interests. Reading standard news is not enough anymore. There are too many turf wars. And not one reporter in the mainstream universe has any idea HOW to approach pressing issues in a practical, real world, big picture way. It’s become soooooo inside baseball that it’s driving voters nuts. Plus, when you’re in the market for a consulting gig or a reporting gig – you don’t want to piss off the powerful folks controlling the strings. It’s bad business.
Some have tried to convince me, unsuccessfully, that the best way to regain a Republican majority is for folks like me to shut up and support the party line. My answer was decidedly more vulgar than Tough Nookie. But you get the idea. Until we take responsibility and clean up our own house… we won’t be the majority of anything.
Rather than just blurt out a rant, let’s ease into the political tide pool. The folks who control the fate of the free world are not the politicians “we the people” elect. It is a small group of consultants who write, direct, produce and star in all three acts of every candidate’s life. The press, when aligned with a truly high powered consultant, can impact the fortunes of any candidate. Or they can drive an issue to success or the brink of failure.
Owning an issue, or owning a candidate is an extremely powerful position. This is a primary reason for the intense scrutiny and regulation of political money. If you read the expenditure reports, you can pick a winner every time – if you know which consultants are the ones running the party inside the beltway. Just like in horror movies – we all know the stupid girl running in her high heels down the rocky and dark road is the first to die. (At this time, I can not confirm that Sara Taylor will play this role in the Senate Judiciary Cmte’s movie “Get Karl” — word is she may get a call back since they approved a subpoena for her earlier today.)
You’ll know who the losers are too. The best man for the job is seldom the guy at the finish line. Somewhere along the Yellow Brick Road, voter apathy ceded control to these consultants. There are some very, very good men & women in the consulting world. There are a few shady ones as well. If you want to make a difference in politics, figure out who the consultants are – then make your move. When a candidate is not getting the answers or results he wants,he’ll start shopping for a new one. Every candidate is only as good as the truth told to the consultants. No consultant can save a sneak, a liar, or an idiot. Hello, macaca. It wasn’t all George Allen’s fault.
As a recovering political consultant – I’ve been known to call it as I see it – even when it maddened the folks I worked with. For instance, in 2004, I called sitting Republican Colorado Governor Bill Owens duplicitous – because he was. Owens added a little, shall we say SPICE, to the US Senate primary race to replace then Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Owens’ presidential ambition, and those of his affiliated consultants, got in the way of doing the right thing by the Republican party. Let me set the table… while Republicans were drowning, he watched his own back. Owens gave an endorsement to the solid & tested Republican, Congressman Bob Schaffer. Then retracted it – after many others failed to step into the race… like billionaire founder of ReMax Dave Liniger, or the Lt Gov… or several others – including failed 2006 Guber candidate Bob Beauprez declined to enter the race… Eventually Owens found a pick he liked – Beer magnate Pete Coors. Coors supposedly would self-fund AND was more electable.
Owens & the consultants were WRONG. Coors went down in flames. Why does that matter? Because one more US Senate seat would be damn handy right now. That’s why. Need another example of Owens’ idiocy? How about begging the campaign manager for George Allen’s 2006 defeat to be the next Colorado Republican Chairman? If you think I’m kidding, I am not. Dick Wadhams, who once encouraged people to believe he was the “next Karl Rove” – is now CO GOP Chair. He’s also the guy who cost George Allen his chance for the presidency… albeit with Allen’s assistance. It wasn’t just uttering the word macaca that cost Allen. It was the total mismanagement of the event once it happened. Wadhams‘ quotes in the days that followed conflicted with each other, and the Senator. It was appalling. And this is the guy Bill Owens brought in to “fix” the Colorado GOP. (notably, there is no bio posted for Wadhams at the CO GOP site) At least Owens delivers a consistent product.
So does Wadhams… he successfully kept his competition down. Only he is no match for the men he’d like to beat. I’ll keep my powder dry here. Rest assured it’s laid out in my book… due out May 7th. Finally!
Why are nasty consulting stories important???? Republicans simply must put nasty behavior and nasty secret-keeping behind us. Republicans who hold grudges for months and years are the people who cause more problems than they solve. Revenge is a game for repeat losers. We can’t all have a case of “true believer-ism” when it comes to a candidate. But we can identify someone to respect. Someone whose consultants are CLEAN. Consultants with unpolluted and uncomplicated relationships with each other and, most importantly, with the candidate.
For instance: You can’t run a 501c3 and a presidential campaign while paying members of the same PR firm to run PR for both entities. It’s unseemly and the public won’t like it. Add to that a consultant with a history of problems, especially recent ones and it’s a long road uphill. Why? Because it demonstrates a total lack of judgement. It’s a favor to the candidate if he never makes it to the big time – because the scrutiny from the Press and Democratic opponents would be atrocious, astonishing, and successful in killing Republicans of having even the slightest bit of credibility. Get rid of the dead weight. It’s not how the candidate or his consultants see it that matters – it’s the perceptions that will be placed in the minds of donors, the press, and the public that will render an unkind verdict. Smart candidates don’t cause problems for themselves.
Below is a smattering of my current thoughts on the GOP field. Look for a profile of former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson later this week. I’ll go in-depth and contrast Thompson head to head with the GOP field. Sneak peak: I’ll predict that once Thompson declares – he’ll be the only Republican that breaks 50% in every head to head, primary or general, within 30 days.
Perception and the projection of the American Ideal matters at election time. Barack Obama delivers that for the Democrats. He’s vibrant, young, charismatic, attractive, and inspiring to his Democrat base. Not a single one of the announced Republican candidates is filling this void yet. Appearing confident is no longer enough.
In short.. all of this is why AUTHENTIC will be the word that defines the 2008 presidential cycle. The candidate who is the most real, most authentic AND is the least contrived – will be the one who successfully crosses the finish line. Consultants will only matter less – if the candidates matter MORE. Consultants should compliment their candidate’s resume, they should improve his visibility and properly illuminate the failings of the competition… much like a sous chef serves the Executive Chef.
If Fred Thompson does not enter the race… Mitt Romney will likely be the nominee. (barring a serious mistake) The press, consultants and voters alike don’t like baggage. Being a Mormon is a lot more palatable than a third wife, a mistress, an old sick guy, an angry guy with a shady, baggage laden consultant, or a guy who can’t be honest about mob ties that a staffer had. If Fred Thompson does not run, it will be about who McCain endorses – because that person will get the McCain finance Committee. And that is McCain’s strongest asset.
Which leads me to believe Thompson will run. Only Fred Thompson, seemingly, has the “magic” figured out. He’s personable and his only problem with the base will be a vote for BCRA. Which means nothing to anyone except Rudy’s folks that see the prize slipping from their grasp.
If elected, Thompson and his wife Jeri would bring very young children to the White House residence for the first time since JFK & Jackie Kennedy. Is a return to Camelot far behind???????? Aren’t Republicans entitled to hope?
— Media Lizzy
My favorite news stories today: Panel Authorizes Rice Subpoena and House Panel Grants Gonzales Aide Immunity (They could really serve President George Walker Bush and the American people by RESIGNING.)
And… hat tip to RealClearPolitics: Tiresome Nagging About Money in Politics – Russ Smith, Balt. City Paper
The GOP Field Today:
For 2008, Rudy Giuliani is a likable and charismatic candidate. He’s got great name ID. He was the guy on the ground as the Towers fell. He owns his positions on the issues – he hangs a lantern on most of his policy portfolio. It’s refreshing. He’s energizing young people. BUT, Giuliani is also the guy who risks a lot by not addressing the Bernard Kerik matter in a much more direct fashion. Look, the truth is subjective. Giuliani’s campaign simply has to get real. It’s not the ads that his fellow Republicans will run against him in the primary that he must worry about. It is the ads that Democrats and MoveOn.org and Code Pink will run. Rudy’s got to convince more than a few people he’s taking this seriously, and that he really wants to be President – not just be famous. Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. To be the most authentic guy – he’s actually got to be the most nakedly honest guy running for the Oval Office. If he doesn’t OWN this ground, it will leave the door wide open for Fred Thompson. Does anyone know how he met his wife Judith yet? Rudy in the News: NewsMax -Giuliani: ‘Remain on Offense’ Against Terrorism; Press release- DNC: Rudy Too Arrogant for America; Manchester Union Leader- Giuliani: Lower taxes, cut spending; POLITICO – Giuliani Warns Of “New 9/11″ If Democrats Win
UPDATE: If Rudy wants to be President, he’ll own his life, his career, and even his mistakes. He could take a page out of his friend Bernard Kerik’s playbook… and be a real man. Read this, and remember why we all fell in love with Kerik in the first place: The Storm that Wrecked Bernie Kerik’s Career. If Rudy chooses not to be bold – he’ll prove his critics are correct. Enter the Glass Jaw.
John S. McCain: Yuck. He’s got the most bureaucracy laden campaign structure in modern history. All of his top consultants think they’re the one with magic access and magic powers. Except not one of them has delivered fundraising magic. Tough gig. Also, McCain & his BC04 (04 being the important part) consultants underestimate the lingering animosity Bush supporters from 1999/2000 feel towards McCain. McCain didn’t like South Carolina – tough. Neither did the Bush supporters – because we remember the “Paid for by McCain 2000″ fliers placed on our cars, on private property at events then-Governor Bush was attending. We remember, and we don’t like him. Our vindication came during the last SC debate when W pulled out one of the fliers and McCain got busted for either lying or incompetence in campaign staff management. Even during McCain’s announcement today, he seems to think the old baggage won’t come back to bite him. He talked about “falling in love” with his country when he came back from an extended absence. If you like McCain, you’ll think “how modest” he is to not mention the POW thing. For me, it’s more like – “he came home, left the wife who waited for him and left her for the heiress that subsequently funded his political ambition and helped him overcome his inferiority complex about not measuring up to his father & grandfathers expectations” – but hey, maybe that’s just me. In any case, I predict McCain will get out either right before or right after the 2nd quarter finance reports at the FEC… and he’ll endorse Fred Thompson. UPDATE: One final thought on John McCain – I personally believe he would stay in this race JUST to drive down support for President Bush. It stands to reason that if all the hard-core Bushies can’t stand McCain – the feeling is mutual. Take it or leave it – the man is petty. And if you hate Bush, who better to align yourself with than…. do your research on his consultants – and you’ll have the answer. McCain in the News: McCain Enters White House Race; McCain Knows It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint; McCain Officially Enters 2008 Race; The fundamental flaws in the McCain-Feingold law
Mitt Romney: He’s running the smartest campaign right now… under the radar – purchasing every straw poll vote available. He understands how the game is played. And he’s got Barb Comstock who is one of the most magnificent opposition researchers in the country. She’s served at Justice, the RNC – she’s a great asset when it’s time to navigate through the muddy deep of separating candidate from President Bush after the convention in Minneapolis next year. Not to mention, Alex Castellanos is on board. Talk about the master of media/ads/contrast and all things…. he’s simply tough to beat. Not one of the other Republican candidates has picked up the only guy who could beat Castellanos. And no, I won’t say who I think that is. When & if that guy signs on – rest assured, I’ll write it up and brag. Mitt in the News: Romney Buys Airtime for TV Commercial; Romney favors ambassador to deter nukes; If It Doesn’t Kill Us, It May Make Mitt Stronger
Also running… Jim Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia. Great pedigree. Solid conservative, but not a panderer. Possesses military experience. Sits on the NRA Board. Former RNC Chairman who got crosswise of Karl Rove – that may prove to be an ace up his sleeve with the press. Former Chairman of the USAF Academy’s Board of Visitors. Heads a homeland security think tank, NCORP. Gilmore should have been the natural choice for the first DHS Secretary – Tom Ridge certainly exploited every opportunity to snatch the spotlight from Gilmore in 2000/2001. (He would be an excellent choice to replace Gonzales.) Gilmore is not taken seriously by many, due to his poor fundraising performance. However, I would bet he takes this race very seriously. When McCain says he’s got the most experience – and that he understands how to make Congress work – I think Gilmore, among announced candidates, is uniquely positioned to take him to task for that. Essentially, I think Gilmore is a solid guy. He must avoid looking angry – and avoid attacking “Rudy McRomney” – it’s petty, and is a quote best left for a spokesman. If he wants to succeed, he needs to breakout from the pack at the Reagan Library Debate next week. Otherwise, call Fred Thompson – offer support – and hope for the VP spot, or a nod as US Attorney General. Gilmore has assets America needs. But Gilmore needs staff that is dedicated to him – not looking to better deal him for a job with another candidate. He needs an experienced fundraiser with connections to folks that have been on a presidential campaign finance committee, not just a statewide or Congressional donor – it is not enough. These folks often think they “know” presidential finance – but they are just the equivalent of the “help.” Unless a candidate can pick up the phone, call a major donor (often a billionaire) – and inspire that person to unlock the doors… it’s hard to be taken seriously. Protocol, manners & class are also important. Frankly, I think it’s a firing offense that anyone on his staff allowed him to attend an event where only 3 people showed up – OR that they ran their mouth to a blogger about the last minute purchases for a hospitality suite at CPAC earlier this year. Gilmore in the News: Jim Gilmore to enter 2008 presidential campaign in Iowa; How Jim Gilmore Wins The Republican Nomination; IowaPolitics.com: Gilmore continues to hype his ‘true conservative …; Jim Gilmore is running for what??
Sam Brownback: Nope. Brownback needed to make his mark as the natural ideological successor to the folks Bill Frist left behind when he withdrew from the presidential race. Brownback, while widely respected, can’t make it across the finish line without a breakout similar to what I describe for Gilmore. It’s not enough to be a nice guy with a nice pedigree. Donors want an aggressive, accomplished fundraiser with global experience. His staff will get a place at the table but Brownback won’t. Especially when his record during the 1996 Campaign Finance hearings was as a person associated with folks UNDER INVESTIGATION – unlike Fred Thompson, who conducted the Hearings. Talk about your negative ads… Sam in the News: Donor Scorecard: God, Pizza and Sam Brownback; How two Catholic candidates differ; Senator Sam Brownback Talks Gun Control; Sen. Brownback touts ‘pro-life, whole life’ message for ’08;
Huckabee, Tancredo, Paul, Hagel. Better known as Racist, Unknown, and Anti-War. NEXT. I’m not linking to these guys on purpose. They don’t matter.
Newt Gingrich. Look, I grew up in Newt’s district. He was my Congressman when I first went to Washington, DC and fell in love with politics…. But there is no way it will ever happen. He’s our ideas guy. He’d be a great Secretary of the Treasury. Note to Rudy: The American people won’t vote a mistress into the East Wing.