10 Winnable Senate Races

10 in 2010
Republican Senate Pickup opportunities -- 2010.
by Adam Cahn

    Conservatives disheartened by Nov. 4th's "thumping" can take heart; we're only 691 short days away from election day 2010.  Much like Democrats following their 2004 debacle, Republicans now face their best political opportunity in at least five years.  Democrats, who no longer have George W. Bush to kick around, must now govern.  Most of the lingering congressional corruption scandals now feature Democrats (Don Young's fate in Alaska notwithstanding).  Republicans, free from the responsibility of governance, have the luxury of principled obstruction for the first time in sixteen years.  With a focus on conservative reform, impeccable ethics, the right leadership, and a couple lucky breaks Democrats will face political peril in just 691 short days.

While the country is split roughly evenly on the issue of protecting the unborn, Barack Obama will be the most pro-Abortion President to enter office in American history.  In addition, pro-Abortion Democrats in Congress will know their time as a 16 to 20 seat majority in the Senate will be inherently limited.  Given the reality of a near supermajority in congress along with holding the white house, pro-abortion Democrats must strike during this Congress.  The only question is what mechanism Democrats will use.  They have many options; either a frontal legislative attack (which I doubt) or more subtle parlementary manuvers.  Potential Democrat targets include: the 2003 ban on partial birth abortion, laws making it illegal to transport minors across state lines for abortions, or a dramatic expansion of taxpayer funded abortion.  However the public feels about abortion more broadly, the moderate restrictions listed above all enjoy 85% support in the country.

The second major issue that will harm Democrats is land use and economic development on Federally Owned lands in the Western States.  When Democrats put the Green Mafia in charge of the Interior Department and the EPA, they will inevitably put environmental restrictions on economic and recreational activity.  If the history of the Clinton and Carter administrations are a guide, these issues will cost Democrats Senate seats.  In 1992, Democrats had 8 seats in the Interior West; in 2000, they had 3.

The third major issue Republicans will have is ethics and corruption.  With Ted Stevens' defeat, there aren't many corrupt Republicans left.  Democrats, on the other hand, have many members under ethical clouds, including prominent committee chairmen like Charlie Rangel, Chris Dodd, and Barney Frank.  Democrats could see a steady stream of members with ethical issues in the next few years.

The following ten senate races are winnable with the right candidate:

1) Evan Bayh (IN) - While popular among Republicans and a good fit for Dan Quayle's old seat, the former DLC chair is loathed among the Democrat party's activist base.  Controversial votes like (FISA, Partial Birth Abortion, & Z) leave Bayh's left flank vulnerable and other votes (Affirmative Action, ANWR, &  Nuisance Lawsuits against Gun Manufacturers) will allow Republicans to tie Bayh to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid and to brand him as out of touch with Indiana's values.  As a member of the Armed Services committee, he is also vulnerable if Democrats attempt serious cuts in Defense Spending.

Potential Candidate: Mike Pence.  Conservatives have known and loved the 2005 Human Events Man of the year for a long time.  Pence, a National Security Hawk, fierce critic of Bloated Budgets, and devout Christian unites the conservative coalition in a way few politicians who happen to be Republicans can.  Additionally, Pence's leadership in the successful "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" insurgency of 2008 can only help when Gas Prices inevitably rise.

2) Barbara Boxer (CA) - This race, while a longshot, is winnable.  California, remember, was Ronald Reagan's home state.  As the 2003 re-call election proved, a Confident Republican can go on offense with a message of unapologetic Conservatism and win (Schwarzenegger's subsequent governance is a separate topic).  Ms. Boxer, while wildly popular in Berkeley and Bel Air, has always had trouble in Bakersfield and Barstow.  Additionally, Boxer's longstanding support for economically catastrophic cap and trade legislation  make her especially vulnerable if the Obama administration makes Global Warming legislation a top priority.  Finally, voter rejection of Prop 8 proves California near as liberal as it is commonly charicatured.

Potential Candidate: Hugh Hewitt.  The telegenic radio host's impeccable conservative credentials will inspire the Republican base to turn out like Crazy while his outstanding communication skills can move the state's recalcitrant independent voters rightward.  Additionally, his nationally syndacated radio audience gives him a built in fundraising network for a seat that will probably require $125 million to capture.  Finally, Hewitt might be the only potential candidate who can successfully thread the immigration needle in the GOP primary.

3) Chris Dodd (CT) - Under normal circumstances, Dodd would be one of the safest  Democrats in the country.  Fortunately for Republicans, and to the detriment of the incumbent, Connecticut's senior Senator faces far from normal circumstances.  Senator Dodd is the U.S. Senator most responsible for the current financial crisis.  In 2003 DOdd recieved a loan from subprime mortgage giant Countrywide Financial's elite "Friends of [Countrywide CEO] Angelo [Mozillo]" program.  Sen Dodd received a combined $781,042 in two mortgages at below market interest rates.  Coincidentally, Dodd blocked Republican efforts to crack down on corruption at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose mortgage securitization process disproportionately benefitted Countrywide.  If current economic difficulties continue or worsen (the latter of which will probably occur), Dodd's personal role in creating the financial crisis will leave him vulnerable in what is otherwise a deep blue state.

Potential Candidate: Larry Kudlow.  If, in economically challenging times, you still believe that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity, then the popular CNBC host is the strongest potential candidate to take on Dodd.  The former Reagan economic advisor and supply side guru has owned a weekend property in the state for many years, which he could  make his primary residence in about five minutes of paperwork.  Kudlow has been erudite and relentless in explaining how the current financial crisis resulted from Government social engineering, not free-market capitalism.  While Kudlow has previously made terrible lifestyle choices, his subsequent 14 year recovery is a quintessentially American tale of redemption.  Finally, Kudlow's long history on Wall Street would allow him to raise ample funds in what would be an extraordinarily expensive race.

4) Byron Dorgan (ND) - Senator Dorgan faces a many potential pitfalls.  To begin, the incoming majority will be far more liberal on social issues than Senator Dorgan's state.  This leaves Dorgan vulnerable on any far left abortion agenda advocated by democrats.  With the recent discovery of a major oil shale deposit in the state, environmentalist control of the federal government might not resonate either.  With his party in unified Control of government, Senator Dorgan will be unable to distance himself from his party's liberal leadership. 

Potential Candidate: Gov. John Hoeven.  While unknown nationally, the popular governor was overwhelmingly re-elected this year with 74"% of the vote.  The successful governor is a solid, across-the-board conservative with impeccable pro-life credentials.  Given the state's conservatism, the majority party's lurch to the left and the incumbants ties to the Green mafia and the subprime mess, Gov. Hoeven is positioned to win this seat should he choose to run.

5) Russ Feingold (WI) - Despite his unassuming demeanor, the Gentleman from Wisconsin has established a voting record better suited for the Berkeley City Council than a midwestern senator.  In 2001, Feingold irresponsibly voted against the PATRIOT ACT, an essential counterterrorism tool that has prevented a repeat of 9/11.  In 2002, Feingold, along with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), led the greatest assault on the first amendment since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 under the guise of "bi-partisan campaign finance reform."  During his 2004 re-election, Senator Feingold used the afore mentioned act to muzzle the political speech of Wisconsin right to life; Feingold's target in this case leaves him vulnerable to any far left abortion  agenda pursued by the majority party.  While Senator Feingold's Phish concert liberalism goes over well in the MSNBC newsroom, it leaves Feingold dramatically out of step with midwestern values.

Potential Candidate: Rep. Paul Ryan.  Much like Congressman Pence, Congressman Ryan stayed true to conservatism even when the Hastert-led Republican Congress abandoned it.  Articulate and telegenic, Congressman Ryan was just re-elected in a district that went for Obama with a message of unapologetic conservative reform.  Ryan has advanced conservative solutions to middle class economic anxieties on issues such as education, medical care, and retirement security.  Running against an incumbent whose views are to the left of most Madison drum circles, Congressman Ryan's conservative reformism will resonate with voters.

6) Blanche Lincoln (AR) - Another potential casualty of the liberal social policies of the Obama administration is the Senior Senator from Arkansas.  A moderate in the mold of former Governor Bill Clinton, Ms. Lincoln nontheless hails from a socially conservative state that could serve as ground zero in a backlash against liberal social policies of the Obama administration.  Any attempt to pack the federal judiciary with liberal judges could give Arkansans pause about unfettered Democrat control of government in a state that in 2004 voted overwhelmingly against homosexual marriage.

Potential Candidate: Mike Huckabee.  The popular former Governor and Presidential Candidate is the natural selection (evolution pun intended) in this culturally conservative and economically nervous state.  The Baptist Minister could appeal to voters as a check on President Obama's judicial appointments.  Additionally, as a former Presidential candidate, Gov. Huckabee would have access to a national fundraising network among evangelical Christians.  Finally, his national profile would increase dramatically interest in this race.

7) Patty Murray (WA) - Where abortion threatens Democrats in the midwest, Federal Land use policies threaten Democrats in the west.  If the Obama administration, like the Clinton and Carter administrations before it, impose environmental regulations that significantly impede economic activity on Federal Lands, a severe voter backlash could topple the Gentlelady.  Finally, Ms. Murray's support for cap and trade legislation could cost her support in economically troubled times.

Potential Candidate: Congressman Dave Reichart.  The tenacious former Sheriff of King County, perennial Democrat target, has consistently won narrow victories in his Seattle area district that voted for Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.  While Congressman Reichart's tactical brilliance is unquestioned, his appeal to conservatives lies in the fact that he consistently wins in a majority Democrat district without grandstanding against his own party.  Reichart's libertarian style conservatism allows him to compete in socially liberal Washington while also allowing his to oppose taxpayer funded abortion for budgetary reasons.

8) Barbara Mikulski (MD) - As a very liberal Democrat from a very liberal state, Mikulski should be heavily favored for re-election.  Unfortunately for the incumbent, she is left vulnerable by a speaking style and public persona that can charitably be described as boring, leaving her vulnerable to a charismatic challenger.

Potential Candidate: Michael Steele is the only reason Republicans have a shot at this seat.  Given this reality, Steele should run for the Senate, not the RNC chair.  The former Lieutenant Governor and current head of GOPAC gave a rousing address at this year's Republican National Convention where he spoke movingly about how conservative reforms like school choice benefit lower and middle income families, especially minorities.  Steele gives Republicans the opportunity to craft a reformist economic message that resonates across racial and ethnic lines.  Steele also is the only opportunity Republicans have to neutralize the racial issue heading into 2012.  Steele is a special talent and Republicans should do everything they can to keep him in the national spotlight.

9) Harry Reid (NV) - Republicans have a history of successfully targeting Democrat congressional leadership.  As Reid has become an increasingly partisan national figure, his home state approval ratings have plummeted.  While an influx of liberals  from California moved the state to Obama in 2008, Reid's tenure as majority leader has provided his opponents with plenty of ammunition to use against him.  In addition, given his leadership role in the Washington D.C.'s majority party, Reid is especially vulnerable to the land use issues that will threaten all Western Democrats.  95% of the land in Nevada is owned by the Federal Government.

Potential Candidate: Melody "Mimi Miyagi" Damayo.  The lack of another standout conservative reformer in the state paves the way for Damayo, who placed third in the Republican Primary for Governor in 2006.  While her previous work as an actress in the adult entertainment industry will give many conservatives pause, no one can deny that she was a wildly successful entreprenneur in an intensely competitive industry.  Besides, having a Porn Star on the ticket can only help a party that just lost among 18-29 year old men.

10) Ken Salazar (CO) - Much like his fellow Western Democrats, Federal Land Use issues pose a deep threat to the re-election effort of Colorado's senior senator.  Coloradans have never liked Federal Bureaucrats telling them how to use resources found in their own communities.  Additionally, Obama's fiscal policies threaten Salazar in this historically tax-o-phobic state.

Potential Candidate: Anyone but Tancredo.  Given that this race will probably turn on either national or regional concerns, any Republican with a pulse should make this race competitive.  That said, Tom Tancredo is a lunatic with a massive ego who will lose this seat if nominated.

Keeping a majority coalition together is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in politics.  Republicans learned this lesson in 2005; Democrats could easily learn it next year.  As issues change, so do the desires of voters.  The fact that issues and times change puts structural limits on any political majority.  Additionally, given that Democrats now control the executive branch, certain issues Republicans used successfully in the 1990's become relevant again.  If Republican are smart, recruit good candidates, and expand the electoral playing field, 2010 can be a very good year.

2010 Senate Recruitment Project

A big part of the Rebuild platform is running everywhere and not giving any Democrat a free pass. That should start in the 2010 races for the Senate -- and it needs to start now. Look how many previously popular GOP incumbents were taken out in 2006 and 2008 because popular Democrats decided to stake their careers on taking them out.

I've put together this prelimary list of potential challengers to all Democrat incumbents up in 2010. Many of these are simply readouts of statewide officeholders, and a couple of others come from this insightful Free Republic thread (go John Elway!). But we should not limit ourselves to this list. Who are the rising, outside-the-box leaders in the state legislatures or the private sector who could be enticed to take on the total Democratic stranglehold on government in the midst a deep, deep recession (wink, wink)? I want to hear some in the comments.

Among the most promising and potentially gettable recruits on this list are Elway (Colorado), Linda Lingle (Hawaii), John Hoeven (North Dakota), and Rob McKenna (Washington).

Arkansas - Blanche Lincoln

  • Former Gov. Mike Huckabee - Run Huck Run! I really wish he would recognize that he has a hard ceiling for any POTUS primary run, but could be elected in a cakewalk back home. The Dems have no shortage of self-sacrificing figures like Mark Warner who could have gone higher but instead performed a valuable service to their party by limiting their longshot national ambitions, keeping themselves in the game, and growing the party.
  • Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson
  • Rep. John Boozman
  • Note: Despite this being a McCain +20 state, there are NO Republican statewide elected officials and only 1 out of 4 GOP representatives. Arkansas is probably ripe for a some sort of organized project akin to Karl Rove's turning Texas red in the '80s and '90s and Tim Gill et al. turning Colorado blue in the 2000s.

California - Barbara Boxer

  • Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (declared)
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Rep. David Dreier
  • Rep. Devin Nunes
  • Rep. Mary Bono Mack

Colorado - Ken Salazar

  • John Elway
  • Former Gov. Bill Owens
  • Attorney General John Suthers
  • Rep.-elect Mike Coffman - former Secretary of State just elected to replace Tancredo, so it's unlikely he'd make a race in 2010, but he should be noted as a potential future statewide candidate

Connecticut - Chris Dodd (potential retirement)

  • Gov. Jodi Rell
  • Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele
  • Rep. Chris Shays - defeated for re-election and would clearly not be a perfect Republican vote, but still has the best track record of surviving in Connecticut
  • Former Rep. Rob Simmons 

Delaware - Biden vacancy

  • Auditor General Tom Wagner
  • All ears for any potentially talented State Reps or Senators. We need to start somewhere.

Hawaii - Daniel Inouye

  • Gov. Linda Lingle - term-limited in 2010

Illinois - Obama vacancy

  • Rep. Peter Roskam - safely re-elected 58-42% in a close seat against the Obama tide; ran a great campaign in 2006
  • Rep. John Shimkus
  • Rep. Mark Kirk - hung tough in a liberal seat against an Obama-esque Dem nominee
  • Mike Ditka

Indiana - Evan Bayh

  • Rep. Mike Pence
  • Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman
  • Sectetary of State Todd Rokita
  • State Treasurer Richard Mourdock
  • State Auditor Tim Berry

Maryland - Barbara Mikulski

  • Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (if not elected RNC Chairman)
  • Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich
  • Because of its proximity to DC, there may be somebody of national prominence who lives in Maryland, though they would  have to start making a name for themselves statewide now

Nevada - Harry Reid

  • Former Gov. Kenny Guinn
  • Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki
  • Rep. Dean Heller

New York - Chuck Schumer and potential Clinton vacancy

  • Rudy Giuliani
  • It's pretty slim pickings to find a good statewide figure or a non-parochial GOP Congressman, so we may be left looking to business or sports for other options

North Dakota - Byron Dorgan

  • Gov. John Hoeven - declined to run in 2008 because of re-election bid, but wouldn't be up in 2010 and would be the ideal GOP statewide nominee
  • Secretary of State Al Jaeger
  • Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem
  • State Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem (Wayne's brother)
  • State Tax Commissioner Cory Fong

Oregon - Ron Wyden

  • Sen. Gordon Smith
  • Rep. Greg Walden
  • Former Gov. candidate Kevin Mannix

Washington - Patty Murray

  • Dino Rossi
  • Attorney General Rob McKenna
  • 2006 Sen. nominee Mike McGavick

Wisconsin - Russ Feingold

  • Rep. Paul Ryan




The Internet Should Kill 2012 Talk

I'll confess that at this point in 2004, I had at least a passing interest in 2008. By May 2005, I had set up my 2008 Presidential Wire, and I had begun coding it 2 months earlier.

This cycle though, I won't be focused on 2012 for a while, and it's because of I've learned from 2008. 

Barack Obama was not even mentioned as a potential candidate until October 2006. Mitt Romney, by far the most well-prepared of the early 2008 contenders, was defeated in Iowa by Mike Huckabee (who was accused of slacking on the early ground game) and in New Hampshire by John McCain (whose early organization got shredded). The hottest GOP contenders at this point in the last cycle were George Allen and Bill Frist. And all John McCain's early legwork got him was an excessive burn rate and campaign implosion, until he retooled into a leaner, meaner machine.

In October or November of 2007, few people would have predicted Barack Obama or John McCain as the nominees. If we can't predict three months out, what makes us think we can predict three and a half years out?

Nor was 2008 a total fluke. There are structural forces at play here. On the one hand, the campaign cycle has been lengthening. But on the other hand, the Internet, and specifically a richer information ecosystem that allows us to pay more attention to also-rans like Huckabee and Ron Paul is operationalizing the Feiler Faster Thesis where challengers rise and frontrunners implode faster.

This means that in a primary, money and organization don't go as far. McCain got nominated with half the resources of some of his competitors. Mike Huckabee got to be the second to last guy standing on financial and organizational fumes. When Barack Obama's YouTube channel is worth more than the entire budget of a respectable primary campaign, you know something is up.

So, I implore you, quit focusing on 2012, and focus on 2010 and on showing the Republican Party can rebuild at the state legislative, Congressional, and statewide levels in 2010. (That's where we're starting with Rebuild the Party.) Start blogging about potential candidates for Congress now. Even if we somehow manage to unseat Barack Obama in 2012, it won't mean very much if our ranks in the House and Senate remain decimated, and we've redistricted into oblivion until 2022.

Senate Preview and Theory, 2010

Promoted. -Patrick

In 2004, the Republican Party gained 4 Senate seats in the election. There were 34 senate elections, and we won, 19-15. In the midterm elections, 2010, we will have the opportunity to either make up our deficit, or let the Democrats have a supermajority. Here is a breakdown of Senate seats up for re-election, and the margin of victory of the winning party in 2004:

  • Alabama, (R) Shelby won by 36%
  • Alaska , (R) Murkowski won by 3%
  • Arkansas, (D) Lincoln won by 12%
  • Arizona, (R) McCain won by 56%
  • California, (D) Boxer won by 20%
  • Connecticut, (D) Dodd won by 34%
  • Colorado, (D) Salazar won by 4%
  • Florida, (R) Martinez won by 1%
  • Georgia, (R) Isakson won by 18%
  • Hawaii, (D) Inouye won by 56%
  • Idaho, (R) Crapo won unopposed
  • Illinois, (D) Obama won by 43%
  • Indiana, (D) Bayh won by 25%
  • Iowa, (R) Grassly won by 43%
  • Kansas, (R) Brownback won by 42%
  • Kentucky, (R) Bunning won by 2%
  • Louisiana, (R) Vitter won by 22%
  • Maryland, (D) Mikulski won by 31%
  • Missouri, (R) Bond won by 13%
  • Nevada, (D) Reid won by 26%
  • New Hampshire, (R) Gregg won by 32%
  • New York, (D) Schumer won by 47%
  • North Carolina, (R) Burr won by 5%
  • North Dakota, (D) Dorgan won by 36%
  • Ohio, (R) Voinovich won by 28%
  • Oklahoma, (R) Coburn won by 12%
  • Oregon, (D) Wyden won by 31%
  • Pennsylvania, (R) Specter won by 9%
  • South Carolina, (R) DeMint won by 10%
  • South Dakota, (R) Thune won by 2%
  • Utah, (R) Bennett won by 41%
  • Vermont, (D) Leahy won by 46%
  • Washington, (D) Murray won by 12%
  • Wisconsin, (D) Feingold won by 11%

Here is a list of those won by 10% or less

  • Alaska, (R), 3%
  • Colorado, (D), 4%
  • Florida, (R), 1%
  • Kentucky, (R), 2%
  • North Carolina, (R), 5%
  • South Dakota, (R) 2%

This doesn't seem like very good news, especially considering three of those seats are in states Obama flipped from red to blue, by about 10%. Naturally, we can wait and hope that Obama will govern in a liberal fashion that would alienate voters from his party and result in poor showings in 2010, and historically that's been the case. However, the 2004 elections were very successful for the Republicans, so Obama's midterm inadequacies would probably have a similar adjustment to the Rove-designed superior Republican ground game in 2004. I also don't want to wait until the Democrats foul things up before getting our party back into office; we can have success with that if we run conservative candidates that reflect their district.

I'll admit that I don't know much of what goes on state-to-state, such as who will be the likely matchups, or if there are going to be any renowned opposition candidates in 2010, such as if, for example, Napolitano is going to campaign in AZ or not.

What I do propose is that we identify a seat that we have to hold or flip, we can discuss the merits of that selection, and once we decide on a candidate, we can put together some sort of fundraising package if it comes to that. Considering that many here are concerned about Obama raising their taxes, we should be easily able to raise a few thousand to make a small difference in a Senate seat.

 Edit: Front page, awesome, thanks : ).

As for some of the comments, yes, I forgot Illinois and Delaware. I'm from Illinois, and our Republican party is anemic. After George Ryan, the last Republican governor, left office under investigation (he was later convincted and sent to jail), Illinois elected Rod Blagojevic on a "reform" platform. Blago is incompetent, combative, and has an ongoing feud with the State Congress. His approval rating right now is 4. Yes, 4, you read that correctly. However, despite all that, Illinois re-elected him in 2006 because the Republican brand is so damaged, and because there are no compelling Republicans in Illinois. Blago will nominate a replacement, and Obama's (first) term would be up by 2010, so that would fall in the regular schedule, anyway.

Delaware has a better shot. Its only Congressman is Mike Castle, who is more moderate than most Republicans. He might not be the best "new face" of conservatism, since he is old and not that conservative, but he's probably much more conservative than Biden or his Democratic replacement.

My first impressions are that our better choices would be Castle, Martinez in Florida, since he seems to be the "conservative on social issues, moderate on immigration"-type of candidate that would work for the state, and maybe another shot at Colorado. I'd suggest Colorado, since we have a solid base there in CO Springs, and, as Chuck Todd said, Republicans need to find a message to communicate to Mountain time-zone voters, or more states will go the way of Montana. I'd like Shays to win, but I wonder if Connecticut is too liberal for him.

Where do Republicans Go From Here? A Grassroots Perspective.

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey wrote in his book, Armey's Axioms, “When we act like them, we lose. When we act like us, we win.” Such words seem appropo after the 2008 general election. However, there is so much more to those words today than when they were written.

I cannot tell you how many times during the Bush Administration, political staffers at the state and federal level would seemingly say the same thing, 'I didn't sign up for this.' From the ill-executed war in Iraq to the prescription drug plan to the recent government bailout, many Republicans – both grassroots and professionals alike were caught off-guard by the brand of conservatism and, thus, the brand of Republicanism being executed at the highest levels of our government. And, worse yet, it was for the world to see. But, in his defense, President Bush didn't do it alone. He had a lot of help.

President Bush's proclamation of “compassionate conservatism” when he ran for office in 2000 was great rhetoric and a wonderful mission statement. However, Republicans failed to understand that it actually meant something. Compassionate conservatism meant spending – a lot of spending on government programs. It meant deficits and increased debt. It meant a foreign policy that focused on American exceptionalism and a Wilsonian offense spreading democracy around the world rather than a peace through strength national defense policy. In short, it was a brand of conservatism with which many Republicans were uncomfortable. It was not the brand of conservatism that built a center right America. However, he was “our guy” and they kept their lips sealed.

Now, in the wake of the recent elections, both grassroots and professional Republicans are asking, “where do we go from here?” Pundits have been busy today arguing whether Republicans and conservatives should revert back to their principles and become more partisan, thus, playing the role of loyal opposition? Or, should they acquiesce and work with the increased majorities of the House, Senate and new President-Elect Obama. Oddly, the answer can be and should be - both.

For years, conservatives have tried to indicate their political leanings by expressing themselves as Paleo-conservatives and Neo-conservatives. These designations spoke to the type of conservatism they believed in. As described by Wikipedia, Neo-Conservatives were/are, “a modern form of conservatism that supports a more assertive foreign policy, aimed at supporting American business interests abroad.” Paleo-Conservatives were/ are described as, “arising in the 1980s in reaction to neoconservatism, stresses tradition, especially Christian tradition and the importance to society of the traditional family.”

But, as President-elect Obama plainly put it, “Change has come to America.” This must be with the Republican Party and conservative movement, too. We can revert back to our most fundamental traditions, principles and philosophies; be a loyal opposition when warranted and work with the new majorities in the House and Senate at the same time. How? It won't be because of re-branding an image or reinventing the wheel. It will be by returning to our roots; a center right roots of thinkers and philosophers that ushered us into a time of peace and prosperity. We need to look to the past writings of Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, Richard Weaver, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

In these writings we will find a stark contrast with modern conservatism most recently on display. We will find a place in the very first chapter of Russell Kirk's book, The Politics of Prudence, a proclamation that conservatism is, in fact, the lack of ideology. It is not partisan but reasoned. It is not argumentative or “gotcha” but measured. It is a far cry from the conservatism contemporaries have come to know. Further, we will find a reason for a just and moral order in our society for the sake of shared interest and partnership toward a shared future – not to force dogmatic practices on an unwilling citizenry.

In other writings from Hayek and Mises we will find a proven direction to build prosperity without taking from the rich and giving to the poor. In Burke, we will find a role for regulation without over-regulating to the point where we choke a small business' or individual's opportunity to make a profit. In Weaver, we find that ideas have consequences. Every decision carries with it levels of impact. But, as Weaver notes, “All work is a bringing of the ideal from potentiality into actuality.” We work together.

As a collection, we find a place where minorities have a home through public policies that directly benefit them and a place where they are not only welcome but are relied upon. We find a proper role for government while not intruding into peoples' personal lives or asking them to give up their liberties in the name of national security. We find a place for achieving peace through strength without active nation building or misdirecting aggression; not confusing offense with defense . We find a place for a limited social safety net while still relying on the hard work and individual responsibility of every able citizen because the greater we limit the fall, conversely, the greater we must limit the success. And, we find a place where we are truly “our brother's keeper” but a keeper by choice – not by government force.

In this time, we can begin anew to read and understand and share what traditional conservatism is and what it was meant to be. We need our state and federal leaders to do the same and be able to practice and articulate it. In this, we will be able to work with a President Obama when he has it right and serve as a loyal opposition when he has it wrong. Rather than a partisan approach – we show what a reasoned, measured and prudent approach to public policy looks like. More importantly, we will show our citizens and the rest of the world what we were supposed to be; what our movement was built to be and what our Party quit trying to be. At the very least, we will most certainly find a brand of conservatism that most of America agrees with – they just haven't seen it in a quite a while.

What's Next for Sarah Palin?

I've given my take the latest Palin controversy here and here, and outside of that I'm done. I make it a rule not put too much faith in "unnamed sources" (especially when one of the people rumoured to be an "unnamed source" publicly says it's all a bunch of jive), and if you want to believe things that the Governor of Alaska who trades regularly with Canada doesn't know what NAFTA is...whatever. The question now is what does Sarah Palin do next?

To answer that I look to the great philosopher Keigergard, or maybe it was Glenn Frey, who simply said, "Take it Easy." She's scheduled to speak in February at the big Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington D.C. Until then...I wouldn't do a damn thing. Relax. Welcome your grandchild into the world. Enjoy Christmas. Enjoy the New Year. Get back to being Governor. There's really no need to think aboot 2012...especially when there's still 2010 to worry aboot.


Then, after a few months rest, and after a speech at CPAC that you know is going to bring the house down, it's all a matter of introducing people to Sarah Palin. I say "introduce" as opposed to "re-introduce" because the woman that America has met over the past two months wasn't Sarah Palin as much as it was John McCain's running mate. The job of the V.P. is to do nothing else but advocate for the Presidential candidate, essentially just throw out chunks of red meat to the crowds and stand behind McCain saying, "Yeah, what he said." Palin has her own narrative yet to tell, and to stand on her own record.

An example of this would be the economy. All this talk aboot how bad the economy is...Sarah Palin was the only one running this year that had any economic background whatsoever. As Governor of Alaska she oversees 20,000+ employees and an operating budget of $11 Billion, which $11 Billion more than the operating budgets Obama, Biden, and McCain ran combined. Warren Buffet, life long Dem and a guy who knows a thing or two aboot making money, is a huge fan of hers from their business dealings. Prior to joining the McCain ticket she was interviewed on the business channels all the time, so while MSNBC was calling her an idiot and a Jesus freak, CNBC was saying what a great pick she was.

There were a lot of serious people who saw something special prior to September 1st. The rest of the country needs to meet that Sarah Palin. Boning up on issues I'm not that concerned aboot. When you have cats like Randy Scheunemann (foreign policy), Larry Kudlow (economic policy), and if he's not planning a run himself, Newt Gingrich (domestic policy) all as supporters, there's nothing that can't be learned. And as for energy policy which she's an expert at herself, I seem to recall a certain President-Elect saying that energy independence was going to be a top priority of his first year in office.

The best part is that the people she has to make the case to, the moderates and independents, stopped paying attention Wednesday morning. The right is in the love. The left will hate her no matter what. The middle she needs to impress has gone back to fantasy football. By the time September of 2012 rolls around, they'll see an entirely different candidate. And who's to say she's even going to run in 2012. She's only forty-four years old. If she finishes a second term as Governor she'll still only be fifty, younger than most people who run for President. There's even the chance of Senator, especially if/when current Senator Ted Stevens is expelled from his seat. The main reason everyone's talking aboot 2012 is because, now that 2008 is over, what else are we going to talk aboot?

Sarah Palin has a bright future a head of her, and while it might not be in the next four years, I can't imagine it not being in national politics. There was something else going out there besides "appealing to the base," and even if you believe that the 20,000+ crowds she was drawing were all die-hard Republicans, anyone who doesn't think she can build off of that simply wasn't paying attention.

Looking back and looking forward


Looking Back

The right way to read this election is in proper historical context and not against the relativistic markers that are being set-up by superficial, media driven analysis.  Indeed, the most remarkable thing about this presidential election is the utter unremarkability of its result despite the apparent uniqueness of the circumstances that surrounded it.

Despite Senator Obama’s race, name, and fundraising, Senator McCain’s age, Governor Palin’s sex, and the existence of Joe the plumber, Senator Obama won almost precisely as many votes as most professional forecasting models predicted he would at the start of the summer.  Among these, Alan Abramowitz's "time for change" forecasting model predicts over 90% of the observed variance in post-WWII presidential election results (two party popular vote) ont the basis of only three variables:  the length of time an incumbent party has held office, economic growth, and incumbent presidential popularity.

Each of these three key variables were working against Senator McCain’s campaign, and I discuss them in turn below.

 1. Incumbency

There are definite cycles and swing in American public opinion, at least since World War II, which translate into swings in the electoral fortunes of Republicans and Democrats as the country’s mood changes over time.  In particular, the ideological tenor of public opinion tends to move against the party in power.  Explanations for this range from impressionistic “time for change” approaches to more precise “thermostatic models.”  Whatever the reason, though, the electoral result at the presidential level is clear, two-term partisan presidential cycles are the norm and have been since President Eisenhower replaced President Truman.  The only exceptions to this rule of thumb are associated with Ronald Reagan: i.e. President Carter’s defeat in 1980 and Vice President Bush’s victory in 1988. 

Senator McCain could not help the timing of his campaign in this cycle.  Senator Obama’s campaign maximized the electoral benefit of this dynamic by emphasizing “change” as a campaign theme.  However, claims to “do something different” were principally effective because of their employment in relative to cyclical dynamics which were pushing the country towards the Democratic Party in any event.

2. Economic Growth

Milton Friedman wrote that government efforts to influence real economic growth are unpredictable and, at best, work with “long and variable lags.”  Nevertheless, voters are apt to hold presidents and presidential candidates of the incumbent party accountable for the state of the macro economy.  Moreover, most voters have short memories when it comes to judging presidents in terms of the economy.  Thus, a fresh recession along with reasonable prospects for a lengthy contraction is the worst possible recipe for an incumbent party presidential candidate.  Senator McCain’s campaign faced both.

 In the long-run, developing a reasonable conservative public prescription to limit the extent and duration of the current economic downturn is obviously important.  Yet, policy proposals were largely irrelevant to the election in the short run.  The “punish” incumbents dynamic of aggregate voter behavior in an economic downturn is largely immune to distinctions between left and right economic policies.  Thus, the election results should not be viewed as either a rejection of conservative, pro-growth economic policies or an endorsement of redistributive populism.  Instead, they are an irrational assignment of blame.

3. President Bush

The lack of support for President Bush is the final important structural element of Senator McCain’s defeat and, perhaps, the problem which raises the greatest prospective challenge to the Republican Party.  While scholars will spend years dissecting the Bush presidency, there is convincing preliminary evidence that the public’s rejection of the administration stems principally from its ownership of the war in Iraq and the growth of antipathy towards the war.  Despite the objective merits of the war and its many military and political successes, the failure to produce evidence of the Iraqi weapons program which justified the war a priori and the inadequacy of early counter-insurgency efforts—which were ultimately remedied by the surge—doomed the war in the public’s mind, particularly as the human and financial costs of the war accumulated over time.  Together, these elements created an impression of managerial ineptitude, which was almost certainly compounded by the handling of Hurricane Katrina, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the US Attorney firing scandal, among others. 

Importantly, though, there is little evidence that the country rejected the ideological elements of President Bush’s domestic policy programs above and beyond the sort of “time for change” fatigue that is typically observed at the end of any president’s second term.  Politically important opposition to President Bush—i.e. opposition from malleable moderate elements of the electorate—is largely a function of perceived incompetence.  All else equal (i.e. given the war), there is a high probability that President Bush would have been just as (un)popular had he pursued other domestic policies that were more conservative or oriented towards reducing the size and scope of government, etc., but he would have been no less popular.

Looking Forward

This analysis suggests that the election results should not be read for ideological content.  President Bush is not unpopular because he is conservative, nor did Senator McCain lose because he is too conservative.  Instead, the country predictably signaled for a change in party control of government.

Taking the view that presidential election results are typically exogenous to party platforms, campaigns, and other acts of individual agency indicates a certain level of realism in preparing for the future.  There is no silver bullet, and Republicans are unlikely to regain control of the White House in 2012.  Barring a “sticky” Carter-like period of economic decline (a possible but unlikely outcome), the economy will be in recovery during the 2012 election cycle—which will benefit President Obama’s reelection bid—while “time for change” dynamics will not yet be ripe.

In any event, the best way forward for the Republican Party is to set itself up to take advantage of the historical cycles of American electoral behavior to maximize its cyclical advantages and produce important conservative policy changes that cannot easily be undone.  In other words, election victories will come and go independent of most of our efforts.  The object to win elections contra larger political cycles is counterproductive.  A more important and meaningful approach follows from leveraging victories, when they come, into strategic conservative policy changes that will accumulate over time moving America back to a more traditional, small government course.

Short Term: 2010

The first opportunity to leverage these cyclical advantages will come in the 2010 midterm elections.  Despite some recent exceptions, the party of the president usually suffers a net decline of seats in Congress during off-year elections.  This provides a realistic opportunity for the Republican Party to regain control of the House and reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate in the very near term.

This national cyclical advantage should be supplemented in four ways: 

  1. Aggressive candidate recruitment: The pool of quality potential congressional candidates for the GOP should be quite large.  In particular, the drawdown of the American military presence in Iraq will make a pool of new veterans—largely inclined to conservative politics—available.
  2. Web-based fundraising through bundling PACs:  Traditional bundling PACs accept and forward paper checks to listed candidates.  A smart web-based bundling PAC could allow donors to initiate a single transaction on the PAC’s  website that would be forwarded electronically to list candidates per the donors' instructions.
  3. A young ground game:  Colleges and universities are enormous pools of high quality, low cost, and eager political talent.  Creative efforts to transport, house, and support college students as canvassers and phone-bank workers for targeted congressional races could help overcome the chronic lack of labor that make sophisticated GOTV efforts difficult for many congressional campaigns.
  4. A new “Contract with America”: The evidence suggests that issues play a limited role in campaign outcomes.  But, the perception of the role of issues in an election outcome can be very important for developing claims of a mandate to enact policy changes after the election.  Within some limits, a strong policy platform is unlikely to either help or hurt a national campaign for Congress.  But, it can help provide a launching pad to actually enact conservative policies, particularly over the objections of a sitting President Obama.  Some potential items might include:
    1. A balanced budget amendment that includes requirements for reasonable debt payment timetables
    2. Income tax simplification to make one-page filing a reality and increase transparency
    3. Income tax reduction on the first $10,000 of income from interest and dividends to encourage savings and investment
    4. Healthcare reforms to allow doctors to charge on a sliding scale without risking reduced payments from insurance companies.
    5. Strong web use privacy laws limiting the type of information that websites can collect and store about users

Intermediate Term: 2012

Conditions for a Republican presidential victory in 2012 are unlikely to materialize.  However, evidence of slow economic growth or continued recession and, perhaps, important foreign policy or military errors (akin to the Iranian hostage taking during the Carter administration) combined with a Republican candidate with substantial objective managerial competence will have a nontrivial chance at success.

A number of plausible candidates meet these conditions including Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and General David Petraeus (should he have political aspirations in civilian life).  Since there is little historical data to adjudicate among these choices, I will refrain from speculating on their respective merits except to note that each of these candidates has a background as a governor or high-ranking military officer and that these executive backgrounds are probably most aptly symbolic of the competence that a 2012 victory would demand.

In any event, 2012 is likely to be most consequential as part of an ongoing effort to re-establish Republic parity with Democratic fundraising and voter mobilization.  These efforts deserve high priority in any long-term planning.

Long term: 2016

Though it seems far-off, the historical data suggests that 2016 will be the Republican Party’s most favorable point for returning to the presidency.  The long time horizon prohibits meaningful speculation about specific personalities or issues that will be ripe for the effort.  However, it is important that the cyclical advantage that Republicans will enjoy should be reinforced at the margins by a strong, national infrastructure of web-based fundraising and network-driven GOTV efforts. 

Also, Republicans should come to the 2016 election with a clear “Contract with America” style platform of specific policy proposals that link presidential leadership with a congressional commitment to act.  This target is unlikely to be helpful in winning the election beyond the cyclical trends that will advantage Republicans.  Rather, the document will provide a credible claim of an electoral mandate for the changes endorsed by the platform.


Not One Day

Our job starts right now.  Barack Obama, the next President of the United States, does not, for one day, get the benefit of the doubt.  We know the true character of this man.  We know what he wants to do to our country.  

He will take steps to increase the power of labor unions.  

He will allow the Congress to reinstate the fairness doctrine, and destroy the only part of the media where conservatives have any sort of advantage.  

He will reverse the United States' support for globalization and free markets worldwide.

He will dangerously weaken the United States' power abroad, putting the corrupt interests of world organizations ahead of the interests of the United States.  

He will encourage the class warfare that is setting our country back economically, and put in place policies that will slow our recovery.  

This man gets no honeymoon.  We must fight him from day one.  Attack him on everything we disagree on.  Surrender on nothing.  This is what they did to us for the last eight years, and their strategy appears to have worked.  Now we lick our wounds.  But in January, from day one, we fight back.  

Start with 2010.  We must reverse this tide in 2010.  They have picked all their low-hanging fruit.  We can, and must make significant gains in 2010, and to do that we have to start NOW.  Momentum is everything.  Organization is everything.  The democrats learned that after 2004, we have to learn that now.  

Across this great country of ours, we fight starting now.  Barack Obama does not get a single day where he can destroy this country unopposed.  Not one day.

Someone just has to do it

This is a very worthy point and one worth pondering. -Patrick

We spend a lot of time here and on other blogs lamenting all the progress the Left is making on the web, and how many Republican candidates don't "get it."  I personally have experienced this when dealing with a number of campaigns, and I've come to a realization.

Lots of Democrats didn't "get it" either, until Howard Dean came along.  And then, many still didn't get it, because his poor showings in the 2004 primaries were justification that at the end all this stuff didn't translate into electoral success.  But MoveOn.org enjoyed a resurgence largely thanks to the Iraq War, and Barack Obama raised untold millions and slayed a dragon for his party's nomination.  Now, lots of them "get it."

On our end, we have a lot of wonderful people blogging about the need for the Right to get moving, but we don't have a success to point to as evidence that the party and ideological elites will understand (see my earlier posts about our ideological elites being Reagan and Goldwater-era holdovers).  Someone is just going to have to do it, the same way that Howard Dean and Barack Obama did.

On the activism end, sites like this are a great start, but so much of these sites are inside baseball, and not grassroots.  There is going to need to be a push on a single hook issue (the 111th Congress will no doubt provide many opportunities) that engages not just political junkies, but truck drivers and secretaries.  And again, someone (probably not a political professional) will need to just do it. 

So, let's get to work.

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