Another GOP establishment vs. Tea Party showdown

What happens when you pit a popular, well-funded Tea Party candidate in a open, contested statewide primary against the establishment GOP candidate? Writing for the American Spectator, Robert Stacy McCain takes a look at the Tim James gubernatorial campaign in Alabama as this re-emerging theme in post-2008 politics continues.

Before I continue, I'll disclose that Tim James is my guy in this race and that my firm is contracting with the campaign. However, as I've stated before, I'd be writing about this anyway, as this local-to-me race highlights the disconnect between the Tea Party/conservative movement and old-school Republican candidates.

Tim James was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. Before the federal bailouts, before most Americans had heard of Barack Obama, before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck became household names, James helped lead the 2003 effort to stop a tax increase proposed by Alabama's Republican Gov. Bob Riley.

The battle over Amendment One, as Riley's $1.3 billion tax measure was known, was a defining moment for the state's conservatives. James, who had challenged Riley in the 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary, sided with the anti-tax activists who organized an opposition campaign that became known as the "Alabama Tea Party."

Alabama voters rejected the proposal by more than a 2-to-1 margin in a September 2003 referendum and, if politics were logical, James would be the front-runner in this year's GOP gubernatorial contest. Instead, one recent poll showed that the early leader is Bradley Byrne who, as a state senator in 2003, voted for Riley's tax-hike plan.

So far so good, but (after the jump)...

Demand Question Time

 As a signatory to the Demand Question Time petition, I urge you all to sign up and spread the message.  It is being heard by the White House and Congress. Our politics would be healthier if politicians got to ask, and answer, questions with less mediation, less theatrics, less stagecraft and less sloganeering.  Sign the petition and ask them to do it.

Demand Question Time

Mindy Finn and David Corn discussing Demand Question Time on Hardball last night. 

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

UPDATE: Note which party is willing to have a more candid, public, unmediated debate.  And which is not.

Democrats were thrilled with President Barack Obama's performance at last week's question-and-answer session with the House GOP, but it's the Republicans — not the White House — who are embracing a call to make question time a regular part of American political life.


An Inside Look at Organizing for America Part II: ACORN for America?

Part II of our inside look at Organizing for America was inspired by the investigative work done by Carol Greenberg Thank you Carol for getting involved and driving this story.

Anita MonCrief

From a tiny acorn, a mighty oak can grow. With ACORN's help, Barack Obama "grew" from an ACORN community organizer and instructor, to an ACORN lawyer and ACORN benefactor as a board member of donor organizations, to an ACORN-backed Illinois state senator, to ACORN's favorite United States Senator, to ACORN's candidate for President of the United States in 2008. This article shows how ACORN and its allies helped organize America to make Obama President in this, the computer age.

Barack Obama's meteoric rise from rookie Senator to President had man marveling at the efficiency and breadth of his campaign. Obama's ability to fund raise had seasoned experts playing catch up while his voter registration money machine operated in the background. In 2008, the New York Times explored a seemingly innocent tactic the Democrats were utilizing to elect Obama. The article stated several times that the Republicans had honed this technique and Democrats were just “borrowing the play.”

“For years, Republicans had the landscape to themselves. More recently, however, Democrats, along with such allies as trade unions and progressive groups, have poured millions of dollars into building two formidable databanks. One is managed by the Democratic National Committee and can be used by candidates up and down the ballot. The other is Catalist, a for-profit company headed by Harold M. Ickes, a Democratic political operative, that specializes in providing data for scores of liberal groups supporting the Democratic ticket as well as for the Obama campaign itself.”

Progressive organizations, trade unions and a for profit group run by someone who had been implicated in the radical Teamstergate saga of the 1990's? The crack reporting of The Times glossed over this toxic mix, and the Obama machine kept running.

Harold Ickes' company, Catalist, has been credited with creating this machine:

“Catalist collects and stores millions of pieces of information from public records and commercial sources. In addition to voting rolls and tax information, it also has data about voters' magazine subscriptions and their cars. Campaigns also contribute e-mails, cell-phone numbers and even times when people are likely to be home.

Ickes, 69, said that by using Catalist the Obama campaign is able to generate data as detailed as lists of swing voters who are home in the afternoon in a six-block neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. The list can even suggest which voters would be receptive to a pitch based on Obama's 'change' theme, and which may be more interested in his health-care or energy policies."

The origin of Catalist is intriguing and appears firmly rooted in the same community organizing spirit that has spread throughout the country.

“Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.” -Barack Obama

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN spent a number of years perfecting an organizing model that resembled that of Catalist and the Obama Campaign. ACORN's close “affiliate” Project Vote detailed their efforts in a 2007 report:

“The Pilot Technology Project carried out during the summer and fall of 2006 was a first attempt to integrate the potential of high quality enhanced data developed for voter participation programs with on-going grassroots community organizing programs. Building upon the work of Catalist (formerly Data Warehouse LLC), Project Vote deployed an updated version of our online voter management system (VBASE) to enable local community organizations to access a robust voter file with enhanced phone numbers, geographic and demographic information for use in voter mobilization, membership development and organizational capacity building.”

Apparently, ACORN and Project Vote were “smack dab” in the middle of another one of Obama's voter registration drives. According to ACORN reports, ACORN was Catalist's first client. Let me be clear, the ACORN VBASE, is the archetype of the Obama campaign. ACORN's technology combined with union money elected a president.

To understand the importance of Catalist to the Obama Campaign and later Organizing for America I have included the educational screen shot below.

The writer of the article above sums up the relationship this way:

"Think of MyBo / Party Builder / VAN Votebuilders as being the tool sets and interface for volunteers, staff and field organizers, and Catalist as being the organizer and repository for the data as it flowed in and out of various OFA systems.”

A 2005 Year End ACORN Political Operations PowerPoint further illustrates ACORN's involvement in the creation of the system that powers the President.


Matthew Vadum's profile on the OFA offers some background on the major players but the hows and whys have largely gone unnoticed. In addition to a payment made from Obama for America directly to an ACORN affiliate, Project Vote managed to secure the Obama 2nd 2007 donor list. After all, this cross sharing among campaigns, non-profits and unions appears to have been the goal of the ACORN VBASE. A 2007 report the the Beldon Fund regarding a $75,000 grant lays the groundwork.

“The reason that VBASE, a customized database system has such value in the work of Project Vote's field partners, such as ACORN, is because the model of groups like ACORN integrates year-round community organizing with heavy bursts of civic engagement work.”

ACORN insiders describe the Obama presidency as a “once in a generation opportunity” and ACORN was prepared to make it happen. Research uncovered details the concerted effort of a myriad of non-profit, 527's LINK and union organizations skirting campaign finance and IRS codes. While ACORN is not directly involved with the Voter Activation Network, ACORN affiliates/partners are. America Votes, SEIU, State Voices and even the DNC's owned VoteBuilder share information through this alliance.

In 2007, Project Vote was ready to launch their “beta” phase of the VBASE project and targeted a state that had been made friendly by the election of ACORN ally Ohioan Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner:

“The initial beta version of our 2006-07 database was piloted in Ohio by one of our local community partners. This pre-launch was a bug-testing period for the new system, addressing issues of file access, remote support, and appropriate server load.”

Brunner campaign consultant, Karyn Gillette was set to join Project Vote after successful work on the Brunner, Sherrod Brown and ACORN connected Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage campaigns. Meanwhile, Obama was running a massive campaign in Ohio and ACORN's partnership with Catalist allowed a for profit business to market their state of the art organizing technology:

"The success of this program is such that Project Vote will be incorporating it into its 2007-08 Voter Participation Program. While we are still wrestling with the details, we are committed to rolling out this sophisticated and robust system to support the civic engagement efforts of our local partners as they pursue voter registration and voter education programs and as they integrate those efforts into their on-going community organizing programs"

The perfect marriage of ACORN and Catalist was made possible by the deep pockets of the unions:

“Michael Podhorzer, Deputy Political Director of the AFL-CIO, has said: 'Catalist is an essential part of the foundation necessary for building progressive political power in our country. The labor movement relies on the state of the art political technology services provided by Catalist and we are proud to be an early subscriber.'

Discover the Networks goes on to explain the motivation behind Catalist:

"Reasoning from the premise that the United States is a nation rife with racism and injustice, Catalist notes its commitment "to using [its] talents and technology to nurture a vibrant, growing, progressive community, and to working with that community towards a more just, equitable and tolerant America.”

Obama has repeatedly denied any real ties to ACORN. If Obama is lying about organizing, could this mean that there is another purpose over at Organizing for America. Over the summer the nation witnessed the President call out this ready brigade to pass health care and stifle dissent. It's time for the mainstream media to focus on what ACORN is really doing.

The "history making" Obama machine was directly engineered by ACORN's voter database experiments. ACORN's sister organization, Project Vote, received tax exempt money to fund a venture with the for-profit Catalist. Catalist, the Voter Activation Network, SEIU and America Votes provided the needed cover that allowed ACORN to operate in the background.

Without regard for tax codes or campaign laws; candidates and groups like America Votes, SEIU, Project Vote and other "progressive organizations" at times share staff, resources and donors. ACORN boasts over 440,000 member families and Obama benefited from the free flowing data between the campaign and ACORN provided by Catalist.  America is now facing a progressive agenda backed by a ready army of paid organizers trained in ACORN tactics, and the name Organizing for America seems to be missing a question mark.


On Friday, President Obama was invited to speak at our House Republican conference.  The invitation was extended by Republican leadership in an attempt to engage the President in an open dialogue about his policies.  I had the opportunity to ask him a question about health care reform.  I wanted to know three things: First,  had he reviewed Republican proposals for reform, second, what lessons had he taken from the failure of other public option plans like TennCare, and third, when and how did he anticipate sitting down with Republicans to go over our proposals?

The president took his time in answering my question.  He told me politely that he had reviewed our proposals and rejected them. The President completely avoided any discussion of TennCare, just as Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had earlier this summer.  The President also failed to respond to where and how Republicans might sit down and go over our proposals with him. 

Unfortunately, it seems that our ideas are welcome, so long as they conform to his preconceived idea that the only path to better health care is through a government bureaucracy.  Tennesseans know that just won't work. 

My question was roundly criticized by liberal pundits.  In criticizing me for highlighting Republican proposals, they assumed that we had never advanced them when we held the majority.  They conveniently forgot that the House passed many of these free-market approaches to health care reform in 2005 and 2006. 

The Wall Street Journal was on hand for my exchange with the President.  Despite the President's evasive and incomplete answer to my question, they quote him as saying that he is "game" to sit down with Republicans and go over our proposals.  They quote me too, "GAME ON!"

Cross posted at Marsha

An Inside Look at Obama’s Organizing for America Part I

Blogger and activist Carol Greenberg approached me recently with an exclusive look at her work investigating Organizing for America. I was impressed with Carol's investigative reporting initiative and realized that America needed to see the "Obama Machine" in action. I began working with her on unraveling the truth behind OFA.

I have invited Carol to guest blog at my sites this week for Part I. Carol's courage in standing up for America and the information provided has allowed me to write the stunning Part II that will follow shortly.

Thank you,

Anita MonCrief


-By Carol Greenberg

Obama's "permanent campaign" Organizing for America has managed to skirt campaign finance laws while continually providing the unprecedented "opportunity to help the president." Countless emails fill boxes across America with the sender name President Barack Obama.

Organizing for America has kept a high profile and played a key role in the healthcare debate. Obama's managed to turn his extraordinary campaign model into a post-election campaign/organizing website where OFA honed their method of using the internet to reach progressives to push through his increasingly unpopular agenda.

During Barack Obama's campaign he used a similar tool and website called "Obama for America." Utilizing the skills he learned at ACORN as a community organizer, Obama was able to acquire the "highest office in the land". In an election night quote from November of 2008, Obama addresses a crowd who voted for "Hope" and "Change."

"This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change."

— President Barack Obama, Election Night, 2008

And almost immediately after Mr. Obama was elected, the name of his campaign tool "Obama for America" was changed to "Organizing for America." Here is a screen shot:

Interestingly, on Jan. 17, 2009, three days before Mr. Obama is sworn into the Presidency, he announced the switch-over from "Obama for America" to "Organizing for America." And here is a screen shot of Organizing for America, or OFA; in its present state. If you notice, it has Mr. Obama's name on it:

The bottom half of the screen shot is not visible, but trust me: it says "Project of the DNC." For those of you who wish to examine the site, the link is here.

Throughout the ensuing months between Mr. Obama's roll-out of OFA and the present I have taken a peek at the site every once in awhile, out of curiosity to see what he was saying. Frankly I'm not sure if any other man in the Oval Office ever had a web page, but this one is asking visitors to "create an account." Hmmmm... That's really different. So I did. And I signed up for his e-mails. After all, shouldn't we ALL want to be privy to the message our President has to say?

I watched the site, and received his e-mails. And many times was disconcerted, being a Conservative; about WHY he always seemed so successful at overturning any efforts, Congressional votes, etc. that Conservatives brought forward.

One day I received an e-mail alerting me to an "OFA Training Seminar." It was to be a 4-hour session on community organizing, his way. And the seminar was not far from my home. I remember the saying "it is always good to learn the ways of one's enemies" so I decided to attend. Undercover. As one of "them." The opposite side of the table.

We had a ball. There was meet and greet time, we were fed pizza and all the trimmings; unfortunately no beer. There was a video. Papers were passed out, "cheat sheets" of how to approach prospective people to educate them about Mr. Obama's policies and agenda. And also ways to entice them to vote for progressive candidates. We broke up into small groups. We made friends. We rehearsed with one another the spiel we would give in the "community organizing arena." By the end of the evening we were one big happy family. I went home that evening without committing to anything. I figured I would get a follow-up phone call, tell them I wasn't interested, and that would be the end of it. But all the while I kept thinking there just has to be more to this than what I experienced that evening. Mr. Obama was winning "big time" at everything he undertook.

Unexpectedly about a week later I received another "opportunity." An e-mail from OFA inviting me to be part of one of their on-line "webinars" which would teach canvassers how to enter information into OFA website databases. I was intrigued, but vacillated. After all, this would be going deeper into the "belly of the beast." But I ultimately decided I would probably never get another opportunity such as this, so being the brave woman that I am I RSVPed in the affirmative. This was based out of the home, a conference call with a trainer on-line, using one's own computer only as an observation tool. There was no disclaimer ahead of time, I was invited; so I decided while the trainer was moving through the OFA/Votebuilder system I would get some screen shots. Which I did. But don't get any ideas out there anyone. This is a highly secure and password-protected website. And because this was a demonstration, I do not have any access to the website.

The conference call training session was meant to give users an overview of the system, and I was surprised at its design and detail. For example, below is a database of persons contacted and the result of what is called "Member of Congress" commits. In other words, who has agreed or not agreed to contact their Congressperson.

When the "webinar" was over, and I had the time to take a good look at the screen shots, this is when I was stunned. I realized finally this is why the Conservative movement has been taking a hit all these months. I have to give 5 stars to their system. It is highly organized and every call, every contact, every encounter is logged. Every precinct in the country is in the website which allows for detailed study and analysis of canvassing and vote results.

I let it go for a few days. Undecided about the importance of what, if anything I had discovered. Probably just good for a teaching lesson to the Conservatives about how we need to become more organized, just like the premier "Community Organizer in Chief."

I have done a couple of diaries for RedState. A few days later I encountered a diary by Moe Lane, and it was about OFA. Only his opinion was the complete opposite of mine. That post Correcting the Record on Organizing for America is linked here. It's a short post, but all the while I was reading it, the more agitated I became. Moe Lane is a great and respected writer, but after all he had not experienced and seen first hand what I had.

I decided to do a "rebuttal" post. Sorry Moe, but I have to rebut your OFA assessment. That post can be found here. And a couple of weeks later, Moe Lane did another post on OFA. Revisiting Sifry and the OFA withering. This is when I decided that some action needed to be taken to inform others about the formidable group that OFA has become.

First I am going to post a few screen shots from the OFA/Votebuilder/DNC website. Any and all data that may be able to identify someone's identity has been removed.

Here is a screen shot of canvassing results. Notice how all data is carefully logged.

 Another shot, this one of one of their volunteers and his/her territory to be canvassed:  


Mr. Obama also has a database of people who are "underinsured" that he can contact and trot out at a moment's notice when he needs a sob story for his Healthcare Reform:


Next we have a screen shot of the dreaded "rapid response teams." These are the people Obama's OFA rolls out during a "crisis" to be door-knockers, set up phone banks; etc. These are the same "rapid response teams OFA rolled out for the Scott Brown Massachusetts senate race "crisis" and the Blanche Lincoln Arkansas "crisis":

Have you ever wondered how Obama was able to "toss" Lincoln in October, to get her to "cave" on the Healthcare vote? Here is my final screen shot:

Notice that the "team" had 114% more "vote commits" than hoped for, for a total of over 7,000 phone calls, doors knocked on, and visits to Lincoln's office. This my friends, is why Conservatives are losing in the organizing arena.

If you'll notice at the top of each screen shot, it says "VoteBuilder" somewhere, so I decided to see what I could find out about "VoteBuilder." And it wasn't very difficult.

My research took me to February of 2007. Howard Dean, then Chairman of the DNC, announces the creation of a state-of-the-art voter-file interface. This will be called "Votebuilder." I am including a couple of pertinent excerpts from the announcement below. The link to the full announcement is found here.

Today, the Democratic National Committee announced that it has signed a deal with Voter Activation Network (VAN) to create a nationwide voter file interface for the DNC's national voter file. The new voter file, which has been renamed "VoteBuilder", builds on both the significant enhancements and upgrades Chairman Dean made during the 2006 election cycle and the critical investment in the DNC's voter file made by former Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The new, web-based tool will ensure that from the National Party to the state parties, Democratic candidates have access to the state-of-the-art tools needed to help win elections. VoteBuilder also represents the next step in Chairman Dean's efforts to build and strengthen the infrastructure of the Democratic Party. [sic]

And this quote from Howard Dean specifically:

VoteBuilder will enable users to more easily and effectively sync data automatically, and facilitate the swapping of data between state parties and the DNC, thereby providing state parties and candidates with the most up-to-date and accurate voter data available. As an example, the DNC will be able to create an updated nationwide list of voter contacts on a daily basis.

My state, Ohio, was more than just a battleground state during Election 2008 because of Secretary of State Brunner and the ACORN debacle, so I decided to do some research on those "little nuts."

Anita MonCrief's blog gave me a wealth of information.

ACORN's 501(c)(3) non-profit arm Project Vote needed an effective way of classifying and organizing all their "VR" or "voter registration" cards into a local database. At the time, all their cards were being sent to a central national database entry company to be compiled. According to insiders in ACORN Political Operations, ACORN had learned from the failures of the Clinton adminstrations and decided that a successful "Progressive" agenda required collaboration. ACORN relied heavily on Project Vote, whom often describe themselves as:

"the largest non-partisan voter participation organization in the United States and a leading provider of technical assistance and direct services to the larger civic participation community."

Project Vote proposed the creation of a "List Acquisition and Enhancement Project" which would allow them to build a strategic plan to build and maintain statewide voter files in all states, particularly in states crucial to electing progressive candidates, Ohio being one.

The lists would include voter data, demographics, or "metrics," and consumer data among other things.

Interestingly, Project Vote's ambitions described above are similar to Howard Dean's "pride and joy" VoteBuilder. VoteBuilder was designed by the Voter Activation Network who unsurprisingly list the "usual suspects" as clients.

Part II will reveal reveal the ACORN connection through a variety of "partner" and affiliate organizations created to deceive America about who is really pushing the Obama Agenda.


(Click to enlarge)


All Out of Ideas, Democrats Ressurect Their Favorite Villain

Yes we can or yes we will? It is about time Obama stepped out of the hypothetical and into reality. After all, he was elected because he promised a fundamental change in Washington. It is little wonder then that after an underwhelming first year in office, conservatives and liberals alike are wondering when he will finally take ownership of this presidency. If recent news is any indication, Obama may be forced to do so soon, if for no other reason than blaming Bush, rather than coming up with working policies, is falling flat.

The Bush attacks are coming from all over:

  • A campaign advertisement for Jon Corzine closed with “Chris Christie: Bush’s friend. Bush’s policies. Bad for New Jersey.
  • A radio ad from Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race featured dialogue like, “George Bush – what a disaster for our economy,” “What I can’t figure out is why this Bob McDonnell wants to do it just like Bush” and “Creigh Deeds: a little more Mark Warner and a LOT less George Bush”
  • Or the Massachusetts Democratic Party which ran a mailer for the Coakley campaign that said, “What can Brown do to you? He can reward corporations that ship your job overseas just like George W. Bush.”

So what do all of these have in common (beyond a backhanded shout-out to George Bush)? They all lost; with two of the races representing upsets in key Democratic states.

But not all liberal pundits have learned from the mistakes. In his recent article “Democrats Need to Learn the Blame Game” James Carville argues that,

“Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss for the healthcare debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

If this is the best strategy Democrats can come up with to try and regain the momentum they have lost over the past year, consider me ecstatic. After all, as Steve Hidebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign told Politico,

“Voters are pretty tired of the blame game. . . What a stupid strategy that was.”

But more importantly, it sends a signal that the Democrats are out of ideas. The public, fearful of a the words “trillion” and “debt” being used so often in the same sentence had long abandoned many of the Democrat’s plans. The stimulus was a waste. The bailouts were a bust. The only arrow left in the Democrat’s quiver was supposed to be the one that would win the war – health care. But with Scott Brown’s upset bid signaling that the public didn’t want the Democratic health care plan, the party has been left searching for answers. Thus far the only thing they have been able to come up with is a freeze on discretionary spending that Obama previously called “a hatchet” when we really need, and “a scalpel.”

With their fragile house of cards, constructed in back room deals and glued together with the mortar of Barack Obama’s personality, now in ruins, Democrats are resurrecting their favorite villain…George Bush. But going negative won’t work. Not for the party whose slogan in 2006 was “A New Direction for America.” And it especially won’t work with the young adults who carried him into office.

Young adults engaged in campaigns and showed up at the polls in record numbers based on the promise of “change.” They wanted change from the passing the buck blame game that had become politics as usual in Washington. A grassroots campaign which mobilized and organized enormous numbers of young adults convinced people that Barack Obama was that change. As Patrick Ruffini explained on the NextRight,

[W]hat happens when the campaign goes away? What happens when the enthusiasm inevitably ebbs and the hard work of governing begins? The immediate benefits of a bottom-up strategy become less clear. You revert to traditional instincts, where powerful obstacles stand in the way of getting things done — even amongst your base, and the wielding of massive political machinery cannot be left to amateurs.

More than simply reverting to top-down governing, it appears that the Democratic leadership has relapsed ever further – to playing the blame game.

As 2008 made clear, we are tired of leaders passing the buck, we want results. It is time for the President to take ownership of the mistakes he has made on the economy, on health care, and on the stimulus. Young adults are smarter than to have their attention diverted from the recent causes of our lack of progress. It’s time to put the Bush-blaming to bed. But do Democrats have any ideas left to take its place?

- Brandon Greife, Political Director, College Republican National Committee (

Becoming the Party of Change

The Washington washing machine has been set on spin cycle for the past few weeks. Spin-sters from both sides of the aisle have been working hard to make sure their party comes out of Massachusetts special election looking squeaky clean.

Many Democrats have interpreted the loss, not as a repudiation of their agenda, but as mandate to move further to the left. According to this view, Democrats are falling out of favor because they are governing too close to the center and thus alienating the liberal-minded base which got them elected. As Howard Dean put it curtly to Chris Matthews,

Yesterday the problem was that people wanted more.

On the other hand, Republicans have been quick to construe the Massachusetts race as a representation of the public’s fundamental dislike of the Obama Administration’s policies. After all, Scott Brown won in a liberal state after running a campaign based around being the 41st Republican vote in the Senate. Oddly enough, some Congressional Democrats have echoed this view. As Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said,

“There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all of this, [but] if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. . . Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country – that’s not going to work too well.”

What neither side seems to grasp is that their positions are not mutually exclusive. The national mood remains very similar to 2008 when the electorate overwhelmingly voted Barack Obama into office. Now for something shocking: this is great news for Republicans.

In 2008 people were tired of the GOP’s perceived tone deafness. They felt anger that the Bush White House consistently failed to listen to their concerns, almost stubbornly insisting on its own way. Voters demanded change and Obama, better than any other candidate, was able to tap into this sentiment. Fast-forward one year and Democrats have lost the monopoly on change. Coming face to face with the largest issues of the day, Democrats have been unable to come up with workable answers. More importantly, people perceived the administration has continued the business as usual politics of an out of touch government. Rightly or wrongly, partisan bickering, special interests, backdoor deals, pork barrel politics, and a lack of transparency are all stories that have dominated the headlines over the past year.

This has opened up the opportunity for Republicans to once again become the party of change. What we must understand is that 2008 did not represent a fundamental revolution in the electorate’s ideology, it represented a change in the public’s perception of how each party matched up with those ideals.  As a new Wall Street Journal poll shows, the electorate’s ideological stance has remained consistent, but there was nevertheless seismic shift towards the Democratic Party.

WSJ Ideology PollThe same wave that carried Obama into office could now sweep Republicans into the majority, but they must embrace the opportunity. We cannot be content to merely label Democrats as “too far to the Left” or become comfortable with the idea that people are unhappy with their policies, we must take action. To succeed where Democrats have failed we must become the party of change against the establishment Democrats. But more importantly, to have lasting effect, we must carry more than a label…we must back it with substance. As Massachusetts showed, if we can convey the mantle of change,  we can and will win everywhere.

- Brandon Greife, Political Director, College Republican National Committee

The State of Tea Parties in the State of Alabama

While there is a lot of talk (and in my opinion, truth in some cases) behind allegations that the Tea Party movement has been usurped by business-as-normal Republicans, I'm pleased to state that this certainly isn't the case in the state of Alabama.

Perhaps it's because Alabama has been holding Tea Parties since long before they became cool, or perhaps because the first Alabama Tea Parties were in response to a major Republican Tax increase plan, our Tea Party events in Alabama have stayed true to the mission: support of fiscal responsibility and adherence to the Constitution.

"But the rally wasn't a feel good event for the Republicans with many of the speakers on the raised platforms taking them to task for not standing up for conservative values," writes Markeshia Ricks of the Montgomery Advertiser about a rally held yesterday at the Alabama State House. "As the Alabama Patriot Coalition, members of the tea party movement hope to put pressure on state legislators to pass bills and resolutions that support state sovereignty and gun rights."

A State Sovereignty Resolution, the first of the bills being pushed by the informal network of Alabama Tea Party groups called the Alabama Patriot Coalition, passed in Alabama's lower legislative chamber shortly after yesterday's rally.  It had already been introduced by Senator Scott Beason in the state Senate where it passed on the opening day of this legislative year.

Stop Gloating

Scott Brown’s victory is an enormous opportunity – for the Democrats.

That is if we repeat the mistakes of the past in interpreting a “change” election.

There is no doubt that President Obama and Democratic over-reaching on stimulus and health care – to no immediate effect – fueled the Brown momentum in Massachusetts.  They know that and after they get through finger-pointing and in-fighting, they will do some serious soul-searching in the wake of Brown’s election much like we did after November 2008.

Republicans meanwhile appear to be reacting to Brown’s win by puffing up our chests and assuming that we will win every place we play.

However, more than anything, voters in Massachusetts – as in states around the country – are fed up with government.  The have no faith in the current leadership of both parties for good reason.

Neil Newhouse, the pollster for the Brown campaign, posted a summary of the verbatims from Massachusetts voters during the last two weeks of the race.  “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” “Washington isn’t listening to us,” and “Don’t take my vote for granted.” 

I worked with Neil on a race in 2006, and these were nearly word-for-word the verbatims we were hearing then.  Voter dissatisfaction has nothing to do with party: the reason a plurality of independents voted for Obama in states like Virginia and Massachusetts, but voted to reject the status quo by voting for a Republican in November 2009 and yesterday.

Gauging the overall reaction to Scott Brown’s victory returns bold statements about a Republican sweep in 2010, and the expectation that new candidates will materialize to challenge entrenched Democrats across the country.  The theme “If Democrats Can Lose Massachusetts, They Can Win Anywhere” is taking off along with its sunnier twin, “If Republicans Can Win in Massachusetts, They Can Win Anywhere.

We can, and we will probably sail to victory in some races. Yet, in the same way that an over-confident, arrogant Martha Coakley saw the race slip from her hands, like Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, it’s quite possible that several Republicans could suffer the same fate if we misinterpret the Brown win.

Failure to step back from a health care bill proven enormously unpopular. Failure to utilize new, effective tools and tactics for reaching voters like social media and online advertising. Failure to hold frequent townhalls, forums or events whereby a conversation takes place between candidate and citizens.

These failures are all hairline fractures caused by the same injury: arrogance.  It’s so last year to criticize Republicans for aloofness, but it will be so this year if we don’t take a measured response to Brown’s victory. 

Technology is Tactics, not Strategy

Ross Douthat makes two crucial points.

#1 - Online success is less about the technology, and more about the ideas and motivation.

[T]here’s no necessary connection between online organizing and liberal politics. The Web is just like every pre-Internet political arena: ideology matters less than the level of anger at the incumbent party, and the level of enthusiasm an insurgent candidate can generate.

#2 - Unfortunately, Republican politicians still have very little in the way of real ideas...

If liberals are feeling disillusioned, though, their right-wing imitators may be ripe for an even greater letdown. The Obama administration has at least gone some distance toward enacting an agenda that the net-roots left supports. The “right roots” activists are rallying around politicians who are promising to shrink government without offering any plausible sketch of how to do it.

#1 is about winning the battles (elections) & #2 is about winning the war (better government).  Achieving #1 without addressing #2 is an establishment-protection racket.   Republicans need to insist on more than the usual tax and spending rhetoric.

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