Archive

Archive for the ‘Tactics and Strategy’ Category

Books and the Ballotbox (Poll Included)

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Ah, the joys of campaigning. There’s many things to love about it….meeting new people, the rush of contacting voters, putting up signs and handing out bumperstickers. There’s one thing, though, I’ve never really loved: the quaddrenial rush of books from presidential contenders. There’s a few reasons I’ve come to loathe this. Largely, I feel bad for not reading them, even though most of them are just filled with ghostwritten pablum that differs little from the candidate’s stump speeches. I don’t read as quick as I used to, but with all these candidates, even if you are a fast reader, that’s still alot of time. Then there’s the whole thing of actually shelling out $30 if you want to read them before their author is little more than an afterthought in the race…..(I’m not on the Kindle train yet)

Apparently, somebody reads them, though. There was much ballyhooing about Cain’s book a little bit ago, how it appeared his campaign was more book tour than campaign. Now, the New York Times notes the same thing about Newt:

Even as he widens his lead in the polls, Newt Gingrich spends substantial time on an activity that raised questions about his ultimate motive when he was a back-of-the-pack candidate: selling and signing $25 copies of his books.

As his primary foe, Mitt Romney, and the White House intensify their efforts to negatively define Mr. Gingrich, his sole public event on Friday is at a bookstore in Washington. On Saturday he flies to Des Moines for a Republican debate but plans to squeeze in an afternoon book-signing.

Experienced campaign strategists cannot recall a top-tier contender devoting so much time to pitching products while seeking the White House. Mitt Romney, who also has a book out, has never sold it while stumping, his campaign said. President Obama, a best-selling author in 2007, did not incorporate sales events into campaign appearances, according to a spokesman for his re-election committee.

Mr. Gingrich’s devotion to book-selling, Republican strategists said, raises questions about the propriety of a candidate who is generating personal income while seeking the White House, as well as whether he is making the optimum use of limited campaign time.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about here, but let’s face it–Newt has spent the last twelve years or so as a political entrprenuer, starting organizations here, shilling a book there, appearing on this or that news network. I’m sure its a hard habit to break. And of course, Newt has always been a prolific writer (or the one whose name is on the jacket, at least), having written 21 some odd books throughout his career (some of which one intrepid New York Times Magazine author dared to read).

But what about candidates that are new to the writing game? Well, not so hot for Michele Bachmann (h/t Political Wire):

Michele Bachmann’s weak poll numbers may be showing up in slow sales of her memoir, Core of Conviction. In the two weeks since the book was released, it’s sold just 3,000 copies despite a media blitz and numerous book-signing events by Bachmann.

Those numbers come from Nielsen BookScan, which gets the information directly from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and most other retailers. The company estimates its sales numbers capture 75 percent of the book market although it currently does not get information from discount retailers Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.

As of 5 PM ET on Wednesday, the book ranked 4,200 on Amazon’s bestseller list, although it ranked 62 on the site’s political bestseller list.

Ouch. It’s hard to judge how well her book is doing–sooooo many books are published in America that the average per book is around 500 copies (keep in mind that we’re talking about a really wide range of numbers here, so the average isn’t all that great of a statistic). But the fact that its not even intriguing readers of political books indicates that Bachmann’s book is not breaking through.

Honestly, not only is it not that important (trot out old “x’s don’t vote” trope here), but its not all that uncommon. If you really want to read any of these books after their shelf-life, I suggest in about nine months you head down to the Green Valley Book Fair, where they’ll be available for about $5/pound (ok, so they don’t sell them by the pound, but on average you’ll be paying about $3-5 per title)

Basically, there’s five kinds of political books

  • The reporting/history book–usually written by a third party shortly after or around the time of the events in question (“What It Takes”). A subset of these books may fall more in line with the history genre (The Last Campaign, about either the 1948 Election or RFK’s 1968 campaign, depending on which one of these same titled books you pick up) but still are plenty interesting for politicos
  • The kiss-off/tell all–written by an ex-administration official or someone who played a pivotal role in the events in question–you know, your Scott McCllellans of the world. Some my be polite, like Christie Todd Whitman, but even she had a critique in there
  • The campaign book–written by people who are actively running for office or considering it. Most are ghostwritten (see above)
  • The policy book–closely related to the campaign book, but written by someone who may not be seeking higher office in the near future but is trying to build support for their policies (Think “Young Guns” here)
  • The memoir–written by former officeholders. Usually written by the subject, but likely polished by a professional author (“Decision Points”, “My Life”)

Again, very few of these books have a very long shelf life. Probably the ones that last the longest are the memoirs and the history books, because they’ll be of interest long after the fact. The others, however, don’t tend to lend too much to either political professionals or historians, so don’t be surprised if they don’t see additional print runs.

So what say you, dear readers? Add categories in the comments, and chime in with the polls below about your political reading habits.

The Style Primary

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The problem with taking the time to gather your thoughts, at least in the blog world, is that there’s probably someone out there who’s quicker on the draw than you….you wanted to get all the facts straight, double check everything, but somebody else already has (or isn’t too bothered by those pesky “facts”). And so it was with this post, where I had the basic idea that Cuccinelli v. Bolling isn’t going to come down so much to the issues but as a pure contest of political style.

First, DJ over at the Right Wing Liberal:

Very little distances either man on issues: In the State Senate, both Cuccinelli and Bolling established low-tax, low-spending, and culturally conservative records. They even made the same mistake (backing the Howell version of HB3202), and walked it back during the critical but now nrealy-forgotten 2008 special session. We may see some dramatic magnification of miniscule differences, but I doubt it will be enough for any neutral (of which I am one) to go one way or the other.

……

As candidates, Bolling and Cuccinelli have very different skill sets. This is the political version of apples and oranges. Bolling is steady, predictable, and affable; all excellent qualities in a candidate running on a good record in an electorate generally favorable to him. Cuccinelli, by contrast, is dynamic, originial, kinetic, and on occasion hyperactive. Many more voters would be comfortable with Bolling than Cuccinelli (good for voter breadth). Cuccinelli forces voters to think, takes risks that could be game changers, and never backs down from a challenge, thus appealing to voters who are more focused and engaged (good for voter depth). To make things even more complex, each man’s traits could be strengths or weaknesses depending upon the political climate – and that means the political climate could be the one thing that determines which one would be the better candidate.

Chris over at Mason Conservative has much the same thinking, though he framed it more in regional terms:

Its a battle between Richmond and Northern Virginia.

 

The agendas of business interests, local governments, and even the citizens themselves of Richmond and Northern Virginia are different.  Richmond is old Virginia.  Its business interests are defined by old bankers, law firms, and tobacco companies that have been bankrolling Virginia elections since forever.  Northern Virginia is defined by developers, contractors, dot.coms, environmentalists, public servants that come from PTAs and HOAs and where education and transportation and the biggest issues.  And when you look and the needs of both regions of the state, then look at the relative small size of the state budget (compared to other states), there isn’t enough money for both of them.

………

You want to know why Bill Bolling is so outraged at Ken Cuccinelli?  Because Ken represents the biggest threat to the power of Richmond in this state it’s ever seen.  He’s charismatic, made a national name for himself, never was able to be controlled in the senate, and he cannot be pushed aside as a “moderate” someone downstate conservatives would be embarrassed to support.  Bolling has done things the Richmond way.  He’s paid his dues, worked hard, been loyal, said and done the right things, and waited his turn.  Just like all of them.  There isn’t much of a difference in politics between the two, which is a much bigger problem for Bolling.  Ken can’t be brushed aside like Davis was by the claim he’s some wishy-washy Fairfax moderate RINO.  That card is gone, and Bob Marshall proved in 2008 how strong a conservative with a NOVA base can be in a primary, and Ken only confirmed that in 2009 with his drubbing that he laid on two other candidates.

Ken is like Northern Virginia because he doesn’t play by the old rules, he doesn’t care about who’s turn it is, he doesn’t care about the old way of doing things.

And so goes my thinking. What we have here isn’t so much a fight over issues as a fight over style. Bolling comes from the political school of thought that you need to bide your time. Principles are important…you wouldn’t be bothering with this if you didn’t have something pulling you in, right? But what good are you going to be if every time someone challenges you your first move is straight for the jugular? Work the vineyards, move up….you’ll get your chance to make a difference. Cuccinelli doesn’t quite see things that way…..its all about principles, values. You’re either right or you’re wrong. You’re not doing it right if you don’t fight in the streets, leave no stone unturned, refuse to confront people. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Which I think is what makes all of this so disconcerting for so many activists. Let’s face it—RPV is predominantly conservative. Yes, there’s a few, just a few old hat moderates left, but their numbers are dwindling every year. And yes, there’s always someone right behind you saying that you’re not conservative enough……remember, it wasn’t even twenty years ago that George Allen and Ollie North’s people were looked upon with some distaste. It wasn’t so long ago that Allen was the outsider…..and Bolling was one of his guys. But things change. So who do you go with? The guy who takes no quarter on your issues and is willing to lose, so long as he’s right—or the guy who was there all along, used to even be more like his now opponent, but waited, worked for this moment?

A sidenote: A lot of people seem to be framing this in the context of “Republicans always go with the guy whose turn it is.” First off, this is largely based off of experience in presidential primaries—Bush ‘88, Dole ‘96, McCain ‘08. This is comparing apples and oranges. I’m not convinced that “its his turn” holds as much sway as it did prior to the Tea Party rise and their domination in primaries in 2010, nor that it ever really existed below the presidential level—ask former Delegate Clint Miller if he thought it was Allen’s turn in 1993. Secondly, these races are very different—yes, presidential primaries are a long slog, but there you’re dealing with contacting millions of voters in different states, each with its own nuanced system for choosing delegates to the national convention. Here, you’re dealing with getting voters in one state out on just one day (remember, the State Central Committee has already settled on a primary). Yeah, sure, you need to target your areas of the state, but they’re not weighted—whoever gets the most voters wins. Finally, the reason we’ve ended up with “the anointed one” in many past GOP Presidential primaries is not so much that they were always the front runner—Buchanan was whipping Dole hard before South Carolina, and Bush had lost more contests than he won up to South Carolina in 1988. McCain was in a similar situation, and even the Gipper lost Iowa to George H.W. Bush in 1980. The reason they ended up winning was because either they were prepared for the long slog or the new favorites of the activists withered under the hot lights of the media. Say what you will about Cuccinelli upending the order—fair or not, he’s been through this before, as has Bolling, but to a degree he’s had it tougher in no small part to his narrow re-election to the State Senate in 2007. Cuccinelli, love it or hate it, is ready for prime time.

To underscore just what’s going on here in terms of this being more a contest of style than issues, I decided to do a little more research—I decided to actually LOOK at both men’s records. Well, scratch that—I decided to look up where the two men have stood in the eyes of various groups, left and right, that dare to rate members of the General Assembly.

Two important caveats here. One, let’s keep in perspective that Ken and Bill only served concurrently for three sessions—2003 to 2005. If you follow the GA, you know that no one session is quite like the other. Sure there are perennial bills, but those are not the ones that define each session—those bills come up year after year because they always fail. The issues that define each session change. Secondly, just as both men are going to go over each other’s records with a fine toothed comb, so did these interest groups. The bills that each group takes into consideration are rarely, if ever, a complete record of every bill that touched upon that group’s issues, and those issues change from year to year—which is why one year you may get a 100% rating but the next 40%. But until I or some other intrepid blogger gets the time to examine every bill both men voted on (which will likely be around the time one of them or their Democratic opponent is sworn in), this will do.

This information is gleaned, largely from both men’s pages at ProjectVoteSmart (Ken here, Bill here). If either camp wants to correct the record here, I welcome it. So with no further ado:

Cuccinelli and Bolling: Interest Group Ratings

Key:

NS—Not Serving in the body that was rated

NR—Not rated (group did not issue ratings)

All scores are out of 100% unless otherwise noted

Abortion

Virginia Society for Human Life (Pro-Life)

1999

2000

2001

2002

2004-05

2004-2007

Cuccinelli

NS

NS

NS

NS

100

100

Bolling

100

NR

100

100

100

NS

NARAL/Pro-Choice Virginia (Pro-Choice)

2002

2004

2005

2008

2009

Cuccinelli

NS

0

0

0

0

Bolling

0

0

0

NS

NS

Planned Parenthood (Pro-Choice)

2004-05

2009

Cuccinelli

0

0

Bolling

0

NS

Business
Virginia National Federation of Independent Businesses

1996-7

1998-99

2000-01

2006-07

Cuccinelli

NS

NS

NS

100

Bolling

100

83

100

NS

Virginia Chamber of Commerce

1998

1999

2000-01

2002-03

2005

Cuccinelli

NS

NS

NS

NS

82

Bolling

88

89

79

89

100

Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education
97 99 2000 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09
Cuccinelli NS NS NS NS NS 62 68 82 NR 61 94 89
Bolling 84 85 100 79 86 71 67 100 NS NS NS NS
LGBT Issues
Equality Virginia

2003

2004

2005

2007

Cuccinelli

0

0

0

67

Bolling

100

0

0

NS

Social Conservatism
The Family Foundation

1999

2001

2002-03

2004-05

2006-07

2008-09

Cuccinelli

NS

NS

100

100

92

91

Bolling

88

93

100

100

NS

NS

*Note: The Christian Coalition did ratings prior to Ken’s service. Bill received a 95% in 1997 and 100% in 1999.

Education

Virginia Education Association

1998

2002

2004

2005

2006

2006-07

2008

Cuccinelli

NS

NS

33/0*

67

80

78

75

Bolling

30

43

33/0*

50

NS

NS

NS

*Note: I found two different scores for 2004; both are included here
The Environment
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
99 2000 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09
Cuccinelli NS NS NS NS 17 11 0 43 50 57 10
Bolling 33 60 100 80 20 50 0 NS NS NS NS
Labor
Virginia AFL-CIO
99 2001 2002 2003 2004* 2005* 2006 2007 2008 2009
Cuccinelli NS NS NS 9 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bolling 0 0 50 0 6 11 NS NS NS NS
Gun Rights
National Rifle Association
1999 2003 2005* 2007 2009*
Cuccinelli NS A NR A A+
Bolling A A A NR A+
*Note: Bolling’s 2005 score is for his first LG run. Both men’s 2009 scores are for their respective statewide runs that year. The NRA assigns alphabetical grades that are based both on legislative work and survey responses
Virginia Citizen’s Defense League
I’m having trouble working out percentages here, since VCDL assigns one grade but VCDL-PAC is the one that hands out endorsements. Suffice it to say that both men, as far as I know, have been endorsed by VCDL in all of their runs throughout VCDL’s history. However, if I am wrong here, please let me know. Candidate surveys can be found here—figured I’d provide the source on this one because of the very nuanced nature of this exercise (or rather, the fact that too much nuance will earn you scorn from VCDL).
Conclusion
Obviously there’s a lot to chew on here, and again, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re highly interested in all of this, I suggest tracking down the actual scorecards for that year—again, something’s gotta be up for both men to earn over 50% from Equality Virginia once while pulling in zeroes the rest of the time—same with their wildly gyrating League of Conservation Voters Scores. This is the tip of the iceberg, and we have over a year and a half to go, but for right now—its pretty clear that the two men are relatively close when it comes to core issues for the Republican base. (As DJ pointed out, they both even made the same mistake by backing the miserable transportation plan in 2007, abuser fees and all). I have no commentary beyond that—just wanted to throw this out there.
Corrections, additions, and just plain criticism welcome.

The GOP’s tricky electoral math for 2012

Right now, there’s plenty of ink and binary characters being spilled on both parties chances in 2012. Some are comparing this to 1992, others to 1996 in terms of the incumbent’s chances. Some have the Republicans on an unstoppable comeback, others have the GOP nearing implosion. However, we all know that few elections are an exact replay of the one before it. What exactly constitutes a swing or marginal state can change from election to election. Why, in 1980 Hawaii was thought to be winnable for the GOP, as it was in 2004, if only momentarily. Same with Maine in other elections. With that in mind, 2010 did at least give us an idea of which states may still be marginal, given Republicans winning it last year but the Democrats in 2008, often by similarly large margins. And so we present to you Dr. Larry Sabato of UVA’s first projection for 2012.

There’s plenty for both sides to take exception to–Republicans would say New Mexico is much closer to being a marginal state and two straight landslides (thanks to VA’s unique position on the electoral cycle) should put the Old Dominion in the leaners category, while Democrats would argue that Montana at least leans a little closer to them and that there’s no way they lose Maine.

Regardless, however, the map shows just how tricky the math is for Republicans. The fact that New York and California are almost completely out of Republican reach means that Democrats start with a big built in advantage. If you give each party their “leaning” states, Democrats start with 247, while Republicans have just 180. One interesting way to digest these results is to input them into 270towin.com, a fun site that presents an electoral college calculator. Color each state the way you think it will go, and the site will calculate the number of ways, if you give both parties less than 270 votes, the number of ways to get to the magic 270.

The big problem for Republicans? If you input this map into the site, giving both parties their leaning states, there are 14 different combinations that lead to a Republican victory. The problem? All of them require Florida. Again, both sides will have their talking points. Republicans will point to congressional pickups and Rubio’s win in 2010, while Democrats will point to Rick Scott’s cratering approval ratings in the state. However, the fact of the matter is that Republicans just don’t have the same sort of EC base built in that the Democrats do, largely due to the fact that their safest states are amongst the largest. In fact, Texas is the only red or “reddish” state that has more than 12 electoral votes.

That said, 2010 was a positive movement in that Republicans made important gains in PA, WI and MI, as well as North Carolina and New Mexico. The last two aren’t as important–if you give both to the GOP, FL is still a neccesity. However, take any of the first three out of the Democratic column, and a Floridaless path to victory emerges. Again, this is all just the analytical talk of shooting the breeze for the time being. We have quite some time to go in this cycle–more than a year, in fact. However, it should point to the importance of a) nominating a ticket that has a wide personal appeal to a large swath of Americas, both suburban and rural, and b) running on issues that appeal to pragmatic, more centrist voters that do not betray our core principles.

But, until we have a better idea of who those candidates might be, kill some time and come up with your own path to victory. For the record, I’m not 100% on the above, so if you can find a Floridaless path to victory that does not involve MI, WI or PA, by all means, please share! But do note that the the site won’t calculate scenarios where there are more than 12 states in play, as the number of possibilities increases exponentially. Again, many of these are far fetched, but hey, welcome to life with the electoral college!

Tea Partiers continue to flex muscle

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I find the tea parties that sprung up around the country last spring an absolutely fascinating exercise in political involvement. Though the media and left-wingers are quick to denounce it as “astroturf,” but the fact of the matter is that, regardless of who came up with the term and who puts what events together, run-of-the-mill activists across the country have made it into something much bigger than anyone could imagine. Right now, many groups are getting involved in congressional primaries to turn out a candidate close to their values. Indeed, in our own backyard tea partiers are promising to have a series of debates in Virginia’s Fifth District.

“Our intent is to make the process fair and accessible to all viable candidates and give them the opportunity to prove themselves to the citizens of the 5th District,” Lynchburg TEA Party leader Mark Lloyd said in the release.

Lloyd noted that many TEA party members are independent from the GOP. “…Nevertheless, as Americans we intend to make our voices heard and we intend to be part of the political process.”

Lloyd points out correctly that the are a number of independent conservatives in the effort–however, in speaking to some of these people I find that many are former Republicans who just couldn’t tolerate the party’s full fledged support for certain types of candidates. However, these people appear to have still come out in droves for Bob McDonnell this past year. Therefore, they are drawn to the Tea Parties first as a way to get involved then jettison again if they get burned. The label is so potent that Rasmussen did a poll that discovered that an actual Tea Party would beat the Republican Party in a congressional match-up:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

Obviously, dissatisfaction with the Republican label remains so high that nearly a third of people who call themselves Republicans would consider a third-party. No wonder state Republican parties, such as Colorado and Virginia’s, have taken great care to listen to the tea party movement and co-opt its focus on individual liberty and fiscal issues.

I still maintain that the Tea Party is more of a re-branding and re-ignition of a staid conservative movement that became unprincipled early in the decade. The Republican Party can defuse the threat of conservative independents bolting or staying home by a) keeping leaders like Sarah Palin from seeing hope in a third party and b) by not only promising but delivering on issues key to the identity of tea party activists.

As Norm pointed out over at TQ:

It may indicate that Republicans, if they hope to be successful in 2010, would be wise to pay attention to the activists back home who are protesting, organizing, forming PACs, lobbying for legislation and more under any number of tea party banners.

Or they could ignore it. In which case, they had best hope they packed along an extra pair of socks…because it gets mighty cold and damp in the political wilderness.

Money Talks

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

VPAP (h/t WaPo) has comparisons and figures out for this year’s House and Statewide races. Despite a slumping economy, records were still set: the Wekheiser v. Albo race was apparently the second most expensive race in Virginia history for a seat in the General Assembly. The only race to ever beat it: 2007′s legendary affair between Democrat Chap Petersen and Republican Jeanmarie Devolites-Davis. Two parallels: both were in Northern Virginia, an extremely expensive media market, and both produced a lopsided outcome despite the money spent (43% for Wekheiser, 44% for JDD), except this time the incumbent prevailed.

There were a number of other races that broke into the top ten. Though the WaPo is counting ten races breaking the million dollar mark, VPAP only counts nine (as I did too). This is about on par to 2007, when there were ten $1M+ races for the House and seven in the Senate. It should be noted that no one candidate broke the million dollar mark, although Albo came close with $933k.

Other interesting numbers:

  • Although the general election for the Gubernatorial race did not break the record, when the money is factored in for the two losing Democratic primary candidates a record $52.8 million was spent. It should be noted that this was the first seriously contested nomination fight for the Governor’s mansion for either party since, arguably, 1993, when George Allen beat off Earl Williams and Clint Miller. 1985 was the last time the Democrats had a primary.
  • Spending on the Attorney General’s race was actually down from over $11k to about $7.2k. This figure includes the ultimately non-affair of the Republican nominating convention in May. The Washington Post, though, points out that in 2005 the race went into overtime with the recount between Deeds and McDonnell.
  • Only two of the top nine races were outside of either Northern Virginia or the Beach/Hampton Roads: Rob Bell’s re-election bid in Albemarle (a blowout win) and Dr. Scott Garrett in Lynchburg (a squeaker). Two other races that almost made the list were Greason in Loudon and Villanueva in the Beach.

Lots of great information for those who are really into the money race, and plenty of nauseating details for those who bemoan the influence of money in Virginia politics, what with its unlimited donations and expenditures.

Tea Parties Go Local

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

In my eight years of political involvement, one issue has continually caused me a great deal of consternation: voters perpetual lack of focus on local politics. Certainly given where I’ve been (field work) I’ve heard more of it–the usual moans of “I only vote in presidential elections.” And why not? It’s that quaddrenial affair that gets the most coverage in the mainstream media, a focus that begins almost the minute the final votes are counted in Hawaii. Heck, in 2004 people were already talking about Romney in 2008 BEFORE ANY votes were cast.

I wouldn’t have much of a problem with this if it weren’t for the fact that my anectdotal evidence jives up with the hard fact that turnout is nearly always way down in non-presidential elections. Even here in Virginia, where political conflict is a way of life for many, turnout was down a full 33% from last year. Even in 2006, when the Allen-Webb Senate race got a great deal of national attention, turnout was just 52%, up 7% from the Gubernatorial race the year before but down almost 19% from the 2004 Presidential election.

This trend can play out differently locally. In 2003 in my own Shenandoah County turnout for the five way Sheriff’s race (one Republican, one candidate who had gotten the nomination four years prior, and three who liked to tout their various Republican credentials) was nearly 49%, which was roughly 4% higher than the State Senate race that same year. Yet even given an oddball race where a substantial number of voters turned out given personal connections to the candidates and just didn’t vote in the other races, turnout was still down a full 23% from the prior Presidential election in 2000.

Again, I certainly understand the perspective of voters who stay at home during local races. Some may just not know the candidates that well, given that they may not be natives. Some simply have the perspective that the President, for lack of a better phrase, is leader of the freaking free world, and therefore their vote in that race will have more effect on their lives than any other. More troubling, though, is those who just don’t care about local politics at all.

Yet it is at the local level where the parts of governing that most affects our everyday lives happens. Police, trash pickup, firefighters, building and zoning, business permits–all of these things that intensely affect our day to day living all occur at the local level. Notice anything that I left out? Ah yes–education. Though the influence of state and federal politics on public schools is undeniable, most school districts receive most of their funding at the local level and in many places take up the largest share of the local budget.

That’s why in my recent post about what to do with the tea party movement I showered plaudits upon those groups who have taken it upon themselves to serve as watchdogs ACROSS the spectrum of government. Conservatives understand that local government can nickel and dime us just like any other level of government and that despite their responsibility to “keep the trains on time” they still have a moral obligation to ensure the prosperity of their citizens by not unduly interfering with our lives to a point as to hamper individual initiative. Certainly, these groups have existed before–indeed, an entire book could be written on the history of watchdog groups in both Shenandoah and Augusta counties and how these groups intersect with inter-party conflict. Yet the increased awareness of government intrusion in our lives has brought new life to many of these groups.

That’s why I’m very excited to hear of this development in Staunton. From the Augusta Conservative:

According to the News Virginian, Tea Party Director Richard Armstrong has thrown in his hat for the Staunton City Council seat vacated by now State Delegate Dickie Bell. The Tea Party has gotten much more active as the political atmosphere has become more charged. Armstrong, 63, is a former Detroit police officer and Navy veteran. He stated that Staunton is not friendly to business and he wants to work toward fixing that. The Staunton City Council is interviewing people to fill the seat until a special election in May 2010.

The Augusta Conservative himself is in the running for a local Board of Supervisors seat. I make it my rule not to become too involved in races outside of where I live, as I feel its up to both primary and general election voters to decide who they think best represents their views. However, I think it should hearten any conscientious conservative to see their like minded brethren put their money where their mouth is in local government. I applaud anyone who takes on this challenge.

I still don’t know entirely what to make of the Tea Party movement as a whole, but as long as they are awakening citizens to government’s role at all levels, they’re doing good work.

Romney vs. Huck: Part Deux

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the great “B” stories of the 2008 Presidential campaign was the dog fight between Former Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney and Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Both candidates had their own place in the race: Romney had a good fiscal and economic record, but his “Road to Des Moines” conversion on abortion issues and former peddling to LGBT interests was too much for many social conservatives to handle. Meanwhile, Huckabee has a poor record on fiscal issues, having supported a number of tax increases as Governor, but the former Baptist minister simply could not be questioned on values issues. The end result? An extended fight between the two for conservative voters in which Huckabee eventually prevailed but was left too wounded to make a serious challenge to McCain in the final primaries (in retrospect, Virginia was the Huckster’s last stand).

Now, both are back in the running for the nomination in 2012. Romney is already generating buzz amongst establishment types, and he continues to maintain a high media profile. However, right now it would appear that his reputation amongst Republicans is declining. From Hot Air comes a PPP poll showing Mitt below 50%. Their take:

He’s at 48 percent this month after having hit 63 percent in June, before the fade began. Even PPP doesn’t have any explanation for it. I’ll give you two possibilities. One: Huck and Palin are in the public eye these days much more than Mitt is, even if it is for the wrong reasons. Romney had better be careful that he doesn’t become an afterthought and end up being seen as a “minor candidate.” Two: With Huck and Palin natural rivals for the religious conservative vote, the perception may be building that Romney’s the RINO in the race by default. He’s always had that rep to some extent, of course, but being the odd man out among the big three only cements it.

As I’ve said many, many times here, it’s very early. Romney still has a chance in this thing. I see his roadmap to victory being becoming a solid voice on conservative issues in the media and then surviving the aformentioned Palin/Huck fight. His big place to shine? Venues like CPAC, and by cozying up to Fox News as their “legit” commentator over Huck’s more showbiz orientation.

However, the big problem with that strategy is that right now it would appear that it is the moment for the confrontational conservative. Huck is drawing big ratings, and Sarah is dominating pretty much every media outlet from the blogs to Fox News, from People to Newsweek (they say that no publicity is bad publicity). The Chicago Tribune has a great article up about Huck and Sarah’s tours and the draws they’re bringing in.

“Team Huck” rolls into the bookstore like a NASCAR pit crew, red uniform shirts adorned with the corporate logos of Mike Huckabee’s website, his speaker’s bureau, his publisher, and “Huck” emblazoned on their epaulets.

They strip the protective wrappings off a large, heavy object — a podium they install at all such appearances. Mike Huckabee doesn’t sit at tables. He stands, as a president would, even to sign books.

And sign he does. And sign and sign and sign. As many as 600 copies of “A Simple Christmas” an hour with sales to match, and no time lost to opening remarks.

The contrast between Huck and Palin (subtle but important) would indicate that their fight is where the action is. However, as I said, Romney’s slow but steady effort has merit–if he can stick to it. As Palin and Huckabee have found, celebrity can be intoxicating.

A Blog to Watch

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The Virginia Conservative is already one of the best blogs in the Valley. Always intriguing, often witty, VC brings a great deal to the table. He very closely hews to the type of blogging I strive to her: taking a story, analyzing it and offering a unique spin, not just the regurgitation of standard talking points or (god forbid) the verbatin reprint of press releases. To wit, there was his classic post where he link Pepsi’s Throwback soda to Ron Paul’s stance on subsidies:

But…this isn’t a food review blog?  What does this Pepsi product have to do with politics?  Representative Ron Paul has the answer.  In his bestselling work, The Revolution: A Manifesto, he discusses this topic.  The reason for the switch is one of cost.  It is cheaper for soft drink manufactures to use the corn syrup.  But wait, you say…in other countries they use sugar, why would it be more expensive in the U.S.A.?  The answer is subsidies and quotas.  Not only does the federal government subsidize corn growers, as Ron Paul tells us, “The United States government limits the amount of sugar that can be imported from around the world.  These quotas make sugar more expensive for all Americans, since they now have fewer choices as a result of diminished competition.  The quota also put at a competitive disadvantage all those businesses that use sugar to produce their own products.  That’s one reason that American colas use corn syrup instead of sugar:  American sugar, thanks to the quotas, is simply too expensive.”  (p. 72).

Now, he’s announced the beginning of a series of posts looking back on his time working in the 93rd Delegate race during this past election. House watchers will recall that the seat was one of two that switched from Republican to Democratic control and was the only one in which a Democrat knocked off the sitting Republican. This series will be one to watch not just for those interested in knowing the full story behind Delegate Hamilton’s quick fall from grace but also to consultants everywhere who want insight on how to deal with a race that explodes almost overnight.

The Right’s Rebirthing Pains

November 23, 2009 3 comments

In the aftermath of 2008 alot of conservatives seemed almost as if the life had been completely sucked out of them. Many could be found stumbling along, unshaven, hair akimbo, mumbling, “How could this happen? How could they have elected HIM?” I exaggerate some, yet the fact is that many conservatives were utterly dejected, having worked their tails off for a Republican few could stomach fully before his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Those who just stayed home felt worse yet, wondering aloud if there were any “true” conservatives left.

Yet just a little over a year later the right seems to be energized, coming off huge electoral victories and seeing protests all around the country. In a year President Obama has united a group of voters that it took President Bush six years to disintegrate to the point where each group had its own representative in the 08 dogfight. Talk of the “Tea Party movement” has overtaken conservative circles. From the size and scope of the protests, its clear that SOMETHING is going on. Indeed, the passion is palpable–to the point where some rallies have been taken with violence. Yet the media is hoping to paint a story of emerging discord within the Tea Party. From the Politico:

After emerging out of nowhere over the summer as a seemingly potent and growing political force, the tea party movement has become embroiled in internal feuding over philosophy, strategy and money and is at risk of losing its momentum.

The grass-roots activists driving the movement have become increasingly divided on such core questions as whether to focus their efforts on shaping policy debates or elections, work on a local, regional, state or national level or closely align themselves with the Republican Party, POLITICO found in interviews with tea party organizers in Washington and across the country.

However, in digging into the matter, the Politico only comes up with two strange scenarios within local groups to point at internal discord amongst the “movement.” They also claim that groups such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity are jockeying for credit. This is a good point but misses the mark. These groups were around long before the Tea Party movement began. Indeed, I would argue that there’s really no Tea Party movement at all. Rather, it is just a refocusing and reawakening of the American conservative movement.

Read more…

Rudy! again

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Krystle points out that Rudy Giuliani is leaning towards taking on Hillary-clone Kirsten Gillbrand for the NY Senate Special in 2010. She points out that Governor may be a better fit for “America’s Mayor.” However, there’s an untold story. From Political Wire on October 26th:

“Andrew Cuomo has secretly notified Rudy Giuliani that he will run for governor next year,” according to the New York Post.

“The confidential message, conveyed through intermediaries, was delivered to Giuliani recently and is expected to play a central role in the former mayor’s impending decision on whether to run as the Republican candidate for governor in 2010, sources with knowledge of the situation said.”

Less than a month later:

“Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has decided not to run for governor next year after months of considering a candidacy, according to people who have been told of the decision,” the New York Times writes. “It remains unclear whether the former mayor is considering any other political race in 2010. Some have urged him to take on Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who is newly installed in office, has never run statewide and is still introducing herself to voters in some areas. Mr. Giuliani is said to have made no decision about such a race.”

Read more…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.