Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Red Herring Amongst the RINOs

My choice for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 will probably not be a candidate for the position.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has shown the kind of tough leadership in an unfriendly political environment that should be emulated by Republican officials across the country.

Christie has upset the applecart so much with Garden State special interests that a leaked memo from the Bergen County Education Association (AKA a teachers union) mockingly prayed for his demise.

Christie is a rare breed of a high-profile conservative who actually holds a position of responsibility and has had to live with the consequences, political and otherwise, of his decisions.

The New Jersey governor supported moderate Republican US Representative Mike Castle for the GOP nomination for the US Senate in Delaware.

Does that make Christie a RINO? Let me answer that question with another: are Pat Roberston and US Senator David Vitter RINOs for supporting ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008?

Republican political strategist Karl Rove, architect of George W. Bush’s political career, has been blasted as a RINO for not embracing Christine O’Donnell and for making jabbing critiques about her electability.

Rove and columnist Charles Krauthammer were correct in their assessments that the moderate Castle had a better chance of winning the seat in November. Polls taken before and after the O’Donnell-Castle primary have shown the GOP nominee trailing Democrat Chris Coons by a substantial margin.

And it would be reasonable to assume O’Donnell’s political philosophy is to the right of general political mindset of Delaware voters, who haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In 2008, with their senior senator on the Democratic ticket, the First State went to Obama with almost 62%. The highwater mark for a Republican presidential candidate in Delaware since the Bush-Dukakis race was in 2004 when W scored just under 46%, seven points behind Massachusetts US Senator and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

The logic of the Castle backers, many of whom are more conservative than the candidate they championed, was that because he was more electable in a state that’s not known for voting for conservatives, Castle was a heavy favorite to win in the general election and thus would be in a position to provide more conservative than the Democratic alternative.

The position of the TEA Party crowd was half a loaf (give or take a bad vote now and then on a court nominee or Cap and Trade) wasn’t enough and that they would rather get behind a candidate who would be a good vote 100% of the time even if she had a 20% change of winning.

O’Donnell's underdog bid has become an intra-party red herring and a distraction for the conservative movement and the Republican Party at a time when the Democrats are on the ropes.

Like the Koran burning that wasn’t (or maybe was in the hands of less media savvy preachers), the O’Donnell controversy diverted attention from the Democrats' mismanagement of the economy, the problems with their national health care plan, out of control spending on the federal level, President Obama’s “own private Katrina” in the Gulf of Mexico and the other absurd policies Democrats have in-store for the country if they get another two years of full control of the national government.

Rather than behaving like Madame Defarge to anyone suspected of being a RINO, conservatives should focus their energy, resources and time on electing political insurgents in Alaska and Nevada. And if O'Donnell is their cup of "TEA", cut a check to her as well.

Instead of beating up on Rove and Krauthammer, neither of whom hold elected or party offices, the Right should channel their angst towards Harry Reid and the rest of the Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama agenda.

That said, establishment types need to be cognizant that though the results of the Delaware GOP primary might not be smart politics, it’s the bitter harvest the Republican Party’s higher-ups had coming to them for the contemptible manner they have treated the base over the years. To paraphrase a certain retired Chicago pastor, the TEA Party has come home, to roooooooooooost. And they're a more powerful force within the GOP than the country club wing.

The “if you don’t have a check, you don’t matter” mentality was going to catch up with the GOPezzonovantes eventually. And it did in Delaware.

Just as Move On "bought and paid for" the Democratic Party, the TEA Party folks are gaining influence in the Republican Party.

As O’Donnell has received a tremendous amount of publicity, party leaders need to step up and support her candidacy. She has become the mascot of the TEA Party and snubbing her will be inferred as personally snubbing the legions of donors around the country who have filled O’Donnell’s campaign coffers to the tune of $1,500,000 since her nomination.

After all, the national Democrats have stood by far more discredited candidates than O'Donnell in the past.

If you’re really upset about the way the Republican establishment has handled O’Donnell, send a check for real money to O’Donnell and an envelope stuffed with monopoly money attached to a note to the RNC and a host of other Republican campaign entities that have wasted millions and millions of dollars on candidates who later switched parties.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Curious Case of the Missing Endorsement

Incumbent Republican US Senator David Vitter’s landslide primary win in the face of personal scandal that had driven less tenacious office-holders out of politics is a sign that he is likely en route to a second term in Congress’ upper chamber.

Vitter’s lockstep conservative votes on Capitol Hill have satisfied his electoral base and his prodigious fundraising and unfavorable political climate for Democrats, particularly in Louisiana, make him a heavy favorite on November 2nd.

Recently members of the media have picked up on something that missing from the Vitter juggernaut: the endorsement of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.

Not that Vitter needs the formal and public blessing of the titular leader of the Louisiana GOP, yet its absence got journalists and politicos to talking and Jindal’s press office putting out qualified statements.

Governor Jindal has maintained over and over again that he will not seeking the presidency in 2012. Despite the national party’s recent shifting of the caucus and primary dates to later in the year, a Jindal presidential candidacy would have to be announced prior to his second inauguration if he stood for and won re-election as governor.

People should take Jindal at his word that he will not make a bid for the White House.

Now whether his second term as governor is cut short by an invitation to occupy the bottom-half of the GOP’s 2012 ticket, appointment as a cabinet secretary (Department of Health and Human Services being the most likely) or a campaign in 2014 for Mary Landrieu’s US Senate seat is up for speculation.

Jindal obviously doesn’t want to have to go on record lining up behind someone who admitted to a sin he won’t specifically describe even though everyone has a pretty good idea what it is.

You could say the squeaky-clean Jindal wants to avoid being stained by association and loathes the prospect a 2010 endorsement of Vitter being thrown at him at a time of his least convenience in the future, whether it is before a Senate confirmation hearing, vice-presidential vetting interview or a presidential run in 2016 or 2020.

It’s also been speculated that the state’s two most prominent registered Republicans aren’t the best of pals. Perhaps there’s good reason to think this.

Most people probably don’t remember Vitter’s “forgiveness” press conference that was held the same day Jindal officially kicked off his campaign for governor in Kenner, with the former overshadowing the latter. Perhaps Jindal still remembers it.

The latest official statement by the Jindal camp is that the governor doesn’t have any plans as of yet to involve himself in Louisiana federal races in 2010. This position has been nuanced a few times over. And while the Fourth Floor has staked a technically consistent position for the moment, Jindal might have only succeeded in painting himself into another corner.

There are two other congressional races of interest on the same ballot as Vitter’s re-election: the Second District, where incumbent Republican US Representative Joseph Cao has an uphill fight for re-election against Democratic State Representative Cedric Richmond and in the Third District, where either retired National Guard general Hunt Downer or TEA Party-favorite Jeff Landry will represent the GOP in a bid to retake the seat after Democrat Charlie Melancon held it for three terms.

The Third District presents the most complicated situation for Jindal as the Democratic nominee is well-financed Indian-American Ravi Sangisetty. A Union official remarked that the twenty-something year old, Princeton-educated Sangisetty is the Democratic Party’s Jindal. It should be noted that Sangisetty, while a political unknown, isn’t a crackpot candidate whose campaign is limited to paying his qualifying fee and going home.

On the contrary, Sangisetty has a well-stocked campaign fund in excess of a half-million dollars, which is going to be more than either Republican will finish their runoff with in October starts off the month-long general election with.

While Jindal’s overt help might not be welcome by the Cao campaign in the predominantly black, overwhelmingly Democratic Second District, the Republican nominee in the Third District is going to need the governor’s personal and financial support. That Jindal would be publicly opposing a fellow Indian-American is yet another headache for a governor whose first gubernatorial bid was powered by Indian-American donors from across the country.

And there’s the rub. If Jindal sticks with his position of remaining neutral in federal races, the governor manages to avoid embracing Vitter but publicly abandons a Republican congressional candidate who will desperately need his assistance, since it was a fractured GOP in 2004 that gave Melancon his thin margin of victory.

As the face of the party in Louisiana, the Republican governor is going to have to actively involve himself to bring partisans from both Downer and Landry’s camp together to avoid of a repeat of the Tauzin-Melancon-Romero debacle (or the Fletcher-Holloway-Alexander split from 2002).

Jindal needs to make what will be a difficult decision fraught with political consequences: endorse and support all of the Louisiana Republicans running for Congress in November; go with one and not the other, thus angering Vitter; or stay out entirely and bring his GOP credentials into question, leading people to wonder why Jindal will go to Iowa to help a Republican candidate but not Houma.

A fourth option would be Vitter letting Jindal off the hook, since the senator probably doesn’t need the governor’s endorsement to win a second term. It would be a nice peace offering in light of his raining on Jindal’s parade in July 2007.

Until Jindal comes through with an endorsement for Vitter, Louisiana Democrats are going to needle both the governor and the junior senator on the matter…not so much because it will torpedo the Vitter’s re-election bid (it won’t) but to make life awkward and difficult for both Republicans, though mostly Jindal.

If you can’t beat ‘em, aggravate ‘em.