Since I took nearly 100 pictures and 36 made the final cut, I decided to make this a two-part post.
Recently having done a stint at the Turning the Tides Conference, I thought I had a little bit of an idea in what to expect from CPAC. But the entirety of the Gaylord Conference Center and the number of celebrities speaking and milling around tells me that I missed a lot when I missed the first two days of the gathering. Yet the one day I managed to be here was well worth my time in learning from and meeting those who move and shake the conservative world.
Walking into the Potomac ballroom I was blown away by the expanse of the venue. Sure, we have some decently-sized conference rooms for our 300-person gatherings for the Maryland Republican Party, but this room could hold a sporting event. If anything, the stage made the speaker look small.
The first speaker I heard upon my arrival and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation was TEA Party pioneer Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated the case I’ve been pleading since the most recent incarnation of the pro-liberty movement was born: conservatives are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a thriving free market. Instead, Martin said, they are “mocked, marginalized, and maligned.”
She also added that we’re headed to bankruptcy, with an Affordable Care Act which is “unaffordable, callous, and cruel.”
“The reality today is grim and heartbreaking,” Martin added.
She concluded by asserting, in a rising voice, that liberty will endure – if we fight for freedom. “Our Constitution is worth fighting for, because freedom is worth fighting for.”
Rep. Steve King of Iowa followed Jenny Beth to the podium and made the case that “Obamacare has got to go…we can’t let up.” It erodes our vitality and is an “unconstitutional taking,” according to King. He also criticized the immigration initiatives because, as King claimed, 2 out of 3 illegal aliens are Democrats “and the Democrats know this.”
King called on us to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism…we’ve got a country to rebuild together.”
I should point out that I had pictures of these two speakers and they didn’t make the cut. But this guy made the cut.
Wisconsin is a state which has a leader, said emcee Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and Governor Scott Walker detailed a number of ways he’s indeed led.
Harkening back to recent initiatives, Walker noted welfare reform and tax reform originated in the states. And just as the states created the federal government, the 30 states with GOP governors – most of which also have Republican-led legislatures – can improvise with good, conservative ideas. But Walker made the point that “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, relevant, and courageous.” It’s obviously working in Wisconsin, where 93 percent of the state said it was heading in the right direction. “We’re the ones who care about fixing things,” he added.
Walker was ready with a number of examples of poor policy, like the first-year Milwaukee teacher who was selected as their teacher of the year but furloughed because she was at the bottom of the seniority chain. His union reforms eliminated that problem. The overall idea, continued Walker, was to replace the narrative that a successful government was one which created dependents with one which made the case that government works when it assists people to wean themselves off dependence by making it easier to get a job.
“In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July, not April 15,” shouted Walker. “We believe in the people, not the government!”
And then came Newt – a guy who only needs one name to convey who I’m speaking about.
Gingrich addressed the concept of government needing to be pioneers of the future, and get out of being prisoners of the past. As a movement our contrast with President Obama “couldn’t be more vivid.”
But he saved withering criticism for the “Republican establishment class,” which “couldn’t be more wrong.” Holding up a candle and light bulb, Newt chided Washington as “being prisoners of the past…they’re all trapped in the age of candles.” Both parties in Washington are blind to the future, though.
Interestingly enough, Newt promoted a book by a liberal author, the former mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom. But Citizenville was a book “every conservative should read” because it promoted a more active citizenry. Gingrich used the analogy of the Facebook game Farmville, with the idea being earning rewards for public-spirited achievement rather than planting virtual crops.
Newt also took a swipe at the establishment wing of the party, saying that since 1976 “the dominant wing (of the GOP) has learned nothing.” Nor should we be strictly the anti-Obama movement, said Newt.
The powerful morning lineup of featured speakers concluded with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the 2012 Presidential hopeful whose campaign flamed out after a great summer of 2011.
She explained about the TEA Party movement “we love people in this country…we want everyone to succeed in this country.” As key parts of that success, Michele believed there were a lot of goals we could accomplish “if we put our minds to it” such as cutting the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon, preserving our Second Amendment rights “for your sister and your mother,” and most ambitiously finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. The key wasn’t big government, she argued, but “big innovation.”
Bachamnn also chided the inefficiencies of government, pointing out that for every $10 spent on food stamps only $3 goes to recipients while the other $7 goes to bureaucrats. She also dubbed the Obama presidency as “a life of excess.”
In the hardest-hitting portion of her remarks, Michele savaged Barack Obama for the “shameful incident” of Benghazi. “This is a story of not caring,” Bachmann said. Because (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the two ex-Navy SEALs killed at Benghazi) cared, they defied orders and they chose to go to the aid of their brothers…they fought for our country.”
As the attack raged on, “they continued to radio their government begging for help,” charged Bachmann, “and that help never came.” This despite the fact President Obama knew of the attack within its first hour, she continued.
“A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our President went AWOL,” she continued to a chorus of boos and catcalls for Obama. “No one knows to this day where the President was.”
Of all the Saturday speeches I heard, Bachmann’s was perhaps the most critical of Barack Obama.
After she finished, I decided to skip the next panel and head out to explore a little. I hadn’t really had the chance to walk around as I arrived shortly before the proceedings began. It was a crowded lobby to be sure.
This space also featured the famous “Radio Row” I’d only heard about, although on a Saturday morning it wasn’t as busy.
The TEA Party Patriots were busy doing a
radio show, though. (Actually, it may have been just before or just after this video was done. The blond gentleman in the background of my picture is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.)
There were a few television broadcasts in various stages of production, such as those of Hot Air.
Also working on content was the TEA Party News Network, who thankfully sponsored the internet access (more on that in part 2.)
Further down Radio Row, another start-up operation was making itself known to the broadcasting world.
Later in the day, it was announced that One America News Network would make its debut July 4 of this year. “We will be the platform for the conservative message,” said OANN’s Graham Ledger. He cautioned, though, that cable systems “will resist putting on a conservative news network.”
Once I made my way down the hall and down a level, I was at the entrance of the exhibit hall. I didn’t count them, but there were probably over 100 groups exhibiting their wares. By the time I was through, the swag bag I received at the entrance was very full (I took the picture when I got home.)
The exhibit hall was fairly expansive as well.
Here was a group I think needs further investigation. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain the concept to me. From what I gather, it’s a database of conservative companies to support.
Another group I’d love to have seen a representative of was this one. Maybe their volunteer (or intern) had an encounter with some union thugs.
I got to talk with this group, though. They represent an outfit I’ve referenced a lot over the years.
A newer but very nice organization has been referenced on this site since its formation. Unfortunately, in missing Friday I missed a chance to talk with its founder.
Someone else who might be on the 2016 ballot had some unofficial help. These were placed on a side table, but not many were wearing them that I saw.
There was also an area in the exhibit hall for book signings. When I was down there, Newt and Callista Gingrich were signing their tomes with Ellis the Elephant looking on.
Some people simply took the opportunity to relax and take a quick break in the CPAC Lounge. They could watch the action upstairs on the monitors.
Just like them, I’m going to rhetorically relax and take a break, since this seems like a nice dividing point. Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning.
If the Good’s Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, by the time you read this I will be at CPAC. It’s been a goal of mine to go, and even though I’m not getting the full three-day experience (in part due to my outside job) there will be plenty enough to do in one day. Among the bright conservative lights I’ll be sharing my Saturday with are Governor Scott Walker, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Governor Sarah Palin, Mayor Mia Love, and Senator Ted Cruz. Not too shabby, huh?
I’ll have my laptop with me, so hopefully I will be able to provide coverage while I’m there. You may also want to follow me on Twitter as I update. My job will be to give you a taste of my experiences, since I really don’t know what to expect. It may be overwhelming but it surely should be exciting. I’m also hoping to meet a lot of my blogging cohorts there.
Tomorrow I will see what my notes and pictures look like and give you my impressions in pictures and text.
I covered the events of Saturday morning in part 1, so if you enjoyed the “lunch break” I pick up the events with one of the most popular conservative politicians in Maryland.
Yes, on the far right of the picture is Dan Bongino. He was the star attraction of a panel discussion called “Changing the Ground Game in Maryland.” Moderated by Kari Snyder, the other participants were 2012 Congressional candidate and author Ken Timmerman and Delegate Neil Parrott.
As he stated in his interview here, Bongino had some definite criticism of the MDGOP’s efforts and suggestions for improvements. For example, “if you’re not registering voters at the gun shows in Maryland in the next two months, you should be arrested for political malpractice.”
Obviously Dan harped on the voter registration aspect – “they’re kicking our butts” – and how badly we were trounced there, although not to the extent he did in our conversation. But he also spent a lot of his time on the concept of message vs. marketing, rhetorically asking “do you know what the most dangerous branch of government is right now? The media!” Dan also restated the point that “(Barack Obama) ran on our message.”
“We’ve never had a message problem,” continued Dan. “We’ve always had a marketing problem.”
Meanwhile, the effects of economic neglect are apparent in Baltimore. ”Baltimore City is in a catastrophic economy. There is no economy in Baltimore City,” added Bongino.
Another facet lost in this recent campaign was the school choice issue. He called on us to “isolate and humiliate every one of our opponents” who don’t support the issue. “It is the civil rights issue of our day,” Dan stressed. Yet he had the awareness to realize “we’re in the echo chamber now…action matters.”
After Bongino received a standing ovation both at the introduction and the close, Ken Timmerman had the unenviable task of following Dan. He chose to focus on his race with Chris Van Hollen, noting that opposition research is very important. Van Hollen “did not know what hit him” when portions of his record were released, so much so that he stopped doing joint appearances.
Other observations made by Timmerman were somewhat obvious to us: first, “Democrats will not vote Democrat lite,” and second, “the media is not our friend….don’t let them get away with anything.” (The easily ascertained evidence of that was the camera crews showing up for the protest outside.)
Ken also spoke on the role of the Maryland (and national) GOP, stating that “They didn’t give me any assistance to speak of.” It would have been helpful to get good, reliable voter data, for example. Timmerman also warned that “it’s easy to introduce malicious software into these electronic voting machines.” The technology simply isn’t secure.
Timmerman also made the statement that “we have to start with trench warfare” in the Maryland General Assembly and “hit their core beliefs.” Ken then went through a list of proposed bills, many of which I noted to myself have been tried. “It doesn’t matter if they fail,” he went on to say, because “we force them to engage.” It provided a nice transition to Neil Parrott’s remarks.
However, Neil began by rehashing the previous ballot initiative campaign, saying “we won by getting (them) on the ballot.” He went over the several steps to get a referendum on the ballot: approval of the ballot language by the Board of Elections, gathering of signatures, the inevitable defense in court, and finally the writing of the language by the Secretary of State – often that can require another trip to the judicial system to clean up misleading statements, like 2012′s Question 5 on gerrymandering which alluded to the Constitution, making it sound like the ballot issue had that imprimatur.
The one thing missing was any sort of campaigning. One obvious problem was a lack of funding; for example on Question 4 we were outspent $1.7 million to $60,000. All that money allowed the proponents of Question 4 to successfully shift the narrative from one of illegality to one of “fairness.” “We need to reinvent MDPetitions.com,” Parrott explained.
One other well-taken point by Parrott was that Question 7 “sucked the oxygen out of the room.” More money was spent on that than the 2010 governor’s race.
Activists were well-aware of most of these facts, though. The next session turned our focus to energy issues.
Moderator Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty was joined on this panel by journalist Mark Newgent, blogger of Junkscience.com Steve Milloy, and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a source which regularly appears on this page.
Newgent opened by making a salient point: despite the push by the O’Malley administration and the adoption of ill-advised renewable portfolio standard goals, the 1.6% of electricity provided by renewable sources at the turn of the century was now a punier 1.3% as of 2010. Mark also explained that the purchase of a “renewable energy credit” was a purchase of “absolutely nothing,” but it was a fine excuse for crony capitalism. Sometimes it even had a negative effect, like a (now-expired) federal tax credit for the usage of the “black liquor” by-product of the wood pulping process; one which produces more carbon dioxide than burning coal or natural gas because they mix black liquor with diesel fuel to burn it.
Newgent followed the money to the Town Creek Foundation, an Easton-based environmental organization. “We’re up against some stiff competition,’ he added.
“This is the game that’s going on,” Mark concluded.
Milloy derided the concept of global warming as an excuse to advance policy. “They don’t want to know anything about science,” he opined. But the small number of people on our side concerned with environmental issues had to deal with a swarm of so-called experts on the Left. “Their fondest dream is to saddle the country with some sort of climate legislation that enables them to have control of the economy,” said Steve. “Climate is the best scam they’ve ever worked.”
One statement I enjoyed was Milloy’s call to rip your ‘Save the Bay’ plates off your car. The point was that there’s nothing we can do about carbon dioxide emissions, or to fix the Bay, so save your $20.
CEI’s Ebell bluntly assessed that “the (energy) myths are winning; in particular, they’re winning in states like Maryland.” But there was some good news: unlike other states, there was very little potential for vastly more expensive wind or solar power here in Maryland. Other states had much more ambitious schedules for renewable standards; for example, California’s goal is 33 percent renewables by 2020. As a result, “they’ve already driven out most of the manufacturing in their state,” said Ebell.
“This is the level of intelligence you’re dealing with…you should be shocked, but you should also be really angry,” he added.
But the problem with any renewable source of power, explained Myron, was that they weren’t terribly reliable. Wind costs more because you also had to build a natural gas plant for the 3/4 of the time the wind didn’t blow, particularly in the summer when demand was higher but winds were generally calmer.
Even on the oil front, Myron noted that the 3% of the proven reserves it’s claimed we have is a number so low simply because we can’t explore many other areas which could potentially have large reserves, such as the North Slope of Alaska.
Speaking of energy, my friend Jackie Wellfonder happened to return with some goodies about this time.
These were handed out at the CC4MD table, an organization for which Jackie serves as treasurer. She must have sensed that I like my chocolate.
As opposed to me not being cheated out of some goodies, the next group was dubbed “The Cheated Generation.”
Blogger and radio host Jimmie Bise was the moderator for this group, which included Gabby Hoffman of the Leadership Institute, Baltimore Area Young Republican president Trae Lewis, Brandon Cooper, a campaign coordinator for Dan Bongino, and businessman Brian Meshkin.
Bise opened his segment a little differently, urging people to turn on their cellphones and spread the word on social media using the #TTT13 hashtag for Twitter. (I did, quite a bit.) He added that entitlements are shifting the cost burden from older Americans to the youth, from a group which can’t afford this because, among other things, there’s $1 trillion in college debt.
Cooper opened up the remarks by remarking on a handout he passed around, one which explained the economic realities younger people face. These mainly stem from student loans, which hamper the average student to the tune of $23,300. “Government spent $500 million on student loans in 1978; $115.6 billion in 2012,” the handout revealed. Brandon went on to add that, because the federal government was now the sole distributor of student loans, there were no more price control incentives.
Brian Meshkin chastised the government’s tendency from our kids to pay for “selfish excesses.” As the only elected Republican in Howard County (a member of the school board) he told us that “education was a huge, huge winning issue.”
“No child should be held back by the street they live on,” said Meshkin to raucous applause.
There was more cheering as Gabby Hoffman revealed her story as the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, parents who were now seeing “too many parallels” to the situation they grew up under in the former Soviet Union. And she saved severe criticism for Sandra Fluke, who she called a “repugnant human being…no young woman should look up to that trash.” Obviously it followed that Hoffman also believed that giving up on social conservatism was “a completely BS move.”
But her message overall was blunt: if you don’t learn from communism’s failures, we will have it in America. We have to scare young people with the truth, Hoffman concluded.
Trae Lewis began by giving us some bad news: if Martin O’Malley is the Democratic nominee in 2016, we are likely spotting him 215 electoral votes. (Actually, we are doing so regardless of the nominee.) The reason: “he’s hitting us where we ain’t,” meaning the urban centers of America. “The American city is the epitome of what liberal leadership will do for this country,” warned Lewis, and there’s no reason not to harp on wedge issues like school choice.
“You can’t turn a tide from the middle of the ocean,” Trae pointed out, “you have to start at the shore and work your way out.”
That wrapped up the “cheated youth” segment, but there were several other “cheated” groups. With so many speakers and panels and only a one-day timeframe, there were bound to be some issues which received less coverage so we had what was called the “coalition round-up.” This had representatives of groups focusing on immigration, election integrity, the General Assembly, school choice, pro-life issues, and the Second Amendment.
While much of his ground was covered by previous presenters, Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland repeated the fact that 90,000 more people in Maryland voted against Question 4 than voted for Mitt Romney. And there was an economic benefit even in failure: not only did they delay the implementation of the bill by over a year – saving Maryland taxpayers thousands – over $1 million was pumped in from out of state to pass Question 4.
Cathy Kelleher of Election Integrity Maryland gave a short history of the group, which was inspired to begin after activist Anita MonCrief appeared at the first Turning the Tides conference in 2011. It “started with four people at a kitchen table,” but after pointing out thousands of voter roll irregularities over the last year EIM could claim the success of removing
15,000 1,500 dead people from Maryland voter rolls. (Thanks to Cathy for pointing out my overexuberant typo.)
On the flip side of the electoral process was the legislative process, and Elizabeth Meyers introduced her Maryland Legislative Watch group to the audience. This group of volunteers (of which I’m one) reviews every bill introduced to the General Assembly to determine if it’s an anti-liberty bill.
While activist and writer Doug Mainwaring wasn’t affiliated with a particular pro-traditional marriage group, he worked closely with them in an effort to defeat Question 6. And when asked how an openly gay man can possibly be against same-sex marriage, he quipped “You’re an adult. You have children. How can you possibly be a liberal?” Needless to say, Doug brought down the house with that remark.
But Doug was concerned that Republicans and conservatives “are crumbling on this issue.” Some examples were National Review, the Washington Times, and Newt Gingrich.
David Spielman, the outreach coordinator for National School Choice Week, told us he was “giddy” about all the school choice talk at this forum. But the problem we had was deeper than just one issue, for Spielman assessed that “Obama was talking to everyone; we were talking to ourselves…we were outmatched, we were beaten.”
School choice will take outreach, he continued, but so far over 3500 events had been held over the period School Choice Week had been celebrated. (The 2013 edition begins January 27, but there are no events on Delmarva.)
Jack Ames of Defend Life, who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the pro-life message he said was free for the asking, but with the promise it would be worn in public regularly, claimed that most people are philosophically pro-life, they’re just not actively pro-life. Still, “we’re literally killing God’s creation.” The Defend Life organization, he went on to say, works in three main areas: a lecture tour with several speakers which is available for groups, a magazine, and the “Face the Truth” tours, which feature photos of aborted fetuses. He urged pro-life activists to “be fearless” and do what we can to embarrass Martin O’Malley. (Isn’t he Catholic? Wonder how he reconciles his pro-abortion stance in his church?)
Finally, decorated Vietnam veteran and retired NRA attorney Jim Warner gave a roundup of the Second Amendment. He also gave us some sage advice: the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a gun. Finally, we should “tell the Marxists to go to hell!,” Warner shouted.
The “words of encouragement” to wrap up this long day were delivered by 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge, who took the stage to the chant of “A-G, A-G!” Many (myself included) would like to see Rutledge make a run for Attorney General in 2014.
Rutledge pointed out that “a storm…cannot be avoided. We’re getting ready to learn some very profound, painful lessons. And that lesson is this: unlimited, centralized power cannot coexist with liberty.” Jim blasted the concept of machine politics, one which Maryland had lived under “for far too long.” Baltimore City was “a great example” of this; a philosophy where Jim postulated that the machine asks “what you’ve done to serve the machine?”
On the other hand, liberty asks what your rulers have done for you, Jim thundered in his distinctive, appealing style. Yet too many in Washington, D.C. are “uncomfortable promoting liberty.” To that he strongly asserted, “Washington, D.C. cannot fix Washington, D.C.”
Meanwhile, Maryland is no better: “We’re on our own in this state,” said Jim.
There’s no doubt that Rutledge was a good choice to motivate the crowd and renew their spirit. It’s too bad he’s not utilized by the Republican party here in Maryland, but his may be a case of alienating the wrong insiders.
Finally, the day was done. Well, there was a Happy Hour sponsored by the Conservative Action Network, Conservative Victory PAC, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women. I was also cheered to see some of the Maryland GOP leadership dropped by, as First Vice Chair Diana Waterman and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose were present for at least part of an event where the party wasn’t always shown in the best light.
But the question is one of continuing the effort beyond the walls of the Doubletree Hotel. There were perhaps 300 of us who attended the event, but, for example, in 2010 1,044,961 voters were foolish enough to re-elect Martin O’Malley. On the other hand, only 67,364 Republicans voted for the more conservative Brian Murphy in the primary election and just 74,404 voted for the aforementioned Rutledge in his Senate bid. Indeed, we have a problem with our message insofar as not enough people are making the educated, real world proven choice of conservatism.
Yet if 300 people can both reach one voter a month and, in turn, convince that voter to reach one other voter a month, the force multiplier will get us to the 1.2 million votes we will need in 2014. But we have to step beyond preaching to the choir and get in the faces of the opposition. Stop being afraid.
Several people at the conference, both speakers and in general conversation, suggested reading and studying how the Democrats succeeded in several areas, with the closest parallel being the state of Colorado. Obviously they had the weaker message, but the better techniques of making people believe in voting against their interests. So it’s our job to remind Maryland voters that the government which is large enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it away – don’t say we didn’t warn you when the excrement hits the fan.
It’s a very long and detailed read, the type of tome you would expect from a man who at times in his life has been a politician, strategist, novelist, and educator. But Newt Gingrich brings up a lot of valid questions and suggestions in the wake of the 2012 election, a balloting where he admitted:
I was so shaken by how wrong I was in projecting a Republican win on election night that I have personally set aside time at Gingrich Productions to spend the next six months with our team methodically examining where we are and what we must do.
Not only is this a matter of studying where we went wrong, says Newt, but it’s also time to reflect on what Barack Obama did right. After all, he won re-election in the midst of an underperforming economy and haphazard foreign policy decision making – yet he used those resources and advantages he had to secure victory. Gingrich goes on to point out that Republicans have failed to gain a majority in five of the last six Presidential elections and the 2004 Bush re-election was among the closest on record. Since the 2004 balloting was close enough to be within most pollsters’ margin of error, maybe Bob Shrum wasn’t really jumping the gun when he famously asked John Kerry if he could be the first to call him “Mr. President.” It could have been the exit polls were simply on the flip side of the error margin.
Newt would like to see the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project address these and many other questions, including disadvantages in technology, a failure to reach out to minority voters despite the fact we have a number of very attractive political positions to most average Americans regardless of color, and efforts at issue development in general so we can stay on offense.
Needless to say I don’t have the same resume as Newt Gingrich, but while he makes a number of outstanding points there is room to add a few more. Newt says that regaining California should be a litmus test of sorts for determining how effective the Growth and Opportunity Project would be, but I would argue that a large part of California is already Republican. It’s a state where the Congressional delegation is 38-15 Democratic, not 7-1 like Maryland has. It would be more cost-effective to the GOP to use Maryland as a test case because it’s a smaller state with few Republican leaders statewide. (The only states with worse D/R ratios are ones with no GOP representatives: Connecticut has five, Delaware has one, Hawaii two, Maine two, Massachusetts nine, New Hampshire two, Rhode Island two, and Vermont one. Aside from Massachusetts, which has elected Republicans statewide a few times in the last decade, Maryland is the worst case.) We also can see from recent election results that the population needs further education on upholding the rule of law and traditional morality.
Moreover, I have also been on the messaging bandwagon, particularly in the respect of using data compiled to finetune it to the intended audience. But one other thing which needs to be investigated is the impact of high-dollar donors like George Soros and Peter Lewis on the alternative media. I’ve heard the rumors about the bloggers being paid by leftwing organizations, so let’s find out if they’re really true. If so, the GOP should be encouraging conservative donors to be making similar efforts; maybe that would do more good than using the same consultants and expecting different results.
There is a lot of work for conservatives to do in Maryland as well as nationally. There’s no question that we believe we have the right solutions, since over time pro-liberty policies have led to prosperity and freedom while consolidation of power simply leads to tyranny and squalor for all but a privileged few. We lost this election, but all that means is we have to survive as best we can for two years, point out all the instances where the other side overreaches – which is like shooting fish in a barrel – and find the candidates and message for success next time around. It can be done, since we have right on our side.
Maybe Newt needs to come back and check out our zoo again.
Let me just say up top that this occasional look at items which can be covered in a paragraph or three will also serve to clean up some of the loose ends remaining after our Spring Convention over the weekend.
In my first installment on the proceedings, I mentioned that the group Change Maryland has 12,000 members – although their cake maker wanted to grow them tenfold. But something I didn’t realize is that the number of those liking the group on Facebook is larger than those who like the state Democratic and Republican parties combined, and also more than those who like Anthony Brown, Peter Franchot, or Doug Gansler. Coincidentally, these are three of the top contenders for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
And Larry Hogan told me the group appeals to a broad cross-section of voters, drawing interest from Democrats and unaffiliated voters as well as Republicans. I was hoping to get a more formalized sit-down with him before the Executive Committee meeting, but we will have to do it another time.
So it ends, not with a bang but more of a whimper.
The news that Rick Santorum has opted to suspend his campaign just two weeks before a multistate primary where opponent Mitt Romney would be expected to do well in all the states – except possibly Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania – coupled with the withdrawal in all but name by Newt Gingrich over the weekend (“he had more things to hit with than I did”), means that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee come September. Sure, Ron Paul is still in the race but he hasn’t won a primary yet.
Obviously that’s frustrating news to Santorum backers (like The Other McCain) as well as residents of the five states (including Delaware) who were expectantly awaiting their turn in the national spotlight, but it also brings up a couple interesting questions.
- Who will be the second banana on the ticket? We saw a rejuvenated Republican Party for a brief time in 2008 when Sarah Palin was selected, so one would hope Romney assuages conservatives with a strong pick.
- Will the electorate in the remaining states which have not conducted primary elections embrace Mitt as the nominee?
I don’t know what the rules are for ballot withdrawal in the remaining states, but it’s quite likely that the last four standing (Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum) are on the ballot in 17 of the 19 remaining states (Nebraska and Montana are caucus states.) And we can look back at Virginia for a case study in just how much anti-Romney sentiment was out there – in a contest limited to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, Romney couldn’t even carry 60 percent of the vote. Had it been Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot straight up against Romney, Rick or Newt may have carried the state.
It would be quite surprising now if Romney didn’t get a clear majority of the votes, but the depth of anti-Romney sentiment may be most expressed in states where Santorum or Gingrich were thought to be strongest (most likely Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, and South Dakota among remaining primary states.) But this ceding of the Presidential field could also have a detrimental effect on conservatives in downticket races as well – one example being the U.S. Senate primary in Indiana where moderate Senator Richard Lugar faces a primary opponent in Richard Mourdock.
But all the talk of a possible brokered convention and a white knight coming in to save the GOP will now be replaced by emotions from anger at the establishment to outright despair from the Right that Romney can’t win and we’re doomed to another four long years of Barack Obama. Yet if every conservative in the country came out and voted, we would win because Democratic turnout tends to lag behind Republican regardless of whatever tricks the Democrats try to pull. It’s simple math – around 40 percent of the country self-identifies as conservative while only 20 percent or so self-identify as liberal. Even if the squishy middle splits evenly, we win.
And it’s not like the incumbent has much of a record to run on, unless you define record deficits, record number of adults out of the work force, and record high gas prices as records to brag about. Obama has those.
So here we are: Obama vs. Romney. It wasn’t my personal choice (since I voted for Santorum after all my other good choices split the scene) but that’s the way it’s going to be.
And now for something (almost) completely different:
I have it on very good authority that someone familiar to local voters is going to jump into the First District Congressional race. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but watch this space for more details.
I suppose you can call this the post-election edition because a few of these items were swept aside in the runup to our primary earlier this week.
This one’s a bit controversial.
It’s only 37 seconds and while it makes a great point, I find it intriguing that the “dislikes” are running 2-1 over the “likes” on YouTube. Truth hurts? Any questions?
One thing we can’t question is the fact that as of Sunday the United States had the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. But the Republican Study Committee makes a good point:
Of course, volumes and volumes of special credits, deductions, and loopholes mean similar companies often pay very dissimilar tax bills. It’s natural for people and businesses to use every means available to hang onto the money they earn. We wouldn’t be an entrepreneurial nation if we didn’t. But the more time and money we spend navigating our ridiculously complex tax code, the less we produce of real value.
And that was part of the point in the Cain video. Not only is the tax rate high, but those who can afford lobbyists and campaign contributions tend to be the ones who pay the least in taxes – meanwhile, the mom and pop operation takes it in the shorts again. (That’s why 9-9-9 appealed to me. Any questions?)
The state of Maryland doesn’t get this either, according to Kimberly Burns of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.
As the Governor said himself, all this proposal does is delete the word ‘gas’ from ‘tax.’ A sales tax increase is an easy, unacceptable short-term fix to the longer term problem of business competitiveness. Just like the gas tax, it hits every Maryland working family and business right in the wallet.
Say hello to more factory outlet stores near Maryland’s borders in Delaware and Virginia. When you’re a small state like Maryland, sandwiched between two low-tax states, it’s foolish to think increasing the sales tax won’t effect Maryland’s competitiveness and the behavior of consumers.
If the 7% sales tax is passed – and remember, anything is possible in these desperate last days of the session – Maryland would have one of the highest sales taxes in the country and Delaware merchants will be licking their chops as their price advantage jumps to seven percent.
Maryland Republicans in the Senate point out another misconception on the offshore wind boondoggle by citing a Sun letter from Teresa Zent which makes an interesting charge: that $1.50 per month price is only “a cap on what a developer can plug into its proposal. It is not a cap on what a ratepayer might actually have to pay.” And that’s a tremendous point, because if your electric bill is figured on a price of perhaps 11 cents per kilowatt hour and wind energy will cost a quarter per, someone has to pay and the utilities (which, remember, have a monopoly on servicing a particular area) aren’t in it to lose money. By necessity, Maryland would be stricken with a further competitive disadvantage in electrical costs.
And while the election is over, I have to commend the participants in the U.S. Senate nomination battle for the campaign which was waged. They differed on issues, but when it came to attacking the opponent that was reserved for the real opponent, Ben Cardin. And even those weren’t personal but focused on how Cardin is out of touch and lacking in leadership in fighting for Maryland’s working families.
So it wasn’t unexpected that the two leading contenders released statements in this vein after the counting was done. Rich Douglas conceded thusly:
I want to congratulate my opponent on a hard-fought race in the Republican primary. Republicans and Democrats challenging Ben Cardin know that defeating elite royal family rule in Annapolis and incompetence on Capitol Hill is an enormous undertaking. I urge like-minded Democrats and Independent voters to close ranks with Mr. Bongino to replace Ben Cardin in November. It is time for a strong Maryland voice to be heard in the U.S. Senate. Today was the first step toward that goal.
Meanwhile, Bongino praised his opposition for the races they ran:
I am grateful to the voters of Maryland who have given me this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank the other Republican challengers. We all share the same concerns about the direction of this country and agree it is time Maryland had new representation in Washington. I hope they will join my campaign to bring an outsider’s perspective to the US Senate.
Dan also set himself up for November, promising a campaign devoted to “the economy, national security, energy and government accountability.” He also added:
The people of Maryland deserve a Senator who will fight for them, and not the Washington establishment. We need leadership in the Senate that will work to increase opportunity for middle-class Americans, that will provide a path for those in poverty to advance and ensure this nation will once again be a place where jobs are created and people are willing to invest.
Part of doing that will be encouraging entrepreneurs and small business by making the tax code simpler and fairer instead of what the Cain video depicted.
Lastly, some laughed when Newt Gingrich spoke about bold initiatives in the space program, as he did last week. But the Competitive Enterprise Institute posited a step even beyond mere space travel: private ownership of other celestial bodies?
A proposed law requiring the United States to recognize land claims off planet under specified conditions offers the possibility of legal, tradable land titles, allowing the land to be used as loan collateral or an asset to be sold to raise funds needed to develop it.
Such a law would vitiate the 1979 Moon Treaty, which does outlaw private property claims in space, but to which the U.S. is not a signatory. This should be viewed as a feature, rather than a bug. The law would not impose any new costs on the federal government, and would likely generate significant tax revenue through title transaction fees and economic growth from new space ventures carried out by U.S. individuals and corporations. It would have great potential to kick the development of extraterrestrial resources—and perhaps even the human settlement of space—into high gear.
It’s quite a fascinating report, and it points out the difference between development in similar areas deemed off-limits to private property (Simberg cites Antarctica as an example of government-controlled property) where little development is occurring, as opposed to the far northern reaches of the planet where several companies are exercising mineral rights. He theorizes that billions of dollars could be made if private property rights were granted in space, and I can’t disagree.
I’m not going to be the first in line to be a space tourist or worker, but if opening up space can help the economy and promote future prosperity for succeeding generations, what are we waiting for?
Okay, the results have come in and I got some sleep and a day at my outside job to consider them, so let’s go back to my prediction post and see how I did.
I was actually correct in the order of presentation on the top four Presidential candidates statewide, but Mitt Romney exceeded even the pollsters’ expectations when he won just under half the vote. I suppose that inevitability factor may have affected the results because it appears our turnout in 2012 will end up about 20 percent less than it was in 2008, when the race was effectively over by the time we voted. Because few people like to admit they’re backing a loser, I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of voters changed from Gingrich to Romney at the end while other Newt backers stayed home. It also proves Ron Paul has support a mile deep but an inch wide since both well underperformed what I thought they might. I actually missed Santorum by less than a point, although it surprised me that Rick only won two counties (Garrett and Somerset.) I would have thought Rick would carry 4 to 6 of the more rural counties, including Wicomico. But once Romney outperformed it was over.
And you may wonder why I had Fred Karger at 2 percent. I thought he would do better because, as a gay Republican candidate in a state which was bound to be a Romney state anyway, voting for him may serve as a message about the gay marriage referendum likely to appear in November. Instead, he got only less than 1/10 of my predicted total and finished dead last. I also managed to garble up the exact order of the also-rans, but with such a small sample who knew?
That same statewide trend seemed to affect my Wicomico result too because Romney outperformed and Gingrich/Paul suffered for it.
And while I didn’t predict it, I find it quite fascinating that 12 percent of the Democratic primary voters selected “none of the above” rather than Barack Obama. However, that statewide average varies wildly from under 3% in Prince George’s County, about 5% in Baltimore City, and just over 7% in Montgomery County to fully 1/3 of Democrats in Allegany County and a staggering 34.7% in Cecil County. In the last comparable election with a Democratic incumbent (1996) President Clinton only received 84% of the vote (onetime perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche got 4%) but no county came close to getting 1/3 or more of the ballots against the President.
I didn’t miss the “barnburner” aspect of the Senate race by much as it wasn’t called until nearly midnight. But Dan Bongino carried 34% of the vote and won by 6 points over Richard Douglas. (I called it for two points, but I underestimated the impact of the little eight.) I think Joseph Alexander gets the advantage of being first of the ballot, and that accounts for his second straight third-place finish. The rest? Well, the order wasn’t all that correct but they were mostly only off by a percent or two and I got last place right. And to prove it was a close race, both Bongino and Douglas carried 12 counties apiece.
What mystifies me the most isn’t that Rich Douglas carried Wicomico rather easily, but how much support the other eight received – they collectively picked up almost 100 more votes than Douglas did! I would love to know the mindset of the people who voted for most of these minor candidates. I can see a case for Robert Broadus based on the Protect Marriage Maryland group, but what did the others really do to promote their campaigns? At least I know Douglas had radio spots and reasonably good online coverage.
But I did peg Ben Cardin to within 4 points statewide.
On some of the Congressional races: despite the fact I screwed up the percentages, at least I correctly called the Sixth District winners as Roscoe Bartlett and John Delaney. Both did far better than I expected, and I think part of the reason was that both their key challengers’ campaigns imploded in the last week or two. A week ago we may have had something closer to the numbers I predicted. Think Rob Garagiola and David Brinkley may commiserate anytime soon?
The ‘relative ease’ I suspected for Nancy Jacobs was even easier than I thought. I guess Larry Smith didn’t have nearly the campaign as I believed because he came up short on my prediction about as much as Nancy Jacobs was over – I wasn’t all that far off on Rick Impallaria.
While there is a slim chance I may have the First District Democratic race correct, I was surprised that Eastern Shore voters didn’t get all parochial and support the one Eastern Shore candidate, John LaFerla, over two from across the Bay. He only won Worcester, Kent, and Queen Anne’s counties, and I would chalk most of that up to Wayne Gilchrest’s endorsement. Kim Letke was about 6 points better than I thought and LaFerla was six points worse because he way underperformed on the Eastern Shore. I suspect no small part of that underperformance by LaFerla was his extreme pro-choice stance, as getting the NARAL endorsement doesn’t play well among local Democrats. There is a 136 vote margin out of about 23,500 cast.
Out of the rest, the only one I got wrong was the Eighth District, and I think that was a case of better name recognition than I expected for Ken Timmerman and less of a vote split among the three candidates from Montgomery County.
As for the Democratic incumbents, I could have wrote “over 85%” and still been right, with the minor exception of Steny Hoyer getting 84.8%.
So this is how the races for November will line up. Sometime this evening I will update my sidebar to reflect this:
- U.S. Senate: Dan Bongino (R) vs. Ben Cardin (D – incumbent)
- District 1: Andy Harris (R – incumbent) vs. Wendy Rosen (D – pending absentees and possible recount)
- District 2: Nancy Jacobs (R) vs. Dutch Ruppersberger (D – incumbent)
- District 3: Eric Knowles (R) vs. John Sarbanes (D – incumbent)
- District 4: Faith Loudon (R) vs. Donna Edwards (D – incumbent)
- District 5: Tony O’Donnell (R) vs. Steny Hoyer (D – incumbent)
- District 6: Roscoe Bartlett (R – incumbent) vs. John Delaney (D)
- District 7: Frank Mirabile (R) vs. Elijah Cummings (D – incumbent)
- District 8: Ken Timmerman (R) vs. Chris Van Hollen (D – incumbent)
So out of 19 contested races I predicted 15 correctly, and I stuck my neck out on percentages a few times as well. I missed Romney by 8 points statewide and 9 points here in Wicomico County. I think the “inevitable” mantle made the difference.
But with Dan Bongino I was only 2 points off statewide. Probably my worst guess, though, was being 19 points off with him in Wicomico County. It’s worth noting that the Douglas late-game media strategy seemed to pay off on the Eastern Shore since he carried six of the nine counties and would have carried the nine-county Shore if he hadn’t been blown out in Cecil County by 1,250 votes. Bongino carried five counties with over 40 percent of the vote (Cecil was one along with Anne Arundel, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, and Montgomery) while Douglas could only claim two such counties (Dorchester and Talbot.)
I saw this possibly ending up as a rerun of the 2010 race where Eric Wargotz had more money while Jim Rutledge had more grassroots (read: TEA Party) support. Obviously media reaches a LOT more people quickly than grassroots efforts do in a statewide race, and the money to buy media is a key element of a successful campaign. That’s where Eric Wargotz succeeded, because Jim Rutledge didn’t raise a lot of money and Eric had a sizable bank account to tap into.
But as it turned out the Douglas bankroll wasn’t all that large, and an abbreviated campaign with a spring primary didn’t give Rich quite enough time to build a support base of his own. Those three or four extra months Dan worked on his campaign (at a time, remember, when better-known prospective opponents like Wargotz and Delegate Pat McDonough were considering the race) turned Bongino from an also-ran into a nominee. By succeeding enough to nationalize the campaign Dan made himself into a formidable opponent to Ben Cardin. Had this been a September primary, though, the result may have been different.
Now we have just under seven months until the general election, a chance for the campaigns to take a quick breather and begin to plot the strategy for November victory. For Democrats, it will be a hope that Obama can fool people into believing he’s an effective President and having long enough coattails. On the other hand, Republicans need to point out the Obama record while spelling out their own solutions – that’s where we’ve been lacking in some respects. We need to give people a reason to vote FOR us rather than AGAINST the other SOB.
So start working on those platforms, ladies and gentlemen. If we are to win, we need to not be a pastel Democrat-lite but present bold colors to Maryland and the nation.
Just for the heck of it, I’m going to do my set of predictions on some key races locally and around the state. In the past we did this among ourselves at the Central Committee meetings but we didn’t discuss it last night. So tell me what you think, and if I turn out to be wrong – well, don’t laugh too much. Most of this is a (somewhat) educated guess.
I’m going to begin with the Presidential race, on a statewide level. There have already been several polls on this, so there’s a little bit of cheating involved; then again, the polls actually pretty much mirrored my gut instinct all along.
In Maryland, I see the race like this:
- Mitt Romney – 41%
- Rick Santorum – 28%
- Newt Gingrich – 16%
- Ron Paul – 11%
- Fred Karger – 2%
- Rick Perry – <1%
- Buddy Roemer – <1%
- Jon Huntsman – <1%
The polls seem to have Romney winning bigger (Rasmussen has it 45-28) but I think Mitt’s people will tend to figure he’s got it in the bag and turnout will be better in certain areas where Gingrich and Paul may run a little stronger.
How about Wicomico County? This is more of a crapshoot but I think the top 4 results will be a little different:
- Rick Santorum – 35%
- Mitt Romney – 33%
- Newt Gingrich – 18%
- Ron Paul – 13%
The voters here tend to be more conservative than the state at large.
The other statewide race is for U.S. Senate. Now I’m really going to go out on a limb here, because there aren’t any polls I’m aware of (aside from the sure fact campaigns have internal polling I’m not privy to) but my gut is telling me we may have a barnburner on our hands:
- Dan Bongino – 36%
- Richard Douglas – 34%
- Robert Broadus – 8%
- Corrogan Vaughn – 5%
- Joseph Alexander – 4%
- David Jones – 4%
- William Capps – 3%
- Rick Hoover – 3%
- John Kimble – 2%
- Brian Vaeth – 1%
In Wicomico County, I suspect the top three will be Bongino (42%), Douglas (36%), and Broadus (8%). None of the others will be over 3 percent. Incumbent Ben Cardin will be the opponent, with the over-under line for me being 70% of the statewide vote.
And how about the Sixth District race? It’s the most talked-about Congressional primary since the 2008 First District primary, with the added benefit of mud flying on both sides.
On the Republican side, I think Roscoe Bartlett will hold on to his seat with 33% of the vote, with David Brinkley gathering 29%, Joseph Krysztforski 14%, Robin Ficker 10%, and Kathy Afzali 7%. The other three will split the remaining 7%.
What saves Bartlett’s bacon is the fact that there are so many in the race that people may just throw up their hands and go with the name they know. If there were just four or five in the race I think Brinkley has a shot, although the last-minute release of 9-1-1 tapes featuring his ex-wife may knock a point or two away from Brinkley and provide Roscoe’s margin of victory. It’s the voters on the extreme western end of the district who are likely most swayed by that because they don’t really know David that well.
On the Democratic side, I’m sensing a bit of an upset. We figured that this seat was drawn for Rob Garagiola, but I suspect the charges laid against him by John Delaney have done enough damage that Delaney will squeak out a close win, something on the order of 31-30. Milad Pooran will likely run a respectable third with 21%, while Ron Little grabs 10% and Charles Bailey the last 8%.
The Second District GOP race is also interesting, but I think Nancy Jacobs will win it with relative ease, probably with 40% or so of the vote. Larry Smith comes in around 28%, Rick Impallaria with 19%, and the other two with single digits apiece.
Meanwhile, I think John LaFerla will be the First District Democratic nominee against Andy Harris and he’ll end up just short of a majority – 49% district-wide against Wendy Rosen’s 43%. Kim Letke will get the last 8%. What puts LaFerla over the top in the primary is the endorsement of Wayne Gilchrest. What keeps him from winning in November is being endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
GOP winners in other districts will be Eric Knowles (3rd), Faith Loudon (4th), Tony O’Donnell (5th), Frank Mirabile (7th), and Dave Wallace (8th). Wallace gets the nod because the other three candidates will likely split the Montgomery County vote just enough for him to win over Ken Timmerman. Of course, there will not be any upsets among the incumbent Democrats – all of them will get over 75% in their respective primaries.
So what do you think? Am I all wet or do I have a good chance of being correct – and why? As opposed to yesterday, I’m going to leave this up all day until results come in.
Those of you across the border may be interested to know Newt Gingrich has several Delaware events planned this week, well in advance of their April 24 primary. He also has two stops later today in Frederick, Maryland.
Newt will be at a local auto dealership and Hood College in Frederick in a last-ditch effort to improve his Maryland standing, which places him in the low teens, according to recent polls. But tomorrow evening wife Callista comes to the First State for a speaking date at the Sussex and Kent County Republican Women’s Dinner in Milford.
Thursday will be a whirlwind day of stops in Delaware, with plans for Callista to read to children at a Christian academy in Dover, Newt to visit the Delaware Electric Cooperative office in Greenwood, then both holding late afternoon and evening rallies in Magnolia and Millsboro, at their respective fire halls. (I suppose one could call that a whistle stop tour.)
It’s obvious Newt is making his appeal to the conservative side of the Delaware GOP as his initial itinerary steers him away from the more centrist Wilmington area, where the bulk of Delaware voters live. On the other hand, the rural portion of Delaware he’s visiting is well off the beaten path for Presidential politics in most years – but 2012 will be an exception.
And it’s likely that these events will have a markedly different feel than Newt’s Salisbury stop, because they’ll likely be populated with local officeseekers gladhanding and the actual trappings of a political rally as opposed to Newt’s low-key college presence – conveniently, Newt has a fire hall rally in both Kent (Magnolia) and Sussex (Millsboro) counties. This is important because Delaware has a number of local elections including a Republican nomination to oppose current Governor Jack Markell.
So Newt fans who couldn’t get a seat at Salisbury University because the event was only open to campus attendees can see the Gingriches live and in person on Thursday if they want to take the drive up Delaware Route 24 to Millsboro. It’s a nice, sleepy little town that will be far more awake come Thursday evening.
They were lined up an hour early at Holloway Hall at Salisbury University to witness a little history – for the first time in recent memory the presidential campaign came to the lower Eastern Shore.
And true to the advice given by one university official who stressed the school wanted to promote “critical thinking” without heckling or other inappropriate disruptions, the audience of about 200 inside the hall was very well-behaved. The parents of these SU students should be quite proud of how their charges acted inside the hall. Once the question-and-answer period began it was obvious that not all in the room shared Gingrich’s worldview but the discussion was extremely civil.
Well, the Presidential campaign comes to the Eastern Shore – but you need to be a member of the SU campus community to see him.
Taking a page from fellow competitor Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich will be appearing at Holloway Hall tomorrow afternoon from 3 to 4 p.m. However, the event is closed to the general public as it’s only open to those with campus ID.
More as the story develops…
Update: I managed to talk my way into the event through a friend, so a full report tonight.