Who’s out may be as important as who’s in

Recently I’ve posted about three likely entrants into the 2016 Presidential race – Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson on the Republican side and Jim Webb representing the Democrats. Naturally with an open seat the interest in the job increases, since there’s no incumbent with his built-in advantages to contend with. This opens the field to a lot of potential contenders who passed on the 2012 race for various reasons. Recall that many of those who ran in 2012 on the GOP side are still active in the political arena – Newt Gingrich with his production group, Rick Santorum with Patriot Voices, Mitt Romney with endorsements and help with financial support, and Rick Perry with his RickPAC, among others.

Obviously Democrats were silent in 2012, but it’s been known that grassroots movements have sprung up for Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren (who’s trying to tell her supporters “no”) while Martin O’Malley began his own PAC for 2014. Joe Biden claims he “honest to God hasn’t made up my mind” about running.

On the GOP side, these aforementioned contenders have one thing in common: except for Perry, who did not seek another term and leaves next month, they are not currently serving in office. (On the other hand, among the Democrats only Webb and Clinton are out of office, although O’Malley joins that group January 21.) Yet the GOP has an extremely deep bench of current governors, many of which are in their second term and have national name recognition: in alphabetical order, the group includes Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich in Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

In recent years, our presidents have tended to be former governors: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all came from that background. Obviously their tenures in the Oval Office were a mixed bag of success, but Americans tend to be more confident that those who ran a state can run a federal government. (The only recent exceptions to this were 2012 with Mitt Romney and 1988, where Vice-President Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Maybe being governor of Massachusetts works as a disqualifier.)

With the large potential field of governors, it may be just as important to know who’s out. When you have a state to run for another four years, the excuses for trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are fewer. It’s not to say that governors who want the brass ring won’t try and make that effort, but as we’ve seen with Martin O’Malley and his frequent journeys to New Hampshire and Iowa in his second term, there is the potential for losing focus on your real job. It was enough to cost his anointed successor his election, for the dubious gain of polling at 1 percent or less in most 2016 Presidential polls.

There are perhaps 15 to 20 figures in national politics who could potentially run for President on the Republican side – far more than the Democrats boast. Of course, only one can win a party’s nomination, but beyond that there are only three or four who can be in the top tier and raise the money necessary to wage a national campaign. (It’s something that Martin O’Malley is finding out firsthand on the Democrat side, since he’s not one of those.) It’s been claimed on a grassroots level that the last two Republican campaigns were decided when the “establishment” settled on one candidate before the activists did – that group split their allegiances and votes several ways until it was too late. By the time Rick Santorum outlasted Gingrich, Perry, et. al. he was no more than the highest loser because at that point the nomination was just about sealed for Mitt Romney. Romney may have been the best candidate for 2012, but he wasn’t good enough to get the nearly 3.6 million who passed on voting for Barack Obama a second time to come on board.

People like to keep their options open, but since the announcements of who’s in seem to be receding farther and farther from the actual election, it may help those of us on the Right who would like to select a candidate to know who won’t be running. Obviously there will be a few ardent supporters who will pine for that candidate to reconsider – as far-left populist Democrats are finding with Elizabeth Warren – but we could save a lot of wasted money and effort by finding out who won’t make a half-hearted attempt at an early date.

A full-court press for support

Last Saturday I received this pamphlet in the mail, something I could only describe as a full-court press to make Dr. Ben Carson into a viable Presidential candidate for 2016.

To those who didn’t receive it, here is a description: it’s a 32-page, full-color pamphlet – essentially 8 full-sized sheets of paper, front and back, with a cardstock cover, festooned with patriotic images and some descriptive text. In essence, it’s a very long fundraising letter but its stated purpose is for the reader to sign it as if it were a petition in an enclosed envelope and send it back, preferably with a personal note of support.

But wait, there’s more! I also received ANOTHER six-page fundraising pitch along with yet a third single-page cover letter, again asking for money. Not knowing just how many were sent out – I received two because another copy was inadvertently left with mine in the mailbox (it’s been sent on to the intended recipient down the road) you have to figure this operation is costing the “Run Ben Run” front group at least low six figures and perhaps even seven if the list is over 200,000 people.

So what is the pitch? The booklet claims Carson is the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. Why?

It all comes down to 17% of the Black Vote!

Hillary knows that any Republican candidate who wins just 17% of the black vote makes it impossible for her or any Democrat running for President to win even one swing state.

Why am I so sure that Dr. Carson will win at least 17% of the black vote? Here’s why…

2012 Presidential Candidate Herman Cain’s Internal Polls Revealed A Shocking Revelation!

When Herman Cain ran for President in 2012, he was stunned to learn that his internal polls showed him winning more than 40% of the black vote and more than 60% of the Latino vote.

As you can imagine, the Cain campaign team was perplexed. How could Herman Cain draw huge support from both the African American and the Hispanic community running against America’s first black president, Barack Obama? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

What they concluded was that poor African Americans and poor Latinos saw in Herman Cain a man who had experienced their lot in life – being born into poverty. They believed that he understood their plight and more important, he understood how to escape poverty and experience economic success.

In short, they identified with Herman Cain.

Now, if African Americans and Hispanics identified that much with Herman Cain…

Imagine How African Americans and Hispanics Will Identify With And Support Dr. Ben Carson! (All emphasis in original.)

Oh yeah, it’s laid on just that thick and written that breathlessly throughout the pamphlet, which also includes the claim that Ben is “A Genuine Ronald Reagan Conservative.” (No conservative worth his salt can make a statement without comparing himself to Reagan.) That’s not to say the results wouldn’t be similar, but I suspect there’s a giant disconnect between the situation in 2011 when Herman Cain was planning a run and 2015 when Carson is contemplating his. Remember, Cain had at least run for office once before in a statewide race – campaign experience Carson is lacking. Something this book doesn’t cover is how Carson will fend off every liberal member of the media digging up (or making up) whatever dirt on Carson they think will stick. Any crank with a malpractice suit against Dr. Carson’s practice will walk away with their 15 minutes of fame for sharing their (probably embellished) story.

Something this book does have, though, is very sketchy bullet points on some issues.

For example, Carson “advocates cutting government spending by 10% each year, across the board, until the budget is balanced.” So defense that’s already being cut to the bone would fare worse still under Carson. It’s the problem with across-the-board cuts – things which are bloated are cut too slowly, while vital programs are starved of funds.

He would repeal and replace Obamacare while giving everyone in America an electronic medical record and pretax health savings account. That makes more sense, but still leaves me mildly skeptical.

Carson advocates a flat tax in order to “make sure that everyone has skin in the game.” I’d prefer the FairTax but a flat tax would be acceptable provided we also eliminated backup withholding. Our church doesn’t take money out of our paychecks off the top, so why should the government?

As for social issues, Carson believes marriage is only between a man and a woman and is pro-life. The book also quotes Carson on welfare:

A truly moral nation enacts policies that encourage personal responsibility and discourage self-destructive behavior by not subsidizing people who live irresponsibly and make poor choices.

He also points out:

While values, knowledge, and compassion are the key for getting America back on track, the most important thing is prayer.

Carson seems to get most of his support from social conservatives who haven’t been terribly thrilled with the last two Republican nominees. It’s a branch of the Republican party that the powers that be seem to take for granted, although they helped to maintain the campaign for Rick Santorum for quite awhile in 2012. Many of those southern and midwestern states (including Iowa and South Carolina) will probably be the most fertile ground for Carson if he decides to run – on the other hand, this may not play as well in New Hampshire and Nevada, although the latter would be a test case for the Hispanic vote.

The pamphlet comes on the heels of a 40-minute long infomercial which aired last month in a number of markets just after the election (and is being re-broadcast this week on the Newsmax TV network, available from satellite providers.) Carson isn’t officially in the race but isn’t preventing the speculation, either.

As for the petition: sure, I sent it in. There’s nothing wrong with Carson that the run won’t reveal, although if I were leaning toward anyone right now I would say it would be one of the governors considering a bid. But it’s good to see someone who explicitly exhibits Christian values take a shot at the brass ring.

A more colorful shopping day

November 21, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

This time next week bleary-eyed shoppers may already be ready to call it a day at a time when most normally arrive for work.

Playing on the theme of “black Friday,” the Patriot Voices advocacy group is seeking to make that shopping day a “red, white, and blue Friday” by encouraging shoppers to buy American. The “Made in the USA Christmas Challenge” is one that promotes both American-based manufacturing and small businesses by also promoting Small Business Saturday the following day. Patriot Voices founder and former Senator Rick Santorum noted:

This Christmas season, millions of hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet.  If we hope to lift up all Americans, we must first support those families and the jobs they hold.  This means supporting American companies and American-made products at the check-out line.  While our effort may be small in the grand scheme of the holidays, everyone must do their part to making sure we support our family, friends, and neighbors.

The folks at Patriot Voices also added:

The 2nd annual Patriot Voices “Made in the USA” Christmas Challenge will bring attention to the need to buy American-made goods and shop at local small businesses this holiday season.  Senator Santorum will encourage Patriot Voices members and Americans around the country to sign a pledge to shop locally and buy American made goods this Christmas.

Oddly enough, in doing a bit of research I found Santorum sought this pledge in 2012, which either makes this the third rendition or means they skipped 2013. Regardless, it’s a pretty good idea.

For several months I’ve placed an emphasis on manufacturing jobs, believing it’s a great way to grow the economy and also return our country to a position of prominence in the world such that we had during the Greatest Generation, a time when we produced our way to victory in a world war. This is a continuation of that effort and it’s a worthwhile one. (It also doesn’t hurt that I know a good source for finding American-made products, one which just happens to be based in Santorum’s home state.)

Realistically, it would be difficult to get everything on your Christmas list “made in America.” In particular, those loss leader electronics which will be fought over on Thanksgiving night and/or the wee hours of Friday morning when stores open are generally made overseas. Unfortunately, we don’t make Xbox or PS4 consoles here nor do we produce most tablets, iPhones, or other such gadgets. I don’t think this has to be a permanent problem, though – it just takes some sound reworking of tax and regulation policies along the lines of that which Rick has supported in the past. Those philosophies led a lot of people in the Midwest and South to vote for Santorum in 2012 – even I did after my top choice(s) dropped out of the running.

Honestly, I’m not much of a shopper. But those who power-shop are encouraged to join in this effort because the job you could create might be that of your neighbor or family member. A new opportunity for a struggling breadwinner can be the greatest gift of all.

The values voters speak

Obviously I’ve been concerned about the upcoming Maryland election, and we’re probably four to six months away from the formal beginnings of the 2016 Presidential campaign on both sides of the aisle. But over the weekend, while Allen West was speaking to us, a few of his former Congressional colleagues were addressing the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington in an attempt to gain support. Ted Cruz narrowly topped the field in their annual straw poll, drawing 25% of the vote and besting fellow contenders Ben Carson (20%), Mike Huckabee (12%), and Rick Santorum (10%). Leading a second tier were Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul, both with 7% of the 901 votes cast.

Also worth talking about were the issues this group was most concerned with: protecting religious liberty topped the list, with abortion a strong second. Interestingly enough, protecting natural marriage was the top vote-getter as the number 3 issue on people’s lists, but was seventh as a choice for number one contender and a distant third as a second place issue. Whether people are begrudgingly accepting same-sex unions due to isolated votes and ill-considered judicial decisions overturning the expressed will of the people or see it more as a religious liberty issue based on the experiences of those who object is an open question, though.

The other open question is just how much this voting bloc will take in terms of being ignored. There is a bloc of the Republican Party which says that social issues are to be avoided because it alienates another, supposedly larger group of moderate voters. Needless to say, Democrats exploit this as well – the Maryland gubernatorial race is a good example.

Even the Baltimore Sun concedes that “(p)ortraying Larry Hogan as a hard-core right-wing Republican is part of Brown’s strategy.” This despite Hogan’s insistence that Maryland settled the abortion issue 22 years ago in a referendum, just as they decided same-sex unions in 2012. To believe the other side, these votes were overwhelming mandates; in the 1992 case they have a point but not so much the same-sex unions one which passed by less than 5% on the strength of a heavy Montgomery County vote (just six counties voted yes, but it was enough.)

Yet I believe the abortion balloting is open to question because attitudes about abortion have changed. According to Gallup, the early 1990s were the nadir for the pro-life movement so perhaps the question isn’t the third rail political consultants seem to believe. To be perfectly honest, while there’s no question where I stood on the more recent Question 6 regarding same-sex unions I would have likely been more neutral on the 1992 version at the time because in my younger days I leaned more to the pro-choice side. I didn’t really become pro-life until I thought through the ramification of the right to life for the unborn and how it trumped the mother’s so-called right to privacy. Exceptions for rape and incest I could buy – although I would strongly prefer the child be carried to term and given to a loving adoptive family – but not unfettered baby murder just as a method of birth control. Now I’m firmly on the pro-life side.

So when Larry Hogan makes these statements about how certain items are off-limits because at some past point voters have spoken doesn’t make those who have faith-based core beliefs overly confident in a Hogan administration as an alternative to Anthony Brown. They may hold their nose and vote for Hogan, but they won’t be the people who are necessary cogs in a campaign as volunteers and financial contributors.

On the other hand, there is a better possibility we could see action on these fronts with the federal government, even if it’s only in terms of selecting a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade (placing the matter with the states where it belongs) and understands there is a legitimate religious objection to same-sex nuptials and funding abortions via health insurance as mandated by Obamacare.

We’ve been told for years that conservatives can’t win if they stress social issues. But on the federal level I’ve noticed that even when Republicans haven’t been addressing the social side we have lost, so why not motivate a set of voters which serves as the backbone of America?

Are we really one generation away?

September 18, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Over the last few years, there’s been a fairly quiet development in the film industry, one which highlights faith-based stories. The other day I found out about a documentary film which looks at the state of religion in America, with the unique pitch of turning places of worship into its world premiere theaters.

It was passed along to me via the vast mailing list of Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices organization, but Santorum’s EchoLight Studios has put together a documentary called “One Generation Away.” The title borrows from the Reagan speech where he warned freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. Naturally, the film has its naysayers from the secular community, but those who have a basis in their faith must feel like persecuted second-class citizens these days.

Yet given the obvious role of church as gathering place and the investments many have made in their own theatrical-quality audio and video systems, the Santorum strategy of pitching the documentary and other upcoming EchoLight movies as something to be seen at a church (as opposed to a regular theater) has some merit. As they sell it:

Imagine premiering world class, redemptive films in your church, building community within and reaching outside the four walls to engage those within your city.

First of all, while many may balk at being seen going to a theater which is playing that movie, how many would even go to a church to watch it? You could accuse the filmmakers of preaching to the choir, but it seems to me that’s what they want to do. There will be some small percentage of viewers who might become churchgoers thanks to the screening, but it will likely be the fellowship which attracts them moreso than the content of the movie drawing any new worshipers back. I could see this being akin to a long sermon, one which doesn’t focus on a particular Biblical passage, but the concept of religious freedom in America circa 2014. Notice the artwork depicting a church standing on the precipice – it’s obvious those who created the film feel like they’re under attack from the secular side of society.

One other advantage of this sort of marketing is that they don’t have to fall under Hollywood’s rules on what constitutes a successful movie. If “One Generation Away” had gone into theatrical release and grossed, say, $2 million its first weekend, the conventional wisdom would be it was on the bomb on the scale of these from last year. Certainly there would be some cost involved for patrons, but it’s likely the distributor won’t mind a loss on OGA in the hope to make some back on video sales and build a market for future films. It’s not like the OGA movie had a large budget to begin with.

So I checked into the distribution locally and found the movie wasn’t slated for any area locations, even as the premiere period began September 1 (it runs through November 28.) More than likely, though, some area church will be interested enough to give it a try.

But the question remains: with Judeo-Christian values under assault from popular culture and the government, is it all up to the Millennial Generation to keep the flame of religious liberty alight? We need more than a movie to answer the question, but hopefully some hearts and minds will be changed.

Effective ridicule?

March 25, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Occasionally I’ll see something in my e-mail which piques my interest, and this evening the winner was this video put out by former Senator (and presidential candidate) Rick Santorum’s group Patriot Voices.

The message of the video, called “Attention Deficit”: we don’t have a President who’s serious about the job. Or just let them describe it:

It highlights how despite the dramatic events and foreign policy challenges our country is facing, President Obama seems to care more about becoming a pop culture icon than a serious Commander-in-Chief.

As far as that goes, the accusations seem to be true. It’s well known, for example, that George W. Bush gave up golf in 2003 – some have reported that it was because “it just sent the wrong message” during the Long War. And while Bush wouldn’t criticize his successor for hitting the links, many Americans who wish they could afford to go out and hit a few at the local municipal course may beg to differ.

It’s become the norm, though, for presidents to burnish their celebrity status by appearing on various Hollywood productions, often doing so in a tongue-in-cheek manner. But wouldn’t it be better to have a person whose nose is firmly to the grindstone in these troubled times? Certainly the ersatz examples in the video won’t come true, but then again who predicted a president would mess up a popular song during a White House concert?

Whether Rick is in the 2016 race or not, his organization makes a pretty good point. Naturally the e-mail was looking for donations (as does the landing page I used for it) but at this time I’m not sure they would use this as a TV ad or not – for one thing, it’s about thirty seconds too long, but probably could be distilled to proper length.

I guess the way I see it is that we need to put the adults back in charge again. Call me a prude if you will, but I would like someone more serious and sober conducting our affairs, both at a state and national level.

Reversing the process

I got an interesting e-mail the other day – not necessarily for the content, but who it was from and what it may represent.

After the 2012 Republican primary campaign wrapped up, a number of the also-rans decided to form political groups or super PACs to keep their names out there, continue compiling e-mail lists, and – most importantly – keep the money coming in. Two good examples are Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices group he formed shortly after withdrawing and the American Legacy PAC Newt Gingrich is wrapped up in.

But as we begin to inch toward the 2016 campaign, the Republican field is (hopefully) looking beyond the retreads from past elections, and the potential first-time candidates are numerous. Sure, you have your share of governors like, for example, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Scott Walker, along with a number of those already in Washington like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who has began the slog by winning a couple key straw polls.

Yet there’s always something about a campaign: the issues you may think will be the hot-button issues a couple years in advance rarely turn out to be; heck, even six months is a political lifetime. But Barack Obama’s foreign policy weaknesses, which were successfully swept under the rug for 2012, seem to be much more prominent of late. It’s interesting how the race to enroll people by the March 31 deadline for Obamacare and the entirety of the debacle itself still hasn’t quite been able to succeed in pushing the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation off the front pages, no matter how hard the Obama admnistration tries to mash that “reset” button.

So yesterday, thanks to the always-growing number of people who seem to have my e-mail address on file, I found out that former Ambassador John Bolton created a PAC last year. He was looking for donations, of course, but one has to ask whether the time has arrived for a foreign policy hawk to assume the Commander-in-Chief’s position? I can’t answer the question, of course, but it’s relevant to ask because Bolton drew 3% of the vote at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Granted, that’s not in the league of the aforementioned Paul, Christie, et. al. but it’s three times better than Martin O’Malley is doing in Iowa and everyone knows MOM’s gunning for the White House sooner or later. Like O’Malley, Bolton is even a Maryland native.

Maybe what got me to thinking Bolton may make a run is the PAC website. Its look and feel gives me the impression that it’s a couple little tweaks from being the John Bolton for President website. Instead of featuring candidates the PAC may be helping, it’s focused completely on Bolton himself – not a bad thing, but why have the pretense?

At the risk of being called a neocon, I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Bolton to make a run and create a referendum on our foreign policy. Obviously John was there during the George W. Bush years when we were hip-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately it’s beginning to appear all that blood and treasure was for naught because we left before the job was (or will be) done. In both cases, we stopped short of annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force as we did in World War II. (Arguably, this is true of all our conflicts in the post-atomic era – well, maybe Grenada turned out pretty good.)

Unfortunately, those who have opposed us since the Vietnam era have learned that our resolve is only as good as the news cycle allows it to be. One would think after 9/11 we would see the Long War through but it doesn’t appear our current Commander-in-Chief is interested in victory or even rules of engagement which would allow the possibility because someone here may be offended. In the interim, much damage has been done to both our military and our national psyche, and Hillary Clinton won’t be the right person to fix it – for one thing, she wouldn’t hire John Bolton, PAC or no PAC.

The R3volution will NOT be televised

August 11, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Mainstream media, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

On Monday another former Presidential candidate tries to become a media maven.

In and of itself, that’s not unusual as several of the alsorans have taken to the new media in various ways: Newt Gingrich has Gingrich Productions, which works in the realms of film and literature. Rick Santorum founded Patriot Voices as an advocacy group, but one which offers a movie called “Our Sacred Honor.” Perhaps the closest to doing multimedia is Herman Cain, but the ambitious “new online network of programming designed to give you the other side of popular culture, politics, entertainment” of CainTV has seemed to devolve into a mix of regular short videos and written commentary to go along with Herman’s nationally-syndicated radio show.

Yet the idea is still appealing, and on Monday Ron Paul will debut what he calls the Ron Paul Channel. There he promises:

When the Ron Paul Channel launches, we’ll take mainstream media by storm. No advertisers, no corporate agenda — just the truth delivered exclusively to subscribers like you.

From the looks of it, there will be at least some daily programming on the Ron Paul Channel beginning tomorrow – perhaps not a 24/7 setup like a cable news network, but having an exclusively online presence also saves in the overhead of actually securing a channel on cable or satellite, as Glenn Beck has done. Similarly, another alternative news network targeting the conservative audience is the TEA Party News Network, which is comprised of videos of their personalities on other news sources.

Trying a more conventional route, however, is One America News, which went on the air in July and runs constant programming to around 10 million cable-equipped homes. Their alliance with the Washington Times lends them some gravitas but may lead to a perception that they’re a knockoff of Fox News.

But Ron Paul has a rabidly loyal following that these other outlets don’t, with the possible exception of Beck. So what kind of audience can such a channel expect?

Let’s look at some numbers.

In 2012, according to Wikipedia, Ron Paul received 2,095,795 votes. However, there are perhaps 10 percent of these voters who would be the most militant followers and that’s the base one can expect to at least look at the RPC. So we’re down to 210,000 homes and maybe 10 percent of that crowd would be using the RPC as their primary news source daily. I think 21,000 viewers daily is a fairly decent estimate of their potential audience to start if all goes well and the programming is of sufficient quality. It may seem like a lot but it pales in comparison to what the cable networks reach, even on a summer weekend.

(As a point of comparison, the social media presence of the RPC has fewer than 13,000 followers right now between Facebook and Twitter. So I may not be far off base.)

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the RPC won’t be looking for sponsors, but subscribers. To me, that implies a monetary component which could be a few dollars a month or more for enhanced access. Obviously I could be wrong, and I hope I am because one would think that spreading the truth according to Ron Paul would be done in such a way to make it as accessible as possible.

A channel run by moneybombs? I suppose it’s possible; after all, we’ve found over the last half-decade or more that Dr. Paul is a pretty good marketer.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

Getting it wrong

This is the kind of thing which happens when you don’t have your ear to the ground: brilliant planning, poor execution.

I was sort of glad to see that John Tate, president of the Campaign for Liberty, took the time to explain some of what he saw as the effects of the RNC rules changes made last summer. (It’s a very lengthy diatribe, so I chose to link to it rather than reprint it all. Some of those in my audience probably received their own copy.)

However, I will bring up one passage from the message. See if you can spot the error:

Now, Virginia RNC Committeeman Morton Blackwell – who led the fight against implementation of the new rules in Tampa – will be introducing a resolution to reverse them.

That is why I need you to contact your Republican National Committee representatives IMMEDIATELY to urge them to support Blackwell’s repeal effort.

You are represented at the RNC by the State Party Chairman, a National Committeeman, and a National Committeewoman from your state.

It requires a 75% vote of all RNC members to overturn these rules, so your action could not be more critical.

As you’ll see, I’ve included their contact information for you below.

National Committeeman Louis Pope: 301-776-1988 louismpope (at) aol.com

National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose: 410-323-6698 nicolee (at) nicoleeambrose.com

State Chairman Alex Mooney: 301-874-5649 amooney (at) mdgop.org

Who’s this Alex Mooney guy? Didn’t he move to West Virginia?

Obviously Tate was using an outdated list to compile the information, but he also makes an interesting observation: it doesn’t really matter who is on the Standing Rules Committee if all 168 vote on the changes. Obviously there are only 43 sticks in the mud who can stop it, given the RNC’s extremely steep 3/4 threshold, but our job is to beseech the three representing Maryland to vote the correct way. Certainly we would prefer Nicolee Ambrose be the one who represents the state on the Standing Rules Committee, but Diana Waterman can help or hurt her cause with her vote.

Now I don’t have Diana’s phone number, but the e-mail listed at the state website is simply chairman (at) mdgop.org.

Tate’s secondary point is that the RNC wants to move away from the caucus system used in some states, where insurgent candidates with grassroots support like Ron Paul did best, to what would eventually be a regional primary system. Tate makes the point that those candidates with the most money and favorable coverage (i.e. the “establishment”) would gain an advantage over those who may be supported by the grassroots.

Yet the facts don’t necessarily bear this out. Certainly Ron Paul had his share of success in the small states which run strictly on a caucus basis, but Rick Santorum won a number of state primaries through a grassroots network of those more concerned with social issues. He never had the monetary backing of Mitt Romney but did well enough to outlast most of the remaining candidates. I could see Ron Paul’s strategy of using his supporters to take enough states to place his name into nomination, but it never came to pass.

Still, Romney won, doing best in states where there were “open” primaries or where the media markets were most expensive. For the second cycle in a row – and arguably since the days of Reagan – we Republicans were saddled with a candidate who wasn’t palatable to various factions of the pro-liberty movement. (Remember, Reagan campaigned on items like eliminating the Department of Education. It’s obviously still around and no GOP nominee has made that promise since.)

Here’s where I disagree with Tate, though. Why not take this opportunity to reform the broken nominating system and make it shorter, install a quick series of regional primaries during the late spring/early summer of the election year which would only require a few weeks of sacrifice for the grassroots people to get out the word for their candidate, and allow those who earned their convention posts at the state level to be seated no matter who they support instead of insisting on binding winner-take-all primaries? After all, it’s a nomination and not a coronation, and if it takes more than one ballot to select a nominee, so be it. From what I make of it, the Blackwell resolution reverses the changes made by Ben Ginsberg and restores the national party to the rules originally adopted for the next cycle. But we can do so much more with this opportunity and can set these changes in stone at a time well in advance of the nominating process.

If they are going to tinker with the rules at this point, why not get them right and maximize the grassroots participation?

Update: The subsequent reminder e-mail now has the right information.

My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you at CPAC, I was ready to return upstairs to see Sarah Palin (and ran into Dan Bongino in the process.)

But I wanted to digress beforehand and explain a little bit about my vantage point for the event.

When I walked in early on and finally found the media check-in, they gave me this.

CPAC badge

Obviously that gave me floor access, but for most of my time there (except when I walked up to take pictures) I was back in this area.

By the way, the woman sitting in front of me in the multi-colored shirt was my friend Jackie Wellfonder, who was covering CPAC for Viral Read. Nice work for her!

We were segregated into the area – which had some perks, like free coffee and pop – with the one problem being the obstructed view. But we had a good place to work and power to plug in our laptops.

The only complaint I would have was the internet access. It was provided by the TEA Party News Network, which I appreciate. But it was overwhelmed, with the best analogy I could give being that of sending a Yugo to run a NASCAR race.

I would have liked to do more Tweeting from the event, but it simply wasn’t possible.

Since I knew Sarah Palin was slated to speak at noon, I was upstairs a little early. I came back just in time to see a former Democrat speak.

Artur Davis is a former Congressman (and onetime Obama supporter) who has come around to the conservative side. Davis pointed out that the 43 million conservative voters in America are the country’s largest voting bloc. “This is our America too and we are not going anywhere!,” he exclaimed.

At last, Sarah Palin was introduced.

No, that’s not Sarah nor is that a mistakenly-placed picture. “As all of you know, I’m not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin,” opened Senator Ted Cruz. “She drives the media batcrap crazy.”

But he stepped out to proclaim that Sarah Palin was among the biggest reasons he was in the Senate. “She picks winners,” said Cruz, citing as examples Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Pat Toomey, and Nikki Haley in 2010, along with Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, and Cruz last year.

“I would not be in the Senate today if it weren’t for Governor Sarah Palin,” concluded Cruz. “She is principled, she is courageous, and she is a mama grizzly.”

Palin’s speech has been reviewed as one chock full of one-limers and quips, and it was.

However, she made time for chastising the Senate for not passing a budget. She also pointed out that leaders take risks while campaigners make promises and made the case that “we’ll never win a contest of identity politics.” Sarah also warned us to not let the media intimidate us and had the prescience to quip “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates.” She advised the inside-the-Beltway crowd to “get over yourself.”

But Sarah Palin’s seminal moment was the Super Big Gulp. I think the Southland Corporation owes SarahPAC a pretty hefty contribution for the free advertising they received from this one gesture – somewhere around National Harbor a 7-11 should be advertising that they sold Sarah’s Big Gulp. I wondered why the lights were dimmed before Sarah’s performance – the three roadies were delivering her prop.

(The picture is actually a photo of the monitor in front of me at the time.) But my burning question: was it Coke or Pepsi?

After Sarah finished, I decided to do a little more exploring. Going upstairs I saw the screening room for a number of movies sponsored by Citizens United.

There were also breakout sessions going on, like this one wrapping up from TEA Party Patriots.

But the real reason I went there was that a flyer had advised me of a Breitbart News-sponsored event dubbed “The Uninvited.”

I got a picture of Steve King which turned out this time, as he introduced the event by speaking about Andrew Breitbart, a man whose “integrity was essential.” Breitbart’s CEO Larry Silov added that “we mjust be willing to discuss issues.”

This was an event was intended to address some items which weren’t featured prominently enough on the main CPAC stage: global jihad, persecution of Christians, gutting the military, and immigration were cited. Among the “uninvited” speakers was Pamela Geller, who was also featured at Turning the Tides. They had a packed house.

I didn’t stay for the event, which is the thing about CPAC: it’s way more than one person can see. (The same goes for several of the films screened there as well as the breakout sessions, which occur at the same time as speakers and panels downstairs.) The Uninvited event is covered well on Breitbart’s site, though.

Instead, I had a meeting of sorts to attend. Some of you who have seen my Facebook page have already seen this shot.

Allen West and I

When I had stopped by the PJ Media booth earlier, I was told Lt. Col. West would be there at 1:30 and I arrived just in time to be behind Jackie Wellfonder in line. So I took advantage.

By this time, I decided to head back up so I could see Mia Love, a rising star in the conservative movement. But because they were running somewhat behind, I caught some of the stories of the “Conservatives Under 40″ featured as a panel.

Next up was a panel headed by former Senate candidate and Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who believed “this is the century of brain power and innovation.” She was joined by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who cited the “U-Haul test” and quipped “California is Washington, D.C. is waiting,” and New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who asserted that our business is what separates us from South Sudan – they have no “kinetic energy.” The panel eventually suggested that perhaps a million small-business march on Washington may be needed to build awareness of their issues.

Brent Bozell spoke next, pleading his case that we need to stop listening to professional politicians and consultants who are most responsible for our “trainwreck.” He also ticked off a list of things which “aren’t conservative” like the new Ryan budget, House leadership, Jeb Bush, Bob McDonnell (who can “forget his national aspirations”, according to Bozell), and Karl Rove. The mention of Rove drew a chorus of boos from the audience.

We would work with these guys, said Brent, but it would have to be on our terms: “our days of playing second fiddle to moderates are over,” concluded Bozell.

We finally got to listen to Mia Love, who was introduced by comedian Stephen Crowder as a woman “liberals check under their bed for.” Somehow I had a lot of good pictures of her, this was the best.

“The pundits of doom and gloom would have you believe all is lost,” said Mia. But her upbeat message was of great cause of confidence: we can restore our confidence in this country and stand out as examples of what is good and right.

Next up was the final panel of the day. a confab called the CPAC All-Star panel.

I’ll admit that I spent the better part of my time this panel was speaking in writing the first portion of Part 1 of this series, but my ears perked up when Larry O’Connor of Breitbart News mentioned Andy Harris’s evisceration of CDC director Tom Frieden over the effects of the sequester.

After the All-Star Panel concluded its work, Dinesh d’Souza spoke on the upcoming film “America,” which as he stated, highlights the idea of the self-made man. This “couldn’t be more different than Obama’s idea,” which to d’Souza seemed to be one that the free market is a form of theft.

The film will ponder the question “what if America didn’t exist?”

RNC Chair Reince Priebus noted that the “House Republican budget is right for America” while the Democratic budget never balances. He also believed we need to introduce the government to the Tenth Amendment.

“Conservatives have to hold the government accountable,” Priebus concluded. “I applaud the new generation of liberty-minded Republicans.”

NRA head David Keene embraced Priebus after being introduced to speak, saying “he is a guy who gets it.” He also recounted a long history of conservative vs. establishment Republican battles dating back over a half-century and reminded us that 50% of voters under 30 voted for Ron Paul – but party leaders don’t really want voters in their clique, Keene said.

Political movements have two choices, said Keene: they can grow, or they can die. It was interesting to hear a member of the old guard speak to a crowd mainly comprised of those two generations younger, as we shall soon see.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers was another warmup act, one who cautioned us that “for too long we’ve been talking like bookkeepers rather than leaders.” She added, “we need to be the party of the 100 percent.”

After giving out the video of the year award to the University of Georgia College Republicans and the Blogger of the Year award to Katie Pavlich, who accepted the award and told us bloggers “we have the world in front of us to conquer, so let’s do it,” we finally got to one of the last featured speakers.

Ann Coulter was her usual snarky self, particularly snapping at onetime Coulter favorite Chris Christie: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” Later, when answering an audience question about whether Christie should have been invited to CPAC, Coulter said “I’m now a single-issue voter (on immigration), so Christie is off my list.”

She also made the point of tax hikes, rhetorically asking the question sure to come from the media: Are you saying that you wouldn’t even take $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts? “See, the problem is, we’re the Indians and the Democrats are Andrew Jackson,” replied Coulter. “We’ve been through this before.”

But she got serious during her remarks, telling the audience “the reason we don’t have the Senate is because Republicans keep screwing up. I can think of about ten Senate seats in the last three election cycles that we’ve pissed away through narcissism, greed, or stupidity.”

“Passion is great, but scoring is all that counts,” said Coulter. “On the basis of this one boneheaded statement by Todd Akin out in Missouri, Democrats finally had their talking point: the Republican were waging a ‘war on women.’”

But, countered Ann, “your average Democrat actually believes things much crazier than Todd Akin – but the Democrats don’t let their candidates open their mouths and say stupid stuff.”

Philosophy is not the Republicans’ problem, though. “Conservatism is about the only thing Republicans have going for them.”

She was also harsh on the pro-amnesty wing of the Republican Party, saying “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will win another national election.” Instead, Republicans shouldn’t be desperate and adopt amnesty because Democrats want it. “People always announce their complete triumph a moment before their crushing defeat,” concluded Ann. “Our job, Republicans, is to insure Democrats have that crushing defeat.”

After Coulter finished, the CPAC straw poll results were announced. What blew me away was the percentage of under-25 people who participated, although it should have been apparent in the crowd. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio paced the field. Coming in a distant third was the top 2012 candidate on the ballot, Rick Santorum. (My vote was among the ‘other’ category, since I preferred Indiana governor Mike Pence.)

Finally, we reached the penultimate speaker, newly elected Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.

In his remarks, it’s noteworthy that Cruz spoke in front of the podium, which to me suggests either he memorized his remarks or spoke completely off the cuff, or both.

He opened up by commenting on being called a ‘wacko bird’ by John McCain: “If standing for liberty makes me a ‘wacko bird’ then count me as a proud ‘wacko bird.’”

Cruz revealed one of the biggest surprises he received upon entering the Senate was their defeatist attitude, as he countered that “for the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning.”

On the Rand Paul filibuster, Ted pointed out that the filibuster drew more support as the night went on. “Each of you engaged,” said Cruz. It was something not seen in a long time – “standing on principle.” Ted also revealed the filibuster was the very first time he had spoken on the Senate floor.

Cruz also believed we were winning on sequestration, based on the lack of reaction to Barack Obama’s “scare America tour.” The sequester was a “small step” in reining in the debt.

As part of that, another victory in Cruz’s book was the vote on an amendment her offered to repeal funding for Obamacare. “Now I’ll confess: a couple weeks ago when I said initially I was going to offer that amendment, more than a few of my colleagues were not thrilled. And yet we saw every single Republican in the Senate vote unanimously to defund Obamacare,” said Cruz. On the other hand, all the Democrats voted to keep Obamacare, “even if it pushes us into a recession,” as Cruz charged.

But the key to continue winning is twofold, to defend the Constitution and champion growth and opportunity. “Defend the Constitution: liberty is under assault from every direction,” stated Ted. He cited threats to several parts of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. “We need to repeal the NDAA ,” said Cruz to thunderous applause.

He also mentioned threats to our sovereignty. “We (the state of Texas) stood up to the President of the United States – who happened to be a Republican – and I went before the Supreme Court of the United States and said no President, Republican or Democrat, has the Constitutional authority to give away U.S. sovereignty.” Adding that Republicans stand up to Republican presidents, Cruz continued “where were the Democrats when Rand and the rest of us were standing on the floor on drones?”

On growth and opportunity, Cruz charged “we are in the midst of what I call ‘the Great Stagnation.’” Only twice in the postwar era have we seen less than 1 percent growth – from 1979-83 and over the last four years. “Obama didn’t learn the lesson from Reagan,” said Cruz. Instead, we need to embrace “opportunity conservatism,” a philosophy to ease the means of ascent up the economic ladder. To do this, we need to do a laundry list of things: repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, eliminate corporate welfare, build the Keystone pipeline, rein in the EPA, audit the Fed, stop QE infinity, abolish the Department of Education, champion school choice, stand with Israel, and stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.

Speaking to the audience, Cruz told us it was up to us to spread the message. “There are no longer gatekeepers that can decide what the American people hear and what they don’t get to hear.”  He named his site as one means of doing so, but concluded by saying “we’re here because we’re not willing to give up on America.”

Okay, I’m out of pictures, but I’m not quite finished yet.

One goal of mine was to meet fellow bloggers and promote my site. I handed out a few dozen business cards, found a couple promising leads for freelance work, and did what networking I could. But perhaps the best part was getting to meet a few of the bloggers I’d read from afar as well as make a couple new acquaintances, such as Bill Hughes, who, like me, drove down to CPAC for the day from New Jersey and was my next-door neighbor for part of the day at the media table, or Deb from Kansas (bloggers would know her as Nice Deb.) That introduction was made as I was talking with Cynthia Yockey, who I met for the first time after being linked to her for quite awhile.

And I’ll be interested to see how I turned out on DaTechGuy‘s video, since I was among the last to be featured. Maybe next year I’ll get some cannoli. I also got to meet a woman whose link from my site, if I’m not mistaken, was her first: Becca Lower from my native state of Ohio. If I heard correctly, she was a CPAC volunteer, which is really cool and commendable.

Nor can I forget some of my biggest fans, who saw me as I walked in the door: Larry and Rosemarie Helminiak spotted me and said hello, which made me feel a little more at home.

So that’s how my day went. Last year I stated making it to CPAC was one of my goals for 2013, and I accomplished it despite the limitations placed on me by my other jobs and funding. Next year, though, I’d like to experience the whole event, an endeavor which could run into the four-figure range depending chiefly on accommodations. 2 1/2 hours each way is a bitch of a commute, as I found.

I don’t normally ask this, but if you liked my coverage of CPAC and want to see more, the best way to insure that is rattling the tip jar early and often. People want to know how the mainstream media can be countered, well, here’s an opportunity to get the straight story if you care to support it.

Santorum seeks local supporters

And another offshoot of the conservative movement is born. Former GOP Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum is making an attempt to localize his Patriot Voices endeavor:

Michael,

It’s been an exciting 9 months! Since Patriot Voices started last June, we’ve already accomplished so much. We stopped a United Nations treaty that would jeopardize our parental rights. We pushed for passage of the No Budget No Pay bill, which ensures that Congress won’t get paid unless they pass a budget. And Patriot Voices PAC helped elect several strong conservatives to key House and Senate races in last year’s election.

And now, it’s time to get connected at the local level to ensure we can accomplish even more. We are starting local chapters across the country to connect local members with our state and national leadership. The role of local chapters will be to help Patriot Voices advance the first principles of conservatism in local communities across the country. We encourage our local chapter coordinators to recruit members who believe in what we’re doing and who will be ready to activate, engage and support endorsed candidates, projects and activities.

If you are interested in starting a local Patriot Voices chapter, we have an exciting way to kick it off!

We’d like you to host an “Our Sacred Honor” house party. “Our Sacred Honor” is a DVD that I narrated, which explores the meaning of our founding documents, the intentions of those who drafted these documents and the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I was fortunate enough to help tell this story through visits to many of our nation’s historic places that marked our country’s beginning.

(snip)

We look forward to working with you to make Patriot Voices a tremendous grassroots force across this country so we can impact the issues that will affect our country’s future in the years to come.

I actually found this quite intriguing, but a little worrisome at the same time. Perhaps the idea of the TEA Party as a leaderless institution has its merits, but to some it may seem like too many people are trying to cultivate the same ground here.

While he wasn’t my first choice by any stretch of the imagination, I ended up supporting Rick Santorum in the Maryland primary election because he was the best remaining candidate – overall, the voters in a number of rural Midwestern and Southern states agreed because he swept through those 2012 primaries like a prairie fire. And certainly there is a lot to like about their stances on issues - maybe I don’t fall in foursquare with Patriot Voices on everything, but they definitely fall within my 80 percent rule.

One thing I’ve noticed about the local conservative movement, though, is that it is very localized: we tend to focus on Maryland issues. Granted, many of them are extensions of fights which occur at the national level (Agenda 21 and Second Amendment issues immediately come to mind) but there are issues we don’t consider because we tie ourselves up at the state level.

I think that if you made a Venn diagram with one circle comprised of those who would be the target audience of Patriot Voices and the other being those who are active in the local TEA Party movement, they would intersect but perhaps not as much as one thinks. My thought is that, based on the social issue aspect of Patriot Voices which is not as pronounced in the TEA Party movement with its more libertarian streak, there may be room for both locally as separate groups who can work as allies on specific issues and try not to step on one another’s toes on the rest. Moreover, the national perspective of Patriot Voices may lend itself to greater opportunities for the overall pro-liberty movement at-large to work across state lines and bring together leaders from across Delmarva who may not otherwise be able to compare notes.

It will be interesting to see who steps up and becomes the leader locally – I can think of a couple candidates who may be good for the task and who read here regularly. We’ll see what they do. And I wouldn’t mind watching the movie, either.

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