Carson for 2016?

It’s become a rite of passage for presidential hopefuls on both sides – the formation of a political action committee to gauge fundraising prowess and begin to collect IOUs for later political favors. So after a long runup where his name has been floated as a possible Republican contender, Dr. Ben Carson has taken that PAC creation step, dubbing the new organization the One Nation PAC. It builds on an unofficial online draft effort which has gone on for about a year.

Terry Giles, a businessman who would be Carson’s campaign chairman if he runs, told the Washington Times Thursday that the PAC was to “explore and analyze and engage in homework to determine what the political landscape would look like and how it might materialize for a Carson for President campaign.”

So a guy who back in December said he “thought when I retired I was going to play golf and learn how to play an organ” may instead make a bid for the highest office in the land. Quite honestly, I think the minority outsider part of the dance card might still be filled by Herman Cain; however, Carson has even less political experience than Cain did because Herman at least ran for a Senate seat from Georgia in 2004 before trying for the brass ring in 2011.

Having Cain to blaze the trail could be to Ben’s advantage, though. As he told The Weekly Standard in May:

I know how vehemently the left will come after you, try to destroy you, try to destroy your family. But at the same time I recognize that people like Nathan Hale – he said, ‘My only regret is I have but one life to give to my country’ … And if everybody runs for the hills because they’re afraid that somebody is going to attack them or their family, then [the left] will have won.

As the 2016 campaign will be for an open seat, like 2008’s was, there will be no shortage of Republican hopefuls vying for a place on the ballot. Rumors abound about everyone from the familiar names of Romney and (Jeb) Bush, to TEA Party favorites like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Sarah Palin, to a list of governors which includes Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie.

But with the exception of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Carson beat all those others at the CPAC Straw Poll in March. So there are a number of voters out there looking for a true political outsider.

I believe this step is the prelude to setting up the exploratory committee, regardless of how the fall elections go. No one wants to get in the ring this soon because many of those who are considering a 2016 bid have to make it through this year’s election first. Once the election and holidays pass us by, I would expect Carson to make a go of it.

Where to draw the line?

In 52 weeks from Tuesday, Marylanders will go to the polls to decide the fate of their state government for the next four years. How long that four years will seem to Maryland Republicans will hinge on the results.

But there are a lot of people already pondering the message the party should put across, or even whether they can. Take Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum for example, who wrote today:

Our take: there is a broad culturally conservative base in the Old Line State, as well as a deep reservoir of those who quite rightly believe they are vastly overtaxed and overregulated. Understandably, many of these citizens have found the state Republican Party ineffective. How congenial is the G.O.P. to Blue Collar Maryland of all ethnicities when its chair here and the sole Republican U.S. Representative here flirt with amnesty? And why run the business risks of joining the opposition party in a one-dominant-party state if that opposition party has few fixed principles and won’t make serious trouble for the dominant party anyway?

The Maryland GOP and its politicians fell far short last year on two unusual outreach opportunities: they failed to put full energy and resources behind the referenda against gay marriage and against in-state tuition for illegals. Both these referenda did better here than governor Mitt Romney in 2012 in Maryland.

The state needs an energetic, organized conservative-grass-roots organization drawn from all parties. But the problem is like the one school reformers face: deciding whether to shut down a failing high school and start a new one with a new team, or to try to rehabilitate the failing school.

Whether to rebuild or replace the Beltway-Establishment-linked Maryland GOP is an open question.

Unfortunately, the question is already answered by the rules written for electioneering, as the two principal parties have distinct advantages over attempting to get on the ballot via a third party or as an independent. Few independents make it to the ballot in a statewide race, with failed onetime Republican Rob Sobhani the most recent example.

So the Maryland GOP it is. But which one?

Is it the group which seems content to be the perpetual opposition party, playing the game as best they can hoping for approval from the dominant side so that the state can move forward in a bipartisan manner? Damn, I hope not.

No, I’m more into the bomb throwers; the type who assumes that in order to make an omelet you have to scramble some eggs. Once the TEA Party came into being I hoped it was the impetus which would shake up a moribund state party which saw its lone Republican incumbent governor in two generations shellacked at the polls, losing one of its two Congressional seats two years later when the national elections gave the other party a stranglehold on the federal government. That was the situation we encountered at the dawn of 2009.

Once the TEA Party got rolling, I was hoping the Maryland Republican Party would embrace it. Instead, they decided the retread who had been pounded four years before was good enough to run again. But the upstart campaign of Brian Murphy brought a new element into the MDGOP  – particularly once Sarah Palin endorsed him – and the 2010 primary results showed just how significant a portion it was. To get 1/4 of the vote against a candidate the state party all but endorsed was an accomplishment.

But the race for party Chair that fall still showed we had a long way to go, with the most overt TEA Party participant receiving only a smattering of votes. It’s funny, though, how turnover in the state party erodes that which most people thought was conventional wisdom because the TEA Party favorite just missed winning the special election for Chair this spring and ended up as First Vice-Chair. Still, observers like Falknor saw it as a Pyrrhic victory at best, choosing to advocate for a different path.

I bring all that history to the fore because 2014 will be the first state election where the TEA Party is more integrated into the political process. We gained experience with the 2010 campaign, but now the hard work begins. And the question we must answer: how can we make sure those in the political middle receive the conservative message? We know the other side tries to smear and obfuscate it as much as possible.

A lot of people say the way to accomplish this is to focus strictly on pocketbook issues. But to me that misses the point – if we’re going to be painted as extremists, why not explain why we feel the way we do instead of being defensive? For example, I’m pro-life and believe life begins at conception because how else would you define when life begins? How is it logical that a child one centimeter away from exiting the birth canal can be murder but once outside is considered human?

On the other hand, though, I feel that those who commit premeditated murder forfeit the right to life through their action, and in so doing deserve the ultimate punishment of the death penalty.

Life is about far more than money and the size of government. It is also up to us to construct the guard rails for our progeny so they stay on a relatively straight and narrow path. Yes, they will have their period of rumspringa but the idea is not to allow them enough rope to hang themselves with.

Liberals will tell us that delving into social issues will keep us from winning elections, but since when do we solicit counsel from an enemy? It would be like John Harbaugh taking play-calling advice from Troy Polamalu. You know, for as far-left a state as Maryland supposedly is, it took a Presidential election against a weak Republican candidate to get more than 50% of the voters to support gay marriage. As I said at the time, that was their best chance because no one wanted it on the 2014 ballot with them,

So I don’t think all discussion of social issues should be off-limits if we use them as a teachable moment. In order to change Maryland to a “purple” state we need to educate the public on the benefits of conservative thought.

The army of 60,000

On Monday I received two e-mails touting the fact that the group Change Maryland has 60,000 Facebook “likes.” Presumably that means 60,000 people agree with their “primary mission (which) is to bring reform, fiscal responsibility and common sense to Annapolis.” I can’t disagree with that.

So for many months we’ve heard talk about a Hogan campaign for governor, a subject I’ve broached before. Interestingly enough, the Change Maryland newsletter announcing the milestone also has this link to a September article by Michael Dresser in the Baltimore Sun. In it, Hogan is quoted as saying “any decision will come later this year.”

But the fact this piece is included in the newsletter seems to be more evidence that Larry will make a go of it. And why not? Consider that Change Maryland has 60,000 followers and then read the Facebook presence (in followers/”likes”) of these gubernatorial candidates (you’ll be surprised who has the most, by the way):

  • Heather Mizeur (D) – 9,585
  • Anthony Brown (D) – 4,957
  • Doug Gansler (D) – 3,847
  • Charles Lollar (R) –  3,477
  • David Craig (R) – 2,291
  • Ron George (R) – 1,864

Naturally, Facebook likes aren’t placeholders for votes, as a recent Democratic poll (commissioned and released by Brown) had Mizeur at just 5% of the vote. You would need more grains of salt than you’ll find at a pretzel factory to take Facebook likes seriously as a surrogate for support, but the difference is still pretty stark.

And while one political observer told me a January decision by Hogan was in the cards, it seems more logical to me (and falls within the “later this year” time frame) to use this upcoming – and pricey – Change Maryland Fall Harvest Party to make a formal announcement of intentions. (Interestingly enough, this may bring additional people out for others who are doing hospitality suites as well; then again, the party’s convention call issued yesterday shows five suites and two ballrooms are still available. Could Hogan’s event serve to blow the competitors out of the water such that they pass on hospitality suites?)

Even the remarks quoted from Larry in the Change Maryland release sound like those of a candidate:

The only way to bring about real change in Maryland is to find a way to bring Republicans, Independents and fiscally conservative Democrats together. That is what our Change Maryland campaign has been so effective at accomplishing over the past couple of years.

A clear majority of Marylanders are completely fed-up with politics-as-usual in Annapolis and want to see a change in the direction that our state is heading. This isn’t just another fight between Democrats and Republicans, it’s more important than that. This is a fight for Maryland’s future and it’s a fight worth fighting.

Sadly, this administration has a failed record of lost businesses, lost jobs, higher spending, record tax increases and broken promises. The people of Maryland deserve better and that is why we have been working so hard for change.

Yet there is one advantage Larry has at the helm of Change Maryland which instantly disappears the moment he utters those magic words, “I’m running for governor.” Suddenly the campaign becomes about topics other than the poor economy of Maryland and the failure of Martin O’Malley to address it. People who love Hogan’s economic stance could be appalled at his views on the Second Amendment, the War on Rural Maryland, Common Core, or a number of other issues. If he stayed out, Hogan could be the kingmaker, the Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz of Maryland whose word and organization could swing an election toward a favored candidate (although Change Maryland is officially non-partisan.)

But I think after backing out in 2010 Larry’s getting too close to the flame to resist. It’s just a question of when and who is affected most by it.

50,000 strong – but where does it go?

Last week, in another story sort of buried in the runup to the Tawes event, the fine folks at Change Maryland hit the 50,000 “like” mark on Facebook. (Today it appears they have surpassed 51,000.) It bears recalling that in the spring of 2012 they were just at 12,000 – although I noted at the time their cake was much more optimistic. Perhaps by the spring convention of 2014 that extra zero will come in handy.

It seems the rule of thumb is that their membership grew in year two at a rate twice as fast as it did in Change Maryland’s first year – if this continues they would be in the 115,000 range by this time next year. But is that too optimistic of a goal?

The bread and butter of Change Maryland has been its strident opposition of Martin O’Malley’s numerous tax hikes and pointing out his incompetence at job creation, especially when compared to peer states. But having covered many of those revenue enhancements now – and knowing 2014 is an election year for his anointed successor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown – the process of raising taxes may come to a halt. Bear in mind as well that most of O’Malley’s increases are now occurring automatically like clockwork; for example, the sales tax charged on gasoline increases in July during both 2014 and 2015.

A second item affecting Hogan’s organization is a change in personnel. Jim Pettit, who worked with Change Maryland during its run to 50,000, recently joined the campaign of gubernatorial candidate David Craig. Perhaps this is a good time for a transition, knowing that much of the issue advocacy occurs during and immediately after the General Assembly session, but I don’t discount the experience Pettit brought to the table. He’s been replaced by Matt Proud, who has plenty of political experience for a youngster and may bring some youthful enthusiasm to the effort, but will still need a little time to transition into the task.

But what does having 50,000 Facebook followers really mean? Change Maryland explains:

(Change Maryland) has built a dominating presence on social media with more people engaged online than the Maryland Democratic Party, the Maryland Republican Party and all of the potential statewide candidates of either party, added together. Change Maryland’s Facebook page has a total weekly reach of over 341,153 people. No other citizen group in the state has ever accomplished what Change Maryland has, in just over two years.

So they are influencing over 300,000 people of all political stripes with a fiscally conservative message. But will founder Larry Hogan upset the apple cart by making his own bid for Governor? Hogan was coy at Tawes, being quoted in an AP story as noting:

I just think it’s very, very early to be here in the hot, dog days of July the year before the election to be out campaigning. At some point, we might have to take a serious look at it. I don’t think we would do that for quite some time, though.

The way I interpret that is the question of whether Michael Steele jumps into the race later on. None of the others on the GOP side could reasonably be interpreted as Bob Ehrlich loyalists in the way Hogan or Steele would be.

In some respects Hogan is faced with a similar question Newt Gingrich faced in 2008: fresh off the formation of American Solutions, Newt had to decide whether to jump into the presidential race or continue to grow his group. He eventually decided to take a pass on the 2008 race, choosing to maintain his American Solutions leadership role. Conversely, once Newt decided to enter the 2012 presidential race his group withered on the vine.

If Change Maryland becomes interpreted as a campaign entity for Larry Hogan’s gubernatorial bid, its influence would wane. But if Hogan becomes a kingmaker of sorts, using his organization to promote candidates with a fiscally responsible track record in the same manner Sarah Palin lends her hand to certain conservative hopefuls on a national scale (such as Dan Bongino) he could retain his following and influence the 2014 election up and down the line.

There’s no question Maryland needs a change from the liberal philosophy dragging the state down, and Hogan’s group is succeeding in getting out the message. The next step is motivating these disciples to action, and we won’t know the success of that mission until November of 2014.

O’Malley’s top 40

Recently Change Maryland had to do a mea culpa, because they found out they were incorrect.

Just weeks after putting out the word about Martin O’Malley and his 37 tax increases since taking office, the good-government advocacy group had to let people know they were just a little bit off – in the wrong way:

Previously, Change Maryland released a report that updated tax and fee increases following the 2013 session, which brought the total to 37 increases that remove $3.1 billion annually over and above the existing tax burden.  These latest reports adds new fees for gun purchases, enacted in 2013, and two newly-discovered measures buried in omnibus legislation and not subject to normal legislative procedures.

So now we are up to a nice, round 40 tax and fee increases under the O’Malley regime. Aren’t we special?

Since I began with Change Maryland, I may as well continue with what their leader, Larry Hogan, had to say:

Nobody expected the total impact to be this staggering, not even me. Struggling Maryland families and small businesses simply cannot afford another four years of an O’Malley-Brown tax and spend binge.

Hogan continued by lamenting the ongoing nature of the problem:

This is not just an argument about big government. It’s about a government that is on auto-pilot to grow exponentially, beyond anything any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes and that comes directly at the expense of the private sector economy that we desperately need to diversify our employment base.

Undoubtedly, the question for the O’Malley/Brown team – and they are a team, since our lieutenant governor is the favored choice of Martin O’Malley – is whether Anthony Brown will try and run up the score some more. Would triple digits be possible over a 16-year reign of the O’Malley/Brown team? In a speech in Chestertown, Hogan used the occasion to blast the heir apparent, who’s announced his intention to snag the state’s top spot next year, from the stump.

(Side note: the odds are against Brown, as on three occasions since the office of lieutenant governor was re-created in 1970 the officeholder failed to win the office him/herself. Blair Lee III lost the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won her nomination, but lost to Republican Bob Ehrlich in 2002.)

Yet the more Hogan chooses to point out the foibles of the O’Malley/Brown team, the less of a chance there is he will enter the race himself. In a lot of ways, Larry has chosen to be this state’s version of Sarah Palin as he could potentially be a kingmaker as the leader of a bipartisan group closing in on 40,000 followers. If each can influence five voters, you have yourself a GOP primary winner in a year where it appears we will have two or three relatively strong candidates.

And then there’s always O’Malley’s own legacy and his dreams of running for President in 2016. Certainly he would find it a feather in his cap to get his LG elected as successor and cement his legacy. Being the media whore he is, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Martin O’Malley take the tack suggested in this piece by Pete “DaTechGuy” Ingemi as MOM has to overcome the legacy of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I can see a certain Maryland governor doing this,” indeed.

Go to West, young man

I’m not sure this is the most overly newsworthy item out there, but those many readers I have in the Dan Bongino fan club may enjoy this Next Generation TV appearance he had with Lt. Col. Allen West. (I don’t subscribe to Next Generation, and I’m not sure they allow embedding anyway. So follow the link.)

I did watch it, though, and what impressed me most is how well Dan seems to be handling the constant media demands on his time. He seems to have become the go-to expert on all things Secret Service, too.

But this continues to provide me with the thought that Dan Bongino may be Maryland’s answer to Sarah Palin. At times, I think he seems to be evolving into a figure which is too big for state politics – think of it this way: could you see Sarah Palin running again for an office in Alaska? Granted, there’s a big difference between serving in a political office as Sarah did for several years before becoming a governor and vice-presidential nominee versus running one time for U.S. Senate and getting only a little over 1/4 of the vote, but you would have to admit that Dan is perhaps the most famous failed one-time Senate candidate in the country right now, at least in casual conservative circles.

That’s not to say that Dan hasn’t worked for this limelight; he is certainly a gifted speaker and very articulate in presenting his political platform. Unlike any other Maryland politician with the possible exception of Martin O’Malley – who is an elected official and head of the Democratic Governors’ Association – Dan is perhaps the most well-known politician from the state of Maryland. Granted, we don’t have a lot of statewide officers to begin with and our two United States Senators don’t seem to be the type that naturally gravitate toward the camera, so Maryland is essentially not regarded for its politicians. Dan fills that vacuum well.

Another parallel to Bongino could be that presented by his interviewer, Lt. Col. Allen West. While West did serve a single term in Congress, his political impact would seem to be greater as a media celebrity; one for whom a fledgling internet television network was created. With as many media appearances as Dan makes, the possibility of that being his outlet exists as well.

So when the discussion for 2014 begins, Dan is obviously portrayed as one of the first dominoes which needs to fall. Given that there are already several good candidates in the quest for the governor’s chair and no Senate seat is up for grabs next year, it seems like the coming three years will present themselves as an opportunity to build the Bongino brand as a spokesperson for conservatism across the country. Unlike the situation in 2010, where most Republicans waited on pins and needles to see whether Bob Ehrlich would make a second run at O’Malley, no one is going to step aside for Dan should he opt to run for governor.

Could Dan win in that situation? It’s hard to tell – certainly he’ll have to do well in the minority community to have any shot, but the remainder of the state may well be fed up with the O”Malley tax-and-spend regime.

But I think this decision has to be made sooner than later. As we learned in 2010, being coy and not allowing the political process to sort itself out leads to disappointing results in November. The 2014 primary will be in late June, which gives both parties ample time to heal their wounds and fight for control of the state, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and then. I have all the respect in the world for Dan, but if he wants to do something in terms of running for office in 2014 it’s getting time to let us know. Otherwise, I’ll be interested to see who his Cede No Ground PAC focuses on.

Cede no ground – and donate if you please

If you were wondering what Dan Bongino had time for since he’s not running for political office, wonder no more.

As was brought up in my January interview with Dan (and don’t fret – Ten Question Tuesday will be back soon) he’s started his new PAC, named after one of his taglines – “cede no ground.” They’re dedicating themselves to the principle of “supporting individual rights and promoting activities dedicated to the preservation of our liberties and freedoms,” with Bongino serving as “founder and national spokesperson.”

Of course, having a federal PAC could be a sign that Dan remains focused on national aspirations and may signal a lack of willingness to run for a state or local office. With the governor’s race already getting busy and no Maryland U.S. Senate seat on the ballot next year, it may be the perfect time for Dan to work on his PAC and consulting business. Obviously he doesn’t have the same amount of experience in office, but I almost see Dan on the same track as Sarah Palin, someone who is popular among political conservatives and the TEA Party crowd but makes few overtures toward a specific office. Both are well-spoken, personable, and polished before the cameras and microphones, although Dan has a little more substance and Sarah more sizzle.

On the other hand, though, that lack of a political pedigree may mean Dan has to pursue different opportunities. Already he’s being noticed more as a former Secret Service agent that as a political candidate, such as this example where the headline is “Former Secret Service Agent Says White House, ‘Selling Access While Selling Out the Secret Service’ is a National Disgrace”:

Selling access to the President of the United States through Organizing for Action (OFA), while selling out the Secret Service and disingenuously blaming them for shutting the doors to tours for the American people, is a national disgrace.

Bongino went on to blast the pay-for-play mentality:

Further compounding this blatant hypocrisy is the President’s reelection platform where he railed endlessly against the ‘one-percent’, yet now, through OFA, pleads for extraordinary sums of money from the wealthy in exchange for White House access. The wealthiest ‘one-percent’ can now dine merrily with the President, while the American people, ruthlessly shut out, are left outside paying the bill for their extravagance.

To play devil’s advocate though: is not Bongino selling his access to the highest bidder in some way, too? It will be interesting to know how he or his advisers determine the recipients of his PAC money. His PAC will have a couple advantages, though: in all likelihood it will get some seed money from Dan’s leftover campaign funds, and it presents an opportunity to keep good campaign staff on a payroll.

Obviously Bongino is a motivational speaker and – just as importantly – someone trying to make a living. So if you equate money with free speech, as many conservatives do in the wake of the Citizens United decision – it may be a good time to speak out in support of Dan’s cause.

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 must 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. in 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.

Where in the world…

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.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 8, 2013

Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.

Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.

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monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?

Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.

monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.

Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.

But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.

monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.

Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.

Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.

When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.

monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?

Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.

The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?

And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.

The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.

monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.

We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.

Bongino: Right.

monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?

Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.

Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.

Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.

monoblogue: It established credibility.

Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.

And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.

When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.

…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.

monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.

Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.

monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?

Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.

I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.

monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.

Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.

I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.

I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.

monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.

Bongino: No, it’s not.

monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!

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Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.

Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.

Hammering home the point

If there’s one thing which can be said about Dan Bongino, it’s that he is very, very telegenic. Here’s an example: this interview with Ginni Thomas at the Daily Caller. (I had issues last night with this video so sorry, no embed.)

The only complaint I would have about the video is questioning why they had to use the profile camera angle when both parties aren’t involved in the shot. It makes Dan look like he wouldn’t look you in the eye and in my dealings with him there’s nothing further from the truth.

But if you have forty minutes this is a valuable chance to hear what Bongino has to say, in depth. It’s the raw video from one which was culled by Anthropocon‘s Jim Jamitis and praised by conservatives like Sarah Palin. I didn’t know it existed until I looked for a better source to embed the first video.

Having been involved in politics for almost twenty years, I’ve found there are rare people who seem to cut through the political crap and are genuine. I would put Dan in this category, even though I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Let’s just put it this way: unlike his opponent, I wouldn’t have to be convinced he’s my friend.

So how is the Bongino campaign going? Well, the conventional wisdom is that Ben Cardin is safe, so there’s no recent polling. The most recent poll I found is a PPP Poll from 2010 which had Cardin defeating a generic Republican 51-33. (The poll was intended to match him up with Michael Steele, who Cardin beat 58-28.) But it’s telling that in the poll Cardin only had a 42% approval rating, with 28% disapproval. Against the current partisan breakdown of Maryland voters, the poll oversamples Democrats by 4 points and Republicans by about 1 point, so I suspect Cardin would be polling under 50 percent now. More recently, the Gonzales Research Maryland Poll from January had Cardin with 51% approval, but it didn’t project a primary opponent.

The same polling company did a survey last October which stated Cardin had 32% who “definitely would” vote for him with 25% saying the opposite. Supposedly 1/3 of Republicans would consider voting for Cardin, but they hadn’t met Dan Bongino yet. Considered in that respect, with that seven-point margin it’s a little surprising that people believe Maryland is safe Cardin territory, but they’re probably basing that simply on the 56-26 Democrat partisan advantage in the state. One thing about a significant percentage of Maryland Democrats, though: they’re not necessarily party loyalists.

Yet Dan Bongino is ceding no ground and Ben Cardin’s not covering a whole lot of it. Apparently Ben’s counting on that $1.5 million in the bank to carpetbomb the state with 30-second commercials, but it’s possible Cardin may be aced out by the massive spending on issues like Question 7. There’s only so much commercial time available and television stations are licking their chops, imagining a robust bottom line thanks to at least $11 million spent so far by gambling interests.

So in this case grassroots may be more important than money, and I’d rather side with the true conservative believers than the hired guns who are in it for the box lunch or time off work on Election Day, like this rent-a-mob.

As Bongino said:

I will not let the Republican Party cede the moral high-ground to a Party driven by lofty intentions and failed results. Time to take off the gloves and fight for what we know is the right path forward.

Speaking of Dan, this also gives me an opportunity to update yesterday’s post on the Libya response. Bongino added these remarks in a release today:

The Administration’s continuing claims that the Libyan protests, which resulted in the horrific deaths of four Americans along with our Ambassador, were the result of unpredictable, spontaneous protest activity are either intentionally deceptive or demonstrate complete incompetence.

Having spent over a decade reviewing threat assessments from all over the world, it is hard to believe that given the amount of information Libyan officials claim to have passed to the U.S. government regarding the active terrorist threat to our personnel on the ground, that the Administration sincerely believes this deadly assault to be spontaneous. There are only two potential answers, either the threat to our personnel was ignored due to incompetence or political concerns regarding the approaching election influenced the allocation of security forces to the region. I am calling upon the State Department to immediately release any information related to the threat assessment which led to the sub-standard and deadly security footprint in Benghazi.

The Hillary Clinton State Department? I’m not holding my breath that she’s going to fall on a sword for Obama. Interesting times indeed.

But returning to my main point: we have to believe this race is winnable because a lot has changed in the six years since Ben Cardin eked out a surprisingly close 10-point victory over Michael Steele – in an awful year for Republicans. Cardin is not the shoo-in people think he is, so let’s get to work and prove the conventional wisdom wrong once again.

Bongino gets key endorsement

She may not have the cache she did as little as six weeks ago, but getting an endorsement from Sarah Palin doesn’t hurt with a certain subgroup of voters. Dan Bongino made news today by being the latest candidate anointed by the “mama grizzly.” In a statement actually dated tomorrow, the Bongino campaign relates this Palin statement:

Though political pundits often dismiss conservative candidates running in deep blue states, I don’t believe in ignoring good candidates simply because they’re fighting uphill battles against the odds. In fact, I find such candidates incredibly brave and especially worthy of encouragement. In many cases, they are often the most articulate and courageous new conservative voices out there.

In 2012, we must cede no ground in our effort to win back control of the Senate and secure the House. We must fight every race to make sure we equip our next President with a wise Congress ready to work for all Americans.  We also owe it to voters in every state – even the deep blue ones – to support good candidates for office so that they have a genuine choice in November. That is why I’m honored to announce my support for Dan Bongino in his Senate race in the “deep blue state” of Maryland.

Dan is not a politician, but he has spent his career protecting them. He is a decorated United States Secret Service agent who served under three Presidents. Dan has seen what politicians have done to our country, and he’s decided, “If I’m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem.” He based his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Maryland on a strong commonsense conservative platform, won his primary, and is now fighting an uphill battle against a 45-year career politician who in fact inherited his first political office from his uncle at the tender age of 23 way back in 1967 and has been in elected office ever since.

This is more than just a race of Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal. It’s about taking our country back from the career politicians in both parties who have spent us into debt, nearly taxed us to death, enriched themselves, rewarded their cronies at our expense, and have no vision to help the private sector create the jobs we need to get this economy moving again. They are the reason why Congress’ approval rating is at an all-time low. In supporting Dan Bongino, we are offering Maryland voters a clear choice either to continue with the failed policies and crony capitalism of the permanent political class, or to shake things up with Dan Bongino and cast a vote that helps put our country back on the path to prosperity.

It’s not completely out of the blue that Palin would endorse Dan – after all, she mentioned him by name at a Ted Cruz rally in Texas last month.

But the connection comes from another direction as well. Marylanders may recall that back in 2010 Palin made a surprising call in the Republican primary for governor, endorsing upstart Brian Murphy over the establishment choice of retread Bob Ehrlich. And while he’s stayed in the background for the most part, Murphy has served as the Chair for Dan Bongino’s campaign.

Obviously there will be those who fret that a Palin endorsement will be the kiss of death for Bongino and they’ll cite as evidence that, even with Palin’s backing, Murphy received just 25% of the GOP primary vote in 2010. But I would argue that without the Palin endorsement Murphy would have picked up no more than 10 percent of the vote because no one had really heard of him and the Maryland GOP certainly wasn’t giving him the time of day.

Furthermore I would venture to say that, in order to have any chance of success, Bongino needs to nationalize his campaign. It pains me to say this, but the Maryland GOP is lightyears away from having the resources to assist in any significant manner on a statewide campaign; meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee will likely write off Maryland, believing the conventional wisdom that the state is a foregone conclusion for Ben Cardin. (Well, they may jump on the bandwagon late in the game if Bongino appears poised for victory, so they can take the credit.)

By securing the Pain endorsement, Bongino reinforces his standing by being placed with other conservatives she has backed over the last two years; her most recent success being the aforementioned Ted Cruz. Now that the slings and arrows of being second banana on the national GOP ticket have been shifted to Paul Ryan, Palin can become a little bit like yesterday’s news – losing the constant scrutiny but retaining the passionate backers who can help an upstart campaign, even if it’s in another state. Remember, no one expected Ted Cruz to win in Texas against a sitting lieutenant governor who had the backing of much of the state’s establishment, either.

Besides, if a Republican is going to stop backing Dan Bongino because he received the endorsement of the conservative darling Sarah Palin, he or she wasn’t much of a Republican to begin with. May your chains placed by “our friend” Ben Cardin and Barack Obama rest lightly.

I don’t know if this was the “something very exciting” that Bill Harris mentioned at the Wicomico GOP headquarters opening, but it is pretty big stuff. Congratulations to Dan for getting the nod.

Update 7:30 p.m. Monday: Bongino also received Senator Jim DeMint’s endorsement.