Friday, May 22, 2009

Republican Healthcare Bingo

Anne Schroeder Mullins writes a snarky column for Politico (a snarky, inside the beltway publication) called “Shenanigans.” Recently, she devised a new game called “Frank Luntz Bingo.”

Frank Luntz is the former protégé of Haley Barbour, former chair of the RNC, former lobbyist for Mexico, current governor of Mississippi and recent visitor to Iowa. Why is he visiting Iowa, you ask? Because, Barbour is looking at the field of deeply unimpressive GOP’ers looking to challenge Obama and is thinking to himself, maybe no one will notice my dainty, two-tone loafers and will focus on my gravelly and vaguely fake sounding, but still folksy Southern accent and my good ‘ol boy charm. But I digress.

Luntz is a master of message development and poll testing and is well respected for his ability to wring useful information out of focus groups. Focus groups are tricky, because they are too small to be statistically relevant, so their use is more art than science – and Luntz is a fine artist in that respect (he is not a fine artists in the sense that his book, Words That Work, is poorly written and kind of condescending).

After being booted out of the establishment by the GOP leadership in 2005, Luntz is making a comeback and has come up with secret plan for victory on healthcare. By secret plan, I mean it was leaked within twelve hours and by victory, I mean, keep the status quo (which means that I would still need drive 20 miles to find a doctor in my network, in the event of swine flu – and if that happens, I am driving to Luntz’ house to I can cough on him).

But where were we? Oh yes – bingo. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Getting Fired

If you work on campaigns long enough, you will get fired. It might not even be a reflection on you.

It could be because you just didn’t “click” with a candidate. It could be that you didn’t complement their strengths and weaknesses (a candidate who is hard core fundraiser might need someone who stronger in field or communication). It sometimes happens that a candidate hires someone with similar strengths and realizes they needed someone with a little different personality or edge. Sometimes it’s the other way around – the candidate and manager just don’t share enough traits for the relationship to gel quite right.

Privately, folks can get angry about it. I have felt very aggrieved on behalf of colleagues who were given (I felt) a raw deal by their boss. And - I'll admit it - I've been fired. It sucked. I complained loudly and vociferously to my friends and family, but my complaints went no further than that.

Sometimes, you mess up. Sometimes you just have to be let go because you messed up. Sometimes, you have to be let go, even though you’re not at fault.

It’s a high press situation and everyone makes mistakes. Unless you burn your bridges in a brutal and public fashion (you see where I’m going with this?), it is always possible to come back.

James Carville was a nobody – he’d been a failure for years, when a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia named Zell Miller hired him in 1990. Two years later, he was shepherding President-Elect Clinton on his victory lap over George the First.

I already mentioned that Jim Jordan has gone to do some impressive work. Joe Trippi is still a top name in the business.

It’s always nice to see your name in the paper or on television, but the worst thing a campaign manager can do is become the story – and that goes for whether s/he is still with the candidate or has left or been fired.

Go home. Bitch to you friends. Advise your colleagues never to work for that candidate themselves. Do Wild Turkey shots for two hours, pass out and then get up in the morning and get on with your life.

Never trash the candidate publicly. Never go to the media and when the media calls, the following remarks are considered most appropriate, “no comment” or “though I will no longer be working for X’s campaign, I still believe in X’s vision for our community.”

Never become the story.

To name names, Peter Schorsch was on the road to coming back. Even after being fired by Jamie Bennett, he could have kept his head, kept his dignity and been back in the game.

There are second acts in politics (if you don’t believe me, I would draw your attention to a poll that says 51% of New York state voters would rather have Eliot Spitzer back as governor), but not if you burn down the theater.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The First Domino Falls…

It looks like Crist will announce for the Senate sometime over the next 30 hours, setting off a little house of cards as Bronson and McCollum square off on the GOP side and Sink will probably have the field to herself on the Democratic side.

Dave Aronberg is already in for the AG. Rod Smith has got to be thinking about Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner.

Republican Congressman Adam Putnam long ago announced he would run for Agriculture, but what he really wants to be is governor and when he announced, Crist was running for re-election, so he was only looking at waiting for one term before it was open. Now that thinks have changed, does he decide to run for governor instead or take the safe route and stay for Agriculture Commissioner? Or does he decide to run for something more high profile, but still below governor, like Attorney General?

What about Iorio? Does she follow in Sink’s footsteps and become the second, high profile woman from Tampa Bay to become Florida’s CFO?

Vern Buchanan and Connie “Bono” Mack have both been itching for statewide office, but didn’t want to tangle with Crist. Do they take hard look at those CFO and AG slots?

If Buchanan does run, can the Dems take that seat? They’ve come close on several occasions (though not last year) – with a Democratic resurgence at the local level, is the bench there for CD 13?

The dominoes are following. It’s good time to be an avid politico in Florida.

As a final note, I have to mock this quote from RPOF Chairman Jim Greer:

"I think he's concluded that the problems that Floridians and Americans are facing are originating out of Washington, D.C., and if he's going to be able to provide the leadership and fight for Floridians trying to solve them, he's got to be in Washington."

Not even Crist is bothering to spout that kind of pablum.There is nothing wrong with a politici an wanting to run for a new office. It happens all the time and Crist doesn't need Greer making lame excuses that no one believes. Crist wants out because Tallahasse is about to turn very, very ugly and because Mel Martinez graciously fell on his sword before voters had the chance to throw him off the cliff. End of story.

Click here for Creative Loafing's take on the "Crist Effect."

Correction: Pam Iorio recently indicated that she would not be running for statewide office.

Monday, May 04, 2009

RNC Insanity

I was wrong to think ever think that Michael Steele was a solid choice for the RNC, but the recent actions of supporters of his rivals, wherein the actual members of the committee are trying to hamstring Steele’s ability to engage in expenditures of $100,000 or more (which might seem reasonable, except that the RNC will need to engage in a lot of expenditures on behalf of candidates, most of which will be well over $100,000 and all of which will need to be done in an expedited, nimble and authoritative fashion) go beyond the pale and are hurting the RNC and the Republican Party, in general. In short, these people (Michael Steele and Katon Dawson and his proxies) are completely nuts.

In fact, it has become apparent that no sane person wants to be chair of the RNC. Unfortunately for Republicans, there are a lot of insane people in their party.

Long gone are the days of Haley Barbour, known for his, dainty, two-tone loafers; his real but fake sounding drawl; and his sharp political mind.

Instead, these are the days of, well… I don’t really know how to describe it.

These are the days when Sen. Jim Inhofe proclaims that the fact that only a Democrat can win the Pennsylvania Senate race is a sign that voters are rejecting… Democrats? When Sen. Jim DeMint admits to telling Sen. Arlen Specter that he would be supporting his opponent in the Republican primary only five days before Specter announced he was switching parties, which could just be a coincidence, but is more likely an indication that DeMint has been getting too much crazy in his diet.

I am a Democrat and have only ever worked for Democratic candidates, but I am not without pity, but I am without words to express my confusion, my horror at the crass unprofessionalism and poor political instincts, and the inescapable feeling that we are witnessing something that is at once horrifying and hilarious, like a classic John Carpenter film.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

What's in Store for Tampa Bay?

In 2006, the Tampa Bay area was the center of Florida's political universe, with the majority of the legislative seats that changed hands being located here. In 2008, we didn't much switching of hands at the legislative level anywhere (there was a special election in South Florida that switched to Democratic in the special election, but went back to the GOP in November.

Of course, three congressional seats changed parties in 2008 - but the epicenter was central Florida (the Space Coast's CD 16 was a sex scandal driver fluke for the second election in a row), not Pinellas or Hillsborough.

Part of this resulted from the absence of the sort of perfect storm of term limits that we saw in 2006 (I think that all of the seats that changed hands in 2006 were open).

Well, we may be seeing a similar perfect storm in 2010.

SD 16 has been opened by Sen. Charlie Justice's decision to run for Congress and while that seat leans Democrat (though close in 2006, four years later, it has become moved significantly, though for from overwhelmingly into the Democratic column) the return of Jack Latvala and Rep. Bill Heller's decision not to run for the seat will make it closely contested.

SD 13, currently held by Republican Dennis Jones, will be open and rumor has it that Rep. Janet Long, an extremely strong candidate, could try to flip his seat. Corrrection - SD 13 will not be open until 2012.

HD 45 is currently held by the former mayor of Dunedin, Tom Anderson. Republicans Kathryn Starkey and Richard Corcoran are already jockeying for that seat and likely to engage in a pretty heated primary, but another former Dunedin mayor, centrist Democrat Bob Hackworth is almost certainly looking at HD 45, which is fairly evenly split, geographically speaking, between Pinellas and Pasco Counties, but half the voting population lives in Dunedin.

Finally, across the bay, HD 57 will be open. Faye Culp has seen a number of strong challenges in her time in the legislature and there are a number of Democrats - primarily her former opponents - who could make a successful run for this seat, not that it's open.

And we haven't even discussed what it will mean if Tampa mayor Pam Iorio runs for CFO and if Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita runs for Tampa mayor.

The next couple of years promise to be interesting.