Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mitch Momentum

Fancy Farm Photos

Fancy That

The Fancy Farm picture on the first page of today's Courier-Journal says it all:  the Republicans are young, energetic and on their feet; the Democrats are middle aged, tired and sitting on their party mascots, to put it politely.  It brought to mind the latest SUSA poll:  Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is winning both the youth and senior vote, while Alison Grimes' coalition is at the crisis point, composed mostly of middle agers.

Clearly McConnell has momentum.  That was evident from the level of enthusiasm of his supporters yesterday.  They were far more relaxed and confident than last year, when general unease divided the right field at Fancy Farm.  One never knew when or where an isolated Matt Bevin supporter would ring a cowbell next.  This year, though Bevin did attend the Graves County Republican breakfast (which he curiously boycotted last year), he made no podium remarks comparable to his last year's, "look how smart I am to make a literary allusion," quoting of John Donne's poem about the tolling bell. Indeed, he had no microphone at Fancy Farm at all this year.  Bevin sat on a bench near the back of the school cafeteria where the breakfast was held. Good for him, though, for at least showing up this year -- and for biting his tongue when one of the speakers made reference to McConnell's landslide victory in the primary.

And good for Senator Rand Paul, who delivered poetry also -- a lampoonish Lundergan-Grimes limerick.  Attorney General Jack Conway continued as character foil to Paul.  Conway spent most of his speech crowing about how great Jack Conway is as Attorney General, and how great it would be to elect Jack Conway as Governor, before ending with an, oh, and you should vote for Grimes for Senate also.  Paul, in contrast, said nothing about himself during his speech -- despite that he is the Republican frontrunner for the Presidency -- and remained the bigger candidate and man than the one who thought Aqua Buddha would get him elected to the U.S. Senate.

The Paul-Conway contrast was just one example of difference between the Republican and Democratic speakers at this year's Fancy Farm.  The Republicans had their National A-Team, led by the likely next Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate and possibly the next President of the United States.  The Democrats had their farm-league club.  Where was that Major League pitcher like President Barack Obama's teleprompter when the Democrats really needed it?

The only mentions of Obama (and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid) were by the Republicans.  The Grimes supporters awkwardly responded to their party leaders' names.  Obama and Reid were like  embarrassing, distant relatives at yesterday's Democratic family gathering.  The Grimes folks mostly just tried to ignore them, though Grimes did not dispute the Republicans' repeated point that her first vote as U.S. Senator would be for Uncle Harry to be her leader.

Other Democrats oddly missing at Fancy Farm were minorities.  In his breakfast speech Paul continued to advocate for the party of Lincoln to make more of an effort to reclaim its historic support from the African American community. But, again the C-J's picture tells a story:  there are no African Americans in sight, either on the Republican or the Democratic side.  From personal observation, however, I can say there were some African Americans and other minorities among McConnell's supporters who were outside the lens of the C-J's camera.

But I can't say I saw any minorities anywhere on the Grimes side.  This recollection seemed all the more significant this morning when I read in the C-J about a Northern Kentucky Democrat tweeting that McConnell's wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, "isn't from KY, she is Asian."

Indeed, whether you were born in Kentucky seemed to be a Democratic talking point yesterday.  A self-appointed "news" videographer from the Grimes camp -- at least I figured so since he was wearing a Grimes tee shirt -- came over to the McConnell side to interview Republicans.  One of his questions was whether we knew that McConnell wasn't born in Kentucky.

You know you are winning when the other side starts making the birther argument.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Claudia Tenney is the Real Deal

Congressional candidate Claudia Tenney is a true conservative, always has been. We have been friends since high school.  I am delighted that she is running for the Republican nomination in New York's 22nd Congressional district, where we grew up. Good for Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and the many other conservative talk show hosts and writers who have endorsed Claudia.

Claudia is a lawyer and a constitutional conservative.   Her late father was a highly respected conservative judge and a true gentlemen.  He would be proud of the campaign she has waged against incumbent Richard Hanna -- the third most liberal Republican in the House of Representatives. Having grown up in Judge Tenney's household, Claudia learned early on that rule of law requires judges to apply the law rather than legislate from the bench.  She likewise respects the plain text of the constitution, including the second amendment.  Claudia is not one for discovering new "rights" in the constitution's penumbras and emanations, and so it is no surprise that Claudia opposes abortion.

Claudia is a single mother and justly proud of her son, who graduated from Annapolis and is a Marine officer. She raised him while running a small business, practicing law and doing volunteer work with Bosnian refugees.

I think the fierceness and intensity of her campaign stems from Claudia's ability as an athlete. She is a superb equestrian, one of the best on the U.S. Hunter-Jumper circuit back when we were in high school.  In show-jumping and also skiing, she was fearless.  She took up basketball and later golf and I have no doubt she's very, very good.  Claudia likes to compete and she is an extremely hard worker -- all attributes that will serve her well in Congress.

Although Claudia has Tea Party backing, she is no wild-eyed Mourdock or Akin. Claudia's family has been active in the Republican Party in Central New York for generations. She will be able to move comfortably with Establishment Republicans to get things done for the district, but will never go wobbly. Washington won't change Claudia.  To the extent that it is still possible, however, Claudia might change Washington. 

Notwithstanding her tenacity, Claudia is kind.  She is generous.  She is a loyal friend, has a great sense of humor and is one of the most honest people I have ever met.  I wish I still lived in the district so I could vote for her tomorrow.  In the meantime, I am praying for the Republicans in NY-22 give her the nomination.  Her opponent is so liberal that the Democrats did not bother to nominate anybody.  If Claudia wins tomorrow, she will be going to Congress. 

Central New York conservatives, you need to turn out tomorrow.  The nation is watching so get it right.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Matt Bevin Does the Right Thing

At Saturday night's Lincoln Day dinner for the Kentucky Republican Party, the highlight was the surprise appearance of Matt Bevin.

Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had taken to the podium. He reminisced about how not that many years back, it was hard to recruit Republicans to run for office, given the Democrats' commanding lead in voter registration.  Now, that gap has closed significantly.  As a consequence, McConnell said, candidates value the Republican nomination.  The inevitable result is more Republican primaries. Reflecting upon his recent primary, McConnell said that there was someone he needed to thank for making him a better candidate for the general election:  Matt Bevin.

At that point, McConnell gestured to the left corner of the ballroom and Matt Bevin stood up.  A surprised and delighted audience immediately gave Bevin a standing ovation.

 It was a show of unity that few expected in light of the tone of Bevin's concessions speech.  Concession speeches, however, are given in the raw moments when the reality of the loss is just beginning to sink in.  Two and half weeks later, Bevin demonstrated true graciousness.  But Bevin's presence was more than good sportsmanship.  His campaign argued for conservative policy solutions and by showing up at the state party dinner -- the bastion of  Establishment Republicans - he put the focus on the need to elect the most conservative candidate.  After the primary, that is McConnell. (Indeed, I would argue that McConnell was the most conservative candidate before the primary, but that is now beside the point).

I never believed that many of the Bevin supporters would stay home come the general election.  The Bevin supporters I know are committed conservatives, deeply patriotic Kentuckians who recognize that men and women put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. The most precious exercise of that freedom is when we vote. To stay home out of bitterness about a primary loss is unworthy of the right to vote.

Unlike the Rand Paul - Trey Grayson primary,  there was no "unity rally" after the primary this year. That was a source of disappointment and consternation to many Republicans. Then Matt Bevin showed up and demonstrated unity when we least expected it, and for that he deserves our respect and gratitude.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Great News For McConnell

A new Rasmusson poll shows that those voters who backed Bevin in the primary are coming back to McConnell for the general election.

The new poll has McConnell beating Alison Ludergan Grimes 48-41 percent among likely voters.  This is a significant shift, given that poll after poll before the primary showed the race as neck and neck.

According the the poll, McConnell now has the backing of 76 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Kentucky Democrats.  Grimes has 67 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans. Grimes is ahead of unaffiliated voters by three points.

Before the primary, one out of four Bevin supporters planned to vote for Grimes in the general if Bevin lost.  That margin was unsustainable. To the extent that the Bevin supporters truly thought that McConnell was not conservative enough, it never made any sense to think that Grimes would be more conservative than McConnell.

Grimes's appeal to the Bevin supporters could never offer anything substantive, just dislike for McConnell. Most Bevin supporters, however, were motivated in the primary by substance, not atmospherics. They sincerely thought that Bevin was the more conservative candidate.  He was not, in my view, but no matter:  it is beyond dispute that McConnell is much more conservative than Grimes.

I predict that Republican voters will further unite behind McConnell as the general election draws nearer.  Grimes claims that she is an "independent Kentucky woman."  That is beside the point. If elected, Harry Reid will be the boss of her.  Literally.  She will have no choice but to vote with his caucus

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thanks For the Mail, Alison!

I have a letter from Alison "Who's Your Daddy" Grimes. She sent it by mistake, but no matter.  The good news is that Alison has cleaned up her grammar.  She no longer boasts, "I don't scare easy."  Now she boasts "I don't scare easily."  Hooray!  Alison has mastered the distinction between an adjective and an adverb. Thata girl!

Now if only she could master the distinction between unemployment benefits and welfare.

Grimes complains that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voted not to "Extend unemployment benefits in the wake of the Recession."  She points to votes on March 10, 2010, April 15, 2010, and July 20, 2010.

It is fascinating that Grimes describes these dates, particularly the last one, as the "wake of the Recession." Grimes has forgotten that Obama decreed 2010 as the Recovery Summer. Not that it's been much of a recovery. To the contrary -- many Americans remain underemployed, working multiple part-time jobs, and jobs for which they are overqualified.  Many other Americans have simply given up looking.  These people, more than any other, need the opportunity that only comes from a growing economy and an infusion of new jobs from new businesses.

At first blush, extending unemployment seems compassionate. But to keep extending it -- over and over, literally year after year -- is disingenuous.  At some point, unemployment ceases to be a temporary aid to pay bills while between jobs. At some point, it is no longer unemployment, but rather welfare hiding under a different name.

The distinction matters for several reasons.  Using the correct word matters.  Democrats like Obama, Harry Reid and Grimes are prone to obfuscate the debate by using the wrong word (think "fetus" for "baby").  According to Democrat lore, Bill Clinton abolished "welfare as we know it."  It is his big claim to fame (well, maybe his second).

 Heaven knows we Kentuckians will be subjected to lots of Clinton visits to help Grimes, daughter of their buddy Jerry Lundergan.  These visits will attempt to make us wax poetic for the Clinton years and the Clinton economy.  That nostalgia hinges on Clinton having "abolished" welfare.  The problem for Grimes is that to the extent that Clinton "abolished" welfare, Obama brought it roaring back.

Whether characterized as welfare or as unemployment benefits extended ad infinitum, the extension never addressed the root of the problem of why so many Americans remain unemployed for so long.  The main reason:  Obamacare.

While the Democrats tried to buy Americans off, McConnell was attempting to address Obamacare, the obstacle to a true recovery. Recall that when Democrats shoved Obamacare down America's throat that Christmas Eve, McConnell held together a Republican caucus that spans the spectrum from Olympia Snow to Ted Cruz; not a single Republican voted for Obamacare.  Consequently, Democrats -- including Grimes's party Leaders Reid, Obama and Pelosi -- own it.  And they own the consequences, including the stagnant job growth.

Sen. Rand Paul explained that at some point, extending unemployment benefits actually does a disservice to the recipients, because it causes them to become a part of a permanent class of unemployed; the unemployment benefits become a disincentive to employment.

In complaining about McConnell's votes, Grimes never tells us, is there ever a point at which she would vote against extending unemployment benefits? Ever? Can there never be a cut-off? If not, she is every bit as rigid, obstructionist and ideological as she accuses McConnell of being.

Grimes never addresses the fact that America borrows 40 cents of every dollar of unemployment benefits from the Chinese. That is no longer just fiscally irresponsible, but a threat to our national security.  At the very least, an extension of unemployment benefits should be matched with a cut in spending.  McConnell understands that. Grimes, apparently, does not. McConnell's vote was a sober, adult, courageous response to a bad situation caused by an inept and profligate administration, one that very much wants to see Grimes win.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bevin Underwhelmed and Underperformed

Josh Holmes, Senior Advisor to the McConnell Senate Committee '14 (and a brilliant tactician) has compared  ten years of  results of U.S. Senate races in which the incumbent was "primaried."  These races reveal that primary challengers to an incumbent senator who spend more than $1 million average 47.57 percent of the vote.

Matt Bevin's campaign has spent in excess of $3.3 million, and yet, going into Primary Election Day, he trailed McConnell by 20 points.  Even if Bevin gets a late rush of support, there is no universe in which it is possible for him to win 47 percent of the vote, despite the fact that he has spent more than three times the magic million dollar number.

 Bevin spent more than any primary challenger of an incumbent senator in the last two cycles, thanks to Senate Conservative Fund, Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots and the Madison Project.  All those dollars spent by outside groups ended up helping the paid consultants and operatives, but did little to advance Bevin as a serious candidate. (Contributors to those organizations, you've been duped.)

Moreover, Bevin got a huge boost in name idea by the amount of media coverage of him, approximately 3.5 times more than the winner of last week's Senate primary in Nebraska, home to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.  The coverage overstated Bevin's ability, not only as a candidate, but as an existential threat to McConnell.  Recall that Joe Gerth said that McConnell "would rather have a strangulated hernia than face Matt Bevin."  Well, sure, McConnell undoubtedly would have preferred to avoid a primary. Even still, Bevin, was more of a distraction and an annoyance, hardly comparable to a "strangulated hernia."

I will resist the temptation to compare the media predictions and assessments of Bevin at the outset with the reality of how he actually performed.  There is no point.  He is by many accounts a good father and neighbor. He says that he is a conservative, and if so, he will get behind the most conservative candidate who will be on the ballot come November, the future Senate Majority Leader:  Mitch McConnell.