Archive for May, 2009

From One Politico to Another

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Imagine my surprise to visit Politico today and find a story about me and my blog: “GOP kingmaker leans toward Mitt Romney.” As the headline indicates, it’s not an unflattering article, and it pays notice to my post of May 15 about the leaders who are our party’s best hopes for the future.

But I do want to make a couple points of clarification. RedState also picked up the item that same day, where it received 62 comments (although one of them was my own). That may not set any world records, but it was a vigorous debate about our best and brightest. Others mentioned some very promising individuals I had left out, including Bobby Jindal. There was also some lively discussion about the role of moderates in the party.

The second is that I do not want to give anyone too much hope (or strike too much fear) that I am nearing an endorsement of any potential candidate. I did include Romney’s name prominently and offered both praise and critical observations. I wish him the best of luck if he decides to run again, just as I wish the same to others who may try in 2012 — and thanks to Politico for reading. 

Ten for the Road: Which Republican Leaders Will Lead Us on Our Road to Recovery?

Friday, May 15th, 2009

I have enjoyed assiduously Chris Cillizza’s frequent articles on the top ten most influential Republicans and have had the privilege of knowing some of them quite well through my chairmanship of the Executive Roundtable for the Republican Governor’s Association. This, plus concerns on the current Administration’s direction (think assault on free enterprise and march toward socialism) have led me to some early thoughts on who might both lead our party back and who might be our nominee in 2012.

So, for better, or for worse, based on my personal experiences, here are my top ten who are leading the debate today, some of whom we should be looking to for 2012. Given that I believe the solutions to most of our country’s problems aren’t found in Washington, you will find few on my list who serve in Congress.

1. Mitt Romney — The almost-nominee with the established organization, fundraising network, time, and talent to get the nomination this time. He does retain an image problem with some Republicans, who are not sold on his conservative credentials or upset with him for changing his emphasis of issues from his time as governor to presidential candidate. But he is self-aware and very smart. I believe he will start reintroducing himself early on, and possibly be in the best position when the serious campaigning begins in early 2011.

2. Mark Sanford — Mark is the soft spoken but thoughtful and challenging leader of RGA. He could be a challenger to Mitt or on the ticket if he decides to go that way. His leadership on the stimulus funds was extremely important to the integrity of our small government values by rejecting the federal bailout in the first place and solution-minded innovation by agreeing to accept the money if and only if the South Carolina legislature used it to pay down the state’s debt. At a time when the Republican Party needs to offer creative solutions, Mark is doing exactly that.

3. Haley Barbour — Extremely sound on policies, clear thinking and the best political strategist, well liked by all factions, more likely a king maker than king, but one never knows. As governor of Mississippi, he did a far better job responding to Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath than Kathleen Blanco. Now she is not in office, but Barbour still is. He does not have the best name recognition, which may be a good thing considering that much of his career had been based in Washington. Now that he has credibility as an effective governor, that background may no longer be a liability, and should help him with fundraising. And he has always been a terrific organizer. Haley was RNC chairman during the 1994 Republican revolution. Maybe he has some ideas about how to recapture that spirit.

4. Dick Cheney — That’s right, I am putting Dick Cheney on this list. He deserves to be. He is willing and able to take it to Obama, no matter the criticism, and he’s on point in defending the Bush-era policies that led to 8 years of safety, now endangered by the new administration letting political correctness trump clear thinking on national security. Of course, we know that he won’t run but if the past few weeks tell us anything, he will be around. His presence alone will challenge other future leaders in the party to be more prepared, less squishy and sharper on core issues like foreign policy. And it would be fun to see the liberal establishment howl.

5. Emerging GOP Senate candidates in blue states — Think Charlie Crist, and possibly George Pataki, Mark Kirk, or Mike Castle. Yes, they are moderates and especially a few weeks after Arlen Specter’s opportunistic party switch “moderate” is all but a four-letter word. But can we ever expect to be a majority party without embracing a big tent philosophy that encourages those at the middle of the spectrum to think of themselves as Republicans? We need people like Mark Kirk and people like Mark Sanford both to be proud members of the GOP.

6. Sarah Palin — She is vastly underestimated by the press, has an enormous grasp of issues and a strong devotion to what is important to Alaska, where she will be re-elected easily, and will be the most powerful money and mobilization magnet in GOP for some time.

7. Bob McDonnell — No one outside of Virginia knows him yet, but he’s the best GOP candidate for governor in many years. He is also and able to build a center-right majority. As such, he will win the 2009 race, and this will embolden others to run and start the way back for the GOP. If you have any doubts, look back at 1993 when after a 1992 drubbing for the GOP, the election of Allen and Whitman paved the way for takeover of Congress in 1994. Bob’s victory will propel him to become one of the party’s biggest new stars.

8. Jon Huntsman — His clarity and charismatic style combined with his call for inclusiveness and outreach continues to register with those who believe in the big tent approach, while being a strong leader on traditional issues dear to hearts of conservatives. If he does run for president, many will consider it an experiment in Republican re-branding, and the results may be far-reaching.

9. Paul Ryan — At 39, Ryan is the the go-to budget expert in the House, with a clear and compelling message on economic reform. He is sure to continue prodding others to new policy ideas and proposals with his clear-thinking views. I believe he is sure to emerge as one of the party’s leading voices and one who will be short-listed for VP in 2012. As a protégé of my great friend Jack Kemp, Paul Ryan is the real next coming of Jack.

10. Eric Cantor — Like Ryan a forceful and clear-thinking leader with energy, charm, and smarts. His rise from working in his family’s small business and then the Virginia legislature to a leadership role in the House GOP caucus is a true testament to his talent and dedication. My guess is he has what it takes to become Speaker of the House, and I’d bet that one day he will.

I’ve thought of others, like John McCain, for still being the most talked about and followed in Senate. Another promising leader is Mitch Daniels, who excelled in the Bush administration and is starting his second term as Indiana’s governor. And perhaps I have missed a few, and can learn something from you. I welcome your feedback in the comments. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Remembering Jack Kemp, a Conservative Star and a Wonderful Friend

Monday, May 4th, 2009

It is with great regret that this is the second time in less than a week that I am sharing my thoughts with you about a recently departed friend.  That said, this one is much different and far more heart-wrenching than the first.

I have been a Jack Kemp Republican my entire life. His message of hope and compassion mixed with fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, less government, and individual empowerment have guided me throughout my years in both business and politics. I always thought Jack was the true heir to Ronald Reagan and he was an incredible inspiration to so many of us.

His influence on Republican policy can hardly be measured. Jack was one of the earliest to recognize the importance of Arthur Laffer’s supply-side theories. He was instrumental in putting tax cuts at the top of Ronald Reagan’s agenda, and the Kemp-Roth tax cuts are among the most important economic policies of the 20th century.  Without them, it’s impossible to say whether President Bush would have taken the same course twenty years later.  And thanks to his past as a championship-winning quarterback with the AFL Buffalo Bills, Jack understood minorities and others outside of the usual, traditional Republican constituencies better than most of us.  For decades he urged us to go outside of our electoral comfort zone and reach out to African-Americans and Latinos because he believed they shared our values and that by sharing the power of our ideas with more people we could help lift millions out of poverty and into the “opportunity society,” as he aptly called it.  We are not all the way there yet, but when we arrive, Jack will deserve a big share of the credit.

Jack was also a great personal friend.  For years we traveled together, Marlene and I stayed with the Kemps at their home in Colorado to celebrate his 70th, and they visited often with us at our home as well.

I’ll never forget last August in Colorado when John McCain came to be with our most successful fundraisers and supporters, and the next day Mark Sanford, Jon Huntsman, John Thune, and Jack talked to the group.  Of course, the former QB was the ultimate closer and Jack wound it up with soaring rhetoric that argued passionately and compellingly for a greater control of government spending, more emphasis on growth incentives, and an increased reliance on the individual vs. government to lead us out of our current malaise. At the conclusion he tossed the mic to me and walked off to a standing and rousing ovation. It was Jack at his best, as I will always remember him.

He was a treasure to the cause and our country and he will be deeply missed.  As our own party seeks new ideas and new leadership for the future, I can only hope that in doing so, we are reminded of Jack Kemp.  If we are lucky and if we are smart, we will find someone who can channel his passion for conservative principle and policy, his energy, his inclusiveness and his passion that excited and inspired so many for so long.

Goodbye for now, old friend, but you will always be with us.

Fred