Because someone will ask

May 20, 2014

As it happens, Judge James R. Spencer – the jurist who refused to dismiss charges against Bob McDonnell and his wife – is a Reagan appointee.

More fun in the 7th: Linwood Cobb defeated

May 11, 2014

Over the weekend, while I was enjoying time with my wife and paying some attention to the NFL draft (note to my Jets: playing small ball is an NBA thing, fellas…), the insurgents scored a win in the Great Virginia Republican Bloodletting (GVRB). In particular, Fred Gruber ousted Linwood Cobb as Chairman of the 7th District GOP committee. Bull Elephant is exuberant; Justin Higgins is…not. Jim Hoeft also weighs in.

As for my view (and keep in mind, as I write this sleepiness is slowly winning a war of attrition against insomnia), I think there is a lot less to this than meets the eye.

What I think it means for the 7th district: Honestly, not much. Kudos to Gruber’s folks for winning the day, but I doubt Cantor’s machine will slow down much. Some labels may be changed, but that’s about it. What matters is the June 10th primary. If Cantor loses that (and I’d still consider that a surprise), then the change would be dramatic. Otherwise, I think it’s minimal.

What I think it means for the state: This is a different story. In 2008 (the last time we had a convention decide a Senate nominee), Jim Gilmore baldy needed the 7th district to hold off Bob Marshall. If Ed can’t count on the 7th, he’s in real trouble (although Ed has strength in northern Virginia that Gilmore never had). Given that Shak Hill is one of the few people who seems more interested in issues than personalities in GVRB, the result in the 7th chairman race may have actually underestimated his strength. Meanwhile, I think any incentive for the House of Delegates to make a deal on Medicaid expansion just vanished (if it ever existed).

What I think it means for the nation: Again, nothing much. I know Daily Kos already has a post on this, but hardly anyone cares who an internal party chairman is. As I said above, if Cantor loses the primary, it can be said that the beginning of the end for him was here. If he wins however, this will largely be forgotten.

One thing I should note, based on emails and comments I have seen, it looks like Saturday was all about personalities. That saddens me. There are good reasons to be upset with Eric Cantor (chief among them, the bank bailout), but it appears much of the GVRB is about settling scores and assuaging grudges.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Meanwhile, on Medicaid expansion in Virginia, the Republicans are actually winning

May 1, 2014

“First, you win the argument, then you win the vote” – Margaret Thatcher

On Medicaid expansion in Virginia, proponents have the newly-elected Governor, all of Virginia’s Democrats, a few dissenting Republicans,the State Senate and various well-heeled interests.

Opponents have the reality of Medicaid’s damage to poor people and (most of) the Republican Party of Virginia – a party that is badly, badly divided, controls only a majority in the House of Delegates, and was just handed it’s first goose-egg in Virginia offices in over twenty years.

Yet, according to Christopher Newport University, the RPV is actually winning the debate:

Virginians have been paying attention to the debate over Medicaid expansion taking place in Richmond, with 58% saying they have been following it either very closely or somewhat closely, and only 20% saying they have not followed it at all. Given the current contours of that debate, Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion. This is a reversal from the Wason Center survey released February 3 (see below), which showed general support for Medicaid expansion, 56% to 38%.

However, in that February survey, support for Medicaid expansion fell to 41% with 54% opposed, when respondents were asked if they would still support expansion if the federal government did not pay its share and Virginia had to cover the cost. That risk has been a key contention in the Republican argument against expansion. Those February numbers are very close to the 41% to 53% in the current poll, suggesting that Republican skepticism concerning expansion has gotten through to voters.

Simply put, this was hardly what was expected. In fact, I suspect most in the Virginia rightosphere still suspect that the Republicans in the House will cave on this issue…and perhaps they still will.

However, we should give credit where it’s due: not only has the Howell-led HoD held the line so far against Medicaid expansion, they also are winning the argument – the first critical step to winning votes, as Thatcher noted.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Comstock wins

April 26, 2014

Of course, I am pleased to see my endorsee win the nomination. Comstock’s opposition to Plan ’13 From Outer Space earned my support.

I was also pleased that the only other candidate who voted “No” on last year’s tax hike came in second (Bob Marshall, who can do far more good as a Delegate than he could have done as a Congressman). More than 80% of the vote went to on-the-record tax-hike opponents.

All in all, it was a good day in the 10th.

VA – 7: No endorsement

April 15, 2014

I have previously posted my views on the political bloodletting within the Republican Party of Virginia. For those who chose not to click on the link, I lamented the vitriol, lack of strategic thinking, and personalizations that I have seen from both “sides” of this battle. It’s as if issues don’t matter anymore.

There is no better example of this debacle than the fracas over the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District – which is why I refuse to endorse either candidate who remains.

The incumbent – Eric Cantor – has been accused of much by the “insurgents” within the GOP. I have no idea if any of them are true. I do know that he was a leading supporter of TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), an economic and political mistake for which Americans are still paying (especially Republicans, from the political angle). I already slipped on this banana peel once in 2012, and I will not do so again – ever. Eric Cantor will never win my endorsement for a Republican nomination (supporting the Ryan-Murray budget didn’t help either, but that’s a minor matter, compared to TARP).

This does not mean, however, that I can support his opponent, Dave Brat. Brat, for all his strong rhetoric on spending today, spent years as an aide to State Senator Walter Stosch, one of the most prolific tax-hikers in the RPV (the Warner tax hike of 2004, HB3202 in 2007, and Plan ’13 From Outer Space). Brat even donated to Stosch as he faced the fight of his political life in 2007 – his nomination fight against Joe Blackburn.

That in itself would be troubling enough. When one adds Brat’s own statements on foreign affairs – such as his insistence (Breitbart) that Communist China “is feeding 1.2 billion people for the first time in human history” through “free market capitalism” (there are over half a billion desperately poor Chinese in the rural hinterland who would greatly dispute both points if they were free to speak) and his own campaign website where he rails against “two unfunded wars” – it becomes clear that he is not ready for Washington anymore than Cantor is deserving to stay there.

I am grateful that my home is in the 4th District, as thus I need not cast a vote in the 7th. To be fair, either man is sure to be superior to whomever the Democrats nominate.

That said, I do not know who would receive my vote if I were in the 7th. I do know that neither of them have deserved it. Therefore, I endorse neither. 

Oh joy…another immigration flame-fest

April 6, 2014

So, new RPV Executive Director Shaun Kenney (full disclosure, close friend of mine) takes some time to sit with center-left activists on the immigration issue. Much of his talk centers around thanking them for stopping by, talking about how it’s important to talk to folks who don’t necessarily agree with them, and an observation on the debate that was miles above anything discussed on the matter since…

I genuinely believe that both sides of this debate want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of getting those wires to touch.

It didn’t take long for the wires to vehemently protest. Soon Greg Letiecq (also a friend) was slamming Shaun for advocating amnesty - something which, I confess, I didn’t catch in the video excerpt Greg provided, although Greg and Shaun have made clear their disagreement on the issue for years. Soon Jeanine Martin and Brian Schoeneman (whom I would also call friends, but as I’ve never met either of them in person, I don’t know what they would think), joined in the fray, with Martin claiming Shaun would hurt poor people and Brian calling Jeanine and Greg racists (in the comments).

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

Sadly, as both sides spent their time reminding themselves how wonderful they are – hey, we’re bloggers; it’s what we do – the questions I raised almost two months ago remain completely outside of the discussion:

  • What are we doing to encourage entrepreneurs to come to America?
  • What labor shortages in the American economy (such as, health care) can be alleviated via immigration reform?
  • How can we use our immigration policies to take advantage of capital flight in areas around the world, so that those who own that capital will feel more welcome here (along with their capital, of course)?
  • In other words, how can we use immigration reform as a supply-side economic opportunity, rather than merely an argument about Keynesian “aggregate demand”?

As I stated in that post, anything that doesn’t address the above subjects is just noise…which is exactly what we got from nearly everyone concerned – a lot of heat, but very little light.

As for Shaun, I’m glad he’s willing to talk to folks outside his political comfort zone. At the very least, we all need to remember how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I would have been much happier if he and Mr. Sajur had spent some time talking about the above topics….

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

On the Bank Bailout, the Buckley Rule, and Ed Gillespie

March 27, 2014

There has been increasing talk among Virginia Republicans about “the Buckley Rule,” and how it should impact decision on the nomination for U.S. Senate. There are, however, two problems with the application (usually from Ed Gillespie supporters): the rule isn’t quite what they think it is; and even if it did, Gillespie still wouldn’t qualify.

First of all, the rule itself is repeatedly “both misquoted and misapplied” as Neal Freeman noted in his account of when the rule was first promulgated (National Review). He should know; he was there. Buckley came up with the rule during the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller nomination battle. Despite what we may think, Rockefeller had his defenders on the right. He trailed LBJ by less than Goldwater, and his anti-Communism was rock-solid and unquestionable (Goldwater himself noted in his autobiography that before he decided to run himself, he was leaning to Rockefeller). It took months for NR itself to make a decision:

These intramural arguments, as I say, were protracted, begun in the winter and carrying on into the early spring. WFB sat at the head of the table, encouraging others to speak, keeping his own counsel. In early June, after Rockefeller had won the Oregon primary and Goldwater had won California, after all of us had had our say, after rumors had begun to creep out of 35th Street that NR might shift its support to Nelson Rockefeller — the equivalent, today, of word leaking out of 15th Street that the Washington Post might endorse Michele Bachmann — Bill, who rarely proposed, decided that it was time to dispose. With each of us in our assigned seat and with six pairs of eyeballs staring at him unblinkingly, Bill announced that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Victory for Team Goldwater! We all knew what “viable” meant in Bill’s lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater.

Indeed, NR did endorse Goldwater. More to the point, one year after this, Buckley himself chose to run for Mayor of New York – despite having no shot at winning – against the Republican establishment’s candidate, John Lindsay….

in the general election.

So clearly, those who use the Buckley rule as an electability argument have it wrong. However, even if they had it right, Ed Gillespie has a problem that sinks his electability: his support for TARP (a.k.a. the Bank Bailout).

Gillespie supporters will, of course, take issue with this. They will tell you (and me) that the key issue in 2014 isn’t the bank bailout, but the failures of the Obama Administration. As it happens, the critique against the Administration has three planks: government has grown massively large and costly; the economic “recovery” is so sluggish as to be hardly felt; and the president’s dangerous habit of assuming the Affordable Care Act is an American Enabling Act giving him legislative powers to change the law on the fly. The problem is that pro-TARP candidates are unable to use any of these arguments.

If Ed Gillespie tries to criticize the president and Mark Warner for reckless spending and government enlargement, Warner can throw the $700 billion bank bailout back in his face, but Mark Warner cannot accuse Shak Hill of supporting hundreds of billions in spending for America’s biggest banks.

Likewise, any attempt by Gillespie to discuss the economy will be trumped by Warner mentioning the 2008 financial crisis – and then remind everyone that Gillespie agreed the crisis was exceptional because of his support for the bank bailout. Only Shak Hill can remind voters that the bank bailout and hysteria ginned up by Washington to get it enacted made things worse, not better.

Finally, there is the fact that after TARP was enacted, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen rewrote the law at whim. That he had the authority to do so was bad enough, but Warner can play it simple and demand to know why Bush can change the law at whim but not Obama. Only Shak Hill can address this issue with the hypocrisy charge being thrown back in his face.

In short, Shak Hill can deliver the conservative message in 2014 far batter than Ed Gillespie can. As a result, he is a more “viable” candidate than Ed, and in my opinion, a more electable one, too.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

My thoughts on the current struggle within the Republican Party of Virginia

March 19, 2014

For those of you not familiar with the intricacies of the battle between the “establishment” and the “insurgents” in the Republican Party of Virginia, here’s a brief summary…

The 2013 campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor was short-circuited when Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling chose not to run. He was preparing for a primary, but in 2012 the Republican State Central Committee chose to make the nomination process a convention (reversing a previous decision). Bolling’s decision to drop out handed the nomination to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who went on to lose to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Bolling supporters and most moderates in the party are convinced that the switch to the convention was dirty pool on the part of Cuccinelli’s supporters. They are also convinced that Bolling could have defeated McAuliffe. They have responded by taking revenge on the “insurgents” or “Tea Party folks” by using the rules of convention calls to exclude those who they do not know or trust from the conventions (the process is known as “slating” – in effect, voting for only their “slate” of delegates to be allowed). It is within the rules, but considered very bad form, and the victims are furious at the “establishment.”

Folks in the party are taking sides, but I am not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a pox on both houses.

Why I have no sympathy for the “establishment”: Given the actual events of 2013, I can’t help thinking that the entire Bolling campaign for Governor was just a cover for the tax hike (Plan ’13 From Outer Space). I’ll admit that probably isn’t entirely fair, but as just about every single Bolling supporter I know is arrogantly defending that piece of legislative drek, it’s more fair than the alternative. Moreover, the notion that Bolling could have done any better against Cuccinelli in a primary than in a convention completely baffles me. Had Bolling shown half the energy in 2013 that his backers are showing this year, he’d have won the nomination. Still, that’s not as important as the tax-hiking nonsense.

Why I have no sympathy for the “Tea Party folks”: They have spent far too much time flying their causes and issues into a mountain. To challenge Eric Cantor (whose support for the bank bailout is enough to open my mind to supporting a replacement), they endorsed an aide to Walter Stosch, tax-hiker extraordinaire, and then hurl invective at anyone who criticizes the move. In the 10th district, they have decided to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Barbara Comstock, who opposed Plan ’13 From Outer Space. Last year, they insisted that Ken Cuccinelli was the real deal, completely ignoring his appalling squishiness on the aforementioned Plan ’13. They have turned a revolt against higher taxes and spending into a conspiracy of personal vendettas that have done nothing to advance their cause.

In short, I’m being asked to take a side in “a Republican civil war” or “a battle for the soul of the party”…between a group of tax-hiking, big-government politicos on the one hand and a group of vengeful, incompetent fools on the other.

Sorry, but no dice. I will choose my endorsees based on the issues. As for the rest, I’m sitting it out until both sides begin to act like they deserve the power to govern. At this point, neither side does.


Bob Marshall is now running in the 10th, but I still prefer Barbara Comstock

February 10, 2014

One week ago today, I endorsed Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District. Since then, a new entrant, Bob Marshall, has caused me to rethink my decision – but not to change it. Barring the discovery of documentation showing that Delegate Comstock supported the bank bailout, she is still my preferred choice for the seat.

Don’t get me wrong, Bob Marshall has done yeoman’s work for all Virginia taxpayers in his 20-plus years as a Delegate. In fact, that’s half the problem: the House of Representatives is a far different body, one in which individual members have far less power than legislators do in Richmond. If Bob were running for the Senate, I would be thrilled; he’s not.

Moreover, Barbara Comstock is not your typical “Establishment” Republican in Virginia. Last year – as a Fairfax County Delegate with nearly every interest group screaming, begging, and cajoling her to support Plan ’13 From Outer Space – she said No.

In other words, assuming this comes down to Comstock and Marshall (and given the rest of the field, it almost certainly will), it is in fact a battle between two genuine supporters of limited government. The question is this: would Virginia be better served by Comstock in Washington and Marshall in Richmond? Or the other way around?

I think the answer is obvious. Virginia would lose far more than it could possibly gain if Marshall is sent to Congress. Better for him to stay where he is most valuable (Richmond), while Comstock can continue standing up for taxpayers in her own, quiet way in Washington.

The economy, blame, TARP, and what it means for the GOP

February 7, 2014

CNN conducted a poll on the state of the economy, and as one would expect, the people are not happy (emphasis added):

Thirty-six percent of those questioned rate the current economic conditions as good. That’s up four percentage points from December and it is the highest level since January 2008, a year before Obama entered the White House. Sixty-four percent continue to say the economy is in poor shape.

But that’s not the key takeaway. This is (emphasis added):

Five years into Obama’s presidency, only a third of the public believes that Obama and the Democrats are primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.

More Americans continue to blame former President Bush and the Republicans.  But the number who say the GOP is more responsible – now at 44% – has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time since Bush left the White House.  Fourteen percent blame both parties equally.

I would humbly submit that the above poll (which, as implied in the excerpt, had blame for Bush over 50% in 2012) is the most important poll of the last several years – more important than the demographic polls, or the issue polls, or the “branding” polls, or anything else. I say that because it makes clear that the economy is still a winning issue for the Democrats – and has been since 2008. It also reveals the way forward for the GOP – which the other polls don’t.

First, let’s address the key takeaway: how can it still be Bush’s fault five years after he left office?

The answer is the Democrats’ message on the economy, and the GOP’s complete inability to counter it – something we are in danger of seeing all over again in Virginia if Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Ever since the president put his hand on the Bible the first time (in 2009), the Democrats have had the same message regarding the economy: “the crisis did it.” Any comments from the Democrats on the subject go back to the fall of 2008. That has been their get-out-of-jail-free card for five years…and it has worked because Republicans have been foolish enough to present supporters of the 2008 bank bailout as their leaders (Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Romney, and Ryan). If your leaders all think things were so bad that the major banks needed $700 billion, it’s impossible to argue that the Great Recession and weak recovery that followed were due to Obama policies – no matter how true it might be.

This is why I can not support TARP supporters for Republican nominations. We should have learned this lesson when Romney lost (I know I did). Unless we nominated candidates who did not support TARP (and thus can argue that it did more to exacerbate the problems of 2008 than to solve them), we are simply swallowing the Democrats’ economic narrative whole. That means the economy is no longer a winning issue for us, period (it also means we can’t change the subject when “War on Women” nonsense comes up, because switching the economy does us no favors).

Until the Republican Party repudiates the bank bailout, it will always be blamed for the state of the economy so long as it remains this weak. We have to counter the Democrats’ narrative on 2008, and we can’t do this if we nominate candidates who agree that things were so bad that the bailout was necessary.

Unfortunately, for all my friends who support Ed Gillespie, that means he cannot be nominated, for he will not win.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


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