Republican North East Conference, Day 2

Speaker Co-Chair Louis Pope (from Maryland) is opening the day. He put attendance around 170 and continuing to grow. He also pointed out a group of about eight Republicans who flew in all the way from Puerto Rico. (“They don’t get a lot of snow, in Puerto Rico, but the RNC puts them in the North East.”)

9:10 a.m.
Governor Carcieri’s giving the first talk. He just tasked the Rhode Islanders in the room to make sure that the out-of-staters leave with wallets empty.

9:13 a.m.
Governor Carcieri is describing the economic situation in Rhode Island, and he laid the fault at the real estate budget. It seems to me it’d be a very effective — not to mention accurate — theme to acknowledge that it wasn’t just the housing bubble. The state was in a terrible position to begin with. Our government was running hundreds of billions in deficits each year even during the bubble.
Differentiating between the private sector and the public sector: “In the public sector, the cash isn’t real. It’s just a number on a piece of paper.”
9:22 a.m.
“After eight years running a small government, I have a hard time saying anything that we do well.” There are good people, he says, but it’s a matter of motivation.
This isn’t exactly news, but there’s no question, by the way, that the Republicanism of Don Carcieri is strongly, unabashedly conservative.
9:27 a.m.
On healthcare: “You gotta hand it to the Democrats. They make it so you can’t figure out what you’re going to argue on. Because what’s the bill? … There’s never any substance.”
He pointed out that Medicaid costs are unsustainable. But isn’t that always Democrats’ model for what they want to do and why?
“Does anybody believe that eliminating waste and fraud is going to pay for this program? If it is, why aren’t we eliminating it now?”
Final thought: The nation is craving Republican leadership. And he closed with a story about a talking dog, to which Republicans are comparable.
9:35 a.m.
Jody Dow is introducing RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay. More info on party contributions: They’re pulling in between eight and nine million dollars per month, with the average donation at $41.

McKay: “I wish right now, I were an investment. Getting into this job, when I did, was really ‘buying low.'”
Slide 1: Republican self-identification has been on the slide but is returning.
Slide 2: On election day 2008, Republicans “were losing on every issue except security,” which was a tie.
Slide 3: The GOP lost ground among various demographics, including Hispanics, youth, moderates, women, etc.
Slide 4 (or so): Since the election, Democrat affiliation has been falling; Republican affiliation has been falling more slowly; and Independents have been increasing mainly at the expense of Democrats.
Slide 5: Republicans now lead just about every issue (tied for Iraq; behind on government ethics). There’s also a notable increase in the “not sure” category.
Slide 6: Obama’s approval-disapproval ratings have been converging extremely rapidly. “Folks are not thrilled with his job performance, and on virtually every issue, he’s upside down with everybody except Democrats.”
Slide 7: Strongly disapprove is now above strongly approve for Obama. “We have to work for moderates and we have to work for independents.” But McKay wishes the election were tomorrow.
Slide 8: Obama’s sliding on every issue, including healthcare.
Slide 9: Everybody, even Democrats, believes that the president should focus on fixing the economy rather than reforming healthcare. All voters: 57 to 19.
Slide 10: People sick of spending.
Slide 11: GOP wins on the generic ballot, right now, 42 to 38. Congress approval: 36% favorable, 61% unfavorable.
Slide 12: Pelosi: 29% favorable, 47% unfavorable. “You could put a picture of Nancy up and win just about anywhere, and we haven’t spent a dime on it; she’s done it all herself.”
Slide 13: Reid: 16% favorable, 21% unfavorable. “The problem we have with Harry Reid is that nobody knows him yet.” But he’s behind every Republican on the ballot in his home state.
Slide 14: People aren’t happy with the direction of current events.
Slide 15: 53% to 38% disapproval of current healthcare legislation. McKay: Americans have the common sense to see the taxes behind these programs, and they know what’s coming.
Slide 16, 17, 18, 19: People do not believe the promises made in favor of healthcare reform.
Slide 20: Virginia governor’s race is within the margin of error, and the RNC is concentrating on it.
Slide 21: New Jersey has a Chris Christie (R) leading, but the independent, named Daggett, is muddying the waters.
10:11 a.m.
Q&A: McKay says there are just too many races for the RNC to devote too much money to races, but it can promise people.
Q: What is the RNC doing to support the tea parties.
McKay: “Frankly, they’re people who don’t want to be organized, right now. They want to organize among themselves.” The GOP is courting such groups at the leadership level. “It’s going to be a slow process, but at the end of the day, they’re with us.”
A woman from Vermont suggested that they’ve got evidence of other factions (Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul) using the tea party movement as a means of infiltrating the GOP structure.
10:21 a.m.
Former Congressman (and current Senate candidate) in Connecticut Robert Simmons is up and assures the room that national Republican organizers have assured him that New England is on their target list for rebuilding the party. “Now is the first time in 180 years that there are no Republican members in the Congressional delegations from New England.”
10:25 a.m.
“Thank you to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and President Obama for bringing the Republican Party back again.”
He’s hitting all of NE Republican talking points (which I say not to diminish them). Free enterprise, individual initiative, public service as a service, natural conservation, and education (as a prerequisite to having an individualistic and active population.
10:29 a.m.
“No more self interest above the interests of the people that you serve”… naming Dodd, Rangel, et al. The Democrats did, in fact, inherit the deficit, but they’re making it worth. “Even the Chinese Communists are complaining about our overspending.”
Every child born today is starting life with a bill of $40,000 from the federal government
10:32 a.m.
“When President Obama says, ‘I will allow you to keep your doctor,’ I say, ‘No you won’t; I have a right to keep my doctor.”

10:38 a.m.
Up now is a panel of Congressional candidates.
Justin Bernier — with whom I conversed about the peculiarities of being Justin, last night — is from Connecticut.
John Loughlin — who is very, very unhappy with yours truly for my post about his pension scheme — is from here.
Charles Lollar — about whom I’ve gathered no anecdotes — is from Maryland.
10:43 a.m.
Justin held up a copy of Time magazine asking, on the cover, whether the Republican Party is an endangered species. “I think Time magazine will be extinct before the Republican Party.”
“A jobless recovery is like a foodless meal.”
10:50 a.m.
“Being House Minority Whip in Rhode Island is like being Vice Admiral of a canoe.”

10:56 a.m.
Having brought the audience up to speed on local happenings, Loughlin is reading Bill Lynch’s response in Patrick Kennedy’s stead to last week’s healthcare forum in Tiverton. (I hadn’t know that Lynch spelled “Kennedy” wrong.)
“We tend to think that the Democrat machine are pros. They’re not; they’re morons.”
11:00 a.m.
Lollar has taken the podium. He pointed out the two things from Carcieri’s speech that bespoke of the governor’s character: he’s been married over 40 years, and he’s got four children.
11:02 a.m.
Lollar: We [Republicans] aren’t popular, but our policies are. They [Democrats] are popular, but their policies aren’t. The only way they can beat us is to try to combine our policies with their popularity, which is to what
“Because we are conservatives and because we are Republicans, the American people are going to expect more of us.” When Republicans sink to the other side’s level, the response is therefore more dramatic and more rapid.
With my three minutes of experience with Mr. Lollar has definitely captured the audience’s attention. I don’t have any knowledge of his race against Stenny Hoyer, but I’ll suggest that Lollar is one to watch. Talking Reagan. Family values. Clear, crisp analysis of what Republicans have to do.
11:10 a.m.
His closing story was about going into a bar to campaign in rural Maryland, with a big Confederate flag in the back, and the music literally stopped, as if it were a movie. (He’s black.) He walked the room, talked to everybody about issues, and gained a lot of support.
11:19 a.m.
Will Grapentine asked Loughlin to comment on Kennedy’s reference to the violence of tea party types. Loughlin pointed to me and asked whether I saw any. Being more a script than an improv guy, I couldn’t think of the obvious come back quickly enough: “No, and that was with a bar in the back of the room.”
11:29 a.m.
Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R, Michigan) has made a point of turning his entire speaking time to a Q&A to emphasize that Republicans have to listen to people more. “We began to think that we represented Washington to our constituents,” when it should be the other way around.”
McCotter’s got a very dry sense of humor and solid mid-country confidence.
11:30 a.m.
Wow. McCotter’s response to a question about Afghanistan is the stuff of think tank panels. Very smart, clear, and concise. Definitely worth watching in my YouTube clips yesterday.
11:33 a.m.
To an audience question about the procedural likelihoods among Democrats for the healthcare bill: “Life is short, so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what incompetent people are doing, because they themselves don’t know.”
11:38 a.m.
In response to another question: “We can’t continue to mythologize the Contract with America” The situation is similar, now to then, but the problems that are the issues are too big for such a limited document. McCotter also thinks now isn’t the time to start an inside-Republican debate on a list of what we have to believe. Instead he puts forward five principles, after which the rest should be entrusted to the people actually elected as representatives:

  • Liberty is from God not government
  • Sovereignty is from souls
  • Security from strength not surrender
  • Prosperity is from private sector not public
  • Our truths are self evident

This is definitely a developing theme: Back to diversity of thought; back, in a word, to federalism.
After the next question, he’s defending the bailout of auto manufacturers on the grounds that “America is not an economy or a bureaucracy. America is a country.” Point being that you can’t bail out Wall Street financiers and let auto workers lose everything.
11:49 a.m.
A local Chafee Republican (I’m guessing) asked about the instinct to push such people as he and Jeffords and Specter out. McCotter’s answer: “Ideologues — there’s a reason that they purge all the time: because they’re nuts.” Of course, he broke the application out in individual cases.
I suspect the Congressman would likely agree (if informed) that the voters who actually lived beneath Chafee were right to oust him. Just a guess, from his Specter-related statement: “We’re sorry to have lost him. We were sorry to have him.”
11:55 a.m.
Sorry. I lapsed and didn’t get a picture of McCotter. Here’s one of former governor of NH John Sununu:

12:02 p.m.
Sununu is describing the Democrats’ strategy of collecting gobs of money at the national level from radical groups and billionaires and then pouring it into small, targeted races, even at the local level, which ultimately turned New Hampshire blue. “They did the nitty-gritty of politics better than we did.”
12:07 p.m.
New England Republicans need to remotivate the business community, which is sitting around wondering what happened to their previously profitable region. Taxes. Regulations.
12:09 p.m.
Sununu thinks that, even if we all do nothing, the next cycle will be good for Republicans, simply as a matter of electoral trends. But, inasmuch as the Northeast is at the end of its rope, “Shame on us if we sit on our hands.”
And again: “Internal fighting within a party is luxury that only a supermajority party can afford.”
Well… I don’t know. The key is to focus on issues of common concern and push differences to smaller areas (states, towns, etc.). But a coalition requires some common defense when the opposition pushes aggressively on issues that one contingent of the coalition deplores.
12:19 p.m.
Sununu noted that Republicans in New England should take advantage of the fact that we’re a magnet region for higher education to communicate to young Americans that the Democrats really aren’t serving their best interests.
12:22 p.m.
“The Europeans weren’t in love with George W. Bush, but even though they didn’t like him, they respected Americans. Now the world loves Obama, but they’ve got no respect for America.”
The trip to Copenhagen tells Sununu two things: There really are no smarts at the top, and there are a bunch of crooked self-dealers around the president who pushed him over there to make a bunch of money.
12:30 p.m.
On a question about how to combat the Hollywood strength in culture and money, Sununu suggests supporting those who do similar things on our side, such as talk radio hosts (I’d add, ahem, bloggers). He also suggest that we not be “polite”: Hang Roman Polanski around the necks of everybody in Hollywood. Also, we need to explore ways of communicating with teachers to counterbalance rhetoric that filters down to them.
12:34 p.m.
Gov. Carcieri just described the erosion — on both sides of the aisle — of local party committees and such, but the Democrats had the substitution of labor unions and organizations like ACORN. (Once more, I’d suggest, that top-down model that modern conservatives tend to resist on a gut level.)
12:37 p.m.
Sununu’s now describing the Democrats’ destruction of public sector pensions. He suggests to Carcieri a 13-month offensive to communicate to unions that there will no longer be pensions unless they let Republicans begin taking the reins of the states.
12:41 p.m.
In response to a question: “The dirty little secret: The unaffiliated voters are really Republicans.” W.’s style turned a lot of people off — “What I call ‘Texas cocky’.”
The answer (say it with me): bring the issues back into the light.
12:43 p.m.
In response to a question about recruiting: “You cannot attract good candidates to a moribund party.” In New Hampshire, they’re now moving from having to work to recruit to having to work to manage primaries so as not to cause internal damage, because there are so many candidates.
Message: The current Democrat Party isn’t the old Democrat party. “It isn’t the party of Jackson; it isn’t even the party of Jack Kennedy.”

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