Capital Beat: Republicans lay out plans for victory in 2014
Speakers at this weekend’s Republican conference in Nashua were full of familiar messages as they worked to gin up excitement for the midterm election: Obamacare is bad, limited government is good, the president is a weak leader, Republicans stand for opportunity.
But there was also a focus on what Republicans need to do to turn these messages into winning ones. At the top of the list: Stop fighting with each other and learn how to spread the Republican message in a language non-ideologues can understand.
“The last campaign we ran in 2012, we were the party of no,” said Pat Griffin, a Republican strategist. “All brake, no accelerator, no steering wheel.”
This isn’t a new message, as the Republicans have been grappling with the party’s “brand” since the 2012 election. But roughly 75 percent of the conference attendees were from New Hampshire, and many of them were local activists – the people who will be knocking on doors and convincing their friends and neighbors to vote Republican.
“We’ve got to change some of the vocabulary to make it resonate with folks out there,” said state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who was highlighted as an emerging leader in the party.
Instead of telling a neighbor that you vote Republican because you’re for limited government, explain what that means, she said. Tell them it means being against new federal regulations that limit what kind of food students can buy in schools. Explain that you disagree with the regulations because they could leave football players without a full stomach by the time after-school practice comes around, Sanborn said.
“Let’s make it a little catchier; we can do this. It’s not that hard,” she said.
What else makes for a winning message?
Promoting manufacturing and blue-collar jobs, said former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Allowing for choice in education through charter schools, said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 candidate.
Putting forward a strong foreign policy that doesn’t appease the country’s enemies, said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
But no matter how catchy the message is, Republicans won’t win if they keep fighting with each other, speakers said. Some of the weekend’s biggest stars articulated that message over and over, sending a warning to attendees that continuing to create a rift between the Tea Party and the establishment wing won’t do the party any favors.
“We cannot continue to fight among ourselves,” Ayotte said. “I think we all know who wins when we fight among ourselves – the Democrats win, and the country loses.”
“We don’t have to shoot at each other inside the tent; there are enough big targets outside the tent,” said Joe Scarborough, a former congressman and host of a political talk show on MSNBC.
Democrats weren’t impressed with the weekend lineup.
“Failed candidates talking about failed policies – that is what this weekend is,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
But state Republicans, still enthusiastic after a victory in last week’s Executive Council special election, don’t see failure in their future.
“It’s always a winning message when you’re out there fighting for the individuals, for families, for small businesses,” said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the state Republican Party.
Ban on big money?
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wasted no time in calling for a ban on advertising by outside groups in her race against Scott Brown – a race that isn’t quite official, but looking very likely.
Shaheen called on Brown yesterday morning to sign the “People’s Pledge,” which would disallow third-party groups, from super-PACs to national and state party committees, from buying television or radio ads about the race. That means no TV ads from groups like the League of Conservation Voters, which spent $220,000 against Brown earlier this year, or from American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s super PAC that is launching a $600,000 ad campaign against Shaheen.
The pledge would only apply to ads in which the outside groups pays for airtime, so it doesn’t exclude putting an ad up on YouTube.
If supporters of either candidate violate the pledge, that candidate would have to pay equal to 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity of the other’s choice.
This pledge is not new to Brown – he and Democrat Elizabeth Warren signed it in 2012 (he raised $28 million on his own that cycle.) But Brown didn’t sign the pledge yesterday. Instead, he accused Shaheen of hypocrisy.
“Before I even thought of becoming a candidate, Jeanne Shaheen’s allies in Washington were running negative ads against me for months,” Brown said in a statement. “The people of New Hampshire can see through the Washington-style game she is playing.”
Shaheen’s team quickly fired back.
In 2012, “Brown said Massachusetts voters ‘deserved better.’ We think New Hampshire voters deserve better too, and that’s why we are urging him to sign this pledge – his pledge – now,” said Mike Vlacich, Shaheen’s campaign manager.
Let the games begin.
Hassan: We still need a casino
If the New Hampshire House was ever likely to vote for a casino, this would have been the year. Gov. Maggie Hassan lobbied hard for it, and a group of lawmakers created a nearly 100-page regulatory structure.
But the House defeated the proposal by 29 votes last week. Roughly 50 lawmakers were absent, and many people believe the defeat would have been larger had more people been there. To Steve Duprey, a leading voice for the anti-casino effort, the vote was a “silver stake” in the heart of the casino proposal. The Legislature has debated casinos for years, and he thinks this vote marked the final defeat.
Hassan doesn’t seem to agree.
“Despite today’s vote, I continue to believe that developing our own plan for one high-end casino is the best course of action for investing in the priorities that are critical to long-term economic growth,” she said in a statement after the vote.
It’s unclear what Hassan’s next play is. Asked by the Monitor’s editorial board recently what her plan for fixing roads and bridges would be if the casino failed, Hassan didn’t offer an alternative other than a possible gas tax increase – which wouldn’t bring in nearly as much revenue as the state transportation commissioner says he needs. She did say she’ll continue looking for bipartisan solutions to solve the problem, but didn’t give specifics.
If re-elected, will she push the Legislature to try for a casino next year, even with this defeat? That could be a tough sell.
What to watch
∎ The House will have a second chance to create a gun study committee Wednesday, one that Democrats may find more favorable than one proposed by Republicans earlier this year.
The committee would be charged with studying the state’s gun laws and exploring options for strengthening the background checks system.
∎ U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter will co-host a “New Hampshire Women’s Economic Agenda Summit” Friday in Manchester with a Connecticut congresswoman who’s led the fight on paycheck fairness. Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat, and House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, will join the summit, which will focus on pay equity, work-life balance and child care.
This comes a week after a bill aimed at ensuring equal pay for men and women sailed through the state Senate.
∎ Pay attention to how both Republicans and Democrats react as Brown embarks on his New Hampshire “listening tour.”
Whether or not some conservative groups speak out against Brown’s record on guns and abortion could indicate what challenges he’s up against within the party. And the amount of money and energy Democrats throw at the race now will mark the beginning of what’s sure to be an expensive campaign.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or email@example.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)