REPUBLICANS’ SELF-HATRED SWELLS: THE GOP VS. ITS OWN BASE
Rick Santorum is unhappy that older people, who tend to vote Republican, are getting insurance via the ACA
JOAN WALSH | DEC 2, 2013 | Salon
DOES ANY MODERN POLITICAL PARTY BESIDES THE GOP HOLD A HUGE SEGMENT OF ITS BASE IN CONTEMPT? I’ve written a lot about how Republicans have failed to make inroads with Latinos, young voters or women since their 2012 defeat, but what’s really interesting is the way they continue to deride many of their older, white, working-class voters, too.
WHEN MITT ROMNEY INSULTED “THE 47 PERCENT” OF AMERICANS WHO PAY NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES, HE FAILED TO NOTICE THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEM ARE WHITE, MOST OF THEM WHITE SENIORS, THE MOST RELIABLY REPUBLICAN VOTERS IN THE COUNTRY. A large portion of the people Paul Ryan describes as “takers” – vs. productive “makers” – are likewise older whites. And although Ryan and his party want to turn Medicare into a voucher program – run by exchanges, much like the Affordable Care Act – they tried to hide that fact during the 2012 race because it was hugely unpopular with their base.
The latest insult came from former senator and 2012 presidential runner-up Rick Santorum. On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday Santorum complained that the Affordable Care Act has meant that “sicker, older” people are getting health insurance (h/t Crooks and Liars.) Santorum told Candy Crowley and former Gov. Howard Dean:
Well, let me just add that one of the solutions that President Obama tried to accomplish was to let people keep their own insurance. It turns out that a lot of insurance companies are actually allowing that to happen, and that could cause even more problems for Obamacare, because that means fewer and fewer people getting into the exchanges. And the ones who, at least to date, it’s just facts Gov. Dean, the ones in the system are much older.
I talked to one insurance company today, a third of their enrollees are over sixty years of age. That is not how an insurance system would work, but those are the people signing up and the folks who can keep their plans because they’re more customized and lower cost, will now. And the folks who are going to get into these exchanges are going to be probably sicker, older, and as a result, premiums are even going to go higher.
First of all, it’s not clear Santorum is right about this. SOME STATES ARE SEEING UNEXPECTEDLY HIGH PROPORTIONS OF YOUNGER PEOPLE SIGN UP FOR COVERAGE. IN KENTUCKY, 41 PERCENT HAVE BEEN UNDER 35; IN CALIFORNIA, IT’S 22 PERCENT, WHICH IS PROPORTIONATE TO THEIR SHARE OF THE POPULATION. STILL, THE ENROLLMENT RATE IN CALIFORNIA IS HIGHEST FOR PEOPLE OVER 55. THAT’S NOT SURPRISING, OR PERMANENT: BASED ON THE EXPERIENCE OF MASSACHUSETTS, OLDER PEOPLE TEND TO SIGN UP FOR COVERAGE FIRST; YOUNGER ENROLLEES DO IT CLOSER TO THE DEADLINE.
But ASSUMING THAT SANTORUM ISN’T WRONG (ADMITTEDLY A LEAP), WHAT IS HE SAYING? THAT PEOPLE OVER 60 WHO DON’T HAVE COVERAGE SHOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET IT? WE KNOW THESE PEOPLE ARE WHITE, AND PRESUMABLY – SINCE THEY’RE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICAID, WHICH COVERS MANY OF THE POOR AND UNEMPLOYED — THEY’RE WORKING PEOPLE. BUT SANTORUM SAYS “THAT’S NOT HOW AN INSURANCE SYSTEM SHOULD WORK.”
LUCKILY HOWARD DEAN WAS THERE TO DISAGREE. “I THINK IT’S GREAT THAT WE’RE INSURING PEOPLE WHO CAN’T GET INSURANCE THAT ARE OVER 55 AND 60,” HE TOLD SANTORUM AND CROWLEY. “THAT’S WHAT THIS IS SUPPOSED TO DO.”
Of course, if insurers are unhappy with their older customers, Rep. Alan Grayson has an answer: his “MEDICARE FOR ALL” BILL, WHICH WOULD ALLOW ANYONE WHO WANTED TO TO SIGN UP FOR MEDICARE INSTEAD OF A PRIVATE INSURANCE PLAN. BACK DURING THE ACA DEBATE MANY LIBERALS WANTED TO SEE THAT OPTION, BUT IT WAS VETOED BY INSURANCE INTERESTS. OPENING UP MEDICARE TO PEOPLE 55 AND OLDER WOULD HELP STABILIZE THE PROGRAM – ALTHOUGH THEY’RE THE OLDER EDGE OF THE ACA POOL, THEY’D BE YOUNGER AND HEALTHIER SUBSCRIBERS IN THE MEDICARE POOL – AND PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE FOR THOSE PRICED OUT OF OR UNDERSERVED BY THE PRIVATE MARKET.
Still, the big news this weekend was that the federal website that lets most people access insurance exchanges, Healthcaregov, is mostly fixed. That’s why Santorum was reduced to railing against those takers in the GOP base. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace attacked the ACA as “income redistribution.”
And, of course, Santorum insisted that the ACA’s troubles raised questions about “the president’s competence.” Dean wasn’t having that either.
“That’s right-wing talking points against this president,” Dean replied. “From day one, they’ve tried to undermine him as a human being … I lose my patience with this nonsense. I do believe that the facts are going to be determined by what happens on the ground. Three months from now, a lot more people are going to have health insurance, and a lot more people are going to be happy with all this.”
Sentiment: Strong Buy
MITCH MCCONNELL: REPUBLICANS NEED TO 'STAND UP TO' CONSERVATIVES 'GIVING CONSERVATISM A BAD NAME'
The Huffington Post | By Chris Gentilviso | 11/30/2013
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) smacked down a segment of conservatives, calling for establishment Republicans to stand their ground.
IN A WIDE-RANGING INTERVIEW WITH THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER PUBLISHED FRIDAY, MCCONNELL DISCUSSED HOW A CADRE OF REPUBLICANS WATCHED OCTOBER'S GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN HAPPEN, DESPITE A DESIRE TO PREVENT SUCH AN EVENT FROM GOING FORWARD.
“THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE BASICALLY AFRAID OF [CONSERVATIVES], FRANKLY,” MCCONNELL SAID. “IT’S TIME FOR PEOPLE TO STAND UP TO THIS SORT OF THING.”
McConnell specifically singled out the Senate Conservatives Fund -- a group that has endorsed his Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin, for the 2014 Republican nod in Kentucky's Senate race. The INCUMBENT MCCONNELL TOLD THE EXAMINER THAT GROUPS OF THAT NATURE ARE "GIVING CONSERVATISM A BAD NAME."
“What they do is mislead their donors into believing the reason that we can’t get as good an outcome as we’d like to get is not because of a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, but because Republicans are insufficiently committed to the cause — which is utter nonsense," McConnell said.
Should McConnell win the GOP primary, early polls show that he's headed for a heated fight with Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. A compilation of 15 surveys updated earlier in November showed McConnell holding a narrow 40-39 percent lead.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
UNDER PRESSURE: TEA PARTY PUSHES WALKER TO 'BE THE HERO'
Gov. Scott Walker Pushed By Tea Party, Conservatives To Abandon Common Core Standards
The Huffington Post | Rebecca Klein | 11/27/2013
TEA PARTY AND CONSERVATIVE GROUPS ACROSS THE STATE OF WISCONSIN ARE CALLING ON GOV. SCOTT WALKER TO LEAD THE FIGHT AGAINST THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS.
The Common Core State Standards have been adopted in more than 40 states and are being taught to the same benchmarks. While the standards are typically seen as more rigorous than what most states previously used, in Wisconsin, some critics are arguing the standards are too mild and represent an example of federal overreach.
ON TUESDAY, THE GROUPS SENT WALKER A LETTER ASKING HIM TO ENCOURAGE THE LEGISLATURE TO PASS A BILL REJECTING THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS, EVEN THOUGH THE STATE ADOPTED THE VOLUNTARY BENCHMARKS IN 2010. THE LETTER, WHICH WAS SIGNED BY MORE THAN 60 GROUPS, READS IN PART:
YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO BE THE HERO IN THIS STORY. THE QUESTION IS, WILL YOU CHOOSE TO RISE TO THE OPPORTUNITY? OR, WILL YOU INSTEAD TACITLY ALLOW THE CHILDREN OF WISCONSIN TO FOUNDER ON THE ROCKS OF ABRIDGED KNOWLEDGE, EMPTY SKILL SETS, AND DATA MINING?
Walker has been a critic of the Common Core Standards, and in late September, he told reporters he would like “Wisconsin to have its own unique standards that I think can be higher than what’s been established.” However, according to the Associated Press, Walker has not committed to actually rescinding the standards.
Earlier this month, the Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate organized Common Core select committees in response to pressure from critics, according to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. After hearings on the standards, a committee member told the outlet that he did not think the committee recommend abandoning the benchmarks, although the group has yet to release official suggestions.
Schools in Wisconsin have already spent about $25 million on the standards’ implementation process, the AP notes.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
A 31-YEAR-OLD IS TEARING APART THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Think Republicans have been making fools of themselves? Blame Michael Needham.
JULIA IOFFE | The New Republic | Nov. 24, 2013
On a Thursday evening at the end of August, a respectable, older crowd waited in the ballroom of the Double Tree in Wilmington, Delaware, to hear Jim DeMint speak. The dashing former South Carolina senator and Tea Party icon had been flying around the country on a private jet to stump for the cause of defunding Obamacare, and Wilmington was the last stop on his nine-city tour. In Dallas, he was joined by his protégé Ted Cruz, but most of the time it was just DeMint and his barker, Michael Needham.
In that Delaware ballroom, Needham, a dark-haired, square-jawed young man, dressed in a sensibly checkered button-down shirt and pleated khaki pants, was warming up the crowd. He strutted around the makeshift stage with the kind of robustness that masks a certain Washington stiffness. “Can we, in the month of September, achieve defunding Obamacare?” he boomed. “Yes, we can!” yelled the crowd.
Needham is the 31-year-old CEO of Heritage Action, the relatively new activist branch of the Heritage Foundation, the storied Washington think tank that was one of the leaders of the conservative war of ideas ever since it provided the blueprint for Ronald Reagan’s first term. Although DeMint is Heritage’s president, it was Needham who had designed much of the defund Obamacare strategy. Beginning in 2010, when Heritage Action was founded, Needham pushed the GOP to use Congress’s power of the purse to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. He formed a grassroots army, which he used to keep congressional Republicans in line. “They make six hundred phone calls and have a member of Congress in the fetal position,” says one GOP congressional staffer.
After months of furious lobbying, Needham sold, at most, 20 members of the House on his plan of attack. In the end, this was enough to cement the party line—and lead the GOP to a spectacular, deafening loss.
Sorting through the wreckage, Washington conservatives can barely contain their anger at Needham for his ideological inflexibility and aggressive, zero-sum tactics. “Their strategic sense isn’t very strong,” griped a prominent Republican lobbyist. “They’ve repeatedly been wrong about how to handle this.” Says a senior House Republican aide, “Mike Needham played a large role in defeating ideas that would have worked out better.”
But the wrath is not solely reserved for Needham; his employer now inspires plenty of disgust among conservatives, too. Increasingly in Washington, “Heritage” has come to denote not the foundation or the think tank, but Heritage Action, Needham’s sharp-elbowed operation. Instead of fleshing out conservative positions, says one Republican Senate staffer, “now they’re running around trying to get Republicans voted out of office. It’s a purely ideological crusade that’s utterly divorced from the research side.” (“If Nancy Pelosi could write an anonymous check to Heritage Action,” adds the House aide bitterly, “she would.”)
As a result, the Heritage Foundation has gone from august conservative think tank revered by Washington’s Republicans to the party’s loathed ideological commissar. “It’s sad, actually,” says one Republican strategist. “Everybody forgets that Heritage was always considered the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought. The emergence of Heritage Action has really transformed the brand into a more political organization.”
Needham’s strategy has also sparked a war inside the halls of the foundation itself, where many feel duped by the stealthy yet brutal way the Heritage Action takeover went down. Some now wonder whether the foundation can ever recover its reputation as a font of ideas. “I don’t think any thoughtful person is going to take the Heritage Foundation very seriously, because they’ll say, How is this any different from the Tea Party?” says Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation. Looking at the organization he helped to create, Edwards finds it unrecognizable. “Going out there and trying to defeat people who don’t agree with us never occurred to us,” said Edwards. “It’s alien.”
Until his retirement last spring, Edwin Feulner, a ruddy, bespectacled grandfather of modern conservatism, loved telling his think tank’s founding myth to every batch of new hires: In 1971, he and Paul Weyrich were two Republican Hill staffers who witnessed President Richard Nixon’s plan to fund a supersonic transport plane defeated in the Senate. Two days later, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), then the only conservative think tank in town, delivered a positive assessment of the plane. When Weyrich asked why the report arrived after the fight was over, the people at AEI told him that they didn’t want to be seen as influencing the vote.
This, the story goes, was why Feulner and Weyrich decided to found Heritage: to influence the vote. It was also why their model focused on short backgrounders, rather than long reports, so that congressmen could get a quick opinion on their way to the floor. Unlike AEI or Brookings across town, Heritage set up shop on the Hill, down the street from Congress. And unlike AEI and Brookings, Heritage was not so much about exploring ideas as it was about pushing a political line.
Still, Feulner, a reserved and bookish type, helped preserve at least a patina of learning and bipartisan cooperation for the sake of good policy. Heritage was instrumental, for instance, in shaping Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, advocating for ideas such as work requirements. Obamacare’s individual mandate was a concept born at Heritage. And despite an ongoing debate about whether the organization should be tougher about how it made its policy recommendations to lawmakers, most Heritage policy analysts and management, including Feulner, tried to keep a clean distinction between their work and outright lobbying. Whenever the idea of creating a political action arm came up, says a longtime Heritage scholar, “the answer was always no, because it would undermine the status of our research.”
But all this changed in 2008, when Barack Obama won the presidency and began to push his healthcare plan through Congress. People at Heritage watched in horror as the Center for American Progress, which they’d long derided as a liberal political operation masquerading as a think tank, out-muscled them in the policy fight on the Hill. They watched the Tea Party grow from a smattering of ornery protesters into a national movement. The idea of a Heritage lobby came up again, with greater urgency. And this time, it had a wily shepherd to see it through: Thomas A. Saunders III.
A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Saunders made his money in private equity and, before that, as a Wall Street hustler in the heady 1980s. Press reports from the time describe him as a sort of Gordon Gekko meets Rhett Butler, “a relentless salesman whose aggressiveness would be insufferable if it were not softened by a Virginia gentleman’s manner.” Over the past 20 years, he became a major GOP donor, contributing a half-million dollars to the Republican National Committee, as well as to the campaigns of such far-right candidates as Michele Bachmann. In April 2009, Saunders was elected chairman of the board at Heritage, and he made the case that the think tank would be foolish not to take advantage of the moment and pursue the activist option. Feulner acquiesced with the understanding that the new lobbying outfit would be subservient to the greater Heritage Foundation.
And so, less than a year after Saunders’s election, the word came down at Heritage that the think tank was about to sprout a political arm called Heritage Action. “A small number of people at the top decided it and then presented it to management as a fait accompli,” says one former Heritage staffer. “From day one,” says the former Heritage scholar, “there was massive consternation and concern.” Many were against it, fearing it would tarnish Heritage’s reputation for scholarship. Others had more brass-tacks concerns: How would authority be delegated and how would the money be mingled? The organizational details, say insiders, were left vague. “We had some time to make our concerns known,” says the former staffer. “But it was a matter of days, not months.”
On April 12, 2010, Feulner announced the birth of Heritage Action in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “The Heritage Foundation has been called ‘the beast’ of all think tanks,” the op-ed declared. “Last week our beast added new fangs with the creation of a new advocacy organization.” Feulner’s co-author was Heritage Action’s 28-year-old new CEO, Michael Needham.
LIKE ALL GOOD REVOLUTIONARIES, MICHAEL NEEDHAM HAD A STERLING UPBRINGING, THE KIND THAT ALLOWS A YOUNG MAN TO PURSUE IDEOLOGICAL PURITY FREE FROM WORRY ABOUT CONSEQUENCE OR REALITY. NEEDHAM’S MOTHER IS A FORMER SAKS FIFTH AVENUE EXECUTIVE; HIS FATHER RUNS A BOUTIQUE INVESTMENT BANK. THE FUTURE TEA PARTY RABBLE-ROUSER GREW UP ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE. HE ATTENDED COLLEGIATE, A PRESTIGIOUS NEW YORK PREP SCHOOL, THEN WILLIAMS. AS A POLITICAL SCIENCE MAJOR AND, EVENTUALLY, THE EDITOR OF THE COLLEGE NEWSPAPER, NEEDHAM LOVED TO PROVOKE HIS LIBERAL CLASSMATES, ARGUING THAT SOCIAL SECURITY WAS UNNECESSARY AND THAT THE MINIMUM WAGE HURT THE WORKING POOR. “IT’S AMAZING HOW LITTLE REFLECTION HE’S GIVEN TO HIS PRIVILEGE,” SAYS A CLASSMATE. "IT WAS ALL KIND OF A GAME TO HIM. IT WAS AN EXPERIMENT IN WINNING.”
After Needham graduated from Williams in 2004, Bill Simon Jr., a former California Republican gubernatorial candidate and fellow Williams alum, helped Needham secure the introductions that got him a job at the foundation. Ambitious and hard-working, he was promoted, in six months, to be Feulner’s chief of staff. According to a former veteran Heritage staffer, Needham is intelligent but “very aggressive”: “He is the bull in the china closet, and he feels very comfortable doing that.” (“I consider him a friend,” says the college classmate, “but he’s a huge asshole.”) In 2007, Needham, whose father has given generous donations to both Rudy Giuliani and the Heritage Foundation, went to work for Giuliani’s presidential campaign. When the campaign folded, Needham followed his father’s footsteps to Stanford Business School and then came back, at Feulner’s bequest, to run Heritage Action.
Needham, who in his time at Heritage, had been a proponent of ramping up the foundation’s lobbying efforts, was also given a lieutenant. He wasn’t the seasoned lobbyist who might be expected to keep tabs on his young boss, but a 31-year-old evangelical named Tim Chapman who had a few years experience working on the Hill. Heritage elders viewed Chapman, a boyish young man with freckles and strawberry blond hair, as the golden retriever to Needham’s pitbull. The two were installed in a townhouse down the street from Heritage headquarters, which soon came to be known, dismissively, as “the Frat House.” A young staff of about a dozen people worked there, hanging around in easy chairs, tossing a football around. The foundation scholar recalls stopping by and noting that the conversations at the Frat House sounded “more the way you’d expect a bunch of interns sitting around to sound, talking politics, trying to figure things out.” (A spokesman for Heritage Action disputes this characterization.)
But the elders were wrong to dismiss Needham and Chapman. Between throws of the football, they designed a brutally effective way to activate Heritage’s base of almost 700,000 donors, as well as to harness the diffuse Tea Party fervor across the country. In nearly every congressional district, they recruited Heritage Action “sentinels,” usually ordinary citizens with a surplus of time and enthusiasm, who were trained, outfitted with information kits, and asked to recruit and organize the local faithful. When Needham sounded the alarm, the sentinels and their infantries flooded the offices of their representatives with vitriol.
HOUSING NEEDHAM AND CHAPMAN OUTSIDE THE MOTHERSHIP PROVED A FATEFUL DECISION. HERITAGE ACTION HAD BEEN SOLD TO THE FOUNDATION STAFF AS THE MERE EXECUTIONER OF THE POLICY THAT HERITAGE ANALYSTS COOKED UP. INCREASINGLY, HOWEVER, THE OLD GUARD AT HERITAGE FOUND THAT THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. THE FAILURE TO CLEARLY DELINEATE MONEY, AUTHORITY, AND ORGANIZATION AMONG HERITAGE AND HERITAGE ACTION “GAVE MIKE AND TIM A LOT OF RUNNING ROOM TO WREAK HAVOC,” SAYS THE SCHOLAR. THEY WERE APPROACHING CONGRESS ON THEIR OWN, FUND-RAISING ON THEIR OWN, WITHOUT ANY HERITAGE SUPERVISION BUT USING THE HERITAGE BRAND. ACCORDING TO THE FORMER HERITAGE STAFFER, “THERE WAS A GROWING SENSE AMONG POLICY FOLKS THAT THERE WAS A ROGUE GROUP USING THE HERITAGE NAME AND DOING THINGS THEY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT.”
This caused a massive backlash at Heritage headquarters. The former veteran Heritage staffer recalled “lots of angry meetings, and not just in the policy shop, but even in the marketing department.” Another staffer remembered screaming fights in the building.
IN MANAGEMENT MEETINGS, IT WAS USUALLY NEEDHAM, REPRESENTING HERITAGE ACTION, AGAINST MUCH OF THE ROOM, AND HE OFTEN WON OUT BECAUSE HE CAME TO THE TABLE WITH A NATIONAL ARMY AT HIS BACK. NEITHER HE NOR CHAPMAN SEEMED TO SUFFER PANGS OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT THEIR YOUTH AND INEXPERIENCE COMPARED WITH THE PATRIARCHS SITTING AROUND THEM. “I WAS ALWAYS STRUCK AT HOW THEY FELT ABSOLUTELY NO INTELLECTUAL MODESTY,” SAYS THE FORMER VETERAN HERITAGE STAFFER. “THEY FELT TOTALLY ON PAR WITH PEOPLE WHO HAD SPENT THIRTY YEARS IN THE FIELD AND HAD PH.D.S.” THE STAFFER RECALLS WATCHING NEEDHAM INTERACT WITH FEULNER IN LARGE MEETINGS. “IT WAS JUST BIZARRE,” THE STAFFER SAYS. “THERE WAS NOT A LOT OF RESPECT COMING FROM MIKE TO ED, AND ED KIND OF LAUGHED IT OFF. I ALWAYS THOUGHT HE CROSSED A LOT OF LINES.”
But gradually, insiders say, even Feulner began to bristle at Needham and Chapman’s abrasive behavior. A few times, concerned over the fate of the relationships he had built on the Hill over his decades at Heritage, he gave them a stern talking-to. “But they knew as everyone else did that Feulner had set a date when he was going to retire, so they knew they just had to outwait him,” says the former scholar. “It was like a Shakespearean plot unfolding in front of us,” says the former veteran staffer.
Eventually, says the former staffer, Heritage Action “had to be moved back into the headquarters to have some adult supervision.” But it didn’t do much good: The boys brought their football, their easy chairs, and their aggressive tactics with them. By the time Feulner retired in April 2013, there was an eerie feeling at Heritage, described by several former high-level staffers, of waking up to realize that all the blank spots in the relationship between the foundation and Heritage Action had already been filled in by Needham and Chapman. Heritage had completely changed. “People in the building kind of woke up and realized, Wow! We were a totally different organization,” says the former veteran staffer. “How did that happen?”
In the run-up to Feulner’s retirement, the board had considered a number of candidates that would have provided some modicum of continuity with Feulner’s tenure. But once DeMint had gotten wind of the job, he began to lobby the board, making his desire for a wider political platform known. There had been resistance at Heritage to hiring a former member of Congress rather than a Ph.D., but Saunders, the chairman of the board, predictably liked the idea of a more activist president. When DeMint was finally hired, Heritage veterans understood that they had lost their last chance to stop the Heritage Action china-busting revolution. “At the end of the day, that was really an affirmative decision to double down on the political model,” says the scholar. “The battle was over.”
DEMINT WAS KNOWN NATIONALLY AS A WARRIOR FOR PURITY, SPENDING MORE OF HIS TIME SEEKING OUT LIKE-MINDED CANDIDATES FOR THE U.S. SENATE RATHER THAN PASSING LEGISLATION. BUT, AT HERITAGE, DEMINT FOUND KINDRED SPIRITS IN SAUNDERS AND NEEDHAM, WHO CREATED A HERITAGE ACTION SCORECARD TO GRADE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ON THEIR IDEOLOGICAL METTLE. (THE STANDARD IS SO HIGH THAT, AT THIS WRITING, THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS GETS A PALTRY 66 PERCENT RATING.)
DeMint also shared another bond with the two men: unlike the Heritage ruling class of yore, none of them had Ph.D.s. All three, however, had MBAs. Their preference for incentivizing behavior on the Hill with scorecards and primary challenges was “a very MBA approach to politics,” the former scholar noted ruefully. “There’s really no room there for deliberation or argument.”
Once he took the helm, DeMint set about reorganizing the business. Under Feulner, the Heritage Foundation ran as a decentralized confederation of so-called research silos—health care, national security, education—whose staffers each focused on a specific area. DeMint instituted a system of multidisciplinary teams that sprung up depending on the issue of the day that Heritage happened to be pushing. Moreover, now a Heritage staffer’s career trajectory was tied to the success or failure of that team.
DeMint also brought in his own management lineup from his Senate days: Ed Corrigan, Wesley Denton, and Bret Bernhardt. At Heritage, the three became DeMint’s enforcers. There is now a political check on all Heritage research papers to make sure they conform to the political and tactical line before they go out the door. Corrigan killed one such paper, defending the law authorizing National Security Agency practices as constitutional, only to have the Brookings Institution, a relatively liberal think tank, publish it. Corrigan also put the kibosh on several policy papers on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including one by Heritage scholar Edmund Haislmaier about what states should do on Medicare expansion. Because the official Heritage strategy was now to defund Obamacare, any paper acceding to a reality in which the law existed was verboten. The scandalous Heritage report on immigration, co-authored by a scholar who had once claimed that Hispanic immigrants have lower IQs than whites, was also the product of DeMint’s approach: Policy analysts were shut out of the discussion, and the paper, which was written to conform with DeMint’s anti-immigration stance, did not go through the standard vetting procedure.
Then there were the stylistic changes. DeMint was constantly on television, flying around in private jets, cruising around town in black cars. “Ed Feulner, he was always about the institution and the institution being bigger than him,” says the former Heritage staffer. “Then you look at the past twelve months of Jim DeMint and Mike Needham—it’s totally different. It’s all about them.”
And if Heritage Action was sold to Heritage staffers as a subsidiary to the think tank, under DeMint, the relationship has been reversed. There is talk inside Heritage that the foundation’s $82 million budget is being pared back, with the savings funneled into Heritage Action’s coffers. (A spokesman for Heritage Action denies this is the case.)
AS A RESULT OF THESE CHANGES, DEFECTIONS FROM HERITAGE, WHICH BEGAN AS A TRICKLE ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF INTO NEEDHAM’S TENURE, HAVE ACCELERATED UNDER DEMINT. Heritage Foundation has lost Michael Franc, who ran its government relations division for nearly 17 years; its main number cruncher, William Beach; and the head of the American studies silo, Matthew Spalding. Gone too are J. D. Foster, who studied the finances of entitlement programs; Asia scholar Derek Scissors; and star national security wonk Mackenzie Eaglen. “You can certainly map the brain drain that’s occurred,” says a Republican Senate staffer. “What you have now is Heritage Action with a research division.”
The Heritage Foundation made neither Feulner nor DeMint available for comment, but a spokesman did respond to a detailed list of questions from The New Republic with the following statement: “I am happy to report that from its beginning, Heritage’s mission has been to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish. That was the case under Ed Feulner and, happily, continues to be the case under Jim DeMint.”
THE BIGGEST CASUALTY OF THE TAKEOVER HAS BEEN FEULNER’S CROWN JEWEL: HERITAGE’S LEGENDARY RELATIONSHIPS ON THE HILL. ON ISSUE AFTER ISSUE, NEEDHAM’S IDEOLOGICAL FLAME-THROWING HAS MADE HERITAGE ACTION ENEMIES IN EVEN THE MOST CONSERVATIVE CORNERS OF CONGRESS. SAYS THE HOUSE GOP AIDE, “PEOPLE ON THE HILL ARE VERY MUCH RUBBED THE WRONG WAY BY A FORMER GIULIANI STAFFER WHO IS AROUND THIRTY YEARS OLD, RUNNING AROUND AND DETERMINING WHETHER THEY’RE CONSERVATIVE OR NOT.”
With DeMint’s arrival, Heritage’s government relations team, which once boasted the ability to meet with 250 GOP and as many as 40 Democratic congressmen on any given day, disappeared. “The people at government affairs would go down to the Hill, and they had Hill folks saying, ‘Listen, we don’t want to meet with you because of what the folks at Heritage Action did yesterday,’” says the former Heritage staffer. Heritage analysts now have a hard time getting meetings on the Hill, even with Republicans. The congressional staffer told me that, for many Republican members of the House, “their research staff is probably not dealing much with Heritage anymore. They’re systematically going elsewhere for their information.”
Shortly after this summer’s farm bill debacle (Heritage Action pushed members to rid the bill of its food-stamp half, then still sent out a “no” alert on the revised bill, hanging out to dry members from agricultural districts), the outrage was such that the Heritage Foundation was bannedfrom the weekly lunches of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative caucus of House Republicans. This was particularly ironic as the RSC and Heritage were once interwoven: In the 1970s, Feulner had been the RSC’s first executive director. “It really speaks volumes about a betrayal of trust,” says the Republican strategist. The House GOP aide puts it more starkly: “There are over two hundred thirty bridges to be burned in the House. Over two hundred of them are burned, and they maybe have about thirty more left.”
THE FRUSTRATION GREW IN THE BUILD UP TO THE BUDGET FIGHT AS HERITAGE ACTION ORGANIZED DEMINT’S NINE-CITY TOUR, AND NEEDHAM BLITZED THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA—GIVING CONSTITUENTS THE IMPRESSION THAT DEFUNDING OBAMACARE IN ONE KNOCKOUT MOVE WAS PERFECTLY PLAUSIBLE. In meetings, congressional staffers couldn’t even get Heritage Action to entertain the possibility that the strategy might fail. “They never wanted to discuss anything past defund,” recalls the Republican staffer. “We would ask, ‘What if [Democrats] say no and don’t budge, what do you do then?’ They kept saying: ‘That’s not our role. You figure it out.’ ” In an August interview with CSPAN, Needham was asked a similar question: How can Republicans achieve their goal of defunding Obamacare without control of the Senate or the White House? “I think that, rather than trying to figure out where we’re going to be at the end of September,” Needham said, his underbite jutting contemptuously, “we should actually fight for something.”
But congressional staffers couldn’t fully ignore Needham. Heritage Action sent e-mails out to its grassroots army, telling its foot soldiers to press their representatives to hold the defund-or-else line. Many Republicans, who felt less than certain about the defund strategy, felt entrapped, especially when these angry constituents confronted them at town halls. “They created this false narrative,” says the Republican staffer. Inevitably, the semi-regular Hill meetings between staffers and Heritage Action grew tense. As the staffer explains, “People came away with the feeling that they’re willing to drive a truck off a cliff, but with no purpose.”
ON THE MORNING OF OCTOBER 16, JUST HOURS BEFORE A DEADLINE WHOSE CROSSING COULD HAVE PUSHED THE UNITED STATES INTO DEFAULT, AND HOURS BEFORE A DEAL AVERTED THAT POSSIBILITY AND ENDED THE 16-DAY GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, AFTER WEEKS OF PUSHING HOUSE REPUBLICANS NOT TO BACK DOWN FROM THE DEFUND OBAMACARE PLAN THAT HAD GOTTEN EVERYONE TO THIS POINT TO BEGIN WITH, NEEDHAM APPEARED ON FOX NEWS. “EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS THAT WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO REPEAL THIS LAW UNTIL 2017 AND THAT WE HAVE TO WIN THE SENATE AND WE HAVE TO WIN THE WHITE HOUSE,” HE SAID.
THE HYPOCRISY WAS NOT LOST ON MANY HOUSE REPUBLICANS, WHO, FOR ALL THOSE WEEKS, HAD LIVED IN FEAR OF NEEDHAM AND HERITAGE ACTION. As the day wore on, the video made the rounds to much indignant headshaking. “A lot of people were upset,” says the Republican staffer. “If it was impossible, then why was he going around the country convincing other well-intentioned people that it was absolutely doable? To suddenly say at the end that we knew this all along struck a lot of people as disingenuous.” It struck others as a lily-livered delusion. “It was like a general applauding himself for reaching the top of the hill, while the army is being slaughtered at the bottom,” says one Republican strategist.
And yet Needham’s blithe remark came as no surprise to the former veteran staffer at the Heritage Foundation. “One of the hallmarks of that millennial profile is an inability to acknowledge mistakes,” the staffer said, sounding equal parts bemused and exasperated. “Everything is right and nothing was a mistake, and they can spin it any way they want.”
IN KEEPING WITH THIS PHILOSOPHY, LATER THAT MORNING, HERITAGE ACTION WOULD ISSUE ANOTHER ALERT. DESPITE NEEDHAM’S ADMISSION THAT THE IMMINENT REPEAL OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT WAS A LOST CAUSE, THE ALERT WARNED HOUSE MEMBERS TO VOTE AGAINST THE BUDGET DEAL. “HERITAGE ACTION OPPOSES THE SENATE-NEGOTIATED PROPOSAL AND WILL INCLUDE IT AS A KEY VOTE ON OUR LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD,” IT SAID. TO THIS DAY, NEEDHAM STANDS BY HIS STRATEGY. IT “MAY FEEL LIKE BULLYING TO A MEMBER OF CONGRESS,” HE TOLD POLITICO MAGAZINE, “BUT IT’S THE REALITY OF THE WORLD THAT WE LIVE IN.”
Sentiment: Strong Buy
A story in which the Tea Party folk are are on the correct side of the issue:
TEA PARTY STRIKES OUT AGAINST THE ATLANTA BRAVES
By Patricia Murphy | November 27th 2013 | The Daily Beast
The Tea Party in Georgia went up against the Republican establishment and Major League Baseball. They lost, for now, but grassroots leaders are looking for revenge.
When the Atlanta Braves became the latest Major League Baseball franchise to demand a new stadium to play in, they ran into a huge tide of opposition to their move from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs north of the city.
But instead of protests from fans in their current home downtown, the team has gotten an earful from furious Tea Party activists in Cobb County, the Republican-dominated portion of the metro area that was once the heart of Newt Gingrich’s congressional district and will now be home to the 60-acre site the team has chosen for its new stadium.
The Tea Party anger is focused on the county’s usually small-government, anti-tax Republican board of commissioners, which enticed the baseball team with a commitment of $300 million in public funds to go toward a new $672 million stadium for the ball club. But while the county commission called the stadium deal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” the local Tea Party activists called foul, accusing the commission of rushing to a vote without enough public review and opening up the latest front in the war between Tea Party groups and the Republican establishment that pushed for the deal.
“I’ve had several members of the Chamber of Commerce tell me that the Tea Party needs to stick to federal issues and leave local issues like this alone,” said Debbie Dooley, the head of the Atlanta Tea Party. “Well, that’s not going to happen.”
Dooley had mounted a significant opposition to the plan, which she called “a done deal from the beginning,” and formed an unusual coalition among Tea Party activists, the Sierra Club, Common Cause, and other groups from across the political spectrum that opposed the deal for their own reasons.
At the public meeting before the commission voted four-to-one to approve the deal Tuesday night, commissioners heard discussion on “public private partnerships,” new local sales taxes, new taxes on hotels and apartments near the proposed site, and plenty of feedback from Dooley’s coalition and voters opposed to the deal, which was announced just two weeks earlier and did not include an environmental impact statement nor an economic impact statement.
“We’re spending millions of Cobb County taxpayer dollars on this deal and we’re going to take two weeks and ram it though?” said Patricia Hay, a local resident. “It reminds me of Obamacare and how they did that. At first we knew nothing and they said it was a wonderful deal, and now we’re finding out it’s not so wonderful.”
Susan Stanton from the Georgia Campaign for Liberty, an offshoot of Ron Paul’s libertarian organization, delivered a petition with 791 signatures, tagging the deal as corporate welfare for the Braves organization, while Debbie Dooley said the vote showed that the sole Democrat on the panel, Lisa Cupid, was more conservative than any of the four Republicans who approved the deal.
“What was unique about tonight was that the lone Democrat on the Cobb County Commission voted against a tax increase and voted for transparency and openness to allow more time for study, while the four Republicans voted for a tax increase and denied the people a chance to study it.” She said, calling the agreement with the Braves a sweetheart deal for the team that was forged behind closed doors by the area’s “good ole boy network,” including the powerful Chamber of Commerce.
“There is a real disconnect between the Tea Parties and Chamber of Commerce, not just here, but across the nation," Dooley said. "At one time being a chamber candidate used to be a good thing and now it’s not. “
Ben Mathis, incoming chair of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, addressed the split between the two factions. “Many of those who are opposed to this project share my personal philosophical approach and my political affiliation,” he said. “I had someone accost me in the town hall and said I was now part of the establishment. I share their concern about government, but this is not a quarrel with our government in Washington. Our government here is proven conservative.”
But Debbie Dooley and her Tea Party partners say there’s no such thing as a conservative government. And they say their fight in Cobb County isn’t over. Her coalition is preparing a legal challenge to the stadium financing plan; planning a recall petition for county commission chairman, Tim Lee; and has already recruited a candidate to challenge Helen Goreham for her seat on the commission in her Republican primary for 2014.
The challenger, Neva Lent, chairs the Regional Republican Women’s Club and calls herself a conservative, but she also says the Republicans on the Cobb Commission acted anything but conservative in the stadium deal.
“I think all everyone is looking for on the front end of this is some transparency without having to fight for it,” she said. “Most of the commissioners are Republican and typically Republicans don’t raise taxes and burden citizens with paying out more money. It just seems like that’s what’s happening here.”
Sentiment: Strong Buy
This will add fuel to the fire:
Mark Herring Beats Mark Obenshain In Virginia Attorney General's Race: Board Of Elections
The Huffington Post | By Luke Johnson
The Virginia Board Of Elections certified State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudon) as the winner of the Virginia attorney general's race on Monday.
Herring defeated state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) in the election, the closest statewide race in Virginia history. Herring had a 165-vote lead out of over 2.2 million votes cast.
On Monday morning, the Obenshain campaign told The Huffington Post he had not made a decision on whether or not to ask for a recount. Obenshain has 10 days under state law to request a recount, which the law allows the trailing candidate to do if the final margin of victory is less than one-half of 1 percent.
"Over the next few days, we will continue to review these results. Margins this small are why Virginia law provides a process for a recount. However, a decision to request a recount, even in this historically close election, is not one to be made lightly. Virginia law allows ten days to request a recount. We will make further announcements regarding a recount well within that time, in order to ensure the closure and confidence in the results that Virginians deserve," campaign manager Chris Leavitt said.
A victory by Herring would give Democrats the top-three statewide offices in Virginia.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
OBAMACARE DIVIDING GOP GOVERNORS
Health Law Is Dividing Republican Governors
By JONATHAN MARTIN | November 21, 2013 | The New York Times
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Republicans are planning to use the troubled health law against Democrats in next year’s midterm elections, but the Affordable Care Act is increasingly dividing their party, too.
AT THE ANNUAL MEETING HERE OF THE NATION’S REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS, THE ONES WHO ARE EYEING PRESIDENTIAL RUNS IN 2016 SAY THEY OPPOSE THE HEALTH CARE LAW. BUT THERE IS SHARP DISAGREEMENT AMONG THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED CARRY OUT THE LAW AND THOSE WHO REMAIN ENTRENCHED IN THEIR OPPOSITION.
THESE EARLY DIVISIONS REVEAL NOT ONLY THE DIFFICULT CALCULATIONS OF AMBITIOUS REPUBLICAN POLITICIANS AS THEY LOOK TO THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, BUT ALSO THE COMPLEXITIES OF BEING A GOVERNOR RATHER THAN A LAWMAKER AT A TIME WHEN THE PARTY’S BASE IS HOSTILE TO THOSE WHO COOPERATE WITH DEMOCRATS.
The governors who refused the Medicaid expansion money that is part of the health care law — believing they had found a wedge issue — are already boasting about it.
“I said no,” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said, “because if I took the Medicaid expansion I’d be dependent on the same federal government that can’t get a basic website up and going even after two and a half years to come through with payments for Medicaid in the future when they start weaning off paying for 100 percent of coverage.”
Under the new law, the federal government pays the entire cost of Medicaid expansion for three years and 90 percent after that.
Mr. Walker, who is seen as a candidate who can potentially bridge the differences between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment, said conservatives would have long memories on how the law was carried out.
“I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker, but I think it’s pretty high on the importance list for a lot of voters out there,” he said.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who also turned down the Medicaid money and is thought to be considering a second presidential run, used even more vivid language. “It’s like putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic when you knew what was going to happen,” he said.
He also said in an interview between sessions of the Republican Governors Association meeting that it would matter in a political context.
“I think it’s a factor; I think it’s a philosophical position,” Mr. Perry said of Medicaid expansion, noting that even President Obama had called Medicaid — which is financed by both the states and federal government — part of “a broken system.”
“Whether somebody took it or didn’t, I’ll leave it up to them to justify to their constituents why,” he said of the federal money.
That is not to say that Mr. Perry would not use the issue to his advantage in a presidential primary race. It is not difficult to project how it could play out in the 2016 campaign, said Republican strategists, noting that the governors who accepted the Medicaid expansion could easily be pegged in television ads and mailers as having effectively approved the president’s health care law.
Mr. Walker and Mr. Perry are not the only ambitious Republicans to sound a “Where were you on Obamacare?” line of attack. Senator Rand Paul said this week that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, perhaps the leading 2016 contender among establishment Republicans, would have to answer for his decision to take the Medicaid money.
“On the case of the New Jersey governor, I think embracing Obamacare, expanding Medicaid in his state is very expensive and not fiscally conservative,” Mr. Paul said.
He added, “Many Republican governors I would say are conservative did resist expanding and accepting Obamacare in their states.”
Mr. Paul’s criticism underlines one of the challenges governors face as they contemplate presidential campaigns. House members and senators do not face the same dilemma: While members of Congress vote on legislation, bills can be passed without their support. But governors face decisions that affect the residents of their states.
GOV. JOHN KASICH OF OHIO EXPRESSED THIS POLITICAL FACT OF LIFE, BECOMING ANIMATED AS HE WAS QUESTIONED AT A MEETING WITH REPORTERS HERE ABOUT HIS DECISION TO EXPAND MEDICAID.
“I ALWAYS TRY TO PUT MYSELF IN THE SHOES OF SOMEBODY ELSE TO SAY: ‘HOW WOULD I FEEL IF I DIDN’T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?’ ” SAID MR. KASICH, WHO HAS BEEN MENTIONED AS A 2016 HOPEFUL, HIS VOICE RISING. IN DEFENDING MEDICAID, HE SPOKE AT LENGTH ABOUT THE SCOURGE OF DRUG ADDICTION AND CHALLENGES FACED BY THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES.
“IT’S GOING TO SAVE LIVES,” HE SAID. “IT’S GOING TO HELP PEOPLE, AND YOU TELL ME WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT.”
THE ISSUE IS A PARTICULARLY DELICATE ONE AMONG REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS, NOT ONLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE DISAGREED ON WHETHER TO TAKE THE MEDICAID MONEY, BUT BECAUSE MR. CHRISTIE, ALREADY A LEADING FIGURE IN THE PARTY, FORMALLY TOOK OVER THE SCOTTSDALE MEETING AS THE ASSOCIATION’S CHAIRMAN.
Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina has made much of her decision to turn down the Medicaid expansion, frequently boasting that “we didn’t just say no, we said never.” But she took a more restrained position here when sitting next to Mr. Christie at a news conference.
“I don’t think that the people of South Carolina will make a decision on one issue,” said Ms. Haley, whose state holds the South’s first presidential primary.
But when asked if she was suggesting that the health law would not be a factor in 2016, Ms. Haley clarified “it is going to be an issue, certainly,” but would not be “the sole issue.”
Some of the Republican governors are still determining how to handle Medicaid expansion. They include Mike Pence of Indiana, who said he would like to take a middle course on the issue, using the new federal money to cover more low-income Indiana residents but do so through a state-run program.
“I believe it could be a pilot program for the kind of health care reform that is grounded in the principles of consumer-driven health care,” Mr. Pence said.
As to whether he would be vulnerable in a presidential primary because he accepted money provided through the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Pence demurred. “The circumstances of each state with regard to Medicaid are different,” he said.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi made same argument in discussing why conservatives ultimately would not punish governors who took the Medicaid money. “Some people may try to make it an issue, but I think they’re going to find out it’s not the kind of issue they expect it to be,” he said.
Mr. Kasich, asked if taking the funding could hamper his own presidential prospects, shot back, “Is that how you’re going to make a decision?”
But then he offered a prediction that might have been rooted in his hopes: “I think all things kind of fade over time.”
Sentiment: Strong Buy
BILL O'REILLY GOES AFTER SARAH PALIN: 'SHE WON'T DO THIS PROGRAM'
Posted: 11/21/2013 | HuffPost
"Sarah Palin won't do this program. She won't come on the program because she doesn't want to mix it up. She doesn't! She wants to give a speech, and nobody gives speeches here. Okay? So she doesn't come on. We invited her on tonight. You're here instead. But I don't begrudge Sarah Palin that. She can come on. She doesn't come on, she does come on, whatever she wants to do. Okay? Fine."
-- Bill O'Reilly on Thursday's "O'Reilly Factor"
Sentiment: Strong Buy
'IF THE TEA PARTY DOESN'T WIN SOME ELECTIONS THEY'RE PROBABLY GOING TO DIE'
Tea Party Stands At Crossroads After Big Losses
Reuters | Posted: 11/20/2013 | Nick Carey
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, Nov 20 (Reuters) - After a string of setbacks and losses, the insurgent Tea Party movement is at a crossroads, between learning to live within the Republican Party or pursuing its fight against those it sees as not conservative enough.
The choice is an easy one for Tea Party activists, who vow to keep up their campaign to vote out of office those Republican politicians they say have betrayed the tenets of the conservative cause - smaller government and less federal spending and taxes.
Voters nationally blame October's partial government shutdown on Republicans, and particularly the Tea Party, which lost elections earlier this month in Virginia and Alabama.
WITH IMPORTANT MID-TERM CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS COMING IN NOVEMBER 2014, THE TEA PARTY IS UNDER PRESSURE FROM WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY TO CALL OFF THEIR INSURGENCY AND FOCUS ON THE END GAME OF DEFEATING DEMOCRATS, RATHER THAN BRUISING PRIMARIES TO CLOBBER REPUBLICANS, SOME OF WHOM COULD BE IN CLOSE CONTESTS TO KEEP THEIR SEATS.
REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST FORD O'CONNELL SAID THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT NEEDS TO DECIDE ITS LONG-TERM STRATEGY.
"ARE THEY INTERESTED IN TOPPLING REPUBLICANS OR WINNING ELECTIONS? IF THEY DON'T WIN SOME ELECTIONS THEY'RE PROBABLY GOING TO DIE ON THE VINE," O'CONNELL SAID.
A series of interviews with Tea Party activists preparing for 2014, mainly in southern states, produced a clear consensus of the path forward, with possibly unsettling implications for Republican incumbents.
While mainstream Republicans nationally see the crisis of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul as their ticket to success next November, Tea Party activists see Republican leaders' decision to end the shutdown in October as a betrayal of the fight over healthcare reform, best met with primary challenges next spring.
"The Tea Party won the 2010 election for the Republicans," said Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party. "We took a back seat in 2012 and the Republicans lost. We're not going to make the same mistake in 2014."
The national criticism of the movement is failing to change many minds in the movement, either.
"If we have to get hurt in the polls in order to save the country from financial ruin, so be it," said Ben Cunningham, a long-time conservative activist in Tennessee involved in efforts to find a challenger for Senator Lamar Alexander.
Tea Party-backed primary challengers are running in South Carolina against Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent target of Tea Party ire for his ability to compromise, and Alexander in Tennessee. There are also right-wing challenges to Senator Pat Roberts in Kansas and Thad Cochran in Mississippi. The Senate seat in Georgia left open by the impending retirement of Saxby Chambliss has a field of candidates vying for the mantle of most conservative.
For many grassroots conservatives the main target is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. McConnell is well known for vowing to make Obama a one-term president, but his record of brokering deals with Obama has incensed the Tea Party.
"There are many important races in 2014 that deserve attention," said David Adams, president of Kentucky Citizens Judicial, a group suing Kentucky's Democratic Governor Steve Beshear over the implementation of Obama's health care law. "But in terms of taking off the head of the snake, Kentucky is it."
In Kentucky and elsewhere, some of the Tea Party's challenges are perennial: they lack name recognition, the benefits of incumbency, and their rivals raise millions of dollars to their thousands.
What Tea Party activists have on their side is cheap get-out-the-vote technology, motivated volunteers, and enough past success to provide a roadmap for would-be candidates. In Kentucky, for instance, many Tea Partiers united early around a candidate, and started campaigning early, following the lead of Ted Cruz of Texas, who came from behind to win a U.S. Senate seat.
BACKING ONE HORSE
A national Quinnipiac University poll published Nov. 13 found 47 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, the highest percentage yet. Other national polls have also shown a drop in popularity for the movement.
But unlike the Republican Party's national structure, the Tea Party has become an increasingly regional phenomenon, at its strongest in Republican dominated states like Georgia or in a few battleground states like Ohio.
Of 80 Republican House members who wrote to John Boehner in August arguing the House Speaker should threaten a shutdown over the healthcare law known as Obamacare, 13 represent districts in Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
"There are parts of the country geographically and sociologically that continue to feed the Tea Party phenomenon," said James Henson, a politics professor at the University of Texas in Austin. "I'd be surprised if recruitment wasn't up."
While some senior Republicans in the U.S. Senate say House Republicans and senators Cruz and Mike Lee of Utah fought a useless, self-punishing fight over the government shutdown, conservatives say were close to victory undermining Obamacare when moderate Republicans undermined them.
The Tea Party also pins the narrow Nov. 5 defeat of conservative Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia's gubernatorial race on the refusal of the Republican establishment to back him.
The challenge is daunting in Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina where McConnell, Alexander and Graham all have a big advantage in raising money. McConnell, for instance, had $10 million cash on hand at the end of September. His opponent, moderately wealthy businessman Matt Bevin, had raised less than $900,000, more than two thirds of which was his own money.
McConnell had a 33 point lead over Bevin in one poll. The Senator has focused his campaign on Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, with whom he was tied, according to polling.
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said it is hard to see the challengers in Kentucky, Tennessee or South Carolina being able to win, but that Cruz's long slog ahead of the Texas primary showed a challenge could develop late.
"The best you could say at the moment is the jury is out," he said.
Tea Party activists in Kentucky and Tennessee have carefully studied the playbook adopted by activists in Indiana in their successful bid to oust former Republican Senator Richard #$%$" Lugar in 2012. The key to primary victory involved getting behind a single challenger in state treasurer Richard Mourdock and going door to door for months ahead of the election -- well ahead of traditional campaigns.
Many Tea Party activists have rallied behind Bevin in Kentucky. Speaking at his home in Louisville in October, Bevin said he would have favored the government shutdown. McConnell's team says voters will favor politicians who get things done.
Bevin said his race against McConnell would be won "from the bottom up" by grassroots activists and compared his opponent to the emperor with no clothes, lacking real Republican values.
"If this naked emperor can be exposed, any one of them can be exposed. If we can do this at the ballot box, none of them are safe and we can send them home one at a time," he said, invoking other Tea Party challenges gearing up.
Activists are already going door to door for the primary election in May, using get-out-the-vote software provided free of charge by Kansas-based group the Madison Project, and Tea Partiers in Tennessee are using similar technology.
"The only energy in the Republican Party at the moment lies in the Tea Party," said Randy Keller of the Bowling Green Southern Kentucky Tea Party, a conclusion some political analysts reach as well.
"The lack of a ground game is a particular point of vulnerability for Republicans like Mitch McConnell," said Steven Schier, a politics professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. "The question is can they compete at the ground level?"
BOON FOR DEMOCRATS?
With bruising primary contests likely in key states, one question is will the winner be able to win the general election.
In Indiana's primary last year, Mourdock beat Lugar but lost in the general election in a reliably Republican state.
In Kentucky's 2011 gubernatorial election, the candidate backed by Tea Party activists lost in a hard-fought primary, and many frustrated conservatives stayed home on election day, contributing to the re-election of Democrat Beshear.
The Bowling Green Southern Kentucky Tea Party's Keller is no fan of McConnell's but he worries that widespread dislike for McConnell among conservatives could favor the Democratic candidate on election day in 2014.
"I would really rather not see that happen because even a flawed Republican would be better than a Democrat," he said.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
'I'M GONNA BE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE'
Mitch McConnell on the shutdown's failure and unelectable extreme candidates
PEGGY NOONAN | Nov. 7, 2013 | Wall Street Journal
It is a month since the government shutdown and a day after the election. The minority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, longest-serving senator in Kentucky history (1985 to the present, up for a sixth term in 2014) is seated in his office talking about the stresses, strains and estrangements that mark the relationship between what is called the tea party and what is called the GOP establishment, which at the moment seems to consist of everyone who isn't in the tea party. Mr. McConnell is soft-spoken, contained, a person of habitual discretion. What seemed to be on his mind was something like "Star Wars: The Establishment Fights Back." What he expressed was more like "The Establishment Voices Some Aggravation."
But it's a start.
"THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION YESTERDAY WASN'T THE GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY AND IT WASN'T THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA, IT WAS THE SPECIAL ELECTION FOR CONGRESS IN SOUTH ALABAMA, WHERE A CANDIDATE WHO SAID THE SHUTDOWN WAS A GREAT IDEA, THE PRESIDENT WAS BORN IN KENYA, AND THAT HE OPPOSED SPEAKER BOEHNER CAME IN SECOND." THE VICTORY OF A MORE ELECTABLE REPUBLICAN, IS SIGNIFICANT, MR. MCCONNELL SAYS. TO GOVERN, PARTIES MUST WIN. TO WIN, PARTIES MUST "RUN CANDIDATES THAT DON'T SCARE THE GENERAL PUBLIC, [AND] CONVEY THE IMPRESSION THAT WE COULD ACTUALLY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR GOVERNING, YOU CAN TRUST US—WE'RE ADULTS HERE, WE'RE GROWN-UPS."
Republicans must enter the 2014 election cycle remembering the advice of William F. Buckley: "He always said he was for the most conservative candidate who could win."
IS THE GOP IN CIVIL WAR? "No, I don't think so." Everyone agrees on the central issue: "We would all love to get rid of ObamaCare. If we had the votes to do it we'd do it in a heartbeat. It's the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in modern times."
But "we have a disability right now—it's called in the Senate '55 of them and 45 of us.' I'm not great at math, but 55 is more than 45. . . . I think it's irresponsible for some people to characterize themselves as sort of true conservatives, to mislead their followers into believing you can get an outcome that you can't possibly get."
THE TEA PARTY, HE SAYS, CONSISTS OF "PEOPLE WHO ARE ANGRY AND UPSET AT GOVERNMENT—AND I AGREE WITH THEM." BUT "I THINK, HONESTLY, MANY OF THEM HAVE BEEN MISLED. . . . THEY'VE BEEN TOLD THE REASON WE CAN'T GET TO BETTER OUTCOMES THAN WE'VE GOTTEN IS NOT BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATS CONTROL THE SENATE AND THE WHITE HOUSE BUT BECAUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE BEEN INSUFFICIENTLY FEISTY. WELL, THAT'S JUST NOT TRUE, AND I THINK THAT THE FOLKS THAT I HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH ARE THE LEADERS OF SOME OF THESE GROUPS WHO BASICALLY MISLEAD THEM FOR PROFIT. . . . THEY RAISE MONEY . . . TAKE THEIR CUT AND SPEND IT" ON POLITICAL ACTION THAT HURTS REPUBLICANS.
He refers to the Senate Conservatives Fund. "That's the one I'm prepared to be specific about." The fund "has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles." The group is targeting Mr. McConnell with ads slamming his leadership during the shutdown. "Right now they're on the air in obvious coordination with Harry Reid's super PAC—Harry Reid's!—in the same markets, at roughly the same amount, at the same time."
But says he isn't worried about his own race: "I don't wanna be overly cocky, but I'm gonna be the Republican nominee next year." ….
Sentiment: Strong Buy