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The PJ Tatler

Bryan Preston


March 22, 2013 - 3:25 pm

In an interview with NRO, RNC chairman Reince Priebus has some nice things to say about former AR Gov. and possibly future presidential contender Mike Huckabee.

“When someone asks me ‘Are you going to cut off funding for Rob Portman?’ I think it’s just ridiculous,” Priebus told a group of reporters Friday during a briefing at National Review’s Washington, D.C., office. “He’s a good Republican. I think it’s also normal and decent to still support a person that you agree with on 99 percent of the issues.”

But Priebus says his support of Portman doesn’t signal a policy shift within the party’s platform. “Yes, we’re still a pro-life party. Yes, we still defend our platform on marriage,” he said. He emphasized, however, that Republicans must also sound “reasonable” to voters who disagree.

Priebus cited former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as an example of someone who could be “a model for a lot of people in our party” in terms of discussing issues like marriage and abortion. “I always tell people: Listen to Governor Mike Huckabee,” he said. “I don’t know anyone that talks about them any better.”

Allahpundit wonders whether this is a case of Preibus offering a balm for social cons after the RNC’s report hinted at jettisoning us on a couple of issues, or something that may scare off libertarians.

Frankly, I don’t care whether it’s either, both, or neither. It’s unwise.

Let’s flash back to 2012. Todd Akin was busy sinking the entire Republican ticket with his idiotic comments regarding rape. Which way did Huckabee go during that? Ahem.

Mike Huckabee participated in a conference call Friday night with hundreds of Baptist pastors and Christian talk radio hosts in Missouri that was organized to coordinate a robust defense of Rep. Todd Akin as he faces pressure from Washington Republicans to drop his Senate bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill.

Akin told reporters in St. Louis today that he would not quit the race.

Speaking harshly about establishment Republicans who have tried to force Akin from the Missouri race, Huckabee at one point compared the National Republican Senatorial Committee to “union goons” who “kneecap” their enemies.

The former Arkansas governor said party bosses were “opening up rounds and rounds” of ammunition on Akin and “then running over with tanks and trucks and leaving him to be ravaged by the other side.”

At that moment, Akin was being used by Obama’s digital army to paint the entire Republican Party as a bunch of rape zealots.

According to information the Tatler has obtained from the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting, the mechanics behind Organizing for Action’s “people based” approach are at once simple and revolutionary. Bird’s team has developed a five-point contact plan for identifying and courting low-information, low-frequency voters. These voters are average folks who pay little attention to politics and current events and have left no trail allowing either party to identify which party they’re more likely to vote for. Bird’s volunteers call these prospects and use a script to ascertain whether they are persuadable to the Democrats’ point of view. Volunteers perform a “gut check” on the prospective voter, and these gut checks have proven to be accurate nearly 95% of the time. If the prospect is not identified as persuadable, then the volunteer files them away and does not call them again. But if the prospect appears to be persuadable, then the five-point plan comes into play. Volunteers will call the voter again, based on current events, to deliver information crafted to shape the prospect’s beliefs. For instance, if a volunteer has identified a suburban Fort Worth mom as a persuadable Democratic voter based on social issues, Todd Akin’s remarks on rape would have generated a second phone call. Richard Mourdock’s comments would have generated a third. A fourth call may have focused on the ObamaCare birth control mandate, casting it as a service to women and casting opposition to it as a “war on women.” The fifth call would have simply given the prospect information on where to vote. Job done. Someone who probably would not have voted at all has been processed over a few weeks into a likely Democratic voter.

Priebus evidently isn’t aware of how Akin’s and Huckabee’s behavior last year killed the party. He isn’t showing any evidence that he’s learning now, either.

The Republican Party still owns a majority of state governorships and legislatures, so there’s no reason for 2012 to cause a panic. It does have three problems that it needs to deal with ahead of 2014. They are its brand problem, its candidate problem and its strategic problem.

The brand problem showed up most starkly earlier in the week, when a poll conducted by The Hill revealed that a 55% majority back GOP ideas until they learn that those ideas came from Republicans. Does that suggest that the GOP’s real problem is same-sex marriage or immigration? Both of those issues have pockets of support and resistance, but the GOP base is still pretty firm that marriage should stay as it is, and that the border should be secured before anyone even thinks about granting any illegal immigrant any form of amnesty. If Priebus leads the RNC to irritate the activist and voting base on both issues, he’s leading the party off a cliff. The base will be dispirited and stay home.

The GOP’s candidate problem is defined by Akin, Mourdoch and others who win party nominations only to say something stupid and hand the Democrats and the media the means to destroy them. The candidate problem feeds the image problem, and makes the strategic problem more pronounced. The party probably can’t completely fix this problem on our side, but it can exploit it on the other side through more shrewd use of information technology. The RNC should improve on the OFA five-point strategy and build out a more effective data operation to identify prospective voters. Grow the base through persuasion, not surrender.

The other side isn’t resting, and they’re not making any sounds about moving to the center or angering their base. They’re still building on their 2012 win at the top level. Take a look at Pat Ruffini’s site. In his latest post, he details a few job listings posted by Organizing for Action. A couple show just how serious OFA’s data effort will be, even now that the election is months behind us. Is the RNC looking for similar talent? Is it looking for ways to counter the Democrats’ clear technological edge?

Priebus appears to be losing the plot. The GOP needs to soothe its base’s 2012 wounds and make moves that inspire confidence that it has learned good lessons from 2012 that will make it more competitive in 2014. This week has been awful, though, starting with the Growth and Opportunity Report and following through with Priebus’ comments about Huckabee. I get the point he’s making about tone, which is valid. But Huckabee actually took a harsh tone last year and hurt the party. He’s a poor example from his Arkansas record on fiscal issues to his instincts on Akin, and is no model for making the party more competitive.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (6)
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Oh for the love of all that's holy, just because you've gotten your butt kicked in the primaries does NOT mean you're the logical next choice. The GOP My Turn Gang is nothing but a collection of FAIL. You had your chance and it didn't work out. NEXT!

The Dems wouldn't have needed to savage their own candidate in public forums as he wouldn't have been allowed to set foot in the public arena again. Sometimes the smoke-filled rooms in back have a useful purpose.

Are there no adults in the GOP that have the ability to detect the whackjobs and encourage them to stfu and stfd BEFORE they embarrass the whole process? At the very least refuse to fund them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Huckabee's point was that the Democrats would never savage their own candidate like the GOP did to Akin. Instead, they'd circle the wagons and redouble their attacks on the opposition. That's what the Republicans should have done: don't mention the rape comments at all and just flood the airwaves with attack ads.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a former governor of Arkansas, what kind of mud do the Democrats have on Huckabee? The idea the State Clinton ran like his feudal estate (with compliant State Troopers providing bimbos) was also run by a Boy Scout strikes me as...dubious.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right. Because the war on women is solely an issue that DEMOCRATS can use, the media in America isn't interested otherwise.

However, in the UK, they take their war on women where they find it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Huckabee?! Really Reince, WTFF!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If the Huckster is the GOP nominee, I'm back to voting libertarian.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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