Self-Evident

Cantor Fallout: Will 'Amelia Island Tactics' Doom Richard Hanna, Too?

Back in March, Redstate’s Erick Erickson revealed that Republican Main Street Partnership — a PAC headed by liberal Republican Steve LaTourette — would be sponsoring an early April weekend retreat at Amelia Island in Florida. The retreat’s sole purpose was to discuss strategy for Republican incumbents facing primary challenges from conservative/tea party upstarts. (Shortly after receiving the exposure from Erickson, the listing from Main Street Partnership’s “Events” page disappeared.)

John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy were all slated to attend the retreat; Boehner dropped out at the last minute. But Cantor did attend, headlining the event. Main Street Partnership has done a bang-up job of keeping the event’s occurrences under wraps since then — little information and no recordings have leaked from the conference. However, Eric Cantor’s campaign stands as a useful guide to the goings-on back in April.

Cantor was the headliner, and his campaign took a definable tack following the event. Again and again, Cantor labeled Dave Brat a “liberal” — a “liberal college professor”; a guy serving on Tim Kaine’s economic board; etc. — and Cantor presented himself as an anti-amnesty champion. Essentially, Cantor’s game plan for the campaign was to consistently describe his challenge from the right as a challenge from the left. While his campaign carried out a number of dubious tactics at the grassroots level and at GOP district conventions for winning the support of politically active Seventh District Virginians, his plan for reaching the “low-information voter” was to reframe the contest.

That is, to fabricate the contest. Cantor did not make any attempt to convince voters that his “moderate” path was the best way forward for the district; he instead assumed a mantle of constitutional conservatism that bore no resemblance to his actual record or platform. And he absolutely refused to debate or to respond to Brat’s charges or platform in any manner.

And that was it. He lost terribly, for various reasons I’ve covered for months here, but he primarily lost because his ads and mailers didn’t fool a soul, revealed him to be a dishonest politician to anyone paying even a moment’s attention, and because he gave Brat a tremendous boost in name recognition among people who already knew Cantor had no business claiming to be a conservative warrior.

So: based on Cantor’s campaign, we have to assume Amelia Island’s “summary for policymakers” consisted of the following:

a) Label your opponent a “liberal.” The conservative base won’t turn out if the opponent is assumed to be, well, another version of you. And your likely underfunded opponent will not have the resources to combat the charge.

b) Tie your opponent to a well-known Democrat whom the district’s GOP voters universally despise.

c) Don’t debate.

I’m sure they prettied it up with pseudo-professional D.C. lingo to pass themselves as experts — “executables,” “achievables,” etc. — but the above three points must have been Amelia Island in a nutshell. And we have significantly more evidence of that based on the current campaign of Richard Hanna (R-NY), the Main Street Partnership member from New York’s 22nd facing a tough combatant Tuesday in stalwart conservative Claudia Tenney. Hanna also happens to be the second-biggest recipient of donations from Main Street Partnership for this election cycle.

Per Michelle Malkin:

Tenney is the insurgent challenger in the June 24 primary to unseat Hanna, who is the third most liberal GOP member of the House. Hanna is also a member of the left-wing “Republican Main Street Partnership” — the pro-bailout, pro-debt, pro-amnesty, anti-drilling group infested with lobbyists and fronted by Beltway barnacle turned Tea Party-bashing lobbyist Steve LaTourette.

Tenney has grassroots support from New York tea party activists, the New York State Conservative Party, the New York State Right-to-Life Committee, former GOP Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, as well as the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms PAC and the conservative women’s political action committee ShePAC.

Hanna, by contrast, has the backing of deep-pocketed D.C. special interests that have thrown nearly $1.5 million into the race. The “American Unity” super PAC, funded by billionaire gay marriage supporter Paul Singer, has kicked in more than a half-million dollars on gay marriage crusader Hanna’s behalf. The group also has shoveled $125,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, whose operatives are waging war against conservative tea party primary challengers across the country. The “American Unity” super PAC’s ads absurdly slam Tenney as “not a conservative” and fudge the facts to falsely accuse her of supporting tax hikes.

Another blatant lie: tying Tenney to Democratic corruptocrat Sheldon Silver, whom Tenney was the first state legislator to call on to resign after his tax-subsidized payoffs to cover up sexual harassment claims were exposed.

A similar attack campaign by something called the “Patriot Prosperity PAC” parroted the patently false claims that Tenney supports tax hikes and called her “out of touch.”

Also, this:

U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna today lashed out at his Tea Party-backed opponent in the June 24 Republican primary, saying he won’t agree to debate someone who consistently distorts his record.

Chills! Hanna, a member of the Main Street Partnership and a likely attendee of the Amelia Island retreat, substituted Sheldon Silver for Tim Kaine, but otherwise mimicked Cantor’s campaign.

We’ll know of Hanna’s fate tomorrow. Bear in mind that Hanna resides in the fallout zone from Cantor’s loss, as Tenney gathered significant attention and name recognition from activists and media seeking “the next Cantor.” His dishonest “left is right” campaign has received significant media since, a mile-marker which also denoted the day Brat began his takeover.

If Tenney wins, the Amelia Island retreat is shaping up to be a historically notable failure from America’s second-oldest profession: campaign strategist. There are competent, honest strategists out there — see the Brat and Tenney campaigns — but none of the honest ones were present that weekend in April.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)