What Just Happened — The Election


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Now I’m going to bring it into the micro a little bit.  In our case, North Carolina, by many considered a bellwether — you know, Obama won by a smidgeon.  And there many districts that he did not win in.  And a lot of folks were looking to North Carolina to be an indicator.  And candidly, in many respects, North Carolina didn’t measure up to expectations.  And I’m part of that lack of measuring up.

But what I will tell you is that we came a little late to the game.  North Carolina had three, and potentially four, congressional seats that folks were looking at as being competitive.  And that really didn’t get the national level of attention until deeper into the fall.  And that’s when three of the congressional seats were picked to be part of this Young Gun Program.

But folks, that was in September.  So by then, it was kind of the last wave of kind of the last good candidates to kind of get brought into the umbrella.  But that’s okay.  Because in the end, it doesn’t matter who won the individual elections.  What matters is that America has won, and we have won.  And so we were all collectively part of that fight in bringing the country across the finish line.

The neat thing, as was mentioned by Pat, is that there’s going to be redistricting.  And when that happens, we’re going to see — we have a North Carolinian in the House — when that happens, we’re going to see some districts that are a little bit more fair.  And that’s going to be significant.

The Wall Street Journal, the day before the election, on November 1st, identified North Carolina as a bellwether, and our race was one of the few races to be highlighted.  And it was the classic model of a 140-year incumbency — 140 Blue Dog seats being challenged by fresh, conservative ideas.  But there was so much political machinery to overcome, so much generational muscle memory.

And in the end, we fought a lot of good fights.  And in fact, we were — I’ll tell you, from my own race — even though my opponent received $400,000 from labor unions and had 14 years to bring back $300 million a year in earmarks, even though he had the Secretary of the Agriculture come bring checks and the Secretary of the Navy designate the commissioning of a warship in the district on the eve of the election — I mean, you can’t make this stuff up — despite all of that, we were closing the ground.

But Nancy Pelosi’s a very, very effective politician, despite her popularity ratings, and that’s so important.  The DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — their punching arm — had fundraised well, had fundraised effectively.  And they held their powder.  And they waited, and they identified where the real threats were.  And they fired some salvos.  And in the last two weeks of our race, Pelosi dropped almost $600,000 of TV ads in our market.

Now, Wilmington, North Carolina is not like Palm Beach or New York.  $600,000 buys a lot of TV time.  And that’s important.  Because they were able, in the last minutes, to kind of recognize where the threats were.  And some of that came because, unlike in ’94, we knew for some time that there was going to be a ground shift.

And so, Nancy and the team were storing up their arrows, were ready, were waiting.  And there was questions of who was peaking too soon, and they were able to play it out in the end.

And I want to conclude with the thought that that America won.  We truly won.  Because despite the individual races — the successes or failures of individual candidates — we were able to take a majority and start laying groundwork in all of these races for what will be even a more conservative, and potentially more mainstream, ideology as we go into ’12.

I’m going to leave you with a thought.  Everyone has seen that there was only one challenger to Nancy Pelosi.  Did anyone notice that?  His name was Heath Shuler.  And he’s from North Carolina.  And the reason for that is because we put up a real fight, and we held these guys to account.  And they recognized that the only hope that they had in successive reelection was to walk a conservative walk, and that they had to distance themselves from the leadership.

So the only challenger was a North Carolina challenger.  And the only support that he received was really from fellow North Carolinians, who recognized how tenuous their position was.  So I give you that in a going from the macro to the micro of what it looked like on the ground.

I’d like to give you a couple other observations and some of the challenges that we faced.  We went into a race that literally had a 140-year incumbency.  I want you think about that.  I mean, literally, there was no muscle memory.  Some seats have a Republican congressman; it flips, there’s a Democrat; it goes back and forth.  There’s fundraising machinery, there’s political party operation across 10 counties.  And we built all of that from scratch.

And in so many respects, we really did it with your help.  We were able to able to raise over $1 million from individual donors.  And again, my opponent was raising money from Washington PACs, from labor unions, and from organization like that.  And in the end, it was that DCCC money that bailed them out.

But we were able to lay some tremendous groundwork.  And I give you that because going forward in 2012, the NRCC — that’s the National Republican Congressional Committee — is going to be identifying races to watch.  And they are a wonderful steward.  They are — and I’m speaking — and with full disclosure, I’ve come to really respect their effort.  We wouldn’t have achieved what we did without them.  They came into our market and supported us very heavily.

But what I want to tell you is that they served as a vetting process.  They identified candidates that — selfishly I would say — were pretty serious guys and gals.  And they put resources behind them, and they worked to train them.  And they worked to help deliver the message.

So as we go forward into ’12, that organization exists.  Because that name I mentioned to you, Congressman Pete Sessions — he’s helming the NRCC once again.  So he’s going to be driving that effort forward.

And I’m just going to leave you with a parting thought — that two of the top 10 races that have been identified as targets for the GOP in 2012 are in North Carolina, and one of them is my opponent.

Moderator: Pat Caddell has put on his other hat — he’s going to be Doug Schoen, [who got stuck in an airport and couldn’t make it.]   And Pat, let’s do — we’re running late — so maybe about seven minutes.  Can we do that?

Pat Caddell: Hi, I’m Doug Schoen.  And all I want to say is, if you want to understand what we do, this was The Washington Post Sunday, “One and Done,” on the President, that’s caused such a hysteria in the Washington political class, even among Republicans — about the idea of what Obama should do.  And I guess we could probably get it printed up.  It’s online at The Washington Post.  And it’s been one of the biggest things [of the week].

We’ve done a series of pieces including healthcare, and so forth.  [Now], I’m going to loan some time back to Pat Caddell to finish.

Let me just point this out.  One of the problems in this election was a lack of narrative.  I talked about this constantly on the air.  The Republican Party ran this campaign and in the leadership like it was World War I, particularly in the Senate races.

When I talk about a lack of narrative — first of all, there was a lack of ground game that the Democrats made up.  And that is an RNC problem, I’m sorry.  I like Michael Steele very much.  I, as a Democrat, endorsed him here several years ago when he ran.  [But] that was a real problem.

In ’04, the Bush ground game was historic.  And it has disappeared.  Democrats got the message — they did it.  And the Republicans walked away again from it.

The problem of national narrative is this — when Barack Obama is President,  as Roger Ailes said in a big interview he did on The Daily Beast, I think, the other day, he does [his message] with 3,000 press secretaries.  The press core amplifies his message.  The Republican Party in the Senate chose to run the election [according to the  philosophy of people like] my good friend, Karl Rove, with whom I just philosophically disagree — he thinks World War I is the way to run; I think much more creative, mobile warfare is important.  You must learn how to appeal to Democrats and Independents.

The failure to have anything to counter Obama at the national level, to remind people why they were so unhappy, was a terrible mistake.  And it cost dearly — I think it cost 15 to 20 House seats.  And it certainly cost — look, you didn’t want to win the Senate, but you could’ve had 49 or 50.  You know.  It would have been — that would have been interesting.

And let me tell you the reason.  The exit poll [showed] there’s an 18-point difference on the definition of the campaign.  The government should do more to solve our problems — 38 percent.  The government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses — 56.  That’s an 18-point margin.

That message was not part of the national dialogue, as was the economy, in terms of a positive message.  What was done is your money was spent by the millions into going in and running 8,000 spots in Ohio or some state, or Nevada, where the media — where it becomes ineffective.  At the national level, nothing was happening.

Let me just tell you what was missing in the narrative.  One was, there was a great thing that Fred Davis did called “Mourning in America,” done by a lot of Reagan fans, playing off his Morning in America campaign.  This was mourning — M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G.  And it was the most devastating one-minute spot I saw in the campaign.  But it was never up [while] millions of dollars were being wasted for consultants to have money in all of these Senate campaigns, and so that they can drive people not to pay attention.  But that spot didn’t make the air.

Another one was, and I said this on Hannity — where’s the spot, the daily spot, that says, “Here are three terrible things in the stimulus, that the stimulus paid for,” and every day rotated them and said, “Had enough?”  Where was that?

And healthcare, the most decisive issue; the country wants this thing repudiated.  The only healthcare spending going on [in the election] was by the government — with Andy Griffith and Medicare — and by the pro-healthcare people.

There was no national message saying, “Did you like it jammed down your throat?”  That was the most, single decisive issue since.

And by the way, where was the slogan?  People viewed healthcare [as something] that had been shoved down your throat.  We want it expunged.  It is a crime — I called it the crime against democracy.  But you didn’t hear that nationally.

There was also the lack of a national security narrative in this election (inaudible) what’s happened at Fort Hood, and all of the other things — the Muslim bombings, the other things — so that when suddenly we had this crisis the White House knew about at 10 o’clock on Thursday night, and didn’t speak to the country about till 4 o’clock the next day, and let it be milked to death politically, and driving one out of 10 voters — that was worth three — two and a — at least two points in margin in the election.  There was no narrative for people to bounce that off of to say how does that fit into what they’ve been doing nationally.

This — you’re not just running against Obama; you have the national press core that serves as an adjunct.  And I was hoarse arguing this point.  And the one person [totally recently] about this is Roger Ailes — much of the money you spent, you shouldn’t have spent, was wasted and should’ve been put in national ads.  But they would not do it.  It doesn’t benefit their consultants, and it doesn’t benefit the way they think, which is World War I.

Moderator: All right, real quick.  We don’t have much time, but we do have time for questions.  So if you have questions — anybody have a question?  Back there.

Q: Thank you.  Pat, I really enjoyed what you said.  I mean — and to your point, I think our Founding Fathers really did us a great service when they had the House of Representatives elected every two years, so they could be held more accountable.  But to your point — don’t you think the problem — and we saw this starting in 2006 — that really the problem is the spending problem, and that healthcare is just the most pronounced symptom of that spending problem?…

Q: To that same point, how many of those Democrat congressmen that were newly elected in 2006 and 2008 were turned out in 2010?

Pat Caddell: A lot of them.  There were 50-some of the 54 seats won in 2006 and ’08.  I think the Republicans won 34 back.  And most of those people had voted — or a lot the Blue Dogs were wiped out.  But a lot of other people were as well in that.  So that 34 of the seats.

To the question of spending — there’s no doubt the deficit is a giant issue, the whole question of spending.  I think the Republicans are walking themselves into a trap, by the way.  But, you know, it would be [hopelessly] to explain.  But the fact is, this thing about taxes only, and we’re against all tax cuts.  And you better deliver, because the stuff’s coming on the cuts on spending.

But the narrative the Democrats are trying to push to — which is exactly what I would do [if] I were advising the White House — is the Republicans make them deliver on the one, and then point out that on this — that they’re not going to vote down some of these things.  But they really don’t care, because we really just want to cut taxes and give away money to the rich.  And they’re going to have some success with that argument.  And they really don’t want to cut spending.

I think that issue is a big issue.  It’s the test issue for Republicans, it’s what cost them in ’06 — that and corruption — and it is the issue on the table now.  Can you really affect cutting?  And yes, healthcare is a symbol of that, in a big way.  It’s also a symbol of the even bigger issue, which is big government taking over the country, which people don’t like.

Moderator: Either of the two of you want to comment on that?

Fred Barnes: Yes.  The healthcare is a spending issue, but it’s an issue on its own.  It is amazing.  I remember going back to 1994 with HillaryCare.  Back then, people — it was amazing how much people knew about the facts of HillaryCare, and individual items.  And it’s the same thing with Obamacare this year, and that’s not going to change over the next couple of years.  Because Obama says he only wants to tweak it.  And I think that’s probably true.  He’ll defend it very vigorously.

I go back to what I said earlier, in somewhat disagreement with Pat.  And that is, Democrats have tried to drive a wedge issue between Republicans, and even some Republican voters, and certainly independents and Democrats, by attacking them on the tax issue, the question of the Bush tax cuts.  It didn’t work.  Now, they’ll go back to that.

But Republicans do have to produce on spending cuts.  They don’t have to enact them, but they do have to produce good ones.  And the plan of Republicans now is to vote for one every week in the House of Representatives and send it to the Senate.  Every week.  And there’s plenty to choose from, if you pick the right ones.  There are plenty of things in Obamacare, there are plenty of just simple spending cuts.  And if they do it wisely, I think it’ll work.  It’ll help deal with this problem that Pat cites as one that could be a great problem for Republicans.

Ilario Pantano: I just want to make the point that spending was one of the biggest issues, as we polled, as we were doing our analysis.  And we were in a very interesting situation.  Because my opponent was a very big appropriator and was very fanciful with the big checks.  In fact, one of his signature political old-school methodologies was showing up at the firehouse with an oversized cardboard check with his name on it, as if he was bringing a gift.  I mean, this is kind of old-school parochial politicking.

To Pat’s point, we ran a number of ads focusing on the fact — do you like where the stimulus money has gone?  We’re testing cocaine on monkeys in North Carolina.  Was this a good use of your dollars?  And this is the kind of stuff that’s an issue.

The other side of that is the same electorate that rails against buying products from China and shops at Wal-Mart is the same electorate that hates that pork spending but loves the goodies.  And so we had a process of education.  We’ve made some great headway, but it’s a real issue, and we’ll continue to push it.

Q: Pat alluded to this — that you would recommend that the Democrats attack the rich and demonize the rich.  You didn’t say that, but that’s really what it is.  The Democrats have made a tremendous amount of progress by using the proper language, words.  And you know, they’ve made “rich” seem like a — like they’re the devil.  People who are rich are the devil.  Why don’t we come back with saying, hey, you know what?  These rich people are the people who do the investing.  These rich people are the people that made this economy the greatest economy the world has ever seen.  These rich people are the people that produce jobs.  Why don’t we start glorifying the rich, instead of letting them demonize the rich?

Pat Caddell: I guess that’s why I’m not a Republican.  I’ll tell you — the idea, when you have the income inequality in this country — and I’m not for income redistribution [but nor am  I] for people rigging tax breaks for themselves.

This idea that if you’re powerful and rich you can avoid these things, when you have 10 percent unemployment and people don’t have jobs — I’m sorry.  That’s a problem.  If you want to run on a campaign that the rich are the people who’ve made America, and they should therefore get special treatment, as opposed to special — I’m sorry, you asked — I’m telling you –

Q: What’s special about paying a higher tax?

Pat Caddell: I made my point.  And I’m telling you — I’m just telling you, politically — it’s a killer to get up and say the [most] important thing is to make sure that we give — if the Democrats were smart — and they’re headed there, this week — it’ll be a tax on millionaires.  They won’t do it at 250; they’ll do it at millionaires.  And the Republicans say, no tax — everybody’s got to have all this money, when the country [is] going broke.  And there’s got to be some compromise.

And the thing that Doug and I have been arguing is you have to have some unity here.  The American people have got to come to a consensus [about how to deal with this].  The Democrats aren’t serious about cuts, they don’t believe in it.  I can tell you as a Democrat, they don’t believe in it.

But on the other hand, you can’t just keep saying the only thing that works is give more money, cut more taxes, and not solve part of the serious revenue problem, most of which is caused — a lot of it — by insane tax breaks and special deals for people who bought those deals.  That’s wrong, too.  And I wouldn’t argue against — on redistribution.  I’m arguing on the basis that the system’s not supposed to be rigged.

Q: And most rich people started out as poor people.

Pat Caddell: I started out as poor!  I understand that!  This is not a national election debating about whether or not we like success in America — people like success.  The question — my question is simple — should people be able to hire lobbyists, go in, rig the rules for themselves, get tax breaks that aren’t available to anybody else.

Ilario Pantano: As somebody that was eating three breakfasts a day, meeting with various individuals at the local level — whether it was guys that turned wrenches or folks that literally delivered hogs to slaughter — I want to tell you about the issues that we face in messaging that.

I was actually stunned when a gentleman that was at a farm retail supply store, a manager, said, “You know, I’ve never gotten a job from a poor person.  I want people to be successful.”  And that was the first time that I’d heard somebody at that level really identify and give the kind of respect that one should afford to those that go out and pioneer, that take risks, that — you know, that do all the right things.

Having said that, how we message that is very important.  Because the crux of your question was about the words and the language.  And I think that it’s not that we necessarily need to glorify a class.  What we need to do is preserve the opportunities that the founders ultimately fought, died — that your ancestors fought, died to instill for that equal opportunity to be unequal.  And that’s where we get folks inspired –

Fred Barnes: I’m just going to add one thing.  Look, the voters and the American people — I think a majority of them understand — whether intuitively or consciously or whatever — that it’s wealthy people who invest, and who respond to incentives, and invest, and create economic growth and jobs.

On the other hand, people don’t like rich people.  And so the idea of going out and using that as an argument, I think, is counterproductive.  I mean, the people understand how the economy works.  You know.  And if you’re a wealthy person associated with Wall Street, this — I mean, the Wall Street issue almost defeated John Kasich in Ohio. There was a huge difference between how he did and how Rob Portman did. And it was all based on a few very effective ads — or maybe one very effective ad, by Ted Strickland, the incumbent governor — linking John Kasich, sometimes in his own words, to Wall Street.  So, look –

Pat Caddell: And the irony is Wall Street’s been giving all its money to Democrats.

Fred Barnes: I love what rich people do.  But if you want Republicans to go out and say how likeable you are and how everybody should like you, they’re going to lose.

Ilario Pantano: Can I just put a feather on that, and say the $570,000 of ads that were run against me in the last two weeks did one thing — they highlighted the fact that I’d worked at Goldman Sachs.  And it was all about Wall Street.  Because the USA Today polled — when people — in exit polling, the number-one issue was the economy, and the number-one culprit was Wall Street.  So I’ve been in two wars as a marine.  I’d served as a Deputy Sheriff.  But what people were told was that I’d worked on Wall Street, and that was a killer.  Just so you know.

Q: Let me point out — in the state of Washington, liberal Washington, they had a millionaire’s tax, and it was very well-funded.  And this was billed as the millionaire’s tax.  And it was defeated pretty soundly.  And at least the article in The Wall Street Journal suggests that the fact of the matter was that the people in Washington voted against it because they knew that eventually it would get down to them, as all taxes in the United States have done.  And I think that that’s a great laboratory example of — the people just aren’t willing to vote for higher taxes, even if you’re only talking about millionaires –

Ilario Pantano: I’m going to take this moment of silence to just jump in and say — one of the things — one of the rationales that we were able to employ was just making a very simple argument — that anyone with any kind of asset has a choice — they can pay more taxes, or they can employ more people.  And when you make it very granular — because ultimately, when you’re talking about shop owners, carwash owners, restaurant owners — and you put it in a very simple context, folks resonate with that.  And that’s what we need to do is simplify the arguments.

Moderator: Let me just thank everybody here.  I thank all of you for paying attention.  I want to thank the panelists, who were great to work with.  And hope you all enjoyed it.  So thank you very much.

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  • USMCSniper

    The Democrats apparently uses a version of the line from Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind; "Frankly, as far as the Great Unwashed of America are concerned, we don't give a damn!" I guess they think we should just all cling to our guns and our religion because they know what is best for us (NOT).

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