What Just Happened — The Election

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[Editor's note: Below is the transcript -- and video -- of a distinguished panel discussing the 2010 election at David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Nov. 18-21.]

Video Part I:

Video Part II, Click here.

Moderator: My name is Dr. Michael Wienir.  And as Chairman of the David Horowitz Freedom Center Board of Directors, let me thank you for being here.  Let me thank you for your support and everything you’ve done for the Center.  Let me welcome you to the first panel of this Weekend.  It’s going to be a sensational Weekend; it’s already started that way.

I want to take just a few seconds to remind you about the mission of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  It’s something we don’t talk about enough.  You heard some of this alluded to this morning.  But David has defined the mission of the David Horowitz Freedom Center as the defense of free societies.  Pretty simple.  But it goes on.  It’s the defense of free societies whose moral and economic and cultural foundations are under attack by enemies, both secular and religious, at home and abroad.  And that really defines what this entity is all about.

Two years ago, the mainstream media wrote a series of articles announcing the death of conservatism.  The day after the election, David Horowitz wrote, “We want to thank Pelosi, Obama and Reid for destroying the Democratic majority, for stopping the progressive juggernaut, for putting the GOP in a position to take the Senate in 2012, and hopefully the Presidency.” And he went on to say that finally, it is clear that the leftist spin — that the election was only about outside money coming in from foreign sources, or inept messaging, not the message itself; or policies not radical enough — that that spin has been debunked.

So let me just throw out a few generic questions — what is the meaning of the 2010 election?  What are the lessons that we’re to learn?  What are the possible pitfalls in interpreting the election results?  Is the GOP euphoria productive and reasonable?  Will there be a GOP or, for that matter, a Democratic civil war?  And what does all this mean for 2012?

The first speaker is Pat Caddell, a Harvard graduate and American political strategist.  He’s called in some of the media a Democrat with a conscience.  He has worked for and consulted with a number of people whose views we don’t all agree with — George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, Joe Biden and the late Ted Kennedy.  He was Vice-Chairman of the Board of Visitors at West Point from 1981 to 1982.  He’s worked on, produced, coauthored — been a writer, consultant on “The West Wing,” “Air Force One, “Line of Fire.”  He’s honest, he’s insightful, he’s wise, and he is a lot of fun to be around.  He is a true American patriot. On April 16th, 2010, he wrote an article in the Washington Post.  It was titled “How the Democrats Can Avoid a November Bloodbath.”  And I have to quote one thing from that article, because I just love this.  He talked about Barack Obama’s inner circle.  And here’s the quote — “These are naïve idiots who have never done anything with their lives, and they are actually in power.  These are the people that we would never let in the room when we had serious business to do, and they are running the country.”

Pat Caddell, we look forward to your comments.

Pat Caddell: Thank you, Mike.  I have to tell you, that quote is — I threw it off.  It was just something that came out, I didn’t mean it.  And I didn’t plan to say it.  I mean, I meant it, but I didn’t plan to say it.  And I’ve had — probably that has gotten more circulation as a quote than anything I’ve ever said.  So you know, it’s amazing that they didn’t like it at the White House, I don’t think, among other places.

But first of all, I see you are all in a much cheerier mood than you were two years ago.  So we’re going to celebrate — you can have partly a celebration, and then we should have a sober discussion.  Because the problem with victory is over-reading victories.  And this is one that could be seriously over-read.

And let me just say — let me start off by saying something very important.  I don’t know if David is here.  But in February of 2009, we were in New York, and there was a thing celebrating David’s birthday at the Yale Club, and I was there — we were all.  And David Horowitz gave a talk and said that the Republicans should concentrate on the House of Representatives, and not so much the Senate, but the House, at a time when everyone thought that would be a hopeless task to win back or substantially change the House.

But it was such a compelling argument.  I remember going up and telling him afterwards that I thought — he absolutely convinced me that he was absolutely right.  And I say that because I tend to make lots of statements that — I feel like Cassandra sometimes — no one ever pays attention, never get any credit for being right.

But David deserves credit.  He was the first person in America to zero in on what the election would really be about in 2010.

Let me describe the elections.  My friend, [Merrill Kinstler], who’s here, said to me last night, as we were sitting on the seawall out there — he said the Republicans were dealt a royal straight flush and played it for an ace-high straight.  And that is basically, I think, the best summary I’ve heard of the election.

Let me tell you — let’s talk about what happened.  Just quickly, I’ll just enumerate these things.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time; you’ve heard them.  This is a third-wave election we had — this is the good news — in a row.  We had waves in ’06 and ’08 in the House, and then we had one in ’10 that was bigger than the other two combined, and as big as anything we’ve seen.

This will be the first time since I have been alive, which is now more years than I choose to count, where my party will have less than 200 seats in the House of Representatives.  Never in my lifetime, come January, will that have been the case.

At the House level, and below the House, [this election] was a slaughter [in] incredible magnitude.  The House is 63, 64 seats, 65 maybe.  But you have to understand the significance of this.  First of all, it’s just gigantic.  Secondly, it could’ve been a lot better.

But it was also done in the teeth of gerrymandering.  Almost all the seats in America are gerrymandered, and that does not seem to hold.  And that will change dramatically.  And so, it was interesting to me.

And also, the House seats were [contested], unlike 1994, when the Republicans won mainly open seats, where Democrats had retired — this was even more significant because this was the wipeout of incumbents.  Particularly many long-term incumbents lost their seats, and many came close to losing.

David Oberstar in Minnesota is one example.  And Chairman Jim Spratt in my home city, who I happen to think is a great — has been a great American leader — the head of the Budget Committee — he paid the price for being in Nancy Pelosi’s leadership and lost his seat in upstate South Carolina.

We saw the governorships, we saw the huge gains of the Republicans.  We saw several, just as we did in the Senate race, the seats that — governorships that could’ve been won that were not at the last minute.

But the legislative seats are important.  Seven hundred fifty to 800 seats, when it’s all counted — Minnesota, Wisconsin — these are — Michigan.  These states in the Midwest flipped from Democratic overwhelmingly to Republican.  North Carolina flipped.  And in state after state, you had major gains.  This is important.  Because as you all know, this is a reapportionment election.  I’m in favor of letting the voters pick the politicians, rather than the politicians pick the voters.

But in the system that we have, let me tell you the significant difference.  In 1990, Republicans had total control of the redistricting of five seats.  In 2011, after 2010 election, they will have total control of 200 seats in the House of Representatives.  We will see changes.

You will have, for the first time in over a decade, some competitive elections in California, which will be an interesting experience. Redistricting [will change] things enormously.

Let’s talk about a couple of quick — what did not happen.  And it did not happen — and particularly, I’ll speak to this in California.  The fact is, the Tea Parties — if you look at the margin of Republican — margin that’s provided, the Tea Parties — I did an analysis in The Wall Street Journal poll, just before the election — were wiping out all the Democratic margin and giving the Republicans a huge edge, a historic edge, in the generic ballot at that point.  It was all coming from people who said they were Tea Party supporters.

And that is the most potent movement.  I think it has been manipulated, and I’ll speak later to some problems there.  But it was a huge difference.

But let’s talk about what didn’t happen.  First of all, this was not a Republican victory.  As Doug Schoen and I said in our article in the Washington Post, this was a vote of no confidence.  It was a repudiation of the Democratic policies.

The Republicans won this election with one of the worst ratings in the history of the United States for a political party.  They were a big, red default button this year.  And that’s all they were.  As Marco Rubio, who I think was the superstar of this election, said, this is a chance for them to redeem themselves.  And we will see whether or not that works with the American people.

Let me tell you what didn’t happen.  When we went into the election weekend, the beginning of — probably the end of the week [before] the election, with Gallup showing a historic 14-point generic ballot margin.  Rasmussen was 12, there were some others at nine, 10.  If that had held — the vote came out at about seven points — if it had been 10 or more, there would have been close to 90 to 100 seats won.

There’s a reason this did not happen.  And by the way, this is the first election in modern times where the House has flipped, particularly overwhelmingly, and the Senate did not.  One of the things we must address here, and  because a lot of you put a lot of money into this, so you might as well, as good businesspeople, understand how your money was spent for you — there were 12 Senate seats in play a month before Election Day.  Republicans won only half of them.  It was a very tough year for the Senate because so many Republican seats were up.  But nonetheless, that should be sobering.

So the question is, where did all of this go?  And one of the things that happened, of course, that made the election is independents swung overwhelmingly.  My favorite group is voters making over $200,000 who voted for Barack Obama in ’08 voted Republican for Congress 62-35 in this election.

And one other interesting tidbit – with Hispanic men  the margin loss to Republicans, was 24, compared to 40 with Hispanic women, which is interesting to me.

Anyway, let’s talk about what was not the biggest issue: . . .the economy.  Forty-one percent of the people said that their family situation, financial situation, had worsened in the last year.  They went 63 to 34 — 34 percent of them voted Democratic; 63 Republican.  Thirty-one percent of the people had someone in their household laid off.  They went 52 percent Republican.  Forty-five percent of the people who had someone laid off in their household voted Democratic.  All right?

This was not won on the economy.  And all you have to do is look at California and Nevada — the two states [with] the highest unemployment –to understand.  The issue that was decisive in this election was healthcare.

Far and beyond — 36 percent of the Democrats, who have favored repealing healthcare, voted Republican.  That’s almost all of them who did.  Among independents who favored the repeal of healthcare, they voted 86 to nine for Republicans.  They voted almost as Republican as did Republicans.

Another very important point is the October surprise.  There was an October surprise.  It occurred on the Friday before the election.  It was the whole thing with the terrorists.  Ten percent of the voters said it was the single most important reason for their vote on Election Day.  And they voted 12 points more Democratic.  It’s called rallying around the flag, the lack of a narrative that the Republicans didn’t provide everywhere.

And in California, the marijuana vote was decisive in terms of bringing out people.  It effectively — we can calculate, between eight and a half and nine points.  Okay.  That’s it?

Moderator: Fred Barnes is a graduate of the University of Virginia and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.  He has written for multiple national publications.  He was cofounder of the Weekly Standard.  If you don’t get it, get it.  It is really the best weekly journal, I think, that is out there.  My wife hides it from me, because she reads it before I get it.  But it’s really terrific.

He was on the McLaughlin Group.  He was part of “The Beltway Boys.”  He wrote a book called “Rebel in Chief,” a biography of George W. Bush.  He’s been on Fox News over and over again.  And something called the Media Guide gave him the highest rating and called him “a great political reporter-columnist” whose material is “exquisitely timed.”

He wrote in The Wall Street Journal recently, “Republicans won bigger than you think.”  And his other article, right here in this Wall Street Journal, is about John Boehner.  It’s titled “Tanned, Rested, and Ready.”

Fred Barnes: Well, I’m not tanned, but I am rested and ready.  But I am glad to be here.  I certainly agree with everything Pat Caddell said.  And frankly, I could’ve — I’d have been happy to hear more.   I guess we will.

This election was fun to cover.  And there were just so many interesting things that happened in it.  And I’m going to talk a little about it at a more micro level than Pat did.

And one of my conclusions about the election is that as Alabama goes, so goes Wisconsin.  Because those were the two states where everything turned over — where Republicans won the governorship, a Senate seat, both houses of the legislature; and picked up House seats — two in Wisconsin, one in Alabama.  It was just amazing.

And I know a little about Alabama.  In Alabama, the House majority leader, a Democrat, lost to a UPS driver, the Republican.  And the UPS driver — I’m not talking about a retired UPS driver.  I’m talking about an active UPS driver who won 69 percent to 31 percent over the House Democratic majority leader.

The Senate Democratic majority leader lost to a dentist.  And the most powerful man in the Alabama legislature — a man named Lowell Barron, who I think runs the Senate Rules Committee — lost to a guy who runs an auto parts and repair store up in Northern Alabama.  Just — I mean, it was just amazing what went on there in Alabama.  And of course, it was the first time that Republicans had won the legislatures in 136 years, [not] since Reconstruction.

You know the state, oddly enough, that will have — that will, at the end of the day, have picked up the most House seats?  It’s probably going to be New York, of all places, where they’ve already won four.  And they’re ahead in two others that haven’t been declared yet, but they’ll probably win both of those.  Really quite amazing, since the candidates at the top of the ticket, the two Senate races and the governor’s race — the Republican candidates were under 40 percent.  I mean, it takes some mighty ticket-splitting in order to elect six Republicans.

My son happens to work for a Democratic congressman from California named Kevin McCarthy, who had a great deal to do with recruiting Republican candidates.  And my son has the exalted job of being his driver.  But it does mean that he travels with him a lot, and went around and saw many, many of these candidates — probably saw, oh, 35 or 40 of the Republican challengers.  And his reaction was, as he told me — he said, “Dad, they’re a lot more impressive than the members.”  And they were.

Republicans did it.  Candidates matter, as we learned in the Colorado and Nevada and Delaware Senate races.  A good candidate, a conservative candidate with some crossover appeal, could’ve won in all those states and many others.  But in many places, the candidates weren’t that great.

One of the ironies of this race is that Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and their policies didn’t hurt very many liberal Democrats, most of whom are in safe districts; but killed moderates and the few conservatives who were still in the Democratic Party in the House.

And I counted six of them in the House, and five of them lost.  Jim Marshall in Georgia, Bobby Bright in Alabama, two in Mississippi, [Trevor] Childers and Gene Taylor — and one in Idaho, Walter Minnick.  They lost.  I mean, these are people who had voted against Obamacare, who voted against the stimulus.  They voted against Cap and Trade.  In many cases, they voted against the Omnibus Budget.  They had very conservative voting records, but they were tainted.  Because they had a D by their name.

And in the South, at any rate, voters in the past had done ticket-splitting, where they would vote for Republicans at the top of the ticket; but then for the legislature and then for House seats would vote for Democrats, like John Spratt in South Carolina, who Pat mentioned — the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.  They didn’t ticket-split this time.  There was a lot of straight-ticket voting in the South, with amazing results, particularly in Alabama — but not only in Alabama; in North Carolina as well.

And so now you have, when you look at the Southern states, where — when you elect somebody, there’s a little more permanence to it, usually, although Democrats in Alabama wouldn’t think that anymore.  But Republicans now have — are pretty much in control of reapportionment.  Because they control at least one house of the legislature.  They [have one] in Virginia, and they have a governor in North Carolina, both houses of the legislature; South Carolina, both plus a governor; Georgia, both plus a governor; Florida, both plus a governor; Alabama, both houses plus a governor; Mississippi — I guess they — well, Haley Barbour’s the governor.  But they don’t have the legislature.  Louisiana have a governor.  Arkansas — well, I guess they don’t control the House there either, and there’s a Democratic governor.  But those states are yet to come.

This was a referendum on Obama, on Democrats.  Jim Ceaser of the University of Virginia has called it “the great repudiation.”  And, you know, I don’t think there’s been a midterm election that I can remember where it really was such a clear verdict on what an administration has done in the first two years of a Presidency.  And the verdict was no.  As Pat called it, a vote of no confidence.  It was a huge vote of no confidence.

And as we can see, by Democrats who are now having huge arguments among themselves about who’s at fault, and the liberals who are in command in both the Senate and the House caucuses in Washington and certainly in the White House, really don’t want to budge.  They really don’t want to move to the middle.  I mean, why would they elect Nancy Pelosi again, who clearly has the face of the Democratic Party in the House — was a huge drag.  Her approval rating — under 10 percent.  I’ve never heard of that before.  A huge drag, and yet she’s back.  And Harry Reid was reelected.  And he’s back, and he’s, you know, basically a doofus.

But I wouldn’t say that about Nancy Pelosi, however.  She — a lot tougher and a bit smarter.  And then you have Barack Obama, about whom we learned a great deal this morning from Stanley Kurtz.

And Stanley, I don’t know why the Weekly Standard hasn’t reviewed your book, but I’ll make sure the Weekly Standard does.  And for all I know, there’s a review in the works.  Some of you — if you know anything about assigning reviews, sometimes people can be very slow in turning in their work.  It helps to have — I spent 20 years in the newspaper business.  That helps meeting deadlines.  But, you know, academics and people like that, you know, they [let a] deadline — you know, this month, next month?

Anyway, we’ll review the book, if I have to review it myself.

Let’s see here, what else did I want to add?  And here’s one of the oddities coming out of this election — the Republicans are now the party of hope and change.  They really are.  And they do want to change.  And the Democrats in Washington are basically reactionary liberals.  They don’t want to change.  They want to preserve everything they did over the last two years, and they’d like to even get a little more within this lame-duck session of Congress — which they won’t, but they’d like to — to get every — to squeeze out every little item, every little thing that may be left in the cupboard of liberal initiatives.  And they’ve gotten a lot already.  But the next two years are going to be about undoing some of that.  And Democrats in the House and the Senate and the White House are going to have to react to that.

I think it’s going to be very difficult for Democrats, for Obama, to split Republicans — to come up with divisive issues that divide them.  Remember, they tried it on the Bush tax cuts.  That was going to be a huge issue.  Democrats talked about it in September and October and everything, how it was going to divide Republicans.  Because the leaders of the party wanted to extend the tax cuts for people — for anybody who might reasonably have a chance to invest and spur the economy, and create jobs.  The Obama Administration and the Democrats wanted to raise their taxes.  Well, that argument was lost by Democrats; it got them nowhere.

And on spending, the issues are really with Republicans now, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s spending, the deficit, the debt, and so on.  And Republicans need to exploit those wisely.  Because the public does want to undo a good bit of what happened over the last two years.

And then we get to 2012.  You know, I was looking at the — where the Senate landscape looks great, I’m not sure many of you know that there are 23 Democratic seats up and 10 Republicans.  The Republicans look pretty safe.  But [there are] Democrats like these in states that are either pretty conservative or states that certainly moved in a conservative direction and Republican direction in 2010.

Bill Nelson in Florida — there are going to be a ton of people wanting to run against him, maybe some in this room.  I know the appointed Senator George LeMieux wants to run, and will run.  Claire McCaskill in Missouri, a state that Roy Bunt, who had all kinds of baggage — having been, next to Tom DeLay, the world’s greatest fan of earmarks among other things — close to the Bush Administration — won in double digits in Missouri for the Senate seat.

Ben Nelson in Nebraska — we all know about him.  And he’d probably like to switch parties; I’m not sure Republicans would take him.  Joe Manchin in Nevada, John Tester in Montana, which I think is another state where Republicans now hold both houses of the legislature.  Kent Conrad in North Dakota, who I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he retired, like Byron Dorgan did, the other Democrat there.

Jim Webb in Virginia — I live in Virginia.  It’ll be tough for him to be reelected.  Has raised no money, may not run.  And Herb Kohl in Wisconsin.  It is a target-rich environment.

And remember, for Republicans, the whole strategy is a two-election strategy — in 2010 and in 2012.  In other words, they can’t carry out their agenda in any significant way unless they win the White House as well.  And I think the stage has been set to do that.  But they’re going to have to perform remarkably well in the next two years.

Thank you.

Moderator: Ilario Pantano is our third panelist.  He was a candidate for the 7th District in the great state of North Carolina.  And it’s been monopolized by the Democrats for 140 years; they’ve got two more years, it looks like.  But Ilario fought very hard.

He’s been a friend for a number of years.  He’s a combat veteran, bestselling author.  He’s worked in global markets, he’s worked in small businesses.

Now, he wrote a compelling and incredible book about his life story, including his experiences as a commander of a platoon in the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Marine Regiment.  They were called the Warlords.  And his book is called “Warlords.”  The subtitle of the book is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”  And I’m proud to call him a friend.

Ilario Pantano: It’s such an honor to be with you all this morning, although I would’ve rather been in D.C. standing with the freshmen photograph.  But you’re a wonderful second place, I just want you all to know.

David, I’ve got to call you out in the back.  Because in so many ways, my journey really started with you, and started with the cadre of culture warriors that have mobilized and enabled.  And I’m so grateful to you.  And I’m grateful to all of you.  Because your friendship, your support, for years — and not just recently, but for years — enabled me to be standing here today as somebody who’s been a warrior in this most recent battle.

And I think all of you are as well.  You’ve committed your time and your money to supporting these causes.  And I just want to talk to you a little bit, from the perspective that I have.  Because we’ve heard wonderful kind of 30,000-foot perspectives.  I’m going to tell you what it was like as a mud soldier.  And of course, I’m an endangered species.  I’m a great Republican candidate that lost.  But I have some wonderful stories to tell you from that perspective.  And candidly, those lessons might be just as if not more important, as we look to 2012.

I had the pleasure of being at a Restoration Weekend in 2006.  And my book had just come out.  And David and the Freedom Center were very supportive.  And I was sitting at a table with a gentleman who said, “We’re in the anti-jihad business.  What do you do?”  And I said, “I’m in the business end of the anti-jihad business.”

So I give you that because I’m in the business end of the reclamation of our conservative values in our nation’s capital.  I think we would all agree that Washington’s become the most dangerous place in the world.  And certainly in the last couple of years, it’s not Fallujah or Kabul, although I’ve been to those places.  It’s Washington.

And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the macro landscape.  Fred mentioned how the senatorial landscape in ’12 is going to be different.  You know, there’s going to be 10 Republicans running for reelection.  And they all weathered 2006.  So they’re probably fairly safe.  And then you’ve got 23 Dems, and some of them came in through some unusual circumstances.

But I want to give you some macro particulars as it relates to the congressional races.  And all of us know that Eric Cantor took a tremendous role in formulating the young guns and candidly deserves real credit, and a round of applause even.  But Eric Cantor did a wonderful job in galvanizing — working with Kevin McCarthy — galvanizing, identifying the right candidates and creating a program.

But there’s another name that you might not know as well, and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit also.  And that’s Pete Sessions.  Chairman Sessions is a congressman from Texas.  And I’m going to give him a round of applause.  Okay?  And I’m going to tell you why.

In the winter of 2008, would you have wanted the job of saying, hey, we’re going to get a majority back in the US Congress?  In January of 2009, would you have wanted that job?  Would you have wanted to take the responsibility of saying we’re going to get 39 seats?

But that was the job that Chairman Sessions undertook, and he did that.  And of course, he was helped tremendously.  Congressman Cantor, Congressman McCarthy, Congressman Paul Ryan, another real luminary — put together the Young Guns Program.  And what they did is they identified wonderful candidates — pizza shop owners.  You know, Alan West, who has been a longtime member and participant here in these events, and a wonderful speaker.  And in many ways, I look to him as a mentor, as a role model.  Incidentally, he lost his first race.  Wink-wink.

But the point there being a wonderful slate of candidates was identified early, and support was created early.  And this is important.  And what I want to try and give you — because I can’t give you the context of the strategy that these gentlemen can after decades of political watching — but what I want to give you is the nuts and bolts of how we did this.

So candidates were identified early.  And with the Young Guns Program, we created a series of benchmarks — how many voter contacts, how many e-mail addresses, how much money by certain periods?  And there was real mentoring that went along with that.  And so that’s how we were able to not just take the 39 seats, but the over 60-plus seats.

And in fact, the other members of the House, the members of the Republican Caucus, were called — were very actively engaged.  And with each successive naming of Young Gun candidates, all the Republican members were very matter-of-factly asked to step in and support this new cadre.  And so it didn’t matter if you were from Kentucky, Ohio or Illinois — you were going to participate and support this new crop.

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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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