Editor’s note: Below is the video and transcript of the panel discussion “2014: And the Future of the Republican Party,” which took place at the Freedom Center’s 2013 Restoration Weekend. The event was held November 14th-17th at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Ralph Reed: Thanks so much.
When I was elected state party chairman in Georgia in 2002, we had not elected a Republican governor in my state in 134 years. And in fact, if you go back to the time since the first Europeans landed on the North American continent 400 years earlier, we had actually never elected a Republican governor since we became a colony, without the benefit of the occupation of federal troops. Which worked for awhile, but then they left. So it’s not really a good long-term strategy.
And what I’m going to talk about a little bit today — first of all, I want to talk about 2014. But second of all, I want to talk about some lessons that I learned not only in that experience but in the nine presidential campaigns that I’ve been privileged to work on, about how, just for example, in my state we went from having neither chamber of the legislature — also we had not held since Reconstruction — neither chamber had ever been held, hadn’t have a governor, had neither US senator; and the Democrats controlled both US Senate seats from my state, and they had a majority of the Congressional delegation.
And when the dust settled after two cycles, we had every statewide constitutional officer, we had both US Senators, both the State House and the State Senate; and we had a majority of the Congressional delegation.
Now, the question is — how does that happen? And I’ll talk about those broader themes in a minute. But first, I want to focus on 2014.
2014 is a huge opportunity for the Republican Party, for two reasons — number one, because we’re entering what political scientists refer to as the six-year-itch election. It’s the second midterm of a two-term presidency. And historically, whether you’re LBJ in ’66 or Eisenhower in ’58, or Gerald Ford in ’74, that Nixon-Ford post-Watergate, six-year=itch election — doesn’t matter when it is — historically, it’s devastating. There’ve been 17 midterm elections held since World War II. In nine of those instances, there’s been a Democrat President. It’s been nine midterm elections since World War II with a Democrat incumbent President — the average number of seats lost in those nine midterms is 33 seats.
Now, that’s unlikely to happen this time, for the same reason why ’98 didn’t turn out to be Bill Clinton’s six-year-itch election. And why was that? It’d already happened.
In Clinton’s case, the six-year itch was a two-year itch, right? That was the 53 House seats, eight Senate seats. Then we had two switchers in Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Richard Shelby of Alabama, giving us a total net gain of 10 in the Senate and 53 in the House. The net gain in the last midterm, in Obama’s first midterm in 2010, was 63 House seats, which is the highest recorded since World War II, and it’s the highest recorded by either party since 1922. And so therefore, I don’t think we should look for a wave election in the House.
To give you another data point, to look at how narrow the band is — if you look at the 234 seats currently held by Republicans, only nine of those seats were carried by Barack Obama. So because of redistricting, it’s going to be very difficult for Obama and the Democrats to go in and beat a bunch of Republicans. Because he only carried nine of their seats.
On the other side, there are — I’m sorry, there are 201 seats held by Democrats; nine were carried by Romney. I apologize. So Romney carried nine seats held by Democrats. That doesn’t give you a lot of room to knock off Democrats. Of the 234 Republicans, there are 17 seats that were held by Democrats. And of course, they’d have to carry every single one of those and then some to get the House back.
The place where you’re more likely to see big change is in the US Senate. There are 33 seats up, 21 held by Democrats, 14 held by Republicans. And in seven of those 21 seats held by Democrats, the Republicans over-performed from Romney’s national average. And those seven seats are in Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Most people believe — and again, it’s hard to predict this far out — but if the election were held today, the consensus is that Arkansas, the Pryor seat, where he’s running against Tom Cotton; South Dakota, the Johnson seat; Montana, the open Baucus seat; and West Virginia, the open Rockefeller seat; would all go Republican.
So I tend to think the floor for the Republicans in 2014 is four. And I tend to think the ceiling is seven. And as you know, they need to get to seven to really be sure that they’re where they want to be. It’s possible.
The question is — how do you get there? Number one, you run against Obamacare. The election needs to be a referendum on the failure of Obamacare. The President’s job approval is plummeting. Today, in the Real Clear Politics average, Obama’s job approval is 40, his disapproval is 53. That’s minus 13. The most important variable in the midterm, other than the economy, the unemployment rate and per-capita income after inflation and taxes, is his job approval.
If a President has a job approval of 60 or above in a midterm, he usually loses only a handful of seats. That was the case with Clinton in 1998, for example. If the President’s job approval is at 50 or below, historically, that incumbent loses 12 percent of his caucus. That would translate into a 24-seat loss in the House. And if a President’s job approval is below 40, he loses 18 percent of his caucus, which would be a 36-seat loss.
So, the first rule is, when your opponent is in the process of committing suicide, get out of the way.
And that’s what’s happening right now.
The second thing — and this is critical — it isn’t enough to just watch him crater and watch him implode, and to watch Democrats run from this President, as Haley Barbour used to say, like scalded dogs. That’s not enough. The other thing that the Republicans have got to do is they have got to put forward an alternative, proactive, positive, conservative reform agenda for where they want to take the country. It isn’t enough to just say what you’re against; you have to say what you’re for.
And I was fortunate to be involved in developing the Contract with America. A lot of people said that we were crazy. You know, everybody was mad at Clinton over Hillary Care and the crime bill, and the tax increase and everything else. They just said stand back, and just let them fall.
We knew that to get the House and the Senate, and deserve the House and the Senate, we had to tell the country what we would do if we got it. And that’s what the Republicans have to do. They haven’t done it yet. That’s a critical next step.
Thank you very much.
Brian Calle: Thank you, Ralph.
I’m going to invite up Richard Grenell to come speak to you next. He served eight years as an appointee in the Bush Administration. And one of his tasks in that role was to advise Ambassador John Bolton. Also now, he is a Fox News contributor, so you’ll be seeing more of him.
So let me invite Richard up here.
Richard Grenell: Thank you very much.
First thing I want to do is take a picture. Because I’m a big tweeter.
So I want everyone to smile.
All right, great. That’s going to go up on Twitter.
If you’re not on Twitter, let me just say you’ve got to get on Twitter. It is changing the way we look at the media. The media hate it, reporters hate it. Because suddenly, they get feedback. And they can talk and criticize all day and give it to thousands of people. And one person criticizes them, and they freak out. It is the best thing in the world to watch these reporters completely implode.
I was involved in a Twitter fight this morning. I don’t know if anybody saw it. But I was going crazy. Because as you know, the New York Times this morning compares Obamacare to Bush’s Katrina.
To which I said — oh, that was so great when all those Democrats came out and warned us that a hurricane was coming and the levies were going to break, and nobody was going to be able to move. I mean, come on.
This is a natural disaster, versus one that was completely manmade, thought-about and supported by one party. So anyway, that’s just free. That’s not part of my standup today.
You get that for free.
First of all, I want to say, Ralph, thank you very much. Everything that you said I agreed with. There’s not one thing I disagreed with. And talk about a big tent — this morning, we’re representing a big tent here, when we can come together and agree exactly on the strategy forward.
One question, though, I do have for you is Michigan — where do you have that?
Ralph Reed: It’s coming into play.
Richard Grenell: You have it as one of the seven?
Ralph Reed: It’s not one of the seven, but it’s coming into play.
Richard Grenell: I think you can go up to eight, then. Because I really think Michigan is an absolute plus for the Republicans. Terri Land is fantastic. She’s demonstrated she knows how to win statewide. And they have a terrible candidate on the other side. So I think — watch Michigan. And if you have any money to give, come out and give in Michigan.
A couple of things that I’ll say about going forward in 2014, from my perspective — I think we have to have a governor as a nominee — I mean, in 2016, sorry. We have to have a governor as our nominee. We have to have someone, I think — as Ralph says, a reform agenda — I say someone who has demonstrated fundamental change in their state. I want a record. I want someone to say this is what was going on in the state, and this is how I changed it.
I think that someone has to demonstrate that they have been through the media scrutiny — that, like it or not, the national media are going to come up with false narratives. They’re going to come after you with everything they have. And you have to be able to demonstrate you have an answer, you have a good answer, and you know how to push back.
And lastly, I think for me, we have to have a nominee in 2016 that knows how to communicate with young people. The world is changing, they don’t read the newspapers like they used to. They’re getting their information from alternative sources. They’re getting a lot of information from programs like “Oprah” and “Entertainment Tonight,” like it or not. And we have to be able to compete on that level. We have to be able to talk to them and organize that way.
But I don’t think that all is lost. I don’t buy this argument that young people are turned off from a pro-liberty argument. I think, if anything, that they have demonstrated over the last year that they don’t want government involved in their lives. They don’t want someone spying on them. They don’t want the scrutiny that comes from a program like Obamacare into their lives.
We have to be able to package those pro-liberty, anti-government, strong-America messages and put it in front of the young people. They will respond. They have grown up not trusting a lot of people. And we have to play into the fact that government is one of the institutions that they should mistrust, and that if we package it as a pro-liberty, make your decisions, don’t let other people tell you what to do; that’s where we win.
I see it every single day on Twitter. I see it every single day on social media. Young people are frustrated with having things taken away from them. And they’re having a sense that they’re losing it.
So in 2014, what I would say is that it’s not rocket science. All politics is local. We have to take our local candidates, and we have to make sure that they’re appealing to young people, and that they’re giving a very pro-liberty message.
Also, I’m big on fighting back against the media. They are the biggest —
They’re the biggest babies with the thinnest skin. And when you push back, and you challenge their narrative, they don’t know what to do. They are not accustomed to being challenged. All of these reporters, especially in Washington — they like to file their story and go home.
And so for me, challenging the media right up front to say — that is not true, you’ve got that fact wrong, why are you using an anonymous source — and going right to them, and challenging them, it makes a difference for the next story. So we have to have candidates that do it, I think, in a nice way, but in a very challenging way.
We don’t want to go and attack them personally. You want to attack their story and their facts and the way that they come to a story, and the way they view it. And I think that’s a winning strategy for candidates that push back. Because there’s only one entity that’s lower in approval ratings than Congress, and that’s the media.
Richard Grenell: Yeah.
Ralph Reed: Can I comment on that? Can I just — if I could just put an exclamation point on that last point, about the media? First of all, their trust factor is at an all-time low. Second of all, the disaggregation of the media universe, through the rise of the Internet, cable television, talk radio; allows us to communicate far more effectively what the actual facts are. And Exhibit A, by the way, is Obamacare. A lot of these facts have not gotten out through the traditional media.
And thirdly, look what happened in that second debate — I believe it was the second debate, on foreign policy — when Candy Crowley —
Unidentified Speaker: Yeah.
Ralph Reed: — who was supposed to be the moderator, stepped in there and went to bat for Obama, and said — in fact, sir, he did say it was a terrorist attack.
Now, you know and I know that Obama never said it was a terrorist attack in that Rose Garden ceremony after the Benghazi attack. And Romney, to his eternal shame, did not call her on it. He should have, in a very nice way, in a very polite but firm way — he should’ve stepped forward and said — excuse me, I’ve read the transcript. I saw what he said. He never called it a terrorist attack. And he hasn’t to this day. That’s what he should’ve done. And instead, he just — oh, he didn’t? He didn’t do that? And that was a critical moment in the campaign.
By the way, the advisors on the campaign on the foreign policy side had prepared him, and he was ready for that. And —
Unidentified Speaker: We can’t hear.
Ralph Reed: Sorry.
Brian Calle: Speak closer to it. Got to speak directly into it.
Ralph Reed: The advisors on the campaign, the foreign policy advisors, had prepared the governor for that question and for that line of attack. So he should’ve been able to immediately turn that around. And the advisors were left to say — what’s going on? This is implosion before our eyes.
Brian Calle: I’d just like to say there are some good members of the media out there.
So let’s get specific a little bit, because I like to do that with all my writers at The Register and elsewhere. You both mentioned the message being very important for Republicans. And Richard, I think you said specifically a pro-liberty message. What does that look like? On what issues should Republicans be focusing, and on what issues should Republicans not be focusing?
Richard Grenell: Well, I think that a winning strategy right now is talking about the economy and jobs. We can’t just be out there saying cut taxes. I’m all for balancing the budget. I’m all for cutting the taxes when we get everything paid for. But right now, when you say — I just want to cut taxes, it’s an immediate message to the other side that you’re mean-spirited and that you’re not thinking about the programs.
There’s a way to talk about these issues. I think you have to talk about balancing the budget. You have to talk about the fact that we have a $17 trillion national debt, and that spending keeps going. But I think that the better argument is to talk about prioritizing spending, making sure that we’re spending it in the right way, not overspending. There’s a way to say all of this without just saying — I want to come in and cut your taxes.
Ralph Reed: Yeah. And I think there are also ways to talk about tax reduction and fiscal responsibility and spending restraint in a way that sounds populist and pro-middle class, as opposed to you’re only defending the wealthy.
Let me just give you a couple of examples. And I agree we’ve got to focus on jobs and the economy. As important as Obamacare is, and it’s terribly important to turning out vote — remember, independents have turned on this guy. The only people left are the partisan Democrats. Everybody else has jumped out of the flaming Buick before it goes off the cliff.
People don’t want to have any association with this program whatsoever. So we don’t neglect that. But his job approval on healthcare, interestingly enough, is 37 percent. His job approval on the economy is 32 percent. People are still hurting out there. People still can’t find jobs. The people who can’t find jobs — if they can find anything, it’s a part-time job.
So one way to talk about this issue is to talk about exempting from taxation up to 20 percent of the net of a small business, a family-owned business, so that money can be plowed back into the business and create jobs. This is a pro-jobs provision, it’s a tax credit. But it’s targeted in a way that helps create jobs and helps drive small business, which creates 80 percent of jobs.
Another that a lot of Republicans are starting to talk about — I don’t think it’s really ready for legislation yet, I don’t think that cake is quite yet baked — is to increase the child tax credit. This would be a pro-middle class way to say that two-parent families that are raising children, that are the most successful Department of Health Education and Welfare ever conceived, do a far better job of educating, nurturing and training their children than the federal government will.
We created the child tax credit during the contract with America; Bush doubled it. It hasn’t kept pace with inflation. These are some of the things that Republicans can run on and be for. I would say that the details of this agenda are less important than that you’re for something.
You know, you look at some of the things that Pat had up that are so popular, like reining in the out-of-control special interests and the lobbyists and the revolving door. That’s the equivalent of the Perot movement, where we ran on the Contract with America on every law applying to members of Congress. You know, you saw that blow up on Obamacare, where the law didn’t apply to them; and also term limits for committee chairmen, and having a vote on term limits for members of Congress — that you can take some of that populist reform agenda, leaven it in with tax cuts, fiscal restraint and other things, and you’ve got a very compelling agenda.
Richard Grenell: One thing that I just want to add is that, you know, Republicans are terrible, we are terrible, at recognizing that we have to win first before we get to put our ideas forward.
Too many times, we have candidates that are putting those ideas forward in such detail that they’re alienating everyone before they even get to the polls. And one thing that we can steal from the Obama campaign is that everything they did was just a generic message — Republicans hate women. Gee, it’s a war on women. Everything was a war on women. And all you eventually heard down the way — if you’re not paying attention to the news, and you’re not coming to conferences like this, all you hear is, oh, Republicans hate women. I’m not going to vote for the ones who hate women. It was that simple.
And so I think that when we’re not in power, we have the benefit of being the ones who just get to be against all those big, bad programs. And we’re the ones who, I think, can have generic solutions.
Brian Calle: But let me challenge you on that real quickly. Because as Margaret Thatcher once said, you know, you have the win the idea first; then you win the vote. So if that’s true, how does that jibe with what you’re saying?
Richard Grenell: I think that’s a very good question. And I’m not suggesting that we not stand for something. We have to stand for a positive message. All I’m saying is let’s not get too weighed down into the details that we’re convincing people who may have an agenda or an interest in the status quo, suddenly get nervous by our big change message.
Brian Calle: Got you. Because the Obama Administration — big narratives, war on women, wealthy Republicans, all that kind of stuff, are easy, simple ideas to digest. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.
Brian Calle: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about the election. Do either of you have any favorites in 2014 in terms of Senate candidates that you think have great potential in winning the race and bringing in new leadership into the Republican Caucus in the US Senate?
Ralph Reed: Well, I’m a huge fan of Tom Cotton in Arkansas. I think he’s going to win that election. I think he’s going to be a star. And he’s going to be an impact player the minute he gets to the US Senate. If there’s somebody out there that you’re thinking — you know, you’re debating — I know many of us get solicited by all these candidates. I don’t know about you, but I seem to be on every direct-mail list.
This guy is a keeper. He’s the real deal, and he will join Cruz and Paul and Rubio and others in being a real change agent.
Another one that I’m excited about — not as much of a household name, probably very few people in this room have heard of him yet — but I think he’s going to beat Mark Begich in Alaska. And that’s Mead Treadwell, who’s the incumbent lieutenant governor of Alaska. That’s going to be a big, big race. And I don’t see how the Republicans can gain control of the Senate without winning that Alaska seat.
I mean, I know Joe Miller’s running again. He’s the one who lost the seat six years ago. I think very unfairly, by the way; he was subjected to very vicious media attacks. But the fact is, I think it’d be better off if we had a new and different face in that race. And I think Mead will be a reformer, a conservative, and unapologetically so. Good candidate.
Richard Grenell: I’ve mentioned one already — Michigan, Terri Land. I think she’s going to do it. She knows how to win, and she’s already demonstrated statewide that she can win in Michigan. Plus we’ve got that great governor there that I think is going to really pull Terri through in Michigan. So I’m excited about Michigan.
I’m also really excited — and this may be controversial — I’m a big Liz Cheney fan.
And I want to see Liz in the Senate, and I’ll tell you why. We have very few — I can think of maybe one — very good senator on foreign policy issues on our side. I’m disappointed with several of the senators, the Republican senators, that have taken up the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Once again, we have a committee that is just willing to back down from what the Democrats want.
I want a Senate Foreign Relations Committee that holds up people like Wendy Sherman. Why is Wendy Sherman allowed to be putting forward her ideas on Iran when she just failed miserably on North Korea? She even convinced Hillary Clinton, who — Hillary Clinton then said — no, Wendy, I don’t like your way, so I have to pull you back from this food aid idea in North Korea. But yet, Wendy Sherman is allowed to sail through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because our senators won’t stand up to her.
Liz Cheney will. Liz Cheney will be there. She is articulate on these issues. And she’s willing with a smile to stand up and say — no, Wendy, you’re not going to get confirmed. And that’s what I want.
Brian Calle: There’s a microphone here at the center of the room. So if anyone has questions, you might consider lining up now. I’m going to ask one more question, and then open it up to everyone else.
Another big question is 2016. Every speech I give, every conference like this I go to, several conversations about who the GOP nominee should be in 2016 — any thoughts on that, gentlemen?
Ralph Reed: I think it’s way too early. And I’m not going to do this today, but within our ranks at Faith and Freedom Coalition, the organization that I head, we have sort of told people they’re not allowed to talk about 2016 until after 2014.
We’re focused on the US Senate and the House and these governors, and that’s the most important thing.
I will say this, though — I think it’s an embarrassment of riches. I think this is the strongest field, potentially — depending upon who goes — that the Republican Party has had since 1980, when you had Phil Crane, you had Reagan, Bush, Dole, Baker, Connelly. I mean, whatever you thought of where they stood on the issues, that was a strong field of candidates. And if all the people who are being talked about [as going go] — which would be Christie, Jeb Bush, Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker — I’m sure I’m leaving out a few others — Rick Perry’s almost certain to go, Rick Santorum is running now, in case you hadn’t noticed.
You know, this is going to be a very strong field.
And here’s the other thing that’s interesting. At least right now, there is no true classic frontrunner, in the sense of a Reagan ’80 or a Bush ’88 or a Bush 2000. Or really, even a McCain 2008. If you look at the polling, if they all go, I think Christie, Cruz and Bush are all within two points of each other. And nobody gets over 20 percent.
So I think that I agree with the fact that it ought to be somebody who has demonstrated that they can lead a conservative reform agenda. And I think we ought to measure these candidates to some extent by what they do and how much they fight for these Senate candidates in 2014. If they went into these battleground states and helped these candidates who need their help, then I think that ought to count for something.
Richard Grenell: I would be for an amendment to the Constitution saying no senator should ever be able to be President.
They’re terrible. They show up to vote, and they think that’s it. They don’t know how to build coalitions. So I’m only for governors. I’m going to give you four governors — two of which I think are running, two I wish were running. And I think these four have demonstrated that they know how to win, and they know how to change. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Brian Sandoval in Nevada, and John Kasich in Ohio. Those are the four that I’m watching.
Brian Calle: Who do you wish was running? Was that who you wish was running?
Richard Grenell: I’m a big Scott Walker fan right now. Yeah.
I know you all booed the last one, but I’ve got a governor you’ll boo even more. Five minutes before I walked in, I walked right past Charlie Crist.
Brian Calle: Can I just ask a question? Interesting show of hands — how many people here would be excited about Chris Christie if he were the nominee?
Unidentified Speaker: Boo.
Unidentified Speaker: Boo.
Brian Calle: Yeah. That’s kind of the sense I’m getting.
Okay, let’s go to our questions.
Unidentified Audience Member: I have several.
Brian Calle: One per person.
Unidentified Audience Member: Your feelings on Matt Bevin, your feelings on the Constitutional amendment that Rand Paul made — and should that be part of a campaign either in ’14 or ’16? And are past statistics available in terms of charts to use?
Pat Caddell: The answer on the statistics is — not yet. No. They’re still off the record. They are being (inaudible). When we announce it publicly, we get the control of our — it’s a much more complicated thing. Then they’ll be (multiple speakers). Huh?
Brian Calle: Get a little bit closer.
Pat Caddell: Oh, I’m sorry. I said no, they’re not available yet. They will be when we announce them publicly. Right now, they’re off the record. [You all had] a chance to share, I’ll be glad to talk — there’s a lot more. When we roll it out, Smith out, all of this data, then it’ll be up. And this meeting will actually go up too, at that point in my talk. So it will be eventual.
Brian Calle: [Just] — your other question on the Constitutional amendment?
Unidentified Speaker: The Constitutional amendment that I believe Rand Paul proposed, that no law should not apply to the federal government, basically (multiple speakers) —
Pat Caddell: That any law that is passed by Congress should also apply to Congress, correct? Great, okay. That’s the question, is — what are your thoughts on Rand Paul’s idea that no law passed by Congress should not apply to Congress?
Ralph Reed: Yeah. I mean, I’m for it. And as I said, we had that in the Contract with America in ’94, it was very popular. And —
Pat Caddell: Well then, what happened to it, then?
Ralph Reed: — it will be very popular again as a result of this Obamacare failure.
Pat Caddell: What you did in ’94 — was it a rule? Was it taken out? What happened? Because obviously isn’t in effect; hasn’t been in effect.
Ralph Reed: Think it was a message, one of the messages.
Pat Caddell: It was a message you gave. You see, it wasn’t something we delivered.
Ralph Reed: I wouldn’t support a Constitutional amendment to say that, but I think that that’s the straight base test. I think you run against that idea. And for me, that’s something that is an absolute —
Pat Caddell: It should be in Smith’s platform, I’ll tell you that. Smith — we should’ve had it in our platform. But I didn’t want to load the platform up. Because, my God, what if we put, as I said, hanging people, and that’s close to it?
But this is the difference in the politics, which is it’s a good message. You see, as opposed to — this is a conviction. And that’s the difference in our politics of what can be and what’s going on now.
Ralph Reed: Well, I think, Pat, it was passed. And I think when Obamacare was passed, the legislation said it was supposed to apply —
Pat Caddell: Well, that’s the exemption.
Ralph Reed: — to members and staff. And then Obama illegally granted an exemption. That’s what happened.
Pat Caddell: But for a long time in his — and with John Boehner’s connivance and the connivance of the Republican leadership.
Ralph Reed: Sure.
Pat Caddell: Let’s get all this on the table.
And the other thing is — but for a long time, since 1994, that has not been applied in laws passed.
Ralph Reed: Yeah, I wouldn’t disagree with that.
Brian Calle: Let me go —
Richard Grenell: Comment on that —
Brian Calle: Let me go to the next question. If we have time, we’ll go to that. Thanks.
Unidentified Speaker: — comment on that, [though].
Unidentified Speaker: Hi, good morning.
Speaking of Chris Christie, I was wondering if you could address his recent comments. And to paraphrase — if Republicans want to get votes from Hispanics and African Americans, that we need to be in their communities 24/7 and not just two weeks before the election.
Ralph Reed: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, my attitude is if you have a very pro-liberty argument and message, that absolutely that appeals to African Americans and Hispanics. I also think school choice is one of these issues that we haven’t done a very good job articulating.
Because I can tell you in California, overwhelmingly, Hispanics support school choice. Why haven’t we (multiple speakers) —
Richard Grenell: — African Americans, in large, large numbers.
Ralph Reed: Yeah.
Unidentified Speaker: Yeah.
Ralph Reed: And that’s a straight base argument, too. That’s a — do you want to be able to choose the school that your kids go to, and choose the better one? Or do you want to go to the lousy one down the street? I mean, that’s just a simple message. And then we push the Democrats into defending the union school system.
Pat Caddell: Can I just comment for a second on that? There is — I totally agree with what both of you all said. But here’s the thing — you know, if you look at the August study, the four groups — and to go to Ralph’s point about why the economy is a major issue — the four groups that have lost the most median income in this country since Barack Obama’s been President are blacks, Hispanics, women and young people. But the Republican Party, your candidates — I don’t even hear a message about economic growth or whatever. But more importantly, it is the empathy.
The same thing with these [questions] — you have to be outraged on behalf of people who are being used. They are being used just like the Republican establishment uses the base of the Republican Party. That’s what Obama and the Democrats do. People that get up and say — see those people? They’re evil. We’re for you. And they’re not. But somebody’s got to speak for them.
You saw in the Smith data just how many blacks, women — the Obama base was willing to defect. But you have to make it empathetic and real link to them. It can’t be — you should be for what we are, because we’re conservatives. It’s got to have something that says — we’re on your side.
Ralph Reed: Well, and two things. Number one, let me start with the Hispanics. I think it is a tragedy that the Republican Party has gotten to where it is today positioned vis-à-vis Hispanic voters. As recently as 2004, the nominee of this party carried 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. And, by the way, carried 56 percent of the Hispanic vote in the all-important state of Florida, which, along with Ohio, really decided the election.
And when you take that and look what happened in 2012, which was just a slaughter, with the nominee winning 26 percent of the Hispanic vote — leaving aside for a minute whether it would’ve changed the outcome of the election — given the fact that Hispanics are as highly entrepreneurial as they are, when millions of Hispanics own small businesses; given the fact that 42 percent of Hispanics self-identify as conservatives — that 22 percent of them are evangelicals, another 15 percent are faithful, frequently mass-attending pro-life, pro-marriage Catholics — how do you lose this vote like this?
It gets back to what Pat was talking about. Candidates matter. Messengers matter. The ability to express the idea that your vision for the future of this country includes them is critical.
And when you have candidates like Jeb Bush, who have won upwards of 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, who has a wife who is a Mexican, who speaks Spanish at home, who’s fluent in Spanish — I’m not saying you have to be that kind of candidate. Christie won 50 percent of the Hispanic vote and doesn’t speak fluent Spanish. But he did go into those neighborhoods.
Now, with regard to the African-American community, it’s candidly tougher. And it’s tougher because Barack Obama’s still in the White House. I think we’re going to have to get past the Obama era. But I think it’s entirely possible for Republicans to win up to a quarter of that vote. And if they win a quarter of that vote, the Democratic coalition really implodes. They can’t win a national election without winning high 80s, low 90s of that vote.
And I’ll tell you counterintuitively — and this isn’t popular among the Republican establishment, but it’s an empirical fact — the way you win those African-American votes is through the churches, and it’s usually on social and cultural issues. It’s school choice, it’s marriage. Remember, Barack Obama got 945,000 fewer African-American votes in 2012 than he got in 2008. And you can be darn sure that his position in support of same-sex marriage was one of the big reasons why.
I had major African-American pastors who told me personally, not for publication — I can’t publicly criticize him, I can’t publicly urge a vote for Romney; but I can tell you this — I’m not voting for him, and I’m not going to ask my people to vote for him. And there is an opportunity for Republican candidates as a result of that radical agenda that Obama is now pushing.
Richard Grenell: Now, that’s where I have to disagree with Ralph, just because I feel like we as a party have to be able to have people understand that pro-liberty messages — what works in California or Florida may not work in another community. And so, having the ability to separate church and state, I think, is really important.
And I think the social agenda cuts against us too much. And I know we disagree on that, but I feel like it cuts against our party too much.
Ralph Reed: It did not cut against us in minority communities.
Brian Calle: But maybe —
Ralph Reed: I can tell you that right now.
Brian Calle: — and youth (multiple speakers) —
Ralph Reed: — among young people.
Brian Calle: — but maybe not in minority communities.
I’d also add that — I’m going to go straight to your question afterwards — that we’re also overlooking — which is consistent in all of these panels that I moderate or speak at — is Asian-American voters. Asian-Americans are a growing bloc, and President Obama won those, too. So we need to continue our effort —
Richard Grenell: This is your California message.
Brian Calle: This is definitely my California message.
Richard Grenell: We’re learning this lesson in California very fast.
Brian Calle: Well, and if you look at it, it’s interesting. Because in California, the Democratic Party is having a struggle internally. They have all the power in California, as you all know. But they’re having a struggle internally over issues like education. And if you look at their last convention, they would not let the mayor of Sacramento, an African-American Democrat, have a booth at their convention. Because his wife, an Asian-American education reformer, Michelle Rhee, supports school choice. And Gloria Romero, who’s a Democrat former state senator and state assemblywoman, is pro-school choice; a Latina.
And so there’s an internal struggle with minority sectors in the Democratic Party in California.
Richard Grenell: It’s a winning issue.
Brian Calle: It’s a big issue for us.
Okay, your question?
Sarah Stern: Okay. My name is Sarah Stern. I’m from the Endowment for Middle East Truth, or EMET. And you did a great, great job. But I’m very curious as to why you didn’t say a word about the President’s horrible handling of foreign policy. According to a Real Clear Politics average of recent polls that I just read on my iPhone, the President only has a 37 percent approval rating of foreign policy. It’s almost Machiavellian. He is keeping our friends, especially Israel, at a great distance; and our enemies close. And he’s not succeeding in either; even the Saudis hate us right now.
So I think there is plenty of room to use that issue. He’s throwing Israel under the bus. He’s forgotten about the clear commitment to Czechoslovakia and Poland in terms of missile defense. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.
And I think it’s really important — there are people out there that would like America to be respected again, to be a force of strength and not just appeasement, and not for us to go on an apology tour. So I’d like you to —
Richard Grenell: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I totally agree. I would say you should follow me on Twitter. Because that’s really my meme on Twitter — constantly going after the President on his foreign policy. I think when you look at the red line in Syria, you look at how he’s handled Egypt, you look at Turkey — a once-ally that we can’t even talk to anymore and we can’t convince to do anything — and their disastrous messaging on the flotilla, and yet they didn’t get any pushback from the State Department. And now we’ve got John Kerry as the Secretary of State, who — if you look at who he’s bringing in to advise him, it’s getting worse.
I think there’s no question that even reporters are beginning to see that this guy in the White House is just not interested in foreign policy.
Pat Caddell: And neither is the Republican Party. Let’s deal with the real fact here. The two props under the Reagan coalition that held up the tent — one of them was less government spending. George Bush took care of that, and then took care of the other one, which is strong national defense but nonintervention.
I know Republicans [themselves] have told their members foreign policy’s not a big issue. It happens to matter a great deal. I just finished a poll with John McLaughlin for Secure America Now; we’ve appeared here before. Let me tell you something. On Iran, the threat to Iran — this ain’t Syria — 91 percent of people believe that if they get a nuclear weapon, the entire world will be [de-stable]. Huge majority believe they’ll use it against Israel. A majority of American women are willing to go to war — to attack —
Unidentified Speaker: But the —
Pat Caddell: My point is — let me — my point is, they don’t press this. Because what you have is you have the caucus led by McCain and Lindsay Graham, what I call the Muslim Brotherhood caucus, which is for everything.
You have a Republican Party that does not make foreign policy a basis in the security of the United States a major platform. Because they see people don’t care about it.
Richard Grenell: Well, I agree that the Republicans are doing a lousy job on that.
Pat Caddell: But they do it on purpose.
Richard Grenell: And the Foreign Relations Committee is atrocious.
However, on Iran, it’s very different. Because I think — you know, you said 91 percent of the people say that it’s wrong for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. So —
Pat Caddell: No (multiple speakers) destabilize the world.
Richard Grenell: Right, there’s no question. No one disagrees with that. The problem is that the President keeps saying he doesn’t want Iran —
Pat Caddell: And the American people —
Richard Grenell: — to get —
Pat Caddell: — don’t believe them.
Richard Grenell: Right.
Pat Caddell: Look at (multiple speakers) poll. They don’t believe it.
Richard Grenell: So that’s my point.
Brian Calle: I’m going to —
Richard Grenell: It’s more unbelievable issue, because the President keeps saying he doesn’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon, but he’s going around the six UN resolutions that were passed, telling Iran to stop enriching all uranium. And yet, they’re trying to do a new thing in Geneva. So —
Ralph Reed: Well, it’s awfully hard to make the French look like they’re tougher than you are.
But this guy has pulled it off.
Richard Grenell: Yeah, thank God.
Brian Calle: We’re actually going to have a whole conversation on this, the panel tomorrow morning, on Obama’s foreign policy disaster. So I’m sure that’ll be touched upon more.
Unidentified Speaker: Richard Grenell, I read something, that you have 15,000 Twitter followers. That’s pretty impressive. I was wondering, because you were involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign for awhile — he looked like a dinosaur when he just wasn’t up to date with social media. And I’m wondering — what advice would you have for the next election? And where is there — do you see, or do you know that they’re actually doing something? Do they recognize that there was an issue?
Richard Grenell: Yeah, I think they do now, they recognize. I mean, I think Ralph can attest to the fact that there were a lot of people pushing at the Romney Campaign to get tougher on their messaging, to take on the reporters. They didn’t have a spokesperson that really was willing to battle on a daily basis with the media. And yet, the Obama team had like three.
And so, it was a frustrating thing for me to not have a campaign that was wanting to fight. I think they felt like they had messages that were going to sink in because the economy was so bad. But the day-to-day fighting, for whatever reason, they just really didn’t want to do.
I think now on social media, Stuart Stevens and others are recognizing that they’ve got to fight on social media and that they are starting to. So hopefully, the next nominee has that in place before the learn the hard lesson.
Ralph Reed: Well, and I would add this — social media is not an elixir. It can’t be a surrogate for the candidate. The reason why Obama took off online is because he was taking off offline. And the online energy was just a reflection of the energy that was already out there.
I’ll just give you one data point. When Scott Brown was running for the US Senate in 2010 in Massachusetts — I’m trying to remember her name. Was it Moakley? The Attorney General?
Unidentified Speaker: Martha Coakley.
Unidentified Speaker: Martha Coakley.
Ralph Reed: He had 10 times as many Facebook fans as she did. That wasn’t because he had a more muscular online strategy; that was because people were excited about Scott Brown.
So yes, you need to — if you look at what happened in Virginia in 2013, just, I mean, a few weeks ago, McAuliffe spent 18 percent of his media budget online. Cuccinelli spent two. The reason why we’re not yielding a return on investment, in terms of social media and online marketing, is because we’re not investing in it.
Unidentified Speaker: No.
Ralph Reed: You can’t get an ROI if you’re not spending it.
And then finally, candidates matter. You know, Bill Rusher once said that Ronald Reagan believed everything that Barry Goldwater believed. But Reagan said it with a smile, and Barry said it with a frown. And it made all the difference.
And you know, there’s that great line that Jonah Goldberg has — I have to give him credit for this — that Romney looked like the picture that came that with the frame.
I mean, there’s a — you know —
— I had a governor —
Unidentified Speaker: It’s so true.
Ralph Reed: I had a governor — I met with a governor — I won’t name who it is, because this was offered in confidence. But this was a month after the 2012 election. And this governor, who probably everybody in this room knows and you’re big fans of, said — I met with him 12 times. On two of those occasions, those meetings lasted over an hour. He said — Ralph, I never connected with him.
Unidentified Speaker: Wow.
Ralph Reed: I never felt a connection. If you ever met Reagan, or if you were ever in a click line with Bush 43, you know what I’m talking about. There was a connection. Good candidates know how to connect with voters. And there’s no substitute for that.
Brian Calle: All right. Let’s go to our next question.
Unidentified Speaker: Great, thank you.
Yes, I agree — we must not nominate another stiff for President.
To give you my observations — I’m going to give some observations on what I heard today — (inaudible) on Pat, and Pat and Ralph both know me.
Pat, I think that your survey results largely could be boiled down into a different paradigm. One is, it’s the economy, stupid. And the second thing is that the populace has become much more narcissistic and much less altruistic. You look at it within those two models, I think that explains almost all of your results there.
The Mr. Smith that you created — first of all, I think it was brilliant work you did — this Mr. Smith you created is basically change that we can believe in. That’s what the message — you look at that, that was Obama. It’s change that we can believe in. David Horowitz has this little pamphlet called “Go for the Heart.” And that is basically what Mr. Smith is — someone who cares about others, as opposed to being hard issue-driven.
Just a few more observations, then I’ll let you tear what I’m saying apart.
Brian Calle: Do you have a question you want to ask?
Unidentified Speaker: I’m going to get to it.
Brian Calle: Okay.
Unidentified Speaker: The Achilles — there’s four people behind me.
Brian Calle: I know, I got about four minutes.
Unidentified Speaker: (Multiple speakers) do this quickly, though? The Achilles Heel in democracy is that demagogues can win. And that’s what we’ve seen. I think there’s two classes in America — there’s the political class, and then there’s the majority. The people here — I love you all; you were all part of the political class — the majority — and as you people were saying, they get their opinions from Oprah and from entertainment. And I don’t know that an issue-oriented candidate is going to win — past Mr. Smith, which is like Obama’s, will win.
My question is — sorry.
Hopefully, my insights are a little value —
Brian Calle: You know, we can pull up a chair up here.
Unidentified Speaker: Okay. Pat, when you showed Mr. Smith doing well in the black community against Hillary, maybe you’re implying that Hillary — like, you know, Bill was the first black President, and Hillary’s another black President. But if you would’ve put a black candidate against Mr. Smith, I’m not sure that Mr. Smith would’ve done as well as your — nearly as well as your numbers showed.
Pat Caddell: Look. You know, you can say what you want. I’ve been doing this for some years of my life. I’ve never seen something as a projected statement get that kind of results, take away from real people real votes they had before. And I don’t think it’s because one was white or black. The fact that so many Democrats, so many women would defect, so many people (inaudible) — but I disagree with your — I mean, no. Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith is about some — candidate Smith is about something else.
Candidate Smith is not just about — the economy, stupid. I mean, it is a part of the economic frustration. It is also about I’m losing my country, my children are losing their country, and these politicians don’t care a whit about me, the country or what happens. And the fact is that what that is is an attack on the political class and a cry to restore the sovereignty of the American people.
Those numbers are not a bunch of narcissists. Those numbers are people saying they have taken our country from us. And the parties, Democrats and Republicans, have failed alike. And I’m sorry, I just disagree. I mean, I do think part of it’s the economy.
But it is a bigger message. And here is the question — can you evolve politics to an idea? In 1776, initially, until Thomas Payne wrote “Common Sense,” no American, including George Washington, publicly talked about independence. He was still toasting the King. Then it became apparent that the common people had responded. And that whole thing — by July, you had a Declaration of Independence. It is — understand how these movements happen.
The country has moved. They’ve had it with all of what they’ve had. And remember, I did this before we’ve had the last two months. Just wait till what the numbers are coming.
The question is — you’re right about demagogues — (multiple speakers) whether someone good will come, or someone bad. Question is how many Smiths.
Brian Calle: Okay, let’s go to the next question.
Pat Caddell: Next question.
Unidentified Speaker: No — I’m sorry — you didn’t understand what I said.
Brian Calle: Let’s go to the next question. (Multiple speakers) you can talk to him afterwards. Let’s talk to him afterwards. Thank you.
Unidentified Speaker: Quick question, I know we’re running late — Pat, great job on the research. Kudos to the Hanleys for having financed that. And I’m just wondering — I know it’s embargoed — but what can we in this room do? What are you asking us to do? What’s next?
Pat Caddell: Well, those of you who are interested — look, I’ve never been in politics for the interest of simply amusing myself. My purpose in politics is to make change and make things happen. And it’s a good question.
What we’re planning is — what we think is, look, there are some very concrete things that could be done. We’ve been working, the people — Bob Perkins, [Hinder Smith], and Scott Miller and I — the people worked on this project with Lee — we have worked, figuring out — what would you do next? How do you roll — how do you get people to stand up? How do you start making Smith stand for something? I don’t care — there are many candidates.
One of the things about candidate recruitment — I am — you know, y’all can all have all have the people, just more political-class people going up the ladder as candidates. Or in some of these states where no one wants to run, why can’t you recruit people who run? We need a platform. We’re talking about what is the outlines of a platform, to Richie’s point. It’s not enough to simply [say] you’re unhappy. There are some pieces there, but there are more in the common sense.
So we have got a plan. And I’m telling you that the game here is to change the dialogue. And, you know, it’s the old tree falling in the forest. But we have some things — and anyone who’s interested — many of you are not going to be; that’s fine. You want to be conventional. But people who see a moment to make history and be the architects of that history, to help make history come, will have a chance to sit down, talk to Lee Hanley and I, and Steve — or some others — were talking about how to do this, how to effectively make [go] that opening into something that can propel a movement, and take the high ground. You take the high ground, and what’s been going on in America now was over.
Brian Calle: Got about two minutes left.
Unidentified Speaker: Hi. I’m a member of a Republican women’s committee club in Northern Virginia. And you talked about Cuccinelli. And you said Cuccinelli only spent so much. The Republican National Committee gave a pittance to Cuccinelli compared to McDonnell in the last governor’s campaign. I’m not a Gloria Steinem. But the women voted big time for the governor in Virginia.
Another thing — I guess my big question here, though, is — when is the Republican committee, the Republicans — when are all the Republicans going to get over this fear of the Tea Party? It seemed to me —
— that because the Tea Party supported Cuccinelli, the Republicans didn’t want to support Cuccinelli.
Ralph Reed: Yeah, I mean —
Unidentified Speaker: So if you don’t support the Tea Party, I think the Republicans do not have a future.
Ralph Reed: Yeah, the short answer is never. The Republican establishment is not going to welcome the Tea Party with open arms. If the Tea Party wants to move the party in a different direction, they’re going to have to do exactly what the Goldwater and Reagan conservatives did in the ’60s and ’70s. They’re going to have to do exactly what the social conservatives did in the ’80s and ’90s. They’re going to have to move into this party at the precinct level, and they’re going to have to take it over and grab the helm, and redirect it.
Nobody who has the power is going to give it to you. You’re going to have to take it away from them. And the way you take it away from them is by overwhelming them at the grass roots.
And I speak as somebody who came up with both of those predecessors. I was both a Reagan conservative and then, when I was privileged to head the Christian Coalition, I helped facilitate the influx of the social conservatives into the party.
Do you think we were welcomed with open arms? Do you think when we went out and won primaries that hedge fund guys in New York just did the bum’s rush to write us a max check? No. They couldn’t stand us. They saw us the same way they see the Tea Party. They see it as a liability, when it is an asset. They see it as a drag on the party, when it is jet fuel.
And so what you have to do is you have to go in there, and you have to —
— you have to dominate at the grass roots.
Now, I’ll say something else. And I don’t think I’m — I think I’m preaching to the choir here on this, but it’s an important point. If you are a conservative Tea Party candidate, you have to demonstrate the capacity, either through conventional means or online, that you can raise the money to run a competitive campaign.
And let me tell you something — I laid across the barbed wire for Ken Cuccinelli. My organization spent over a quarter of a million dollars in voter mail, in phone calls, in door-knocking. We had regional offices in Richmond, in Northern Virginia, in Hampton Roads and in the Shenandoah Valley. And we never pulled back. Even when he was down by 15 in some polls.
But I will tell you, he got outspent by Terry McAuliffe by $15 million. Terry raised $35 million; he raised $20 million. In 2009, Bob McDonnell raised $25 million to Creigh Deeds’s $16 million. Bob McDonnell held most of the same positions that Ken Cuccinelli did. But he raised more money than his opponent.
And if you’re going to win this nomination — I don’t care if you’re Rubio, Paul, Ted Cruz; or you’re Sharon Engle or you’re Ken Cuccinelli — if you’re going to be the general election nominee — and I’m speaking among family here — you can’t go rattling a tin cup at 310 First Street. You can’t go to the RNC and ask them to bail you out, when you’re being outspent by $15 million.
I’m not defending what the RNC did. Of course they should’ve put in more money. But they put in three times more money for Cuccinelli than the DNC did for Terry. You know why? Because Terry McAuliffe wasn’t waiting for the cavalry. Terry McAuliffe said — I’m going to raise the money, I’m going to beat this guy like a drum. And we need candidates with that eye of the tiger. Not somebody who’s going to the national party and saying — I’m being outspent; please bail me out.
I hope I’m not offending anybody. I’m just — that’s how you have to win.
Unidentified Speaker: [And it’s a rally there.]
Pat Caddell: I just want to add to Ralph’s point one thing, which is — do you think the establishment — neither establish — the political class in Washington — whether it’s the Tea Party, any other kind of movement, is an enemy threatening their power and privilege. They will fight to the death. They don’t really care if the country goes down, as long as they hold on. So don’t understand — they’re never going to come around —
Ralph Reed: Right.
Pat Caddell: — to all of this stuff, and to what I was talking about this morning. They are the people that have to go. They have to go. Because basically, they’re never going to accept things.
Brian Calle: Let’s get a round of applause for our panel.