[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.
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.
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.