Brownback endorsement: Rudy and Romney

Last week, Sam Brownback met with Rudy Giuliani. Deal Hudson has an account that concurs with what I have heard from Brownback associates and with what Brownback’s people have told outside groups:

Brownback caused a controversy by accepting an invitation from Rudy Giuliani to discuss life issues following the Senator’s decision to drop out of the presidential race. 

Giuliani had called Brownback the day after his announcement to ask for his endorsement.  Brownback started to say "no" when Giuliani asked him if at least he would come by and talk about it.

Brownback accepted the invitation, had the chat, but, as expected, did not issue an endorsement. 

A rumor rushed around the Internet that Brownback had "compromised" his principles, etc.

Jim Bopp, Jr., general counsel of National Right to Life said some pretty ugly things about Brownback.  The management of NRTL had to dissavow Bopp’s comments in a press statement issued later that same day.

Very messy.  And all because Brownback was willing to listen to what Giuliani had to say, like any civilized person ought to do. 

Brownback listened, concluded Giuliani was not willing to change his positions, stepped in front of the cameras with the Mayor and said, basically, that they agreed to disagree.

There has also been some speculation that Mitt Romney will get Brownback’s endorsement. However, Romney and Brownback have been unable to schedule a meeting. When I asked a Brownback associate about the possibility of an endorsement I was told, "It is typical Romney. He says nice things while his campaign is attacking us and lying about our supporters." Followup questions revealed that he was referring to the Jim Bopp letter mentioned above, and the Romney campaign’s claim to have picked up the endorsement of "Michigan Brownback Campaign Leaders." It turned out that the "leaders" were unknown to the Brownback campaign and hadn’t endorsed Brownback anyways.

NRLC disavows Bopp’s Brownback statements

Yesterday, Jim Bopp, a supporter of Mitt Romney and former General Counsel (they actually spend text clarifying that he is the former)  to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) attacked Sam Brownback for saying something nice about Rudy Giuliani.

Turns out that he was nasty enough that NRLC disavowed his statements. I have obtained a copy of a letter that NRLC’s President, Executive Director, and Legislative Director, they apologized for Bopp’s statements. The choice bits:

Mr. Bopp’s remarks quoted above, if accurately reported, do not represent National Right to Life, and we disagree with them …

We reject most emphatically anyone’s suggestion that you have sacrificed or would sacrifice the interests of the unborn in order to garner some "personal political benefit."

In January, 2007, the National Right to Life Board of Directors adopted a resolution urging that no NRLC state affiliate, no executive staff member of any state affiliate, and no NRLC Board member should endorse any candidate for President of the United States until an endorsement is adopted by the Board as a whole. Staff employees of the National Right to Life Committee are also barred from doing so. However, Mr. Bopp is neither a director nor an employee of NRLC. Mr. Bopp has served as NRLC’s general counsel for many years, but he is not an in-house general counsel;

In other words, Bopp was attacking Brownback, not because he was right, but because the Romney campaign asked him to. I wonder if it also means that NRLC is willing to play nice if that’s what it comes to.

Update: The American Spectator’s Washington Prowler drills down on this also:

But Bopp is now facing the same kind questions that were raised by conservatives when respected conservatives like Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo supported the nomination of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to a seat on the Supreme Court, when most conservatives were opposing the nomination.

Bopp is now in the eye of a storm after criticizing Sen. Sam Brownback for meeting with Giuliani, a meeting, sources say, that Giuliani asked for. Romney and Brownback had a scheduled meeting for this week, but it was abruptly canceled after Bopp’s public criticism of Brownback, who ended his presidential run last week.

"Bopp is losing a great deal of credibility by attacking Brownback," says a longtime Washington-based pro-life conservative activist. "We know that Romney is at the very least a squish on abortion. But Bopp seems to ignore years of on-the-record statements and expects us to believe him and Romney’s ‘conversion’ because he says we should believe a man who has done nothing for the [right to life] movement. Nothing."

Full text of the letter after the jump. Continue reading

Brownback drops out

I have a lot of admiration for Senator Sam Brownback. I am deeply sympathetic to a lot of positions that he has taken.

But he is dropping out. When the tank runs out of gas, the car stops moving. That’s what happened with the Senator and money. They did a fantastic job with the material that they had to work. They raised the most money of the 2nd tier, excluding Ron Paul. But they weren’t able to harness that.

Why the religious right hasn’t found a candidate

A number of people have asked me why I think that the religious right hasn’t found a candidate. The supposition is that if the religious right came around and supported someone like Mike Huckabee or Sam Brownback, they could be the nominee. Here is my attempt to answer that question.

First, the process starts with natural selection. Only very recently has there been a solid case for Huckabee being the obvious candidate of the religious right. In Q1 and Q2 Brownback outraised Huckabee and was about tied in the polls. Until Ames, the argument for preferring Huckabee was hard to ground in solid facts. (Now it is a lot easier)

Second, I think that there is a degree of sectarianism. This has been at its most explicit in the whole absurd media debate about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. But really. Nearly everyone I know who is a strong Huckabee advocate is an evangelical Christian. Nearly everyone I know who is a strong Brownback advocate is a conservative Catholic. It was a great feat of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition to get these people working together. If the leaders were to intervene in this fight, then they might threaten the foundation of their coalition. Furthermore, Brownback could have argued, Catholics are a swing vote, while Baptists are not. Many swing states are also Catholic states. (Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.) Not so far Baptists. (Note that JFK’s campaign viewed their candidate’s Catholicism as an asset in a general election. In a deep sense, being able to win a primary in a Baptist state, the example was West Virginia, was when the deluge broke in the 1960 Democratic primary) In other words, Brownback could have argued that picking him would expand the size of the coalition.

Third, the leaders of the movement have a clear hierarchy of preferences:

  1. Support the candidate who wins the White House. Call this the George W. Bush case. Might be the Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney case.
  2. Support the candidate who wins the primary but loses the general. Call this the Hillary Clinton case or the Mike Huckabee case. It may also be the Thompson or Mitt Romney case also.
  3. Oppose the candidate who wins the primary, but then be forced to support the candidate in the general. (But probably get no love from the White House if the candidate wins) Call this the John McCain case.
  4. Oppose the (GOP) candidate in the primary and the general who wins the White House. Call this the Rudy Giuliani case.

Clearly the last two are unacceptable to any interest group leader. They simply lose access when, eventually, their followers will, to some extent, rally around whoever is in the White House. The leader is marginalized over time.

The other two cases are the interesting parts. I don’t know anyone who thinks that Brownback and Huckabee could really win a general election, although that is shifting for Huckabee to some extent. Huckabee would face his own problems; in some sense, Mike Huckabee is to the Club for Growth what Rudy Giuliani is to James Dobson. So conservative Christian leaders are sitting down and asking themselves:

  1. Can Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney win the nomination?
  2. Can they win the general?

If the answer to (2) is "no", then the right strategy is to back whoever allows them to build the strongest organization. Perhaps you could call this the Bob Dole strategy? But if the answer to (2) is "yes", then they have to figure out which pony to pick, or, at least, which pony not to kill. And, again, there are reasons, in both candidates, for the followers not to follow. In the case of Mitt Romney, it is his religion. (note that I am not defending that, just saying that it is a reality) Increasingly, Fred Thompson has disappointed religious right leaders on gay marriage. And these are echoes of a past that is even more problematic for them.

So you get a hodgepodge. Some people pick the purists. These people seem to be state level family group type of people. Some people make compromises. For example, yesterday Gary Bauer endorsed Fred Thompson. (not the first time that Bauer has done this. He also endorsed McCain in 2000) A friend on the religious left but political center talked to Richard Land the other day about Thompson, and Land was not so happy with his earlier statements of such strong support. Others, like Lou Sheldon, pick Romney. (although, again, the word on the street is that Sheldon is getting some money. To quote a friend of Sheldon, "Lou doesn’t do anything if money isn’t involved.")

So, back to the original question. There are interest-group internal reasons for not picking a candidate. There are also questions of how the interest groups maintain power. These combine to make it very, very hard on interest group leaders. That’s just politics.

Two new Iraq talking points?

Yesterday, the Biden-Brownback plan passed the Senate with 75 votes. For the first time, someone on both the left and the right can claim genuine progress on pulling out troops.

As Marc Ambinder points out, this is a good talking point for Biden,  where Joe Biden is counting that liberal activists in Iowa are less extreme than people think.

Sam Brownback, the other half of Biden-Brownback, is counting on Republican activists being less pro-war than public opinion holds. There is polling evidence to support this.

Interesting strategy. We will see if it catches on.

The battle being set on the right

One way of viewing the result of the straw polls is how it re-organizes the field. For a while, at least, Mike Huckabee can claim a pseudo first-tier status, compared in the same breath as the big-4. The Wall Street Journal presented this this way:

Should Mr. Huckabee capitalize on his second-place showing here Saturday to get a second look from demoralized Republicans unhappy with their choices — and to get much-needed funding — the repercussions could reshuffle the party’s contest for its 2008 nomination. Social conservatives, who have come to dominate the Republican party, could decide the candidate they have been looking for has been in the race the whole time, languishing at the back of the pack with little money to promote himself.

That wouldn’t be good news for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who likewise has struggled to be that candidate, or for actor and former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee. Mr. Thompson’s still-undeclared candidacy has been propelled by the argument that he could fill the perceived void of a true conservative,

This creates a real problem for conservatives. Social conservatives are going to have to pick between three "first tier" social conservative candidates: Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. The LA Times framed this as a challenge for Romney, although Fredheads and others would object that they are the true front-runners for this mantle:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has fought for months to unite social conservatives behind his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

But his weekend victory in an Iowa straw poll only underscored the fierce competition he still faces for conservatives who remain wary of the GOP’s top White House contenders.

"Clearly, no one has consolidated the conservative vote," said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist unaligned in the presidential race.

Ayres argues that Romney’s front-runner status is a little illusory:

Romney has banked heavily on Iowa. By spending far more on TV ads here than any other Republican, he has driven up his poll numbers. But, said strategist Ayres, "all of that can change when the other candidates go on the air, or when a candidate as potentially popular as Fred Thompson gets in the race."

Ed Morrissey views this as having more potential for hurting Thompson, however you get the sense from reading Ed that he doesn’t take Romney that seriously:

If that momentum comes from anywhere, it may come from Fred. The former Tennessee Senator has been buoyed by conservative dissatisfaction with the current crop of front-runners.

It will be interesting to see if this frame develops

Ames: Brownback

C-SPAN’s coverage makes it clear that he brought lots and lots of kids to the straw poll.

Sam Brownback starts with tying together families with terrorism. Huckabee did that in his own way.

He really talks about abortion differently than the others.

He talked about "reviving the economy." Republicans don’t talk that way. Then he goes on to talk about growth.

He also talked about a political solution in Iraq much more than the other candidates. I am not sure that legislation makes sense as a mechanism, but he talked about it and sounded lukewarm.

His Mother Teresa story could do quite well with uncommitted evangelicals.

I am struck more than anything else by the size of the crowd that he brought.

No buses for Huckabee?

The Politico’s Roger Simon is reporting that Mike Huckabee has no buses:

Mike Huckabee does not have buses.

Huckabee needs to get people to the straw poll in Ames this Saturday and even if he had the money for buses — which he doesn’t — there are no buses left to rent.

Jonathan Martin is reporting that Sam Brownback, among others, has buses:

An Iowa Republican said that Romney was bringing about 125 onto the campus of Iowa State University and Brownback just over 100.  Tommy Thompson is bringing the third most, about 75.

What I don’t understand is why Brownback has the money but Huckabee doesn’t. They had almost the same end of Q2 CoH. Either Huckabee just doesn’t have the bodies, or Brownback is blowing smoke. But I can’t see how Huckabee can’t afford buses when Brownback can afford 100.

Brownback’s autocalls against Tancredo and Romney

Sam Brownback’s campaign has been making phone calls in Iowa with solid facts. He has been attacking Tom Tancredo:

Brownback’s campaign has been making phone calls in Iowa that criticize Tancredo for taking campaign money from a Planned Parenthood backer.

Tancredo says Brownback is a longtime friend who “is well aware of my lifelong commitment to the unborn.”

Tancredo’s campaign has accused Brownback of trying to divert attention away from illegal immigration.

This is something that Brownback had mentioned previously. The point of this is pretty clearly to make Tancredo unpalatable to Iowa caucus-goers and Ames-goers. Brownback is playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, all of his facts are totally solid. On the other hand, that may not be enough for politics.

He also hits at Mitt Romney:

Mitt Romney is telling Iowans he is firmly pro-life. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said the Brownback campaign’s phone message.

The message goes on to attack the former Massachusetts governor’s wife, warning, “His wife, Ann, has contributed money to Planned Parenthood.”

Romney spokesman Tim Albrecht expressed outrage at what he called “despicable, negative phone calls.”

“They should apologize to Ann Romney and Governor Romney for this personal attack,” Albrecht said.

These seem to me to be aggressive but not wrong on the facts.  In the past, Brownback has repeatedly beat up Romney on this issue. And I have been struck that in previous years Romney’s position(s) would be prima facia not pro-life. But these are funny times for the GOP.

Also, the real goal here is probably the earned media from Romney. I wonder if Tancredo voters are basically anti-immigration voters, and they aren’t moving…

Huckabee disappoints in Q2 fundraising

In Q1, Mike Huckabee’s fundraising team disappointed. Looks like he did it in Q2 also:

Republican Mike Huckabee raised $764,000 for his presidential campaign from April through June and had $437,000 cash on hand at the end of last month, according to financial reports filed Sunday.

The former Arkansas governor spent nearly $703,000 during those three months. More than half went for payroll, travel, and media and fundraising consultants.

Compare that with Sam Brownback, who more than doubled that:

Senator Sam Brownback reports raising nearly $1.5 million for his presidential bid in the last three months.

That’s about $200,000 more than the Kansas Republican reported in the previous quarter.

However, Ron Paul is still the 2nd-tier Q2 winner.