Trouble ahead for the GOP establishment?
Three developments reported today should pace the Republican establishment on guard nationwide. The first is an article on the Obama campaign’s field operation, titled: “How Romney was out-organized by Obama.” It is very impressive.
Jeremy Bird, the National Field Director of Obama for America (OFA), said on Tuesday that Obama’s winning coalition on November 6 was the result of “the strongest grassroots organization in the history of American presidential politics.” OFA had more than twice as many local offices as Republican Mitt Romney in the targeted swing states, he said. In those targeted states, Bird said, OFA had 631 offices, compared to only 282 for Romney.
While Republican strategist Karl Rove was raising $300 million for television ads depicting Republican candidate Mitt Romney as a would-be efficient manager of the U.S economy, Bird said the Obama for America operation assembled a network comprised of more than two million volunteers, backed by neighborhood political teams and 2,700 field organizers. The local offices were critical to mobilizing the volunteers, he said.
The Democrats rely on issue-motivated activists as the backbone of its grassroots effort. To compete with this ramped-up field effort by the Democrats, the Republican establishment is going to have to embrace, motivate, and direct the Tea Party, Ron Paul youth, Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, values and culture activists. They are the base of Republican activism. I can’t see the GOP creating a new issue activism base anytime soon and it is even less likely they will co-opt one form the Democrats.
Unfortunately, the Republican establishment in many parts of the country is attempting to distance itself from the very activists it needs if it wants to repeat 2010 in 2014. They are focusing on non-activist “swing” voters who vote in Presidential elections, but do little else.
This means that in many places we will have mushy Republican campaigns that focus on personalities instead of policies. The national conservative movement seems to understand this and is preparing to meet it head on. First, there was the retirement of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina to run the Heritage Foundation. To the surprise of many, this delighted the activist right in the Party. Redstate’s Erick Erickson wrote:
“While my initial reaction was one of sadness that we are losing the clearest voice in the Senate for conservatives, the upside on Jim DeMint’s departure from the Senate is mind boggling. Mitch McConnell likes it when people compare McConnell to Darth Vader, seemingly clueless that Vader lost the Death Star twice to a rag tag group of rebels in really beat up, hand-me-down spaceships… The Heritage Foundation, which more or less arose from the ashes of the Goldwater conservatism that failed in the late sixties, became a key player within institutional establishment Republican politics over the past decade, and now suddenly finds its founder retiring and passing the keys over to the man who has helped restart the conservative movement within the political wing of the GOP in the way Ed Fuelner restarted the conservative movement within the intellectual wing of the GOP. There is no better person to take Ed Fuelner’s job. It is a marvelous transition. Ed Fuelner knew he was not the indispensable man, but has now made sure the Heritage Foundation remains the indispensable organization within the conservative movement. That is a brilliant legacy. As for Jim DeMint leaving the United States Senate, it is a very good thing.”
Then the Club for Growth’s Chairman, Chris Chocola weighed in with a warning that the GOP establishment will face primaries if it doesn’t wise up:
Chocola was asked if his group would oppose any Republican who signs on to a deal that raises taxes.
“Every race that we look at, we have to have a better alternative,” he responds.
“If we challenge an incumbent, we want to make sure we’re for a stronger challenger and that [candidate] would be better at supporting a pro-growth agenda more consistently and more enthusiastically.
“The reality is that if Republicans vote for tax increases, if they compromise on a solution that does nothing really to solve the fiscal challenges our country faces, then the Club for Growth’s going to be the least of their worries. A lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives are going to be very disappointed in that. It will probably inspire people to run against those types of Republicans that aren’t willing to stand for the principles that Republicans are supposed to stand for.
“We’ll look at those types of races but it’s going to be a lot more than the Club for Growth that they need to worry about because a lot of people will be very upset.”
Bottom line: Republicans can’t match the Democrats grassroots without their conservative issue activists. Conservatives are resurgent, loaded for bear, and will not be afraid to take down a few GOPers to prove a point.
The Republican Party establishment has some serious thinking to do.