Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Personal Asides: The Conservative Vote That Left the GOP—and Can Return…Postponement of the State Central Meeting Spells Kjellander Weakness…Mark Kirk Thinking of Running for the Senate Against Durbin.


The Conservative Vote.

Looking back, how prescient we were when we warned that Judy Baar Topinka would be a disaster as the Republican gubernatorial candidate because she would lose the party’s conservative base. All the smart pundits told us that anyone else but Topinka would lose to Rod Blagojevich: that Jim Oberweis was too polarizing, that Ron Gidwitz was too uncharismatic, that Bill Brady was not specific enough (they had a point there). Well, the party narrowly nominated Topinka who was supposed to be able to make great inroads with the independents and Democrats at a time when the governor was supposedly in bad shape with them. And what happened? Gee, we don’t hear very much about those bad pundit calls now that the election is over, do we?

Which leads to a larger question: The first job in party building is to regain the base. And the idea that conservatives don’t have anywhere else to go is hogwash. Take a look at some of the congressional races. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown, a liberal who made some conservative noises, collected no fewer than 23% of the self-described conservative voters in Ohio over Mike Dewine although Brown’s lifetime American Conservative Union rating was only 8%. Then look at three Senate races—in Missouri, Montana and Virginia. Conservative voters made the difference in all these states; they voted for the Democrats. The total conservative proportion of the electorate declined only slightly compared to 2004.

The publication “Human Events” reports that a poll of 100 voters in twelve close elections involving Republican-controlled House seats during the three days immediately before the election found that contrary to mainstream media supposition, the war in Iraq actually gave the GOP an edge of 36% to 32% as the party “best able to deal with the war in Iraq.” Where the Republicans fell down was on their lagging conservatism: scoring only 26% on “cutting taxes for the middle class,” 22% on “cutting the deficit,” and 21% on “keeping government spending under control.”

Which tells me that in 2008 the GOP better have a rock-firm conservative candidate on the issue of the war and spending. I have expressed this idea before—but Newt is the best equipped to come up with brilliant alternative choices on issues…but like Winston Churchill he is half genius and half nuts as a congressional colleague described him. He’d be superb locked in a room and ordered to come out at the end of the day with ten new takes on the issues. Of the ten, likely four would be nuts and five unduly impractical. The remaining one might win the election. I defer to no one as a former critic of John McCain: his misbegotten campaign finance bill committed due violence against the 1st amendment. But looking at what we know now, putting McCain together with Rudy Giuliani for vice president might be the only way Republicans can hold their base and topple the Democrats with a solid experiential ticket: a former war hero, pro-life by the voting record, a budget-cutter by practice, a supporter of winning the war in Iraq rather than slinking away. Giuliani is indubitably a hero for his behavior in New York and a practiced urban manager. That to me is not an ideal ideological ticket…mine would begin with Sam Brownback for president…but it could very well be the welding together of two of our highest rated contenders.

Postponing the Meeting.

Postponing the December meeting of the Republican State Central Committee until next month is a sign of weakness…a sign that there is no movement whatsoever in the effort to dislodge Bob Kjellander as National Committeeman. If the White House’s Karl Rove is so dumb that he still can’t understand the liability that Kjellander is, the SCC should have held the meeting anyhow and voted a resolution of no-confidence in Kjellander with a declaration that it will no longer work with him. Why the SCC didn’t do that can be laid to ultra-timidity, the trembling uncertainty that somehow the White House will be angered. To them I say: So what? The occupant of this White House whom I support almost across the board, will not be running again, guys. Anyone who will be seeking the presidential nomination will have to, automatically, take the position in Illinois that Kjellander should go. If Andy McKenna means to do something with the job of state chairman rather than preside over a vapid, inconsequential herd of cats, he should (a) announce his own position on such a resolution and (b) call the SCC to order and submit the resolution…declaring that if it does not pass, he, McKenna will resign.

Mark Kirk.

According to some reports, Congressman Mark Kirk has called together a group of strategists to ponder whether or not he should run for the U. S. Senate against Dick Durbin. Durbin’s approval ratings are very low. Normally…if Kirk were just a pro-choicer…I’d support him given that no one else of consequence seems to be running and he is a superlative candidate on other grounds. But Kirk’s pro-choice record is extreme, based on the necessity as he sees it of pleasing suburban and exurban independents on the issue…extreme to the extent that he public funding of abortion and also has been frenetic about his endorsement of partial birth abortion. That support is enough to duplicate the erosion of the conservative base that bedeviled Topinka. It’s too bad because Kirk’s position on foreign policy and national security is about as good as it gets—but until and unless he can adjust his stand ala Mitt Romney of Michigan on abortion, Kirk might as well forego running and stick with the 10th district.

Given the likelihood that Kirk won’t seek the Senate because of the apathy his candidacy would receive from the conservative base, who would be a good candidate? I have suggested Jim Oberweis but the chances are less than likely he’ll try. State Senator Bill Brady is interested but would not be a good candidate for several reasons: first, the lingering memory of his very strange barrage of blows he aimed at Jim Oberweis, his fellow conservative, when by every strategic reckoning it should have been directed at Judy Baar Topinka (as Ron Gidwitz did)…which gives credence to the very plausible conclusion that Brady wanted to stand in well with the establishment of the party. Second, that Brady never did raise much money even when he was running for governor when corporate checks were allowed—leading one to wonder how in the world he would raise sufficient money in the federal election when only individual giving is acceptable. Third, that there is a very, very limited and tight circle of family members…brothers, notably…around Brady that causes him to nod enthusiastically when listening to others’ advice but afterward check with the tight circle and ask: now, what should I really do?

The description of an ideal candidate would be as follows: First, a multi-millionaire…amend that to a mega-multi-millionaire. Second, a reasonable expert on the issues. Third, a social conservative with no amendatory provisions. Fourth, a gregarious man who thoroughly enjoys people and the zest of campaigning. Fifth, although never having held office, a reasonable familiarity with public questions: having devoted a good part of his life to the independent, non-profit, charitable and philanthropic sector. Eeegad: this profile comes out not unlike Jack Ryan! But wait a minute before you dismiss it.

1. The overwhelming reaction to the Ryan contretemps of 2004 has been…check it out…that Jack Ryan was savaged by the “Tribune’s” obsessive, almost pathological over-concern with his sex life and divorce. Not a bad enemy to have right now: a paper uncertain of what it believes which is virtually on the chopping block for sale or auction.

2. Jeri Ryan who would have the most to complain about was in her ex-husband’s corner the entire time and for the whole length of the controversy…which leads to the question if she’s satisfied with the situation what in the hell right does the “Tribune” have as prurient nanny of sexual correctness to destroy one’s character, political career and future relationship with his child? Ryan would be so sure of public sympathy that this issue would not dare to be raised by anyone.

3. The Republican party was hoodwinked out of a potentially good candidacy by the gumshoe Jansenist hyper-Puritanical action of a newspaper that cannot distinguish between investigative journalism and legitimate privacy concerns. The “Tribune” wanted to show its so-called objectivity by balancing the story of Blair Hull allegedly striking his wife to get her to stop kicking him with the Ryan privacy intrusion: one of the more despicable cases on record.

4. What Ryan should have done, of course, is either not run or to run and lay bare the terrible scandal of propositioning his own wife in a semi-public place. His resultant hesitation spurred all kinds of concern that he had something far worse to hide…and the “Tribune’s” hysterical seizure of the episode and drum-beat to sell papers was lamentable.

5. Conclusion: Ryan should try it again…unless he’s made another visit to Paris with a potential successor to Jeri. Which I imagine he hasn’t. That kind of Superbowl disclosure by the “Tribune” could well have scared off any thought of future carnality…or is this just an old man who’s writing this?


  1. Gotta disagree with your commentary on the war.

    I can't see any basis for your statements. War, the epitome of big government, is the antithesis of conservatism. Especially a Presidential war, launched at our option without provocation.

    Republicans paid the price in 2006, just as Democrats did in 1920, 1946, and 1968. Republicans will pay the price again in 2008 if they don't learn from history.

    Americans, especially Mid-westerners, justifiably don't like foreign wars, along with the body bags, widows and orphans they produce.

    And I won't even touch the moral blemish we bear because this war was unnecessary. It fails every test of the just war theory.

    I'm with the Rockford Institute on this--the Weekly Standard and National Review have egg all over their faces.

    I am with you, though, on the impotency of those calling for Mr. Kjellander to step down or be fired by someone. If they can't make it happen, they are better off shutting their mouth rather than continually reminding people how weak they are.

    I'm reminded of what Grover Norquist said. (I think you had a column on this.) Essentially, if you can't work with someone, work around them.

  2. Lovie's LeatherDecember 6, 2006 at 7:42 AM

    You are telling me, Tom, that conservatives didn't vote for Jim Talent, Conrad Burns, and Maccaca Goldstein (George Allen)? It was the moderates who stuck with these people? GIVE ME A BREAK!!! I don't care what people label themselves. I could call myself a liberal and it doesn't make a lick of difference. It was the moderates that abandoned the party and in the house, it was the moderates that paid the heaviest price (i.e. Jim Leach). Tom, you expect to solve the problem of the GOP, yet you can't even seem to identify it. FYI, don't expect to read anything from Human Events that isn't spun whatever way the hard-right wants it to be.

  3. If Obama can go to the Senate from the state legislature, surely Roskam can do so from the House of Representatives. He's pro-life, good looking, well spoken, and has got to have money. He's been a personal injury lawyer for a number of years, for crying out loud.

    I think he's the kind of clean cut guy who would be such a huge contrast to Durbin in every way that the choice couldn't be clearer. MHO.

  4. Tom, you're right on the mark about the Kjellander affair.

    And you're right to keep the heat on Bill Brady. Republicans shouldn't get fooled again.

    I agree with you on Jack Ryan too. He got a raw deal from Topinka & Co., and from that rag that's in the Combine's pocket, the Tribune. Kudos to you for being willing to give the guy another look.

  5. Cathy Santo's Left Butt CheekDecember 7, 2006 at 9:52 AM

    Jack Ryan has all the measureable qualities of a great candidate, but he lacks fire. He is a spineless wimp scared of his own shadow.

  6. Kirk ran a weak campaign. In response to a call I made to his office questioning his vote against drilling in ANWR, his office sent me a letter stating that he voted against it because it overstated the taxes that would be collected. Thus, it claimed that he's tough on the budget. If you're lying to conservatives, you should attempt to formulate a somewhat plausible lie.