Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Health Care Summit

On February 27th, President Obama hosted congressional leaders for a health care summit. In advancement of it, Newt laid out his vision, both in a Time article and at the Conservative Political Action Conference, for how Republicans should handle it; many conservatives bashed him, with some wanting to boycott the event altogether. To them, even saying "bipartisanship" was treasonous; a member of created a thread titled "Newt Gingrich is a freaking idiot." But Newt's idea of bipartisanship is much different than, say, Lindsay Graham's, which the critics did not understand.

Much of what the Republicans did at the summit -- list specifically what they had problems with and offer alternative solutions -- was what Newt advocated; he did not advocate for an agreement for the sake of a deal.

The Republicans came out looking so good, with even the mainstream media saying they had concrete proposals, that many who called for them to skip the event -- including radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- admitted they were wrong; Limbaugh doing so just a few hours into the summit.

Those two did not viciously attack the former Speaker the way many online. And worse, none of them retracted their criticism of him after the fact that his strategy worked out very well. While the effort the Republicans put forth may not, in the end, stop health care reform from passing -- but it did stop the media from prattling on about the "party of no" and put a good face on the party.

Newt hosted a health care summit of his own -- much like he has had held his own job summits the same week as Obama's -- and filmed a recap of it.

Making a trip to Iowa

As he has done several times, Gingrich will be heading to the first presidential caucus state in late May. He has already visited New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in 2012, in January.

"Newt certainly hasn't ruled out a run and Iowa is an important political state for 2010," said his spokeseman Rick Tyler. "I know he has his mind focused on 2010, and he will be doing what he can to help the party."

Newt on reconciliation

In his weekly newsletter published by Human Events, Newt lays out the history of reconciliation, the procedural trick the Senate may use to pass "fixes" to their health care bill to make it more palatable to the House.

He does a great job of explaining what it is meant for -- legislation that goes about reducing the deficit in narrow ways or tax bills -- not for new entitlement programs. "The reconciliation process was only intended to be used for legislation directly related to meeting budget resolution spending and revenue goals."

Since reconciliation was started, it "has been used for 22 bills....Notice the similarity between them? All of these bills were obviously directly related to taxation and spending."

He then gives a few scenarios under which it may be used, including the most likely: the House passes the Senate bill and then the Senate turns around and patches a few disagreements. Of course, the bill will be immediately signed by President Obama should the House pass the original Senate bill. If that happens, the White House and Senate leadership may just undergo a half-hearted effort to pass the fixes.

The only thing that may force them to proceed with the reconciled bill is the lack of trust such a move would create in the House, especially among moderate Democrats. On the fence because of the bill's popularity, a major selling point to them will be that, "Don't worry about the problems in the Senate's bill. We will correct those." If they vote yes, confident that will happen, only to see Obama and congressional leaders give up -- after all, they already have passed "health reform" -- it would create bad feelings and make it less likely they would put their necks on the line the next time.

The last section of Gingrich's newsletter is entitled: "Republicans Must Vow To Replace the Left’s Health Bill." He writes:

If the Democrats are bound and determined to exert all their power and manipulate every rule they can to pass their big government health bill, Republicans may not be able to stop its passage.

We’ll find out today as President Obama is set to announce his recommendation on the way forward.

But no matter what President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid decide, the bottom line for Republicans is that they must stand with the American people in opposing this bill.

This doesn’t just mean voting against it and using every parliamentary maneuver available to delay its passage.

It also means running on a platform of replacing whatever left-wing health bill the Democrats manage to pass with real health reform that empowers patients and doctors, not bureaucrats, to bring down health costs. And delivering on that promise in 2011 if Republicans gain control of Congress.

And if President Obama is still determined to ignore the will of the people by vetoing the Republican bill after such a clear message from America, it means that the Republican candidate for President in 2012 must run on a platform that includes signing the replacement of the left’s big government health bill.

After all, no matter what dirty tricks the politician may try to get his way, in America, the people have the final say.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Newt's new PAC

Since leaving office after the 1998 elections, Newt has only started groups that advocated certain policies and had no hand in elections. Shortly, however, he will be starting a political action committee, with the same name as his 527: American Solutions. The goal of the PAC will be to support candidates who stand and fight for the policies that the 527 advances.

American Solutions raked in the third-most dollars -- 22.7 million -- of all 527s in 2008. And since it's inception three-plus years ago, $38 million.

Starting a PAC is often a sign of gearing up for a presidential run. When combined with his usual barnstorming of the country for candidates this year -- "Gingrich said that wants to be active for GOP candidates in the '10 midterm elections" -- he will have a lot of goodwill built up among elected Republicans, as well as getting a chance to talk to voters. And the latter's importance cannot be understated.

Pollster Frank Luntz, who worked with Gingrich on the Contract with America, found that when people in his focus groups during 2006 heard Gingrich, they "ignored, or in some cases forgot, the controversial nature of Gingrich's speakership," as Matthew Continetti wrote. "The words he spoke were like nothing they had heard from anyone else," Luntz says. "While he didn't start either session with any measurable support, he ended both Iowa and New Hampshire sessions with the most new converts."

That is important because despite staying in the headlines pretty consistently in the eleven years since resigning as speaker, a Pew Research Center poll found that 26% of the public is undecided about him. His favorability split is 35/38, but if the remaining quarter of the electorate -- as well as "soft" opposition -- find his message as appealing as the focus groups that did not come in as Gingrichites, he could improve those numbers a lot. Having a full debate of the issues over the course of 2011 would likely benefit him more than any other candidate heading into Iowa and New Hampshire in the early part of 2012.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Newt hints at run in National Journal interview

In a recent interview with National Journal, Newt Gingrich said that 2012 "is different" than either 1996 or 2008, the two other times his name came up in presidential speculation.

How realistic a run in '96, right after he became the Speaker, was is in doubt. It was bandied about in some circles, including by Bill Kristol in the Weekly Standard, and somewhat considered by Gingrich himself, but it never got close to happening. "I knew in '96 that it was hopeless. You couldn't have taken over the House for the first time in 40 years, be in a middle of fairly profound series of reforms, and cheerfully go off to run for president. It's not physically doable, it's absurd."

But leading up to the 2008 race, he thought about it more seriously, but once again a new venture played a part in him turning down the opportunity. He had just started American Solutions for Winning the Future, an issues-based 527 that is non-partisan, in late 2006 and did not want to abandon it. He also realized just how bad the environment was for Republicans, though he and American Solutions -- through the Drilll Here, Drill Now, Pay Less petition did a lot to change that, bringing the GOP in the lead in polls before the financial crisis hit.

"I would have been so critical of the Republican policies that other than William Jennings Bryan in 1896, I couldn't imagine a circumstance where it made sense to. I was very acutely aware of how hard '08 was going to be and how likely it was that we were going to lose. '12 is different."

James Barnes writes, "One sign that Gingrich may be more serious about a presidential run in '12 than he was in the past is his recognition that in order to capture the GOP nomination he cannot get into the race late, as he thought he could in '08."

"One of the things I learned was that you have to start much earlier than I thought you did," said Gingrich. "It's just an objective reality of the way the modern system works." Back in 2007, he dismissed the idea of having to start a campaign early, waiting until September 29th to decide. That fact he has been talking for months about deciding in February or March of 2011 is a good a sign as any he may very well be very serious about running.

Barnes continued:
As he reflected on the arguments of a potential campaign, Gingrich mused, "I think that the three questions are: who are we [as a country], what do we have to do to compete successfully with China and India, and what threatens us and how do we stay safe?" If a GOPer could effectively organize a campaign around those themes, Gingrich said, "You'd be a [Ronald] Reagan or bigger majority coming together to say, 'Yep, that's the direction I want to go in."
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