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Books and the Ballotbox (Poll Included)

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Ah, the joys of campaigning. There’s many things to love about it….meeting new people, the rush of contacting voters, putting up signs and handing out bumperstickers. There’s one thing, though, I’ve never really loved: the quaddrenial rush of books from presidential contenders. There’s a few reasons I’ve come to loathe this. Largely, I feel bad for not reading them, even though most of them are just filled with ghostwritten pablum that differs little from the candidate’s stump speeches. I don’t read as quick as I used to, but with all these candidates, even if you are a fast reader, that’s still alot of time. Then there’s the whole thing of actually shelling out $30 if you want to read them before their author is little more than an afterthought in the race…..(I’m not on the Kindle train yet)

Apparently, somebody reads them, though. There was much ballyhooing about Cain’s book a little bit ago, how it appeared his campaign was more book tour than campaign. Now, the New York Times notes the same thing about Newt:

Even as he widens his lead in the polls, Newt Gingrich spends substantial time on an activity that raised questions about his ultimate motive when he was a back-of-the-pack candidate: selling and signing $25 copies of his books.

As his primary foe, Mitt Romney, and the White House intensify their efforts to negatively define Mr. Gingrich, his sole public event on Friday is at a bookstore in Washington. On Saturday he flies to Des Moines for a Republican debate but plans to squeeze in an afternoon book-signing.

Experienced campaign strategists cannot recall a top-tier contender devoting so much time to pitching products while seeking the White House. Mitt Romney, who also has a book out, has never sold it while stumping, his campaign said. President Obama, a best-selling author in 2007, did not incorporate sales events into campaign appearances, according to a spokesman for his re-election committee.

Mr. Gingrich’s devotion to book-selling, Republican strategists said, raises questions about the propriety of a candidate who is generating personal income while seeking the White House, as well as whether he is making the optimum use of limited campaign time.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about here, but let’s face it–Newt has spent the last twelve years or so as a political entrprenuer, starting organizations here, shilling a book there, appearing on this or that news network. I’m sure its a hard habit to break. And of course, Newt has always been a prolific writer (or the one whose name is on the jacket, at least), having written 21 some odd books throughout his career (some of which one intrepid New York Times Magazine author dared to read).

But what about candidates that are new to the writing game? Well, not so hot for Michele Bachmann (h/t Political Wire):

Michele Bachmann’s weak poll numbers may be showing up in slow sales of her memoir, Core of Conviction. In the two weeks since the book was released, it’s sold just 3,000 copies despite a media blitz and numerous book-signing events by Bachmann.

Those numbers come from Nielsen BookScan, which gets the information directly from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and most other retailers. The company estimates its sales numbers capture 75 percent of the book market although it currently does not get information from discount retailers Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.

As of 5 PM ET on Wednesday, the book ranked 4,200 on Amazon’s bestseller list, although it ranked 62 on the site’s political bestseller list.

Ouch. It’s hard to judge how well her book is doing–sooooo many books are published in America that the average per book is around 500 copies (keep in mind that we’re talking about a really wide range of numbers here, so the average isn’t all that great of a statistic). But the fact that its not even intriguing readers of political books indicates that Bachmann’s book is not breaking through.

Honestly, not only is it not that important (trot out old “x’s don’t vote” trope here), but its not all that uncommon. If you really want to read any of these books after their shelf-life, I suggest in about nine months you head down to the Green Valley Book Fair, where they’ll be available for about $5/pound (ok, so they don’t sell them by the pound, but on average you’ll be paying about $3-5 per title)

Basically, there’s five kinds of political books

  • The reporting/history book–usually written by a third party shortly after or around the time of the events in question (“What It Takes”). A subset of these books may fall more in line with the history genre (The Last Campaign, about either the 1948 Election or RFK’s 1968 campaign, depending on which one of these same titled books you pick up) but still are plenty interesting for politicos
  • The kiss-off/tell all–written by an ex-administration official or someone who played a pivotal role in the events in question–you know, your Scott McCllellans of the world. Some my be polite, like Christie Todd Whitman, but even she had a critique in there
  • The campaign book–written by people who are actively running for office or considering it. Most are ghostwritten (see above)
  • The policy book–closely related to the campaign book, but written by someone who may not be seeking higher office in the near future but is trying to build support for their policies (Think “Young Guns” here)
  • The memoir–written by former officeholders. Usually written by the subject, but likely polished by a professional author (“Decision Points”, “My Life”)

Again, very few of these books have a very long shelf life. Probably the ones that last the longest are the memoirs and the history books, because they’ll be of interest long after the fact. The others, however, don’t tend to lend too much to either political professionals or historians, so don’t be surprised if they don’t see additional print runs.

So what say you, dear readers? Add categories in the comments, and chime in with the polls below about your political reading habits.

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Advance on the Advance

December 2, 2011 3 comments

The last twenty four hours has put a whole new spin on the Republican Party of Virginia’s annual retreat/conference, the Advance. Certainly spirits were expected to be high, given the GOP’s narrow gain of control of the State Senate and continuing enthusiasm for unseating Barack Obama. Of course, as is always the case, various figures were anticipated to start jockeying for position for statewide bids. Which ones, exactly, we didn’t know…..

Then last night the picture became a whole lot clearer when it was leaked that AG Ken Cuccinelli is preparing to announce a bid for Governor. It was expected that this wouldn’t happen until after the Advance, but, now its all out in the open. Cuccinelli has pretty much made it official, starting with an email to his staff that was leaked this afternoon:

You have likely heard in the media the many rumors about an announcement of a run for governor. While I wanted to wait to announce a candidacy until after the General Assembly session, as the rumors swirl, I find it necessary to put them to rest.

After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to run for governor in 2013. I have always intended to let you know before the media. Shortly after you receive this email, I will be sending a statement to the media announcing my candidacy.

Also of note: Cuccinelli stated that he would buck the recent tradition of AGs who seek the Governorship resigning to focus on their campaign/make sure the citizens have a full-time AG (depending on who you ask). Generally this doesn’t happen until the spring of election year, so I find it interesting the Cooch went to lengths from the start to say he wouldn’t be doing that.

We will continue this work together until the last day of my term. Just as I had intended not to resign as attorney general to run for a second term, I will not resign as attorney general to run for governor. The people of Virginia trusted me to be their attorney general, and I intend to give them their full four years. I also think it is important to see these lawsuits against the federal government all the way through, as they are unprecedented battles for liberty in our lifetimes.

I am committed to you and to the citizens of this commonwealth to leading this office and making this job my priority. I have no right to ask the voters for a promotion if I cannot continue to do my current job well.

Meanwhile, there’s been reaction from all corners, ranging from enthusiastic to downright icy. The only reaction anyone really cared about, though, was Bill Bolling’s, and as expected, he is not pleased:

Needless to say, I am very disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli’s decision to run for Governor in 2013.  During the 2009 campaign, and since taking office in 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli had repeatedly stated that he intended to seek re-election as Attorney General in 2013 and that is what I and other Republican leaders had expected him to do.  Unfortunately, he has now decided to put his own personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the Commonwealth and the Republican Party.

But that much we figured. Bolling, however, has already been able to get the Governor squarely in his corner:

Virginia is fortunate to have both Ken Cuccinelli and Bill Bolling serving in statewide office. They are dedicated public servants and I enjoy working closely with them on a daily basis. While I do prefer a scenario in which both men continue to serve in statewide office together going forward, I certainly respect the right of the attorney general to make his own decision regarding future races. Since early 2008, I’ve been clear that I will strongly support Bill Bolling for Governor in 2013. Bill is a trusted advisor and a close, personal friend. As Lieutenant Governor, Bill has been a key member of our Administration. Serving as our Chief Job Creation Officer, Bill has been tireless and successful in his work to bring more jobs and economic opportunities to the Commonwealth. I look forward to supporting Bill in his campaign for Governor.

So what about the people who will actually decide this thing–you know, Republican voters? Again, reaction has ranged from enthusiastic to ambivalent to polite but disapproving to downright icy, with many in the comments sections of some of the state’s top right leaning blogs cheering for Cuccinelli but just as many chastising him for upending the “system”. Two bloggers have suggested Cuccinelli back off and run for re-election–one a Bolling supporter who fears a bloody primary will upend the party’s chances and another who specifically wants Cuccinelli around to fight UVA on the global climate records issue (UPDATE: for the record, that author is neutral between Bolling and Cuccinelli). For what its worth, in my extremely unscientific and lightly traveled poll, Cuccinelli and Bolling are tied, although there’s a bit more support for Ken running than not. Meanwhile, at Bearing Drift’s equally unscientific but far more participated in poll, Cuccinelli is leading Bolling 64%-32% (for some reason, they included neither rather than undecided). In the only scientific polling that has been done, an automated poll by PPP last August, Cuccinelli garnered 45% to Bolling’s 21%.

Others are bashing Ken for not upholding his “word”. For what it’s worth, as Chris at Mason Conservative points out, Ken wasn’t party to any agreement between McDonnell and Bolling, though at an AG’s debate in 2009 he said he wouldn’t:

“Will you pledge tonight that if elected Attorney General, you will support Bill Bolling for Governor in 2013 and not run against him?, asks Jay Warren.

“That’s just not something I would foresee happening.”, says Cuccinelli.

“So equivocally no?”, asks Jay Warren.

“Yes. Correct.”, responds Cuccinelli.

But he was guarded enough to say he didn’t foresee it….so that was then, and this is now. As I pointed out before, Cuccinelli is a darling of the right, not just at home but across the country. Indeed, rather than being at the Advance on Saturday Night, Cuccinelli will be playing a role as a moderator of a Fox News Presidential forum in New York City. (No word on what his Friday night plans are)

So if we’re looking at a Bolling-Cuccinelli match-up for the big job, where does that leave us for the rest of the potential field for other statewide offices? It was assumed that Lt. Gov. would be the only prize open, but now, it looks like that and AG will both be up for grabs. First out of the gate to finalize his plans is my own State Senator Mark Obenshain, who has announced (unofficially, at least) for AG:

Harrisonburg Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain confirmed Thursday he’s exploring a bid for attorney general in the 2013 statewide election as news broke about the future plans of that office’s current occupant.

A more formal announcement from Obsenshain is expected soon — he said he’ll make his intentions clear after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declares his plans for the next election. (Cuccinelli is expected to reveal his plans to run for governor in the near term.)

I won’t be shy about sharing this–I’m with Mark. I’ve worked with him since his very first run for State Senate in 2003 (when we shared the back of a pickup truck following a sudden downpour after a July 4th parade in New Market–he got us all to dry land post-haste–my kind of leader). In his time in the State Senate Mark has been a solid leader on issues like eminent domain reform, auditing VDOT, strengthening law enforcement in the battle against the scourge of crystal meth, and the like. He’s also not too shabby of a lawyer, having been repeatedly been named as one of Virginia Business Magazine’s Legal Elite. He brings both the heft on public safety and the sound legal mind we should be looking for in an AG contender. Obenshain will be hosting a hospitality suite at the Advance for himself on Friday night and as part of the Conservative Caucus with Delegate Ben Cline on Saturday night.

Also on tap, Corey Stewart. For what, though, we don’t quite know yet:

Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart just won reelection last month but he’s already eyeing higher office.

Stewart said he will make an announcement in January about a run for statewide office — an office in Richmond.

Earlier this year, Stewart considered seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate but eventually ruled that out. He recently endorsed George Allen.

Stewart’s made no secret of his ambition to seek higher office. He won’t yet reveal which job he’ll seek, but today Republican State Sen. Mark Obenshain, who had been seen as a leading candidate for lieutenant governor, said he’s exploring a bid for attorney general instead now that Ken Cuccinelli will run for governor instead of seeking reelection.

Stewart has received high praise for his local battle against illegal immigration in Prince William County. Stewart’s biggest obstacle will be his record as Supervisor–not that he has a bad one, as the average tax bill in PWC is actually substantially lower than a few years ago. But past history shows that being a Supervisor always yields a few votes that can be spun as “un-conservative”–both former PWC Chair Sean Connaughton and former Hanover Supervisor turned State Senator and now LG Bolling lobbed charges against each other in the 2005 LG race stemming from their own service on their respective Boards. Stewart will host a hospitality suite as well.

So what about the rest of the field, as it were? Well, we really don’t know yet, but there’s a few names that have been floated already, and several will have hospitality suites at the Advance. Here’s the rest of the names we’re seeing:

  • Dave Foster–rumored to be considering a second run for AG, but also noted by some as a potential choice to square off for an open seat on the Arlington County Board of Supervisors
  • Delegate Rob Bell–thought to be another contender for AG
  • Delegate Bob Marshall–with Radtke floundering and no other challenger picking up speed, combined with coming very close to beating former Governor Jim Gilmore for the US Senate nod in 2008, Marshall is seen as possible late entry to the US Senate race
  • Though not listed on the official RPV agenda, Dick Black is said to be hosting one as well. I’m not sure Black is really eyeing anything–after all, he just made his political comeback by securing a State Senate seat this year. I think this is more about securing a statewide financial base for future runs than anything in the near future
  • Keith Fimian, who has twice gone up against Gerry Connolly in the 11th (in an open seat in 08 and as a challenger in 10). He came very close in the 2010 wave, but it looks like he may now have his eye on LG in 2013.
  • Delegate Ben Cline, a former chief of staff to Congressman Bob Goodlatte, is said to be the heir apparent when Goodlatte retires, but with two potential NOVA based candidates for LG, there may very well be a place for Cline in that race…
  • Dumfries Town Councilwoman Kristin Forrester–this is her second go around–she’s up to SOMETHING, but it’s not entirely clear what….
  • former Governor and former Senator George Allen–if I have to explain this one….but yeah, he’s running for the US Senate nomination
  • RPV Chairman Pat Mullins. Interestingly, this one is billed as Pat Mullins FOR Chairman–could be reading too much into this, but that would seem to indicate that Mullins is likely leaning towards seeking re-election as chairman at next June’s state convention

Also hosting suites: Americans for Prosperity and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with the Senate Caucus. Plenty of fireworks, what with the sudden start to the 2013 campaign and the Presidential Primary which, ironically, may lurk in the shadows to a certain degree….although many will still be gathering signatures, I imagine.

RPV Banquet

December 5, 2009 2 comments

So change of plans–fried shrimp (yum yum) but I’ll still be here live-blogging Steele and Cantor’s remarks. The feed is below for those of you like me who are observing from afar The recorded video should be up now below. My comments should roughly correspond to the time into the video beginning at two minutes past seven:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Liveblog with comments about the event below.

Read more…

A Tale of Two Websites

February 1, 2009 3 comments

As we speak both sides of the stimulus debate are trying to rally their troops to grassroots action. However, just how they are accomplishing this couldn’t be further apart. 

On the Democratic side the Administration is already converting MyBarackObama over to efforts focusing on the stimulus. From Bloomberg:

The Democratic National Committee is overseeing a new advocacy group called Organizing for America and using its 13 million e-mail addresses and network of Obama volunteers to encourage people to host house meetings to view a video about Obama’s economic recovery plan.

The essence of MyBO (yes, what an unfortunate name, but hey, the man’s President now, so a rose by any other name….) is that it is not just a social network but something that moves people to organize and move to action. Facebook is wonderful, but at the end of the day it is ultimately just another method of communication. MyBO offers individuals involved with the social network tools to act, first towards the goal of electing Barack Obama and now towards the President’s policy goals. The McCain campaign tried a similar effort, but ultimately it was just a glorified social network for McCain “lovers” (I’m sure they exist, just like albino squirrels) with only a flimsy fundraising tool built. 

Over on the Republican side we have word that a site has been launched to push back against the stimulus package by Whip Eric Cantor. Here’s the statement on the Minority Leader’s Website:

“We hope that Americans from coast to coast visit our website, read our plan and contribute ideas,” said Mr. Cantor.   “We can get our economy moving again if we focus on helping working families and small businesses get back in the game.  Republicans will continue to speak directly to the American people and ask for their best ideas.  America deserves no less.”

Sounds promising; we have an alternative proposal, and the House Republicans want to work with US, the people on their plan. However, when you get the website, all you find is a copy of the plan, a comments section, and a video by Eric. 

It’s great to see an effort, but I see two major problems here. One, there’s no real call to action. At this point, the pressure needs to be on Senate Republicans to stage a filibuster that will either kill (best case scenario and highly unlikely) or shrink this bill. Now, granted, if Gregg goes, we may not have the votes to keep it alive, and Obama can probably peel off on of the northeastern Republicans pretty easy. But it’s still worth a shot. The second problem is that the comments section is wide open and right there on the page. The Obama team is smart about this–you can comment on their blog posts, but they aren’t right there for public consumption. When people come to the Whip’s site, they can see the comments section right there, where our people are making less than cogent arguments, our opposition is openly mocking us, and the Paulistas are grand-standing for their pet causes. There’s interactivity, but there’s no action. 

I’m not saying that the website is an utter disaster, or that I expected an instant social network to spring up. What I am saying, though, is that this is further proof of just how far behind we are on social networking and that a cogent social network that interfaces the Congressional, national and grassroots of the party should be Chairman Steele’s top priority over the next year.

Cantor on the Stimulus

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Marc Ambinder sat down with Republican Whip Eric Cantor who, after disappointing some conservatives by backing the stimulus package in the fall, is coming out swinging against the even bigger boondoggle in the House. Cantor’s profile has arguably been higher than that of Majority Leader Bohener over the last few days. A highlight:

If you could wave your magic wand and make two changes to the bill that would make it much more palatable to Republicans. What would they be?

I think first of all you have to focus spending on actual stimulus. You’ve got CBO saying that  only 25 percent goes out in the first year. You’ve got to have some type of ability to provide that jobs will be created or maintained because of the government spending. Listen, this is all borrowed money. That is an added burden you have to overcome in order to justify the government spending the money, not the private sector. Number 2, you’d have some meaningful tax relief for small business. There’s a lot of discussion about the NOL provisions – net operating losses – which are good. That will help save jobs. There’s a lot of discussion and support for accelerated depreciation. That’s great because that will help spur big business to purchase assets. But that provision itself really kicks in when you purchase [something] over $850,000. What about the real small business person? There is only 41 million dollars allocated toward the relief for small business and small business expensing. That’s where we start to look. For every one dollar you allocate for small business tax relief, you’re spending four dollars to replace the grass here in Washington.

The grass provision has been taken out since the interview, but the point holds.