The Thin Republican Bench

Buried in this National Journal piece on the last campaign was this dispiriting nugget. The Democrats didn’t only have better technology, they had — and have — a deeper bench of campaign advisors:

The [Republican] party faces a lack of high-quality campaign managers, strategists with the track record of running and winning statewide elections who haven’t left the business to open their own consulting firms.

Democrats, some Republicans worry, have a raft of capable managers able to deploy to key Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds and provide a guiding hand. And there is a small number of top-notch Republican managers. Party leaders pointed to Mac Abrams, who ran Sen. Dean Heller‘s campaign this year; Justin Brasell, who managed Sen. Mitch McConnell‘s 2008 campaign; and Jim Barnett, who managed Sen. Scott Brown‘s unsuccessful reelection bid this year, as examples of the party’s best and brightest.

But the roster peters out quickly. While Romney’s high command included some of the most respected names in Republican politics, only two of them — Katie Packer Gage and Eric Fehrnstrom — had experience as campaign managers. Gage ran Michigan Gov. Dick Posthumus’s 2002 reelection bid, when he lost to Democrat Jennifer Granholm, while Fehrnstrom ran a gubernatorial campaign in 1998 that didn’t make it out of the Republican primary.

This is unquestionably true, and it’s a real weakness for the Republican side. They tend to stick with the same old names, when what’s really necessary is to shake things up. The trick, really, isn’t to run a nationwide campaign. The trick is to win in blue states. Scott Brown won a close race in Massachusetts. Scott Walker won a stunning victory in Wisconsin. Republicans have 30 governors. Who ran those races?  Who turned out that vote?

And how, exactly, does a talented and brilliant Bain consultant and private investor make such “safe” and uninspiring choices to lead his campaign?

Out with the old, in with the new. I’ve been advocating a good healthy bloodletting after November’s humiliation, but what I really should have been saying to the current crop of national campaign advisors is: You’re fired.  

  1. genferei

    On the one hand you are bemoaning the lack of a bench, on the other you are calling for the bench to be fired.

  2. EThompson

    And how, exactly, does a talented and brilliant Bain consultant and private investor make such “safe” and uninspiring choices to lead his campaign?

    I truly believe there are few individuals that understand or appreciate the principles of the free market and capitalism. Romney’s hired hands obviously didn’t get it because they were unable to successfully market one of the most brilliant financiers in the history of modern America.

    The mistake? Romney should have sought out the few and the brave believers in the value of a hard-earned buck to work the frontlines and forced the Ryans to address the young women/soccer mom contingencies.

  3. Misthiocracy

    Limited-government conservatives will always be stuck in this catch-22:  They/we believe that politics is the devil’s business, so why would limited-government conservatives go through the expense and effort of training for a full-time career in professional political management?

    Progressives do not have this problem since professional political management is a prestige career for them. They call is “community organizing”.

    Social conservatives also have less of this problem because they believe in the power of government to effect change, so a (conservative-oriented) career in professional political management is entirely respectable.

    Limited-government conservatives tend to be people with “real” jobs, who simply want to be left alone until one day they realize that the government has stacked the deck against them.  At that point they start to get involved in politics, in an amateur capacity, and in their spare time.

    It’s like the Simpsons episode:

    Homer: How much does this job pay?

    Carl: Nothing.

    Homer: D’Oh!

    Carl: Unless you’re crooked!

    Homer: Woohoo!

  4. Nanda Panjandrum

    Mr. Long: Respectfully, I found your 12/3/12 NR “The Long View” column’s ‘satire’ with respect to Karl Rove singularly unfunny.  I know you’re angry, but this seems a bit much.

  5. Misthiocracy
    Rob Long:

    And how, exactly, does a talented and brilliant Bain consultant and private investor make such “safe” and uninspiring choices to lead his campaign?

    1. He can only choose from the talent pool that is available to him.

    2. The private equity business is different from the business of professional politics. You might as well ask how successful a talented Bain consultant would be at running a gator farm. It’s simply not his business.
  6. Misthiocracy

    Another analogy:

    Why does limited-government conservative Ron Swanson work for a city government?

    The answer is that he’s not terribly good at anything else.

  7. EThompson
    Misthiocracy

    Rob Long:

    And how, exactly, does a talented and brilliant Bain consultant and private investor make such “safe” and uninspiring choices to lead his campaign?

    1.  It’s simply not his business.

    I don’t disagree with this assessment. I’m immensely frustrated that the American electorate couldn’t make it their business.

  8. KC Mulville

    Well, this has been speculated about before, on Ricochet, but it deserves reflection …

    • The Obama Campaign maximized the use of data-mining.

    • They had their GOTV soldiers working in place for the last four years.
    • That organization is, according to news reports, remaining in place. In fact, the rest of the Democrat Party is complaining that the resources be shared.

    I recall a Ricochet post before the election about how sparse the Republican GOTV operation was. It seems that Romney had to create his own GOTV organization from scratch, and he didn’t get started until after the primaries. Then he had to go up against Obama, who had a four year head start.

    I mean, I’m a database guy. Data is data. What’s to stop the national GOP from starting its operation now? I hope we’re not going to wait until 2016 to start it up from scratch. The party operation goes into hibernation for three and a half years, and then waits for the eventual nominee to take over.

    I say this election proved that’s not going to work anymore. I didn’t believe that before, but I believe it now.

  9. Merina Smith

    The national media was and is still conducting its slobbering love affair with Obama.  The O campaign lied shamelessly about a good man and shamelessly suppressed information about O’s many, many failings, while manufacturing their lies about Romney and various “wars” on various interest groups.  Romney, on the other hand, is a good man who would not engage in the execrable practices routinely perpetrated by the Obamites.  These things, along with an electorate willing to be hoodwinked, are enough to explain the loss.  I for one am tired of the navel-gazing. 

  10. Franciscus

    The GOP is their own enemy, my list of grievances is long and recently justified. Let the liberty tree be refreshed with fresh blood!

  11. Jeff Schulte

    I agree with Rob that there needs to be a purge.  We have too many political pros that are simply not effective.  We need new blood and the Roves, Murphys, and Ferhnstroms needs to make way.  Priebus probably needs to be demoted back to a fundraising role as well.

    We need a permanent political party that is going to work in the off years to build an actual organization and work at the grassroots to persuade people to our way of thinking.  For too long, the Republican Party has been a part time proposition.  We need to take a page from Howard Dean as well and begin the long rebuilding in all 50 states so that we don’t start each national election so far in the hole with too many states written off.

  12. EThompson
    Franciscus:  Let the liberty tree be refreshed with fresh blood!

    Wrong.

    America’s financial dysfunction is far too complex an issue  for 99% of the politicos running for office to comprehend. Mitt Romney was the only person that understood this, experienced this, and could have fixed this.

  13. Tom Lindholtz

    Doesn’t matter.  The Republican Party is dead.  It just hasn’t laid down yet.

  14. flownover

    We ought to slow down to redefine “thin bench” . 

    (1) Having to consider John Kerry as Secretary of Anything, but State ??

    Defense (hahahaha) ? .

    (2) Chuck Hagel

    (3) Susan Ruanda Rice for Secretary of State ?

    (4) Anna Wintour pour ….?!? 

    (5) George A Custer for Secretary of the Interior

    (6) Jay-z to NATO 

    (7) now I know how Geo Metesky felt (stop me before I appoint again)

  15. MichaelC19fan

    “GOP” campaign managers seem to take more pleasure in stabbing us in the back then actually beating Democrats. See Mike Murphy and Steve Schmidt.  

  16. Nathaniel Wright

    Rob,

    The YAF – and groups like it- are great at forming young potential pundits.  We have plenty of future Laura Ingrahams and Sean Hannities.  They focus on teaching young people to become members of a “counter-media.” Look at Ben Shapiro’s career.  He was a brilliant gadfly at UCLA, but now he’s a local radio cohost and Breitbart contributor.

    Look at how the Breitbart people have become more a collection of counter-media, and less a radical counter protest organization since Andrew’s death. Andrew was building grassroots and working to build connections. He would have been an amazing campaign manager. Ben Shapiro should consider it.

    GOPac is doing some good work in this arena. I can think of a couple of very exciting young people from SoCal who have gone on to work for GOPac and are really quite inspiring.

    Oh…and we need to keep fighting for the cities as well.  We need to get young conservatives to run for school boards and city councils. It would be awesome to have the old guard machine city politicians having to complain about these “kids today” trying to implement free market principles in cities. Awesome indeed and subversive.

  17. Roberto
    flownover: We ought to slow down to redefine “thin bench” . 

    (1) Having to consider John Kerry as Secretary of Anything, but State ??

    Defense (hahahaha) ? .

    (2) Chuck Hagel

    (3) Susan Ruanda Rice for Secretary of State ?

    (4) Anna Wintour pour ….?!? 

    (5) George A Custer for Secretary of the Interior

    (6) Jay-z to NATO 

    (7) now I know how Geo Metesky felt (stop me before I appoint again) · 2 hours ago

    Well… it depends on whether your standard is competence in governing  or simply using every angle you can think of to achieve 50.1% of the Electoral College.

    Damn that is an ugly list.  

  18. Franciscus

    The idea that no candidates understand the issues is exactly why the party needs a purge. My wife was willing to poll watch, work for campaigns and do anything the party needed. What did they do? ASK FOR MONEY! This BS is why we loose elections, I guarantee if my wife went to the democrat party with this time and effort they would have put her to work knocking on doors and community organizing.Meanwhile the REP Party was too busy trying to change rules at the convention and figure out how to screw legit constitutionalists out of campaign help.The Republican Party is going to go the way of the Whigs, unless there is a civil war that changes the leadership.

  19. Neolibertarian

    Rob, you know the story, but you can’t see the end.

    It’s like the girl who thinks of you as her best friend. You watch her fail in her relationships over and over, and in the deepest emotional crises, she always turns to you first. It’s your shoulder she cries on.

    “Why do these guys always do this to me?” she asks rhetorically. “Why can’t I find a really good guy, a caring guy…like you?”

    Well, you know the answer (or you’ll know it when you’re finally honest with yourself). It’s because she doesn’t really deserve a guy like you.

    You either suffer, and suffer, and suffer, or you go find a girl who doesn’t torture you by only thinking of you “as a friend.” Who doesn’t insult your feelings by telling you how in love she is with this other guy. A girl with common interests; simpatico; one who isn’t prone to abusive relationships doomed from the start; a girl who doesn’t always pick the wrong guy.

    Why can’t the Republican Party be more like you? Maybe because the Republican Party doesn’t deserve you.