Republicans’ consultant problem — especially in CA

Elephant GraveyardFeb. 15, 2013

By John Seiler

Republicans continue to mull over their two defeats by President Barack Obama. And their virtual dissolution in California, which once produced presidents who won landslides: Nixon and Reagan.

One of the best GOP strategists is Morton Blackwell, whom I met in the mid-1980s when I lived in Washington, D.C. He just wrote a new analysis attacking the party’s increasing dependence on high-paid consultants, “The GOP’s consultant problem.” He doesn’t specifically mention California, but what he says applies here more than elsewhere. He writes:

“Most consultants take a 15% commission (over and above client-paid production costs and his retainer) from media vendors for all placements.”

So for the $180 million of her own money that Meg Whitman spent on her losing 2010 gubernatorial campaign, $27 million went to the consultants — plus production costs and retainers.

Now, get this. The consultant only gets paid for big media splashes on TV and radio. He gets nothing, Blackwell writes, for “precinct organization … Voter ID phone banks … voter registration drives … youth efforts … the election day process to get out the vote.” That is, the essence of politics is avoided by the GOP consultants because it doesn’t earn them a 15 percent commission.

In the 2012 election, as well as in 2010, Democrats excelled at all those things. Maybe it’s a difference of culture. Democrats, especially in California, are dominated by unions, who are used to membership drives and organizing to fight for or against ballot initiatives. They always have had strong grassroots organizations.

By contrast, Republicans have a business background. They think you offer a “product,” put up some ads for it, and people either buy it or they don’t. If they buy it, you make a profit (or win the election); if they don’t buy it, you take a loss (or lose the election) and move on to the next product offering.

Rich candidates

Blackwell specifically attacks, “The suckering of many rich candidates who are falsely led by consultants to believe they can win.”

We certainly saw that in California in 2010 with Whitman’s campaign. The eBay billionaire had no idea what she was getting into. She talked about “running the California government like a business.” But politics isn’t business. Business means offering somebody a product that the purchaser can refuse and buy something else; it’s voluntary. Government is coercion. It’s putting a gun to the heads of taxpayers, taking their money, and spending it on special interests. Elections are, as H.L. Mencken wrote, “the advance auction of stolen goods.”

The same thing happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who thought he could bring his Hollywood bluster and contract negotiating skills to “running the California government like a business.” His personal charisma and the recall circus of 2003 brought him to power; the real-estate boom of the mid-2000s kept him in power in 2006.

But in the end, he was rolled by the Capitol power players for spending increases that blew out the budget and led to his record $13 billion tax increases of 2009. The state economy tanked much faster than the U.S. economy and he left office in disgrace followed by personal scandal.

The consultants to his campaigns took their 15 percent.

In addition to all their other problems, Arnold’s folly took a severe toll on the California Republican Party. After losing his 2005 special election slate of reform initiatives, Arnold shifted fast to the Left, embracing AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. It’s projected to kill 1 million jobs — long after he left office, of course.

And to show how things have changed, in the seven years since then, environmental extremists no longer even refer to “global warming,” but to “climate change,” which President Obama referred to three times in his State of the Union address this week. That way, any bout of bad weather becomes an excuse to increase government control over our lives vastly more than it already does to prevent a potential ecological catastrophe.

The result was that Arnold tarnished what was left of the anti-tax, small-government “brand” of the California GOP. Some say that was a good thing because they needed to move away from “extreme” right-wing positions. But now the CA GOP has no brand at all. It’s even losing seats in the Legislature in former Republican strongholds such as Orange County.

Blackwell recommends a return to grassroots organizing and online efforts such as those that have worked for the Demcorats. Incoming CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte is recommending something similar. In California, it’s going to take a lot more than that. But it’s a start.




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  1. Consultants are a big part of the problem
    Consultants are a big part of the problem 15 February, 2013, 09:35

    Political consultants are human like the rest of us; they want to be rich, and if some rich executive with limited political experience wants to take an ego trip and pursue government statesmanship, the consultants are happy to oblige at a rate that the client is willing to accept.

    A rich newbie candidate is a sitting duck!

    We’ll see a few rich ones running for governor in 2014, with the same result.

    If you remember Al Checchi, you know that Democrats can fall into this trap too.

    Reply this comment
  2. double l
    double l 15 February, 2013, 13:06

    There was a prominent rancher in the Mid-West who was widely known for the quality livestock that his ranch produced. One year he found himself in a cash flow squeeze so he invited his banker out to the ranch for lunch, specifically to admire his prized bull. This bull had sired many grand prize winning cattle through out the area. As they were sitting on his patio, they watched the bull in an adjacent pasture. The bull put on a magnificent show, stomping, pawing the ground, snorting, bucking, and charging the fence of the pasture next to his pen. The cause of the exhibition was a young heifer that was coming into heat. All of a sudden the bull charged the fence and made a graceful leap. At that moment they heard a terrible scream, a loud thud, and a strange thp,thp,thp coming from the barbed wire fence. They abandoned their lunch and ran over to the bull who was in terrible agony. The Vet was called and the bull (now a steer) was sedated and patched up. The banker turned to the rancher and said that his services were no longer needed, the rancher replied “But he would make one helluva consultant”.

    Reply this comment
  3. us citizen
    us citizen 15 February, 2013, 14:13

    Well this explains why in every election in CA…… one knows who the republican candidate is!

    You also cant tell the gimme gimme crowd……that things are going to be ran like a good tight business…….because they KNOW, their free stuff would come to an end.

    We are doomed.

    Reply this comment
  4. Douglas
    Douglas 15 February, 2013, 19:04

    ” Government is coercion. It’s putting a gun to the heads of taxpayers, taking their money, and spending it on special interests.”

    Government is obviously not perfect (nor is “business”), but I feel sorry for you. Maybe you’re in the wrong business.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 16 February, 2013, 05:43

    Government is obviously not perfect (nor is “business”), but I feel sorry for you. Maybe you’re in the wrong business.
    Like the buisness of public unions-scamming and stealing.

    Reply this comment
  6. Hondo
    Hondo 16 February, 2013, 09:02

    I give full credit to the democrats. They are far better at politics than the Republicans are.
    They are masters of the low information voters.

    Reply this comment
  7. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 16 February, 2013, 11:07

    Hondo- the party dominance comes and goes, in the early 980’s it was Rugs for 12 hardcore years, Clinton changed that, the Bush changed it back, mark my words, it will change again……………..I personally think both the parties are special interest whores and have been Independent for 15

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 16 February, 2013, 11:12

    stoopid auto correct

    Reply this comment
  9. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 16 February, 2013, 20:14

    Oh Rex, I wondered if you were talking about leaders with toupees.

    Reply this comment

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