Skip to comments.Autopsy 2012: Blame the Consultants? CPAC headliners urge GOP to rethink how it uses paid “experts.”
Posted on 03/18/2013 7:05:27 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
For as long as hes been president, Barack Obama, has been the top target for attack at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. D.C. But this year, there may have been a close second: the Republican political-consultant class, which many CPAC attendees blame for the partys poor 2012 showing.
Newt Gingrich bashed them for being out of step, Sarah Palin called on activists to furlough the consultants, pollster Kellyanne Conway railed against a staff infection, and Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, told me that the last thing we want is for the anti-conservative professional class to be infiltrating our ranks.
But Pat Caddell, a Democratic consultant and former pollster for such presidential candidates as Jimmy Carter, Jerry Brown, and Gary Hart, left the most blood on the floor. He headlined a CPAC panel the title of which left no one guessing: Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?
The Republican party is in the grips of the CLEC the consultant, lobbyist, and establishment complex, he began. He described CLEC as a self-serving, interlocked network of Beltway bandits for whom success in securing large fees trumps achieving political victories.
Ever since we centralized politics in Washington, the House campaign committee and the Senate campaign committee . . . decide who they think should run, he declared. You hire these people on the accredited list [they say to candidates], otherwise we wont give you money. You hire my friend or else. He concluded that Republican donors were too often played for marks or suckers by the consultant class. His comments call to mind an old saying from playwright David Mamet: If youre in the con game and you dont know who the mark is, youre the mark.
In my party, we play to win, Caddell said. You people play for a different kind of agenda. He acknowledged that Democrats had their own incestuous interconnections but insisted that Republicans have a bigger problem when it comes to self-dealing. When Democratic consultants fail, they get sent to the minors until their win-loss rate improves, he told me afterward. I dont see that happening with GOP consultants often enough. They fail upwards. He singled out the Romney campaign for a failure of strategy, a failure of tactics, most of all a total failure of imagination. He noted that one-quarter of voters who wanted to repeal Obamacare wound up voting to reelect its architect; similarly, one-fifth of voters who wanted smaller government voted for Obama.
Without directly taking on Romney, Republican National Committee member Morton Blackwell, from Virginia, joined Caddell in criticizing the practice of many campaigns of allowing consultants to take a commission when they score media placements, which skews the campaigns efforts away from grassroots efforts and direct contacts with voters for which no commission is paid. He blames the overreliance on paid consultants for the looting of millions of dollars and the general decline of citizen participation in politics.
Former Romney staffers I spoke with called the comments by Caddell and Blackwell over the top. They pointed out that whatever other campaigns do, their team paid flat fees to consultants for media work. And the most visible failure of the campaign the Election Day crash of the ORCA program that was supposed to allow volunteers to use smartphones to mobilize voters had no impact on their get-out-the-vote efforts, they believe. (In truth, the failure of ORCA confused and demoralized thousands of volunteers and gummed up the overall work of voter mobilization.)
No matter how much blame consultants should shoulder for the 2012 defeats, its clear that campaigns must devote a lot more attention to consultants activities. Politics has indeed become a big business; at the same time, the political community in Washington has remained relatively small. The temptation to dole out back-scratching contracts and run retread campaign messages is powerful.
Thats why Republican donors and candidates should pay a lot of attention to the RNCs announcement on Monday of its report on the failures of the 2012 campaign. Chairman Reince Preibus calls it an internal review, while others deem it an autopsy. Among the subjects it will address is the need to restructure the presidential-primary process and better engage minority voters. But early drafts of the plan also suggested that the GOP realizes it must rethink how it picks consultants. Morton Blackwell told me he had confidence the report would address his concerns. Pat Caddell told CPAC attendees he believed it would be a whitewash.
So the political world eagerly awaits the RNC report. There is more than enough blame to go around for last Novembers defeats, but not enough solid discussion about which problems to tackle first. The RNC autopsy may be a good starting point for that crucial analysis.
John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.
I’m with Caddell — it will be a whitewash.
the so called “experts” have proved to be completely idiotic and wrong
what we need is someone to come up with a voting machine that cannot be tampered with and replace all those lying cheating heads of election bureaus with honest folks of integrity
It’s not just the consultants.
The GOP is a steaming pile of garbage on top of using stupid consultants.
They stand for nothing, John Boehner is a ****ing a**hole, and the house just re-eleted him as speaker.
Good to see a lot of people have identified the key problem. The beltway political machine has utterly failed for 10 years running. I tip my hat for Rove’s 2000 campaign, because it was well managed, well messaged, and properly turned out all parts of the base. That was a great campaign. 2004 was underwhelming. They damn near let an easy win slip away, and many have argued it was the Swift Boat Vets and others that carried Bush over the finish line. From 2006 to present, the RNC political machine has utterly failed. 2010 was a grassroots success...and in many cases against the will of the DC political class. Then, they went into motion to get the freshman ‘in line’, and weeded out those with independent streaks through redistricting (we lost Allen West and Sandy Adams in FL due to our own party).
2012 was a top down, consultancy class cycle, and the White House race and Senate races were abysmal. While the Romney team had their good moments, their over strategy and game plan was horrible incorrect. A lot of good people we were sidelined, and important voting blocks like the libertarians and tea-partiers were dismissed during the convention and told to go hide so the party would not be embarrassed. The political class messaging and strategy ruled the day, and the result was pathetic. We need a hotshot up and comer the likes of Lee Atwater to rise up and change this trajectory, or we’ll have more of the same.
A good candidate should not need a consultant....Reagan didn’t need one.
The need for a consultant suggests that the candidate has no core beliefs, and they are just acting in a way they think will get them elected......Hence we get “Etch-a-Sketch” candidates like Romney.
Consultants can be helpful. But when consultants say that we must call “evil” “good”, so as not to offend those who hate us, then ...
Not necessarily -- a consultant or other form of candidate training, can be useful in taking a candidate's message, fine-tuning it, and preparing responses to the "gotcha" questions that will be coming.
But the candidate has to provide the message. When the consultants are in charge of developing the candidate's positions, that's a bad situation.
I truly believe some of these “experts” advising republicans are plants, paid by both sides. It would be very simple to do, urge republican candidates to hold back when they should attack. Of course, many of them require very little urging.
this entire conversation is retarded. we lost because we insisted on nominating the one guy in the entire party that could NOT run against obamacare because he basically invented it.
one more time, we nominated the guy that came in second last time, irrespective of almost every other consideration. it was stupid.
I’d pay them minimum wage, plus a huge bonus contingent on winning.
I don’t win, you don’t eat...
I don't see it that way, this is the biggest job in the world, I would expect that a candidate should have the skills to do those things on their own, they should be savvy enough to handle it.
Yep. and in ‘08 they selected the one candidate who could not challenge obama’s lack of constitutional qualifications because he himself was foreign born.
Madoff was an expert too.You don’t always get what you pay for,all else fails think.
First, hire only those consultants that can prove a winning record. If a consultant has a winning record at the local level then he can he hired for a state-level race. The same applies to state level elections.
Second, pay the consultants the bulk of their monies 45 days after the election.
Third, have a penalty clause in all consultant contracts - the greater the loss the higher the penalties.
Like most things political in nature the professional political consultant gets paid no matter how badly they perform. This doesn't happen in most other businesses or forms of gambling, so where here?
Having consultants who agree with the candidate should be priority #1, and I see no mention of that above. Ideology is everything. First on my “Must Fire” list is the fellow who sabatoged Sarah Palin in 2008. I think he was the head idiot for Romney.
Any SOB who refuses to swear allegience to the candidate who hires him should be out the door within the hour. Too many of these puny rat bastards think it’s about them.
This isn't just about "the biggest job in the world", but also all of the lesser political offices, right down to the local dog-catcher. There are plenty of people with the right ideas and drive, but few of them have so much natural talent that they can successfully take on politics by themselves, without any training or assistance.
As long as the consultants are helping you put out your message effectively, they're useful and helpful. When that start helping you put out their message -- or worse, where they downplay any message at all in favor of being an "inoffensive" candidate -- then they're a dangerous menace.
President is just a little bit different than all of those other offices.
Yes, it is. But were not the “consultants” such as Rove a factor as well in the House and Senate races? Why limit the discussion to just President?
What about Shrum? That guy has to be the Way Back Wasdin of Democratic political consultants, yet he sticks in the majors for some reason.