JMart Does Politics & Eggs, Impending Candidacy Rumored
GOFFSTOWN – When Politico reporter Jonathan Martin attends the New England Council’s Politics & Eggs breakfasts, he’s usually there with his notepad covering some politician thinking about running for president. But on Friday at Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics, it was Martin who took the podium as the featured speaker. Martin is coming out with an e-book next week, The End of the Line, co-written with Glenn Rush, about the 2012 presidential campaign.
“President Obama was reelected not last month but last spring,” Martin said. Quoting Haley Barbour, Martin said the Obama campaign used the spring to spend money to define Mitt Romney as “an out of touch plutocrat married to a known equestrian” and a “latter-day Gordon Gekko.”
In a sign of the extent to which Romney was involved in the details of his own campaign, the candidate maintained a point system by which he placed value on his time for campaign activity, asking staff not to schedule him for more than 900 points of activity a day, Martin described.
He noted that in 1992, 1996, and 2008, Republicans generally expected they were going to lose going into election day but that this year, Republicans genuinely expected they were going to win. As a result of this gap between expectations and reality, the loss was that much tougher to take and Republicans are “in a bit of shell-shock” since the election.
The problem for Republicans goes much deeper than a failure to win support from Hispanics, which Martin quoted an operative as calling “putting a sombrero on an elephant.” The problem is one of explaining why Republican policies will help the middle class. Martin predicted that this issue will become the major debate within the Republican Party in the coming year, as leaders like Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal try to re-point the party.
Martin also said the Obama campaign set a new standard for a quality campaign and is way ahead of where the Republicans are now. Martin observed that “the smartest people in Silicon Valley” are applying their modern technologies to Democratic campaigns – not to Republicans.
Martin said there is a “House of Clinton” and a “House of Bush” looming over both parties as they look to 2016. Martin said the most likely scenario he sees is one in which Hillary Clinton runs and has a primary similar to what Al Gore faced with Bill Bradley in 2000 – more of a nuisance than a real threat. He noted that President Obama has not re-shaped the party in a lasting way the same way Bill Clinton did. He said Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emanuel have taken centrist positions on unions and labor issues, while Elizabeth Warren could run from the progressive left.
Martin said one thing that has surprised him after the elections is the lack of formation of a Republican version of the Democratic Leadership Council, the more centrist-leaning group created in the wake of the Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis defeats. He noted that few party leaders have publicly called out the Tea Party, either – a sign of the group’s continued influence among candidates interested in primary voters.
He quoted Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, who worries about a “win in the off years only party.” That is, Republicans can win in elections when the electorate looks similar to what it was 30 years ago – older, whiter – but not in presidential years when the electorate is more representative of today’s demographics.
During Q&A, Martin cited a broader trend that has contributed to polarized politics: The fact that most members of Congress won their re-election with more than 60% of the vote. Such members, Martin pointed out, only have to win their primaries to be elected, and therefore have a political incentive to please only their ideological bases. Martin said voters share some responsibility for this outcome as well. “To be fair to politicians, the country is more polarized, too.”
Martin is skeptical that efforts within Republican leadership to limit the number of debates in the next campaign will work because doing so is not in the interest of most candidates or the cable networks, for which debates are “great box office.” There’s “no such thing as too much if you’re CNN or FOX,” Martin said.
Fergus@ferguscullen.com, December 14, 2012