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White House Cheat Sheet: Searching for the GOP Alternative

The White House at dusk. AP Photo by Ron Edmonds

Even as President Obama signs his $787 billion economic stimulus package into law today in Denver, Colo. a handful of prominent Republicans are positioning themselves as the leading opponents of the plan in hopes of raising their national profiles in the years to come.

Devastated by across-the-board defeats at the presidential, Senate and House level over the past two elections, the GOP is looking for voices to lead them out of the political wilderness, and Obama's stimulus plan provides the first real opportunity for Republicans to make the alternative case regarding a fix for the economy.

To date three Republicans have moved quickly to claim the title of lead economic spokesman for the party: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.).

Romney, who ran a Republican primary campaign in 2008 based on his prowess in the private sector, is the most natural fit for the job. Since the November election, Romney has penned op-eds in opposition to the auto industry bailout and the stimulus plan and has a full schedule over the next few months including a speech on the economy at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 27, and an address to the annual meeting of the Club For Growth in Florida on March 7. Romney is also keeping up his active fundraising -- doing an event for noted fiscal conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) on Feb. 17 in Boston.

"From having spent a career in the private sector, Governor Romney has some ideas on what it will take to get the economy moving again," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. "He's going to continue to speak out on this and other subjects because he cares deeply about a strong and prosperous America."

Sanford's resume, unlike Romney's, is primarily in public life where he spent six years in the late 1990s in Congress before being elected governor of the Palmetto State in 2002. Throughout that time, Sanford has been vigilant -- to the point of drawing significant ire from many of his Republican colleagues -- about limiting spending and shrinking government.

Way back in November Sanford wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "Don't Bail Out My State" and has stuck to his guns throughout the recent stimulus fight -- leading a group of Republican governors to urge that their colleagues in Congress vote against the legislation. "He was against earmarks and big spending before it was cool, even voting against earmarks for his own district," said Jon Lerner, a consultant to Sanford.

And, Sanford, too, is working to keep a high profile on the issue -- serving as the keynote speaker at this week's California Republican Party spring convention in Sacramento as well as at CPAC's gathering in Washington next week.

The last contender is the least likely -- Cantor won his current leadership position following the 2008 election and, of the three men, is by far the least well known nationally.

But, Cantor proved himself an able defender of core Republican principles during the recent fight in Congress over the economic stimulus package -- a profile that earned him a front-page feature by the New York Times' Adam Nagourney.

All three men have national ambitions, whether in 2012 or beyond. And, it's not too early to see these attempts to emerge as the leading economic voice in the party as a precursor to that broader fight down the line.

In politics (as in life), every action tends to produce an equal and opposite reaction. When the president signs his economic stimulus bill today, watch for the pull in the other direction.

Sked Stuff: President Obama heads to Denver to mark the first major accomplishment of his presidency -- the signing of the $787 economic stimulus plan. Why Denver? The unemployment rate in December 2008 was 6.3 percent -- up half a percent from the month before. More than 1,000 Denver-area homes were foreclosed in December and home values have plummeted by 15 percent since November.

The Best/Worst Presidents Ever: Regular Fix readers know of our admiration (love?) for C-SPAN. So, you can imagine our excitement when we heard that the network had polled 65 presidential historians to get their opinions of the best and worst presidents of the United States. The top five: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The bottom five: Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison (he died in 30 days!), Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and last -- and least -- James Buchanan. The highest ranking president of recent vintage is Ronald Reagan (#10) followed by Bill Clinton (#15) and George H.W. Bush (#18). George W. Bush fared poorly (#36) -- the seventh worst of all time. There's SO much more in this survey including the presidents ranked by their ability to persuade the public (FDR is #1) to their ability to manage the economy (Washington takes top honors). Need to impress your friends and/or vanquish your enemies? Check out this handy-dandy way to memorize all of the presidents -- in order!

Meek Gets Labor Backing: Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek scored an early coup in his bid for the 2010 Democratic Senate nomination on Monday -- securing the endorsement of the state and national Service Employees International Union, a major player in organized labor politics. Meek is one of two announced Democratic candidates in the race to replace retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R). State Sen. Dan Gelber is also in the Democratic race and Rep. Ron Klein and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio are considering the race. The Republican field is frozen for the moment as popular Gov. Charlie Crist mulls a bid. A recent poll showed Crist comfortably ahead of all of the potential Democrats.

Click It!: Post metro columnist Marc Fischer has been looking at each of the three Democrats running for governor in Virginia and, this past weekend, he took on the task of profiling Terry "The Macker" McAuliffe. Fischer is suspect of McAuliffe's intentions (the piece leads off to the idea that if Hillary Clinton had been elected president then McAuliffe might be Commerce Secretary today) but accurately gets at McAuliffe's relentless combination of fundraising capacity -- critical in a state where there are no contributions limits -- and seemingly boundless energy and optimism. Writes Fischer: "McAuliffe paints himself as a potential cheerleader-in-chief, dipping into his barrelful of blarney to charm and cajole businesses into locating in Virginia." Well said. Like him or hate him, it's hard not to pay attention to McAuliffe. (Fischer's profiles of former state Rep. Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds are also well worth reading.)

McCaskill Hires: Remember a few cheat sheets ago when we told Fixistas that Sen. Claire McCaskill, a close ally of President Obama and a star Twitterer, was in the market for a chief of staff? No longer. McCaskill has hired Julie Dwyer, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Bobby Etheridge (D-N.C.), to fill the void left by Sean Kennedy's departure to the White House.

Say What?: "I'd admonish you to never believe what you read in the papers, but I know that's awkward, given my present company." -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs briefing reporters aboard Air Force One en route from Chicago to Washington on Monday.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 17, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: 1,000 Words: The Winners
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uh, Mr. President, can I have 5 billion more dollars ?????

please, i need to get some gas for my GM car.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | February 17, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

aww, Chris, you really miss your old Repub contacts, don't you?
If people only read your post on Romney and a group of Repub governors, you would think they were against the Stimulus.
Read this NYT article, Chris, and
CORRECT your statement.
Obama Gains Support From G.O.P. Governors

Posted by: spenceradams | February 17, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Go for it "Republican boys!" President Obama and the rest of us are taking full responsibility for the stimulus package. By the way, we're going to want another one because you right wing fools put $70 billion in it for tax breaks to the rich --zero stimulus according to every economist I can find on the web. You think you set us up to fail....never, ever underestimate Barack Obama. The trick just hasn't been pulled out of our collective sleeve yet. When it is, your party is finished. So, bark all you want.

Posted by: debbieqd | February 17, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I have an idea ... why not have a new and viable third party... maybe we could expose that the current two party system is just window dressing.

Posted by: newbeeboy | February 17, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Give it break, Chris! The GOP isn't an alternative. The real problem is that the Democrats are acting exactly like those morons. Every time I see Geithner and Summer's, a pair of clueless classic free traitors and Wall Street hacks, my blood turns to ice. These fools aren't really trying to save the "economy", they are attempting to save their globalization fantasy. Oh, they believe that free trade and all of the claptrap blathered about is the future and cannot fathom how it could have landed us in our present straights. These fools actually still trot out the "mortgage" and "banking" mantra. Fix those, they blather, and everything else will just fall into place. Well, it wont, and, in the end, even if it takes the total destruction of the United States, one way or another, free trade is over! No country can hope to survive on Geithner's "service based economy" fantasy. Any vibrant economy needs an industrial and manufacturing base, new technology and science. Under Geithner's free trade delussion, those were used as bargaining chips and simply squandered. We have no industrial base! And please don't point to GM. "American made" cars, aren't. They are 80% foreign manufactured. A Toyota has a greater percentage of U.S. build parts than anything sold by Ford, GM, or Chysler! No, as I have been writing all along, the point of no return happens in late March or April. After then, the sock market will crash. Really crash - 6500 or lower and there is no possibility whatsoever of recovering. Either the Democrat and the Republican's face the fact that complete and total disaster WILL happen and or something about it right now, or we (and THEY) face a Fall and Winter so destructive, so awful, filled with so many deaths, hunger, riots, so much social unrest, that it is unimaginable, and it WILL lead to the end of this country and WILL cost the lives of many of the gasbags dithering around right this minute up on Capital Hill and writing inane comments on forums just like this one. The Four Horsemen are loose and we have almost no time in which to reign them in.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | February 17, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

As TheBabeNemo says the Reps need to get hip and up-to-date. The thought of printing trillions of $$$ and spending it to gain prosperity never crossed the minds of those old fogies.

Posted by: leapin | February 17, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful Simpsons reference on William Henry Harrison.

Posted by: Flizzo | February 17, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

because, in general, governors don't mean jack in Wash D.C. Once a year Wash DC bigwigs have a "Governor's Conference", whereby the wish list is given to Wash DC.
Then they go home and that is it.
Wash DC does not like Governors. They are not considered power players--the Senators and House Reps are because they VOTE.

Republicans are stuck in the "greatest generation tabu(s) and political correctness of 60 to 75 years ago". they have NOT EVEN ventured into the new "societal behavior" we see today. Good keywords here...staunch, steadfast, non-bending (this is my house and as long as you live under my roof, you will do as i say.
It really is time to say "get hip". And supplying everyone with blackberries isn't going to do it!

Why is it when a person goes to Washington they lose touch with the basic needs of the people of their state?
Alleged and Assumed Power.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | February 17, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Congressional Republicans are out of touch with the realties facing Republican governors in their states. Several Republican governors favored the stimulus bill, so why didn't their Congressional counterparts do the same?

Why aren't the Republicans in Congress working with their Republican governors for the benefit of their state and for the benefit of all Americans?

Sticking to conservative principles has gotten us no where. It's only gotten us into two wars -created a trillion dollar debt; government deregulation - creating an out of control wall street and banking industry; a broken down educational and health care system. It's time they wake up and get off their conservative horses and face the realties of life that right now we need to pay for programs that will help our nation to climb out of the hole we're in and yes we do need a government that is fully committed to seeing that every penny is properly spent and not squandered.

The Democrats in power don't have it right either. They need to stop flexing their muscles and use their brain power to find a way to work with the Republicans and to pass programs that are not filled with pork for their state but to fund programs that benefit the United States.

Why is it when a person goes to Washington they lose touch with the basic needs of the people of their state? So many states are facing the same problems with funding health care and education programs,housing foreclosures, job losses - making these issues a national problem requiring a Congressional solution.

Maybe all the millions of out of work Americans, or those who have no health insurance should surround Congress and fill the mall and stage a sit in and not allow members of Congress to leave until they can work together to pass substantial and meaninful legislation.

The automakers and others should stop paying lobbyists and spend that money on shoring up their companies. That should be a requirement of any bailout money they receive - they must stop paying lobbyists.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | February 17, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

chris was late in posting today. baby fix.

so "the GOP is looking for voices to lead them out of the political wilderness"

how about this: THE POWER OF OBAMA COMPELS YOU !!!

"Governor Romney has some ideas on what it will take to get the economy moving again."..... oh is that right;
like what? haven't heard nary a peep out of Mr. Clean Sheets.

AND---the Palmetto State-isn't that a bug? I kill palmettos down here in arizona.

and cantor....geez, puhleeze.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | February 17, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Repuglicans: Knights Who Say No!

Posted by: hiberniantears | February 17, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Naturally, Mark Sanford and all those other GOP governors won't be taking their part of the stimulus, right? Naturally they will stick to their principles and turn it down.

When I see that happen, I will beleive that their opposition is something other than their usual raw partisanship.

And as for this, 'provides the first real opportunity for Republicans to make the alternative case regarding a fix for the economy' -- they've had plenty of opportunity, but so far we've heard nothing. Romney says he has ideas -- where are they? All I've seen is lies about the stimulus -- outright lies, which the media willingly transmits for them.

They have absolutely nothing to add, no ideas, just a recycled idealogical hash which amounts to repeating all the mistakes that got us where we are today -- which they continue to scream at the top of their lungs. A great deal of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by: drindl | February 17, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Olroy the Magnificent –

1) Foster public greed & self-interest by pandering with tax cuts, too-easy credit, & greasing the path for financial sharks to prosper.
Replace “tax cuts” with “porkulus”. Replace too-easy credit with “government intimidation of lenders” (CRA, etc.)

2) Pander to public fear by creating enemies, foreign & domestic, thus fostering public support for wars & foreign adventures.

Replace” pander to public fear” with “Fearbamics” (formerly hope and change).
3) Finance the enterprise with borrowed money, thus creating our current economic debacle.
Replace “borrowed money” with porkulus again. You should be learning.

Posted by: leapin | February 17, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I am beginning to question the stereotype that McAuliffe is so full of energy and so outgoing. Maybe he's worn out at this point.

I saw both Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe at the Old Town parade yesterday (no sign of Deeds unless I missed him). Moran shook me by hand, looked me in the eye, and seemed rested and outgoing--a normal, positive politician enjoying being in a local parade.

I was really looking forward to a jolt of that McAuliffe energy, but when he went by me, he looked weary, didn't relate the crowd (which stood one foot away), and was talking to someone walking with him in a grumpy way. I know we all have down moments, but that's a strange time to have one.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 17, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

How many times can an old brand be rolled out: Mitt is anything but the answer in economist circles. Sanford reveals himself to be just another blowhard politician in campaigning against the stimulus, but more than willing to accept his state check.

Cantor definitely has potential, but didn't you once say that about a Republican Senator who was touted by his base to be the next Presidential candidate, only to flame out? He certainly has shown he's Rove-trainable,he can speak for Bennett values, and he can pronounce complete sentences.

They are all more brandable than the Alaska or Arizona version of "mavericky" and "country first mountaindew".

Posted by: Quan1 | February 17, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

They're doing what most ambitious politicians will do in a time of crisis: attract attention and try to grab some power. Unfortunately for them, trying to grab the reins of today's Republican Party is a bit like seizing command of the Titanic after it's struck the iceberg and taking on water with the intent of sailing it to port. Given the outcome of the last eight years of Republican leadership, most of the passengers are looking for survival, not "stay on board and have another drink of the spiked Kool-Aid that helped us navigate to where we are."

Granted, the Republicans need new leadership, but first they need a new ship going in a direction other than down (South).

And I say that as someone who voted Republican for 26 years but will never vote for them nationally again unless they change more than the talking heads spouting their 30-year old talking points.

Posted by: Gallenod | February 17, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The Fix writes
"Devastated by across-the-board defeats at the presidential, Senate and House level over the past two elections, the GOP is looking for voices to lead them out of the political wilderness, and Obama's stimulus plan provides the first real opportunity for Republicans to make the alternative case regarding a fix for the economy."

The GOP strategy pursued thus far is doomed for failure. They are too focused on being against anything Dem and/or Obama, and not enough 'for' something. Rahm's comments may have been impolitic, but he's correct: a crisis is an opportunity for dramatic change. The Republicans need to change their thinking & look at the existing economic crisis as an opportunity. Until they do that, and come up with a message that plausibly addresses the manifold crises we face, they continue to only marginalize themselves.

Regarding The Fix v 2.0, did I miss an announcement, or is today merely the due date? If the former, congrats to familia Fix!

Posted by: bsimon1 | February 17, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

vbhoomes: Agree with your comments on GW Bush. History will end up ranking him where he truly belongs -- at the very bottom.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | February 17, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse


Surveys reveal the social bias, the cultural background and the value content of the surveymaker. A much better synthesis with this board of august and knowledgeable historians would have been not to contrast best and worst, but to study the most "influential" in terms of their ability to set the direction of the country and affect generations of Americans after they leave the Presidency. We would have then discovered a subtle, yet profound, connection between the 10th and the 37th ranked Presidents. One seeked to emulate the other in his capacity to deceive and sabotage the infrastructure of our society. We should thank God he failed miserably. We could hardly stand the continuing undoing of the American dream begun by the Great Grade B Actor.

Can the Post follow up on this? It would be a question for our times: how can a consumer greed-based economy bail itself out from the campaign mode of political lies and bail-out baindaids? May be the next C-Span focus group can reveal the answers of real Americans, not Joe the Plumber, not Johnny Maverick.

Posted by: Quan1 | February 17, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Kstack –

If you were a giver and not a taker you might have a different attitude. Remember if you don’t pay taxes or you don’t think they are high enough then just write an additional checks to the US Treasury.

Posted by: leapin | February 17, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Cantor - "an able defender of core Republican principles" - Indeed.

"Core Republican principles" demonstrated over the past quarter century are:

1) Foster public greed & self-interest by pandering with tax cuts, too-easy credit, & greasing the path for financial sharks to prosper.

2) Pander to public fear by creating enemies, foreign & domestic, thus fostering public support for wars & foreign adventures.

3) Finance the enterprise with borrowed money, thus creating our current economic debacle.

Whatever Republicans say, that is what they did.

The fundamental rule of economics is this: "If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall."

Seeking political advantage, Republicans ignored this rule by cutting the government's income (taxes), increasing the government's outgo (expenditures - contrary to their professed principles) & borrowing to pay the bills. That set of principles cannot succeed forever, as our current economy demonstrates.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, Republicans bamboozled us with sweet-talk, threats, & promises not kept. The poorest among us have suffered, the richest have prospered mightily, many Americans & foreigners have died unnecessarily.

Until Republicans come up with statements of principle that are not tired old shibboleths diametrically opposite their actual accomplishments, their "core principles," will be merely empty platitudes.

Posted by: olroy | February 17, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Totally agree with you Mark about JFK, how they rank him so high simply defies his actual record. I believe its bases mostly on the out pouring of grief when he was killed. I mean how can they rank him that high when he left himself open to blackmail with all of his mistresses and postitutes he brought into the White House. The Soviets, Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover and so one,, could had exposed him at anytime. What did they get in return for being quiet?

Posted by: vbhoomes | February 17, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Willy A is correct . Those states whose senators voted so adamantly against the Stimulus bill should get NOTHING. Half if the senators from a state split - one for one against. A lesser share only to those House districts whose member supported the bill. These Republicans say they were voting their principles and the will of their constituents might be singing a less hypocritical tune if there was some consequence to their opposition-- more than 2, 4 or 6 years out.

Posted by: jmsbh | February 17, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

bhoomes, the high rating for JFK is more perplexing. Rating him higher than Polk and Jackson, or Ike and LBJ, or Madison?

I loved JFK when I was 17. He was "cool".
And I think these historians are over-rating "cool" as a presidential quality.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 17, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

so...shall we assume that these intransigent Republicans will spurn the bailout cash that would be allocated for their state?

If not, then everything they say is nothing more than political posturing and cheap theatrics.

See ya at the 2010 polls, losers! ROTFL!

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | February 17, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

What they failed to mentioned, the Historians ranking the Presidents are democratic flaks like Douglas Brinkley, Doris Goodwin, etc. No serious Historian would even attempt to rank a President when he hasn't been out of office less than a year. How can you judge W yet? what if there are a bunch of major terrorist attacks on american soil in the next couple of years, wouldd't his stock go way up then. You need at LEAST a generation even before you take a stab at judging them.

Posted by: vbhoomes | February 17, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

How does Obama deal with angry conservatives willing to say anything to further their 2012 prospects?


Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 17, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the presidents' list - it may absorb my "Fix" time while you are falling in love with your new baby and taking FMLA leave! Good luck to you and yours.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 17, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Romney, Sanford and Canton=3 Blind Mice!

Posted by: NotBubba | February 17, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Romney isn't thought of very highly in Venture Capital circles, to put it very, very, mildly.

Posted by: svreader | February 17, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Baby Fix today! I'm so happy for you both!

Posted by: holsberga | February 17, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Who these guys are is all very interesting, but what do they want to DO? Surely you don't think "stop the Democrats, don't do the bailout" is a viable strategy for the country, as they apparently do. Surely you remember "all tax cuts, all the time" was what got us here.

Posted by: kstack | February 17, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

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