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Bill Frist's Big Donor Pitch

For anyone discounting Bill Frist's chances in the 2008 presidential race, a recent meeting of high-dollar donors should give them pause.

Two weekends ago in Nashville, the Senate Majority Leaders hosted his fifth annual Volunteer political action committee gathering to raise cash for 2006 Senate candidates. The event featured Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), as well as Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (Md.), former Safeco Insurance CEO Mike McGavick (Wash.), state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (N.J.) and Rep. Mark Kennedy (Minn.), giving the candidates a chance to meet, greet and woo key Frist backers.

But the real news came from a Sunday meeting of roughly 90 prominent GOP fundraisers who came together to discuss Frist's 2008 plans. The group, from states like New York, Connecticut, Illinois and Florida among others, included 10 individuals who served as either "Pioneers" or "Rangers" for President George W. Bush during his 2004 campaign. Pioneers raised $100,000 for the Bush effort, Rangers $200,000. AmeriGroup CEO Jeff McWaters, Tennessee fundraiser Ted Welch and New York financier Paul Singer -- all Pioneers in 2004 -- attended the Frist event.

Alex Vogel, Frist's top political aide, gave a presentation showing that Frist is one of a handful of potential candidates who can raise the tens (and perhaps hundreds) of millions of dollars needed to compete effectively in the 2008 primaries and general election. Since being installed as Senate leader in late 2002, Frist has doled out millions through VOLPAC and, of late, has spent millions prospecting for donors -- an effort aimed at broadening his financial base heading into 2008.

Vogel's presentation was also aimed at disputing the conventional wisdom that the majority of Bush fundraisers are already signed on with Sen. John McCain (Ariz).

"Perception in politics rarely matches reality," said one Frist adviser who was granted anonymity so that he could speak freely about the private meeting. "The reality is that there are four people [who are able] to raise the resources to potentially be the Republican nominee." Aside from McCain and Frist, Sen. George Allen (Va.) and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are typically included in that group.

McCain has been the most aggressive in courting key figures from the Bush-Cheney fundraising machine. But by and large, none of these elite fundraisers (known as Super Rangers for raising $300,000 or more for the Republican National Committee) has signed on with a candidate -- suggesting that the fight for fundraising dominance is far from over.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 1, 2006; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Yes, the federal judges issue starts next week with Brent Kavanagh, who was nominated in 2003. Frist says the vote will take place before Memorial Day, and if he wants to show how smart he is, he will keep the Senate in session, day and night until the Democrats are too tired to keep filibustering. If Frist has any ba**s, he will use them to show he has the leadership needed to become President. If the Democrats roll over Frist, then he is a flat GOP pancake, a wimp.
Terrance Boyle is another judge blocked by the Democrats. The gridlock caused by the Democrats has caused judical emergenices, vacant unfilled seats, and delaying the justice system. Shame on the Democrats for this continued mess.
There are almost 15 new Republican Senators who have been elected since Bush became President, but the old hack Democrats are still dragging out that old dead body of Bill Clinton, just listen their ghost haunting the Senate chamber, "how many judges got delayed in Clinton Adminstration?" You hear it all the time, and it is just payback, with more venom and spite than any Republican ever gave any judge by Clinton. Go back and read the Senate testimony. The Democrats are using slander and personal assassination to try to block judges and if the voters stay by and accept it, then woe to them when a Democrat gets elected president. There will be gridlock from the anger and resistment for the nasty underhanded treatment toward judges who have been during their jobs to uphold the laws of our nation. The filibustering of judges is polluting our entire trust in the Senate's ability to advise and consent, instead the Democrats want a few dead judges on the Senate floor, as a figure of speech, that is.

Posted by: Gloria | May 4, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse


Con el sobaco de tu abuela.

Posted by: JC | May 4, 2006 3:34 AM | Report abuse

Colbert's performance on Saturday was wonderful. And he's a republican (sorry large R). It's on the web.

Posted by: Jon Holmgren | May 3, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey JC

Who cares what someone did when they were 24. I'm sure you don't have anything in your past.

Posted by: David | May 3, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I suppose everybody knows about the kittens?

Posted by: JC | May 3, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse


In fairness to Frist, there was very little he could do once the gang of 14 got together. It would be nice if every Senate Majority Leader had some power, but they don't. Lindsay Graham is backing John McCain for President, and I respect that, but sometimes I think he lets his politics get in the way of policy (Graham that is). I suspect that we may see the Judicial nominee issue revisited in the Senate very soon. As a retired Attorney, I would prefer that Judicial nominees receive an up or down vote, rather than be filibustered, because there are so many problems being created in the Court system because of the vacancies. It would have made the system work a lot better if the vacancies would have been filled, or the nominees rejected so that the President could come up with another nominee. The backlog in the Federal Court system is tremendous.

Posted by: Florida Democrat | May 3, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Frist would be a great VP, but not president. Yes, a so-so Senator who can't even fight to stop the Democrats from blocking federal judges after all these years is not going to defeat the strong GOP candidates. McCain, Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, and DeWine walked all over Frist with their Gang 14 scheme. The filibuster needs to be put into its full use, drag out the cots, and force the Democrats to explain why those judges do not deserve a vote. Stabenow had blocked Henry Saad for years, now he was forced to step down. At least the Washington Post explains what is going on with the Judges but it will cost the Democrats in 2006. It lost them seats in 2002 and 2004.

Posted by: Gloria | May 3, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse


I agree with your comments that Senator Frist knows a lot more about health care than he does about politics, but I think he knows quite a lot about policy. In fact, one of the things that I find most interesting about him is that he really seems to have a strong knowledge about many important issues. I'm not saying that he is more or less qualified than some of the other potential candidates, just that he is not a lightweight and deserves more respect than the comments that have been made (not by you). I would really like to see a discussion of the issues.

Posted by: Florida Democrat | May 3, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I certainly didn't mean to imply that Frist is a lightweight or a bad person. He's a wonderful person who walks the walk when it comes to caring for others. (Know any other senators who perform free surgeries in Africa every year?) I just think that Frist knows a lot about healthcare but not very much about other policy matters. Romney has the better background to be an effective national candidate and President.

Posted by: Mark | May 3, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Hey GradStudent DC,

Glad to see someone out there finally making some sense. We should be dealing with substance and not silly personal attacks. Frist is a man of substance. While he may not ever be President, he has accomplished more in his lifetime than most of us can ever hope to. Rising to the top of two very different fields does not make him a lightweight. Let's talk about the issues.

Posted by: Florida Democrat | May 3, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Hearing all the liberal criticism of Bush's alleged lack of intelligence and substance, the focus in these posts candidates' charisma (seeminly as an inherent strength rather than just for electability) is disappointing. Yeah its important to get elected, especially in the American system. But substance is more important. Bill Frist helped pioneer the field of heart transplantation, then combined heart and lung transplantation, and saved hundreds of lives in the process. Then in 1994, with no political experience, he decided to run for senate and beat a popular 3 term incumbent democrat (Jim Sasser for those of you who've been following politics for a while) who was expected to be Senate Majority Leader. Running the NRSC in 2002, he picked up seats and regained the senate in an off year election - and then became majority leader after fewer years in congress than any previous house or senate leader. plenty of legislative accomplishments too but people seem more interested in politics here so I won't go into policy.

Had a bad year last year, so did most republican leaders, and the schiavo thing was not a good move, but he has substance and more political skills than people realize. people shoot their mouths off sometimes without much background knowledge.

Several good candidates on both sides for 2008. Romney is quite a good candidate too. Bayh doesn't have much charisma either, but seems also like a very good candidate. We can see if some candidates fail to connect with the public later on, but let's try to have a little more substance in judging them.

Posted by: Grad Student DC | May 2, 2006 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Sandy, I have never lived in New England. I grew up in Ohio and have lived at various times in New York, Illinois, Virginia and Indiana. I have a lot of experience in life and in politics. I would think that most people would realize that to get elected as governor in Massachusetts, any Republican would have to run to the libertarian side on social issues. It's understandable, at least to me, that Romney ran that way and will now move right on social issues in advance of the GOP 2008 primary season. I am curious, however, about your preferred candidate. I admit that from what I know so far, I am for Romney. Who is your candidate?

Posted by: Mark | May 2, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Are we looking at a prolifer in the White House or a president? Geez, there are so many issues other than abortion which will influence who I vote for in the Republican party. We either have someone who is dynamic and strong on defending our nation along with foreign policy in addition to national issues. Prolife gives us someone like Frist, or Brownback? then say hello to Hillary is the 2008 winner box. The Republican need to get organized now to eliminate a few NO CHANCE/ NO WAY candidates like Hagel and Brownback. They suck the energy away from any real champion who stands a chance to win.

Posted by: Jonathan | May 2, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes but Mark, your candidate Romney would be the only candidate in history to be pro-life, then switch to pro-abortion, then back to pro-life again. And your statement about that you find it difficult to believe that GOP primary voters would put abortion/gay rights at the top of their agenda shows that you likely do not have much experience in Republican primary elections - at least outside of New England. Flip-flopping pro-abortion candidates have a difficult time winning in Iowa, and they usually get destroyed in the South. They are also not popular in Michigan's Republican primaries.

Posted by: Sandy | May 2, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The more Frist appears on TV, (like today on CNN and FOX and others) about the price of gasoline, the more he reminds me of Al Gore, boring as a wood stick. No charisma, no piazzazz, just like oatmeal without any spice or sugar. There are many Republicans being discussed now for 2008, and there is not a large percentage of support for him in establishment GOP events. Ok, he won the Memphis straw poll, that is his state, whoopie, just like Senator Harkin winning Iowa in 1992. Whoopie, Paul Tsongas and Bill Clinton did not even compete in the Iowa caucus because we all knew Harkin would win his own state. Now if Al Gore had won Tennessee or Arkansas in 2000, we would have him in the White House. Lieberman as VP defends our nation as well, but Al Gore lost 2000 and we are out in the wilderness for at least 6 more months.

Posted by: Joan | May 2, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Well, perhaps he will be "Frist among equals," as one commentator dubbed him. Why should being boring disqualify a candidate? Is it the President's job to keep us entertained and amused?

Posted by: JC | May 2, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Sandy, you will be proven wrong about Romney. I'm not sure about Iowa, but he will place first or second in New Hampshire, at least. They know him there, and he will have the money to compete. There have been many candidates, of both parties, whose stated views on abortion have shifted over time. On the Dem side, Gore and Gephart used to be publicly pro-life. On the GOP side, George H. W. Bush was pro-choice, maybe until he actually ran for President. Also, I find it difficult to believe that the GOP primary voters will place abortion/gay rights at the top of their agenda. And those folks won't even have a candidate anyway, so some will go with Romney. Not one of the top three GOP potential candidates (McCain, Allen and Romney) are as clear-cut on abortion as some social conservatives might want. McCain is publicly pro-life, but with his love of media accolades, does anyone really think he would nominate truly conservative judges to the Supreme Court? As for Allen (whom I like), in his campaign against Chuck Robb he described his own abortion position as one of reasonable moderation. I believe that Allen thinks abortion law should be left to the states (like Romney does) but that he personally thinks it should be legal in the first trimester. Anyway, I can't wait for the campaign!

Posted by: Mark | May 2, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Romney flip-flops on abortion and gay marriage. Just four years ago he ran as hard-core pro-abortion in his race for Governor of Massachusetts, even courting the endorsement of NARAL and assuring them that he would fight to preserve Roe v Wade. Romney is perhaps the only prominent politician in America who was pro-life, then switched to pro-abortion, then "pro-life" again. The laughable thing is to see all of his pro-abortion Washington DC lobbyist friends now try to pass him off as a "conservative." Romney will be eaten for lunch in the first couple of primaries.

Posted by: Sandy | May 2, 2006 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Frist has a tin political ear, and he knows very little about domestic policy outside healthcare (on which he is excellent). He's boring on the stump. If he runs in the GOP primary, he'll get single digits in Iowa and New Hampshire and maybe a couple of other states, and then drop out. If I were a Democrat, the Republican I would fear most is Romney. He is one impressive dude. The more people see of him, the more they will be swayed by his intelligence, personality and experience.

Posted by: Mark | May 2, 2006 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Frist is a quack. From video diagnosing Terry Schiavo to trying to give people $100 to combat high gas prices, the guy has proven to be a joke. He ought to keep his job as majority leader and his seat in the Senate. I hope Frist gets the Republican nomination. As the man in charge of implementing the Bush agenda in the Senate, it'd be like Bush running a third time. If he tries to distance himself from Bush, voters can be reminded of his 100% record of support for Bush.

Posted by: Q | May 1, 2006 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Frist is a joke - one of the most boring people ever to run for public office

Posted by: Sandy | May 1, 2006 9:25 PM | Report abuse

I would like Frist to be President about as much as I would like him to be my doctor (NOT), you know how bad can he be as president when as a doctor, his words not mine, he diagnosis a patient in a vegetative state by a one hour video! Wonder where he bought that license from anyway??? Probably the same place Bush bought his college degree!

Posted by: Sue F | May 1, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The only candidates which would be easier to beat then frist might be tancredo.

Posted by: rtaycher1987 | May 1, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I agree that many Republicans/conservatives do NOT trust McCain, and the media loves to keep throwing him out as a FRONT RUNNER. Compared to what? He is rated the same month after month against Rudy and Rice, so that makes up 60% of the people putting all 3 in front runner status. Money will never buy Frist the name recognition and admiration which other Republican leaders have now. He can meet with all the big wig GOP leaders he wants to, Frist is not going to win. Remember people, Howard Dean raised $50 million from across the nation before any person stood up for him in January 2004. Millions of people cheered him on as their leaders, but they wasted their money. Frist is in the same category, he can raise millions but the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire are not there for him.

Posted by: Ginny | May 1, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

A lot of people in Virginia like Bill Frist over both George Allen or John McCain. George has more excess baggage than people outside of Virginia know about, and the vast majority of conservatives don't trust McCain.

Posted by: David, Va. Republican | May 1, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Frist has more support than all you liberals know about. Keep laughing. We'll see how it plays out. I don't find him to be anything but a good person who would make a good president, but then I thought that of Al Gore too.

Posted by: Pa. Democrat | May 1, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

How laughable....

Posted by: David | May 1, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I can't take the guy's chances or political abilities seriously for the nomination or election. Sure hope we don't have 2 prexies in a row I felt that way about. But he's a cold fish, he doesn't have Bush's superficial charm or negative campaign skills.

Posted by: mike | May 1, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I can't take the guy's chances or political abilities seriously for the nomination or election. Sure hope we don't have 2 prexies in a row I felt that way about. But he's a cold fish, he doesn't have Bush's superficial charm or negative campaign skills.

Posted by: mike | May 1, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Umm - excuse me, but are you not aware of the obvious behaviors the NEOCONS always repeat.. I mean other than lying and obfuscating the truth to follow ideology... No, I'm referring to the oodles of money they pour in to wing-nut's campaigns each cycle... its why the government is far more ideological, radical, and right wing than the voting public.

Posted by: Long Beach CA | May 1, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh by the comments on here over Al Gore. He is not my first pick, but he would make a very good President. My picks in 08 are in this order Edwards by far number one, then Bayh, Warner, Gore and then well not HRC.

Posted by: PopulistDemocrat | May 1, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I would love for Bill Frist to be the Republicans nominee. I am scared as hell of his nomiation...okay I am totally lying. Well not about the first part, Bill Frist would be the worse nominee any party could field. I don't care if we nominate Hillary, any Democrat could beat him. My candidate, John Edwards would beat him with one of the biggest landslides in American history. I am not joking either. Bill Frist is a joke. Honestly, if the Republicans are dumb enough to nominate him they don't deserve to be one of the major parties in America. Again, like I will always say that Allen would be the best nominee for the Republicans. He can rally the base, and their base needs it after how beaten down they have become recently. But Republicans I would love for you to nominate Frist, it would make things a lot easier for us Democrats.

Posted by: PopulistDemocrat | May 1, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

All of you guys with your negative Frist comments are really going to scare off his supporters. Get a life. Everytime we read the nasty comments, we just increase our efforts. We'll see who laughs last.

Posted by: Ginny | May 1, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Frist can count on the wing nuts vote for sure if Brownback doesn't run who else though? He has less then a zero chance of courting any moderate or indepedant votes, and he makes Al Gore look like JFK with his public persona.....i really, really, really hope he's the gop's man in '08...

Posted by: TheIrishCurse | May 1, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Please, oh, please don't run Frist! We are so scared he might win! (snicker) um, ignore that last part.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | May 1, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Jake. Love Gore. He's become loose and free because he believes in what he's doing. But what does Bill Frist believe in, other than imaking a quick few million with insider trading? Plus the man has the charisma of a garden slug. Run, Bill, run!

On a side note, has anybody seen ANY coverage of Steven Colbert's brilliant performance Saturday night at the press club?

Looks to me like the cowardly DC media is pulling a total news blackout on it... like it never happened. Chilling and disgusting.

Posted by: Drindl | May 1, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans nominate Frist, the Dems will be laughing all the way to the White House. I personally am a fan of Warner and Bayh (too boring?) and Edwards (old news?) and, to a lesser extent, Richardson (put Texas in play?). Though honestly, I wish Some charismatic, unknown southern governor would surprise us. If the Dems aren't going to win this one, I kind of hope they nominate Gore, just because he won't care anymore. Let's face it-- the man has become pretty freakin crazy cool over the last six years, and he'd really give 'em hell. Ah, well... we can dream...

Posted by: Jake | May 1, 2006 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Given the current backlash against the Republicans over oil money - I'm curious if hard core republicans are going to fall for the money again - if they do they will get what they deserve -

run for the money guys run for the money -

I'm voting for content of character

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | May 1, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh, oh please let it be Frist. That man is so out of touch and elitist.

Posted by: Will | May 1, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

John Connelly raised a lot of money in 1980. So did Phil Gramm in 1996. Money is important but a candidate must also be able to pass the laugh test and Bill Frist is a joke. From Terry Shiavo to pandering on gas prices he demonstrates time and again a tin ear for politics. He's an embarassment for his state, the Senate, his party and the country.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | May 1, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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