Gresham Barrett and the politics of TARP
1. South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett (R), who is running in the June 8 Republican gubernatorial race has launched a 60-second ad seeking to explain his 2008 vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- yet more evidence that the vote to bail out the financial sector is the central issue in the minds of many GOP primary voters.
In the commercial, Barrett paints the atmosphere around passage of the bill as one of crisis. Speaking directly to the camera, Barrett says: "I honestly believe with all my heart that we were at a point that men and women were going to reach in their back pocket, pull out a credit card or an ATM card, stick it into a machine and nothing was going to come out," he says.
He adds that "as a leader I made a decision" to support TARP but adds that the legislation was poorly implemented. The ad was produced by Heath Thompson of Scott Howell & Associates.
Barrett, one of 91 House Republicans to vote for TARP on final passage, has been dogged by the vote, which is regarded as anathema to tea party activists around the country, throughout the gubernatorial campaign. (He was booed at a tea party rally in April 2009 for the vote.)
"The bottom line is that the Bush administration bailout vote is huge problem among Republicans," said one Barrett adviser. "But failing to distinguish it for Republican voters from what Obama has done is absolutely fatal."
Barrett is not alone in struggling to explain his vote for TARP in the context of a Republican primary fight. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison watched her gubernatorial ambitions disappear as Gov. Rick Perry successfully labeled her "Kay Bailout" in advance of their March 2 Republican primary race. Utah Sen. Bob Bennett wasn't able to win his party nomination at the state convention a few weeks back due, in large part, to his vote for TARP.
(Interestingly, the issue has bypassed some Republicans in primary fights. Arkansas Rep. John Boozman cruised to a primary victory on May 18 despite the fact that one of his opponents -- state Sen. Gilbert Baker -- carried around a tarp -- get it? -- to highlight the Congressman's vote for the legislation.)
Barrett's ad is clearly a gamble in the four-way contest that also features state Rep. Nikki Haley, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and state Attorney General Henry McMaster.
It's also an acknowledgment that to win he has to convince voters that his TARP vote was only part of a broader approach to leadership he has adopted during his congressional tenure. (Barrett notes at the start of the ad that only one other House member has opposed President Obama's agenda more than he has.)
Because of South Carolina's primacy in the 2012 Republican nominating process -- the party's nominee has won the the Palmetto State in every primary since the state moved to the front of the nominating calendar -- how Barrett's ad plays (or doesn't) should be watched closely by every candidate with an eye on the GOP presidential nod.
2. The Alliance for America's Future, a third party group, has begun airing television ads in the Florida governor's race against businessman Rick Scott (R) -- bashing him for his role in the 1990s Columbia/HCA Medicare fraud scandal.
"Rick Scott profited from the largest Medicare fraud scheme in American history," the ad's narrator says. The 30-second spot also features footage from a CNN interview in which host Rick Sanchez tells the candidate, "Columbia Hospital Corporation, which you founded, was charged with defrauding the government for more than a decade and had to pay a record fine of $1.7 billion." Scott was booted from the firm before it settled the fraud charges with the government, and state Attorney General Bill McCollum's (R) campaign has recently begun taking aim at Scott for his role in the scandal.
An Ipsos poll conducted for the St. Petersburg Times (among other media outlets) released this week showed McCollum with a comfortable 46 percent to 22 percent lead over Scott in the GOP primary. But Scott, a billionaire who has been positioning himself as the "conservative outsider" in the race, has money -- not an insignificant thing in a state as expensive in which to run for office as Florida -- on his side.
Scott has spent nearly $8 million on TV ads since mid-April, while McCollum spent just $170,000 in the same period.
The Alliance for America's Future ads are designed to level the financial playing field, The group, a Virginia-based organization, is led by GOP consultant Barry Bennett, a former chief of staff to Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio). Former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary Cheney, and his former political director, Kara Ahern, are also reportedly involved in the group.
Democrats seem likely headed to a primary of their own between frontrunner and state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Lawton Chiles III, the son of the legendary former governor of the same name.
3. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) carried a double-digit edge over former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charlie Baker (R) and state Treasurer Tim Cahill (I) in a new Suffolk University poll.
Patrick took 42 percent to 29 percent for Baker and 14 percent for Cahill in the survey. Since a February Suffolk poll, Patrick has solidified his standing -- he led by eight in that poll -- thanks in large part to a seven-figure expenditure from the Republican Governors Association that slammed Cahill and led to a precipitous nine-point drop between polls from the former Democrat.
Despite Patrick's rise of late, Republican strategists believe they have accomplished their desired goal -- damage Cahill to the point that the race is a two-person affair between the incumbent and Baker. Such a face-off, Republicans believe, will eventually go their way as Patrick remains mired in the low 40s in the ballot test.
Baker remains, for many voters, an unknown commodity. Thirty-one percent of respondents had never heard of the Republican nominee, and 32 percent of respondents were undecided about whether they would support him.
4. New York Rep. Vito Fossella's political comeback is going to have to wait for another election cycle.
Two years after departing Congress following a drunk driving arrest led to revelations that the married congressman fathered a child with another woman, Fossella toyed with the idea of seeking his old seat -- running against Rep. Mike McMahon (D) this fall. Fossella was even endorsed over two other candidates by the Staten Island Republican executive committee last week.
On Wednesday, though, Fossella said he's not ready to return to public life. "I am frankly at a very good place in my life," Fossella said, according to the New York Daily News. "I am where I need to be and where I want to be, most importantly. And as a result I've indicated to the chairman of the party that I would not seek election to Congress this year."
Fossella did not rule out future runs for office, however. He is mentioned as a contender for Staten Island Borough President in 2013.
While local Republicans have pushed hard for Fossella to come back, national Republicans feel optimistic about the chances of former FBI agent Mike Grimm and businessman Michael Allegretti, who are both a part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Young Guns program. The two will face off in a Sept. 14 primary.
5. South Carolina state Rep. Tim Scott has pulled ahead of the field in the open seat 1st district Republican primary race, according to a new Club for Growth poll.
The Club, which has endorsed Scott in the race to replace retiring Rep. Henry Brown (R), showed Scott taking 30 percent of the vote while businessman Carroll "Tumpy" Campbell (R), the son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell (R), placed second with 10 percent. Attorney Paul Thurmond (R), the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R), and accountant Clark Parker (R) received 9 percent each. Five other competitors were in the single-digits.
The poll -- conducted by National Research -- also showed Scott winning 53 percent to 28 percent against Campbell and 55 percent to 19 percent against Thurmond in the likely event of a runoff. The primary is set for June 8 and, if no candidate gets 50 percent, the runoff will be two weeks later.
Two weeks ago, Scott went up with his first TV ad, which touts him as a job-creator and opponent of earmarks who also wrote the "first state bill to reject Obama Health care."
Scott, who had previously been running for lieutenant governor, switched over to the House race in February. He is one of a handful of black Republicans seeking federal office this year.
The district, which covers the coastal area from Myrtle Beach to Charleston, is generally safe Republican territory. It voted 56 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and 61 percent for George W. Bush in 2004. It also has the distinction of being the House seat held by disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford (R) from 1996 until 2002.
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
May 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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