White House Cheat Sheet: Searching for the GOP Alternative
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.
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