Archive for March, 2009

Absolutely brutal.

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Jim Bunning’s relationship with Senate Republicans and Kentucky GOP political operatives continues to deteriorate.

Republicans have a new strategy for dealing with the wildly unpredictable Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.): keep their distance and hope he implodes.

That means little fundraising help from top Republicans in Washington, little to no engagement with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a cold shoulder from Kentucky political strategists. And if you’re Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman, no cross words about Bunning.

“The easiest way to get rid of him is not give him any money,” said one Washington-based Republican fundraiser.

Cutting off Bunning from the big money — while ignoring his outbursts on the campaign trail — may be the only hope for Republicans whose behind-the-scenes effort to force Bunning to retire have backfired. Calls for him to retire, and any recruitment of a primary challenger, will only embolden Bunning, Republicans say.

Cornyn, for his part, is treading very carefully after Bunning publicly called him a liar and threatened to sue the NRSC if he didn’t get its support. Cornyn says that all GOP Senate candidates are in a “self-help” phase at this point in the 2010 election cycle and that the NRSC is backing Bunning.

“I think it was just a product of misunderstanding,” Cornyn said. “I think the assumption was what we were doing was we were not supporting [him]. Now he understands the NRSC is supporting our incumbents, including him.”

But Bunning’s recent threat to resign if Republicans didn’t help him with his reelection bid didn’t help his cause. Republicans in Washington and Kentucky are less eager than ever to help his run for a third term in 2010, saying they hope his campaign dies naturally from lack of money.

“This will not help with fundraising,” said one Kentucky GOP operative, who, like others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue candidly. “It will just confirm what most people already believe: This guy has basically lost it and is irrationally lashing out at those who should be his allies.”

Kentucky and national Republicans are more or less openly trying to toss Bunning over the side. His threat to resign from the Senate and potentially hand over his seat to a Democrat and give Harry Reid a filibuster-proof supermajority may well have been the last straw. The strategy here is correct — Bunning has to make the decision to quit by himself, it can’t be imposed on him. But it forces Republicans to keep quiet and spend little or no time raising money or scouting for a replacement candidate.

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine enters the Limbaugh-Steele fray and takes a few shots at both of them. The most interesting thing in watching all of this is that Limbaugh and Kaine Steele effectively played right into the Democrats’ hands. The Democrats are going to get a lot of political mileage and talking points out of this episode.

As for Steele, I don’t know how effective he’ll be as a national party leader from here on out. I mentioned in a previous post that there is no media or political figure on the right or left who has the kind of muscle or influence that Limbaugh and his listeners do. The only national GOP figures who have criticized Limbaugh and avoided apology so far are Rep. Eric Cantor and Gov. Jon Huntsman. But if this becomes some sort of ideological litmus test for any Republican who has hopes for national exposure, then it will make for a very interesting set of election cycles in 2010 and 2012.

Update: Some very good observations from Greg Sargent:

The problem for Steele, of course, is that by hitting Rush — and provoking a response from the talk show host — he’s left himself in the unenviable position of having to answer Rush’s implicit demand that he say whether he’s With Rush Or Against Him when it comes to Rush’s desire for Obama to fail. It’s not a good position to be in: Either Steele distances himself from Rush and angers the base, or he throws in his lot with the GOP’s pro-failure brigade and makes it easier for Dems to paint the GOP as petulant, partisan obstructionists.

Amusingly, either choice would help Rush: The first gives him a potent rallying point, and the second demonstrates his power over the party. What’s more, all this underscores again the astonishing degree to which the interests of Rush and Democrats are aligned here, since both Rush and Democrats want Steele, and every other Republican, to publicly make exactly the same choice.

Cats in the Bong

Posted: March 2, 2009 in Humor
Tags: , , ,

What the hell was this guy thinking?

If Roland Burris thinks he has a political future beyond 2010, he is as clueless as the man who appointed him.

Update: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush invokes Chappaquidick and Larry Craig’s bathroom arrest as reasons why Roland Burris should not resign from the Senate.

Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh’s widely quoted “I hope Obama fails” comment, which he first made on his radio show a few days before Obama’s inauguration, and repeated it again at CPAC this past weekend.

Democrats have seized the initiative and are trying to make Rush Limbaugh the face and driving force of the GOP. Rahm Emanuel himself threw down the gauntlet on the Sunday talk shows yesterday.

Keep in mind Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey publicly apologized after making comments in a Politico story criticizing Rush Limbaugh.

Eric Cantor, the second highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, distanced himself from Limbaugh’s comments yesterday.

Now, we’ll see if Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, is going to face the same kind of pressure to make amends with Limbaugh.

These episodes show just how large of a shadow Limbaugh and his audience casts on the Republican Party. I can’t think of anyone else in political or media circles on the right or left who has this much muscle that they can force a sitting member of Congress to issue a public apology. The question now is how far will he go with his rhetoric and how far is the Republican Party and the base willing to follow him?

Update: Limbaugh responds to Steele:

“Why do you claim to lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it President Obama succeeds?” Limbaugh addressed Steele.

“I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda. I have to conclude that he does because he attacks me for wanting it to fail,” said Limbaugh.

Late last week, Steele told CNN’s D.L. Hughley that Limbaugh is an “entertainer” whose comments are “ugly.”

Also on his radio program Monday, Limbaugh said Steele is being used by the “liberal media.”

“Michael Steele has been around long enough to know that the liberal media will use him by twisting what I say or what others say,” he said. “He took the bait, he bit down hard on the bait, he launched an attack on me, even though the premise of what was said to him was false.”

Update II: Damn, that was fast. Steele apologized to Limbaugh.

Limbaugh said he’s not in charge of the Republican Party, but every time a Party leader or elected official has to kiss his ring every time they say or do something that annoys him, it just reinforces the Democrats’ message strategy that Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP.

Update III: Andrew Sullivan has reactions to the Limbaugh-Steele feud from the conservative blogosphere.