Guest Blogs

Saturday
Dec082012

Ed Mosca - NOW OR NEVER (OR AT LEAST NOT FOR ANOTHER FOUR TO SIX YEARS)

  Looking for a secure job?  Look no further than Governor of New Hampshire.  That is, as long as you are a Democrat who is pragmatic enough to pledge to veto an income or sales tax, who can exude an air of likability while running a ruthlessly negative campaign, and who can give the appearance of governing from the middle even when you are not. 

            Jeanne Shaheen: three terms, then left by her own choice to pursue higher office.  (Yeah, I know she won without taking the pledge her last term, but that campaign against Humphrey could have made even a David Axelrod wince.)  John Lynch: four terms, then made an early (some would say premature) decision to retire to his dacha in Hopkinton because he didn’t foresee Narwhal eating over one-half of the House Republicans.  While, on the other hand, poor Craig Benson (that’s poor in the figurative sense of course) was retired after one short term spent primarily butting heads with House and Senate Republican leadership (which in part was why he was a one-and-done Governor). 

            So history suggests that, if the New Hampshire GOP wants to stop Maggie Hassan from having a long shelf life, they better pull out all the stops in 2014.

            It should be self-evident after nine elections, and a winning percentage of barely above 10 percent, that the best possible candidate is essential.  No sacrificial lambs or sentimental favorites this time.  This race, not the United States Senate race or the Congressional races, is the most consequential for the future of the New Hampshire GOP and the future of the State. 

            While it is often said that New Hampshire has a weak Governor, the Governor still wields a veto and has the power to nominate judges and senior bureaucrats.  Despite all the histrionics about a “tea-party legislature” gone wild, 2011-2012 was far from transformative.  We still have a fiscally irresponsible defined-benefit retirement plan for public-sector employees, a fiscally irrational education funding system and a plethora of destructive, rent-seeking regulations. And despite an Executive Council consisting of five Republicans, Governor Lynch succeeded in putting not just a committed Claremontista on the Supreme Court, but a committed Claremontista who made no bones about being a committed Claremontista.  The New Hampshire GOP is never going to fundamentally change the political culture of this State without holding the Governor’s office.      

            It is also essential that Republican legislative leadership understand that the race for 2014 started as soon as the vote counting ended in 2012, and act in a manner that helps, not hurts, the next GOP gubernatorial nominee.  Shaheen and Lynch were able to portray themselves as bipartisan while governing as pragmatic partisans, and look at the political success they enjoyed.  Hassan, obviously, means to follow in their footsteps.  

            This doesn’t mean that Republicans in the House and Senate should obstruct simply for the sake of obstructing.  But they must not compromise simply for the sake of compromising.  There is considerable cause for concern because Senate Republicans and, based on their selection of Gene Chandler as Minority Leader, a small majority of House Republicans are smaller-government conservatives rather than small-government conservatives. 

            Smaller-government conservatism –moderating Democrat policies rather than presenting alternatives– plays into the hands of pragmatic partisans like Shaheen, Lynch and Hassan.  They get to grow government while wearing the mantle of bipartisanship.  While their base may grouse about the pace of change being too slow, the base clearly learned its lesson from the Mark Fernald debacle in 2002.  Just ask Jackie Cilley.

            Two areas are particularly concerning:gambling and an education funding amendment.

            Any gambling bill that does not dedicate all gambling-generated revenues to reducing existing taxes is a grow-the-government bill.  If the State Senate passes a gambling bill that provides some tax relief, but also materially increases spending, we might as well just ask Hassan how long she would like to serve and then tell Bill Gardner to leave the Governor’s race off the ballot until that point.  She will be able to run as a tax-cutter while doling out cash to her special interest supporters.  No Republican support for gambling unless it is a true tax-relief measure.

            Senate Republicans, and many House Republicans, have shown a willingness to support an education funding amendment that, while giving the elected branches more control over how to divvy up the education funding pie, cedes to the Court the authority to determine the size of the pie, its ingredients, and how it gets made.  Republican support for such an inadequate amendment would allow Hassan to run as the Governor who solved Claremont, without losing the support of the teacher unions.  Republicans need to stick to the amendment that passed the Senate last session and narrowly failed in the House.

Tuesday
Nov272012

Ed Mosca - THE DEMOCRAT WAR ON TAXPAYERS

Hold on to your wallets and purses; it has begun. I am referring of course to the Democrat War on Taxpayers, which is sometimes antiseptically referred to as formulating the next state budget.

            With a nominal party advantage of 221 to 179 in the House (it’s actually higher, as a practical matter, when fiscally-challenged Republicans are considered) and paradigmatic party-discipline, it is manifest that House Democrat leadership has the power to pass whatever budget they want.  And it is a safe bet that the budget they get passed will materially increase spending (the Democrats owe the public sector unions big-time) and raise some existing taxes (the tobacco tax for sure), and perhaps impose some new taxes.  But if history is any guide, and it should be in this case because the House Democrat leadership will likely be mostly the same crew that created an $800 million deficit between 2006 and 2010, the budget passed by the Democrat-controlled House will grossly overestimate future tax revenues in order to make the budget appear balanced.

            While House Republicans lack the numbers to prevent fiscal bad behavior by House Democrats (as noted above, the 179 actually overstates the true Republican strength in the House), they can accomplish two important things: (1) they can set the tone and provide an example for the Senate where Republicans, if they wish, can pass a fiscally responsible budget and (2) they can begin making their case to the voters for 2014.  Here are three things House Republicans should do:

            First, go big.  Establish an overarching objective that is consistent with Republican principles.  Examples are: no increase in spending from the prior budget, increasing spending only by the rate of inflation, spending at a certain percentage of anticipated revenue (using a realistic projection, of course) and dedicating the remainder to the rainy day fund and/or tax relief.   

            Second, watch what you say.  Believe it or not, folks outside Concord hear “cut the budget” and think that spending is actually going to be less than it was in the prior budget (which allows Democrats to argue that Granny is going to be left at the curb to die), when “cut” often refers to merely reducing the extent to which the Governor’s budget wants to increase spending.  Unless you are actually proposing reducing spending from the level in the prior budget, don’t use the word “cut.”  And if you just can’t resist, how about “cutting new spending” or “cutting new spending from the Governor’s proposed budget,” rather than the misleading “cutting the budget.”  But the best thing would be to, whenever possible, “go big” and eschew debating the merits of individual programs which give Democrats the opportunity to demagogue.

            Third, understand the purpose of amendments and debate.  They are not going to change Democrat minds.  They can be, when utilized properly, a tool to educate the public and to establish a record to run on and against.

Thursday
Nov222012

Ed Mosca - SOME THOUGHTS ON THE 2012 ELECTIONS AND THE FUTURE FOR THE NH GOP 

The 2012 elections confirm that New Hampshire is a blue state, but a unique shade of blue.

            You have togo back to 2000 for the last time the Republican presidential candidate got more votes than the Democrat, but that only tells part of the story because George W. Bush only got 48 percent of the vote while Al Gore (47 percent) and Ralph Nader (4 percent) combined for 51 percent.  You have to go back all the way to 1988 for the last time the Republican presidential candidate got more than 50 percent.  And the trend has been in the wrong direction.  While George W. improved to 49 percent of the vote in 2004, McCain garnered only 45 percent in 2008 and Romney essentially matched that with 46 percent in 2012.

            The elections for Governor have been almost as barren for Republicans.  With the exception of the 2002 election, Democrats have won all of the gubernatorial elections since 1996.  A good number of these victories were landslides.  The only really close race was in 2004, when Lynch knocked off Benson 51 percent to 49 percent.  Even in the tsunami year of 2010, Lynch won by a comfortable margin of 7.5 percent.

            Clearly, the Democrat success in electing governors is based on “taking the pledge.”  From 1988 through 1994, Republicans didn’t just beat pro-tax Democrats in the gubernatorial races; they demolished them.  In 1994, Steve Merrill won an incredible 70 percent of the vote.  But that changed in 1996, when Merrill decided not to seek a third term and Jeanne Shaheen took the pledge.   She easily defeated Ovide 57 percent to 40 percent, and with the exception of the single Benson term, Democrats have held the governor’s office ever since.

            No Democrat, with the exception of Jeanne Shaheen in 2000, has been elected Governor without taking the pledge.  Mark Fernald ran explicitly on an income tax in 2002 and didn’t even crack 40 percent.  And in 2000 Shaheen did not crack 50 percent, although it should be pointed out that she might have had not Mary Brown (6 percent) run as an independent on a pro income tax platform.   Mark Fernald’s blowout loss to Benson only two years later in an election that was a referendum on an income tax suggests that Shaheen’s victory in 2000 was despite of, not because of, her abandonment of the pledge.

            And that is what makes New Hampshire a unique shade of blue.  While the Democrat mantra in this past national election was that income tax rates on the “rich” need to go up, in New Hampshire Maggie Hassan repeatedly pledged to veto an income tax.  A good call on her part when you consider the constitutional amendment to ban the income tax, while it did not get the necessary two-thirds, did get 57 percent of the vote.   

            And while the ban-the-income-tax amendment came up short, the 57 percent of the vote it garnered is especially impressive considering that a significant percentage of the voters may have been voters who were inclined to vote a straight Democrat line.

            There were over 99,000 same-day registrations in 2012, which is 14 percent of total voters.  Some of these undoubtedly were new voters turned out by the vaunted Obama machine, while others were voters who had to re-register because they had moved or because of redistricting.   Let’s assume that only one-half of same-day registrants were new voters turned out by Obama.

            That is still a swing of 7 percent, which suggests that absent this turnout effort the state would have gone to Romney and, assuming the voters turned out by Obama voted straight Democrat and an even split between districts, Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass would have won as well, which is what one would have expected given the sorry condition of the economy.  However, Hassan still would have handily defeated Ovide.

            Clearly the New Hampshire GOP, and the GOP in general, has to do a much, much better job of identifying persuadable voters and getting these voters to vote.  But just as clearly that will not be enough to win gubernatorial elections or, it is probably safe to assume, down-ballot state elections in anti-tax districts where the Democrat takes the pledge.  

            The major problem that the New Hampshire GOP has in state elections is that it still has not figured out how to run against candidates that take the pledge.  Here are some suggestions.

            Update the pledge:  Instead of pledging just to veto an income and sales tax, pledge to veto any new tax.  Or any new tax or any increase in existing taxes.  Or expand the pledge to veto any budget that increases state spending more than the rate of inflation. 

            Pick your battles wisely:  I cannot understand the position that civil unions are ok, but civil same-sex marriages are not.  What’s the point in fighting that battle?  

            Draw clear and meaningful distinctions with the Democrats:  Any Republican who advocates gambling on the ground that the state needs more revenue should be flogged with a cat o’ nine tails and then be made to walk the plank.  Saying the state needs more revenue is just a lovely euphemism for saying we need to grow government.  To the extent that Republicans support gambling, it should be as a tax relief measure.  The condition antecedent for Republican support of any casino-gambling bill is a statutory guarantee that every penny in taxes collected from casino-gambling reduces existing taxes.

            Run better candidates:  In many respects, New Hampshire has changed dramatically since the halcyon days of Sununu/Gregg/Merrill.  Understand how it has changed and run candidates who can make Republican principles relevant to today’s New Hampshire.  

Thursday
Nov152012

Shannon McGinley - Republicans will only win when they fully embrace their platform

By Shannon McGinley, acting executive director, Cornerstone

In today’s technology driven election climate, it’s not enough for Cornerstone to promote pro-family candidates among issue advocates to make sure a conservative agenda resonates with voters. If Republicans want to win, the Republican Party and its top-ticket candidates must develop recognizable pro-family concepts in their campaigns and fully embrace the conservative cause.

Cornerstone can preach to the choir all it wants, but without a modern political party machine to research, target and reach out to new voters and then get them to the polls armed with conservative facts, the choir just won’t add up to a winning tally. The Democrats understood this dynamic, which is why they won, despite their underlying extremism. Republicans denied they were under attack as the enemy overcame them. They assumed voters would pretend social issues aren’t part of modern politics at the same time that Democrats defined Republican positions on these issues for them.

It didn’t help matters that taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood spent between $5 million and $7 million on the election, joining Democrats in their misinformation campaign that alleged Republicans want to take away women’s birth control options. According to The Hill, the abortion business saw a 98 to 99 percent return on its election spending investment. This type of spending is certainly a formidable enemy for Republicans who, in large part, simply want to reduce the number of abortions and make sure taxpayers aren’t paying for men and women’s contraceptives against their will.

All it would have taken to set the record straight was some defensive Republican messaging explaining Republican positions on these issues and an offensive strike explaining the Democratic lies and their underlying extremism. Yes, Republicans are at a monetary disadvantage because they don’t rely on taxpayers to fund their campaigns and they use private donations instead. But Republicans have to prove their more frugal approach will work in government by making it work electing conservatives to office.

The Democratic Party just removed the last quasi pro-family issue from their platform; namely, that “abortion should be safe … and rare.” To add insult to injury, Democrats included a new provision that promotes taxpayer-funded abortions. President Obama has consistently defended barbaric procedures such as partial-birth abortion and leaving an infant out to die of starvation when an abortion procedure fails. If the new Democratic platform becomes reality, people who morally object to abortion would be forced to pay for these procedures against their will.

These are easy pickings for Republicans. According to Gallup polls this year (here and here), most Americans are pro-life, and the great majority of those who think abortion should be legal would restrict the procedure to rare circumstances. In other words, voters prefer the Republican platform, and if they knew about it, they would find the Democratic platform outrageous.

When Democrats said Republicans were at war with women, Republicans remained silent on the issues and let themselves be defined that way. When Democrats said Republicans planned to eliminate access to contraceptives, Republicans didn’t explain that they simply believe men and women should pay for their own birth control, vasectomies or condoms. When Democrats said Republicans wanted to stifle immigration reform or end public support for higher education, Republicans didn’t approach single-issue voters with their actual positions. Republicans let single-issue voters believe the fabrications and exaggerations of Democrats across the board, and those voters responded accordingly.

Likewise, Democrats exclaimed that Republicans planned to take away Medicare from seniors. Yet, it was the president himself, in his infamous Obamacare bill, who took away millions of dollars from successful free market elements of the program and devoted them to the failing Medicaid system, instead. He added millions of Americans to Medicaid at a time when doctors are fleeing the program or their practice altogether because the numbers don’t add up for them. Republicans didn’t explain that the president was making Medicare less accessible for seniors; they didn’t explain that Democrats were making it harder for lower income families to get good medical care. These were easy targets for Republicans, but they let Democrats define the issues instead. Seniors and lower-income families came out and voted Democrat because of it.

If the Republican Party has any hope of returning to power, Republicans must embrace their party’s platform and reach out to voters with it. Republicans can’t rely on their old sources of information about voters, they have to get out in the world and find new voters who believe in the same things but just don’t know it. In short, Republicans have to ask for votes and explain why their way is better, or they just simply won’t win elections.

Tuesday
Nov132012

Carolyn McKinney - We let Democrats define the terms of our defeat

By Carolyn McKinney, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire

When Democrats set the terms of the 2012 campaign for state and federal offices, Republican leaders blew their horns about jobs and the economy and counted on their position of strength and the glaring weaknesses in their enemy’s lines to secure victory. Republicans lost because they forgot to tell the troops about the Democratic weaknesses. Democrats took advantage of the oversight and rolled over the field.

Democratic victories last Tuesday quite simply reflected a tactical failure of top-ticket Republicans to defend the party’s message. This wasn’t a failure of Republican principles, but a failure to define and defend Republican principles. Democrats successfully distracted voters with complete fabrications of reality, and Republicans let them do it without response.  

Predictably, Republican Party leaders assumed that the people had enough of the social issues and wanted to focus on the economy instead—and by in large, Republicans successfully governed on economic recovery issues during the past two years. Democrats understood the visceral nature of social issues and successfully tarnished liberty as the enemy of their carefully crafted relationship between business and government. Republicans didn’t respond, despite the prescient need. They thought that by ignoring the problem it would go away.

Even if it was a good idea—and I strongly contend that it is not—the Republican Party is never going to rid itself of social conservatives, and it won’t dismiss the libertarian faction either, if the libertarians don’t dismiss themselves, first. Due to the way the two-party system has been solidified in state and federal law, neither group has anywhere else to go if it wants any influence, and neither will the Republican Party have any influence without these two groups.

The only solution is for the Republican Party to fully embrace its platform, which is actually more conservative and libertarian than anything else. Had Republican leaders chosen to explain the Republican Party to voters, they just might have received some votes.

In other words, a “big tent” Republican Party includes moderates and the socially agnostic, but let’s be clear: the tent is held up by conservatives and libertarians. There is no tent without them. There’s just Democrats and Democrats-lite. I contend that New Hampshire truly wants neither—and so goes the nation.

Enough with the rhetoric, here’s some realism: Faced with the ludicrous and fallacious Democratic idea that Republicans want to end all abortions and take contraceptives away from women, Republicans should have explained that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land until it’s overturned. And at the same time, they should have explained that there are alternatives to abortion; that women deserve other options, such as child care services, especially if they’re going to college (tuition certainly does pay for it already). 

Republicans should have turned the tables on Democrats: “Who are the real extremists? Who removed from their platform the goal that abortion be ‘safe and rare’? Who supports living children being murdered when their body is already outside the womb? Who supports letting infants die on a surgical table because their abortion went wrong? Who wants taxpayers to foot the bill for this stuff? Really? Even if they morally object? Doesn’t a human being have an inalienable right to life, endowed by his or her Creator? So, tell me again why Democrats oppose Republican proposals to decrease the number of abortions in favor of alternative solutions that both respect women and favor life.”

Without a doubt, Democrats had the extreme agenda, but we didn’t tell voters about it! 

Let’s be clear: We Republicans can change some of our policy positions to more consistently represent the principles in our platform. On immigration, for instance, there millions of inalienably free human beings who simply want to live a better life in America, but our laws don’t allow it. While Republicans are known to support the rule of law, we are also known to be a group that favors Judeo-Christian values, which include love and charity. We must craft a common sense solution that balances the rule of law and the reality that these illegal immigrants must be treated with the dignity that we must afford to all human beings. We also must recognize that the large illegal immigrant population contributes to our economy in important ways, and we need to stop catering to the people who resist a common sense policy that allows for the free trade of labor across national boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for citizenship for all; that’s something that has to be earned. But a guest worker program would certainly go a long way to help the market meet its needs for labor without sacrificing national sovereignty or identity, and it would also be more conservative.

The bottom line is this: Republicans need to unite around their platform or they’ll all be lost to the isolation of their own personal perfection. There’s no doubt that herding cats is difficult, but that is the task for those who lead people who want to be free. Let’s hope they get it right next time, for the sake of us all.