State of the Union

GOP Establishment Bats .500 in North Carolina

North Carolina was in the cross-hairs of public attention last night for three primary battles, two of which did not involve American Idol season two runner-up Clay Aiken.

Walter Jones has represented the North Carolina coast and the 3rd congressional district for nearly 20 years, yet had to defeat a rare establishment-funded primary challenge from a K Street veteran of the George W. Bush White House. Jones’s district includes Camp Lejune’s 40,000 Marines, and the fiercely patriotic representative went so far as to push for french fries to be renamed freedom fries when France refused to support the Iraq War. Yet, as Jim Antle detailed in this year’s January/February issue of the print magazine, Jones was one of the very first Republicans to turn against the war when he lost faith in the pretext he had been given. Since then, he may have been the most fiercely outspoken opponent of the Iraq war on either side of the aisle. This may help explain why Emergency Committee for Israel and Ending Spending, two large establishment GOP organizations, dropped a combined $1,000,000 into the race, half supporting his challenger, half hitting Jones. Despite their efforts, however, Jones was able to convince his constituents to let him keep working for them:

The more prominent of the GOP’s primary battles involved the race to challenge vulnerable first-term Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan for the state’s junior senate seat. Thom Tillis was the race’s clear party favorite, the speaker of the house who presided over an unprecedented consolidation of Republican power in Raleigh after the 2010 tidal wave gave the GOP super-majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. Tillis received a steady and significant infusion of outside assistance in recent weeks from Karl Rove and other establishment GOP groups intent on keeping their man out of a messy run-off election should he not receive 40 percent of the vote. He proudly advertised his endorsements from Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush on his homepage as of election night.

Thom Tillis   U.S. Senate

Tillis received an unexpectedly strong challenge from a Tea Party upstart, obstetrician Greg Brannon, who was endorsed by Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and received a last-minute visit from Paul the day before the election. Yet, as Jim Antle chronicled last week, Brannon’s business fraud charges, 9/11 truther complications, and website plagiarism sabotaged his own effort to follow in Rand Paul’s footsteps. Tillis made his own significant gaffes as well, such as when the Maryland native referred to grilling as a barbecue:

Tillis compounded the error when he coyly refused to identify his favorite barbecue at a debate (the state is split between Eastern-style and Lexington-style), despite representing a district firmly within Lexington (the correct choice) territory. Perhaps Hagan will be able to capitalize on the error where Brannon fell short.

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Walter Jones and the Bush Tax Cuts

One bit of pushback I’ve encountered in response to today’s column about Walter Jones: the claim that Jones was one of just three Republicans to vote with House Democrats to raise taxes in 2010.

Viewed in context, this is misleading. It’s true that Jones joined Ron Paul and Jimmy Duncan in voting for a Democratic bill that would have extended the Bush tax cuts for most taxpayers, but not for the highest earners.

Unlike most of the Democrats who voted for this bill, however, Jones and the other two Republicans did not actually favor increasing tax rates on the top earners. Democrats controlled the House at the time and the Bush tax cuts were going to expire in full unless Congress passed and President Obama signed an extension.

At the time, there was a real possibility that all the tax cuts were going to lapse in 2011. Democrats were arguing that the GOP was holding lower tax rates for the middle class hostage to lower rates for the top 2 percent. Jones, Paul, and Duncan wanted to extend the lower rates for however many people they could.

When I wrote about this in the context of Ron Paul at the time, a representative of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform commented, “The bill Congress voted on yesterday is a tax cut relative to 2011 law, which assumes everyone’s taxes go up. By preventing some people’s taxes from going up, this would score out as a tax cut.”

Norquist is hardly in the tank for Jones; he campaigned against him in 2008.

Jones voted for the full Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He voted to make the first round of Bush tax cuts permanent in 2002. He voted for the full extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, after the vote for which he is being criticized.

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Rand Paul Taps a New Constituency

Philip Weiss discusses an interesting Hardball clip here, where bestselling mainstream political author Mark Halperin says that Rand Paul could never be elected because the pro-Israel wing of the GOP and the general electorate won’t stand for it. Guest host Joy Reid catalogs the establishment Republican attacks on Paul: she cites NR‘s Rich Lowry, the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens, and the ever-hawkish Congressman Peter King. Their strident, combined, and seemingly coordinated attacks reveal something of a looming panic about Paul’s early progress: there is no clear “establishment” choice (Chris Christie on the bridge; Jeb Bush has devoted the last decade to making money and his political skills may be rusty), and Paul is making progress among various groups (youth, African-Americans) which are appealing to Republicans who want to expand the GOP electorate.

Weiss finds the clip dispiriting because it displays how entrenched the Israel lobby is in the GOP: rabid hawks like Peter King are considered mainstream; it is considered normal behavior for GOP aspirants to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, an advocate of nuking Iran. Rand Paul (who didn’t kowtow to Adelson) is presented as the loopy one. And it may be that Halperin is right—the Israel lobby is powerful enough to essentially dictate the nominating process, and will use that power against Rand Paul.

I had a different reaction: the mere fact that Paul now appears so threatening to the hawks in the party establishment is a sign of their weakness (a lack of grass roots support which they are more aware of than anyone else) and opens at least the possibility of a return to foreign policy realism in the GOP, whether under Paul’s leadership or someone else. Once people start voting, will they go for Sheldon Adelson, or someone who opposes him? I don’t think it’s foreordained that Adelson will prevail, and there are a lot of other people with money in this country.

My other reaction was pure pleasure at the candor of Joy Reid. At the end of the clip, after Halperin states that Paul will “never” satisfy the “pro-Israel” wing of the party, Reid goes right to her summation saying yes, Paul has problem with “the pro-Israel wing of the party, the pro-war (with strong emphasis) wing of the party, the neocons…”

For prime time television, this was a rare moment of blunt truth. Yes, the “pro-Israel wing” of the party takes their intellectual marching orders from neocons, who nearly always are advocating that America start a war somewhere. But one doesn’t normally say this on TV. I thought about this clip, from several years ago: Juan Williams confronted Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday, exclaiming: Read More…

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Catching On to the Pyrrhic Victory of a GOP Senate

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

And here you thought I was being all #slatepitch-y: In February, I argued that President Obama shouldn’t get too uptight about Democrats losing the Senate; and, more, that the dead-end ideological fealty required to control Congress is, paradoxically (but only seemingly), what prevents Republicans from being a true national party; and, finally, that a Congress fully under Republican control will make a fat target for Hillary Clinton.

Zeke J. Miller reports in Time that GOP moneybags, as well as potential Republican presidential candidates currently serving as governor, share the latter concern:

Behind closed doors and in private conversations with reporters and donors, GOPers eyeing the White House in 2016 are privately signaling they wouldn’t mind seeing the party fall short in this year’s midterm elections. For all the benefits of a strong showing in 2014 after resounding defeat in 2012, senior political advisers to some of the top Republican presidential aspirants believe winning the Senate might be the worst thing that could happen.

The opinion is most strongly held by Republican governors, who are hoping to rise above the Washington political fray. Already the central theme adopted by governors like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin is their ability to cut through partisan gridlock to lead their states. A dysfunctional Washington hamstrung by ideological division accentuates their core argument.

Others are taking a ride on my hobbyhorse. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report recently conveyed the similarly glass-half-empty sentiments of “Republican umbrella carriers” who “worry that success in 2014 will mask the real, structural problems that Republicans need to fix before 2016. Namely, that the party doesn’t stand for much more than standing against President Obama. As important, the GOP heads into 2016 with a brand that has been deeply tarnished and not easily repaired.”

The redoubtable Charlie Cook himself added:

This is so true. If Republicans do gain a Senate majority, which they may very well do in November, and manage to pick up eight or more House seats, it will be because of who they are not, not because of who they are. They aren’t in Obama’s party, and they aren’t in the party that unilaterally passed the Affordable Care Act, which, like the president, is unpopular. Republicans may win a bunch of races without measurably improving their party’s “brand” and without making any clear progress among minority, young, moderate, and female voters. The fact that midterm electorates are generally older, whiter, and more conservative than their counterparts in presidential elections exacerbates the difference between the world of 2014 and the one that will exist in 2016. The Republicans can win in 2014 without having fixed their problems.

Granted, Cook and Walter are not making precisely the same argument as mine, though I of course agree that a win in 2014 might give the GOP “false hope.” I go a bit further: I believe Republicans, or at least a good portion of those who matter, know full well that the party has a problem going into 2016, quite apart from what happens this fall. The crux of it is this: there’s nothing they can do to change it in the near term. The adjustments they need to make in order to recapture the White House—find some way to deal with undocumented immigrants; give up on tax cuts for the wealthy; acknowledge the painful trade-offs of any serious Obamacare alternative—would jeopardize their grip on Congress.

It’s possible that Republican leaders are merely biding their time until the Senate is in hand. Why rock the boat when you can win by default? I suspect, however, that the truth is more inconvenient: Rocking the boat will be no easier in 2016 than it is now.

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For GOP, Congress Is a Pair of Cement Shoes

golzfamily /

When I said, in December, that we were “probably at peak Republican,” I hadn’t considered yet the possibility that the GOP might capture the Senate, as now seems more like probable than possible. So let me say it here, now, and emphatically: Winning the Senate isn’t going to accomplish squat for the party; Obama needn’t overly fear the prospect; and — the kicker — success in the legislative branch is actually going to make it harder for Republicans to win the White House in 2016.

Picture it like this.

There are two chambers of Congress.

For Republicans, each is like a cement shoe.

Given the institutional structure of the Senate, wherein rural populations enjoy disproportionate representation, the vulnerability this year of Democratic senators in red states, plus the contemporary practice of gerrymandering House districts, it is now the case that an essentially regional party can win unified control of Congress. It can look like a national party without actually being one.

In practical terms, Republicans can win one chamber of Congress and keep another by running relentlessly on the repeal of Obamacare — but the same stance is probably a net loser nationally.

Similarly with immigration: congressional Republicans cannot take up the issue without dividing their ranks. And yet, as John Feehery has noted, the party’s inability to address immigration is a drag on the party nationally:

[I]f Republicans continue to express disgust with illegal immigration, if they continue to oppose comprehensive immigration reform, if they continue to show disrespect for folks who should be their natural political base, they will be a minority party at the national level, and they will never win back the White House.

There’s no easy way around this. Republicans are in a classic Hellerian catch-22: they’re crazy — and they’d be damn fools to behave any different. Their control of Congress depends, in many ultrasafe Republican districts and several deepest of deep red states, in part on fealty to conservative doctrine that will be problematic for the next GOP presidential contender.

There are green shoots, of course. On taxes, would-be reformers like Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Dave Camp are incrementally edging away from the disaster that was the Romney fiscal agenda. It’s possible that the 2016 Republican nominee won’t be burdened with the albatross of campaigning on a tax reduction for the rich. That’s progress. The party passed a budget. That, too, is progress. But the seeming tranquility in Washington is simply the sound of two parties behaving well until a midterm election. If and when Republicans retake the Senate, the intraparty feud, now simmering, will begin to boil anew. The rightmost flank, flush with victory, will need to be appeased. And the ideological toxicity; the demographics of death; the lack of a viable national standard-bearer — these factors and others will conspire to elect the next President Clinton.

The fact is, we are two countries.

Republicans dominate the smaller one.

The consolation prize, awarded in the off years, is Congress.

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CPAC: The Consequences of Experimenting on the Electorate

Which of these text messages do you think would be more likely to get a conservative voter out to vote?

  • Tomorrow is Election Day for Governor! Your Voting Record is Public. Be a good citizen, be a Voter!
  • Will we let them beat us? Friendly reminder to Vote for Gov tmrw.

Adam Schaeffer, the Director of Research and the co-founder of Evolving Strategies, posed that question to CPAC attendees at a panel titled, “Vaccines vs. Leeches: Using Experiments to Win Hearts, Minds, and Elections.”

He and his team have sent out both these messages to randomized subsets of voters, and it turned out that the first message had a statistically insignificant effect on voting, but the second turned out to raise turnout by 6.8 percentage points.

Schaeffer and others (including the growing team at Para Bellum) are trying to use experiments to guide outreach, testing tiny variations in messaging to find big, unexpected advantages. The Democrats, relying on the research of Alan Gerber and Donald Green, have been using experiments to increase turnout and maximize fundraising, and have outpaced the GOP’s efforts.

Experiments have the power to subvert the conventional wisdom of campaigns, since it’s easy to try out a new idea cheaply. In 2012, the Obama team found that they could maximize the chance that one of their emails would be opened with a simple, enigmatic subject line: “Hey.” Small changes can make a big difference.

In Schaeffer’s experiments, timing was critical. Although the second message produced good results in the morning, when the same message was sent in the afternoon, the results were still significant, but they were significantly negative. Voters who were contacted in the late afternoon had their turnout rates drop by -11.4 percentage points as a result.

Testing so many hypothesis and checking the impact of messages on so many tiny subgroups leaves candidates vulnerable to being mislead by statistical artifacts. Most commonly used significance tests have a one in twenty chance of being false positives. When a campaign tests hundreds of variations, some results are bound to seem significant in pilot tests but fail to preform when they’re applied to the whole electorate. Read More…

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Republicans Try to Bridge the Big Data Gap

At hackathons and in the cubicle-less offices of Silicon Valley firms, Republican recruiters are sidling up to programmers and cautiously sounding them out to see how they feel about the NSA spying program and the Obamacare rollout. They’re headhunting for Para Bellum Labs, the GOP’s attempt to answer the computed power of President Obama’s Organizing for America. The organization is meant to take advantage of a start-up spirit, nurturing small, agile political projects that can scale up to national races.

The new initiative takes its name from the Latin motto, Si vis pacem, para bellum—If you seek peace, prepare for war. But it might have been more apropos to say, Si vis vitam, para bellum—prepare for war, if you want to live. In 2012, the GOP’s get out the vote project, Project Orca, blew up in the Romney campaigns face. On Election Day, the webpage went down and stayed down, unprepared to handle the load of field volunteers checking voter turnout and following up with tardy voters.

Meanwhile, the Obama team’s outreach rolled along smoothly, messages tailored to individual voters through Project Narwhal, a massive data mining initiative similar to the algorithms and A/B testing that online advertisers use to maximize the chance that you’ll click through on an ad. The Obama tech team didn’t just work on what message to send, but what medium to send it through as well. At the peak of the campaign, the Obama team was carefully looking for undervalued, highly-targeted media buys. Their big data machine meant that the Democrats were spending, on average, $72 less per TV spot than the Romney campaign.

The Para Bellum team may be able to help the GOP staunch the bleeding, but they’re unlikely to deliver the same kind of advantage as Project Narwhal did for the Democrats. The Obama campaign benefited from being the first mover in the political data movement. By using big data, they were able to segment voters and media markets into smaller demographic slices and to identify opportunities that had been systematically mispriced.

The Democrats’ playbook resembled the sabermetric approach of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s coach profiled in Moneyball. By taking a finer-grained approach to a market (of persuadable voters, in the Democrats case, of free agents and draftees, in Beane’s), the quants were able to steal a march on their opponents.

But Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s only benefited from his Moneyball strategies for a few seasons before the rest of the league caught up, and his advantage didn’t last long enough to reach the World Series. His data-intensive approach only helped as long as players were systematically mispriced. Once the other general managers wised up, the market for players settled into a new equilibrium and the richer teams were able to outbid their rivals for better players.

The Para Bellum initiative can blunt the advantage of the Organizing for America team, but it will be difficult to outstrip them. As both parties get better at leveraging big data, they’ll find it easier and easier to spend their resources efficiently on the undecideds who are most likely to become supporters, and the supporters who are the most likely to become campaign contributors.

Big data and algorithms mean that future political campaigns will be conducted in a world of better slicing and better pricing. But better pricing, in this case, means more efficient pricing, not cheaper pricing. If Para Bellum Labs succeeds in its mission, the Republicans won’t be leaving money on the table for Democratic programmers anymore. But instead of reaping an advantage of their own, the GOP coders will just have shifted the electoral market into a new equilibrium.

Just as the segmentation of the electoral college allows both parties to better target their outreach, to the only voters whose votes could make a difference, the data crunchers on both sides will let the parties fight fiercely over an ever smaller set of voters.

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Scott Walker Hints at Bush Sequel With Misguided Tax Cuts

Gov. Scott Walker has fashioned a reputation as a fiscal steward and political survivor. He made some tough choices during a severe economic downturn and turned a budget shortfall (how much of one is a matter of some dispute) into a surplus and, for his troubles, faced down a partisan recall effort.

He’s putting that reputation at risk in an apparent effort to pad his presidential contender resume with force-fitted tax cuts. Politico’s Rachel Bade notes the obvious:

With a nearly $1 billion projected budget surplus expected next year, Walker wants to slash property and income taxes as he heads into reelection this fall — a move many say could also grease a 2016 presidential bid should he decide to run.

The interesting, and to my mind, encouraging, thing is that the move, which will cost Wisconsin an estimated $860 million over two years, has met with skepticism from some Republicans in Wisconsin. Bade reports that “he’s facing headwinds from a handful of Senate Republicans who say the tax cuts should come after paying off a slew of unpaid bills due in just a few years. Walker’s plan would actually worsen the longer-term deficit outlook.” One state Republican senator told Politico, “The tax plan sets us up for a very bad time in the future.”

And Walker would do well to listen to him—because if he’s truly eying a run in 2016, he’s badly misreading the mood of the national electorate and even of congressional Republicans. The salience of revenue-reducing tax cuts as a plank in the national Republican platform has diminished over the years, as gains in income have been concentrated among a small cohort of already-wealthy voters. Recall: Mitt Romney, if only vaguely, promised to pay for lower tax rates by limiting deductions. Rep. Paul Ryan’s most recent budget proposal also was revenue neutral. Sen. Mike Lee’s barebones tax reform proposal is possibly revenue-negative, but it hasn’t been scored and, as written, won’t see the light of day.

The bottom line is that the GOP isn’t anxious to return to the playbook of the Aughts. In his first presidential campaign, Gov. George W. Bush warned against letting Washington get its hands on projected budget surpluses—“the people’s money”—so he promised to cut taxes instead. In office, Bush drained federal coffers of the surpluses—and then some.

Governor Walker is foolish to think Republicans, let alone the electorate in general, want to see that movie again.

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Why Obama Shouldn’t Fear a GOP Senate, Ctd.

I was pleased to see Howard Kurtz respond to my post on why President Obama shouldn’t fear a GOP Senate, even as he thinks I’m “all wrong.”

Writes Kurtz:

An all-Republican Congress can make life miserable for Obama and, by extension, for Hillary Clinton if she runs. The notion that the GOP will suddenly function as a cooperative partner totally underestimates the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.

Nowhere in my post did I suggest that the GOP would “suddenly function as a cooperative partner.” I made a narrowly focused prediction that “things may actually improve slightly”—most likely on the issue of immigration, concerning which Kurtz argues:

Republicans are highly unlikely to be passing immigration reform in 2015 even if they win the midterms. The base hates it, and more important, we’ll be in the opening innings of a presidential campaign in which the party’s contenders will be pulled to the right, as Mitt Romney (he of “self-deportation”) was in 2012.

Kurtz here is just projecting the status quo into the indefinite future. Yes, the base “hates” the idea of amnesty. But guess what? 1) The base cannot deliver a Republican president in 2016. 2) The Romney campaign sucked; and the GOP establishment is not anxious to repeat its mistakes (the “self-deportation” rhetoric was a particularly and self-evidently disastrous mistake). This is why I believe there’s at least a sliver of a chance of compromise over the issue. With unified control of Congress, the GOP will very likely be able to present to Obama a bill with tough enforcement measures and no path to citizenship. It will be able to declare victory on a major issue on its own terms, not the Democrats’, and it will have laid the groundwork for a campaign that courts Latinos afresh. And as I noted in my original post, Obama will have little choice but to accept whatever cards the GOP deals him on immigration.

Kurtz takes, issue, too with my argument that “Republican Congress” will make for juicy target for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign: “Two years of a Republican Congress won’t be much of a 2016 target, if things aren’t going well, compared to eight years of the Obama administration. As a bogeyman, John Boehner is no Newt Gingrich.” Well, yeah, true. But I never made such a comparison. The Republican nominee will run against Obama’s eight years no matter which party controls the Senate. And Hillary won’t need a neo-Newt bogeyman. She will instead sow fear of unified Republican control of the federal government. Of a return to the mismanagement of the Bush years. Of unchecked power.

Kurtz’s final point:

If they control the Senate machinery, Republicans will be able to launch twice as many investigations as they can now by holding just the House. They will be able to block Obama nominees, creating a sense of dysfunction. They will be able to bring bills to the floor, while Harry Reid watches helplessly, solely for the purpose of forcing Democrats to cast politically dangerous votes that can be used in attack ads. They can cut the budget in the name of deficit reduction. They may even be able to force Obama to veto legislation that suits their purposes. In short, the White House will lose the bulwark of a Senate that ensures all conservative legislation dies in the House.

I will concede that a Republican Senate could make life for Obama marginally worse than the carnival barker Darrell Issa already has. But the rest of the paragraph is almost adorable. “They will be to block Obama nominees, creating a sense of dysfunction [emphasis mine].” No kidding? I’d say Obama is fairly used to that kind of thing by now. “They can cut the budget in the name of deficit deduction.” You don’t say? And good luck getting legislation to the floor. There’s this thing in the Senate about invoking cloture. I hear it’s really difficult to do lately. And about “conservative legislation dying in the House”: I was around in the late 1990s when complaints from House Republicans about their lamentably milquetoast brethren in the Senate were routine and vociferous. Such may be the case again in 2015. With a Republican Senate, “conservative legislation” won’t die in the House. It will die instead in conference.

Kurtz’s scenario of Republicans’ eliciting embarrassing vetoes on show-me bills (“legislation that suits their purposes”) is outdated. Obama’s not running again. There will be no painful vetoes for him—only gleefully satisfying ones. And if, as a consequence, Hillary needs to run to Obama’s right because of something he vetoes, so much the better for her. If legislation that’s sufficiently moderate does miraculously make its way to his desk—most likely, and probably exclusively, an immigration bill—he will sign it.

That’s all I’m saying. There will be no “Kumbaya” around a campfire.

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Eric Cantor Picks the Right 40 Yard Lines

Center-right wonks are increasingly optimistic that the next Republican nominee will have a real agenda to promote—one that’s attractive to all voters, not just white owners of capital.

There’s the focus on overhauling antipoverty programs from Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan. There’s the family-friendly tax plan of Sen. Mike Lee. There’s the brave gesture in the direction of prison reform from Lee and Sen. Rand Paul.

To be sure, this agenda is still bones and no flesh.

In the meantime, an equally important development is underway.

Byron York reported from the recent House Republican retreat:

At the House Republican retreat in Cambridge, Md., Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called on GOP lawmakers to take a new approach to the nation’s economic anxieties. Dividing his remarks into four categories — Obamacare, jobs and economic growth, the middle-class squeeze, and opportunity — Cantor’s goal was to try to identify specific problems middle-class families are facing and spark discussion on conservative solutions that might help those families.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Cantors presentation was that it included a recognition that in the past Republicans have focused more on the nation’s employers than employees, have talked about small business owners and entrepreneurs to the exclusion of the far greater number of Americans who don’t own their own businesses.

“Ninety percent of Americans work for someone else,” Cantor said, according to a source in the room. “Most of them not only will never own their own business, for most of them that isn’t their dream. Their dream is to have a good job, with an income that will allow them to support their family.”

“We shouldn’t miss the chance to talk to these people,” Cantor continued, according to the source, “which is why we will present and pass our plans to relieve the middle class squeeze.”

This shift in tone and emphasis is key to any hope of a Republican winning the White House again. It is a not-so-subtle rebuke of the disastrous Romney campaign and its self-satisfied and divisive “Yes, I did build that!” rhetoric. It’s the human-interest frame in which to hang the Ryan-Rubio-Lee-Paul reform agenda.

After Ryan’s 2012 convention speech, I wrote:

In Ryan’s intellectual bubble, there are job creators and entrepreneurs on one side and parasites on the other. There is no account of the vast gray expanse of janitors, waitresses, hotel front-desk clerks, nurses, highway maintenance workers, airport baggage handlers, and taxi drivers. They work hard, but at the end of the day, what can they be said to have “built”?

There’s an old saying that American politics is fought “between the 40 yard lines.” This is half-true. It skips over the matter of which football field we’re playing on. For the last five years, we’ve been fighting between the 40 yard lines on the football field of low inflation and deficit reduction—spending cuts vs. new tax revenue. What, if anything, to do about long-term unemployment and underemployment is another field altogether—and we barely play on it.

The field on which elite Republicans would like to fight is that of cheap labor, tight money, balanced budgets, hawkish foreign policy and low taxes on capital. On this field, amnesty and gay marriage are between the 40 yard lines.

Not to single her out, because there are all too many Republicans like her in Washington, but this is Jennifer Rubin’s field.

It’s the way to defeat again in ’16.

Cantor’s advice to his Republican colleagues is a critical first-step in ensuring that, for the next campaign, the GOP is between the 40 yard lines and on the right football field.

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