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“Stealth Religion-Based Support”: Jeb’s Strategy With The Christian Right; Osmosis

If you are used to thinking of Jeb Bush as this Establishment Republican that hard-core conservatives–including the Christian Right–mistrust, this little nugget from a recent National Journal piece by Tim Alberta and Tiffany Stanley might be a jarring reminder of the long reach of Jeb’s family:

[P]owerful Christian conservatives are operating what amounts to a stealth campaign on Bush’s behalf. Some are old allies from the Florida days; others are holdovers from George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Some are both, including Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a longtime friend of Jeb’s who served as Southeast regional chairman of George W.’s 2004 reelection effort (and thus practically lived in Florida). Multiple GOP sources say that Reed has been urging Jeb Bush for several years to make a 2016 run and spoke with him recently to game out the campaign. Like many of the organizations that Bush’s supporters lead, Reed’s coalition demands impartiality from its leaders, so Reed can’t openly back his man—unless, as some suspect will happen, Reed ultimately decides to join the campaign officially.

This makes Jeb’s decision to blow off the big Iowa cattle-call of Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition this weekend a bit more interesting, eh? Seems Jeb would prefer quiet consultations with his close friend Ralph Reed to open pandering. And indeed, that’s the theme that comes through from stem to stern in the Alberta/Stanley article, which begins with Jeb simultaneously refusing a formal vetting session with Iowa Christian Right kingpin Bob Vander Plaats while trying to charm him privately. We also learn that last summer Jeb flew out to Colorado to hobnob with the leadership of Focus on the Family, and spent a whole day with Russell Moore, the highly influential head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He’s extremely close to the president of Florida’s Ave Maria University, sort of the Harvard of hyper-traditionalist Catholicism (and the site of Rich Santorum’s now-famous “spiritual warfare” speech). And he has the support and advice of Mark DeMoss, who was the Romney campaign’s chief liaison to conservative evangelicals in 2012–not to mention the positive memories of many Christian Right folk about his role in the Terri Schiavo saga of 2005.

At a minimum, if Jeb wins the GOP nomination, he will not have to waste time on any courtship of conservative Christians. But at a time when (a) some Christian Right leaders like Russell Moore are expressing a preference for less noisy and more strategically minded political champions and (b) there will be an awful lot of the noisy types in the field, Bush may be quietly competing already with Scott Walker for stealth religion-based support. And he doesn’t really even have to blow many dog whistles: it’s more a strategy of osmosis, where Christian Soldiers learn to view him as a comrade-in-arms who is all the more effective for trying not to set off too many alarms in the secular-socialist enemy camp.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 22, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other”: Chris Christie Has Some Pandering To Do In Advance Of His Next Campaign

A pretty significant religious right gathering it poised to get underway in a couple of hours, and the guest list is worth checking out.

Ralph Reed’s three-day Faith and Freedom Coalition conference begins today. This is your social conservative wing of the Republican Party. The speaking lineup:

 * Thursday (from noon to 1:30 pm ET): Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ted Cruz (R-TX)

 * Friday (from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm ET): Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

 * Friday (from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET): Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Texas Lt. Gov. nominee Dan Patrick, and Mike Huckabee

 * Saturday (from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET): Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

This, by the way, is only a partial list. The list of luminaries who’ll be on hand for the right-wing gathering also includes Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who’s likely to be elected Majority Leader in a few hours.

There are a few important angles to this. The first is that the Republican Party’s eagerness to pander to extreme social conservatives is hardly a thing of the past. On the contrary, there are 10 sitting members of the U.S. House (including half of the GOP leadership team), six sitting U.S. senators (including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), and two sitting governors, all of whom will no doubt deliver red-meat speeches to this conservative evangelical crowd.

Second, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” Conference is hosted and organized by Ralph Reed, a disgraced former lobbyist. Why would so many powerful Republican leaders want to associate with Reed given his scandalous past? Apparently because much of the political world has decided Reed’s controversial past no longer matters.

And finally, Chris Christie? Really?

The scandal-plagued New Jersey governor can certainly speak to whomever he pleases, but agreeing to speak at a religious right event organized by Ralph Reed, of all people, isn’t exactly an obvious move. It was Christie, after all, who said he’s “tired of dealing with the crazies” after far-right activists criticized the governor for nominating a Muslim judge.

One assumes many of those “crazies” will be on hand for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s event today.

Indeed, the director of the New Jersey branch of the Faith and Freedom Coalition has repeatedly condemned Christie for being insufficiently right-wing on the issues social conservatives care about most.

But Christie’s national ambitions clearly haven’t waned, and despite the awkward fit, the Garden State governor apparently has some pandering to do in advance of his next campaign.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 19, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Religious Right | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does The Tea Party Want?….The New Litmus Test

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen argue that the Tea Party redefined the purpose of the GOP as opposition to spending:

The Republican Party is undergoing a messy but unmistakable 20-month transformation from fanatically anti-Obama to fanatically anti-spending, providing top party officials a new and intriguing playbook for recapturing the White House in 2012.

To understand the current evolution, flash back to late spring of 2009. The GOP was disoriented and adrift, its leadership void filled by the bombastic voices of Palin, Beck and Rush Limbaugh. There was no common conservative cause, beyond fear and loathing of Obama. No wonder swing voters were so down on them.

But the tea party, treated at first by the media as exotics, forced Republicans to focus almost exclusively on the size of government. By the time the 2010 elections rolled around, tea party activists and most independent voters were completely aligned on the need to cut, cut, cut.

Midterm election results showed that this approach offers the GOP its best – and maybe only – hope of keeping the interests of independents and tea party activists aligned enough to beat Obama.

The new litmus tests for GOP presidential hopefuls are support for repealing “Obamacare” and taking a cleaver to government spending. If a presidential candidate could harness the smaller-government conservatism, temper it enough to avoid a blatant overreach and articulate a vision for a prosperous future for the country, it’s not hard to imagine swing voters finding such a person appealing. 

There’s a superficial appeal to this story. But the evidence that Tea Party activists want to cut spending — at least actual spending programs — is sparse. Polls show that Tea Party supports overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The main thrust of Tea Party opinion is not the belief that Obama has spent too much money, but the belief that Obama has spent too much money on people unlike them:

More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

Here’s another cut, showing the Tea Party’s greater comfort with inequality of opportunity and stronger belief that the government devotes too many resources to minorities:

It’s a revolt against the composition of government much more than the level.

Now, it’s true that Republicans aren’t exactly translating this blueprint into action, but they’re not exactly flouting it, either. There is always a generalized antipathy toward spending amongst Republican and swing voters, but it disappears when the subject turns to actual government programs. Usually Republicans decide to just cut taxes for the rich instead. Here’s is the one part of the article proposing a defined policy change:

Even Ralph Reed, the Republican operative most tapped in to evangelicals, reflected the new GOP mindset when he gave this surprising wish list for the next presidential race: “In a perfect world, I’d like to hear the Republican nominee run on a platform that takes the capital gains tax to zero over five years.” Reed, who summoned several of the presidential candidates to Iowa for his Faith & Freedom Coalition this week, made it clear that Christian conservatives will still need to be catered to, but added that his side will understand the nominee’s need to focus on swing voters.

So an article putatively about the GOP redefining itself as an anti-spending party has one actual programmatic detail, and it’s: a zeroing out of the capital gains tax. In the name of appealing to swing voters — who, in fact, oppose tax cuts for the rich. Meet the new boss…

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Medicare, Obama, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Social Security, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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