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GOP turns anger on campaign committee

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061224/ap_on_go_co/gop_second_guessing GOP turns anger on campaign committee By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent Sat Dec 23,
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 24, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061224/ap_on_go_co/gop_second_guessing

      GOP turns anger on campaign committee
      By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
      Sat Dec 23, 10:43 PM ET

      WASHINGTON - Narrowly defeated in his bid for a fourth
      term, Montana Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting
      record) turned his anger on the National Republican
      Senatorial Committee and commercials it had run months
      before the election.

      "The ads hurt me more than they helped. I wouldn't
      have spent the money," he said, his comments
      characteristic of the season of second-guessing now
      unfolding among Republicans.

      President Bush's low approval ratings, the unpopular
      war on Iraq, voter concern about corruption and
      Democratic fundraising all figured in the GOP loss of
      Senate control in last month's elections. But among
      Republicans, long-hidden tensions are spilling into
      view, with numerous critics venting their anger at the
      GOP Senate campaign committee headed by North Carolina
      Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

      In recent interviews, officials said Senate Majority
      Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., as well as Ken Mehlman,
      the party chairman, set up outside checks on the
      committee at critical points in the campaign.

      As early as last summer, Mehlman signaled he lacked
      full confidence in Dole's committee. In an
      unprecedented move, he set up an independent entity to
      control more than $12 million that the
      Republican National Committee spent for television
      advertising in Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri.

      Aides at both party committees insisted at the time
      the decision was a joint one. But Mehlman privately
      told associates he was frustrated with the Senate
      campaign committee. His actions contrasted sharply
      with the battle for control of the House, where the
      RNC contributed funds to an existing campaign
      organization rather than create its own.

      Frist also wanted an outside check. In an unusual
      move, he hired a polling firm, The Winston Group,
      shortly before Labor Day to conduct surveys in six
      important races.

      Based on the results, officials said Frist stepped in
      to help overhaul Bob Corker's struggling campaign in
      his home state of Tennessee. Corker ended up beating
      Democrat Harold Ford Jr. Frist also pushed for a
      resumption of party-paid advertising in Montana and
      questioned plans for a multimillion-dollar investment
      in New Jersey.

      Final fundraising figures show Dole's committee raised
      $30 million less than the Democratic counterpart
      headed by Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting
      record) of New York. Given the disparity, several
      Republican strategists questioned the decision to
      spend more than $4 million last fall in New Jersey and
      $800,000 in Michigan in an unsuccessful attempt to
      find a weak spot in the Democratic lineup. Democrats
      won both races by relatively comfortable margins.

      At the same time, more than a dozen party officials
      and strategists criticized the steps the committee
      took — or did not take — in Montana and Virginia in
      the campaign's final weeks.

      Burns and Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record)
      lost exceedingly close races — the margin of defeat a
      fraction of a percentage point. A victory in either
      one would have left the Senate tied at 50-50, giving
      Republicans control on Vice President Cheney's ability
      to break tie votes.

      Two more weeks of ads in Montana might have made a
      difference, said one of many Republicans who expressed
      anger that Dole's committee aired no television
      advertisements in Burns' behalf for between Labor Day
      and Halloween.

      In Virginia, Allen and the Senate campaign committee
      combined were outspent on television advertising in
      each of the last five weeks by challenger Jim Webb and
      the Democratic campaign committee, according to
      internal GOP figures. The gap exceeded $700,000 in the
      final seven days.

      Numerous Republicans also have displayed anger at Bush
      for the party's election losses, in particular his
      decision to wait until after the election to replace
      Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary.

      "If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made
      a difference," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio,
      voting record), R-Pa., who was not on the ballot but
      lost some of his power nonetheless. "I'd still be
      chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

      The prospect of presidential visits sparked debate
      within campaigns.

      At one point, officials said, White House aides wanted
      Bush to make a late-campaign trip to Missouri. NRSC
      strategists were opposed, fearing the impact of his
      low approval ratings. Ultimately, Sen. Jim Talent
      (news, bio, voting record)'s campaign aides decided
      the president should go to strongly Republican areas,
      but not Kansas City or St. Louis, where surveys showed
      the president was particularly unpopular.

      Some Republicans, including at the Senate campaign
      committee, complain that the White House and the RNC
      were urging candidates to use the fight against
      terrorism as a campaign issue, but offered no advice
      on combating voter anger on the war in Iraq — an issue
      that one official referred to as the "800-pound
      elephant in the room."

      Also, NRSC officials said the White House and RNC had
      recommended the late-campaign investment in new Jersey
      and Michigan.

      None of the NRSC's critics agreed to place their views
      on the record. All spoke on condition of anonymity,
      saying they did not want to contribute to intraparty
      squabbling.

      Dole is recovering from hip replacement surgery and
      was not available to comment. But Mehlman and others
      stepped forward to defend her tenure.

      "I think Senator Dole did a fine job under extremely
      difficult conditions, probably the toughest election
      environment for Republicans since 1974," said Sen.
      Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of
      Kentucky, the incoming Senate GOP leader.

      Mark Stephens, the committee's executive director,
      strongly defended its work. He said it was the only
      GOP entity to increase fundraising from 2004, and that
      Burns and Allen — both of whom were plagued by
      self-inflicted political wounds — probably would have
      lost by larger margins without its support.

      Without the committee's efforts, he said, "I think it
      could have been a lot worse than 49 seats," pointing
      to Republican victories in Tennessee and Arizona.

      But in the current postelection environment, nothing
      escapes notice.

      Numerous Republicans expressed anger that a top aide
      at the Senate campaign committee, political director
      Blaise Hazelwood, was allowed to devote some of her
      time to a business she owns.

      Hazelwood declined comment, but Stephens defended the
      arrangement. "At no time did anybody else's business
      interfere with their work here," he said, adding he
      would have stepped if had it been otherwise.

      Burns, a three-term senator who was under constant
      attack for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,
      and the NRSC aired no television commercials in
      September or October after committee aides concluded
      he appeared hopelessly behind. That left Burns to face
      double-barreled televised attacks from his rival, Jon
      Tester, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
      Committee, which spent $1.4 million over the same
      period.

      "You'd turn on the television at night and they'd
      typically have ... three ads whacking Conrad and then
      we'd have one," said one Republican.

      "The campaign didn't merit" earlier advertising,
      countered Stephens. He said polling showed Burns not
      only trailing his rival but also viewed unfavorably by
      many more voters than regarded him favorably.

      In a similar vein, campaign officials said the GOP
      senatorial committee was off the air for two weeks in
      Missouri in early September, leaving Talent without
      protection as he faced attacks from Democratic
      challenger Claire McCaskill and the Democrats' Senate
      campaign committee.

      Unlike in Montana or Missouri, the NRSC had budgeted
      no money for Virginia, where Allen initially appeared
      to face little threat. After a mistake-plagued
      campaign, though, the first-term senator had burned
      through his sizable campaign treasury by fall.

      "I put $5 million into that race in October," said
      Stephens, adding that the effort had helped Allen
      recover lost ground in the race.

      "There were a lot of factors that contributed to
      Allen's loss. It wouldn't be fair to blame it on the
      senatorial committee," said Ed Gillespie, a senior
      strategist for the campaign and Mehlman's predecessor
      as RNC chairman.

      In an ironic campaign postscript, some party officials
      and outside strategists expressed anger in interviews
      that Dole did not borrow more heavily in October in
      hopes of preserving the GOP majority. The committee
      recently reported debts of $1.1 million.

      But several Republicans said McConnell and Sen. John
      Ensign (news, bio, voting record) of Nevada — the
      incoming Senate GOP leader and Dole's successor,
      respectively — made clear they wanted as little
      postelection debt as possible.

      Republicans face a difficult political environment
      heading into 2008 and they did not want to begin in a
      deep hole.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      Good post, Greg... I found it interesting that there was no mention among the grumbling of personal responsibility of candidates for nearly unprecedented
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 24, 2006
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        Good post, Greg... I found it interesting that there
        was no mention among the grumbling of personal
        responsibility of candidates for nearly unprecedented
        corruption and ineffectiveness.

        Tom


        --- Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...> wrote:

        >
        http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061224/ap_on_go_co/gop_second_guessing
        >
        > GOP turns anger on campaign committee
        > By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
        > Sat Dec 23, 10:43 PM ET
        >
        > WASHINGTON - Narrowly defeated in his bid for a
        > fourth
        > term, Montana Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting
        > record) turned his anger on the National Republican
        > Senatorial Committee and commercials it had run
        > months
        > before the election.
        >
        > "The ads hurt me more than they helped. I wouldn't
        > have spent the money," he said, his comments
        > characteristic of the season of second-guessing now
        > unfolding among Republicans.
        >
        > President Bush's low approval ratings, the unpopular
        > war on Iraq, voter concern about corruption and
        > Democratic fundraising all figured in the GOP loss
        > of
        > Senate control in last month's elections. But among
        > Republicans, long-hidden tensions are spilling into
        > view, with numerous critics venting their anger at
        > the
        > GOP Senate campaign committee headed by North
        > Carolina
        > Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
        >
        > In recent interviews, officials said Senate Majority
        > Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., as well as Ken Mehlman,
        > the party chairman, set up outside checks on the
        > committee at critical points in the campaign.
        >
        > As early as last summer, Mehlman signaled he lacked
        > full confidence in Dole's committee. In an
        > unprecedented move, he set up an independent entity
        > to
        > control more than $12 million that the
        > Republican National Committee spent for television
        > advertising in Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri.
        >
        > Aides at both party committees insisted at the time
        > the decision was a joint one. But Mehlman privately
        > told associates he was frustrated with the Senate
        > campaign committee. His actions contrasted sharply
        > with the battle for control of the House, where the
        > RNC contributed funds to an existing campaign
        > organization rather than create its own.
        >
        > Frist also wanted an outside check. In an unusual
        > move, he hired a polling firm, The Winston Group,
        > shortly before Labor Day to conduct surveys in six
        > important races.
        >
        > Based on the results, officials said Frist stepped
        > in
        > to help overhaul Bob Corker's struggling campaign in
        > his home state of Tennessee. Corker ended up beating
        > Democrat Harold Ford Jr. Frist also pushed for a
        > resumption of party-paid advertising in Montana and
        > questioned plans for a multimillion-dollar
        > investment
        > in New Jersey.
        >
        > Final fundraising figures show Dole's committee
        > raised
        > $30 million less than the Democratic counterpart
        > headed by Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting
        > record) of New York. Given the disparity, several
        > Republican strategists questioned the decision to
        > spend more than $4 million last fall in New Jersey
        > and
        > $800,000 in Michigan in an unsuccessful attempt to
        > find a weak spot in the Democratic lineup. Democrats
        > won both races by relatively comfortable margins.
        >
        > At the same time, more than a dozen party officials
        > and strategists criticized the steps the committee
        > took — or did not take — in Montana and Virginia in
        > the campaign's final weeks.
        >
        > Burns and Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting
        > record)
        > lost exceedingly close races — the margin of defeat
        > a
        > fraction of a percentage point. A victory in either
        > one would have left the Senate tied at 50-50, giving
        > Republicans control on Vice President Cheney's
        > ability
        > to break tie votes.
        >
        > Two more weeks of ads in Montana might have made a
        > difference, said one of many Republicans who
        > expressed
        > anger that Dole's committee aired no television
        > advertisements in Burns' behalf for between Labor
        > Day
        > and Halloween.
        >
        > In Virginia, Allen and the Senate campaign committee
        > combined were outspent on television advertising in
        > each of the last five weeks by challenger Jim Webb
        > and
        > the Democratic campaign committee, according to
        > internal GOP figures. The gap exceeded $700,000 in
        > the
        > final seven days.
        >
        > Numerous Republicans also have displayed anger at
        > Bush
        > for the party's election losses, in particular his
        > decision to wait until after the election to replace
        > Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary.
        >
        > "If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have
        > made
        > a difference," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio,
        > voting record), R-Pa., who was not on the ballot but
        > lost some of his power nonetheless. "I'd still be
        > chairman of the Judiciary Committee."
        >
        > The prospect of presidential visits sparked debate
        > within campaigns.
        >
        > At one point, officials said, White House aides
        > wanted
        > Bush to make a late-campaign trip to Missouri. NRSC
        > strategists were opposed, fearing the impact of his
        > low approval ratings. Ultimately, Sen. Jim Talent
        > (news, bio, voting record)'s campaign aides decided
        > the president should go to strongly Republican
        > areas,
        > but not Kansas City or St. Louis, where surveys
        > showed
        > the president was particularly unpopular.
        >
        > Some Republicans, including at the Senate campaign
        > committee, complain that the White House and the RNC
        > were urging candidates to use the fight against
        > terrorism as a campaign issue, but offered no advice
        > on combating voter anger on the war in Iraq — an
        > issue
        > that one official referred to as the "800-pound
        > elephant in the room."
        >
        > Also, NRSC officials said the White House and RNC
        > had
        > recommended the late-campaign investment in new
        > Jersey
        > and Michigan.
        >
        > None of the NRSC's critics agreed to place their
        > views
        > on the record. All spoke on condition of anonymity,
        > saying they did not want to contribute to intraparty
        > squabbling.
        >
        > Dole is recovering from hip replacement surgery and
        > was not available to comment. But Mehlman and others
        > stepped forward to defend her tenure.
        >
        > "I think Senator Dole did a fine job under extremely
        > difficult conditions, probably the toughest election
        > environment for Republicans since 1974," said Sen.
        > Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of
        > Kentucky, the incoming Senate GOP leader.
        >
        > Mark Stephens, the committee's executive director,
        > strongly defended its work. He said it was the only
        > GOP entity to increase fundraising from 2004, and
        > that
        > Burns and Allen — both of whom were plagued by
        > self-inflicted political wounds — probably would
        > have
        > lost by larger margins without its support.
        >
        > Without the committee's efforts, he said, "I think
        > it
        > could have been a lot worse than 49 seats," pointing
        > to Republican victories in Tennessee and Arizona.
        >
        > But in the current postelection environment, nothing
        > escapes notice.
        >
        > Numerous Republicans expressed anger that a top aide
        > at the Senate campaign committee, political director
        > Blaise Hazelwood, was allowed to devote some of her
        > time to a business she owns.
        >
        > Hazelwood declined comment, but Stephens defended
        > the
        > arrangement. "At no time did anybody else's business
        > interfere with their work here," he said, adding he
        > would have stepped if had it been otherwise.
        >
        > Burns, a three-term senator who was under constant
        > attack for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,
        > and the NRSC aired no television commercials in
        >
        === message truncated ===
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