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  • Handicapping The 2016 GOP Primaries by Karl Rove

    January 15th 2015


    Each presidential primary contest differs from previous ones. But 2016 will be wildly different, starting with many more qualified candidates than in 2012. The field last time was among the weakest in memory; this field could be among the strongest.

    The race is wide open with no commanding front-runner. Three times as many prospective candidates received 5% or more in Wednesday’s Real Clear Politics average than at this point four years ago. And while Republicans usually have more senators than governors running, it’s the opposite this time.

    The Republican National Committee will sanction five to seven debates—far fewer than the 26 held in the runup to the 2012 election—limiting opportunities for candidates to carve each other up on national TV and for liberal moderators to focus on how exotic Republicans are.

    Voting will start later. The RNC prohibited January primaries and authorized only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to hold February contests. Any other state that votes before March will lose all its convention delegates.

    The number of contests increases in the first half of March, potentially including a Southern “Super Tuesday” with Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. Early March states must award delegates proportionally. So while one candidate may carry more states, there may be only a small difference in the delegate count.

    States voting in the second half of March and beyond can award delegates winner-take-all. This could quickly end the contest or, some suggest, make it harder for any candidate to pull away as several candidates split big blocks of delegates, resulting in a long battle that could go until the convention. I think the former outcome is more likely, though a long battle didn’t hurt Democrats in 2008.

    The 2016 GOP primaries will take place in the fastest news cycle ever. As one observer puts it, “rapid response” has become “immediate response.” How candidates seize unexpected opportunities, handle moments of adversity or react in times of triumph could matter more than in any GOP contest in 50 years.

    That raises the importance of “message.” Candidates who make it to the finals will be those who focus more on solutions than on problems, more on the future than the past, and who heed the words of Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” To broaden the GOP’s appeal, virtually every hopeful is already fashioning a middle-class agenda to increase economic mobility and reduce government dependency.

    In a large field, a candidate’s proficiency in bashing President Obama or Hillary Clinton will have surprisingly limited value. Anyone who spends an inordinate amount of energy assaulting other Republican contenders may damage himself. Fierce, especially personal, attacks will create a low ceiling for the assailant while benefiting candidates who stay out of the fracas.

    The finalists are likely to be unifiers who win a dominant share of one element of the party and substantial support among others, much as last year’s crop of successful Republican Senate candidates did in their primaries.

    Always important, money will be more so this time. With fewer debates providing grist for horse-race coverage, journalists may measure progress by fundraising. But big-money candidates like John Connally in 1980 and Phil Gramm in 1996 didn’t win. What counts is not only how much is raised, but what is left after expenses and how effectively it is spent.

  • Lilly & Company Joined Congressman Kevin Brady’s Team March 2013…

    September 27th 2014

    WASHINGTON - Four years ago, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady was regarded as a low-profile, hardworking GOP stalwart from The Woodlands with a fledgling political action committee that raised less than $10,000 for his Republican colleagues - pocket change in the congressional money game.

    For the November midterm elections, with Republicans reaching for a historic majority in the U.S. House, Brady's revamped leadership PAC has pulled in $364,000 - part of a $4 million war chest amassed among his various political organizations, including his own re-election campaign.

    In a business where money talks, Brady's muscular new fundraising is an important measure in his rivalry with Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to become the next chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Brady's signature policy interest - tax reform. 

    The transformation is a testament not only to Brady's greater seniority and connections in the halls of Congress but also to a fundamental principle of Washington politics: You have to pay to play.

    "There are very high expectations of every chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, both on substance - leading on issues like taxes, trade and health care - but also on fundraising," Brady said. "That was an area I needed to improve in, and I was determined to exceed all expectations."

    'Battleground' leader

    Party leaders have noticed. In an effort to close a fundraising gap with House Democrats, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden tapped Brady and his three Washington housemates to lead a "Battleground" push to raise money and collect dues from other GOP House members.

    By last week, the effort had netted an unprecedented $25 million in pledges. Meanwhile, Brady, working through his Making America Prosperous PAC and Brady Victory Fund, has committed $1.6 million to the NRCC to help elect Republicans in competitive races across the nation, including San Antonio Republican Will Hurd, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Pete Gallego of Alpine.

    That total has made Brady, now in his ninth term, one of the National Republican Congressional Committee's top six fundraisers this election cycle.

    Image removed by sender. Rep. Kevin Brady's leadership PAC pulled in $364,000 for this year's midterm elections, compared to $50,000 two years ago. Despite stepping up his funds, he still faces an uphill battle against Rep. Paul Ryan, his competitor for the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

    Rep. Kevin Brady's leadership PAC pulled in $364,000 for this year's midterm elections, compared to $50,000 two years ago. Despite stepping up his funds, he still faces an uphill battle against Rep. Paul Ryan, his competitor for the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

    "He's quietly become a fundraising powerhouse in his own right," said Minnesota U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, one of Brady's D.C. roommates and collaborators in the Battleground project. 

    The Battleground initiative is a major component of what the Republicans are calling the "Drive to 245," an ambitious effort to reach the largest GOP majority since the 1940s. To succeed, Brady and Company would have to engineer a net gain of 11 House seats in November, a goal most neutral handicappers see as a stretch. 

    Walden calls it an "aspirational goal." House Democrats, for their part, would need a net gain of 17 seats to take back the majority. Pundits consider that unlikely, given the strong headwinds facing Democrats with President Barack Obama's low approval ratings.

    While control of the Senate is up for grabs this fall, there aren't enough House districts in play this year for Brady to help flip. 

    "There aren't a lot of competitive seats left," he said, "but it's within reach."

    Either way, Brady has established himself as a player in Washington's big money game.

    "Kevin Brady is our Battleground chairman and has been a huge team player when it comes to helping the NRCC achieve its goal in the Drive to 245," Walden said. "Every cycle, Kevin is one of the first members to step up and commit his time to the cause." 

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