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A Feel-Good Moment: Ed Rollins Hears "Death Knell" For GOP

[ Posted Monday, May 19th, 2008 – 13:11 UTC ]

Guests on Sunday morning talk shows are supposed to follow a few unwritten rules. They're supposed to be party supporters, and put a positive spin on anything which could be damaging to their party, or their party's chances in the next election. They're not supposed to be brutally honest. Which is why, when it happens -- especially when it comes from a Republican -- it's worth noting.

Bob Schieffer on CBS News' Face The Nation this week had Florida Governor Charles Crist and Republican consultant Ed Rollins on the show, to talk about the state of the Republican Party heading into the 2008 election season. Ed Rollins has an absolutely sterling pedigree in Republican politics, since he worked for Ronald Reagan, and ran Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984. When he talks, in other words, Republicans listen.

Rollins is not very upbeat about Republicans in general, George Bush, Republicans' chances in 2008, or indeed the whole future of the Republican Party. He says the party "has kind of lost its way." He bemoans the fact that young people are flocking to the Democratic Party as a "death knell for the long term." George Bush has to realize "he's no longer on the ballot." As for the Bush administration, "the quicker this page is turned by many Americans, including a lot of Republicans, the better." He later returns to this point, and makes it even more forcefully: "This administration is pretty tired right now and I think even the most die-hard Republicans are ready to move on."

The whole interview is just stunning, because apparently Rollins forgot to take his "spin" pill before the show, and just comes out and says what he thinks. Which is a grim assessment of the state of his own party.

I wrote last week about how schadenfreudeful (to coin a word) it was to watch the Republican Party self-destruct right out in public, for everyone to see. While it's supposed to be wrong to feel good about the misery of others, sometimes it is inevitable. Which meant that watching Rollins on Face The Nation was just the most enjoyable thing in a week full of happy moments.

Here are the key segments with Rollins [Video and transcript available from CBS News' site]. I have paraphrased Crist's words, due to length and for other obvious reasons.

BOB SCHIEFFER, host: Joining us this morning from Miami, Governor Charles Crist of Florida. With us from New York, Republican strategist Ed Rollins. We're going to talk first about Republicans this morning.

Well, Governor, you heard what I said there in the top of this broadcast. It'll be no news to you, of course, that Republicans lost three congressional seats in special elections this spring. These were all in heavily Republican, long-time Republican districts. Do you see this as a sign of bad things to come for your party this fall?

Governor CHARLIE CRIST (Republican, Florida): [Spouts standard inane Republican talking points.]

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Ed Rollins, what's your take on all this? The governor says you got to get back to your roots. What do you think Republicans have to do?

Mr. ED ROLLINS (Republican Strategist): Well, they definitely have to get back to their roots. And local campaigns really should be about local issues. You can nationalize them as you -- as the Democrats probably can this election against President Bush, who obviously is not popular. But when you're running congressional races, it's really about issues that matter to the local people. And I think to a certain extent we've kind of lost our way. We think we have to run every campaign from Washington, with Washington consultants. And the truth of the matter is, there's a lot of very first-rate people out there. We've not recruited the good candidates this cycle and we've not recruited -- not raised the money like we used to. And unfortunately, we're losing young people and not registering new ones, which I think is the -- is the real death knell for the long term.

SCHIEFFER: [Shows the infamous ad from Mississippi, asks for Rollins' reaction.]

ROLLINS: Well, it -- well, everything. First of all, Obama's not running down there. Obama's John McCain's problem, and I think to a certain extent that's going to be a tough enough campaign as is. But I think the bottom line is to try and either raise racial issues or to basically try and tie a San Francisco liberal, as Nancy Pelosi is, or Barack Obama to a race in Mississippi, people in Mississippi want to know -- or in Louisiana or in Illinois, the three seats we lost -- want to know what are you going to do about gas increases? What are you going to do -- what are you going to do that's going to relate to my life and basically help me, help my kids?

Schieffer asks Crist a few questions at this point, and every word out of Crist's mouth can be summed up as: "PLEASE, John McCain, oh please please pretty please make me your running mate!" Schieffer's last question is about Bush's words in the Knesset. Schieffer then turns back to Rollins.

SCHIEFFER: What did you think of it, Ed Rollins?

ROLLINS: This president has to -- has to realize that he's no longer on the ballot. He has to finish his seven months in office and move on. They have been in a -- in a -- in a seven, eight year nonstop campaign mode, but it's no longer their game. And the quicker the page is turned by many Americans, including a lot of Republicans, the better -- from the Bush administration -- the better the people will feel. I think it was inappropriate. I think it gave Obama an issue that he didn't have. I think it certainly stepped on the Hillary victories this week, which for [sic] our perspective, the longer the battle goes on, the better. So I think this president basically ought to just do his job, let McCain do his job, which is to basically talk in terms of what a future administration is going to be like, and congressional candidates have got to get away from Washington. And if they promise to be different, then they have to be different. We promised that we were going to be a different party, we were going to be a fiscal party. We haven't been a fiscal party, we've spent record numbers in deficits. We promised we'd be a moral party to our values voters, we basically are the ones that have had the scandals. And I think to a certain extent you've got to live up to your promises.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how far do you run from President Bush, Ed?

ROLLINS: You've got to be very careful in the sense that there's still a Republican base out there that holds him in very high regard and you don't want to step away from that. You don't want to -- you don't want to attack him. You basically want to talk in terms of how, after eight years, your leadership is going to be different and how you relate to ordinary voters. This administration is pretty tired right now and I think even the most die-hard Republicans are ready to move on. But you've got to convince people that it's just not the Bush third term. Because the Bush third term, John McCain can't win.

We are roughly six months away from the election, and this is outlook of the man who engineered Ronald Reagan's 1984 victory? John McCain "can't win" if he's seen as "the Bush third term" -- this, from a Republican?

I have to say, that makes me feel pretty good.


Footnote: My Oregon and Kentucky "picks"

It is looking as if we're going to play this game to the absolute end. Thankfully, after tomorrow, there are only three primaries left on the calendar: Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota.

But tomorrow it is Oregon and Kentucky's chance to shine in the political sun of the Democratic nomination process. Kentucky probably considers their recently-run horserace a lot more important, but no matter.

Since these two are so easy to call, these picks are just going to be a tiny footnote here.

Kentucky goes for Hillary at close to (but not quite) the same whopping margin she won in West Virginia. Call it 30 points.

Oregon isn't that tough to call either, especially after 75,000 people just turned out to hear Obama speak. Barack wins the state by 10 to 12 points.

Both states are called by the networks within minutes of the polls closing.

Those are my picks, what are yours?

(On to Puerto Rico!)


Total correct Democratic picks so far: 39 for 55 -- 71%
Total correct 2008 Republican picks: 37 for 50 -- 74%
Total overall correct picks: 76 for 105 -- 72%.

[Previous states' picks:]

[AK] [AL] [AR] [AZ] [CA] [CO] [CT] [DE] [FL (R)] [GA] [HI (D)] [IA] [ID (D)] [IL] [IN (D)] [KS (D)] [KS (R)] [LA] [MA] [MD] [ME (D)] [MI (R)] [MN] [MO] [MS (D)] [MT (R)] [NC (D)] [ND] [NE (D)] [NH] [NJ] [NM (D)] [NV] [NY] [OH] [OK] [PA (D)] [RI] [SC (D)] [SC (R)] [TN] [TX] [UT] [VA] [VT] [WA] [WI] [WV (D)] [WV (R)] [WY (D)] [Guam (D)] [Virgin Islands (D)] [Washington, D.C.]


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


16 Comments on “A Feel-Good Moment: Ed Rollins Hears "Death Knell" For GOP”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    I realize that the urge to fiddle while Rome burns must be really difficult to overcome...

    That being the case, I won't begrudge the Left their "gloating" in the POSSIBLE demise of the GOP..

    I'll simply point out that, as bad as it is for the GOP this election, it's nothing compared to the damage that is being inflicted on the Democratic Party from within...

    It's really kind of funny..

    On the one hand, we are served up very logical and rational reasons why McCain can't POSSIBLY win the General Election.

    In the next instance, we are shown logical and convincing evidence that the Democratic Party is about to implode and there is NO WAY that they can produce a viable candidate...

    It's pretty sad that this election will be decided by which party fracks up less....

    Why don't we just cancel the '08 election, everyone run their own lives for the next 4 years and we just try it again in '12, eh?? :D


  2. [2] 
    Thatcher wrote:


    Kentucky Clinton by 26%
    Oregon Obama by 13%

    Due to the turnout - I'll say that Clinton wins both states by less than 40,000 votes (which is what he'll cancel out on June 3 with MT and SD).

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    You know a Democrat Candidate is in trouble when they start looking to Karl Rove to support their candidacy.. :D

    I can't believe that the Democratic Party is not spinning in it's grave over that..


  4. [4] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    @Michale -
    We would if she was still a viable candidate. It only goes to prove IMHO that the Clintons will say/do anything right now.

    @Chris -
    BTW - I am updating my estimate in KY. Edwards IS still on the ballot there. I'm going with 6% for Edwards, 37 Obama, 57 Clinton.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since Edwards has endorsed Obama, isn't it likely that any delegates in the Edwards column will go to Obama??

    This being likely, what does that do to the delegate count??


  6. [6] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Michale -

    Huckabee endorsed McCain - and yet he will pull about 8-11% in tonight's KY Republican primary. And Paul will pull a few, too. In fact, I will estimate that McCain barely breaks 75% in the Republican primary.

    So, Edwards endorsement will help a little - that's why I knocked about 2% off Edwards pull in WV. But there will still be hold-outs, in my opinion. And this hurts Clinton more than Obama, because in states like KY and WV, Edwards people are more likely to go to Clinton than Obama.

  7. [7] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Ok ... WOW - I was way off in KY and the last polls were right.

    But I am also right about KY in terms of the Republican Primary. McCain has 72.5% - Huckabee with 8.3% and Paul with 6.8%.

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Thatcher -

    I was a bit off in KY, but got the gist of it right. KY has very similar demographics to WV. Ohio is a lot different in population makeup and geographical makeup. That's why I pegged it close to WV...

    Fifteen minutes until OR polls close!

    And after that, only three more until it's over...


  9. [9] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Looks like almost 58-42 for Oregon.

    BTW - I just found this (I don't read everything all the time)
    "McAuliffe Adopts June 15th as Deadline for Superdelegate Endorsements?"


  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Thatcher -

    Well, looks like I underestimated the winner in both states by about 5%. Obama's holding his 16-point OR lead as I go to bed, meaning I was off in both races by about the same amount. Go figure. But two more correct races for the books! Looks like I'll close the season for both parties at between "7 in 10" and "3 in 4" right. Not too shabby... although I am embarassed that I called more Republican contests correctly than Democratic ones....

    As for your link, Dean's numbers are a bit off. Almost 600 of 800 superdelegates have now announced.

    Oh, wait a minute, this is almost a month old.

    Interestingly, on one of the recent Sunday talk shows, McAuliffe (it was Press The Meat... oh, excuse me, Meet The Press...) was confronted with his own words in his book (back when he was in Howard Dean's current job) and admitted that he'd be perfectly happy now if only HALF the Michigan and Florida delegates were seated at the convention. I can dig up a transcript link if you're interested... I was a bit surprised it wasn't a bigger story in the campaign coverage, personally.


  11. [11] 
    BLaws wrote:

    I have to agree with Ed Rollins. I grew up in a strongly Republican household. My father was a diehard conservative Republican. I considered myself a Republican up until just a couple years ago. Part of that conversion to being a Democrat was, I feel, my new found interest of the series ‘The West Wing’. The Bravo channel started replaying the entire series from the very beginning and I have watched all the shows at least twice now. That was part of what got me interested in politics, at least enough to get me paying attention to it.

    What I found is that the more I paid attention, the more I couldn’t stand the Republican Party. The reason for that wasn’t so much on policy positions but on the integrity of the individuals discussing the policies. Sure, I disagreed with many of the policies, but I also disagree with a lot of the Democrats on policies. But the biggest thing to get me to see myself as a Democrat was the personal integrity of the Republican politicians, pundits, and right leaning media outlets. It seems like every time I watched one of them my BS meter would go off. Spin is one thing, but so many were just out right lying.

    It seemed like so many Republicans were adopting the stage presence of a televangelist. They would shout their positions and make ridiculous arguments. Everything out of their mouths would be either disingenuous or deceitful. Many adopted this façade full time. Occasionally you’d see them drop the façade and make rational, logical arguments. Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough are perfect examples of those that slip in and out of this façade. Pat will rant, rave, and scream his ridiculous arguments over and over, but every so often he’ll tone it down and give a very reasonable rational commentary. Even if I don’t agree with his opinion, I can see his side of it in those cases.

    This is the problem I see with the GOP this year. Too many of them have whole heartedly put on this mask of being a televangelist or radio talk show host, that they’ve lost their integrity and decency. I can disagree with someone’s point of view but still see things from their perspective. But when they act like raving lunatics, phonies, or hypocrites there isn’t even a desire or willingness to try to see their point of view.

    The GOP needs to get back their integrity back by giving rational and logical arguments for their positions. They need to drop the bombastic rhetoric and the low class attack tactics they’ve employed to try and push their agenda. Individuals like Ed Rollins, Chuck Hagel, Michael Smerconish, and a few others are Republicans that I will happily listen to in order to get a different perspective on issues. They give rational, logical arguments for their positions. If the GOP stopped with the constant act of being like Rush or Sean Hannity, and would just be normal people with honest views on how they see things, they wouldn’t have the problem that they do. But it seems they saw how Karl Rove got GWB elected twice, so they’ve adopted that way of thinking. The problem for them is that the country adapted faster.


  12. [12] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Yeah - sounds like that's the word on the street ... the only thing that is now up in the air is whether Supers in MI and FL get full or 1/2 votes ... you know my opinion. No votes for Supers in MI & FL - they are the ones that caused this quagmire in the first place.

    Heck, I'd be happy with full seating of FL and MI as long as Obama gets the "uncommitted" delegates (since only he and Edwards would have gotten delegates from MI) and he also gets Edwards delegates in FL. AS LONG AS THE SUPERS GET NO VOTE FROM MI AND FL. Don't punish the voters, punish the leaders.

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Heck, I'd be happy with full seating of FL and MI as long as Obama gets the "uncommitted" delegates (since only he and Edwards would have gotten delegates from MI) and he also gets Edwards delegates in FL. AS LONG AS THE SUPERS GET NO VOTE FROM MI AND FL. Don't punish the voters, punish the leaders.

    That sounds like the best solution possible.

    But I doubt Hillary will go for it. Because it would resolve the whole issue and give Hillary absolutely NOTHING to hang her hat on, insofar as staying in the race is concerned...


  14. [14] 
    Thatcher wrote:


    Obviously, the rules of time and space have folded in upon themselves for you and I to agree! ha! ;)


  15. [15] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Brian -

    Honestly - I've always thought that the Republican party did a great job adapting post-Nixon in the terms of the debate and persuading the masses. What changed? W. I think we may be seeing a case, not unlike the Clintons, where the Republican party is stuck in the late 90's. They were able to ride the wave of fear in 2002 and 2004, nationally - but locally all they had were ripples. We might be in one of those "changing time" where we will see small groups of dedicated party members of both parties switch to the other side over the next couple of years.

    This happened during the civil war, WWI, WWII, Vietnam and - to some extent - with Reagan Democrats. Perhaps the catalyst is a country in 'war' and economic shifts that create these new alignments that then alter party structure for the future.

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:


    (Paraphrasing Paul Reiser in BEVERLY HILLS COP)

    "This isn't my {reality}"


    Kinda hard to capture the nuance with such a short line but if you recall the movie and that part, trust me.... It's really funny.. :D


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