Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney Wrestle Over Control Of The Republican Message
Because gerrymandering has given the vast majority of House Republicans deeply red districts where they're more worried about Teabaggers, fascists and deranged Hate Talk Radio fans (or some combination of the 3) challenging them from the right than of a Democrat, a radical right policy agenda articulated by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage is the perfect platform for them to run on. Romney has a very different constituency to appeal to. If he just wins in the blood red districts, he loses the presidency-- by a lot. He has to appeal to mainstream voters-- moderates and independents, who, for example, believe in science. Yesterday's NY Times dealt with the conundrum posed by this for the Romney campaign which, having sewn up the nomination, is desperate to break out the giant Etch-A-Sketch. Cantor, particularly, is leading the "Young Guns" who say they won't accept any moderation of the far right positions the Republicans in the House have staked out.
As Congress was set to reconvene on Monday, House Republicans said Mr. Romney could go his own way on smaller issues that may help define him as separate from his Congressional Republican counterparts. But, they said, he must understand that they are driving the policy agenda for the party now.
“We’re not a cheerleading squad,” said Representative Jeff Landry, an outspoken freshman from Louisiana. “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.”
With Representative Paul D. Ryan’s budget plan, Republicans have already set the agenda on the key issue that divides the two parties in an age of austerity: how to manage the federal budget and its related entitlement programs. Mr. Romney has eagerly embraced it, campaigning with Mr. Ryan by his side and calling him “bold and brilliant.”
But a disagreement between the parties over spending levels has paved a path for the sort of clash that led to the near shutdown of the government last year, and it could leave Mr. Romney in the position of having to choose between a loud public battle and a budget compromise with Democrats in the closing weeks of the fall campaign.
...[M]ost Congressional Republicans feel certain that the key issues of the campaign will be employment, the economy, the budget deficit and the health care law, matters in which there is little light between Mr. Romney and most Republicans.
“We have led and will continue to lead,” Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said of House Republicans.
“Now I believe Governor Romney will have his own ideas and will use his own experience to form his message,” said Mr. Barletta, who supported Rick Santorum. “But we all do agree that President Obama’s policies have failed, and we will all rally around that.”
But that budget plan leaves little room for Mr. Romney to stray on any proposal that could cost additional money. Both Mr. Romney and House Republicans plan to increase spending on defense, and both have promised to cut tax rates and slash the deficit.
That means sharp cuts to domestic spending. The Ryan plan would cut domestic programs under Congress’s discretion, including education, law enforcement and health research-- by 25 percent over 10 years compared with spending if programs were allowed to grow with inflation, or 21 percent below spending caps agreed to in July by Mr. Obama and Congress.
Having taken that politically risky course, Republicans are going to make sure their nominee does not leave them hanging.
“If there was to be a difference of opinion on this, then I think I would make my feelings known,” said Representative Tim Griffin, Mr. Romney’s Arkansas campaign chairman. “I would say, ‘Wait, what are you doing?’ If he says something I disagree with, that’s his right, but I am going to say I disagree.”
A campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said in a statement: “Mitt Romney is in this race to turn the economy around and get Americans back to work, and he will need the help of Congress to do that. Governor Romney will welcome the help of Congress to enact his agenda and get the country back on track.”
But disagreements have already begun to develop. On Wednesday, the Romney camp said the candidate had no problem with a Democratic law making it easier for women to sue in equal pay cases-- though House Republicans had denounced it as a trial lawyers’ bonanza.
Complicating this further, as we pointed out last week is the schism opening up inside the GOP House caucus between the younger members loyal to Cantor and the more senior members loyal to Boehner-- and fearful of Cantor's recent shenanigans of helping defeat a perfectly loyal conservative senior member, Don Manzullo (R-IL). Republicans in the House are now completely aware that Cantor (and Aaron Schock) did not earmark their $50,000 contribution to anti-incumbent/amti-corruption PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability. That PAC is targeting corrupt senior congressmen from both sides of the aisle, from Blue Dog Tim Holden in PA to Republican chief Oil Industry shill Joe Barton in Texas. This week, the mayhem is boiling over.
More than a half dozen Republican lawmakers, stunned by the news of Cantor’s donation, agreed to speak with The Hill on the condition of anonymity to vent their frustration without fear of retribution. The lawmakers interviewed included both younger and senior members of the GOP conference.
One veteran lawmaker, upset with the majority leader’s perceived aggression toward members of his own party, said House GOP members will now fear payback when they speak out or vote against leadership.
“It is a serious breach of trust,” the lawmaker said. “It sends a signal to the rest of us that if we don’t fall 100 percent in line…they will come after you.” ... Some GOP legislators say the donation from Cantor’s PAC, called Every Republican is Crucial, raises questions about the majority leader’s political judgment.
...The recent controversy revived bitter feelings on the part of senior lawmakers after Cantor officially backed Kinzinger over Manzullo last month.
At the time of that endorsement, one longtime GOP lawmaker told The Hill that Cantor’s decision was a sign of his desire for support of the younger lawmakers in an attempt to push Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) aside after the 2012 election.
“I think it [was] designed to show Boehner the door after this election…We’ll be reelected in the majority, maybe pick up the Senate, maybe the White House and they say, ‘Thanks John, here’s your watch,” the member said.
Another GOP lawmaker called Cantor’s willingness to cut a check to CPA “a mistake.”
“Eric is afraid of being thrown out with Boehner as two peas in a pod. Eric may or may not view [House Majority Whip Kevin] McCarthy [R-Calif.] as a potential threat. Eric clearly views time as his enemy in his pursuit of the Speakership,” the legislator said, noting that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) stock is on the rise... While the donation to CPA may bolster Cantor’s standing among the 87-member freshman class, it could cost him votes when, and if, he runs for Speaker.
This isn't the kind of headache that the overly hubristic Mr. One Percent needs right now as he tries to persuade the American public that the Republican Party is trustworthy and will do a better job of governing than the Democrats.