Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meet a 2016 insider!

This morning we begin another weekly feature -- meet-a-political-insider!

These guys and gals are the ones who'll shape the 2016 race behind-the-scenes, and are, thus, like the saints in "Feed the birds" from Marry Poppins: Although you can't see them/you know they are smiling.

Well, smiling and plotting all sorts of winning things they do.

We're kicking things off with insider, Matt Gagnon, a national political operative who's worked on hundreds of campaigns on behalf of Republicans in dozens of gubernatorial, Senate and Congressional races, along with the last four presidential cycles.

Read on for his thoughts on 2016, why Scott Walker will go on his headstone, why Ronald Reagan ISN'T his favorite 20th century president (gasp!) and, of course, his favorite Mario Kart driver of all time.

Q: Talk about the 2016 race. However you want. Free verse it.

A: The single deepest political bench I have ever seen in a single presidential cycle. Most of the time, a party has one or two major claimants to the throne, and a lot of b-team wannabes that screw things up in the process. In 2016, the Republican Party will have at least a half dozen major, credible, awesome choices for the nomination. If any of the six or seven leading candidates were to get the nomination, you would be talking about a very talented, highly qualified human being who would have a very strong chance at winning the White House. Some of those folks I believe have a good chance at being able to win up to 350 electoral votes or more, given their talents and profiles.

More importantly, though, each one of those people have the ability to define (in a positive way) what the Republican Party is, and take it in a new and in some cases, potentially exciting place. I would be legitimately happy with most of the choices, which is not something you usually say going into a primary.

The Democrats have the exact opposite: no bench. If Hillary Clinton runs, she has a strong chance of being elected, but outside of her I see a repeat of the seven dwarves of 1988. Who would be a strong standard bearer for them? Andrew Cuomo? Really? Martin O'Malley? (That sound you heard was the collective laughter of the American people as they thought of Tommy Carcetti running for president). Uncle Joe? Mark Warner? Come on now, that's crazy talk.

So strange as it may sound, I think 2016 favors the Republicans by quite a bit, and I'm very excited to see it play out in a couple years.

Q: Your moment of purest, political joy -- that time you said, "Thank God I get to do this for a living."

A: Watching the returns come in on election night during the Scott Walker recall election.

As his margins inched higher and higher as the votes were counted, it became clear that he had not only won, but had won big. That was bitter, trench warfare style politics, and at the end of the day Walker emerged vindicated, and much more politically powerful than when he started. The left threw everything they had, including the kitchen sink at him, and they only made him stronger.

Never have I felt more satisfied to be associated with a political campaign.

That one is going on my headstone.

Q: The time you promised you'd leave politics forever, destroy your modem, go live with an indigenous tribe, ride a donkey to market, and write a bitter memoir by candlelight.

A: Most Republicans would probably say the 2008 presidential election, when we got so thoroughly trounced by Barack Obama. That one certainly stung, but it didn't send me looking for the nearest ledge.

For me, it was the 2006 midterm elections. Seeing what I had considered a permanent congressional majority so devastated, and seeing Nancy Pelosi become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, was enough to send my stomach lurching.

At the time, I saw nothing redeeming about politics, and I was exhausted at the idea of fighting for issues that no one - on either side - seemed to care about anymore.

Is this the greatest Mario Kart driver of all-time?

Q: Who were you on Mario Kart and why? If you didn't play it, please explain yourself.

A: There is no one alive who hasn't played Mario Kart, and anyone who tells you that they weren't Toad is lying to you.

His combination of speed and maneuverability were unmatched by any character, to the point where it was almost unfair to even race. Plus, he was the one that made it easiest to do the super-mega-awesome track cheat on Rainbow Road.

If, however, for some reason Toad was stolen from me before I had the chance to select him, I would typically go with Donkey Kong, simply for comedic effect.

Q: Greatest president of the 18th century. Greatest of the 19th. Greatest of the 20th. Greatest of 21st.

A: For the purposes of this question, I will answer with men who I believe had the greatest impact on the country, and the most influence in their time in office. I will not answer with people who I think agree with me the most (though I reserve that as a tiebreaker).

18th Century: I could say John Adams here just to be a contrarian, but let's not kid ourselves, it was Washington. There isn't a single human being on the planet that could have stepped into that role at the beginning of the Republic and set this country on the right path. He made a lot more mistakes than most historians care to admit, but he still deserves the top spot. Adams' maneuvering against great political pressure, ultimately keeping us out of a war with France certainly gave me pause on this one, but his closet monarchism and the Alien and Sedition Acts disqualify him.

19th Century: Grover Cleveland, but only his second term. Heh, just kidding. Anyone who doesn't answer Lincoln to this one is just being an ass on purpose. Much of what he did --such as suspending habeas corpus -- was a violation of civil rights,  but there is no one in the 19th Century who should even be in the conversation. His single term freed more people from bondage than at any point in history, kept the United States whole, and expanded the authority and expectations of the president. He was, it seems, quite authoritarian and quite possibly a hypocrite, but the aftershocks of what he did in his time in the White House are greater than any president this country has seen in any century. It is cliche to say that now, but sometimes cliches are true.

20th Century: This one could tie you in knots. Most people would probably gravitate to FDR, but I am one of the people that thinks he is one of the single most overrated presidents in American history. No one likes to talk about the fact that The New Deal didn't really work, and that we were woefully unprepared for the second World War, which caused us to take two years to actually start turning the tide. He deserves credit for being a moral leader for the American people more than being the best president of the 20th century, in my opinion.

I'm sure I'm expected to say Reagan, given my partisan leanings, and Ronnie Regs is certainly up there on my list. He certainly deserves actual consideration, in my estimation, for helping to cure the country of an economic malaise while also defeating a geopolitical enemy of 50 years without firing a shot.

If it wasn't for that pesky Watergate thing, I would really be tempted to say it was Nixon. The 20th Century didn't see anyone even in his class when it came to political accumen, or getting what he wanted. What he did internationally is astounding - greatest foreign policy strategist the White House has probably ever seen.

But I'm going to have to go with Teddy Roosevelt. The main reason is because the man both created modern America, and defined all the parameters of the modern presidency. He dominated his era politically, and his personality dominated everyone around him like no president. The Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine defined the activist/interventionist American foreign policy that we have seen for more than 100 years now, he began the progressive reforms that would be realized with later presidents, he changed global trade with the Panama canal, and the man rode on the back of a moose like a horse. More than any president since Washington, he set the stage for the presidents who would follow him. There's a reason the man is on Rushmore.

21st Century: Whoever cleans up the mess left after the current president has concluded his second four years..

Q: Who's the best cable news anchor?

A: I despise cable news, but I will admit that I find Megyn Kelly every bit as charming and awesome as you would expect me to find her.

He isn't on cable, but the only news anchor I actually like for real is Brian Williams. Yes, he is on the NBC family of networks which I know is terrifying to conservatives, but I like the dude. Reads some good news copy. Plus his daughter is super hot. Not sure why that is relevant, but it can't hurt, right?

Q: If you could give your party one piece of advice, what would it be? (You can't use "middle class", "everyday Americans", "connect", or "opportunity" in your answer).

A: Delete "The Eleventh Commandment" from your lexicon. I get where Ronaldus Maximus was coming from with it, and I respect that, but here's the thing: Americans like self-awareness, they like self-deprecation, and they respect independence. No large group of people, no matter how morally just and righteous, is made up of perfect people. There are always going to be people that emerge who are entirely unhelpful, and when it happens we shouldn't be shy about saying so.

It makes you much more appreciated by the voters, because it means you are self-aware enough, and smart and reasonable enough to have identified those problems and not lied to people about them, and you are secure enough to understand that pointing it out doesn't make you weaker it actually makes you stronger. Candidates and elected folks who do this, so long as they are reasonable about it and don't make a career on killing the party, shouldn't be labeled political apostates over it.

The added bonus, of course, is that the Democrats will NEVER acknowledge their much deeper flaws, so we would get bonus points for honesty and integrity, which just so happen to be the two things that Americans want the most out of their politicians.