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

05/27/2008 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

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:]

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

 

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