Should conservatives shoot all the consultants now?
Top GOP strategists like Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie might want to watch out, because there was at least one apparent yes on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Politics is like war. If you can’t win, get the hell going,” said Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, who also has been critical of President Obama and the Democrats. “It’s personally offensive when the GOP establishment throws away a win like they did in 2012.”
Caddell, a Fox News contributor, joined a handful of Republicans on a CPAC panel entitled “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” to discuss how the party managed the 2012 campaign.
There was no clear consensus, except that Caddell was the most critical person in the room.
“I blame the donors who allow themselves to be played for marks. I blame the people in the grassroots for allowing themselves to be played for suckers,” he said. “It’s time to stop being marks. It’s time to stop being suckers. It’s time for you people to get real.”
Consultants have had overwhelming power for a long time, added Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell. He maintained that this influence hurts the party, because there is a strong incentive for consultants to spend money on advertising where they often receive a 15% commission. Ad buys, therefore, often take priority over “people-intensive activities” centered on grassroots organization.
But the sole consultant on the panel was more skeptical about directing the blame at one group.
“Consultants are either geniuses or idiots every two years,” said Jeff Roe, founder of Axiom Strategies. “Consultants’ role on this is somewhat overstated.”
There are many other factors that set the campaign’s tone, agreed Brian Baker, president of the End Spending Action Fund. Everybody who is a part of the campaign is responsible for its failure, he said.
But Caddell had harsh words for Team Romney. “The Romney campaign is the single worst campaign in the history of the United States,” Caddell said. “[Chief strategist Stuart] Stevens had as much business running a campaign as I do sprouting wings and flying out of this room.”
He predicted that the Republican Party would become extinct, unless it became the anti-establishment, anti-Washington party.
“In my party, we play to win. We play for life and death,” said Caddell, who served as Jimmy Carter’s pollster. “Your party has no problem playing the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters.”
Other panelists, however, were more optimistic about the GOP’s future.
“I think he’s dead wrong,” said Baker, arguing that the party was still successful, especially outside of Washington.
“There are 30 Republican governors -- highest in the party in 12 years,” he said. “The Republican Party won over 700 seats in state legislative races in 2010 and there are now more Republican state legislators than in any time since the 1920s.”