House Republicans' Stand Against Stimulus Provides Fodder for Democratic Ads

By Chris Cillizza
Monday, February 2, 2009

President Obama's economic stimulus plan may have passed the House last week, but the political fallout from the vote is just getting started.

Witness a new national radio ad campaign sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targteting more than two dozen Republican lawmakers for their opposition to the bill. (No Republican voted for the legislation, which passed 244 to 188.)

The ads are tailored to highlight specific elements of the bill that House Democrats believe will resonate with voters. Some knock the GOP members for voting against a bill that cut taxes for "95 percent of American workers," while others are tailored for specific districts, such as one that hits freshman Rep. Christopher Lee (R-N.Y.) for opposing legislation that would "immediately create and save over 390,000 New York jobs."

The target list for the ads, which will be accompanied by 3 million e-mails and 100,000 phone calls into the districts, encompasses a broad swath of new and veteran Republican lawmakers.

In addition to Lee, freshman Reps. Tom Rooney (Fla.), Brett Guthrie (Ky.), Anh "Joseph" Cao (La.), John Fleming (La.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.) and Leonard Lance (N.J.) are all on the Democratic hit list.

Several House Republican leaders will also get to hear ads in their home districts, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Tex.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.).

Brian Wolff, executive director of the DCCC, said: "These are serious times; hardworking families are worried about keeping their jobs, health care and homes -- they want action, not House Republicans cheering about doing nothing."

The DCCC ads are the latest evidence that congressional Democrats -- and their outside allies -- believe that last week's vote was a major political faux pas by House Republicans. and the Service Employees International Union are sponsoring television commercials urging five swing-state senators -- Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) -- to back the bill, which will come up for debate in the upper chamber this week. (Progressive groups may not have Gregg to kick around much longer; Obama could announce as soon as today that the Republican is his choice for commerce secretary.)

Americans United for Change, a leading Democratic-aligned organization, is running radio ads in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada asking whether the Republican senators in each state will "side with Rush Limbaugh" in opposing the bill.

For their part, Republicans insist that their vote against the economic stimulus bill was a first step back to the majority, not a step in the wrong direction.

Michael S. Steele, who was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee late last week, insisted in an interview Sunday with Fox News Channel that his party had made the right move.

"The GOP did what the GOP had to do to protect the pocketbooks and the interests of the American people," Steele said. "That's a bad bill."

5 Republicans to Watch

Speaking of Steele, his election last week as RNC chairman -- he is the first African American to hold that post -- means he will play a prominent role in determining the direction of a party demoralized by significant losses at the ballot box in the past two elections.

Who else will be leading that discussion? Here's The Fix's ranking of the five most influential -- and powerful -- voices in the party today. These are the players to watch over the next few years as the GOP seeks to dust itself off and start moving toward majority-party status again.

5. Mark Sanford: Sanford is using his national platform as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to its hilt -- penning a series of op-eds touting his unapologetic fiscal conservatism. Sanford is the spokesman of the Club for Growth wing of the party, and, in case you forgot, he comes from South Carolina -- a state with a big say in the early days of the GOP presidential nominating contest.

4. Bobby Jindal: Jindal continues to insist he will not run for president in 2012, and we believe him -- to a point. Because he is up for reelection in 2011, he has no choice but to say the presidential race doesn't interest him. And, in truth, how Jindal manages the next few years will be critical in determining whether he will keep up the momentum built in late 2008. The state faces massive budget problems, and how Jindal deals with them will be a major test for the youthful governor.

3. Mitt Romney: Romney is the party's smartest and best messenger on the economy and therefore will be front and center in the debate over the way forward. Romney is also keeping his political operation running through his Free and Strong America PAC. Will Romney fall short of grabbing the GOP brass ring again in 2012?

2. Haley Barbour: Barbour is the rare combination of keen party strategist and elected official. (Trust us, there aren't that many out there.) And he has the added bonus of not being a serious candidate in 2012 -- a guy who helped invent lobbying in Washington isn't exactly the right profile to challenge President Obama in four years. Barbour is the early favorite to chair the Republican Governors Association in 2010, and from that perch he will have a huge opportunity to influence the party's message in the midterm elections.

1. Sarah Palin: Few are neutral in their assessments of the Alaska governor. People love her or hate her, and anything she does is news. Her appearance at the Alfalfa Dinner drew big coverage on cable and even on the local news. What other Republican in the country can draw that sort of attention? Answer: None.


Blaise Hazelwood, who served as the political director of the Republican National Committee and spearheaded the famed "72 Hour Project," proved her mettle again last week -- shepherding Steele to his unexpected victory in the race for RNC chairman. Hazelwood, who worked with a team of political pros including the Anderson brothers (Wes and Curt), Brad Todd and Jim Dyke on Steele's behalf, is now in line for a plum position at the RNC if she wants it.

5 DAYS: Bill Clinton heads to Richmond to make the keynote speech at the Virginia Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. The former president should feel right at home. Terence R. McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and one of his closet confidantes, is one of three candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

17 DAYS: President Obama makes his first trip out of the country since being elected as the nation's 44th president last month. The destination? Not too far abroad -- Canada.

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