14 Cliche’s That Work Well in Arkansas’ First Congressional District

A follow-up to this post, yesterday.

1. The Early Bird Gets the Worm – not always true, but always worthy of consideration. The best campaign I ever witnessed (as a reporter) was in 1989 when Osceola, AR attorney Mike Gibson ran for 18 solid months against entrenched incumbent Rep. Bill Alexander. Gibson lost the primary by the tightest of margins.  Today, he would tell you his defeat, and the subsequent decision not to run in the following primary (when he would have almost surely won) were the best circumstances and single best decision me made in his life.

Arkansas' First Congressional District2. Go Big or Go Home – in 1997 I was press secretary for Marion Berry, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Arkansas‘ First Congressional District. The primary was a three-way contest, money was key, and we had every reason to expect a runoff to make it to the general. Two weeks before the primary vote, we made the decision to spend every dollar we had, rather than hold back for the runoff. Good decision. Had we not gone “all-in” we might never have made it to the big dance, which, by the way, we won.

3. It’s What You Know AND Who You Know – there’s no better candidate than one who’s connected AND wise.

4. To the Victor Go the Spoils – Arkansas’ First Congressional District has a history of sending men/women to office and keeping them there. Hopefully, that’s not the case in this season.

5. You Can’t Teach That – the best candidates are born with something God-given, and it can’t be taught or learned.

6. It’s a Two-Sided Coin – public service is a wonderful profession for those who truly are public servants. But executed at its best, it’s grueling. The analogy applies further, unfortunately, in that the best candidate is one skilled in both politics (campaigning) and public service (actually getting things done.) The candidate who excels at both, is rare.

7. It Pays to be a Student of the Game – there is no substitute for a Politics in Arkansas' First Congressional Districtcandidate who does his/her homework every single day. The candidates who make a personal habit of study, far exceed the capabilities of those who depend on a staff member to be a student for them.

8. Always Play Like You’re Down – the best run like they’re scared, and as if there’s no tomorrow.

9. Expect the Unexpected – every day. It’s a cruel world out there.

10. A Championship‘s Won One Game at a Time – those who take their eye off the ball and look ahead, often get blindsided in the back field.

11. Just Getting in the Game Requires a Real Gut-Check – any candidate must take serious measure of him/herself to do this right, and well.

First Congressional District of Arkansas12. We’re All Monday-Morning Quarterbacks – hind sight’s the easiest game we play, and yes, it’s perfect.

13. Things Usually End Up in a Game of Hardball – this is not for the faint of heart.

14. Be True to Yourself – Arkansas’ First District electorate is now looking for someone who’s real, to whom they can relate, who can reach across unnecessary racial and ethnic boundaries, and who will respect and return our heritage to its former glory. You can’t fake that.

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What Arkansas’ First Congressional District Needs Again

Four things, I submit.

1. Someone who has a passion for public service, not the perks of the job.

2. Someone who speaks as an independent voice, a representative of the people, not a manipulated party puppet.

3. Someone who bridges the gap between black, white, Hispanic, rich and poor. Someone who embraces diversity.

4. Someone who “gets” that the background of the First Congressional District is rooted in the forward thinking of entrepreneurial farmers, under-paid, under-valued teachers, and senior citizens who’ve given us all a legacy of hope and opportunity.

***

Full Disclosure:

Former U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR)

I spent nearly four years working alongside Congressman Marion Berry as a press secretary, and later as a district director. In the years leading up to that privilege, I was a newspaper reporter with a love for following those invested in public service, Blanche Lincoln among them.

And I’ll tell you what Arkansas‘ First Congressional District needs again. We need a public servant, a representative in Congress who follows the example set forth by Marion Berry and Blanche Lincoln.

***

Three weeks ago today, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington (D-AR) ended his bid to recapture the traditionally Democratic held seat representing nearly a million people. I voted for Ellington, not that I know him personally. We’ve met a few times and I gauged him to be one who fit the mold of Berry and Lincoln. Whether it was an inadequately run campaign, or just bad timing, we may never know, but I think we missed a good opportunity to get the First District going again.

***

Berry and Lincoln were quite different, yet very much alike.

To each of those one million constituents, she was Blanche. He was Marion.

That’s what I loved the most about them.

Over the years, Lincoln developed a strong skill set in constituent relations.

Former U.S. Rep. and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

People loved her. But she was more than just a pretty face. Blanche Lincoln was an effective public servant. She got things done.

Berry, on the other hand, was never a slick, tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear kind of guy. What you saw was what you got. I quit, early on, trying to morph him into something he was not. It couldn’t be done, and no one should have ever tried.  Berry got the job done. His advocacy for all of us built roads and overpasses, put clean, running water in rural towns, beat down every ridiculous regulation he could that would aggravate the already lopsided odds against farmers everywhere. Not a great politician was Berry, (and it was never his aspiration) but a magnificent and tireless public servant.

Can we say that’s what we enjoy today in the First Congressional District? A warrior who stands in the gap, and on our behalf?

If not, who?

And, when?

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Election 2012: Well – That’s What Happens to a Bunch of White Guys in Blue Suits

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” ~ 1st Samuel 17:48-50

What in the world does that familiar story have to do with the presidential election? I’ll tell you in just a minute.

***

POTUS

Here’s what happened.

Ever been to a football game where the quarterback predictably handed the ball to a running back time after time after time? Slowly, methodically the team trudges down the field and makes its way to the goal line. It’s boring, not real glitzy, and the crowd hates it. It’s almost silent, but oftentimes, damn effective.

While all the white guys in XXL blue suits were standing ’round the country club bar knocking back Long Island Teas and comparing portfolios, a silent, but deadly ground game was going forward. And the white guys in blue suits never heard them coming.

They were Latino, Hispanic, Black and poor white – minorities we call them. And they were standing in early voting lines, getting on buses, carpooling to the polls and calling their friends. In the political world, it’s called GOTV – get out the vote – and it’s a political science that wins most elections and goes very mistakenly unnoticed because it’s quiet.

WHY A SOLID MINORITY BEATS A FRAGMENTED MAJORITY EVERY SINGLE TIME.

It’s actually slap-you-in-the-face-obvious if you just look at the map.

This election happened in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. What do these states have in common? For one, they hold true to one of our country’s founding principles. They welcome “foreigners” as their own. They embrace diversity. “Give me your tired, your poor,” they say.

And though they may be “minorities” in this country, they are rock-solid together, as one, because they have no other choice.

Oh, how we talk about power of the evangelical Christian right. They’re going to determine this election’s outcome, right? They can’t even agree on the color of the choir robes, much less come together as a body that creates a movement. They haven’t done it since the first century, so why would it happen now? They’re so busy spitting in the eye of freedom of choice, the self-righteousness loses sight of the greater good.

Barack Obama was the most beatable president in recent history. It was Mitt’s to lose, and lose, he did.

Never in the history of social media has a man been so disrespected as the present and future president of the United States. He’s your president today, and is your Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. Suck it up and give your respect. If not, just be quiet, okay?

What does the story of David and Goliath have to do with it all? Only everything.

This country’s solid minority, just beat the fragmented majority like a dog.

From now on, maybe we all should just try to get along.

The majority no longer rules. Get used to it, or do something about it.

***

Now the only question that remains is this: Will Chris Christie face Biden or Clinton (Hillary, that is,) in 2016? That race starts now.

stevenwwatkinsAnd by the way, I am a white guy who occasionally wears blue suits.

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Who Won the Debate? Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and 11.5 Million Buckeyes. That’s Who.

Obama Romney debate who won

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mitt romney in debate

I’m not a political commentator, but I sometimes play one on the blog.

If I were, however, that’s the post-debate analysis I’d give my audience this morning following a lively 90-minute mono e mono between President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

It’s true. The debate winners weren’t even in the room.

CNN’s Candy Crowley moderated a sometimes lively debate Tuesday night that allowed Obama and Romney to trade some effective jabs. Romney actually had fair momentum during the debate’s first 40 minutes as the topics remained mostly domestic in nature. But as the discussion went abroad, Romney lost his talking points, and the two candidates ultimately finished in a draw.

Best case scenario for either … Obama likely recaptured the tiny percentage of wavering Democrats who were dismayed by his first dismal debate performance. And Romney didn’t lose.

From Romney’s perspective, a November victory is “all about the economy, stupid.” He should have never let his message go outside the 50 states.

Today, partisan political followers will predictably declare victory for their man. MSNBC will make Obama the clear winner. FOX will say Romney hammered effectively on all points.

Objectively, however, the debate was a draw, and here’s what that means.

ohio electoral votesThe election’s a foregone conclusion in at least 45 of 50 states. Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado all still carry weight, but the big chips are in Ohio.

More than 11 million Buckeyes will determine the next president of the United States.

Make a conscious effort over the next two weeks to see how many times “Ohio” is mentioned in the stump speeches. You’ll see. The political promises now being made to Ohio’s political leadership are pork barrel politics at their best, or worst, however you may choose to view it. But Ohio carries all the chips. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow lies somewhere between Akron and Toledo.

At this point, the two might as well go to Ohio, fight it out in a duel, and let the last man standing take the White House.

And there’s also this.

No doubt Romney gained momentum immediately after the first presidential debate. There was a certain pressure last night on both candidates. Romney needed to show his first performance wasn’t a one-time fluke. The president needed to show he still had some fire in his belly.

Whatever the talking heads say today, the debate was a draw. A draw last night, or any future draws for that matter, equate to four more years for Obama. Without a knockout that leaves Obama down for the count, Romney loses. It could happen, but time’s running out.

And there’s this.Chris Christie for president

If you accept the notions I’ve proposed above, here’s the future significance. Throughout last night’s debate, you could almost hear he squeaky wheels of two new presidential campaigns beginning to turn.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are the Republican party’s next big sticks. Publicly, they’ll support the party guy for the next two weeks, but never doubt for a moment they’re waiting in the wings for an Obama victory that immediately propels them both to front-runner status in 2016.

will jeb bush run for presidentThink you’ll get a break from presidential politics when all this is put to bed in a few more days?

Think again.

The party’s just getting started.

Agree? Disagree? Drop a comment. Your opinion’s welcome here.

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The Debate: Romney, Rules and Ego Beat Obama

I’m on the record as a critic of Mitt Romney‘s campaign, and until last night, it was, in fact, a disaster. Less than two weeks ago, I said the 2012 presidential race was over.

romney vs. obama

I was wrong.

It doesn’t require a lot of in-depth analysis to see exactly why Romney was the hands-down winner in last night’s debate. It wasn’t a necessarily stellar performance from Romney, but it was good. I give him a “B.”

Romney’s win was more about President Obama being totally off his game by way of the environment.

Two simple reasons.

1. The moment Jim Lehrer announced the debate crowd would be silent, well, it was a game changer. Obama’s a great speech maker. One of the best. No one feeds off a crowd like Barack Obama. For the POTUS, the required silence was deafening.

2. For the first time in four years, Obama stood on stage with another man as an equal. Obama’s always played the role of the smartest guy in the room. In his mind, he has no equals. Last night was mono e mono. It’s been a long time since Obama was put in a defensive position. Romney blew by him like Michael Jordan.

On the grading scale:

Romney – “B”

Obama “D”

Things just got interesting, and a LOT more money just got poured into a negative TV campaign.

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Mitt Romney’s Quotable Quotes

ON TERMINATION POLICY:

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” – using an unfortunate choice of words while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)

ON THE LESS FORTUNATE:quotes by mitt romney

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” — (January 2012)

ON DIVERSITY:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.” – in leaked comments from a Florida fundraiser, May 17 2012

ON HIS UNFORTUNATE LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES:

“I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.” — speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney’s net worth is over $200 million.

ON PATRIOTIC PHILOSOPHY:

“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” – (January 2012)

ON ANN:

“We use Ann sparingly right now so that people don’t get tired of her.” – referring to his wife while speaking to a room of wealthy donors in Florida, May 17, 2012

ON A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP:

“I think the best answer is as little as possible.” – when asked what he wears to bed at night, interview with ABC’s “LIVE! with Kelly and Michael,” Sept. 14, 2012

ON MIDDLE-INCOME AMERICA:

“No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” – when questioned by ABC’s  George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America,” as to whether $100,000 is “middle income” on Sept. 14, 2012

ON FAMILY TRANSPORTATION:

“[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs.” – campaigning for president in Michigan (February 2012)

ON HOW TO GAMBLE DURING A DEBATE:

“I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” – attempting to make a wager with Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate to settle a disagreement about health care (December 2011)

ON HIS LOVE FOR ANIMALS:

“PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” — in 2007, responding to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals following revelations that he had once put the family dog in a carrier and strapped it to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip

ON BEING ONE OF THE GUYS:

“I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.” — after being asked whether he follows NASCAR racing (February 2012)

ON HOW TO GIVE A COMPLIMENT:

“I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7/11 bakery, or whatever.” —Mitt Romney, visiting a local bakery while campaigning in Pittsburgh, PA, April 17, 2012 (The owner of the baker later told MSNBC he was offended by Romney’s remarks.)

ON CAPTURING THE NASCAR VOTE:

“I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” — to a group of NASCAR fans wearing plastic ponchos at the Daytona 500 (February 2012)

ON DOUBLE STANDARDS:

“We have a president, who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps.” — Romney has two Harvard degrees (April 5, 2012)

ON ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY:

“I love this state. The trees are the right height.” — campaigning in Michigan (February 2012)

ON PAYDAY:

“I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.” — Romney earned $374,000 in speaking fees in one year according to according to his personal financial disclosure (January 2012)

ON STANDING ON HIS RECORD:

“I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.” — (May 17, 2012)

Wahhh Pig Sooie

Who am I? What am I doing here?” ~ vice presidential candidate, Admiral James Stockdale (1992)

The Woo is gone out of Woo Pig Sooie.

John L Smith fired

This says it all in Arkansas.

It happens to the best of them: the Tylenol scandal; New Coke, Coke-Classic debacle; Bill Clinton’s, “I never had sex with that woman.”

If ever there was a case study in crisis management, University of Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Director Jeff Long now has one on his hands.

From the Spring Sunday when Bobby Petrino took an infamous motorcycle ride with a young athletic staff employee, to the Razorback‘s temporary Band Aid with John L. Smith, to losing to a “cupcake” in the Sun Belt Conference, to an embarrassing home wipeout at the hands of the Univerity of Alabama, then Rutgers … and in the midst of it all a series of incomprehensible statements made by Smith (including the latest today) and the apparent oversight of Smith’s $25 million in debt, Long is now far past the job of trying to prevent apathy among fans who were once hopeful for the Razorback’s first national championship in three decades.

He’s now faced with how to stop people from making a mockery of his school. That’s never happened before.

The word cited most often of Smith’s performance is “moronic.” He doesn’t even know where he is, folks.arkansas razorback football

A “Fire John L. Smith” Facebook Fan Page is gaining momentum.

Once loyal fans, even in the face of the most imaginable of circumstances, are now repugnant toward the program.

Truth is, Smith should have been dismissed in the post game following a historic shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide when his team shut down. It certainly should have happened Saturday night after the Rutgers fiasco.

It’s no longer a matter of salvaging a football season. Now it’s a lot more.

It’s a control issue.

Some things are simply unpermissable.

Long is faced with the decision and showing his fan base the “unacceptability” of the circumstances.

I think you’ll see it in the next 24 hours.

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