History Repeats?

After reading Dan Milbank’s piece this morning I decided it was time for a blog.

My life has been consumed by politics.  As a youngster I passed out Republican literature at the polls (when you could get closer than 300 feet), helped local candidates run for office, started Teenage Republican Clubs and the list goes on.

The motivation was to see a strong two party system.  It appeared that goal was being achieved and long came the internal battle of 1964 – not unlike that underway.  But today it is but even worse.

To see people who are likely registered Republicans stand and cheer when they learned Speaker Boehner “a good man” had resigned is unbelievable (what happen to good manners) on the eve of a presidential election – one that is so important to our nation and the Republican Party.

When will these people come to their senses?  When will civility return?  Soon I hope or Republicans will see the chance of electing a president or governor in our state end up like 1964.

(Please take time to read Dan Milbank’s piece.  Click here.)

Manchin Decides

Before telling West Virginians U. S. Joe Manchin told the nation he will not run for Governor.  He appeared on CBS “Face the Nation” today.


A Manchin Dilemma

I am beginning to think about the landscape and strategy for the 2016 campaign as the Republican controlled Legislature begins to wrap up.  Today I found an insightful analysis in Real Clear Politics.  With Senator Joe Manchin deciding which roads to travel in 2016 – stay in the Senate or return to the big house on the Kanawha this is helpful.

This excellent analysis was written by David Byler – a West Virginia native – who is an elections analyst for Real Clear Politics.  This is a must read for anyone about to engage in the 2016 election and is serious about politics in our state – as I am.  Click here to read.


Disgusted is the way I reacted last night after reading a Twitter post about a $100,000 breakfast being organized by a “secretive” and likely “extreme” conservative group.  You must read/click this link to see exactly what is going on.

It is unfortunate the organizers of this $100,000 breakfast have been or are active West Virginia Republicans.  Their efforts send a message to those who work hard for the Republican party and middle class Republicans they are not wanted.  If this type of activity and events continue the West Virginia Republican Party will be branded as the party of the rich.   No political party should exclude anyone.

This is going on while we have Republican legislators trying to raise the ceiling on campaign contributions to what is reasonable in this day and age – and strengthen disclosure requirements. I believe these are good ideas. But even that will not get rid of “dark money” or “dark organizations” holding $100,000 breakfasts or $25,000 dinners.

Why the secrecy and exclusiveness?

Is Manchin Coming Home?

The Associated Press has a story running that Senator Joe Manchin may be coming home.  After last November election results “Joe” may be the best hope for a revived Democratic Party in our State?  Who knows when it comes to Joe?

Click on this link to learn more.

How did I do?

On New Year’s Day 2014 I wrote in my blog about the West Virginia political environment.   Today before I look forward I took a quick look back to see what I missed.

Never did I expect a campaign as messy and mean.   The campaign turned voters off and many Democrats were rethinking their loyalty.   Experience told me Democrats kick in the last 45 days of the campaign – that did not happen.  Democrat leaning special interest groups formed PAC’s to take up the slack.  One could hardly tell the political affiliation of any candidate.  Both Democrat and Republican candidates ran against Obama and everyone was for coal.

Not accounted for was the opportunity for Congresswoman Capito to pull GOP candidates into office when stronger Democrats passed up the U. S. Senate race.  That, plus the low turnout when Democrat Chairman Larry Puccio could not get Democrats to the polls.

In days gone bye you could expect Senator Manchin and Governor Tomblin to reached out to save enough incumbents to save control of the legislature but that did not happen.

On the first day of 2015 my thoughts are not nearly as clear as they were 365 days ago.  I do believe from a purely political standpoint all eyes will be on the coming 60 day session of the Legislature.  I do not know what to make of the coming session.  I expect the newcomers will be surprised at how law making really works and how much demand is placed on them.

With many new members not totally driven by politics…will they have their eyes on legislative accomplishments or the 2016 election?   Old hands will tell you accomplishments must come in 2015 as legislators want to avoid tough votes in an election year (2016).  But my view this new team will be different and want to make change…which they can turn into a new future for our State and votes in November, 2016.

Not to be overlooked is the incoming Senate President Bill Cole has all but announced his candidacy for Governor in 2016.  This will be in play as the Republican legislators begin their new challenge.   Others openly known to be considering entering the Republican primary for Governor are Congressman David McKinley and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey.   One saving grace is party members have not started to choose sides.

As this point I see no leadership among the Democrats in the legislature and certainly not their party.  My guess is they don’t know what to expect or to do.

How did I do?

Pivoting to 2016

After the historic West Virginia election as well as a smashing Republican victory across the nation political junkies and policy wonks like me are pivoting to 2016.  In my case it is the intrigue of the presidential contest and the adjustment both parties will need to make to attract voters.

“How the GOP Can Court the Working Class” and “Delusions of the Democrats” may provide the answer to policy adjustments.  Beyond that Republicans focusing on the “working class” does not seem like a bad idea to me.  I thought it was interesting to read about today’s Democratic Party being “scared of its own shadow.”

These came from the Sunday Review in the New York Times.  For those interested below are links to read in detail what you might hear from the political parties over the next few months.

“How the GOP Can Court the Working Class” was written by David Leonhardt, editor of The Upshot, a New York Time politics and policy venture.

“Delusions of the Democrats” is an opinion by Kevin Baker, an essayist and author of the historical novel “The Big Crowd.”

Realistic View

(Editor’s Note:  The commentary below came as an email from Bob Harris.  I thought it was powerful and should be shared.  Mr. Harris grew up in Charleston where his father was editor of The Charleston Gazette and later Chief of Staff to Senator Jennings Randolph.  Bob Harris is based in Washington with extensive knowledge of government and politics.  He is principal in the firm of Hutter & Harris.)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments in your Final Look.

It is a very bleak look.  We are one day away from an election, but does anyone really know what this election is about.  Most elections are about the future, this election cannot be — I hope!!  If that is the case, the future is not bright at all!!

My mentors in politics and government were my father and Senator Randolph.  They taught me when it was time to be partisan and when it was time to roll up your sleeves and go to work.  I so often recall — fondly — the Senator taking me aside when I was a page and giving my first real lesson in bi-partisanship.  I recall him taking me to a desk off the center aisle of the Senate Chamber and telling me that that aisle divided political parties, not people — people crossed that line every day when it was necessary for the betterment of the country and their states.

Today, bi-partisanship is demonstrated only by Members sitting together at a State of Union address.  In between, Senators and House Members line up to campaign against their colleagues, to cut ads in another Members state, to host fundraisers for the opponent of another Member and more!!  Then, they come back to Washington and talk about working together, which cannot because they cannot trust each other…

Trust has gone…

And, so has the American people’s trust in their government.

Why, you ask?  Because it is pounded into our heads each day by the rancor of on-line reports (many, many, many unsubstantiated or ever false), by misleading press reports (both liberal and conservative) and by name-calling all over the internet, radio and television.

Today, we have the networks (Fox on one side, MSNBC on the other and all those somewhere in between) setting up the narrative of the election.  But, more importantly, the day-to-day inner workings of the government.  We see news on Fox we do not see on another network, we see news on MSNBC we see on no other network.  Worst of all, it comes from those reports from the rotunda of the Cannon or Russell Buildings as Members throw themselves in front of the all day parade of cable tv shows to complain about someone else, never talking about what is good about American or how we can make America a better place.  America is falling apart and it is always someone else’s fault.

I was in West Virginia this past weekend for the football game, the ads are everywhere.  When I left, I thought Barack Obama was the President of a country other than the one in which I live.  He is responsible for everything, even for stripping our rights!!

I am now back at my desk, awaiting the election tomorrow.  And, after that I will be here, watching the lamest of Lame Ducks.  Shortly after the New Year a new Congress will begin; the House and Senate will organize and we will be begin the 2016 election cycle.

Members will call each other names, accuse members of the “other party” of being anything but American, and block legislation sponsored by anyone from that other party.  They will do all that in the span of a 3 day work week and in between we will watch Members line-up to sponsor fundraisers and campaign against the colleagues!!


Final Look

The 2014 election cycle is the first in which I have not been actively involved at some level in years.  What a mess it has been to observe and I am certain readers have seen the same.

There has been so much money with some of it questionable, too many untruthful ads and organizations formed to destroy candidates.  Loyalty was out the window and candidates recruited with the hope of increasing the governing numbers with little understanding of what it means to serve.

My fear is this election will end up discouraging not only voters but anyone just getting interested in government (politics) from even thinking about volunteering – let alone running for office in the future.

Another concern is the increase cost to run for office.  The observations above are driving the huge costs.  Previously the cost of running for the legislature or local office was minimal.  Now it’s not only costly, but mean.

Where did all this meanness come from?  Who started it and why?

I feel it is driven by a new culture of those leading political parties, campaign consultants and outside groups.  Tomorrow we will learn if money and meanness worked.

My final look did not see a campaign that revealed a new course for West Virginia.  It was all about power, control and coal.

After this election I would encourage my Republican and Democrat friends to work for a new culture in their party and join together to chart a new path for West Virginia’s future.


(Editor’s Note:  With campaign ads beginning to flow there is none more famous than “Daisy.”  Mr. Babb’s piece is offered for those new to campaigns and political advertising.  For those inclined to watch a link is provided below.)

By Drew Babb

Drew Babb teaches political advertising at American University and is president of the firm Drew Babb & Associates.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 7, 1964, a political ad called “Daisy” aired on behalf of President Lyndon Johnson. The commercial opened with a little girl in a meadow, then a horrific nuclear blast filled the screen. We’ve been feeling the fallout ever since.

It was only a minute long. The paid ad ran on national television only once, and only on one network, NBC. But that’s all it took.

The message

Here’s what you would have heard that early fall evening during “Monday Night at the Movies”:

LITTLE GIRL (plucking daisy petals): One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, eight, nine . . .

“MISSION CONTROL”: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero . . .

SOUND EFFECTS: Huge atomic bomb blast.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON: These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.

ANNOUNCER: Vote for President Johnson on Nov. 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.

The takeaway? Johnson’s Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, was a crazed, trigger-happy cowboy. If his finger were ever on the nuclear button, the world would blow up. We’d all die.

The fallout

You can love “Daisy” for its power or hate it for its excess — I both love it and hate it — but it changed political advertising forever. Here’s how:

●It gave politicians a license to kill. Earlier political commercials were overwhelmingly upbeat. In 1960, Frank Sinatra sang a rewrite of “High Hopes” for John F. Kennedy, with this jolly lyric: “Everyone is voting for Jack, ’cause he’s got what all the rest lack.”

But “Daisy” was a full-throated, gloves-off, take-no-prisoners negative message. Arguably, and for better or worse, it’s the Mother of All Attack Ads.

To execute the spot, the creative types didn’t just run still photos with a crawl of type. They used every weapon in their arsenal. They grabbed for viewers’ hearts with an adorable little girl (commercial actress Monique Corzilius). They tapped into viewers’ greatest nightmare with footage of a huge mushroom-shaped cloud. (Remember, this was less than two years after the Cuban missile crisis.) They reinforced the visuals with intrusive sound effects (provided by the genius sound engineer Tony Schwartz). They had Johnson read a snippet of spiritual poetry (by W.H. Auden). And they hired a voice-of-God baritone (sports announcer Chris Schenkel) to wrap things up.

●By all means, trash the tropes. Nowhere in “Daisy” does an image appear of either candidate. Barry Goldwater is not mentioned. There are no American flags, bunting, stirring music or other cliches of the genre. Johnson’s ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, deployed every bit of the imagery and verbal power typically used with nonpolitical clients such as Volkswagen, Avis Car Rental and Levy’s Rye Bread. DDB wasn’t going to pussyfoot around for the LBJ brand just because this was politics. The agency had its share of gentlemen and ladies, but when it came to gaining market share for its clients, they were New York street brawlers.

●Overreacting can boomerang. Before there was something called “earned media,” “Daisy” did just that. The Republican campaign erupted in outrage. The Johnson campaign, which anticipated the heat, quietly and quickly pulled the ad, and it never ran again. But the networks (only three of ’em, remember?) duly registered the GOP ire and — to show people what all the fuss was about — ran “Daisy” ad nauseam. Result: The one-time- only spot was shown over and over. And under the aegis of newscasts, it undoubtedly picked up credibility along the way.

The credits

So who crafted and produced this message? Who’s responsible for it?

Tony Schwartz is often given sole credit. But commercials are like little movies. They’re collaborative. The collaborators include Bill Bernbach, DDB’s creative director; Sid Myers and Stanley Lee, art director and copywriter, respectively; and producer Aaron Ehrlich. On the account management side, Jim Graham was the point person.

But a creative agency always needs a creative client, so you have to give a nod to the White House, too. Steve Smith was the “matchmaker” who had recommended the upstart agency to his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy. Bill Moyers, Jack Valenti and Richard Goodwin seem to have been on the receiving end of the pitch. Lyndon Johnson, ultimately, approved the ad.

The reverberations

We’re on the cusp of another expensive, nasty election. Gird up your loins, everyone.

Many of 2014’s candidates and their brilliant operatives weren’t alive when “Daisy” aired. But what they do and what they’ll produce will be influenced by those 60 seconds that ran 50 years ago.

Happy birthday, “Daisy.”

Link for TV ad.