The only thing worse than losing in politics is quitting after a loss since the vast and great American sport of politics never stops, and increasingly doesn’t even pause for the holidays.
Which is why I am grateful for Kelly Ayotte, Ted Cruz, Jon Kyl and Shelley Moore Capito.
In the weeks since the election, New Hampshire Senator Ayotte could have gone to ground as most of her colleagues have done, adopting a wait-and-see attitude that minimized political risk and profile. Instead she teamed with Senate veterans John McCain and Lindsey Graham to insist that Ambassador Susan Rice, presumptive nominee for the position of Secretary of State, be held accountable for statements the ambassador made during the presidential campaign about the September 11 slaughter of American diplomats and security personnel in Benghazi.
Ayotte was on my radio show Wednesday (transcript here) and it is clear that she will do everything she can to set a precedent about the politicization of American foreign policy during campaigns. If political appointees to key foreign policy positions distort issues of American national security in order to gain political advantage, as Rice appear to have done, Ayotte and her like-minded colleagues will not allow those deceptions to lead to promotion.
Ted Cruz, the senator-elect from Texas, is another rising star of the GOP who could, quite easily, blend into the scenery for a few months and adopt a wait-and-see attitude about what the political future holds.
Instead of the safe course, Cruz accepted a key role at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and has reappeared on the airwaves to make a case for finding certain kinds of candidates committed to an articulate, fighting conservatism. Like Ayotte, he was on my program this week to make these points. (That transcript is here.) We need Cruz and Ayotte, as well as the other rising stars of the Senate GOP caucus –Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, John Thune and Pat Toomey– to be constantly out in front of cameras and crowds making the case for slowing down and stopping the president’s ruinous agenda for which no mandate was asked for much less received. These half dozen senators also have to model for would-be candidates in the incredibly important cycle ahead what it takes to succeed in a political environment where the left dominates MSM.
Retiring Senator Jon Kyl continues to display the sort of gifts that have made him among the most admired men in Washington, D.C. as he tries to help his GOP colleagues move towards a compromise with the president that is truly a compromise and one that protects the nation’s defenses. I am skeptical of the GOP’s ability to do anything except strap on a parachute and go over the cliff because the president is demanding a set of measures worse than the fall ahead and the GOP has managed to blow its initial negotiating posture again via ill-timed concession speeches by the likes of Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole. Perhaps Speaker Boehner can recover the position, but the president’s talking points, bolstered by voices like Cole’s, have been amplified by the Obama-loving media into a formidable media message that the GOP is responsible for a looming economic collapse. Not true, of course, but the Republicans resolute unwillingness to try and communicate the real situation leaves it a victim of the president’s relentless messaging.
Senator Kyl demonstrated in an interview with me yesterday how to combat this White House maneuvering, but that example needs replication by Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and of course Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. You can’t win arguments with the American people that you never make.
Which is why the last elected I want to praise for taking action this week is West Virginia Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. Capito declared her candidacy for the senate seat currently held by Jay Rockefeller. She did so, she told me on air yesterday, only after considerable discussion about whether it was “too early” to start a 2014 race and after deciding that since she knew she was going to run it was only fair to tell her constituents, Senator Rockefeller and anyone who might want to consider running for her House seat. Candid and transparent, that, and exactly the way to approach politics in the new media age.
I am extremely happy Capito announced for it allows the GOP to focus not just on her candidacy –she’s a terrific campaigner, a veteran, popular legislator who is smart and articulate and a leader on the energy issues so crucial to the future of the GOP– but also on the need to recruit similar candidates for the other nine Democratic senate seats that are up for grabs in 22 short months. (Dems are defending 20 of 33 senate seats and recall that voting begins in October 2014, so we are already two months into the next cycle.)
Capito came out of the box with a great website and a commitment to social media –@capitoforWV on Twitter– that allows for frustrated GOP grassroots to see that the party isn’t going to blow a third chance at taking the gavel out of Harry Reid’s hands and thus passing a budget in 2015 that will be a blueprint for voters in 2016, who will by then understand that Obamanomics has never been about growth but always about power, just as Obamacare hasn’t been about health care but about power.
The future of the House GOP majority depends on the moves made by Speaker Boehner over the next six months, but recapturing the Senate depends upon Capito and nine other individuals not yet known. Perhaps another one or two, like former South Dakota Governor Mile Rounds, will make their candidacies formal before Christmas, but certainly by the time the new session begins in D.C. the would-be senators should have laid their cards on the table and asked for the help of the party and the SuperPacs. “There isn’t a moment to be lost,” Jack Aubrey has a habit of saying throughout the masterful novels of Patrick O’Brian, and he was never wrong. That’s a good message for a Beltway GOP that still seems stunned, and thanks to Ayotte, Cruz, Kyl and Capito, it is a message that may be getting through.