|U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie|
My line of questioning was designed to discern how Gillespie, author of the 2006 book, Winning Right: Campaign Politics and Conservative Policies, would like to roll back the size and scope of government. Specifically, I asked him which three federal programs he would like to eliminate because the private sector or state governments should perform their functions.
Rather than answering my questions -- because candidates generally prefer not to be specific about anything -- Gillespie pointed me to his overall "Ed Gillespie's agenda for economic growth" (EG-squared), saying
One of those five points on that agenda is cutting wasteful spending, balancing the budget. We're going to roll out specifics of that over the course of the summer, just as we just rolled out the specifics on our energy plan, which was one of the five points as well, last week. So we're looking at various areas of the budget where we can cut wasteful spending, reduce spending, eliminate programs. One that I have said already that I believe should not be reauthorized and doesn't deserve to be continued in funding is the ExIm Bank, but we'll roll out more details later as we go along.The version of the interview published on Examiner.com seems to have struck a nerve -- not with Gillespie or his campaign, but with his opponent, incumbent Senator Mark Warner, and Warner's supporters.
First the Warner campaign cited the interview in a press release that drew an analogy between Gillespie's answer and Texas Governor Rick Perry's famous "oops!" moment during the 2012 Republican presidential primary debates. (The link on that press release increased traffic to my Examiner.com pages by a factor of 20 or more.)
The Democratic blog, Blue Virginia, republished the Warner press release on Monday afternoon without commentary.
Then the Augusta Free Press picked up the Warner news release and basically reprinted it without crediting Warner's campaign.
Tuesday night, DailyKos, the national left-leaning blog site, took its cue from the Augusta Free Press but also drew upon a chunk of my original article.
Most recently, former Reason magazine contributor Dave Weigel, writing in Slate today, headlined his story "The Export-Import Bank Is Your New Populist Fig Leaf."
Longtime Republican operative Ed Gillespie is making a long bet that any Republican can win in 2014. The post-Bush Republican Party has largely rejected what Bush stood for, which is remembered (in shorthand) as spending on entitlement programs and immigration reform. Gillespie was the chairman of the RNC for part of Bush's first term and a counselor to the president for the last part of it. He does not make an obvious "libertarian populist," let's just say. So he's spent a strange amount of time ribbing Sen. Mark Warner for supporting a balanced-budget amendment in 1996 but not in 2014 (i.e., after two wars and the Bush tax cuts made it slightly harder to balance the budget). He has admitted that the Bush-era GOP "spent too much," generally speaking. And in this interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner,* he found a populist cause."That reveals what we knew already." Weigel continued:
Gillespie is savvy, and spotted an issue that was burbling up from the activist base and large conservative organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth. As luck would have it, the Bush-era reauthorization votes for Ex-Im came in 2002 and 2006, years when Gillespie was neither at the RNC nor the White House. He's got clean hands on this one!This episode reminds me of what happened in 2010 when a teachers' group ran a TV ad supporting then-Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello and lambasting then-candidate Robert Hurt for his views on eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, quoting from another article of mine published on Examiner.com. At the time, I thought Hurt's comments were uncontroversial; the NEA thought differently.
By the way, the asterisk in Weigel's article likens Examiner.com to AOL's defunct Patch.com.