On Saturday, about 300 supporters of Todd Tiahrt gathered in a steamy hot airport hanger in Wichita to hear the Congressman and his guest, political strategist and commentator Karl Rove. Rove enthusiastically endorsed Tiahrt’s candidacy for the United States Senate from Kansas, one of only two such endorsements he said he is making.
Tiahrt’s best-known opponent in the August 3rd Republican primary is first district Congressman Jerry Moran of Hays. Tom Little of Mound City and Robert (Bob) Londerholm of Overland Park have also recently filed for this nomination.
Speaking before Rove, Tiahrt said that the tea party movement has been successful in some elections, and he is proud to be associated and endorsed by Tea Party Express and Kansas groups like the 9.12 group and Icaucus.
He said that although he’s been campaigning for 18 months, the real campaign is just beginning. He said some of his televisions ads are “a little rough,” because “we need to tell the truth.” Tiahrt told the audience that he’s never voted for a tax increase, while his opponent has, adding that he favors the Fair Tax.
Tiahrt called for regulatory reform, saying that for manufacturing in America, regulation adds 17 percent to costs. Cutting that in half would make America more competitive.
He said we need to get health care back “into our hands,” adding that a free market system would lower the costs and give more choices to patients and doctors.
He told the audience that energy independence is important for putting Americans back to work.
Finally, he said that litigation reform is important, saying that America has more lawsuits than any other country. Although not opposed to lawyers — noting that his daughter is an attorney — he said there are too many lawyers in Congress. He let the audience know that Moran, his opponent, is a lawyer.
Rove said that he is endorsing only two candidates in the Republican Senate primary elections — Tiahrt and Marco Rubio of Florida.
He said that he knows and has worked with both Tiahrt and Moran, and that’s why he’s endorsing Tiahrt. He called Tiahrt a “principled conservative,” saying that although you may disagree with him, you always know he comes to a conclusion because he thinks it’s right.
Referring to Moran’s statement criticizing Rove as a Washington insider, Rove told the audience that Moran went to Washington five years before he did.
He told a story about working with Moran on an issue, trying to get his vote. The Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske reported this based on an interview with Rove earlier in the day:
In the interview, Rove was particularly harsh on Moran for how the congressman approached a 2001 bill on trade promotion authority that Rove said was aimed at knocking down trade barriers and would have helped Moran’s rural western Kansas district.
Rove said Moran tried to cut a deal on the bill, offering to back it, but only if the president or Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed to come to Kansas to help Moran raise campaign money.
Rove said the idea was ridiculous because Moran already had a big cash-on-hand total and likely wouldn’t face a serious opponent. Moran was from one of the safest Republican districts in the nation.
It was, ‘What’s in it for me?'” Rove said of Moran. He said Moran told him, “You’ve got to give the president to me in a safe Republican district or the secretary of commerce to me in a safe Republican district to do a fundraiser.”
The Bush team eventually pressed a North Carolina Republican to vote for the bill, which resulted in its narrow passage.
Referring to Moran, Rove told the Wichita crowd that it is the Washington insider that says “I’m not doing what’s right for my state or my people, or my district, unless you give me something.”
The Moran campaign released a statement that read, in part: “Karl doesn’t like Jerry Moran because Jerry stood up to him. Karl’s job was to line up votes to pass the President’s agenda and while Jerry agreed with much of the Bush agenda, he put his foot down against major increases in spending and government bureaucracy, like opposing No Child Left Behind.”
Rove said that we have important battles to fight, and we need to put forth the best team: “We need people who will go there and do the tough things that are necessary to put our country on the right path again.”
In questions after the speeches, Tiahrt said he was honored to have someone with the knowledge and stature of Rove endorse him. On why he is the “real conservative” in this race, Tiahrt said conservatism is his core value, and that he is not an election-year conversion, mentioning an Almanac of American Politics description of Moran’s voting record as “moderate.”
Rove said that in order to win this election, Tiahrt needs to tell Kansans what he would do and believes in, and contrast that with the record of his opponent.
Rove said that the tea party movement is a grass roots movement driven by concerns about government spending, deficit, and debt. He said that Tiahrt’s record in Congress fits in with the tea party philosophy.
I asked Rove if he thought it was possible for Republicans to take majorities in the House or Senate this year. Rove said that for the Senate, the Republicans would have to keep every seat that is up for election, and then win many Democrat seats., noting that Republicans have twice as many seats up for election as do Democrats. He said he believes Republicans will gain more seats in both chambers than the historical average since World War II in mid-term elections like this.
I asked if a conservative strategy was the best strategy in the third congressional district in Kansas (Wyandotte and Johnson counties, and part of Douglas county), noting that the district had elected blue dog Democrat Dennis Moore to several terms and moderate Republicans before that. Tiahrt said that he believes a majority of Johnson County voters are conservative. Rove said that Moore didn’t get out of the race “because he thought conservatism was on the wane in the third district.” He added that Moore had been saying he was a blue dog Democrat, but then voted for liberal policies in Congress.
When I asked what it means that Moore’s wife Stephene is running for the office, Rove said “It means he’s got better political judgment than she does.”
I asked if the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is Obama’s issue, or will it impact Congressional races? Rove said that it will impact the midterm races indirectly because it impacts the president’s popularity, adding that in midterms, the president’s job approval and the unemployment rate are two of the biggest drivers in voting. “That’s why Democrats lack enthusiasm and Republicans have intensity, because of what President Obama’s done in office.”
I mentioned a recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Fred Barnes, which leads with this sentence: “In Washington these days, President Obama is rumored to be hoping Republicans capture the House of Representatives in the midterm election in November.” The idea is that “If Mr. Obama wants to avert a fiscal crisis and win re-election in 2012, he needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be removed from her powerful post. A GOP takeover may be the only way.” Would a Republican takeover of the House lead Obama to a Clinton-style presidency, since the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, Clinton’s first midterm election?
Rove said that Clinton was a centrist to begin with, and therefore was able to work with a Republican Congress. He said we haven’t seen this ability in Obama.
I asked Tiahrt if he would endorse one of the fourth district Republican Congressional candidates, and he said no, he trusts the voters to decide.
More coverage from State of the State KS is at Karl Rove Endorses Todd Tiahrt, Takes Shots At Jerry Moran.