Politics 2014: Internet helps out when politicians have memory lapses

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |  Feb. 16, 2014 at 5:01 AM
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Political memory sure has been aided and abetted by the Internet, where nothing really is deleted, removed or otherwise pulled out of the public arena.

Just ask Matt Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky's Republican primary this year.

Matt Bevin recently called the 2008 federal bailout of banks and Wall Street behemoths "irresponsible" and said he would have opposed it had he been in the U.S. Senate, Politico recently reported.

And yet, when he was an investment fund president back in 2008, Bevin backed the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- as did McConnell, who voted for the bailout.

Back then, Bevin also supported the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to buy banks' commercial paper.

The federal government's intervention in the financial markets during the economic crisis is a touchy subject for conservative groups, including some supporting Bevin's challenge to McConnell.

A Bevin spokeswoman told Politico he hasn't changed his position -- even though Bevin's statements between then and now differ.

"Matt has always opposed the TARP bailout and similar misuses of taxpayer dollars," Bevin campaign spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said.

Again, not exactly, despite his denunciation of the program in a recent ad. An Oct. 28, 2008, report for investors of Veracity Funds obtained by Politico -- signed by the fund's president, Bevin -- praised the federal government's intervention.

"Most of the positive developments have been government led, such as the effective nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the passage of the $700 billion TARP [don't call it a bailout] and the Federal Reserve's intention to invest in commercial paper," wrote Bevin and Daniel Bandi, chief investment officer and vice president of the fund. "These moves should help to stabilize asset prices and help to ease liquidity constraints in the financial system."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat Republicans would love to oust, just heightened her profile last week by becoming the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee in the shifting of leadership roles prompted by Sen. Max Baucus' departure.

Landrieu, considered a conservative Democrat, is seeking a fourth term from the gas- and oil-rich Pelican State.

Her high-profile committee chairmanship, coupled with her favoring the Keystone oil pipeline and exports of crude oil, could help her in her re-election bid in a state Obama lost by 17 percentage points, USA Today reported.

Leading potential Republican challengers is Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Kentucky's junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, who last week sued President Obama and the National Security Agency over phone data collection on Fourth Amendment grounds, was taken to task by an unlikely source -- Republican fundraising/election guru Karl Rove.

Paul -- mentioned as a possible contender for the Republican presidential nod in two years -- has been hammering former President Bill Clinton, husband of Hillary Clinton, the unannounced front running Democrat in the 2016 presidential primary, over his assignations.

To what end, Rove wanted to know.

"Frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country," Rove told Fox News recently.

Presidential candidacy hopefuls must do two things this year, Rove said. One, they need to make their campaigns about something beyond ego and two, strengthen their skills.

"I'm not certain," Rove said, "that beating up on Bill Clinton and [White House intern] Monica Lewinsky is a particularly good thing to strengthen your skills."

The main thing candidates in both parties must do is avoid the gaffe that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Just ask Todd Akin, the Missouri GOP representative whose comments about "legitimate rape" doomed what many considered a sure ascendancy to the Senate in 2012 in his challenge to Claire McCaskill.

While not a verbal miscue, the situation with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, may be more illustrative of the problem the Republican establishment has with Tea Party-backed challengers. Roberts lists on his voter registration a house on a golf course in Dodge City -- yet some in town told the New York Time Roberts is more of a stranger than a senator.

"He calls it home," retiree Jerald Miller said. "But I've been here since '77, and I've only seen him twice."

Roberts told the Times he did not have a home of his own in Kansas and that the house listed on his voter registration actually belongs to two supporters and donors with whom he stays when he is in the area. He established his voting address the day before Milton Wolf, his challenger in the August primary, announced his candidacy last fall.

Because of Wolf's presence, Roberts opposed the five-year, $1 trillion farm bill that was prized by leaders of the Kansas farm lobby but opposed by Tea Party activists. Roberts, who authored an earlier version of the measure, said the final bill contained too many subsidies.

Given the political volatility this year, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who served with Roberts before leaving the U.S. Senate to run for the state's top office, said Roberts needs to be "active ... aggressive ... conservative" to win a fourth term.

"He's got to get through a Republican primary, and people are pretty fired up about what's going on at the federal level," Brownback said.

Republicans across the country, stung by the realization unpredictable and unseasoned candidates cost several seats in Congress for two elections cycles, are trying to head off potential political pitfalls wherever they can this year.

A big challenge for Republican leaders in the midterm elections will be how to keep Tea Party support -- so instrumental to the party's growth -- while bringing back voters turned off by hard-right candidates, the Times said.

"We're not picking a fight with the basis for the Tea Party," said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "But some have hijacked the Tea Party model and taken it to an extreme level."

The chamber is aggressively working in primaries to defeat Republicans deemed unelectable and damaging to the national party.

"Let's not screw around eating our own," Reed said. "Let's win a seat."

Tea Party grassroots groups and other conservatives challenging traditional party leadership have noticed.

"I've been told by a number of donors to our super PAC that they've received calls from senior Republican senators," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said, noting the donors are pretty blunt when telling him the score.

"I can't give to you because I've been told I won't have access to Republican leadership," Kibbe said donors are telling him. "So they're playing hardball."

In 2014, there will be at least six Republican primaries pitting establishment Senate incumbents against Tea Party-supported challengers. Most of the contests are in truly red states, so the primary winner won't affect the state outcome. But, as NBC News notes, these six contests give credence to the belief that the ideological fight within the Republican Party hasn't been resolved.

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