Sunday, April 15, 2012


Chapter 16: Grassroots, like arson is spontaneous combustion
[Go to beginning]
Reince Priebus hurried across D Street and into the Tortilla Coast Restaurant. He was shown to a corner table by the window. It was an overcast day, threatening rain. He hoped it held off until he’d grabbed a bite to eat and was able to get back across the street to RNC Headquarters.

Priebus set up his laptop and was opening Internet Explorer, when the waitress arrived with a menu, a foldout showing drinks and desserts, and another piece of plastic covered cardboard showing the day’s specials.
“Hi! Welcome to The Coast,” she said, with such enthusiasm it forced Priebus to actually look at her.
Priebus pushed away all the menus and said, “Bring me Combination Three and a Dos Equis.” Then he went back to staring at his laptop.
Undaunted, the waitress gathered up the menus and said, “Water?”
“What?” Priebus said, preoccupied.
“Would you like water?” the waitress said.
“No, I want beer,” Priebus said, not looking up.
Priebus stared at the map he’d brought up on his laptop screen. It showed a color-coded map of the United States, with the states trending Republican in red, and those trending Democratic in blue. The states considered up for grabs were tan. There were a lot of them.
His data were from DCI Group, a powerful public relations firm, whose leadership had strong Republican ties. DCI maintained a gigantic database that Priebus had been using to sharpen the RCN’s focus on swing states in the 2012 Presidential Election, as well as congressional and senate races the GOP had targeted.
Priebus picked up his cell phone and punched in Karl Rove’s number. Rove answered on the first ring.
“Yeah, Reince, what’s up?” Rove barked into his cell as he forked a Maguro Nigiri Zushi into his mouth, and chewed the raw tuna while he waited for Priebus to launch into one of his usual pleas for more PAC money.
“Karl, hey, you know I’m looking at our 2012 state-by-state projections and wondering what you’re thinking now that Romney is the candidate?”
“I’m looking at that now, Reince, and I’m thinking we need to put some serious money into some key swing states.” Rove was sitting at a rear table to the left of the long counter in Sushiden, a Japanese restaurant on 6th and 49th; a block over from Fox News New York offices. He had his laptop set up on the table, which seated four, so left him plenty of room to work.
“For ads,?” asked Priebus.
“Ads?” Rove said. “Yeah, ads,” Rove said dismissively, “but I’m talking about some hard core stuff, like our voting rights actions, and ballot initiatives. You know, stuff to get out our vote and depress theirs.”
Rove had developed data for three U.S. maps, one for Romney, one for Santorum, and one for Gingrich. During the Republican campaign he had used the maps to show the GOP leadership just how hopeless a Santorum or Gingrich presidential run would be. In both cases, Obama would exceed 300 electoral votes. Romney ran closer, but was still lagging Obama by at least 36 electoral votes under the most optimistic scenarios.
Priebus was rattling on and Rove picked up the thread about midpoint, “and so I was wondering if you’ve talked to Synhorst about generating some grassroots support for our initiatives in some of the bible belt states to outlaw...” Priebus paused as the waitress set down his beer. “...medical marijuana. You know, sort of preempt the legalization of marijuana. It’s a hot button issue with a good part of the base.”
Tom Synhorst was a principal at DCI group. He’d started the company in 1988 and grew it from a basic PR firm to a powerful lobbying and consulting firm with connections to some of the Republican Party’s movers and shakers. Synhorst basically invented ‘ghost grassroots’ initiatives, which was grassroots like arson was spontaneous combustion.
“Yeah, well we’re looking at some of these get-out-the vote initiatives, Reince. We can’t back ‘em all. Gotta prioritize,” Rove said, looking around for the waitress.
“Well, dope is a good one, Karl. And ties in nicely with immigration reform,” Priebus said.
“Huh?” Rove said. “How’s that?”
“Well, it’s the Mexicans bringing in the dope,” Priebus said. “We could pair the anti-dope initiative with one to give police the right to stop people who look illegal and demand proof of citizenship; like Arizona.”
Rove sighed. Priebus had a tendency to get carried away. “Reince, we’ve gotta be careful here.” Rove was painfully aware that Hispanic voters had supported Democratic candidates 2 to 1 over Republicans in 2008. He wanted to even that up in 2012. “We have a chance to make some inroads
with Hispanics in 2012 as a result of the bad economy.” Rove said.
“Well...” Priebus said. He was thinking about all the Republican candidates supporting the idea of a 2000-mile-long fence on the U.S. border with Mexico. “You know the fence thing doesn’t help.”
Rove interrupted, “Yeah, yeah, nobody takes that seriously, Reince. Once we’re into the campaign against Obama that’ll go on the back burner. Except maybe in the border states. What we’re focused on, Reince, are independents in the swing states.” Rove pushed around some papers on his kitchen table, looking for a report he’d been reading earlier.
“Yeah, that’s good,” Priebus said. “We’ve got some --”
Rove found what he was looking for and interrupted Priebus. “Yeah, I have a survey here that shows independents aren’t buying Obama’s fairness argument. We need to --”
“It’s class warfare,” Priebus chirped, happy to hear Rove parrot the GOP’s sound bite.
“...stress how Obama’s failed policies have contributed to the economic downturn,” Rove went on. “Blunt the focus on wealth inequality.”
Priebus scrolled down a new page on his laptop, found what he was looking for and quickly said, “Have you seen today’s gas prices? Hell, that’s a major campaign issue for us.” Priebus put his hand behind his neck and stretched. He checked his watch. He was scheduled for a sit down with Fox & Friends in an hour. “Listen, Karl, can I get back to you? I’ve gotta run.”
“Well, hell, Reince, you called me,” Rove said, and ended the call.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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