An Evening with Rick Perry

One of my life mentors and good friends, Larry Kudlow, invited my wife and I to join him and a small group of folks here in New York City last evening for a small roundtable with Gov. Rick Perry. Larry along with pro-growth champions Steve Forbes and Stephen Moore are launching a Committee on Growth and Prosperity in the same vein as the dearly missed Jeane Kirkpatrick’s Committee on the Present Danger which proved so valuable in assessing the cold war for what it was decades ago. The idea behind this dinner last night was to put a few pro-growth proponents at the dinner table with Gov. Perry and have an open discussion about his economic message.

I have been commenting and noting for at least a couple years now that Governor Perry is an entirely different person from the one the country got briefly introduced to in the 2012 campaign. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day Perry is a tremendous communicator and has a deeper command on issues than most politicians you will get to meet in your life. He has embarked upon a tour of sorts between CNBC, Fox News, the Sunday morning talk shows, etc. where his ideological bona fides and his intellectual gravitas are clearly on display. Americans love a comeback story. As far as I am concerned, he is as viable as anyone.

Speaking of which, I do believe it is safe to frame the Republican 2016 field as follows: (1) The group of three solid men who will unfairly be branded moderates, and would prove unable to build the necessary coalition to win (Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie); (2) The group of two men who have plenty of good to say (one more than the other), but would never build coalitions outside of their own base (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul); and then (3) The group of four or five solid conservatives who both possess the needed leadership traits to govern the country and the capability to build coalitions within their own base and outside of it (in this group I include Rick Perry, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and potentially Mike Pence). Anyone of those names from group #3 I see as viable. Anyone in groups 1 or 2 I do not. Moving on.

Gov. Perry can let much of his track record speak for itself. From 2009-2012 Texas created more net new jobs than 49 other states combined. The only problem with that stat is I don’t know how many people will even believe it; it is just overwhelming (but true) on its face. Because the Governor and I share a deep appreciation for the shale revolution, it is deeply satisfying to hear the real life accolades of what their natural gas accomplishments have meant to the state as well (23% reduction in ozone levels, 62% reduction in nitrogen oxide levels, dramatic % drop in their carbon footprint, etc.). Readers are free to have their own opinions on what environmental feats are and are not important to them, but the facts should still be presented as they are. At the end of the day, Governor Perry served 14 years in the Governor’s mansion and did not merely oversee a renaissance in the energy industry of Texas (though he certainly did that too). Texas is now the largest exporter of high tech product in the country. The economy of Texas as seen massive diversification over the last 10-12 years, so much so that despite the explosion of the oil and gas business behind the shale revolution, the energy sector is a lower percentage of Texas GDP than when the Governor took office. Companies from Toyota to Apple to Oracle to Facebook to Ebay to a plethora of pharmaceutical companies and even food businesses have planted a flag in Texas in recent years, taking advantage of the state’s extraordinary friendliness around tax and regulation for businesses. A friendly business climate is a friendly jobs climate, and the result has been the magical word guys like Kudlow and Moore care so much about: Growth. The beauty of growth is that it transcends class warfare, and lifts all boats. The 1% is not a phrase used in Texas, because the 100% have enjoyed the fruits of economic growth in Texas. So much of this can be a model to the entire country.

A lot of our dialogue last night is not for mass distribution, but I will say that he is going to need to better polish his delivery on the crucial issue of immigration. I am firmly in the Governor’s camp on the policy side of the issue, but I am not convinced that a mere focus on securing the border will be enough to pacify the far right fringe on this issue (where someone like Laura Ingraham can get away with saying that we should be going door to door finding illegals to deport). Perry has the right policy prescription (secure borders and a guest worker program) and it surely will be the right message in a a general election (Perry always won a minimum of 40%+ Hispanics in his three gubernatorial races), but I am not sure the primary message where candidates will be vying to carve out the silliest message possible on this pivotal human and economic message has been fully developed yet.

What I am sure of is this: Picking a primary horse this early has not been a good strategy for quite some time as those with a Hillary 2008 sticker can attest. Perry will need early good luck to get in the top five of candidates once this thing gets underway. He is a solid fundraiser and a compelling candidate. If he can break into that top five, I am convinced he can become a serious contender in the primary. And I will close with this: Should he survive what I expect will be a grueling primary, and end up in a one-on-one race with Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt in my mind that the great feats of the Texas Governor’s mansion over the last 14 years will be coming to The White House.
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Why Mitt Romney Should Not Run

The Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a compelling piece yesterday entitled Romney Recycled in which it laid out all the reasons a third Romney campaign may not be a very good idea. It was not stating that Romney would be a bad President; it was making the case that Romney would be a bad candidate. I believe most objective followers of the political world would be forced to agree with its conclusions.

I believe the country made a mistake of incalculable proportions when it elected Barack Obama to a second term over Mitt Romney in 2012. I further believe despite the rather unfounded and dubious thinking of many of my conservative brethren that he would have been a great, not just good, President. The context of my sentiments in this article are not driven by a dislike of Mitt Romney the man, whom I hold in very high regard as a family man and businessman, or a belief that he would be a weak-kneed middle-of-the-road, unprincipled moderate of a President. I don’t believe he would have been. But it is a waste of energy to make the case for what it is both an unprovable thesis and a non-falsifiable one now. He was not elected, and besides, I’ve learned that there is a brand of folks on the right (some well-meaning, many not) for whom logic and reasoned discourse are as foreign as maybe Hayek and Kirk would be for Gov. Romney.

So with that backdrop I do still feel the need to echo what the WSJ laid out yesterday. I simply do not believe an additional effort by Gov. Romney will end well. And I believe that for no other reason than his flaws as a candidate, not fears of flaws as an actual President.

It is important to note that Gov. Romney essentially has a 20% LIFETIME success rate in elections. His 1994 loss to Ted Kennedy for Senate is rather forgivable. His 2002 gubernatorial win is the only reason any of us have heard of Mitt Romney, and that was about as fertile of a year for Republican candidates as 2014 was. But Romney chose not to run for re-election in 2006 because he was going to lose by 20 points. That is incontestable. And then we know about his 2008 and 2012 Presidential losses. I realize most people elected President have at one time or another in their political careers suffered a painful loss (Bill Clinton had one, Reagan had a couple, Nixon obviously had a couple, etc.), but in those high profile cases a loss (or two) is up against a plethora of wins that far outweigh the losses. A candidate who has only won one race he has ever been in has a big hurdle to get over in defending their viability as a candidate. It is not unfair for an objective political enthusiast, one who actually likes Romney as I do, to simply point out that maybe, just maybe, there is some reason this candidate struggles to close the deal with voters.

But a past win-loss record of 1-4 notwithstanding, there is a more fundamental reason I believe Gov. Romney would be wise to re-think this decision. The GOP faces a race in 2016 that one way or the other is going to delve into issues of class. The far left and neo-Marxian wing of the democratic party led by gifted orators but Che Guevara type ideologues like Elizabeth Warren are going to make this a more populist election than we have seen in our country’s history. The Dems will have a problem of their own to deal with in that because they will nominate the uber-wealthy and hyper-elitist Hilary Clinton as their nominee. It does not matter that Romney and the right have the far superior solutions for dealing with issues on class, poverty, education, and economic growth, and it certainly doesn’t matter that Elizabeth Warren and her ilk have absolutely nothing new to offer on the subject (eliminating ATM card fees is not a profound policy objective in case you were wondering, and further steepening the disgusting progressive tax code is not exactly new school thinking). This is politics, and for the GOP to nominate their wealthiest candidate is a bad idea – even a candidate who loves his family, and who has been beyond generous with his hard-earned wealth. Romney (or his 2012 handlers) allowed himself to be branded as a daddy warbucks Gordon Gecko symbol in the last race. It was wrong. It was unfair. But he will not be able to shake it. And that brings me to my final point.

It isn’t necessary this time around. The 2012 field was a walking Saturday Night Live skit. The idea that Herman Cain or Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum were ever going to be elected President is so silly it is embarrassing to think about as a devoted conservative enthusiast. Romney was a flawed candidate (for a handful of reasons) but clearly had the most gravitas and compelling case to make. And he couldn’t close. A lot of mistakes were made by his team, but he couldn’t close. In 2016, if it were a matter of Romney, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz running, yes, I would think Mitt Romney want to consider entering the race. If it were just Chris Christie in the field, yes, I would hope Mitt Romney would consider running. Rand Paul is not going to be your President and if you don’t know that yet you soon will. Neither is Ted Cruz, though I believe that is because of mistakes Ted willingly made, not because of an intrinsic flaw or ideological kookiness. Christie is really, really not going to be your President. I’ll save character spaces in defending that assertion. However, a field with Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Mike Pence does not need the oft-failed candidate with the best name recognition to come in and save the day. We will see what happens with Jeb Bush. My own guess is that, as a candidate, he faces a lot of the same problems Mitt Romney would face with an even worse last name (though like Romney, I believe Jeb would actually make a fine President, imperfect as he may be). But Walker, Perry, Rubio, Jindal, Kasich, Pence is a field that does not need Romney to find someone outside the fringe of conspiracy lunacy (Paul), with inadequate credentials and gravitas (Bachman, Cain). Whether we like it or not, we need a real Republican who has not isolated his coalition to a narrow group that lacks the ability to win an election. The men I have identified all of strong points and maybe some flaws, but it is an exponentially better field than it was in 2012. Period.

I want Mitt Romney to play a role in American politics for the rest of his life. I want him to enjoy his beautiful family, and enjoy the fruits of his labors. If this thing shakes out in such a way that he ends up one-on-one with Hillary Clinton, he will have my support. But I echo the WSJ yesterday, that I simply believe the third time will not be a charm if he goes down this path.

A Quick Election Postmortem – A Wave by Any Other Name

There is a danger in two things the day after an election: Excessively mourning the results, and excessively celebrating the results. No election, ever, means nearly as much as we want to think it does. Culture trumps politics. For a conservative Republican to believe that America woke up Wednesday morning more personally responsible and interested in limited government than they were a few days ago is insane. Now, the good news there is that America was never as interested in a statist society as the doomsdayers portend either. At our core, we are a center right country, and I am quite confident we will remain such. Only professional fundraisers have a right to say that a given election means the end of the Republic, and only fools believe that with 54 Republican senators we can now get on to the business of fixing all that ails the world. In reality, some very, very good things took place Tuesday night, and a lot of work remains to be done.

I believe NBC, the WaPo, you, me, and anyone else knew that the GOP would take the Senate Tuesday night. I believe we were in danger of losing either KS or GA (probably not both), and that didn’t happen. I believe we could have lost one of CO, AK, or IA on the day of. But the polls were clear as can be (aggregate, composite polls like what RCP offers): Seven states were coming, and eight/nine were a possibility. We got nine. (I am counting Alaska and Louisiana and assuming the Dem, Warner, holds in VA if they recount). So really, the mere sending of Harry Reid to the irrelevant pile where that unpatriotic windbag belongs is not a surprise, though I concur it is a victory. But just like stock prices only respond to good news when it is a surprise, I want to focus on unexpected good news.

The Governor seats were simply extraordinary Tuesday night. Deep blue states going red, and deep blue states ALMOST going red, is a big deal. The wave of people who doubt the efficiency of government, if not its morality or legitimacy, must be converted from the state house to the White House. This election may not have been a rejection of nanny state government (I wish it were), but I do believe the failed ObamaCare website, the VA hospital debacle, the pension crisis countless states face, and the foreign policy miscalculations of this administration all serve up a highly skeptical omelette about the COMPETENCE of big government. I make a moral argument against big government (or rather, for individual freedom), but voters are content to ride along side me with an efficiency argument against big government (right now). The GOP would be wise to message this immutable law into 2016: Big government will always mess it up, always (when the task in question is outside the scope of their legitimate power).

I am mystified why so many on the right are skeptical about what this GOP majority will do. I challenge the haters to name one single malignant law that the post-2010 Republican House has allowed to enter the fray. I get that there are still pouty children in our party wondering why we can’t pound our fist and get everything we want, but from a checks and balances standpoint, this GOP has held the line. We did not elect bad Republican senators on Tuesday night. Gardner, Cotton, Sullivan, Cassidy, Ernst, and Tillis are conservative stars. They are grown-ups. They are ready for the task at hand. Unlike 2002, we scored in both quantity AND quality Tuesday night. For this we should be grateful.

Scott Walker’s re-election is a big deal. The public employee unions are losing their power in much of America (not in California). They are the demon of American politics and they have shown more contempt for the good of the American people than any other force or special interest in American history. This battle is not over but we are making incremental progress (not in California). We have more work to do.

The Virginia Senate seat is the biggest surprise of the election, and obviously us Monday Morning quarterbacks now wish we had supported Gillespie. I’d love to know who is polling that state so I could fire them (right, Eric Cantor?), but I suspect it reinforces the thesis that a lot of purples are just not happy being blue right now.

The Republicans will win the 2016 Presidential election if they nominate a likable and charismatic and competent candidate who can avoid being polarizing (sorry Cruz and Paul) and also hold the line of ideological solidity and political competence. We have folks on the bench who can do that. I’ll address this more as time goes by.

The GOP does not have a mandate now to start acting stupid. The American people want to see action, but they also want to see maturity, poise, and sobriety. We do not need to go along to get along, and we do not need to come off like radicals and flamethrowers jockeying for a plug from Rush Limbaugh. The GOP ought to rule for the next two years the way they got elected two days ago. They nominated sensible and impressive candidates, and they ran disciplined campaigns. Let’s go work for two years with sensibility and discipline. Good things will happen.

I agreed with leadership’s decision to not attempt a Contract with America II in advance of this election. This was a referendum on the failed Presidency of Barack Obama and the American people’s dissatisfaction with governmental incompetence. But now, it is imperative that we proactively lead with issues. We may not override Presidential vetoes, but corporate tax reform, the Keystone pipeline, energy export allowances, school choice, and a host of pro-growth, pro-jobs issues exist that we can and should push, promote, and fertilize. As Thatcher said to Bush Sr., now is not the time to get wobbly.

State of the Senate

It is fascinating to me how these Senate races have turned. RCP now has the Senate going GOP even giving Georgia to Nunn (the Dems) and NOT counting Kansas at all (so if KS goes Dem it would be 51-49 Repub). This also assumes NC stays with Hagan, where most do believe Tillis has a CHANCE to pull that off for the Republicans. So how is this math even possible? Colorado, Iowa, and Alaska all going Repub (along with, of course, Arkansas, Louisiana, and the obvious ones).

Bottom line: We can still fail to cross the finish line. And if we do need Louisiana to do it (vs. having it regardless) we probably are going to need until December to know. Pat Roberts should be utterly ashamed of himself for leaving us in this position in Kansas. I would rather talk about age limits than term limits, but I don’t really mean that. Kansas. Can you believe this? Kansas. Of all states, Kansas might keep us from a GOP Senate majority. Dear Lord.

Iowa is not out of the woods (could go against us) and Georgia is not a lost cause (I still believe Perdue could protect that seat). I’m optimistic enough to say we could win with 53 and I’m pessimistic enough to say we could be stuck at 49. This is going to be a wild ride for the next ten days. At stake is the role of Harry Reid in the governance of this country. No intelligent or decent human being could be comfortable with that kind of implication.

2014 Comprehensive Bahnsen Viewpoint Voting Guide

Mid-term elections can often be more fun than Presidential elections, mainly because more interested and informed voters participate and often there are more consequential things to be voted on (both in the candidate and proposition category). 2014 is no exception. What I have done here is dig into my personal ballot in its entirety, and then spread the research a little outside my ballot to cover various other races I think folks may care about. Should I miss a congressional, ballot, or statewide race you have on your ballot that I don’t cover here please feel free to send my way if you can’t figure it out on your own and I suspect I will be able to uncover some points for your consideration. As much as possible below I have tried to partner my recommendation with a rationale but in some situations for the sake of time it is in a mere list format. Please vote (if you are informed and will be voting with principle, vs. voting like a whore hoping someone will give you something). The latter crude parenthetical is at the heart of all plaguing our democracy: the idea that elections are to deliver us toys instead of more principled and effective governance. Sermon over. Off we go.

California Governor - it is, of course, irrelevant. Jerry will win and win big. The only reason I hope you will vote for Neel Kashkari is that the lower Jerry’s margin of victory proves to be, the theoretical case exists for more restraint from the Governor in a second term. We are a ways off from the GOP playing competitively in a CA Gubernatorial race.

On the Lt. Governor front, the same thing is true (Gavin Newsom will handily beat Ron Nehring). But vote for Ron Nehring, who is articulate, capable, competent, and should have been our guy to lose on the top of the ticket. We do not want a tool like Gavin Newsom going into 2018 with claims of a 20-point win on his resume.

Pete Peterson is our best bet for a statewide GOP win in the Secretary of State race. He is a strong candidate and has a solid shot to win believe it or not based on a lot of complexities in that race and the utter corruption the Dems have brought to that fray. This race means more to me than any of the other statewide races.

I certainly recommend Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin, for statewide controller, but Ashley is not a perfect candidate (who is?). Her support for the High Speed Rail debacle is most unfortunate, but she would be nice to have in that board of equalization spot (likely a tiebreaker).

Ted Gaines as Insurance Commissioner would be the most intelligent GOP member to be in statewide office in over a decade, though he has a tough battle to win this race.

In the Treasurer and Attorney General races, vote for the Republican (who will lose in both cases). Pray that Kamala Harris gets caught in a sex scandal as most abusive Democrat attorney generals do before 2018, because if this person is ever my Governor, I may have to re-visit my Scottsdale real estate agent’s office once again.

Whoever the Board of Equalization candidate is in your district, vote for the Republican. I can see a possible 3-2 win for the GOP here but at worst case a 2-3 minority which is better than 1-4.

As for U.S. congressional seats, Mimi Walters will be a great replacement to John Campbell for those living there, and if you are in the 48th just pray that Dana retires in two years and someone else runs. It is sad that the 48th is in this position, but Dana will win, and that’s that with that. One day it will be different. If you are in north county Ed Royce is one of the best representatives the Congress has.

For my Orange County friends, few races have people more fired up than State Assembly DIstrict #74. A Republican vs. Republican race features Keith Curry (Newport Beach two-time mayor and sitting city councilman and retired business owner) vs. Matt Harper (HB mayor; various local govt staff jobs over the years). This seat is as safely Republican in any year as any district in the country, but because I LOATHE cronyism in local and state politics – loathe it, especially from Republicans – and because I believe we need credible, serious, experienced, mature candidates to represent us in Sacramento, I urge you to vote for Keith Curry. I have barely heard a single honest thing said against Keith Curry throughout this campaign. What I know is that he has not lived at the trough of government paychecks throughout his life, and has absolutely no motive in seeking this seat other than making some difference in Sacramento. He is a Reagan Republican, which means he is both principled and pragmatic. Keith and I do not agree on every single issue, but I fear what happens statewide if we send less-than-credible candidates to Sacramento in the few seats we actually win. Matt has chosen for whatever reason to prosecute an entirely disingenuous campaign against Keith. Keith Curry will serve in statewide office in a manner that pleases conservatives, and doesn’t make liberals laugh at his antics.

Other statewide assembly or senate races outside my own district:

Mario Guerra in the 32nd (this would be a huge pick-up)
Pat Bates in the 36th
Young Kim in the 65th (for assembly); this too would be huge
Bill Brough in the 73rd
Ling Ling Chang in the 55th

I hope you will vote for Janet Nguyen in the 34th State Senate District, but I would be voting for the “Republican” after her name, not for her. It is a chance to take the super-majority level of the legislature from the Democrats, though I remain mystified that this was the best candidate the GOP could come up with to pursue this seat. It is a tight race, and we really would be better off with Janet than Solorio who is pretty much unbearable.

I have never voted for a Superintendent of Public Instruction my entire life as my kids are all in private school and always will be. However, Marshall Tuck is an absolutely special candidate (and I would add, a Democrat), fighting the oppressive evils of the state teacher’s unions day in and day out. He is an innovator, a fresh and principled thinker, and he could make a difference – albeit a small one – in that corrosive rot of a culture that is state education bureaucracy.

I am voting for Allan Mansoor over Michelle Steel in my County Supervisor race, though Michelle appears ready to win with a sizable margin. BUT FAR MORE IMPORTANT is the 5th District County Supervisor race, where the Republicans have a chance to elect the most intelligent, principled, capable, honest, competent candidate to the county board we will have elected to ANY office in this county in twenty years: Robert Ming. Can I say that with any more force?

Newport Beach City Council races: For the love of everything you care about, vote for Mayor Rush Hill in the district 3 race. Diane Dixon is unopposed but will be a strong presence on the council. Tim Brown gets my vote in the 4th. Mike Toerge is a NO-BRAINER in the 6th district. I would be happy to entertain any private emails about why I feel so strongly about these races. None are more important than Rush Hill …

Judges:
Kevin Haskins in Superior Court #14

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 1
Alex C. McDonald– 9 (JI: 8, Q: 10) YES
Gilbert Nares– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 8) YES
Terry B. O’Rourke– 7 (JI: 6, Q: 8) YES
James A. McIntyre– 7 (JI: 5, Q: 9) YES

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 2
Thomas E. Hollenhorst– 6 (JI: 5, Q: 8) YES

Justice, California State Court of Appeal; District 4, Division 3
David A. Thompson– 8 (JI: 6, Q: 9) YES
Richard M. Aronson– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 9) YES
Richard D. Fybel– 5 (JI: 3, Q: 7) NO
William F. Rylaarsdam– 8 (JI: 7, Q: 9) YES
Kathleen E. O’Leary– 5 (JI: 3, Q: 7) NO
Superior Court Judge; County of Orange; Office 14

I am voting for Webster Guillroy for Assessor behind the recommendation of the always-reliable John Moorlach. I hear good things about Claude Parrish too.

In Costa Mesa I pray you will vote for Jim Righeimer and Tony Capitelli

Measure Y in Newport Beach – yes, yes, yes, yes

State Ballots:
1 – Hardest one to vote on. I loathe everything about general obligation state bond borrowing. I have talked with a plethora of similarly anti-bond, pro-fiscal responsibility conservatives who support this bond, believing it to be one of the truly rare times a GO bond is for a legitimate public infrastructure project, vitally needed, with proper checks and balances in place. I am voting yes.

2 – NO
45 – NO !!!!!!!
46 – NO
47 – YES (may Republicans disagree)
48 – NO
E – No
G – Yes

For all others not on my ballot feel free to email me. I recommend a NO vote on every single school bond you see no matter what. They are killing our children as they delay the need for fiscal sensibility and a renewed commitment to quality and values. They are a drug. Just say no. This also includes the woeful community college bonds.

I recommend a YES on Measure L in Anaheim. I certainly recommend a vote FOR Tom Tait, the fine mayor there who is leading a righteous cause against piggish cronyism …

In Irvine, of course I support the Great Park transparency measure. I also support Larry Agran being indicted.

Around the country, there are no races that I suspect will matter more than Ernst in Iowa and Tillis in North Carolina. I feel good about Cassidy in Louisiana, Cotton in Arkansas, Sullivan in Alaska, and even Gardner in Colorado. Anything can happen. Never forget: Cheaters usually win, and Harry Reid cheats better than anyone. We need a big enough margin everywhere, and period.

Gubernatorially, if the voters in Florida elect Charlie Crist that will pretty much ruin my plans to spend my retirement smacking mosquitoes off of my body, making hurricane preparation plans, and talking about the 4:30pm dinner special. Seriously, if that guy is elected, Floridians get what they deserve. Please don’t do it.

I think I have covered my bases here. I love the United States of America, I love the golden state of California that the unions have ruined, and I love the city of Newport Beach. I believe we are never too far gone to throw in the towel and never too far ahead to run a victory lap. And most importantly, I believe culture trumps politics. All my political friends are wasting their time as long as they believe these races will secure the societal improvement we want. They are but one piece of the puzzle – just one. The rest is where the low hanging fruit lies. Vote early, vote right, and vote with principle.