When Red turns Blue in Oklahoma, it’s a Matter of the Heart!

munson dadOklahoma Democrats are gleeful, and should be.

They turned blue a state House seat in a region solidly red for a half century or more.

Republicans are mourning, pointing fingers, spinning and explaining.

Since pundits have already over-analyzed the loss by the longtime Republican stalwart Chip Carter to that young Democrat rising star Cyndi Munson, I’ll refrain from adding too much to what has already been said.

There are countless reasons a candidate wins and loses, and often, the consultant or party operatives could have done little to overcome the obstacles.

In 2006, the late Representative David Dank came within a hair of losing that same seat to another young Democrat female?

That GOP-win-that-almost never-was caught my attention at the time. Dank was replacing his wife, the beloved Odilia who had held the GOP stronghold for 12 long years. Republican turnout in Oklahoma County was dismal that year, too.

But Munson and her team still deserve much credit.

While political insiders are out of style, Munson is a fresh and new face and definitely has the ‘wow’ factor. I also felt my heart tug when I opened Facebook the day after the election and saw Munson embracing her father who served our country in the military.

I teared a little because the American dream was on full display. A minority from a single parent home had worked really hard, and she and Dad were experiencing that special moment when the thrill of victory takes hold.

Munson’s story was unique, heartfelt and right for the times.

Congratulations to Munson, and to the Democrat operatives who ran her campaign with energy and precision.

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog.

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Democrats Lay out Welcome Mat

The Oklahoma Democratic Party decided Saturday to allow Independents to vote in its primaries. It’s the smartest move for a state political party I’ve witnessed in a while.

Independents are growing in numbers in Oklahoma. Allowed to participate with the Democratic Party in June and August primaries and runoffs, the GOP could find it difficult to bring this key voter block back by November.

Republicans would be foolish to take their Obama-era years of unchallenged electoral invincibility for granted.

A Republican president in the White House in 2016 (yes, it’s a remote possibility), and suddenly the GOP is to blame for society’s ills two years later.

While Oklahoma will certainly be a blood red state for many years, Democrats could start winning a few key races. It likely won’t happen in a presidential year when national liberals continue to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party and most Oklahomans, but state issues could take center stage again in 2018.

What if voters tire of driving daily across those potholes and perceive that transportation promises were not kept? What if Oklahoma’s student achievement remains at the bottom nationally even as the state’s teacher shortage continues to be an unaddressed crisis?

What if the divide widens between the old-fashioned Reagan conservatives and the more extreme Libertarian wings of the party. Democrats could gain relevance in legislative battles, deciding which faction on what issue to side with.

What if the unspeakable happened and a Boren ran for governor in 2018?

I’m not making predictions, just laying out a doomsday scenario, that while full of ifs, is still a possibility.

What if the Democratic Party actually garnered a third of the seats in the Legislature and could sustain a veto? It could give Democrats momentum and that could get out of hand in a hurry.

Before Obama took office, it took a good campaign and a quality candidate to convince “swing voters” to choose a Republican locally, just as they had voted nationally for decades. It took candidates like longtime Lawton school Principal Ann Coody who was elected to the House, and oil and gas businessman Brian Bingman who ended up as the leader of the state Senate, to win formerly-held Democrat seats.

Like many other legislators from that era, they had impressive resumes and were highly regarded in their communities, but still had to wage aggressive campaigns to flip a seat from Democrat to Republican. Back then, the GOP had to field a solid crop of candidates to harvest results in the November general elections.

So now that the Democratic Party has welcomed Independents into their little cottage, it can feel real cozy to those pesky Independents snubbed by the GOP in that big palatial home on the other side of town.

Here is the best part for state Democrats:

It’s a safe bet that Republicans won’t follow suit.

We now want our candidates to be ideologically pure; to be those Fox News-watching red-meat conservatives who pray over the U.S. Constitution before sending their kids off to school.  Independents could dilute the partisan purity. And at least for now, Oklahoma Republicans can afford to be pure, because it’s just very difficult to lose in November no matter how hard we sometimes try.

There is no question the state’s Democratic Party in Oklahoma made this move out of desperation, a last gasp of breath to find life again.

But if winning campaigns matters to political parties, then it was a clear, smart and historic move for the loyal opposition.

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog.

Is Jeb the Anti-Clinton?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his presidential bid official Monday, and continued the buzz Tuesday by “slow-jamming” on Jimmy Fallon. Critics speak nothing but doomsday for this campaign, and argue that a third Bush White House in a quarter century is unachievable. I disagree.

Here are my six best reasons Jeb wins the nomination:

1. Jeb is the anti-Clinton.
With Hillary Clinton campaigning fiercely as the presumptive Democrat nominee, Republican voters will look for the best alternative. To this point, the Bush name could be a boost, not a hindrance. It’s the Bushes versus the Clintons, and that’s the Hatfield vs. McCoy rivalry too fun to pass up. The press wants it, and it’s the political dynasty matchup that makes for the juiciest prime time drama. They may not admit it, but these Fox News primary voters like drama.

2. Jeb has staying power in presidential politics.
Most agree that the vast fundraising and political network of the Bush family is the greatest asset Jeb has. With the ridiculous number of GOP candidates in the race, Republicans can expect a lengthy nomination process ahead. There’s something about 10,000 GRPs of advertising and super sophisticated Get Out the Vote methods that can help Jeb eek out victories along the way. It may only require 25 percent to win an early primary state and this is when Bush money can matter the most.

3. Jeb was a successful governor, and a conservative, too.
He has the credentials to match his pedigree. In addition to success as a businessman, Jeb’s policy achievements as Florida governor will appeal to traditional Republicans and conservatives, too. He cut taxes, scaled back the state employee ranks and took stands for the sanctity of life even when it was controversial to do so. He was CEO of one of the largest states in the nation.

4. Jeb has reportedly fixed and retooled the machine.
Jeb was smart to wait before announcing his candidacy. It allowed him to raise substantial sums of dollars, but to also fix and tweak his organization. The Washington Post (surprise, surprise) writes as if the early squabbles and fumbles have caused his campaign to die before it gets started. I take an opposing view. He’s one of the last to announce and may be the last to stumble, especially if he’s truly worked out the clinks and clanks in the campaign engine.

5. Jeb’s family looks like America, and it’s more than skin deep.
This Bush family looks different from the others. Columba, the first-lady-to-be, is a Mexican-American. Look to see her in every single photo op from now on. If she’s not available, there is always George P. Bush, the first-son-to-be, who happens to be more the color of his Mom than his Dad, and is a politician in his own right. After two Obama victories, and now with Democrats poised to nominate its first-ever woman, GOP voters hopefully get it.
America has color; the Republican Party does not.
Plus, the super establishment wealthy guy who marries outside his race and culture, well, it’s the best love story of the Bush dynasty and could make this Soap Opera a Nielsen ratings hit, though not nearly as scandalous as the Clinton’s.

6. Bush bravado will prove how wrong I was “once-upon-a-time”
This is my personal favorite. In my early 20s, George W. Bush stuck his finger toward my chest after I made the mistake of criticizing his father outside a Norman, Okla., event center. I informed W., then known only to be the problem child of the vice president, that his Dad just couldn’t win the White House. I was working as a very low-level staffer for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, the man who never became president, and that was the company line. Since then, there have been two Bushes in the White House, including the problem child. So why not a third Bush? It sure beats the heck out of a second Clinton. Refer back to Reason #1.

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog.

Dr. Carson’s ‘W’ in the SRLC Straw Poll

Dr. Ben Carson won the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City. The retired neurosurgeon grabbed the spotlight when he was the featured speaker at the Oklahoma Republican Party gala Friday night, and was indeed impressive. Newsweek credited the victory to the retired brain surgeon’s soothing tone and inspiring “rags to riches” story. I agree, in part.

If you heard Carson speak, and there were hundreds at the gala, there is something refreshing about his style. He reminds me of another doctor, retired U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. He’s direct and has a conversational style that appears to come from his own brain instead that of a speech writer.

I suspect there are other factors in his victory:

1. Carson’s campaign reportedly purchased a hefty batch of tickets, and brought their own people to the conference. It may have played a factor, but doubtful it was the only reason he won. While some may criticize straw polls because of how easily manipulated they can be, it can still suggest an enthusiastic campaign’s ability to organize or at least pay for a victory here or there.

2. Carson also benefited when frontrunners U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were unable to attend the conference due to their day jobs. The U.S. Senate was in session, and they dare not miss a vote on a conservative issue. Cruz had been scheduled to be the featured speaker at the gala, and his dad instead filled in with an inspiring speech of his own. Still, for we convention-goers, there’s nothing like meeting and hearing the candidate in the flesh.

3. Most of the presidential campaigns put forth little effort to win the straw poll, saving their resources for later. Carson’s people worked the crowd, encouraging favorable observers such as myself to cast a vote. After I complimented Carson to one of his workers, she begged me to spend $75 to get registered so that I could participate. There’s something to be said for working a crowd when competing in a straw poll.

4. Dr. Carson is different than the other politicians in the race. Carson is a straight-talking doctor who has never held public office, and most likely, is the smartest person in the room when he speaks. It’s refreshing for those of us with lower IQs to hear an intellectual’s endorsement of conservative policies. And, it’s worth noting that the doctor is an African-American in a party that is starved for diversity.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finished second after an inspiring speech, which I unfortunately missed, earlier during the conference and actually won among Oklahomans. Cruz finished third in spite of his absence.

The Newsweek analysis of Carson and the conference is worth the read. Straw polls taken at a gathering can be fun to watch, and a pageant for those who care the most, or it can help a lower-tier candidate gain a little attention with the prayer of gaining national attention. http://tinyurl.com/mcnjcf7h

But straw polls are seldom a predictor of who wins in the end.

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog.

The H Factor

Concerning Hillary’s logo, it makes you wonder with the challenges facing America why everybody seems to care so much about a logo. In my world though, there’s a fascination with even the most minute sign of incompetency in the campaign.hillary logo

So here’s my two cents. I suppose it makes sense to use an “H” for Hillary to copycat Obama’s “O” since she lost to him in 2008, but perhaps it goes too far. The forward arrow reminds me of Obama’s campaign theme in 2012; “Forward.” While replicating Obama may help energize Democrat donors, I’m not so sure America wants to move “Forward” in 2016.

I then heard a more comical critique; the arrow is pointing to the right to suggest that Hillary will be more conservative. Now that truly would be a disaster since Hillary first has to energize the gazillion of liberal Democrat donors who financed the Obama campaign online.

There is one other possibility. Some anonymous graphic artist was told to design an easy to recognize simple logo that can work regardless of where it’s used. Today, that artist is curled up in a corner in a deep depressive state, because this Picasso was completely unaware that his prized piece of art would be be lampooned and heralded as the first symbol of what was supposed to be a historic campaign that faltered from the very start due to the weak shades of blue used, and he was only seeking to be unique.

(Since first writing the above graph, I have learned that the logo was designed by Michael Beirut of Pentagram: (http://www.pentagram.com/partners/#/20/).

From my perspective, designing logos is the most miserable task of a campaign. Nobody is ever 100% happy, and the greatest logos ever designed never see the light of day. Why? Because everyone on the campaign team, including the candidate and spouse, is suddenly a graphic artist phenom and through countless tweaks and slight adjustments in the quest of perfection, great logos diminish into awkwardness.

My guess is that husband Bill was heavily involved in the latest Clinton logo, but Hillary could have cared less and didn’t give it a second thought as she ponders her solutions for the Middle Eastern crisis in Yemen. That, my friends, would be one of her finer qualities. (So there you have it; I said something kind about Hillary!)

– F.H.

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog.

My poll, your poll!

My poll is bigger than your poll! Mine is more scientific. But mine is more academic. The “my poll,” “your poll” debate in Oklahoma between think tanks is entertaining, but not the kind of deep thinking one expects from these policy geniuses.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute put out a survey on Tax Day that shows waning support for more tax cuts if it means reductions in core services like education and transportation. OCPA operatives responded quickly to debunk the data.

But there’s really nothing new in the phenomenon. It’s like voters who claim to want to balance the U.S. government’s fiscal house. Everyone wants it balanced as long as it doesn’t touch grandma’s Social Security check.

Why are polls even considered in making public policy? I can write 50 questions in 50 different ways and find 50 different angles on an issue.

Now this is from me, the guy who has distributed his share of tax cut propaganda. The research that I have seen recently does suggest a shift in public opinion on the need for further income tax reductions if it threatens core services. Even Republicans are split on whether further reductions are necessary if it carves into education and transportation budgets.

How might we ask that question differently to get a different response? In my world of shameless political hackery, delaying the income tax reduction would amount to a tax increase, and that probably would not poll very well, especially among Republican primary voters.

I do wonder why policy-makers give an ounce of credence to polls unless they truly understand the complexity of the questions that were asked, and more importantly, were not asked. I’ll leave policy advise to those deep thinkers at the think tanks. But don’t blame the pollsters. They’re just making a few bucks, and chuckling as they bash each other’s data. “Your sample size isn’t nearly as big as mine, buddy!”

This post was originally published on Fount Holland’s political strategy blog. For more information about Fount Holland, please visit his official website.