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Don’t play the “baggage” game

Don’t play the “baggage” game

John Hinderaker at Power Line writes the following about the departure of Herman Cain (bracketed “Points” mine):

[Point 1] What happened to Herman Cain is what the Democrats intend to do to whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be.  They know they can’t win a debate on the economy or on President Obama’s record, so they will do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from those matters, which should be decisive, and instead turn the focus to the GOP candidate and his or her alleged foibles.  [Point 2] If Republican voters allow that to happen by nominating a candidate with baggage that permits the Democrats to turn him into the next Herman Cain, it is all too likely that President Obama will be re-elected, with consequences that can hardly be overestimated.

Point 1 is something I have been writing about almost since the start of this blog, the need to defend Republicans and conservatives and Tea Party supporters against media smears regardless of whether you support the particular candidate.  The David Frum wing of the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way, and frankly, neither does much of the conservative media.  Piling on Sarah Palin was taken as a sign of moral and intellectual courage when in fact it was moral and intellectual cowardess.  Many of those same people joined the Democratic pro-Obama mainstream media in piling on caricatures and distortions regarding Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt.

Point 2 is a truism, but begs the question of what is “baggage.”  I surmise from John’s post that he is talking about Newt, as to whom the term “baggage” most frequently is used.  But what is baggage in an election?

Personal faults and defaults will not factor in as much as long as not illegal, provided they are acknowledged and atoned for.  That is why the social conservative vote has not written off Newt, or fully embraced other candidates without known personal baggage.

What about political baggage?  That’s more problematic in a campaign.  It’s the reason the Obama campaign has targeted Romney’s political “core.”  As I pointed out before, it’s a theme which has worked in the past against Romney.

But my biggest issue with the “baggage” concern is that it is defensive.  Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the media will deem that candidate to have baggage.

The purest of personally pure candidates will be faulted for being a religious nut and not hip enough to be president, someone from the white bread 1950s.  Policies advocating personal responsibility and empowerment will be portrayed as cruel and favoring the rich.  Advocacy of treating people according to the content of their characters rather than the colors of their skin will be protrayed as racially insensitive or racist.

So yes, don’t select a nominee with so much baggage that the nominee is unelectable, but think through what “baggage” really means, and don’t try to placate the mainstream media which will be against our nominee, baggage or not.


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It’s a scary thing to watch the lies, and innuendos being repeated, without proof, yet in 2008, when there was ample truth to some shady, radical friends, there was silence from the same media. (silence, or namecalling the ones who did try to report on Obamas radicalism.)

    Emperor Misha I in reply to wendybar. | December 6, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Wendy, what’s scary isn’t the smear game from the media that we ought to have become accustomed to by now. It’s who and what they are.

    What is truly scary is that standing up against the smears like Prof. Jacobson does is such an anomaly, particularly on our own side.

    I don’t care if the GOP candidate being smeared is the worst candidate I ever heard of, I will not pile on and help the enemy by refusing to point out the flaws in the charges against him.

    You can only hope to defeat the enemy by refusing to play the game according to his rules and by taking the fight back to him.

I agree with wendybar – it’s time to turn the tables. Where are Obama’s ex-girlfriends?

    GrumpyOne in reply to Rose. | December 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Why bother with Obama’s ex-girlfriends when so much “live” ammunition exists in the current administration?

    The real sleaze here are issues such as Soylyndra, Fast and Furious, Obamacare, embracement of radical Islam and the list goes on and on and…

    The Republicans need to smarten up and erect their version of the democrat attack apparatus that so ably derailed the Cain train etc.

    The one thing that democrats and liberals alike fear most, the truth!

    It could be so easy and yet they make it so hard.

      Aggie95 in reply to GrumpyOne. | December 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Grumpy ….the problem is that the media sources we have do not have the reach that the sources the liberals control …so we start out in the hole and stay there …..example ….John Edwards ….that story was known and had been for sometime and it took a supermarket rag to break it because no one else would

        GrumpyOne in reply to Aggie95. | December 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm


        That’s a given and that is why the measures to neutralize the MSM have to be very focused. Keep in mind that more people watch FOX news than any other network and I think that I could safely assume that this includes a patchwork of “enemy” operatives.

        I take your thoughts very seriously but also maintain that this is a case of, “fighting fire with fire.”

      Tonawanda in reply to GrumpyOne. | December 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      To make the often made observation in similar circumstances, is there any doubt that Fast and Furious and Solyndra would be daily number one news stories from the beginning to election day if the malefactor were a Republican?

      This is the stark reality faced by conservatives, the inability to reiterate with substantial effect. The Left controls all the significant Organs of Reiteration, save talk radio. True, the subject matter has to have some plausible claim on the public’s imagination, but here is exactly the problem.

      Life provides those claims against all, regardless of party or philosophy. But the Organs of Reiteration only put the spotlight on one side, and try to hide those claims affecting the other.

      The chief factor controlling the public narrative is the control of that narrative by the Organs of Reiteration.

      The most important personal attribute for a Republican candidate is integrity and authenticity, the kind average folks can sense immediately. This is not a perfect shield against the public narrative reiterated by the Left, but it is necessary.

        GrumpyOne in reply to Tonawanda. | December 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm


        I have no dispute with anything you said generally and regarding your last paragraph… That is exactly what happened to Herman Cain.

        The left will spare no effort to ensure that the weakest person standing becomes the nominee. It’s as easy as counting sheep jumping over the fence to end a bout of insomnia.

    janitor in reply to Rose. | December 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Perhaps Barack Obama doesn’t have any ex-girlfriends? I dunno… Is that query over the top? Am I out of line? Yes, there does seem to be more coverage of Republican’s alleged transgressions than of Soylyndra, Fast and Furious, etc. Why isn’t Obama’s personal history a topic in major media.

    alan markus in reply to Rose. | December 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Or maybe they could ask who are Obama’s ex-boyfriends. That concept has been floating around the internet. Not sure if there is any substance to it, like the birther movement. Here is a recent example:

    SPECIAL REPORT. Obama and Emanuel: members of same gay bath house club in Chicago

    Then again, there is so much not known about Obama, anything is plausible.

    avan in reply to Rose. | December 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Rumor has it, he is gay. Larry Sinclair…
    Wouldn’t we have heard if there were any girlfriends? Then again, they may have “disappeared” just like all of his records.

    scooby509 in reply to Rose. | December 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    “I agree with wendybar – it’s time to turn the tables. Where are Obama’s ex-girlfriends?”

    Even if you’ve entirely given up on the notion of simply being better than them, can’t we at least base this on what is likely to work?

    Please consider Bill Clinton, where we went that route; end result: Clinton was a martyr, and Republicans were a bunch of bitter troglodytes. Fair or not, that’s how it played out.

    With Obama, we’ve got this huge litany of terrible policy mistakes, absence of leadership, DOJ running amok, corrupt Chicago connections, all these really substantive things we can nail him on. Why in God’s name would we want to dig up some stupid affair long ago that will only make him a martyr?

The “gotta pick a nominee without baggage” shtick is code for “gotta pick Romney.” The people spouting this act as if they are completely unaware of Romney’s own baggage. It’s reminiscent of when the same people say “we can’t pick Newt, he’s a RINO.” Then they say, with a straight face, to pick Romney instead.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander; so fight fire with fire.

President Obama has plenty of “baggage” – hit him and his supporters over the head with it, relentlessly.

    It IS stunning that journalists have no interest in exposing the real truth and care more about protecting him! You would think one would want to break some stories. Yet I think Obama put a lot of pressure on the bigwigs of the media companies to not write negatively about him. He has scolded plenty of them for perceived slights. Maybe he is paying them off…

Baggage is only useful when it’s new and a surprise and goes against the persona the politician has created for himself. Otherwise its just luggage.

Everything bad about Newt is so 1990s that it’s just stuff he checks at the airport.

Hard to beat down someone with something that everyone has already factored in to the discussion.

Since Obama has more baggage than American Airlines, the candidate that best highlights this fact would be my #1 pick.

When ‘baggage” includes a full and complete understanding of how the government works and functions, where the bodies are buried and how to get things done – maybe that’s just what we need right now. The legislators won’t be able to schnooker him, slip anything by – and there won’t be any more voting on a bill that hasn’t been read – Gingrich is a statesman and that is sorely lacking in today’s Democratic party leadership, and the Republicans were powerless to stop it.

Not any more.

Professor: You’re right on target regarding Newt’s perceived baggage! One way to deal with baggage is to acknowledge when the owner’s changed his views or been schooled. We Yankees, even most Dixie Rebels, are more than willing to forgive past imperfections when the carrier says that he was wrong.

Cain might have survived if he’d been willing to get out front of all those girly claims. Maybe he did what White proclaimed, maybe he didn’t. That’s not important now since he dropped out. Personally, I liked the way he campaigned otherwise and thought he could get past Ms White if he wasn’t pulling a Clinton on that claim.

The GOP nominating process has a long way to go and it’s too early to hoist anyone or to deal out anyone either.

However, Newt still has the opportunity, and ability, to destroy his own campaign and I hope he doesn’t.

My G’d, the objective must remain ABO and get our best candidate nominated; the one who’ll defeat The Dhimmni’s Messiah.

This discussion reminds me of how John McCain thought he was going to be seen as a person above the fay and a person of integrity for not bring up Obama’s affiliation with Rev Wright. And for that, he ended up being the most correct and insipid person who lost the election.

This concern about being seen as high level people is nothing more then stupidity. While we maintain our “integrity” the unions, ACORN, and many Democratic operatives at the polls and other places relentlessly work to accomplish their objective and subvert ours.

We criticized them for pushing grandma off the cliff, yet, who won the election? I’m not saying we have to get down in the gutter and roll with the pigs, however, we would be well served by employing a series of relentless and coordinated efforts to bring up Obama’s corruption and the shady methods regularly employed by the Dems. The public needs continual reinforcement. Whatever is fed to them on a regular basis begins to stick and that’s how public opinion is molded.

The Republican party is simply not able to accomplish the objective because they are horrible at messaging. They have no clue about the fact that if you don’t punch back – you lose the fight.

    GrumpyOne in reply to Ipso Facto. | December 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    “The Republican party is simply not able to accomplish the objective because they are horrible at messaging. They have no clue about the fact that if you don’t punch back – you lose the fight.”

    Ipso, you’re spot on here. That’s why the democrats are so effective when “creating, lying, cheating and name calling.”

    It doesn’t matter on how old that excess baggage may be, it’s what you do with it. Believe me, the democrats will leave no stone unturned to turn up the absured and get away with it…

    Commenter Ipso Facto points out that:

    “The Republican party is simply not able to accomplish the objective because they are horrible at messaging. They have no clue about the fact that if you don’t punch back – you lose the fight.”

    That is, or at least long has been a political truism — common knowledge to many who have worked in politics over the years . . . Rs and Ds alike.

    There are exceptions, however. One of those is currently the Governor of my home state, New Jersey. You simply have no idea how gratifying it is, after all these years, to have experienced a candidate — and now a sitting Governor — who punches back hard!

    The mainstream media in and around New Jersey, an all the ‘fixins sandwich if you will, consists of two major very heavily Democrat-oriented media markets in New York and Philadelphia, and, within the state, a load of big-boy wanna be papers like the Star-Ledger, who I believe are simply determined not to tolerate this development for very much longer.

    A string of Gannet papers around the central and shore areas of the State do provide some counter-balance, but the overall heft of media influence here is strongly canted left.

    Ipso Facto also correctly points out that John McCain fell victim to the media trap by taking the “correct and insipid” high road into the jaws of defeat. John McCain embodied the “good loser” Republican candidate — blindly more concerned with how he was perceived by people who, in turn, viewed him with abject contempt, than with focusing on mapping out and leading the campaign on the pathway to victory.

    The Professor makes a valuable point in closing his post, noting that we have to “think through what ‘baggage’ really means” and focus the campaign accordingly.

    I think at this point both Newt and Mitt would do well to concentrate their fire on the team with the real baggage problem! This election should be about Barack Obama and his failed policies.

    Even being a good counter-puncher is not necessarily a prescription for winning. Landing a few good first punches can work wonders too.

    For example, I liked this statement from Mitt Romney in response to a question, (beginning at “124” in this Fox News clip), regarding his take on Eric Holder and the “Fast and Furious” scandal:

    “Either Mr. Holder himself should resign, or the President should ask for his resignation, or remove him. It’s unacceptable for him to continue in that position given the fact that he has mislead Congress, and entirely botched the investigation of the “Fast and Furious” program.”

    One reason I like it is because he covers the bases, thereby avoiding “punching down” by also putting it directly on the President if Holder does not resign — which, of course, Holder will never do.

    Notice, however that the Washington Post published an AP story absolutely ignoring Mitt Romney’s demand that the President fire Holder if he refuses to resign. Both the “header” and the lede ignored Romney’s demand that the President fire Holder if he does not leave.

    Why? Could it be because neither the AP nor the WaPo want to have to personally put the President and the White House on the defensive by asking them to respond to Mitt Romney’s statement?

    Is there another plausible explanation?

Every time the MSM rings a GOP candidate’s bell over baggage, another GOP candidate’s baggage gets its wheels.

    Doug Wright in reply to LukeHandCool. | December 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Hey, didn’t you get that backwards?

      LukeHandCool in reply to Doug Wright. | December 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      What I meant was, after this media hit job (I’m not talking about the veracity of the charges … I mean the media double standard in investigating GOP vs. Dem baggage … John Edwards, e.g., … Clinton … Hitchens’ “No One Left to Lie to” is a good illustration of the complicity of the MSM as a journalistic baggage carousel that routinely “loses” Dem baggage) the base is more likely to rally around and punch back when the media tries this the next time.

      Also, just by comparison, Newt’s already well-known baggage will seem very tame by comparison.

Interesting debate tactic viz a viz Point 1, since it was, in fact, Powerline that was one of the outlets that displayed the “moral and intellectual courage” to pile on Ms Palin. Very amusing.

Regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the media will deem that candidate to have baggage.

It is interesting how often this – a mild formulation – is repeated and how often its meaning is ignored by the Republican establishment. The treatment – nay, the set-up – of McCain before and after his nomination should be sufficient proof for years to come as to how “the game” is played.

I still can’t get over the fact how bad the conservative new media has been with the Republican candidates. What is behind this? I’d say it’s traffic but the commenters are just as vocal. They’ve trashed Palin, Bachmann, Cain. A lot of the sites seem pro-Perry so he seems to get a pass and some of the animus against the other candidates has been real or perceived slights against their favorite. But what’s the end game? Perry is polling in single digits. And there’s been so much vitriol & personal destruction along the way, the sites have been indistinguishable from lefty sites. It’s all been sooooo disappointing.

“It’s the economy, stupid!”

By the time next summer comes, it’ll take videotape of Gingrich raping Amish children and building terrorist bombs for Al Qaeda to counter the desperation of the American voting public for somebody – anybody – new in the White House to get this economy going.

[Note to editor: It’s ‘cowardice’, not cowardess. A cowardess is.. a female coward?]

The problem is that the left will make up baggage. What baggage did Palin have? Married to hs sweetheart, five kids, no scandals or corruption, worked her way up. Yes, she had a pregnant unwed daughter, big deal.

Yet the media allowed the left to create a caricature of her that overlooked her true record. They will do this to any candidate because they cannot defend their own record and will destroy opponents based on lies. Look what Obama did to his opponents when he ran in Chicago.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to avan. | December 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Though she soon caught on, Palin’s early reactions to the Parade Of Gotcha was less than stellar. Gingrich already expects it and knows how to deal with it, in fact, has served notice during the debates that he’s not going to stand there and take it when lib media members take shots at him, that he will jam it back down their throats if they aren’t careful.

We need to get over the fact that the MSM is all out for Obama. Although this is an undisputed fact, the Republicans need to learn how to get their message across.

For example, whenever the MSM interviews a Republican, it’s either milquetoast McConnell or boring Boehner. And when these guys, or any equal iteration of them speak, their message is not at all clear, nor is it consistent.

If the Republicans would get it together, every time they were interviewed by the MSM, they would begin by saying things like, “Despite the President’s intransigence…”, or, “Even though the Democrats are intent at ruining our economy…”. But no, we get Ryan speaking like a kitty cat about how much he knows about the budget, or someone else saying how exasperated (substitute defeated) they are about something. Whining is NEVER effective.

We need for the Republicans, when asked about anything by the MSM, to get out their points as I have delineated them above. We need to relentlessly criticize the Dems for being corrupt, inept, uncooperative, unable to implement or manage anything and be very explicit about how they are making the economy WORSE! When Trump says, “Obama is a terrible President”, everyone completely understands him and the message is lasting. If only we could learn something from this, but no, it seems futile to expect that much.

All this noted, I’ll bet the next time milquetoast McConnell speaks, no one will remember what he said 5 minutes after he said it.

    janitor in reply to Ipso Facto. | December 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    …we would be well served by employing a series of relentless and coordinated efforts to bring up Obama’s corruption and the shady methods regularly employed by the Dems. The public needs continual reinforcement. Whatever is fed to them on a regular basis begins to stick and that’s how public opinion is molded.

    Yes. We need both tactics.

Read between the lines, what the good folks over at Powerline are saying is ‘don’t pick anyone other than who we want you to pick, otherwise we’ll pull a Cain on him too.’

The media can “deem” whatever they want. Obama and the Democrats can and will attack the GOP nominee whoever that is. Talk about “truisms?”

What matters is what the 135 million people who will vote next November “deem” to be a problem with the nominee. What about a nominee will make it possible for Dems to make voters who are tired of Obama and worried about the future throw up their hands because the GOP candidate seems flawed and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

The professor tries hard to make it seem that any and every flaw or weakness is equally problematic as every other. But can that possibly withstand scrutiny? Would voters in a general election as readily shun a candidate who is accused of flip-flopping as one, like Edwards, who pops up in October as having a child with his mistress as his wife dies of cancer? As readily shun someone who seems too slick or wooden or old or young as one suddenly revealed in October to have taken bribes.

These are hypothetical examples but not far-fetched. So the question arises in the real world: who can best survive the planned negative assault and make a way through media bias to defeat Obama. Maybe the answer is, Gingrich can. But you cannot arrive at that answer by waving away Newt’s substantial baggage. After all, this is a guy who managed in the space of a few years to help engineer a GOP takeover of the House and then became the only Speaker in history to have been accused of violating House ethics rules and so alienate his colleagues that they rose up a kicked
him out, the only time in history that has happened to a Speaker.

Though it has lost some of its punch with nut cases like North Korea having nukes and exporting them, there’s always the “too crazy to trust with the nuclear trigger” charge that was thrown at Goldwater successfully and Reagan unsuccessfully. I think someone was saying that about Palin before her not running statement.

Funny how Kerry was the most “electable” Dem candidate in 2004 despite tons of baggage. But, then, it’s only baggage when it applies to Democratic opponents.

    JEBurke in reply to T D. | December 4, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Um, I think you just helped prove the opposite of what you intended.

    Kerry was,indeed, dragged down by his baggage — dodgy narrative about his Vietnam service; unresolved anger at him by Vietnam vets for his disparagement of fellow troops; his haughtiness of manner and rich man’s condescension; and perhaps most damaging, his flip-flop on the war (for it before I was against it).

      My point was that Kerry got the nomination precisely because he was supposed to be the most electable. More electable than Howard Dean who, relatively speaking, had no baggage. The media never presented Kerry as having too much “baggage”.

      What probably did him in, besides the fervor of Bush volunteers, was his “snooty” image. Windsurfing in spandex didn’t help.

Ronald Reagan had baggage.