Pat Caddell, the Fox News Contributor and Democrat pollster who engineered Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Presidential victory, blew the lid off CPAC on Thursday with a blistering attack on “racketeering” Republican consultants who play wealthy donors like “marks.”
“I blame the donors who allow themselves to be played for marks. I blame the people in the grassroots for allowing themselves to be played for suckers….It’s time to stop being marks. It’s time to stop being suckers. It’s time for you people to get real,” he told the audience that included two top Republican consultants.
Caddell stole the show as a panelist in the breakout session titled “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” He spoke with a fire and passion that electrified the room. When the session began the large room was half filled, but as word spread of the fireworks going on inside, the audience streamed in. By the end, it was standing room only.
Breitbart News spoke with Caddell prior to his talk, and he promised he would deliver a “brutal critique” of the Republican establishment and its political consulting class. He did not disappoint, pulling no punches with an unyielding evisceration of a small group of Republican consultants, the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS Super PAC.
“The Republican Party,” Caddell continued, “is in the grips of what I call the CLEC–the consultant, lobbyist, and establishment complex.” Caddell described CLEC as a self serving interconnected network of individuals and organizations interested in preserving their own power far more than they’re interested in winning elections.
Financial corruption is a key component of the current process, according to Caddell. “There’s money passing under the table on both parties. Don’t kid yourself…If you can’t see racketeering in front of you, God save you.”
As a Democrat, Caddell said he could tell the truth about the failings of the Republicans 2012 campaign efforts since “I have no interest in the Republican Party.” He compared Republicans unfavorably to Democrats.”In my party we play to win. We play for life and death. You people play for a different kind of agenda…Your party has no problem playing the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters.”
Caddell left no doubt he is not an admirer of Mitt Romney’s campaign management skills. He called Romney “the worst executive I’ve seen” when it comes to leading a political campaign. Romney’s failure to attack Obama’s Benghazi debacle during the foreign policy debate was “cravenness” that came about because his consultants told him “we don’t want to look warlike.”
Caddell also said Romney failed to back his campaign with his own money when it was most needed. “My question for Romney is, you spent $45 million [of your own money] in your 2008 campaign where you didn’t have a chance. Why didn’t you give your campaign a loan in the spring instead of letting Obama define you?”
Romney, Caddell said, was not on top of his game when he failed to anticipate attacks based on his business career. “You didn’t know Bain was coming? Ted Kennedy used it against you.” Romney lost to Ted Kennedy in the 1994 Senate election in Massachusetts.
Caddell was equally caustic in his evaluation of the Republican consultants who managed Romney’s campaign. “Of course this election could have been won. It should have been won,” he said. “The Romney campaign was the worst campaign in my lifetime except for ninety minutes [in the first debate] thanks to Barack Obama.”
“There was a failure of strategy, a failure of tactics, a massive failure of messaging. Most of all there was a total failure of imagination.” Caddell singled out Stuart Stevens, a key figure in Romney’s campaign, in a particularly withering critique. “Stevens had as much business running a campaign as I do sprouting wings and flying out of this room,” he said to an audience that applauded.
Caddell said that Romney inexplicably allowed Obama to define him without fighting back. If Obama had a 50% favorable rating on election day, he had an 80% chance of winning. If he had a 45% favorable rating on election day, he had a 90% chance of losing. On election day, Obama’s favorable rating was 51% because, Caddell said, “Republicans failed to hold him down.”
“A majority of the people wanted to repeal Obamacare, [an issue that] the Republican Party abandoned,” Caddell noted. He added that “on the issue of bigger or smaller government, one-third of the people who want smaller government voted for Obama.”
Caddell criticized the RNC’s planned announcement on Monday of the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project report, which he dismissed as “this whitewash…being produced at the RNC. You can not have the people who failed responsible for finding the solution.”
Caddell predicted that the Republican Party, unless it became the anti-establishment, anti-Washington party, would become extinct, like the 19th century Whig Party. “These people [in the consulting-lobbying-establishment complex] are doing business for themselves. They are a part of the Washington establishment. These people don’t want to have change.”
The 2010 takeover of Congress by the Republicans, Caddell said, “was not engineered by the Washington Republican establishment. They [the establishment] then took that victory and threw it away.”
Caddell called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “the Ambrose Burnside of American politics.” Burnside was the commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. He was dismissed by Lincoln for his inability to press his advantage against the enemy, his plodding and unimaginative strategies, and his inability to focus resources on the tactics needed for victory.
Caddell cautioned Republicans not to read too much in the 2012 results where they maintained control of the House of Representatives. “You won the House [in 2012] because of the reapportionment that came after the 2010 [Tea Party] victories,” he said. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), elected in 2010, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), elected in 2012, had to fight this establishment at every step in the process and “claw their way” to electoral success, Caddell said.
When an audience member asked Caddell why he, a Democrat, was offering Republicans advice that would help them beat his own party, his response was met with huge applause. “I’m not a fan of Barack Obama,” Caddell said. “My first allegiance is to my country. I have paid a huge price, and when I watch you people screwing up I’m offended.”
Nancy Smith, a grassroots activist who co-founded an independent Virginia group that focused on door-to-door canvassing and get-out-the-vote in the 2012 election, was effusive in her praise of Caddell’s critique. “This talk by Caddell is what this entire conference should be about.”
The panel was moderated by Matt Schlapp, a principal at Cove Strategies, a Republican political consulting firm. In addition to Caddell, the panel included Jeff Roe, the founder of Axiom Strategies, also a Republican political consulting firm, Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committeeman from Virginia and founder of the Leadership Institute, and Brian Baker, founder of a Super PAC.