Posted on May 19, 2008
John M Grau
Both the baseball and political seasons are in full swing. From time to time, I have reported on insights I’ve gathered from meetings with some of the political movers and shakers in Washington, D.C. It’s time for an update.
I recently joined seven other association CEOs for a breakfast meeting with the Director and Asst. Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. These are the people who promote the President’s position on legislative matters before Congress.
They told us that the White House is primarily focused on two legislative issues: trade and the economy. The trade issue is the Colombia Free Trade Agreement being held up by the House leadership. The economy issue revolves around various stimulus measures being debated by Congress.
Apparently the White House is still promoting a broad range of issues, but quite frankly, it was evident to me that there’s not much going on there. With a lame-duck President who’s lost almost all political leverage, I believe the White House staff are simply biding their time until they’re out of office. Not that it’s an unusual situation – just the reality of politics and government.
More interesting was a closed door session with Senator John Ensign of Nevada. Sen. Ensign also heads up the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group that raises money and promotes Republican candidates for U.S. Senate races. Both parties have such committees on both the House and Senate side. NECA contributes to all these committees for both parties including the overall national committees, and that gives us entrée to sessions like this.
Ensign was very frank about the Republican Senate prospects for this fall’s election. He admitted that he expects to lose seats. His goal is to hold on to 45 seats, and in his wildest dreams, he can paint a scenario for 47 Republican seats. He gave a candid race-by-race analysis. He noted that fundraising has been a problem for the Republican Party. He said that last year he spent most of his time apologizing for the performance of his party. This year the prospects have improved.
Ensign did offer a glimpse of the issue Republicans will use to motivate donors – union card check legislation. It was defeated last year, but with increased Democratic strength in both the House and Senate next year, along with the prospects of a Democratic President, he expects card check legislation to be front and center on the legislative agenda. His argument is that Republicans need to maintain enough seats in the Senate to be able to filibuster the bill if necessary.
So that’s the Republican Senate battle plan for this fall’s election. My inside baseball group is extending an invitation to the Obama campaign staff to provide someone to meet with us. More insights to come.