Republican soul searching: Political strategist speaks on state of GOP amid infighting
by Jon Gillooly
March 24, 2013 01:17 AM | 6850 views | 17 17 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Political strategist and attorney Heath Garrett spoke on the state of the Republican Party at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center on Friday.<br>Staff/Jon Gillooly
Political strategist and attorney Heath Garrett spoke on the state of the Republican Party at the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center on Friday.
Staff/Jon Gillooly
MARIETTA — Local attorney and political consultant Heath Garrett said the Barack Obama administration is laughing all the way to the bank as Republican infighting damages the GOP and hurts its chances at regaining power.

Garrett spoke about why Obama beat Mitt Romney and what the Republican Party must do if it wants to regain the presidency in a talk to the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center on Friday.

“We are in the middle of destroying through factions, and it’s not just one or two, it’s multiple factions, the organization that you have to put together to win the electoral vote,” Garrett said.

He called on the Republican establishment and tea party movement to unite, since it was the only way either group would achieve its goals.

Tea parties and RINOs

“You know what the definition of the establishment is?” Garrett asked. “I talk to all my friends who want to attack the establishment. It’s the person who’s been involved in Republican politics one day longer than them, right?”

As for the tea party, Garrett said he has a spreadsheet in his office that lists 121 groups in Georgia with the words “tea party” in them.

“J.D. Van Brink represents one of the tea party, right?” Garrett said. “But he’s the first to tell you he doesn’t represent all the tea party because the genius of it is it’s a grassroots organization of individuals who all come together for different things.”

Some tea party groups like Van Brink’s Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party meet weekly on Roswell Street with 100 person turnout and are organized and thoughtful about policy and achieving their goals. Others consist of a guy living in a basement, typing away on his blog at 2 a.m. in his boxer shorts, Garrett said.

The former chief of staff of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb), Garrett also said it’s time to retire the word RINO or Republican In Name Only.

“I mean, if we could please end the use of a term if we want to win elections,” he said. “Everybody’s definition of a RINO is anybody that doesn’t agree with them 100 percent of the time, and I’ll tell you (the late economist) Friedrich Hayek would tell you right now if you find someone you agree with 100 percent of the time somebody is not thinking because rational human beings disagree.”

Money and incumbency

Republicans shouldn’t be so hard on themselves that Romney lost since the incumbent is usually going to win an election. There was also the fact that the Obama campaign spent $2.2 billion compared to the Romney campaign’s $1.2 billion, he said.

“Unlike so many conservative analysts who are just wrong on television — but you watch them anyway — and unlike so many people on radio who don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve never run a campaign in their lives — they’ve all got you convinced that the question is, ‘Why did Romney lose?’” Garrett said. “And what are we doing? We’re sitting around in a circular firing squad shooting at each other. In reality, the question is, ‘Why did Barack Obama win?’ He won because he was an incumbent.”

There are 314 specific counties in the states of Ohio, Florida , Virginia and Colorado that sent Obama to victory.

“Whether the power of incumbency, the finances, the grassroots operations, the technology, the war on women, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, all of these things factored in, and it was something different in every one of the 314 counties that was the margin of difference in the Electoral College, which is where we lost the presidency eventually,” Garrett said. “But for those four states we would have won.”

There are a number of things the Republican Party did well. It still has 30 governors, it elected new attorneys general and it held on to the U.S. House.

“Thank goodness because it’s the last great fortress we have against European-style socialism over the next three and a half years in this country,” he said.

Gender, diversity and generational gaps

Garrett spoke of three macro trends that proved detrimental for Republicans in those 314 counties, trends the party must address if it intends to win the Senate next year and the presidency in 2016.

Those trends will also determine whether Georgia maintains a Republican state Legislature by 2020.

The first problem is the gender gap.

“While there’s some comfort in the fact that we won white women, the problem is that we won white women,” Garrett said. “And I’m here to tell you that anybody under the age of 45 that hears anybody talking about breaking things up by race, they get upset by that because they think that we are the party of old white men and old white women, no offense to anybody in the room, but that’s how we are perceived by any focus group.”

The second problem is the diversity gap.

“Georgia is going to be a majority-minority state sometime in the early part of the next decade,” Garrett said. “It may even be sooner than that if the birth rates continue the way they are and we continue to have people out migrating and passing away. We can’t be like Seinfeld who said, ‘oh, I got my one black friend. I’ve got my one black friend here.’ You just can’t do that. That is so typical of the way some folks in our party want to do. ‘I’ve got my one Hispanic friend, and I’m going to learn two phrases of Spanish. And therefore I’m going to attract a substantial voter group.’”

The third problem is the generational gap.

“If you look out over the last 20 years of elections over at the national level and at the state of Georgia we are losing the 18 to 24 year old vote,” Garrett said.

Style and substance

Winning back the presidency and the Senate doesn’t mean Republicans abandon their principles. But it does matter how they talk about those principles. He quoted political consultant Frank Luntz, who said if Americans are asked if they favor the estate tax on rich people 80 percent will say “yes.” But if the same group is asked if they support the death tax, 80 percent will say “no.”

“The principle hasn’t changed, but how you talk about the issue matters,” Garrett said. “So when we talk about abortion, when we talk about gay marriage, when we talk about guns, when we talk about immigration, how we talk about it matters as much as what we talk about.”

Republicans have a good chance at achieving 51 seats in the senate in next year’s election, said Garrett.

“But not if we think for example, I love Congressman Paul Broun, he’s a great guy, but he couldn’t win in Maine if everybody left the state and voted for him, right?” Garrett said. “He is too conservative for Maine.”

Garrett mentioned former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who was regarded as a moderate in her party until she retired.

“Everybody in here — and I know half of you did, were like, ‘good riddance. We want to get rid of her. She’s not as conservative as I am.’ Well now we’ve got a socialist for Maine. How did that work out for us? It didn’t work out for us.”

Get off the social issues

Among those in attendance Friday was former state Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta), who called Garrett’s message “right on.”

“I think he’s absolutely 100 percent correct,” Manning said. “We have got to get out of our box, and we’ve got to be inclusive.”

Holly Comer Tuchman, CEO and executive director the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, said she agreed with Garrett’s message as well.

“I believe we need to get off of some of these social issues, we need to be focusing on our defense and safety of our country, and the people who defend the freedoms that we have, creating jobs and the economy, and we are losing voters, especially young voters, because we don’t get off these social issues," Tuchman said. “It doesn’t mean we give up our principles of what we believe, but is that really the role of government, and that’s what Heath was saying in a little different way than I am saying it, but I am seeing a lot of our legislators that they’re focusing on the social issues and not focusing on the real issues that government should be focused on to help this country grow and prosper and be all that we can be.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 26, 2013
Republicans just do not get it!!

It is not so much what they say, as what they do. Lends credibility to the stmt:

I can't hear what you are saying for what you are doing!!

Until they change policies, they will be a minority.

And I do believe that once Georgians realize the harm they have done, we will go purple.
March 25, 2013
Heath Garrett is not a good spokesman for the GOP!
March 25, 2013
Heath Garrett is part of the problem, not part of the solution. He supported T-SPLOST, the E-SPLOST, he supports just about any tax our state and local governments are interested in passing, perhaps because his government relations company then gets paid big bucks to carve out exemptions for his clients. Heath Garrett is a lobbyist with no desire to see government reduced or our tax system reformed; it would mean less money for him and his.
Knowledgeable Rider
March 25, 2013
Both political parties have failed us and they are no closer to resolving the major issues of our time. But registered voters can resolve the problem. Vote out all incumbents from both parties and search for candidates who have the steely resolve to press for workable solutions. A fruit basket turnover of House and Senate members from both parties will get their attention.
Lib in Cobb
March 25, 2013
@C.Smith: The big problem with "voting your heart" is, if one votes Republican; what are you going to get?
C. Smith
March 25, 2013
You must totally ignore anyone else and vote where your heart is and where your beliefs are. By outcome, it may seem winning or losing, but you never lose by voting from the heart.

Connie Mack Jr
March 24, 2013
The GOP Lawyer sounds more like Rodney King " Can't we all get along" for the sake of unity and beating...What the 1% Dude does not understand is that he is trying to herd Cats with a Dog Lease. Besides, he should enacted the Double secret probation agenda from the movie Animal House food fight part and declare victory.
Frank S.
March 24, 2013
All these valuable insights from Mr. Garrett and you get a quote from Judy Manning? She was an ineffective legislator who was as big a benefactor of incumbency as Barack Obama was last year. Couldn't you find a relevant politician to talk to?
Pat H
March 24, 2013
Great, a lecture from the man who pushed the SPLOST, the paid mouthpiece of the Chamber of Commerce and the Commissioners, because with the SPLOST we would not see an increase in our real estate taxes.

Then, immediately after a razor thin margin passed the SPLOST, our real estate taxes were - - - raised!

Go back to conspiring with Tim Lee on how to extract more taxes while claiming to be a Republican.

The party has been corrupted by greed and outside forces and no longer knows how to act with fiscal responsibility and integrity. Loyalty not earned should not be expected. You are part of the problem, not the solution.
C. Smith
March 25, 2013
Pat H., you put in a reply to a recent post you responded to with (your words) a cutting, ironic remark intended to wound. This was (your words) a form of wit intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule. Why in the world, I ask, would you ever in a million years post out here or even in your own thoughts intend to cut or ridicule anyone? I don't get you or anyone else that would do that.
C. Smith
March 25, 2013
You said "Then, immediately after a razor thin margin passed the SPLOST, our real estate taxes were - - - raised!" Mine didn't go up this past week. If this is a true statement you made that yours did, show me, and I will be on your side. As a taxpayer, I also need to know how much the Chamber of Commerce and the Commissioners paid the mouthpiece you are referring to. I want to know who was conspiring with Tim Lee on extracting more taxes while they were, in fact, I assume from your comment, they were Democrat posing as a Republican. I want to know how the party (which one?) is corrupted by greed and outside forces and no longer it. I do agree that you are part of the problem and not the solution. That we agree on. Your rant made no sense at all, as most of them do not.
March 25, 2013
Mrs. Lee, your comments are wrong. A millage increase occurred after SPLOST. Now they are complaining after E-SPLOST that there is a budget shortfall. Teacher furloughs to happen, and the costs of the special election could have helped pay for these salaries.

So Mrs Lee, please go back to work at MUST where you have an executive salary and MUST is supported by gifts with our tax dollars. Cozy.
Just Wait
March 24, 2013
Between the tea parties, NRA, moral and christian groups, Republicans don't know who to pay their dues to.
John Reb
March 24, 2013
This guys is EXACTLY why Republicans cannot win elections! He's an idiot. Liberty is Rising and he, nor anyone else can stop it!!! See all of you at the Georgia state republican convention...where you will see how much Liberty HAS Risen since last year! By 2016, we will own the Georgia Republican party!! Dont believe me?? Go to some local meetings and see who is there.....old white men....and the young liberty people!
March 24, 2013
Garrett sounds like Karl Rove. He talks demographics but not Americans. He says nothing about massive govt overspending. He says nothing about freedom or the liberties that Americans are guaranteed by our constitution and that are at serious risk today.

He talked tea party...too disorganized (and they wear boxers when they use they blog). He mentioned Paul Broun...too conservative. But said nothing about our two US senators who just voted this week to fund ObamaCare...yes, the same ObamaCare they said they would repeal.

For Garrett and the rest of the rino numbnuts (oops, I am being Divisive... or is it hate speech?) Broun is a problem because he acts consistently and exactly as he tells us he a conservative.

Isakson and Chambliss, on the other hand, are great "republicans" because they are "reaching out to other demographics " (or chamber backed cronies who like to play capitalist?) when they do exactly the opposite of what they have told us (yes, us tea party folks...the ones who have consistently voted them back into office) that they would do, with funding ObamaCare being just the most recent example.

The best thing that the republicans can do is stop listening to anyone who looks or sounds like Garrett, Haley Barbour, Reince Pribuse or Karl Rove. They are the same guys who helped GW Bush begin the acceleration of big (giant) government spending and the whittling away of Americans personal liberties (think TSA, patriot act, DHS).

THEY are the reason we have Obama. THEY are the reason we have the tea party. THEY are the reason the "sure win" Romney "had" was actually a loss. THEY are NOT a part of the solution. THEY created the problem... and they know THEY are exactly the people we are talking about when we say "rino" or "establishment".

Rest assured Ronald Reagan would never have imagined that "freedom" and "personal liberty" would become foreign words to the lips of Republicans.



Real 360 degree view
March 24, 2013
Interesting, Heath Garret's company supported the charter school amendment - which will result in the creation of schools with a large majority of one race or another. Regardless of the makeup of that race; the net result will be more even more separation of the next generation of Hispanic, Black and White kids from each other.

Thus, the Republican Party in Georgia (and across the nation) is setting itself for long term generational failure with these short term victories on the battle field yet unable to recognize they are losing the war.

To then preach about the need to reach across racial lines and develop a plan to address the needs of the younger generation is simply disingenuous at best.
Lib in Cobb
March 24, 2013
"The Obama administration is laughing all the way to the bank". Let's not forget the registered Democrats, who are now watching the GOP heads explode. I am loving this. The GOP was so sure that the 2012 presidential race was theirs. Ha! After alienating, the women, the African Americans, the Latinos, the LGBT, the poor, the middle class, the teachers, the sick, the elderly, the young, the uninsured, the unions, the voters who the GOP attempted to disenfrnchise in a variety of states. Just what did you expect? That's right GOP, a black man who is liberal/progressive with a Muslim name dared to become President of the United States of America.

It will take three election cycles for the GOP to make any discernable changes. The voters of this country have spoken. The voters of this country will not forget that the winning side were called, "takers". The amazing part of this GOP nonsense is that there are states still attempting to limit women's rights.

I will say again, HA!
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