In what is shaping up to be the best election year for Republicans in decades, there is one person who has almost single-handedly made the path to victory more difficult and costly for the Grand Ole Party. That person is National Republican Senatorial Committee's chief strategist Rob Jesmer .
Remember, Erick warned us back in 2008 that Jesmer could be a huge problem for winning in 2010.
And now we have proof. According to numerous folks in-the-know, Jesmer has been the key staffer who convinced the usually reliable conservative John Cornyn to go all in for Charlie Crist. And it's not even clear Crist would have left his safe seat as governor without the prompting of the NRSC. So instead of saving the GOP money in a crucial election cycle, Jesmer has turned both the governors race and senate race in Florida into needless expenses and was helped turn a previously successful career for Charlie Crist into a national disgrace.
If this were Jesmer's only transgression, Republican grassroots might be able to overlook it. But its just the latest in a long line of poorly thought out decisions by the Washington insider. It seems to stem from his belief that conservatives are an obstacle to GOP majorities, instead of the foundation of the party.
Here's a look at Jesmer's other great strategic decisions:
- He convinced Cornyn to come out early and endorse Specter in Pennsylvania after he supported the Obama stimulus, in a move to stop Pat Toomey from challenging him. It didn't work. After the NRSC put its credibility on the line for him, Specter immediately turned his back on Cornyn and switched to the Democrats. Instead of admitting the mistake, Jesmer, still unable to see the coming conservative surge in 2010, then spent weeks trying to recruit another moderate like Tom Ridge to challenge Toomey, arguing Toomey's conservatism could never win in Pennsylvania . It didn't work, and the NRSC finally, and begrudgingly, endorsed Toomey who now is ahead in the polls .
- Instead of backing a conservative leader like Jim Bunning for re-elect, Jesmer helped push him out the door and worked with GOP establishment to recruit and fundraise for Trey Grayson . Kentucky voters didn't appreciate the meddling from Washington elite and have backed conservative Rand Paul, who now leads by double digits .
- Jesmer helped to recruit moderate Jane Norton in Colorado who now had to drop out of the traditional CO primary election at the state GOP assembly out of fear she couldn't even garner the 30% needed to get on the ballot against conservative Ken Buck. Now she's going to have to spend hundreds of thousands to petition onto the ballot and challenge Buck who leads Bennet in the polls .
- Instead of backing conservative Chuck DeVore in California who had been running for months, Jesmer recruited moderate Carly Fiorina to run against him . She did so poorly in fundraising and polls, liberal Tom Campbell jumped into the race as well. So instead of having the party behind a solid conservative like DeVore who worked for Reagan and served for decades in the military , California Republicans now have an expensive primary on its hands. [UPDATE: I should have noted that DeVore is now doing better against Boxer than Fiorina in the latest polls.]
Surely, though, this is just a string of unlucky calls on the part of Jesmer, right? Maybe he's really a conservative who just misread the tea leaves of 2010?
Before getting the job to lead the NRSC, Jesmer was best known for making fun of conservative Scott Garrett in New Jersey. He was caught on tape telling the daughter of Garrett's Democrat opponent that the standout conservative leader was a "nut" . Apparently, in Jesmer's world, Specter and Crist are true Republicans fit to lead the party, conservatives are just crazy folks he has to put up with. And according to Jesmer's own friends, his disrespect for conservatives is "classic Jesmer ."
Conservative icon Morton Blackwell, head of the Leadership Institute, likes to say that in Washington, "personnel is policy ." He's right. Cornyn may be a conservative in his heart, but his top staffer at the NRSC thinks conservatives are "nuts" that need to be defeated in primaries and ushered into a dark corner of the GOP big tent. Therefore, Jesmer's disdain for conservative grassroots is effectively the policy at the NRSC as long as he leads it.
If Crist bolts to run as an independent (as his advisers are hinting at and his veto of the teacher's bill signals ), it will be the second time this cycle that Jesmer's preferred candidate humiliated the party and cost Republican grassroots donors unneeded expenses. I don't think this has ever happened once, much less twice, at the NRSC before. At least Lincoln Chafee waited until after his electoral defeat to admit he was a liberal.
It's time for the staff at the NRSC to reflect the conservative values of NRSC donors. Or at least someone who is paid six figures for strategic advice that has a track record of strategic victories.
If Crist dumps the GOP, the GOP should dump the strategist that gave us the Crist and Specter disasters.
Call, write or email the NRSC and demand Rob Jesmer be shown the door.
National Republican Senatorial Committee
Ronald Reagan Republican Center
425 2nd Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Telephone: (202) 675-6000
E-mail: [email protected]