2016 Campaign Checklist: They’ve All Been So Busy
Non-denial denial: "Second chances are what America has always been about." ABC "This Week," Nov. 10. Says he’ll decide in coming year.
Book: Not since 2010.
Iowa: Yes, returned in November for first time since last campaign, audience of 400 in Des Moines, and met governor and lieutenant-governor.
New Hampshire: No.
South Carolina: Yes, spoke to state GOP in December 2013. Also visited in August to raise money for Haley’s re-election campaign. This is the state where he announced his presidential campaign, August 2011, and where he ended his campaign, in January 2012, two days before its primary.
Foreign travel: Yes, recently back from Israel, latest of several trips there. Photo op with Netanyahu, met Cabinet members, also stopped in London to see British officials and financial leaders.
Meet the money: Has proven a highly effective fundraiser as America’s longest-sitting governor, both from grassroots activists and mainstream Republicans. Has led many job-poaching missions in big states with Democratic governors and met privately during those trips with donors in California and New York.
Networking: Spoke at Conservative Political Action Conference in March as well as its regional meeting in St. Louis in September. Addressed conservative activists at a RedState Gathering in New Orleans in August, mistakenly saying he was in Florida. Spoke at National Federation of the Grand Order of Pachyderm Clubs, a Republican network, in San Antonio. Job-rob tour in various states helps make connections.
Hog the TV: Might be picking up pace. Only a few Sunday talk show appearances since the election. Debated Obama’s health care law with O’Malley on "Crossfire" in September.
Do something: "Texas Miracle" job-creation boom has seen state create a third of the net new jobs nationwide over last decade, although Texas has disproportionately high percentage of hourly workers earning minimum wage or less. Helped muscle through new abortion restrictions. Challenged a top Democrat on the abortion issue by asking her, what if her mother had aborted her?
Take a stand: A prominent voice on conservative issues since before the birth of the tea party. Wants to ban all abortion in Texas, relax environmental regulations, boost states’ rights; opposes gay marriage.
Baggage: "Oops!" Memories of his stumbling 2012 campaign, a quick progression from a front-runner to flameout. Deflection: He’s got a more serious, mature look with dark-framed eyeglasses donned in August 2013 and more touches of gray for the man dubbed "Governor Good Hair." He followed up his "oops" brain freeze in a November 2011 debate, when he forgot the name of a federal department he wanted to close - Energy - by poking fun at himself: "I’m glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there."
Shadow campaign: Created a PAC, Americans for Economic Freedom, in fall 2013 to raise his profile again, help him test the waters and broadcast ads promoting Republican leadership around the country. The group, using more than $200,000 left over from the PAC that raised millions for his 2012 campaign, was formed with Jeff Miller, a former chief financial officer for the California Republican Party, as CEO. Board members include Marc Rodriguez, chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a fellow Texan; St. Louis beer baron August Busch III, economist Art Laffer and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The new PAC and private marketing fund Texas One paid for his October trip to Britain and Israel.
Social media: Active. One popular tweet was accidental - from his pocket, he said - and consisted of "I." Followers jumped in to complete his sentence. One offered: "I ... really like Obamacare." (He doesn’t.) Facebook appears staff-generated. Calls himself a presidential candidate, apparently a leftover from last campaign.
(Contributor: Will Weissert, Austin, Texas)
Non-denial denial: "I told people I haven’t even thought about that. That’s a decision far in the future." April 14, Fox.
Book: Yes, now has a new book tentatively scheduled for release in late 2014, from same publisher of his 2012 memoir "An American Son."
Iowa: Yes, visited just days after 2012 election, but largely holding off on a new wave of trips to early voting states until 2014.
New Hampshire: Yes, multiple appearances before 2012 election. Has an invitation from New Hampshire GOP leaders to visit again. In May 2013, his Reclaim America PAC put up ads to defend Sen. Kelly Ayotte against attack ads from group financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
South Carolina: Yes. In ahead of the 2016 pack, headlining state’s Silver Elephant dinner in 2012. Stay tuned for more.
Foreign travel: Yes. Delivered foreign policy speech in London in early December, visited Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority in February. Also went to Israel after 2010 election to Senate, Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011, Spain, Germany, Haiti and Colombia in 2012. Member of Senate Intelligence Committee
Meet the money: Yes, went to New York and California to meet potential donors. Also attended a fundraising strategy meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington with well-connected lobbyists and Romney bundlers. Among the top fundraisers in early 2016 field in campaign and leadership political action committees.
Networking: Yes, conservative and party activists, focused lately on repairing tea party relationships strained over immigration. Campaigned for Republican in Virginia governor’s race. Spent more than $200,000 in early December 2013 from PAC to help Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton. Spoke at Conservative Political Action Conference, Faith and Freedom Coalition forum, more. In October won standing ovations at Values Voter conference when affirming his Christian faith and denouncing "rising tide of intolerance" toward social conservatives. Delivered keynote address at fundraiser for the Florida Family Policy Council, an evangelical group that led the successful 2008 effort to ban gay marriage in the state. And in late November, delivered foreign policy speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute before going to London.
Hog the TV: Yes. Blanketed all five Sunday news shows one day in April 2013, before he dropped the subject of immigration, and several other appearances since. Frequent guest on news networks. Was granted coveted chance to present televised Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013, which he did in two languages and with jarring reach for drink of water.
Do something: Broker of Senate immigration overhaul, though he’s gone quiet on the issue. Working with anti-abortion groups on Senate version of bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Early leader in call to link funding of federal health care law to government shutdown.
Take a stand: Immigration if he decides to get back to it, repealing the federal health care law, economy, abortion, tea party fiscal conservatism.
Baggage: A rift with his tea party constituency on immigration, "a real trial for me." Deflection: Go aggressive on a matter of common ground, which he did in pledging to take apart Obama’s health law in July speech to tea party in Florida. Dry-mouthed Rubio suffered embarrassing moment when he clumsily reached for water while delivering GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Deflection: Self-deprecating jokes about it. Thin resume, although Obama helped deflect this for him with joke at White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama, who served less than four years of his six-year Senate term before winning 2008 election, cracked about Rubio: "I mean, the guy has not even finished a single term in the Senate and he thinks he’s ready to be president." Accused of embellishing timeline of parents’ departure from Cuba for political gain.
Shadow campaign: Reclaim America PAC led by former deputy chief of staff, Terry Sullivan, veteran of South Carolina politics. The PAC has already spent six figures to defend Ayotte on gun control and expects to be active behind GOP candidates across country in 2014 midterms. Expects to begin more aggressive travel to early voting states in 2014.
Social media: Aggressive, with large followings, appears to make personal use of Twitter more than staff-generated Facebook. Takes lots of shots at the health law. On Facebook, lists "Pulp Fiction" movie and "The Tudors" historical fiction TV series among favorites.
(Contributor: Steve Peoples, Boston)
Non-denial denial: "Once I’m through with this term, then I’m going to give a hard look at it." - To The Des Moines Register, November 2013. "If I’m going to do a job as chairman of the Budget Committee, as a leader of my party, I cannot let my mind be clouded with personal ambition. I’m going to make those decisions later." - Wall Street Journal, November.
Book: Yes, recently announced and coming in 2014.
Iowa: Yes, keynote speaker at governor’s annual birthday fundraiser in November 2013, in first visit since 2012 campaign. "Maybe we should come back and do this more often," he teased. Wife’s family is from Iowa and their Janesville, Wis., home is only a few hours away.
New Hampshire: Yes, in 2012. Because of government shutdown, canceled an October 2013 visit to help a GOP House candidate.
South Carolina: Yes, during 2012 campaign.
Foreign travel: Yes. Middle East travel during congressional career, visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Meet the money: Yes, attended Romney’s Utah retreat with major GOP donors, took some guests skeet shooting. Place on 2012 ticket gives him a leg up on money matters.
Networking: Yes, prime networker as 2012 vice presidential candidate. 2013 Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting. Helping fellow House Republicans raise money.
Hog the TV: A half-dozen Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. Occasional guest on network news.
Do something: Republican broker of the bipartisan budget deal in December that averted a potential government shutdown in early 2014 and scaled back across-the-board spending cuts. The deal draws a contrast between Ryan and potential rivals who oppose it. A budget-hawk record to be judged on. May be emerging as influential moderate on immigration.
Take a stand: Cutting spending, taking on entitlements. Pushing for immigration overhaul, but largely behind the scenes. Did speak out in a Chicago appearance in April for immigration changes.
Baggage: On one hand, budget pain. Critics are sure to dust off ads from 2012 presidential campaign blasting the sharp cuts that Ryan advocated for Medicare and other programs. But this is catnip to GOP conservatives. On the other hand, his December 2013 bipartisan budget deal risks trouble with the tea party. Still carries stigma of loss from his place on 2012 ticket with Romney. Immigration position rankles some conservatives.
Shadow campaign: His Prosperity Action PAC.
Social media: Aggressive, with large following. King of Facebook among potential rivals in both parties. Seeks $10 donations for "Team Ryan" bumper stickers for his PAC and kisses a fish. Posts photo of Obama with his feet up on Oval Office desk. Commanding presence on Twitter, too, via an account associated with his PAC and another as congressman.
Non-denial denial: "A year from now, I’ll have to make that decision." - Nov. 18, 2013. Is he open to running? "Sure."
Book: Yes, coming in 2014, "Blue Collar Conservatives."
Iowa: Yes. August 2013 speech to conservative Christians in state where he won the 2012 caucuses. Illness kept him away from an April event by Faith and Freedom Coalition. Screened his new Christmas movie in Iowa in November.
New Hampshire: No recent record of visits. Weak state for him in 2012.
South Carolina: Yes. Campaigned in April 2013 for Mark Sanford’s opponent, Curtis Bostic, in a GOP House runoff race.
Foreign travel: Scant foreign travel while in the Senate drew notice in 2012 GOP campaign.
Meet the money: 2012 shoestring campaign was largely fueled by a super PAC to which Republican donor Foster Friess gave more than $2 million. Santorum bunked at supporters’ homes on occasion.
Networking: Previewed "The Christmas Candle," a film made by his Christian-themed movie company, for conservative religious leaders at Values Voter conference in Washington, and screens it for other like-minded groups.
Hog the TV: Yes, largely in pursuit of plugging his Christmas movie. "The Colbert Report," Fox News, MSNBC and more. Radio, too. Teamed up with Democrat Howard Dean as sparring partners for debates on the air and with audiences.
Do something: Making Christian-themed, family-friendly movies at the moment; has record from Senate days.
Take a stand: Lately, against "dangerous" U.N. Disabilities Treaty. Social conservative activism goes way back. Focus on blue-collar economic opportunity.
Baggage: Overshadowed by newer conservative figures, conceivably out-popes the pope on some social issues. 2012 positions included opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest and support for right of states to ban contraception and gay marriage. Deflection: Being overshadowed means being an underdog - and he can thrive at that. Feisty 2012 campaign became the biggest threat to Romney’s march to the nomination.
Shadow campaign: Keeps in touch with chief supporters of his winning 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, giving him a leg up on a campaign organization in the state.
Social media: Active on Twitter and Facebook, where he relentlessly plugs his new Christmas movie, gives away tickets and goes after the health law.
Non-denial denial: "Right now, my calling is to be the governor.... I don’t rule anything out." - ABC "This Week," Nov. 17. Has declined to commit to serving a full term if he wins re-election as governor in 2014. "There’s a part of me that would just like to stay focused on helping the state move forward. So we’ll see what the future holds. But for now, I’m focused on being governor." - Dec. 1, CBS’ "Face the Nation."
Book: Yes, hot off the press. "Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge," was out in fall 2013.
Iowa: Yes. In May, spoke to 600 at GOP fundraiser outside Des Moines. Talked about his seven years as a young child living in Plainfield, a tiny town in northeast Iowa. "Yeah, I’m going to Iowa, but I get invited to other states that have nothing to do with presidential politics," to Wisconsin State Journal.
New Hampshire: Yes, headlined a GOP state convention in October 2013, keynote at state party convention in September 2012.
South Carolina: Yes, attended August fundraiser for Haley, who came to Wisconsin to campaign for him in 2012 recall vote.
Foreign travel: Yes. China in April, on a trade mission for state. Hasn’t been to Israel.
Meet the money: Yes. Headlined 2013 fundraisers in New York and Connecticut.
Networking: Campaigned for GOP in Virginia governor’s race. Spoke to Michigan Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island in September 2013. Belle of the ball as host of the National Governors Association summer meeting in Milwaukee. Conservative Political Action Conference, Aspen Institute. Aides said he hoped to campaign for Christie but couldn’t schedule it.
Hog the TV: Half dozen Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. "Crossfire" debate with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Also, Piers Morgan, Lou Dobbs, more.
Do something: Curbs on public service unions became a national flashpoint, but he won the effort - and the recall election that followed. Opponents have challenged the law in court, and argued against a key provision before the state Supreme Court in November. A decision is pending.
Take a stand: Fiscal stewardship, from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against the unions and liberal defenders of the status quo. Says presidential and vice presidential candidates should both be current or former governors because GOP in Congress is the party of no.
Baggage: Some things that give him huge appeal with GOP conservatives - taking on unions, most notably - would whip up Democratic critics in general election. Wisconsin near bottom in job creation despite his main campaign pledge in 2010 to create 250,000 private sector jobs in his term.
Shadow campaign: : Keeps close counsel with in-state group led by Keith Gilkes; also stays in touch with top national GOP governor strategists such as Phil Musser and Nick Ayers.
Social media: Posts vigorously on Facebook and on his Twitter accounts. "Wow is it cold out." Many exclamation points. "Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!" Promotes policy achievements and his TV appearances, reflects on sports, pokes Obama.
(Contributor: Tom Beaumont, Des Moines, Iowa)