House Republicans got a refresher course in why they lost the White House this morning and a warning to beware of President Barack Obama’s bully pulpit this election cycle.
At their first political conference meeting of the 113th Congress, held at Republican National Committee headquarters a stone’s throw from the Capitol, National Republican Congressional Committee Vice Chairman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and top GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told members to be on guard for Obama’s campaign machine.
Westmoreland warned that just because the Obama for America campaign has relaunched as Organizing for Action and Obama is not eligible for re-election does not mean he will not be present on the political scene.
“His attention has gone from getting himself elected to keeping the majority in the Senate and winning the majority in the House,” Westmoreland said in an interview, paraphrasing his remarks. “They need to be prepared for him being involved, because he made it quite clear at their retreat that he wanted his last two years to be like his first two years and that means, of course, having Pelosi as the speaker.”
Westmoreland's prediction is already ringing true. Organizing for America is planning its first official day of action to back up Obama's call for gun control measures.
Newhouse noted that Obama used the power of the executive branch to appeal to Latinos and women and drove the decisions home with ad buys in key states. For instance, Obama issued a directive in the summer of 2012 that the Department of Homeland Security would cease deporting certain young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. A top House Democrat suggested Wednesday that Obama could look to executive orders again if Congress doesn't move on immigration legislation this year.
Newhouse told members to be prepared for the same treatment from the Obama campaign.
"I kind of emphasized to the members that second midterm elections have never been friendly to the president," Newhouse said in an interview. "You can't count on that. That’s not going to happen. We've got to realize that the House Republicans are going to be Obama's top target."
Newhouse talked about demographic voting patterns in the 2012 election, for instance how more than 70 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama rather than GOP contender Mitt Romney, according to a source in the room. He also noted that more than 50 percent of female voters backed Obama. The gender gap between the two parties and nominees was a much-discussed element of the 2012 campaign.
Newhouse's presentation comes just as the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act and both chambers work behind the scenes on a comprehensive immigration overhaul. The lead pollster for the Romney campaign, he was introduced to the conference by their 2012 vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
Also at Wednesday's conference meeting, members were introduced for the first time to Jason Smith, who was chosen over the weekend as the GOP nominee to run to succeed ex-Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in southeastern Missouri’s 8th District.