Our Dec. 17 conversation with Michael Needham of the influential conservative political group Heritage Action and former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette took a close look at the state of the Republican Party as different sides of the party's base struggle for control of the dominant narrative.
Needham, whose group is credited by some for pioneering the government shutdown as a way to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act, spoke of the "bold, conservative ideas" that were helping the Republican Party, while LaTourette, a former Congressional ally and close friend of House Speaker John Boehner, accused Needham's group of helping move the party toward "fratricide."
Michael Needham On "The Reality" Of The Republican Grassroots
"I think the Speaker was being absurd there. Look the Republican Party is at it's best when it's the party of Ronald Reagan: standing for limited government, free enterprise, people who want to start business or go to their jobs and come home to their family. I think that many Republicans woke up in 2001, thought that President Bush had won an election, thought that it was gonna be a continuation of what Ronald Reagan did for the country and were surprised to find that K Street had taken hold of the Republican Party. And now there's a sense from I think many members of Congress that we're back in control, we're gonna kinda let the good good times roll, K Street will continue to call the shots, and the grassroots aren't taking it anymore. And I think that we are one way that they're having a voice in Washington, but there's many other ways, and it's the reality of the world we live in today."
Steve LaTourette On The Heritage Action 'Fratricide'
"Heritage Action is not the Republican Party. And I do in fact care deeply about the Republican Party, as I'm sure he does, but the fact of the matter is that his group, Club for Growth, Freedom Works have engaged sort of in this fratricide, and they're not going after, with the same vigor, Democrats, who I think get zero or less than zero on their scorecards. And instead they're inciting inter-party violence in primary elections and threatening to make the Republican Party regional, marginalized party that can have a slim majority in the House of Representatives but never again elect a President of the United States. And you know, cause some candidates to blow up in Senate races — the witch in Delaware, and Mr. Mourdock in Indiana and in other places. And you know, Speaker Boehner's frustration was, you know, I think he'd had enough. The government shutdown was a stupid strategy. Anybody that mapped it out and said, 'Well President Obama all of a sudden is going to sign a piece of legislation giving up on what you could argue what was the biggest and only accomplishment of his Presidency.' I mean that's just crazy. And to sell it that way to people and to ask them to send you money to fight the fight and support Senator Cruz, that's what I think has the Speaker frustrated and I think he's right to be frustrated."
Michael Needham On How The Heritage Strategy Is Working
"It's funny to kind of unpack that statement. What everyone is saying today, is that they're happy that Speaker Boehner shot us down last week because we've had too much control of the House, we've had too much influence and now he's putting us in our place. A year ago the Republican Party was seven points under water on the generic Congressional ballot. Today, they're three points over water. If you've improved by ten percentage points with the face of the party being the bold conservatism of Ronald Reagan and the commitment to the free enterprise system that Ted Cruz has, maybe that's something that we should repeat. We know what happens when big entrenched interests run the Republican Party. And we saw it 2006, we saw unfortunately with this claim in 2012 that if we just didn't stick our neck out, we didn't make ourselves the issue, that the people would rebel against Obama and Mitt Romney would get to the finish line, and it didn't work. Republicans are at their best when they stand for those values that make our country great."
Steve LaTourette On Why The GOP Doesn't Control The Senate
"We just want to be Republicans. We want to co-exist with Heritage Action, we want to co-exist with Club For Growth, we want to co-exist with the Ttea Party, we see the Tea Party and the conservative bloc of the Republican Party of being an important part of the Party...that's the point. We want to be left alone. And you don't see center-right Republican organizations, like mine, going out and actively recruiting candidates to wipe out or attack or defeat in Republican primaries more conservative candidates. But consistently that's going on, particularly on the Senate side, and I would argue if it wasn't for the efforts of these folks, we would have as a party functional control of the Senate, over fifty votes. But that's been denied to us by Sharon Angle, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, the witch in Delaware, and on and on and on."
Steve LaTourette On 'Manchurian Candidate' Conservative Republicans
"That reference of his, that we're gonna get in the face, and knock the snot out of groups like his, and Club for Growth that continue to put these Manchurian Candidates that are not electable against center -right Republicans, who are good Republicans. These groups have no imprimatur to define who's a good Republican and who is not a good Republican. And there's a reason we don't have one representative in New England, we've gone from like 12 to three in New York, and it's not because we don't have Republicans. It's because we don't have Republicans who can win elections based upon some of the principles that some of the Republicans in other parts of the country have."
Michael Needham On How Conservative Candidates Are Helping The Republican Party's Mission
"If we're going to be fair, it's the Tea Party, it's the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party that is responsible for Marco Rubio being the Senator from Florida.That's responsible for Ted Cruz — who was outspent twenty-to-one — being the Senator from Texas, who was given a primetime spot at the GOP convention because he's an exciting new face for the party. That's responsible for Nikki Haley being the Governor from South Carolina — when she was the number four choice behind an attorney general, a Lieutenant Governor and a sitting Congressman of the D.C. establishment — being the exciting new face of the Republican Party down in South Carolina. In general, when the Tea Party or when the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party loses, they still go out they work for the establishment candidate that won, they show up at the polls. When it's the moderates who take their balls and consistently go home. So when Lugar loses to Mourdock he refuses to endorse. Charlie Crist loses to Marco Rubio, and he changes parties and becomes a Democrat. Linc Chafee loses and he changes parties and becomes a Democrat. Lisa Murkowski loses, and she runs a write in campaign."
Steve LaTourette On Expanding The Republican Party Beyond 'Angry Old White Guys'
"If you look at the results of 2012, President Obama should not have been reelected with unemployment where it was. And the fight and the discussion is, and I know Michael has an opinion on this, but the fight within the party is, they would argue, it's because we weren't conservative enough, and we weren't bold enough and so forth and so on. I would argue, that in order to win a national election, you need more than angry 57 year-old white guys in South Carolina and below the Mason Dixon line. and you have to attract other voters that don't necessarily hue to some of the the messages. Ted Cruz's message is fine in Texas, Rubio's fine in Florida. They don't play so well in Massachusetts. When I got here, we had two Republicans, Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen, from Massachuseets. We had two in Maine, we had two in New Hamsphire, We don't have any anymore."
What do you make of the Republican Party's internal struggle? Is it as divided as it sounds? Angling for national control? Angry for no reason? Better off than it seems? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.
This program aired on December 17, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.