Politics

Wall Street Journal Starts Smear of Populism

Newspaper blames congressman's shock defeat on movement he stiff-armed

Earlier this month, voters in Kansas’ “Big First” Congressional District gave Tea Party Republican Tim Huelskamp the boot, and much of the mainstream media has chalked it up to his lack of compromise.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “His mistake was getting caught up in the Heritage Action-Ted Cruz phony political rage to the point that he refused any compromise.” The article goes on to say that, “His defeat should be a lesson to the rest of the Freedom Caucus that reforming and shrinking government require more than fanning populist anger.”

Huelskamp’s self-inflicted defeat was partially the result of this new Republican insurgency … and — warning to politicians — if you trash its poster boy, the “R” by your name won’t save you.

Wait — what? Setting aside WSJ’s spurious attempt to extrapolate Huelskamp’s loss to the entire Freedom Caucus, the idea that “fanning populist anger” is a losing tactic in 2016 is beyond ridiculous. Hello! Trump and Cruz — both proponents of populist anger — were the only competitive candidates in the no-elbow-room Republican primary field. If the GOP primary results were a pizza, you’d be insulted if your friend offered you the non-populist piece. The pie chart of the results looks like populist Pac-Man gobbling up tiny anti-populism pellets.

Swing and a miss, WSJ. Huelskamp’s real mistake came on May 15 when he appeared on Fox News and blasted Donald Trump who was, at that time, already the presumptive nominee. It was that day — the day he didn’t fan the populist anger — that did him in.

He gave the #NeverTrump talking points everyone has heard again and again — Trump’s not a conservative. Trump has a potty-mouth. Blah, blah, blah. Then, he claimed that Trump is “slamming the borders” — and that’s “not a conservative position.”

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My representative is a member of the Freedom Caucus, he didn’t have a primary challenger this year, and he will win re-election easily in 2016 by following a winning campaign strategy that I call the Three-Step Path to Victory. It goes like this:

  • Step 1 — Get out of bed.
  • Step 2 — Don’t go on national TV and claim that border security isn’t a conservative position.
  • Step 3 — Don’t support Hillary Clinton for president.

Dr. Roger Marshall responded to Huelskamp’s Fox News appearance on Facebook, saying:

“Yesterday, on national television, when asked whether or not he will support the Republican nominee in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, Tim Huelskamp said it didn’t matter and that he needed to ask his wife. Well, I think it does matter and I don’t need to ask my wife before answering: We must do everything we can to defeat Hillary Clinton, who is the most corrupt and liberal public figure of our time. I will support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.”

That’s a perfect example of following the Three-Step Path to Victory to the letter.

In July, Marshall — soon to be Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) — posted an ad on Facebook that repeatedly showed Huelskamp leaving out Steps two and three. In the ad, Huelskamp repeats over and over that “slamming the borders” is “not conservative.” Oops.

Later, Huelskamp tried to pivot to supporting Trump, firing off some positive tweets, but his social media presence is somewhat sub-Kardashian, which prevented the mass messaging power necessary to repair the damage.

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It’s the same mistake Cruz made at the convention — he didn’t endorse Trump, and his favorability tanked.

Huelskamp should have understood the mood of the voters sooner. He should have understood that in the mind of many Republican voters, not supporting Trump is supporting Clinton by default. He let Marshall brand him as a “career politician” who is controlled by “special interests.” Sound familiar?

The 1st Congressional District in Kansas is gigantic compared to the state’s other three districts because it’s mostly rural. And according to a recent SurveyUSA poll, Trump leads Clinton among rural voters in Kansas by 22 points.

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The same poll says that among strong Republicans in Kansas, Trump is 85 percent favorable, and among all Kansas Republicans, he is 71 percent favorable. But here’s the most interesting aspect of Huelskamp’s defeat: Huelskamp received over 3,000 more votes in his 2016 primary loss than he received in his 2014 primary win.

In fact, in his 2016 defeat, Huelskamp received more votes than he had ever previously received in a contested primary. Voter turnout in the 1st District primary shot up about 75 percent. That means that a full quarter of the 2016 voters didn’t vote in the 2014 primary.

This follows the national trend we saw throughout the Republican primaries, where Republican voter turnout reached an all-time high (and would have been higher if Trump hadn’t wrapped up the nomination early).

Huelskamp’s self-inflicted defeat was partially the result of this new Republican insurgency. It’s anti-globalism, anti-Establishment, populist, and America First, and — warning to politicians — if you trash its poster boy, the “R” by your name won’t save you.

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