The influential conservative group Club for Growth held a presidential cattle call of sorts this weekend outside Palm Beach, featuring potential presidential candidates: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Alas, the club wouldn't allow reporters in, because each of these men has a record ripe for sharp questions from CFGers who prefer purity when it comes to fiscal conservatism.
In addition to spending and fee increases while he was Massachusetts governor, Romney has that pesky little issue of enacting in Massachusetts a health care overhaul much like Barack Obama's. "The individual mandate is diametrically against what free-market conservatives believe in," Club for Growth vice president Andy Roth told the Washington Post last year. He added that if Romney thinks his plan amounts to a conservative policy "than I think he is in the wrong party."
Pawlenty faces pointed questions about leaving Minnesota grappling with a major deficit, along with other issues. From the Washington Times in 2009: "He broke his no-new taxes pledge by supporting cigarette-tax increases," Roth said. "He signed a raise in the state minimum wage. He signed a statewide smoking ban. He supports government-negotiated price controls on Medicare. … You put all of these liberal actions together, and he is not the true believer that the conservative base is looking for."
Then there's Barbour, who as Mississippi governor supported cigarette tax increases and a hospital tax, though we haven't seen any criticism of him from the Club for Growth.
A spokesman for the club said it had no comment on their gubernatorial records but was just starting to compile white papers on the presidential contenders.
Why no press? "It's a private event," said Mike Connolly.
GOP chief is coming
Preparing to shore up the finances of the Republican National Committee for an election cycle expected to include more than $2 billion in presidential campaign spending, recently elected chairman Reince Priebus will be in St. Petersburg Wednesday morning. Former Ambassador Mel Sembler is hosting a private reception with him and other prominent Republicans at his development office. It's part of a three-day, seven-city swing through Florida.
Bush, Obama mingle
When President Barack Obama mentioned at a Miami Beach fundraising reception Friday night that he had been with Jeb Bush at a Miami high school, Democrats hissed and booed at the Bush name.
Presumably mindful that he can't win Florida without independent voters, the president cut them off:
"Even though Gov. Bush and I disagree on a range of issues, we agree on the importance of education to America. … It's still possible for us to tackle tough problems in a constructive way. We don't have to be calling each other names. It doesn't have to be an ideological battle.''
Haridopolos book becomes Twitter fodder
Democrats in Florida haven't had much reason to smile in recent months, so they can thank Mike Haridopolos, the Florida Senate president and U.S. Senate candidate, for providing considerable yuks last week. Eight years ago, Brevard Community College paid Haridopolos, a teacher and hometown state senator, $152,000 to write a textbook about Florida politics and the Legislature. The college printed just one copy of the book, but last week it was made available online, Florida Democratic Party communications director Eric Jotkoff gleefully tweeted assorted excerpts and pearls of wisdom from Haridopolos' taxpayer-funded book:
"Unlike the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, the (Florida) Sen. Pres. serves for only two years, but during those two years, he is a king."
"Lobbyists are another integral part of the legislative process."
"A computer … is equally important (in a campaign). It will enable the candidate to run computer software.