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  • Writer's pictureLauren Windsor

Republican Governors Association Head Says Non-Partisan Group His Strongest Partner



June 16, 2014




"2014 Debate:

Immediate Opportunities to Defend Freedom"

PHIL COX: We've been very blessed because of your support of this seminar, a great partner with I360, Concerned Vets, LIBRE. We've really had no stronger partner over the last four years than Americans for Prosperity. So thank you for all that you do.

So let's go ahead and take a look at the map. We have 36 governors' races this year. The majority are (inaudible). Nineteen incumbents are up for re-election. I want to take a quick look at them in three categories.

First, we have 17 states -- 10 Republican held, seven Democrat held –- uh, where they're not currently competitive. Things we're going to continue to watch for right now, but right now they're not currently competitive. So let's (inaudible) for now.

Of the 19 states left, we have 10 states, six held by Republicans, four by the Democrats. Um, these states are to some degree competitive as states that RGA either has or will invest in going forward this year, but I really want to focus on the last category.

Nine states are most competitive, six states with Republican governors, three where we have pickup opportunities. The six states -- Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and Maine -- with a Republican incumbent governor. These are six states that Barack Obama has won twice, and these are the six states that the public sector unions and the Steyer brothers have publicly targeted. The three states -- Connecticut, Illinois, and Arkansas -- these are all three states where candidates, indeed for Connecticut, are tied or in the case of Arkansas and Illinois, are currently, uh, leading.

There are four states from other groups that I've identified as priorities of this seminar, so I'll take just a couple minutes to take a closer look at these states. The first is Florida. Florida is obviously a critical battleground state. This will be the most expensive race this cycle, Senate or governor. Well over $100 million, maybe as much as $150 million, will be spent in Florida this year alone.

This will represent the largest single expenditure in RGA's history. The RGA will spend likely more than $20 million in this state alone this year. Again, a state that's been publicly targeted, uh, by the Steyer brothers. Um, it's going to be a very hotly contested and expensive race this year.

And there could not be a more clear contrast in this race between Governor Scott and Charlie Crist. Governor Scott has rolled up his sleeves and put policies in place to make Florida an engine of economic growth. The unemployment rate is down five points. Five hundred and forty thousand net new private sector jobs have been created in his term. Florida is second only to Texas in terms of overall job creation.

Now, he's running against (inaudible) Charlie Crist over here. He is literally the ultimate political opportunist (inaudible). Republican walks into a bar, and the bartender says, (hey, Charlie, how you doing.)


PHIL COX: More importantly -- more importantly, when Crist was governor, um, the state shed 800,000 private sector jobs, and the unemployment rate went from three and a half to 11 percent. So there's a clear contrast in this race.

Three months ago, Governor Scott trailed by 12 points. It was looking pretty dire. Over the last eight weeks, the RGA and the Scott campaign have put $12 million into this race just over the last two months. Today, for the first time Governor Scott's job approval is over 50 percent. Charlie Crist's (inaudible) has come down a net 15 points in the last few months. Uh, and most importantly, the (inaudible).

(Video presentation – Obamacare ad.)


PHIL COX: In Wisconsin, because of your support, the 2012 recall, uh, the, the story is very clear. Governor Walker's reforms are working. He's taken a $3.6 billion budget deficit and turned it into a billion dollar surplus, a billion dollars in tax relief. He's cut taxes three times already this year alone. A hundred thousand net new private sector jobs. The unemployment rate is at the lowest point since 2008.

And a statistic I think you'll all care about, given how heavily involved AFP and other groups were in the recall, uh, since the collective bargaining reforms were in place, teachers' union membership in Wisconsin is down (inaudible) percent.


PHIL COX: In Wisconsin, it was a really tough battle in 2012. AFP was a tremendous partner. And it's still a very polarized electorate there. Um, Walker's (inaudible) is pretty high, probably 47-48, but he's handling it pretty well, and I don't see him probably getting beyond 54 or 55. So it's going to be a state we're heavily engaged in.

The RGA has already put $18 million in Walker over the last four years. We're not going to let up now. We put $2 million in this spring. Uh, AFP has been on the air. Walker's been on the air, and the governor currently leads by six points. This is a race we're going to have to be engaged in right on until the end.

He's running against Mary Burke. Uh, Mary Burke, her family owns and operates Trek Bicycle in Houston, and about eight million of her own money in this race, so this one we're going to be heavily involved in.

Michigan, this guy on the left, Governor Snyder, is a self-described "one tough nerd." We now like to call him the "Comeback Kid." The unemployment rate is down four points in Michigan since he eliminated the anti-competitive Michigan business tax. He's provided strong leadership to save Detroit. Um, and he's really got -- he did this small little thing -- he took the home of the UAW and he made it a right-to-work state.


PHIL COX: Now, the unions, as you can imagine, are a little fired up. Uh, they're not very happy with Governor Snyder (inaudible).


The RGA's already spent $3 million (inaudible) spend a lot more into the fall. As Marc referenced, it's a blue state where Governor Snyder currently leads by eight points. Um, he's right anywhere between 10 and 15 points ahead of Terri Lynn Land. I think he's going to lead the ticket. It's also a state where the RGA already has, can, and will continue to correctly invest into the state party. So we -- our investment with the RGA can impact get-out-the-vote efforts that can help Terri Lynn Land in that Michigan Senate race.

The last state is Arkansas, another state where we have a competitive Senate race and a great candidate in Tom Cotton. Um, it's an open seat for governor. Retiring, uh, outgoing Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat who's very popular. Mike Ross is the Democrat.

The Democrats are all in in Arkansas both on the Senate side and the gubernatorial side. They've already spent $3 million this spring. They started early. They started in January (inaudible) and Asa Hutchinson trailed by four points. Now, the RGA went out and we spent about $2 million tying Mike Ross, a former congressman, to Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, as you pointed out his votes on the stimulus and the auto bailout.

And today Asa leads by eight points. Again, another state where our candidate for governor, a Republican candidate for governor is running ahead of our U.S. Senate candidate as a state where the RGA is investing literally millions of dollars in the get-out-the-vote activities.

So those are four states that have been identified as priorities for this seminar. When I take a look back -- when I take a step back and kind of look at the 30,000-foot view of what this election is shaping up to be, I, I'm optimistic I think for three reasons. First, uh, the political environment is good and it's getting better. Obama is stuck at 42 nationally and, of course, there's no signs of life for him in the legislature.

Um, as Rich mentioned yesterday, uh, it's an off year. This is going to be a more Republican electorate by nature, that that third of freedom, freedom-minded voters is going to occupy a greater percentage of the electorate this year. The turnout is going to be closer to 50, 50 percent in most states – uh, in most of these competitive states as opposed to 70 percent, uh, in the 2012 presidential.

And then when you look at the most interested voters, uh, the voters who are most interested in this election, they're our voters. We have a four to five point advantage both in the House, Senate, and governors' races generically across the board. So the political environment looks good.

If you look at the Senate now, in the 36 states where we have governors' races, there are 25 U.S. Senate races. That's a tremendous overlap. If you go back 30 years to 1994, 75 percent of the time when we win the governor's race, we win the U.S. Senate race all in the same year, making a strong correlation between winning governors' races and winning Senate races.

Unlike in 2012 in states like Missouri and Indiana where our candidates for governor were having to run away from our, our Senate candidate, this year our candidates for governor and senator are really reinforcing one another both on the messaging and the get-out-the-vote side.

And four states -- in Arkansas, Michigan, Georgia, and Iowa -- our candidates for governor are running, uh, anywhere between five to 15 points ahead of our candidates for the U.S. Senate. Again these are (inaudible) where the RGA has spent well over $5 million in these four states in get-out-the-vote operations to help our Senate candidates.

And then finally, and most importantly, our governors are getting results, and their states are moving in the right direction. Uh, our governors inherited a mess in 2011. They turned deficits into surpluses without raising taxes and reforming education, their pensions, their health, their tax, their regulatory systems.

Most importantly, they made job creation job one -- job one. They put policies in place to make their states engines of economic growth.


The most important thing, really the most important indicator is, as to a governor's, incumbent governor's re-election prospects as we've seen here today, is how voters perceive the direction of the state. We looked at this question. Uh, this is the net change -- this slide is a net change from 2011 when they asked this question to today. Uh, five of the six most competitive states have Republican governors. Look at that net change in that right track number: 36 points in Ohio, 25 points in Florida.

Democrats have a very different story to tell. When we met in Illinois yesterday, one of the presentations -- you ask the question in Illinois, 19 percent of the voters in Illinois think the state is moving in the right direction -- 19 percent. We have a great argument for change in Illinois. Our Republican governors can very easily answer the question, "Are you better off than you -- than you were four years ago?" This is a key indicator for the re-election prospects of any sitting governor, as we sit here today four and a half a months out.

So with that, I want to thank you for your support. I want to thank David specifically for his very strong support of the RGA and AFP's great partnership over the last four years. We're going to be keeping our foot on the gas here over the next four and a half months. Thank you all so much.


MARC SHORT: Thank you, Phil. I'm going to wrap up now just with a quick summary of the path forward. Um, we've shared with you the House, the Senate, and the gubernatorial races. We know as the year moves forward, there will be one more big investment (inaudible) be proud to be part of (inaudible) to help dramatically (inaudible). But what we have seen a lot of investors (inaudible) of what we think is our competitive advantage is our grassroots operations.

We promised you after 2012 that one of our lessons learned was that we needed to build a permanent ground infrastructure in the battleground states. In the last six months, we've doubled the size of our infrastructure in the competitive states (inaudible). We're not there. We are building infrastructure for the long term. So when we talk about the investments of 2014, in many cases, it's beginning to build a staff that will help us in 2016, 2018, 2020, and beyond.

Now, as we close in the last 60 days, I'll give you one investment from this operation. It doesn't mean we'll be completely off the airwaves. What we've found is that because of FEC (inaudible) we do not mention candidates (inaudible) fighting in the last 60 days every 501(c)(4) (inaudible). It's what many of our partner organizations want.

So here's one thing for now, we have launched a new 527. As many of you are familiar with, it's also known as a super PAC. The reason for this is it gives us we think another (inaudible) that will enable us to be more impactful in the closing 60 days and be more direct in what we're trying to accomplish.

Many of you in this audience have already given to super PACS and are comfortable with that disclosure. If you are such an individual and you wish to partner with us, we would ask you to consider that part of your pledge is allocated to the new Freedom Partners PAC. For those of you who (inaudible) have a preference for (inaudible) in ways we are not disclosed, traditional vehicles will still be available to you. But for those of you who are comfortable and understand the need to be more specific in what we're advocating for in the closing 60 days of the election, we would ask you to consider this as part of your contribution.

When we met in January, we told you our budget for 2014 was $290 million, and it still is. We, um, you'll see on this pie chart that we focus a lot, that we talk about the media. It's what the media covers. And you can see that we're asking $10 million from the action fund, and we've spent $69 million already.

Basically we will end up getting back at least $7 million (inaudible). But as you see, that is not a chronic investment (inaudible). We acknowledge it's what gets covered, but more important, it is what we do with our competitive advantage over the long term.

We also are continuing to invest on data operations. We've made tremendous strides there. For those of you interested, right after this session, there will be breakouts led by Michael Palmer and Emily Seidel, who will talk to people about (inaudible). Mark Holden's presentation that preceded ours shared with you some information we've gathered from our new competitive intelligence that we continue to build out. We shared with you as well the investment information (inaudible) the intellectual foundation we use to help build our issue ads.

Keep in mind why you do this, why you engage in the election in 2014, is that the Republican budget that has been offered to spend a trillion dollars less in the next ten years than the Obama budget. Spending is a critical issue, as well as healthcare.

If Republicans can control the House and the Senate, we would, in fact, (inaudible) one of the last opportunities (inaudible) at repealing Obamacare. I acknowledge the President will never sign legislation that repeals it, but it does provide the opportunity to begin to defund central elements of it and begin to peel it back. That's why we (inaudible). If it remains the law of the land for two more years, it will be that much worse.

So moving this forward, I thank you for the support you've given us. We thank you for helping us to extend this network (inaudible) onslaught of this Administration [BACKGROUND NOISE].

KEVIN GENTRY: Thank you very much, Marc.


KEVIN GENTRY: (Inaudible) we had breakouts in the -- on the second day, and we'll have (inaudible) feedback on those. We're going to give that opportunity to you now. If you want to go to a breakout on the three, just up above on the fifth floor in Monarch. Voter turnout is in Monarch 1. One of the folks in the hallway will guide you. Voter turnout is on the data, persuasion, the get-out-the-vote messaging. That's in Monarch 1. Candidate ID, support, and training is in Monarch 2. Youth engagement is in Monarch 3.

And if you're interested in the Battleground Texas effort, that's something where our competitive intelligence efforts have been key to uncover what the left is doing to turn Texas. And as you all know, in an electoral situation in a presidential race, if Texas flips, we're toast.


And then finally, this copy of the Democracy Alliance giving report, and you can pick up a copy from (inaudible) for reference. The one thing I would urge you to do is not to contribute (inaudible) to them.


KEVIN GENTRY: Not. Don't be confused. All right, we will break. Breakouts will be back here at 11:20 where State Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa, and Congressman Cory Gardner from Colorado, and Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas will talk about the Senate in more detail.


(End of session.)


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