Author Archive

Chip Saltsman resigns from Joe Carr’s campaign, supports Lamar Alexander

August 20, 2013

After learning of Joe Carr’s decision to run for the United States Senate, Chip Saltsman has resigned from Carr’s campaign efforts.

In his letter of resignation to Carr, Saltsman said in part, “Having learned of your decision to run for the United States Senate, I must resign from your campaign. I signed up to help you run for Congress, not the Senate.

“I have been a longtime supporter of Senator Alexander for many reasons, and I will continue to be a strong supporter…Due to the hard work of Lamar Alexander, and because he stayed true to his conservative ideals, our state has no income tax, great roads with no debt, and an economy that is the envy of most states.

“It is because of Lamar Alexander that people like you have the honor of serving in the majority of the state legislature…I am honored to support Lamar Alexander for re-election.”

You can read the full letter here.

“GOP presidential hopefuls seek to distance themselves from Romney”

August 16, 2013

The Hill:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other likely 2016 GOP presidential candidates are sounding populist themes in battleground states, trying to distance themselves from Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) have been reaching out to working-class voters as they visit states like Iowa and New Hampshire, in the belief that Romney’s bid fell short because he did not try hard enough to win over that segment of the voting public.

Santorum declared at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, that it’s time for the party to abandon the dictum that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

“We need to reject this idea that well if we build the economy all boats will rise and everybody will be fine,” he declared. “Most people I know have holes in their boats. And when that tide rises sometimes they don’t rise; sometimes they sink.”

Former President John F. Kennedy popularized the rising tide proverb, but it has since been warmly embraced by Republicans. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh ripped President Obama last month for breaking with Kennedy:

“President Obama has just said that’s a bunch of conservatism that doesn’t work. And this whole notion that a rising tide lifts all boats, all that is is a “you’re-on-your-own” economy, and we don’t need a “you’re-on-your-own” economy. We need a “we’re-in-this-together” approach. We need socialism, he says,” Limbaugh told his listeners.

Santorum, however, said Republicans at the 2012 presidential nominating convention in Tampa focused too much on business owners and not enough on workers.

“Not one time did we see someone from the factory floor walk out there and talk about working for the man or women who built that business and how that helped them and their families,” he said of last year’s convention speakers. “We need to be able to communicate to the folks who hold the jobs and tell them and put a platform together that focuses on them.”

Democrats spent hundreds of millions of dollars painting Romney as an economic elitist. Some Republicans now think he helped the opposition’s messaging operation by failing to reach out to lower-income voters. Romney played into Obama’s game plan with cringe-inducing gaffes such as claiming that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and think of themselves as victims.

Cruz says Romney’s campaign message should have been more inclusive of people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

“Every policy we think about, we talk about, should focus like a laser on opportunity, on easing the means of assent up the economic ladder — on how it impacts the least well off among us,” he told conservative activists at the Family Leadership Summit.

He said Romney could have improved upon the slogan he picked for the 2012 convention: “You built that.” Intended as a jibe at Obama’s claim that business owners succeed in large part because of community assistance, Cruz felt Romney’s message left out aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It was directed to those who already built their business, who had already succeeded. How much better would it have been if what we had said was, ‘You can build that?’” he said.

Paul also called on his party to be more inclusive during a recent trip to New Hampshire, a crucial primary state.

“We’re going to win when we look like America. We need to be white; we need to be brown; we need to be black; we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with ponytails, without ponytails, with beards, without,” Paul told the audience at a GOP dinner in May, according to the Concord Monitor.

“We need to be that party that can express it in a way that shows that we care about people,” he added in what appeared to be a subtle jab at Romney. “We need to care about people even if they are on government assistance.”

Republican strategists are split over whether their party should adopt a more populist tone, which has traditionally been the strategy of Democrats.

“That’s a tone we definitely need to talk about as we move forward,” said Chip Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) 2008 presidential campaign.

Saltsman said Huckabee’s populist approach was a big reason he won the Iowa caucuses that year.

“You saw Gov. Huckabee talk about that in 2007 when nobody was talking about it. He really tapped into something that I think the Republican Party had been missing for a long time, someone who was talking to the people instead of at the people,” he said.

But others say these candidates are too focused on running against the party establishment at the expense of bringing new ideas or policy proposals to the debate.

“It sort of cracks me up that a Republican would try to get left of President Kennedy on the issue of a rising tide lifting all boats,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research.

“It’s interesting to me to hear Cruz talk about how we have to reach out to minorities, whether its African-Americans or Hispanics, which is true, but then not to offer any solutions about what you would do with the immigration system,” he added.

But McHenry said the message is likely to play well among conservative activists in Iowa, who “are probably also the people who have that populist strain.”

Sean Trende, the senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, noted Pat Buchanan, who ran for president in 1992 and 1996, performed well in New Hampshire by running on a populist anti-trade, anti-establishment platform.

“I think Cruz and Santorum, especially Cruz, are the best examples of this to date,” he said. “What they’re really getting at is the idea that Mitt Romney’s campaign was trying to corral the small-business vote, which is probably already pretty well corralled for the GOP, but he offered nothing to any other group in America.”

Trende has noted in published analysis that Romney was hurt by a drop in the white vote between 2008 and 2012. He estimated that many of those voters who failed to turn out to the polls were of working-class and low-income backgrounds.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, said former President George W. Bush was the last GOP nominee who effectively reached out to blue collar workers. His campaign message of “compassionate conservatism” helped him beat former Vice President Al Gore, who centered his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles around a populist message.

“Since 2005, the biggest problem in the Republican Party with respect to connecting with voters has been language,” he said.

He said Republican lawmakers and politicians are learning “if they watch their language and use a populist tone, they do a heck of a lot better job, and the reason is most people don’t know the mechanics of policy.”

VIDEO: Chip on “Fox News Sunday”

August 12, 2013

Chip appeared on “Fox News Sunday” on August 11, with Joe Trippi, to discuss the 2014 and 2016 elections. Click to watch the video…


“Fox News Sunday”

August 11, 2013

Chip will appear on “Fox News Sunday” on August 11, with Joe Trippi, to discuss the 2014 and 2016 elections…

Campaigns & Elections Magazine “Influencers 500” List

June 26, 2013

I was honored to be named to this year’s list of Campaigns & Elections Magazine “Influencers 500” list. You can read the full list here.


“Chip Saltsman joins Joe Carr congressional campaign”

May 21, 2013

By: James Harrison,

“State Rep. Joe Carr announced Tuesday that Chip Saltsman, a political operative and former campaign manager for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, will join his 4th District congressional campaign.

“Saltsman, who is also a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman and campaign manager for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, helped lead Fleischmann to congressional victories in 2010 and 2012. He departed from his role as Fleischmann’s chief of staff after the congressman secured victory in last year’s election.

“In a news release, Carr said he was ‘excited’ to add Saltsman to his team. Carr, R-Lascassas, entered the 4th District race earlier this month and has already reported more than $205,000 cash-on-hand in his effort to unseat Rep. Scott DesJarlais. State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, is also a candidate in next year’s Republican primary.

“‘Chip brings significant firepower and experience to our campaign,’ Carr said. ‘His excellent track record of managing both statewide and national campaigns is invaluable. Chip is a leader and a proven winner in the conservative movement.’

“Most recently, Saltsman took a position with American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused on school choice.

“Saltsman was tasked with promoting Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal for a limited voucher program in Tennessee, which was ultimately yanked by the governor after members of the General Assembly attempted to expand his bill to cover more students. Carr’s release did not say if Saltsman was continuing in his role with the group.

“Carr’s release described Saltsman’s work with Fleischmann as being able to guide the candidate to ‘surprise victories.’ Fleischmann, who ran as a candidate with no political experience in his first bid for office, relied heavily on Saltsman, who joined his campaign after an unsuccessful bid for Republican National Committee chairman.

“In 2010, Fleischmann was able to emerge from a crowded field to best Robin Smith by 1,400 votes. In 2012, the congressman defeated two well-backed challengers: regional dairy mogul Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp, son of former 3rd District Rep. Zach Wamp.

“Saltsman’s connections allowed Fleischmann to form a relationship with Huckabee, who provided endorsements on behalf of Fleischmann’s campaigns in both 2010 and 2012.

“His work in 2010 also led to a lawsuit, in which depositions revealed an ad run by Fleischmann against Smith relied on confidential papers and used the state seal of Tennessee to make a nongovernment document appear official.

“DesJarlais, who was re-elected amid scandal stemming from his decade-old divorce, trails both Carr and Tracy in fundraising after the first quarter of the 2014 cycle. A former physician who ran on a pro-life, pro-family values platform, DesJarlais was sidelined when records showed he slept with patients as a doctor and pressured one to terminate a pregnancy—which he said never happened.

“Records also showed DesJarlais supported two abortions for his ex-wife.

“Since then, the congressman has said he has been forgiven by God and boasted of voting in favor of pro-life legislation.

“The 4th District Republican primary is in August 2014.”

“Chip Saltsman hired to promote school vouchers in Tennessee”

April 14, 2013

“NASHVILLE (AP) – The Washington-based American Federation for Children has hired Republican operative Chip Saltsman to promote school vouchers in Tennessee.

“Spokeswoman Kimberly Kump said the group’s minimum objective is to help pass Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s limited school voucher proposal, but that it would prefer to see the program expanded to be available to a much larger number of children.

“Saltsman was most recently chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga. He previously served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and ran former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid in 2008.

“Kump said Saltsman won’t be directly lobbying lawmakers, but will be responsible for a larger public relations effort. She declined to say how much the group will spend on the promotion campaign.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The O’Reilly Factor, Fox and Friends, CNBC’s Squak Box, and More

January 30, 2012

Over the past month I have made several appearances on TV to talk about the GOP primary. Watch some of the clips below.

“The O’Reilly Factor”

“CNBC’S Squak Box”

“Fox and Friends”

MSNBC’s Iowa Caucus Night Panel

“Weekends with Alex Witt” on MSNBC

December 24, 2011

I appeared on “Weekends with Alex Witt” to talk about the failure of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich to qualify for the Virginia ballot, as well as the state of the race in Iowa about one week before the caucuses.

“The South is up for grabs”

December 13, 2011

By: Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin

GREENVILLE, S.C. — In the geographic heart of the Republican Party, the contest for the allegiance of Southern conservatives in the 2012 race is as wide open as ever.

Of all the prizes still up for grabs in the GOP presidential primary, few are as desirable as the support of the South. Republican presidential nominations have traditionally been forged here — in South Carolina, especially — and any successful challenger to Mitt Romney would most likely have to dominate among heavily conservative, evangelical Southern voters.

Yet the only candidate this cycle who seemed to have a shot at locking down the South, Rick Perry, has stumbled badly. Newt Gingrich, the anti-Romney favorite du jour, is polling well across the region, but politicos question whether the former Georgia congressman has what it takes to dominate in Dixie.

So as the Republican Party looks ahead at the possibility of a long primary fight, there’s a real possibility that none of the finalists will have any distinctive appeal in the core region of the GOP.

“We’re a little more split up this time,” said Henry Barbour, the Republican National Committeeman for Mississippi and a Perry supporter. “I don’t think there’s a natural favorite son of the South in this primary.”

Said Barbour: “Gov. Perry looked really strong down here early on, now unfortunately that’s opened back up … Can Gov. Perry come back? I think he can.”

John Ryder, the longtime RNC member from Tennessee, agreed on the big picture: “There is nobody who is dominant in this region.”

“That makes the contest even more open because the dominant region for the party doesn’t have a dominant candidate,” explained Ryder, who said of Gingrich: “Republican women are the real backbone of the party in the South, and they fundamentally mistrust Newt because of his personal life.”

Gingrich — like Perry before him — has risen to the top of the Republican primary polls in part because of the support of Southern voters. A Gallup tracking poll last week showed that Gingrich had a huge, 27-point lead over Romney in the South, compared with a 14-point lead in the Midwest, a 7-point lead in the West and a negligible 1-point advantage in the East.

At a campaign stop in Greenville Thursday, Gingrich told a crowd that South Carolina was the key to victory for him: “I believe if I win in South Carolina, that in fact I will be the nominee.”

But Gingrich is a decidedly imperfect standard-bearer for Southern conservatives and not only because of his marital history. A Pennsylvania native who lives in upscale suburban Washington, Gingrich is better known to most Republicans as an author and national television personality at this point than as a former Georgia politician. As a Catholic convert, he doesn’t necessarily have the personal affinity with evangelicals that Mike Huckabee or George W. Bush did.

To the extent that Gingrich is resonating in the South, political veterans say it has more to do with the fact that he has claimed — for the moment — the anti-Romney mantle than that he has any special connection with Southerners.

“I think that Gov. Perry, actually, has more of a Southern connection because of his mannerisms, because of his Southern accent. The speaker tends to grab people more on the content of his message,” said former South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd.

“Is he a Southerner? He’s from Georgia, so I guess he’s a Southerner,” said former South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, a Perry supporter. “He’s probably perceived to be more national than if he were a sitting Southern governor, the way Perry is. He’s been in Washington, D.C., for a long time.”

Ralph Reed, the longtime Southern Republican strategist who heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, credited Gingrich with understanding “the syntax and the rhythm, the background music of Southern politics.”

But Reed cautioned that in a fluid race, even the Michigan-born, Massachusetts-based Romney could win a handful of Southern states, since no other candidate has cornered the market on culturally conservative Southern voters.

“I think it’s a mistake to assume that Romney can’t win a Southern state,” said Reed, a former Georgia Republican Party chairman. “I think a place like South Carolina is tough. Georgia will be tough. But you know, a place like Florida, Texas, maybe even Tennessee is more doable.”

Thanks to the GOP’s emphasis on proportional allocation of delegates, and the presence of many non-Southern states early in the calendar, Reed also questioned whether being a Southern regional candidate is as desirable as it once was.

“Given the compression of the calendar and the proportional awarding of delegates, I think there’s less of a premium today on being a regional candidate,” he said. “Super Tuesday, as it was originally conceived, no longer really exists, because all the states have tried to leapfrog each other.”

Still, for the throng of candidates jockeying for position against Romney, there’s no swath of the political battlefield that’s quite as welcoming as the South, where Romney’s impressive national political organization will be hard-pressed to overcome resistance to his more moderate governing record, his remote personal demeanor and his Mormon faith.

To Romney supporters, there’s no question that the South is challenging territory. Their candidate’s support among Southerners has been dismal: In an August Gallup Poll, Romney took 12 percent of Southern voters to Perry’s 39 percent. Now, Romney is at 15 percent to Gingrich’s 42 percent, while Perry is still a close third at 13 percent.

That hasn’t prevented Romney from making inroads with Southern lawmakers and the region’s donor class, Arkansas Rep. and Romney endorser Tim Griffin pointed out.

“If you look at what Gov. Romney’s been able to do across the South in the last month and a half — the Diane Blacks, the Cobles, McHenrys, the Foxxes — he’s made major inroads,” Griffin said, listing GOP members of Congress who have backed Romney.

Mike Hubbard, the Romney-endorsing Alabama House speaker, said Romney could win over voters as the candidate “who can beat Obama.” His caution about Gingrich: “People, and I’m one of them, worry about him in a general election.”

Former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, another Romney supporter, acknowledged that it’s still a “relatively tough sell for Romney” with rank-and-file Southern voters for a list of reasons.

“He grew up in Michigan and has lived in Massachusetts all these years. To be perfectly honest, religion is still a factor in the South. That was one of the reasons we liked Huckabee. He was Baptist and had a Southern style of speaking,” said Lott, who also recalled that Romney had successfully worked the room during recent campaign stops in Mississippi: “The ladies loved him.”

If Gingrich continues to gather steam, he may end up as the permanent Southern favorite despite lacking the cultural identifiers that aided Huckabee in 2008, allowing the Arkansan to win five states on Super Tuesday after a string of losses. Perry backers hope he’ll be able to leverage his Southern-ness to pull himself back into contention next month.

Yet as voting draws nearer, it seems less and less likely that anyone in the 2012 field will fully occupy the space Huckabee seized four years ago — much less the role of George W. Bush in 2000.

“Newt obviously has regional appeal in the South, given his time as speaker and a congressman from Georgia, but I don’t think you can classify him as a Southern candidate by any means,” said former Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman. “Especially in a place like South Carolina, regional strength matters.”

The name that surfaces again and again with Southern Republicans, who look with some perplexity at the lack of regional flair in the current field of candidates, is Haley Barbour’s.

If the Mississippi governor had moved forward with a 2012 bid, Republicans say, he could have been in a position to woo Southern voters aggressively and head into a 50-state primary fight with a commanding home-field advantage.

“Haley might have been the one who had Southern support,” said Lott. “I don’t think anybody really has a hold on it.”

Former Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, who helped urge Fred Thompson into the 2008 race, suggested that Barbour could have united the Southern political class in a way Gingrich hasn’t — and probably can’t.

“I think a lot of average Republicans in Tennessee are going to vote for Newt Gingrich,” Wamp said. “But you don’t even see the entire Georgia delegation standing with him. It would have been very different if Haley Barbour had been the guy.”