PICKET: Paul Ryan critic Mark McKinnon ran GWB on 'compassionate conservatism'

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Politico reported on Tuesday some anonymous GOP consultant quotes critical of GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney for choosing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. One particular consultant who went on the record was Mark McKinnon who said of Romney’s decision to choose Ryan: (bolding is mine)

“[Mark McKinnon:] ‘I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big’ …

 [A GOP strategist:] ‘This could be the defining moment of the campaign. If they win the battle to define Medicare, then I believe Romney wins the presidency. If they lose it, then they lose big in the fall’ …  ‘This is the day the music died,’ one Republican operative involved in 2012 races said after the rollout. The operative said that every House candidate now is racing to get ahead of this issue. …

 A few points on Mr. McKinnon need to be established. Before he worked on former president George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, he was a former Democratic consultant who worked for the late Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards. He also worked for former Democratic Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, when Mr. Dukakis ran unsuccessfully for president against George H.W. Bush in 1988. 

Douglas Perry of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram interviewed McKinnon in 2004 and described McKinnon’s liberal ideological background when he first came on to help George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign: (bolding is mine)

McKinnon — a former rabble-rousing, anti-fraternity student journalist at the University of Texas and a songwriter who once hit the road with Kris Kristofferson — had signed up for a spotlight role with Gov. George W. Bush’s re-election effort.

At first, McKinnon couldn’t believe it himself. He was a tried-and-true Democrat. A long-haired, guitar-playing liberal.

What was he doing here? But to his own surprise, McKinnon’s ideological differences with Bush ended up not really mattering to him, or to the governor. When the two met in 1996, “we just immediately connected,” says McKinnon, who describes Bush as a “mentor in my life.” McKinnon specialized in positive TV ads that captured the humanity of candidates, and he had come to believe that character mattered more than policy positions. He liked what he saw in Bush.

Now, as the 2004 presidential campaign starts to kick up dust, he wants voters to see the same thing he sees in his Republican friend.

“I think if you sat down President Bush in a living room with some people for an hour and then sat Senator Kerry down for an hour, we’d win hands down,” he says, leaning back in his office at the Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters. “So I want to put him in more virtual living rooms.”

McKinnon, who is in charge of the president’s TV advertising, has over the years made a lot of people comfortable with having politicians in their living rooms. In 2000, he helped fashion Bush’s “compassionate conservative” image, showing the candidate in diffused light with a group of Little League ballplayers or blowing a line in a speech and then cracking up about it — a regular guy with the kind of values that we like to think built America.

In October of 2011, McKinnon told John Fund for an American Spectator piece: 

“George Bush won crucial independent voters with his message of compassionate conservatism,” says Mark McKinnon, a key aide in both of Bush’s presidential campaigns. “I worry that today’s Republican firebrand version of conservatism is dragging the party so far right it will repel independent voters.”

Mr. McKinnon discovered he actually ended up liking Bush personally after meeting him, despite his preconceptions about Bush’s ideology on a number of issues. Furthermore, Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” persona led to overspending by Congressional Republicans that Mr. Bush signed off on. Eventually, the GOP paid for such “compassionate conservatism” by losing the House of Representatives in 2004 election. With this in mind, what kind of credibility can McKinnon speak of that shows he knows how to bring out the Republican Party base to the polls in November on election day? 

 

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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