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GOP’s rising stars send out diversified messages

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2010

The poster boys for the Republican Party's resurgence - Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts - are deploying their differing styles to aid the GOP's quest for midterm election victory.

Since their victories in 2009 and 2010, Mr. McDonnell has been the most active, holding dozens of fundraisers for candidates inside and outside his state. Mr. Brown has been more selective in whom he backs, focusing most of his attention on supporting the candidates who helped propel him to unexpected victory.

Mr. Christie has been busy trying to fix his financially troubled state, making headlines with a conservative agenda that Republicans say highlights the aggressive measures their ilk is willing to make.

"These are all different candidates with different histories and backgrounds," said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. "But I think that the campaigns that Gov. McDonnell ran, Gov. Christie ran and Scott Brown ran prove that different Republicans with different ideologies, with different backgrounds, can be successful in states that don't always trend toward Republicans."

With President Obama's poll numbers dipping and the Democratic Party's hold on Congress in jeopardy, Mr. McDonnell, Mr. Christie and Mr. Brown have been given the chance to both gauge their standing among the heavy hitters of the Republican Party - Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin - and put their imprint on the party's fate.

Monday night, Mr. McDonnell urged a crowd gathered for a political fundraiser in Richmond, Va., for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who faces a difficult re-election challenge from former Houston Mayor Bill White.

"Rick Perry is a great leader for Texas. He understands his first job is to help create jobs," Mr. McDonnell said. "With Rick Perry, what you see is what you get. He understands that the states are the laboratories of Democracy and innovation."

Mr. McDonnell's event for Mr. Perry is the latest in series of fundraisers he has held for high-profile Republican candidates, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is seeking re-election, and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who is running for the governor's office.

"He is clearly a rising star in the party," said Perry spokesman Mike Miner. "He just won a major victory after the seat has been held by Democratic governor for the past two administrations."

Phil Cox, Mr. McDonnell's political adviser, said his boss will have held 15 events for out-of-state candidates by the end of next month. Mr. McDonnell plans to stump for several congressional hopefuls, including Carly Fiorina, a Senate candidate in California, and Marco Rubio, Florida's Republican candidate for Senate.

"He certainly is in demand, and I think the reason for that is he ran a model campaign in a competitive state," Mr. Cox said.

But Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie suggested that Mr. Perry's visit could do him more harm than good.

Mr. Richie pointed to Mr. McDonnell's initial failure to mention "anti-slavery language" in his April "Confederate History Month" proclamation. Mr. McDonnell later apologized and added similar language.

"Perry's decision to fundraise with someone like Bob McDonnell speaks volumes about his own character, and his tacit approval of McDonnell's extreme positions is an insult to our state and our country," Mr. Richie said.

In New Jersey, Mr. Christie's has had little time for national politics, but his staff said the time will come. He has been tied up in Trenton, where he has pushed pension reform and completed a $29.4 billion budget that reduced spending by $3 billion and deferred $3 billion in payments to the pension system.

"We are really busy in New Jersey, and after a fast-paced several months people took some vacations," Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak said Monday. "There will be a place for that late in the summer or fall."

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown, has held events for Mr. McCain, Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia and Rhode Island state Rep. John Loughlin, who is trying to capture the seat held by retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat.

The trio also will be involved in the competitive congressional races in their home states. That likely that translates into as many as four tight races in Virginia, one tight race in Massachusetts and one tight race in New Jersey, political observers say.

But it will be the races beyond their state boundaries that likely will determine their place in the party.

Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College in Henniker, N.H., said the four Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Judd Gregg have stolen a page out of Brown's playbook by casting themselves the "everyman or everywoman."

"The symbols that Scott Brown used to depict the outsider, the pickup truck, the barn coat. They are using in the sense to communicate the same message," he said.

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