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Inside the Beltway: The mop-up

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2012

Occasionally, embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gets a star and two smiley faces for bustling into action, intent on steering weary Republicans towards political productivity. He's launched the clever Growth and Opportunity Project — the GOP's G.O.P. — to reinvigorate the Grand Old Party and analyze what the heck went wrong on the campaign trail in 2012.

On the team to help out: former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Henry Barbour, nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, charged with addressing "campaign mechanics and ground game," the party message, fundraising, potential allies, third party issues and most telling, "lessons learned from Democratic campaign tactics."

Also on the team: Zori Fonalledas and Glenn McCall, national committee members from Puerto Rico and South Carolina, respectively, and Sally Bradshaw, a veteran senior strategist based in Florida. And optimist. "This is a time of great opportunity for the Republican Party," she insists.

It's the season for splashy launches, meanwhile. There's also news from No Labels, the bipartisan gadfly group that now includes former Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr. as a co-chairman. It boasts of a newly formed "Problem-Solvers Bloc" — legislators committed to working across the aisle, to be introduced next month at a bodacious event in New York City, tickets priced from $25 to $1,000. Yes, there's a "VIP lounge."

The group predicts the event should make "significant noise" in Washington, sending a message to President Obama and lawmakers to "stop fighting, start fixing."

THE HISTORIC MOP-UP

"I am overnominated and underelected."

- (Richard Nixon, to The New York Times, April 25, 1965.)

DOMESTIC ISSUES

Things might not go exactly according to protocol Tuesday for assorted diplomats around the nation's capital, not to mention the World Bank. Domestic workers are not happy with new research from Casa de Maryland, a worker's rights group, that reports "widespread mistreatment, hazardous working conditions, a lack of benefits and substandard pay" in Washington, and elsewhere.

"We are visiting the area employers where we have found the most prevalent and severe cases of abuse over the past decade: the World Bank and embassies. These employers are setting a bad example," says organizer Antonia Pena.

The group will hold a news conference at 18th and H streets in Northwest, followed by an "action" to encourage employers to respect their rights. The action: Activists will deliver holiday cards to the World Bank and several embassies, "encouraging employees of the institution and members of the diplomatic community to respect the contributions and labor of their domestic workers."

NEIL'S CAPITAL MOMENT

He'll broadcast from a monumental set with 18 Corinthian columns and a coffered dome, the site of the Watergate hearings and the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. That would be Fox Business Network's ace anchor Neil Cavuto, who hosts a special episode of "Cavuto" from the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda, just northeast of the Capitol.

It's "fiscal cliff" time for Mr. Cavuto, who will parse out the possibility of a resolution before the Dec. 31 deadline. On hand to help him: Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, plus Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat. Airtime for this significant hour is 8 p.m.

PALMETTO POLITICS

News of Sen. Jim DeMint's intended resignation from office has barely cooled. Not so South Carolina politics. Gov. Nikki Haley has been deemed "one of the most unpopular governors in the country," at least according to Public Policy Polling, which finds the tea party favorite with a 70 percent approval rating among Republicans, but a 42 percent approval among South Carolina voters overall.

"There is a path back to popularity for Gov. Haley though: appointing Stephen Colbert to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate," the pollster advises.

The Comedy Central host, who has flirted with a run for office for years, now ranks first on the public's wish list to replace Mr. DeMint with 20 percent of voter support, followed by Reps. Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, and none other than Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of ex-governor Mark Sanford.

"Nikki Haley could score some points with the Democrats and independent voters she's struggling with by appointing Stephen Colbert to the U.S. Senate," says Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. "But if she goes down a more traditional path, voters' top choice is Tim Scott."

And about Ms. Sanford.

"She really could probably get elected to office if she wanted to. Forty-four percent of voters have a favorable opinion of her to only 25 percent with a negative one, and her popularity holds true across party lines. She's at 48/21 with Republicans, 43/31 with Democrats, and 39/26 with independents," the pollster states.

CAMPUS HIGH ROLLERS

Private college presidents draw hefty compensation packages — and among the 50 highest-paid private college presidents in 2010, half led institutions that provided top executives with cash to cover taxes on bonuses and other benefits, says Jack Stripling, author of a new Chronicle in Higher Education analysis of pay and perks among the academic elite.

"This practice, known as 'grossing up,' has fallen out of fashion at many publicly traded companies, where boards have decided the perk is simply not worth the shareholder outrage it can invite," Mr. Stripling says.

The Chronicle's analysis examined the salaries of 493 presidents at private colleges with budgets exceeding $50 million. The highest-paid during 2010, the study period? It was Robert Kerrey, former Nebraska senator and 1992 presidential hopeful who earned $3 million as president of The New School in New York City.

Mr. Kerrey ultimately resigned from his position and ran for his old Senate seat, aiming to succeed retiring Democrat Ben Nelson. He lost to Republican nominee Deb Fischer, a state legislator backed by Sarah Palin.

POLL DU JOUR

• 59 percent of likely U.S. voters oppose giving President Obama the right to raise the nation's debt ceiling without approval from Congress; 81 percent of Republicans agree.

• 58 percent overall are not confident that "political leaders in Washington" will reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff; 75 percent of Republicans agree.

• 53 percent overall oppose raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 as part of the deficit-cutting deal.

• 50 percent would prefer Mr. Obama and Congress reach a long-term deal before the end of the year.

• 36 percent would prefer a short-term deal; 10 percent say the two sides should "do nothing."

Source: A Hill poll of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted Thursday.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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