- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 10, 2014

The timing is impeccable: A dozen famed conservatives with liberty, tradition and smaller government on their minds gather a mere 72 hours before Tax Day dawns. That would be the Freedom Summit on Saturday, a daylong showcase organized by Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United, staged in Manchester, the most bustling town in New Hampshire. The free grass-roots event has drawn live coverage on C-SPAN and the intense interest of Fox News, CNN, NBC and multiple national news organizations.

And no wonder. The starring line-up includes Republicans Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, plus Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Laura Ingraham and Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Louis Gohmert of Texas and Steve King of Iowa.

“The minute the news got out who would be on stage, and the interest was instantaneous. Our 700 tickets were gone in a moment, and 800 people rushed onto the waiting list. It’s that kind of event,” Greg Moore, state director for Americans for Prosperity, tells Inside the Beltway.

The summit will focus on how to return the nation to “conservative bedrock principles the Granite State has been known for,” Mr. Moore advises.

Those who prefer a little Midwestern fix are in luck on Friday, in the meantime.

The ever-present C-SPAN will also offer live coverage of Rep. Paul Ryan’s appearance at the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Dinner, which incidentally features a fresh farm salad, filet of chicken with thyme, potatoes au gratin and a julienne of fresh vegetables for all the hungry heartland GOPers.

Mr. Ryan — still jaunty following U.S. House approval of his 102-page federal budget proposal — goes before the cameras at 8 p.m. His audience will be enthusiastic, no doubt. But polling suggests the Wisconsin lawmaker is not the reigning star here. A new Suffolk University survey of likely Iowa voters finds that their favorite was the aforementioned Mr. Huckabee, followed by Mr. Paul, Jeb Bush. Mr. Cruz, Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Ryan is tied in seventh place with Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Condoleezza Rice and Rick Santorum.

STILL HATING CONGRESS

“Americans’ approval of Congress is at 13 percent in April, inching down from 15 percent in March, and currently standing only four percentage points higher than the all-time low of 9 percent in November 2013,” says Gallup Poll analyst Justin McCarthy, who is tracking all that dismal stuff.

“Divided party control — which is one reason Congress’ ratings are so low — makes it harder for voters to direct their frustrations at a specific party on Election Day,” Mr. McCarthy continues. “Another factor that could spare incumbents from major losses is that midterms generally play out as a referendum on the sitting president. So, it could be that President Obama’s job rating in the fall will be much more important than Congress.”

Eleven states hold their primary elections in May, with more to come in June.

“The extent to which incumbency has become a liability may be most evident in races where an incumbent is fighting off a challenger within his or her own political party, and thus Obama won’t be a factor,” he adds.

THE PERILS OF COLBERT

Will he be Stephen Colbert — or Stephen Colbert imitating Bill O’Reilly when he replaces David Letterman? Oh, the complicated drama, the multiple scenarios when one late night host replaces another. Journalists are orbiting around news that Comedy Central’s Mr. Colbert would take over for CBS’ Mr. Letterman when he retires next year. When the big change comes, will Mr. Colbert actually be himself as he promises, or continue as the distinctive on-camera character he developed to parody Fox News’ Mr. O’Reilly?

Complicated, yes. But fraught with peril too.

“CBS takes a huge gamble. Because when you sign someone as politically polarizing as the 49-year-old Colbert, you start in a huge hole. As in, half the country may dismiss you because of your ideology kind of hole,” points out Joe Concha, a Mediaite columnist who predicts that the decision to hire Mr. Colbert will land the network in last place in the ratings race.

“The country is more polarized than ever. Say what you will about Mitt Romney’s ill-timed 47 percent comment; it couldn’t have been more correct. No presidential candidate — even Hillary Clinton — will ever get more than 53 percent of the vote again. The red and blue lines have been drawn, somewhat thanks to cable news fueling the fire while becoming less about news and more about opinion,” Mr. Concha continues.

“Colbert’s openly progressive nature displayed through his conservative character is not what’s in question here. If he were a big conservative, it’s the same conversation,” Mr. Concha says, citing the prowess of late night rivals Jimmy Fallon on NBC and Jimmy Kimmel on ABC.

“Part of Fallon and Kimmel’s formula for success is not picking a side, not being snarky on the political front, embracing the Johnny Carson rule of being an equal-opportunity offender,” concludes Mr. Concha, who recommends Howard Stern as the best choice for CBS.

A MOMENT OF FAIRNESS

“I don’t agree with their politics or philosophically, but, you know, they’re Americans. They’re paying their taxes. They’re not breaking the law. They’re providing jobs.”

And so said Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, commenting on Charles and David Koch to Fox News.

Indeed, the Koch brothers are providing jobs. And the numbers?

“Koch companies employ 60,000 Americans, who make many thousands of products that Americans want and need. According to government figures, our employees and the 143,000 additional American jobs they support generate nearly $11.7 billion in compensation and benefits. About one-third of our U.S.-based employees are union members.”

And so said Charles Koch, in a recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.

An interesting link to consider, this launched in 2011 by the Koch brothers themselves: Kochfacts.com

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For Sale: The Charles A. Pennick House, South Boston, Virginia. “Stately” Gothic Revival home built in 1906 with 3,474 square feet. Five bedrooms, three baths, 22-foot by 18-foot kitchen, library, formal parlor, dining room, seven fireplaces with original mantles, original wainscoting, extra storage building. New roof and paint, central air conditioning and heat, period landscaping, original iron fencing, front pillars, expansive porch, separate screened porch. Priced at $235,000, through Oldhouseproperties.com.

POLL DU JOUR

54 percent American say a candidate’s “stance” on Obamacare will be very important when they decide who to vote for in the 2014 midterm elections.

64 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents agree.

50 percent of overall disapprove of the health care law; 83 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents agree.

41 percent of overall approve of the law; 10 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents agree.

44 percent overall say the health care law will have a “mostly negative” effect on the nation as a whole; 73 percent of Republicans, 14 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents agree.

36 percent overall say the health care law will have a “mostly positive” effect on the nation as a whole; 14 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll of 1,010 U.S. adults conducted April 3-6.

Big ideas and small talk to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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