- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Republican Party is delicately measuring the dimensions of the proverbial “big tent,” seeking to preserve its principles while plumbing the proper strategies to expand voter appeal among libertarians, disaffected Democrats, conflicted moderates, assorted ethnicities and women, among other groups. Now it’s the tea party’s turn, and civility appears to be part of the thinking.

“In order for us to be a bigger party, we have to reach out to more people, not just those of us here. It has to be a bigger party, it has to be a bigger movement. There are times, and I don’t think it is our movement, but there are times when people are using language that shouldn’t be used,” Sen. Rand Paul told a bustling crowd assembled in the nation’s capital for the tea party’s fifth anniversary.

“We can disagree with the president without calling him names,” the Kentucky Republican said, adding, “our message has to be a happy message, one of optimism, one of growth.”

Ah, but it’s a tricky business. Consider that one Republican strategist recently told Inside the Beltway that at this juncture, the ideal Republican candidate is “a fighter.” Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has already launched an aggressive “Voter Expansion Project,” even as the party adopts an unapologetic war footing. The take-away: Compile those big tent dimensions carefully, folks. Measure twice and cut once.

MR. HUCKABEE EMERGES

What’s this? Mike Huckabee has bested all manner of his Republican rivals in a new Public Policy Polling survey gauging the sentiments of 869 Iowa voters. In a nine-man field. Mr. Huckabee garnered 17 percent of voter support, followed by Sen. Rand Paul (14 percent), Jeb Bush (13 percent), Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (both with 10 percent), Rep. Paul Ryan (9 percent), Govs. Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal (both with 7 percent) and Sen. Marco Rubio (3 percent.)

Oh, yes. “Someone else/not sure” pulled in 11 percent of voter interest, while 48 percent of Iowa conservatives backed Mr. Huckabee. His nearest competitor in that demographic — Mr. Paul — pulled in 26 percent.

AND IN SUMMATION

“As America retreats around the world, Russia moves to fill the vacuum. But don’t worry: John Kerry has the global warming situation totally under control.”

— Powerline.com founder John Hinderaker.

FOR THE LEXICON

“The Christie Watch”

— A new blog launched by The Nation to cover “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the tea party and the GOP’s 2016 civil war.” Yes, the progressive folk are watching closely.

ONE FOR THE HEROES

It warms the heart. Yes it does. A pair of Irishmen — that would be the inimitable tenor Anthony Kearns and legendary steeplechase jockey Sean Clancy — are determined to raise a nice bundle of cash for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes and Boulder Crest Retreat this weekend. Both organizations provide financial aid, kind respite, solid support and appreciation to veterans who have been severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two gents met through the Saratoga Warhorse Foundation, an unusual group that pairs retired race horses with vets who struggle with PTSD and other post-deployment issues. Come Saturday, Mr. Kearns and Mr. Clancy will showcase both the faith and the begorrah at the, well, fabulous Salamander Resort in the Virginia countryside, raising money for both causes.

The aforementioned coalition provides emergency financial assistance and holiday gift funding to wounded warriors, Boulder Crest is a rural sanctuary and wellness retreat for vets and their families, providing fully accessible and very sumptuous cabins at no cost. Both causes are, well, fabulous.

“I am just one of many involved here,” Mr. Kearns tells Inside the Beltway. “Sean and I are just happy to lend a hand in this.”

And the music?

“I plan to sing the songs that inspire. ‘God Bless America’ of course, and ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ from ‘Les Miserables.’ That’s a reflection of those who must go off to war. And yes, ‘Danny Boy’ is another,” he says.

And the eats? Guests will tuck into fancy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, plus “cordials and desserts” all Irish-themed. Executive pastry chef Jason Reeves reports a few of the offerings: whiskey pudding tartlets with chocolate pecan toffee, apple amber tartlets, Chocolate Guinness mini cakes and Irish ginger snaps.

CONVENTION ANGST

It’s the $200 million question: Which of eight competing cities gets to host the 2016 Republican National Convention? The winner typically rakes in the aforementioned amount for its coffers once all is said and done. It’s that kind of event, drawing excruciating competition from locales that are ready to stock up on red balloons and plenty of Maker’s Mark bourbon for the 40,000 visitors who show up.

Actually, the hopefuls must provide 300,000 square feet of space for press and media, 40,000 square feet of office space, an arena that can host 18,000 revelers, 16,000 hotel rooms, parking for 2,000 cars and 300 buses plus 1,000 swanky bedroom suites.

Oh, but the process is nerve wracking, even for an event that is some 900 days off. On Monday, representatives from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix arrive in the nation’s capital to present their bids before the Republican National Committee site selection team.

Two weeks later, the cities find out if the Republican National Committee is interested enough to visit. And in late spring, those coveted visits will take place, finalists will be announced and the final election made somewhere around August or September, decided by a full committee vote.

Hope runs high, even when glittering Vegas and “Big D” are among the competitors.

“Ohio hasn’t hosted a national convention in nearly 80 years, and we’ve never seen one in Columbus,” says Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. “Central Ohio continues to be a major battleground during presidential campaigns.”

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: the Reid & Hughes Building, Norwich, Conn.; 24,390 square feet, built as a department store in 1880. In designated historic district and “urban enterprise zone”; included on the National Register of Historic Places. All brick, river view, 11-foot ceilings, elevator, city utilities, exterior decorative medallions and details. Price: $1.

Available through the city of Norwich (Askncdc.com).

POLL DU JOUR

50 percent of Americans would vote for a candidate who did not share their views of minimum wage; 59 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats agree.

48 percent overall would vote for a candidate who did not share their views of global warming; 56 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats agree.

43 percent overall would vote for a candidate who did not share their views on immigration; 41 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats agree.

42 percent overall would vote for a candidate who did not share their views on same-sex marriage; 47 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

40 percent overall would vote for a candidate who did not share their views of abortion; 42 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent overall would vote for a candidate who did not share their views of Obamacare; 27 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,644 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 19-23.

Follow Jennifer Harper at Twitter.com/harperbulletin