- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2014

A sleeping giant awakening? The Republican National Committee is on war footing as the competitive gleam in chairman Reince Priebus‘ eye grows ever brighter. All the proper political weaponry of the age is appearing: prowess in social media, a feisty presence online and in broadcast, strategic information gathering, image-crafting, brand-burnishing, merchandising.

Consider the committee’s new Para Bellum Lab, a data-driven Internet attack-squad, poised, they say, for a “political hackathon.” The name itself means “ready for war” in Latin. “Innovate or die,” declares Chuck DeFeo, the newly named GOP digital data officer.

Now comes another push, this one borrowed from the relentless tea party playbook, or perhaps the libertarian quest for untapped voter interest. It’s a Republican presidential straw poll. But of course. The 32 names on this poll, however, are proof that GOP management is ready to rumble, push the envelope, open the big tent, engage all-comers and get folks talking. And both “Pauls” are among the choices.

Behold the candidate cornucopia to consider: Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, John Bolton, Allen West, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels.

Among U.S. Senators: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio; plus Reps. Peter T. King of New York and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Then there’s Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Mike Pence of Indiana, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. There is also a write-in option, which should prove interesting.

“Who would you like to see as the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election?” the poll asks. Find this intriguing list here: Gop.com

SOCHI’S CULTURAL MOMENT

American and Western journalists who complain about unfinished or unhygienic facilities in Sochi now have been accused of turning the Winter Olympics into the “Whining Olympics” by their press counterparts in Russia and elsewhere. “Show some respect” said one lady scribe. But the whining rolls on, with gusto.

New to Twitter: @SochiProblems, an unsavory gathering spot and compendium for all those complaints which has accrued 116,000 followers in a matter of hours. The vexed and/or amused horde of journalists continue to chart their woes — from oddly configured toilets to public signs that say, “liver pancakes” and “elevator is the equipment of increased danger.”

And as the organizers of @SochiProblems advise, “Welcome to Soch-e-e-e-e!”

OBAMACARE MYSTERY CONTINUES

Well, so much for the taxpayer-funded, $684 million public relations outreach for the one, the only Affordable Care Act, also known by its stage name of Obamacare.

“Americans’ familiarity with the Affordable Care Act has remained static since last August, even after new provisions of the law have taken effect and the Obama administration has tried to promote understanding of it,” reports Gallup analyst Andrew Dugan, who says that one-third of the public — 32 percent — still does not get Obamacare.

It has lingered at this level for six months, despite often raucous attempts to publicize the health care law, including female models parading through the streets wearing nothing but underwear marked “are you covered?”

Yeah, well. There were website glitches, the famous “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” the individual mandate. “The health care law has been the center of attention for some time,” Mr. Dugan says.

“But this has not translated into more Americans saying they are familiar with the ACA. This watershed legislation that will change the face of the U.S. health care system, for better or worse, remains somewhat of a mystery for a significant portion of the nation,” he adds.

A TRUE TARGET AUDIENCE

This represents a slow and steady shift in the media tastes of the nation. American Rifleman, a publication of the National Rifle Association, has knocked Maxim — an edgy young male lifestyle monthly — right off the top-25 list of the most popular magazines in the U.S. “Maxim is out, a gun magazine is in,” noted Ad Age in an analysis.

Indeed, American Rifleman enjoyed a 29.3 percent circulation increase last year, says the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks the details. Translation: American Rifleman is now included on the coveted roster of the most-read magazines.

It’s all due to “the Obama effect,” says Emily Miller, senior opinion writer at The Washington Times, author of the telling book “Emily Gets Her Gun,” and a kind Friend-of-Beltway.

President Obama’s second term effort to get Americans to hate guns has backfired. Not only did firearm sales in 2013 blow out all records, interest in learning more about Second Amendment issues has risen dramatically,” Miss Miller says. “We are a nation built on the belief that an armed citizenry prevents a tyrannical government. So the new NRA members and readers of ‘American Rifleman’ are telling Mr. Obama that they will not be disarmed.”

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: George Washington Lodge No. 23, located in Pembroke, Maine. Built in 1890 for the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows; 3,600 square feet, two-stories, featuring “striking” and intricate original woodwork, mural, many original furnishings, grand staircase, spacious layout. Offered at $79,900 by the Maine Preservation Society (Mainepreservation.org).

FOX NEWS: HELLO MR. CARVILLE

Speaking of big tent thinking, the Fox News Channel has hired longtime, outspoken somewhat notorious Democratic strategist James Carville as a contributor, as of Thursday.

“James’ successful and storied career in politics over several decades is an enormous asset to Fox News. We are privileged to have him lend his breadth of experience, wit and dynamic perspective on the network,” says Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for the network.

He notes that Mr. Carville — spouse of the ever-ebullient Republican strategist and commentator Mary Matalin — will appear on a cross section of Fox programming. Mr. Carville ended his 10-year association with CNN last year.

POLL DU JOUR

53 percent of Russians say their nation did “the right thing” bidding for the Winter Olympics.

47 percent say they blame “corruption” for cost overruns that placed the final cost of the games at $50 billion.

38 percent say the Winter Olympics were a good way for Russian officials to take funds from the games budget.

34 percent blamed the $50 billion cost on “greedy contractors,” 19 percent blamed “poor government oversight”.

29 percent said President Obama and other Western leaders would not attend opening ceremonies because of “dislike of Russian leadership.”

23 percent say the games would help bring their nation together.

17 percent said the games would boost the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

15 percent said the games would help revamp the host city of Sochi and increase tourism.

Source: A Levada-Center poll of 1,603 Russian adults conducted Jan. 24-27 and released Wednesday.

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