The Winston Group is a strategy and research firm dedicated to making ideas matter.

AIG Bonuses Raise Questions About Obama’s Leadership

by David Winston

Last Thursday, as the American International Group scandal exploded in Washington, Congressional Democrats and Team Obama, panicked by live cable coverage, provided one of the most surreal moments in recent political memory. It was a perfect storm of political posturing.

Obama Opens With a Very High-Stakes Game of Chess

by David Winston

Ben Franklin wisely called life “a kind of chess.”

For the past six weeks, Democrats and Republicans have been engaged in the biggest, riskiest, most costly game of political speed chess in the nation’s history.
A chess game starts with the “opening,” a series of moves that define the basic structure and direction the game is likely to take.

Sometimes chess players will begin with an unexpected opening to throw the opponent off. Then they execute a series of moves that takes the game back to a more familiar opening. That’s called transposition. (more…)

Tonight’s Address Will Be Obama’s Positioning Statement

by David Winston

Washington’s main event last week featured presidential spokesman Robert “The Enforcer” Gibbs taking on CNBC’s Rick “Tea Party” Santelli over the housing bailout package, and it wasn’t pretty. Gibbs got personal at the podium, sarcastically unloading on the former trader with undisguised disdain.

His shots may have gotten a laugh in the White House briefing room, but across America, homeowners who are “playing by the rules” and paying their mortgages on time were cheering for Santelli, who clearly struck a nerve. Round One goes to Santelli.

Democrats’ Stimulus Mired in Invalidated Ideas From the 1930s

by David Winston

Almost 40 years ago, as Apollo 13 made its way to the moon, an explosion threatened the mission and the lives of the three astronauts on board.

When the control room erupted into chaos, Flight Director Gene Kranz told his team to settle down, “Let’s work the problem, people,” he said. “Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”

Last week, Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.), the top Ways and Means Republican, posed the following question to Thomas Barthold, deputy chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, at a hearing on the Democrats’ stimulus bill.

“Can you tell me, Mr. Barthold, how many jobs will be created by this legislation?”

Barthold answered, “Well, in short, Mr. Camp, I can’t.” (more…)

Obama Better Realize That Honeymoons Do Not Last Forever

by David Winston

There is a widely told story of Nikita Khrushchev’s ousting as the first secretary of the Communist Party more than 40 years ago. As the tale goes, just before leaving office the short-tempered, shoe-pounding leader sat down and wrote two letters to his successor along with a short note of instructions.

The note supposedly said, “To my successor: When you find yourself in a hopeless situation, open the first letter and it will save you. Later, when you again find yourself in a hopeless situation, open the second letter.”

Sure enough, his replacement, Leonard Brezhnev, soon had reason to open the first letter. It said, “Blame it all on me.” That’s what the new party leader did, and it saved his job. Later, he found himself in a similarly dire situation and supposedly grasped for Khrushchev’s second letter as he desperately looked for a solution. (more…)

GOP, Rothenberg Should See Futility of Relying on Attacks

by David Winston

In his critique of my Dec. 2 column, my Roll Call colleague, Stuart Rothenberg, in essence, defended the Republican political status quo — an attack-based campaign doctrine that has failed both the party and its candidates, much to the delight of Democrats. If I were on the other side hoping for a permanent political majority, I’d encourage Republican operatives to keep doing what they’ve been doing for years, too. Clearly, the American people have moved on and want more from political leaders than negative campaigns and pork-barrel politics. To suggest, as he did, that “when your party’s reputation is in the toilet, trying to drive up your opponents’ negatives is one of the few things you can do,” is “simply wrong.” (more…)

A Modern Agenda Would Lead the GOP out of the Wilderness

by David Winston

After three weeks of explaining to disheartened Republicans exactly what happened on Nov. 4, I’m beginning to feel more like a grief counselor than a political analyst. In the days leading up to the presidential election, with poll numbers trending the wrong way, most Republicans were in a state of group denial — “This can’t be happening.”

GOP Proves You Can’t Win Without Running a Campaign on Issues

by David Winston

GOP campaign leaders and operatives once again adopted a base strategy despite the fact that neither party can win without attracting key swing voters in the middle. With party affiliation slightly shifting away from Republicans in this election, an economic meltdown and a hugely unpopular president, it was astonishing to see so many Republican political leaders and consultants cling to what had already been shown to be a self-defeating strategy. (more…)

Don’t Rush to Any Early Conclusions on Election Night

by David Winston

Four years ago, early exit poll data was leaked midday to the Drudge Report, showing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) with a huge lead in Pennsylvania — so large, in fact, that Republicans were in despair and the Kerry folks were celebrating their “victory.” The problem was the exit poll data reflected a partial sample with a significant number of interviews yet to be completed and, thus, was not yet statistically sound.

Until a full sample is completed, some of the underlying demographics may be disproportionate. So, in the interests of electoral integrity and to help avoid a similar rush to an erroneous conclusion next Tuesday, here is a short primer on how to interpret Election Day exit polls and results.

Subprime Lending Spree Is at Heart of Latest Debacle

by David Winston

“These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” (New York Times, Sept. 11, 2003)

So said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), then-ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, in response to a Bush administration proposal offered five years ago by then-Treasury Secretary John Snow to reform Fannie and Freddie. Snow’s plan would have gone a long way toward depoliticizing the two housing giants and reining in their subprime lending spree that is at the heart of today’s economic crisis. In fact, the Times called the proposal “the most significant regulatory overhaul … since the savings and loan crisis.” (more…)

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