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

David Winston in Roll Call: Obama, Democrats Misjudged Mandate

by Lisa Mathias

An excerpt from David’s recent Roll Call op-ed:

Clearly, the Obama administration misread voters. When they asked for change, they weren’t asking for a trilliondollar spending lurch to the left. Despite Obama’s victory, media exit polls have consistently shown that the country remained ideologically where it has been for the past 25 years: center-right.

Read the full piece here: PDF Version

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…)

GOP Mutes Rhetoric for Now

by Lisa Mathias

Steven T. Dennis and Emily Pierce write about the GOP’s effort to curb criticism on Obama and Democratic leaders in order to establish more bi-partisanship in Congress and gain more support from the President-elect. The article includes some commentary from David on what will and won’t work for GOP leaders.

Republican leaders are consciously muting their rhetoric against President-elect Barack Obama for now for fear of a public backlash as he enters the White House with sky-high approval ratings.

Even House Republicans, who have become significantly more conservative this year in makeup and in their leadership ranks, have largely held their fire at the behest of Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has personally talked warmly about Obama and privately urged other Members to temper their rhetoric. In the Senate, Republicans are temporarily opting against all-out partisan warfare as they wait to see how Democratic leaders will run the chamber in the weeks and months ahead.

In the House, Boehner and other leaders have talked behind the scenes, including at last weekend’s leadership retreat, about making a distinction between Obama and Congressional Democrats — who are much less popular than Obama and are already tightening the rights of the minority in contrast to Obama’s message of bipartisanship. (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.”