Republican Midterms Mastermind Tells All!
The New York Times
Frank Bruni
May 9, 2018

Frank Bruni, a Times Op-Ed columnist, hosted an online conversation on Wednesday morning with Corry Bliss, the young Republican strategist at the very heart of the party’s effort to hold on to its congressional majority in November. Bliss serves as the executive director of the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a potent super PAC that raises money for, and directs it to, high-priority House races nationwide. Bliss, 37, managed four Republican Senate campaigns between 2012 and 2016, including Rob Portman’s 21-point victory in Ohio over Ted Strickland, the state’s former governor. Bliss and Bruni talked about what Republicans should fear in November, and what they can reasonably hope for.

Bliss: Of course the Democrats have more energy than Republicans right now. But will that be a good thing? History and every pundit on the planet says we’re going to lose the House! This was always going to be a tough environment, we’ve always known that, and that’s why we’ve been knocking on doors since February 2017. Take what I’m about to say with a giant grain of salt, but if the election were today, we would keep the House.

Bliss: One thing to remember — unless there is a new party created in this country between now and November, the election is going to be close. What is today’s Democratic Party? It is a party that talks nonstop about Russia. It is a party that says please vote for me so I can raise your taxes. It’s a party that wants America’s most unpopular, polarizing politician (Nancy Pelosi!) to be in charge of all of this. And let’s not forget about the crowded, nasty, divisive primaries going on around the country that are going to produce nominees who are to the left of Bernie Sanders and want to do nothing but impeach the president.

Bruni: O.K., Democratic primaries, since you’re so eager. Is the party graduating the right candidates from primaries so far? Many primaries are obviously yet to come. Is the Democratic Party, in general, being romantic or wise, in your humble (and heavily invested) opinion?

Bliss: In many of the top races around the country, Democrats have four, five or six candidates running. The energy is with the Sanders wing of the party, not the Clinton wing. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has no idea how to harness all of the Democratic energy. They tried to eliminate progressive champion Laura Moser in Texas’ Seventh District (who I think would be a great nominee), and the only thing they did was guarantee her a spot in the runoff and raise her a bunch of money.

In New York’s 19th District, your favorite race, the D.C.C.C. is trying to shove Pat Ryan down the throats of activists in the district and it is proving to be a very tough sell. If the Democrats nominate Bernie-lite candidates who want to do nothing but impeach the president, they’re not going to win in November.

Bruni: They’re not going to win — why? I’m not doubting you, I just want to hear the thinking. Too much impeachment talk turns off voters why? I happen to agree with you, but I’d like to hear you explain it in terms of the moment, the electorate, the political temperature, etc.

Bliss: …

While they are talking about issues that don’t impact voters, the Congressional Leadership Fund is spending our time in the field across the country talking about important issues that impact voters’ lives.

Bliss: … But the way to win in this environment — the way to break through the cynical electorate — is to convince voters that you 1) care about them, and 2) are achieving results on the issues they care about. That is what the C.L.F. national field program has been doing since February 2017…

Bruni: You’ve mentioned a Republican advantage in making constructive change in voters’ lives. You’ve mentioned showing voters you care. You’ve mentioned achieving results. I’m guessing that with all of these you’re talking about … that tax cut. What else has happened since Trump’s election that you think is so going to impress voters? And can you be so confident about their reaction to the tax overhaul when polling doesn’t show that kind of broad, deep enthusiasm?

Bliss: We have the best economy we’ve had in 20 years. The average middle-class family of four is going to get an extra $2,000 back. The world is a much safer place since Donald Trump became president.

An example of how to win a race is what the Congressional Leadership Fund is doing Nebraska’s Second District. We’ve identified around 40,000 voters who say their biggest priority is protecting the local Air Force base. Through our field program, we’re focused on ensuring that voters know that Don Bacon (who used to run the base) is working hard to protect the base and their community each and every day. To date, C.L.F. has opened 31 offices across the country and contacted over nine million voters. In each district, we focus on local issues — and our field program will make a big difference in November.