Renowned Republican Political Consultant Ward Baker on U.S. House and Senate Races: ‘Do Not Confuse Motion with Progress’

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed renowned Republican political consultant Ward Baker in the studio to give his take on the U.S. House and Senate races.

Leahy: We are joined by a very, very special guest in the studio right now. (Darth Vader theme plays) It’s our good friend Ward Baker, the renowned and feared political consultant on the Republican side. Good morning, Ward Baker.

Baker: Good morning, Michael. What an honor it is to be here. And it’s harder to get on this show than to get into Harvard. The budding business soon will be publicly traded in a SPAC, I’m sure. (Laughter)

Leahy: Ward, have you done a lot of radio in the past?

Baker: I haven’t. I’ve sat in.

Leahy: You’ve sat in? You lurk in the back.

Baker: Sure. That’s not my play. But you asked, and so I said, well …

Leahy: I thought it would be fun because you have a reputation for being highly effective in Republican politics. People fear you because they know you’re successful, but they also want you to work with them because they know you’re successful. Now, a lot of folks know about your background. You’ve worked closely with Mitch McConnell in the past.

Baker: Yes.

Leahy: And I think our listeners know that Mitch McConnell has some good qualities. He’s particularly good in terms of understanding how the Senate works, but also probably not my favorite guy, at least ideologically. But you’ve been very effective working for him.

Baker: Leader McConnell has been a great leader. I am – as you know, one of the biggest issues, as we’ve talked about 10 years ago, 12 years ago, is the judicial process … . And that is something that he’s been focused on for 30 years.

And it was an honor to be a part of that, to take the majority in 14 to make sure we keep it at 16. As we spoke about in 16, I thought the Garland thing was going to be one of the most important things.

Leahy: And let me just stop for a moment. I say this often. Thank God for Mitch McConnell stopping Merrick Garland from getting on the Supreme Court.

Baker: Well, that wasn’t easy at the time. If you go back and look, at the end of the day, you have to do tough things. And so I felt like he executed that.

Leahy: Aaron Gulbransen, what would the Supreme Court be like if Merrick Garland, instead of Neil Gorsuch, had been on the Supreme Court?

Gulbransen: I could say this both from a personal capacity and a professional capacity, that Roe v. Wade would be law of the land today.

Leahy: Still. And he’s shown himself to be perhaps the worst attorney general in modern American history, from what I can tell, Merrick Garland.

Baker: Sure. Correct. And look, at the end of the day, in Senate races, serious things happen. You’re talking about the Supreme Court, pointing and molding what we’re doing.

And so those are huge issues. Garland is an embarrassment and I believe he will have a lot more issues out of his hands here very soon once we take the majority.

Leahy: Let’s talk about the Senate right now. RealClearPolitics has the Senate at 50-50. With the vice president from Craig Huey’s former State, California, Kamala Harris.

Huey: Oh, yeah.

Leahy: The tie-breaking vote. So it’s a Democrat majority. Right now, I’m looking at RealClearPolitics and they project a three-state pickup. They are projecting pickups in Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia. For the Republicans, they’re projecting 53-47. What do you think right now, one week out from the election? What does the Senate look like to you?

Baker: I think there’s something that, you have to look back and not just look at the polls. I think that’s not the best thing to do. I think the thing to look at is, let’s go back and look in history. In 1994, the generic ballot was two.

Leahy: Plus-two GMP.

Baker: In 2010, the generic ballot was three. This morning it’s three. Yesterday, I think it was 2.9. And so in 2010, we won 63 seats.

Leahy: In the House. Yes, I remember that. We called it the Tea Party.

Baker: That’s right. But here’s something else that you need to look at. Obama was a minus-12 on the economy in 2010. Clinton was a minus-10 on the economy in 1994. Right now, Biden on average is a minus-19 on the economy.

Leahy: He’s doing that well? Because I thought it was worse.

Baker: Nineteen. So he’s doing worse than everyone else. But here’s something else that they have, is crime is a huge issue in some of these places. In Seattle, Portland, and Detroit, it’s the number one voter issue in those media markets.

And with the economy being so big, it’s just a huge driver. And at the end of the day, if you’re being outspent, it doesn’t matter as much as long as you have a basic message and you’re able to communicate that message.

And so that’s why I believe we’re going to have a huge night for the House as we’ve talked about for a long time, and we are going to take the majority in the Senate. We’re going to, it’s just by how much.

And the problem that we’ve had in the past is in 2010, we had bad candidates that were in bad campaigns. And so you don’t get these opportunities very much.

And so if you’re going to be average, you’re going to have average results. And so you have to execute, not confuse motion with progress and make sure we do stuff. This year we don’t know.

Leahy: That’s a good phrase. Don’t confuse motion with progress.

Baker: A lot of campaigns have a lot of motion and no progress. And it’s about how hard you’re going to work. What are you going to do? Are you going to execute, put lead on the target. We can’t have witches. (Laughter) We can’t have angles.

Gulbransen: Christine O’Donnell.

Leahy: Oh, Christine O’Donnell.

Baker: And by the way, by the way, she was winning until some of those ads. And what would that have done for the Senate? Those bad campaigns in 2006 and 2004 got us Obamacare. Bad campaigns in 2008, where we squandered leads. And so we have to take advantage of this.

And then once we take the majority, we have to get some things done. And so that’s what we have to do in executing. And I believe we’ve picked the right candidates for the right states.

Leahy: And so, when we get the majority back, I saw Mitch McConnell said he’s got the votes to be re-elected the majority leader.

Baker: Yes.

Leahy: In terms of vote-counting, I will not dispute.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Ward Baker” by Baker Group Strategies. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by Martin Falbisoner. CC BY-SA 3.0.












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