GOP Megadonor to Cities: Drop Dead

Foster Friess doesn’t think much of urban voters and wants to protect gays from sharia law

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Wealthy conservative businessman Foster Friess says he wants to find--and fund--the conservative version of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama.

Votes from "center cities" should be discounted when considering who won a mandate in last November's elections, according to GOP megadonor Foster Friess. Apparently urban votes are insufficiently in tune with the pro free market movement which is sweeping the country and, in his view, handed the GOP a mandate in the 2012 elections … even though they took national losses across the board.

These were two of the takeaways this morning from a wide-ranging and occasionally bizarre press breakfast with Friess, the wealthy Wyoming investor who gained widespread attention last year for keeping former senator Rick Santorum's presidential bid alive last spring.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Friess argued that the GOP should not be on the defensive right now because "the American people gave the Republicans a mandate in this last election." That mandate, he said, came in the form of a net gain of three state legislatures, bringing to 17 the total which have switched from Democratic to Republican hands since 2010. That mandate "got masked by the fact that on the presidential level, the capability and the competence and the power of the Democratic organization Obama put together overshadowed that."

Or to put it another way, the GOP mandate got overshadowed by the fact that nationally Democrats were able to get more people to vote for them.

[ Robert Schlesinger: The Final 2012 Presidential Election Results Aren’t Close]

Here's a reality check: Obama won re-election by four percentage points; Democrats picked up seats in the House and Senate; and Democratic House candidates got one million more votes than GOP House candidates nationwide. In terms of sheer numbers, Obama won by five million votes. But Friess dismissed that margin, arguing that a 350,000 vote flip across four states (which he couldn't name) would have given Romney the election.

To me, 350,000 votes is not a huge mandate, even though the total numbers, which take into account a lot of those center cities, went for Obama.

When I asked him if he was saying that votes from "center cities" should be discounted, his answer, in full, was: "Yes."

I asked him why. His response:

Because of the movement across the country in the state legislatures. Right now the Republicans have their tails between their legs. What I'm trying to say—there's no reason for them to have their tails between their legs because the American people on balance, I believe, want free markets. They do not want to have a system where there's more people riding the wagon than pulling the wagon. I believe the majority of the American people want to be wagon-pullers.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

He went on to say that the problem is a lack of entrepreneurship in "these center cities."

The notion that urban votes should somehow be discounted has been around since immediately after the election when Rep. Paul Ryan laid Romney's loss at the feet of "urban voters." To hear it put so bluntly and unequivocally is still fairly breathtaking: The national popular vote doesn't count because it takes into account city voters.

This is also the motivation behind the indefensible and undemocratic (not simply un-Democratic) GOP schemes to allot electoral votes by congressional district instead of according to the popular vote in each state. Virginia state Sen. Charles Carrico, Sr., who is behind the vote-rigging push, told the Washington Post that in the last election his constituents "were concerned that it didn't matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them." Well yes, that's how they system works: If you get more people to vote for you, you win.

[ Photos: President Barack Obama's Second Inauguration]

Friess, who has a history of saying impolitic things to the press—recall the firestorm when he dismissed women's concerns about access to contraception with a fond recollection of the old days when contraception consisted of women holding aspirin between their knees—issued a few other gems this morning.

  • Asked about whether the Republican Party needs to adjust its position on gay marriage, he proclaimed strong desire to protect homosexuals … from sharia law. "The greatest thing that I want to do ... is we have to protect the gay community in our country from sharia law," he said, noting that homosexuality is illegal in Iran. "What I am committed to do is making sure that my friends that I love in the gay community, that I do everything I can to protect them from the advent of sharia law. And that's going to be a challenge. That's going to be a challenge for all of us."
  • He insisted that his super PAC's keeping Rick Santorum's campaign going in the GOP primaries when it didn't have enough money to run ads itself "help Mitt Romney. I think we helped define him and I think the Rick Santorum ingredient I think caused Mr. Romney, Mitt Romney to understand some of these visions that Rick articulated that really caught fire." This despite the feeling by most Republican strategists, and by Romney staffers, that the prolonged primary process forced Romney to spend all of his money, crippling him at a time when the Obama campaign spent tens of millions of dollars running ads painting him as a far right corporate vulture.
  • He said that Democrats "seduced" women into believing that the GOP was waging a war on women. Perhaps not the most politic choice of words, but that wouldn't be in keeping with Friess's political style.
  • See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.
  • Washington Whispers: Foster Friess: 'I Hope Obama's Teleprompters Are Bulletproof'
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