Keith Plunkett


PLUNKETT: A top-tier presidential candidate is coming to the state. Where’s the Mississippi Republican Party?

Mississippi State GOP chairman Joe Nosef explains to reporters the purpose of the executive committee meeting to deal with Republican runoff results at the Mississippi Republican Party headquarters in downtown Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State GOP chairman Joe Nosef explains to reporters the purpose of the executive committee meeting to deal with Republican runoff results at the Mississippi Republican Party headquarters in downtown Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Rogelio V. Solis)

Maybe you’ve heard.

There is a major GOP presidential candidate coming to the state of Mississippi on Tuesday. But if you are aware, you didn’t get that information from the Mississippi Republican Party.

Ted Cruz, a favorite among conservatives, has been drawing huge crowds on his “SEC Bus Tour” since the first GOP debate on Thursday night. Just yesterday in Alabama, 1400 people swarmed an event that was initially expecting 400 to attend, forcing the entire affair outside.

Cruz has surged in the post-debate polls conducted over the weekend, and is now solidly in the top tier of candidates.

The events in Mississippi, one in Tupelo and the other in Olive Branch, have been broadcast across media outlets for weeks. Yet, the Mississippi Republican Party is quiet. The last communications via the parties social media page promoted Chairman Joe Nosef’s appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ and the news that the debate on Thursday was the highest-rated primary debate in history.

Back in December of 2014 the party hosted presidential hopeful Rand Paul with the theme that the state GOP was “reuniting” following the bruising Senate campaign between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel. They welcomed John McCain with open arms in June of 2014 as he campaigned for Cochran. They celebrated a visit by Jeb Bush to the state just a few months ago.

Where is the party support for Cruz?

Does this sound like a party that has “reunited”? Does is sound like a state party that truly cares about “reuniting”? Or does it sound like more of the same picking and choosing political favorites?

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

ICYMI: #ANMNewsBigHits for 10/23

Here’s the Big Hits from the past 7 days.

  1. Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller voted to allow secret abortions in teen girls. Back in 2011 in a “sealed” vote, Keller voted in favor of allowing teenage girls to travel out of state to have abortions in Kentucky without parental consent.

  2. Proof An Arab Palestine Has Never Existed. An archaeological find substantiates the timeline of Israel being raided by Rome and puts in serious doubt any claims of a Arab Palestine before 1948.

  3. Kentucky Conservatives have BVS. You can tell who the Kentucky Conservative voters are this year by their ten mile stare and their bent over posture. They’re suffering from BVS or “Battered Voter Syndrome” and they may need a 12 step program to break free of it.

  4. Cybersecurity Threat: Is your flashlight app spying on you? We all know about flashlights on our smartphones and most people are probably using them on a daily basis, but did you know that they could be spying on you? Most of the top downloaded flashlight apps are now part of a privacy breach according to cybersecurity expert Gary Miliefsky of Snoopwall.

  5. Stephen Hawking Scientific Boycott Of Israel Comes Back To Haunt Him In The Form Of Possible ALS Cure. Stephen Hawking, one of the most virulent anti-Israel theoreticians has ALS. He is a known advocate for boycotting everything Israel. And now, Israel just may have found the cure for this horrific disease.

These are the top 5 hits for the past 7 days on this October 23. Have one you want to comment about? Drop me a line on Twitter @Keithplunkett and by using #ANMNewsBigHits


Obama appointment of Klain as Ebola czar shows he’s putting politics above public safety.

President Obama has chosen Ron Klain, former chief of staff for two Democratic vice presidents, as his Ebola czar, the White House said Friday.

“The president has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response,” said a White House official. “He will report directly to the president’s homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and the president’s national security adviser Susan Rice as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa.”

The Washington Examiner reports that the appointment comes after days of Obama resisting the idea, but the political heat became too unbearable.

In choosing Klain, Obama is selecting a D.C. insider and veteran of numerous political battles to spearhead a campaign with major implications on his own legacy and how Democrats fare in the November midterms.

Klain served as chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden.

He is now the president of Case Holdings and general counsel of Revolution LLC.

There is no indication from his biographical information that Klain has any experience in dealing with disease control or healthcare.

Game Changer in Mississippi? Childers becomes first Democrat to sign anti-amnesty pledge.

Breitbart reports: Mississippi Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Travis Childers today became the first Democrat to sign an anti-amnesty pledge from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a unexpected and extraordinary play that could significantly change the dynamics of his campaign against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Childers, a former Congressman, signed the pledge Thursday that was seized on by Cochran’s Republican primary challenger, state senator Chris McDaniels, to draw a contrast with Cochran on the issue of immigration. The pledge includes language about amnesty but is also against increases in legal immigration.

The primary race, one of the most bitterly fought contests in recent memory, has left deep wounds in Mississippi, and some conservative activists said Childers’ choice to sign the pledge could sway them to vote for the Democratic candidate.

“It looks to me like Mississippi voters have a choice,” Kevin Broughton, a Mississippian and spokesman for a national grassroots conservative organization, told Breitbart News. “One candidate is on the record opposing amnesty for illegal aliens; has never voted ‘no’ on building a fence on the Southern border; and has never, to my knowledge, played the race card against conservatives. The other is Thad Cochran.”

Cochran won the primary after his allies used polarizing racial appeals to Democratic voters to sway them to vote in the GOP primary. Without Democratic votes, experts have said, Cochran would have lost the race.

Republicans dealt a blow in Kansas with court ruling, Roberts down by 5.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that a three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race.

The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman’s campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and will deal a big blow to establishment Republicans hoping to protect him.

Chad Taylor, the Democrat nominated for the seat in August, dropped from the race Sept. 3. The Kansas Supreme Court later ruled the withdrawal followed state rules.

But David Orel of Kansas City, Kan., then sued the state’s Democrats, arguing Kansas law required the party to nominate a replacement for the ballot.

It is unclear whether Orel will appeal the ruling.

A Suffolk University poll released just hours ago shows Orman leading Roberts 46 percent to 41 percent among likely voters with no Democrat in the race. The poll showed 11 percent undecided with 5-weeks left in the race.


ICYMI: #ANMNewsBigHits from 9/30

Hey folks!

We had a fast paced day yesterday at There was a school shooting in Louisville, Kentucky; an FCC ruling on a 40-year old blackout rule that puts the NFL in a bind; and a major ruling from a Federal Court in Oklahoma that puts states in the drivers seat over ObamaCare tax subsidies. And these weren’t even the biggest hits of the day!

Here’s the top 5 from Tuesday, September 30:

  1. Hey Republicans, Read This-A Millennial Wrote It. JD Winteregg doesn’t mince words in explaining that its about time the older generation of politicos make room for young people who want to fight for their future. JD put his ‘money where his mouth is’ when he ran against House Speaker John Boehner in his home state of Ohio recently. (And had one of the best ads of the election cycle, I might ad.)

  2. It’s Time to Throw a Block for Clint Didier. Christy Waters has the story of former Redskin tight-end Clint Didier, now running for Congress in his home state of Washington. Didier is facing a moderate Republican primary opponent expected to be backed by powerful establishment money. Sound familiar? By the way, I still have my satin Redskins jacket from the late 80’s when Didier was catching touchdown passes and winning Superbowl’s, and no, it no longer fits.

  3. The Journey of Dylan Jenks. J’s story on life, loss and family from last week continues to make waves. Read this and prepare to come away with a better perspective about what’s truly important.

  4. Horizon Media Marketing Partners With American New Media to Form ANM News. The announcement that J Craig and I won’t be sleeping much in the foreseeable future.

  5. Top 10 Toss-Up Senate Races of 2014. Jared Day breaks down the top toss up races for U.S. Senate that could reshape Congress.

These are the top 5 hits from September 30. Have one you want to comment about? Drop me a line on Twitter @Keithplunkett and by using #ANMNewsBigHits


Federal judge in Oklahoma rules no tax subsidies without a state run exchange.

A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled against the Obama Administration in a case challenging the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services decision to extend tax subsidies to states without a state health insurance exchange.

The decision comes on the heels of several other rulings, including the opinion of the D.C. Circuit in Halbig v. Sebelius.

Much of the discussion in political and legal circles have centered on the phrase in the ACA legislation that requires the taxes to be levied to pay for subsidies on exchanges “established by the State”. ObamaCare supporters have argued that the intent of the legislation should override the actual language, while detractors have said the legislation prohibits federal rules from extending the tax subsidies to states unless the state has set up an insurance exchange.

This ruling agrees that the federal government may not extend tax subsidies in a federally administered exchange and must only do so through the state.

The case, Pruitt v. Burwell, was decided by District Judge Ronald A. White of the Eastern District of Oklahoma. White’s ruling had strong words for other courts that “rewrite legislative compromises”.

The ruling stated:

Of course, a proper legal decision is not a matter of the court “helping” one side or the other. A lawsuit challenging a federal regulation is a commonplace occurrence in this country, not an affront to judicial dignity. A higher-profile case results in greater scrutiny of the decision, which is understandable and appropriate. “[H]igh as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still. . . This limited role serves democratic interests by ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed life-tenured judges.”

This is a case of statutory interpretation. “The text is what it is, no matter which side benefits.” Such a case (even if affirmed on the inevitable appeal) does not “gut” or “destroy” anything. On the contrary, the court is upholding the Act as written. Congress is free to amend the ACA to provide for tax credits in both state and federal exchanges, if that is the legislative will. As the Act presently stands, “vague notions of a statute’s ‘basic purpose’ are nonetheless inadequate to overcome the words of its text regarding the specific issue under consideration.” It is a “core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.” “But in the last analysis, these always-fascinating policy discussions are beside the point. The role of this Court is to apply the statute as it is written – even if we think some other approach might ‘accor[d] with good policy.’”

ANM News will have more reaction to the ruling throughout the week.

FCC rules no more NFL blackouts

The NFL can’t seem to catch a break these days.

The Federal Communications Commission did away with the sports blackout rule Tuesday. That means cable and satellite TV providers can begin airing games regardless of how many tickets have been sold. The NFL says the blackout rule is necessary to ensure attendance at games remains high.

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the commission eliminated the regulation that was implemented in 1975. Regulators and many lawmakers say it unfairly punishes football fans.

“It’s a simple fact, the federal government should not be party to sports teams keeping their fans from viewing the games — period,” Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “For 40 years these teams have hidden behind a rule of the FCC. No more. Everyone needs to be aware of who allows blackouts to exist, and it is not the Federal Communications Commission.”

With the NFL’s highly publicized problems with domestic violence among some of its star players, and a renewed focus on the leagues tax status and anti-trust exemption, the FCC ruling is the equivalent of a sack that sets up a 4th and long. But if the NFL’s statement immediately following the ruling is any indication, the league intends to stay on offense.

“NFL teams have made significant efforts in recent years to minimize blackouts,” the NFL responded in a statement Tuesday. “The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. The FCC’s decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future.”

Will we miss our opportunity to show Conservatism in practice?

An article out this week by Tim Carney references a Mississippi success story in how one woman overcame protectionist government regulations here to inspire a new industry. The story is about Melanie Armstrong from Tupelo, Mississippi and Conservatives should take notice.

Carney writes:

If you peer even further into the interesting nooks of the non-corporate economy, you see people engaging in business who probably wouldn’t even call themselves self-employed. The stay-at-home mom who runs a small day care out of her home — really babysitting three kids — may not think of herself as a businesswoman, but rather a mom who hustles to make ends meet. Same with the hobby photographer who shoots weddings to fill the family’s vacation fund. Or the single mom on welfare who paints postcards to calm her nerves, and then sells them.

These people might not fit your definition of entrepreneurs, and they’re not the standard image of small businesspeople. And again, they may not even think of themselves as “self-employed.”

But these are people trying to improve their own lot, or their own family’s lot through independent hard work. Conservatives concerned with helping people ought to think about these people more.

I thought of all of these matters because of this infuriating story by Melanie Armstrong, who took up African hair-braiding, only to run into insane regulations that politicians claim are for consumer-protection, but are instead for protecting incumbent businesses.

Mississippi finally changed the law to allow hair-braiding without the insane regulations. Armstrong overcame them and expanded, like a true entrepreneur. It’s an awesome American dream capitalism story. But we shouldn’t stop at thinking about her. This was the part that struck me:

Since 2005, I have trained more than 125 women who have gone on to earn a living as natural hair braiders. In addition, my shop in Tupelo has provided jobs for 25 women, affording them the dignity and pride of a regular paycheck.

Most of those 125 women she has trained won’t become hair-braiding moguls. Many will be content to braid on their own back deck, never getting a storefront. They won’t be job creators. But there are many more of them than there are Melanie Armstrongs.

These are the stories of survival and community we should be striving to tell. This is how putting people first and inspiring them to fight for their dreams to create their own opportunities works. This is what reducing big government in favor of people does.

Kevin Williamson probably describes the progressive’s failures best:

“Progressives spent a generation imposing taxes and other expenses on urban populations as though the taxpaying middle class would not relocate. They protected the defective cartel system of public education, and the union money and votes associated with it, as though middle-class parents would not move to places that had better schools. They imposed burdens on businesses, in exchange for more union money and votes, as though businesses would not shift production elsewhere. They imposed policies that disincentivized stable family arrangements as though doing so would have no social cost.

And they did so while adhering to a political philosophy that holds that the state, not the family or the market, is the central actor in our lives, that the interests of private parties — be they taxpayers or businesses — can and indeed must be subordinated to the state’s interests, as though individuals and families were nothing more than gears in the great machine of politics.”

Melanie’s story is one of thousands around us that show that Conservatism in practice is the solution to the failures of progressive policies. Reality over rhetoric is what relates these facts better than any political game.

Watch a video about Melanie’s story.

Congress still flirting with taxing the Internet

Senators look to lame-duck session to pass Internet sales tax bill

Top Senate lawmakers think they have found a way to allow states and local governments to tax Internet purchases: Link online sales taxes to separate legislation prohibiting Internet access taxes and pass it in the post-election “lame duck” session of Congress.

The moratorium on access taxes runs out Dec. 11. A bill by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., titled the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act, would extend the moratorium for a decade while allowing states to require online merchants to charge sales taxes.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the number-two ranking Democrat, is a co-sponsor. The backers are hoping that access taxes — which would slap levies on customers for their Comcast or Verizon Internet accounts — will be the more unpopular of the two provisions and that Congress will accept the sales taxes to get rid of them.

“Both … have been debated at length and discussed in numerous committee hearings. Neither are new issues and Senator Enzi believes both should be signed into law this year,” said Enzi spokesman Daniel Head.

Head said the legislation had a strong chance to be voted on in December, which lobbyists on both sides expect as well. A Senate Democratic leadership source said they were “keeping their options open.”

Mississippi Personnel Board Director denies allegations that Gov. Bryant influenced rejection of #CommonCore testing contract.

ANM News partner is reporting that Mississippi State Personnel Board Director Deanne Mosley issued a statement Friday night regarding the rejection of a four-year contract for Common Core testing denying allegations that Gov. Phil Bryant influenced the decision.

“It is unfortunate that there have been allegations that politics entered into the decision or that Governor Phil Bryant directed me, as Chair of the Personal Service Contract Review Board, to deny Superintendent Wright’s request to approve the contract,” Mosley said in the statement. “Those allegations are not true. No one had to influence me to follow the law and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent properly and legally.”

The state Board of Education was forced to approve an emergency contract Thursday following the Personnel Board’s rejection of the original four-year contract. That means Mississippi’s public school students will take multistate tests this year to evaluate student mastery of the Common Core state standards.

The board approved the $8.3 million emergency contract with a unit of Pearson PLC in a closed session.

The Personnel Board ruled that the Department of Education should have solicited proposals from other vendors. The Department of Education withdrew the contract early Friday.

Governor Phil Bryant was in Japan this week for an economic development conference.

Mississippi will have to sign a new contract after this year, opening the possibility that students will take whole new sets of tests two years in a row. Mississippi can’t return to the prior exams administered last year, also written by Pearson, because tests are supposed to align with standards.

Some local school superintendents want Mississippi to adopt tests written by the ACT organization. Opponents of Common Core want Mississippi to drop both PARCC and the standards.

Reality over rhetoric is a winning message.

John Hart of has an excellent commentary out this week about why Republicans should be talking about solutions. When I first read it I felt like I had heard a faint echo in the wilderness. I’ve been talking and writing about the need for this type of politics for a long time. Unfortunately, while there has been some agreement, there has been no real action by our political leaders.

Our dialogue here in Mississippi, as in much of the country, continues to be more about rhetoric than reality. I have suggested that a change in the dialogue would do more to solidify a place for the thousands of newly engaged Conservatives than anything else we can do. That led to me being personally attacked online by an anonymous assailant who, obviously, is against changing the dialogue.

I suppose if you’ve got nothing else . . .

We obviously have a long way to go. But just like the song goes, we also have a short time to get there (for those under the age of 40 that’s a Smokey and the Bandit reference. Look it up and enjoy). Demographic data clearly points to the fact that the audience is changing, and the first rule of any good communication is to know your audience.

Hart offers 5 reasons in explaining why Republicans should run on solutions and a positive agenda. It is also applicable to Conservatives, whether my detractors like it or not.

1. Offering solutions is a better political strategy.

Hart writes that the deadly rationalization in todays politics is that in order to “do good things” one first has to win. He writes that this leads candidates to refuse to put forward “bold and risky solutions that can be attacked” during a campaign.

This is very well illustrated by the slow unraveling of the connection between social and fiscal conservatism by the consulting class that have controlled the Republican Party for the past nearly twenty years. Rather than grasp the message and educate the public of how social conservatism is necessary in a free society, GOP leaders chose to downplay social conservatism completely. We see the results of that reflected in our culture today.

When the voices of those Republicans who believed in the importance of character, integrity, family and Faith were quashed, there was no longer a platform to spark discussion.

Fast forward to today and the nation has more people on some form of government welfare than people who are working. We spend more on poverty programs than ever, yet the poverty rate is unchanged. We have a larger number of young people putting off marriage and starting a family. We have a growing chasm between the political class and the working class that is not only economic but also cultural. The economic problems we face today are a direct result of moving away from talking about social conservatism and traditional values that drive work ethic and character.

The perfect political moment never arrives to “do good things”. There is always another election to be worried about. So refusing to discuss solutions for fear of losing only means we never get to the solutions, just the next election.

The restaurant analogy is spot on. Normal people don’t go to a restaurant to read a menu. They go for a meal. Political movements are the same. Voters don’t want opinions; they want answers and specifics.

It’s about choices, so we need to be about creating them.

2. You’ll be defined on your terms rather than someone else’s.

As Hart puts it in his article:

“If you are not defining what you are for, the other side will do that for you. Leaving a blank slate is dangerous. Write your own narrative in the language of specifics.”

This may be the most important for us right now in Mississippi. Back in 2012 I began putting together plans for a group called Generation Mississippi. The idea is simple. We have to start presenting solutions to the audience that will be the next generation of voters. It has garnered a little more interest of late for obvious reasons.

In both Mississippi and the nation the conservative message is not connecting with minorities or young voters. In most cases this is not because of a lack of agreement, but rather a lack of communication. Conservative ideas need not change. The way we communicate and engage about those ideas does. We tend to dismiss those who disagree rather than engaging in the discussion. In order to see a move towards a Constitutionally sound conservatism this lack of engagement must end.

Assuming population growth remains the same in our state, in less than 10 years the non-white to white population will be 50-50. That’s only 2 or 3 election cycles aways. I’m no mathematician, but that sounds like we ought to be getting to work.

With all the gnashing of teeth over the race-baiting ads used in the U.S. Senate race, I’ve yet to hear too many people look past their anger to ask a simple question: “Why do you suppose that worked so well?”

My answer: It’s because Conservatives gave up on communicating solutions with minority groups. We did them a disservice by not offering them solid solutions, they did us one back by being easily manipulated to think conservatism is about hurting minorities and minority communities.

Conservative policies will work for minorities. They work for those who want a good education and a good job. They work for those who want to see their communities prosper. They work for those who recognize there are moral issues society should address. All of these opportunities to communicate exist in minority communities in Mississippi, and beyond, and we should be discussing them in a positive way. We should be defining conservatism as a solution so the shysters don’t get to come in, as they did here in Mississippi, and define it for us.

3. You’ll have a mandate.

Politicians and candidates that talk about generic ideas and refuse to discuss solid solutions inspire a generic following and and audience that is easily distracted by slick advertising and branding. Governance is about solutions. It’s about a system that allows people to work for their dreams and to produce something of value to the community. If people can’t make the connection between a candidate’s message and how that would solve problems and allow opportunity then support is at best blind allegiance, an army without a cause. Don’t tell me what you’re against. Tell me what you are for.

Any politician who wants to be a leader has to lead. That means providing the army of followers with a mission, and it means if one finds themselves elected to office they will have, as Hart puts it, “an army at their back.” This means getting things done. Isn’t that the point?

Messaging today is not linear. It spreads like a fire, capturing the tender around it that is ready to burn and occasionally throwing off a spark that starts a whole new blaze. A solid message built on solutions and substance is the match that ignites the flame.

4. It’s your job.

Most of us who are politically active weren’t drawn into it for the pay and benefits. I understand that some lobbyists campaign for clients and get paid big bucks because of the legislation they get pushed through. But for the most part these are the guys that are just throwing money at candidates. Those of us grunts who work on campaigns will be the first to tell you we aren’t getting rich. We do this because we believe in what we do and why we do it.

Thanks to social media, K-Street has taken a big hit. People and conversations are much more important now than back room deals. The ability of people to pull together an army of outrage over an issue can happen in hours.

But, with that comes some responsibility. Conservatives need to be careful to educate themselves and not to jump on just any bandwagon. We must demand a candidate explain what he or she will do specifically.

The way to remind those who want to run for public office that this is more than a beauty contest is to already be talking about the issues, the problems, the solutions and the specifics. The message should be clear: “We don’t need a savior, we need a representative. This is what we believe. If you believe this too we may consider voting for you. But, get over the self-importance right now and realize, if you win, we expect you to do your job.”

In other words, don’t just say you work for us. Do it.

5. The country needs solutions.

For some, it is apparent that politics is a game, campaigns are something we put into a win/loss column. But for people now struggling with putting food on the table for their kids this is more than a sporting event, its about survival.

Drive through a small town in the Mississippi Delta and tell me the people there care one whit about who won the last election. Join me for coffee at my local diner one morning and see how the working class men who start their day there talk about politicians and government. There is a reason the approval rating of elected officials remains consistently in the cellar and why so few people even bother to vote anymore.

Give me liberty? You bet. But give me a reason to want it and believe in it, and you have a winning message.