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 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


Horizon Media Marketing partners with American New Media to form ANM News

Horizon Media Marketing and American New Media today announced a new partnership to form ANM News. American New Media will maintain 60% ownership and Horizon Media Marketing will own the remaining 40% of the online news outlet. launched this week with 15 contributors across 10 states.

Horizon Media Marketing is owned by Mississippi resident Keith Plunkett. American New Media’s owner is J Craig of Kentucky.

Horizon Media Marketing currently publishes the website which the company launched in August 2011. According to Plunkett, has experienced a large rate of growth that continues today.

“We’ve done a good job, I think, in filling a niche in the political news category that wasn’t being filled before,” Plunkett said. “We have tried from the beginning to engage a more intelligent and detailed discussion about policy which is something I don’t think any website focused on Mississippi was doing.”

Plunkett will be Senior Editor of Craig says Plunkett’s approach to Mississippi PEP is exactly what he wanted for the new online

“I read what Keith was doing, and I looked back on past content on and liked what I saw,” said Craig. “I think Keith really has a knack for pulling people in to the article and encouraging them to want to dig deeper and know more. He encourages an intelligent dialogue. That, to me, is what good writing, good content, is all about.”

Plunkett and Craig begin ANM News with 15 contributors covering news from Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Arizona and one soon to be reporting from Israel. They say they will be adding many more contributors soon.

“We’re going after the talent that we believe is writing the most in depth and thought provoking content online,” said Plunkett. “We will look at other states and regions as we go. But the first requirement isn’t geography, it’s a content portfolio that shows no fear in hunting down interesting angles, informative commentary and untold stories. That is what I have attempted to do at, and its why J and I pulled together on this project.”

Plunkett says will very soon begin to dive into more multi-media, including podcasts and video that highlights ANM News’ stable of contributors.

“We’ll pretty quickly launch our podcasts that allow the contributors to discuss their articles and reach a larger audience, and sometime in the next several weeks we’ll begin promoting them each on social media,” said Plunkett. “Good writers drive good content. Audiences build a level of trust with writers and it’s important we help our contributors build their audience.”

Craig says the ultimate winners in this push for deeper and more meaningful stories are the readers.

“There will be things we report that folks will already have heard or can read elsewhere,” said Craig. “Where we will be different is in offering the extra something about the story that maybe people weren’t aware of, an angle that provides readers more insight and gives them a higher level of understanding. That’s why we want the truth from the ground from a good group of driven contributors, and why we will continue to push for new talent to join us.”

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.

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.