It’s time for Republicans to take the wheel away from President Obama and make this country run more like Tennessee, said former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
“President Obama has said he’s really looking forward to buying one of those Chevy Volts when he leaves office. Now I think we ought to take up a collection and get him one in November,” Huckabee joked at the reception of over 1,000 people gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center’s Presidential Ballroom.
The theme of Saturday night’s $250-a-plate annual Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser focused largely on ensuring Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the Oval Office from Obama and the already GOP-heavy state Legislature wins super-majority dominance.
Huckabee, who has been eyed as a possible Romney running mate, outlined several “defining moments” for Republicans as they fight to take over the White House. Among them was Obama’s recent announcement that he supports gay marriage, the result of the Supreme Court’s decision last month to uphold health care reforms under Obamacare and the president’s comment earlier this month that business owners didn’t build their companies.
The former presidential candidate and Arkansas governor turned Fox News Channel personality told the crowd the president’s comment was insulting, and added that Obama “has never signed the front of the paycheck, only the back of one.
“He stood and insulted every hard-working entrepreneur and business person in this country, and said if you have a business, you didn’t build it,” Huckabee said. “They risk everything they had from their past as well as their future to go into an endeavor that they dreamed of doing. And not just the people who built great, big, huge companies. But let us never forget that business people are the folks who drive trucks with the lettering of their business on the side because they’re plumbers and electricians and they work on air conditioning units.”
But Tennessee isn’t without a fair share of disagreement and disunity amongst Republican who differ on political priorities and directions the state should take under GOP dominion.
County chapters recently passed resolutions chastising Gov. Bill Haslam’s decisions, ranging from failing to support gun rights legislation to letting his administration employ a Muslim woman and several openly gay workers.
A conservative-friendly Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial criticized Tea Party activists for getting hung up on culture-war issues that make them look like “racists, homophobes and bigots.”
On the other hand, there’s indeed plenty of room for improvement within the Haslam administration, suggested the editorial: “Reasonable conservatives have dozens of reasons to be disappointed in Gov. Haslam’s short tenure. From failing to cut wasteful spending to proposing to expand several failing programs, Haslam has fallen short of what many conservatives expected from a Republican governor.”
Senate Republican Caucus chairman Bill Ketron believes everything will come out in the wash.
“I think the political process is working,” said the Murfreeshboro lawmaker, who added that he expects more counties to join the chorus by passing similar resolutions. “I think each local GOP office in every county is expressing their feelings and I think it’s my job to listen to their concerns and then investigate.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, on the other hand, is encouraging the locals to clam up and even take back their rebellious sentiments. “I guess this is the growing pains that we’re going to learn to do now that we’ve become the dominant party in the state, that there will be fractions at times, and we’ll all need to come together at election time,” he said.
The governor was noticeably absent from the baked chicken dinner, but sent along a video address in his stead, which included him bragging about everything from reducing several taxes to reforming education and state employee hiring practices in the last two years.
“I say all this for a reason. It matters who we elect,” said Haslam. “We believe we can educate our children better. We believe we can give you a customer friendly government at a low cost. And we believe we can improve the environment for businesses to go and create jobs.”
The biggest applause came as the state’s General Assembly leaders took the stage, two Republicans who boasted about legislation they’ve been able to make into law under GOP leadership.
“Fellow conservatives, in this election, the American dream is at stake,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “This election defines whether or not this nation is restored to its greatness by returning domestic issues back to the state and local governments where they can be efficiently and effectively run, or do we choose to descend into further crisis while we allow the federal government to continue to grow and expand.”
“I do believe we are an island of sanity in a nation that has gone crazy,” said the Blountville Republican. Ramsey challenged the party to win the additional Republican House seats needed to guarantee veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly.“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the state of Tennessee,” he said. “You think we’ve done a lot so far? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”