SFA Members Gain Washington Experience at Day in D.C.

Attendees at the Snack Food Association’s “Day in D.C. — Spring Summit” heard first-hand one of the country’s most sought-after political experts, Charlie Cook, analyze the 2004 presidential election and offer predications on the 2008 election. The editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report was the luncheon keynote speaker at the summit, held May 16-18, 2005, in Washington, D.C.
President Bush won a majority of the popular vote and the Republicans gained seats in both the House and the Senate in 2004, yet a number of factors were responsible for the election results, noted Cook. These included the strong leadership that President Bush exhibited in dealing with the September 11th terrorist attacks, in addition to the fact that the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign was the best-designed in modern history. This was in contrast to the Kerry campaign, which was run by a committee, Cook said. As an example of the poor design of the Kerry campaign, Cook pointed out that it took two weeks for the campaign to respond to the “Swift Boats” attacks.
“I don’t know anyone who voted for John Kerry,” Cook said, explaining that the Democratic challenger’s 48% were people who voted against Bush. He added that if “the Democrats elected someone who didn’t sound like Thurston Howell from Gilligan’s Island,” they could have won the Ohio vote because of the high unemployment in that state.
In reality, explained Cook, the country is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans. In 2004, Republican gained five Congressional seats from Texas and lost two others. In the Senate, they gained five seats in the South and lost one outside the South. The election was driven by Texas and the South, Cook emphasized.
Despite the wins in 2004, currently there is a lot of anxiety among the Republicans due to ethics questions concerning Tom Delay (R-Texas), negative reaction to interference by Congress in the Terry Schiavo case, the trade deficit, a growing federal deficit and record-high gas prices. However, Cook predicted that despite discomfort among the Republicans, they won’t lose control of the Senate in 2006 and there is a 99% chance they will hold on to the House.
An 80-Year First
Concerning the 2008 presidential election, Cook pointed out that it will be the first time in 80 years that no sitting president or vice president will be running for president. It will be exciting on both sides, he suggested.
On the Republican side, if a poll was taken today, the results would be: 25-29% for Rudy Giuliani; 20-25% for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); about 10% for Newt Gringrich and the remainder of the votes would be split between Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), Condoleezza Rice and others. However, Cook said that, “Cows will fly before the Republicans will nominate Rudy Giuliani,” due to his position on abortion rights, gun control and gay rights. Cook predicted: McCain, as a secular choice, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as the social/cultural/religious choice, and Allen as a compromise candidate.
On the Democratic side, Cook predicted that while 33-34% of Democrats currently favor Hillary Clinton, she will not be the frontrunner. He explained that two out of three Democrats know Clinton and are familiar with her views but are not in favor of her. She needs to convince Democrats that she can win.
Cook also dismissed Kerry as the Democratic candidate in 2008 despite that fact that he would come in second at 19-21% of the vote if a poll was taken today. Kerry’s running mate, former U.S. Senator John Edwards, Governor Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Governor Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) were mentioned as possible candidates.
Legislative Priorities
After Cook’s presentation, SFA members went to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials. The issues and pending bills that SFA members discussed during this year’s Day in D.C. included:
• National Uniformity for Food Act. SFA supports consistent food labeling for all 50 states.
• Mandatory Fuel Surcharges. SFA is asking Congress to reject regulations of prices and interference in private contracting.
• Curbing Lawsuit Abuse. SFA supports efforts in Congress to discourage frivolous obesity-related lawsuits against food purveyors.
• Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement. DR-CAFTA will eliminate barriers for U.S. exports to Central America.
• Advertising and Food Industries Respond to Obesity Trend. Exercise and lifestyle are shared strategies to reverse obesity trends. The advertising industry is committed to making self-regulation work.
As an added benefit, Day in D.C. attendees met at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s national headquarters to learn about the organization’s advocacy and activities on behalf of business and industry. Efforts to compel incremental reform at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were among the myriad business issues presented by top staff of the Chamber. Among these is the Chamber’s attempt to convince Congress to enact legislation that would allow a small business to recoup attorney fees if they successfully defend a compliance case against OSHA.
Other issues discussed by Chamber staff included pending fuel surcharge legislation, the federal rule on “Hours of Service for Drivers,” handling abuse of the Family Medical Leave Act, laws on how unions are organized in the workplace, and unwelcomed new opportunities for class-action lawsuits against employers. SFA was the first outside group to be offered the new Chamber program held at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.