Meet the GOP Strategist Behind the Failed "Defund Obamacare" Movement

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 25 2013 5:53 PM

Meet the GOP Strategist Behind the Failed "Defund Obamacare" Movement

151981816
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/GettyImages

A good rule of profile writing is to find someone who's pissed off a lot of people who should otherwise be their friends. TNR's Julia Ioffe found just that in Michael Needham, as evidenced by pissed-off quotes from Republican strategists and staffers. Needham is Heritage Action's 31-year-old strategy guru, Jim DeMint's "barker." He helped devise the "defund Obamacare" campaign and manned the cattle prod edging House Republicans toward the fiscal cliff. He was also instrumental in recruiting Heritage Action's "sentinels"—die-hard conservatives sent to town halls across the country to harangue Republican representatives—to do their bidding.

This paragraph is most telling about how far Heritage has strayed from congressional Republicans:

Shortly after this summer’s farm bill debacle (Heritage Action pushed members to rid the bill of its food-stamp half, then still sent out a "no" alert on the revised bill, hanging out to dry members from agricultural districts), the outrage was such that the Heritage Foundation was banned from the weekly lunches of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative caucus of House Republicans. This was particularly ironic as the RSC and Heritage were once interwoven: In the 1970s, [Heritage co-founder Edwin] Feulner had been the RSC’s first executive director. “It really speaks volumes about a betrayal of trust,” says the Republican strategist. The House GOP aide puts it more starkly: “There are over two hundred thirty bridges to be burned in the House. Over two hundred of them are burned, and they maybe have about thirty more left.”
Advertisement

This isn't the first story of a conservative think tank imploding—it happened last year, when former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey was pushed out after staging a failed "coup." Older strategists find the young strategists short-sighted and not pragmatic enough, but the young upstarts don't care. Another quote about Needham: "People on the Hill are very much rubbed the wrong way by a former Giuliani staffer who is around thirty years old, running around and determining whether they’re conservative or not." Apparently!

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.