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

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?