Charlie Black


Charlie Black

Charles R. Black is Chairman of Prime Policy Group, and was the founder of the firm’s predecessor, BKSH & Associates Worldwide. Charlie is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading public affairs professionals. Serving as a principal legislative and public affairs advisor to several Fortune 500 companies and trade associations, he also leads Prime Policy Group client teams in several public policy disciplines.

Charlie is best known as one of America’s leading Republican political strategists. He served as senior advisor to both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. In 1990, Charlie served as chief spokesman for the Republican National Committee and served as a principal public spokesman for President Bush in the 1992 presidential campaign. He served on President George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns as a volunteer political advisor and surrogate spokesman. Most recently he served as the senior political advisor to Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

An attorney with more than thirty years of experience in government, public affairs and politics, Charlie has managed the successful elections of several of U.S. Senators and Members of Congress. He served as political director of the Republican National Committee under Chairman Bill Brock.

Currently, Charlie serves on the boards of directors of the Fund for American Studies and the U.S. Air Force Academy Foundation. He frequently appears as a guest to represent the Republican viewpoint on national network and cable television news shows. In 2010, Charlie was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Association of Political Consultants.

A native of North Carolina, Charlie is a member of the North Carolina Bar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctorate from The American University. Charlie resides in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Judy.

Article originally appeared in the Aug. 6 edition of CNN Online News.

After stumbling this week, Jeb Bush heads into Thursday's debate facing a key question: Is he ready to run for president in an era when every gaffe can go viral?

Bush's latest challenge came Tuesday when the former Florida governor attempted to slam Planned Parenthood. But he appeared to veer off track when he said, "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues," referring to the amount of money the federal government pays largely for low-income women's health services.

Bush later said he "misspoke," but the line gave an easy opening to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who immediately pounced to portray him as insensitive to the needs of women.

The fumble followed an uncomfortable moment Monday at a forum in New Hampshire when Bush struggled to answer a question about his family's political legacy -- an issue that has repeatedly tripped him up during his campaign.

Bush allies argue that these moments amount to blips that will soon be forgotten and say that by staying the course, he's showing an even-handed steadiness that could help him secure the nomination.

Still, the incidents underscore how Bush, the powerhouse politician who was once thought to be the man who could clear the GOP presidential field, is struggling to find his footing in a race that's been upended by Donald Trump's surge in the polls.

Perhaps more importantly, the missteps raise questions about whether Bush is ready to wage the type of disciplined, savvy campaign required in the modern political era to win the White House.

"It speaks to the changes in campaigns since the last time he ran for office. It used to be you make a comment like that; by evening you put out your statement, and the statement ends up in the same story. That whole thing on women's health issues swept around the world before the campaign retracted it," said Katie Packer, a former adviser to Mitt Romney who specializes in helping candidates hone their message to Republican and independent women. "The speed at which things travel is probably new to him. You learn that when you're running, especially in the presidential cycle. All of this serves to make him look a little out of touch."

Packer is neutral in the race but she is founding partner of WWP Strategies, which works for GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio in Michigan.

When a candidate stumbles the first time, as Bush did earlier this year when pressed on his brother's invasion of Iraq, Packer said, some voters gauging his electability might have given him a pass -- thinking he simply wasn't prepared for that particular question. "But if they keep not getting these answers sharp; it starts to look like you're just not sharp" as a candidate, she said.

While Packer said Bush won't ever be able to "totally clean that (Planned Parenthood comment) up, he's going to have to come out very strongly in advocating what his position is on women's health and what the federal government's role is in that."

Some of the candidate's close allies are concerned that he has a tendency to come off as dismissive, particularly in group forums where he doesn't like the question. They hope he can keep that sort of demeanor in check, as it generally does not go over well with voters. On the policy front, he has been preparing intensively for weeks -- working to get his complex policy positions boiled down into 30 second and 60 second bites.

Still, many allies said he's simply playing the long game.

"Presidential politics isn't very different from professional football -- quarterbacks are going to throw interceptions, and sometimes those interceptions might fall at the feet of the quarterback. And Jeb Bush just threw one," said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who advised George W. Bush and John McCain. "He has to understand the demographic challenges facing the Republican Party and little things like that make it difficult to win the game."

"That being said, the proportionality of the reporting on this issue is completely overblown," Schmidt added.

Bush has done all the right things, advisers said, by standing up to his critics on difficult issues such as immigration and the Common Core education standards and paying attention to the arcane but vital elements of a winning campaign -- such as ensuring ballot access.

Bush and Christie vow to double economic growth

Bush has made countless phone calls to activists and influencers in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada — while simultaneously building his support slowly and steadily with a tireless campaign schedule. And then there's his treasury: the fact that he stockpiled more than $100 million through his campaign and pro-Bush political action committees that will allow him to stay in the race long after other candidates run out of money.

Ultimately, he's embracing his image as the boring candidate and eschewing the theatrics of his fellow Republicans, who have done everything from taking a chainsaw to the tax code to putting their cell phone in a blender to get attention.

Longtime Bush-watchers such as Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida, said the former Florida governor should not be underestimated.

"He is not a 'for-the-moment' person; he is more calculating and always looking long term," MacManus said. "He is trying to be the statesman and anticipating that Trump will wear thin. He's just really trying to stay the course right now, which compared to the others, he's doing pretty well with."

Voters "are not really honed in right now and making decisions," MacManus said. "People in Florida," for example, "don't care a whit about politics right now."

Because of that, many longtime political observers say there is an advantage for Bush, and other strong candidates such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Veteran strategist Charlie Black said Bush's position is a comfortable place to be right now because "the race hasn't really started. It starts with these debates."

For all of Bush's discipline and his mastery of the issues, he has yet to show he can channel the seething anger among Republicans like Trump.

But from Bush's perspective, "if you look at infrastructure, organization and money -- he's the front-runner. And he's got a lot of appeal as people get to know him," which is the opportunity that the debates could offer, Black said.

"I think he's the best campaigner in the family; he's completely knowledgeable about policy and he can answer questions without hesitation, and personality-wise, he's just a little more engaging and smooth than his brother or his father.

By contrast, Black predicted that the debates will be the arena where Trump begins to fade "as voters learn more about his positions and lack thereof."

"My guess is that Trump will play it straight here, abide by the rules, but he'll still be bombastic and not get into details," Black said, "and if he does that for four straight debates, by then, people will figure him out."

For Bush, the onus Thursday night will be to show voters that he is the calm, steady hand -- the one, as Hillary Clinton might put it, who you wanted answering the phone at 3 a.m. in the middle of a world crisis.

Longtime Democratic strategist Bill Carrick said even with all the anger festering in the Republican Party right now, that group of voters is not quite big enough to ensure victory. The quieter, more statesman-like candidates are ultimately due for a serious look from voters, he said.

"In these multi-candidate debates early on, there is something to be said for staying out of traffic: because, you know, a lot of accidents happen in traffic," Carrick said.

The silver lining for more understated candidates such as Bush, Carrick said, is that Trump's presence will ensure a blockbuster audience for this week's debates -- including the independents and moderate Democrats that Bush would like to appeal to in order to ensure his path to the nomination.

While Trump may entertain, Carrick said: "There is a point at which people start looking for a president. And Republicans want to win."




Article oringinally appeared in the June 15, 2015 edition of Financial Times

When Jeb Bush, the son of one former president and brother of another, revealed in December that he was exploring a run for the White House, it sparked expectations that the 2016 election would repeat the 1992 race by pitting a Bush against a Clinton.

Hillary Clinton was already the Democratic frontrunner even though the wife of former President Bill Clinton had not yet declared. When people around Jeb Bush began touting his “shock and awe” fundraising — including dinners costing $100,000 a head — it fuelled a sense that he would steamroll past his Republican opposition, particularly after his emergence encouraged Mitt Romney to opt against making a third run at the White House.

FirstFT is our new essential daily email briefing of the best stories from across the web

Yet when the former Florida governor formally launches his campaign in Miami on Monday, the Republican establishment favourite will be starting from a much weaker position, having failed to sail ahead of his rivals in the polls.

While he is expected to have raised in the region of $100m, his campaign has played down that figure. “We have never set a goal like that,” said Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the Republican party in Florida. “[But] whatever number it is, it will be so much more than anyone else will have raised.”

But there has been little “awe” judging by the fact that 10 other Republicanshave entered the race and more than a half a dozen others are contemplating running.

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio who is also considering a campaign, last week gave voice to what a growing number of people in the GOP establishment say privately: “I thought Jeb would take up all the oxygen. He hasn’t.”

In many ways Mr Bush is the ideal candidate to help the party recapture the White House. As a governor of Florida, he ran a big state that alongside Ohio is one of the two critical swing states on the path to the Oval Office. His moderate position on immigration would be more palatable to voters than most of his rivals in the general election. And the fact that he speaks Spanish and has a Mexican wife should boost support among Latinos, the fastest growing demographic of the electorate.

The Republican establishment views Mr Bush as the candidate with the best chance of attracting minority voters, which Mr Romney lost in droves in 2012. His stance on social issues such as gay marriage, while conservative, are more moderate than some of his party rivals, which could help win independent voters. But Mr Bush faces several hurdles on the path to the nomination, including his surname.

While some Republicans, such as veteran lobbyist Charlie Black, say the Bush name may help with supporters of his brother — who remains popular with the conservative base — others say his candidacy implies the very kind of dynastic succession that the founding fathers wanted US democracy to overcome.

“He has been an exceptionally effective governor … but the third member of one family to pursue the presidency is a very difficult element to get over,” says one Republican who served under George W Bush. “It does not seem consistent with what our system is supposed to be about. That [also] applies to the Clintons.”

Mr Cardenas dismisses the dynasty question as “nothing more, nothing less than pure politics”, saying that Republicans who want to back another candidate will use it as an excuse. Mr Black says the “so-called dynasty issue just cancels out” if the race ends up being Bush v Clinton. But he says Mr Bush needs to “get out there and establish his own identity” — an area where he has stumbled in recent weeks.

The big picture is that Jeb Bush is still the frontrunner and the most likely nominee of the party … and the most likely person to beat Hillary Clinton

- Vin Weber, former Minnesota congressman

Asked if he would have invaded Iraq given what we know now — that it had no weapons of mass destruction — Mr Bush stunned observers by answering “yes”, before saying days later that he would not have. Supporters say he misunderstood the question, but critics say he should have been better prepared for such an obvious question.

An even bigger challenge than his name, however, is the chasm between the GOP establishment and the anti-establishment Tea Party and conservative base, which have doubts about his conservatism.

Mr Bush has described himself as a “headbanging conservative” who as Florida governor cut taxes and earned the nickname “Veto Corleone” for his efforts to rein in spending. He supported abortion restrictions and signed the first “Stand your ground” law in the US, which allows people to defend themselves with “deadly force” when people intrude on their property.

But he has come under fire from conservatives for his approach on illegal immigration where he supports a pathway to legal residency for 11m undocumented workers. The Tea Party also vilifies him for supporting Common Core, a set of national education testing standards that critics say relegate the rights of states.

Jim Manley, a former Democratic congressional aide, says that while Mr Bush had a “largely conservative record” on economic issues, his stance on Common Core and immigration would be “red meat for the Republican base in Iowa and New Hampshire”, which are the two states that vote first in the Republican primary calendar.

Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman, dismisses concerns about his candidate, saying the fact that there are so many GOP contenders has caused some in the party to lose perspective. “The big picture is that Jeb Bush is still the frontrunner and the most likely nominee of the party … and the most likely person to beat Hillary Clinton,” says Mr Weber. “When the dust settles, the reality is that Jeb Bush has the best record.”

Jeb Bush

■ Personal Fluent Spanish speaker married to Mexican-born Columba. Described himself as “Hispanic” on a voter registration form in 2009 and later joked on Twitter that “Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!” Comes from a Protestant family, but converted to Catholicism and would be only the second Catholic president after John F Kennedy.

■ Private sector Worked for a bank in Venezuela before entering politics and made a fortune in the Florida real estate industry. He was employed as an adviser to Lehman Brothers before its collapse during the financial crisis and took an advisory role at Barclays, the UK bank.

■ Campaigns Failed in his first campaign for Florida governor in 1994, the same year that his brother became governor of Texas. Won the election four years later, and served two terms until 2007.

■ Conservatism Self-described “headbanging” conservative who earnt the sobriquet “Veto Corleone” for cutting spending. Florida became first state to introduce licence plates with the words “Choose Life” during his tenure. Unsuccessfully tried to prevent husband of Terri Schiavo, woman who had spent years in a vegetative state, from removing the feeding tube that was keeping her alive. Converted a Florida jail to the first “faith-based” prison in the US. Conservatives outside Florida view him with scepticism because of his views on immigration and national education standards.

■ Economy Florida saw its credit rating raised to AAA while he was governor. He slashed government jobs by privatising many government services. While he presided over the creation of more than 1m jobs during his tenure, critics say many were low-paid jobs with no health insurance that made it hard for families to survive during the housing boom in the state.

Author, Demetri Sevastopulo; Twitter: @DimiSevastopulo

Charlie appears on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report to discuss top issues in the presidential race. 

Charlie appears on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report to discuss events around the GOP convention (at 5:07). 

Charlie appears on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report to discuss the presidential race.