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Does Tom Corbett Think Steve Welch Was Part of Operation Chaos?

When he endorsed Chester County entrepreneur Steve Welch for U.S. Senate, Governor Tom Corbett emphasized the geographic balance that Welch brings to the ticket and his party-building efforts.  But in a recent conversation with 1210 WPHT’s Dom Giordano and again with conservative writer John Gizzi, Corbett brought up another explanation for Welch’s party switch: Operation Chaos.

“My understanding, the explanation from him and from his campaign team is, in ‘Operation Chaos’ four years ago, I think it was Rush who was encouraging everybody, go switch your party and go and vote for Obama in order to beat Hilary,” Corbett told Giordano on February 21.

“People did that, in fact Steve says that he did that, and that he voted for Obama in the primary, not in the general election.”

‘Operation Chaos’ refers to the 2008 effort by Republicans to draw out the Democratic presidential primary. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives encouraged supporters to re-register as Democrats and vote in various key states.

He repeated the claim to Human Events writer John Gizzi in March.

“My understanding is that he did this as part of ‘Operation Chaos,’” Corbett said.

But there’s a problem. Welch switched from Republican to Democrat in 2005, not 2008. ‘Operation Chaos’ had nothing to do with it.

Nor is there any evidence to suggest Welch has ever claimed otherwise. Indeed, whatever you think of his switch, Welch has been being forthcoming on the subject. In many forums and interviews, he has actually been the first to raise the subject.

He says the GOP had lost its way. “I got disgusted at George W. Bush’s spending policies, especially the prescription drug legislation and ‘No Child Left Behind.’  So I got mad and became a Democrat in ’05,” Gizzi quoted Welch in an October article.

Welch voted in the 2008 Democratic primary, but says he voted for John McCain in the general election. He switched back to the GOP in early 2009 and ran for Congress briefly against Rep. Joe Sestak and later in the 6th district while Rep. Jim Gerlach was running for Governor.

However, he has justified his primary vote for Obama as a vote against Hilary Clinton.

“I never supported Obama in any way, shape or form. I was registered in the primary of 2008 as a D and voted for what I thought was the lesser of two evils at the time,” Welch said during a recent interview on WILK radio. “I would say I voted against Hillary Clinton. Looking back, like probably most Democrats at this point, it was the wrong choice but at the time, I would take Clinton, you saw somebody who had already tried to push the national takeover of health care when she was the first lady.”

The state committee’s decision to endorse – at the strong urging of Gov. Corbett – has been the cause of much consternation thus far in the primary. Some of the flak has spread to Welch himself.

Critics of the PAGOP’s practice of making endorsements, and of course Welch’s opponents, are keen to note Welch’s party switch.

Did Corbett’s mistaken impression about ‘Operation Chaos’ lead the Governor to back Welch?

Corbett’s former campaign manager Brian Nutt says no.

“I’m not sure why he made that connection. It may have been something a supporter said. But I never heard any conversation where Steve or his campaign ever mentioned Rush or ‘Operation Chaos’ or anything of the sort as a reason for the switch,” Nutt said.

“The Governor decided to support Steve after meetings with him, [Tim] Burns, and a phone conversation with [Tom] Smith. Steve and Burns promised to honor the committee process, and from there it was a regional breakdown.”

In both interviews, Corbett noted other reasons for his endorsement including Welch’s party-building. “He’s been helpful to the [Republican] party, a successful businessman,” Corbett said to Gizzi. He added that Welch adds geographic balance to the ticket.

“I think of all the [GOP statewide] candidates, Steve’s the strongest,” Corbett told Giordano.

25 Responses

  1. Regarding Operation Chaos Rush wanted Republicans to register Democrat for the 2008 presidential primary to vote for Hillary not Obama in order to prolong the primary process.

  2. Dr. Bob has to be bipolar. I’ve seen his rants on other websites and I somehow got on his email distribution list when I signed up for a debate a couple of years ago. What a wacko. May god help anyone being treated by this guy!!

  3. This follow-up e-mail provided context for my visceral reaction to his attempt to be interactive. He had asked from which High School [Cheltenham, Class of ’69] I had graduated…and then noted that we had both been to Penn State [I was there for a year before starting Jefferson Medical School].


    I mean, you had to be there to experience my angst; I had truly been avoiding him, as he’d been ambling about.

    But he planted himself near the bar [the nexus of the “T” linking entry/ballroom/buffet], and I wanted a diet-Coke refill [with lime].

    Earlier, I was trapped @ a table [eating corned-beef and regular-beef, no sugar/starch] as he was making rounds.

    I had asked his staff about this issue previously, and none of them knew his foreign policy positions.

    The initial conversation was terse, focused solely on Syria; when he said we should not interfere, I muttered, “Wrong answer.”

    So when he engaged me @ the bar, he said [in front of 4 other people] that he really wanted to listen to my views.

    [I could have tossed-my-cookies but, to be polite, I simply recalled for him that there was a massacre occurring in Homs, etc.]

    His aloof, pseudo-“open-mindedness” mannerism recalled this infamous quote from Bill Clinton: “Sincerity? I can fake that.”


    So I retreated, although one can anticipate he will have a more refined response prepared for the PA Leadership Conference.

    It may be out of character, but I knew it was hopeless…and I didn’t want to yell @ him with 600 people as witnesses.


    If any of his campaign staff is reading this double-memo, they may wish to upgrade his knowledge-base.

  4. I warned Steve that I was going to blog on his comments yesterday @ the Annual Fitzpatrick event in Ivyland.

    It will not be pretty.

    First, I had heard him speak in Allentown 23 days ago, @ which time he avoided discussing anything other than his ego [masked as “entrepreneurship”] during his 20 minute presentation.

    Second, I was miffed that Tom Smith was not even introduced, despite the fact that he was sitting in the middle of the audience. If this is State Committee Policy to eschew acknowledging competitors to Welch, it reflects all that is bad about top-down “leadership.”

    Third, when he spoke yesterday, he only avoided discussing policy for 5 minutes…presumably, a self-imposed time-limit that was provoked by a crowd that wasn’t paying attention.

    He has, therefore, not discussed any of the 3 legs of classic platform ideas [domestic, foreign, social] as part of his stump-speech.

    Frankly, I avoided him because of distaste regarding how he behaved two years ago when running for Congress in the 7th…no, the 6th District.


    This is a transcript of the e-mail that I distributed overnight, in reaction to having forcibly chatted with him; it was directed to Bob Guzzardi [political activist extraordinaire].


    Well, I tried to avoid him, but I failed.

    Yes, I spoke with Welch @ Fitz’s event.

    He would do nothing about Syria/Iran.

    [His speech was more vacuous than Allentown.]


    He opened the chat with, “Hello, Dr. Bob.”

    I amiably muttered a polite rejoinder [in public].

    I asked him to critique BHO on the Middle East.

    He said, “I travel to Israel; I have a business there.”

    I replied, “Guzzardi is there now, with Daniel Pipes.”

    He asked when you return; I said I retrieve you in 9 days.

    I asked him to differentiate himself from BHO.

    He said, “BHO telegraphs punch, I don’t.”

    I replied, “B.S., you are a pacifist, period.”


    I told him you would receive this e-mail promptly.

    I told him to expect to be blasted upon your return.

    I restrained myself from saying that Casey’s stance is better.


    • March 8, 2012, 7:35 p.m. ET
    Iran Can’t Be Allowed Nuclear ‘Capability’
    When some say that our red line is a ‘nuclear weapon,’ it suggests that anything short of a working bomb is acceptable. This is exactly the wrong message to send.


    Disclaimer: I like Rohrer for his Constitutional Conservative underpinnings, I had dinner with Smith who has a honed-message [supplanting the vagaries of Welch] of economic revitalization, and Guzzardi likes Christian for his deeply-held manifestations of patriotism.


    One could cogently argue that the foreign policy stance of [“98%”] Casey is preferable to that of Welch; he tried to be friendly, but he clearly has not thought-through a cogent foreign policy.

  5. After Hershey and after all the do nothing Republican Legislature especially the Senate headed by Dominic Peleggi we see a pattern emerging of support for a Statist agenda out of Harrisburg. At a time where economy and cuts are needed, waste fraud and abuse ended, we get nothing under Corbetts administration. Bills are watered down by the Good Ole Boys in Harrisburg after first checking to make sure they don’t hurt their union supporters.

    That Corbett would espouse this rediculous claim as the current reason de jour for his support of Steve Welch should land him a job on Political Comedy Central not as a savvy political operator which obviously he is not.

  6. Chaos and Corbett in the same sentence rings true. Chaos are the Corbett talking points that were not vetted

  7. Mr. Peterson, please give us a break. “One of those voters was small-business owner Steven Welch. Though a longtime Republican, Welch hosted a gathering in his living room for Democrat Joe Sestak, who was challenging U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon in the Seventh District.”

    I guess Steve Welch was against Joe Sestak before he was for him or was it he was for Joe Sestak before he was against him. Whatever.

  8. The Governor really stepped in it by endorsing Steve Welch without doing homework. We have a wide field of better qualified candidates who NEVER voted for Obama or supported Joe Sestak. Who knows whether Sestak helped him in the past. Welch’s company did, after all, receive a sweetheart loan deal >$645,000 from Governor Rendell’s office shortly after it was sold and shortly a before he switched back to being a Republican.I wonder how he was ever able to put himself on the Democratic Governor’s radar screen.

    Governor Corbett could have left well enough alone and allowed for an open primary. Instead, we now have this mess. He also stepped in it by following the misguided leadership of the Bucks GOP and frivolously spending precious funds (that would be better spent against Democrat, Bob Casey) to go after war hero and wounded veteran, David Christian, on his petitions. Does anyone know how that whole thing even turned out? I haven’t heard a peep on it since last week.

  9. I find it astonishing that the state committee’s endorsed Steve Welch, a former Dem who was clearly a backer of Sestak. It’s pretty clear this has to have something to do with money. What else would convince the Republican state committee to endorse a candidate who’d been registered as a Democrat for four years (three before “Operation Chaos”). And it really sounds like Welch and Gov. Corbett have resorted to making excuses. Welch’s whole campaign (and political career for that matter) reeks of opportunism. Get with the program Welch; if you supported Sestak over Pat Toomey, you’re not conservative.

  10. The claim that Welch is some how allied with Sestak is ludicrous. In fact, Steve had announced his candidacy against Joe Sestak. Steve was also an early supporter of Pat Meehan’s run for governor before Pat ultimately opted to run for Congress in the 7th District, at which point Steve stepped aside out of the beat interests of the party and putting the 7th back in republican control

  11. Here’s a third explanation candidate Welch gave me: “Curt Weldon’s just not my kind of Republican.”

  12. Steve Welch has given his opponents all they need to bury him. He has given different versions of the story behind why he voted for Obama. First, it was a “protest” vote. Now he’s implying it was part of operations chaos. Caught in a lie big time. Hopefully his conservative opponents are paying attention.

  13. Well, I just wonder if it’s about the $$$ that welsh is giving to the gop and his own race for senator ?
    Also, has welsh ever been elected to anything ?
    I pray people will not go with the lip service but with a proven record of a man with a moral compass before they vote April 24th. Oh, that would be Sam Rohrer.

  14. “Does Tom Corbett Think:”

    a- Republicans aren’t asking the questions that Steve opened with?
    b- A Republican Assembly, Senate and Governor and we are setting up healthcare exchanges, is going to get him re-elected
    c-Operation Chaos would be a fitting description of his leadership and people being sickened by his policies?
    d-People are going to work for his candidates after his rank display of arrogance in Hershey?

  15. I’ve heard Steve Welch explain it both ways. Fact is, he voted for the most pro-abortion legislator in our Nation’s history-Obama, the ONLY Senator to vote against medical care for infants that survive abortion. How can you say that you are pro-life and do that? Talk about a moral deficit-not to mention his lack of judgement when it came to the Obama vote. Do we REALLY want to send a novice to Washington? Oh heck no! Sam Rohrer is clearly the front-runner and the best candidate PA will see in eons. Get a clue Corbett!

  16. Alan, right on. I forgot about Steve Welch’s love affair with Joe “Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz is too conservative” Sestak. Perhaps in Governor Corbett’s mind that was part of Operation Chaos too. Or perhaps the Governor just likes chaos. His administration seems to be in chaos. But it is geographically balanced and that is most important of all.

  17. If Welch is the strongest candidate, why did he have to twist so many arms to get committeemembers’ votes. Were they too stupid to realize? Is the governor going to twist every Republican voters’ arm?

  18. You missed the key connection Welch is Sestak’s boy. Your recent article about Sestak’s connection with a fundraiser for Alyson Schwartz’s D opponent points out how looney-tune Sestak is. And Welch hosted a meet & great at the Welch residence for Sestak. Connect the dots Welch is Sestak’s boy

  19. Gosh, this is suprising, Tom Corbett has things messed up. Who would have thunk it?

    Here is a Governor who has gotten government-pension reform for the people of Pennsylvania so we don’t go off the cliff; who has gotten school choice for our children; who has gotten reform of prevailing wage so our government can save 30 percent on public construction; …. Oh wait, he didn’t get any of that done. But he did get the Republican endorsement for a person who became a Democrat because he thought the Republicans were spending too much.


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