Leaving on a high note: Outgoing NRCC head looks to build on 2020
Parker Poling, who served as executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) during the House GOP’s better-than-expected 2020 elections, is leaving her post to become a lobbyist and partner at Harbinger Strategies, the firm is announcing Tuesday.
House Republicans picked up 15 new seats this cycle, trimming the Democratic majority to just 12 members, and are hoping to build on that momentum and flip the House in the 2022 midterms.
“I will be cheering for them 100 percent,” Poling said in a recent interview with The Hill, adding that “there is obviously a part of me that says maybe I should stay and finish the job, but I was also really happy to kind of leave on a high note.”
“It was good to defy expectations, and I think going into 2022, the expectation will be that they take back the majority, and I hope they will. But it was kind of fun to be the surprise and to leave on that note.”
Harbinger Strategies is currently made up of just five lobbyists, including Jonathan Slemrod, former associate director of legislative affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, and Kyle Nevins, former deputy chief of staff to then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Poling, a native of upstate New York, previously worked for Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) for 12 years, first as his chief of staff and later as the chief of staff in his chief deputy whip office.
She is a mother of two daughters, aged 11 and 9 — as well as a 1-year-old bulldog named Clementine. Her first major involvement with politics was when she became active with the College Republicans.
“I always had one foot in the politics, one foot in the policy. I think that I really enjoyed getting to work on the policy side a little bit and to work with members and their offices and chiefs to enact good policy,” she said.
Typically after an election, lobbyists are scrambling to get to know new members when they arrive in Washington. Poling is now in a unique position, since she helped get those new House Republicans elected.
“I definitely think it will be helpful. Some of these candidates I met when they were just still thinking about running, and you develop a relationship with these folks over time,” she said.
She added, “I think it will be helpful for us that these are folks that I know and that hopefully have a certain level of trust that I’m somebody they can chat with and will give them good advice as well.”
Poling won’t be focusing on any one particular issue at Harbinger, which she says has more of a collaborative model as well as a “great reputation around town.”
“They are known as being straight shooters and very knowledgeable and the kind of people that you might call for advice,” she said.
With the tight margins in the House, which she helped to create, she’s confident House Republicans will have influence and that lobbyists connected to them will have a busy couple of years ahead.
“I think generally being in the minority in the House means you just have very little influence because it is a majoritarian institution, but I think this congress is going to look pretty different because the margin is so narrow. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Republicans to get policy wins, especially on appropriations and governing those,” she said.
Poling added that there is are real chances to get bipartisan victories in the next two years, in large part due to President-elect Joe Biden and his reputation as a centrist.
“I think there’s opportunity with President Biden, who obviously had a very long career on Capitol Hill and values the legislative branch, I think there’s going to be a real opportunity to get some bipartisan victories over the next two years,” she said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the first person to ask Poling to run the NRCC, said in a statement that her work there “during the 2020 election cycle is perhaps her finest moment.”
“Experts and the media guaranteed House Republicans would lose as many as 20 seats. Instead, Parker and the NRCC execute an incredible campaign strategy, picking up 15 new House Republican seats and putting the majority squarely in play,” McCarthy said.
McHenry, who served as the recruitment chair for the 2014 election cycle while Poling was his chief of staff, called her his “most trusted advisor for more than a decade.”
“Throughout our time working together, Parker displayed an exceptional understanding of the intersection of policy and politics, especially as it relates to the House Republican Conference,” McHenry said in a statement.
“I’m really pretty happy with the outcome,” Poling said of 2020. “We got very, very close, closer than I think anybody thought we would to actually getting back the majority, so there’s a little twinge of ‘where did we miss a spot?’” she said.
And she’s especially proud of the new female members: 17 House Republican women were elected in 2020.
“I’m really excited about having a conference that, while there’s still work to do, looks a little bit more like the communities that our members’ represent,” she said.
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