Byron York

And in a larger sense, did consultants create the weak 2012 GOP primary field? Did they cause Mitch Daniels not to run? Did they cause Rick Perry to implode? Were they behind Rick Santorum's dogged march to success, and then his self-destruction over contraception, Catholicism and other cultural issues? Was any of that the work of a consultant?

Ask the same questions about 2008 and the McCain campaign. And in an even larger sense, did consultants cause the damage to the Republican -- and conservative -- cause that came from George W. Bush's eight years in office?

All of those developments were the exclusive creations of men who ran, or didn't run, for office, not the people they hired to manage their campaigns.

Take Stevens as an example, since he has been the subject of a lot of criticism lately. The list of clients whose campaigns he has worked on in the last 20 years, taken from his company's website, includes George W. Bush, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. John Cornyn, former Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Charles Grassley and many, many others.

Of course, Stevens worked for some losers -- Bob Dole is the most prominent. And he worked for some winners who can't be called conservatives -- former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist are examples. But looking at the records, talents, and flaws of each of those candidates, it's impossible to claim that their fates were determined by a consultant.

In the end, some of Stevens' clients significantly advanced the Republican and conservative cause. Some didn't. But their achievements came from inside themselves, and not their consultant.

So yes, Republicans should look at the way they run their campaigns, and who they hire to do the work. But in the long run, winning candidates win and losers lose, regardless of who the consultant is. A good candidate has deeply felt beliefs that guide how he runs -- and how he chooses and uses campaign help. At the moment, the Republican Party has far, far bigger problems than its consultant class.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner