Tuesday, August 31, 2010

American Crossroads as Player and Boogeyman

The conservative Crossroads GPS is up with a new issue ad on Tuesday that seeks to hang Pres. Obama and health care reform around the neck of KY SEN candidate Jack Conway (D).

The ad represents the first time American Crossroads has directly tied Obama to a Dem candidate in an ad -- and it's one of the few anywhere that prominently highlights health care. The ad shows Conway and Obama riding in a car together.

"Obamacare is the wrong way for Kentucky," the ad's narrator says. "And Jack Conway is going the wrong way too."



The website includes links for letters to Conway and letters to the editor.

The Boston Globe reports:

Looking to goose campaign donations from Democrats, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in a new fund-raising email invokes the name of Karl Rove, the former White House political strategist for President George W. Bush and a founder of a new political advocacy group, American Crossroads.

In his letter, Kerry warns that Rove’s “smear factory” has recent spent $500,000 on TV ads in key US Senate races.

“Rove and a group of secret donors are building a $50 million war chest to finance what they call - get this! – ‘hard-hitting issue advocacy.’ ” Kerry writes. “That sounds like a fancy way of saying they'll be doing to good people like [Democratic US Senators] Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer what they did to me in 2004: lie, smear, distort, and deceive. Remember those ads? I sure do - and now it's my friends who are in the crosshairs.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Elephant's Year?

Gallup reports:
Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

These results are based on aggregated data from registered voters surveyed Aug. 23-29 as part of Gallup Daily tracking. This marks the fifth week in a row in which Republicans have held an advantage over Democrats -- one that has ranged between 3 and 10 points.

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup's history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.

Al Hunt writes at Bloomberg:

Forget conventional wisdom: Republicans have a real shot at taking control of the Senate, as well as the House, in the U.S. midterm elections.

“This is going to be a massive election like 1974, except it will happen to the Democrats this time,” says Bill McInturff, a leading Republican pollster, alluding to the Democratic landslide more than three-and-a-half decades ago. “The Senate is in play.”

The economy is killing Democrats even in states doing comparatively well. The economic stimulus and bailout of the auto companies -- successes in the eyes of most detached analysts -- are unpopular.

Most unpopular was the Wall Street rescue, whatever disaster it may have averted.

Most Democratic candidates voted for these measures, a reason the party may lose 10 seats and control of the Senate.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 48

In an interview with Brian Williams of NBC, the president spoke of the economy:

Well, look, we — we anticipated that the recovery was slowing. The economy is still growing, but it's not growing as fast as it needs to. I've got things right now in — before Congress that we should move immediately. And I've said so before I went on vacation, and I'll keep on saying when I — now that I'm back. We should be passing legislation that helps small businesses get credit, that eliminates capital gains taxes so that they have more incentive to invest right now.

There are a whole host of measures we could take, no single element of which is a magic bullet but cumulatively can start continuing to build momentum for the recovery. But look, the — this was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the worst recession since the Great Depression. And so, what we know is that we are going to have to slowly, steadily build confidence. Push more investment out there. Target areas like clean energy that we know are going to be be growth areas in the future.

Look at how we're doing our infrastructure, so that we can maximize the amount of jobs that are created. So, there — there are a range of steps that I hope we can get bipartisan support for. But right now, we're still — we're in the season, political season, which means that for the next two months there's going to be be constantly a contest in the minds of Members of Congress. And my Republican friends in Congress, between doing what the country needs and what they think may be advantageous in the — in terms of short term politics.

The president had a slightly different emphasis in June, when he discussed an employment report:

And this progress is reflected in the monthly jobs reports that we get each month. We received one today. In May, the economy added 431,000 jobs. (Applause.) Now, this is the fifth month in a row that we’ve seen job gains. And while we recognize that our recovery is still in its early stages and that there are going to be ups and downs in the months ahead -- things never go completely in a smooth line -- this report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.


Outsiderism 2010

In The New York Times, Marc Ambinder writes of political outsiders and their backers:

In earlier times, such voices, on the right and the left, would have been relegated to the heckler’s gallery. But Twitter, Facebook and Google empower them to raise money, attract followers, grab attention and influence the course of political events. Unlike parties, which often recruit candidates who would appeal to the average voter in a general election, these activists care only about nominating the person who accurately represents their own views and frustrations.

That’s not all: true outsider candidates can use those same technologies and strategies to keep their coffers full, become known to voters and generate their own opportunities (and good luck). Not getting the nod from party power brokers can become the foundation on which to build an entire campaign. In turn, political parties, with their promises of millions of dollars and high-priced consulting support from Alexandria, Va., come off as imperious, cautious and out of touch.

Democrats, too, have had their share of bickering. Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter — galvanized by the state’s labor unions — challenged Senator Blanche Lincoln; she barely won the June runoff. In Colorado, when Senator Michael Bennet was not responsive enough to party liberals, the state’s former House speaker Andrew Romanoff decided to challenge him. Mr. Romanoff sold his house to pay for his campaign and might have won the Aug. 10 vote were it not for strategic mistakes he made late in the campaign.

In May in Pennsylvania, Representative Joe Sestak would not let the Democratic establishment coronate Senator Arlen Specter — who had just been persuaded to switch parties by the White House after conservatives made it impossible for him to win the Republican primary. These anti-party forces are not likely to wane.

In the same paper, Carl Hulse likens today's outsiders to the Senate GOP class of 1980:

Swept into office by the landslide victory of Ronald Reagan were a number of conservatives, including Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. of Alabama, Mack Mattingly of Georgia, Paula Hawkins of Florida, Steve Symms of Idaho and several others whose notion of the role of government and Congress was markedly different from those they succeeded.

They were labeled the “accidental senators,” candidates who won only by virtue of an extraordinary political environment. The culture of the Senate — and party control — changed overnight.

“It was a very weird time,” recalled Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who narrowly won a second term that year. “A lot of those people had no idea what they were doing.”

While party strategists and analysts say Republicans still face a steep climb to gain the 10 seats needed to flip control of the Senate, polls and circumstances in contests around the country suggest it is not inconceivable that Republicans could seize the majority if crucial races uniformly break their way on Nov. 2.

If they do, it is a certainty that the new membership of the Senate would include sharply conservative Republicans with a deep skepticism of government and a determination to change Washington.


GOP Factionalism

Dan Balz notes internal GOP divisions:

It has long been said that any political coalition large enough to aspire to majority status is an organization of factions, conflict and contradictions. That description defines the Republican Party as it looks toward the November elections and beyond.

This was a week in which the party's strengths and weaknesses competed for attention. Turnout in Tuesday's primaries showed Republicans energized and enthusiastic, far more so than the Democrats. If anything, Democrats are more pessimistic about their prospects in November than they were two months ago.

But the elections last week in Florida and Alaska also pointed to ideological differences and personal enmities that have played out in Republican primary battles all year and that threaten to leave scars and fissures within the party that will have to be dealt with later. Republicans have seen more turmoil in their ranks this year than Democrats have, a sign of both robustness within the coalition and unresolved debates about the party's direction.

On another front, House Republican leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) went to his home state and made his first attempt at offering a GOP agenda for the fall campaigns, an essential - and until now, largely missing - element of the party's message.

But Boehner's speech left many questions unanswered about what his party would do if Republicans win a majority of seats in November. How radically would they attack government spending? How bold would they be in dealing with entitlements, beyond the grown-up conversation that Boehner promises? How much effort would they make to work with President Obama compared with the past two years?

The party's agenda is not the only question mark hanging over Republicans. The party's leadership remains in question. Who now truly drives the party: the establishment or the grass roots? There is considerable evidence that power has shifted to the activists and that the Washington establishment is still scrambling to catch up.

At CNN, Julian Zelizer sees four main factions:

  • Economic conservatives
  • Social conservatives;
  • Libertarians;
  • National-security conservatives

He says that Reagan united the various GOP factions in the 1980s. Although the Gipper did escape a primary challenge in 1984, Zelizer overlooks the intense infighting that characterized GOP politics during this period. The president faced strong House GOP opposition over the 1982 and 1985 tax bills, for instance. Zelizer also says: "None of the main Republican contenders for 2012 -- Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney or any others -- has demonstrated that he or she would be able to build a coalition from these factions." He forgets Barbour's RNC chairmanship, when he indeed built good relations with all party factions.



CA: Fiorina to the Right

Dan Morain writes at The Sacramento Bee:

Imagine this: In environmentally sensitive California, Carly Fiorina, hoping to be this state's next U.S. senator, supports offshore oil drilling and nuclear power, and hates the law that promises to reduce greenhouse gases.

Fiorina publicly says she'd vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity, this in a state where an anti-abortion rights candidate at the top of the ticket has not won since the 1980s.

For good measure, she proudly supports the Second Amendment, opposes same-sex marriage and looks to the free market libertarian Cato Institute for counsel on the economy.

What gives? Unlike so many candidates before her, Fiorina clings to her stands on social issues. It endears her to Republican stalwarts. But in a state where there are 2.3 million more Democrats than Republicans, she may be making a fatal error. Then again, perhaps it's all part of a much bigger plan, beyond the U.S. Senate.... If she were to win in November, Fiorina immediately would move onto the list of vice presidential candidates. Given the conservative social views of the GOP base, no Republican presidential nominee would consider a running mate who has equivocated matters such as abortion rights.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

American Crossroads GOTV

A press release from American Crossroads:

American Crossroads, the new conservative political action organization, today announced plans to spend more than $10 million on an extensive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) plan called “MOVERS” – Mobilizing Our Voters to End Reckless Spending. The MOVERS program will be augmented by GOTV activities in these and other states by other independent groups that are working with American Crossroads.


In each of the eight target states, American Crossroads will use enhanced voter files and data on absentee ballot and early voting patterns to deliver absentee ballot mailers with chase calls, early voting notifications by mail and phone calls, and a 72-hour mail and phone call blitz prior to Election Day. Target universes for the program include high, medium and low propensity Republican voters, as well as high propensity independent voters.


“We have an unprecedented opportunity to restore balance and fiscal responsibility to Washington this fall,” said Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads. “To do that, American Crossroads will conduct an intensive turnout effort and work closely with other independent partners on mobilizing our voters to end reckless spending.”


Targeted voters in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire and Washington State will receive multiple contacts and follow-ups through the American Crossroads “MOVERS” GOTV plan.

Politico calls it "outsourcing the 72-Hour Plan."


USA Today reports on the Democratic reaction:

Democrats are using a burst of recent ad spending by American Crossroads and an affiliated group to raise money for the party's Senate candidates.

In an e-mail sent to supporters today, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Executive Director J.B. Poersch called on rank-and-file Democrats to donate to counteract the group's spending.

Here's an excerpt:

Feel that wind blowing? That's Bush strategist Karl Rove breathing down our necks.

In the past 72 hours, his shady American Crossroads group launched an on-air assault on Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold. Rove was already hitting Harry Reid and Robin Carnahan. And that's just one of a slew of corporate-funded GOP front groups.

In six years at the DSCC, I've NEVER seen anything like this. Republicans are coming after us earlier and harder than ever to win back the majority.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Economic and Political Climate

The Commerce Department on Friday downgraded the nation's economic growth in the second quarter, providing the most important evidence yet that the recovery has stalled.

The anemic annualized growth rate of 1.6% was down from last month's estimate of 2.4%. The drop was slightly less than many economists had predicted, but the report still put an exclamation point on a week of bad economic news that has raised fears the nation could plunge into another recession.
Americans are more pessimistic about the country's economy than they were last month, a new CBS News poll reveals.

Thirty-four percent now say the economy is getting worse, up from 26 percent last month. Only 20 percent now say the economy is getting better, according to the poll, conducted Aug. 20 - 24. The last time views were this pessimistic was April of 2009.

Additionally, Americans' overall rating of the economy has been stagnant this summer. Over eight in 10 say the economy is in bad shape, and that negativity hasn't budged. Just 17 percent of Americans describe the nation's economy as being in good shape.

The Washington Examiner reports:

With just weeks left in a summer that showed far less economic recovery than Democrats had hoped for, the party is bracing for the prospect of a GOP-controlled House of Representatives next year, while Republicans set their sights on as many as 80 seats they believe will be vulnerable in November.
"I've been thinking for months the House is lost," one top Democratic strategist told The Washington Examiner. "I don't even think it's going to be close."

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover — or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe — such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 — are in real trouble.

In two close races, endangered Democrats are even running ads touting how they oppose their leadership

Michael Barone writes:
More good news for Republicans and bad news for Democrats keeps flooding in. Consider this morning’s polls reported in realclearpolitics.com. Mason-Dixon, polling for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has Harry Reid up over Sherron Angle by only 45%-44%–a statistical tie. The mainstream meme has been that Angle is unelectable. This poll refutes that. She’s certainly not a sure winner, but she’s not a sure loser either. And Harry Reid, who has been on statewide ballots in Nevada going back to 1970, when he was elected lieutenant governor, is stuck under 50%.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

American Crossroads GPS v. Boxer

The Los Angeles Times reports:

A conservative group with ties to former Bush adviser Karl Rove announced Wednesday they have Barbara Boxer in their sites.

The Crossroads GPS, announced they would hit the airwaves with a new "issue ad" focused on Boxer and her support for cuts to Medicare that were part of President Obama's health-care overhaul.

Crossroads said ads will run in Los Angeles, beginning Wednesday, for one week. The group says it spent $1 million to buy the TV airtime.

Crossroads GPS and its affiliate, American Crossroads, both receive advice and fundraising support from Rove. During a campaign stop at a beachfront cafe in Santa Monica Wednesday, Boxer said the group's interest in her race was evidence that a Fiorina win would mean a return to the policies of George W. Bush.

The ad -- which has a theme similar to an attack on Sestak -- is here:

American Crossroads Legal Fights, Continued

PoliticsMo reports:

The Missouri Democratic Party Wednesday filed an ethics complaint against Congressman Roy Blunt’s Senate campaign and Crossroads GPS, a group behind a negative campaign ad targeting Democrat Robin Carnahan that was released last week.

The party alleges illegal coordination between the Blunt campaign and the Crossroads GPS, which was formed by GOP minds Ed Gilespy and Karl Rove, who campaigned for Blunt early this summer.

“It is one thing for Karl Rove and Congressman Blunt to use their shady out-of-state political tricks to try and deceive Missourians,” said MDP spokesman Ryan Hobart. “It is absolutely unacceptable for Congressman Blunt and Karl Rove to try and find a backdoor to let out-of-state Big Oil and special interest cash fund inappropriate political attack ads here in Missouri.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

American Crossroads GPS v. Sestak

Chris Cillizza reports at The Washington Post:

Crossroads GPS, a conservative 501(c)4 group with ties to former Bush White House senior adviser Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, is up with a new TV ad that slams Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) for supporting President Obama's "big government health care scheme."

"Higher taxes and premiums, fewer jobs, Medicare cuts: the Sestak-Obama plan costs us too much," the narrator says.

Sestak, who has held the 7th district since 2006, is taking on former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) for the seat of Sen. Arlen Specter (D). Sestak beat the party switching Specter in a primary earlier this year.

The ad comes as Crossroads GPS, which has a brother 527 arm known as American Crossroads, steps up its efforts in this year's campaigns. It announced last week that it was launching nearly $1 million worth of ads in the Colorado and Ohio Senate races and spending $2 million in the Nevada and Missouri Senate races.

All told, the two groups had raised more than $17 million as of mid-August.

Ad is below:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Crossroads Ohio Legal Questions

RealClearPolitics reports:

American Crossroads' new TV ad in Ohio that bolsters former GOP Rep. Rob Portman's Senate candidacy and message on jobs appears to be in violation of FEC coordination regulations, but a recent precedent shows that the group could escape without a fine.

The 527 committee's ad showcases three photographs that originated from Portman's campaign Web site and jobs plan document, and FEC rules state that using such photos constitutes an in-kind contribution that exceeds the legal limits.

Officials connected to the committee say the photos were "publicly sourced," meaning that Portman campaign site photos were posted to another site, and the committee plucked them elsewhere. Both sides cite a precedent involving EMILY's List's assistance of Ohio Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton's 2006 campaign to make their case, and an official at the Ohio Democratic Party confirmed Sunday night to RealClearPolitics that it will file a complaint to the FEC today for an official ruling on the matter.

The Washington Examiner reports on the group's defense:

But former FEC Chairman and RNC Chief Counsel Tom Josefiak, the group’s counsel, believes the case is a slam dunk in their favor. In a memo obtained by The Examiner, he writes:

“…American Crossroads produced its Portman ad entirely independently of the Portman campaign, and any content that it did not produce itself was obtained from widely available public domain sources on the Internet, including YouTube. Absolutely no material used in the ad was obtained from the Portman campaign website, or in any other way from the Portman campaign.”

Josefiak cites a 2007 FEC case, New Trier Democratic Organization, in which a group had republished a campaign photograph in a flyer and was accused of coordination. The organization in question argued that the campaign had not given it permission to use the image, and that it had obtained the photograph from a different source. The FEC noted that “there are copies of the same photograph in numerous places in the public domain,” and ruled that the complaint against the group was based on “unwarranted legal conclusions from asserted facts, or mere speculation” about the photograph’s origin.

The ruling is especially significant, Josefiak argues, because it came after a 2006 ruling that found fault with but applied no penalty to EMILY’S List, a group that backs candidates who support legalized abortion. The group had used a photograph from the campaign of Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, prompting a complaint. The 2007 New Trier ruling, Josefiak writes, appears to follow the dissenting opinion in the EMILY’s List case, in which two commissioners had opined that the regulation should not apply.

Says the group’s spokesman, Jonathan Collegio: “We are confident in our legal standing and in the appropriateness of our spots, and that the complaint will be dismissed by the FEC.”


Monday, August 23, 2010

CA: GOP Hopes

The Washington Post reports on the CA GOP's statewide ticket, which includes female candidates for governor, US senator, and treasurer, an African American candidate for secretary of state, and a Latino candidate (and appointed incumbent) for lieutenant governor.

For the first time in memory, California Republicans have a diverse statewide slate of candidates to field this fall, a lineup their state party chairman calls "an inspirational ticket." Coupled with national momentum for conservatives, the California GOP is hoping this might be their breakthrough year.

Yet it's far from clear whether voters in California, where Democrats have a nearly 15-point voter registration advantage, will see the same glitter the GOP faithful perceive.

...

"We repeatedly hear and see objective data that Democratic voters are not enthusiastic about turning out (this year)," said GOP chairman Ron Nehring. "The Democrats are going to have to spend a lot of money turning voters out that we don't have to spend because we know from research that our voters are fired up."

The party also faces no pressure to spend in the governor's race, where billionaire Whitman has already contributed $104 million of her own money to what is expected to become the most expensive statewide campaign in history.

Since the June primary, she has also assiduously courted Hispanic voters, opening an office in Hispanic East Los Angeles and airing radio and TV spots in Spanish.

But Democrats who traditionally dominate this demographic are unlikely to cede those voters or other moderates. Their party, with its strong union support, is generally known for skillful voter-turnout efforts, and this year will be no different, said Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores.

"Our greatest advantage is our network of grassroots activists across the state who are ready and eager to get to work and turn Democrats out to vote," he said.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Energized by the most diverse state ticket in their party's history, California Republicans are stepping up their outreach to Latinos and other minorities, hoping to repair their image and grow their ranks. But as they gathered for their semiannual convention over the weekend, GOP leaders and the party faithful clashed over immigration, illustrating, in an unexpected way, the party's key campaign theme: Party of the future versus party of the past.

Conservative activists had hoped to win support for a resolution endorsing both Arizona's controversial immigration law and Proposition 187, the 1994 effort to deny taxpayer-funded services to illegal immigrants. Looking to turn the page, party leaders, reportedly at the behest of Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, killed the measure in committee.

They feared a divisive debate would blunt the GOP's political momentum as Whitman and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina run competitive races against their Democratic opponents. Both candidates focused on the economy and praised the diversity of the ticket in their convention speeches. Neither mentioned immigration.
The Sacramento Bee reports:

"She has been very dedicated to raising money into the party to support that victory operation," said Whitman strategist Rob Stutzman, a former Schwarzenegger aide and campaign strategist. "Probably, it hasn't been since (Pete) Wilson in '94 that there was such a well-organized, coordinated and well-funded victory operation in place."
Whitman also has helped shape the Republican ticket. State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, said she recruited him to run again for state controller this year after the two supported former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.
"I think she's provided leadership at the top of the ticket," Strickland said. "She's good about bringing us with her, campaigning together as a team."
Similarly, the Whitman team has taken under its wing secretary of state candidate Damon Dunn, who like Whitman is a political novice with a scant history of voting in elections. Throughout the convention, top Whitman aide Hector Barajas could be seen escorting Dunn to meetings with GOP leaders.
...

"(Whitman) is overtly interested in helping all her candidates," said Jon Fleischman, a blogger and vice chairman of the state GOP's southern branch. "She's much more altruistic about helping the other people on the ticket, unlike Schwarzenegger, who used the party to help his own career."


Misoverestimated?

AT RCP, David Paul Kuhn examines the president's many political missteps and makes a trenchant observation:

The most underestimated aspect of the 2008 campaign was the political environment. Could even a Ronald Reagan have beaten a Democrat two years ago? Unlikely. It is forgotten how clumsily Obama dealt with the rare obstacle. How difficult it was for him to deal with Sarah Palin until she imploded. How difficult it was for him to walk back the bitter remarks. How difficult it was to close the deal on Hillary Clinton. How lucky he was to campaign in a year where the economy trumped cultural issues. When his Hyde Park liberal character would not undercut his bid. Even John McCain's war heroics fell flat. It was, simply, the economy.

That too reminds us of Obama's questionable instincts on the grand scale. This is a candidate who first sustained majority support after the market crashed on September 15. Yet Obama focused his first year on myriad liberal dreams over the economic crisis. Unlike most Americans, his priorities did not change with the crisis. Obama never even offered the great speech to match this Great Recession. And that was supposedly his specialty.

It's not that Obama is bad at the trade. He simply falls far short of the hype. This is not a man "misunderestimated," to borrow a term from his predecessor. And that is partly Obama's own fault.

This is the same man who, on the cusp of his national address at the 2004 Democratic convention, told a reporter "I'm LeBron, baby." This is the president who reportedly told Democratic lawmakers "the big difference here and in '94, was you've got me." "I'm pretty good at politicking," Obama recently told supporters at a fundraiser.

To borrow from Golda Meir, no need to be so humble.

In addition to the economy, President Bush's unpopularity contributed to the outcome. It had crashed long before the Dow did, largely as a result of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Multiple GOP scandals did not help, either. Any plausible Democrat would have won in 2008, and the Abramowitz model -- which took no account of who the nominee were -- accurately predicted the popular vote.

As we explain in Epic Journey, Barack Obama had a superb campaign organization, but he also got some very lucky breaks. Like so many people before him, the president has sometimes mistaken luck for merit.

As Nietzche said, success has always been the greatest liar.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

American Crossroads, IRS, and FEC

The Center for Public Integrity reports on American Crossroads.

The Washington Post explains why it's important that such 527 and 501(c) groups are filing with the IRS instead of the FEC:

The IRS has limited ability to enforce its rules. It cannot fine groups for violating their tax status, for example. Its only option is to charge taxes on specific types of expenditures or take the much bigger step of revoking a group's tax-exempt status -- a punishment often considered incommensurate with most infractions.

"The only effective tool the IRS has to use against a nonprofit is the death penalty," said Brett Kappel, a lawyer with the firm Arent Fox.

One of the few times the IRS has denied tax-exempt status was in 1999 for the Christian Coalition, which operated as a social welfare organization while distributing "voter guides" to churches favoring certain candidates. The battle became highly politicized, with legal challenges that stretched out for years.

Also hampering the agency's ability to enforce is the fact that it operates on what Owens calls "tax time." Any investigation comes after an organization has filed a tax return. Nonprofits are often granted two three-month extensions before they file, meaning most returns showing campaign spending this fall will come about a year after the election.

When returns detailing election-related spending are filed, they fit into a queue with 1.9 million other tax-exempt organizations, including charities, foundations and clubs. The agency's 200 revenue agents focused on tax-exempt filings have traditionally focused on making sure that the groups don't abuse tax-deductible gifts or tax-exempt status for private gain.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 47

The president's Ramadan remarks at an Iftar dinner about the Ground Zero controversy are on the White House website.

HENRY: You going for a swim?

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely.

HENRY: You're getting on the water today or tomorrow?

OBAMA: I think we're going to go tomorrow and as I just said, Ed, I'm not going to let you guys take a picture of me without my shirt on but there will be proof. Because you guys will tease me just like the last time. I was on the front page of every -- people commenting.

HENRY: What do you think about the reaction to your speech about the mosque?

OBAMA: Well, the, you know, my intention was to simply let people know what I thought, which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about. And I think it's very important that, you know, as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.

CA: Whitman and Fiorina Have Different Strategies

At the Los Angeles Times, Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta make a very shrewd point about strategic differences between Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina:
Whitman has tested the patience of conservatives by edging toward moderate positions on such divisive issues as immigration and the proposed rollback of the state's global warming law. Though she made no mention of these topics during her Friday night speech, delegates were buzzing about her shifting tones throughout the weekend.

Fiorina, by contrast, has not wavered from the strong conservative stances she took in the primary, including support for the Arizona law and for repealing the federal healthcare bill. ... On Saturday, Fiorina fired up the party faithful by criticizing Boxer's "left-wing ideology" and promising to end her rival's "28-year-long reign." Fiorina's relentless efforts to boost turnout among the most loyal Republicans — and Whitman's overtures toward moderate voters — have been reflected in recent polling. In a July survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, Fiorina showed greater strength than Whitman among Republican voters, while Whitman had more support from Democrats and Californians who described themselves as liberal.

Mark Baldassare, who heads the institute, said the different strategies employed by the campaigns illustrate the candidates' differing needs and campaign finances. Whitman is a billionaire who has spent $104 million of her own wealth on her campaign. Fiorina, though a multimillionaire, has struggled to catch up with Boxer's fundraising.

"They're in different places," he said. "Meg Whitman has the resources to run her own campaign the way she needs to, and I think Carly Fiorina is a candidate who needs to become part of the … national Republican Party's efforts to win seats in Congress this year."
More broadly, gubernatorial elections work on a different track from senatorial elections. The former often turn on non-ideological, state-specific issues while the latter inevitably involve polarizing distinctions between national Republicans and Democrats. That's why some very Democratic states (e.g., Hawaii, Rhode Island) have Republican governors, while some very Republican states (e.g., Wyoming, Kansas) have Democratic ones.

Whitman's money also has enabled her to help her fellow Republicans, as Dan Morain reports at the Sacramento Bee:

Unlike Democrats, Republican candidates see reason to hope that some of Meg Whitman's mega-millions, or at least her rich friends' money, will flow their way and float their boats.

Whitman is running as if Republicans make up a ticket, regularly appearing with candidates for other statewide offices including Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, running for attorney general, and Sen. Tony Strickland, running for controller.

"She has made it clear that she doesn't want to go to Sacramento alone," said Bill Bloomfield, a major Southern California donor to Republicans nationally who is giving to Whitman, the California Republican Party, Maldonado and Strickland.

Whitman is paying particular attention to Strickland. She has donated $6,500 to the Ventura County Republican and headlined fundraisers for him in San Diego, Orange County and San Francisco. Importantly, she is telling her donors that she wants Strickland to be part of her team.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

American Crossroads Up, RNC Down

Politico reports:

A political outfit conceived by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie pulled in more than $2 million from deep-pocketed conservatives and corporations last month, and this week spent $454,000 on ads supporting Republican Rob Portman’s Ohio Senate campaign, according to financial reports filed recently with the Federal Election Commission.

The reports show that the group, a political action committee called American Crossroads, accepted $1 million each from the trust of former Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio and from an agricultural interest controlled in part by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons.

But the FEC reports reveal only half of the effort being waged under the American Crossroads umbrella, which includes the Crossroads PAC and a newer, stealthier group called American Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, or GPS.

Together they have raised $17.6 million through mid-August, spokesman Jonathan Collegio told the Associated Press, though he wouldn’t answer when asked by POLITICO how much was raised by each group.

Two outside pro-Republican groups say they will boost their total fundraising to $52 million over the next two months, as the political right begins to play serious catch-up on the left in the use of tax-exempt nonparty organizations in election campaigns.

Mike Duncan, chairman of American Crossroads, told The Washington Times that his group and American Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies plan to plow more than $49 million of it into 11 Senate races in anticipation that the Republican Party is within reach of a Senate majority.

And, in an inversion of the usual image of "coattails" descending from the top of the ticket to a party's candidates for lower offices, he says a number of Senate seats are in play because of the strength of strong House candidates in the respective states.

Politico also reports:

The Republican National Committee has just over $5 million in the bank for the final stretch of the 2010 midterm election campaign, according to an unannounced filing with the FEC disclosed Friday night.

The report also indicates that the national party headed by embattled chairman Michael Steele is carrying just over $2 million in debt.

There was no press release from the RNC attempting to put a positive spin on the grim numbers. Rather, officials from the Democratic National Committee flagged the RNC's report, which was posted on the Federal Election Commission’s website Friday night.

It indicated that the committee brought in slightly more than $5.5 million in July — less than half of what the DNC raised — while spending $11 million.

The RNC's money woes have many party leaders and operatives deeply worried about whether the GOP will be able to take full advantage of an otherwise promising election cycle. Of most concern are get-out- the-vote activities that are typically funded by the national committee. While the RNC OK’d a $10 million line-of-credit at its meeting earlier this month, that will still be insufficient to fund the sort of voter contact efforts needed across the House, Senate, gubernatorial and local races this year. Senior Republicans are expecting newly created third-party groups such as American Crossroads to step in and assist with the ground game.

Given the number of other Republican groups raising money, this isn’t as disastrous as going into battle without ammunition. It’s more like going into battle without ammunition for just one of your armies.

Friday, August 20, 2010

CA: WebWar

As the FPPC ponders new regulations, Whitman and Brown are using the web weapons at hand. California Watch reports:

Jerryfails.com would have you believe Brown’s life amounts to nothing but “a career politician with a legacy of broken promises and failure.” Meg-a-Myths.com barely stops short of calling Whitman a pathological liar, with Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford explaining the site exists because “Whitman is either incapable or unwilling to tell the truth about Jerry Brown, California or herself. If she won’t, we will.”

Unveiling his Myths website last week marked Brown’s first foray into specialized campaign websites outside of his main jerrybrown.org page, and the most recent in a long string of campaign websites rolled out by the candidates – the vast majority from Whitman’s camp.

Whitman’s website-building pace far outstrips that of Brown, having rolled out sites targeting women, students, nurses, Latinos, and Chinese-speaking voters, in addition to maintaining her primary megwhitman.com site.

Both candidates for governor openly support their respective attack website and interpretation of the facts, plastering a little “Paid for by …” box at the bottom of each site. Brown’s snarky Myths website borders on kitsch, with a garish likeness of Whitman shoveling money into a television, while Whitman’s Jerryfails.com doesn’t stray far from traditional campaign web design.

American Crossroads Independent Expenditures

The Open Secrets blog reports:
In late July, the FEC issued advisory opinions for the conservative Club for Growth and a liberal group called Commonsense Ten, allowing these groups, and others like them, to solicit unlimited amounts of money for use in political independent expenditures.

In the wake of this regulatory shift, American Crossroads filed paperwork last week with the FEC declaring their intention to raise unlimited contributions for political advertisements as an “independent expenditure-only committee.” Until July, American Crossroads reported this information about donations it received, and expenditures it made, only to the IRS.

In the Commonsense Ten advisory opinion, “the FEC clarified that 527 groups like American Crossroads needed to file contribution and expenditure activity with the commission,” Jonathan Collegio, the communications director of American Crossroads told OpenSecrets Blog. “Our filing is complying with that guidance issued by the FEC. “

Collegio added that the entity now registering with the FEC is the same one that had been reporting to the IRS.

American Crossroads is running an ad in Ohio:




Jack Torry writes for the Columbus Dispatch:

It would be difficult to find another commercial that has the appearance of being so carefully tested by polls and focus groups. It hits virtually every important theme - a politician listening to voters, an outsider not part of the Washington establishment, and a candidate talking about jobs.

Yet the commercial, while avoiding any direct attacks on Senate Democratic candidate Lee Fisher, is extremely misleading by omission. A viewer would assume that: Portman has never held political office, does not wear a business suit and tie, and is just some guy who hangs out at barbecues.

Portman, though, spent more than a decade as a Republican congressman from Cincinnati and served for one year each as U.S. trade representative and budget director under Bush. As a member of Congress, he voted for the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement and permanent normal trade relations with China. He supported the 2001 tax cuts that many economists think were a factor in transforming a $128 billion federal budget surplus in 2001 into a decade of major deficits.

As for the 400,000 jobs lost? Ohio lost 379,900 nonfarm payroll jobs from December 2006 - just before Fisher became lieutenant governor - until June of this year. But the state has been steadily losing jobs since 2000, under both Republican and Democratic governors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio has had a net loss of 568,300 jobs from January 2000 until June of this year.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the other side is lagging:
Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits.

But Democratic operatives trying to raise money for expensive ad campaigns report that the wealthy liberals (and, to some extent, labor unions) who wrote huge checks to independent groups for advertising campaigns in the past three election cycles are sitting on their wallets...

The right’s response to the Citizens United decision has been swifter and more cohesive.

A range of business groups upset with Democrats’ health care and finance overhauls, as well as their efforts to pass climate change legislation, have announced ambitious plans to target Democratic lawmakers, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It typically supports Republicans, but reportedly to spend as much as $75 million on its election efforts — more than double its previous high — and already has disclosed spending $4.1 million on ads.

New independent groups with strong GOP ties also are pledging huge campaigns, some of which will take advantage of the increased fundraising and spending flexibility accorded by Citizens United.

American Crossroads, a two-pronged outfit linked to top Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, has raised at least $9.8 million since launching in March and has spent more than $1 million on ads attacking Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) during their reelection campaigns and boosting Ohio GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman.

The extra-party infrastructure being assembled on the right “is very similar to what [the left] did in 2004,” said Erik Smith, a Democratic operative who worked for the Media Fund and America Coming Together, linked 527 groups that raised a combined $139 million from donors such as George Soros to air ads boosting Sen. John Kerry’s unsuccessful Democratic challenge to Bush’s reelection.

The right’s 2010 efforts should be viewed in the context of what most operatives agree is the left’s advantage in grass-roots, get-out-the-vote infrastructure, Smith said. He added that major donors tend to write their checks closer to Election Day but asserted “there are less people on both sides of the aisle who are willing to write huge checks” and questioned some of the projected tallies on the right.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

American Crossroads GPS v. Bennet

A Really Bad Summer for Democrats

Statistics are not giving Democrats much reason for happiness these days.

Gallup's latest update on 2010 congressional voting preferences finds 50% of registered voters saying they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, and 43% for the Democratic candidate, if the elections were held today. Republicans have led in each of the past three weeks, and their current 50% vote share and seven percentage-point lead represent their best showings thus far in 2010.
That’s the biggest lead for Republicans ever measured in the 60 years Gallup has been taking this poll. Further, this poll question has a history of understating Republican support in the past. In August of 1994, a year when Republicans made historic electoral gains, Democrats were actually ahead in Gallup’s generic poll.
As he attempts to shepherd the U.S. through the sluggish economic recovery and galvanize Democratic voters ahead of a congressional election cycle in which the party is expected to sustain heavy losses, Obama's approval rating has held relatively steady, at a near even split: 46% of respondents back his job performance, with 45% expressing disapproval. Voters are far less enthusiastic about the President's policies, however, with 57% asserting that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.

That wasn't the only grim news for Democrats. The GOP has snatched the lead in generic congressional balloting, with 43% of likely voters saying they would vote for a Republican candidate if the midterm elections were held today, compared with 37% for Democrats. (Last month, Democrats held a slight edge in generic balloting, 43%-42%.

The Washington Post reports economic data foreshadowing greater problems ahead:

Unemployment is in this country is going the wrong way.
This morning, the Labor Department said that new jobless claims filed last week unexpectedly rose by 12,000 to hit 500,000, the first time since November that the half-million mark has been reached. The four-week moving average of new unemployment claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, rose by 8,000 to 482,500. Forecasters expected last week's new jobless claims number to go down, not up...Today's number marked the third straight week of increase in new weekly jobless claims. That suggests that employers not only are not hiring, it suggests that they're starting to lay off workers again, and that will start a whole cascade of problems for the U.S. economy and the politicians in Washington who face reelection this November.

And to top it off, the Pew Center for the People and the Press has these data:

The religious landscape is far more favorable to Republicans than was the case as recently as 2008. Half of white non-Hispanic Catholics (50%) currently identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up nine points since 2008. Among religiously unaffiliated voters, who have been stalwart supporters of Democrats in recent elections, 29% currently identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 25% in 2008 (the proportion identifying as Democrats has fallen seven points since then). And 33% of Jewish voters identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 20% in 2008.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Searching for the Villain

Last year, I wrote about the Democrats' search for a villain. The search goes on. Politico reports:

As far as politics go, President Barack Obama and John Boehner have virtually nothing in common. And that makes him a perfect Republican for the White House to vilify.

The president and the House Republican minority leader don’t agree on stimulus spending or on tax cuts, and Boehner wants to repeal two of Obama’s signature accomplishments: the new health care law and tighter Wall Street regulations. On Wednesday, Obama visits Ohio — Boehner’s home state — to talk about the economy, and he may throw a few jabs at Boehner, whom Obama has called “out of touch.”

But political scientists and strategists aren’t sure that demonizing Boehner, generally unknown outside Washington, and a few other notable Republicans is a winning strategy, since most voters generally don’t closely follow national politics. Outside the Beltway, they say, not that many people even know whom the president is talking about.

“Folks like John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Joe Barton don’t even have 50 percent name recognition nationwide,” Tom Jensen, a pollster for the liberal group Public Policy Polling, said in an e-mail. “And for the most part, people who do know them are hard partisans whose voting preferences are pretty set in stone. This is the kind of thing where people who work in politics need to keep perspective about just how unfamiliar average people are with most of the movers and shakers in D.C."



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

American Crossroads in Colorado and Ohio

The Washington Post reports:

American Crossroads, the conservative outside organization that has pledged to raise upwards of $60 million for the midterm elections, is spending nearly $1 million on new television ads in the Colorado and Ohio Senate races.

The Ohio ad, which is paid for by the 527 arm of the American Crossroads operation and running statewide, touts former Rep. Rob Portman as a voice of change in his race against Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D); "Portman hears Ohio families, strengthens job creation," says the ad's narrator. "Rob Portman...listening, then leading."

The Colorado ad, funded by Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) organization, hits appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) for embarking on a "spending spree" since coming to Congress early last year.

"Since his appointment, Bennet has voted to spend $2.5 billion every single day," says the ad's narrator, adding that the incumbent voted twice to raise the national debt in the space of 35 days. Bennet, who defeated former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in last week's Democratic primary, faces Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R) this fall.

American Crossroads is spending $500,000 on the Ohio ad and Crossroads GPS is dropping another $425,000 on the Colorado commercial, which is running in the Denver and Colorado Springs media markets. Both ads will run for a week.




Monday, August 16, 2010

American Crossroads: Does It Make Steele Irrelevant?

As Raw Story reports, Ed Rollins says that Michael Steele has been a "disaster" for RNC -- but that outside groups limit the damage:

The reason Rollins says it will not matter is because of the so-called "shadow RNC" formed by former Bush political adviser Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, which has effectively undermined Steele's position, rendering him nothing more than a figurehead.

...

Rove and Gillespie said the American Crossroads groups aim to raise and spend over $50 million to influence the 2010 elections. IRS forms obtained by the media showed the "shadow RNC" groups had raised $4.7 million by the end of July, with just four individual billionaires cited as donating over 97 percent of the total.

Tim Dickenson, writing for Rolling Stone, called the plot nothing less than a "coup of the Republican party".

Steele, who's faced a string of controversies seemingly since he was elected to lead the RNC after President Obama's 2008 victory, has vowed to stay put. He recently caught flack from Republicans for suggesting the Afghan war was one of choice for President Obama, and a prior rhetorical tangle he had with conservative radio host and de-facto GOP mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh ended with Steele apologizing.

Whether Steele stays or not, according to Rollins and other GOP insiders, seems of little significance at this point -- so long as he keeps out of the spotlight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CA: Boxer Support

The Los Angeles Times reports:

With 80 days to go before the November election, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer turned her energies to mobilizing volunteers Saturday, tapping into the Democrats’ national get-out-the-vote network, Organizing for America, during an appearance near downtown Los Angeles.

Joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Boxer asked a group of about 100 volunteers to begin making phone calls and walking neighborhoods to ensure that first-time voters who supported President Obama in 2008 will turn out again in November when she will face former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Carly Fiorina

Villaraigosa may or may not have been helpful with his remarks:

Villaraigosa, who described Boxer as one of his heroes because of her “unabashedly progressive” outlook, was on hand at Saturday's event to fire up volunteers and defend Boxer's record on local issues like his 30/10 plan, which would accelerate 12 transit projects to complete them in a decade instead of three.

“When you’re mayor of L.A., you go to two places when you’re looking for money,” Villaraigosa said. “You go to — well you used to go to Sacramento — and you go to Washington D.C., and I can tell you whenever I knock on her door, she’s there.”

The "unabashedly progressive" outlook may be a bit of a liability. Even in the 2008 election, the conservatives outnumbered liberals among California voters, with self-described moderates holding the balance. And talking up pork for Los Angeles may be less popular outside the city limits than within. Furthermore, the national debt has diminished the political appeal of pork in general. “Earmarks are no longer there to bail you out,” said Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense recently told the New York Times. “They don’t make you bulletproof anymore.”