Uh-oh. President Obama seems to have learned nothing from the disaster of the "cling-to-guns-and-God" talk that almost derailed his campaign in 2008. He's back at it—blaming voters for failing to "think clearly" because they're "scared" about the economy:
WEST NEWTON, Mass. - President Barack Obama said Americans' "fear and frustration" is to blame for an intense midterm election cycle that threatens to derail the Democratic agenda.
"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared," Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. "And the country's scared."
Obama told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his "view from the Oval Office." He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to "think clearly" and said the burden is on Democrats "to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling."
What if he's right? In two years, the economy will have recovered and voters will feel better about his policies. But the election is in three weeks, when—according to his own theory—voters will act out of scared, hard-wired confusion. Why make them angrier? ('You poor, scared, confused people, I know more "facts" and "science" than you do.') Always Be Condescending! It's a form of political malpractice—making yourself look good to supporters, and to history, and to yourself, at the expense of the fellow Dems who are on the ballot.
a few weeks ago a right-wing reporter told me that worried Dem congresspersons who met with Obama left their meetings more worried than when they went in. I discounted the gossip, but now it's begining to ring true. We thought he was a great salesman. He turned out to be a lousy salesman. We thought he was a great politician. Instead he makes elementary mistakes and doesn't learn from them. He didn't know "shovel-ready" from a hole in the ground, and then somehow thinks admitting this ignorance without apology will add to his appeal.
I'd still defend most of the decisions Obama's made, especially on health care refom. I'd rather have him making those decisions than 85% of the likely Republican candidates. But for the first time, he's looking like a one-termer, even if the jobs start to come back. . . .
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Meg Whitman stopped by a Cuban bakery in Glendale Friday. And in the past few days, she's also hit a pizza parlor, an ice cream shop and a diner.
With a Field Poll this week showing the GOP gubernatorial candidate trailing Democrat Jerry Brown by 10 points - and with more than half of Californians having a negative view of her - Whitman's Rolls-Royce campaign is trying something new: Honda Civic-style charm.
The former eBay CEO is sliding into diner booths and talking to small-town voters, sampling goodies at butcher shops, waving to passers-by, strolling Main Streets and airing soft-focus ads that rhapsodize about how "real" she is.
With three days left in a campaign that has lasted 18 months and cost her $142 million of her own money, analysts are wondering why Whitman hasn't done more unscripted events like those before the final lap of her campaign.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Everybody agrees that we have to get control of our deficits. I think us working together, Democrats and Republicans, with a responsible plan that makes sure that we`re protecting those core investments like education that helped improve economic growth long term, but also eliminating wasteful spending, is something where we should be able to get some agreement.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
When it comes time to choose a bank, many Washington political committees pick one close to home or one affiliated with a big national chain.
But American Crossroads, a conservative group headquartered blocks from the White House, made an unusual choice: Forcht Bank, a small regional institution based in Lexington, Ky.
The bank is part of a regional conglomerate, the Forcht Group, owned by Terry Forcht of Corbin, Ky., which also has publishing, broadcast, construction and real estate companies. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported this week that Forcht's family and employees have given $1.1 million in political donations since 2003, nearly all of it to Republicans.
Forcht also owns a chain of nursing homes under investigation by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who is running as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate against GOP nominee Rand Paul. American Crossroads has spent more than $1.8 million on ads opposing Conway, including radio ads, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The Forcht Group also provides $50,000 a year for a "center for excellence" at the University of the Cumberlands. The center's featured speaker this year was Karl Rove, who encouraged the founding of American Crossroads, according to reports.
Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said Forcht Bank was chosen by the group's chairman, Mike Duncan, a Kentucky native with a banking background who served as chairman of the Republican National Committee. Collegio said Duncan steers clear of any Crossroads decisions about Kentucky races because he is on the state Republican committee.
None of the Crossroads filings submitted to the FEC indicate any payments to Forcht Bank for fees, which are generally required to be reported if they exceed $200, according to campaign finance experts. Collegio said American Crossroads, which is registered as a "super PAC," abides by all disclosure requirements.
"We were basically looking for a bank that would provide us with a good level of community service, and Forcht Bank fit that bill," Collegio said. "This is really a bunch of attenuated dots that don't add up to anything."
Conway spokesman John Collins declined to comment because of the state investigation, which centers on allegations of sexual abuse at one of the Forcht Group's nursing home facilities. Forcht Bank officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
As for their independence: It would be illegal for them to coordinate their attacks with the candidates they're helping, or with Republican Party committees. But among themselves, they're proud of the way they synchronize their efforts.
"If one group puts an ad on television in a certain congressional district, they let everyone else know that," says Jonathan Collegio with American Crossroads. "This way they don't double up on the advertising."
This teamwork didn't happen by accident. But it's hard to grasp just how interconnected these secret donor groups are — so it may help to take a look at this map.
In addition, here’s an example using someone you've heard of: Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political strategist.
Rove co-founded American Crossroads, which later set up Crossroads GPS. Together they've run ads in at least 30 races around the country. They both use the same media services firm to buy airtime for their ads, Crossroads Media, which isn't related to them.
Other clients of Crossroads Media include House Republican leader John Boehner, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican Governors Association, or RGA.
This fall, the RGA received a donation of $3.5 million from Bob Perry. You might recognize that name, since Perry helped to fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads against presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.
This fall, Perry made another donation: $7 million to American Crossroads, the group co-founded by Karl Rove.
This clearly isn't a bunch of individual, independent groups — as you can see from the map. It's one big network: a Republican campaign operation, working outside the official party.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon – that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize.
And if Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us, if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's gonna be harder and that's why I think it's so important that people focus on voting on November 2.
American Crossroads, the behemoth conservative organization that has already spent tens of millions on ads targeting Senate races, will drop more than $3 million on ads targeting a dozen House districts over the next two days.
Beginning tomorrow, American Crossroads will launch ads against Democratic Reps. Heath Shuler (N.C.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.) and Scott Murphy (N.Y.) and continue their ad campaign against Rep. Maurice Hinchey (N.Y) and in support of Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii).
Then on Wednesday, Crossroads GPS, an issue-based group affiliated with American Crossroads, will launch ads against Democratic Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Russ Carnahan (Mo.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), John Boccieri (Ohio) and Ciro Rodriguez (Texas).
The ads are a mix of district-specific and generic; the Hinchey commercial, for example, features audio of Hinchey telling a reporter to "shut up" and that he is "full of baloney".
The National Republican Congressional Committee has been on television for several weeks in eight of the districts -- Hawaii's 1st, Georgia's 2nd, New York's 20th, Indiana's 2nd, North Dakota's at large seat, Tennessee's 4th, Ohio's 16th and Texas 23rd -- and so the Crossroads spending is a sign that GOP strategists are doubling down.
"With these buys we're opening up the field well beyond the battleground lost in 2006 and 2008, to some districts that haven't been competitive since the 1990s," said American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio. "These opportunities are only possible because [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [President Barack] Obama made House Democrats walk the plank on so many far-left votes over the past 20 months."
Of the dozen districts being targeted by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, eight were carried by President Obama in 2008 including three -- Hawaii's 1st, California's 20th and Missouri's 3rd -- where he won better than 60 percent.
The Los Angeles Times reports that conservative and Republican groups lack the coordination that we see on the:
American Crossroads, a tax-exempt group receiving contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals, is putting its ground-game resources to use in nine battleground states. It plans to send more than 100 volunteers to Colorado and Nevada, said Steven Law, the organization's president.
Crossroads will generate 9 million phone calls and 5 million pieces of mail before election day, Law said.
More important, Crossroads has encouraged other conservative groups to share voter contact lists, polling information and geographic priorities, as Democrats have in recent years.
"We wanted to be a resource for exchanging lists of names and voter targeting information," Law said.
Although some conservative groups — such as the Republican Governors Assn. and Americans for Tax Reform — have cooperated with Crossroads, others resist being too closely associated with establishment figures.
FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group that has supported tea party activists across the country, expects to spend $500,000 on its own program that taps into the network of tea party supporters.
Brendan Steinhauser, director of state and federal campaigns at FreedomWorks, said the distance from the party was an advantage in recruiting new activists.
"A lot of people don't want to work with the Republican Party, for the most part," he said. "They like the candidate, but they don't want to go to GOP headquarters. They'll work with us."
Crossroads’ Jonathan Collegio Monday afternoon sent out a link to a new TV ad from AFSCME against Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle.
The ad features various “voters” describing some of Angle’s positions “as just too extreme and dangerous,” including an excerpt -- during her now famous discussion of rape victims -- of how she counseled some very young pregnant girls to have their children, or to make “what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.”
Wrote Collegio: “A number of commentators made the case over the weekend that unions like AFSCME are different from groups like American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, because the voting public knows what AFSCME is and what the group stands for.”
“A couple of thoughts here,” he wrote. “First off, no one knows what AFSCME is. Less than 60% of Americans can name Joe Biden as vice president. The average American who sees an AFSCME ad has no idea they’re the ‘big dog’ government employees union. Second, note that AFSCME’s ad has nothing to do with a single issue on their platform.” (Italics his.)
“No one could possibly know from watching that ad that it was funded by a bureaucrats union whose goal is to raise taxes and expand government,” Collegio wrote. “The outrage over spending by GOP-leaning outside groups is a political ploy, selective in its focus and hypocritical in its messaging.”
Monday, October 25, 2010
OBAMA It’s always hard to gauge what ends up being campaign rhetoric and what actual governance looks like. It is my hope that Republicans will say to themselves, "We need to get things done. In order to get things done we’re going to have to cooperate with the president." I hope they don’t believe all of their own rhetoric, because, for example, on something like dealing with our fiscal problems, anybody who’s honest and looks at the numbers will know that the reason we have these long-term fiscal problems is not because of stimulus, it’s not because of TARP. It’s because there’s a structural gap between how much money we’ve been spending and how much money we’ve been taking in that’s been going on at least since 2000. And we have an aging population that’s been making more demands on government. What they won’t be able to do, I think, is to say, "We’re going to cut taxes, balance the budget, and not impact on services that we know poll well and people like." If the "Pledge to America" says, "We’re not going to do anything on Social Security, we’re not going to do anything on Medicare, we’re not going to do anything on veterans, and we’re not going to do anything on defense," I don’t know a lot that’s left. Maybe they think that the national parks, they think somehow we can extract enough money out of them, or the Environmental Protection Agency. If that’s the case they’re going to have to look at the budget, and I’ll be happy to sit down with them and we can work through it line by line. Because one of the challenges we have, I think, is making sure that we’re all working off the same baseline of facts when it comes to our budget. I think a lot of people think that if we just eliminated waste and abuse in the system that would solve our fiscal problems. That if we got rid of earmarks that alone would solve our problems. If we eliminated foreign aid then somehow the budget would be balanced. And what will happen for any new arrivals, Democrat or Republican, they’ll run through the numbers and it’ll turn out that it’s not that simple.
EPS: But how can you ask for their vote now… if, like… most of my listeners, that's what they see … that you haven't worked that hard to make comprehensive immigration reform now.
POTUS: Piolín, I completely disagree with you on this. With all due respect, even though I'm in your studio. The notion that we haven't worked it hard is just not true. There is a notion that somehow if I had worked it hard enough, we could have magically done it. That's just not the way our system works. If I need 60 votes to get this done, then I'm gonna have to have some support from the other side. If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, then there will be fewer votes and it will be less likely to get done. And the other side, which is fighting against this, is not gonna support it, so look, let me say this as an African American. We worked for decades on civil rights. Civil rights didn't come after one year. It didn't come after two years. People had to march, they had to have their heads beaten, they had fire hoses put on them. Even after Dr. King gave his I Have a Dream Speech, it still took years before African Americans achieved full citizenship in this country. Change isn't easy. It doesn't happen overnight. Now, you know, for us to say, oh, it didn't happen right away and so we're just giving up and we're not gonna be involved in the system, that makes no sense. That's not the history of this country. That's not the history of change in our own lives. All of us, you included Piolín, have gone through hardships, you've had your struggles and what happens is, is that you keep on working and you keep on working and you keep on working and finally, eventually you make a breakthrough and you get things done. That's how change happens for us personally, that's how change happens in the country, so instead of us giving up, we just have to keep working until it gets done.
“I’m a proponent of lots of money in politics and full disclosure in politics,” Mike Duncan, an American Crossroads board member, said in May during a panel discussion focusing partly on Republican plans for outside group spending in the midterm elections in the wake of a January Supreme Court decision allowing more corporate spending with less transparency.
American Crossroads, the non-profit group Duncan helps lead with assistance from Bush-era operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, had recently registered under a section of the tax code – 527 – that requires regular disclosure of its donors, primarily because of its founders’ commitment to “full accountability” and “transparency,” explained Duncan, a former Republican National Committee chairman. During the panel, Duncan recalled “when we had the board discussion, we talked about the fact that we were going to be ahead of the curve on this."
But, less than one month after the panel, with American Crossroads entering its fourth month of existence struggling to raise money from donors leery of having their names disclosed, the Crossroads operatives spun off a sister group called Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (or Crossroads GPS, for short), which they registered under a different section of the tax code – section 501(c)4 – that does not require donor disclosure.
With the Crossroads fundraising team, led by Rove, emphasizing to prospective donors the ability to give to Crossroads GPS anonymously, fundraising took off.
Many of the conservative groups say they have been trading information through weekly strategy sessions and regular conference calls. They have divided up races to avoid duplication, the groups say, and to ensure that their money is spread around to put Democrats on the defensive in as many districts and states as possible — and, more important, lock in whatever gains they have delivered for the Republicans so far.
“We carpet-bombed for two months in 82 races, now it’s sniper time,” said Rob Collins, president of American Action Network, which is one of the leading Republican groups this campaign season and whose chief executive is Norm Coleman, the former senator from Minnesota. “You’re looking at the battle field and saying, ‘Where can we marginally push — where can we close a few places out?’ ”
Democrats said the conservative groups were upending some of their best-laid plans in several important races, like here in Florida, especially those in which they had been counting on the financial advantages their candidates had over lesser-financed Republicans at the beginning of the general election.
Working from color-coded master spreadsheets — one of which was obtained by The New York Times — the conservative groups are now closely monitoring polling in 80 House races that they judge crucial to ensuring a Republican majority. Based on those results, the groups have started to place their final advertising bets in ways carefully coordinated to fill openings left by the more financially limited official party and candidate committees.
In several cases, officials with the outside groups said, they intend to force Democrats to spend money in districts they presumed safe; in others, they said they would wipe out financial advantages Democratic incumbents were counting on to stave off strong challenges from underfinanced opponents.
“We’re going to continue to have a very strong presence on the Senate and in each of the key House races where we’ve played a big role,” said Steven Law, the president of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
The groups, he said, are planning “an expansion of that effort, where we see holes and gaps.”
For all of the contests’ surface similarities -- high-tech female Republican CEO vs. venerable California liberal -- the races are running on very different dynamics. The difference was apparent within minutes when Brown and Boxer each appeared before President Obama during his rally at the University of Southern California last Friday.
Still, probably the most important difference between the two races is their contrasting backdrop. “It’s the Washington dynamic versus the Sacramento dynamic,” said a senior Democratic strategist working in the state, who asked for anonymity while discussing the vulnerabilities of the party’s contenders. “Which is to say you’ve got a Democratic president, Democratic Congress and Democratic senator who get blamed, if you will, at the federal level while you have a…Republican governor in Sacramento [Arnold Schwarzenegger] who is extraordinarily unpopular and that hurts Whitman. Boxer gets hurt by the national scene; Whitman gets hurt by the local scene.”
Sunday, October 24, 2010
President and Mrs. Obama’s appearance at Ohio State yesterday carries with it another troubling sign for their party’s prospects this year. Relying on young voters in a midterm election is like looking for a cab at 5 p.m. in the rain. You’re almost certainly going to get wet.
Political scientists argue about why U.S. voter turnout has been rising. An important part of the story seems to be that today’s under 30s — the so-called Millennial generation — are more politically interested than their predecessors, Generation X.
Millennials take a very different view of politics from older cohorts of Americans. For example, offered a choice between a government that offers higher taxes and more services, or fewer services and lower taxes, older Americans choose the lower-tax alternative.
Sixty-two percent of over 65s prefer the lower tax alternative, as do 58% of voters in the 50-64 group, and 56% of voters aged 30-49.
Under 30s prefer bigger government by a margin of 53-43.
Under 30s are more socially liberal too, and less nationalistic than over 30s.
All these numbers suggest two conclusions:
-Be very careful about projecting forward from the 2010 congressional results to the 2012 presidential vote. These elections almost occur in two different countries.
-Be very careful about assuming that Republican success in 2010 signifies that Republicans have overcome the longer-term problems that I’ve been writing about these past five years. If Republicans cannot connect better to the huge new Millennial generation, next month’s success will only be a happy interval before 2012’s grim challenges.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads was quickly dubbed the “shadow Republican National Committee” when it was launched earlier this year, and a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of campaign spending shows it seems to be living up to that moniker -- although it might be more accurately been called the “shadow National Republican Senatorial Committee.”
American Crossroads and its sister organization Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies have together spent about $18 million on independent expenditures during the first 21 days of October, most of that on television advertisements and mailings in top-tier U.S. Senate races.
This amount is more than either the NRSC or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent on such activities during the same period, the Center’s research shows.
American Crossroads, one of this year's biggest Republican-friendly spenders, has received 42 percent of its money from a dozen supporters of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that accused Sen. Kerry of lying about his war record in 2004 and then largely faded from sight.
The single biggest contributor to American Crossroads, with $7 million, is Bob J. Perry, a Texas home builder who was the top Swift Boat financier. Perry and other Swift Boaters have also given millions to other prominent conservative groups, including the Republican Governors Association, the First Amendment Alliance and the New Prosperity Foundation, records show.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.AFSCME, the public-employees union, has vaulted ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to become the largest campaign spender of 2010. Jerry Seib discusses how that could boost the Democrats? Plus, Neil King on the Republican wave sweeping Indiana.
The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats' hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.
"We're the big dog," said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. "But we don't like to brag."
Friday, October 22, 2010
Martin Wisckol reports at the Orange County Register:
Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor has spent $162 million, with a record $142 million coming from the Republican billionaire’s own financial portfolio, according campaign finance reports filed Thursday. The reports cover the campaign through Oct. 16.
Democratic opponent Jerry Brown has spent $25.5 million, coming on particularly strong in recent weeks with $14.6 million of it spent this month, according to his report. Whitman has spent $22.8 million this month.
Brown had $11.6 million left. Whitman had $12.6 million in her campaign account, but hasn’t hesitated to add more from her fortune when needed.
In addition to money raised by Brown, public employee unions have spent more than $20 million in separate independent expenditures, helping keep Brown in the lead in most recent public polls.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Democrat Jerry Brown leads Republican Meg Whitman in the governor’s race, and Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer is locked in a close contest with Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in the U.S Senate campaign. These are the results of a survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.
Likely voters favor Brown over Whitman by 8 points (44% Brown, 36% Whitman, 16% undecided). The two candidates were in a virtual tie in September (38% Whitman, 37% Brown, 18% undecided). The Senate race is tight (43% Boxer, 38% Fiorina, 13% undecided) among likely voters. Boxer held a 7-point lead in September (42% Boxer, 35% Fiorina, 17% undecided).
In the final weeks of the campaign season, California’s likely voters express discontent in a number of ways: approval ratings of elected officials that are at or near record lows, a belief that the state and nation are headed in the wrong direction, and pessimism about the economy. While most (62%) are satisfied with their choice for U.S. Senate, more than half (55%) are dissatisfied with their choice for governor. Farther down the statewide ballot, none of the four state ballot initiatives included in the PPIC survey has the majority support today that is necessary for passage on November 2.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
--The script for "Secret Plan," out this morning, and running on national cable at least through this week: "You've seen the ads: Millions being spent by right-wing groups to buy an election. All from secret donors. What's not a secret is why. Republicans and their corporate buddies want to be back in charge: Wall Street writing its own rules again. Big oil and insurance companies calling the shots. More jobs shipped overseas. Millions in attack ads to put the corporate interests back in charge. If they're in charge, what happens to you? Fight back! Visit Democrats.org/secretmoney. The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. http://bit.ly/9STxmH
--When you visit that page, you're asked to sign and share a petition: "Karl Rove -- Americans have a right to know the identities of those spending tens of millions of dollars to influence our election. It's time for you to open up your books and disclose your donors."
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"The leadership of the Obama campaign warned their donors against giving to outside groups, including many of the key issue groups that motivate progressives. The leadership in the White House has done the same thing," said Erica Payne, one of the founders of the Democracy Alliance, a group of the largest liberal donors, who now heads the Agenda Project. "As a result, the administration often looks like Will Ferrell in the movie 'Old School' — running through the street naked, shouting, 'Come on, everybody's streaking,' when in reality they are all by themselves."
By their own admission, Republicans are only warming up their money machine for the next presidential election. “We're definitely building a foundation,” Steven Law, executive director of American Crossroads—the independent conservative group advised by Karl Rove that will spend upwards of $50 million this fall—told me last month. “We hope to be an important player in 2012.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also sure to spend big in that election. Democratic criticisms of those groups won't be enough to affect this election. But the bright media spotlight shining on outfits like American Progress and the Chamber could lead to post-election legal scrutiny from the IRS and the Federal Election Commission that could cramp those groups in the coming presidential contest.
Notice, however, that few Democrats argue such outside groups should be abolished completely. Indeed, David Axelrod—who reportedly will soon begin setting up Obama's re-election committee—may be hoping that Democrats will match the Republican effort in the coming two years
Music features in the campaign:
The Hill reports:
On Sunday morning, California GOP Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina joined Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” for what should have been a friendly interview. Instead, it was a train wreck.
Wallace started his questioning by explaining that an extension of all the George W. Bush-era tax cuts would increase the federal debt by $4 trillion over the next decade. He then pressed Fiorina to explain what specific areas of the federal budget she would cut in order to close the budget gap. Over and over, she repeated her desire to balance the budget, but she failed to detail any cuts. Instead, she emphasized closing the budget gap by addressing the “waste, inefficiency and fraud” in Washington.
Monday, October 18, 2010
But before we rush to judgment about the impact of Citizens United, there is a lot we do not yet know. For example, we do not yet know whether business corporations are spending more money on politics. While the decision enables more direct business participation, it does not mean more business corporations will feel an incentive to act in this way, instead of giving money through intermediaries (including trade associations and non‐profit advocacy organizations) as they have done in the past. Rather than seeing new money, it is at least theoretically possible that money is simply moving from one activity to others closely related: old wine in new bottles. Money that used to be spent on non‐reportable (but candidate‐specific) issue advertising might now be used
more overtly for politics without changing the total.
Democrats have targeted their longtime nemesis Karl Rove as the mastermind behind the tens of millions of dollars of ads from independent groups attacking their candidates this fall, but maybe they should have listened more carefully when Rove recently told the audience of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show about “one of the smartest people in politics you’ve never heard of.”
In fact, Carl Forti, the low-key career Republican operative Rove was talking about, may be the figure most intricately involved in the outside groups transforming the 2010 election season with a deluge of hard-hitting ads.
Forti has played a critical role in shaping the ad campaigns of two of the biggest-spending outside groups — American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (or Crossroads GPS, for short), which Rove and veteran operative Ed Gillespie helped create this year — and Forti also is a consultant to two other outside groups that have emerged as top spenders this year: the 60 Plus Association and Americans for Job Security. (See: Karl Rove, Republican Party Plot Vast Network to Reclaim Power)
Together, the four groups have spent $33 million on sharp-edged television advertising boosting Republicans personally and pillorying them for supporting the stimulus, the Democratic health care overhaul and other initiatives pushed by President Barack Obama.
“Carl is a strategic political warrior. He knows issues, he knows polling, and he knows how to implement complicated strategies,” says Bradley Blakeman, a veteran GOP operative who calls Forti “the Alexander the Great of the Republican independent expenditure world.” (See: Arena Profile: Bradley A. Blakeman)
Marc A. Thiessen writes at The Washington Post:
The accusations that foreign corporations are funding Republican attack ads have been widely panned. Even President Obama and his top aides have admitted they have no proof to back their allegations against the Chamber and conservative campaign groups such as American Crossroads (Obama said the Chamber's money "could" be coming from foreign-owned corporations but "we don't know.") Now the Democrats' calls for investigations into these groups could backfire -- leading to closer scrutiny of the sources of funding for Democratic attack ads. Labor unions are spending millions to tar Republican candidates -- and they take in far more foreign cash than the Chamber. If the GOP takes control of Congress, investigations into how organized labor funds its political efforts could be forthcoming.
The U.S. Chamber says it receives about $100,000 from its affiliates abroad (out of an operating budget of about $200 million), none of it used for political campaigns. Compare that to one of the largest labor unions in America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is spending lavishly to elect Democrats. The SEIU claims 100,000 members in Canada. According to SEIU's 2008 constitution, dues include $7.65 per month per member that must be sent to the SEIU International in the United States. This means that the SEIU takes in nearly $9.2 million per year from foreign nationals -- almost 10 times the amount the Chamber receives from its affiliates abroad.
For the first time in 80 years, Republican turnout in statewide mid-term primaries (for U.S. Senate and governor) exceeded Democratic turnout in a primary turnout season that produced the second lowest turnout ever.
These were among the highlights of a report on mid-term statewide primary turnout based on final and official results for all but one of the 46 states* which held primaries in 2010 released today by American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
A long roster of House Democratic incumbents found themselves outraised by GOP challengers during the third quarter — the latest sign that cash is following Republican momentum just weeks from the midterms.
At least 40 Democrats took in less cash than their opponents — a list that ranges from vulnerable freshmen like Alabama's Bobby Bright, Mississippi's Travis Childers, and Nevada's Dina Titus to more senior members like Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania.
The Hill reports:
Politico sums it up:
With strong fundraising numbers in some competitive districts that have been leaning Democratic and an IE cash infusion from GOP-friendly outside groups, Republicans appear in position to stretch the House playing field even further ahead of November's midterm elections.
Rep. Gene Taylor's (D-Miss.) seat was considered safe just a few months ago, but his Republican challenger Steven Palazzo posted a solid number in the third quarter, raising more than $311,000. It's not a huge haul, but it should serve to kick Taylor into gear--the incumbent raised just shy of $160,000 from July through September.
More bad polls. More bad fundraising numbers. More dreary talk on the Sunday shows.
It added up to a brutal weekend for Democrats, as the consensus among election analysts, already bearish on the party’s prospects, took a turn for the worse over the past 48 hours.
In the eyes of the experts, the House Democratic majority most likely won’t survive Nov. 2, with political handicappers expanding their predictions to envision the possibility of a Democratic wipeout.
Analyst Stu Rothenberg pegs the number of competitive seats at 100. Charlie Cook says it's 97. Virtually all of those seats are held by Democrats.
Rothenberg is predicting a likely Republican gain of 40 to 50 seats, with 60 seats possible. Republicans need a net pickup of 39 seats to take the House.
One House Democrat, reflecting widespread conversations with his colleagues, guessed Sunday that his party will lose 50 seats. Many, he said, are calling with urgent pleas for more contributions.
The Senate may stay in Democratic hands — but only by the narrowest of margins, so slim that it will make a handful of moderates from both parties the only people who will decide whether anything gets done.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
There were 19 Republicans sitting on stage behind Sarah Palin when she rallied GOP activists here Saturday, but none was named Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina.
And just as the Republican candidates for governor and Senate here were physically absent from the event, they were also missing from Palin’s speech.
Not once during remarks that lasted just over 20 minutes did the former Alaska governor mention two of the national party’s most buzzed-about candidates running in the country’s largest state.
It’s possible that Palin didn’t want to mention Whitman and Fiorina for fear of handing Democrats fodder to use in the final two weeks of the election. She was on safer ground launching attacks against familiar national Democratic bogeymen and the mainstream media to a couple thousand Republicans who paid at least $25 per-person to the Republican National Committee to hear their party’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee.
Maeve Reston reports that John McCain got harshly personal about Boxer:
Former Republican presidential contender John McCain reunited with his onetime advisor Carly Fiorina on the campaign trail Saturday in San Diego, offering a blistering indictment of Barbara Boxer’s record on military issues and calling her the “most bitterly partisan, most anti-defense senator in the United States Senate today” -- an assessment he said he’d made while having “the unpleasant experience” of serving with her.
“When you hear her say that she supports the men and women in the military, my friends, she does not,” said McCain, a former Navy pilot who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and half years after his plane was shot down in 1967. “Because she has never supported the mission; she has never supported victory whether it be in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world. Barbara Boxer wants to wave the white flag of surrender and endanger this nation’s national security. It’s time she went back to San Francisco with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi.”
Carla Marinucci reports at The San Francisco Chronicle:
Bill Clinton, who as president made more than 70 trips to California, has returned on a mission - to ensure that the blue-leaning state does not fall to fired-up Republicans as Democrats struggle to maintain their tenuous majorities in the 2010 midterm elections.
"I am pleading with you," the former president said as he stood before an adoring crowd of 6,000 students and Democrats at UCLA on Friday night alongside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for lieutenant governor.
Delivering an impassioned sermon to young Democrats, Clinton portrayed Republicans - whom he derided as calling for capital gains cuts at the expense of educational funding and health care reform - as the party that wants to go back to "digging a hole" to the past instead of moving into the future and getting out of the current financial mess.
"The Democrats are trying everything short of electroshock therapy to wake their base up, which would seem to contradict with their strategy of pot to do the same," said a bemused California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring. "Resorting to Bill Clinton - who had some of the nastiest things to say about Barack Obama - to turn out Obama supporters is like trying to get Col. Sanders to turn out chicken."
But Nehring said the strategy also reveals a national weakness. "When Democrats nationally have to allocate their highest-profile surrogates to try to save their candidates here in California - what does that say about the state of play nationally?"
Saturday, October 16, 2010
It doesn't get more outside the Beltway than Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson.
"I'd never been to Washington D.C.... until this election. I've gone three times just to familiarize myself and meet with some groups. But that's it," Johnson said.
A millionaire businessman running in his first election, Johnson is favored to take down three-term Democrat Russ Feingold. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released this week shows Johnson with an eight point lead.
Everyone in this cycle wants to portray himself as the outsider, the lone wolf, the guy everyone in Washington hates so much, he'll need a personal bodyguard. Longtime politicians struggle hardest to establish their outsider bona fides. "This is not about civility or go along to get along," said Indiana Republican Senate candidate Dan Coats, whose civility got him elected to the Senate once before. "We don't go there and sing 'Kumbaya' across the aisle." Michael Bennet, the former Denver schools superintendent who's now a politician in Washington, denounced "politicians in Washington."
Feingold, who recently bragged in an ad about what a social outcast he is, declared himself the "No. 1 enemy of Washington lobbyists" at Monday's debate. His opponent, Johnson, did him one better: He's such an outsider that he would defer to President Obama on policy in Afghanistan. "I haven't seen the intelligence reports," said Johnson. " I want to give him the benefit of the doubt." You don't get further outside than that.
George Soros, the canniest of speculators in the world of finance and normally an energetic supporter of Democrats, says he's taking a pass on this year's midterm elections.
"I'm getting out of the way of an avalanche," Soros said.
History may be on his side. Consider the October 1994 Roper Center analysis of that year's midterm elections: "The American electorate has become increasingly angry, unanchored and self-absorbed. Thousands of in-depth interviews revealed a public intensely frustrated with the current political system.
"Widespread political discontent has been accompanied by a new emphasis on what might be called 'outsiderism,' a belief that new leaders are better than old ones and that experience in politics is more of a vice than a virtue."
If that doesn't reflect the state of play Soros and everyone else are now hearing from the pollsters and analysts, I don't know what does.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith note that the Democrats are flailing in search of enemies, much as John McCain did two years ago.
For more than a year, the Democrats have been all contrast, all the time.
The cycle starts with the recorded or reported words of a Republican, any Republican, anywhere in the country. This may be a well-known Washington figure like John Boehner, or it may be a name that sends reporters racing to Google, like Nazi re-enactor Rich Iott, the long-shot House GOP challenger who got his 15 minutes this week and gave Democrats something to talk about for a moment.
The words, sometimes with the Democrats' help, make their way to news outlets from the New York Times to POLITICO to TalkingPointsMemo.
Aides and operatives then push that report to other media, and the outrage of the day finds its way into Obama's speeches and typically is reinforced by a modest cable buy -- $20,000 or $30,000 to air an ad for a few days in Washington, D.C. - by the DNC or by a labor-backed ally like Americans United for Change.
Sometimes it can mean winning a news cycle - Joe Barton said what about BP? - but the small tactical victories have added up to very little.
The all-out September assault on Boehner, which featured a much-hyped Obama speech in the Minority Leader's native Ohio, has been largely discarded in favor of elevating Rove and the specter of foreign money.
The off-and-on attempts to revive the ghost of George W. Bush have also been fruitless - no surprise in an era of short attention spans and warp-speed news cycles.
"The weakest messages assert we should 'go forward, not back,'" wrote veteran Democrats Stan Greenberg and James Carville in a memo earlier this month based on focus groups. "Voters are not moved by Democratic messages that say 'go forward, not back,' mention President Bush, compare then and now, or even that hint the economy is 'showing signs of progress."
POLITICO found nearly 20 business donations during a review of Federal Election Commission disclosure reports, those filed by more traditional political action committees that must reveal their donors and have announced that this year that they will take oversized corporate cash.
The profile of the 2010 corporate donor that can be gleaned from these public donations suggests that the vast majority of them represent long-time Democratic adversaries and former Bush loyalists.
Their reach is significant, as is the speed in which they can change the subject of a political debate. For perspective, a candidate would have to collect 1,251 maximum donations of $2,400 from individual backers to match that $3 million kitty provided by the firms owned by just [Jerry] Perenchio and [Harold] Simmons.
A common bond among most of the corporate donors listed at the FEC is that they are privately owned firms or companies dominated by one personality, which provides some insulation from investor revolts or a customer backlash.
Outside money looks red instead of blue, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
A late effort by Democrats to match record fund raising by conservative organizations has come up short, leaving the party more reliant than usual on the campaign efforts of labor unions.
A key pro-Democratic group, recently created by top party insiders to build a "firewall" around the Democrats' majority in the House, said Thursday it hoped to raise $10 million. That's a fraction of the $50 million that an alliance of GOP groups said Tuesday they would spend to help Republicans in dozens of House races.
"We are David vs. Goliath," said Ramona Oliver, a spokeswoman for the new Democratic group, called America's Families First Action Fund. Founded this summer, it began raising money after Labor Day to help counter Republican fundraising efforts. It once hoped to help protect up to 30 Democratic House seats, but is now focusing on just 18 campaigns, Ms. Oliver said.
In total, outside conservative groups—such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network and American Crossroads—could spend more than $300 million on TV advertisements, campaign mailings and other efforts to elect Republicans to Congress this year. Outside Democratic groups, by contrast, plan to spend about $100 million on those activities. The largest labor unions say they will spend $200 million combined, but most of their focus will be on rallying union voters.
Kathleen Brown enjoyed a big lead over then-Gov. Wilson when she began her 1994 run for the governorship, but Wilson hammered her on capital punishment and won in a landslide.
"Kathleen Brown is against the death penalty," one Wilson TV spot said, "even for drive-by killings … even for carjackings that take innocent lives. Kathleen Brown has the same position on the death penalty as her brother, Jerry Brown, who appointed dangerously lenient judges like Chief Justice Rose Bird, who voted to overturn 68 out of 68 death sentences."
During this year's first debate, Whitman (whose campaign chairman is ex-Gov. Wilson), channeled the ad, saying, "Jerry has a long, 40-year record of being quite liberal on crime. It started with the appointment of Rose Bird, who was the (California) Supreme Court justice who tried to overturn the death penalty almost 64 times. She ultimately was recalled from office."
Whitman hit Brown again on the issue in their third debate this week, implying she sees it as a late campaign weapon, a la 1994.
The 2010 gubernatorial race is more or less tied. With capital punishment still popular with voters and Whitman facing fallout from employing and firing an illegal immigrant, she's playing the death penalty card that's damaged Browns in years past.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Psychiatrist Aaron Lazare, author of a 2004 book, "On Apology," described Brown's apology as a "trash apology."
"He is evading his responsibility to be a moral person. He is not being a stand-up man," said Lazare, a professor and former chancellor at University of Massachusetts medical school.
The exchange showed voters what insiders know – that Brown can be abrupt, arrogant and dismissive. Perhaps this once-and-maybe-future governor doesn't see the need for a simple, "I'm sorry."
If such talk truly burns Whitman's ears, she should have remained in Atherton and not entered the indelicate world of politics. More likely, she and her aides are thrilled about the turn of events.
Brown's fumbling allowed Whitman to shift attention from her own problem involving her housekeeper, an illegal immigrant. And Whitman knows the word is a slur, and will be viewed as such by some women who will be voting in the next few weeks.
Brown is supposed to be the political professional. He should have put the matter to rest fast by acknowledging the insult and apologizing, and not trying to shift blame. Instead, he committed the rookie political mistake of extending what should have been a blip into a story that has lasted a week.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Infrastructure has the benefit of for every dollar you spend on infrastructure, you get a dollar and a half in stimulus because there are ripple effects from building roads or bridges or sewer lines. But the problem is, is that spending it out takes a long time, because there’s really nothing -- there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.
- Press release, December 16, 2009: These broadband awards are what the Recovery Act is all about – not just rescuing the economy by providing immediate job opportunities through shovel-ready projects, but also rebuilding better by laying a new foundation for economic growth in communities across the country.
- Remarks by the president at Q&A, December 3, 2009: We got some good, hardheaded feedback from people like Doug Holtz-Eakin and others about how we have to do this more effectively -- how can we measure the costs and benefits of infrastructure investment; how can we make sure that shovel ready actually means shovel ready; how can there be more effective coordination between federal, state, and local governments in order to maximize the benefits of our infrastructure spending.
- Press release, November 12, 2009: DOT agencies have been doing their part to make Recovery Act funds available to states as quickly as possible for local shovel-ready transportation projects.
- Remarks by the president, August 15, 2009: There are almost 100 shovel-ready transportation projects already approved in Colorado which are beginning to create jobs.
- Press release, June 8, 2009: The ambitious effort follows an initial 100 day period of the Recovery Act focused on providing immediate relief to hard-hit families and communities, jump-starting shovel-ready projects and laying the foundation for large-scale infrastructure improvement programs.
- Comments on "Meet the Press" as president-elect, December 7, 2008: When I met with the governors, all of them have projects that are shovel ready, that are going to require us to get the money out the door, but they've already lined up the projects and they can make them work.
An alliance of Republican groups is launching a $50 million advertising blitz this week in a final push to help the GOP win a majority in the House, representing the biggest spending blitz ever by such groups in a congressional election campaign.
The coordinated effort, which the groups have dubbed the "House surge strategy," tops what the official Republican House election committee expects to spend on television ads for the entire contest. It is aimed at the few dozen competitive races where Democratic candidates have significantly more money in the bank than their Republican opponents, eating into one of the Democrats' last financial advantages.
Democratic candidates, notably incumbents, have raised more cash than many of their Republicans rivals in this year's most competitive House races, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of Federal Election Commission data. In the 40 races deemed toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, a political handicapper, Democratic candidates had a combined $39.3 million of cash on hand as of June 30, the most-recent filing deadline. Republican candidates had $16.5 million in the bank.
Steven Law, who runs two of the Republican organizations, American Crossroads and its affiliate Crossroads GPS, said the effort was "aimed at putting Republicans over the top by evening out the financial disparities and dramatically expanding the field of battle."
AMERICAN CROSSROADS’ Jonathan Collegio e-mails: “While the Democrats were putting together meaningless ads in Washington, D.C, we have been organizing a House surge strategy focused on economic and pocketbook issues real and dear to voters, that will complement what we've already done in the Senate. … We'll be involved in at least 15, and potentially more than 20, House races in this effort, starting with eight this week. And there’s no question that the recent antics by the White House and DNC are helping us to fund the House Surge.”
Whitman was clearly the more aggressive during their third and last debate at Dominican University in Marin County, taking advantage of the Brown campaign's embarrassment about an accidentally recorded phone message in which someone close to Brown, in his presence, called Whitman a "whore" in obtaining a police union endorsement.
Brown apologized again, but then may have stumbled by declaring that calling someone a whore is not as bad as using the N-word to describe an African American, running the risk of alienating women, who are half of the state's voters.
Sensing an opening, Whitman declared that California "deserves better than slurs and personal attacks" and that calling someone a whore is "a deeply offensive term to women."
By and large, both stuck to their standard positions on those issues and at every opportunity returned to their core campaign themes – Brown that Whitman is a tycoon who lacks political experience, Whitman that Brown is a political retread beholden to unions.
However, Whitman presented a more animated and extemporaneous demeanor than she had in past debates, while Brown, one of the glibbest politicians ever to draw a breath, often found himself on the defensive and made a couple of verbal gaffes.
If debating is scored by how one meets, falls below or exceeds expectations, Whitman probably won on points Tuesday night – although whether her jousting with Brown has any lasting effect on their campaigns remains uncertain.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Stoking the flow of dollars has been the guarantee of secrecy afforded by certain nonprofit groups. Mel Sembler, a shopping mall magnate in St. Petersburg, Fla., who is close to the Republican strategist Karl Rove, said wealthy donors had written six- and seven-figure checks to Crossroads GPS, a Rove-backed group that is the most active of the nonprofits started this year. Republicans close to the group said that last week, the group received a check for several million dollars from a single donor, whom they declined to identify.
“I think most people are very comfortable giving anonymously,” Mr. Sembler said. “They want to be able to be helpful but not be seen by the public as taking sides.”
Republicans involved in Crossroads say the groups owe their fund-raising success to a hope that a Republican Congress would undo some of the Obama administration agenda. But they also credit their fund-raising strategy.
When Mr. Rove and Ed Gillespie, the former Republican chairman, began their efforts last spring, they first helped set up a group called American Crossroads under a tax-code provision that requires the disclosure of donors. It took in several seven-figure contributions from high-profile donors, including Trevor Rees-Jones, president and chief executive of Chief Oil and Gas, and Robert Rowling, chief executive of TRT Holdings.
Then in June, Mr. Rove and Mr. Gillespie helped organize Crossroads GPS under the provision that allows donors to give anonymously. A Republican operative who speaks frequently with Mr. Rove said the public donations, revealed over the summer, were used as “a way to energize others to give large amounts anonymously.”
The operative added, “It has worked like a charm.”
President Obama's attacks on Karl Rove and conservative outside organizations could be firing up someone's base: Rove's.
An official with American Crossroads, the conservative third party organization Rove advises, and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, claimed they received $30,000 in unsolicited online donations this Sunday alone. Crossroads GPS is not legally required to disclose its donors. The official says the contributions were almost all small dollar gifts over the internet accompanied by notes encouraging the group to push back on the president.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Karl Rove refuted attacks from the president and the Democratic National Committee that his group and the chamber of commerce were bending campaign finance laws. That seemed to fire up at least one contributor. A woman who identified herself as a housewife sent in $100 online and wrote, "Great pushback just now on Fox News Sunday, Mr. Rove! I'm sick of the bullying by the Dems- it has gone on too long without fighting back!"
Sunday, October 10, 2010
DNC features Rove and Gillespie in an ad beginning a weeklong run on national cable tomorrow or Tuesday, with what an official calls "a decent buy": "Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie: They're Bush cronies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: They're shills for big business. And they're stealing our democracy. Spending millions from secret donors to elect Republicans to do their bidding in Congress. It appears they've even taken secret foreign money to influence our elections. It's incredible: Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money. Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce: Stop stealing our democracy. The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising." YouTube http://bit.ly/cQtHMv
--Gillespie tells Playbook: "The New York Times ... completely refuted the charge that the Chamber was funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. ... My group, the Republican State Leadership Committee [focusing on down-ballot races], discloses its donors, all 85,000 of them, all American. Those who benefited from $400 million in outside money in 2008 to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors, have to come to terms with the fact that the playing field will be more even this year."
--From a Chamber statement on "foreign money": "AmChams are independent organizations, ... and they do not fund U.S. Chamber political programs. Collectively, AmChams pay nominal dues to the Chamber - approximately $100,000 total across all 115 AmChams. Under our budgeting system, the nominal funds received from AmChams and business councils are used to support our international programs. ... No foreign money is used to fund political activities."
--Think Progress graphic, "How The Chamber Gets Its Foreign Money" http://bit.ly/cGyfOa
--Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, in response to an earlier DNC release: "Ninety-five thousand Americans lost their jobs last month, $1.3 trillion was just added to the national debt, and Barack Obama and Tim Kaine are attempting to distract voters from those facts."