Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Limits of Oppo in 2010

CQ/Roll Call reports:

For most of the election cycle, Democratic strategists were optimistic they could hold the House because of their arsenal of opposition research. But Democratic attacks failed to bring down enough Republican challengers to keep the majority.

Democrats thought GOP challengers were simply too flawed to be acceptable alternatives to voters who wanted change. But as Republicans learned in 2006 and 2008, the messenger and the audience matter just as much, if not more, than the message when it comes to political attacks.

“If you were in a red district, nothing worked,” according to one veteran Democratic strategist, reluctantly recalling the most recent elections.


Good campaign or not, the nature of the district appears to be the best indicator of whether an attack will stick in a national election.

In Pennsylvania’s 10th district, former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino struggled to raise money and was hounded by Democrats and the media for his connection to a convicted felon.

But the Republican was running in a district that McCain won by 9 points and had the luxury of a cheap media market where the NRCC could come in heavy with TV advertising. Marino defeated Rep. Christopher Carney by 10 points, even though his negatives were higher than the Democratic Congressman’s.

Democrats lost the House, but they don’t think the conversation is over. Case in point: A judge delayed a hearing that was scheduled for next week about Scott’s divorce records, an issue Democrats have tried to keep on the radar screen for reporters.

“For the most part, voters did not take a close look at the Republicans they elected — and in turn, there are numerous new Members with long records of reckless positions and questionable behavior that we will be able to exploit over the next two years,” said Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

A blast from the past. On September 10, 2006, Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza reported in The Washington Post:

Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall. The first round of attacks includes an ad that labeled a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin "Dr. Millionaire" and noted that he has sued 80 patients.

Monday, November 29, 2010

CA: Republican Gloom

Michael Blood writes at AP:

Republicans are relishing the coming of a new day on Capitol Hill. But across the country in California, the party of Nixon and Reagan is drifting toward obscurity.

The latest sign of imperiled health: In a year Republicans notched big victories in Congress, governor's offices and statehouses around the nation, California Democrats made a clean sweep of eight statewide contests on Nov. 2. Democrats padded their majority in the Legislature, where the party controls both chambers and no congressional seats changed parties.


"They know who we are and they don't like us," former state Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim says bluntly. "The brand of the Republican Party in California is tarnished."


It's been said the future happens first in California, and the state hit a little-noticed milestone this month that will have implications in voting booths for years to come. For the first time, Hispanics account for more than half the students in the state's public schools. They will be tomorrow's voters.

"I'm not sure Republicans have hit bottom yet in California," said former state lawmaker Jim Brulte, an influential GOP party fixture.


Part of the problem is simple math. Both major parties have been losing registration as more voters choose to align with no party at all, but Republican registration has withered to about 31 percent, giving Democrats, at 44 percent, a 2.2 million-voter advantage. Independents about one in five voters also lean Democratic in the state.

For a Republican "the crossover vote that you need is almost unreachable," says Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, an analysis of legislative and congressional races. Hoffenblum says the GOP maintains strongholds in inland regions, but Democrats dominate the populous coast.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 57

Barbara Walters interviewed the president on November 23 for broadcast on November 26. His emphasis shifted through the interview. At one point, he portrayed himself as a multitasker:

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, there are some folks who say that you squandered your political capital with the healthcare plan when you should have been focusing on jobs.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. I mean, the fact is is that we stabilized the financial system…we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy. And I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented healthcare, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don't have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that's gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of. And there is no contradiction between that and improving our economy.

But at another point, he said the first two years were all about a focus on the economy:

BARBARA WALTERS: Because you took what you called a shellacking, will you make specific changes in your policies…


BARBARA WALTERS: …or your personal, your personality I guess is what I am getting at. What were the changes?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I think that -- no matter what happened in the election -- the first two years were all about saving the economy from a crisis, and we have done that. The economy has now stabilized. …We have gotten the economy to grow again, our focus now has to be on issues like education, issues like investing in research and development, issues like infrastructure development…. So my hope is is that new Republican leadership -- those who are coming in -- that they welcome the opportunity to work together…with me and other Democrats…to focus on solving the country's problems instead of focusing on politics. And, and I am confident that we are gonna be able to do that.

American Crossroads TV Spending

The Los Angeles Times reports:
Also on the Republican side was Crossroads Media, a media-placement firm that took in close to $40 million in ad buys for clients that included American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, advocacy groups cofounded earlier this year by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Patti Heck, president of Crossroads Media, said the firm took in more than the approximately $40 million that was disclosed in federal campaign finance reports, but she declined to specify how much.

In the end, though, "it was the television stations that benefited the most," Heck said. "I would say they were the real winners."

Heck said her firm — founded in 2001 by conservative activist Michael Dubke — is not affiliated with the other two Crossroads groups. She dismissed the similar names as coincidental. However, Carl Forti, political director at American Crossroads, worked with Dubke to form another firm, the Black Rock Group. Crossroads Media and the Black Rock Group share the same Alexandria, Va., address, according to their websites.

Heck said that in the final days of the elections, stations attempted to raise ad rates because airtime was so scarce.

"At the end, when everyone was buying, it just got insane," she said. "At times, we said, 'We're not paying it' and went to cable or something else. It gets offensive after a while."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rubio's Religion

The New York Times reports:
Marco Rubio, the charismatic senator-elect from Florida, is in many ways similar to other Cuban-American politicians from his home state: conservative, Republican and a “practicing and devout Roman Catholic,” in the words of his spokesman, one who “regularly attends Catholic Mass” and “was baptized, confirmed and married in the Roman Catholic Church.”

But while Mr. Rubio, 39, presented himself on his Florida Statehouse Web site and in interviews as a Roman Catholic, bloggers and journalists have noted since his election that he regularly worships at an evangelical megachurch whose theology is plainly at odds with Catholic teaching.

At one time, Rubio might have been an outlier, and his religious practices could have been a big liability. But he is doing something quite common, as the Pew Forum reported last year:

One-third of Americans (35%) say they regularly (9%) or occasionally (26%) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24% of the public overall) indicate that they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own. Aside from when they are traveling and special events like weddings and funerals, three-in-ten Protestants attend services outside their own denomination, and one-fifth of Catholics say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hispanics and Republicans

Steve Harmon writes in The Contra Costa Times:

"No doubt illegal immigration is a major roadblock for us," said Tom Del Beccaro, the vice chairman of the state GOP who is expected to take over the party chairmanship in elections next year. "But we need to work with Latinos on issues like education and jobs. Do we need to deal with immigration head-on? Yes. We still believe it's an issue of national security, economics and government reform.

"But as long as we stay focused on the most difficult aspect of it, we can't make progress," he added. "We can't make this so it's targeted at one particular group. We have to explain the broader context."

Republicans will have to stop mirroring their more conservative brethren around the country, said Kevin Spillane, a Republican consultant who helped run GOP attorney general candidate Steve Cooley's campaign. Cooley conceded the race Wednesday to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris; the long-undecided race was the sole holdout from the Nov. 2 election, and the announcement officially gave Democrats a sweep of all statewide offices.

"One of the challenges facing Republicans is that California is more moderate than the rest of the country," Spillane said. "We need to establish an identity that's different than the national identity."

Nationally, a different picture emerges. From a news release:

The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a leading voice on Latinos, today noted that the final exit polls on Election Day show that the GOP did better with Latino voters than many believed.
Final exit polls show that Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans in House races by a 60 to 38 percent margin in the midterm elections, compared to a 68 to 29 margin in 2008. This represents a 9 percent increase in Latino support for Republicans and an overall improvement of 17 points from the margin of difference House Democrats enjoyed in the previous election.

"Contrary to the post-election liberal spin that Democrats dominated the Latino vote, the final numbers show that the GOP made significant gains with Latinos," said Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

Hispanic vote for GOP House candidates:


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fight to the Finnish

Only Michael Barone would know how Finnish Americans vote:

The Finnish vote. Around 100 years ago, Finnish immigrants flocked to the mines and woods of the country around Lake Superior, where the topography and weather must have seemed familiar. They've been a mostly Democratic, sometimes even radical, voting bloc ever since. No more, it seems. Going into the election, the three most Finnish districts, Michigan 1, Wisconsin 7 and Minnesota 8, all fronting on Lake Superior, were represented by two Democratic committee chairmen and the chairman of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee, with a total of 95 years of seniority.

Wisconsin's David Obey and Michigan's Bart Stupak both chose to retire, and were replaced by Republicans who had started running before their announcements. Minnesota's James Oberstar was upset by retired Northwest Airlines pilot and stay-at-home dad Chip Cravaack.

So here's a new rule for the political scientists: As go the Finns, so goes America.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The Majority in Mississippi blog reports:

Generally when we see elections that result in major shifts in power, we will subsequently see party-switching not long after. Although he waited about a year after Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, former Rep. Mike Parker changed parties in the old Fourth District. Parker wasn’t the only one.

We are seeing similar stories this year, on the state level so far.

- In Georgia (here and here), where Republicans expanded their majority in both houses on November 2, five Democrats- mainly from rural Georgia (once a stronghold of conservative Democrats) have switched parties to give the GOP a near supermajority in the state House.

- In Alabama, where Republicans recently won a majority in both houses for the first time since Reconstruction, four Democrats switched parties yesterday to join the Republican majority.

- And in Louisiana, a state Representative has changed parties in a move that will give the GOP a majority in the state House for the first time in modern history.

We have seen three Democrats change parties in the Mississippi House since their last election in 2007. If Republicans were to win a number of seats in the body next year, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some party-switchers shortly after.

In South Dakota, the Daily Republic reported on 11-19:

The South Dakota Republican Party announced Thursday that District 17 state senator-elect Eldon Nygaard, of Vermillion, has switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

The switch bumps the Republican advantage in the Senate to 30-5

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Polls on 2010: Conservatives and the Eroding D Base

Ruy Teixeira argues that there has been no swing to the right among registered voters.
Jay Cost says that a higher percentage of voters called themselves conservatives in 2010 than ever before, and that these conservatives were more likely than ever to vote Republican:

Third Way reports:
In a new post-election survey, Third Way and Lincoln Park Strategies polled 1,000 Obama voters who abandoned Democrats in 2010, either by staying home (the “droppers”) or by voting Republican (the “switchers”). This report paints a portrait of these droppers and switchers—the voters that Democrats will need to win again in 2012. Our key findings:

•Droppers are more than the base. One in 3 droppers is conservative, 40% are Independents, and they are split about whether Obama should have done more or did too much.
•For switchers, it’s not just the economy. The economy matters but switchers also overwhelmingly think Democrats are more liberal that they are. Two in three say “too much government spending” was a major reason for their vote.
•Republicans won a chance, not a mandate. Only 20% of switchers say that a major reason for their vote was that “Republicans had better ideas,” and nearly half say Republicans are more conservative than they are.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The GOP's Throwaway Senate Seats

Politico reports that Sharron Angle threw away a potential GOP Senate pickup in Nevada:

It’s widely recognized that in the marquee 2010 Senate race, Majority Leader Harry Reid ran a nearly flawless, textbook campaign, an operation so extraordinary that it enabled him to defy an almost certain political death.

It turns out he got some inadvertent inside help. Interviews with Nevada and Washington Republicans familiar with the campaign of Reid’s GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, describe a not-ready-for-prime-time effort that was equally astonishing — a model of dysfunction that was as bad as Reid’s campaign was good.


“In the 20 years that I’ve been involved politically, I’ve never had the misfortune of working with such sheer, utter incompetence. Too much is at stake in these political campaigns — people like [Angle manager Terry] Campbell don’t need to be anywhere near them,” said Chris LaCivita, who served as political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee this fall and worked directly with the Angle campaign. “If they were filming a sequel to the movie 'Dumb and Dumber,' Terry Campbell would have a feature role.”


Every Republican who worked with the campaign and was interviewed for this story recalled how both of Campbell’s voice mail boxes were consistently full and he would often not answer e-mails for days at a time — no matter if he was in his self-described “Command Center” in his Missouri home or on the road with Angle in Nevada.

In one instance of his haphazard engagement, Campbell called the National Republican Senatorial Committee to inquire if it had heard anything about the president coming to the state and attacking Angle — two days after President Barack Obama visited Nevada to campaign for Reid in July, according to the accounts of three GOP operatives familiar with the conversation.

Stuart Rothenberg writes of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell:

I’ve often wondered how people with no credentials can promote themselves, whether in the business world or in the political sphere, but I’ve never seen such an absurd case as O’Donnell.

O’Donnell’s background was such that it’s hard to believe anything but the most fly-by-night business would hire her. And, in fact, she didn’t seem to have a job when she began her third run for Senate. Yet Delaware Republican primary voters handed her the nomination, ignoring questions about her character and judgment.

So, while O’Donnell’s candidacy was an example of sheer gall, it’s those Delaware voters who cared only about her positions on the issues and mindless outsider rhetoric who deserve the “absurd” label.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Palin People

Robert Draper writes in The New York Times Magazine:

It’s a curious feature of Palin World that none of its charter members knew her before 2008. (Her two longtime Alaska aides, Kris Perry and Meghan Stapleton, left amicably but wearied by the demands involved with working for an overnight celebrity.) [Attorney Thomas] Van Flein met Palin in the summer of 2008, recruited by Todd Palin to give legal advice on the Troopergate controversy. He now divides his time between his Anchorage legal practice and his position as one of Palin’s four lieutenants. The others are Andrew Davis, the political director who resides in Sacramento; Tim Crawford, the group’s elder statesman at 58, whose political experience extends back to Goldwater and who in early 2009 was forced out as the R.N.C.’s interim finance director, by which time John Coale had already recruited him to be the treasurer of SarahPAC; and Palin’s 36-year-old Los Angeles-based cybermessenger, Rebecca Mansour. Palin’s broader circle also includes Jason Recher and Doug McMarlin, who handle her travel logistics from, respectively, New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio; Pam Pryor, who works with Crawford at SarahPAC as the liaison to the evangelical and Christian community; and Randy Scheunemann, a prominent neoconservative and former McCain foreign-policy adviser. Crawford, Pryor, Scheunemann and two occasional speechwriters, Chriss Winston and Lindsay Hayes, all live in or around Washington. Among the D.C. consultants, however, only Crawford interacts with Palin on a regular basis. More than once in our discussions, Van Flein referred to “those people who are of the Beltway and those who aren’t” — a binary worldview to which Palin obviously adheres. (Press reports variously name Fred Malek; Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard; and Kim Daniels, a conservative lawyer, as key advisers, when in fact Daniels has not worked for Palin for several months and Malek and Kristol are seldom in contact with her. “It’s nearly every single day we learn a lesson about a person who claims to speak for us or work for us,” Palin told me. “Seems 9 times out of 10, Todd and I look at each other and say, ‘Who is this speaking for us?’ ”)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Public Knowledge after the Midterm

Despite a problematic question about government spending, a new survey from the Pew Research Center casts light on what the public knows about the results of the midterm:

The public sees the big picture when it comes to the changing balance of power in Washington. Fully 75% say that the Republican Party is generally regarded as doing best in this month's midterm elections.

Far fewer are familiar with the specifics relating to the GOP's victories. Fewer than half (46%) know that the Republicans will have a majority only in the House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January, while 38% can identify John Boehner as the incoming House speaker.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Greenberg and Carville on the Results

"The White House had the best and the brightest, but they, what would Bush say, misunderestimated, whatever the word is,” said Democratic consultant James Carville Thursday at a breakfast with reporters held by the Christian Science Monitor.

Pollster Stan Greenberg said Obama downplayed “an almost Depression-like economic crisis,” by inaccurately projecting the magnitude of job losses. “They predicated everything on the jobs coming back from March. They’re still in the middle of this crisis. This is a total misframing of this moment. Some of it’s policy ... a lot of it is giving the people in this crisis a sense of what the scale of it is, and what has to be done to get out of it,” he said.

Carville, who helped mastermind Clinton’s 1992 run for the presidency, said the failure of the White House to tailor a more populist economic message likely cost Democrats at least two dozen House seats

At Democracy Corps, Greenberg and Carville analyze the election and particularly point to independents:

The independents were an immense problem in 2010. Indeed, the Democrats’ support among independents dropped from an 18-point Democratic advantage in 2006, to 8 points in 2008, and turning Republican by a painfully familiar 18 points in 2010. We have to get inde-pendents back to at least even where it had been before 2006. With our current broad base, we can have big elections in that realm, though obviously more is better.

Part of the problem lies in the character of the off-year electorate. The independents were more male, white, and senior than in 2006 and 2008. A presidential electorate will address some of the problem.

But much more important is the proportion of independents who called themselves con-servatives. That was up from 34 to 42 percent. And while some of that may have been due to Tea Party activism and the determination of conservatives to oppose Obama, that process began in the fall of the 2008 election. There has been a conservative reaction against the government’s response to the crisis from the beginning, even before Obama took office. From the outset of Obama’s presidency, there has been a steady rise in the number who call themselves conserva-tive and in the standing of the N.R.A. (but not pro-life groups).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Midterm: A Look Back

The Backdrop

Great expectations

Reliance on unreliable voters. From the 2008 exit poll:

First-time voters (11%) ..........69%..........30%
Returning voters (89%).........50%..........47%

Bad News in 2009 and 2010
The Outcome

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dems: Tea Party Helped GOP

At Politico, Jonathan Martin reports:

Democratic consultants and operatives who worked on the 2010 campaign think the tea party movement served as more of an energy force for Republicans than a divisive factor that split the GOP, according to an informal survey being released today.

Sixty-four percent of Democratic professionals said the tea party “energized the Republican base and was one reason for Republican gains” while just 36 percent thought it “splintered the party

Similarly, the respondents indicated that they thought hitting their GOP opponents on issues related to outsourcing jobs and trade was more effective (44 percent) than attacking them for ties to the tea party and extremism (23 percent).

Those surveyed also were confident that President Barack Obama would win reelection in 2012 if he faces either Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, but indicated that they ultimately thought the GOP would nominate an establishment candidate rather than a tea party favorite.

The poll was conducted by the Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group. The data are from 132 individuals who served as staffers and consultants for 2010 candidates and party committees. The firm sent an e-mail questionnaire to the operatives — using a list culled from party consultants around the country — just over a week after Election Day. While the survey is not scientific, it offers a window on the private thinking of Democratic professionals in the days since the election.


How Big Was the Election?

At Politico, Jessica Collins writes:
Republicans have already gained as many as 60 seats in Congress, but when GOP gains are looked at on a state-by-state basis, the bloody picture for Democrats nationwide becomes even more gruesome. Several state legislatures made historic transitions to Republican hands — some for the first time since the 19th century — and nearly an entire generation of state Democrats saw its ranks obliterated. Here is POLITICO’s look at states that saw the political landscape change dramatically.

• Alabama’s most monumental shift came in the state Legislature, in which Republicans gained control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1874. State Rep. Robert Bentley’s win kept the governor’s mansion in GOP hands, and Republicans picked up a net of seven seats in the Senate and 19 seats in the House. In the state’s most contested U.S. House seat, Martha Roby defeated freshman Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright.

• Wisconsin was painted red as Ron Johnson defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, Republican Scott Walker won the open governor’s race and two House seats flipped: Republican Sean Duffy won the seat of retiring Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, and roofing contractor Reid Ribble defeated Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen. But perhaps the Republicans’ most historic victory was gaining control of the state Assembly and the Senate — marking the first time the GOP has had total control of the state government since 1998 and the first time one party won control of both houses on the same day since 1938.

• Indiana’s congressional delegation saw a Democratic slaughter that gives the GOP a 2-1 edge. Rep. Baron Hill lost to Republican Todd Young, and Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth not only suffered a landslide loss to Republican Dan Coats in the Senate race; his congressional seat flipped to the GOP as well. Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly was able to hold on — but barely. Republicans won full control of the Legislature, as well, gaining control of the House and expanding their margin in the Senate for their biggest gains in more than 25 years.

• Ohio Republicans aren’t just happy that one of their own is poised to become the next speaker of the House; they also defeated an incumbent governor for just the third time in state history and handily held onto their open U.S. Senate seat. Five congressional Democrats went down in flames, giving the GOP a 13-5 edge in the Buckeye State’s D.C. delegation. In the state House, Republicans gained at least 12 seats and added two seats in the state Senate, giving them their largest majority there since 1967.

The Gentry Collins Letter

At National Journal, Cameron Joseph and Reid Wilson report:

Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins offered an abrupt resignation Tuesday, coupled with a stinging rebuke of Chairman Michael Steele and the committee's fundraising efforts in the midterm elections.

In a five-page letter to Steele and members of the RNC's executive committee, Collins said the party's lackluster fundraising effort contributed just a fraction of the amount of money to state parties that it had in previous cycles. That financial downturn, Collins said, prevented Republicans from capitalizing on an historic wave election and allowed Democrats to hold on in key races.

Collins' public rebuke of Steele's tenure is the latest indication that there are serious divisions within the RNC and that Steele, who is seeking a second term, will face a tough battle to hang on to the job.

At Politico, Jonathan Martin summarizes:

The short version of the RNC's 2010 troubles as described by Collins: The committee couldn’t afford to run an independent expenditure ad campaign on behalf of their candidates, didn’t fund a paid voter turnout operation for Senate and gubernatorial races, left its vaunted 72-Hour turnout program effectively unfunded, offered only a fraction of the direct-to-candidate financial contributions they made four years ago and dramatically scaled back its support of state parties.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER HERE. The money quotes:

  • "The RNC in this cycle raised far less money than normal and spent a far higher percentage of those fewer dollars to raise what it did."
  • "Regrettably, too much of the nearly 30-cents-on-the-dollar not spent on fundraising was spent on things other than winning elections."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Midterm Meaning: Elites v. General Public

At Politico, Andy Barr writes of a Politico poll showing Washington elites and the general population with different views about the message of the midterm:

The starkest contrast came in the divergent interpretations of the Nov. 2 elections. Washingtonians involved in the policymaking or political process have a great degree of certainty in their interpretation of the election results—61 percent think voters sent a message of “disapproval of Washington D.C. as a whole.”“Disapproval of Barack Obama” and “disapproval of congressional Democrats” tied for a distant second, with each garnering 14 percent.

The general population, however, was less sure. Just 36 percent think the election results reflected disapproval of Washington. And 22 percent, a higher percentage than among D.C. elites, viewed Obama disapproval as the message.

A fifth of the general population—21 percent—said they didn’t know what message voters were sending. Only 6 percent of D.C. elites admitted the same.

Another point of departure: optimism about the direction of government in the wake of the midterm elections. Thirty-six percent of the general population polled said they are more hopeful about the direction following the elections, compared with 29 percent who said they are less hopeful.

Among D.C. elites, the numbers are flipped—56 percent say they are less hopeful, and 29 percent say they are more hopeful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Incoming, Infighting

Contrary to the myth of right-wing unity, Republicans and conservatives have long had to deal with factionalism in their ranks. Indeed, the incoming members are Congress are facing it even before they take the oath. Chad Pergram reports:

"Indoctrinated" was probably not the best word to use around the Tea Party Patriots (TPP) on Sunday.

The group excoriated the newcomers for attending a meet-and-greet at the Capitol Hill Club organized by a handful of freshmen and the Claremont Institute instead of their own event at the Ronald Reagan Building downtown. And that was to say nothing of a third forum, also at the Reagan Building, conducted by the Constitutional Congress. The Constitutional Congress brought over retiring Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) to chat with the freshmen about their legislative priorities. DeMint challenged the newbies not to just be "rhetorical gadflies" but to work on "real legislation."

A wise Congressman told me years ago that they don't do a lot in Congress. But when they do it, they do it all at once. Which was exactly what unfolded Sunday afternoon when all three events spilled into one another, to say nothing of the formal orientation session running all day at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.

In a memo distributed to its members, the TPP took exception to the freshmen ducking their conclave.

"Don't Let them Steal OUR New Members of Congress," thundered a TPP memo obtained by FOX. "They are apparently trying to make sure that instead of sitting with grassroots tea party leaders from around the country, the lobbyists and consultants can sink their claws into the freshmen and begin to ‘teach them' the ways of DC."

Molly Hooper reports that the TPP may not have won new friends:

Competing freshmen lawmaker orientation events over the weekend prompted the Tea Party leaders recently to encourage their followers to bombard newly elected GOP House members with the message that they must attend a Tea Party-sponsored event for local organizers instead of a separate orientation offered at the same time by the conservative Claremont Institute.

But incoming members say they never received an invitation to participate in the Tea Party Patriots event held in the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

"Nobody received any type of (invitation), it was just 'this is what's happening, please don't go here,' but I'm a big boy and I can choose where I need to go and where I need to be," incoming Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said in an interview on Sunday afternoon before heading into a meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican unofficial headquarters in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, with members of his freshmen class.

"I didn't know it was happening until I started getting inundated with emails and (messages) filling up my voicemail," West's colleague told The Hill.

One irate incoming member told The Hill that the Tea Party tactic to release personal contact information of the new class was "extremely counterproductive and, in all honesty, an incredible violation of privacy."

It is worth remembering that the tea party movement itself has factions. From a November 3 report in The Daily Caller:

Leaders of the Tea Party Patriots organization declared Tuesday’s election results “a victory for liberty,” but blamed a rival Tea Party organization for Senate losses in Nevada and Delaware, saying the group shouldn’t have intervened in those elections by making endorsements in the primary.

The two organizations have a history of feuding over how involved national groups should be in elections. The Tea Party Patriots organization does not endorse candidates, while the California-based Tea Party Express endorsed numerous candidates this cycle.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Receding Blue?

Midterm elections are notoriously flawed indicators for subsequent presidential races. And in an era of political fluidity, when an agitated electorate is quick to register its discontent, much can change over the span of two years.

But overwhelming Republican gains this year, combined with Obama’s descent in the polls and an economy that is lagging badly in critical electoral battlegrounds such as Florida, suggests a return to a national election measured in political inches in which the two candidates vie for advantage on the familiar terrain of Hamilton County, Ohio, and along Florida’s I-4 corridor.

“The map does look a lot like 2004,” said longtime Democratic strategist Jim Jordan, likening the coming presidential race to the clash between President George W. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. “It does feel like back to the future. We’re going back to political equilibrium.”

Democratic consultant Paul Begala noted that of the eight states that went from red to blue between 2004 and 2008 on the presidential level, Democrats won either the governor’s race or a Senate race in just two of them — Nevada and Colorado — during the past two years. Combined, those two are likely to deliver just 15 electoral votes in 2012.

“If Obama holds the Kerry states and carries only the states in which Democrats prevailed in 2010, he loses,” Begala said.

It's impossible to predict a presidential election based on midterm results. That's even truer considering that 131.2 million people voted in 2008, when Obama was elected, compared with 87 million this month, based on an AP tally of official and unofficial results. The slow-moving economic recovery could speed up, lifting Obama and the Democrats.

November's exit-poll responses provide enough hints that Obama could be in serious trouble if he doesn't shore up his support in crucial areas.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I'm frustrated and I blamed him for some of the bad shape this country's in. We're struggling," said Earlene Durham, 32, of St. Louis, sounding like other independents who backed Obama in 2008. "But then I thought, 'Well, he's trying the best he can.' The only thing we can do is wait and see what he does in the next two years. Gotta give the man a chance."

Exit-poll questionnaires vary state to state, but on several issues that dominated the campaign this year, cross-state analyses are possible.

His job performance rating was more negative than positive among voters in states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Obama won them all in 2008. In Indiana, where Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1964, just 37 percent approved.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Crazy Card and other Democratic Tactics

At Slate, David Weigel identifies four reasons why incumbent DemocratcMichael Bennet won the Colorado Senate race (h/t Alyssa Roberts):
  • He successfully portrayed GOP candidate Ken Buck as crazy.
  • A competitive primary honed his campaign skills.
  • The state GOP melted down with a disastrous gubernatorial candidate.
  • Hispanic turnout was robust.
Weigel concludes:

So Bennet found four winning strategies in his come-from-behind win. Only one of them—the crazy card—is likely to help all Democrats in 2012. Another, the Hispanic vote, can only help in places where the Democrats have enough potential Hispanic support to make a difference. Bennet's win may have been the most impressive Democratic upset of the cycle. But good luck to the Democrats who want to clone it.

American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, and the IRS

Jeanne Cummings reports at Politico:

In the 2010 midterms, Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network talked proudly of their political clout, spending millions across the country to buy TV ads to defeat Democrats and grabbing credit for helping Republicans retake the House.

But now the two groups and others like them are changing their tune, saying that intervening in political campaigns really isn’t their primary mission.

Why the backtracking? Both groups now are under pressure to spend more noncampaign dollars than campaign dollars or risk running afoul of Internal Revenue Service rules that limit certain types of political activity.

The new GOP spending, which will be backed by millions more from anonymous donors, represents Round Two in the rise of the Republican outside groups seeking a permanent presence on the political scene.

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 in Context

At Boston Review, Eric McGhee, Brendan Nyhan, and John Sides note that the outside spending was more balanced than media reports suggested:

The average independent expenditure for Democratic candidates (either for that candidate or against his or her opponent) was about $240,000. The average for Republican candidates was about $225,000. Even if we restrict the analysis to candidates receiving at least a million dollars in outside spending, the average for Republicans was about $1.6 million and for Democrats about $1.8 million.

Moreover, the money was going into races that were already saturating the airwaves with advertisements, making it hard to overwhelm the opposition. The median amount of money raised by Democrats who faced more than $50,000 in independent spending was $1.7 million. The same number for Republican candidates was $1.3 million. This wasn’t David vs. Goliath. It was two Goliaths, beating each other to a pulp.

However, these conclusions come with two important caveats. First, we could not measure spending by the IRS organizations because it is not possible to link their spending to specific races. Second, we did not separate outside spending by parties from outside spending by other groups. The Republican Party was outspent by the Democratic Party in this election cycle, while the outside groups probably were tilted toward Republicans and helped make up the difference. But since our analysis only slightly under-predicts the actual number of seats won by the Republicans, fully accounting for both of these factors would affect a handful of seats at most—important, but hardly a game changer.

AEI reports:
Republicans gained more than sixty seats in the House of Representatives and six Senate seats. They picked up six governorships and hundreds of seats at the state legislative level. They won control of nineteen state legislative chambers and took the majority in both houses in at least five states. How do the 2010 results compare to the results of other midterm elections? The charts here, created by John Fortier and Jennifer Marsico, look at seat gains for the party out of power in the House, the Senate, governor’s mansions, and state legislatures. They constructed a “power ranking,” based on the average of their rankings in those four categories. Using this system, the 2010 elections rank as the sixth most significant midterm elections since 1914—a high ranking, although not as high as the impressive House results alone. For comparison purposes, they have also included data in each category for 1994 when Republicans took back the House after 40 years in the minority and for 2006 when the Democrats made sizable gains.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

And So It Begins...

Andy Barr reports at Politico:

Former first lady Nancy Reagan announced plans Thursday to invite the leading Republican contenders to the first debate of the presidential primary season, to be held at her late husband’s presidential library and co-hosted by POLITICO and NBC News.

The debate, sponsored by the Reagan Presidential Foundation, will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., during the spring of 2011. NBC News will serve as the television partner for the debate while POLITICO is the online content partner.

Nate Silver writes:

Based on the objective indicators — which is to say, the polls — you have four clear front-runners: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. Each has comfortably over 80 percent name recognition among Republicans, and they are about 10 points ahead of any other candidates in trial heats that have tested various combinations of the candidates against one another. Each is also pretty well liked among Republicans. All have strong television presences and the makings of a campaign infrastructure. They all have pretty distinct brands. Three of the four — Ms. Palin (Tea Party conservatives), Mr. Huckabee (southern and religious conservatives) and Mr. Romney (moderates and fiscal conservatives) — have fairly natural constituencies within the Republican base. Mr. Gingrich, whose demographics probably overlap to some extent with Ms. Palin’s, is perhaps the exception.

Public Reactions to the Midterm

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Nov. 4-7 among 1,255 adults, finds 48% saying they are happy that the Republican Party won control of the House while 34% are unhappy. Four years ago, 60% said they were happy the Democrats won full control of Congress, compared with just 24% who were unhappy. That mirrored the public’s reaction in December 1994 to the GOP winning control of Congress for the first time in 40 years (57% happy vs. 31% unhappy).

In the current survey, 52% of those who said they voted in the Nov. 2 election were happy with the outcome compared with 42% of non-voters. Still, more voters in 2006 – 60% – said they were happy with the Democrats’ victory.

The public has a mixed reaction to the Republican policies and plans for the future: 41% approve, while nearly as many (37%) disapprove. Approval is somewhat greater among voters (45%) than among non-voters (35%). But on balance, both the general public and voters express less positive views of the GOP’s policies than they did of the Democrats’ proposals after the 2006 election.

Other findings:
  • President Obama’s approval rating stands at 44%; an identical percentage disapproves of his job performance.
  • Roughly a third of Democrats (34%) say they would like to see other Democratic candidates challenge Obama for the party’s nomination in 2012. In December 1994, far more Democrats (66%) supported a primary challenge to President Clinton.
  • Just 16% of registered voters who attend religious services at least once a month say election information was available at their place of worship, down from 25% after the 2006 midterms.
  • The GOP continues to be seen as a leaderless party: 51% say they don’t know who leads the Republican Party while 14% volunteer that no one does. More now see John Boehner as the leader of the GOP (10%) than did so in September (4%).
  • There is no clear front-runner for the 2012 Republican nomination for president: Sarah Palin (15%), Mike Huckabee (15%), and Mitt Romney (13%) all receive about the same levels of support.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Facts of 2010

Peter Wehner writes:

  • Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938. Republicans now control the most House seats, and Democrats now have the smallest number of House seats, since 1946.
  • Fifty incumbent Democratic congressmen were defeated, while only two incumbent House Republicans lost.
  • Independents comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a 36-point turnaround from the last midterm election, in 2006, when independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. In addition, independents trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats by a margin of 23 points on jobs and employment, 23 points on the economy, 27 points on government spending, and 31 points on taxes.
  • ...
  • Democrats hold a majority of the congressional delegation in only three states — Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont — that don’t directly touch an ocean. Republicans similarly routed Democrats in gubernatorial races across the Midwest and the border states, from Ohio and Tennessee to Wisconsin and Iowa.
  • Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, the most in the modern era. In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats. The GOP gained majorities in at least 19 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures. And across the country, Republicans now control 55 chambers, Democrats have 38, and two are tied. (The Nebraska legislature is unicameral.)
  • Republicans have not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s.
  • Voters who identified as ideologically conservative accounted for 41 percent of the turnout, an increase from the 34 percent figure in 2008 and the highest level recorded for any election since 1976.
  • James Ceaser writes:

    Facts speak for themselves.

    The Democratic Party under Barack Obama in 2010 suffered the greatest defeat for a newly elected president in a midterm since the Republican Party under Warren Gamaliel Harding in 1922. Democrats, at this writing, dropped 61 seats in the House of Representatives, where they will now be in the minority, and 6 seats in the Senate, where they will continue to hold a slight edge. The Democratic defeat was historic by other measures as well--in House seats lost in a congressional election (the most since 1948), and in House seats lost in any midterm (the most since 1938). But it is the performance of a president's party following his first election that is the relevant point of comparison today

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Independents in 2010

    Resurgent Republic reports on a joint poll with Democracy Corps:

    2010 was a nationalized referendum on President Obama and Democratic control of Congress, not just a series of choices between two candidates. Which party would control Congress was a factor in deciding a Congressional vote for 61 percent of 2010 voters, including 74 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Democrats, and 51 percent of Independents. Among voters who supported the Republican candidate, 44 percent say their vote was a vote for the particular Republican candidate, 34 percent say it was a vote to provide a check on the agenda of President Obama and Democrats, and 14 percent say it was a vote against the Democrat. A plurality (43 percent) of Independent voters who voted Republican said their vote was driven by a desire to provide a check on President Obama and the Democrats, versus 30 percent who voted for the Republican candidate and 19 percent who voted against the Democratic candidate.

    Among voters who supported the Democratic candidate, 43 percent say it was a vote to support the agenda of President Obama and Democrats, 43 percent say it was a vote for the particular Democratic candidate, and 10 percent say it was a vote against the Republican. Among Independents who voted Democrat, 46 percent voted for the Democratic candidate, 31 percent voted to support the agenda of President Obama and the Democrats, and 17 percent voted against the Republican.

    American Crossroads: Adding It Up

    Mother Jones reports:

    By the time voters went to the polls last week, outside groups had spent more than $454 million to influence campaigns. But there's little evidence that all that spending benefited Republicans much more than Democrats, as the final tallies on spending were actually pretty close.

    A total of $197.4 million was spent backing Republican candidates, while groups spent $181.1 million for Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation.

    Eliza Newlin Carney writes at National Journal:

    The Crossroads groups pulled in more than $71 million, organizers say – far beyond its original $50 million target -- but reported only $38.7 million in independent campaign expenditures. Even accounting for some overhead, that still leaves potentially tens of millions leftover for pending policy fights over taxes, health care and climate issues, not to mention the 2012 presidential race.

    “We’re already focusing very intently on the government-expanding agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Congress,” said American Crossroads president and CEO Steven Law at a post-election briefing.

    Law called the assault on secret corporate money by President Obama and congressional Democrats “a real strategic mistake.” Democratic attacks on the Citizens United ruling and on conservative outside money “at best made them look seriously out of touch, and at worst made them look like politicians,” Law said.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 56

    In a "60 Minutes" interview with Steve Kroft (part 1 here and part 2 here), the president addressed the midterm:
    I think, first and foremost, it was a referendum on the economy. And the party in power was held responsible for an economy that is still underperforming and where a lot of folks are still hurting. I mean, we've got 9.6 percent unemployment. We've got higher than that underemployment. A lot of folks who would like to be working full time can't work full time. Families are struggling paying the bills. People have seen their home values decline all across the country. In some cases, so that they're under water. Their house is worth less than the cost of their mortgage.

    And so, people I think expect that we would have made more progress than we have on the economic front. And I think that was uppermost on people's minds.

    I do think that what was also true was that there are a lot of folks in this country who voted for me, hoping that we were gonna be able to get Washington to work again. And what they've seen over the last two years is a lot of partisan bickering. A lot of the same chronic problems that we've seen in Washington over the last several decades now. And that frustrated them. And I think they rightly said, "Okay, President Obama, you said you were gonna do something about this. We haven't seen enough change in Washington." And so in both those instances, I think people rightly said, "You're the President, you committed and promised that we would see changes. We haven't seen as many changes as we'd like. And we're gonna hold you accountable for it."
    The economy did hurt the Democrats, but it did not account for the size of their defeat. In 1982, unemployment was even worse than it is today (10.4 percent in October, on its way to a high of 10.8 percent in November). The president's party -- the Republicans in 1982 -- suffered a net loss of 14 percent of their House seats. In 2010, that percentage would work out to 36 seats -- not enough for a shift in control. Instead, Democrats dropped more than 60 seats.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    American Crossroads, Meg, and Money

    The Wall Street Journal reports:

    A Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign spending shows that Republican groups prevailed in nearly 75% of the House races in which they significantly out-spent Democratic organizations.

    The analysis also shows that Republicans won 53 House seats in races where the Republican groups spent at least $200,000 more than rival Democratic organizations. Republicans, though, lost 20 races where they heavily outspent Democratic groups.


    Among Republican groups, the two advised by Mr. Rove—American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS—spent a total of $71 million on the election, making them the top supporters of Republicans this election.

    Mr. Rove's groups, which were founded earlier this year, surpassed the election-spending of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's leading business lobby.

    The Chamber said earlier this year that it planned to spend $75 million on the elections. Instead it spent about $50 million. Officials said they fell short partly because Mr. Rove's groups siphoned off some donations it expected to receive.

    But there are limits to the power of money:

    Republican Meg Whitman, the former eBay Inc. chief executive, spent $140 million of her own cash in a bid to be California's governor, equivalent to about $45 a vote. She lost by 12 points to Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown.

    "Money can't turn Democrats into Republicans," said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Ms. Whitman's campaign.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    American Crossroads: Putting Non-Party Money in Perspective

    The 2010 midterm elections will be remembered for spawning a new breed of political animal -- the "super PAC," officially known as "independent expenditure-only committees," which are legally allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions to expressly advocate for or against federal candidates.

    These groups helped propel numerous candidates to success on Election Night, and conservative super PACs helped Republicans nearly gain control of the U.S. Senate, research by the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

    And one super PAC stood tall above all others.

    American Crossroads -- the conservative outfit associated with GOP operatives Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Carl Forti and Stephen Law, and fueled by corporations and billionaires -- accounted for one-third of all spending by super PACs this election, the Center's research indicates. And American Crossroads itself nearly spent as much as all liberal-aligned super PACs combined.

    The Campaign Finance Institute puts outside money in perspective:
    The Campaign Finance Institute today released its first post-election tables on money in the 2010 House and Senate elections. Independent expenditures and electioneering communications by non-party groups grew to $280 million through Election Day, an increase of 130% from 2008. Independent spending by the national political parties fell 20% to $182 million.

    Party and non-party spending to help competitive Democrats and Republicans was about equal across the parties. As a result, neither set of expenditures could be said to have tipped the electoral balance.

    This is a change from 2008, when Democrats showed a substantial advantage in party spending. Democratic party committees still had an advantage over Republican party committees in 2010, but a narrower one than in 2008. The change stemmed from a decline among the Democratic committees. This cannot be attributed to the growth of pro-Republican non-party spending. (Table 1 shows party and non-party spending over time; table 2 shows the non-party organizations spending the most money in 2010).

    Of course, 2010 was a national “wave” election. In other circumstances, such as may prevail in 2012, the importance of non-party money could change.

    Friday, November 5, 2010


    Yesterday, Mike Allen reported:
    House Republican Leader Boehner today will release a new leadership document, "Pillars of a New Majority," a compilation of the five major speeches he delivered between June and October, as Republicans ramped up efforts to take the majority in the House. Boehner, in the "Foreword": "History will record 2010 as the year in which the American people reasserted control of their government, and the supremacy of the people over politicians and political parties was re-established. Born from this movement was a new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives -- a majority humbler than its predecessors, determined to rebuild trust and eager to do the will of the people. ... It's my hope that these five speeches -- some delivered as the Pledge [to America] was being conceived and written, and others delivered after its launch -- lend further context to our governing agenda ... President Obama must decide whether he will heed the will of the people and work with us to address their concerns, or continue on a path the people have rejected. If he joins us in listening to the people and acknowledges their demand for smaller, more accountable government, much can be achieved." 44-page PDF

    --Also today, Boehner is expected to send a letter to GOP members and members-elect, asking for the honor of their votes to become Speaker-elect.

    --"Pillars" is "Dedicated to the memory of Paula T. Nowakowski (1964-2010), my former Chief of Staff. A great American patriot, warrior for freedom, brilliant strategist, and beloved friend.
    Politico also featured a rare analysis that actually gets the GOP's factional disputes and Boehner's skill at managing them:

    John Boehner has no plans — or capacity — to rule the House like Nancy Pelosi did. It’s neither his style to centralize power in the speaker’s office like she did nor his strength to win his way through brute force or fear.

    But make no mistake: Boehner will assume control of the House with his own elaborate plan for running the GOP on his terms. The plan includes fiercely loyal allies placed strategically throughout the House and his potential enemies placed right where he can better control them, according to Republicans close to Boehner.

    Look no further than the emerging leadership team to see this dynamic at work.

    Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, is likely to get tapped to run the Republican Study Committee, a hotbed for restless conservatives who view Boehner with some skepticism. Boehner paid a last-minute visit to Jordan’s district last weekend, part of his two-year-long nurturing of the young talent. There is no place in the Republican Conference that presents a bigger long-term threat to Boehner than the RSC.

    American Crossroads Batting Average

    At Mother Jones, Andy Kroll calculates win/loss ratios and concludes:
    So there you have it. The US Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-launched Crossroads GPS led the way, with .800 and .700 averages, respectively, in making the most of their (mostly) attack dollars. The labor group SEIU, meanwhile, finished last, albeit in an incredibly GOP-friendly election year. (Unlike the Chamber or many other outside groups, unions such as the SEIU do have to disclose most of their donors.) Most of these groups' funds, as you can tell, were focused on US Senate races around the country. And while the aforementioned conservative groups had plenty of success knocking off Democrats east of the Mississippi, their cash had far less influence out west, where Democratic incumbents Harry Reid, Michael Bennet, Barbara Boxer, and (probably) Patty Murray swatted away their challengers to eke out narrow wins on Election Day.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    American Crossroads & GOP Planning

    Jim Rutenberg & Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times:

    The PowerPoint slides presented to House Republicans in January 2009 seemed incongruously optimistic at a time when the very word “hope” belonged to the newly ascendant Democrats and their incoming president, Barack Obama.

    “If the goal of the majority is to govern, what is the purpose of the minority?” one slide asked.

    “The purpose of the minority,” came the answer, “is to become the majority.”


    At that Republican retreat in January 2009, gathering inside a historic inn in Annapolis, Md., the group — led by Representatives John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, the whip — did not tolerate the hand-wringing that consumed so many Republicans that dark winter.

    Instead, they walked through a by-the-numbers picture of Democratic vulnerability that had been lost in the excitement over Mr. Obama’s election. Some 83 Democrats held seats in districts that once supported President George W. Bush; more than two dozen won their last elections by wafer-thin margins, according to a Republican document provided to The New York Times.

    In their quest to reach a majority, the Republican leaders imposed tough party discipline, warning incumbents that the party would no longer act as a “welfare state” for those who were lax fund-raisers. They began an aggressive recruiting effort for top-flight candidates in districts that seemed to be virtually owned by some of the longest-serving Democrats in the House. And they were keenly aware of the anti-establishment mood, rarely engaging with Tea Party challengers, as Senate leaders did, fearful that any efforts to influence primary races could backfire.

    They also tried to push Democrats into retirement, using what was described in the presentation as “guerilla tactics” like chasing Democratic members down with video cameras and pressing them to explain votes or positions. (One target, Representative Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, had to apologize for manhandling one of his inquisitors in a clip memorialized on YouTube. Only this week did Republican strategists acknowledge they were behind the episode.)


    “I remember people laughing at me back when they thought Republicans were a lot like dinosaurs,” Representative Pete Sessions, the Texan who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview. “Our mission statement was to retire Nancy Pelosi. That was the whole mission statement.”


    And while the White House was keenly aware that Mr. Rove and others were out looking for unlimited corporate cash to help them take on Democrats, a report by one of the main groups he helped start, American Crossroads provided more false reassurance. Filed in June, it showed a paltry monthly fund-raising total of $200.

    At the time, it seemed the group had collected far less than the $52 million it vowed to raise. That figure, officials with the group now say, was something of a confident bluff — they hoped they could hit the mark, but were by no means certain. The number was the invention of Jim Dyke, a former Republican Party strategist who was on the American Crossroads board and believed the group needed to send a signal that it intended to have a major impact.

    “We needed to raise a good bit of money to be credible,” Mr. Dyke said. “So when I thought about ‘credible,’ I figured raising and spending what at the time would have been the same amount of money as the unions was credible.” (Labor unions ultimately spent much more than that on behalf of Democrats.)

    In truth, the group had early commitments of $30 million, but its chief executive overseeing day-to-day operations, Steven Law, said in an interview that he was not initially sure all of those would materialize.

    On a fund-raising trip with Mr. Rove through Tennessee and Texas, Mr. Law found donors expressing hesitation, telling him, “Other groups have a track record, you don’t.”

    Crossroads had yet to get involved in a race and now needed an opportunity to show it could have an impact.

    It found one, he said, in Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate in Nevada who unexpectedly won the Republican primary for the seat held by Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader. Ms. Angle had emerged as the nominee virtually broke, and the rest of the Republican establishment was shunning her, worried that some of her extreme statements — suggesting, for example, that rape victims should make “lemonade” out of unwanted pregnancies — made her a weak candidate.

    Within days, American Crossroads flooded the state with anti-Reid ads. Donors noticed. “It was like turning on a light switch,” Mr. Law said.

    CA: Why Whitman Lost

    At Capitol Alert, Amy Chance writes:

    Adam Mendelsohn, who served as a political consultant to Whitman from February '08 to January '09, said Wednesday he never saw a rationale for her run that voters would understand.

    "If you're going to take somebody who's an outsider who has no civic experience at have to create a really compelling reason for people to vote that person into office," he said. "My personal experience with the campaign often felt like they were approaching it like a marketing project rather than a political campaign."

    That approach extended to the campaign's discomfort with the political press corps, he said.

    "It was always very difficult to determine what she was comfortable doing and what she was not comfortable doing," Mendelsohn said. "She and her adviser, Henry Gomez, were very, very protective of where they put her and what she was doing. I think she was so over-managed and so over-advised, that she became intimidated by the media. I think they spent more time thinking about everything she could say wrong rather than what she could say correctly."

    At the Los Angeles Times, Cathleen Decker writes:

    Latinos were more likely than other voters to say it was the governor's race that impelled them to vote, and they sided more than 2 to 1 with Democrat Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman, the Republican whose campaign had been embroiled in a controversy over illegal immigration. Once at the polls, they voted for other Democrats as well.

    Holding their coastal strength, Democrats ran away with their big counties. Brown carried Los Angeles County, home to 25% of the state's voters, by 31 points, giving him almost 60% of his lead. Republican candidates, including Whitman, did better than Democrats in their traditional interior California strongholds. But the strong Republican counties tend to be heavier on acreage than voters.


    Democratic successes in the midst of 2010's national Republican renaissance marked a sharp turnabout from how the state behaved during the last major Republican year, in 1994. That year, as Republicans took back Congress, they won in California as well, picking up five of seven statewide offices, including the governorship, and adding legislative seats. This time, Democrats picked up a legislative seat despite Republican gains nationally, and were waiting for uncounted ballots to see whether they lost a congressional seat or two.

    The difference between then and now rests on the changes in the California electorate. Those changes also explain the gulf that now exists between California and the nation. California in 1994 was more white and proportionately less Democratic than it is today, thus more similar to the country today. Nationally, non-whites made up only 22% of the Tuesday electorate; in California they made up 38%. Latinos nationally represented 8% of the national electorate, just shy of a third of their power in California. The California and national exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of news organizations, including television news networks and the Associated Press.

    Tellingly, Latinos in California had a far more negative view of the GOP than other voters — almost 3 in 4 had an unfavorable impression, to 22% favorable. Among all California voters the view of Republicans was negative, but at a closer 61% negative and 32% positive. Latinos had a strongly positive view of Democrats, 58% to 37%, whereas all voters were closely split, 49% to 45%.

    "The brand name is still a tremendous liability," said Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican consultant who runs a nonpartisan election-tracking publication. "People of color are just turned off by the Republican Party."

    Jack Chang and David Siders write at the Sacramento Bee:

    Brown himself said Wednesday that he benefited from having no major primary opposition. Whitman, on the other hand, fought a bruising and expensive primary battle against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

    "Those two right there sets the stage," Brown said. "And then thirdly, there's more Democrats than Republicans, and we have a somewhat mildly liberal-leaning decline to state voters."

    The 72-year-old former governor added, "And then, of course, you have my sparkling personality."

    Timm Herdt writes at the Ventura County Star:

    Typically an unknown candidate will take a get-to-know-me tour around the state, talking to any news organization that could help introduce him or her to voters.
    A year ago, Whitman could have gone from Chico to San Bernardino doing exactly that, subjecting herself to scores of interviews. Undoubtedly, she would have slipped up in a few, but she would have had plenty of time to recover and the practice would have served her well.
    Instead, she gave one coming-out interview — with the Los Angeles Times, the state’s largest news organization — and made a few gaffes. She then retreated.
    When it came time in the fall to participate in her first televised debate and to personally appeal to newspaper editorial boards for their endorsements, she was unskilled at answering questions and uncomfortably robotic.