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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Perry Goofs Again...and Again

A candidate with a reputation for smarts can withstand the occasional gaffe. But once people start questioning the candidate's intelligence, each new mistake becomes another bit of evidence. CNN reports:

Rick Perry sought to defend a recent gaffe in an interview Wednesday, but in the same appearance made another.

On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate incorrectly said the voting age in the U.S. is 21 instead of 18 and that the 2012 presidential election is on Nov. 12 instead of Nov. 6, mistakes Perry characterized as human error.

"Look I'm a human being … I'm going to make some mistakes from time to time in my remarks," Perry said on Fox News.

He added that the focus on his missteps is an effort to distract from his policy proposals.

"When someone doesn't want to talk about the substantive issues, when they don't want to talk about the flat tax that I've laid out, when they don't want to talk about major overhaul of Washington, D.C. like going to a part-time Congress, which most of the states operate very well with, they want to find some little error that you've made and go talk about that," Perry said.

But in the same interview, in which Perry appeared from New Hampshire, the Texas governor incorrectly identified the state's early voting contest as "caucuses" instead of a "primary."

"Americans haven't decided yet at all who they want to lead the Republican nomination and we're going to be talking about that, we're going to be talking about it in harsh and strong terms over the course of the next four to five weeks are we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses," Perry said.

Romney's Strategy: 2008 and 2012

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz tells how Romney's strategy changed between 2008 and 2012:

Romney’s 2008 strategy, built on the assumption that someone not nationally known could take the nomination only by winning early and often, was based on some sound assumptions. What he didn’t anticipate was how the campaign would unfold against him.


First, with both McCain and Rudy Giuliani on the sidelines in Iowa, Mike Huckabee capitalized on his second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll to become the darling of social conservatives in Iowa and quickly rose to the top of the polls there. Romney’s campaign concluded that they had no choice but to engage in what became a nasty battle in the state.

Second, McCain rose from the ashes in New Hampshire, as unlikely a political resurrection as Newt Gingrich’s rise has been this year. Romney’s only hope of gaining the nomination was to win New Hampshire, and he had no choice but to engage in what became an even nastier fight there.

Third, Giuliani cut and ran from New Hampshire in early December 2007. That left an opening to tens of thousands of moderate Republicans and independents for McCain to mine — and a mountain of a problem for Romney to scale.

Romney’s strategy suddenly became a trap from which he couldn’t easily escape. He was like a single wrestler facing tag-team opponents. Whenever Romney was locked down in Iowa against Huckabee, McCain had a free hand in New Hampshire. When Romney tried to turn his attention to New Hampshire, Huckabee would keep marching through the caucuses.

When Romney lost both Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign was essentially over. He went on to win elsewhere, but he no longer controlled his own fate. Weakened in South Carolina, he was dependent on Huckabee to block McCain’s strengthening campaign, and Huckabee failed. Flummoxed in Florida, Romney saw all hope for the nomination dissipate with McCain’s victory in the Sunshine State.

Fast-forward to this year and see the differences. Romney’s campaign advisers say their strategy is based on two major assumptions: No state will determine Romney’s fate, and delegates matter.

Scathing View of Cain

Jonathan Martin writes at Politico:

Herman Cain is in the midst of “reassessing” whether to continue his 2012 bid, but its legacy is already settled: His campaign will go down as one of the most hapless and bumbling operations in modern presidential politics, setting a new standard for how to turn damaging press coverage into something far worse.

The botched responses to allegations of marital infidelity, sexual impropriety and his own gaffes — not to mention the puzzling strategic decisions — have, in the eyes of many veteran strategists, reached record levels of ineptitude.

It’s an operation that has repeatedly contradicted its own candidate, leveled baseless charges and put Cain in difficult political spots with little apparent forethought.

The chain of events following a woman’s claim Monday that she had a 13-year affair with the Republican presidential hopeful provides the freshest evidence. Campaign manager Mark Block confirmed to ABC News Tuesday that Cain is “reassessing whether to stay in the race,” while spokesman J.D. Gordon told ABC the opposite: that Cain is simply reassessing campaign strategy, such as “what states we visit, what interviews we do, how we allocate resources – things like that.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fundraising and Anti-Incumbency

The Campaign Finance Institute has released its analysis of the third-quarter campaign finance reports filed by U.S. House and Senate candidates in October. It is still early, and things could change, but CFI data do not yet suggest an anti-incumbent tide.
The most telling results are not in the money figures. The money figures show that the best-funded challenger in each House district had raised about 25 percent as much as the incumbents they were hoping to defeat. This is not very different from the past three elections, when there was both a big turnover and a strong partisan tide (Table 2).

However, these money percentages are based only on those candidates who had started their campaigns early enough to file third quarter reports. More telling at this stage is the sheer number of incumbents who are facing a challenge. In each of the previous three elections, a high number of challengers combined with a partisan imbalance provided early signs that something big was about to happen.
  • By this time two years ago, 91 percent of the Democratic incumbents were facing a Republican challenger – more than double the percentage of their Republican incumbent counterparts. Consistent with what we might expect from such an imbalance, the House GOP enjoyed a net gain of 63 seats in the election of 2010.
  • Two years before that, Democrats were challenging 61 percent of the Republican incumbents as of September 30, while the Republicans were challenging only 27 percent of the Democrats. The election of 2008 saw a net gain of 21 for the Democrats.
  • And in 2005 the Democrats were challenging 60 percent of the Republican incumbents while the Republicans were challenging only 23 percent of the Democrats. In 2006, the Democrats took control of the Congress with a 31 seat net gain.
This year 37 percent of the Democratic incumbents and 35 percent of the Republicans are facing challengers who had filed third quarter reports with the Federal Election Commission. These 2011 numbers more closely resemble the ones for 2003 than any year in between. The 2004 election was one in which only seven incumbents were defeated and the Republicans had a net gain of three seats.

The Senate numbers are not as dramatic as those for the House (Table 5). Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there was a strong partisan tilt in 2005, 2007 and 2009 both in the number of challengers and in the amount of money the challengers raised as a percentage of the incumbents. As in the House, the 2011 numbers looks more like 2003’s than any year in between (see Table 5).

Monday, November 28, 2011

DNC v. Mitt

MITT VS. MITT - NEW DNC TV AD IN 6 STATES: The Democratic National Committee is putting an undisclosed sum behind a TV ad in six markets that attacks Mitt Romney as an inconsistent flip-flopper, escalating their attacks on a frontrunner they see as a vulnerable. The 30-second TV ad will run in Albuquerque, NM; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; and Milwaukee, WI on a mix of broadcast and cable. It is a trailer for a longer video on a new DNC website called State Democratic parties in all the swing states are hosting events to generate earned media coverage of their longer video. The 30-second spot: Watch the whole 4-minute video on the new microsite. It's a best-of highlight reel you can expect to see variations of over and over again in the weeks to come, from Romney critics in both parties:

Newt's Theory of the Nomination Race

Rich Galen writes at Mullings:
  • Remember Newt's theory of how he expects to win the nomination (which was first explained to me by former Pennsylvania Congressman and long-time Gingrich ally Bob Walker):
    -- Romney has a ceiling of about 25 percent of Republican primary voters.
    -- Ron Paul will get between six and ten percent of those voters
    -- That leaves 65 percent of the Republican available for Newt.

  • The World According to Newt is: He doesn't have to beat Romney, he just has to consolidate the non-Romney conservative votes.

  • The Union-Leader endorsement might help do that in dramatic fashion.

  • A Backloaded Calendar

    Can Romney clinch the GOP nomination early? At The Huffington Post, Jon Ward and Mark Blumenthal write:

    But the 2012 primary calendar is heavily back-loaded, with major states such as California and New York going much later in the process than in 2008 and far fewer delegates up for grabs through Super Tuesday. In fact, the altered calendar will create the most spread-out contest since the 1970s. And more states than in the past will award delegates based on each candidates' portion of the vote, rather than all of a state's delegates going to the winner of the popular vote. All together, it will be mathematically impossible for Romney -- or anyone -- to eliminate opponents early on.


    The February states are Maine, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Arizona and Michigan. In 2008, Romney won all but Arizona, which was John McCain's home state.

    Yet, mathematically, it will be hard for Romney to argue after January and February that he is the putative nominee.

    There are approximately 2,427 delegates up for grabs in the 2012 Republican primary, but a number of states who broke Republican National Committee rules and moved their primaries forward will likely see their delegate totals halved. So the actual number of total delegates will probably be 2,284, meaning a candidate will have to win 1,143 to clinch the nomination.

    Through January and February, according to the website, only 334 delegates will be awarded. Super Tuesday will add only 599 more -- a total of just 41 percent of all delegates

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Union-Leader Endorses Gingrich

    At The Hill, Meghashyam Mali reports:

    GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich received the endorsement of the influential editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sunday, providing another boost to his surging campaign.

    The endorsement gives the former House Speaker additional momentum after a month which has seen him vault to the top of national GOP polls.

    "We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing," said the editorial by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid.

    The endorsement alludes to his baggage:

    Readers of the Union Leader and Sunday News know that we don't back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers. We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job.

    We don't have to agree with them on every issue. We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.

    Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times. He is worthy of your support on January 10.

    Does it matter for the New Hampshire primary? The record is mixed, as Steve Benen writes at The Washington Monthly:

    1976: The paper endorsed Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford, but Reagan lost

    1980: Reagan won the endorsement and the primary

    1988: The Union Leader supported Pete du Pont, who finished fourth in the primary

    1992: The paper supported Pat Buchanan, who finished a competitive second against an incumbent president

    1996: The Union Leader again backed Buchanan, who this time won the primary

    2000: Steve Forbes won the paper’s endorsement, in advance of a third-place showing

    2008: The Union Leader supported John McCain, who won the state’s primary

    Given this recent history, it’s a stretch to think today’s endorsement will suddenly propel Gingrich into contention. But given the Union Leader’s influence, it’s probably fair to say New Hampshire voters who weren’t sure about the disgraced former House Speaker will give the guy another look.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    The Nomination Calendar, as of Now

    Thanks to Josh Putnam's invaluable Frontloading HQ blog:

    • Tuesday, January 3: Iowa caucuses (Democratic & Republican)
    • Tuesday, January 10: New Hampshire
    • Saturday, January 21: Nevada Democratic caucuses, South Carolina Republican Primary
    • Saturday, January 28: South Carolina Democratic primary
    • Tuesday, January 31: Florida
    • Saturday, February 4 : Maine Republican caucuses (through February 11), Nevada Republican caucuses
    • Tuesday, February 7: Colorado Republican caucuses, Minnesota Republican caucuses, Missouri (non-binding)
    • Tuesday, February 28: Arizona, Michigan,
    • Saturday, March 3: Washington Republican caucuses
    • Tuesday, March 6 (Super Tuesday): Alaska Republican caucuses, Colorado Democratic caucuses, Georgia, Idaho Republican caucuses, Massachusetts, Minnesota Democratic caucuses, North Dakota Republican caucuses, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming Republican caucuses (through March 10)
    • Wednesday, March 7: Hawaii Democratic caucuses
    • Saturday, March 10: Kansas Republican caucuses
    • Sunday, March 11: Maine Democratic caucuses
    • Tuesday, March 13: Alabama, Hawaii Republican caucuses, Mississippi, Utah Democratic caucuses
    • Saturday, March 17: Missouri Republican caucuses
    • Tuesday, March 20: Illinois
    • Saturday, March 24: Louisiana
    • Tuesday, April 3: Maryland, Washington DC, Wisconsin
    • Saturday, April 14:Idaho Democratic caucuses, Kansas Democratic caucuses, Nebraska Democratic caucuses, Wyoming Democratic caucuses
    • Sunday, April 15: Alaska Democratic caucuses, Florida Democratic caucuses (through May 5), Washington Democratic caucuses
    • Tuesday, April 24: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
    • Saturday, May 5: Michigan Democratic caucuses
    • Tuesday, May 8: Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia
    • Tuesday, May 15: Nebraska, Oregon
    • Tuesday, May 22: Arkansas, Kentucky
    • Tuesday, June 5: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota Democratic caucuses, South Dakota
    • Tuesday, June 12: Ohio
    • Tuesday, June 26: Utah

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Gingrich and Immigration

    Byron York writes at The Washington Examiner:
    Newt Gingrich did not walk on stage at Tuesday's Republican presidential debate planning to make a bold new statement on immigration. In debate prep, the former House speaker spent a lot of time with national security advisers discussing the issue of religious freedom abroad -- a topic he has tried to showcase recently -- but didn't discuss immigration at all.

    Besides, when Gingrich made his now-controversial remarks -- that he would permit some long-time illegal immigrants to stay in the United States permanently -- he wasn't saying anything he hadn't said earlier in the campaign. It's just that back then Gingrich was an also-ran and nobody was listening. Now, Gingrich is leading the polls, and people are paying close attention to his every word.
    Almost a year ago, indeed, Kendra Marr reported at Politico:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a bold goal for the next decade: Overhaul the country's immigration system so that every worker in the United States is legal.

    "We are not going to deport 11 million people," Gingrich said Thursday as he kicked off his first forum on Latino issues. "There has to be some zone between deportation and amnesty."

    A possible presidential candidate, Gingrich stressed that his target of establishing an entirely legal work force is "not a call for amnesty." Rather, he said, it's about applying common sense to the immigration debacle.

    "Dos y dos son cuatro" (two plus two equals four), he said to chuckles.

    York continues:

    Rep. Steve King, an influential figure among social conservatives, says Gingrich's statement "makes it harder" for King to support him. "I wouldn't agree with him on that policy," King told Iowa Public TV. "I think that when you give people even a promise that they can stay in the country after they're here illegally, you become more of a magnet."


    The ironic thing is, Gingrich and his aides saw it coming. "In August, we had a conversation among the staff that this position was likely to draw criticism," recalls Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond. "He reassured us that if we are actually going to solve this problem, we have to do it this way. We are going to campaign like we are going to govern."

    Far from being a slip, or a gaffe, Gingrich's statement was a gamble that he can win GOP votes even with a nuanced position on immigration. With his new lead in the polls, the stakes are higher than he could have predicted.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Newt, Child Labor, and Orphanages

    At The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin writes:
    Newt Gingrich says something outrageous. The media and/or conservatives react. He then claims he was misunderstood. This was the pattern in his condemnation of “social engineering” purportedly implicit in the Medicare reform plan of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). It happened again with Gingrich’s pontification on child labor laws.

    The Post reports: “GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich called child labor laws ‘truly stupid’ at a Friday appearance at Harvard University, saying that he would propose extraordinarily radical changes that would fundamentally transform the culture of poverty. Speaking at the John F. Kennedy school, Gingrich said that children in the poorest neighborhoods are ‘trapped in child laws’ that prevent them from earning money.” Someone must have told him that sounded downright batty.

    So by Monday he was telling The Post: “He is not advocating revamping child labor laws, he simply wants to empower young people with a work ethic they need to succeed. ‘I’m not suggesting that they drop out of school and become janitors, I’m talking about working 20 hours a week and being empowered to succeed.’”
    Seventeen years ago --also during the holiday season -- Gingrich gave critics an opportunity to portray him as Scrooge. From the Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 1994:
    Whatever Republicans do to reform welfare, it is not likely to result in state-run orphanages for the children of unwed teenage mothers.

    For one thing, states are not clamoring to get back into the orphanage business. And the suggestion recently championed by incoming Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has become something of an embarrassment to the Republican Party.

    "We're thinking about just taking orphanages out of the bill," said Robert Rector, a welfare expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. He is helping draft the legislation.

    More likely is a proposal for more group homes where young mothers could live with their children while finishing school or getting job training.
    That concept, which was first proposed by conservative Republicans, was recently endorsed by the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of moderate and conservative "New Democrats." Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore were founders of the group.

    Gingrich has roiled his critics by consistently defending the idea of re- establishing orphanages. He got lots of media mileage last week from his suggestion that Hillary Rodham Clinton should rent Boys Town, the 1938 film about the Nebraska orphanage, before criticizing the idea.

    But other top Republicans, in harmony with many of Gingrich's suggestions, have not lined up behind him on this one.

    "I don't know where that came from," Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a Gingrich ally, said about the orphanage idea. "This is not something I want to see, or even bring up."
    In each case, Gingrich started with a defensible position: that teens should have more opportunities to get work experience, or that group homes might be one alternative for kids from troubled backgrounds. But because of the way he expressed himself, people will forever remember him as the guy who wanted orphanages and child labor.

    Why Democratic Outside Groups are Struggling

    At National Journal, Reid Wilson explains an important reason why Democratic Super PACs are off to a slow start:

    In fact, the problem is that Democratic donors have heard their party leaders bad-mouth the very same outside groups they're being asked to support. Donors we've heard from have questioned why their party stood so firmly against outside groups in 2010, only to turn around and tacitly embrace them in 2012.

    ... The outside spending groups, President Obama said at an October 10, 2010, campaign rally in Philadelphia, were "not just a threat to Democrats, that's a threat to our democracy."

    "The American people deserve to know who's trying to sway their elections. And you can't stand by and let special interests drown out the voices of the American people," Obama said at the rally. [see similar remarks from a Maryland rally]

    Then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen, one of the party's leading advocates for campaign finance reform, was apoplectic at the new rules. He spent months arguing to anyone who would listen that outside groups were tarnishing democracy, and that his candidates would be vindicated because voters would see through Karl Rove's evil schemes.


    Legally speaking, there's not much hypocrisy in the Democratic statements. Democrats are careful to make the distinction between super PACs, which must disclose their donors, and 501(c)(4) organizations, which don't have to disclose such information (American Crossroads is a super PAC; Crossroads GPS is a c4). Optically, it doesn't look great -- especially when Vice President Joe Biden meets with donors who have just been hit up for big super PAC contributions, as he did last week.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Romney's Religion

    From the Pew Forum:

    Many Americans continue to see the Mormon faith as unfamiliar and different. Half say they know little or nothing about Mormonism, half say it is a Christian religion while a third say it is not, and roughly two-thirds believe Mormonism is “very different” from their own beliefs. There has been virtually no change in these impressions over the past four years.

    About half of all voters, and 60% of evangelical Republicans, know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. The former Massachusetts governor’s religion has implications for his nomination run but not for the general election, should he be nominated as his party’s standard bearer.

    White evangelical Protestants – a key element of the GOP electoral base – are more inclined than the public as a whole to view Mormonism as a non-Christian faith. And this view is linked to opinions about Romney: Republicans who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion are less likely to support Romney for the GOP nomination and offer a less favorable assessment of him generally. But they seem prepared to overwhelmingly back him in a run against Obama in the general election.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Two Conservatives Settle for Mitt

    Ann Coulter endorses Romney:

    The mainstream media keep pushing alternatives to Mitt Romney not only because they are terrified of running against him, but also because they want to keep Republicans fighting, allowing Democrats to get a four-month jump on us.

    Meanwhile, everyone knows the nominee is going to be Romney.

    That's not so bad if you think the most important issues in this election are defeating Obama and repealing Obamacare.

    There may be better ways to stop Obamacare than Romney, but, unfortunately, they're not available right now. (And, by the way, where were you conservative purists when Republicans were nominating Waterboarding-Is-Torture-Jerry-Falwell-Is-an-Agent-of-Intolerance-My-Good-Friend-Teddy-Kennedy-Amnesty-for-Illegals John McCain-Feingold for president?)

    Among Romney's positives is the fact that he has a demonstrated ability to trick liberals into voting for him. He was elected governor of Massachusetts -- one of the most liberal states in the union -- by appealing to Democrats, independents and suburban women.

    He came close to stopping the greatest calamity to befall this nation since Pearl Harbor by nearly beating Teddy Kennedy in a Senate race. (That is when he said a lot of the things about which he's since "changed his mind.") If he had won, we'd be carving his image on Mount Rushmore.

    He is not part of the Washington establishment, so he won't be caught taking money from Freddie Mac or cutting commercials with Nancy Pelosi.

    Also, Romney will be the first Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan who can talk. Liberals are going to have to dust off their playbook from 30 years ago to figure out how to run against a Republican who isn't a tongue-tied marble-mouth.

    Ben Smith writes at Politico:

    Mike Huckabee tells WABC's Aaron Klein today that grass-roots conservatives should rally around Mitt Romney if he's the nominee — an early entry in what will likely be a lively debate:

    It would be real tragic if they stayed out. Mitt Romney may not be their first choice, but Mitt Romney every day of the week and twice on Sunday is going to be a much more effective president for issues that they care about than Barack Obama.

    I think sometimes there is this anxiety within the Republican Party of who is the perfect candidate. The answer is there isn’t one.

    And so, what you find is you have to decide who can survive that process. And whoever that is, if it’s Mitt Romney, then I think Republicans and conservatives and the tea party need to get behind him and say, ‘You may not be our first choice, but between you and Obama, I’ll vote forty times to get you elected.’

    Perceptions of Obama Weakness

    Luke Frans writes at Resurgent Republic:

    Following the Supercommitee’s failure to reach an agreement, Washington is captivated with postmortems dissecting what went wrong and assigning blame. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have staked out familiar territory with one side rejecting tax increases and the other sweeping entitlement reforms. Yet President Obama is also vulnerable to criticism of his leadership since he remained on the sidelines during this process.

    After the debt ceiling debate, we asked voters the following question in our September survey:

    Has President Obama turned out to be a stronger or weaker leader than you thought he would be? Would that be much stronger/weaker, or just somewhat stronger/weaker?

    Obama approval rating among voter groups

    Voters overwhelmingly viewed President Obama as a weaker leader than expected:

    • 60 percent of voters said President Obama has turned out to be a weaker leader, compared to 32 percent who said stronger.
    • By greater than two-to-one, Independents believed President Obama has been a weaker leader than they expected (65 to 24 percent).
    • Those who said the President has turned out to be a much weaker leader than they thought he would be outnumbered those who believed he turned out to be a much stronger leader by 33 to 13 percent (36 to 7 percent among Independents).
    • 61 percent of voters undecided on the presidential generic ballot believed the President has turned out to be a weaker leader than expected.

    Coordination Rules

    At ProPublica, Marian Wang writes about the loose FEC rules on coordination:

    “The restrictions on interactions between candidates and Super PACs are far more modest than the public believes,” said Paul Ryan, a lawyer with Campaign Legal Center [3], a campaign-finance advocacy group.


    In guidance handed down [10] by the FEC in July, the commission allowed candidates to help fundraise for the supposedly independent groups, on the premise that it was, after all, only coordinated spending that was banned.

    The FEC did place [11] a few restrictions: Candidates still can’t solicit unlimited donations or corporate donations to the Super PACs, but they can ask for contributions within the traditional $5,000 contribution limits that apply to direct donations. Whether that limit is meaningful is up for debate — donors can still give as much as they want.


    Last month, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska appeared in a political ad. No, not an ad by his own campaign, but a supposedly uncoordinated ad [18] paid for by Democratic Party officials.

    The ad prompted American Crossroads, a Republican-leaning Super PAC set up by Karl Rove, to ask the FEC for permission to do the same — to create advertisements that “would be fully coordinated [19]” [PDF] with candidates “insofar as each Member would be consulted on the advertisement script and would then appear in the advertisement.”

    How can “fully coordinated” ads not run afoul of the limits on coordination?

    The FEC has a two-part coordination test that’s as detailed as it is permissive: The first part is whether groups and candidates have conducted themselves in a way that’s coordinated, such as discussing the particulars of an ad buy. The second part is a more complicated test that looks at the timing to an election and the content of the ad, such as whether it essentially advocates for or against a candidate.

    In its request, American Crossroads announced its intent to fully coordinate its ad with a candidate, but argued that the ad it intends to produce could also be interpreted as an issue ad that happens to improve the public image of a candidate for office, but not an ad that advocates for the candidate’s election.

    The request was spoofed by Stephen Colbert in a must-read comment letter [20] to the FEC. The issue has yet to be decided by the commission.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Perry, the Outsider

    In a new ad, Perry explicitly embraces outsiderism. The ad's title is ... "Outsider."

    He cribbed his "cut their pay and send them home" message from Lamar Alexander's 1996 campaign.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Can Newt Win?

    At The Washington Post, Dan Balz writes:

    In February, The Washington Post assembled two small groups of Iowa activists, one in Crawford County and another in Dallas County, just outside Des Moines. Last week, I came back for an update, meeting with the Denison group again at Cronk’s Cafe and reaching some of those in Dallas County individually.

    These groups of party regulars are not in any way a scientific sample of Iowa Republicans. But they are attuned to the shifting sentiments of their friends and neighbors and can explain how their own impressions have been altered by months of watching the candidates up close and on television. They have come around to Gingrich, for now at least, by a process of elimination and by seeing him in a new light.


    Against that backdrop, Gingrich’s sudden emergence can be explained in a word: debates. He has impressed Iowa activists with his command of the issues and his stage presence, from shaping what other candidates are saying to staring down moderators from the media. His debate performances have overshadowed the earlier doubts many harbored.

    “I think he has shaped these debates,” Maura Sailer said. “He is making everyone talk about ideas and he is so respectful of the other candidates on the stage and doesn’t tear down. . . . He just wants to talk about ideas, and that’s so exciting and refreshing.”

    Even some who haven’t settled firmly on Gingrich say they relish the prospect of him in debates with Obama.

    At The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes writes:

    The irony is that Gingrich, more than any other candidate, is indebted to the media. Without the debates, he’d be a hopeless also-ran. Last June, his campaign was at death’s door. It was heavily in debt. Most of Gingrich’s advisers had quit. Only his strong performance in the debates saved him from humiliation and defeat.

    Gingrich turns out to be a shrewd analyst of himself and his prospects. He has told friends he’s like Richard Nixon, not particularly likable and hated by the press and the left. He’s hardly a perfect candidate, but against a weak field, he can win the nomination and beat Obama in a tight race. And by the way, he’s the best of the bunch in connecting with the populist yearnings and resentments of average Americans.

    Months ago, Gingrich foresaw his emergence as the chief rival to Romney. No one else did. The expectation was that Romney would face a challenger from the right. Gingrich, associates say, may be slightly to the left of Romney. It’s hard to tell. We won’t know for sure unless the two go head-to-head after the Republican field shrinks in January.

    Pew finds that Gingrich would lose to Obama 54-42 whereas Romney would be in a 49-47 statistical tie.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Third-Party Speculation

    An earlier post mentioned the possibility of a third-party bid by Ron Paul.

    At Salon, Steve Kornacki explains that it would hurt the GOP:
    An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed the libertarian congressman receiving 18 percent of the vote in a race against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — a number that came mainly at Romney’s expense. In a two-way trial heat, Obama led Romney by 6 points, 49 to 43 percent. But that margin doubled when Paul was tossed in, with Obama opening a 44-to-32 advantage over Romney. Notably, Paul fared much better than another potential third-party candidate, Michael Bloomberg, who netted only 13 percent.
    At The Hill, Justin Sink reports on a Fox News interview in which Paul downplayed the idea without completely ruling it out:
    Paul also bantered with Hannity about definitively ruling out a third-party run for president. Although Paul said that "it's not going to happen," that it "wouldn't be worth it," and that he had "no plan" to run, he refused to definitively rule out the bid.

    "I have no intention of doing that," Paul repeated above Hannity's laughing protests. Asked why he wouldn't completely close the door, Paul joked, "well, I guess to just keep you guessing a little bit."

    "But it's not going to happen, it's just not going to happen," Paul added.
    At The Los Angeles Times, Paul West and Seema Mehta write:
    Mark Meckler, a national co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said that some in the movement are talking about supporting a third-party candidate if Romney becomes the GOP nominee. "One thing you can say for certain is it would cause a drop-off of enthusiasm" in the general election, he said. "How far people would take that drop-off is impossible to predict."

    But others decline to go that far. Kathi Kelly, 58, a Davenport secretary, said she was weighing a vote for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses. Kelly has ruled out caucusing for Romney because of his record as Massachusetts governor, notably his healthcare overhaul's individual mandate to have insurance.

    "I'm not convinced he's a conservative," she said. Yet she would back Romney in the general election.

    "I will support him wholeheartedly," Kelly said. "I don't want Obama to have another term. He's destroying our country."

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Poll Shows Gingrich Soaring in NH

    NH Journal reports:

    The latest NH Journal poll of likely Republican primary voters conducted by Magellan Strategies shows Romney and Gingrich in a statistical dead heat for the January 10th primary. If the election were held today, Romney would earn 29% of the vote and Gingrich would earn 27%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to show resolve by earning 16%. Herman Cain gets 10%. No other candidate is in double digits.

    This is the first time any of NH Journal’s polls have shown anyone candidate even close to Romney. It also shows tremendous movement for Gingrich since NH Journal’s October survey, in which Gingrich was in third place, but at only 10% versus Romney’s 41%.

    When asked why people felt Gingrich was moving up in the polls, 44% of respondents cited his depth of knowledge on the issues. Ten percent referred to his strong debate performances while another 6% said they liked that he was challenging the media in those debates. Ten percent referenced his past experience as Speaker of the House.

    Newt as Icarus

    Is Newt getting so close to the sun that his wings will melt? Tom Bevan writes at RealClearPolitics:
    Almost by a process of elimination, Newt Gingrich is the latest GOP hopeful to experience a sudden surge in his polling numbers. The former speaker of the House is now leading or tied for the lead in the last three national surveys, and is rising fast in Iowa, which is probably a must-win proposition for him. But in today’s breakneck media environment, one has to wonder whether the Gingrich bubble will stay inflated long enough to help him score a win in the Hawkeye State on Jan. 3.

    The former Georgia congressman has been the prime beneficiary of Cain’s decline over the past 10 days. But the bombshell story from Bloomberg News on Wednesday that Gingrich made more than $1.6 million “consulting” for Freddie Mac in the years 1999-2002 threatens to turn Gingrich’s rocket ride in the polls into something more akin to the Challenger disaster. A Washington Post story this morning that a think tank he founded earned tens of millions of dollars from health care companies -- and advocated for an individual insurance mandate -- adds to the likelihood.
    More details on Newt's corporate clients come from Bloomberg, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

    Oppo guys have certainly been busy lately.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    More Signs of a Gingrich Surge

    The Gingrich surge may or may not be long-lasting but it's showing up in multiple polls. So is Cain's decline.

    Newt Gingrich has catapulted to the front of the race for the 2012 Republican nomination while Herman Cain has lost ground with GOP primary voters. Mitt Romney, once again, is holding steady.

    A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows Gingrich’s support doubling in the last three weeks. He stood at 12 percent in late October -- before the Cain harassment allegations and Rick Perry’s “oops” debate. Now the former House speaker is at 23 percent, essentially tied for the lead with Romney, with 22 percent.

    Cain garners 15 percent. That’s down from 24 percent last month, and slightly below his late-September standing of 17 percent..

    From GantDaily:

    A new national poll shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich leading the GOP pack as pizza magnate Herman Cain continues to slide after old allegations of sexual harassment dominate the media’s attention.

    An Economist Magazine/YouGov poll finds Gingrich ahead with 23 percent, followed by Cain at 21 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in third at 19 percent.

    No other candidate broke double digits, and a slim 6 percent of Republican primary voters remain undecided.

    Rasmussen reports:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has already picked up steam among Republican primary voters nationwide, and now he jumps to the front of the GOP pack among caucus-goers in Iowa.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers shows Gingrich with 32% followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 19%. Georgia businessman Herman Cain, who led in Iowa last month, drops to third with 13% of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul draws 10% of the vote in Iowa, while Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann each grab six percent (6%).

    The Iron Law of Emulation

    For the past 40 years or so, the liberal and conservative networks have been copying each other. At The Los Angeles Times, Melanie Mason reports on the latest episode, a forthcoming conference in Washington:
    The donors — including an advisor to investor George Soros and San Francisco-based philanthropist Rob McKay — will hear from Vice President Joe Biden and from one of the movement's most influential strategists, Rob Stein, who urges a strategy of state-based organizing. The donors will even get a lesson in building a movement from one of the most influential organizers on the right, Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform.
    About 150 of these donors will convene for the invitation-only conference. The multiday event is organized by the Democracy Alliance, a group of influential liberals founded by Stein in 2005. The idea is to coordinate in supporting liberal causes the way groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads help Republicans.
    The irony is that the Democracy Alliance was an inspiration for the GOP network. In 2010, Time's Michael Crowley reported on American Crossroads CEO Steven Law:
    Law has been studying those efforts. On his desk sits a copy of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, a book describing how ultra-wealthy Democrats like billionaire George Soros and Progressive Insurance Companies chairman Peter Lewis helped fund the party's return to power. He's also immersed himself in Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe's recent tome. "This is the photo negative of what Republicans experienced in 2006 and 2008," he says with a smile. ("Republicans are following our road map," [former MoveOn official Tom] Matzzie concurs.)
    And a look at The Argument reveals an irony within an irony: the liberal network consciously modeled itself on the conservative one. Bai wrote about Stein's early presentations:
    The liberals who were galvanized by Rob Stein's slide show couldn't conceal their awe for the conservative institutions that they saw as dominating Washington and the media. They marveled at the Heritage Foundation, with its $30 million budget, its staff of 180 and its eight-story building complete with intern apartments and a 250-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium.
    And yet another irony is that the conservative network was itself modeled on the earlier liberal one. In a 2005 interview with Brian Lamb, Paul Weyrich once recounted how he got the idea for Heritage. When he was an aide to a conservative senator, an odd set of circumstances placed him in a meeting of liberal activists.

    The National Committee for an Effective Congress was there. It was a liberal political action committee. And they said they would write every senator and say that this would be double rated, that the vote on this amendment would be double rated. So, you know, you’d really get a bad score if you voted against it.

    Carl Rowan was there. He had just left the Johnson administration, and was writing a column for the “Post." And he allowed as how, if they would tell me the timing of this thing, he’d get together the editorial board of the “Washington Post," and then they could talk to them and get a favorable editorial on it, of course he said he’d write a column.


    And I sat there, and I watched all these people interact with each other. The Brookings Institute guy was there, and he said, well, we’ve got a study coming up on housing, and it won’t be ready for about six months. But I’ll get a sort of preprint out in time, you know, to help you with the issue, and so on.

    And I’m looking at this. And I said, that’s how they do it. I mean, I had watched conservatives getting killed on the floor of the United States Senate. And I didn’t know how it was done. I mean, I saw it happening, but I didn’t know the mechanics.

    All of a sudden, I was granted the opportunity to see the mechanics. And from that day …

    LAMB: What year?

    WEYRICH: That was 1969. And from that day forward, I was insufferable. Wherever I went I said, we’ve got to do something about this. We’ve got to have our own organizations. We’ve got to have our own meeting, and you know, so on.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Obama Money Challenges

    At the Wall Street Journal, writes of Priorities USA (a 501(c)(4) and Priorities USA Action (a super PAC).  Bill Burton had hoped to raise $100 million but it falling short.
    Many of the Democratic Party's biggest donors aren't planning to support his organization, either because they're unhappy with Mr. Obama or disillusioned with politics in general. There's also this fund-raising fact of life: Wealthy donors are more likely to open up their wallets to defeat a sitting president than to protect one.
    Mr. Burton's group has spent less than $1 million on advertisements this year, while the leading pro-Republican organization has spent more than $20 million.
    Mr. Burton, a former spokesman for Mr. Obama, said in an interview that potential donors don't always know who he is, which means he has to use meetings for introductions, not strictly for pitching.

    Arthur Lipson, owner of hedge-fund management firm Western Investment, has donated more than $500,000 to Democratic causes in the past decade, according to public records. He hasn't heard from Mr. Burton, but an outreach probably wouldn't be worth the effort. "I will definitely not donate to Obama in any way, shape or form," said Mr. Lipson, who objects to deals the president has made with Republicans.
    And a financial shift continues. Bloomberg reports on Kenneth Griffin:

    Chicago hedge fund executive Kenneth Griffin, who raised more than $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2008, said today he would back Mitt Romney in 2012.

    “Mitt Romney understands that the private sector is the source of economic growth and job creation,” said Griffin, chief executive of the $11 billion Citadel LLC, in an e-mailed statement. “His ideas can help get America’s economy moving again and start putting people back to work.”
    ...This year, he gave $300,000 to American Crossroads, the political action committee advised by Karl Rove, the chief political aide to then-President George W. Bush. Griffin donated $250,000 last year. American Crossroads reported spending $21 million in 2010 to help elect Republican congressional candidates.


    Romney has benefited from some dissatisfaction on Wall Street toward Obama, who signed new banking regulations last year. Romney raised $3.6 million through Sept. 30 from securities and investment industry employees and their families, more than double the $1.6 million taken in by Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

    Four years ago, Obama raised $16 million from Wall Street. Romney, who dropped out of the Republican race on Feb. 7, 2008, collected $5 million.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Super PACs and Oppo

    At Reuters, Timothy Reid writes:

    The rise of the SuperPACs will likely take opposition research to a new level in the 2012 campaign. Already, some of these have huge war chests: American Crossroads, a Republican SuperPAC created by Bush's former chief political strategist Karl Rove, disclosed that it spent $70 million in 2010 - mostly on congressional races - and plans to spend another $240 million this election cycle, primarily on attacking Democratic candidates, including an onslaught against President Barack Obama.

    American Bridge is tiny by comparison, with $3.1 million raised from donors such as Hollywood producer Steve Bing, Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance, and the labor unions SEIU and ACSME. But it hopes to pull in $15 million by the end of 2012, and other SuperPACs have formed on the Democratic side.

    The fact that the SuperPACs, by law, operate independent of individual campaigns cancels the political calculus that makes a candidate leery of becoming personally associated with the most salacious or vicious attacks. Barack Obama apologized after his staff circulated a memo headlined "Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)," suggesting that Bill and Hillary Clinton supported outsourcing American jobs because they had invested in India and Bill Clinton had accepted big speaking fees from Cisco, which had moved work to India.

    "When you had a direct connection between a campaign and the research being done, there is only so far you could go," says Berkowitz. "Now, with these SuperPACs, anyone who believes deeper investigation needs to be done doesn't have to wait for the campaign or the party committee to agree on them. They can just fund it themselves and move forward."

    And if a campaign and a SuperPAC independently discover the same damaging information on an opponent, Berkowitz adds, "you have two different thought processes as to when it best helps the candidate to get it out there."

    Newt's Surge Continues

    Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP's national polling. He's at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney. The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.

    Compared to a month ago Gingrich is up 13 points, while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4. Although a fair amount of skepticism remains about the recent allegations against Cain there is no doubt they are taking a toll on his image- his net favorability is down 25 points over the last month from +51 (66/15) to only +26 (57/31). What is perhaps a little more surprising is that Romney's favorability is at a 6 month low in our polling too with only 48% of voters seeing him favorably to 39% with a negative opinion.

    From Bloomberg:

    Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romneyand Newt Gingrich are in a dead heat as the top choices for Iowans likely to attend the Jan. 3 Republican presidential caucuses.

    A Bloomberg News poll shows Cain at 20 percent, Paul at 19 percent, Romney at 18 percent and Gingrich at 17 percent among the likely attendees with the caucuses that start the nominating contests seven weeks away.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Cain Messes Up on Libya

    The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports on another turn of Cain's downward spiral:

    Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, in the midst of a Midwestern campaign swing, stumbled badly Monday when attempting to answer a question about whether he agreed or disagreed with President Barack Obama's approach to handling the Libyan crisis.

    Meeting with Journal Sentinel reporters and editors before fundraising appearances in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Cain was discussing foreign policy in general when he was asked specifically about Obama's handling of Libya.

    Cain paused for some time, then wanted to clarify that Obama had supported the uprising. Clearly struggling to articulate a response, Cain paused again, saying "got all of this stuff twirling around in my head."

    Cain Struggles

    At Politico, James Hohmann reports that Romney and Gingrich are up, Cain and Perry are down:
    Herman Cain sits atop the Republican presidential field in the new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday.

    A deeper look at the numbers, however, suggests recently revealed past sexual harassment claims against Cain have caused some voters to reconsider their support. A high-profile press conference held by one accuser, Sharon Bialek, and her attorney Gloria Allred last Monday seems to have been a tipping point.

    Among likely Republican voters surveyed Sunday, Nov. 6, Cain led the field with 40 percent. On Monday, he was third with 22 percent. By Wednesday, just 19 percent of those surveyed said they supported Cain for the nomination.

    “It does appear that the stories are certainly hurting him,” said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. “As this moves forward, I think it does become more and more a deal-breaker.”


    Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Cain’s decline is Romney. Last Wednesday, 40 percent of those reached supported the former Massachusetts governor. In the full sample, based on four days of national polling, Romney finished second with 25 percent (behind Cain’s 27 percent). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry tied for third at 14 percent.

    Asked who they would support if Cain was not in the race, Cain supporters broke evenly for Romney and Newt Gingrich. Each saw a 7 percent overall increase if Cain was not an option. The two Texans in the race also got a boost: Rep. Ron Paul by 5 percent and Perry by 3 percent.

    A Wall Street Journal poll has similar findings: