Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Crossroads Groups and the Health Care Decision

The Crossroads groups are already reacting to the decision upholding most of the health care law. CNN reports:
American Crossroads, which has previously advertised in battleground states and Senate races, on Friday announced a week-long national cable buy focused on the Supreme Court's ruling that President Barack Obama's health reform law includes a new tax.

The court ruled that the fee that individuals who are required to but do not obtain health insurance would pay is constitutional and a tax, prompting a new outcry from Republicans and providing the basis for Crossroads' new advertisement.
"Uninsured Americans face a seven hundred dollar tax under Obamacare, increasing every year," the ad says. "Now it's official: Obama increased taxes on struggling families."
The ad, and other Republican's statements, point to instances of Obama saying the health reform law would not mean a tax increase.

Crossroads - one of a pair of big-spending conservative organizations founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove - said the ad is a six-figure buy and will air for approximately a week, starting Saturday.


 Meanwhile, Crossroads GPS has updated its ad about Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.  National Journal reports:
The Supreme Court's ruling on health care upheld the individual mandate as a tax, and now some groups are using that characterization to fight for a repeal of the law.

Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS, which is linked to super PAC American Crossroads, announced today it has updated its issue ad in North Dakota. It blasts Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota's Democratic Senate candidate, for her support of the health care law. The ad refers to the mandate as a $500 billion tax.
The group spent $180,000 to run the ad through July 7 on North Dakota television.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Putting the Supreme Court Decision in Context

A few months ago, Democrats said that a Supreme Court decision against the health care law would help their side.  Their take is different now.

In any case, Gallup reminds us that health care is not the top issue for Americans:
Although the Affordable Care Act of 2010 has dominated the news recently, with coverage exploding Thursday as the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the law, few Americans so far in 2012 mention healthcare when asked to identify the most important problem facing the country. Six percent say healthcare is the top problem in June, behind mentions of the economy, jobs, the deficit, and problems in government.

The current 6% who mention healthcare is slightly below the average of 8% of Americans who since January 2001 have mentioned healthcare as the nation's top problem. Over the first six months of this year, an average 7% mentioned healthcare as the top problem.
...
Although healthcare may not have been top-of-mind so far this year, it has remained a latent concern for Americans.
Gallup in May gave Americans a list of 10 economic issues and asked them to rate the importance of each. Americans put healthcare at the top of the list. Forty percent rated "the cost of healthcare" as extremely important, with another 44% saying it was very important, putting it just ahead of unemployment and the federal budget deficit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Distancing Themselves from POTUS

Reuters reports:
The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the U.S. Congress this fall has a message for his party's candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.
"If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," New York congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.
...
Israel's admonition comes as a growing list of Democrats say they will not be joining their fellow partisans in Charlotte. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, one of the Democratic Party's most vulnerable candidates, will not attend, an aide said.
John Bresnahan and Manu Raju write at Politico:
West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall is one of the Democrats breaking with his party on key votes, reflecting the tough reality that his home state is as anti-Obama as it gets.
“I have disagreed with previous presidents on a number of issues, as I have with this president,” said Rahall, who will vote for the Holder contempt resolution. Rahall has also bashed Obama over climate change and coal mining, two key issues in the Mountain State. “It’s just a matter of elections getting more difficult these days. … You have to inoculate yourself for what’s going to come.”
...
The disaffection with Obama is especially strong in the House, where members feel ignored or snubbed by the president and they have no personal ties to Obama to fall back on. One top aide said House Democrats enjoy “freedom of action” from Obama — “He’s done nothing for us so we don’t have to do anything for him.”
For historical perspective, see this Los Angeles Times headline from August 13, 1992: 
Many GOP Candidates Seek to Distance Themselves From Bush : With the President's popularity at an all-time low, there is concern that he could drag other party members down to defeat.




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crossroads Ads in North Dakota and New Mexico

James Hohmann writes at Politico:
 The non-profit affiliate of the conservative American Crossroads Super PAC will go on the air again today against Heidi Heitkamp with another ad that seeks to tie her to President Obama. The 30-second spot begins with a clip of the Democratic Senate candidate proclaiming she’ll never vote to limit anyone’s care. “But Heidi endorsed Obamacare, bragging ‘It actually is a budget-saver,’” a female narrator interjects. “Obamacare cuts Medicare spending by $500 billion, gives unelected bureaucrats the power to restrict seniors care and millions of Americans could actually lose their existing health care.” This $180,000 statewide buy will carry a big punch across the prairie, and it comes ahead of the Supreme Court’s expected Thursday announcement on the constitutionality of the federal law.


Hohmann also reports that American Crossroads is again on the air in New Mexico:
 The super PAC is putting $184,000 behind another ad that introduces Republican Senate candidate Heather Wilson as “an independent voice for change.” A male narrator says the former congresswoman “stood up to both parties to cut wasteful Washington spending and supported lower taxes to let New Mexicans keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Ground Game

Peter Nicholas writes at The Wall Street Journal:
Once again, the Obama high command is making a big bet on their ground operation. The aim is to flood the zone: open up offices in battleground states, call undecided voters, and swarm the shopping malls to register as many people as possible. In this way, Democrats hope to neutralize the Republican super PAC advantage by out-registering and out-working the GOP on the streets.
“We believe we have an absolute advantage on the ground,’’ Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an interview.

But Republicans believe the Obama ground game isn’t the fearsome force it used to be. They point to electoral setbacks that Democrats have endured in the years since team Obama built its grassroots network.

Wisconsin, for one.

Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said the Wisconsin recall should have been an easy “layup’’ for Democrats given that the party had been busing in “every hippie liberal and union thug’’ to help oust Scott Walker, a Republican. Mr. Walker won handily.

“What’s the proof they can mobilize?’’ Mr. Spicer said.

Voter-registration figures show some softness on the Democratic side, suggesting the Obama ground game has work to do.

Third Way, a centrist think tank, has been studying registration trends in eight battleground states. The group released a report in May showing that since 2008, independent registration has been rising. Meantime, Republican registration has dropped by 157,000 in these states; Democratic registration by 841,000. Neither party’s brand has been faring all that well.
Sarah B. Boxer reports at CBS about Romney's ground game in Virginia:
Now that they're past the primary. Romney's campaign is working hard to only keep that momentum building. They have melded with the Virginia GOP and are fully taking advantage of a ground game infrastructure that was somewhat ripe for the picking in Virginia. When running for governor in 2009, Bob McDonnell set up nine offices across the state in order to get out the vote, and since Virginia has elections every year on different statewide offices, Republican volunteers and staffers have inhabited them ever since. Like the Obama campaign, they take social media seriously, tailoring Facebook and Twitter outreach to different communities, and hawkishly monitor when items are shared or retweeted. Also similarly to their Democratic counterparts, they have "neighborhood captains" -- people who lead volunteer troops in certain areas.

Different person-to-person retail engagement strategies are important in Virginia where plenty of shoe leather can be burned walking up mile-long driveways on southwestern farmland and patience can be frayed waiting for a voter to return home from DC-metro traffic in the northern parts of the state. As such, one person heavily involved in the ground game efforts says that since 2009, the state party has been picking "safe" districts and testing out different outreach mechanisms, to see how to maximize their outreach. David Rexrode, executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, says this is the election is where the results of those experiments will really come to light. With an election as close as this one will be, he says, "The ground game is good for a field goal." He's confident in the odds of the final pay-off. "I think we have a great opportunity to win here - we've put the time in."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Crossroads Generation and Health Care

An earlier post described Crossroads Generation,  a youth project of American Crossroads,  the College Republican National Committee; the Young Republican National Federation and the Republican State Leadership Committee. Geneva Sands writes at The Hill:
Crossroads Generation, a GOP super-PAC, blasted the impact of President Obama's healthcare initiative on young people ahead of the Supreme Court decision on whether to uphold the law.

In a 60-second Web video released Monday, the group criticizes aspects of Obama's signature legislation.

“We want to reach young people online with a simple explanation of the downsides of the law. Young Americans have been sold a bill of goods about healthcare reform without having been told about the drawbacks,” said Kristen Soltis, communications adviser to Crossroads Generation, in a statement. “It’s important that my generation hears both sides of the story on healthcare reform.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Super PACs and Orphans

At The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes notes that Super PACs are especially important this year for three reasons: their fundraising success, their coordination with one another, and their leadership. They know what they need to do, and they divide their labor efficiently. Barnes adds that they give the GOP an island-hopping capability:
Besides, outside groups can take on political tasks the official campaign outfits are unable to afford. In the past, candidates in “orphan” states​—​where the Republican party is weak and which the presidential candidate is writing off​—​had to fend largely for themselves. But not in 2012. The AAN plans to boost Republican House candidates in roughly 40 orphan races, as many as 25 of them in California, Illinois, and New York, all Democratic strongholds. A number of them are freshmen elected in the 2010 GOP wave, with some facing the added burden of running for reelection in a district altered by reapportionment. “You have a unique set of circumstances,” [AAN's Brian] Walsh says, that triggered “a bright flashing light.” The AAN is committed to preserving the Republican majority in the House​—​with John Boehner as speaker​—​and the orphan seats represent a “potential risk.” Yet there’s also “a great opportunity” to capture orphan Democratic seats in states​—​Utah and Georgia, for instance​—​which President Obama is unlikely to contest, Walsh says.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Slight Obama Fundraising Advantage in May

The Campaign Finance Institute reports:
Mitt Romney’s fundraisers had a good fundraising month in May but (contrary to some early press accounts) Barack Obama’s did even better. Romney’s $23.4 million in receipts doubled his campaign’s $11.7 million of the previous month. But Obama’s $39.8 million was 70% higher than Romney’s. It was also 50% higher than Obama’s own receipts in April ($26.6 million)... The parties’ pictures were different from the candidates’. The Republican National Committee (RNC) had a better month than the Democratic National Committee (DNC), raising $34.3 million to the DNC’s $20.0 million...If we combine the candidate and party committees (including the funds reported as having been distributed by the two candidate-and-party joint fundraising committees), Obama plus the DNC outperformed Romney plus the RNC by $1.4 million during the month of May. This difference is largely erased by the Super PACs. The single-candidate Super-PAC supporting Romney (Restore our Future) raised $5.0 million in May, compared to $4.0 million for the PAC supporting Obama (Priorities USA Action).

No Congressional Wave in Sight

At National Journal, Charles Cook explains why 2012 is not shaping up as a wave election for Congress.
Were this election not immediately following a largely GOP-controlled round of redistricting, Democrats might have far fewer vulnerabilities of their own and many more appetizing Republican targets. But after Kansas became the last state to finalize its congressional lines earlier this month, the distribution of new districts told a scary before-and-after tale for Democrats. Using The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index as a measuring stick, our preliminary analysis indicates that the number of strongly Democratic districts—those with a score of D+5 or greater at the presidential level—decreased from 144 before redistricting to 136 afterward. The number of strongly Republican districts—those with a score of R+5 or greater—increased from 175 to 183. When one party starts out with 47 more very strong districts than the other, the numbers suggest that the fix is in for any election featuring a fairly neutral environment. Republicans would need to mess up pretty badly to lose their House majority in the near future.
An analysis of the race-by-race landscape tracks the partisan data pretty closely. The Cook Political Report rates 211 House seats as solid or likely Republican, compared with 171 as solid or likely Democratic. If the 24 toss-up races split evenly between the parties, Democrats would score a net gain of just a single seat. Even if Democrats held everything in their solid, likely, and lean columns and also won every toss-up, they would still need to take two-thirds (12 of 18) of the districts rated lean Republican to win a majority. That’s a pretty unlikely scenario, absent a strong wind at their backs.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bad News, Late June Edition

Yesterday's post described clouds on the president's horizon.The skies keep getting darker. AP reports on yesterday's bad economic news:
The Dow started sinking after the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve reported a manufacturing slowdown resulting from a steep drop in companies’ orders. Then the losses just accelerated. Mining and other companies that made basic materials fell hard after prices for commodities such as copper and oil dropped. Elsewhere, the Labor Department reported that the four-week average of applications for unemployment benefits jumped to the highest level since September. The National Association of Realtors also reported that sales of previously owned homes dropped 1.5 percent in May. All this unfolded a day after the Federal Reserve slashed its estimates for U.S. economic growth and said it would extend a bond-buying program through the end of the year. The moves disappointed investors who had hoped for bolder steps from the central bank to get the economy going again. “What’s worse is that things are getting weaker without the Fed coming in,” said Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors. “We had a run-up in the market this month because people had been expecting Fed action. Today, the market is giving it back.” The Dow lost 250.82 points to close at 12,573.57, a drop of 2 percent.
AP also reports that the president was already losing ground:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fighting a swell of economic anxiety, President Barack Obama has lost much of the narrow lead he held just a month ago over Mitt Romney and the two now are locked in a virtually even race for the White House, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. The survey also found a majority of Americans disapproving of how the Democratic president is handling a national economy that fewer people think is improving. Less than five months before the election, 47 percent say they will vote for the president and 44 percent for Romney, a difference that is not statistically significant. The poll also shows that Romney has recovered from a bruising Republican primary, with more of his supporters saying they are certain to vote for him now. The economy remains Obama's top liability. Only 3 out of 10 adults say the country is headed in the right direction and 55 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy, the highest level detected in AP-GfK polls this year.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fed to Obama: You're In Trouble

Most presidential elections are about the economy.Although the media focus on poll numbers and the latest rumors from the campaigns, this story is what matters most. From The New York Times:
With the economy stumbling into the summer months after the false promise of a relatively strong winter, the Fed announced a modest expansion of its efforts to stimulate growth. The Fed said its senior officials now expected growth of 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent this year, half a percentage point lower than they forecast in April. They predicted the unemployment rate would not drop below 8 percent this year, and that inflation would not climb above 1.7 percent. Those are the vital signs of a patient who will be ill for some time. And the Fed noted that the outlook could worsen if events in Europe unnerved financial markets or if politicians in Washington failed to resolve a stalemate over fiscal policy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

House Dem Takeover Less Likely

Cameron Joseph reports at The Hill:
Democratic hopes of recapturing the House are dimming as a series of race-by-race setbacks and economic uncertainty suggest that the 25 seats they need to net might be out of reach. The Hill projects that Democrats will net somewhere between 10 and 15 seats, assuming the presidential election remains a close contest. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has given her party a better than 50-50 chance of wresting control of the lower chamber — but missed opportunities in specific races and increasing economic worries have put that prediction in doubt. “The environment certainly isn’t as good as it was six months ago for Democrats,” a senior Democratic strategist who works on House races told The Hill, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly. “Democrats are way off track of where they need to be to regain the majority,” said David Wasserman, the House race editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The 501(c)(c) Groups Outspend the Super PACs

Open Secrets reports:
While super PACs were cast as the big, bad wolves during the last election, the groups were outspent by “social welfare” organizations by a 3-2 margin, a trend that may continue amid reports that major donors are giving tens of millions of dollars to the secretive nonprofit groups. A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election compared with $65 million by super PACs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Angry Money

At Real Clear Politics, Michael Barone writes of a most useful term:
What's really interesting is that, if current projections are right, this will be the third election in a row in which the party holding the White House will be outspent by the opposition. In 2004, incumbent Republican George W. Bush's side was outspent narrowly by those opposing him and favoring Democrat John Kerry. One reason is heavy spending by billionaire George Soros, about which we heard few complaints from those now decrying the billionaire Koch brothers' spending as a threat to democracy. In 2008, Barack Obama broke his promise to rely on public financing and raised and spent about $750 million. About half as much was spent on behalf of John McCain, who accepted public financing. Now, despite the clout any incumbent president has, Democrats are likely to be outspent by Republicans.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Deportation and Unemployment



The Washington Post reports:
President Obama has just opened a floodgate of opportunity for young illegal immigrants in the United States, but could it squeeze the aspirations of legal Americans in the process?
Across the nation Friday, immigrant advocates and Hispanic youth groups hailed Obama’s decision to offer legal status to some undocumented immigrants under 30 as a watershed in U.S. immigration history and a long-sought victory for ambitious youths denied a chance to realize the American dream.
...
But Steven Camarota, a researcher with the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, said that the Obama administration was not taking into account the new measure’s probable impact on competition for jobs at the low end of the economic scale, where chronic unemployment is highest. Among Americans with less than a high school education, he said, the jobless rate is 13 percent.
“It doesn’t seem the administration is considering the cascading consequences,” Camarota said. “What does this mean for unemployed Americans who will be competing for jobs with a million-plus people who can now apply for work authorization? Is this really a good idea?”
A press release from NALEO alludes to a bit of fortuitous timing:
"We look forward to hearing more about this policy change when the President directly addresses our membership on June 22nd at our 29th Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. Our nation's more than 6,000 Latino elected officials are ready to do their part, working with the President, Administration and Congress, to promote policies and legislation that will ultimately make the American dream a reality for those young individuals who are making contributions to the prosperity and fabric of this great nation."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/15/4565333/naleo-responds-to-deferred-action.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 79

MES: But Mr. President, one of the concerns is the deportations. Over 1.2 million people have been deported under your administration. More families separated under your administration than any other president. You couldn’t do anything administratively for this?
PBO: Well, there are some things that we are doing. Now first of all, the fact is Congress allocates this money. That means that there are additional enforcement mechanisms out there. Whoever was president, you were going to see some increase in terms of enforcement.
MES: But why the deportations? Why is it necessary?
PBO: But, but, well, because that’s the law that’s on the books right now. And the way our system works, the president doesn’t have the authority to simply ignore Congress and say, we’re not going to enforce the laws that you’ve passed. What we do have the ability to do, and what we have systematically done, is to use our administrative authority to prioritize and say, let’s not focus on Dream Act kids. Let’s not focus on a law-abiding family that is out there trying to, you know, make their way. Let’s focus on folks who are engaged in criminal activity. Let’s focus on those that are breaking laws not just immigration laws. And in fact you’ve seen a steady increase in the percentage of those who are deported who have committed crimes. Now I can’t, again, just wave away the laws the Congress has put in place. But what we’ve tried to do is to, you know, create a system that’s more humane, that is better prioritized. And until we get comprehensive immigration reform, there’s going to continue to be heartbreaking stories. That’s what we’re trying to change. But ultimately the way we change it, is we’ve got to change our politics. And that’s why I talked about it at the State of the Union and that’s why I’m going to keep on talking about it.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 78

As noted many times before, the White House has not done a good job of posting transcripts of interview. On Monday, the president did interviews with eight local TV stations. The White House website includes transcripts of none of them. Here are links to the stations' coverage of these interviews:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forward and Back to the Future?

In 2010, as this blog noted at the time, James Carville and Stanley Greenberg looked at focus groups and issued a warning to the president:
The weakest messages assert we should “go forward, not back.” Voters are not moved by Democratic messages that say ‘go forward, not back,’ mention President Bush, compare then and now, or even that hint the economy is “showing signs of progress.” No matter how dramatically these messages set out the record of Republican obstructionism, their work for the wealthiest and Goldman Sachs, the millions of jobs lost and Democrats’ support for jobs, small business and new industries – these messages falter before the Republican attack.
The messages get lower scores and lose voters. After hearing this battle of Republican and Democratic messages, 8 percent shift their vote to support the Republican, while only 5 percent move to the Democrats. We lose ground. These messages are helping the Republicans.
Somebody should tell the president's social media team:

American Crossroads WAH WAHHH

American Crossroads has deployed pop culture to needle President Obama. Now it borrows from Peanuts and Spongebob to mock his speech -- his very long speech -- on the economy:


Obama is a longtime Spongebob fan, so the "One Hour Later" title not only ridicules the speech's length, it does so in a way that would really annoy him.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adelson the Munificent

Steven Bertoni writes at Forbes:
Forbes has confirmed that billionaire Sheldon Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, has donated $10 million to the leading Super PAC supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney–and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A well-placed source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of the casino billionaire’s thinking says that further donations will be “limitless.”
Adelson, who has built Las Vegas Sands into an global casino empire, will do “whatever it takes” to defeat Obama, this source says. And given that Adelson is worth $24.9 billion–and told Forbes in a recent rare interview about his political giving that he had been willing to donate as much as $100 million to his initial presidential preference, Newt Gingrich–that “limitless” description telegraphs potential nine-digit support of Romney.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bad News, June 13 Edition

The president keeps facing headwinds. The private sector is not fineBloomberg reports:
Retail sales in the U.S. fell in May for a second month, prompting economists to cut forecasts for economic growth as limited job and income gains hold back consumers.

The 0.2 percent decrease matched April’s drop that was previously reported as a gain, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Sales excluding car dealershipsslumped by the most in two years.
The smallest wage gains in a year and unemployment exceeding 8 percent are taking a toll on the consumer spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, leaving it more vulnerable to shocks from the European crisis. Federal Reserve policy makers gather next week to decide whether further stimulus is needed to fuel the three-year-old expansion.
“The consumer is pulling back,” said Michael Brown, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, who correctly forecast the drop in sales. “There isn’t a lot of job creation. We will continue to see softer numbers.”
Gallup reports:
Twenty percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, a slight decline from recent months, when between 24% and 26% were satisfied. Satisfaction has reached as high as 36% during President Obama's first term, before falling back to 11% last August and September.
...
Low satisfaction ratings are an ominous sign for a president seeking re-election. Today's 20% satisfaction among all Americans is similar to the final ratings prior to the 1980 and 1992 elections, when Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were defeated for re-election. In November 1979 (Gallup did not ask about satisfaction in 1980), 19% of Americans were satisfied with the direction of the country, and in August-September 1992, 22% were.
In contrast, Ronald Reagan (48% in 1984), Bill Clinton (39% in 1996), and George W. Bush (44% in 2004) were re-elected at times when Americans were much more satisfied with national conditions.

Crossroads in Six Senate Races

Alexander Burns writes at Politico:
The GOP independent spending goliath American Crossroads and its affiliate group Crossroads GPS are launching a new barrage of attack ads in six competitive Senate races, assailing a range of Democratic candidates as big-spending, liberal, ethically challenged and overly close to President Barack Obama.
The ad campaign will total $4.6 million across a half-dozen states, a Crossroads strategist told POLITICO. American Crossroads is targeting the Nebraska, Nevada and Virginia Senate contests, while 501(c)4 group Crossroads GPS is funding the ads in North Dakota, Missouri and Ohio.


Many of the ads follow familiar themes in these races. ( (You can view them all here: Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Nebraska, Nevada, Virginia.) Over and over, the Crossroads groups attempt to take Democrats with fairly strong state-level political profiles and tar them by association with the national party – and the president. The commercial hitting Tim Kaine may be the clearest example of that, asking why the former Virginia governor would have agreed to advocate for Obama’s policies as Democratic National Committee chair.



The American Crossroads ads are express advocacy ads, whereas the Crossroads GPS ads are issue advocacy ads, urging support for the New Majority Agenda.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Headwinds

As the Federal Reserve is reporting on a sharp plunge in net worth during the Great Recession, Democracy Corps summarizes recent focus group research:
What is clear from this fresh look at public consciousness on the economy is how difficult this period has been for both non-college-educated and college-educated voters – and how vulnerable the prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders are. We will face an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.
Zeke Miller reports at Buzzfeed:
Former Clinton pollster and strategist Doug Schoen — brought in by Clinton to replace Greenberg in a rightward tack after the 1994 midterms — echoed the memo's conclusions in an email to BuzzFeed.
"They are absolutely correct. [Democrats] must talk about the future. [I] may have a different view of the message than they have, but they couldn't be more correct. [Democrats] must talk outcomes and benefits to win," he said.
But pollster Mark Penn, Schoen's former partner and a member of Clinton's inner circle in the White House and later a force on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said Obama needs more than just a new message — but also a new economic plan.
Joe Trippi writes:
As someone who wants to see President Obama win re-election, nothing is gained by denying that three things from last week -- his comments on the private sector, the Wisconsin results, and the campaigns’ fundraising reports -- hurt his re-election prospects. They did.
While it’s clear that President Obama’s comment that “the private sector is doing fine” was meant relative to the decline in jobs in the public sector, you can bet that the full context of his remarks won’t make it into the attacks ads based on the comment that Romney and his Super PACs have already begun releasing. Handing your opponents a gaffe is never good -- but it’s made worse at a time when anxiety about the economy is surging again ... there is no denying that the pendulum is moving in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile, Gallup finds that Romney is getting a share of union members:
 A majority of union members say they would vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race, although their support is by no means monolithic. While 57% of union workers who are registered to vote would support Obama, 35% would vote for Mitt Romney. Workers who are not union members tilt toward Romney over Obama, 48% to 44%.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Electioneering and 501(c)(4) Groups

A recent court ruling requiring disclosure regarding electioneering communications will have two unanticipated consequences:  changing the timing of ads, and encouraging more express advocacy.

At The Huffington Post, Dan Froomkin and Paul Blumenthal write about the complex rules involving 501(c)(4) groups:
A recent federal court ruling has actually accelerated the pace of spending by politically active non-profits in the early months of the campaign.
The ruling in Van Hollen v. FEC invalidated a regulation those groups had used to justify keeping secret the names of donors buying broadcast ads that refer to a federal candidates in a prescribed period before an election -- called “electioneering communications.”
Good-government advocates rejoiced. But non-disclosing groups have simply pushed up their spending to the summer -- before that prescribed period begins. (They have also said they intend to run explicitly political ads once the period begins.)
...
Campaign finance watchdogs said the lack of disclosure makes it harder to police one of the few rules governing the unlimited spending of outside groups: coordination between independent groups and candidates and party committees is forbidden.
"They're not supposed to coordinate, but if they're sharing a consultant with a candidate that they're looking to advance, how do we know they aren't coordinating?" asked Sunlight Foundation managing editor Kathy Kiely. "If you don't reveal who's working for you, there's no way that the public or the FEC can tell if you're coordinating."
...

The only clear view the public gets of how these groups spend their money comes more than a year after that money is spent, when nonprofits file their annual IRS Form 990 returns with the IRS. Tax-exempt groups are required to list their top five outside contractors.
For most of these groups, the most recent 990 reports available cover 2010 -- ancient history in a 24/7 news cycle. The reports do reveal, however, how some of these groups rely on steady support from a network of consultants.
For Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-linked nonprofit, top consultants all have roots back through Rove and the Bush administration.
At Reuters, Alison Frankel explains an oddity of the law:
On its most basic level, the ruling means that groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and other non-profits that run a particular kind of election-related advocacy ad must reveal who is giving them money. (The case doesn’t affect political action committees, which have their own set of rules.) “This is a very important victory in the battle to end secret contributions being funneled into federal elections,” said Democracy 21President Fred Wertheimer, who was co-counsel for the plaintiff in the underlying case, Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat. “This case represents the first major breakthrough in the effort to restore for the public the disclosure of contributors who are secretly providing massive amounts to influence federal elections,” Wertheimer said in a statement. (Here’s an excellent overview of the case from the L.A. Times.)
But here’s the thing: The D.C. Circuit’s ruling may have the entirely unintended effect of pushing more money from politically active non-profits into television and radio ads that directly call on voters to support (or vote against) particular candidates. According to both election law professor (and blogger) Rick Hasen of the University of California at Irvine and Hispanic Leadership Fund counsel Jason Torchinsky of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak, there’s now a peculiar distinction between the ads at issue in the Van Hollen case – so-called electioneering communications that talk about particular candidates but stop short of recommending a vote for or against them – and “indirect expenditures,” in which groups run ads specifically urging you to vote for or against a candidate. The Van Hollen suit didn’t address indirect expenditures, so, according to Hasen, if non-profit groups want to keep their donor lists secret, they may switch their spending to ads that contain express advocacy.
Hasen said the groups risk losing their tax-exempt status if they do, but since none have apparently suffered that fate, “I think [the D.C. appellate ruling] is going to cause a shift.”

Coordination, Coincidence, Consistency: An Example

Dave Levinthal writes at Politico:
Call it coordination or call it coincidence, but it’s clear there’s no robust mechanism, and little government appetite, to dissuade moneyed campaigns and super PACs from dancing near or around rules governing concerted activity and messaging which, strictly speaking, isn’t legal.
That’s largely because of the high bar for proving a campaign or super PAC violated established law. And the Federal Election Commission has of late internally disagreed on what actually constitutes coordination between a federal campaign and political committees making independent expenditures that support them.
Punishments, rare as they are, would almost certainly come in the form of fines that could effectively be paid out of a moneyed campaign’s petty cash drawer and come months, even years after an alleged infraction.
Tuesday’s American Crossroads video begins: “Obama’s attacking private equity. But what’s his record on public equity investing?” It continues: “Obama invested our tax dollars in Solyndra. Lost half a billion.”
The Romney campaign video, meanwhile, states: “President Obama is spending your tax dollars to create jobs. How’s he doing? You’ve heard of Solyndra. They took $535 million in taxpayer loan guarantees and went bankrupt.”
...
“It is not a surprise that American Crossroads would attack Obama on a very obvious vulnerability. However, Crossroads is an entirely independent entity,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “The Romney campaign has nothing to do with its choice in Web ads.”

Coordination and Congressional Elections

At The Washington Post, Dan Eggen writes about one-donor/one-beneficiary Super PACs, using the example of the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, which Marc Nathanson established to back Rep. Howard Berman in his fight against fellow Democrat Brad Sherman.
The phenomenon began in the Republican presidential primary, when a handful of millionaires lined up to support their candidates through specially targeted super PACs, including one funded by Jon Huntsman Jr.’s billionaire father.
The same kinds of very personalized groups have sprouted in House and Senate races across the country, inundating voters with ads and mailings and testing the limits of federal rules forbidding coordination between fundraising committees and candidates.
...
The pattern is evident in California, which held a revamped primary contest Tuesday allowing the first two candidates of any party to proceed to the general election. At least a dozen primary races in the state featured super PACs founded or funded by close allies and associates of the candidates, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
In the High Desert east of Los Angeles, for example, Republican Paul Cook was aided by more than $200,000 worth of ads and mailers from two super PACs in the newly created 8th Congressional District. The groups were formed by the same lawyer within a month of the primary and have not yet had to disclose their donors.
...
 But the prize for the most personalized super PAC must surely go to North Carolina, where GOP congressional candidate George Holding was aided by a group funded almost entirely by his family.
At The Huffington Post, Michael McAuliff and Paul Blumenthal explain one way in which candidates and super PACs may act in concert without breaking anti-coordination rules.  Their example is Waterfront Strategies.
Waterfront is not actually an independent outfit. The building in Georgetown where it is located is the home of GMMB, the powerhouse media consulting shop that produces President Barack Obama's ads, and where Obama's top consultant there, Jim Margolis, boasts that he represents more Democratic senators than anyone else, among them Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Waterfront, it turns out, is an internal branch of GMMB. It was incorporated in Delaware, and its president is listed as Raelynn Olson. She is GMMB's managing partner.
...
Waterfront Strategies, [consultants] explained, exists so that GMMB has a separate corporate entity where it can employ people to handle outside expenditures -- in this case mostly from the House Majority PAC that aims to retake control of the House from Republicans, and the Majority PAC that is trying to preserve Democratic control of the Senate. The arrangement keeps the money legally separate from people who may be working more directly with Senate or House candidates. Thus campaign laws barring coordination are not violated.
... 
That's not to say that either GMMB or Waterfront Strategies are breaking any laws. But, consultants said, it is increasingly easy to coordinate without breaking the rules.
"The way it works is you hire people who have worked with the candidates and their campaigns before, so they know the person and they know what the campaign wants," said one longtime Democratic consultant. "Then they're all looking at the same polls and research, so they know what needs to be addressed."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A "Fine" Time for Republicans

As previous posts have suggested, the president has been having a rough patch lately.  Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
All you need to know about the week the Democrats just had can be summed up by noting that both President Obama and former president Bill Clinton, the two best campaigners their party has seen in decades, had to clean up verbal messes they’d made earlier. And, oh yes, Mitt Romney’s campaign raised more money last month than Obama’s — by more than 25 percent.
... 
Over the past 10 days, Obama and the Democrats got a taste of what Romney was going through during the winter and early spring. First there was the intra-party angst, fueled by questions about Clinton’s dependability after he seemed to undermine the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital by saying Romney had a sterling business record.
Then came the employment report that showed the economy had added just 69,000 jobs in May, which renewed concerns among Democrats about how competitive the election might actually be and about whether Obama had any new ideas for fixing things.
Then came another Clinton moment, when he had to walk back a comment saying that the Bush tax cuts, even those for the wealthiest Americans, might have to be extended temporarily because the economy was weak — a comment 180 degrees off from the position of the White House.
Then came the latest evidence that the Democrats were in serious danger of losing the fundraising wars, perhaps by hundreds of millions of dollars, in view of Romney’s success in May and the potential war chests of Republican super PACs raising money through unlimited, and often secret, donations.
Finally, and unexpectedly, the president committed a major gaffe when, in an unscripted moment and trying to defend himself from critics who accused him of blaming Europe for America’s economic problems, he said, “The private sector is doing fine.” 
At Buzzfeed, Ben Smith wrote on Friday:
Barack Obama's assertion today that the private sector is "doing fine" may be an important pivot in the race for president, a moment when Mitt Romney finally succeeded in casting the president as basically out of touch with Americans' economic woes.
That may not be fair — Obama was making the point that the public sector has been a major drag on job growth — but it is certainly a taste of Obama's own medicine.
The moment reminded me of nothing more than that fatal morning of September 15, 2008, when John McCain pronounced that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong.”
...

And former McCain aides, now, are relishing the moment.
...\.
"We very much look forward watching Team Romney put Obama's head in a vice over this," he emailed "What goes around comes around, assholes."
And the RNC has released an attack video that seems to follow an identical template to Obama's 2008 instant attack.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Obama's Digital Edge

Lois Romano reports at Politico that although Romney is ramping up his digital campaign, Obama still has a distinct advantage in this realm:
Launched two weeks ago, Obama’s newest innovation is the much anticipated “Dashboard” , a sophisticated and highly interactive platform that gives supporters a blueprint for organizing, and communicating with each other and the campaign.
In addition, by harnessing the growing power of Facebook and other online sources, the campaign is building what some see as an unprecedented data base to develop highly specific profiles of potential voters. This allows the campaign to tailor messages directly to them- depending on factors such as socio-economic level, age, and interests.
The data also allows the campaign to micro-target a range of dollar solicitations online depending on the recipient. In 2008, the campaign was the first ever to maximize online giving—raising hundreds of millions of dollars from small donors. This go around, they are constantly experimenting and testing to expand the donor base.
Some advances since 2008:
• Created a holistic, totally in-house digital operation that is the largest department at campaign headquarters. In 2008, much of the social media and video was generated organically from supporters. As one campaign official put it, “digital is no longer a part of the campaign. It is the campaign.”
• Hired a number of non-political tech innovators, software engineers and statisticians. “It has been incredibly freeing, because all election campaigns are a slave to history, and the history here is just nonexistent,” says Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “So, we’ve been able to kind of reinvent it.”
• Invested mightily in cutting edge technology that scales the website to fit the screen of any device. With nearly half of the U.S. population using smart phones, “responsive design” allows a user to give money and volunteer without bifocals... 
• Developed a more complex symbiosis between the campaign and Facebook, which is ten times bigger that it was four years go, and has far more personal information available to mine. ...
• Opened the first all-volunteer. all-digital office in San Francisco where knowledgeable techies drop in for a few hours and strive to develop new software for the campaign under the supervision of paid staff.
• Staffed a full-time digital director in each of about a dozen battleground states to effectively run mini-general election campaigns in those states.

Friday, June 8, 2012

GOP on the Ground

At the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove offers an explanation for the Wisconsin recall outcome:

There are two possible answers why the "best grass-roots campaign in modern American political history" failed to deliver victory. First, Team Obama's vaunted get-out-the-vote effort was simply a facade. That's not likely, since Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, did receive 158,482 more votes than he did in losing to Mr. Walker in 2010.
The other possibility is the Democrats were out-hustled by the Republicans.
Given the intense focus on the ground game by the Walker campaign, the Republican Governors Association, and Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus (who was Badger State GOP chairman before winning his current post), that's probably a big reason Mr. Walker won with 205,509 more votes than he received 18 months ago.
Before Tuesday's vote in Wisconsin there was already evidence that Democrats nationally didn't have quite the ground game they brag about. Witness the fact that they are so far losing the voter-registration war in the eight battleground or "swing" states (as recognized by the media and the two campaigns) that enroll voters by party.
In Florida and Iowa, Democratic registrations are down from their 2010 levels while Republican numbers are up. For example, nearly 29,000 Democrats have disappeared from the Iowa registration rolls since January 2011, while about 10,000 Republicans have been added.
In Arizona (which Team Obama keeps saying it intends to make a battleground) and Pennsylvania, both parties have lost ground—but Democrats have lost more. In Arizona, Democrats are down 58,000 since the end of 2010; the Republicans are down 9,500. And there are now 176,000 fewer Democrats registered in Pennsylvania than in November 2010, while GOP registrations have dropped by 62,000.
In Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina, both parties increased registrations—but Republicans added more. For example, in North Carolina, there are 17,500 new Democrats registered since January 2011 versus 49,500 more Republicans. This in a state Mr. Obama won by just 14,177 votes in 2008. (All registration numbers come from state websites.)

Update on Crossroads Ad Buy

At Politico, Alexander Burns writes of the new Crossroads ads in New Mexico, Indiana, and Montana:
New Mexico is a race that’s looked like more of a reach for Republicans: the Democratic nominee, Martin Heinrich, has held a lead over former Rep. Heather Wilson (a former Crossroads board member, by the way) in public polling. The fact that outside groups are investing there is a sign that the race isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Indiana is on the other side of the spectrum: a campaign in which Republicans have been favored, but where Sen. Dick Lugar’s defeat in the GOP primary has raised the prospect of a competitive general election. And Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, the challenger for the seat, rushed to paint the Crossroads ads as a sign Republicans are nervous.
...
The ad buys show Crossroads testing the limits of the Senate map on both sides — offense and defense. That’s one of the luxuries of virtually unrestricted campaign spending: you don’t have to be as cautious about cutting checks or practice aggressive triage early in the election cycle.
At The Hill, Cameron Joseph says:
 Crossroads GPS is spending $866,000 combined to blame Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) on the rising national debt and rip them for backing Democrats' health insurance reform law and the stimulus package. In New Mexico, American Crossroads introduces former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) to voters with a positive bio spot that has approximately $250,000 behind it. Wilson won her primary on
The ad buys suggest that the behemoth Republican-affiliated group sees both New Mexico and Indiana as potentially competitive races — it's their first ad buys in either state. Most observers see Wilson as a slight underdog, but Republicans are high on her candidacy. Indiana became a state in play when Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) beat incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Crossroads in NM, MT, and IN

American Crossroads is running an ad for Heather Wilson in New Mexico:

 

 Crossroads GPS is doing "New Majority Agenda" issue ads against Tester in Montana:

 

And against Donnelly in Indiana:

 

The Democrats' Top-Two Problem in California

California has long been the cornerstone of the Democrats’ long-shot path to take back the House, but that already uphill plan got even more difficult on Tuesday, with two of the party’s best pick-up opportunities now off the table and a third once-prime seat starting off at a disadvantage.

The biggest surprise, and subsequent disappointment, came in the 31st District, when top Democratic recruit Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar failed to crack into the top two, assuring that either Rep. Gary Miller (R) or state Sen. Bob Dutton (R) will be the Republican sent to Washington next fall.

In the open 21st District, a series of recruitment failures got even worse for Democrats, when their preferred candidate, Fresno City Councilor Blong Xiong, didn’t make the top two either, and instead they’re left with an underwhelming candidate against a top Republican legislator. Democrats hold a 10-point voter registration edge here, and this should have been one of their top targets, but now is all but off the table.

Democrats did get a break in the 26th District, but they had to work and spend nearly $1 million to make sure Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, made it into top two. They may be encouraged by that result now, but state Sen. Tony Strickland topped Brownley by nearly 20 points and has the sizeable cash edge. This is a seat that should have been more competitive for Democrats than it is.

Bottom line: Democrats probably can’t cherry pick their way to a net gain of 25 House seats (and a majority), so they need to pick up a handful of seats in at least a few states. With President Obama running strong at the top of the ticket, California is a critical state. But yesterday’s primary results suggest that Democratic prospects in the state are dimming.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walker Wins Wisconsin

Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal:
President Obama wasn't on the ballot in Wisconsin, but Gov. Scott Walker's decisive victory in last night's gubernatorial recall is a stinging blow to his prospects for a second term. The re-election was a telltale sign that the conservative base is as energized as ever, that the Democratic GOTV efforts may not be as stellar as advertised, and that the Democratic-leaning "blue wall" Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will be very much in play this November.
Walker won by a bigger margin than he did in 2010, and with more overall votes. He carried 38 percent of union households - a slight improvement from his 2010 midterm tally -- a strikingly strong number given how he's been cast as the villain of labor. It's a sign of the cultural divide between national Democrats and blue-collar whites, one that is particularly acute for the president.
Obama's team is taking consolation in the fact that exit polling showed him leading Mitt Romney, 51 to 44 percent. But that's hardly good news: with near-presidential level turnout (and notably higher level of union turnout), Obama is running five points behind his 2008 performance. Replicate that dropoff across the board, and all the key swing states flip to Mitt Romney.
The Obama datum overstates his chances since the exit poll understated the Republican vote.  Relying on the exit poll, the media said it would be a 50-50 race and a long night.  But it was a big win -- about the same percentage by which Obama won the national popular vote in 2008 -- and a short night. Larry Sabato explains:
Could we all make a note to discount completely the topline results of the November 6 exit poll — and the news media’s breathless projections derived from them? I recollect how wrong they were on Election Night 1992, forecasting a big Clinton victory when it turned out to be a quite modest 43 percent. There was that snafu back in 2000 with the exit poll in Florida — does that ring a bell? I recall the exit poll in 2004 that created the Kerry administration for several hours. Truth is, Republicans disproportionately distrust the media and pollsters, and won’t be interviewed coming out of the polls. Apparently, there’s no good way to correct for this. Solution: Use the group breakdowns but not the topline data. This matters, because inaccurate projections made early on the East Coast has the potential to affect voting in other time zone

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crossroads GPS "Stopwatch"

Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:
The GOP-aligned third party group Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad hitting President Obama for “growing our debt faster than our economy.”

The ad is the third of a $25 million ad blitz this month from the group, which is the issue advocacy arm of the American Crossroads super PAC.
It notes the amount of money that is being added to the debt even as the ad runs — $1.4 million in 30 seconds, $4 billion per day — and urges Obama to stop his “reckless spending.”

The ad will run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The total amount spent on this ad is $7 million.
 

Portman and Debate Prep

Portman is high on the list of VP contenders because of his executive experience, his service in Congress, his mainstream conservative ideology, his location in a key swing state -- and his talent for debate prep.  Chris Moody writes at ABC:

For nearly 20 years, Republicans have turned to Portman, now a senator from Ohio and widely rumored to be near the top of Mitt Romney's list of preferred running mates, for help with debate preparation. The freshman senator has a natural talent for throwing himself into the role of the opposing candidate in mock debates. According to people who have seen Portman perform this feat, he nails it every time.
Since 1996, when Bob Dole tapped Portman to channel Lamar Alexander in a practice debate, Portman has played the role of Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, and most recently, Barack Obama.

"I don't try to imitate the president, per se," Portman told Yahoo News in an interview. "Just take the policy positions and some of the same rhetoric. It's a good way to learn what the other side is thinking and how they approach problems."

Monday, June 4, 2012

American Crossroads v. Fear and Obama

American Crossroads is going after Obama over the politics of fear:

 

Obama's 2008 Donors in 2012

Previous posts have looked at the activities of Obama's 2008 contributorsBen Smith and Rebecca Elliott: write at Buzzfeed:
In 2008, more than 550,000 gave more than $200 to Barack Obama, entering their names in the longest list of individual donors ever seen in American politics. 
That list was a snapshot of the hope Obama inspired in a cross sections of liberals, young professionals, African-Americans, and Democrats who saw in him a generational and historic moment. But now, as Obama struggles to keep pace with his 2008 fundraising clip, that list offers a cross-section of Democratic disappointment and alienation. According to a BuzzFeed analysis of campaign finance data, 88% of the people who gave $200 or more in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. And this drop-off isn’t simply an artifact of timing. A full 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, 182,078 people, had not contributed by the end of last month.
Interviews with dozens of those drop-off donors reveal the stories of Democrats who still plan to pull the lever for the president, but whose support has gone from fervent to lukewarm, or whose economic circumstances have left them without money to spare. The interviews and the data are the substance of an “enthusiasm gap” spurred by the distance between the promise of the campaign and the reality of governing, one that has begun to deepen Democratic gloom about this November’s election.
There is an important caveat, however. In the first quarter of 2008, Obama was in a tough primary battle with Hillary Clinton. This time, the main event is in the fall. There is still plenty of time for the donors to ante up.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Crossroads GPS and Issue Ads

Peter Overby reports at NPR:
NPR examined the finances of the superPAC American Crossroads and the 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS.
When the groups started out two years ago, donors gave almost evenly to both. But since then, the donors have flocked to the secret side. In the first three months of this year, nearly 80 percent of the incoming cash went to Crossroads GPS.
And it wasn't coming from ordinary campaign donors. In 2010 and 2011, nearly 90 percent of the Crossroads GPS money came in chunks of a million dollars or more. Most of this money ends up on TV.
Dan Backer is a campaign finance lawyer whose client base includes candidates, superPACs and 501(c)(4)s, mostly on the right.
"A lot of the communications from the superPACs and from the '(c)(4)s' and the campaigns are essentially interchangeable. If you didn't have outside groups, I think campaigns would be running a lot of these same ads," says Backer.
One legal hurdle is that the Internal Revenue Service says 501(c)(4)s cannot intervene in political campaigns as their primary activity.
Now here's the loophole: If an ad doesn't tell voters how to vote, it can count as an issue ad — not a political one.
So 501(c)(4) ads use tag lines like: "Tell President Obama American workers aren't pawns in your political games," which comes from Americans for Prosperity.
"If you spend 25 seconds bashing a candidate or bashing a position he holds, and then say, 'call this candidate up and tell him not to do this bad thing that they're doing,' you know, it's a lawyer's line that they're setting up. So at the end of the day, there really is no difference in my book," says Adam Strasberg, a media consultant on the left who has produced plenty of issue ads.



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Obama's Worst Day

There’s not a whole lot of time left, that’s the problem for the president,’’ said Christopher Wlezien, a professor of political science at Temple University who has studied the effect of the economy on presidential elections. While he stressed that the numbers released Friday may not mean much “in isolation,’’ the perception that the economy is plodding along, and maybe slowing, could be damaging unless the steady upswing resumes.
After a winter in which job gains seemed to be bolstering the president, the report that the US economy produced only 69,000 jobs in May - the poorest showing in a year - surprised most observers and caused fresh worries about a fragile economy. The economic outlook is further complicated by European political and economic strife.
Even more troubling than the unemployment rate for Obama could be this week’s revision in the growth rate of the gross domestic product for the first quarter from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent. A president seeking reelection has historically needed to head into the fall with a GDP growth rate over 3 percent to have a good chance at victory, according to professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.
“This is Obama’s worst day yet in the 2012 campaign,’’ he said.