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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Conservative Techies

At The San Francisco Chronicle, Joe Garofoli writes about Garrett Johnson and Aaron Ginn, who  have been cultivating a community of fellow GOP-leaning Bay Area techies. He mentions a Koch-financed project:
In June, their fledgling Lincoln Labs, an incubator for political tech ideas, will host a 24-hour hackathon. The goal is to encourage programmers to dream up digital ideas that use "market-based solutions (to) address big social problems," according to an online invitation. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top ideas - as well as the opportunity to further develop them.
Garofoli mentions another figure as well:
"A lot of campaigns think social media outreach is posting a funny picture on Facebook or using a hashtag" on Twitter, said Matt Shupe, who was the social media manager for Andy Vidak, a Republican who won a primary race this month for the 16th state Senate District in the Bakersfield area.

Instead, Shupe said, GOP campaigns need to do a better job of mining information about voters from what's on their Facebook pages, for example.

One reason Vidak received a large number of votes from non-Republicans in a district dominated by Democrats was that his campaign used digital outreach that "you wouldn't see in your standard Republican campaign," Shupe said. He declined to detail that outreach because the race is too close to call.

"A lot of technology companies have a lot of very liberal people working for them," Shupe said. There's a feeling, he added, that showing your conservative stripes at work could "affect your employment situation or how your co-workers feel about you."

Dilemma for Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan

Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina) face a dilemma:  embrace the president and turn off white voters, or oppose the president and turn off black voters.  Politico reports:
Obamacare may be the thorniest issue for the three. The law is a big liability with white independent voters and may become more so as inevitable problems crop up with its implementation. But the president’s namesake is beloved by the black community.
In Louisiana, where one-third of registered voters are black, a March poll from nonpartisan Southern Media and Opinion Research found that 56 percent of voters said Landrieu’s vote for Obamacare makes them less likely to vote for her. While 74 percent of whites said they are less inclined to back Landrieu because of her support, only 11 percent of blacks said so.
Former Rep. Charlie Melancon, the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2010, was a Blue Dog who opposed the Affordable Care Act.
“Part of my problem was a number of blacks that could have gotten out there and helped me said, ‘You voted against the president on Obamacare and energy,’” he recalled.
Democrats treat it as a given that they’ll sweep the black vote. They see the issue as the number, not the share, of African-Americans’ votes. So apathy is the enemy.
“I would say that it would be important that Sen. Hagan … [continues to] not be seen as running away from those difficult issues that might disproportionately affect those who are African-American or of color,” said Brad Thompson, the former state director for John Edwards.
Republicans, for their part, are touting their plans to make inroads among black voters. The Republican National Committee promises to hire African-American statewide directors and field staff in all three states. This is an outgrowth of the Growth and Opportunity Project, or “autopsy” report, after last fall’s losses.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bachmann Out

In After Hope and Change, we discuss the failed presidential candidacy of Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who just announced that she will not seek reelection in 2014.  At National Review Corner, I write:
Michele Bachmann’s retirement makes it much more likely that the GOP will hold her seat. Even though she represents a Republican-leaning district, she has tended to under-perform in the voting booth.  In 2008 and 2012, GOP presidential candidates carried the district by comfortable margins while she just squeaked by. Democrats have long used her as a bogeywoman in their fundraising appeals, and it is unlikely that the GOP candidate to succeed her will fire up the liberal checkbooks.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Developing an RNC Data Platform

Politico reports on development of RNC's data platform:
Liberty Works was hired to create an open-source voter data platform, meaning outside groups and campaigns would have access to the information for outreach and fundraising and also be able to build on it with their own applications. The RNC describes the goal for the shared data as “iPhone-like.”
Since the RNC announcement on May 1, Liberty Works has gotten off to a shaky start. Top engineers in Silicon Valley who have been looking for ways to help Republican campaigns question Boyce’s vision and say the company’s outreach is underwhelming — as are its salary offers.
The big risk for the RNC is that any delay or failure to keep up with the Democrats’ vaunted data operation could hurt their already uphill efforts to win the Senate next year and further cement the GOP’s reputation as behind the times in the digital data world.
Complicating things for Liberty Works is competition from other conservative quarters, including the Koch brothers, whose network has also been in the Valley looking for GOP-friendly tech talent to build on its voter data outfit called Themis, which cost at least $18 million to build in 2010 and 2011.
Karl Rove is informally backing Liberty Works.
“[F]or all of Karl Rove’s fine attributes, he is also largely a direct mail guy who learned at the foot of Lee Atwater and never really learned anything after Atwater passed,” RedState’s Erick Erickson wrote earlier this month. “I’m just not sure, after the 2012 race, that this is a wise investment. Direct mail guys believe the data is the value, and what Team Obama discovered is that the tools to analyze the data are the value.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

Senate Recruitment

At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza sees some positive signs for GOP Senate pickups.
Recruitment — or a lack thereof — also has handed Republicans a bit of momentum.
In South Dakota, former representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, the son of the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, have both passed up the chance to run for the Democratic nomination. While Republicans may face a primary between former governor Mike Rounds and freshman Rep. Kristi Noem, the winner will be considered a clear favorite over likely Democratic nominee Rick Weiland.
It’s the same in West Virginia, where a series of big-name Democrats have said no, leaving the party without a clear next step in terms of a candidate. Meanwhile, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito looks like the clear favorite to be the Republican nominee, although she will have to face a primary opponent from her ideological right.
Republicans have had their fair share of recruitment problems, too, most notably in Iowa, where the party has watched a cavalcade of candidates bow out as Democrats landed their first choice in Rep. Bruce Braley. In Nebraska, Gov. Dave Heineman’s decision not to run means a more wide-open Republican primary, but the state’s strong GOP tilt probably keeps the race from being all that competitive.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

GOP: The Next Generation

The early jockeying for 2016 reflects the uncertainty in a Republican Party that has been going through a generational and strategic shift since Romney, 66, lost in Nov. Among the most prominent potential contenders, Cruz, Rubio, Ryan and Jindal are all in their early 40s. Walker is 45 and Paul and Christie, both 50, are the oldest. The lack of an obvious front-runner for the upcoming presidential election is not unusual for the Democratic Party but is for Republicans, who for generations have typically had an experienced contender in line to run for the White House.
"There is no anointed person now, and that's a change," said Tom Rath, Republican strategist in New Hampshire who has advised Romney and former president George W. Bush. The chaos in the Republican field contrasts sharply with the picture for Democrats, who continue to wait for a definitive sign from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the clear front-runner if she decides to jump into the race.
That has made Clinton a target of Republican arrows in Congress and online, attacks that have been fueled by their questions over how she handled the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September. Republicans could be setting a new ideological course after years in which the party has gotten more conservative, even as the nation's voters have become more diverse and likelier to support moderate and liberal Democrats.
Paul's focus on civil liberties, Cruz's brash, no-apologies conservatism and Christie's moderation-with-an-edge approach could be among the key forces competing for attention in the Republican race, analysts say. And then there is former Pennsylvania congressman Rick Santorum, who had some bright moments in the 2012 campaign as a conservative alternative to Romney.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Republican Study Committee

At National Journal, Tim Alberta has a good article on the Republican Study Committee.  Unfortunately, the headline refers to the group as a "cabal," a loaded term that does not appear anywhere in the article.
For decades, the group was seen as a parasitic anomaly—a fringe organization of hopeless ideologues surviving off the perception of undue moderation among Republican leadership. Several previous speakers had bullied or ignored it, and one even dissolved the RSC in a quest to squelch internal dissent. For decades, the committee’s membership rolls were thin, and internal GOP debates didn’t matter much anyway, because the party was in the minority.
But the 2010 midterms—thanks to an influx of ideologically charged lawmakers converging with an increasingly conservative GOP—changed everything. More than 60 of 85 GOP freshmen joined the Republican Study Committee, giving the group a record 164 members. The committee known as “the conservative conscience of the House” was now, for the first time in history, a majority of the House majority.
As a result, its influence grew geometrically, and, today, no single subgroup drives the legislative agenda like the RSC. When its members rally against a bill, it usually fails; when they join to push a proposal, it almost always succeeds. Indeed, since 2010, the RSC’s embrace or rejection of any legislative effort has become the surest indicator of whether it will pass the chamber. With 171 members today, the Republican Study Committee is the “largest caucus in all of Congress,” as [RSC chair Steven ] Scalise [R-LA] puts it. If Boehner and his conductors make the trains run, RSC members are the soot-soaked boilermen shoveling coal into the furnace.
The article notes that Gingrich moved to abolish the Legislative Service Organizations because he saw the RSC as a rival power center.  Yours truly made the same point in a 1996 paper. 

Lerner Keeps the Story Alive

Lois Lerner is doing her darnedest to keep the IRS scandal alive. CBS reports:
Before she was placed on administrative leave, Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt organizations division of the IRS, was asked to resign but refused, according to a Republican senator.

"My understanding is the new acting IRS commissioner asked for Ms. Lerner's resignation, and she refused to resign," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. "She was then put on administrative leave instead. From all accounts so far, the IRS acting commissioner was on solid ground to ask for her resignation."

Lerner oversaw the division of the IRS responsible for putting undue scrutiny on conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status and has come under fire for failing to notify Congress of the misconduct.

Grassley, a top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in his statement, "The IRS owes it to taxpayers to resolve her situation quickly. The agency needs to move on to fix the conditions that led to the targeting debacle. She shouldn't be in limbo indefinitely on the taxpayers' dime."
Because she's on administrative leave, Lerner gets to keep her full salary.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Could GOP Gain California Seats in 2014?

California Republicans have nowhere to go but up, and National Journal reports that they are hoping to pick up some House seats.
One central reason is that they are looking forward to competing at midterm turnout levels, when fewer Democratic-friendly minority voters are likely to cast ballots. "Some seats will continue to change in demographic ways that will probably get tougher for Republicans, but especially in the seats we lost, those members should all be immediately vulnerable in a midterm turnout dynamic," said GOP consultant Rob Stutzman. That's enough to give your generic Republican candidate a near-automatic bump. But the GOP also may have 2014 candidates better equipped to succeed in swing districts than the ousted veterans who lost the seats last year. The districts of defeated GOP Reps. Dan Lungren, Mary Bono Mack, and Brian Bilbray all transformed underneath them over the past decade -- with redistricting giving them a final push -- from safe GOP seats to battlegrounds. Their 22 terms of combined experience didn't include success defending battleground turf, and Democrats tarred each of them as tools of Washington special interests during the 2012 campaign.
Spanish-speaking second-term GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, who represented Democratic-leaning territory when he was in the state legislature, was the only targeted California Republican to hang on in the general election, even though President Obama carried his district. "Denham managed to hold on mostly because he's a really good candidate," said Gilliard, Denham's consultant, and he and other Republicans think the new crop of candidates might bring more Denham-like qualities to the table.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has already conducted polling testing former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is openly gay, as a "new generation Republican" more interested in fiscal issues than social ones, Roll Call reported earlier this month. DeMaiolooks set to run against Peters, having narrowly lost a bid for mayor last year. Meanwhile, state Assemblyman Brian Nestande has already filed to take on Ruiz. Nestande also has a story to tell about being a different kind of Republican: He resigned his Assembly leadership position last year after standing against the rest of his party on a business tax vote.
Even a former congressman considering a run against Bera, Republican Doug Ose (one of several contemplating a campaign in that district), "was kind of a quirky one with a story to tell about being different, even as an older white male," said Stutzman, who worked for Lungren in 2012 and could work with Ose if he runs. Ose built a personal fortune in real estate and storage units and honored a three-term pledge he made when he first ran for Congress 15 years ago.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scandalabra: Restraint and Overreach

At a committee hearing, Darrell Issa allowed Lois Lerner to leave after invoking the Fifth Amendment.  At RealClearPolitics, Caitlin Huey-Burns writes:
Issa isn’t typically empathetic or restrained. He has accused Lerner of providing false or misleading accounts to Congress in previous conversations with members of Congress. But he accomplished two ends on Wednesday. While the beginning of the hearing and Lerner’s exit made for some drama and headlines, he avoided what could have been a major distraction. (Recall a 1999 oversight hearing where then-Chairman Dan Burton let former White House official Mark Middleton be questioned for more than half an hour after Middleton took the Fifth in an investigation of a Clinton campaign funding controversy. That tactic brought a scathing response from then-ranking member Henry Waxman, who stated in a letter to Burton: “Our investigation has become far better known for its abuses rather than its results.”)
Also, by saying he intends to call Lerner back before the committee, Issa ensured that the story and his committee will stay in the spotlight heading into the Memorial Day recess, when congressional news tends to tamper off.
In a recent Tweet, RNC chair Reince Priebus wrote of the administration's "lawlessness and guerrilla warfare." At RealClearPolitics, Ron Fournier writes:
While the White House is guilty of incompetence and mangling its credibility in recent weeks, and while the IRS admittedly engaged in wildly inappropriate political targeting, nobody has been charged or convicted with a crime.
Congressional and FBI investigators will determine who directed (and knew of) the targeting, but there is no evidence today that it reached into the White House or Obama's campaign. Based on what we know so far, it is incorrect to say the president is "in the middle" of "lawlessness and guerrilla warfare."
It is also irresponsible. And it's bad politics.
Priebus was scheduled to appear Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" shortly after my appearance on the show so I pointed out the tweet to panelist John Heilemann of New York magazine. He pressed Priebus to clarify. The chairman doubled down.
Some Republican strategists watched in frustration. "When you have your opponent on the ropes, no need to punch below the belt," emailed Republican consultant Reed Galen. "Now is the time to swing to what make the GOP different and better for these times."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scandalabra and Senate Races

For the past few years, the public’s focus has been on Republicans’ opposition to the president’s agenda, their desire to shrink (even cripple) government and their conservatism. But the IRS scandal, along with controversies involving the attack in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s collecting of journalists’ telephone records, has change the political narrative.
While the Oklahoma tornado tragedy will dominate media coverage for the next few days, the new political narrative that will re-emerge when journalists return to politics involves questions about what the administration knew, said and did.
The new focus on the Obama administration puts it on the defensive and should boost enthusiasm on the political right throughout this year.
While we don’t know how long the focus will stay on the administration — or whether Republicans will stumble over the investigations or matters of public policy — between now and the November midterms, it is undeniable that recent events have altered, at least for now, the trajectory of the 2014 elections.
Given the different natures of midterm electorates, the new political narrative increases the risk for Democratic candidates in red states, where Democrats must win independent and, in many cases, Republican voters to be successful.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Public Opinion and Scandalabra

A previous post examined public reaction to ScandalabraABC reports:
Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll sharply reject special scrutiny of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, suspect an administration cover-up of the Benghazi incident and express substantial distrust of the federal government more generally.
Yet the national survey also finds no backlash against Barack Obama, at least at this point. His job approval rating is stable, albeit at a tepid 51 percent; he’s aided by accelerating economic optimism as well as by comparison with the much less-popular Republicans in Congress.
See PDF with full results and charts here.
Longer-term impacts of contentious current issues remain to be seen, but there’s potential for significant damage to the administration. Americans by a vast 74-20 percent see the IRS’ behavior as inappropriate, with most feeling that way strongly – and 56 percent see it as a deliberate attempt to harass conservative organizations, not a mere administrative error.
The public divides on whether or not the administration is honestly disclosing what it knows about the IRS’ actions; 45 percent suspect a cover-up, 42 percent instead see full transparency. And more than a third overall in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, think these actions not only are inappropriate, but illegal.
Further, on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, suspicions of a cover-up rise to a majority, 55 percent. And in this case only a third of Americans are persuaded that the Obama administration is disclosing honestly what it knows about what occurred.
Pew reports:
So far, public interest in a trio of controversies connected to the Obama administration has been limited. Roughly a quarter (26%) of Americans say they are very closely following reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups. About the same number (25%) are tracking the Benghazi investigation very closely, and even fewer (16%) are very closely following news about the Justice Department subpoenaing phone records of AP journalists.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted May 16-19 among 1,002 adults, finds that 37% of Republicans are paying very close attention to the IRS story, compared with 21% of Democrats and 25% of independents. And the Benghazi investigation continues to draw much greater interest from Republicans (34% very closely) than Democrats (18%).

A historical review of previous controversies involving White House or cabinet officials finds that these levels of public interest – and the partisan divide in attentiveness – are not necessarily new. Previous scandals – such as the Lewis “Scooter” Libby case during George W. Bush’s administration or the “Pardon-gate” scandal at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term – received similar levels of public attention, and were generally more interesting to those in the opposition party.

Monday, May 20, 2013


At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes:

The Wall Street Journal reported today that White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was aware of the IRS wrongdoing on the week of April 22—nearly three weeks before the agency acknowledged its mistakes. It's hard to believe Obama's chief counsel was aware of what happened without informing at least the president's senior staff. Adding to the confusion, the White House hasn't allowed Ruemmler to be interviewed to add clarity to the timeline.
At last Thursday's press conference, Obama chose his words about the IRS scandal very carefully. "I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press." Even though he was asked about the overall malfeasance, he specifically said he didn't know about the report. That parsing alone raises questions about the level of candor coming from the White House.
Politico reports on an admission by Jay Carney:

Ruemmler did inform White House chief of staff Denis McDonough's office of the investigation, Carney said, and other senior staff were also told of the report. Carney wouldn't say who those other staffers were, but did say there were communications between White House staff and Treasury Department staff ahead of the first news reports of the IRS investigation, which emerged 10 days ago.
Though senior staff knew of the probe, Carney said Ruemmler concluded that the investigation was "not a matter she should convey to the president" until the report was finalized.

Obama, Nixon, and the Press

At RealClearPolitics, Carl Cannon likens President Obama's press relations to President Nixon's:
Richard Milhous Nixon was thin-skinned, felt persecuted by the opposition party, had a penchant for classifying political adversaries -- and journalists -- as “enemies,” and tried to control his image so fiercely that, ultimately, zealous aides committed illegal acts to further his re-election.
But even before that had happened -- and before Nixon himself began directing a coverup -- truth had become a casualty of his administration. This is the parallel between Richard Nixon and Barack Obama.
No evidence has been unearthed connecting Obama, or anyone under his direction, to illicit activities. But the absence of criminality isn’t the only test here. Nixon’s “enemies,” at least in his mind, also included vast swaths of the Fourth Estate. That apparently is how the current president operates, too.
Barack Obama often displays contempt for the proper role of news-gatherers and, by extension, for the value of reporting that seeks to be unbiased. Often, officials in his White House or re-election campaign seem uncomprehending of the concept of straight reporting.
In their Manichean world, there are liberal news organizations (good) and conservative outlets (bad). Some of the news business does work this way -- more than when Nixon was president, for sure -- but what Obama and his political advisers and White House press handlers have done is graft their own hyper-partisanship onto the media.
In the Obama administration, it’s not uncommon for a White House press official to scream profanely over the phone at journalists whose stories they dislike, plant questions from friendly media outlets, and deny access to briefings to reporters who ask tough questions. This administration has aggressively used the Justice Department to ferret out news leaks, declared open season on a media organization out of sync with his philosophy (Fox News), and routinely questioned the professionalism of reporters and the patriotism of the opposition political party. That disquieting sound you hear is an echo from the Nixon years.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The California Legislature and Congressional Recruitment

When it comes to recruiting quality House candidates, the Democratic supermajority in the California Legislature may actually hinder Democrats and help Republicans.  Mark Z. Barabak and Richard Simon explain in The Los Angeles Times:
After years of budget misery, public opprobrium and term-limit-induced turnover, Sacramento is starting to look a lot more attractive to Democratic lawmakers and candidates, who once might have viewed a seat in Congress as the higher, more desirable rung on the political ladder. (A voter-passed change in term limits, allowing legislators to serve 12 years in a single chamber, is another reason staying put has grown more appealing.)
"If you want to be on MSNBC … or quoted in Roll Call" — the Capitol Hill newspaper — then Congress is "a good place to be," said state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles who is favored to become the Senate's next leader. The Legislature is far better, he said, "if you want to get real, tangible things done."
He cites legislation creating the first state-run individual retirement program, which has brought De Leon national attention. Over the years, many other laws passed in Sacramento — on issues including family leave, clean air and consumer protection — have served as a model for Washington.
No congressional seat sits empty in California for want of interested candidates, Democrat or Republican. But with recruiting for the midterm elections underway and those races slowly taking shape, there has been no rush for the exits among Sacramento Democrats, even as more competitive primaries and a redrawing of political boundaries have loosened the hammerlock incumbents once held over their congressional seats.
(For Republicans, the political dynamic is precisely the opposite. Democratic domination in Sacramento threatens to marginalize any Republican elected to the Senate or Assembly, while the GOP majority in the House of Representatives is an attraction. "You go to Congress and you're part of a majority that's likely to exist through the decade," said Rob Stutzman, a veteran GOP strategist, who lamented the difficulty of attracting top-flight legislative candidates.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Rationalization Falls Apart

IRS official Lois Lerner and others have claimed that the agency's scrutiny of conservative groups resulted from a flood of applications for tax-exempt status. But as Garance Franke-Ruta reports at The Atlantic, there was no flood at the time:
"[W]e saw a big increase in these kind of applications, many of which indicated that they were going to be involved in advocacy work," Lerner said.
But Todd Young, a Republican congressman from Indiana, pointed out at Friday's House Ways and Means Committee hearing with former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George that this was not the case, according to the very data the IRS provided to the Treasury IG's office.

There were, he noted, actually fewer applications for tax-exempt status by groups seeking to be recognized as social-welfare organizations that year than the previous one, according to this IRS data. The real surge in applications did not come until 2012 -- the year the IRS stopped the practice of treating the Tea Party class of groups differently from others.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

The Political Impact of Scandalabra

Gallup reports:
Slim majorities of Americans are very or somewhat closely following the situations involving the Internal Revenue Service (54%) and the congressional hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its aftermath (53%) -- comparatively low based on historical measures of other news stories over the last two decades.
A few days earlier, Pew reported:
 The public paid limited attention to last week’s congressional hearings on Benghazi. Fewer than half (44%) of Americans say they are following the hearings very or fairly closely, virtually unchanged from late January when Hillary Clinton testified. Last October, 61% said they were following the early stages of the investigation at least fairly closely.
It's likely that even smaller percentages would care about the Justice Department's seizure of AP phone records.  So is Scandalabra a political non-starter?  Hardly.

First, the AP story has alienated journalists, which means that the administration is in for tougher press scrutiny across the board.  One negative storyline might not make a dent in public opinion, but a barrage of them might.

Second, the scandals have jazzed up the GOP base.  Alex Roarty writes at National Journal:
Republicans also hope to use the controversies to stoke the embers of a conservative movement that seemed to be only flickering. That seems a fait accompli: The NRCC’s website saw its highest-ever day of traffic when the IRS revelations came to light, and committee officials say in the handful of days since, they reached a quarter of their total online fundraising goal for the entire year. “At a minimum, all of these story lines embolden the Republicans’ grassroots,” said Brian Walsh, a consultant who worked at the National Republican Senatorial Committee the past two cycles. “Which is what you saw at the start of the 2010 cycle; it’s reigniting the fervor at the grassroots level.
Third, the IRS story will probably abort any agency plans to go after Crossroads GPS and other such groups.

Fourth, the IRS story also complicates the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, since IRS bears a heavy responsibility for administering key portions of the law.  And the IRS handed a huge weapon to Obamacare critics, as CBS reports:

The IRS official in charge of the division responsible for discriminating against conservative organizations was promoted to head the IRS' Affordable Care Act office because she is a "superb civil servant," acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller told Congress on Friday.
While testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee about the undue scrutiny the IRS put on conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status, Miller confirmed that Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as commissioner of the office responsible for the discrimination, was promoted. He acknowledged that her office provided "horrible customer service," even though he promoted her.
Fifth, crowdsourcing will come into play. Until now, individuals and groups may have been hesitant to disclose that they have been the subject of IRS audits.  Now they are coming forth and suggesting that the agency had political motives.  There will be many such stories in the months ahead.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Obama Tries to Make Nice with the Media

The Hill reports:
The White House took a series of steps Wednesday to make up with the Washington press corps.
The wooing took several shapes and followed a disastrous press briefing on Tuesday at which White House press secretary Jay Carney was torn apart over the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records.

To bolster President Obama’s free-press credentials, the White House announced Wednesday it had asked Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce a press shield law that would allow media organizations to challenge subpoenas of phone records and offer legal protections for protecting confidential sources.
The White House also took the step of handing out records of emails related to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which is designed to push back at suggestions it has not been transparent and bolster its case it has been truthful about the attack.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The IRS Scandal: Deeper and Deeper

The IRS scandal gets worse.  USA Today reports:
In the 27 months that the Internal Revenue Service put a hold on all Tea Party applications for non-profit status, it approved applications from similar liberal groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names were approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive," these groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
A federal official who has been briefed on the matter said the investigation could focus on potential violations of civil rights law, including targeting groups based on political affiliation and infringing free speech. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said authorities could consider possible violations of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of government workers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Losing the Media

According to a highly dubious story, Walter Cronkite's criticism of Vietnam policy led LBJ to say, "Well, if I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."  President Obama may be at risk of losing the media.

ABC, NBC, and CBS did not run a single story on Obama’s “you didn’t build that comment” until Romney began emphasizing it on the campaign trail four days later. The stories and editorials that were sprinkled into the news portrayed the gaffe as an innocuous point taken out of context. The major media’s protective tone toward Obama was emblematic of a larger trend in the campaign. When Obama claimed during a June 8 press conference that the “the private sector is doing fine,” it received one night’s coverage and two passing references on mainstream evening news programs. Coverage of Romney was not quite so forgiving.
The Obama administration has now managed to alienate the media that had once been so favorable.  Politico reports:
Journalists on Monday called the news the Justice Department seized records from phone lines assigned to Associated Press offices and its reporters over a two month period “chilling” and a “dragnet to intimidate the media.”
The AP reported the Justice Dept. obtained records that listed incoming and outgoing calls and the duration of those calls for work and personal phone numbers of AP reporters and phone lines for AP offices in New York, Hartford, Conn. and Washington, as well as the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery. The government seized records — which listed incoming and outgoing calls and the call’s length — for more than 20 separate lines assigned to the AP and its reporters, according to the AP.
Several journalists also tweeted their reactions to the AP story, with the New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan calling the report “disturbing” and Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, dubbing it “shocking, disturbing.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, meanwhile, asked in response to the story, “What is going on with this administration?” And Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal Daily Kos blog, wrote to his followers, “People looking for an Obama scandal, this one spying on the AP is the first legit one.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

America Rising on Benghazi

Like American Crossroads, America Rising has made a video on Benghazi. Toby Harnden writes at The Sunday Times:
After last week’s [Benghazi] hearing [Joe] Pounder — whose name befits his reputation as a hard-charging “oppo” (opposition research) specialist — also made a two-minute video juxtaposing Clinton’s testimony in January and that of three State Department witnesses contradicting her. It went viral. Pounder is co-founder of America Rising, along with Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign manager, and Tim Miller, former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. The group is dedicated to amassing material to use against Democrats across the country. Their top target right now is Clinton, the overwhelming favourite to secure the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. “We want to fill the void on the right between now and when she has a political operation up and running,” said Miller.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating an Atmosphere

As the controversy concerning IRS targeting continues to grow, the president's defenders will say that he did not direct the targeting, and did not know about it beforehand.  Though this affair is not Watergate, the president's critics might draw a parallel.  During and after the Watergate scandal, various observers said that, even though President Nixon neither ordered the break-in nor knew about it in advance, he still bore responsibility for creating the atmosphere that led to it.
Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose: "Nixon doesn't have to specifically say, 'I want you guys to go do this.'"
Katie Couric; "He clearly created an atmosphere..."
Ambrose: "Oh certainly."
Couric: "...where his underlings thought this was perfectly acceptable behavior."
-- The Today Show, January 24, 2000
"Whether or not Nixon knew, he bears personal responsibility for the break-in because he created an atmosphere in which his subordinates would logically assume this was what he expected from them." -- David R. Gergen, Eyewitness to Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), p. 97.
"Well, you have to go to the best evidence, which are all--all of the tapes. And they showed that Nixon not only created the specifics, but created the atmosphere of paranoia, this--this incentive to get dirt on the opposition." -- Bob Woodward on The Today Show, June 17, 1997
"But there was an atmosphere created in the Nixon White House from the top down." -- Carl Bernstein, on Tim Russert, CNBC, Jue 15, 1997.
"As far as Nixon is concerned, we have no proof that Nixon was in on the (burglary) planning. All I say is that Nixon created an atmosphere around the White House that made it quite logical for his assistants to believe that this was a proper thing to do." -- Leon Jaworski, quoted in UPI story, July 17, 1979.
"I think the President, whether he knew about the Watergale break-in and bugging or not, created the atmosphere and the climate by which this could happen." -- Walter Hickel, quoted in AP story, September 7, 1973.
At The New York Times, Ross Douthat points in a similar direction:
Where might an enterprising, public-spirited I.R.S. agent get the idea that a Tea Party group deserved more scrutiny from the government than the typical band of activists seeking tax-exempt status? Oh, I don’t know: why, maybe from all the prominent voices who spent the first two years of the Obama era worrying that the Tea Party wasn’t just a typically messy expression of citizen activism, but something much darker — an expression of crypto-fascist, crypto-racist rage, part Timothy McVeigh and part Bull Connor, potentially carrying a wave of terrorist violence in its wings.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

IRS v. the Tea Party

The IRS has admitted that it improperly targeted tea party groups and other conservative organizations seeking 501(c)(4) status.  At NRO, Kevin Williamson writes:
[T]hose tea-party organizations were sent letters of inquiry demanding information that would seldom if ever be demanded of any other applicant in the process. The IRS demanded lists of donors, names of spouses and family members, detailed information about political views and associations — all of that “under penalties of perjury.” Many applicants dropped out of the process. The questions were remarkably invasive: For example, the IRS demanded to know not only whether political candidates participated in public forums conducted by the groups, but which issues were discussed, along with copies of any literature distributed at the forum and material published on websites. (The IRS has been less forthcoming with its own materials related to this investigation.) If the organizations collected dues, the IRS demanded to know how much they were. It demanded everything down to the résumés of employees. The inquiry was not limited to members of the organization, its executives, or its directors, but included even their family members: The IRS demanded to know — again, under penalty of perjury — whether any of their family members might be thinking about running for office. Its demand for the names of all donors — and all recipients of grants — is in violation of IRS policy.
The misuse of government resources is subject to civil, misdemeanor, and felony charges under federal and Ohio law. The abuse of IRS resources, including the collection of “confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and [causing], in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner,” were cited in the second article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
The controversy is bad for supporters of the Affordable Care Act, which relies heavily on the IRS.  It is also bad for campaign finance reformers who have called upon the IRS to crack down on groups such as Crossroads GPS. The other side will now argue that any "crackdown" is likely to be discriminatory and partisan.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ten Problems for Democrats

Doug Sosnik, who served as President Clinton's political director, identifies ten long-term problems for Democrats:

 1) Obama’s Personal Favorability Doesn’t Translate to Democrats Broadly: The nature of Obama’s strength is personal and is not easily transferable to other candidates in the future. 
2) Obama’s Failure to Build the Party for the Long-Term: The President’s lack of commitment to build up the DNC’s structure and base will have lasting consequences for the party. 
3) Declining Favorability: Democrats can’t afford to ignore the party’s declining support among all voters since Obama took office. This decline is in spite of a Republican Party that has been in political free-fall. 
4) 2010 State Losses Created an Enduring Grassroots Deficit: Moving forward, it will be very difficult for the party to fully recover from the devastating losses at the state and local level from 2010 elections. With their success, Republicans controlled the reapportionment and redistricting process in a majority of the states, enabling them to draw very favorable district lines at the state and federal levels, which will benefit them for the rest of this decade. 
5) Declining Democratic Party Self-Identification among Younger Voters: Millennials (born 1981-1994) and Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) have voted overwhelmingly Democratic for the past decade. However, their votes have largely been more about support for Obama and opposition to Republicans than they have been about identifying as Democrats. According to Pew polling from last year, 45% of Millennials self-identify as Independents, which is a six-point jump since 2008, and 31% self-identify as Democrats, which represents a four-point drop since 2008. The same analysis showed that 42% of Gen Exers identify as Independents, an eight-point increase since 2008, and 29% self-identify as Democrats, a five-point decline in Democratic self-identification during the same time.
6) Democrats Should Not Count on Same Levels of African American Turnout and Support without Obama on the Ballot: According to a Census Bureau report on the 2012 elections issued this week, for the first time in history black eligible voters turned out at a higher percentage than whites (66% v. 64%). In addition, a Gallup analysis of the African American vote found that 18-34 year olds are nine-points less likely to self-identify as Democrats (75% v. 84%) than African American voters 55 years or older. 
7) Declining Democratic ID among Younger Hispanic Americans: Although Hispanics have overwhelmingly voted against Republicans since George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, younger Hispanics feel less of an allegiance to the Democratic Party than their elders. A Gallup analysis of last year’s tracking polling found that Hispanic voters aged 18-34 are nine points less likely to self-identify as Democrats (50% v. 59%) than Hispanic voters 55 years or older. Young Hispanic voters are a disproportionately large share of the Hispanic electorate. 
8) Asian American Support for Democrats in Recent Elections Exceeds Their Party Identification: Despite voting overwhelmingly for Obama in the past two elections - with their support topping 73% in 2012 – a 2012 Pew poll found that only 50% of Asian voters self-identify as Democrats. 
9) Midterm Turnout Favors Republicans: Historically, the voters who are most likely to vote Democratic are the least likely to vote in a midterm election. 
10) Thin Presidential Bench beyond Hillary Clinton and Uncertainty that Democrats can Replicate Obama Turnout Levels: While Clinton laps the field against any and all contenders, the election is still over three years away. If she doesn’t run, there is not an obvious and ready pool of candidates to step in and fill the void. Furthermore, without Obama on the ballot, it is far from certain that the Democrats will be able to generate the same high levels of voter turnout that proved decisive in the last two Presidential elections.

Clinton, Crossroads, and Benghazi

American Crossroads has a new video going after Hillary Clinton over Benghazi:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lessons from Outside Groups

At National Journal, Reid Wilson reports on lessons from self-examinations by the Crossroads groups and the Koch network:

  • Spend Early: Though there weren't many Republican success stories in 2012, outside groups who analyzed their performance after Election Day believe their money worked best when it worked early. 
  • Know Your Voters: Republican outside groups believe the technology their party uses to identify and track voters is significantly behind the technology Democrats are using. 
  • Feel Their Pain: Donors to both the Crossroads organizations and the Koch organizations were taken aback, in a positive way, by the candor strategists have shown in acknowledging their shortcomings. And when an organization spends hundreds of millions of dollars on television advertisements, the fact that those advertisements were both boring and failed to connect with persuadable voters is a real shortcoming.
  • Stay In Your Lane: Every outside group is different, and each can fill a specific niche. On one hand, Crossroads is a small organization that promises donors the biggest bang for their buck; 97 to 98 percent of the money Crossroads brings in the door will go out in the form of political communications like television advertising, while the Republican National Committee spends somewhere around 30 percent of their donations on staff and overhead. Elements of the Koch operation, like Americans for Prosperity, pride themselves more on being a grassroots organization, sending volunteers and paid staff into the community to identify and persuade voters.
  • Be Accountable: Donors to both Crossroads and the Koch brothers' organization voiced frustration with another group doing its own, much more public, post-mortem, the Republican National Committee. At the Koch brothers' conference, donors grumbled that the RNC's Growth and Opportunity Project report wasn't introspective enough. When Crossroads makes the point that more of what they raise is spent on actual political communications than what the RNC raises, it is about winning over a larger slice of a finite donor base.

Wave-Less, So Far

Democrats do not seem to be building a wave for the 2014 election.  Sean Trende writes that Mark Sanford's victory in a SC special election is no shocker, given the district's ruby-red makeup...
But I think there is some meaning, albeit very modest, in the fact that this race turned out as it did. Democrats probably need a wave -- a historically big wave, in fact -- to take back the House in 2014.
This result isn’t consistent with such a wave beginning to form, suggesting that Democrats aren’t yet where they need to be if they hope to take back the House. If anything -- and this is extremely hard to quantify -- I would have expected Sanford’s personal issues to force him more than four points behind Mitt Romney’s showing in the district. Combined with some of the polling we’re seeing from the Massachusetts Senate race and the Virginia governor’s contest, this gives a very slight sense that the needle could be pointing more toward modest Republican gains. But I think the best we can say is that Sanford’s election is consistent with the range of outcomes I suggested last week: Between a five-seat Democratic gain and a 10 seat Republican gain.
The Pew Research Center reports poll data that do not portend a wave in either direction.
President Obama continues to hold a substantial advantage over congressional Republicans in public regard. Obama’s job approval is back in positive territory at 51%, after slipping to 47% in March. By comparison, just 22% approve of the job Republican leaders in Congress are doing, among the lowest approval rating for congressional leaders from either party in 20 years.
Furthermore, a record-high 80% say Obama and Republican leaders are not working together to address important issues facing the country, and by nearly two-to-one (42%-22%) more blame Republican leaders than Obama for the gridlock.
Despite GOP leaders’ poor job ratings, the Republican Party runs about even with the Democrats on leading issues such as the economy, immigration and gun control. Overall, 42% say the Republican Party could do the better job dealing with the economy, while 38% say the Democratic Party. The public is similarly divided over which party could better handle gun control policy and immigration policy.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted May 1-5 among 1,504 adults, finds that Republicans have particularly low regard for their party’s congressional leaders. Just 42% approve of the job GOP leaders in Congress are doing, while 51% disapprove. This is far below the job ratings that Democrats give their party’s leaders (60% approve, 32% disapprove).
Despite their frustration with the party’s leadership, Republicans overwhelmingly say the GOP could do a better job than the Democratic Party when it comes to issues like the economy, immigration and gun control. By comparison, fewer Democrats side with their party on the economy and gun control, which is one reason why Republicans run even with the Democrats overall. On each of these three issues, independents are split as to whether the Republican Party or the Democratic Party could do better.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SC: It's the District, Not the Money

In a special election to fill the House seat of Tim Scott (R-SC), who in turn filled the Senate seat of Jim DeMint, disgraced former governor Mark Sanford proved that it's the district, not the money. Byron Tau writes at Politico:
In South Carolina this spring, Democrats played the big money game better than the GOP.
Independent liberal groups, national Democrats and influential donors spent nearly $1 million to flood the airwaves in support of Elizabeth Colbert Busch — outspending Mark Sanford’s conservative allies by more than 5-to-1.

“Outside spending done right can help push a good candidate over the finish line — but it can’t perform miracles with hostile electorates or abysmal candidates,” said Jonathan Collegio, a Republican consultant and spokesman for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads — which stayed clear of the South Carolina race.
Colbert Busch was the recipient of almost $900,000 in outside spending from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC alone.

Sanford, by contrast, was cut loose by the national Republican Party — with the National Republican Congressional Committee contributing nothing to his race following reports that he had trespassed in his ex-wife’s home. Crossroads, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and other top conservative groups also skipped the race.
On the traditional fundraising side the equation, Democrats also had the advantage. Between late February and mid-April, Colbert Busch out-raised Sanford significantly. She raised almost $900,000 between late February and mid-April, and $1.1 million total, according to her most recent campaign finance report. Her bid was aided by her comedian brother’s star power and a who’s who of Democratic stars who helped fundraise for her in two East Coast fundraising stops.

In the same time period, Sanford raised just under $400,000. According to his last report, Sanford raised almost $800,000 through late April — but he faced a competitive primary election, unlike Colbert Busch.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Harpootlian Explains That He Meant to Make a Sexist Attack, Not a Racist One

USA Today reports:
While he was chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Dick Harpootlian was known for his "pithy and pungent comments." Now, he's trying to apologize and clarify such a remark he made last week about GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.
Harpootlian said he hoped South Carolina voters next year send "Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from" -- a comment that many Republicans believed was racist because of Haley's Indian heritage. Haley, South Carolina's first female and minority governor, is up for re-election in 2014.
"I'm the grandson of immigrants. She's not from India," Harpootlian said Tuesday on MSNBC. "She's from Bamberg, South Carolina, where she was an accountant in her parents' clothing store called Exotica. All I'm suggesting is she needs to go back to being an accountant in a dress store rather than being this fraud of a governor that we have."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Clustering and House Elections

At The Wall Street Journal, Michael Barone writes:
What helped the Republicans more than redistricting was the tendency of Democratic voters to be clustered in black, Hispanic and "gentry liberal" neighborhoods in major metropolitan areas. This clustering has produced huge majorities that have made many large and medium-size states safely Democratic at the presidential level. Barack Obama won 56% or more in 13 states and the District of Columbia with 179 electoral votes, leaving him only 91 votes short of a majority. Mitt Romney, in contrast, won 56% or more in states with only 125 electoral votes.
But clustering works against Democrats in the House. According to figures compiled by Polidata Inc. for National Journal and "The Almanac of American Politics" (of which I am a co-author), Mr. Obama won 80% or more of the vote in 27 congressional districts and between 70% and 79% in 34 more. Mr. Romney won 80% in only one district and between 70% and 79% in 18 more. That left enough Republican votes spread around in the other 355 districts to enable Mr. Romney to carry 226 congressional districts to Obama's 209.
All of the Democrats' House popular-vote margin came from the 36 black-dominated and 31 Hispanic-dominated districts. Democrats carried the popular vote in black-dominated districts 80%-17% in 2012. They made significant gains in Hispanic-dominated districts, which George W. Bush lost by 11% but Mitt Romney lost by 32%. Mr. Bush's "Family values don't stop at the Rio Grande" is a more attractive message than Mr. Romney's "self-deportation."
Still, the House popular vote in the large majority of districts—368 in 2012, 369 in 2004—not dominated by blacks or Hispanics was almost the same in those two years. Republican candidates carried such districts 53%-44% in 2004 and 52%-46% in 2012.

Valadao: A Republican in a Latino District

At The Hill, Mario Trujillo profiles a Republican in a 70% Latino district that voted for Obama: Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) the son of Portuguese immigrants.
Valadao is one of five House Republicans who represent a Hispanic-majority district. His inaugural victory came in the same year his party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Republicans have looked to rebrand themselves within the Hispanic community and party leaders have embraced immigration reform in the wake of the poor performance in 2012.
A combination of deep ties to the agricultural industry, a relatable biographical story and the absence of a strong opponent helped Valadao win a district dominated by the nation’s fastest growing ethnic demographic.
“They polled against me, but they decided to not spend a whole lot of money against me, and again I think that falls on my background— the way I approach issues,” he said.
Valadao won his district by 18 percent last year and maintained a huge fundraising advantage over Democrat John Hernandez — who lacked support from the national party. Romney lost the same district to Obama by 11 points.
“If you look at the history of my district, [it] has elected Republicans locally,” he said, noting that he won a seat in the state assembly by overcoming a similar Democratic registration advantage in 2010.
Only one other Republican, fellow Californian Rep. Gary Miller, sits in a district that went more heavily for Obama....
Valadao’s family owns two dairies and more than 1,000 acres of farmland in California, where he still lives. He said it is easier for immigrants to identify with some of the core principles of the party if you can break through the initial, negative perception of the GOP.
He is fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish.
“Even on my ranch, when I talk to employees of mine who are immigrants as well, both Portuguese and Hispanic, it is always interesting to see the look on their face, when they’re like, ‘wait a minute, this is what you are fighting for?’ ” Valadao said.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Virginia Governor: Early Line

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has an early lead over businessman Terry McAuliffe in their race for governor, a new Washington Post poll shows, even as most voters in the commonwealth have yet to engage in the nationally watched contest.
Six months before Election Day, Cuccinelli (R) has a slender 46 to 41 percent edge over McAuliffe (D) among all Virginia voters and a significant 51 to 41 percent lead among those who say they’re certain to cast ballots in November. But those numbers may change before then: The poll found that barely 10 percent say they are following the campaign “very closely” and that nearly half of the electorate says they’re either undecided or could change their minds.
In 2012, national black turnout may have exceeded white turnout.  But this level of enthusiasm might not carry over into future elections. The Post also looks at the African-American vote in the Virginia race:
When is nearly 70 percent support from a key voting bloc not good enough? When you’re a Virginia Democrat running statewide without President Obama atop the ballot.
As he seeks to reclaim the governorship for his party, businessman Terry McAuliffe isn’t drawing the same level of African American backing other Democrats have recently enjoyed, a new Washington Post poll shows.
McAuliffe is supported by 69 percent of black voters, compared with 10 percent for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R). And 20 percent of black voters say they have no opinion or would vote for neither candidate. By contrast, Obama received 93 percent of black votes in Virginia last year, helping to compensate for the loss of the white vote to Mitt Romney (R) by 24 points.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Is the Senate Less Appealing to Potential Candidates?

Months will pass before the shape of the 2014 Senate field is clear, but The New York Times reports that recruiting has been a problem so far:
The dearth of candidates for an open Senate seat reflects what former and current senators and those who once aspired to the office say is a sad truth: rarely has the thought of serving in the Senate seemed so unappealing.

Once considered an apex of national politics second only to the presidency, the “greatest deliberative body in the world” is so riven by partisanship and gummed up by its own arcane rules that potential candidates from Georgia to Kentucky, Iowa to Montana are loudly saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Add to that the cost of getting there — which can include fighting off special interests and “super PACs” from your own party, exhausting criticism from the increasingly partisan news media, and prohibitive campaign expenses — and a Senate seat no longer seems so grand.

Such weariness is evident not just in the people who are forgoing a Senate bid but also in the exodus of senators not seeking re-election. So far, 8 of the 33 whose terms expire in 2014 have decided not to run again. They include some who probably could have sailed back into office, like Mr. Harkin and his fellow Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan and Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.

“In the old days, you’d have to carry the Senate Finance chair out on a stretcher,” said Ed Rollins, a veteran political strategist who has advised Republican politicians for four decades, including one in Iowa, State Senator Brad Zaun, who just decided not to run against Mr. Harkin. “There’s just not quite the enthusiasm I’ve seen in other years.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

OFA Falls Short in Advocacy -- Again

Politico reports on Organizing for Action:
OFA’s pledge to punish senators who voted against gun control was the first big test of the group’s reach — and, undoubtedly, a difficult one, given that many of the senators voting no were in deep-red states where Obama lost badly. Even measured against those odds, there are almost no successes to point to: The group didn’t sway a single vote for the background check proposal, and so far, it hasn’t been able to make any of those who voted against it feel any heat.
Even in states Obama carried handily — places like Ohio and New Hampshire — the group couldn’t hold big rallies, blanket the airwaves with TV ads or motivate enough supporters to match the volume of phone calls from pro-gun advocates. Asked for demonstrations of the strong effort they were mounting, OFA staff pointed to “tweet your senator” pushes they encouraged in the days after the vote.
Organizing for America, its predecessor group, had similar problems.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

House Democratic Gains Are Unlikely in 2014

Sean Trende writes that the in-party has occasionally won seats in midterms...
But even if you think that circumstances for the Democrats this year are like they were in 1934 or 1998, or like the Republicans’ circumstances in 2002, bear in mind that that probably isn’t enough. In ’34, Democrats gained nine seats. In ’98, Democrats gained five. In ’02, Republicans gained eight.
In other words, Democrats would have to almost double up on the best midterm election in U.S. history to take back the House.
Now this doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In response to yesterday’s piece, David Nir of Daily Kos Elections referred me to this article from Steve Hirdt at ESPN, which shows 10 “rules” proving that none of the teams in the NFL could possibly win the Super Bowl. Nir jokingly referred to this as the tendency of commentators to succumb to the “anything that hasn’t happened before can’t happen now” rule.
From a Democratic perspective, he says, there is good, mediocre, and ugly news.

The good news is that the Democrats are not overly exposed:  only nine House Democrats represent Romney districts.

The mediocre news is that the president's job-approval rating is about 50 percent, far short of what Clinton and Bush had when their side gained seats in a midterm.

The ugly news is that year-to-year figures on real disposable income are still miserable, which bodes ill for the in-party.