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Thursday, January 31, 2013

District System for Electoral College? Not So Fast...

Right after the election, some Republicans pondered the district system for the electoral collegePolitico reports:
Republican proposals in swing states to change how electoral votes are allocated have set off alarms that the party is trying to rig future presidential elections.
But the plans are going nowhere fast.
In the majority of states where such measures are being considered – Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Michigan, all states that voted for President Obama in 2012 but have Republican-controlled legislatures – proposals to split Electoral College votes proportionally have either been defeated or are strongly opposed by officials in those states.
The only remaining states are Pennsylvania, where an electoral vote change was unsuccessful in 2011, and Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has expressed hesitance about any changes to the system.
“I just said I hadn’t ruled it out. I’m not embracing it because it’s a double-edged sword,”
Walker said in a recent interview with POLITICO. “What may look appealing right now depending on who your candidate was might, four or eight years from now, look like just the reverse. And the most important thing to me long term as a governor is what makes your voters be in play. One of our advantages as a swing state is that candidates come here … that’s good for voters. If we change that that would take that away and would largely make us irrelevant.”
In Virginia, a plan to allocate electoral votes by congressional district was defeated in the state Senate Tuesday after Gov. Bob McDonnell and other GOP lawmakers in the state came out against it.
TPM reports:
On a national level, newly re-elected RNC chair Reince Priebus has declared his support for splitting up the electoral vote in blue-leaning swing states, including his home state of Wisconsin. Former RNC chair Haley Barbour broke with him on Friday, however, telling MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he did not back Priebus’ plan and did not believe it enjoyed widespread GOP support either. His nephew, influential RNC committeeman Henry Barbour, also dismissed the Priebus scheme as a “gimmick” to Yahoo News.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

GOP Senate Problems

Josh Kraushaar reports at National Journal:
One of the first opportunities for Republicans to demonstrate that they’re not the “stupid party,” in the words of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, will be the way its leaders handle some sticky Senate primaries already emerging for 2014. In many battleground states, stepping forward are a handful of not-ready-for-prime-time, gaffe-prone candidates who are well-positioned to win primaries but at risk of getting thumped in a general election.
If this sounds like a broken record, it is. Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Ken Buck cost the party two Senate seats in 2010. Last year, it was Todd Akin's and Richard Mourdock’s chance to damage the GOP on the national stage. The only difference between this upcoming midterm and the past two elections is that it’s now so painfully obvious what’s transpiring, yet party leaders are still trying to figure out how to prevent a crisis before it’s too late.
Iowa Rep. Steve King, an anti-immigration hard-liner, is already giving serious consideration to the Senate race for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin. Joe Miller, who lost in 2010 to a write-in candidate, is reportedly talking to the National Republican Senatorial Committee about a repeat run in Alaska. A Georgia House member who accused President Obama of following the Soviet constitution is probably running to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and another who defended Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment is considering a campaign. Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann is waiting in the wings in Minnesota, as a possible contender against Sen. Al Franken.
Reed Galen writes at RealClearPolitics:
Our problem is not how we “frame” our arguments. It’s that our arguments don’t fit the views of the national electorate: A majority of Americans found our solutions uncompelling. All the data mining, social media interaction and television advertising won’t do a bit of good if our messages and messengers aren’t powerful and believable.
If we don’t give voters a proactive, positive and hopeful alternative to the current state of affairs, there’s no reason for them to give us a first look, let alone a second. The way we discuss issues -- from abortion to immigration -- are so negative that women, minorities and younger voters want little, if anything, to do with us.
There is hope, though. Although Mitt Romney lost nearly all of the battleground states last year, the GOP currently holds governorships in 10 of them. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker survived a recall effort led by well-funded labor interests. Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada have shown that a Republican can win in states with large and growing Latino populations.
The question is whether gubernatorial elections are fundamentally different from elections to federal office.  The issues and expectations at one level do not necessarily carry over to the other.  Tommy Thompson (WI) and Linda Lingle (HI) were successful, popular governors of blue states, but the failed in their 2012 Senate bids.

Blue States and Red States

There were more solidly blue states than solidly red states in the U.S. in 2012, by a margin of 20 to 12. After the District of Columbia, the most Democratic-leaning states in 2012 were Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts -- where Democrats held at least 20-percentage-point advantages in party identification. Republicans enjoyed this lopsided an advantage in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho.
Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, and Delaware round out the top 10 most Democratic states. Thus, eight of the top 10 are located in the East.
The top 10 Republican states have a very different geographic profile, with three of the states located in the Midwest (North Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas), two in the South (Alabama and Oklahoma), and five in the West. The full results by state appear on page 2.

These state and regional patterns closely mirror President Barack Obama's state-level job approval ratings in 2012.
Capitol Weekly reports that California's blue streak does not necessarily extend down the age spectrum:
Even though California has seen a decade of growth in the registration of young voters aged 18-to-24, fully two-thirds of the eligible youth population did not cast ballots in the last presidential election, according to a new study.

The California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis also found that registration and turnout rates in the age group vary geographically within the state, with young registrants differing politically from the rest of the electorate and a growing number favoring “no party preference.”

The lack of engagement is a critical factor in dampening both parties’ new registrants. And that is unpleasant news for get-out-the-vote pros in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

OFA 4.0

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball writes:
Insiders are calling Organizing for Action "OFA 4.0" -- the fourth iteration of the acronym. OFA 1.0 was the first presidential campaign; 2.0 was its successor, Organizing for America, which became an arm of the Democratic National Committee in 2009; 3.0 was the reelection campaign.

OFA 2.0 is the most direct precedent for the current effort -- and a cautionary tale. Organizing for America was largely blamed for having squandered the momentum of Obama's first victory, allowing the president to get mired in D.C. deal-making and leaving his rank-and-file supporters out in the cold.

Veterans of the group bristle a bit at this characterization, but most acknowledge that Organizing for America took too long to get started, lacked a focused mission, didn't play well with other actors (such as local Democratic parties) and, because of its affiliation with the DNC, suffered from conflicting imperatives. Was its job to push Obama's plans, or was it to get more Democrats elected?

"The biggest problem with being inside the DNC was that we couldn't put pressure on Democrats," one Organizing for America veteran told me. Though Democrats commanded a 54-seat House majority and 60-vote Senate supermajority, it became clear early in Obama's first term that they would need some cajoling to go along with plans like the stimulus bill and especially the health-care legislation.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Tech Gap

The Democrats' technological advantage extends far beyond the Obama campaign.  Politico reports that the Democratic National Committee is ahead of the RNC by years. DNC itself had been building the party's information backbone before Obama even ran.
The stakes are high. That information allowed Democrats in 2012 to identify likely voters and customize campaign messages for targeted groups — such as sending mailings about protecting reproductive rights to women under 40. In addition, they used the data to find new voters and ensure they get to the polls.
The DNC’s system, known as the Voter Activation Network is a mammoth, ongoing database that has been tracking the interests, voting histories, family circumstances and much more on more than 150 million voters since 2006. That’s when then-DNC Chairman Howard Dean mandated that every state-level Democratic unit contribute to and have access to the same system, developing a powerful weapon that the GOP simply won’t match in the near term.
“Republicans have historically been a lot more selfish about their sharing of data and sharing of information,” said Vincent Harris, the 24-year-old GOP digital strategist who leveraged social media to put little-known Ted Cruz on his path to the Senate. “There’s no central hub. That integration is priceless, and that’s what [Priebus] needs to lead us on.”
Meanwhile, Harris warned, “Every day that goes by, we are getting further and further behind.”
Indeed, while the president’s Chicago-based geek squad earned widespread admiration and GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s online team endured some humiliations last fall, those elements alone don’t explain the poll-defying voter turnout that led to Democratic victories down the ballot.
For that, the VAN is the unsung hero.
Last month, John Fowler wrote at RedState:
Because of VAN the Democrats have a Unified, Distributed, Networked Voter-Contact System that allows them to run an “Engagement Campaign” where the infrastructure is permanently in place, not installed by the campaigns in the months before Primaries or Elections and removed after the election. Because of VAN the Democrats can integrate their campaigns vertically where each door knock or phone call by a down-ballot campaign contributes to the knowledge of the electorate for the entire party. Because of VAN the Democrats have a single training curriculum (See for all of their campaigns, thereby streamlining and standardizing their activist training. Because of VAN the Democrats have an entire “reserve officer corps” or “national guard” of trained activists who can easily move laterally between campaigns and organizations.

All the bells and whistles of the shiny exterior of the Obama campaign are dependent on the backbone and architecture of VAN. Without it Obama would have been no more successful than Howard Dean. Enthusiasm and Social Contacts do not equal votes unless they are actively converted by the party or campaign.
We do not need to start some random search for “technologists” for the Right. The very same back-end, crucial architecture of VAN coupled with the activist interface is available to the Right under the name rVotes. Check out the History of rVotes here, or read “Taking Our Country Back” by Daniel Kreiss to learn the history of VAN and how we can compete.

rVotes has been offered to the Republican Party but was rejected in favor of continuing to allow the data to be owned by self-serving Campaign Consultants who do not share the same interests as Republicans. The search for “technologists” on the Right has overlooked the architect of the Democrats’ VAN, Steve Adler, who has offered us the same core capabilities that have made the Obama Ground Game so powerful. Ironically, the capabilities that the Romney Campaign spent $40 million to engineer under the failed Project Orca were already available in rVotes had we only chosen to use them. Check out the rVotes GOTV video to see the $40 million of GOTV “strike list” capability that we left on the shelf.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2014 Senate Outlook

Tom Harkin (D-IA) has joined Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) at the exit, potentially opening seats for GOP takeover in 2014.  Tim Johnson (D-SD) may be next. James Hohmann and John Bresnahan write at Politico:
These cycles are long, but clearly it’s been a good couple weeks,” said former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer, who just joined FP1 Strategies. “It’s good for the NRSC especially after a disappointing election. This will help with fundraising and jumpstart some enthusiasm that would have taken more time otherwise.”
“An open seat is an open seat. It’s really hard to beat incumbents, so when you get an open seat it automatically vaults a seat up to a level that’s more competitive than it would have been otherwise,” he added. “Iowa was not on the map 48 hours ago, and now it’s on the map. And that’s a big deal.”
Democratic strategists highlight their incumbents who appear likely to run again in red states where retirements could have proved devastating, including Montana’s Max Baucus, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Alaska’s Mark Begich and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan.
In the last decade, only three Democratic incumbents have lost reelection: South Dakota’s Tom Daschle in 2004, along with as Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold and Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln in 2010. (emphasis added)
There have been many more GOP incumbent losses:


  • Talent (MO)
  • Burns (MT)
  • DeWine (OH)
  • Santorum (PA)
  • Chafee (RI)
  • Allen (VA)

  • Stevens (AK)
  • Coleman (MN)
  • Sununu (NH)
  • Elizabeth Dole (NC)
  • Gordon Smith (OR)

  • Bennett (UT), lost renomination in party convention
  • Lugar (IN) lost renomination in primary
  • Brown (MA)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Boehner Reflects

The Washington Post reports
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the moderate Ripon Society Tuesday that President Obama’s goal is to “annihilate the Republican Party.”

The Republican leader argued that Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda could not be enacted unless Republicans suffer serious losses in the next mid-term elections.
“[G]iven what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me and should be clear to all of you that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me tell you, I do believe that is their goal. To just shove us in the dustbin of history.”
Republicans will need to defend themselves in a “very hostile environment,” Boehner said, by thinking strategically about when and how to confront the president.
The Hill adds more detail:
... Boehner said that he should have taken a different course after the November election by immediately demanding that the Senate produce a bill to avert the worst parts of a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that were due to hit on Jan. 1.
Instead, Boehner delivered a formal speech at the Capitol on the day after President Obama won a second term, in which he offered a major Republican concession – new tax revenue as part of a broader fiscal deal.
“Looking back, what I should have done the day after the election was to make it clear the House has passed a bill to extend all of the current tax rates, the House has passed a bill to replace the sequester with cuts in mandatory spending, and the Senate ought to do its work,” Boehner said. “We’re ready, able and willing to work with the Senate as soon as they produce a bill. It should have been what I said. You know, again, hindsight is 20-20.”

“You have no idea the suspicions and the undercurrents that it caused, frankly, a lot of my members,” Boehner said of his negotiations with Obama. “It really has, in fact, caused somewhat of a breach that I’ve been in the middle of trying to repair.”
Boehner attributed the suspicions to the younger members in the Republican ranks who are not familiar with his voting record in the years before he took the Speaker’s gavel.
“Some of our members don’t realize that while I may be a nice enough guy, and I get along with people, when I was voting I had the 8th most conservative voting record in the House,” he said. “But a lot of our newer members – they don’t know that. And so, you know, they think I’m some squish, that I’m ready to sell them out in a heartbeat, when obviously, most of you in this room know that that ain’t quite who I am.”
Full video:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jindal Speech

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has received a lot of attention for his speech to the RNC meeting in Charlotte, NC.
Today’s conservatism is in love with zeroes.
We think if we can just unite behind a proposal to cut the deficit and debt…if we can just put together a spreadsheet and a power point and a TV ad….all will be well.
If you take nothing else away from what I say today, please understand this – We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth. Of course we know that government is out of control. The public knows that too. And yet we just lost an election.
These passages echo Jack Kemp. On February 3, 1988, Kemp said on the NewsHour:

I want to say as a Republican that the roots of the Republican Party are basically, unfortunately, in the 1930s, when it became a conservative party, became an opposition party, became a protectionist party, became an isolationist party, became a tax increase party, became a party of austerity and sacrifice in the face of very severe economic downturn. ...
But the point I want to make is a broader one. The Democratic Party, God bless them, today, however, have become a party of protectionism, more isolationism. They definitely want to raise taxes to one degree or another, and frankly, the real debate over economics is going on in the Republican Party. The debate in our party is between those who want our party to go back and become a party of austerity and sacrifice and bitter medicine, as Senator Dole talks about. 

Jindal also channels Reagan: "We believe in creating abundance, not redistributing scarcity."

Consider Reagan's February 5, 1981 address to the nation:  "Our aim is to increase our national wealth so all will have more, not just redistribute what we already have which is just a sharing of scarcity."

Jindal concludes with a seven-step program:
 1. We must stop looking backward. We have to boldly show what the future can look like with the free market policies that we believe in. Many of our Governors are doing just that. Conservative ideals are aspirational, and our country is aspirational. Nostalgia about the good old days is heart-warming, but the battle of ideas must be waged in the future.
2. We must compete for every single vote. The 47 percent and the 53 percent. And any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent. President Barack Obama and the Democrats can continue trying to divide America into groups of warring communities with competing interests, but we will have none of it. We are going after every vote as we work to unite all Americans.
3. We must reject identity politics. The old notion that ours should be a colorblind society is the right one, and we should pursue that with vigor. Identity politics is corrosive to the great American melting pot and we reject it. We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. We must treat all people as individuals rather than as members of special interest groups. The first step in getting the voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them.
4. We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.
5. We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and tag lines for 30-second ads. We must be willing to provide details in describing our views.
6. We must quit “big.” We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear.
7. We must focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington. We must stop competing with Democrats for the job of “Government Manager,” and lay out ideas that can unleash the dynamic abilities of the American people. We need an equal opportunity society, one in which government does not see its job as picking winners and losers. Where do you go if you want special favors? Government. Where do you go if you want a tax break? Government. Where do you go if you want a handout? Government. This must stop. Our government must pursue a level playing field. At present, government is the un-leveler of the playing field.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Lines in Florida

The long Election Day lines around Florida may have turned away more than 200,000 frustrated would-be voters who gave up and went home before they cast ballots — or else saw the lines and elected not to join them.

Analyzing data compiled by the Orlando Sentinel, Ohio State University professor Theodore Allen estimated last week that at least 201,000 voters likely gave up in frustration on Nov. 6, based on research Allen has been doing on voter behavior.

His preliminary conclusion was based on the Sentinel's analysis of voter patterns and precinct-closing times in Florida's 25 largest counties, home to 86 percent of the state's 11.9 million registered voters.

"My gut is telling me that the real number [of voters] deterred is likely higher," Allen said. "You make people wait longer, they are less likely to vote."

Around the state, nearly 2 million registered voters live in precincts that stayed open at least 90 minutes past the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time, according to Sentinel analysis of voting data obtained from county elections supervisors. Of those, 561,000 voters live in precincts that stayed open three extra hours or longer.
And two of the five counties with the worst lines were in Central Florida. In Orange and Osceola counties, as many as 48 percent of those who cast votes on Election Day live in precincts that closed at least 90 minutes late, the analysis showed.

Elections supervisors have blamed the long lines and delays on the cutback of early-voting days from 14 to eight that was ordered by the 2011 Legislature, a record-long ballot that included 11 lengthy constitutional amendments and a 71 percent turnout for a hotly contested presidential election. Indeed, Gov. Rick Scott said last week he'd back legislation restoring the early-voting days and restricting ballot length.

But the Sentinel analysis also showed that — even in the worst-performing counties — long lines were the exception rather than the rule. In Orange and Miami-Dade, for example, more than half the precincts, including many large ones, closed before 8 p.m.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hope Continues to Fade

Gallup reports:
Thirty-eight percent of Americans interviewed Monday night said they watched or listened to the inauguration ceremonies as they happened; another 27% saw, read, or heard news coverage of the events. That is down considerably from 2009, when a combined 80% watched the ceremonies live (60%) or saw news coverage of them (20%). Reported viewership of Monday's ceremonies is similar to what Gallup measured for George W. Bush's second inauguration eight years ago.
Sixty-five percent rated it excellent or good, compared with 81 percent for the 2009 inaugural.
Given the lower levels of attention paid to the second inauguration by Americans, and their less positive reaction to Obama's speech, it is not surprising that fewer Americans said the inauguration made them more hopeful about the next four years than did so in 2009. Specifically, 37% of Americans said they are now more hopeful about the next four years after Monday's presidential inauguration ceremonies, compared with 62% after Obama's first inauguration. Reaction to Monday's inauguration was similar to Bush's second inauguration in 2005.
Gallup also reports:
U.S. President Barack Obama begins his second term at a time when Americans are as negative about the state of the country and its prospects going forward as they have been in more than three decades. Fewer than four in 10 Americans (39%) rate the current status of the U.S. at the positive end of a zero to 10 scale. This is about the same as in 2010, but it is fewer than have said so at any point since 1979. As they usually are, Americans are more upbeat in their predictions of where the U.S. will be in five years (48% positive), but this is also lower than at any time since 1979. Fifty-five percent of Americans say the state of the nation five years ago was positive. [emphasis added]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Crossroads GPS on Liberalism and the Inaugural

Crossroads GPS notes media commentary about the liberal themes  in the president's inaugural:

Getting Out the Vote in Safe Precincts

At National Review Online, Jim Geraghty writes:
The opening section of yesterday’s Jolt was urging Republicans to experiment with getting out the vote in the special elections coming up this year; with most of the races in districts that lean heavily to one party or the other, it’s unlikely any botched experiment would blow a 50-50 race. (If you didn’t receive it, you can read it on Campaign Spot here.)
In response, Morning Jolt reader John E. wrote in:
Appreciated your article today. It brought to mind something I observed in the Presidential election in my neck of the woods. My “neck of the woods” is a county in the Alabama-like Florida Panhandle. John McCain took 72% here and Mitt Romney got 75%. And yet, in 2012, the Obama people had an office in our small town (I think it was donated space), and there was an identifiable presence with signs, bumper stickers and such. In other words, the Obama supporters did not throw up their hands and ignore this area, even though they knew it was hopeless here. Still, their efforts may have squeezed out a few more votes for their candidate. And if you multiply that over several counties in Dixie-ish north Florida, well, you know the state was close and every vote counted.
Indeed; 74,309 votes, or one percentage point, in Florida.
The basic idea isn't new.  In One-Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century (a quaint title), Tom Hamburder and Peter Wallsten wrote:
Instead of educating voters about Bush, Rove worked at educating himself and his staff about voters-and about how to target them with narrowly cast appeals. One could ask why it mattered if a handful of Jews in Cleveland or Latinos in Orlando or labor union members in West Virginia voted for Bush. The answer was the Republicans ability to send custom-tailored messages to relatively small numbers of voters inside Democratic precincts in swing states enabled them to slice away pieces of the enemy’s base. Each slice might seem inconsequential standing alone, but taken together the slices might add up to something very consequential. (p. 140)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama Campaign Legacy Report

Here is an after-action review by the Obama campaign.

A graph of the ground game:

The importance of the personal touch:
Finding the right messengers to deliver this persuasion message was critical. Ensuring that even national issues are presented in the language of the individual’s own backyard was important. The bottom line was simple: the more familiar and local the messenger to the voter, the better the results. An OFA post-election survey clearly found that Obama campaign contacts were more effective in helping voters make up their minds because those conversations were conducted by neighbors talking to neighbors.
The importance of early voting:
Early vote offered eligible voters expanded access and convenience to voting in many important states across the country. Overall, the campaign’s effort to encourage supporters to take advantage of this opportunity was tremendously successful. Not only did a record number of voters turn out, but many were the voters who the campaign had specifically prioritized for early vote: sporadic supporters. In many early vote states, Romney won a majority of the votes cast on Election Day but, because the President’s early-vote margin was so high, Romney could not catch up.
If Republicans read it and apply its lessons, perhaps they can have a Patton moment in 2 to 4 years:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Get Smart

After strategy meetings in Williamsburg, House Republicans have opted for a short-term extension of the debt limit.  Chris Cillizza reports:
Democrats quickly declared victory, insisting that Obama’s hardline stance had cowed a divided GOP into a concession that just a few weeks ago they insisted they would not make.
But in conversations this afternoon with the Fix, Republican party strategists insisted that pushing the debt ceiling fight back to mid-April was a strategic gambit designed to maximize their leverage on several major budgetary fights between now and then.
“Republicans have to do a better job of picking our fights,” said one prominent Republican consultant. “So, we need more concern about the impact of Obama’s reckless spending before we fight with a guy who controls the bully pulpit.”
As one senior House Republican aide explained it, putting the debt ceiling after the sequester (the series of automatic, across the board cuts that will kick in unless Congress acts to cut spending on its own) and insisting that the Senate produce a budget before April 15 or not be paid shifts the terms of the debate in a favorable way for Republicans.
“In the fiscal cliff fight, the president had greater leverage because current law was on his side,” said the aide, noting that if nothing was done on the cliff taxes would have gone up on all Americans. By contrast, the aide added, “in the sequestration fight, we have greater leverage because current law is on our side” — meaning that if Congress fails to act the automatic spending cuts kick in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Organizing for Action"

The pro-Obama 501(c)(4) now has a name: Organizing for Action.

The Los Angeles Times reports:
The current arrangement raises many questions, including whether the campaign will have the funds for the costly project of keeping the files current. "They are a hot commodity right now, but these lists quickly become like stinky cheese," said Steve Rosenthal, a veteran Democratic organizer. "If you don't keep updating them, they have pretty limited value."
Officials said Friday that Organizing for Action, which was set up under the tax code's section 501(c)4 as a nonprofit social welfare organization, will accept unlimited individual and corporate donations but not contributions from lobbyists, similar to the self-imposed rules governing the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The organization plans to disclose its donors, as the inaugural committee does, even though tax-exempt advocacy groups are not required to do so. But it remains to be seen how frequently Organizing for Action will share that information and whether it will reveal the amount of the donations.
An email from the president:

Today, a new grassroots organization is being launched: Organizing for Action.
Following in the footsteps of the campaign you built, Organizing for Action will be an unparalleled force in American politics. It will work to turn our shared values into legislative action -- and it'll empower the next generation of leaders in our movement.
Michelle recorded a video to tell you more about the new organization -- take a look and let OFA know you're in:

We may have started this as a long shot presidential primary campaign in 2007, but it's always been about more than just winning an election. Together, we've made our communities stronger, we've fought for historic legislation, and we've brought more people than ever before into the political process.
We have the power to do even more to change our politics and our country for the better. With Organizing for Action, you'll have every resource you need to do it.
But it starts with you. This new organization is in your hands.
I'm so excited to see what you all do next -- and so grateful to be part of it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Obama 501(c)(4)

As he launches his second term, President Obama may get help from an ambitious new political organization being built out of his reelection campaign, a group that could reshape how future presidents harness supporters to press their White House agendas.
Run by former Obama campaign officials, the advocacy group will seek to leverage the campaign's sophisticated organizing tools and rich voter database to support the president's policy objectives, including raising the debt ceiling, gun control and immigration reform.
Leadership for the new group has not been announced, but former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and several other former campaign operatives are expected to play key roles. On Thursday, Messina sent out an email blast to Obama campaign supporters urging them to back the White House gun policy proposals.
Making the leap from a campaign built around the singular goal to one with a broader — and ongoing — mission is no easy task.

"Every presidential campaign struggles with the question of, 'How do we handle our legacy?'" noted Republican election law attorney Michael Toner, who served as general counsel for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign. "This is fairly novel, and it's rare to talk about trying to house this apart from the party. I think it's very challenging, because the DNC will say, 'What about us?' Other candidates will say, 'What about us?' It's very hard to finesse that."

The organization will be set up as a 501(c)4 social welfare group, according to top Democrats privy to the discussions. That structure allows it to accept unlimited contributions.
Here is the Messina email:
As the "fiscal cliff" debate raged on, supporters like you were right there with President Obama, making sure your voices were heard from all over the country. When we work together like that, we're a powerful force.
Issues like immigration, climate change, and gun violence will be debated over these next four years, and President Obama is ready to take them on -- but he needs us by his side. Our goal is to help him get things done, but also to help change how things get done in Washington in the first place.
Over inauguration weekend, you'll have a chance to participate in a discussion about how we'll work together to support our president and address the issues we all care about. Some volunteers and staff will be gathering in Washington, D.C., and will be joined online by thousands more supporters nationwide for the Obama Campaign Legacy Conference, where we'll firm up the structure and leadership of the new organization.

Want to be part of the conversation as our next chapter begins?
Say you're in and we'll follow up with ways to participate.

The impetus for this conference comes from you. In November, we sent a survey asking you about your campaign experience and where you'd like our movement to go from here.
More than a million people responded. In fact, four out of five survey respondents said they'd like to continue to be involved and volunteer over the next four years.
That's an advantage that no previous president has enjoyed, and one that has the potential to reshape our politics for years to come.
This is an important opportunity to shape the future of this movement, and I hope you'll take part:

Thanks. Can't wait to see what we do next.
Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America
P.S. -- Watch this short video to see how your work backing the President during the "fiscal cliff" talks allowed us to restore fairness to our tax code by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. It's just one example of what we can accomplish when we're in it together. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

House GOP Woes

Politico reports on the House Republicans' Williamsburg retreat:
David Winston, a top GOP pollster and close adviser to Boehner, unveiled the House Republicans’ most recent favorable rating based on his own analysis: It came in at a barrel-scraping 37 percent.
House Democrats’ numbers are a full 9 points higher at 46 percent. Winston’s analysis: Neither party is popular, but the GOP is less so. The lawmakers heard that the way to turn things around is for the party to pivot squarely to the economy and jobs — the chief concerns of most voters.
After an election dominated by a steady stream of gaffes by the GOP’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and some of its highest-profile candidates, some of the speakers at Wednesday’s retreat counseled the GOP on how to turn things around. Doing so will be paramount as the party enters a period of tense conflict with President Barack Obama over fiscal matters like the nation’s debt ceiling and the sequester.
... At the tail end of a panel, Winston and fellow Republican pollsters Kellyanne Conway and Dave Sackett urged the GOP to work hard to relate better to voters. That’s why, the pollsters said in a question-and-answer session, Romney lost his bid for the White House — because no one identified with the aloof-seeming wealthy former venture capitalist whom Democrats painted as way out of touch with the average voter.
The Hill reports:
“Majorities are elected to do things, and if they become dysfunctional, the American people will change what the majority is,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a House deputy majority whip and a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, told The Hill.
Former House member and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) noted that if the GOP enters the upcoming negotiations divided on the issues, Republicans in deep-red districts will inevitably receive primary challenges
While there’s little chance of those deep-red districts switching hands in the coming election, Davis noted that the challenges would draw much-needed funds away from those swing districts.
“What happens is the party then spends all of its money running against Republicans. Members don’t give to the NRCC because they’ve got to defend themselves, and then in swing districts, Democrats could pick off Republicans,” he said.
Cole said that individual members should put aside worries about primary challenges and consider the bigger picture — and the harm their refusal to compromise in future budget negotiations could have on the GOP as a whole.
Both Davis and Cole said that if the House Republican caucus could stand together on a deal, current members, even those in deep-red districts, would likely be fine going into 2014.
Cole cautioned that a refusal to compromise would ultimately land the GOP a bad deal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coattails and the Senate: An Update

A November 10 post asked whether President Obama's coattails were responsible for the Senate Democrats' net gain of two seats. It looked the 11 Democratic victories in races that RealClearPolitics rated as "tossups" or "leans," comparing the percentage of the vote for the winning Senate candidate and President Obama.  Below is an updated version of the table, with final, certified figures.  As before, it shows that only in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin did the president get a higher percentage of the vote than the winning Senate candidate, and only in Massachusetts was the difference more than five percent.  We have to conclude that the evidence for any coattail effect is very weak.









North Dakota






(In the Ohio race, rounding to two decimal places instead of one shows that Senator Sherrod Brown got a slightly greater share of the vote than President Obama: 50.70 percent to 50.67 percent.)

Senate Seats Up in 2014

Though Democrats have more Senate seats up in 2014, a majority of the seats at stake are from states that Romney carried.  Seven of the 2014 Democrats represent Romney states while only one Republican (Susan Collins of Maine) comes from an Obama state.  Therefore, Republicans have a good chance of making gains and even taking control of the chamber -- provided that they don't blow it.


Democratic Seats
Hawaii (special)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
Rhode Island
North Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

GOP Seats
South Carolina
South Carolina (special)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Brulte's Plans in California

Jim Brulte is formally in the running for CA GOP chair.  In an interview with Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle, he said that it will take six years to rebuild the party and laid out his priorities:
1. Improve the party’s fundraising. “Candidates come and go but the party is eternal.” Says the GOP can’t rely on wealthy candidates — or from getting money from one or two wealthy donors.
2. Improve the party’s infrastructure. It’s weak nearly everywhere in the state, but for now they’re going to focus on areas where there is a weak Dem incumbent that can be picked off — or a weak Republican who is vulnerable.
3. Recruit and train strong local candidates.
4. Reach out to Latino and Asian voters and candidates. “Republicans need to be in every — EVERY — neighborhood in California.” Asked whether that means changing their policy on immigration, Brulte deferred. “Remember, I’m the nuts-and-bolts guy.” He’s not going to worry about policy. All he would allow is, “Republicans need to show their heart more. They need to show their servant’s heart.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Biden 2016?

At RealClearPolitics, Richard Benedetto writes:
In case you haven’t noticed, President Obama and his vaunted PR machine are orchestrating a full-court press to boost the presidential stock of his loyal vice president, Joe Biden.
It is not clear whether Biden will seek the Oval Office next time -- he will be 73 years old when 2016 rolls around. But just in case, the political foundation is carefully being laid and the public expectation is being buttressed by White House strategists, and dutifully documented by the media. 
At Roll Call, Shira Toeplitz offers some caution:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s bona fides as the ultimate Capitol Hill creature have gotten a significant boost since the November elections, first in the fiscal cliff negotiations and now via the gun violence task force he’s leading.
But Biden’s close association with a legislative body that is viewed less favorably than cockroaches presents a conundrum as he forms his role in President Barack Obama’s second term and looks ahead to a possible 2016 presidential bid.
The Pew Research Center offers a reality check:
Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the White House effort to formulate new proposals to reduce gun violence, gets mixed ratings from the public: 42% have a favorable impression of him, 42% unfavorable. This is virtually unchanged since late October on the eve of the election (44% favorable, 42% unfavorable).

Views of Biden are deeply divided along partisan lines – 77% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of him, while 75% of Democrats have a favorable opinion. Biden is viewed unfavorably by 63% of people who say the priority should be protecting the rights of gun owners, and favorably by 60% of those who prioritize controlling gun ownership.
Born November 20, 1942, Biden will be 74 at the time of the 2017 inauguration.  John McCain, the most recent seventysomething to run for president, was about two years younger, and the age issue did not help him,  as Kathy Frankovic wrote in 2008:
Is John McCain too old to be President? More to the point: do people think he is too old?
we ask Americans, "In general, what is the best age for a president of the United States?" as a CBS News/New York Times poll did last February, we get some surprising results, although it just might show their ignorance about how old the candidates are.

Just about half, 48 percent, said the "best" age for a president was the 50s, even though neither of the presumptive nominees is in his fifties (nor is Hillary Clinton). Barack Obama is 46, and just 20 percent of registered voters said the 40s was the right age for a president. But far fewer - only 2 percent -- thought McCain's decade (70's) was the best for the job. But even that 2 percent was higher than what Americans said in 2007, when zero percent thought being in one's 70s was the best age for the job.

There was little difference between the parties, too, in those poll results. Republicans, Democrats and independents all said the 50's was best, though Republicans had a slight preference for an older president: 28 percent of them said the 60's was the right presidential age, compared with just 10 percent of Democrats. On the other hand, Democrats were willing to go younger: three times as many Democrats (30 percent) as Republicans (10 percent) looked for a 40-ish candidate.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Future Democratic Strategy

At The Democratic Strategist, Ed Kilgore writes:
Beyond 2013, the huge strategic challenge for Democrats is finding a way to win a midterm election where the turnout patterns inherently favor the opposition, thanks to the unusual alignment of the two parties with elements of the electorate that do (older white voters) and don't (younger and minority voters) tend to participate in midterms, for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the issues on the table. Over-enthusiastic assessments of the value of the Obama GOTV operation--even assuming it can be deployed by the party as a whole in a midterm--may underestimate the difficulty of a very different landscape, aside from the historical evidence about the exceptional difficulty of "sixth-year" elections for the party holding the White House.
There's little doubt political scientists and historians will long view the Obama 2012 campaign, like its predecessor, as a "new departure" in political strategy, tactics, and mechanics. But it's less clear whether it can immediately carry over into Democratic successes in the years just ahead.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Advice for Republicans

At Reuters, Reihan Salam points out that the GOP message is all stick, no carrot.
The most promising course is for Republicans to rediscover the virtues of “demand-side conservatism,” a term coined by Jonathan Rauch a decade ago to describe what he saw as the emerging domestic policy vision of President George W. Bush. “Conservatives have been obsessed with reducing the supply of government when instead they should reduce the demand for it,” wrote Rauch, channeling Bush and his allies. Slashing social programs won’t do much good if voters continue to have an appetite for them, as they’ll just vote in pro-government politicians who will expand the programs all over again. Rather than focus narrowly on how much we spend at any given time, government should help families build wealth and reform public services in ways that will make them both better and cheaper. The Bush administration had little success in implementing demand-side conservatism, thanks mostly to its post-9/11 focus on foreign policy. But the basic idea remains compelling.
So what might a demand-side conservative agenda look like? Rather than focus exclusively on top-end marginal tax rates, conservatives might fight for expanding the child tax credit and raising taxes on high earners without children to pay for it. That way the investment parents make in the human capital of the next generation of American workers will be recognized and rewarded. This, as the Bush Treasury Department veteran Robert Stein and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review have argued, will tend to reduce the bias against child-rearing, which might ease the burden of paying for old-age social insurance programs well into the future.
At The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin lists a number of steps that the GOP can take to appeal to Hispanic voters.

Here's the problem with much of the "advice to the losing party" genre:  it relies on coordination among office-holders, candidates, and activists at the federal and state levels.  That level of coordination is hard to achieve in our system of federalism, bicameralism, and separation of powers. As we saw in the fiscal cliff debate, House Republicans and Senate Republicans have very distinct perspectives, and the Madisonian system deliberately hampers cooperation between the chambers.  And state-level Republicans work in different environments from DC Republicans:  what works on one level may fail on the other.  Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all have GOP governors and legislatures, and all went for Obama and Democratic Senate candidates in the fall.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Advice to Republicans

At The Huffington Post, Jon Ward writes:
The path back for Republicans, and for conservatives more broadly, is as much cultural as it is tactical. Tactically, they need better candidates, and younger, more diverse people at all levels: political consultants, field operatives, grassroots volunteers. But to attract organic support from young people, women and minorities and continue harvesting new faces, conservatism needs an attitude adjustment: get hungry, get humble, and get to know more people who aren't like you. 
A cultural shift in the GOP -- more youth and more real relationships with people outside the traditional conservative demographic -- will go a long way toward fixing the party's other big problem: the idea that you can persuade people by talking at them, and not with them.
AEI scholar Henry Olsen showed an odd cartoon short, in which a few conservatives try to figure out how to appeal to women. The point, Olsen explained to the largely white audience of about 50 or 60 people, was that the men in the cartoon kept talking over the one woman in their group.
"What we saw in the video is the inability to listen. The video started off with six guys and one women trying to design a product for women, and none of them would let her talk," Olsen said. "The Republican Party has for too long talked at people rather than spoken with people. And I think that is one of the main sources of the disconnect."
That insight stood out as I spoke to key members of the Obama campaign's senior staff in the following days. "Listening" to prospective voters had been a core value of the Obama campaign's ethic -- managers listened to field staff and volunteers, and trained them, in turn, to listen to the folks in their neighborhoods who were possible supporters.
"The biggest thing is listening and not just barking at [voters]. People don't want to know our 10 point plan," Jeremy Bird, the 34-year-old organizer who oversaw the Obama campaign's field operation, told me. "They want to know that we're listening to them, and that last time we talked to them, and they told us their son was an Iraq war vet, we listened to that and therefore we're going to talk to them about that and not come at them like political marketers." 
Peggy Noonan tell the message-deprived and strategy-deficient Republicans that it's pirate time:
Now's the time to put a dagger 'tween their teeth, wave a sword, grab a rope and swing aboard the enemy's galleon. Take the president's issues, steal them—they never belonged to him, they're yours!

In political terms this means: Reorient yourselves. Declare for Main Street over Wall Street, stand for the little guy against the big interests. And move. Don't wait for the bill, declare the sentiments of your corner..

Really, it's pirate time.
Examples of what might be done:
If you are conservative you are skeptical of concentrated power. You know the bullying and bossism it can lead to. Republicans should go to the populist right on the issue of bank breakup. Too big to fail is too big to continue. The megabanks have too much power in Washington and too much weight within the financial system. People think the GOP is for the bankers. The GOP should upend this assumption. In this case good policy is good politics.

If you are a conservative you're supposed to be for just treatment of the individual over the demands of concentrated elites. Every individual in America making $400,000 a year or more just got a tax hike that was a blow to the gut. Regular working people are seeing their payroll deductions increase. But private-equity partners who make billions enjoy more favorable tax treatment. Their income is treated for tax purposes as a capital gain, so they're taxed at far lower rates. This is called the carried interest exemption, and everybody knows it's a big con.
The Republican Party should come out against it in a big way. Let the real rich pay the same percentage the not-actually-rich-but-formally-declared-rich are paying. If the Republicans did this they'd actually be joining the winning side, because carried interest will not survive the new era. If congressional Republicans care about their party they'll want it to get credit for fairness, as opposed to the usual blame for being lackeys of the rich.
She also calls for action on gun control and immigration, which would be much tougher sells to grassroots Republicans.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Obama's Second Term: Mixed Opening

The Pew Research Center reports:

Barack Obama is viewed as the clear political winner in the fiscal cliff negotiations, but the legislation itself gets only a lukewarm reception from the public: As many disapprove as approve of the new tax legislation, and more say it will have a negative than positive impact on the federal budget deficit, the national economy and people like themselves.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 3-6 among 1,003 adults, finds that 57% say that Obama got more of what he wanted from the tax legislation while just 20% say Republican leaders got more of what they wanted. And while 48% approve of the way Obama handled the fiscal cliff negotiations only 19% approve of the way GOP leaders handled the negotiations.
Republicans take a particularly sour view of the outcome: just 16% approve of the final legislation, and by a 74% to 11% margin they think Obama got more of what he wanted. Only 40% of Republicans approve of how their party’s leaders handled the negotiations; by comparison, fully 81% of Democrats approve of how Obama handled the negotiations.
Relatively few Americans expect that the tax legislation that resulted from those talks will help people like themselves, the budget deficit, or the national economy. Just three-in-ten Americans say the tax measure will mostly help people like them; 52% say it will mostly hurt. And even when it comes to the budget deficit, 44% say the deal will mostly hurt, while 33% say it will mostly help.

At MSNBC, Chuck Todd reports:
There is no question that Team Obama’s campaign operation outgunned the Romney effort last year. And there’s little doubt that the Obama White House outmaneuvered (at least in the short term) congressional Republicans in the fiscal-cliff talks. But since November, where the White House has fallen short -- and seemed completely disorganized -- has been in its planning for staffing the second term. For starters, Susan Rice’s and Chuck Hagel’s potential nominations to top cabinet jobs were allowed to twist in the wind for weeks, with Rice eventually pulling out of consideration for secretary of state and Hagel now in real fight to win confirmation as defense secretary. In addition, the White House yesterday announced that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was leaving the administration -- on the very day the New York Times ran a piece observing the lack of women in the administration. And also yesterday, the White House said Attorney General Eric Holder, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski are staying in a second term, but it didn’t announce what’s happening with the other cabinet secretaries, which then set off mini-feeding frenzies “are you staying, are you going?” for the cabinet secretaries not included on this seemingly arbitrary list.
Jennifer Rubin writes:
 Personnel is policy, the saying goes. We know that in selecting Chuck Hagel, whose advice the president finds so valuable, we are headed, as Bill Burton said, for “huge” cuts in the military and a less pro-Israel national security policy. With the announcement that chief of staff Jack Lew will be nominated for Treasury secretary we know that the president (if you had any doubt) was going to seek confrontation, not cooperation, with Republicans.
Every GOP House and Senate office I spoke to yesterday had the same take on Lew. “Much worse than [Tim] Geithner,” said one. Another cited Bob Woodward’s book, “The Price of Politics,” arguing that Lew “was always the one to screw up any deals, pushed for the lefty position.