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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hillary Clinton and Amateur Super PACs


Politico reports that pro-Hillary super PACs have been forming.  With the possible exception of Ready for Hillary, most are amateur operations.
Super PACs have a great advantage in being able to raise unlimited sums of money,” said Jonathan Collegio, who works with the conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. “The problem is that if they’re not carefully managed, they can be used as platforms by hucksters to send business to their own companies, or pay themselves lucrative consulting contracts.”
Clinton is the only rumored 2016 candidate that’s attracting this level of attention — there are no active super PACs for Martin O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo, Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio, according to FEC records. Many members of Congress and presidential aspirants have leadership PACs that allow them to raise money for travel and other expenses, but they do not permit unlimited outside fundraising like super PACs.
...

“Look at all the amateur super PACs that have formed over the last few years,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked with super PACs and outside groups — and who did not want to be seen as criticizing the earnAest efforts of fellow liberals.
“I’m sure they’re all started by some very well-intentioned people, but most have simply fizzled,” the strategist said. “It’s hard to raise any kind of money without professional connections, not to mention keeping up with all the legal requirements necessary to stay in good standing.”
The FEC has been more active of late in killing un-super PACs.
It pulled the plug this month on more than 300 groups that never raised a dime, including the United States Billionaires Super PAC, the United States Department of Homeland Security Employees Super PAC and the American Stock Exchange Listed Companies Super PAC. Two dozen of them were created by one Florida man alone

Saturday, March 30, 2013

NRSC's New Tactics in 2014

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) surveyed candidates, staff and consultants involved in 20 Senate races over the past three elections. The single biggest problem identified was poor communication support in dealing with the fast pace of modern campaigns, GOP strategists said.
For example, when candidates made gaffes in debates or local interviews, it would sometimes take days to repair the damage. The NRSC dispatched senior media advisers from Washington to stumbling campaigns in places such as North Dakota and Wisconsin in 2012 and Nevada and Kentucky in 2010.
They lost three of those races, and the NRSC postmortem determined that by the time the top advisers got to the states, it was too late to fix the problems. In 2014, they hope to avoid falling behind and to use the disparity in the number of seats up for grabs to their advantage.
...

The NRSC is planning at least eight boot camps for staff in states with competitive races. Kevin McLaughlin, a veteran operative hired to work with campaign staff around the country, will run the communications schools with an eye toward preventing mishaps. He will also be in charge of a kind of campaign fire department, charged with quickly putting out blazes once mistakes are made.
NRSC officials say they are also taking a new approach to contested primaries.
In 2010, the committee endorsed preferred candidates, only to see five of them defeated. In 2012, the NRSC chose to make no endorsements and provided only behind-the-scenes guidance to its preferred candidates.
This time, the committee intends to stay neutral unless a particularly undesirable nominee begins to emerge. In addition, if Democratic groups wade into GOP primaries to help a candidate they deem weaker and easier to beat, the NRSC promises to fight back.

DSCC and DCCC Seeks Moderates to Win GOP Seats


Alex Roarty writes at National Journal that DCCC is seeking pickups in red districts:
They’re targeting 15 congressional districts—many in red states such as Kentucky and Arkansas—that they believe offer greater opportunity for success in a midterm year.
The reason for their optimism, they say, is that during presidential campaigns, the unpopularity of national Democrats in these culturally conservative areas acts as a millstone that weighs down local Democratic hopefuls. Absent that focus on Washington, Democrats running for office can better craft the independent image necessary to win in otherwise Republican-leaning districts.
It’s a trend exacerbated by President Obama, who has accelerated the widening gap in popularity between local Democrats and the national party—particularly in regions of the country like Appalachia. His absence from the ticket could offer a bigger boost for a handful of Democrats than they would normally expect in an off-year race.
The DCCC’s strategy invites skepticism: Some of the targets are in stoutly Republican districts, and many of them have an entrenched incumbent. And Obama, even if he’s not on the ballot, is still very much the president—as Republicans will constantly point out. But for a party facing a narrow path to regain 17 seats and the majority, pulling a few surprises in these races could be essential.
Also at National Journal, Michael Catalini writes of DSCC's similar red-state approach:
The efforts to woo a moderate Democrat to defeat McConnell are part of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s plans to compete in the most inhospitable territory for Democrats -- for open seats in Georgia, South Dakota, West Virginia, and possibly, even in Kentucky against the powerful and well-funded Senate minority leader. Facing a challenging political landscape in 2014, the party is close to landing credible candidates in all of those states.
The DSCC doesn’t divulge details about its recruitment strategy, arguing that many of the media reports about its preferred candidates are hogwash. But it’s clear that, in the spirit of former Chairman Chuck Schumer, it is playing an active role behind-the-scenes to ensure that electable Democrats emerge as nominees.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Senate Delegations

At Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg writes:
There probably isn’t a better demonstration of the nation’s partisan political polarization than the makeup of the Senate. Only 17 states have split delegations, while 33 states have either two Republicans or two Democrats (or two senators who caucus with the same party, in the case of independents).

Compare those numbers to the Senate makeup three decades ago, and the change is clear. After the 1982 elections, 24 states had split delegations, while 26 had two members of the same party.

Some of the changes show how state (and national) politics have evolved.

Thirty years ago, Kentucky had two Democratic senators, Walter Huddleston and Wendell Ford. But in 1984, Ronald Reagan carried the state by almost 20 points, running so strongly that he helped drag in an obscure GOP Senate nominee. That upset winner, Mitch McConnell, narrowly defeated Huddleston to begin the state’s transformation into a Republican stronghold in federal races.
...
After the 1982 elections, most Southern Senate seats were split between the parties. The exceptions were Arkansas and Louisiana, with two Democrats each, and North Carolina and Virginia, with two Republicans each.

Now, the only Southern states with split Senate delegations are Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Each of those states has a Democratic senator up for re-election, and in the current partisan environment, that’s an obvious problem for those incumbent

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Focus Groups on Immigration Reform

Resurgent Republic discusses four focus groups on immigration reform with Republican primary voters in Des Moines, Iowa, and Greenville, South Carolina.  Findings:
  1. Republican primary voters strongly support legal immigration and are receptive to messages advocating the values and benefits of such policies. 
  2. Universally deporting undocumented immigrants is viewed as an impractical solution in fixing the immigration system. 
  3. A pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is acceptable to Republican primary voters if it is an earned process and fair to those who are already legally in the system. 
  4. Republican primary voters believe any immigration reform plan must secure the border and not offer public assistance incentives to undocumented immigrants. 
  5. Like the electorate at large, the issue of immigration reform is not the top priority for Republican primary voters, but they do believe Republicans should lead on immigration reform. 
  6. The Republican base recognizes the need for their party to broaden its support in order to remain politically relevant. 
Few things bring clarity of thought like defeat. Participants rattled off several reasons as to why President Obama won reelection, including messaging, candidate quality, media bias, and the president's personal popularity. Republicans' deficit among women and non-white voters also made the list. Several participants made the case for Republican candidates to do a better job appealing to the Hispanic community.
In South Carolina, one voter said Republicans "need to take out ads on Spanish language television" and "explain this is who we are and what we believe." One Iowa women concluded, "What the Republicans need to do is present to Hispanic voters their beliefs." The Hispanic community is not monolithic and polling shows many prefer a more activist role of government, but in order to appeal to swing Latino voters the Republican base sees the need to show up. One Palmetto State woman set the scene for failing do so, "If we continue to be so off in the corner, that's where we’re going to stay."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2014 Update

From The Washington Post:
Update: Ashley Judd has announced via Twitter that she will not run for Senate. “After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family,” she wrote.
... 

A source close to Judd said that Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes’s interest in potential race made the decision not to run easier. “The timing just wasn’t right,” said the source.
Judd’s potential candidacy against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) drew national headlines. While she received encouragement from the likes of Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, other Democrats in the state expressed apprehension about her candidacy.
Catalina Camia writes at USA Today:
GOP strategist Rob Jesmer looks at states where there will be elections in 2014 and proclaims some optimism the Republican Party can win the Senate majority.

Democrats have to defend 21 Senate seats next year and seven are in red-leaning states won by Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Those seven states include South Dakota, where Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson announced his retirement Tuesday.

On the GOP side, there are 14 seats needing protection and only one — held by moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine — is in a state President Obama won in November.

"Right now, I'd rather be us than them," said Jesmer, a former executive director of the Senate GOP campaign committee.
Pew reports:
Barack Obama’s job approval rating has tumbled since shortly after his re-election, as the public’s economic expectations for the coming year have soured. Despite substantial public awareness of recent gains in the stock market and rebounding real-estate values, the percentage saying economic conditions will get worse over the next year has risen to its highest point in nearly eight years.

Obama’s job approval measure has fallen eight points since December, from 55% to 47%. His rating is comparable to George W. Bush’s (45%) at the same point early in his second term and is much lower than Bill Clinton’s 60% rating in February 1997.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that despite Obama’s lower job rating, he retains greater public confidence than congressional Republicans in dealing with the budget deficit: 53% express at least a fair amount of confidence in him to handle the budget, compared with 39% who express the same confidence in GOP leaders.
At Fox News, Chris Stirewalt writes that Obama's current trajectory resembles that of his first term, which resulted in the 2010 GOP takeover of the House.  He rebounded once he had a GOP foil, winning a modest victory in November 2012.
Obama came out swinging, pushing a suite of tax increases and big changes on the top liberal priorities: gun control, gay marriage and global warming. Obama’s new aggressive stance carried over to automatic reductions to automatic increases in federal spending, with the president doing his darndest to punish Republicans for the consequences of the 2011 debt deal he had struck.
Meanwhile, the most consequential but least discussed part of Obama’s December tax deal – an across-the-board increase in federal payroll taxes – kicked in. As households in the median income range saw their take-home pay drop by $40 a week, gas prices shot up by 50 cents.
U.S. personal income dropped 3.6 percent in January, the steepest decline since 2006. At the same time, the cost of a tank of regular unleaded climbed by $10. While this combination was sinking its teeth into the wallets of middle-class Americans, the president was pushing a more liberal agenda and demanding more federal spending despite growing concerns about debt.
Voters, predictably, recoiled.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

America Rising: Details


At The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin talks to Tim Miller and Joe Pounder of America Rising:
They plan on instigating nothing less than a revolution in the way the right does and uses oppo research. They are keen on connecting research to communication and every other aspect of campaigns. Pounder tells me, “It must be responsive to the news cycle and polling.” Miller jokes that “research has been people sitting in a dungeon or going through trash cans” and then funneling the information up to a press person to send out in a mass e-mail. Miller says, “Now you have to drive the news cycle.”
...
The Democrats fostered what Miller and Pounder call a whole information “ecosystem” that includes American Bridge, left-wing blogs and a receptive mainstream media. They also have a culture of sharing information, best practices and data use among groups as diverse as the Human Rights Campaign and J Street. The right needs to arm itself with comparable tools.
American Rising has two parts: One is an limited liability company that Pounder will oversee and will supply clients (which could conceivably include everyone from the Republican National Committee to groups such as Club for Growth) with opposition material on Democrats. In trying to catch up with the left’s technology advantage, Pounder sees his operation as a “laboratory for technology” that includes people in fields outside of politics.
Miller will be running the other part, a PAC. He says, “We need an independent organization that can drive the toughest negative narrative against Democrats.” That means a Web site and outreach to news outlets of all types.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dems in 1989, Reps in 2013

There is still a good deal of commentary about the GOP "rebranding." At The Washington Post, Dan Balz writes about the parallels between today's GOP and the post-1988 Democrats:
Those parallels come from William Galston of the Brookings Institution, who was one of a number of Democrats who prodded the party in the late 1980s to change course. With Elaine Kamarck, now also at Brookings, he co-wrote a 1989 paper titled “The Politics of Evasion.” Their paper set out to shatter myths about why the Democrats had lost so consistently — that they had “strayed” from liberal orthodoxy or that nothing was fundamentally wrong because they still held control of the House.
Galston said the other day that parties go through a series of phases before they remake themselves. The first is denial. That no longer describes the Republicans. They awoke after Mitt Romney’s loss, recognizing they were in trouble.
“I think the Republican Party is now in phase two,” Galston said, “and phase two is always dominated by the proposition of: ‘While we have problems, cosmetic or mechanical changes will solve the problems.’ ” Changes like reframing the message, or finding a better messenger or doing something to catch up on the techniques of data mining, analytics, micro-targeting and voter mobilization. Those are essential but not close to the whole solution.
Kamarck argued that there is another false path for the Republicans — the belief that their problems are the result of a charismatic opponent.
Democrats comforted themselves with that notion after losing a second time to Reagan. Michael Dukakis’s loss to George H.W. Bush in 1988 exploded that excuse. 
But the 1988 example points to another excuse:  that the other side won by playing dirty.  To this day, some Democrats think that Bush won because of Willie Horton.  A variant of the theme -- which we saw after the 2004 election -- is that the other side's technical sorcery was the cause of its victory.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Caution About Reform

University of Virginia professor James Ceaser says the four national institutions the Framers created were Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency and the presidential selection system based on the electoral college. The fourth, wherein the selection of candidates and election of a president by each state’s electors occurred simultaneously — they were the same deliberation — soon disappeared.
Since the emergence of the party system in the 1790s, and the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, candidates have been selected by several different processes. First by their party’s congressional caucuses; then by nominating conventions controlled by the party’s organizations; then by conventions influenced by primaries and caucuses (Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the 1968 Democratic nomination without entering any primaries); and, since 1972, entirely by primaries and caucuses that have made conventions nullities.
Will notes that because the protracted 2012 nomination process may have hurt Romney, RNC is proposing to shorten it:
The party, however, must balance two imperatives. One is the need to enlarge the number of voters participating in the process. Hence the suggestion that primaries should replace all nominating caucuses and conventions — events where ideologically motivated activists and insurgent candidates can more easily predominate.
The party’s second imperative is to preserve opportunities for less-known and financially challenged candidates to break through. This is where government restrictions on campaign contributions restrict the range of candidates from which voters can choose.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

OFA Controls @BarackObama Twitter Account

Organizing for Action is in the news again, Aaron Blake reports at The Washington Post:
[In] another example of the often-blurry lines between politicians and independent outside groups, Obama has effectively begun sharing his eponymous @BarackObama Twitter account with the group, and he will continue to tweet on it, according to an Organizing for Action spokeswoman.
Organizing for Action says it now controls the account, which has nearly 29 million followers and previously served as Obama’s personal and campaign account. The bio for @BarackObama says “This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the President are signed -bo.”
Organizing for Action spokeswoman Katie Hogan confirmed that the feed will continue to feature Obama’s tweets, as it did when it was run by his campaign.
...
“The fact that President Obama’s Twitter account is being managed by Organizing for Action is one more example that shows that OFA is functioning as an unprecedented, privately funded arm of the presidency that accepts unlimited contributions from wealthy donors,” said Fred Wertheimer, head of the Democracy 21 watchdog group. “OFA represents bad public policy and a terrible precedent for the future, as other federal officeholders can be expected to go down this dangerous path.”
Melanie Sloan, the head of another watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Obama might even be breaking the law.
“By outsourcing President Obama’s tweets, the White House might well be violating the Presidential Records Act, which requires preservation of presidential records,” Sloan said.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gingrich and Santorum Almost Formed a Unity Ticket


Joshua Green writes at Bloomberg Business Week:
It’s one of the great untold stories of the 2012 presidential campaign, a tale of ego and intrigue that nearly upended the Republican primary contest and might even have produced a different nominee: As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney. “We were close,” former Representative Bob Walker, a Gingrich ally, says. “Everybody thought there was an opportunity.” “It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign,” says John Brabender, Santorum’s chief strategist.

But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president. “In the end,” Gingrich says, “it was just too hard to negotiate.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

America Rising


CNN reports on the latest iteration of the iron law of emulation:  Republicans are launching their own version of American Bridge.
Now, in the wake of an RNC report calling on the party to modernize its hobbled and outdated infrastructure, three Republicans are stepping into the research void to launch a conservative counterweight to American Bridge.

The new GOP research outfit is called "America Rising," and it will be helmed by Romney's former campaign manager Matt Rhoades, who earned his stripes in politics as an opposition research specialist at the RNC.

Rhoades will be joined in the venture by two of Washington's leading young media strategists, Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, both of whom recently left the RNC's communications shop.

The organization plans to immediately begin training its sights on potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, along with focusing on Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates in the near term.

"We plan to start this enterprise because so many Republicans seem to agree that there is a need on our side of the aisle for an entity that is focused on solely holding Democrats accountable for their actions and records using research, candidate tracking, rapid response and digital tools," Rhoades told CNN in a statement.

The RNC's so-called "autopsy" report released last week, which studied the party's failings during last year's campaign, called for a "well-funded" research and video tracking organization that "does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats."
America Rising, which bills itself as "a permanent research infrastructure" for the Republican Party and conservative organizations, would seem to fill that space.

After Hope, Change, and the Honeymoon

Barack Obama’s job approval rating has tumbled since shortly after his re-election, as the public’s economic expectations for the coming year have soured. Despite substantial public awareness of recent gains in the stock market and rebounding real-estate values, the percentage saying economic conditions will get worse over the next year has risen to its highest point in nearly eight years.
Obama’s job approval measure has fallen eight points since December, from 55% to 47%. His rating is comparable to George W. Bush’s (45%) at the same point early in his second term and is much lower than Bill Clinton’s 60% rating in February 1997.
Chris Cillizza writes at The Washington Post that the president's supporters had been counting on a second honeymoon.
Of late, however, the optics surrounding sequestration seem to have negatively impacted President Obama — with a new CNN poll showing his job approval rating dipping below 50 percent for the first time since September 2012.
And, there is more evidence that the national conversation has taken a turn for the worst for President Obama in the last two weeks. Using the “National Dialogue Monitor” (a tool that “tracks every time a celebrity, organization, issue or corporation is mentioned across all media channels — television, radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites and social networks — measuring the associated volume, tone, and topics of each tracked entity”), the Republican consulting firm TargetPoint has built a chart that makes this very point. (Click on graphic for a bigger version.)
What the graphic shows is that “spending cuts” have been the dominant topic of discussion related to President Obama so far this month and that much of the sentiment around that conversation has been negative. Ditto “drones”, “taxes” and “Israel-Palestine”. The most talked-about issue where Obama is winning positive sentiment is, interestingly, the economy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More on 2014 Senate Races

Stuart Rothenberg offers some perspective on a phenomenon that a previous post noted:
A recent National Journal item caught my attention. Entitled “Expanding the Map,” it began: “When Republicans gloat about the seven Democratic-held, red-state Senate seats up in 2014, Democrats can note that only six of their incumbents have lost since the 1990s.”
The statement is true … but potentially misleading.
Yes, over the past seven elections, Republicans have defeated only six Democratic senators seeking re-election. But there are two reasons for that. First, political waves have favored Democrats more than Republicans over the past dozen years. And second, weak Republican candidates who emerged from ideological primaries failed to win very winnable races.
At Politico, James Hohmann identifies four things the GOP must do in order to retake the Senate:

  • Knock off some red-state Democrats (e.g., Pryor and Hagan)
  • Expand the map (e.g., Franken and Shaheen);
  • Capitalize on retirements (e.g., the Rockefeller and Harkin seats)
  • Don't blow safe seats.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Priebus Interview



At Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty writes:

"How many divisions does the pope have?" The number is the same as the number of votes that RNC chairman Reince Priebus controls in the House and Senate.
Oh, sure, Priebus might be able to get any member of the House or Senate to take his calls, and he can try to persuade GOP officeholders. But the national party committees don't really set policy. So I don't quite understand why somebody would get up in arms about the RNC "Growth and Opportunity Project" hinting or outright suggesting that the party should embrace comprehensive immigration reform or comments that appear to suggest supporting gay marriage is fine with Priebus.
I can understand disagreeing with Priebus. I can't get my head around thinking that his opinion changes the policy stances of any current or future GOP officeholder.
...
In the end, policy comes from the folks who get elected. This means that the Republican party's stance on illegal immigration, gay marriage, and every other issue under the sun is set by the folks who are in office, and the folks who are trying to get into office in the midterms or off-year elections. Priebus isn't going to withhold RNC funds from an electable candidate because he opposes some comprehensive immigration deal, and he's not going to withhold funds from candidates on either side of the gay-marriage issue. You're going to have Republicans running on different issues and themes depending upon whether they're running in Silicon Valley or West Virginia.
The so-called "Washington insiders" aren't nearly as powerful as they're painted by those who oppose them the loudest. Just ask Senator Mike Castle, Senator Sue Lowden, Senator Jane Norton . . .



Monday, March 18, 2013

RNC, Data, Digital

The Wall Street Journal reports that Karl Rove is helping a group of Silicon Valley investors with a project ot create a digital platform for targeting contributors and voters.
The Silicon Valley venture, led by former Bain & Co. executive and private-equity investor Richard Boyce, with Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy serving as an adviser, is part of a core team working with the RNC to develop a central digital campaign tool that all Republican candidates and organizations can use in future elections.
...
The Rove-supported venture hasn't been distilled into a legal entity, and participants say its mission is still being refined. But one executive involved said the intent is to create an interactive platform with multiple applications to digest the GOP's trove of data on voters, so that campaigns can better identify, persuade and motivate supporters.
The digital effort dovetails with the RNC's own quest to create a better repository of voter data and a set of tools that Republican candidates and vendors can use as they build their own campaigns around the country. People involved in the discussions say that the Silicon Valley group could end up being the organization that creates and manages the repository and related digital tools. What role the RNC would play remains undetermined. PACs and other outside groups may be able to raise more money for such an effort than is the RNC, because of changes in campaign-finance practices.
"We are working within the party to create a big toolbox that can compete in the midterms and be used by all," said Mr. Boyce, who was a significant fundraiser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign last year.
According to the RNC report:


Another consistent theme that emerged from our conversations related to mechanics is the immediate need for the RNC and Republicans to foster what has been referred to as an "environment of intellectual curiosity" and a "culture of data and learning," and the RNC must lead this effort. We need to be much more purposeful and expansive in our use of research and more sophisticated in how we employ data across all campaign and Party functions. No longer can campaign activities be compartmentalized or "siloed" in a way that makes sharing resources and knowledge less efficient.

P

Media in 2012

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has a new report on the state of the media.  One section deals with the 2012 race:
1) In the 2012 race for the White House, journalists played a smaller role in shaping what voters heard about the presidential candidates. In the 2012 campaign, only about one quarter of the statements in the media about the character and records of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney came directly from journalists while about half came from political partisans. In 2000, half of the statements about the presidential candidates came from the media and only about one-third from the partisans.
2) The candidates and their allies used that leverage to push negative messages about their opponent through the media. Almost three-quarter of the statements about each candidate’s character and record were negative compared with less than 30% positive. In 2008, most of those statements about Obama were positive while McCain’s was moderately more negative than positive.
3) Horserace coverage was down, but coverage of the issues didn’t fill that gap. In 2012, the amount of coverage devoted to tactics, strategy and polls declined to 38%, down from 53% in 2008. But that attention to policy issues—both foreign and domestic—barely budged, inching up from to 22% in 2012 compared with 20% four years earlier.
4) Obama made greater use of social media messaging than Romney, but the overall conversation in social media was negative toward both men. In the period studied by Pew Research, for example, the Obama team produced about 25 times more Twitter posts than the Romney campaign. But on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, users were consistently more negative than positive about both candidates—although Romney fared somewhat worse.
5) More spending on political ads did not translate into a bigger audience for media outlets. A record $2.9 billion was spent on political advertising on local television, but news audiences fell in the key local news timeslots. The overall audience for broadcast network news also declined and on the three major cable news channels, CNN, MSNC and Fox News, the overall audience barely inched up.

GOP Self-Study


In its "Growth and Opportunity Project" report (another site here) the Republican National Committee candidly studies the party's setbacks:
The GOP today is a tale of two parties. One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.
Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. States in which our presidential candidates used to win, such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida, are increasingly voting Democratic. We are losing in too many places.
It has reached the point where in the past six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 211 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to Democrats’ 113.1
Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Great Moments in Outreach

On August 8, 1977, Newsweek reported:
Bob Dole meant to win black friends with his conciliatory speech to the National Urban League last week, but he committed a gaffe that undid his mea culpas. "We may have gotten what we deserved in terms of the black vote in 1976," the Republican Vice Presidential candidate began. ". . . I'll confess we haven't done enough. I promise we'll do more. We can't run with Lincoln any more." Unfortunately, Dole's speech didn't end there. "Vernon [Jordon] said he was sending a warning to both parties," the Kansas senator declared. "We got ours. We got ours in spades." There was an audible ripple of groans. "That's not offensive to me," Dole said later. "In the Midwest that means we were clobbered . . . I don't think it's anything at all unless somebody makes something of it."

Newt, Inc. in 2013

When Newt Gingrich’s fundraising powerhouse, American Solutions for Winning the Future, shut down in 2011, it didn't disappear. It turns out that it just went through metamorphosis.

Gingrich -- who speaks at CPAC tomorrow morning -- left American Solutions to run for president, and its fundraising dried up. Apparently the group decided that the time was ripe for are christening as a "social welfare" group, or 501(c)(4), under the tax code, according to reports to the IRS that were recently released. The new group would not have to file regular, timely reports detailing its receipts and expenditures, as it did in its incarnation as a 527 organization. In fact, it would not have to disclose its donors at all.

The new social welfare group has precisely the same mission as the old 527. It claims to be a "tri-partisan citizen action network creating the next generation of solutions that will ensure that the United States remains the safest, most free and prosperous country in the world." ("[M]ost free" was “freest” on the old group's forms.)

But if the 527 was having trouble raising money without Gingrich, there’s no indication that the new version of the group is doing any better. It raised just $500,000 in 2011, spending roughly $106,000. However, since social welfare organizations report their financial information almost a year after the spending actually takes place, the public will probably have to wait until the fall of this year to learn how the new group did in 2012.

The old American Solutions raised more than $50 million in four years, much of which went to pay Gingrich's travel expenses and otherwise boost his political profile.
See here for a mention of a for-profit wing of Newt, Inc., Gingrich Productions.

GOP Foreign Policy

Michael Shear writes in The New York Times about Rand Paul and Republican debates on foreign policy:
The split in the party was on display in muted terms here on Thursday at the opening session of the Conservative Political Action Conference when Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a possible presidential candidate in 2016, expressed concern about a return to isolationism. Without mentioning Mr. Paul directly, Mr. Rubio said that the United States “can’t solve every war” but added that “we also can’t be retreating from the world.”
Moments later, Mr. Paul told the conference that the filibuster he conducted last week over the Obama administration’s drone policy was aimed at the limits on presidential power and American power abroad. “No one person gets to decide the law,” he said.
Some Republicans are so nervous about the positions championed by Mr. Paul and his supporters that they have begun talking about organizing to beat back primary challenges from what Dan Senor, a veteran of the younger Mr. Bush’s team of foreign policy advisers, described as a push to reorient the party toward a “neo-isolationist” foreign policy. That policy, Mr. Senor said, “is sparking discussions among conservative donors, activists and policy wonks about creating a political network to support internationalist Republicans.”
This story is an excellent account of disagreements among elected officials and party activists.  But do these disagreements matter much to rank-and-file voters?  Polling data provide some reasons for doubt:






Friday, March 15, 2013

Tech and RNC

Politico reports:

A top GOP official on Thursday urged a hastily organized gathering of about three dozen conservative digital experts to stop causing negative publicity about the party’s technology problems because it could hurt fundraising, two people present told POLITICO.
Mike Shields, hired about two weeks ago as chief of staff for the Republican National Committee, held forth in the Reagan conference room at party headquarters with several major figures present, including current digital director Tyler Brown and Zac Moffatt, digital chief of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Sources described the meeting as “tense” and aimed at “pre-damage control.” It opened with Shields giving out his email address and cell phone number and exhorting his audience to come to him — not journalists — with issues.

“He definitely said something along the lines of, ‘We can’t afford to have people going out and generating negative publicity and hurting our fundraising,’ ” one attendee said. “He said to stop telling people who really don’t understand what’s going on and telling people who don’t understand digital technology. The whole event seemed pressured to quell discussions with the media in general.”
Prompting the meeting was an earlier Politico report on how RNC plans to address its digital deficit:
The most specific promise, for instance, is to hire a digital director — dubbed a “chief technology officer” — who will be well-funded and empowered to be bold and innovative. That is regarded by many with cautious optimism, a hope that the party really means it this time, tempered by a sense of déjà vu. The RNC is regarding such a hire as an important new idea, but Republican strategists have been clamoring for it since Election Day and believe someone should already be in place.
“It’s almost like their quote is the same quote as before they hired Todd Herman and Cyrus Krohn,” said Vince Harris, newly hired digital director for the reelection campaign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), referring to prior RNC tech figureheads. “My worry with the whole thing is that the RNC is looking at photo ops and flashy hires and sound bites, throwing out data and that at the end of the day that it’s hard to really change the culture of a sitting institution. And that’s what needs to be done.”
The sentiment was echoed by another prominent Republican digital expert, who asked not to be named because of working ties to the RNC. “Meet the old boss, same as the new boss,” the strategist said. “Every two years they have this new great person who’s going to change it. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Christie on Outreach

John Avlon writes about Chris Christie at The Daily Beast:
Christie issued an implicit rebuttal of the CPAC vision earlier this week at a town hall in Paterson, New Jersey. In a state that voted for President Obama by 17 points, Paterson is the bluest of blue districts. Four years ago, Christie received just 11% of the vote in the largely African-American city. But unlike other Republicans who avoid urban areas where they enjoy little support, Christie reaches out and plays offense, directly addressing that support deficit and sending the message that he is the Governor of all New Jerseyans. The result was a minor classic, and a clear contrast with the CPAC purges of anyone who doesn’t toe the line perfectly.
In one highlight, Christie spoke about why he was speaking at such a Democratic stronghold by recounting the advice a former mentor gave him when a younger Christie questioned the wisdom of visiting the New York Times editorial board. “You’re going to get a beating over there,” Christie remembered saying. “He said to me, ‘No, no, Chris, you don’t get it.’ He said, ‘I’m going over there, because it’s harder to hate up close.’”

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 82

And, so– you know, my goal is not to chase– a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we’re gonna be bringin’ in more revenue. If we’ve controlled spending and we’ve got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance. But it’s not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families who’ve got disabled kids. That’s not the right way to balance–
The president has frequently mentioned people on whose backs he does not want to balance the budget.

  • "That's why I think it would be such a huge mistake to balance the budget on the backs of students, by cutting scholarships by as much as $1,000, forcing students to go without them altogether." -- April 19, 2011
  • "We can't balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession." -- August 2, 2011
  • "But I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans." -- August 30, 2011
  • "We didn't shortchange essential investments or balance the budget on the backs of the middle class or the poor. " -- September 21, 2011
  • "But I'm not going to balance the budget on the backs of the poor or the disabled or the vulnerable or ask middle class families to pay higher taxes to pay for a tax cut for me or Mr. Romney." -- July 5, 2012 
  • "But you know what, we are not just going to cut and balance the budget on the backs of middle class families, asking them to pay more taxes, asking them to suddenly not get help when it comes to sending their kids to college." -- July 6, 2012 
  • "Because I believe the American people understand, I believe the American people understand that yes, we need to reduce the deficit, but it shouldn't just be on the backs of seniors; it shouldn't just be on the backs of young people who are trying to get a college education; it should not just be on the backs of parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life..." -- February 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kentucky Senate Race

Mitch McConnell comes out of the gate with a response ad to bigoted attacks on his wife:



National Journal reports:
The honeymoon is over for Ashley Judd.
At a time when Democrats in Washington are having second thoughts about embracing Ashley Judd as their standard-bearer against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, Kentucky Democrats are waving red flags about the actress, arguing that her candidacy plays into the GOP’s strengths and tarnishes the party brand in the Bluegrass State.
...
“Electing Ashley Judd gets a Republican Legislature elected. That's what I see at stake here. Your perspective is different if you're in New York or Los Angeles. They don't live here. We do. Judd's candidacy makes it seamlessly easy to Obama-ize this election,” one Kentucky Democratic strategist said.

Crossroads v. Obama and OFA

The Crossroads groups have been going after President Obama and Organizing for Action:

 

"A Nonpartisan Organization"

Jon Carson, the executive director of Organizing for Action, makes an extraordinary claim in USA Today:
We are not a partisan organization; we will hold both Republicans and Democrats accountable to ensure that they are advancing the agenda endorsed by the majority of the American people. We are not a political organization, and our focus is issues, not elections. 
The claim echoes that of another pro-Obama group:
Americans United For Change is a platform for patriotic voices from all along the ideological spectrum: people who care about America and believe we are stronger united rather than divided; moving forward rather than standing still. We are not a partisan organization nor are we allied with any political party. Together, we will amplify our voices so the priorities of working people can no longer be ignored by the powerful. Our goal is simple: a government that works for all of us.
Factcheck.org says: "Americans United for Change is a liberal group whose message closely mirrors that of the Obama White House."

There is an old precedent on the other side.  The Christian Science Monitor reported on January 25, 1984:
President Ronald Reagan soon may have his own well-organized team of cheerleaders in each of the nation's 435 congressional districts. That is the goal of a conservative, grass-roots lobbying force now taking shape across the United States.
Citizens For America (CFA), which first sprouted last summer at the behest of the President, is dedicated to supporting and promoting Reagan policies ''for economic growth and a strong national defense.''
The organization, headed by Lewis E. Lehrman, the millionaire Republican businessman and New York GOP gubernatorial nominee, plans an ongoing two-dimensional program in behalf of its cause.
''We are a nonpartisan civic group banded together in the common interest of building a stronger America,'' explains former Boston Mayor John F. Collins, a member of the CFA national steering committee.
The Massachusetts Democrat, emphasizing the goal is to bring together those who believe in the same principles whether they be Republican, Democratic, or independent, declared: ''We are pro-life, pro-family, pro-liberty, pro-economic growth, pro-free enterprise, pro-jobs, and pro-strong defense.''
Messrs. Lehrman and Collins make it clear they feel President Reagan is on the right track in his leadership of the nation.
They deny vehemently, however, that theirs is a single-candidate force, explaining they will not endorse political candidates, not even President Reagan.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Republican in a Latino District

The Wall Street Journal reports on Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM):
Many conservatives have since concluded that if the party can get immigration off the table, Hispanics will give the GOP a new look.
Mr. Pearce agrees, but he contends that changes in policy platforms aren't enough to reverse the party's decline among voters like those in his district. Republicans must spend time in Latino neighborhoods with the respectful attentiveness of a small-town mayor. 
"We have to sell ourselves," he said. It will take hard work, he added, because the majority of Hispanics are "spring-loaded" to favor the Democrats and their more expansive view of government. 
...

Mr. Pearce's success among voters here, even those who disagree with him, underscores the hope and the difficulty of the task. Mr. Pearce said he logged more than 90,000 road miles in his district last year, a travel regimen that often separates him from his wife for weeks.

When describing his brand of constituent service in a district that is larger than the state of Florida, Mr. Pearce said, "I see myself as a big windshield wiper, just working my way back and forth, back and forth."
...

Bald and bespectacled, he has won the southern half of New Mexico five times since 2002. In November, he nabbed around 42% of the Hispanic vote, or nearly twice what Mitt Romney received nationally, and better than Republican Susana Martinez's share when she won the New Mexico governor's race in 2010, according to various polls.

No non-Hispanic House Republican represents a district with a higher percentage of Hispanics. Fewer than four in 10 residents of the district are Anglo, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by six percentage points.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gun Control and the Senate Majority

AP reports that Max Baucus (D-MT) and other Democrats could face political trouble over gun control.
From Montana to Louisiana, these anxious voters have made at least six Democratic senators a little uneasy heading into next year's election season. Both sides are aware that gun-owners' rights are taking shape as a campaign issue that could shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

"Make no mistake – it is a very delicate dance for rural state Democrats," said Barrett Kaiser, a Democratic political consultant.
"I would be stunned if the Montana congressional delegation said anything but `hell no' to gun control measures," he added.
Part of the concern comes from a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips. The plan is a response to calls for new gun restrictions from President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school.
Gun control is a top-agenda item for many Democrats, and they'll need all the votes they can to push changes.
Baucus knows, though, that a gun control vote "opens the door for whoever challenges him, because Montanans do not want the federal government restricting guns. That is clear as day," said Republican state Rep. Scott Reichner, who was Mitt Romney's campaign chairman in Montana.
"It would be a monumental mistake on his part" to support federal gun control legislation, Reichner said.
Gun rights carry sway in Montana. The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says Montana "boasts more hunters per capita than any other state in the nation." State lawmakers have been discussing measures to expand gun rights. And a pro-gun group, the Montana Shooting Sports Association, has set up a website that is updated with Baucus' public statements on gun policy.
Other Democratic senators that Republicans are watching closely include Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Polling and NRCC Strategery!

In 2012, Democrats did well at polling and analytics while Republicans suffered from did poorly. GOP responses are under way. Politico reports:
The National Republican Congressional Committee is the first GOP entity to take specific steps to try to rectify the party’s widely acknowledged polling debacle. Republican strategists confirmed after the end of the 2012 race that a huge slice of their survey data was based on flawed assumptions, and failed to anticipate the diversity and scale of turnout on the Democratic side.
The Republicans’ 17-seat House majority is their last bulwark against full Democratic control of the federal government, and senior party officials say they don’t intend to lose that firewall thanks to shoddy polling.
With that in mind, the NRCC has gathered its top pollsters for a series of meetings and conference calls in the first months of 2013, bringing together prominent commercial rivals for conversations about how to right an embattled political industry.
The cornerstone of their effort, officials say, is a large-scale NRCC project to model the electorate in the several dozen districts that will determine control of the House. The committee has formed a new Strategy Department tasked with projecting district-by-district population changes and mapping best- and worst-case turnout scenarios for campaigns to use in guiding their surveys.
The new division is organized under John Rogers, a former regional political director, and will work closely with the NRCC’s polling vendors in its modeling project.
The NRCC-organized talks between pollsters have also produced a set of standards and practices that campaigns will be urged to follow for 2014. Pollsters will be expected to have at least 30 percent of their samples made up of cell phone users, if not more – an attempt to capture more of the Democratic-leaning young voters who eluded GOP survey-gatherers last year.
In districts with significant Hispanic populations, party officials will urge campaigns to spring for Spanish-language call centers in order to survey less-assimilated Hispanic respondents who may not answer a poll in English.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rand Paul and the GOP Establishment

The political right has suffered from a romance deficit with the left for generations. The struggle against entrenched interests and insurmountable establishments has been the exclusive province of the left for as long as there has been an organized left. The young conservative, instinctively attracted to the struggle against perceived injustice, must always wrestle with and overcome their heart first in order to join the conservative movement. This is a fundamental impediment to the right’s ability to speak to the young voter.
...
Paul chipped away at the Democratic Party’s monopoly on romance yesterday. His actions broke through traditional firewalls that keep politics out of the homes of the nation’s marginally interested voters. He showed that the struggle for personal freedom is an idealistic pursuit. For a moment, the pervasive cynicism that has hardened voting patterns over the last two decades melted away. The political class will miss it, but the apolitical citizenry who could care less for what a consultant or a pundit says or thinks will not. The shift that Paul’s actions have ushered in will not remain imperceptible for long.
Rand Paul astutely lined up establishment support for his filibuster against John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA.  Shane Goldmacher and Beth Reinhard write at National Journal:
Paul, often accused of being a lone wolf on Capitol Hill, had laid some of the groundwork to win over the GOP establishment. McConnell and Co. knew the filibuster was coming, even if they did not know when precisely or what exactly it would look like.

Paul had personally informed some Republican senators that he planned to mount the talking filibuster the day before over lunch, said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a member of the GOP leadership. “The day before, he said that he was going to start talking until he couldn’t talk anymore,” Barrasso said. McConnell, meanwhile, put out the word to the conference that he was supportive of Paul’s efforts.

Still, Paul spoke solo on the Senate floor for more than three hours Wednesday before any of his colleagues joined in support. The first was Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, another tea-party darling from the class of 2010. The National Republican Senatorial Committee soon showed camaraderie by posting supportive messages on Twitter and an e-mail pitch urging donors to “#StandwithRand.” Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, also went down to the floor.

As afternoon turned to evening, a group of GOP senators crossed town for dinner with President Obama at the Jefferson Hotel. Paul stuck to the floor, demanding answers to the legal limits of America’s domestic drone program.

Momentum built on Twitter and in the conservative grassroots. His speechifying was labeled a “filiblizzard” on C-SPAN, after the snowstorm that had threatened the Capitol all day but never materialized. By late Wednesday, the #StandwithRand hashtag was trending across the globe on Twitter.

...
The outpouring of support climaxed at 11:43 p.m., minutes short of the filibuster’s 12-hour mark. That is when Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, typed out on Twitter: “Attention all Republican US Senators -->Please go to the floor and help out @SenRandPaul #StandwithRand.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reach for the House and Lose the Senate?

Josh Kraushaar has some sharp observations at National Journal:
President Obama’s advisers have telegraphed their goal to win control of the House in 2014, which would give the president unfettered control to advance his favored policies. But the bigger concern for the White House should be the more realistic possibility that they could lose the Senate in 2014 – an outcome that’s only enhanced by the president’s second-term strategy focusing on rallying the base over centrist governance.
...


Midterms are rarely favorable to second-term presidents, and this one is unlikely to be an exception. Democrats can’t afford to lose more than five Senate seats (net), and the party is defending seven seats in states that Mitt Romney carried, six of them by double-digit margins. Mobilizing base support on behalf of the president’s pet issues, such as gun control and immigration, will do more harm than good in these conservative strongholds, where Obama is deeply unpopular.
The Democrats’ hope is that weak, far-right challengers will cost Republicans again. It’s not unrealistic, given the growing GOP divisions and their record of the last two elections. But, so far, they’re on track with recruiting in these deeply conservative states. West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced her candidacy early and hasn’t drawn any primary opposition, despite the early hype. Rep. Bill Cassidy would be a credible candidate against Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, and has already stockpiled $2 million in his campaign account. Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is a formidable nominee, and if Sen. Tim Johnson retires, Democrats may need to referee a potential primary between his son Brendan and former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Republicans are growing more optimistic that freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, a favorite among national party leaders, may challenge Sen. Mark Pryor. (Fears of an unelectable tea-party nominee are higher in Alaska; and in Montana, Republicans’ best hope may be with a former state senator.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

OFA Reverses on Corporate Money

At CNN, OFA chief Jim Messina insists that there is a meaningful distinction between issue advocacy and express advocacy.  He also says that the group will not take corporate money after all.
There has been some confusion about what Organizing for Action is and is not. Organizing for Action is an issue advocacy group, not an electoral one. We'll mobilize to support the president's agenda, but we won't do so on behalf of political candidates. The president has always believed that special interests have undue influence over the policymaking process, and the mission of this organization is to rebalance the power structure.
While Organizing for Action is a nonprofit social welfare organization that faces a lower disclosure threshold than a political campaign, we believe in being open and transparent. That's why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis. We have now decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

GOP Wonks and Pols

At Politico, Jonathan Martin writes:
Almost daily, there is a fresh op-ed or magazine piece from the class of commentators and policy intellectuals urging Republicans to show a little intellectual leg and offer some daring and innovation beyond the old standbys of cutting income taxes and spending. It’s not that the eggheads are urging moderation — it’s more like relevance. The standard plea: The GOP will rebound only when it communicates to working-class and middle-class voters how its ideas will improve their lives.
But there is virtually no evidence that these impassioned appeals for change are being listened to by the audience that matters — Republican elected officials. With few exceptions, most of the GOP leadership in Washington is following a business-as-usual strategy. The language and tactics being used in this winter’s battles with President Barack Obama are tried-and-true Republican maxims that date back to the Reagan era or before. And that, say the wonks, spells political danger and more electoral decline.
...
“We had a false dawn from the 2010 midterm election,” said [former Bush aide Peter] Wehner, now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “It reinforced this belief from some people that dusting off the old Reagan playbook was the way to go, that we should be more ideological and concentrate more on cutting back government at the expense of other issues. That’s not unreasonable, but I think it was wrong.”
...

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor delivered a speech to the American Enterprise Institute last month touching on such topics as jobs training, overtime flexibility and education reform; and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has savaged the Washington GOP’s “obsession with government bookkeeping.”
But even these speeches are heavy on recycled conservative ideas (school vouchers in Cantor’s case; a balanced budget amendment is a Jindal favorite).
“They are an example of what’s both encouraging and discouraging,” said Wehner of Cantor and Jindal. “Their language is good, but the policy they’re proposing is old wine in new wineskin.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Leapfrogging"

The "tech gap" discussion goes on. Patrick Ruffini warns against those who say that Republicans should "leapfrog" the Democrats in digital politics.

When I was at the RNC, we got a visit from someone who is now the CEO of a major technology company, and who’s probably one of the five astutest players in the industry overall. When asked what the “next big thing” would be, the answer was “some combination of mobile and social networking.” Facebook was just catching on at the time, but that precise statement was a dead-on description of Twitter, which was maybe a few weeks old then. My knowledge of the technology industry at the time was pretty much limited to reading TechCrunch, but the prediction seemed perfectly obvious. If anything, it seemed too conservative. But it’s exactly what happened.
The same is true of digital politics. For the most part, we are not doing things in 2013 that would have seemed completely foreign a decade ago — but we have learned to do them better and at scale. For instance, email is still king. The main difference now is that the downside of screwing it up system-wide is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 
Take for instance what was probably the most imporant innovation of 2012, using large-scale analytical survey modeling to paint a real-time picture of the electorate. Dynamic modeling was an innovation… first introduced in Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign. This was five years ago. Republicans who claim to have been blindsided by the Obama 2012 machine forget that it was only an iteration of the 2008 Obama campaign, which digitally was an iteration of the 2003-4 Howard Dean campaign, whose ability to raise money via email was learned from MoveOn.org, which was founded in 1998. (I highly recommend Daniel Kreiss’s Taking Our Country Back for an unvarnished look at how all of this unfolded.) The progress of technology in politics is not a story of dramatic “leapfrogs” where people scrapped what had been done before, but of learning, tweaking, and iterating. There were no shortcuts. 2012 was a product of 2008 which was a product of 2004 which was a product of 1998. 

Team Red v. Ashley Judd

Politico reports on the early effort to counter Ashley Judd's possible race against Mitch McConnell:
This early opposition research effort seems as much about scaring Democrats nationally about a Judd candidacy as informing Kentuckians before Judd even decides to make the race.
“Ms. Judd has a bit of a habit of making bizarre comments and observations that will put Democratic officials and candidates across the country in uncomfortable positions,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. “As for Kentucky, well let’s just say that Ms. Judd’s comments are outlandish for Hollywood, never mind Covington.”
The latest of Judd’s unorthodox views to rise to the surface courtesy of the GOP is a 2006 statement about why she doesn’t have children — which Republicans say will not sit well in Kentucky. “It’s unconscionable to breed, with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries,” Judd said. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has been advising Judd, said that the actress was speaking for herself, and added that people in Kentucky understand the word “breeding.”
In a disjointed talk at George Washington University Friday, Judd, 44, may have given her opponents more fodder by referencing U2 rocker Bono, her dog being on a hunger strike and her extravagant travels. “We winter in Scotland. We’re smart like that,” she told students.
...
 McConnell strategists said the campaign is well aware that it has to walk a fine line between defining Judd negatively and appearing nasty. Privately, senior advisers say they were dismayed that Karl Rove — himself a controversial figure — chose to produce an online ad recently, ridiculing Judd as an “Obama following radical Hollywood liberal.” By comparison, McConnell’s first Web ad was a humorous riff on how the Democrats have been unable to find a candidate to run against McConnell, and it included a clip of Judd saying that Tennessee — not Kentucky — was home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

NRSC 2014

Roll Call reports:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee plans to expand its press operation to train campaigns earlier in the cycle on how to better handle the kind of candidate missteps that have plagued its party’s nominees.
The goal? To avoid what’s become known in GOP circles as “Todd Akin moments.”
“The campaigns that jumped off message not only infected themselves, they infected all the rest of the campaigns,” said Rob Collins, the new NRSC executive director, in his first extensive interview on the job. “So in this age of fractured but continuous, three-dimensional communication, we have to constantly plan for that and train for that and build for that.”
Collins, a former aide to Cantor, illustrates the interlocking personnel patterns of Team Red.
Two cycles removed from the Citizens United decision, Collins, the former president of the American Action Network super PAC, is well aware of the influence of outside groups and their effect on the role of campaign committees. There was no lack of attack ads, phone calls or mail last year when the party fell further into the Senate minority, and it’s made controlling the message more difficult for the committees.
Despite that, Collins said he believes the experience of the past four years in this new world will help.


“We don’t have to be the center of the basketball team anymore,” Collins said. “We can be the point guard. That’s why we’re making a massive investment in human beings.”
The emphasis on human capital this cycle will also include beefing up the digital department. In other words, don’t expect financial records to show a leaner, meaner NRSC.
“We lacked for technologically advanced campaigns that were being run by people who knew what they were doing ... and candidates who were on message and had the best tools at their disposal to win their campaigns,” Collins said. “So we’re doing that now. We’re getting on the road now.”