Search This Blog

Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another 501(c)(4)

Politico reports:
Google, Microsoft, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and other digital heavyweights increasingly are borrowing a favorite technique from the world of politics: secret money.
These top tech executives and their companies are embracing stealth, not-for-profit campaigns that can advertise and advance their pet causes — from tax and immigration reform to new online privacy laws — without ever disclosing a single donation.
The groups are known by their tax designation, 501(c)(4), and until recently, they've been the domain of entrenched players such as Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. But interest on Capitol Hill in regulating the burgeoning tech sector has convinced Silicon Valley's power brokers they too must adopt a form of political advocacy that once would have been anathema to the Washington-wary industry.

The most prominent new example is FWD.us, the Zuckerberg-helmed collection of tech luminaries pumping millions of dollars into local television markets with ads promoting immigration reform to oil drilling. It joins a list of groups — from a Microsoft-backed immigration effort, to a Google-supported privacy campaign — that are also playing the D.C. secret-money game.
If anything, the evolution highlights something of an irony: Even as Zuckerberg and other tech titans proselytize openness, many have closed off any public access to the full extent of their influence operations.

"Just like we've seen the tech world get slowly into lobbying … now we're seeing them get deeper into the Washington game," said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tea Party Study


Ronald B. Rapoport and colleagues have a new paper titled "Republican Factionalism and Tea Party Activists."  The abstract:
In this paper we examine Republican Party factional differences between Tea Party Republicans and non-Tea Party Republicans. We find, first, that at the mass level Tea Party supporters constitute a majority of Republican identifiers--particularly among those most active in Republican campaigns. We examine the large and significant differences between the two factions. We then turn to an examination of Tea Party (potential) activists, relying on a survey of almost 12,000 supporters of the largest Tea Party membership group: FreedomWorks.  lthough very similar to the mass sample of tea Party Republicans on issue positions, this group is  far more negative towards the Republican Party. We examine the sources of this negativity in ideology, issue priorities, partisanship and political style.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Democrats Lose on Sequestration

At The Washington Post, Ezra Klein writes:
The Democrats have lost on sequestration.
That’s the simple reality of Friday’s vote to ease the pain for the Federal Aviation Administration. By assenting to it, Democrats have agreed to sequestration for the foreseeable future.
In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it’s even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It’s worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the pain has not been that unbearable anyway:
President Barack Obama warned in March that across-the-board budget cuts would lead to significant pay cuts and furloughs for "hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country."
The layoffs finally kicked in this week—most notably at the Federal Aviation Administration, where furloughs of air-traffic controllers led to flight delays—yet many agencies have found ways to make the required savings and have spared government worker paychecks.
Agency chiefs, under pressure from the public and federal-employee unions, have cut travel and contractor spending, trimmed office hours and delayed some furloughs, achieving dramatic reductions from some of the dire predictions officials made earlier this year.
That is in addition to changes made by Congress to give some departments more flexibility in making cuts, or exempting them altogether, including Department of Agriculture food inspectors, Transportation Security Administration officers and prison guards. The moves have delayed the anticipated reckoning for the federal workforce—for this fiscal year, anyway.
"The initial announcements in March were very threatening and damaging, but we've been engaged with these agencies to mitigate the damage to the front-line workforce," said Peter Winch, deputy director of field services and education at the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The House: A GOP-Tilting Playing Field in 2014

Republicans have a strong edge in 2014 House races.  Not only did they control redistricting in key states, but more important, their vote is more efficiently distributed than the Democratic vote.  In many urban districts, Democrats win with more than 70 percent, meaning a huge number of wasted votes.

From FairVote:

The chart below shows the number of seats that the two major parties are likely to win if the 2014 election favors Democrats by 54% to 46% (like 2008), if it is an even partisan year, and if it is a year that favors Republicans by 54% to 46% (like 2010). Note the difference in effect between a 4% shift toward each of the two parties.
National Partisan Tilt
Seats Projected to Favor Republicans
Seats Projected to Favor Democrats
54% - 46% Democratic
(Democratic Year)
230   (127 safe)
205   (174 safe)
50% - 50% Balance
 (No Partisan Edge)
237   (201 safe)
198   (151 safe)
54% - 46% Republican
(Republican Year)
261   (230 safe)
174   (123 safe)

For more information on each individual congressional district and FairVote's methodology in producing these projections, see its Monopoly Politics 2014 spreadsheet - embedded online and also available fordownload. The spreadsheet allows users to manually change the overall partisan lean of the 2014 election, as shown in the chart above. It also gives users the capability to change the average advantage that incumbents will receive over challengers (the "incumbency bump"), reflecting the overall attitude of voters toward incumbents.

Friday, April 26, 2013

After Hope, Change, and Bush

Peggy Noonan writes:
When Bush left office, his approval rating was down in the 20s to low 30s. Now it's at 47%, which is what Obama's is. That is amazing, and not sufficiently appreciated. Yes, we are a 50-50 nation, but Mr. Bush left office in foreign-policy and economic failure, even cataclysm. Yet he is essentially equal in the polls to the supposedly popular president. Which suggests Republicans in general have some latent, unseen potential of which they're unaware. Right now they're busy being depressed. Maybe they should be thinking, "If Bush could come back . . ." Actually, forget I said that. Every time Republican political professionals start to think that way, with optimism, they get crude and dumb and think if they press certain levers the mice will run in certain directions.
Last week, Walter Russell Mead wrote:
It makes former Bush aide Peter Wehner really unhappy that anyone would criticize President W. Bush. In our latest essay, we noted that the Bush presidency remains widely unpopular and that national Bush fatigue remains a serious political problem for the Republican Party. We said that “more went right under Bush than most of his critics understood,” but counseled Republicans to spend less energy fighting what is pretty much a settled public judgment about the Bush administration and focus their attention on building for the future. We suggested that the GOP needs to talk about “lessons learned” and give the very large majority of Americans who consider the Bush administration a failure more reason to think that another Republican in the White House would mean something different.
Mr. Wehner’s response, entitled “Walter Russell Mead’s Shallow and Misleading Attack on the Bush Legacy,” is an impressive attempt to prove that everything popularly regarded as a Bush failure was in reality a great success.
The latter exchange may be of interest to writers, but is politically beside the point. As we explain in After Hope and Change, however, GOP politicians have been following Noonan's advice all along.  They seldom even mention his name.  Romney had scant ties to the administration, and Ryan coauthored a book that repeatedly said that the party had lost its way during the Bush years.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blue Collars

At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes that former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is a strong potential Senate candidate.  Democrats like him even though he's pro-gun.
No, the real reason Howard Dean and other progressive groups are so enthusiastic about Schweitzer isn’t about guns at all. That’s merely a smokescreen. The reason why they’re encouraging the popular former governor to run in the wake of Baucus’ sudden retirement is because he’s one of the few remaining true-blue populists left in the Democratic party. He boasts cross-party appeal in a conservative state by melding economic liberalism with social conservatism. He’s for a single-payer health insurance system and rails against moneyed interests, but is fiercely pro-gun and pro-drilling. He wins support from the blue-collar white voters that have left the Democratic Party in recent years. And looking at the 2014 Senate map and the worsening political environment for the party, Democrats are going to need those types of candidates now more than ever.
There’s been a lot written about the Senate seats Democrats are defending on the most conservative turf – West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana. But the most useful indicators for how the battle for the Senate will shape up will be in more politically-competitive states with working-class populations, like Montana, Iowa, Minnesota, and even Michigan. (Of note: All those states have gun ownership rates above the national average.) There’s a high potential for bubbling anger among those voters over the state of the economy, the implementation of the president’s health care law and the Democratic party choosing to prioritize social issues like gun control and immigration over focusing on the economic interests of the middle class.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crossroads Reaches Out to the Rand Paul Faction

Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:
A top adviser to Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has signed on with the American Crossroads super PAC — a move designed to increase input from conservative grass-roots supporters who have grown suspicious of the super PAC’s activities.

Trygve Olson, who advised Rand Paul in his 2010 Senate campaign and then moved over to the elder Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, will serve as an adviser to American Crossroads on House and Senate races, Post Politics has learned. He will report to Crossroads political director Carl Forti.

...

Doug Stafford, who serves as Rand Paul’s chief of staff, said Olson’s hiring is a step in the right direction for Crossroads.

“I think there were and probably still are conservatives concerned about what direction Crossroads is taking, and it’s good news that Trygve’s going to be involved,” Stafford said. “He’ll be a good voice in that organization making sure the conservative point

Sixth-Year Seat Gain for Democrats?

President Obama has said that he expects Nancy Pelosi to become speaker again after the 2014 midterm.  Ross Baker explains why such an outcome is highly unlikely:
A gain of congressional seats by a president's party in his sixth year in office may not be quite as elusive as the Higgs boson or Fermat's Last Theorem, but it's nearly the equivalent in the political world. Only once in the last 80 years has a president's party managed to gain seats in his second midterm election. That feat was pulled off in 1998 by Bill Clinton, when Democrats gained eight seats on the GOP. In general, however, losses by presidents in midterm elections are as predictable as anything in politics.

Consider Ronald Reagan in 1986, when he was desperate to have the GOP retain control of the Senate. Reagan saw one seat in particular as crucial to win, a seat in Nevada being vacated by his friend Sen. Paul Laxalt. Hoping to capitalize on his popularity in a state he had carried in 1984, Reagan made two early appearances in Nevada on behalf of the GOP candidate. Both of these visits produced surges for the Republican that quickly receded.

Reagan resolved to return to Las Vegas on the day before the election to plead for votes, a visit strongly opposed by his chief of staff, Donald Regan, who feared that the effort would be in a losing cause. Reagan went, reminding voters that "my name will never appear on a ballot again," and ending his speech with a plea to "win one for the Gipper." The next day, the Republican was defeated by a Democratic House member named Harry Reid.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Senate Update: Baucus to Retire

At Business Insider, Ben LoGiurato writes:
The retirement of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) means that six Democrats are set to leave the Senate in 2014, putting Democratic control of that body in jeopardy.

Democrats currently hold 53 Senate seats, and two Independents — Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Maine's Angus King — caucus with the party. Republicans need to swing six seats to gain control.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins said Tuesday that the electoral map is in "free-fall" for Democrats after Baucus' retirement.

But there are two reasons Democrats aren't yet worried about losing control of the Senate.
First, privately, they don't think any seat's dynamic has changed other than races in Iowa and West Virginia, where Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin and Jay Rockefeller have announced they will retire om 2014.
Second, they point to the 2012 election, when Democrats were supposed to lose even more seats but ended up gaining two.
"Democrats would have a lot more reason to worry had Republicans not blown a handful of easy elections in 2010 and 2012," one Democratic strategist said. "We've got more of a cushion going into 2014 than most observers were thinking we would six months or a year ago."
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/democrats-in-2014-senate-control-republicans-max-baucus-2013-4#ixzz2RJF5uv4q

Monday, April 22, 2013

GOP Data Wars

Politico reports on data competition among GOP and conservative groups:
Rove earlier this month spoke with major donors in New York about a voter data project that he has estimated could cost between $15 million and $20 million. He has been working with San Francisco-based private-equity investor Dick Boyce, who is fronting a political data concept called Liberty Works, sources tell POLITICO.
The public relationship between Rove and Boyce has been complicated, according to several sources familiar with the project. Rove has openly embraced Boyce’s work, touting it at an invitation-only conference that drew some of the GOP’s biggest names to a swanky Georgia resort in March. But Boyce has established distance from Rove, indicating to prospective donors that he’s not simply a front for the latest project from the Rove-conceived Crossroads groups, which sponsored one of Rove’s New York meetings this month.
Likewise, Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio, called Liberty Works a “stand-alone” effort.
Meanwhile, POLITICO has learned that a voter database outfit called Themis, established by the political network associated with David and Charles Koch, has been working with an established private political data company called i360. The partnership seems to give Koch World, which until recently had mostly focused on conservative issue advocacy, new reach into Republican Party politics.
On its website, i360 boasts of maintaining a constantly updated database of over 187 million active voters and over 211 million consumers that “provides hundreds of data points on every American adult that is currently or potentially politically active.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Bad Week for Potus

At The Washington Examiner, Michael Barone notes that President Obama had a bad political week.  
Obama made much of polls showing 90 percent support for background checks. But those polls didn't measure the response to arguments against those measures.

This was a test of Organizing for America [sic, Action], the offspring of the Obama presidential campaign. The idea is that OFA could pressure members of Congress just as it had turned out voters for Obama last fall.

But that ignored some relevant political numbers. The Obama campaign did motivate enough voters to carry 332 electoral votes. But those votes were heavily clustered in central cities and university towns.

Obama carried only 26 states. They elect only 52 senators, well under the 60 votes he needed in the Senate on gun control. And he carried only 209 congressional districts, less than a majority of the House.

Wednesday also saw an extraordinary outburst in the Senate Finance Committee's hearings on Obamacare, as committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "I just see a train wreck coming down."
HHS, he noted, is way behind schedule on issuing regulations implementing the health care law. Small businessmen in Montana, he said, don't know how they can comply.

"The administration's public information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act deserves a failing grade," he told Sebelius. "You haven't given me any data. You just give me concepts, frankly."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Guns and Votes in 2014

Gun control legislation fell short on the Senate floor this week. At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar explains that the issue may hurt Democrats:
Put simply, the 2014 Senate elections will be fought predominantly on the very turf that is most inhospitable to gun control–Southern and Mountain West conservative states. It’s no coincidence that three of the four Democrats who opposed the Toomey-Manchin bill are facing difficult reelections in 2014 and presumably are attuned to the sentiments of their constituents. Blame the National Rifle Association for the bill’s failure, but the lobby is feeding into already deeply held opposition to gun regulations and a broader sense of anxiety about the president’s and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s intentions–particularly given the president’s past publicized remark about “bitter” rural voters who “cling to their guns and religion.” It doesn’t take much for the gun-rights crowd, significant in these states, to jump to inaccurate conclusions given that history.
And how do the White House or allied groups plan on punishing gun-control opponents? The notion of challenging the Second Amendment Democrats is as fanciful as it is self-defeating. Democratic primary voters in the deep South have significantly different views on gun rights than their coastal counterparts. Even if they support expanded background checks, the chance of landing a candidate running a one-issue campaign against brand-name Democrats like Mark Pryor and Mark Begich defies common sense. Three years ago in Arkansas, liberals poured their money and manpower in to defeat former Sen. Blanche Lincoln in a primary with the state’s lieutenant governor. Even though Lincoln was unpopular in the state–later losing reelection to Republican Sen. John Boozman by 21 points–she fended off the challenge.
Polls showed overwhelming national support for expanded background checks, so could Republicans suffer instead?  Probably not.  Except for passionate supporters of the Second Amendment, the issue is not a top priority for most Americans, as Gallup explains:
The 4% of Americans mentioning guns as the nation's top problem is the same as it was last month, and comparable to the 6% in February and 4% in January and December, the last measure having been taken just after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Prior to these past several months, in recent years virtually no Americans mentioned guns as the nation's top problem.
Americans have never been highly likely to mention guns or gun violence as the nation's top problems, even in the aftermath of other tragic mass shootings. Ten percent of Americans said guns or gun violence were the nation's top problems in May 1999, a month after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado -- and that was the highest percentage mentioning "guns" in Gallup's history of asking the question.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Housing, Marriage, and Voting

This article tests the hypothesis that differences in the housing market can partially explain why some American counties are strongly Republican and others strongly Democratic, and that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the relationship between home values and marriage rates within counties. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that, in the 2000 election, George W. Bush did comparatively better in counties with relatively affordable single-family homes, even when controlling for other economic, demographic and regional variables. Using county-level data, I test this hypothesis using spatial-lag regression models, and provide further evidence using individual-level survey data. My results indicate a statistically significant relationship between Bush’s percentage of the vote at the county level and the median value of
owner-occupied homes, and that at least part of this is explained by the relationship between home values and marriage rates among young women.
In The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last spells the practical implications for Republicans.  Specifically, they should back populist-minded policies that contain housing costs and promote marriage.
 This isn’t a heavy lift. There’s an enormous amount of research demonstrating that marriage makes people happier, healthier, and wealthier. The most recent addition to the literature came just a few weeks ago in the form of a report titled Knot Yet, by Kay Hymowitz, Brad Wilcox, Jason Carroll, and Kelleen Kaye, which examined the same delayed-marriage phenomenon that Hawley was studying in his model.
The Knot Yet authors have put together a list of policy ideas that could help Americans get to marriage earlier. For starters, Republicans could champion nontraditional degrees and vocational training instead of robotically pushing the universal four-year degree, which these days too often comes with a crushing load of debt. When Republicans talk about reforming the tax code they ought to advocate measures that will make family formation more affordable—like increased child tax credits—and be wary of plans—like removing the mortgage-interest deduction—which could make it more difficult.
Other ideas abound. Lately some Republicans have become obsessed with trying to outbid Democrats on issues, such as immigration and same-sex marriage, which do not offer any obvious political advantages. If they’re going to get into bidding wars, why not do it over a suite of issues that could actually bear electoral fruit? For instance, today Democrats are the only ones promoting family-friendly workplace policies. Hawley’s research suggests that Republicans ought to be competing in this space, too, helping to mitigate the professional costs young men and women incur by entering marriage and family life, and thus encouraging more of them to take the plunge.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

IRS, FEC, and 501(c)(4)

In its first year, Crossroads GPS -- a sister group to the super PAC American Crossroads -- reported to the FEC that it spent $16.7 million on ads directly and indirectly advocating for or against candidates. (Even 501(c)(4) groups, while not required to reveal much to the FEC, must disclose when they run certain kinds of ads and how much they spend on them -- and they must do so promptly.) It later told the IRS, in its first tax form 990 filed with the agency, that it spent $15.9 million on politics. Both figures understate the reality of what GPS spent in the political arena by millions. In either case, they are well under half of GPS' reported overall spending of $42.3 million (including salaries, overhead and so on) that year.
Likewise, other members of the Crossroads-CPPR network were careful to abide by the 49 percent rule, at least in a technical sense. The 60 Plus Association reported to the FEC that it spent $7.1 million in 2010; that's just under half of its total IRS-reported expenditures of $15.5 million. Former New York Gov. George Pataki's Revere America filed expenditure reports with the FEC that came to $2.3 million, safely below half of the $6.3 million it spent that year.

Crossroads GPS' 2010 spending may well have helped the GOP take control of the House. And the group came out with guns blazing in 2012. In that election cycle, it told the FEC it spent more than $71 million -- almost as much as the entire GPS-CPPR network had spent, combined, in 2010. Crossroads likely won't send the IRS its form 990 for 2012, in which it will reveal its total expenditures last year, until autumn of 2013 (stay tuned for Step 4 of our series for more on the lag time), but logic dictates the group will need to show a $130 million increase over its 2010 overall expenditures in order to stay under the 49.9 percent threshold for political spending in 2012 -- by any measure, a staggering increase.

Crossroads GPS is one kind of shadow money group. But other kinds of politically active groups operate under the 501(c)(4) designation. They're little more than glorified mailboxes.

Foremost among them is the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which OpenSecrets Blog first uncovered last year. From 2009, when it was founded, until the end of 2011, CPPR raised $101 million. More than $70 million of that went out the door to other shadow money groups. CPPR has no activities of its own: It doesn't run ads for or against candidates; it doesn't conduct research; it doesn't spearhead public education campaigns. It appears to be little more than a conduit funneling money to other shadow money groups that spend the money. During the 2010 cycle, CPPR made $47.9 million in grants to groups that told the FEC they spent $37.2 million on political ads.
One might expect that whatever qualifies as reportable spending for the FEC would also count as political spending for the IRS. As it turns out, though, “politics” is in the eye of the beholder. The FEC defines it one way, the IRS another -- and that difference can work in a group’s favor.

Take American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) run by former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, started the month after Citizens United was decided. AAN told the FEC it spent nearly $20 million on political ads in 2010 -- yet reported to the IRS that it had spent only about $5 million on politics. Since the group that year reported spending a total of $25 million in all, the larger amount most likely would have caused the organization to fail the “primary purpose” test that’s meant to keep a 501(c)(4)’s political spending to less than half of its overall expenditures.
Luckily for AAN (though lawyers probably had more to do with it than luck), most of the spending it reported to the FEC was for “issue ads” -- ads that don’t tell viewers to vote for or against anyone, but often close with a line that goes something like, “Call Bruce Voight and tell him to stop torturing chipmunks.” Groups must report what they spend on issue ads to the FEC only when the ads run close to an election, which AAN’s did -- thus the high number.
But in its 2010 form 990 for the IRS -- not sent to the agency until May 2012 -- much of the money AAN spent on ads had undergone a makeover. Now, the funds had been used for grassroots “lobbying.” The form hints how the group redefined some of its activities. The first version of the document revealed that it made a $500,000 grant to Crossroads GPS’s sister group, super PAC American Crossroads. AAN later amended the report to delete the grant, saying it had been “inadvertently reported.” In the same amended report, the groupincreased the amount it reported for “lobbying” by $500,000. Later, it came out that the grant was actually a payment to Crossroads Media, the political admaker that counts both American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS as clients and was cofounded by formerAmericans for Job Security President Michael Dubke.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coordination and the McConnell Recording

The Washington Free Beacon reports:
Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) say a series of attacks and ethical complaints leveled against him are part of a coordinated campaign by left-wing activists, political operatives, and journalists to prevent his reelection in 2014.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-wing watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint against McConnell on Thursday,alleging he improperly used Senate resources to support his reelection effort.
The charges were based on a recording released earlier in the week byMother Jones. Allegedly recorded by two members of Democratic Super PAC Progress Kentucky, the tape captured McConnell discussing campaign strategy with several aides.
Meanwhile, a poll released Tuesday, April 9 by the Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed low favorability ratings for McConnell.
McConnell’s campaign says the confluence of these events suggests coordination.
“When you see in the same week cooked polling, illegal recordings and a series of inter-related attacks from four different groups with strong Democrat Party ties, all then tied up in a bow and flanked by party mouthpieces, you don’t need a team of rocket scientists to see the coordination of this effort,” campaign manager Jesse Benton told theWashington Free Beacon in an emailed statement.

Monday, April 15, 2013

GOP Advantage in House Elections

At National Journal, Charles Cook discusses changes in the Partisan Voter Index:
By now, the trend lines are clear. In 1998, we found 164 swing seats—districts within 5 points of the national partisan average, with scores between R+5 and D+5 (a score of R+5 means the district’s vote for the Republican presidential nominees was 5 percentage points above the national average). The data 15 years ago showed just 148 solidly Republican districts and 123 solidly Democratic seats. Today, only 90 swing seats remain—a 45 percent decline—while the number of solidly Republican districts has risen to 186 and the count of solidly Democratic districts is up to 159.
...
How did we get here as a country? Debates rage at political-science conferences: Are voters aligning in like-minded areas, or is blatant partisan gerrymandering to blame? Our newest index points mostly to the former, which has in turn amplified the power of the latter. In 2011 and 2012, redistricting diminished the number of swing seats from 103 to 99. But when we factored in the 2012 election results, the count fell more sharply, from 99 to 90.
In fact, setting aside redistricting, we found that 76 percent of Democratic-held House seats had grown even more Democratic in the past four years and 60 percent of GOP-held seats had grown even more Republican. Some districts swung dramatically, mostly along racial lines. Republican Rep. Hal Rogers’s 96 percent white district in eastern Kentucky jumped from R+16 to R+25, and Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s 82 percent nonwhite district in Orange County, Calif., moved from D+3 to D+9.
There’s no question this phenomenon has benefited Republicans. Observing Democrats trying to win a House majority today is akin to watching a soccer team play a comparably skilled opponent with the field slanted 25 degrees against them. Thanks to the concentrated nature of the Democratic vote, Republicans have always occupied at least two dozen more solidly partisan districts than Democrats. But the rise in ironclad districts forces Democrats to win a near-impossible share of what’s left just to even the score.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dems Losing Edge on Social Security?

The Hill reports:
A growing number of House Democrats are concerned that President Obama's proposal to cut Social Security benefits will haunt the party at the polls in 2014.
Although Democrats have long-championed the retirement program, they say Obama's plan to reduce payments for future beneficiaries through a chained consumer price index (CPI) has weakened their stance and opened the door for Republicans to vilify the president.
The leader of the campaign arm for House Republicans, Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), on Wednesday called Obama’s plan a "shocking attack on seniors."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Walden's comments foreshadow a line of attack the GOP will use on the campaign trail next year. It's a reason, he added, for Democrats to worry
At the Daily Beast, Lloyd Green agrees with Walden:
Even now, the free-market fanatics at the Club for Growth are trying to force Walden to walk back his attack on Obama’s budget.
Walden should ignore the Club for Growth as the electoral map tells a reality that is at odds with free-market fantasies. From 1952 to 1988—from Ike to Bush ’41, the GOP won seven of 10 presidential elections. It built a big coalition based on a middle class that was organically conservative—but not ideologically right-wing.
But during the Reagan years, and since, the Republicans set in motion a changed, more ideological dynamic in which Main Street conservatism was displaced by Ayn Rand libertarianism. Reagan proposed cuts in entitlement spending, and while he was rebuffed, the seed of free-market mania took hold in the party. Since 1992. the Republicans have only won the popular vote once and their share of the Electoral College has cratered.
These days, the GOP offers tax cuts to the rich, religion to the poor, and to the middle class … nothing. Bobby Jindal’s failed attempt to scrap the Louisiana state income tax and hike the sales tax to replace the revenue is a reminder of how removed the Republican policy elites are from everyday reality.
Still, it is not too late for the Republicans to get their mojo back. For starters, they should highlight Walden’s rejection of the Obama budget and in particular, the chained CPI. It’s Barack Obama, not the GOP, that now stands as the would-be destroyer of Social Security’s sacred compact. Spell out again and again and again that while Obama spares poor Social Security recipients from the chained CPI, he nonetheless sticks a shiv into those who are retired and proudly middle class.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

OFA Angels

Sixteen people accounted for nearly a quarter of the $4.8 million collected by Organizing for Action, the self-described "grassroots" nonprofit group affiliated with President Barack Obama that was created to push the White House’s policy agenda.
About 109,000 people gave money to the nonprofit from January through March, Organizing for Action announced today.
Donors from California ($568,215), New York ($363,893), New Jersey ($221,737), Florida ($84,010) and Massachusetts ($75,975) gave the most, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.
The top donor by far was Philip Munger of New York City who gave $250,000. Munger is a philanthropist, academic and long-time contributor to Democratic causes.
Next were John Goldman of Atherton, Calif., and Nicola M. Miner of San Francisco who both gave $125,000. Goldman is former chairman of Willis Insurance Service of California, Inc. a U.S. branch of a global insurance brokerage firm. Miner is the daughter of Bob Miner, co-founder of Oracle Corp. and wife of John Mailer Anderson, a novelist and screenwriter.
Of the top 16 donors, each who gave $50,000 or more, nine are Obama campaign bundlers — elite fundraisers credited with raising funds from well-connected friends, family members and associates, then delivering it in a "bundle." Organizing for Action bills itself as nonpartisan.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mitch McConnell and Progress Kentucky

It appears that the McConnell recording really was the result of eavesdropping, not error (as in a 2006 incident involving Schwarzenegger).  David Weigel writes at Slate:
What had been a pretty lame package of revelations from a tape became a much better story about the possible illegal taping of a campaign office. (The lameness argued against the theory that a McConnell campaign mole had leaked it. Why blow your wad on 12 minutes of staffers making fun of a candidate who'd dropped out already?) On Thursday, a Kentucky NPR affiliate got a break in the story. Jacob Conway, a Democratic official in Jefferson County (Louisville), revealed that Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison of Progress Kentucky had "bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting," which took place after a party at a new campaign office.
...
If this was true, the blitheringly incompenent Progress Kentucky had handed McConnell a gift -- the second gift from them to him, actually. It was Progress Kentucky, a registered "Super PAC" that hasn't actually raised money, that tweeted a conspiracy theory about McConnell's wife, predicated on the fact that she was born in China. At his Tuesday press conference, McConnell blamed "the left" for "bugging" his office, and he was right. Republicans started digging into Kentucky law, with RNC spokesman Sean Spicer tweeting:
Legal Fun fact: Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 526.060 Divulging info obtained thru illegal eavesdropping is a crime, punishable a misdemeanor
So, Progress Kentucky may have broken the law, and broken it for no great gain, which is... totally unsurprising, considering. But conservatives in the NRSC and media are seeking to accuse David Corn of a crime. At the Weekly Standard, Daniel Halper quotes a "GOP operative" who says "If Corn knowingly took this tape from the 'Louisville Plumbers' he's breaking the law here too." But that's not quite how it works. As Erik Wemple wrote on Tuesday, the 2001 Supreme Court precedent of Bartknicki v. Vopper effectively protects a media organization in a situation like this. "A stranger’s illegal conduct," wrote John Paul Stevens, "does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern." As weak as MoJo's story was, the Kentucky Senate race is a "matter of public concern."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

RNC Infighting

Yesterday's post discussed an RNC retreat in Hollywood.  Time offers an update:
Licking their wounds after a 2012 election defeat, Republicans are meeting in California this week to reassess their internal party rules. But infighting erupted on day one between grassroots and establishment forces over proposed party reforms.
An early vote at the Republican National Committee’s annual meeting, held in the unlikely liberal bastion of Hollywood, shot down a party rules provision seeking to make the GOP presidential nominating process more transparent. The GOP’s rules committee voted 31-20 against a requirement that state party caucuses and primaries bind their delegates to support specific presidential candidates at the party’s national convention.
The measure was crafted by party officials largely in response to the 2012 takeover of several state delegations by supporters of Ron Paul. Paul supporters and other grassroots party activists had booed loudly when the change was announced at last summer’s party convention with the backing of top Romney campaign lawyer, Ben Ginsberg. But it is key to the nominating calendar reforms in the party’s official 2012 election autopsy, formally known at the Growth and Opportunity Project.
The repeal of the delegate binding provision is expected to fail in a vote by the full party committee tomorrow. But the narrow issue became a proxy for a larger argument over the Growth and Opportunity Project, and charges from party foot soldiers that the document represents an effort by establishment insiders to centralize control at their expense. Although a Los Angeles Times cartoonist imagined conservatives here tossing rotten eggs at the Hollywood homes of Rob Reiner and Sean Penn, on Wednesday the eggs were flying within the Loews Hollywood hotel.
Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/04/11/gop-rank-and-file-fight-back-against-party-elite-in-hollywood/#ixzz2QAkxmA2O

Leadership PACs

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

All are current lawmakers with political action committees that gave a third or less -- in some cases far less -- of their proceeds to other candidates in the 2012 campaign cycle.
Leadership PACs are an extension of a politician's brand. Set up as auxiliaries to traditional campaign committees, they're traditionally thought of as ways for politicians to earn goodwill by passing campaign cash on to other party members -- bestowing gifts on up-and-comers in exchange for loyalty down the road, or offering tribute to party higher-ups. But in an analysis of leadership PACs, OpenSecrets.org found that of the 25 leadership PACs that spent more than $1 million in the last election cycle, just five of them gave more than 50 percent of their money to other candidates.
...
SarahPAC, the leadership PAC led by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, also ranks among the top spending leadership PACs, but it stands out for how little of that cash it gives to other candidates. The group spent $5.1 million in the 2012 cycle, ranking it third on the list of top spenders even though Palin was not running for any office, but it gave just 4 percent of that, or about $306,000, to candidates, PACs or party groups.

The number one recipient of SarahPAC cash was HSP Direct, a Virginia-based direct mail company.

While Palin's leadership PAC stands out for its high spending and single digit sharing, it's not an unusual pattern for politicans rumored to have presidential ambitions, or at least aspirations to a national profile.
Rubio's Reclaim America PAC spent $1.7 million, far less than SarahPAC, but similarly gave just 4 percent of that cash to other political committees or parties. The leadership PACs for Reps. Michelle Bachman (R-Min.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son Rand, all known for their national aspirations, all raised more than $1 million but gave 10 percent or less to other candidates.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

RNC: Retreat and Rules

The Los Angeles Times reports on an RNC retreat in Hollywood, along with a potential conflict over party rules:
With a symbolic visit to blue California, and an announcement Tuesday of new RNC hires who will try to forge ties with Asian American voters, [Chairman Reince] Priebus is attempting to show his party's commitment to campaign in areas that have been hostile to the GOP.
"The Republican Party has done a lousy job reaching out to communities across the country, but I am committed to changing that," he said. "This process starts in places like Los Angeles, where we need to be in every community, not just for a couple of months, but a lasting presence."
California Committeeman Shawn Steel called the decision to hold the meeting in Hollywood "bold" and a "visceral statement" about how serious the party was about rethinking its course.
"The great educator is the pain of a very close election, and that has really led to lot of soul searching," Steel said.
Republicans will gather Thursday in closed meetings and workshops meant to push the party's presence in Democratic-leaning communities. But such efforts may be overshadowed by a battle Wednesday over rules that prompted a fight at the national convention last year.
In the Tampa, Fla., gathering, Romney operatives led a push to change the rules in a way that they said would strengthen the party's position in 2016 — measures that bolstered the chairman's authority over hiring and budget decisions, and moves aimed at guaranteeing that a state's delegates supported the candidate that voters backed in their primary or caucus. The latter was seen as an attempt to avoid a repeat of what occurred in 2012, when Texas Rep. Ron Paul's supporters took advantage of arcane local and state party rules to take over several state delegations.
Some RNC members have insisted that the rules enacted in Tampa were a "power grab" that would favor establishment candidates like Romney over insurgent contenders like Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The first battle of this week will be at the rules committee Wednesday, where Virginia Committeeman Morton Blackwell will attempt to reverse all the rule changes made at the 2012 convention.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bugging Mitch McConnell

Chris Cillizza writes at The Washington Post:
The political world is a-twitter over an audio tape obtained by Mother Jones of a private campaign meeting involving Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and his 2014 re-election staff in which the past public statements — and mental health — of his one-time potential opponent Ashley Judd is discussed.
The reality: This is much ado about not much.

Yes, if you are predisposed not to like McConnell then his voice on the tape saying “This is the ‘Whac-A-Mole’ period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out” will make you like him even less. And, yes, the fact that the McConnell team talked about Judd’s mental health — “she was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s” — will further enrage the McConnell-haters.
But, this — as any campaign operative will tell you — is the basic blocking and tackling of opposition research that every candidate does both against their potential opponents and against themselves. And, the average voter won’t a) follow this story or b) care all that much if they do — especially since this news is breaking on the day after the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA basketball tournament.
...
What’s lost in the fuss over the McConnell-Judd tapes — but shouldn’t be — is what the meeting reveals about Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the candidate Democrats are trying to recruit into the race.
“With Alison Lundergan Grimes it’s sort of more traditional issues, as far as, you know, needle in a haystack sort of the inversion of that,” said one of the attendees of the meeting, adding that “the best hit we have on her is her blatantly endorsing the 2008 Democratic national platform.”
Translation: McConnell doesn’t have much on Grimes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

NRSC "Majority Mentality"

At The Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard writes that NRSC is hoping for a 2014 wave election.
The GOP has several targets for building that wave: West Virginia, Arkansas and South Dakota. In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito isn't expected to have a primary challenge and the Democrats aren't sufficiently strong yet to defend the seat held by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller. In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor is a top GOP target. And in South Dakota, the seat being vacated by Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson now leans Republican.
The second tier of targets include Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina and even Michigan, where rumors swirl that long-time Democratic lobbyist Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell, is eyeing a run.
Powering the effort is the NRSC's "majority mentality," which has the organization pushing in nearly every race. While in some years the GOP has put most its eggs in obvious pick-up states, the NRSC is expanding its portfolio to build momentum and create a few backup states in case something happens in elections that now look like easy wins.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

DCCC Strategy for 2014


At The Washington Post, Paul Kane writes:
The best way to defeat the conservative, ideologically driven GOP, Democrats say, is to field non-ideological “problem solvers” who can profit from the fed-up-with-partisanship mood of some suburban areas. These districts will offer some of the few competitive House campaigns in the country.
...

[DCCC chair Steve] Israel’s approach is a variation on the model used by then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the campaign committee chairman in 2006 when Democrats took over the House in George W. Bush’s “six-year itch” midterm. Emanuel sought out centrists and conservatives to run in rural districts, particularly in the South.

But after the GOP 2010 wave and the redrawing of district lines, most of those seats have been locked away for Republicans. What remains are a clutch of suburban seats — not unlike Israel’s own on Long Island — full of nonpartisan professionals who are more concerned about day-to-day issues than ideological battles.
...
Israel has been traveling the country to win over skeptics, delivering detailed, 90-minute presentations laying out what he sees as a path to victory. A Washington Post reporter was granted access to a presentation delivered recently to donors in Manhattan.

Israel’s pitch is built around the idea that Republicans won as many as 30 seats by single-digit margins, giving Democrats immediate opportunities. Another 22 were unique targets with districts more favorable to Democrats in non-presidential years or where the party ran poor campaigns in 2012. Texas and Florida still have to resolve legal battles over their congressional maps, and Democrats believe the final configurations will produce several more seats for them.

Without a presidential contest to compete with, Democrats also believe liberal mega-donors will open their wallets more generously to House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting House Democrats. Its director, Ali Lapp, a former DCCC adviser, can attend events with Israel at this early stage of the campaign season without violating laws prohibiting the two committees from coordinating their activities.
The problem is that the 2006 model might not apply.  First, the Democrats are in the president's party, not the out-party, so the midterm effect works against them, not for them.  Second, in 2006, Nancy Pelosi had not been speaker and Barack Obama had not been president. In light of their records since then, it will be very hard for people to see Democrats as non-ideological problem solvers this time.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Looking for Money in Silicon Valley

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, is taking a group of GOP lawmakers to Silicon Valley this week to court untapped resources for their re-election bids at
Facebook, Google and similar stops.

McCarthy only recently began securing significant support from the tech industry, and seems to be eager for more. In the last election, Oracle Corpbecame McCarthy's fourth-highest donor, thanks to $31,500 it gave to McCarthy's campaign committee and leadership PAC. He was Oracle's fifth-highest grantee in the last election, after President Obama, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
Both Microsoft and Google have been slowly warming up to McCarthy. Neither contributed to his 2008 campaign, but Microsoft contributed $17,500 overall to McCarthy in 2012, up from $15,000 in 2010. Google's support of McCarthy jumped to $20,000 in 2012, from $8,000 in 2010, according to OpenSecrets.org data.

McCarthy's tour group includes Reps. Steve Scalise (La.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Susan Brooks (Ind.), George Holding (N.C.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.) andPatrick McHenry (N.C.) -- presumably to show them how it's done. Microsoft contributed $7,000 and $3,000 to the campaigns of Scalise and Holding, respectively, in the 2012 cycle, and Holding took in another $5,000 from Google. Otherwise, the tech sector is largely absent from the group's campaign coffers.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Partisan Voter Index

Yesterday's post linked to data on presidential results in House districtsFrom the Cook Political Report:
The Cook Political Report is pleased to introduce the new 2014 Partisan Voter Index (PVI) for all 50 states and 435 Congressional districts in the country, compiled especially for the Report by POLIDATA®. First introduced in 1997, the Cook PVI measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. In October 2012, we released new PVI scores for newly redrawn Congressional districts following redistricting. This release has updated our PVI scores to incorporate the results of the November 2012 presidential election.
...
This year's Partisan Voter Index illustrates how voters' geographical self-sorting, even more than redistricting, has driven the polarization of districts over the last decade. The 2012 round of redistricting diminished the number of "Swing Seats" - those with PVI scores between R+5 and D+5 - from 103 to 99. But after the November 2012 election, the number of "Swing Seats" fell even more sharply, from 99 to 90. This means the number of competitive-range districts has fallen a total of 45 percent, from 164 to just 90, between 1998 and 2013.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Presidential Results by Congressional District

Clark Bensen of Polidata writes:
As the president was reelected in 2012, the election results indicated a reduction in the overall support for President Obama, even though areas of the relative strengths for both major parties remained about the same. The reduction of President Obama’s overall percentage of the vote from 53.7 in 2008 to 52.0 in 2012 also resulted in a majority of districts voting for Romney.
...
While this 226 to 209 break is quite near the breaks for 2000 (Bush 228 to Gore 208) and for 1960 (Kennedy 204 to Nixon 227), this represents the first time since 1960 that the winner of the election did not win the popular vote in a majority of the congressional districts. Also, the number of ‘turnover’ or ‘split’ districts has hit a low point compared to recent elections at 26: 17 Republicans in the House are in districts carried by Obama and 9 Democrats are in districts carried by Romney.
Of course, there were two other factors at play in how many congressional districts were carried, or ‘won’, by each nominee: a) the capture of the U.S. House by the Republicans in the 2010 elections; and b) the redistricting cycle following the 2010 census. 
Polidata reports presidential results by congressional district:

Factor: 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
[A] Districts won by Dem Pres 256 for Clinton 280 for Clinton 207 for Gore 180 for Kerry 242 for Obama 209 for Obama
[B] Districts won by GOP Pres 179 for George H.W. Bush 155 for Dole 228 for George W. Bush 255 for George W. Bush 193 for McCain 226 for Romney
[C] GOP Districts won by Dem Pres 50 for Clinton 91 for Clinton 40 for Gore 18 for Kerry 34 for Obama 17 for Obama
[D] Dem Districts won by GOP Pres 53 for George H.W. Bush 19 for Dole 46 for George W. Bush 41 for George W. Bush 49 for McCain 9 for Romney
[E] Net for National Winner -2 for Clinton +73 for Clinton +7 for Bush +23 for Bush -15 for Obama +8 for Obama
[F] Most Votes Cast for President 363,716 317,121 369,844 418,511 457,876 440,090
[G] Fewest Votes Cast for President 53,398 61,011 76,762 107,825 108,507 114,901
[H] Highest % for Dem Pres 87.0% for Clinton 93.5% for Clinton 92.9% for Gore 89.7% for Kerry 94.8% for Obama 96.7% for Obama
[I] Highest % for GOP Pres 63.5% for George H.W. Bush 67.4% for Dole 79.0% for George W. Bush 78.0% for George W. Bush 76.7% for McCain 80.2% for Romney
[J] Highest % for Independents 33.2% for Perot 16.0% for Perot 13.4% for "Others" N/A for "Others" 3.4% for "Others" 5.2% for "Others"
[K] Average % for Dem Pres 44.1% for Clinton 50.3% for Clinton 49.6% for Gore 49.0% for Kerry 53.7% for Obama 51.6% for Obama
[L] Average % for GOP Pres 37.4% for George H.W. Bush 40.0% for Dole 46.8% for George W. Bush 50.0% for George W. Bush 44.9% for McCain 46.8% for Romney
[M] Average % for Ind Pres 18.5% for Perot 8.2% for Perot 3.5% for "Others" 0.7% for "Others" 1.4% for "Others" 1.6% for "Others"