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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

GOP to Recruit Women

Roll Call reports:
With a stagnant number of women in its caucus, the House GOP’s campaign organization announced a new program Friday, Project Grow, to recruit, mentor and elect more female candidates in 2014.
“We need more women to run,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said. “Project Grow will plant that seed that will get them thinking of doing it.”
CQ Roll Call reported earlier this week that the National Republican Congressional Committee was in the early stages of formalizing a female candidate recruitment program for the upcoming midterm cycle. The NRCC’s announcement was part of a joint event with six GOP committees that are making an new organized effort to help female candidates.
The “Women on the Right UNITE” effort is run by the Republican National Committee, NRCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican State Leadership Committee, College Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association. The goal is to help female candidates ascend to all levels of government.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"But You Can Play Bridge"

In After Hope and Change, we talk about outside groups in the 2012 election.

The Atlantic covers a talk in which Karl Rove uses an apt metaphor for non-coordination coordination:
"At Crossroads, we watched for three weeks while they assaulted Bain. And you can't talk to the campaigns directly. You can't coordinate with to them. But you can play bridge. So after about three weeks we said we think this is hurting, so why don't we signal to them."
So Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC went out and ran $9.3 million worth of ads in July 2012 in 14 battleground states fighting back against the Obama campaign attacks, using a Washington Post editorial that said they were overblown.
"We were trying to signal to the Romney campaign, if you want to engage on this, you lead, we'll follow. Now they can't talk to us, but they can talk to the press. And the press immediately would call us up and say, we just talked to the Romney campaign about your ad and they say first of all, the issue's not hurting us and B, in politics, if you're responding, you're losing. Well, a lot of times in politics if you're responding you're winning," Rove continued.
"We decided wrongly that they were right and so we didn't proceed. And we should have."
Here is a web page about the use of signals in bridge: 
RULE 1: DO NOT OVERUSE SIGNALS. PERHAPS ONE SIGNAL PER PARTNERSHIP PER HAND SHOULD BE THE GENERAL RULE
RULE 2: DO NOT OVER-RELY ON SIGNALS. Your partner is NOT ALL KNOWING. Never let a signal interfere with YOUR OWN GOOD ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT. Most bridge players fall in love with signals and they overuse them. DO NOT BE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Governors and Governing Conservatism

At Politico, Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Elizabeth Titus write:
While Republicans inside the Beltway continue to stumble and fumble their way to irrelevancy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich — and other conservative heartland governors — are quietly offering a blueprint for success: competence, consistency and actually creating jobs rather than just talking about it.
As Republicans look ahead to 2016, they worry most about the capacity of any party leader to navigate a base that is at odds with most Americans on gay rights, immigration and the broader demographic currents reshaping our politics.
There’s an emerging playbook for doing this, and it’s not based on a bunch of phony outreach or “caving” on the party’s principles. Kasich, who on Sunday is scheduled to sign a $2.7 billion tax cut, in addition to an earlier estate tax cut, is one of the chief architects and practitioners.
...
Kasich is replicating much of the approach that Mitch Daniels took as Indiana governor during two terms ending in January. It’s what Scott Walker forced on Wisconsin, and Mike Pence is now trying to do in the Hoosier State. The public backlash is intense initially, abates over time, and eventually gives way as job growth pushes other issues into the background, including the GOP’s dilemma with immigration and same-sex marriage.
This makes the governors of all three states essential to any conversation about the Republican ticket in 2016 — and any hope of a Republican revival before then. They don’t carry the baggage of Washington and its constant hot-headed fighting, and could plausibly swat away the most contentious issue by simply saying: “Look what I did in the state I ran."

Targeting Update

"Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet," read the New York Times headline. "Dem: 'Progressive' Groups Were Also Targeted by IRS," said U.S. News. The scandal has "evaporated into thin air," bayed the excitable Andrew Sullivan. A breathlessly exonerative narrative swept the news media this week: that liberal groups had been singled out and, by implication, abused by the IRS, just as conservative groups had been. Therefore, the scandal wasn't a scandal but a mere bungle—a nonpolitical series of unhelpful but innocent mistakes.
The problem with this story is that liberals were not caught in the IRS dragnet. Progressive groups were not targeted.

The claim that they had been rested mostly on an unclear, undated, highly redacted and not at all dispositive few pages from a "historical" BOLO ("be on the lookout") list that apparently wasn't even in use between May 2010 and May 2012, when most of the IRS harassment of conservative groups occurred.

The case isn't closed, no matter how many people try to slam it shut.
Paul Bedard writes at The Washington Examiner:
Refuting Democratic suggestions that progressive groups were also swept up in the IRS probe of the tax status of Tea Party organizations, the Treasury Department's inspector general has revealed that just six progressive groups were targeted compared to 292 conservative groups.

In a letter to congressional Democrats, the inspector general also said that 100 percent of Tea Party groups seeking special tax status were put under IRS review, while only 30 percent of the progressive groups felt the same pressure.

The Wednesday letter to the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee punched a huge hole in Democratic claims that progressive groups were targeted as much as the Tea Party groups from May 2010-May 2012, the height of the Tea Party movement.

The letter from the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed that there just weren't many progressive groups who even sought special tax exempt status. A total of 20 sought it, and six were probed. All 292 Tea Party groups, meanwhile, were part of the IRS witchhunt.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Abortion Politics

Democrats who think that the abortion issue will help them in 2014 should ponder Shane Goldmacher's report in National Journal:

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis galvanized abortion-rights supporters--and even the White House--with a dramatic filibuster of a bill that would have outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks. But the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows that a plurality of Americans supports a ban on late abortions. Americans favor such a bill by 48 percent to 44 percent.
Support was greatest among Republicans, 59 percent in support, but 53 percent of Americans not affiliated with either major party sided with the GOP. A majority of Democrats, 59 percent, were opposed while only 33 percent were in favor.
The results come a day after Davis, the state senator, captured the imagination of liberals nationwide as she stood for 11 hours to block a Texas measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and placed new restrictions on abortion clinics. In Washington, Democrats have lampooned House Republicans for passing a similar ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy as the latest shot fired in the “war on women.” 
But the poll, notably, showed that women supported such a measure in greater numbers than men (50 percent of women in favor; 46 percent of men).
Overall, the survey suggests that the 20-week abortion measure fractures some of the modern Democratic coalition. Among all age groups, it was young Americans--who have regularly sided with Democratic priorities in the age of Obama--who most strongly supported the measure (52 percent). The measure also received the support of 51 percent of white women, both those who are college educated and those who are not.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Oppo and America Rising

At National Journal, Beth Reinhard writes about America Rising, a new Republican super PAC:
It's not much of a war room, but who cares? After an election cycle in which slick Republican super PACs like American Crossroads and Restore Our Future were panned for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads that failed to move the needle, America Rising is a leaner, meaner outfit with one mission and one mission only: opposition research on Democrats.

"Conservative donors are more skeptical and want to be more educated about where their money is going, which will benefit America Rising because they are like the sniper shot instead of the shotgun blast that throws all the ads up against the wall," said David Bossie, president of Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group whose Supreme Court case opened the floodgates for super PACS by allowing unlimited donations. "One of the things we were missing in 2012 was a really terrific research operation."

....

Through old-school public record searches and new-media wizardry, America Rising is vetting and tracking Democratic candidates in search of that hypocritical nugget, policy flip-flop or embarrassing gaffe. Those hits can be posted online or leaked to media outlets at little cost and then picked up by other groups that can generate television ads, phone calls or direct mail. America Rising also has a limited liability company that will sell its research to Republican groups; Crossroads and Citizens United have already signed on as clients.
...

Until it finds permanent office space, America Rising's weekly brainstorming sessions are being held in a conference room of an Arlington apartment building where two staffers live. Seven men and one woman, all between the ages of 23 and 31, sat Friday morning around a glass-topped table. They relished some recent successes: its anti-Clinton initiative was picked up by CNN and a tax complaint filed against Massachusetts Senate candidate Ed Markey was reported by The Daily Caller and The Boston Herald. A couple negative stories about McAuliffe have also been planted. "I think we had a really good week," said Pounder, resisting a box of donuts in the middle of the table.

Other matters: Someone needs to fill in for the tracker in Virginia, whose mother is sick. The Virginia Democratic Party's annual fundraiser, which will be attended by McAuliffe and headlined by Vice President Joe Biden, is likely to provide fodder for future attacks. "Those are two of the biggest buffoons in the Democratic Party, so we should definitely do something," says one staffer. Also on the to-do list: a trip to the National Archives to pull McAuliffe's lobbying records and closely review the 2012 press conference unveiling his electric car company in Mississippi.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The IRS Changes Its Story

At National Review Online, Eliana Johnson reports:
Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel on Monday told reporters that the now-infamous “Be On The Lookout” list was far broader than originally disclosed in the Treasury Department inspector general’s report. News accounts in outlets such as the Associated Press and Bloomberg Newssupported Werfel’s claim, indicating that terms on the list ran the gamut, politically speaking, from “tea party” to “progressive” and “occupy,” and even to groups whose applications included the word “Israel.”
A November 2010 version of the list obtained by National Review Online, however, suggests that while the list did contain the word “progressive,” screeners were instructed to treat progressive groups differently from tea-party groups. Whereas they were merely alerted that a designation of 501(c)(3) status “may not be appropriate” for progressive groups — 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from conducting any political activity — they were told to send applications from tea-party groups off to IRS higher-ups for further scrutiny.

That means the applications of progressive organizations could be approved by line agents on the spot, while those of tea-party groups could not. Furthermore, the November 2010 list noted that tea-party cases were “currently being coordinated with EOT” — Exempt Organizations Technical, a group of tax lawyers in Washington, D.C. Those of progressive organizations were not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Donor Fatigue and Outside GOP Spending

Seven months after the 2012 election, a lingering hangover among conservative donors has stalled efforts by right-leaning independent groups to fill their coffers. Wealthy contributors who dashed off six- and seven-figure checks last year are eyeing super PACs and other politically active groups more skeptically, frustrated that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to elect Romney went for naught.

“There’s donor fatigue,” said Fred Malek, a veteran GOP operative wired into high-net-worth circles. “Everyone was in a frenzy of giving up until the November elections, and then everyone was sort of worn out on the whole process. It’s very hard to raise money after an election, especially after you lose.”

Several Republican fundraisers said they remain optimistic that the money spigot will reopen as the 2014 congressional elections approach. But this time around, donors are seeking to be more judicious about where they put their money, asking groups for detailed strategy and spending plans.
...
In their pitches, many organizations are pledging to diversify their approaches and not rely as heavily on expensive television advertising as they did in the last election, when the airwaves were crowded with discordant messages. The new emphasis is on digital campaigns and get-out-the-vote organizing — strategies that some groups expect to test this year in Virginia’s governor’s race and New Jersey’s U.S. Senate contest.
The desire of donors to see specific political plans has slowed the efforts of Republican groups seeking to promote their preferred versions of immigration reform, strategists said. The Senate is on track to approve a bipartisan compromise by the end of next week, but prospects in the House are less certain.
It remains to be seen whether any groups on the right will provide significant air cover for lawmakers who support the legislation.
So far, Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit sister of American Crossroads, has spent less than $100,000 to run a newspaper and online ad calling for comprehensive immigration reform. A spokesman declined to comment on whether the organization’s modest efforts so far were due to fundraising challenges.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Invisible Primary

At National Journal, Reid Wilson writes:
While the race for the White House might seem like it's only in its Washington cocktail-party gossip phase, several potential and probable contenders are already making overt moves to court activists in key states and build organizations that can transition easily to a presidential campaign. Their maneuvers are less than subtle: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has already traveled to Iowa; he'll be back for a state-party fundraiser in July. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has already visited South Carolina; he'll attend the July fundraiser in Iowa with Paul. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida first went to Iowa way back in November 2012, ostensibly to celebrate Gov. Terry Branstad's birthday. All three, along with other potential contenders including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have been invited to an August forum in Ames, Iowa, organized by a Christian conservative group that's aiming to play big in the 2016 caucuses.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Buffoons

Alexander Burns and Jake Sherman write at Politico that a small group of House Republicans spoil party messaging by saying stupid things (e.g., Trent Franks on rape).
“The good work of so many Republicans, conservatives and moderates alike, is being nullified by the ignorance and ego of the very few,” said Brock McCleary, the former deputy executive director of the House GOP’s campaign arm.

He questioned whether there was much more the party could do to rein in its most wildly unhelpful members. “If public humiliation is not a sufficient deterrent,” McCleary said, “what can the party possibly do to prevent it?”

In the age of digital and cable news, there are virtually unlimited opportunities for politicians to embarrass themselves. Any caucus is going to have some percentage of doofuses, and in 2013 there’s an explicitly liberal-leaning wing of the media — MSNBC, Talking Points Memo, etc. — that’s eager to put those people on vivid display.
...
“Whoever the party is in the White House has a single spokesperson. Everyone focuses on things they say. The party that’s out of power, you’ve got random scattered voices everywhere,” acknowledged Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford, a member of the GOP leadership. “I think [a lawmaker’s] first priority really is to represent your district. I really do. But I think you should have in the back of your mind, ‘Does this help us in the rest of the country as well, in articulating this message?’”

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said that on issues related to abortion and rape, in particular, Republicans “always have to be worried about an Akin eruption.”

“Many members in our party do not like being branded by individuals who make these incendiary and uninformed comments,” said Dent, whose suggestion for minimizing Akin moments was: “You avoid issues like this. That’s one way.”

Another Republican lawmaker was blunter about his dozen-or-so chronically off-message colleagues: “These are the same people who try to drive a wagon with a square wheel.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Than Thirty Days Later...

Democratic strategist James Carville had some good news for President Barack Obama amid three controversies: It will all be over in a month.
Carville, who helped guide former President Bill Clinton through crises, on Thursday described Benghazi and the Justice Department’s decision to subpoena The Associated Press phone records as non-stories to start with and he predicted the IRS scandal would fizzle out within a month.

“These guys are awfully frustrated right now,” Carville told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, referring to the GOP. “They’re taking the anger out, and I understand that. I think the White House has just go to live with this for 30 days, get the truth out and you know, just roll with the punches here. They’re down to swinging pretty wildly here."
The title of After Hope and Change still seems apt. More than a month has passed, and the controversies keep burning bright.

CNN reports:
A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.
AP reports:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington scrutinized the very first application from a tea party group seeking tax-exempt status - and dozens of others, including some requests that languished for more than a year without action, an IRS official has told congressional investigators.

Holly Paz, who until recently was a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, told congressional investigators she reviewed 20 to 30 applications after learning that field agents had stopped working on them. Her assertions contradict initial claims by the agency that a small group of agents working in an office in Cincinnati were solely responsible for mishandling the applications.
Paz, however, provided no evidence that senior IRS officials ordered agents to target conservative groups or that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved.
Eliana Johnson writes at National Review Online:
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.

Monday, June 17, 2013

POTUS Takes a Hit in the Polls

Pew recently reported that NSA had not hurt the president yet.  It is now half past yet.  CNN reports:
The president's approval rating stands at 45%, down from 53% in mid-May. And 54% say they disapprove of how Obama's handling his job, up nine points from last month. It's the first time in CNN polling since November 2011 that a majority of Americans have had a negative view of the president.
"The drop in Obama's support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
The president also dropped 10 points among independent voters, from 47% last month to 37% now, with Obama's disapproval among independents jumping 12 points to 61%.
What's behind the drop?
"It is clear that revelations about NSA surveillance programs have damaged Obama's standing with the public, although older controversies like the IRS matter may have begun to take their toll as well," adds Holland.
...
Views of Obama's personal characteristics have also declined.
The number of Americans who think he is honest has dropped nine points over the past month, to 49%. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned say they disagree with the president's views on the size and power of the federal government, and 53% say he cannot manage the government effectively. Fifty-two percent say the president is a strong and decisive leader. That's still a majority, but it's down six points from last month.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Obamacare and GOP Constituent Service

Elise Viebeck reports at The Hill:
Republican lawmakers say they anticipate a flood of questions in the coming months from constituents on the implementation of ObamaCare, which will pose a dilemma for the GOP.

People regularly call their representatives for help with Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Yet, Republicans believe healthcare reform spells doom for the federal budget, private businesses and the U.S. healthcare system. They're also enormously frustrated that the law has persevered through two elections and a Supreme Court challenge and believe a botched implementation could help build momentum for the repeal movement.
Some Republicans indicated to The Hill they will not assist constituents in navigating the law and obtaining benefits. Others said they would tell people to call the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"Given that we come from Kansas, it's much easier to say, 'Call your former governor,'" said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R), referring to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
...
There are some Republicans who plan to answer constituents' questions, however.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.), co-chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said he will "always" help people who have questions about the federal government.
"If a constituent wants to know something, I'm going to be truthful to then, even if I absolutely hate the program," said Gingrey, who is running for the Senate.
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), who ran for Congress in part because of his opposition to ObamaCare, is planning to hold town hall meetings on the law for individuals and small businesses.
"We're going to play them absolutely straight," he said. "We're going to invite some experts, and they're going to explain what is going to help and what is going to hurt."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Favorability Ratings of Possible GOP Contenders

Do early polls predict outcomes of a nomination contest three years away? Sure, just ask President Huckabee. (For more on the early number in the 2012 cycle, see our analysis in After Hope and Change.) Still, there are noteworthy number in the latest Gallup survey:
Of five recent Republican newsmakers also mentioned as potential 2016 presidential candidates, Wisconsin Rep. and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is rated most positively by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, with a 69% favorable rating and +57 net favorable score. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is also relatively popular among the Republican rank-and-file, while Chris Christie is less so, given his higher unfavorable rating.

he results are based on a June 1-4 Gallup poll, which tested the images of five Republicans who could run for president in the next election. These include two Hispanic Republican U.S. senators -- Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- a Tea Party and libertarian favorite in Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, outspoken New Jersey Gov. Christie, and Ryan, the House Budget committee chairman who was Mitt Romney's 2012 running mate.

Most Republicans are familiar with Ryan, Christie, Rubio, and Paul, with at least seven in 10 having an opinion of each. Cruz, just elected to the Senate last November, is familiar to about half of Republicans.

The Republican officeholders' relative standing among Republicans is not mirrored among Democrats or the larger general population. Ryan, who has the most positive net favorable score among Republicans, has the worst net score among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. That could be a result of his presence on the 2012 GOP ticket, making him more of a partisan figure. Christie, by contrast, is more liked than disliked by Democrats, and is the only one of the five with a net positive image among Democrats.
In fact, Christie's net favorable is higher among Democrats (+37) than it is among Republicans (+28). Christie has become much better known in recent months, likely due to his response to Superstorm Sandy. That response has included public appearances alongside President Barack Obama.

Also note that early favorability rating in the opposite party may not survive the general-election campaign. In 2005, John McCain had a 78% favorability rating among Democrats. In 2008, he got 10 percent of the Democratic vote.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Christie Slow Jam

New Jersey Gov., and Bruce Springsteen fanatic, Chris Christie appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday to explain his recent decision to hold an October election for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat.
Christie delivered his explanation by "slow-jamming" the news with Fallon and backup band The Roots. Consistent with the regular skit, Christie deadpanned while Fallon and vocalist Black Thought expounded, with a heavy dose of innuendo.
"Aw, yeah," Fallon crooned. "Chris Christie's about to give New Jersey a huge election and he's putting it in the hands of the people."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Grim View of the GOP

At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes:
To much acclaim, the Republican National Committee released its road map for reform in March, emphasizing that the path to success called for moderating the party's position on immigration, courting a more diverse set of officeholders, and building the GOP around pragmatic governors rather than polarizing members of Congress.
Three months later, those recommendations seem to have already been forgotten. Party leaders in Washington anonymously rebuked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his self-interested scheduling of a Senate special election, treating a rare blue-state conservative governor like a pariah. As the debate on immigration heats up in Congress, the majority of House Republicans cast a symbolic vote rejecting President Obama's executive order to end deportations of young people brought to this country illegally as children. In Massachusetts, the party nominated a Hispanic military veteran who is within striking distance of winning a Senate seat, but few major donors are giving money to his campaign.
"This is the world's longest psychotherapy session. Everyone's trying to talk their way through what happened in 2012. The more they talk, the more they enjoy the therapy session," said Republican strategist Brad Todd, who is working for Gabriel Gomez, the GOP nominee in the Bay State.
The composite is a party stuck in the status quo despite its leaders' public hand-wringing. Much of the desire for change is coming from the top, while the more-populist conservative grassroots—skeptical of wide-ranging legislation and disdainful of pragmatic problem-solvers—are pulling in another direction.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More on Public Opinion and the NSA Issue

The Pew results present only a partial picture of public opinion on surveillance.  At Cato, David Kirby writes that the poll shows that Americans are far less sanguine about surrendering their privacy rights, as more information emerges.
Pollsters faced a difficult challenge—to accurately capture public opinion during a complex and evolving story. Recall, on Wednesday of last week, the story was about the NSA tracking Verizon phone records. So the pollsters drew up a perfectly reasonable and balanced question:
As you may know, it has been reported that the National Security Agency has been getting secret court orders to track telephone call records of MILLIONS of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism. Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?
Fifty-six percent found this “acceptable.” Thus, the “majority of Americans” lead in the Washington Post.
However, on Thursday, the Washington Post revealed explosive details about the massive data-collection program PRISM—and the public was alerted that the NSA was not just collecting phone records, but email, Facebook, and other online records. So the pollsters quickly drew up a new question, asked starting Friday, from June 7-9:
Do you think the U.S. government should be able to monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks?
Fifty-two percent—a majority—said “no.” So Americans feel differently about the story based on the facts on Wednesday, when the story was about tracking “telephone calls,” and facts on Thursday, when the story was about motoring all “email and other online activity.”
In the wake of the recent disclosure of two classified U.S. surveillance programs, most Americans disapprove of the government collecting the phone numbers of ordinary Americans, but approve of its monitoring those suspected of terrorist activity, according to a new CBS News poll.

Seventy-five percent of Americans approve of federal agencies collecting the phone records of people the government suspects of terrorist activity, but a 58 percent majority disapproves of this type of data collection in the case of ordinary Americans.
Majorities of Republicans and independents oppose the government collecting phone records of ordinary Americans; Democrats are divided.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NSA Issue Is Not Moving the Public

The Pew Research Center reports:
A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Crossroads GPS and Immigration

At The Hill, Cameron Joseph reports:
Crossroads GPS is $100,000 on print ads in Beltway publications promoting immigration reform. 
The ads from the Republican ally call a bipartisan Senate bill to be debated on the floor this week an "important starting point" to fixing immigration, though the group calls for tighter border enforcement.

"The Senate immigration bill needs an 'extreme makeover' before we can say it really protects our borders and our workers, but it's important that Congress move forward on it and not just throw up its hands," said Crossroads GPS CEO Steven Law. "This isn't just about politics; it's about taking responsibility for solving a critical national problem."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Modernity Gap

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes that the GOP has a modernity problem, not only in the technological sense but the cultural sense:
Limiting the evidence to just the past two weeks, Exhibit No. 1: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a GOP member of House Judiciary Committee, told a witness — who had ended her pregnancy after having been advised that the fetus was brain dead,that she should have carried the “child” to term.

Exhibit No. 2: Erik Erickson, the founder of RedState, mansplained to Fox News’ incredulous Megyn Kelly this week that “when you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society, and other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.”

Exhibit No. 3: Phil Bryant, Mississippi’s first-term governor, blamed working mothers for American illiteracy.

Exhibit No. 4, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss attributed rape in the armed forces to hormones.”

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Midterm and Presidential Electorates

At National Journal, Ronald Brownstein writes:
Republicans have a problem with young voters. Democrats have a problem with young nonvoters.
That simple equation, which applies equally to minority voters, helps explain why Republicans could enjoy another strong midterm election in 2014 without solving any of the underlying demographic challenges that threaten them in the 2016 presidential race. Next year’s election could both disappoint Democrats (by frustrating their hope of recapturing the House) and mislead Republicans (by tempting them to believe they have overcome the trends that allowed Democrats to win the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.) It could also highlight one of the forces that is making it difficult for either party to sustain unified control over Washington, even as they struggle to reach consensus on almost anything while power is divided.
These intertwined risks and opportunities are rooted in a new twist on a familiar phenomenon. The familiar part is the tendency of young and, more recently, minority voters to turn out in smaller numbers during midterms than in presidential elections. The new twist is that changing voting patterns have vastly raised the partisan stakes in those participation trends, creating systematic challenges for Democrats in midterm elections and for the GOP in presidential years.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The IRS Story: It Keeps Going and Going

Two Internal Revenue Service agents working in the agency's Cincinnati office say higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, a contention that directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.

The Cincinnati agents didn't provide proof that senior IRS officials in Washington ordered the targeting. But one of the agents said her work processing the applications was closely supervised by a Washington lawyer in the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, according to a transcript of her interview with congressional investigators.

Her interview suggests a long trail of emails that could support her claim.
Peggy Noonan argues that the issue is not incompetence but a deliberate violation of rights.
The most compelling evidence of that is what happened to the National Organization for Marriage. Its chairman, John Eastman, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, and the tale he told was different from the now-familiar stories of harassment and abuse.

In March 2012, the organization, which argues the case for traditional marriage, found out its confidential tax information had been obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, one of its primary opponents in the marriage debate. The HRC put the leaked information on its website—including the names of NOM donors. NOM not only has the legal right to keep its donors' names private, it has to, because when contributors' names have been revealed in the past they have been harassed, boycotted and threatened. This is a free speech right, one the Supreme Court upheld in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to surrender its membership list.

The NOM did a computer forensic investigation and determined that its leaked IRS information had come from within the IRS itself. If it was leaked by a worker or workers within the IRS it would be a federal crime, with penalties including up to five years in prison. 
CBS reports:
Most Americans regardless of party believe political reasons drove the Internal Revenue Service to single out for burdensome and unnecessary scrutiny some conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday. The public splits across party lines, though, about whether President Obama and his administration were involved.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents- 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents - said they think the IRS targeting was motivated by politics, rather than adherence to the tax code policy. But while forty-four percent think the Obama administration had a hand in the targeting, 40 percent said they believe the agency acted on its own.

There are partisan differences: 70 percent of Republicans think the Obama administration was involved - a belief shared by only 19 percent of Democrats. Sixty-five percent of Democrats said they think the IRS acted independently.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Working Class Whites

At The New Republic, Andrew Levison and Ruy Teixeira explain why working class whites still matter to Democratic prospects.
First, in terms of sheer size, even at 36 percent of voters (and that is the exit poll figure—the Census data indicate a share about 8 points higher), the white working class remains one of the biggest sociologically distinct demographic groups that is now heavily part of the Red State/GOP coalition.

Second, a significant number of white working class voters have historic ties with the Democrats - even among those who currently vote Republican. Some have personal memories and others family traditions of past Democratic voting. No comparable connection or previous ideological affinity exists with today’s upper income or other Republican voters.

As a result, on both the positive side and on the negative side, the white working class has the potential to be a—if not the—decisive swing voter group for the future.

On the positive side, permanently increasing the level of Democratic support among white workers to just the 40 percent Obama received in 2008 (he received 36 percent in 2012) could actually ensure a genuinely stable and reliable Democratic majority for many years to come. On the negative side, if in 2016 white working class support for the Dems falls to or below the 33 percent it hit in 2010, a GOP president becomes a very real possibility. Not to mention the dire effects such low support would have on Democratic prospects in 2014: It would be essentially impossible for Democrats to retake the House and they might well lose the Senate in the bargain.

Scandalabra Overreach? Not Likely.

At Slate, John Dickerson says that "in a nonpresidential election year where base motivation is even more important, the IRS investigations offer perhaps the greatest opportunity for Republicans to score free points in the history of politics."  He explains that there is little risk of overreach:
There are two dangers: You either inspire the other side's partisans to mobilize, or you present yourself as such a menace to the citizenry that you scare voters who might sit out the election, and they go to the polls to vote you out.

The IRS scandal isn't likely to encourage either of these outcomes. The public seems to think the matter is worth pursuing. Fifty-eight percent surveyed in a recent Bloomberg poll say Congress is spending the right amount of time on the investigation or should spend more. Forty-three percent of those surveyed in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups was part of a widespread effort by those in government, compared with 29 percent who saw it as a case of a few officials acting on their own. Even 63 percent of Democrats want an independent prosecutor to investigate the IRS abuses.

When it comes to other scandals, the public seems to think there's enough smoke there, too. In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll respondents were asked separately about Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the Justice Department’s monitoring of journalists, and in each case at least 55 percent said the incident raised doubts about “the overall honesty and integrity of the Obama administration.” In January, self-described independents gave Obama high marks for being "honest and straightforward." Now only 27 percent do. According to a recent Bloomberg poll, 47 percent of Americans say they don't believe Obama is telling the truth when he says he didn't know the IRS was giving extra scrutiny to conservative groups. (Forty percent say he is being truthful).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Long Slog

It's been a long time since there really hasn't been an obvious front-runner [among Republicans]," says Lewis Gould, a historian who wrote Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans. "It's hard to see somebody becoming a juggernaut in the next eight or 12 months, so that by summer of 2014 people are saying, 'It's X's to lose.' We're a long way from that."
The result is likely to be a long nominating season. In contrast to the usual fashion, in which there's a king and a group of individuals aspiring to dethrone the king, a wide-open field means more candidates can linger in hopes of getting hot later in the game.
"When you get past New Hampshire, the field is usually down to two or three candidates," Rath says. "I'm not sure that will happen this time."
Will a long nominating season help or hurt the GOP?  In 2012, the answer was "both," as we explain in After Hope and Change:
The “long slog,” as the Romney campaign staff called it, did benefit the GOP in a couple of ways. First, it bolstered the nominee’s legitimacy in the eyes of the party base. In 2008, many conservatives thought that the front-loaded calendar enabled John McCain to seize the nomination before the rank and file could appraise him fully. In 2012, the party got a chance to give Romney a long, hard look and weigh the alternatives. Second, it honed Romney’s campaign skills. He had always known the issues, but twenty debates gave him plenty of practice at making points forcefully and putting opponents on the defensive. This experience paid off in his first general-election debate with President Obama.

But if the nomination race was an education for Mitt Romney, the tuition was expensive. It cost his campaign about $87 million and kept him from focusing on the general election until well into the spring of 2012. In the meantime, the Obama campaign had been methodically building its general-election machinery, and by April, it had dozens of field offices in key states. Still, it worried about anti-Obama attacks from Romney and GOP super PACs. “Our air defenses weren’t ready,” said Obama strategist David Axelrod. “They gave us a pass, for whatever reason.” The reason, of course, was that Romney did not have the nomination in hand and had to concentrate on beating his GOP rivals.

Some commentators have claimed that the GOP nomination process hurt Romney by pulling him too far to the right. But Romney’s conservative journey took place mostly before 2008, which is why he won the endorsement of National Review in that nomination campaign. His basic positions for 2012 were in place by the start of the race, and changed little through the end of the primary season. But the “long slog” did create many opportunities for verbal missteps, and Romney made his share, from “severely conservative” to “self-deportation.” Romney had won running a campaign with few substantive positive themes, relying on superior resources to batter at his opponents’ weaknesses with largely unanswered negative barrages—an approach with obvious limitations in the upcoming general election fight against a well-funded incumbent. In the end, Republicans settled for Romney, gambling that everything should ride on an economic referendum.

Scandalabra, Obama, and Public Opinion

Recent controversies surrounding the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies have sown doubts about the honesty of the Obama administration, but most people don't hold the president personally responsible for the agency actions, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.
A majority of poll respondents, some 55%, said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups raised some level of doubt about the administration's "overall honesty and integrity." Similar shares said the same about the Justice Department's subpoena of reporter phone records and about the administration's handling of the deadly terrorist attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Moreover, a plurality of 43% in the poll said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups was part of a widespread effort by those in government, compared with 29% who saw it as a case of a few officials acting on their own.
Still, despite the negative tone of much news coverage of the controversies, President Barack Obama has survived so far with his personal image largely intact. Some 48% approved of the job he is doing as president and 47% disapproved, matching his rating in a Journal/NBC poll in April.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

House GOP Factions

Paul Kane writes at The Washington Post that the fiscal cliff vote was a "breaking point for House Republicans, who had disintegrated into squabbling factions, no longer able to agree on — much less execute — some of the most basic government functions."
Ever since, Boehner has cautiously tried to steer his party away from that bitter moment, with varying success. A short-term strategy, which conservatives called “the Williamsburg Accord,” emerged from a bruising mid-January retreat. It restored enough unity to permit the House to dodge a government shutdown, badger the Senate into passing its first budget in four years and open investigations of the Obama White House.

But beyond those limited efforts, the House has not approved ambitious legislation this year. Lawmakers have instead focused on trying to re-brand the party around kitchen-table issues — although even some of those bills have run into trouble. And the most momentous policy decisions, including an immigration overhaul and a fresh deadline for raising the federal debt limit, have no coherent strategy to consolidate Republicans, much less take on the Democrats.

“We basically have gone three or four months where we built a bit of rhythm. It’s been better than the slug-fest of the previous two years,” said Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), who fought so furiously with leaders that they removed him from the Financial Services Committee in November. But, he added, “the thing you have to analyze is: Have we had a pretty good quarter because we stuck to the formula of Williamsburg? Or is it because we avoided the tough issues?”

Schweikert considers himself a guarded optimist, but interviews with nearly three dozen GOP lawmakers and senior aides revealed plenty of doubt. The majority is “adrift,” according to a longtime conservative. The top five leaders hail from blue states that voted for President Obama, making them out of step with a conference dominated by red-state Republicans. A junior Republican called it a “fractured” conference when it comes to the biggest issues.

Monday, June 3, 2013

College Republican Report

In the wake of the Growth and Opportunity Project, younger Republicans have delivered their own autopsyCNN reports: 
"Solely for the rich." "Lacking in diversity." "Old-fashioned."
That's how young voters perceive the Republican Party, according to a new report by the nation's largest Republican youth organization.
The College Republican National Committee released a 95-page study Monday detailing its study on voters between the ages of 18 and 29, following President Obama's sweeping victory among the voting bloc against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Rick Moran writes at American Thinker:
In the report, the young Republican activists acknowledge their party has suffered significant damage in recent years. A sampling of the critique on:
Gay marriage: "On the 'open-minded' issue ... [w]e will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table."
Hispanics: "Latino voters ... tend to think the GOP couldn't care less about them."
Perception of the party's economic stance: "We've become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won't offer you a hand to help you get there."
Big reason for the image problem: The "outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices."
Words that up-for-grabs voters associate with the GOP: "The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned."
I can already hear many commenters sharpening their pencils, ready to go after the youngsters for being RINOs. But the kids have correctly identified the problem. It isn't "tweaking the message" that will win back voters, it is a change in tone and attitude. One can stand on principle and still try to be inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming. It's a no brainer - except that most in the party haven't figured it out yet.
The report does have some hopeful news for the GOP:
During the January 2013 focus group research, respondents in the Columbus group of young men who voted for Obama were asked to name who they viewed as leaders of the Democratic Party. They named prominent former or currently elected officials: Pelosi, the Clintons, Obama, Kennedy, Gore.
When those same respondents were asked to name Republican leaders, they focused heavily on media personalities and commentators: Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck.
Yet across all six groups, when the topic turned to future leaders of the parties, the GOP was clearly in a stronger position. Asked to name up-and-coming Republican stars, these young Obama voters could point to a number of examples. Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul were all mentioned.
On the Democratic side? Few groups could list even one up-and-coming Democratic leader. The young men’s focus group in Columbus named Cory Booker, while another participant said, “I can’t think of any young people.” The young women said the same: “We don’t have any.” “I can’t think of any.” The young entrepreneurs in Orlando could not name any rising Democratic leaders at all. Despite the focus groups describing Democrats as the “young” party, no
one could actually describe who their young leaders might be.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Scandal at Midterm

At The New York Times, Jeremy Peters writes on the use of presidential scandal as a midterm target.
In the fall of 1998, Republicans poured tens of millions of dollars into a television ad campaign with slogans like “Honesty does matter,” a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Clinton’s duplicity about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
They lost big that year, and it marked the first time since 1822 that the party that held the White House gained seats in the House of Representatives during a second term. Usually the president’s party loses representation in Congress in midterm elections.
In a postelection political autopsy, Republicans offered some self-reflection that should sound familiar. “We have done incredible damage,” said John G. Rowland, the governor of Connecticut at the time, “because in my opinion we’ve developed a laundry list of people that we’re against.” Mr. Rowland went on to list the groups that he thought Republicans had alienated: women, immigrants and gays, just to name a few.
The story omits a relevant detail:  In 2005, Rowland went to prison on a federal corruption charge.

In any case, the analogy is wide of the mark.  The Lewinsky scandal backfired because voters could not see the relevance to their daily lives.  By contrast, everybody deals with the IRS. Peggy Noonan writes:
One of the reasons a lot of people in New York and Washington are not deeply distressed by the IRS targeting of conservative groups is that they have it in their heads that it only involved the tea party and the tea party is full of nuts, weirdoes and radicals whose discouragement wouldn’t be a grave national loss. It’s not only tea-party groups that were targeted, of course, but the IRS was only too happy to get the idea out there that it was. But if you’re the kind of person who thinks Tea Party people are low and extreme, that they’re the kind of people who’d hurt our country, take a few minutes to look at this. It’s a website that will take you to videos of a town hall meeting of the SouthWest Cincinnati Tea Party. It was held Wednesday night. Its subject was “IRS Intimidation—Are You Next?”
Do those people really strike you as weird and radical? Do they seem destructive? They are normal citizens. And they feel besieged.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Another Addition to Scandalabra

At the same time the Internal Revenue Service was targeting tea-party groups, the tax agency took the unusual step of trying to impose gift taxes on donors to a prominent conservative advocacy group formed in 2007 to build support for President George W. Bush's Iraq troop surge.

The probe of the group, Freedom's Watch, began in the unit led by Lois Lerner, the IRS official already under scrutiny for her role in the more recent targeting of conservative groups.

While the IRS confirmed the existence of the gift-tax initiative in 2011, the identity of the group involved—as well as the affiliation of individual donors—remained a mystery.

Former officials of Freedom's Watch say they believe all five of the IRS audits involved donors to their group, based on conversations with IRS agents and donors at the time of the audits in 2011.
The IRS declined to comment, citing taxpayer confidentiality.