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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Future of Conservatism Post-2012

Here are some thoughts for a Claremont Institute panel today at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.

The future of conservatism obviously depends on the quality of conservative ideas and policy proposals.  But it also depends on the quality of conservative politics.  To put ideas into action, you have to win elections, or as Reagan adviser Lyn Nofziger used to say, "Losers don't legislate."

Here are four suggestions for conservative politics in the years ahead.  They aren't "silver bullets," or magic methods that guarantee victory.  They aren't particularly original, either:  rather, they are common sense among the people who actually go out and win elections. But  common sense was sometimes in short supply during the 2012 campaign, so it's useful to reflect on such points.

1.  You need good politicians, that is, skillful people who can appeal to general-election voters.  The best example, of course, is Ronald Reagan.  He had a way of getting people to like him.

The 2012 GOP finalists were not in that league. Gingrich was widely disliked before he even started running for president. Santorum could be very good, but he also took too many day trips to Crazytown.  Just before the Michigan primary -- where 30 percent of Republican voters were Catholic, he said that JFK's famous speech on church and state made him want to "throw up."  He lost his co-religionists to Romney.  And as for Romney ... well, nobody's favorite Gilligan's Island character was Thurston Howell III.

The key here is understanding the difference between applause lines that conservatives enjoy, and the things that appeal to the general public -- which may not be the same.

2. Do not do dumb stuff.  By "dumb stuff," I mean fights that you can't win and that will lead to loss of public support.  The Gingrich speakership provided some prominent examples of dumb stuff.  As for today, three items come to mind:

  • Defaulting on the federal debt
  • Shutting down large portions of the government
  • Trying to impeach President Obama.
3.  Reach out.  It is a commonplace that the makeup of the electorate is changing, though perhaps not as abruptly as some of the 2012 commentary suggests.  Hispanics and African Americans tend to be very liberal on most issues.  But if conservative and Republican candidates can just improve their showings with such groups by just a few points, they can be in a much better position to win elections. 

How can they do that?  At regular intervals over the past 30-plus years, party organizations have announced "outreach" programs.  They issue press releases, pay lots of money to consultants, and then...the whole thing fizzles out.  The key is for candidates and elected officials is to show up in these communities, and to keep doing it, year after year.  There will not be a big, immediate shift, but over time, conservative persistence can wear down sales resistance.

4.  Talk about the issues that people care about.  Conservative activists often dwell on issues that may be very important but do not move votes.  Take, for instance, Benghazi. Rank-and-file voters ought to care about it, but they don't -- and if you base your campaign strategy on the assumption that they do care, you will be disappointed.  Poll after poll shows that Americans care about bread-and-butter economic issues -- the kind of things that Reagan meant when he asked voters if they were better off than they were four years earlier. In election campaigns, conservatives need to keep explaining how they will improve the economy and -- this is a tough one -- address the growing opportunity gap between rich and poor.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Syria Situation Is Not Helping POTUS

The poll also finds that only 21 percent think taking action against the Syrian government is in the national interest of the United States. By comparison, 33 percent disagree and 45 percent don’t know enough to have an opinion.
And just 27 percent say that U.S. military force will improve the situation for Syrian civilians, versus 41 percent who say it won’t.

The NBC poll also shows that President Obama’s overall job-approval rating has dropped one point since last month to 44 percent, which is tied for his lowest mark in past NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys.
He gets even lower marks on foreign policy: Just 41 percent approve of his handling of the issue – an all-time low.
And only 35 percent approve of his handling of the situation in Syria.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Campaign Money from Higher Education

It's no secret that college professors are perceived as a bunch of raving liberals, and a deeper look at their campaign contributions by the Center for Responsive Politics mostly backs that up -- though certain types of schools tend to skew more left than others.
The lean is most pronounced at four-year institutions, medical schools and law schools, where faculty and other school staff donated overwhelmingly to Democrats in the 2012 election cycle.

...
Personnel at medical schools gave 81 percent of their contributions to Democratic/liberal candidates and committees in the 2012 elections. For law school employees, the number was 87 percent.

And 81 percent of contributions from individuals working at four-year schools as well as two-year community colleges was deposited in Democratic coffers. (Our figures throughout this report include donations from spouses who listed "homemaker" or the equivalent as their occupation, but not those who had outside sources of income.)
...
 Law school profs may not be big fans of Obama's view that students should be able to get their JDs in two years rather than three. The president knows whereof he speaks, though, being a Harvard Law alum. And in the 2012 cycle, Harvard took top honors among law school donors, giving the most and sending nearly 99 percent of its contributions to Democrats. The University of Chicago leaned even more liberal, giving a full 100 percent of its campaign donations to the Dems.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RNC CIO

At The Washington Examiner, David Drucker writes of RNC chief information officer Andy Barkett:
Taking a page from Obama's playbook, the GOP will abandon a voter targeting operation that relies on files that simply identify individual voters and their voting history. The new system will focus more broadly on people, even those who never voted, to identify likely voters, expand the universe of potential voters and provide a more accurate measure of the Republican Party's strength.

But hurdles abound for Barkett, who must build a digital data infrastructure virtually from scratch. Among them is that an outside group, Data Trust, and not the party will manage what Barkett considers to be one of the RNC's key improvements over Obama's 2012 operation: The ability to securely share data with GOP allies, who in turn will share information they've gathered with the RNC to further strengthen the network.

The system Barkett's building is expected to mine relevant information about potential voters through publicly available social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and then weave that data into an accurate, accessible and regularly updated file that can be shared. Some of the data collected will be very basic, like whether the potential voters prefers to communicate by smartphone or laptop email.

Barkett's system will include two innovations. One would collect information from television set-top boxes and show a campaign not only individual viewing habits but also whether the voter saw a specific political ad.

The second innovation would collect data from social networks about targeted demographic groups and allow a campaign to deliver customized digital ads to as few as a dozen or so voters.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crossroads GPS Obamacare Parody

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies is bringing out the big puns in its fight against Obamacare.
The Karl Rove-backed advocacy organization announced its entry Monday into the Health and Human Services Department's video contest aimed at promoting Obamacare among young Americans, the group key to keeping premiums down in the law's new insurance exchanges. The contest, which opened Aug. 19, is meant to raise awareness of the law and encourage enrollment among young people by using a medium the YouTube generation knows well.
The video, simply titled "Propaganda," satirizes the contest by covering what Crossroads sees as unfavorable aspects of the law—including the individual mandate and possible premium increases—all presented in a faux-cheery, infomercial-style voiceover. "We're in it to win it," said Crossroads GPS President and CEO Steven Law. "There is an ugly side to this law, and we expect the government to communicate those less savory aspects of the law to young people just as they are hyping some of the benefits. We hope every young person will watch this video--and vote for it."

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Tale of Two Gubernatorial Races

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green contrasts Chris Christie's cruise to reelection in New Jersey with Ken Cuccinelli's troubled race for governor of Virginia:
Christie is of the modern world; Cuccinelli less so. For Republicans in Virginia and nationally, that is a problem. As one Republican White House veteran and Virginian put it, “the race is between a crook and a kook, and I expect the crook to win.”

Fittingly, McAuliffe and his former company, Green Tech Automotive, are infused with all the elements of Clintonian modernity, globalization, and crony capitalism that one could imagine. McAuliffe is embroiled in allegations over a possible visa-for-sale scheme, involving Chinese financing for Green Tech.

The swirling scandal now includes an S.E.C. investigation, charges surrounding a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, and accusations of improperly applied pressure targeting the Department of Homeland Security. McAuliffe’s tale also has its very own Clinton family connection—Tony Rodham, Hillary’s brother, who was a Green Tech money guy.

Sadly for Cuccinelli, while voters may say “ugh” about “the Macker,” they have yet to walk away from him. Much as Cuccinelli may try to talk about taxes and roads, not enough voters are buying. A well-funded McAuliffe ad blitz is cementing an image of Virginia’s attorney general as fixated on social issues.

Cuccinelli’s struggle is compounded by the fact that Virginia’s demographics dramatically shifted, making it emblematic of the New South. Indeed, nothing tells the story better than a recent Quinnipiac Poll showing Hillary with comfortable leads over Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a hypothetical 2016 presidential matchup. She polls ahead of Christie by nine, and crushes Cruz by almost 20 points.

Actually, this is huge. No Republican since Warren G. Harding in 1920 has won the White House without also winning Virginia. More recently, Barack Obama’s margins of victory in Virginia were in sync with his numbers nationally. Virginia has graduated to bellwether status.

Likewise, a Cuccinelli loss would also be laden with historic significance. It would be the first time since 1965 that Virginians voted for a governor who was a member of the same party as the sitting president.
[emphasis added]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How To Spot an Extremist

Judicial Watch has obtained a Defense Department training document discussing political extremism.  One passage suggests a way to spot an extremist:
Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.
These criteria might be just a wee bit overbroad.  Consider these statements from a prominent public figure:
According to the DOD document, the person who made these comments might be an extremist.  But his name is Barack Obama.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Age and the GOP

A recent survey of Republican and Republican-leaning adults about the GOP’s future found stark age differences in opinions on the question of whether more diverse nominees would help the party perform better in future elections. (Some of the findings in this post were not included in the original report.)
Among Republicans and leaners under 40, 68% say nominating more racial and ethnic minorities would help and 64% say the same about more women nominees. Far fewer Republicans 40 and older view these steps as helpful: 49% say nominating more racial and ethnic minorities would help and 46% say the same of nominating more women.
More generally, younger Republicans are more likely than older Republicans to say that the GOP has not been welcoming to all groups of people. Overall, most Republicans (60%) think the party “is tolerant and open to all groups of people,” while 36% say it is not. Younger Republicans are divided – 51% say the party is tolerant and open to all, while 45% disagreed. Among older Republicans, twice as many view the party as tolerant (64%) than not (32%).
Based on surveys conducted over the past year, one-third of all Republicans and GOP leaners are under age 40. Those in the younger group are less likely to call themselves Republicans – 59% are Republicans while 41% simply lean toward the GOP – than those in the older group (65% Republicans vs. 35% leaners). Also, fewer younger Republicans and leaners describe their political views as conservative (54% vs. 67% of older Republicans) and fewer agree with the Tea Party (26% vs. 43%).

Friday, August 23, 2013

McConnell and Super PACs

The Daily Beast reports on Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-McConnell super PAC.  The story nicely illustrates the connections among outside groups, campaigns, and politicians:
The Kentucky super PAC leading the charge for McConnell can tap the golden Rolodex of Steven Law, who is one of its three board members: an ex-chief of staff to McConnell who ran his first reelection campaign, Law is currently president of American Crossroads. For extra muscle, the PAC’s senior adviser is Scott Jennings, a political director of another McConnell reelection drive, and a former aide to Crossroads co-founder Karl Rove in the George W. Bush administration.
...
When the pro-McConnell super PAC reported in late July that it had raised $1.2 million in its first six months, almost half its top 19 donors were individuals who in 2012 also backed American Crossroads when, in tandem with its advocacy arm, Crossroads GPS, it raked in over $300 million.

Among the top donors to the Kentucky PAC was the late Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who ponied up $100,000 and had given Crossroads $8.5 million in 2012. The Kentucky PAC initially reported that his donation came in early June, but when it was noted that Perry died in April, it quickly corrected the error, changing the date to one day before Perry’s death.

Besides Perry, other major Crossroads donors helping the new PAC included hedge-fund manager John Childs, who gave $250,000, and coal company CEO Joseph Craft III , who donated $100,000. Six other donors hailed from Texas, the longtime fundraising base of Crossroads co-founder Karl Rove.

With regard to personnel, the new PAC’s treasurer is Caleb Crosby, who also serves as treasurer of American Crossroads.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Politics of Shutdown and Default

Politico reports:
They’d never say it publicly. But catch many Democrats in an honest moment and they would admit that a Republican-led government shut down this fall might be the best thing — perhaps the only thing — that could revive their fading hopes of capturing the House next year.
As it stands now, the midterm is shaping up as a stale, status-quo election — with Democrats calling their counterparts right-wing extremists, Republicans attacking their rivals over Obamacare and neither side making much headway. That’s good for Republicans, since the party out of power in the White House almost inevitably picks up House seats in the sixth year of the presidency. Heavily-gerrymandered districts provide the GOP an extra layer of protection.
Nothing short of a powerful jolt — a moment that grabs casual voters by the lapels and makes them take notice — is likely to alter the landscape in a dramatic way. A shutdown could be it, Democrats argue, putting in play GOP-leaning districts now thought to be all but out of reach.
“There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It would be a boon to us,” said Andrew Myers, a national Democratic pollster. “How could it not be?”
At The New York Times, John Harwood notes another danger for the country and the GOP:
While the sequester pinches particular constituencies, and a government shutdown would inconvenience millions, economists warn that a default resulting from a failure to raise the government’s debt limit could tip the economy back into recession.
Speaking with Politico a few weeks ago, outgoing CEA chair Alan Krueger had a vivid analogy:
The idea of breaching the borrowing cap was “unthinkable,” Krueger said, and he drew comparisons to the recent Syfy movie “Sharknado” in which a freak storm leads to thousands of sharks terrorizing people on land and in the water.

“You have this tornado which brings sharks and they land on people’s heads,” he joked at POLITICO’s Playbook Lunch event. “I think if we cross the debt limit, it would be worse for the financial sector.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Walker

James Hohmann reports at Politico:
He can’t use the Senate soapbox to rack up media hits and political points, like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio. He isn’t poised to run up the score in his reelection campaign as a show of strength heading into 2016, as Chris Christie intends to do this November in New Jersey.

But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s game plan for the next three years is quietly taking shape: Win reelection next year in this purple state without moderating a record that has won many hearts in the conservative base; let the other GOP hopefuls get sullied by the mud pit of Congress and each other; then pounce in 2015.

That, in essence, is the outline of the likely presidential contender’s game plan that emerged from interviews with multiple people in his orbit.
Sean Sullivan writes at The Washington Post:
If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) runs for president in 2016, his theme will likely be some version of this: “No” is not enough for the GOP.

“You don’t just sit back and nick the other side — you’ve got to lay out a plan,” Walker said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Walker added: “As governors, as state leaders, we’re more optimistic than our friends in Washington. We’re not just against something. We’re laying out a plan. We’re laying out a vision.”
Walker is rejecting two things. One is Washington, which is not surprising at all, considering how unpopular Congress is right now and how unpopular the Democratic-controlled White House is to the Republican primary voters whom Walker wants to win over.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cruz News

USA Today reports:
The questions about Sen. Ted Cruz's citizenship may just be beginning.

Political analysts said Tuesday that Cruz may think he's tamping down a controversy by renouncing his previously unknown Canadian citizenship, but the situation may prove to be nettlesome — just like questions about President Obama's citizenship.

Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire, calls it the "nuisance factor."

"If we learned anything from the allegations surrounding President Obama's citizenship, it's this: Facts may be stubborn things, but people's beliefs can be a lot more stubborn than the facts," Scala said. "Many people believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts, especially when it's about a public figure they do not like in the first place."
At RealClearPolitics, Tom Bevan takes down a weird Daily Beast hit piece.
All of this was neatly packaged on The Daily Beast’s front page under the headline “Cruz’s ‘Creepy’ Years,” posing the question to its readers: “Can a master debater who used to stroll by the women’s wing of the dorm in a paisley bathrobe be the next president?”
The “master debater” double-entendre is the giveaway. This pun is more suitable for an episode of "Beavis and Butt-head" than a news organization that comprises the remnants of Newsweek.
But, unfortunately, this kind of story - unflattering, decades-old recollections from acquaintances dressed up as news - is becoming more and more prevalent. The Daily Beast's piece on Cruz represents a new low for the genre and for modern political journalism, but I'm sure it won't be long before someone, somewhere plumbs new depths.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Anti-Wasta Party

In Startup Rising, Chris Schroeder writes of the Arabic word wasta, which refers to cronyism and insider connections.  Some Republicans have called for a libertarian populism, which would oppose the American version of wasta.  Another term for this approach is "outsiderism"   At US News, Stephanie Slade writes:
At both ends of the political spectrum, Americans are hungry for an antidote to cronyism. Frustration with that aspect of the status quo is what powered both the tea party and the Occupy movements. In between, people may not quite be sure what's wrong with the current system, but they know something isn't right.
Therein lies the opportunity for Republicans. As the Examiner's [Tim] Carney put it, "It's time for free-market populism and a Republican Party that fights against all forms of political privilege – a party that champions all who want to work and take risks in order to improve their lives and raise a family."
There is ample evidence that this could be a winning strategy. As workers have struggled to bounce back from the recession, banks and corporations have been raking in the profits, and that hasn't gone unnoticed. A report by the College Republican National Committee earlier this summer found the conservative narrative that young people most agreed with was, "We need leaders who aren't afraid to fight existing interests like big companies and big unions in order to reform outdated and unsustainable programs." Americans, especially young Americans, have become deeply suspicious of large institutions. More worrisome for Republicans, they have come to associate the GOP with the very institutions they mistrust.
The College Republicans asked a focus group of aspiring entrepreneurs why they voted for President Obama even though they see Republicans as the party that favors business. "The Republican Party would make it really easy to start a business and have a successful business if you already have that capital in your bank account … but we're all sitting on our own various debts and our student loans, and the Republican Party isn't helping us with any of that," one respondent explained.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Christie and the Bush Model

Jonathan Martin reports at The New York Times that Christie is hoping that a big reelection victory will launch a presidential bid.
At the Republican National Committee summer meeting in Boston last week, Mr. Christie and his aides repeatedly made the case that his re-election effort in heavily Democratic New Jersey this fall would offer a model for Republicans in the years ahead. And despite their claims to be focused only on 2013, his aides have also signaled to Republicans that the governor, if re-elected as expected, plans to begin visiting other states immediately after November.
...
 Senior Republicans who are familiar with Mr. Christie’s strategy say it is most closely modeled after Mr. Bush’s bid in 1998 for re-election as governor of Texas. The parallels are clear. Mr. Bush was considered a shoo-in for re-election to the governor’s office, but he and Mr. Rove became determined to win over Hispanic and black voters to demonstrate the governor’s broad appeal to a national audience. Mr. Bush won that race, with 68 percent of the vote, which included more than a third of the Hispanic vote, offering him a powerful credential when he ran for president two years later as “a different kind of Republican.”
The Christie team should think carefully before relying too heavily on the Bush model.

First, Bush won in 1998 because his opposition was so weak, not because his appeal was broad.  As Jim Gimpel explained:
[W]hat is often ignored about the 1998 Texas race was that George W. Bush won so easily because only 32 percent of registered voters turned out. Indeed, he won so easily because most of the Mexican Americans in Texas, stalwarts of the Democratic party, stayed home. Far from Latino converts being his key to victory, it was Latino apathy that allowed him to rack up such a huge advantage.

...
Take the Latino counties in South and West Texas: Cameron, Hidalgo and, say, El Paso (home to the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen, Edinburgh, McAllen, and El Paso). One need not take just these counties, after all, Texas has 254 (!) of them, but these three will help to amplify the turnout point.

At all three of these heavily Mexican-American and historically Democratic locations, Bush won respectable victories in his 1998 reelection bid — even taking 59 percent in Cameron (Brownsville). But the turnout figures in these counties tell us how he managed this: 27.7 percent in El Paso, 24.2 percent in Cameron, and a pathetic 21.4 percent in Hidalgo. Bush won these Democratic counties in 1998 because only the hardcore Republicans and Anglos showed up to vote for him. If turnout in the Mexican-American community would have been higher, as it was in the 2000 presidential race, he would have lost decisively — and he did — Gore won all three by significant margins with turnout figures in the 40-50 percent range. The moral of the story is again clear: Bush wins handily in Texas when Mexican Americans stay home. These facts are so plain, it is hard to believe that they could be so misunderstood.
Second, Bush won the nomination in 2000 by becoming the conservative alternative to John McCain. Romney's 2012 nomination campaign provides a  more plausible model for Christie.  As we explain in After Hope and Change, he consolidated the moderate/establishment vote early on, became at least tolerable to the right, and then let his rivals split up the conservative vote.

The GOP's Downballot Strength

DC establishment Republicans may be morose about 2016, but things look different elsewhere. In After Hope and Change, we discuss the GOP's ability to hold onto most of its 2010 downballot gains during the 2012 election. Salena Zito writes at The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The story buried by the national media’s fixation with Hillary Clinton’s next move is the solid bench that Republicans have been efficiently building – not just in Democrat-blue Pennsylvania, but across the country – since her husband left office in 2000.

Even in “blue” New York you can look at a county such as Ulster, which went for Obama by 23 points but where the county legislature is 12-11 Republican. It’s a pattern that pops up all over the state.

“The presidency is one election, and Democrats and Republicans have basically been alternating it for the better part of a decade now,” said Sean Trende, elections analyst at RealClearPolitics. “But it is the GOP that is ascendant down-ballot.”

Trende explains that, in 2010, Republicans won around 54 percent of state house and senate seats nationally; the number fell slightly in 2012, to 53 percent of state senate and 52 percent of state house seats.

“Part of the disparity comes from the fact that not all the state senate seats were up in 2012,” he said. “But overall, Democrats pay the same penalty in state legislative districts that they pay in congressional districts” – their coalition has become too geographically concentrated to function well in legislative races.

Clearly, the GOP connects with voters, given its down-ballot strength, said Trende: “You can’t have total control of government in a near-majority of the states in the country without some ability to connect.”

“While the pundits and the media pronounce on the divisions in the GOP and how these will ultimately wipe out the Republicans, I've been looking at some numbers and they look pretty good,” Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said about the GOP bench.

He points to 30 out of 50 governorships controlled by Republicans, 233 U.S. House members out of 435, and 24 state governments controlled by both GOP governors and legislative majorities.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Priebus

At The Wall Street Journal, Neil King, Jr. writes of Reince Priebus:
Conceding that the RNC was widely outmaneuvered by the Democrats last year, the 41-year-old is moving briskly to roll out what many consider the party's most aggressive campaign operation to date, especially so early in an election cycle.
The RNC has dispatched nearly 150 active campaign operatives across the country, a number that it says will more than double by the end of the year. To Virginia, the RNC has assigned five Asian field staff—of Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Filipino descent—to help target voters in this year's governor's race, more than Mitt Romney had devoted to Asian voters in the state at the peak of his campaign.
...
That the former Wisconsin party boss still has his perch is itself unusual. No national head of either party in the modern era has retained that seat after a loss in the presidential election. Some now expect him to keep the job through the 2016 election, which would make him the longest-serving GOP chairman in nearly 30 years.
Picked to head the party in 2011, Mr. Priebus defends the group's lackluster showing last year by pointing out that he inherited an organization with just 80 employees, $26 million in debt "and two credit cards that were both suspended for nonpayment."
The chairman has poured most of his energies into raising money—he said he spends five hours a day on donor calls—and into building out the party's infrastructure, including an aggressive, state-by-state outreach to minority voters.
The party has now cleared away its debts while raising $40 million this year through June, compared with $31 million raised by the DNC, which still owes $18 million to creditors, according to federal election records. The GOP ended June with $7 million more in cash than the Democrats had, the federal records show.

The GOP Leadership Generation

By the looks of the most recent nationwide polling, the Republicans may well have the makings of a new guard to choose from to take on the Democrats in 2016. And it is shaping up to be a relatively young field of candidates, especially when compared to the most talked about likely Democratic nominees. But while the Republicans may have the new faces to appeal to a younger, broader slice of the electorate, they remain divided on how, and if the GOP should change itself to be more competitive in the future.
Nonetheless, it is ironic that the GOP, which has lost the youth vote in the last three presidential elections by double digits, has a younger potential field of candidates than the Democrats, who have carried Millennials and GenXers in the last three elections.
Current Republican national leadership includes Rep. Paul Ryan (age 43) with a 65% favorable rating among Republicans and Independents who lean Republican according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Not far behind Ryan is Sen. Rand Paul (age 50) who has a 55% favorable rating. He is closely followed by 42-year-old Sen. Marco Rubio with a 50% favorable rating. Gov. Chris Christie at age 50 gets a 47% favorable rating from the GOP faithful. In contrast, the Republican party’s older establishment leadership: House Speaker John Boehner (age 63) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (71) get markedly lower ratings. The youngest Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz (age 40), is still not well known by most Republicans nationally.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Scandalabra Won't Go Away

At National Journal on Wednesday, Norman Ornstein dismissed Scandalabra, saying that there is "scant evidence of any corruption or serious malfeasance overall, Darrell Issa notwithstanding."

At The Washington Post on Thursday, Barton Gellman reported:
The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kasich: Kemp Redux?

The Wall Street Journal reports on Ohio Governor John Kasich:
More so than any other leading Republican, Gov. Kasich is using his perch to promote a blend of conservative orthodoxy leavened with liberal policies meant to help the poor, the mentally ill and the uninsured.

To hear him tell it, the 61-year-old onetime Lehman Brothers executive wants to rebrand the Republican Party by refashioning what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century.

On the one hand, he tamed a deficit by slashing funding to local governments and overhauling the state's Medicaid rules, among things. He has eliminated the state's estate tax and wants to phase out all state income taxes, a step aimed at stimulating growth. A budget he signed in June included a range of new abortion restrictions that drew sharp criticism from Democrats.

At the same time, Mr. Kasich has stirred strong opposition from tea-party leaders—and won surprised approval from liberals—by pushing to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 300,000 additional Ohioans, adopting a provision of the Obama health-care overhaul that he has taken to defending with an openly religious fervor..
..
Driving back to Ohio last month from a Cape Cod vacation with his family, Mr. Kasich stopped to eat in Buffalo, N.Y. He asked a few people at random if they had ever met Jack Kemp, the late Buffalo Bills quarterback who became a congressman and 1996 vice-presidential nominee.

Mr. Kemp, who once described himself as a "bleeding-heart conservative," built a reputation as a Republican who focused on urban minorities and the poor.

"It was Jack, over and over again, who talked about lifting people, about hopes and dreams," Mr. Kasich said. "Jack had a profound impact on the conservative moment. Maybe I have a chance to do that, too."
See Kasich's action on an autism insurance mandate. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Are Republicans Out of Step?

Sean Trende writes:
To really get at public opinion as it relates to elections, it probably isn’t best to isolate a few issues. Rather, let’s look at some omnibus measurements of the parties. For this, I will borrow from two excellent articles from political scientist John Sides. As Sides notes, YouGov asked respondents throughout 2012 to rate themselves ideologically, and to rate the candidates ideologically as well. Note that Romney consistently polls significantly closer to the “average voter” -- at least the way the average voter perceives him- or herself -- than Obama does
...
In fact, Larry Bartels has found that despite the Democratic Leadership Committee makeover of the early 1990s, Democratic candidates are viewed as slightly more liberal than they were in the 1980s, while perception of Republicans hasn’t really budged. The chart below shows how voters have described the parties on a scale of 1 to 7, with the high number being a very conservative position and the low number being very liberal, from 1968 to 2008.
Similarly, using cross-survey data to estimate how liberal or conservative the general public is, we note a distinct rightward movement throughout the Obama presidency:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shutdown?

A shutdown? It’s not happening, it’s really not, but I guess you won’t hear people say that out loud, including me,” chuckles a senior House Republican. “No one, you see, wants to be ‘out-toughed’ on Obamacare. We’re out here talking about repeal everyday. But the speaker and everybody else here know that the Senate votes, unfortunately, will never be there to pass a continuing resolution to defund Obamacare.”
This delicate political situation has forced Boehner and Cantor to work against the shutdown caucus but without antagonizing it. It’s a wink-wink kabuki dance of the highest order. They can’t alienate their conservative members who have been enthralled by the shutdown talk of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, but they can’t have them dictating the fiscal negotiations, either. “Look, we want to protect the American people from Obamacare, and we’ll look at any realistic strategy to do that,” says a leadership aide. “Right now, though, no one seems to able to explain how we win a shutdown fight. Until that changes, it doesn’t make any sense to have one.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Immutable Rules

So, when Reid Wilson, the newest Post political reporter, penned a column entitled “The Five Rules of Politics” we were intrigued — to say the least. Here are Reid’s five rules: 1) He who understands the rules will win 2) All politics, and politicians, are local 3) The uber-strategist is a myth 4) The only constant is change 5) Campaigns matter.
Reid’s right. But five rules isn’t nearly enough! Below are five more. Got some of your own? Let’s hear them. We want to build a standing “Fix Rules of Politics” post.... 
1. Money is most things…but not everything.
2. ….and no swing voter cares about campaign finance reform.
3. Candidates matter.
4. No politician goes to Iowa by accident. NONE.
5. Saying “no” to a race doesn’t mean you aren’t running
.
In response to the request, I offer five more rules:

1.  Politicians' positions on institutional and procedural issues depend on whether their side wins or loses. The party holding the White House supports "our president." The other party wants to curb "abuse of executive power." The minority party in a legislative chamber wants careful deliberation and protection of minority rights, such as the filibuster.  The majority party wants to stop obstructionism and make the trains run on time. Either party backs "states' rights" when the states do stuff that it likes.
2.  Negative stories about politicians draw on their enemies' oppo guys.  Fred Thompson put it best: "People may think that news organizations have legions of Woodwards and Bernsteins fanned out across the country, poring through old courthouse records or public business records and talking to anyone they think may have some dirt to dish on a candidate. They don’t. They don’t have the money, for one thing. No, the days of Woodward and Bernstein, intrepid investigative reporters, are over. Investigative reporters have been replaced by people who keep a big basket under the transom to catch the dossiers and other materials that the various campaigns drop on opposing candidates."
3.  Most Americans don't know diddly about politics.  People know who the president is.  That's just about the only bit of political knowledge that we can count on.  This rule is important to remember in the interpretation of poll results because people will express an opinion even when they know nothing about the issue.  Surveys have shown that they will answer questions about bills and laws that do not even exist.
4.  Ghostwriters produce most of the words that come from politicians.  Sometimes, the pols don't even read them. For instance, Trent Lott's memoir, Herding Cats, contained so many factual errors that it's hard to believe that he bothered to review the manuscript that his ghost produced.
5.  Lawmakers don't read the bills.  As Stan Lee would say, "`Nuff said."

What Christie Needs to Do

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green compares Chris Christie to Rudy Giuliani, another Northeastern Republican with cross-party appeal .  As we explained in Epic Journey, Giuliani's 2008 nomination campaign fizzled.  The article cautions that Christie's elbows-out political style, like Giuliani's, is a liability.
Take Christie’s blowup with Senator Paul over National Security Agency surveillance. At a recent Aspen Institute confab, Christie derided libertarianism as a “very dangerous thought,” and then invoked 9/11’s “widows and orphans” to batter Paul. The senator fired back, and pointed to New Jersey taking federal aid for damage from Hurricane Sandy. After some more back-and-forth, Christie spurned Paul’s offer to sit down and talk over a beer, and managed to offend libertarians as well as a few establishmentarians.
A presidential appointee and veteran of the last three winning Republican campaigns told me, “Christie should have had the beer with Paul, welcomed him to New Jersey, given him some pizza and saltwater taffy, that sort of thing.” The Reagan, Bush 41, and 43 alum continued, “Paul is an ophthalmologist, and Bausch & Lomb’s global pharmaceuticals division is in Madison, N.J. It’s called graciousness.”
...

If Christie intends to continue with a hard line on surveillance, he should at least need to leaven his approach with personal transparency. Fair’s fair. If he wants to know our secrets, then we should know his. At least as they pertain to his public duties.

For starters, Christie should announce that his office expense records during his tenure as a federal prosecutor for New Jersey and as governor will not be shielded from public scrutiny. As a gubernatorial candidate in 2009, Christie’s records as U.S. attorney were the subject of a Freedom of Information Act cat-and-mouse game between Christie; his opponent, the since-disgraced former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine; and an eager press. Secrecy from Iran, China, Russia, and al Qaeda is one thing; secrecy from tax-paying citizens about things domestic is a whole other story.

Anyway, that stuff usually sees the light of day. We have come to learn about George W. Bush’s DUI arrest, Giuliani’s client base, Mitt Romney’s offshore holdings and tax returns, and Hillary’s conflict-laden, taxpayer-funded, sweetheart deal with Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

America's Voice, Republicans for Immigration Reform, and Lindsey Graham

When television ads aired in South Carolina this spring attacking Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for supporting immigration reform, a GOP group came to his aid. So did the other team.

"We came up with the money," said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America's Voice, a Washington-based group with close ties to the Obama White House. "We were just frustrated that nobody was doing anything, and Graham was under attack. We said, 'Fine, we will put money in.'"

Sharry's group, knowing an ad sponsored by a left-leaning advocacy group could hurt Graham, donated $60,000 to Republicans for Immigration Reform, a super PAC started by President George W. Bush's former Commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, and GOP fundraiser Charlie Spies.



So is Sharry really helping Graham by telling the Los Angeles Times about the ad he funded?

Seniors and the GOP

Molly Ball writes at The Atlantic:
As bad as things get for Republicans -- with women, with minorities, with youths -- there's always been one group they can count on: the old. But now one Democratic pollster sees evidence that even seniors are starting to turn on the GOP.
Just 28 percent of voters 65 and older had a favorable view of the Republican Party in a national survey conducted last month by the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, versus 40 percent who had a positive view of the Democrats. That's a reversal from a poll Greenberg conducted in early 2011, when 43 percent of seniors saw Republicans favorably and 37 percent saw Democrats that way.
"It is now strikingly clear that [seniors] have turned sharply against the GOP," Erica Seifert, a senior associate at Greenberg's firm, wrote on the company's website this week. "We have seen other voters pull back from the GOP, but among no group has this shift been as sharp as it is among senior citizens.
...
Greenberg is a Democratic pollster, to be sure. But his work is widely respected on both sides of the aisle. Republican pollster Whit Ayres didn't question the idea that seniors are souring on the GOP. "I don't think any Republican pollster who's looking at the numbers is sanguine about the state of the Republican brand at this point," he said. "You are going to see the impact of the damaged brand in every demographic group."
Nonetheless, Ayres noted, Greenberg's survey still has Republicans poised to win in 2014, if by a narrower margin than the 2010 wave. "What is striking to me in this survey is that the generic ballot is a dead heat," he said. "Republicans are actually one point ahead."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tom Cotton

At The Daily Beast, Michelle Cottle writes of Tom Cotton, a GOP candidate for the seat of Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR):
Even setting aside Pryor’s handicap as the lone remaining Dem in the congressional delegation of a state that’s fast trending red and that really really doesn’t like President Obama, Cotton is a genuinely impressive political specimen. The lanky, whip-smart 37-year-old has a CV that is, as GOP strategist Ralph Reed puts it, “out of central casting”: two degrees from Harvard (undergrad and law), a stint at the Claremont Graduate University (including a Publius fellowship in conservative political thought at the Claremont Institute), a federal clerkship, a turn at the crème de la crème consultancy McKinsey & Co., plus—and here’s where it gets almost too good to be true—an Army stint that featured tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He left the service with the rank of captain and, among other decorations, a Bronze Star. “He’s a star,” asserts Reed

Friday, August 9, 2013

Crossroads GPS on Obamacare Implementation

Scott Wong reports at Politico:
HUDDLE FIRST LOOK: CROSSROADS GPS PRODUCES RECESS OBAMACARE VIDEO FOR LAWMAKERS -- Crossroads GPS has made a three-minute video about the harmful consequences of Obamacare. Now they just want lawmakers to play it during their town hall meetings this recess. Steven J. Law, president and CEO of Crossroads GPS, will send the video to House and Senate chiefs of staff today accompanied by a memo: “A recent public opinion survey conducted by Crossroads GPS found that while a majority of Americans remain opposed to Obamacare, many people are still unaware of the specific harmful consequences this law will have. We strongly encourage your Members to educate their constituents on this issue in August, whether in townhall meetings, speeches, web-based presentations or other constituent outreach events.” Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/uhwUjHCQLjw Read the memo here: http://bit.ly/19PyP1N
 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

America Rising, American Bridge, and Trackers

At The Washington Post, Jackie Kucinich reports on tracking and trackers.  She interviews representatives from American Bridge and America Rising.


After Hope and Change: The Meme

The title of our book, After Hope and Change, anticipated a media meme that has been spreading.  Some recent examples:

  • Paul Peterson, on disturbing data about minority education:  "Some might argue that this comparison is unfair to the Obama administration, as the 1999-2008 data cover nine years, while Mr. Obama had only four years to bring hope and change to American schools."
  • Michael Boyle in The Guardian: "That short-sightedness, and the insincerity which has clothed so much of what he does in aspirational language of hope and change, will ultimately make his counterterrorism polices as disastrous as the ones he inherited."
  • Kevin Williamson in National Review: "IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state."
  • George Ochenski in The Missoulian: "Back when candidate Barack Obama was campaigning for his first presidential bid, he spent a lot of time promising the American people that, were we to elect him, he would bring “hope and change” to the White House. The obvious reference was to then-President George W. Bush, of whom the citizens had grown exceedingly weary, not just because of his stupid and unnecessary wars, but for the `lying and spying' which came to be the trademark of the Bush-Cheney administration."
  • Rand Paul on the Senate floor: The President promised us hope and change, but the more he claims that things change, I think the more they stay the same ... But hope and change just turned out to be a slogan. In Detroit and Chicago and in the once great cities of America, no change came. Hope and change was just a slogan. The poverty, the murders, the abysmal schools, they continue. Where are you, Mr. President? Where are you when in our hour of need in our country, why are you sending our money to people who hate us?



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RNC, Debates, and TV Miniseries

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday that he doesn’t expect CNN and NBC to comply with his calls to cancel their plans to produce films about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, as he reiterated his threat to cut them out of the Republican primary debate process.
“My guess is this is exactly what’s going to happen: They will produce the films, and we will cut them out,” Priebus told Post TV’s “In Play.”

Priebus penned a letter Monday to the networks asking that they shelve their plans, charging that CNN and NBC are engaging in a “thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.” CNN plans to produce a documentary about Clinton, a potential 2016 White House contender, while NBC is developing a miniseries.
If the networks don’t back down — they have shown no signs they are willing to do so thus far — Priebus said he intends to pressure GOP candidates not to participate in any debates hosted or sponsored by CNN and NBC by pushing for penalties to be imposed for contenders who don’t fall in line.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Somebody's Doing Some Serious Oppo on Liz Cheney

Serious oppo guys don't just surf the web.  They dirty their noses in courthouses, libraries, archives and other places where public records hold important informationThe Casper Star-Tribune reports:
Senate candidate Liz Cheney improperly received a state resident fishing license based on an application with incorrect information, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department records.

Cheney, who last month announced she will challenge Sen. Mike Enzi in the 2014 Republican primary, received her resident license just 72 days after closing on her Wilson house in May 2012. State law requires residents live in the state 365 consecutive days before they can receive a resident hunting or fishing license, which are cheaper than out-of-state licenses.

Cheney’s application also lists her as a 10-year resident of Wyoming.

The Game and Fish records are incorrect, Cheney told the Star-Tribune.

“The clerk must have made a mistake,” she said. “I never claimed to be a 10-year resident.”

Monday, August 5, 2013

Republicans and Spending

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes that if the Rand Paul faction cannot reach an entente with Chris Christie and Republican moderates,  "the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will be little more than a soap box to channel the ghosts of 1964 Republican nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater and the Confederacy’s long dead president, Jefferson Davis."
Much as libertarian purists may wish to believe—that welfare and Social Security are the same, they are not. One is viewed by voters a benefit earned after a lifetime of labor, while the other is a matter of the taxpayers’ grace. The bottom line is that the GOP can no longer afford scorn all spending, or to treat checks issued by Treasury alike.

To that end, the GOP must make common cause with more than just the wealthy or the worshipful, and if it is unable to tell friend and foe apart, it will be consigned to the role of the not-so-loyal opposition for a long time. AARP doesn’t have to be an enemy. If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan could talk to the Teamsters, then the Republicans can surely speak to seniors.

Take disaster relief: as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan describe it, “the American public wants money spent on disasters—cost be damned.” Parsing the numbers, Cillizza and Sullivan report, “fifty-nine percent of all respondents say federal emergency aid need not be offset by cuts in other parts of the budget, “ a number that includes a majority (52 percent) of self-identified Republicans.” To be sure, Christie is not alone. Other Republicans “get it,” too.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Democratic DEFCON 4

At Slate, David Weigel says that Senate Democrats are currently at DEFCON 4 (increased intelligence and heightened security):
The smart money in Washington is for a hung Senate—maybe the party loses West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and Alaska. But Democrats aren’t actually down in the polls in Alaska.
That state, which hadn’t previously elected a Democratic senator since Mike Gravel (yes, him), is a test case of whether Democrats can help a lousy candidate navigate the Republican primary to face the DSCC on the killing field. Begich is four points ahead of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s running, but he’d be 12 points ahead of Sarah Palin if she ran, and he’d be doing even better if failed (and Palin-endorsed) 2010 GOP candidate Joe Miller won the primary. Knowing this, Begich has aggressively trolled Palin, and gotten the predictable angry response in the form of Facebook posts.

This is a playbook Democrats haven’t snapped shut yet. In 2012, Guy Cecil helped shape Sen. Claire McCaskill’s strategy of elevating Todd Akin by attacking him as the “most conservative” candidate in TV ads that, obviously, thrilled conservatives. In 2014, they could try that in Georgia, where two of the most right-wing members of the House are trying to make the runoff. “They’ve never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” said Bennet. Would the DSCC help them in that effort? “If we did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
In After Hope and Change, we discuss the McCaskill ad that nominally criticized Akin but effectively won him support in the GOP primary:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Scandalabra at the Beginning of August

The multiple scandals besetting the Obama administration are not getting the same play that they did a few months ago -- but they are not going away, either.

On Benghazi, CNN reports:
CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what is allegedly happening at the CIA, in the wake of the deadly Benghazi terror attack.
Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya. 
Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.
CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.
Read: Analysis: CIA role in Benghazi underreported
Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings.
The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.
On IRS targeting, The Huffington Post reports:
A GOP lawmaker accused the Internal Revenue Service of obstructing congressional investigations into the agency's targeting of tea party groups, a charge the head of the IRS denied.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the IRS has been slow in producing documents that are so thoroughly blacked out they are useless to investigators.
Issa said he plans to bypass IRS lawyers and will subpoena documents directly from the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS.
"You are slow-rolling us," Issa told acting IRS head Danny Werfel in a heated exchange during a committee hearing Friday. "There are important facts to get out, and you are obstructing."
"That is not true," Werfel fired back.
Werfel said that by the end of the day Friday, the IRS will have given more than 16,000 pages of documents to Issa's committee and more than 70,000 pages to Congress as a whole. Werfel said documents are blacked out to protect confidential taxpayer information.
Issa's committee does not have legal authority to receive confidential taxpayer information. In Congress, that authority is reserved for the chairmen of the two tax-writing committees, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance, and their designated staff.
Werfel said the two tax-writing committees are receiving full documents. However, both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have also complained that the IRS is producing documents too slowly.
On the NSA, Conor Friedersdorf writes at The Atlantic:
The Guardian's latest scoop concerns the ability of National Security Agency analysts to search vast databases of emails, online chats, and web browsing histories, among other online activity.
Glenn Greenwald notes that the NSA is lawfully required to obtain a FISA warrant if the target of surveillance is a U.S. person. But it provides analysts "the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant," he reports, and to reveal IP addresses of everyone who visits "any website the analyst specifies."
That alarms many Americans.
The Guardian article doesn't provide any evidence of NSA analysts targeting U.S. persons without a warrant, as critics of the newspaper are quick to note. Yet there is still ample reason to worry.
It is naive -- in fact, it is absurd -- to imagine that the scores or hundreds of NSA analysts given access to these databases will never commit abuses.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Early GOP Favorability Numbers

The Pew Research Center reports on a survey of Republicans:
[No] single figure stands out as the current leader of the Republican Party; in fact when asked who they see as the leader of the party these days more volunteer that nobody is (22%) than the most mentioned name, Speaker of the House John Boehner (10%). This is typical for parties out of power. In 2006, for instance, Democratic voters were unable to point to a single leader for their party.
At the same time, however, several prominent Republicans are quite popular with Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Of these, Rep. Paul Ryan stands out as having the most positive image among GOP voters (65% favorable). Not only is Ryan highly visible after his vice-presidential run, but the vast majority of those who know him view him favorably.
Sen. Rand Paul also has a very positive image (55% favorable), as does Sen. Marco Rubio (50%). Sen. Ted Cruz is not as well known as other GOP figures, but his image is quite positive among those who are familiar with him, particularly among those who identify with the Tea Party.
Chris Christie, by comparison, draws a more mixed reaction among the roughly three-quarters of Republicans who offer an opinion; 47% view him favorably while 30% say they have an unfavorable impression of the New Jersey governor.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Has Tea Party Fervor Cooled Off?

Josh Kraushaar notes at National Journal that pundits frequently cite the threat of tea party primary challengers as an explanation for congressional GOP voting behavior.
But as the argument became ubiquitous in 2013, something funny happened. The number of conservative challengers going up against GOP members of Congress hasn't developed as had been expected. In fact, there are currently as many notable Democratic primary challengers to incumbents as Republican intraparty battles. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho is the only Republican currently facing a credible primary challenger, who is backed by the Club for Growth. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, facing blowback over passing a subsidy-filled farm bill, is the other member facing a similar threat. Freshman Rep. Rodney Davis is facing former Miss America Erika Harold in the Republican primary in Illinois, but few expect her to win.
Unlike in 2010 and 2012, when Republican divisions were front and center, there are as many noteworthy Democratic primary challengers this time around....
Meanwhile, only two members—GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and John Campbell of California—have announced their retirement so far, a low number that suggests members are hardly running scared from their next election.
...
 There are many reasons why that's the case. Conservative activists have already pushed some of their biggest enemies out of the Congress, leaving fewer targets behind. Outside groups aren't raising money the way they did in 2010 at the apex of the tea-party wave and in 2012 during the high-stakes presidential election. The disappointment felt by the grassroots after Obama's reelection sapped some of the base's enthusiasm. Jim DeMint, the main agitator inside the Senate, is now operating from the outside, with less political influence.

Crossroads Fundraising

Byron Tau writes at Politico about Crossroads fundraising in the first half of 2013:
American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and the Conservative Victory Project jointly posted a $3.37 million fundraising haul.
In the first six months of 2013, American Crossroads — the Rove-founded super PAC — raised $1.85 million, while Crossroads GPS — the 501(c)(4) nonprofit — raised $1.45 million.
The Conservative Victory Project — a super PAC founded to intervene on behalf of the most viable candidate in GOP primary fights — had no donors other than a few transfers from parent group American Crossroads. A person familiar with the group’s plans said that Conservative Victory Fund was still in a”start-up phase” and had not done any active fundraising.
The combined cash haul for all three groups is off from the group’s 2011 fundraising pace. At a similar point in 2011, American Crossroads alone posted a $3.3 million haul, while Crossroads GPS does not disclose its donors and is not required to file a mid-year report. The group could not immediately provide a mid-year 2011 total.
At USA Today, Fredreka Schouten adds:
"Our fundraising results so far are roughly comparable to where we were at this point in 2011, when you consider the absence of a presidential election this cycle," Collegio said in a statement. He said leaders have yet to "make any hard fundraising requests" this year of contributors, but said there's "growing donor enthusiasm" about winning control of the Senate.
American Crossroads' largest donation of the year — $1 million — came from Contran Corp. Its owner, Texas industrialist Harold Simmons, is a longtime Republican donor.
Another prominent Republican super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, also showed slower fundraising — collecting just shy of $600,000 from Jan. 1 through June 30. The group, which works to elect Republicans to the U.S. House, raised $11.3 million during the 2012 election cycle.