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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diversity and House GOP Recruitment

Hispanics are three times more likely to identify as affiliated with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party. Half of Hispanics identify with the Democratic Party (50%), compared to 15% who identify with the Republican Party. Roughly 1-in-4 (24%) Hispanics say they are politically independent.
When asked to provide top-of-mind associations of the Republican Party and Democratic Party, Hispanics offer significantly more negative comments about the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Nearly half (48%) of the associations Hispanics volunteered about the Republican Party were negative, about 4-in-10 (42%) were basically descriptive or neutral, and about 1-in-10 (11%) were positive. By contrast, more than one-third (35%) of the associations Hispanics volunteered about the Democratic Party were positive, 42% were basically neutral or descriptive, and 22% were negative.
The Democratic Party has a significant perception advantage over the Republican Party across a range of attributes. For example, 43% of Hispanics say the phrase “cares about people like you” better describes the Democratic Party, compared to 12% who say it better describes the Republican Party. Notably, about 3-in-10 (29%) say the phrase describes neither party, and 13% say it describes both parties.
Less than 3-in-10 (29%) Hispanics report that they feel closer to the Republican Party than they did in the past, while nearly two-thirds (63%) of Hispanics say the same about the Democratic Party.
At this very early stage in the 2014 election cycle, Hispanic likely voters report preferring Democratic congressional candidates to Republican congressional candidates by a 2-to-1 ratio (58% vs. 28%). Among likely Hispanic voters, a majority (54%) say they would be less likely to support a candidate who opposes immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who are currently living in the country illegally. One-in-four (25%) say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, and 19% report that the candidate’s views on immigration would make no difference in their vote
Next year’s crop of Republican congressional hopefuls includes Carl DeMaio, an openly gay former city councilman who is running for a seat in urban San Diego. There is Elise Stefanik, a 29-year-old former George W. Bush aide who is trying to topple a Democratic incumbent in upstate New York. In South Florida, Carlos Curbelo, a school board member and former congressional aide, is running in a district where Hispanics make up a majority of voters.

It’s unlikely that the GOP’s group of 2014 candidates will be anywhere near as diverse as the one their Democratic opponents will field. But, for the GOPeager to modernize its image as a party dominated by white men — there’s little doubt that it represents an improvement from previous, more homogenous, recruitment classes.
The Cook Political Report currently lists 40 competitive congressional districts where a Republican incumbent is not seeking reelection. In at least 10 of those races, a female, minority or openly gay GOP candidate is waging a credible campaign. And Republicans say that, as candidate recruitment season comes to a close early next year, they expect those numbers to grow.
...
The GOP’s membership in Congress has reinforced its image as a party dominated by white males. According to David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report, 206 of the 232 members who compose the House Republican Conference — 89 percent — are white men. That’s in stark contrast to House Democrats, of whom a majority are, for the first time in history, nonwhite men.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rhetorical Attacks

But today the Republican Party has been infected by a small but destructive faction that would rather tear down the house our founders built than govern from it. These extremists are more interested in putting on a show, as one Republican colleague put it, than in legislating. That’s why they prevented the Senate from taking action to avert a government shutdown last night – to put on a show today.
It is disturbing that he would resort to the metaphor of infection.  Throughout history, it has been a justification for extreme measures against political enemies. You do not negotiate with an infection, you try to eradicate it.

And with White House officials referring to Republican hard-liners as terrorists, Carl Cannon writes:
It all starts with President Obama, who routinely accuses Republicans trying to thwart his spending plans by putting “party ahead of country.” Last January, when talking—as Dan Pfeiffer was this week—about GOP insistence on trading spending cuts for agreeing to raise the nation’s debt limit—the president said he wouldn’t negotiate with those holding “a gun at the head of the American people.” 
Joe Biden asserts Republicans are holding the country “hostage” with their spending stance, and in a 2011 meeting with congressional Democrats the vice president agreed with the suggestion that Tea Party groups were “terrorists.” 
Among Democrats on Capitol Hill, it starts at the top, too. 
Last week, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid compared Republican conservatives to “Thelma and Louise,” adding, “America will know exactly who to blame: Republican fanatics in the House and the Senate." 
On the House side, such talk has long been a staple for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose default argument on fiscal or economic policy is to impugn conservatives’ patriotism. In 2008, she said it was “very unpatriotic” for Republicans to balk at a big bank bailout. Two years later, she lashed out at those resisting raising the debt ceiling: “Are these people not patriotic?”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rhetorical Excess

At National Journal, Matt Berman reports on rhetorical overkill in the Senate, starting with Tom Harkin:
It's dangerous. It's very dangerous. I believe, Mr. President, we are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now. Every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.
This isn't the first time the senator has spoken out about the spiraling budget and the fight over Obamacare. Harkin suggested Thursday that Cruz looked "foolish" for his "little tirade" that lasted from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning. Harkin called out Cruz as being part of "the most extreme tea-party wing" of his party, and for his "ideology-driven obstructionism."
Of course, it'd be a stretch to think that the United States is on the cusp of anything as violent as the Civil War. But the consequences of a government shutdown or topping over the debt ceiling could be massively harmful for the U.S. economy, whether you're looking at the possibility of a downgrade in U.S. credit or just the shutdown in payments and services with thousands of government employees out of work. 
Harkin isn't the first to pull out a dramatic historical analogy on the Senate floor this week, either. During his 21-plus hour speech, Cruz hearkened back to Nazi Germany for a comparison to "pundits" who think Obamacare cannot be defeated:

If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany—look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We cannot possibly stand against them. 
In America there were voices who listened to that; I suspect the same pundits who said it couldn't be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Even then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond the carrier pigeons and letters and they would have been on TV saying: You cannot defeat the Germans.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Americans Think Putin Was More Effective Than Obama

From YouGov, yet another stinging poll result for President Obama:
Many Americans think that Vladimir Putin was the most effective leader during the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, while approval for how Obama handled the crisis is still low.

Although Syria appears to have met the first deadline in its agreement with the United States and Russia, beginning the process of turning over its chemical weapons, few Americans trust it will fulfill its promises. That leaves President Obama in a difficult position: he continues to have little support for action against Syria, and Americans continue to disapprove of how he is handling this crisis. Worse for him, perhaps, the latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds twice as many Americans giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the nod over President Obama as the most effective leader in this crisis.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Obama Slump

Many posts have discussed the president's standing with the public. Jonathan Martin reports at The New York Times:
President Obama’s standing with Americans has slumped significantly, as the public remains skeptical about his health care law and unsure about the economy, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Forty-nine percent of the public disapproves of Mr. Obama’s job performance, and 43 percent approves, matching his worst measures in two years, the poll shows. Only 30 percent of Americans believe he cares “a lot” about their needs and problems, a figure that has fallen steadily from early in his first term.
Across the board — on foreign policy, including Syria and Iran; the economy; health care; and the federal budget deficit — more Americans disapprove than approve of the president’s performance.
Mr. Obama is being hurt by a public that has grown sour in the face of what people see as a stagnating economy: two-thirds of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, the highest number since early in 2012. And with Washington locked in yet another contentious debate over government spending, people are showing signs of exasperation about their elected leaders’ inability to reconcile their differences.
Gallup reports:
Barack Obama's job approval rating among Democrats, his core supporters, has averaged 78% so far in September after being at or above 80% each month since December 2011, including a recent high of 91% in December 2012.

The 13-percentage-point decline in Democrats' approval rating for the president since last December exceeds the nine-point drop, from 53% to 44%, among all U.S. adults over the same time.
Democrats' approval rating of Obama has either declined or held steady each month this year. It last showed an increase in November 2012.
Obama's low point for monthly approval among Democrats is 77%, which he averaged from August through October 2011. Coincidentally, that was the last time the president and Congress tangled over the U.S. debt limit, similar to the scenario playing out in Washington today. The United States is set to default on its debt obligations as early as next month unless Congress passes a law to increase the amount the U.S. can legally borrow.
Bloomberg reports:
As the U.S. heads toward a potential government shutdown or default, the public is more alienated from Washington than at any time since the aftermath of the 2011 downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.

President Barack Obama’s 47 percent favorability rating and the 34 percent positive reading for Republicans are the worst ever for both in the Bloomberg National Poll, which began in 2009. The 44 percent approval rating of the Democratic Party is at a two-year low.
Obama’s 45 percent job-approval rating is the lowest since September 2011, a month after a partisan showdown over lifting the debt ceiling brought the U.S. to the brink of default.
Americans also are pessimistic about the course of the country, with 68 percent saying it’s headed in the wrong direction, the most in two years, according to the poll of 1,000 adults conducted Sept. 20-23.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shutdowns, Then and Now

For those who don't remember, 1995-96 featured congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich taking on Democratic President Bill Clinton. The conventional wisdom now is that Clinton won the political battle over the shutdowns. Some have taken that a step further and believe Gingrich's "defeat" cost Republicans in the 1996 election.
The former is definitely true. Republicans clearly took more blame for the shutdowns 17 years ago. Today, though, the "margin of blame" is 16pt smaller – with Americans surveyed only 3pt more likely to blame congressional Republicans than the president (the margin was 19pt in 1995-96). That suggests that Republicans are much in better shape now than they were then.
He adds, further, that the House GOP did not suffer a long-term hit.
House Democrats gained two seats over their 1994 showing, but that's well within expectations. The result was less of a loss than Republicans went on to suffer in 2008 or 2012, or then Democrats sustained in 1992, for instance. It's equal to the loss Republicans took in 2000. Only once since 1952 has the majority party gained more than three seats in a presidential election year, when the other party controlled the White House.
In short, there's just no clear evidence that House Republicans suffered, even if they were largely blamed for the shutdown.
His analysis overlooks something crucial:  congressional Republicans salvaged the 1996 election by shifting course.  On September 30, 1996, Jessica Lee and Richard Wolf wrote at USA Today:
Rather than settle for failure, Republicans changed course after two damaging government shutdowns and spent much of 1996 writing a legislative legacy that, while short on quantity, is long on quality.

"We reached very far, and we got a great deal," says House Speaker Newt Gingrich, leader of the revolution. "This has been the most successful Congress since 1965-66."

But that success is far different from Republicans' initial hopes. The record of achievement includes several laws sought by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a leading liberal.

In terms of scope, only one GOP initiative might compare to the civil rights bills of the 1960s. It ends the 61-year-old guarantee of federal aid to the poor, replacing what Clinton called "welfare as we know it" with 50 distinct state programs.

But Republicans also can claim credit for passing incremental health-care reform, while their Democratic predecessors failed to pass a sweeping overhaul. Among their changes: making health insurance portable from job to job, improving mental-health coverage and requiring insurers to cover 48-hour hospital stays after births.

Six decades of farm policy were rewritten. A mammoth telecommunications bill was freed from gridlock. And when a minimum-wage increase could not be blocked, Republicans added a package of business tax breaks and let it pass.
The Republicans were able to accomplish this shift because President Clinton was willing to deal.  On welfare, both sides acted in narrow self-interest.  Republicans abandoned Bob Dole (who wanted to use welfare reform in the fall campaign) and Clinton abandoned congressional Democrats (who did not want him to give ground to the GOP on the issue).  See Major Garrett's account in The Enduring Revolution.

Does anyone think that such flexibility would be forthcoming this time?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruz's Bruises

It has been a bad time for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Garance Frankie-Ruta in The Atlantic:
Watching the pushback against Senator Ted Cruz right now is like watching a group of kids who have been in thrall to a bully suddenly wake up to who he is and start working to cut him down to size. Republican members of Congress who were once his allies have begun to turn on a man who has become an outsize figure in their party since winning office less than one year ago.
“As soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz,” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said on his show. "Why are Republicans so angry at Ted Cruz?"
"You cannot build a congressional majority, in either party, for any kind of action, unless you are treating your colleagues with some certain amount of respect, and saying, ‘Hey, what do you think of my idea?’” Karl Rove told Wallace, speaking of Cruz and Utah Senator Mike Lee, who are together leading the Don't Fund Obamacare movement. “Instead they have dictated to their colleagues ... and not consulted them about this strategy at all.”
...
"If you caught Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) or Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the Sunday talk shows, you would quickly realize that these two have absolutely no idea what they are doing," concluded conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin. "Lee’s and Cruz’s insistence that they are the ones 'fighting' is belied by the facts. They are actually intent on running into a concrete wall again and again to prove their political machismo. For many Republicans this isn’t bravery but stupidity."
Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post:
It was a virtual lock going into Monday that Cruz’s plan wouldn’t end up winning much support. What was unclear was whether he would coax any Republicans of note to join him.
The fact that McConnell will not speaks volumes. The Kentucky Republican has drawn a primary challenger who is running to his right in a conservative state. Moreover, McConnell has been very careful not to do anything to irk a conservative base already skeptical of him. His decision not to join Cruz suggests he (1) Doesn’t think his idea will lead anywhere and (2) Doesn’t think it’s good politics, either.
Neither apparently does Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who’s also not going to filibuster. “Senator Cornyn will support the House bill that defunds Obamacare. He will not block a bill that defunds Obamacare,” said Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.
Cornyn doesn’t face a serious primary challenger, but is taking the potential threat of one very seriously.
The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
When Mr. Cruz demands that House Republicans "hold firm," he means they should keep trying to defund ObamaCare even if it results in a shutdown that President Obama will blame on Republicans. It's nice of him to volunteer House Republicans for duty. The supposedly intrepid General Cruz can view the battle from the comfort of HQ while the enlisted troops take any casualties.
The Lee-Cruz strategy, to the extent it's about more than fund-raising lists or getting face time on cable TV, seems to be that if the House holds "firm" amid a shutdown, then the public will eventually blame Mr. Obama and the Democrats, who will then fold and defund ObamaCare. Or, short of that, Democrats might agree to delay the health-care law for another year past its launch date on October 1.
Miracles happen, but it would rank as one for the ages if Mr. Obama agreed to defund his signature Presidential achievement. A year's delay would also be a victory, but Mr. Obama knows that punting the law past the 2014 election is risky if Republicans regain a Senate majority.
 Jason Zengerle writes at GQ:
Ted Cruz blew his first big shot in politics. Back in 2000, he had scored a plum assignment working in the policy shop of George W. Bush's Austin-based presidential campaign. He distinguished himself in the weeks after the election, serving on the legal team that helped Bush win the Florida recount and, by extension, the White House. He seemed destined for a meaty job in the new administration.

But Cruz's personal style earned him many detractors in BushWorld. He was infamous for firing off mundane work e-mails in the middle of the night—it happened so often that some in the Bush campaign suspected him of writing them ahead of time and programming his computer to send while he was asleep. He was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to "the cards people send about their families at Christmas, except Ted's were only about him and were more frequent." When it came time to divvy up the spoils of victory, many of Cruz's campaign colleagues headed to the White House; Cruz went to Washington, too—but he was exiled to the outer Siberia of the Federal Trade Commission. Says one friend: "He was pretty crushed."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Demography and Destiny

At Third Way, Michelle Diggles writes that demographic changes do not guarantee long-term dominance for the Democrats.  Though the basic point is highly plausible, her specific analysis is not entirely convincing. She notes that only 30 percent of Hispanics self-identify as liberals but does not consider evidence that they take liberal positions on most issues. (Much more than the general population, for instance, Hispanics favor bigger government.)

She also writes:
While Democrats may display dominance in presidential voting in some key  states, the data does not suggest that all of the so-called “blue firewall states”have turned permanently blue or are solidly progressive. Both Michigan and Pennsylvania have voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992. Yet at the state level, the governorship and both chambers of the legislature are under Republican control. Wisconsin has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988, but there, as well, the state government is currently under unified Republican control—despite President Obama winning the state twice. 
But state elections operate on a different track from federal elections. In the 1970s and 1980s, Southern states elected Democratic legislatures while voting for Republican presidential candidates.  In 2012, popular former GOP governors lost Senate races in Wisconsin and Hawaii when they had to discuss national issues instead of state issues.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Money and the Clintons

Twenty-one years have passed since the 1992 election, in which Jerry Brown tried to make an issue of the Clintons' finances:



Many voters have no direct memory of the many ethical questions that surrounded the couple in the 1990s.  That is why Lloyd Green's Daily Beast article is important:
Put kindly, the Clintons have a tropism towards other people’s money. Put more bluntly, Hill and Bill are the Bonnie and Clyde of campaign fundraising.

Who can forget Clinton’s final-days pardon of fugitive oil trader and Scooter Libby client, the now late Marc Rich, or those Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers? In the incredulous words of DreamWorks' David Geffen, a big-time Democratic donor and former fan of the Clintons, “Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil-profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice?”
Opposition researchers on both sides should not assume that reporters know this history.  It is quite likely that most of those covering the 2016 were in grade school when Whitewater was a top story. Peter Hamby writes:
In the summer of 2012, Reid Epstein’s editors at Politico moved him from the Romney beat to the White House. Epstein, then 33, remembers being among the oldest reporters in the press pack when he left the Romney bubble. At the White House, he was suddenly one of the youngest.
This isn’t too surprising. Since the 2004 campaign, with budgetary and deadline pressures weighing heavily on editors, news outlets have increasingly opted to send younger and more digitally savvy reporters on the road with campaigns.
The White House beat, meanwhile, is considered a “prestige” job. Editors and television bureau chiefs often put their more experienced reporters there, even though it’s a heavily controlled and sometimes too-cozy environment with very little news to sniff out. Plus, you can have children and maintain healthy personal relationships while covering the White House. The president lives in Washington, too, after all. Not so on a campaign.
Chuck Todd calls campaign coverage, with its ruthless travel schedule and ungodly morning call times, “a young man’s, a young woman’s game.”
They may know all about Twitter, but have they ever heard of the McDougals, Webster Hubbell, and the Rose Law Firm?  The challenge for oppo guys is to educate the press about such things.



Scandalabra and the Media

At The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto argues that the media have not only under-reported the IRS scandal, but they also encouraged its inception:
A staff memo released earlier this week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee provides an "interim update" on the investigation of the IRS scandal. A central finding: "Media attention caused the IRS to treat conservative-oriented tax-exempt applications differently" from liberal or progressive ones.
The memo presents no evidence that the White House directly ordered the IRS to crack down on political opponents. Instead, it is consistent with the theory, described here in May, that IRS personnel responded to "dog whistles" (in Peggy Noonan's metaphor) in public statements from the president and his supporters.
In a passage we've annotated with links, the memo describes the media "drumbeat" in early 2010, when the IRS first began turning its attention to the Tea Party:
Washington Post columnists accused Tea Party groups of "smolder[ing] with anger" [Colbert King] and practicing a brand of patriotism reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan [Courtland Milloy]. Another Post columnist opined in late March 2010 that Tea Party rhetoric "is calibrated not to inform but to incite" [Eugene Robinson]. In April 2010, Reuters tied the Tea Party movement to "America's season of rage and fear."
Contrary to initial claims that the Tea Party targeting was a product of rogue employees in the IRS's Cincinnati office, the Oversight Committee memo shows that as early as February 2010, Cincinnati employees were flagging Tea Party applications for Washington's attention, and their stated motive was media interest:
The potential for media attention continued to be a concern for IRS officials once Washington received additional sample cases in late March 2010. Upon receiving the cases in Washington, an IRS employee reviewing the application reiterated that "[t]he concern is potential for media attention." Around the same time that the Washington Post was running columns critical of the Tea Party, she added that "[t]he Tea Party movement is covered in the Post almost daily. I expect to see more applications."
"Other IRS employees also monitored news about conservative-leaning groups applying for tax exemption," according to the memo:
In March 2012, a line attorney in the IRS Chief Counsel's office circulated a New York Times editorial entitled "The I.R.S. Does Its Job" to three colleagues. The first sentence of the editorial read: "Taxpayers should be encouraged by complaints from Tea Party chapters applying for nonprofit tax status at being asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are 'social welfare' organizations and not the political activities they so obviously are."
In May we faulted the Times for "cheering on the IRS" as it abused its power. Now we have confirmation that the IRS got the message

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Congressional Leaders Rank Low

Gallup reports:
As Congress heads into a major fiscal showdown that could result in a government shutdown and the U.S. defaulting on its debt, few Americans approve of the job that top congressional leaders are doing. Americans give relatively low job approval ratings to Republican House Speaker John Boehner (37%), Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (33%), Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (39%), and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (35%).
Net Approval Rating of Nation's Top Four Congressional Leaders, September 2013
These findings come from a Gallup poll conducted Sept. 5-8, 2013. This is the first time Gallup has asked Americans whether they approve or disapprove of this particular group of congressional leaders. Previous polls have found that all four legislators suffer low favorability ratings.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Addressing Inequality

In an AEI speech this week, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) expressed a clear understanding of a major GOP problem:
For the Party of Lincoln to indulge in the politics of privilege is a corruption of everything we are supposed stand for.

To rescue the nation – and ourselves – from this crisis of unequal opportunity, the Republican Party must return to its own truest self.

Not simply on behalf of those Americans who have fairly worked their way up the ladder of success – but for those still climbing and especially those clinging to the lowest rungs.

For a political party too often seen as out of touch, aligned with the rich, indifferent to the less fortunate, and uninterested in solving the problems of working families, Republicans could not ask for a more worthy cause around which to build a new conservative reform agenda.

And so, the great challenge to the Republican Party is to craft such an agenda that is at once more responsive to the inequality crisis plaguing American society today, and more consistent with our true, conservative principles.

The core of that agenda should be restoring equal opportunity – the natural, God-given right to pursue happiness – to the individuals, communities, and institutions from whom it has been unfairly taken.

This new agenda should ultimately address the ongoing problems of immobility at the bottom of our economy, insecurity within the middle class, and cronyist privilege at the top.
Pew data drive home the point:
The public sees clear winners and losers as a result of the government’s economic policies following the recession that began in 2008.

In the public’s view, the beneficiaries of these policies are large banks and financial institutions, large corporations and wealthy people, according to a survey conducted earlier this month. Sizable majorities say government policies have helped all three at least a fair amount – 69% say that about large banks and financial institutions, 67% large corporations and 59% wealthy people.

DN_Winners_LosersMeanwhile, fewer than a third say policies implemented by the government following the recession have helped the poor, middle class and small businesses. Roughly seven-in-ten say government policies have done little or nothing to help the poor (72%), the middle class (71%) and small businesses (67%).
There has been little change in these perceptions since the question was last asked in July 2010.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Low Profile for American Crossroads

At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes that American Crossroads has been relatively quiet so far this year, focusing on a few modest policy efforts:
Several factors are contributing to American Crossroads' lower profile this year. Donations to the super PAC are down in the off year. Through the first six months of 2013, it raised $1.86 million. During the same period in 2011, it raised $3.93 million. After Mitt Romney's defeat and losing 11 of 13 Senate races it spent money on in 2012, big donors are less willing to pony up.
The emergence of state- and race-based super PACs is also playing a role in diverting money and focus away from American Crossroads. Crossroads President Steven Law, a former McConnell chief of staff, is on the board of the Kentuckians for Strong Leadership super PAC, which has already been up with ads against McConnell's Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. The Americans for Progressive Action super PAC emerged to help Gomez in the Massachusetts Senate special election, though it lacked the firepower of the opposition.
"Consultants are trying to be entrepreneurial, by design. They want advisers who have state-specific, candidate-specific expertise," said one Republican super PAC strategist.
America Rising, the GOP's opposition research and rapid response start-up, is also laying the groundwork for future attack ads, diminishing the need for early engagement. With resources devoted to research and tracking, they've been able to generate unfavorable news coverage for Democratic candidates at a lower cost than expensive TV buys. Republicans now view different groups filling different roles as a more efficient allocation of party resources than a one-size-fits-all super PAC.
"From our perspective, when we engage, we have a long-term sustained strategy we're pursuing rather than spending $80,000 in March of the off year. Early spending is important but it needs to be sustained as part of a longer-term strategy," said Crossroads' Law. "These short-term skirmishes are more designed for a brief impact, and to generate fundraising, and brand positioning. That's something we never have done much of."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Divider, Not a Uniter

There has long been a divisive streak in President Obama's rhetoric and actions

Maureen Dowd notices:
President Obama also gave a speech Monday, talking at the White House while the drama unfolded at the supposedly secure Navy Yard nearby. He could have posted his original remarks on the White House Web site and replaced them with a cri de coeur on gun control, or comfort for the shaken city. The 12 who died were, after all, under his aegis as workers in a federal building.

But, jarringly, the president went ahead with his political attack, briefly addressing the slaughter before moving on to jab Republicans over the corporate tax rate and resistance to Obamacare.

Just as with the address to the nation on Syria last week, the president went ahead with a speech overtaken by events. It was out of joint, given that the Senate was put into lockdown and the Washington Nationals delayed a night game against the Atlanta Braves, noting on its Web site, “Postponed: Tragedy.”

The man who connected so electrically and facilely in 2008, causing Americans to overlook his thin résumé, cannot seem to connect anymore.
CNN reports:
"When there is a tragic event like this in the nation's capital and the local baseball team expresses that it would be insensitive to participate in the national pastime, but the president proceeds with a self-congratulatory press conference to celebrate his miniscule economic accomplishments, it tells you the Obama administration has become tone-deaf," said Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor who co-founded Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm. "Bill Clinton, who 'felt our pain,' would never have made this mistake."

It's not just Republicans who are critical of the president -- a senior Democratic consultant was critical of Obama's timing, too.
"Suprisingly tone-deaf. National unity has been at the heart of the Obama brand since his 2004 'there are no red states and no blue states' speech. To pass up a chance to unite the country after a tragedy was a missed opportunity. Unhelpful in terms of politics. Even more unhelpful in terms of governance," said the consultant, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
He was similarly tone-deaf in his Syria speech last week, as blogger Ace of Spades noted:
In a speech that had been good, for an Obama speech, avoiding his usual gassy nothingness in favor of tangible nouns and clear verbs of the sort he apparently was taught were poor form in college, Obama chose to drop this little insult:
And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America's military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.
To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.
Note that Obama's "friends on the left" believe in freedom and dignity in all people. People on the right don't, apparently.
What do people on the right believe in? "Military might." Pure force. Note that he decouples military might from any moral purpose -- he doesn't say "your commitment to keeping the nation safe" or "your commitment to a patriotic defense of America." No, such moral approval is stripped away so that Obama can speak neutrally of the one thing Obama thinks conservatives care about, naked martial power
 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More Democratic Woes

Despite winning the presidency in 2012, the Democratic Party has lost its clear edge in Americans' eyes on its ability to manage the nation's economy. The 42% who believe the party would do a better job of keeping the country prosperous is down from 51% in a September 2012 poll conducted shortly after the Democratic convention. While Republicans (43%) now have a nominal edge here, this reading represents virtually no change from last year, when 42% believed the GOP would better keep the country prosperous.
...
Americans have generally seen the Republican Party as better able to protect the country from international terrorism and military threats. Last year, though, the Democratic Party tied the GOP on this measure -- a rare feat for that party -- likely because of the timing of the poll, which was conducted after the Democratic convention.
This year, 45% believe the Republican Party is better on protecting the country and 39% say the Democrats are. This poll was conducted while President Obama was trying to rally support for a military response to alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, a position that few Americans support.
...
The Democratic Party maintains a slight edge, 39% to 34%, on the key question of which party is better able to handle what respondents say is the nation's top problem. Again, this represents a loss of support for the Democratic Party, because last year, nearly half -- 49% -- believed the Democrats were the better choice to handle the country's most important problem.
Still, the Republicans are not growing stronger while Democrats are weakening: the 34% who say Republicans are now better on this is down from 39% last year. Instead, 27% of Americans choose neither party or say there is no difference between the two parties, the highest since July 1994.
The Navy Yard massacre prompts David Nakamura to write at The Washington Post:
Obama’s second term has been buffeted from the start by unpredictable calamities that have helped scuttle his priorities. In December, a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, prompted the newly reelected president to focus on an unsuccessful attempt to pass gun-control legislation ahead of other priorities.
In many ways, Obama has yet to recover from that early-second-term loss. Immigration reform, which was supposed to be Obama’s top domestic priority, is stalled in the Republican-controlled House. A budget standoff in the spring led the White House to accept mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts that have forced federal agencies to scale back programs. And escalating violence in Egypt and Syria has led to renewed questions about Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Health Care Divisions

The Pew Research Center reports:
As a key step in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act approaches, public views of the 2010 health care law are as negative as ever, and many are unaware of the elements of the law that will be going into place. While opposition to the law runs deep, critics are divided over whether the effort should be to make the law work as well as possible or to make it fail.
With health insurance exchanges set to open on Oct. 1, the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center andUSA TODAY, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that 53% of Americans disapprove of the law while 42% approve. Overall approval of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ticked up last July in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the law (47% approved, 43% disapproved), but opinions are now as negative as they have been any point since the bill’s passage.
The 53% of the public who disapprove of the law are divided over what they would like elected officials who oppose the law to do now that the law has begun to take effect. About half of disapprovers (27% of the public overall) say these lawmakers “should do what they can to make the law work as well as possible,” but nearly as many (23% of the public) say these officials “should do what they can to make the law fail.”
This strategic question is a particular point of conflict within the Republican Party. Overall, just 13% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of the law while 85% disapprove. Fewer than half of all Republicans and Republican leaners (43%) want elected officials who oppose the law to do what they can to make it fail; 37% say they should try to make it work as well as possible.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Obama's Loss Is GOP's Gain

Because of a mediocre economy and the president's missteps, the GOP is gaining ground on the Democrats. But the shift does not reflect any skill on Republicans' part, and they could blow it by doing stupid things such as allowing a government shutdown or a default.

Neil King writes at The Wall Street Journal:
The Republican Party is gaining a public-opinion edge on several key issues ahead of the 2014 elections, as Americans question President Barack Obama's leadership on Syria and worry about the country's overall direction, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Republicans are now rated higher than Democrats on handling the economy and foreign policy, and the GOP's lead has strengthened on several other issues, including dealing with the federal deficit and ensuring a strong national defense.
On topics such as health care, Democrats have seen their long-standing advantage whittled to lows not seen in years.
The poll also reflected unease over the economy. Just 27% of Americans think the economy will improve over the next year, the lowest since July 2012, while nearly two-thirds think the country is on the wrong track.
The public tilt on several issues in favor of the GOP, particularly among independents, comes as Mr. Obama's own job-approval rating has hovered around 45% for three months, a tenuous place for a president trying to build support for likely battles with Congress over possible military action in Syria, a proposed overhaul of immigration law and the budget.

"There is no question that a president below 45% job approval starts having a little more difficulty with the bully pulpit," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey with Democratic pollsters Fred Yang and Peter Hart.
Charlie Cook writes at National Journal:
Stepping back, midterm elections are, more often than not, referenda on the White House occupant. While the president’s name is not on the ballot, voters usually register their approval or disapproval of the administration through their votes for Congress. Obama’s job-approval ratings are currently in the low- to mid-40s, roughly where George W. Bush’s were at this point in his second term (his later dropped as low as 31 percent). Obama’s disapproval ratings are running just above his approval ratings—never a good sign—but the president’s numbers are not yet radioactive.
The other relevant political axiom to keep in mind is that Americans often vote their pocketbooks, based on their perceptions of how the national economy is doing, how they are doing, and whether they are seeing the economy through a hopeful or a pessimistic lens. The U.S. economy, as measured by real gross domestic product, grew at a very healthy pace of 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012. However, for the remaining three quarters of last year and first two quarters of this year, the recovery did not proceed nearly as steadily: Growth ranged from as low as one-tenth of 1 point in the fourth quarter of last year to 2.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Growth is not at the pace that you would want coming out of the longest, deepest, and most diffuse economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Latest Lerner Revelation

Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner appeared to be deeply involved in scrutinizing the applications of Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status, according to newly released emails that further challenge the claim the targeting was the work of rogue Ohio-based employees.

One curious February 2011 email from Lerner said, "Tea Party Matter very dangerous" -- before going on to warn that the "matter" could be used to go to court to test campaign spending limits.

Much of the email, released along with others by the House Ways and Means Committee, is redacted, so the full context is not clear.

But the same email warned that "Cincy" -- presumably a reference to the Cincinnati IRS office -- should "probably NOT have these cases." That and other emails show Lerner and other Washington, D.C., officials playing a big role in dealing with Tea Party cases.

The emails could raise more questions for Lerner, who refused to testify before Congress earlier this year in the Tea Party targeting scandal. While the case seemed to hit the backburner as Congress went on recess, and then returned to take up the debate over Syria, investigations are still ongoing.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said there are "mountains of documents to go through."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bad Poll News for Democrats

Politico reports:
Republicans are now leading Democrats on handling several key issues, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll.
The poll, released Friday, shows more Americans think that the Republicans are doing a better job on the economy, foreign policy and reducing the federal deficit.

And while Democrats still lead among issues such as health care and looking out for the middle class, their lead has been steadily decreasing. The Wall Street Journal highlights that the Democrats only hold a 17 percentage point lead over the GOP in looking out for the middle class, the lowest margin in decades. The Democrats also see the lowest margin ever on dealing with health care, at 8 percentage points.
Pew reports:
Five years after the U.S. economy faced its most serious crisis since the Great Depression, a majority of Americans (63%) say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash. Just a third (33%) think the system is more secure now than it was then.
Large percentages say household incomes and jobs still have yet to recover from the economic recession. And when asked about the impact of government efforts to deal with the recession, far more believe that economic policies have benefitted large banks, corporations and the rich than the middle-class, the poor or small businesses.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted September 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that 54% say household incomes have “hardly recovered at all” from the recession. Nearly as many (52%) say the job situation has barely recovered.
 National Journal reports:
This week's United Technologies/National JournalCongressional Connection Poll, which found deep and broad resistance to proposed U.S. military action against the Syrian government, showed the extent to which Republicans and independents are now aligned in their opposition to U.S. foreign intervention under President Obama.
Fifty-five percent of Americans—given four options ranging from doing nothing to a full-scale military strike to help the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government—would prefer the U.S. do nothing and stay out of the Syrian civil war. While a strong plurality of Democrats, 48 percent, chose this option, Republicans and independents saw virtually eye-to-eye, with 60 percent and 58 percent, respectively, saying they want the U.S. to do nothing.
Moreover, on each of the other five questions related to the proposed Syrian intervention in the poll, there was little or no statistical difference in the responses of Republicans and independents, while Democrats tended to be more supportive of the Obama administration's position.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Freedom Partners

At Politico, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report on a forthcoming IRS filing by Freedom Partners, a Koch-backed 501(c)(6) that raised and spent $250 million in 2012.
The 38-page IRS filing amounts to the Rosetta Stone of the vast web of conservative groups — some prominent, some obscure — that spend time, money and resources to influence public debate, especially over Obamacare.

The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the document shows. And it made grants of $236 million — meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.
... 
The filing offers a rare tour of the conservative movement and how it gets its funds:
Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group that vehemently opposes Obamacare: a total of $115 million, from three grants.
Americans for Prosperity, an organizing and advocacy group that is courted by Republican presidential candidates: $32.3 million.
The 60 Plus Association, a free-market seniors group that also opposes Obamacare: $15.7 million.
American Future Fund, an Iowa group that spent a lot of money on ads in 2012, many for Mitt Romney: $13.6 million.
Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, which gets involved in a number of social policy debates: $8.2 million.
Themis Trust, a Koch-based voter database that is made available to other conservative organizations: $5.8 million.
• Public Notice, a fiscal policy think tank: $5.5 million.
Generation Opportunity, a group for “liberty-loving” young people: $5 million.
• The LIBRE Initiative, which targets a free-market message to Hispanic immigrants: $3.1 million.
The National Rifle Association: $3.5 million.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $2 million.
• American Energy Alliance: $1.5 million.
• And several groups — including the State Tea Party Express, the Tea Party Patriots and Heritage Action for America — got less than $1 million each.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gun Rights Victory in Colorado

Something pretty remarkable happened in Colorado on Tuesday night. John Morse, the Democratic president of the state Senate, was recalled from office. So was Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron.
Taken together, the losses arguably represent the biggest defeat for gun-control advocates since the push for expanded background checks failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Morse and Giron appeared on ballots Tuesday in the culmination of a recall campaign that largely shaped up as a referendum on the state’s recently passed gun-control laws, for which both Morse and Giron voted. Out of state money poured in on both sides. On one end, the National Rifle Association dished out six figures. On the other, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did too.
It’s not every day that you see an incumbent recalled from office, let alone someone as high-profile as a state Senate president. The message the defeat of Morse and Giron sends to legislators all across the country is unmistakable: If you are thinking about pushing for new gun-control laws, you could face swift consequences.
“You could almost call it the bellwether state as far as what’s going to happen down the road as far as gun-control and Second Amendment rights,” Republican George Rivera, who will fill Giron’s seat, told The Fix late last month.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria, Solarz, and Support

Syria grows as a political problem for the president. At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green notes that George H.W. Bush won congressional approval of the Gulf War because he was able to build an alliance with Stephen J. Solarz (D-NY).  President Obama, he says, has not even tried to find Solarz's House GOP doppelganger.
In early January 1991, Solarz penned a piece in The New Republic titled “The Stakes in the Gulf.” His influential essay combined idealism with realpolitik. As he wrote, “There is, for a start, the question of oil. If Saddam succeeds in incorporating Kuwait into Iraq, he will be in a position to control, by intimidation or invasion, the oil resources of the entire Gulf.”
...
Meanwhile, Obama is constitutionally incapable of doing serious outreach to the House GOP. For the record, he has taunted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, publicly embarrassed Congressman Paul Ryan, and pulled the rug out from under the Speaker Boehner.
...

Obama’s quest for congressional support is also hobbled by the public’s widespread opposition to the war, a fact Obama now acknowledges. According to a Washington Post-ABC poll, Americans say “no” to U.S. involvement in Syria by a 2:1 margin. Scott Clement of the Post writes, "There is no political or demographic group in which a majority supports military action in Syria." According to a CNN poll, more than 30 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a congressman who opposed the war, while a bare 11 percent would reward a congressman who backed a war resolution. Apparently, the only constituencies for war are policy elites, as Peggy Noonan observed, and a few foreign governments. Interestingly, members of Congress who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are strongly opposed to U.S. intervention.

All told, Obama faces a challenge stiffer than passing health care. The public is even more opposed, the House is controlled by the GOP, and there are no goodies to ladle out to large swaths of the electorate. The touted gains of attack are intangible, while its downside is real and grave. Going to war simply to keep a campaign promise doesn’t cut it, and the cry of “Do it for Obama!” is trivially self-referential. When Nancy Pelosi’s discussion with her grandson is offered as a rationale for war, Obama is clearly in trouble.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Super PACs, Dark Money, Dark Money Mailboxes

Politico reports on new super PACs that got lots of attention but have raised little money.
Republicans for Immigration Reform, started by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and GOP rainmaker Charlie Spies, launched with much fanfare at the end of 2012. Gutierrez described it as “something real that could have an impact on the outcome of the election,” and he was dubbed the “GOP’s pro-immigration moneyman.”

But by the end of June, the super PAC had brought in about $190,000 even though immigration has been a hot issue all year. It received contributions from some big-name donors, but like many other GOP super PACs, it ultimately brought in a not-so-impressive haul.

...
Republicans for Immigration Reform is still doing better than Rove’s Conservative Victory Project, which reported raising $5,660 — all of which was transferred from another Rove-affiliated super PAC American Crossroads.
Conservative Victory Project launched with a story in The New York Times, and its goal, to get involved in GOP primaries to make sure fringe candidates don’t make it to the general election, was criticized by tea party and right-wing groups for weeks and was expected to spark a civil war within the party.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the group, says CVP hasn’t kicked off fundraising yet, but it’s started a discussion that will in itself serve the GOP. “The announcement sparked a critical conversation about the importance of candidate quality, which we believe will pay dividends in 2014 and beyond,” he said in an email.

Looking at overall spending reported to the IRS for the three-year period from 2009 to 2011, at least 27 dark-money groups active in the 2010 midterms reported election-year expenditures that were more than the combined total of the two off-years, 2009 and 2011. On average, during this three-year period, more than 70 percent of the groups' expenditures came during the election year.

...
Dark money mailboxes are nonprofits with no direct federal political spending of their own and no substantial programs, staff, or volunteers. A majority of the spending by these groups goes for grants to other politically active nonprofits. (CRP has detailed the activities of several dark money mailboxes in our Shadow Money Trail series.)

...
From a practical standpoint, dark money mailboxes serve two purposes. First, they add another level of opacity in a system where the sources of funds that ultimately are spent on politics are already difficult or impossible to find. If the IRS were to investigate, say, the 60 Plus Association's sources of income, it would also have to investigate the provenance of the money given out by three of its largest donors: the Center to Protect Patient Rights, TC4 Trust and Free Enterprise America, two of which are now defunct.

Dark-money mailboxes have been tied to questionable activities around the country. In California, millions of dollars were funneled through a daisy chain of three nonprofits, including the Center to Protect Patient Rights, in what the California Fair Political Practices Commission called "campaign money laundering."

Also, dark money can be used to diminish the likelihood of IRS scrutiny. Large contributions from one individual or corporation can trigger an audit to evaluate whether or not the recipient organization is serving the financial interests of the donor, a major no-no in the 501(c) world. To get around this, a donor, or small set of donors, can establish a constellation of nonprofits that then channel contributions to the same ultimate destination.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Politics of Evasion, GOP Style?

A quarter-century ago, William Galston and Elaine Kamarck helped develop the "New Democrat" philosophy that was such an asset to Bill Clinton. Drawing on that history in Democracy, they offer some advice to Republicans:
In our experience, successful reform of a political party requires a number of difficult steps: diagnosing the party’s ills; discarding backward-looking policies; restating the party’s principles in terms that attract rather than repel skeptics; and crafting proposals that address the broad population’s problems and concerns, not just those of core supporters. Reform requires, as well, an organization that serves as a focal point for reformers, helps incubate new ideas, and leads the battle for their adoption by the party. And it requires, finally, standard-bearers who understand the reform agenda and can explain it clearly to party leaders, to the rank and file, and ultimately to the entire electorate. Money, technology, and tactics matter, of course, but only within a broader reform strategy.
Judged against this template, the reform of the Republican Party is taking, at most, its first halting steps. A politics of nostalgia still attracts too many Republicans, for whom “Back to Reagan” is a mantra that soothes and cures. But we are as far away from the end of the Reagan Administration as Democrats were from FDR at the beginning of the Nixon Administration. Reaganism applied conservative principles to a specific historical situation. If Reagan reappeared today, his principles would be the same, but many of his proposals would not. As long as Republicans imagine that the party’s 1980 platform will solve either today’s public problems or their own political problems, they’ll continue to struggle.
They argue for some pretty close parallels:

  • The Myth of Fundamentalism:  some Republicans think pure Reaganism is their solution, just as 1980s Democrats thought they they only had to return to pure FDR liberalism .
  • The Myth of Mobilization:  some Republicans think that they only have to do better among whites, just as Democrats in the 1980s thought that they only had to mobilize minorities in greater numbers.  (Sean Trende might quibble on the data here.)
  • The Myth of the Congressional Bastion: some Republicans assume that their control of the House can withstand all national tides, just as 1980s Democrats assumed that they could never lose their own majority.
They suggest that the Gerson-Wehner approach could be part of a GOP revivial.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sprint Weighs in on Syria


A Bad Day for POTUS

At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write:
A majority of House members are now on the record as either against or leaning against authorizing President Obama to use military force against Syriaaccording to the latest whip count from the Washington Post.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 223 members in the “no” or “leaning no” category, more than the 217 that would be needed to sink the resolution. (The threshold for passage in the House is 217 votes, rather than the usual 218, since there are currently two vacancies.)
US News reports:
Support for U.S. military strikes in Syria is lower than any other intervention in the last 20 years, according to a new poll.

Just 36 percent of Americans support President Barack Obama's call for air strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who the U.S. claims used chemical weapons to kill about 1,400 Syrians, including more than 400 children, according to a Gallup survey released Friday. Obama said he would seek congressional approval before moving ahead with the intervention, but faces stiff opposition from members, the public and the international community. 
...
In 1999 during the Clinton administration, 43 percent of people said they supported the mission in Kosovo and the Balkans. But all three wars started under Bush administrations earned well over 50 percent support: George H.W. Bush's Persian Gulf War had 62 percent support in 1991; George W. Bush's war in Afghanistan, launched in the wake of 9/11, earned 82 percent support; and his Iraq War received 59 percent support.
The New York Times reports on the G-20 summit:
After two days of tense discussions, including a dinner debate that went into the morning hours, Mr. Obama left without forging an international consensus behind military action as other leaders urged him not to attack without United Nations permission. But he won agreement from some allies on blaming Syria’s government for a chemical weapons attack and on endorsing an unspecified response.
The deep divisions on display here at the Group of 20 summit meeting raised the stakes even further for Mr. Obama as he seeks authorization from Congress for a “limited, proportional” attack. While aides said he never expected or sought a more explicit endorsement of military action during the meeting, the president hoped to use the statement from allies condemning Syria to leverage more domestic support, but he acknowledged that he had a “hard sell” and might fail to win over an American public that polls show still opposes a strike.
And the economy is not so great, either. CNN reports:
The official U.S. unemployment rate is falling, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

That's because the slice of Americans involved in the labor force has shrunk to a level not seen in 35 years.

The labor force participation rate -- the percentage of people over 16 who either have a job or are actively searching for one -- fell to 63.2% in August. The last time it was that low was in August of 1978.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the rate rose steadily for decades as more women were entering the workforce, eventually peaking at 67.3% in 2000. But the number has been on the decline ever since -- a trend that was accelerated by the Great Recession.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Advisers Who Will Alienate the GOP

The Washington Post reports that the White House is turning to outside advisers for counsel on how to sell Syria policy:
The group included men and women steeped in politics as well as communications and national security: former senior advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe; Robert Gibbs, who served as White House press secretary; former White House communications director Anita Dunn; Stephanie Cutter , who served as deputy campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 campaign; Tommy Vietor, former National Security Council spokesman; and Jon Favreau, who was the president’s speechwriter. Vietor and Favreau now have a joint communications firm.

A White House official who asked not to be identified, because the meeting was private, wrote in an e-mail that the session was not unusual. “We hold regular sessions with folks like this all the time,” the official wrote.
This report will fuel Republican suspicions about the president's motives.  Says Rush Limbaugh:
The Washington Post has an article this morning about how Obama has turned to his "brain trust" for selling his attack on Syria, and the brain trust includes David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, Anita Dunn, Stephanie Cutter, Tommy Vietor and some former speechwriter -- and these people are nothing but cutthroat campaign people.  So the way that we're going to sell military intervention in Syria is to beat up the Republicans and force them to vote "yes" with Obama on this. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Demographics, Social Issues, and the Vote

At The New York Times, Thomas Edsall writes:
As traditional economic divisions in politics have weakened, other factors are helping to determine partisan affiliation.
Lesthaeghe and Neidert have found, for example, that the higher the non-Hispanic white birthrate of a state, the stronger its vote in 2004 for Bush. Figure 5 shows the striking correlation:
Neidert and Lesthaeghe are looking at voting behavior both as a driver of the contemporary demographic transition and as stemming from it — from the differences, that is, between states and other localities in the embrace of new behavioral norms. Factors shaping political choices are less tied to classic class distinctions and increasingly related to values conflicts regarding family formation.
Writing with Johan Surkyn, Neidert and Lesthaeghe consider the impact on voters of same-sex households, cohabiting households, births to teenagers, births to unmarried women, divorce and separation, the percentage of two-parent households, fertility postponement, fertility decline brought on by contraception and abortion, the percentage of women without children in the household, rates of early or late marriage, the disconnection between marriage and procreation, and so forth.
These topics both feed and reflect what social scientists call “ideational” transformation, which is emerging from trends toward “secularization and the subsequent accentuation of individualistic expressive values,” as well as from the backlash against such trends.
Democratic strength is now concentrated in fewer but more heavily populated areas. Polarization has intensified as voters in over half the nation’s counties cast landslide margins for one presidential candidate or the other. These tendencies are intensifying and have spilled over to Congressional elections, leading to legislative paralysis. Self-perpetuating clusters of the like-minded lead voters and their representatives away from the center.