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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Anecdote Factory

At Slate, John Dickerson explains that the Obamacare rollout will continue to provide Republicans with ammunition:
The first set of challenges will come from the delays the president used to lower the political pressure. On Wednesday the administration announced a delay in small businesses’ access to the online marketplace, which means a year of complaints from small business owners about having to manage the cumbersome signup through other methods. (Though businesses can still sign up through an agent or broker, which is how many of them do it now.) The employer mandate will also come up again. In July, the Obama administration delayed the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees cover their employees. Next fall Democrats may face the same kinds of political pressure that forced the delay this year, including stories about how companies are cutting employees’ hours to avoid covering their health care.

One of the problems with the back-end issues insurance companies are facing is the problem of "orphan records"—people who think they've signed up on the web site but the information never actually made it to the insurance company. Those people are going to assume they're covered on Jan. 1, 2014. That's a possible anecdote factory of people who need care, were covered before, thought they'd switched to the new program, and are now are shocked and panicked because they're not. Another potential headache that needs to be managed is the president's promise that people can keep their doctor if they would like to. That won't be the case for many people as insurers restrict the choice of doctors to keep costs down. And then there's the fact that the IRS will be handling the enforcement of the law—a highly unpopular institution the Republicans have exploited for political gain before.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A GOP Wave in 2014?

At The Washington Post, Reid Wilson suggests that 2014 may be starting to look like 2010 -- a GOP wave election.  The generic ballot is moving in the GOP's direction and the president's favorability rating has turned sour.
Historically, Democrats have held an advantage of at least a few points on the generic ballot, even when election results are a wash: Democrats held a six-point edge just before Election Day 2000 and picked up a grand total of one seat. Democrats led Republicans by one point on the generic ballot just before the 2010 elections, when Republicans rode to a sweeping victory.
And there’s no sign that Obama will become more popular. Presidents who see their approval ratings dip so dramatically in the second term rarely see their numbers improve. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s approval ratings never recovered after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal (Nixon, of course, didn’t stick around to see just how far his ratings could fall). George W. Bush’s approval rating sank in the spring of 2005, and continued falling through the end of his term. Obama’s numbers are starting to resemble Bush’s trend lines.
...
Reaction to the bungled rollout of the health care law is overwhelmingly to blame. Already, the fallout has been evident: Public surveys in Virginia showed Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) leading Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) by wide margins in the wake of the government shutdown. But Cuccinelli made the final weeks of the race into a referendum on ObamaCare, and McAuliffe’s support began to erode. On Election Day, McAuliffe won by just 2.5 points, a narrower margin than even his internal polls showed. Another week, and Cuccinelli might be governor-elect.
...
But back in 2010, 40 percent told Post pollsters they viewed Republicans in a favorable light, 10 points lower than those who said they saw Democrats favorably. Republicans feigned a national platform, akin to the Contract With America, but their pitch to voters was more about what they were against — namely, Democrats and ObamaCare — than what they were for. Voters have backed the unpopular party with few ideas over the slightly-more-popular party with unpopular ideas before.
At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar adds detail:
Race-by-race polling conducted over the last month has painted a grim picture of the difficult environment Senate Democrats are facing next year. In Louisiana, a new state survey showed Landrieu's approval rating is now underwater; she tallied only 41 percent of the vote against her GOP opposition. In Arkansas, where advertising on the health care law began early, Sen. Mark Pryor's approval sank to 33 percent, a drop of 18 points since last year. A new Quinnipiac survey showed Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who looked like a lock for reelection last month, in a dead heat against little-known GOP opponents. Even a Democratic automated poll from Public Policy Polling showed Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina running neck-and-neck against Republican opposition, with her job disapproval spiking over the last two months. These are the types of numbers that wave elections are made of.
...
"You want to prevent your race from being about Obamacare. If you enable your race to be about Obamacare, you're making a mistake," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who's working for Landrieu. "You need to explain what you're trying to fix, and you better be trying to fix something. If there's nothing you want to fix, there's something wrong with you. At this point, it's hard to defend the benefits, but you can say we're not going back to the evils of the old system."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Obamacare Turkey

Organizing for Action seriously wants people to talk Obamacare at their Thanksgiving tables.  Seriously.

At National Review Online, Jim Geraghty writes:
T here’s a whole website for it: “Health Care for the Holidays.” (Somehow they managed to meet the deadline for getting that website to work.)
Apparently liberals have gotten the message. MSNBC host Chris Hayes cheerfullytweeted Monday, “Devoting our whole show on Wednesday to how to talk about politics, news with conservative family members. Should be fun!”
If you need the advice of an MSNBC host in order to respectfully and pleasantly talk with family members, you’ve got real problems.
Here’s a crazy idea: Treat your family members as people you love and appreciate — or at least tolerate — instead of targets for political conversion. You only get one or two families in this life — the one you’re born into, and the one you marry into. Maybe if you’re lucky, you become “like a son” or “like a sister” to another. There’s a lot to talk about in this world beyond politics, and chances are you’re not going to persuade disagreeing relatives, anyway.
A healthy society does not feature a leader who sends messages to his followers, asking them to make a pledge to have a conversation with their families about his agenda at Thanksgiving. This is cult-like.


CNN reports:
The Obama administration is promising a much smoother ride on HealthCare.gov come Saturday, but insurers worry that behind-the-scenes glitches will keep consumers from enrolling in the health insurance plans they want.
Insurance industry insiders tell CNN that when some people sign up for coverage through the website, their personal data is not being properly transmitted to the insurance companies of their choosing.
Insurers are still getting inaccurate and duplicative data. And that's even if it makes it to them at all.
So how do insurers know they aren't getting the information?
Customers who signed up for coverage are calling the companies with questions and finding they aren't in their systems. And insurers have been testing the site, submitting John Doe records and not seeing them come out the other end, an industry official said.
"There's no part of us that thinks all of this will be fixed in three days from now," the industry official said, referring to the administration's self-imposed Saturday deadline to make the site work for a "vast majority" of users.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mayors

Previous posts have noted that "unintentional gerrymandering" is one result of the clustering of Democrats in big cities.  Another is the shift of big-city mayors to the D column. At Bloomberg, Mark Niquette writes:
Twenty years ago, half the 12 largest U.S. municipalities had a Republican mayor. When Bill de Blasio takes office in New York on Jan. 1, none will.

As middle-class residents moved out of cities and immigrants and young people replaced them, the party lost its grip on population centers even as it increased control of governor’s offices and legislatures. The polarization has pitted urban interests against rural areas and suburbs, denying Republicans a power base.

“The New York election hopefully is somewhat of a wake-up call,” said Scott Smith, the Republican mayor of Mesa, Arizona, and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “If that doesn’t get Republicans on the national level more interested, then it should.”

De Blasio’s election means that besides New York, there will be Democratic mayors next year in Los Angeles; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Antonio; Dallas; San Jose, California; Austin, Texas; and Jacksonville, Florida. A runoff will be held in February in San Diego to replace Democratic Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in August amid charges of sexual harassment.

In New York, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 6-to-1, yet voters hadn’t elected a Democrat since David Dinkins lost to Rudolph Giuliani in 1993. De Blasio, 52, won this month by the biggest margin by a non-incumbent in city history on vow to close the growing gap between rich and poor.
But note that the GOP does better in smaller communities.

IRS Proposes to Tighten 501(c)(4) Rules

At Politico, Byron Tau and Lauren French write:
The Obama administration proposed rules on Tuesday that could make it harder for some nonprofit groups that play politics to get away with claiming a tax exemption.
But don’t be fooled, this is not the end of political “dark money.”
The rules, released Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service, are unlikely to stem the tide of anonymous donations that have flooded into politics since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
And even if the Obama administration takes an aggressive stance when the final regulations are released, political groups could circumvent the rules by converting into other types of entities not governed by the rules, veterans of campaign finance law and tax exempt status said.
“One of the problems of this rule is it is only talking about (c)4s and you need to get a hold of all these entities,” said Donald Tobin, an Ohio State University law professor and former Justice Department tax lawyer. “Clearly when you have an entity-based regulation, it encourages people to engage in activities from another entity.”
The proposal is the first major response to a May Treasury inspector general report blasting the IRS for added scrutiny of tea party conservative groups seeking a tax exemption — a major controversy that led President Barack Obama to fire the acting IRS commissioner and other officials to exit the agency.
At Slate, Emma Roller writes:
So now's the time groups like Americans For Prosperity should be sending out apoplectic press releases, right? Nope. They're either lying low, or they aren't all that worried about the rule being implemented. Basically, their argument is thus: The fact that the administration has to change the rules to bring these groups into violation proves that they've been following the rules all along.

"By proposing a rule change, the administration appears to be conceding that they can’t get 501(c)(4) groups to change their behavior without changing the rules," one source close to several conservative nonprofit groups said. "So while they may be able to change some behavior moving forward, it’s also a tacit validation that many of these groups have been acting properly since Citizens United."
The problem is, this is a pretty nebulous way to write a rule. Defining tax-exempt status based on whether a group uses communications with candidates could rope in nonpolitical groups. Interpreted widely, for example, it could threaten the tax-exempt status of any nonprofit group that used a member of Congress in a PSA within 60 days of an election. And even if the rule is passed, the administration would most assuredly still have James Bopp to reckon with.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"On Track"


Jonathan Easley reports at The Hill:
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday the Obama administration would meet its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to have HealthCare.gov running better.

“We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of the month,” Sebelius said on a conference call with state and local elected officials about the ObamaCare rollout.
It is strange that Secretary Sebelius keeps using the phrase "on track," because she used it so many times before the disastrous rollout:

Kansas City Star, September 20:
Sebelius downplayed a Wall Street Journal report Friday that pricing glitches are being found in the federal system.
“Testing is being done,” Sebelius said. “We’re very much on track to be ready Oct. 1.”
She said any “bumps in the road” will be fixed by the opening date.
Austin American-Statesman, August 8:
Sebelius, who noted that she knew Perry when she served as governor of Kansas, responded to Perry’s criticism with a chuckle.
“First of all there is nothing that is delayed,” she said. “There is nothing that is not on track. I have, again, no idea what it is that he is anticipating in terms of costs to the state.”
Dallas Morning News, August 8:
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius predicted Thursday that computer bugs won’t impede the roll-out of new state health insurance marketplaces on Oct. 1. She also rejected Gov. Rick Perry’s suggestion that Americans grasp Obamacare “all too well” and are rejecting it.
Despite reports that information technology systems may not be fully ready to swap and protect applicants’ information with state Medicaid eligibility computers, Sebelius insisted her federal agency and its contractors are up to the job.
“I’m confident that we will be up and running, and on track, on Oct. 1,” when Americans can begin shopping in the online marketplaces that are being created for each state.
McClatchy News, June 24:
“We will be ready on Oct. 1st,” Sebelius said Monday. “I’m confident we’re on track to get it done.”
Washington Times, April 12:
In one terse exchange, Mr. Brady repeatedly challenged Mrs. Sebelius on her agency’s ability to have exchanges operating by this fall, citing a series of missed deadlines in recent months.
“I can only tell you what I’m telling you,” Mrs. Sebelius said. “We are on track to meet the Oct. 1 deadline.”


Annus Horribilis for Obama and the Democrats

Lloyd Green writes at the Daily Beast:
Not surprisingly, America is losing patience with Obamacare and Obama. Support for Obamacare steadily leaches out, with nearly three in five Americans now opposing the President's eponymous achievement. Can you really blame House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for saying that she always called Obamacare the Affordable Care Act? Failure is an orphan.
But even more damaging than the public’s loss of confidence in Obamacare is America’s growing distrust of the President’s integrity and competence. Half the country thinks of him as less than truthful. Obama’s approval rating is 40 percent, his disapproval is 55 percent, and his base is unhappy.
Women (53 percent) and suburbanites (58 percent) now disapprove of him, according to the latest CNN poll. To put things in context, Obama won 55 percent of the women’s vote and captured America’s suburbs, as he bested Mitt Romney. If the presidential election were held today, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll reported that Romney would have his revenge. Clearly, 2013 is Obama’s annus horribilis, his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Indeed, 2014 doesn’t look much brighter as the Democrats head into the midterm elections. Growing hostility toward Obamacare will present an even more serious problem for Obama and the Democrats, and their upstairs-downstairs brand of coalition politics.
CNN reports:
A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.

Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.
That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.
But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.

The new survey was conducted last week and released Tuesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Obama Slipping, Democrats Sweating

The president's public standing continues to erode.  CNN reports on a poll showing that only a minority thinks the president can manage effectively.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning also indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way.
According to the survey, conducted last Monday through Wednesday, 40% say the President can manage the government effectively. That 40% figure is down 12 percentage points from June and is the worst score Obama received among the nine personal characteristics tested in the new poll.
"A lot of attention has focused on the President's numbers on honesty in new polling the past three weeks, but it looks like the recent controversy over Obamacare has had a bigger impact on his status as an effective manager of the government, and that may be what is really driving the drop in Obama's approval rating this fall," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
...
Obama's woes are not limited to honesty and his managerial skills. Fifty-six percent say he is not a person they admire, and an equal number say he does not agree with them on important issues. Fifty-six percent also say he does not inspire confidence, and 53% don't view him as a strong and decisive leader. All of those figures are all-time records for Obama in CNN polling.
At Politico, Jonathan Allen reports that some Democrats are getting ready to criticize the president if the Obamacare website is still faltering at the end of the month.
That will come in the form of more aggressive scrutiny in Republican-led oversight hearings, open advocacy for further delay in the enrollment deadline and individual coverage mandate, and more calls for a staff shake-up in the White House.

“The president and his team have repeatedly assured us that the system will be working by Dec. 1. That’s when I start looking at what we have to do in our oversight function to hold the administration accountable for making it work.” Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat said Thursday, adding that he’s contemplating whether to ask the president to fire members of his staff. “I’m thinking about those options. But my biggest concern is fixing the system and making it work.”

Asked whether he was mad at the president, Braley hesitated for a few seconds amid the din of a Capitol hallway.
“Yes,” he said.
Also at Politico, Alex Isenstadt writes of Democratic leaders' efforts to put the best face on things:
"We’re trying to deny what everyone knows is happening,” said one Democratic pollster who is a veteran of competitive congressional races. “Anybody who is halfway intelligent knows this is a big … problem for us. It’s impossible not to see. We can try to hide our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not a problem, but it is.”
Keith Frederick, another Democratic pollster, was more diplomatic.
“I think if you’re the leaders of the party you have to keep a positive message as long as possible,” he said.
...
“There’s a rash of polls out this week showing Obama’s approval going down and the generic ballot closing. That explains why people are doing what they’re doing,” Frederick said.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Medicaid and GOP Governors

At The San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders writes that Republicans are divided over whether governors should expand Medicaid with Obamacare money.
It's a hot issue because Obamacare allows states to expand their pool of eligible Medicaid recipients. For the first three years, Washington promises to pay 100 percent of the freight for new enrollees; later, federal support would shrink to 90 percent. (Washington covers about half the cost of today's pre-ACA enrollees.)

It's as free as free money gets in this country -- nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, which leaves Republican governors with a dilemma. To snatch or to spurn, that is the question.
More than 20 states with a Republican governor or legislature have refused the new Medicaid scheme. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lead the pack of GOP guvs who have said no. Jindal said the so-called free Medicaid money "would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over the next 10 years and move nearly 250,000 Louisianans from private coverage to Medicaid."
Last week, the Club for Growth called out an Idaho congressman for accepting the endorsement of an industry group that supports Medicaid expansion in Idaho. Club spokesman Barney Keller told me the issue isn't exactly a litmus test, but "anyone who thinks that the feds are going to make good on their promises to pay for the Medicaid expansion" is kidding himself.
This month, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Fox News that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could be sorry the Garden State is expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. "I don't think that is going to resonate in the Republican primary," quoth Paul, who himself seems eager to run in 2016.
Christie is in good company. Other GOP governors -- John Kasich of Ohio, Jan Brewer of Arizona and Rick Scott of Florida -- are taking advantage of the Obamacare Medicaid terms.
At The Washington Post, Reid Wilson writes:
When Gov. Chris Christie (R) decided that New Jersey would expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act , he opened the door to health-care coverage for 104,000 of the poorest Garden State residents, a move he said would save the state $227 million this year alone.
But he also may have complicated his hopes of making it through a competitive Republican presidential primary in 2016, when rivals will be looking for any opportunity to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowded field.
Christie is one of eight Republican governors to accept the expansion, including at least one other potential presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich . The jockeying over Medicaid is a hot topic this week in Phoenix at the Republican Governors Association’s annual meeting, and it is shaping up as one of the earliest fights in the shadow campaign for the Republican nomination.
...
Asked by a reporter in Phoenix whether accepting a Medicaid expansion would make securing the Republican nomination more difficult, Kasich said: “Is that how you’re going to make a decision?
“Anybody who would be making the decision from that standpoint I wouldn’t want to be supporting for president,” Kasich said. “I think all things kind of fade over time.”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Today's New Breed Senate Democrats = Young Turk House GOP of 1980s and 1990s

So Reid has pulled the nuclear trigger. At The Los Angeles Times, Michael Memoli credits Democratic Young Turks:
After pushing through one of the most significant rule changes in Senate history, Majority Leader Harry Reid struck a solemn tone: "This is not a time for celebration."

But behind closed doors in a room off the Senate floor, some of the newer Democratic senators couldn't help themselves, gathering for a quick party to congratulate one another. They were the ones largely responsible for pushing the veteran Nevada lawmaker to pull the trigger on ending filibusters against most presidential nominations.
The partisan revelers were part of a new breed of Democrats emerging in the Senate. Mostly elected after 2006, these relative newcomers have only known a Democratic-controlled Senate and have little experience with successful bipartisan cooperation, due largely to the tea party's grip on the Republican Party.
Now they are hoping to become a new power center in the party, nudging the old guard to adopt more aggressive tactics in pursuit of legislative goals and largely brushing aside Republican threats of retaliation and obstruction. They see the rules and traditions of the Senate as having stifled the will of the majority and stalled President Obama's agenda.
In this sense, the "new breed" of Democratic senators are the doppelgangers of the Gingrich House Republicans of the 1980s and 1990s. For them, the 1978 midterm was the main point of entry.  Aggressive opposition to tax hikes and Carter foreign policy defined the Gingrichites, just as equally aggressive opposition to the Iraq War and Bush economic policy marked the emergence of the new Senate breed.  The House Republicans of the earlier time had never served in the majority.  The new Senate Democrats have never served in the minority. The House Republicans chafed under Tip O'Neill's heavy-handed tactics.  The Senate Democrats chafe under what they see as Tea Party obstructionism.  The pressure on Reid to adopt tougher tactics is reminiscent of GOP pressure on Bob Michel.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Raising the Stakes and the Temperature

Harry Reid finally exercised the nuclear option, eliminating the minority party's ability to filibuster executive and judicial nominees. Alex Isenstadt writes at Politico:
With only 51 Senate votes – a simple majority – now needed to clear presidential nominees for cabinet posts and federal judges, the power of the majority has been significantly enhanced.
“There’s no question it’s going to make things more intense” in next year’s races, said Trent Lott, a former Mississippi senator and majority leader.

And while Democrats who’ve been encouraging Reid for years to push the nuclear button rejoiced, many of them acknowledged that it would increase the pressure on the party to retain its majority.
“Now that Senate Democrats have made this decision, it’s absolutely critical that we keep control of the Senate after the 2014 election,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “What happened today reinforced the stakes that are at play.”
Jonathan Weisman writes at The New York Times:
President Obama will get a short-term lift for his nominees, judicial and otherwise, but over the immediate horizon, the strong-arm move by Senate Democrats on Thursday to limit filibusters could usher in an era of rank partisan warfare beyond even what Americans have seen in the past five years.

Ultimately, a small group of centrists — Republicans and Democrats — could find the muscle to hold the Senate at bay until bipartisan solutions can be found. But for the foreseeable future, Republicans, wounded and eager to show they have not been stripped of all power, are far more likely to unify against the Democrats who humiliated them in such dramatic fashion.
...

The decision to press the button on the so-called nuclear option was no doubt cathartic for a Democratic majority driven to distraction by Republican obstructionism. President Obama had predicted his re-election would break the partisan fever gripping Washington, especially since the Tea Party movement swept Republicans to control of the House. It did not.
...

But the fever is hardly gone. The rule change lowered to a simple 51-vote majority the threshold to clear procedural hurdles on the way to the confirmation of judges and executive nominees. But it did nothing to streamline the gantlet that presidential nominees run. Republicans may not be able to muster the votes to block Democrats on procedure, but they can force every nomination into days of debate between every procedural vote in the Senate book — of which there will be many.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Big Money and Priorities USA

Priorities USA, the politically active nonprofit that backed President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012, raised $8.4 million in 2012, with most of it coming from just five donors.

The group spent more than half its budget -- just under $5 million -- on grants to other nonprofits. The single largest recipient of the organization's largesse was Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which was given $2.2 million.

Priorities USA's $8.4 million in revenues isn't much compared to the funds raised by some of the conservative social welfare nonprofits that targeted Obama and other Democrats in 2012. Still, it's not insignificant, and the reliance on such a small number of donations is almost exactly the scenario that Obama predicted would occur as a result of the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Priorities USA was founded last year by a handful of former Obama aides, including former deputy press secretary Bill Burton (pictured at right in orange tie). Like other 501(c)(4) groups, it does not publicly disclose its donors' identities. However, its tax forms -- which were filed Friday but not released until yesterday -- show that it took in 22 donations last year that ranged from $5,000 to $2 million. Donations of less than $5,000 don't have to be listed on the forms.

Besides the $2 million check, there were three $1 million gifts, one of $900,000, and three of $500,000 each, meaning that 89 percent of the group's total revenues came from eight donors at most -- fewer if the same person or organization gave twice. Each of the grants is marked as coming from a "person," but the term applies to donors that are "individuals, fiduciaries, partnerships, corporations, associations, trusts, and exempt organizations," under IRS rules.
On September 16, 2010, the president said:
 Because if you don't think the stakes are large—and I want you to consider this—right now, all across the country, special interests are planning and running millions of dollars of attack ads against Democratic candidates. Because last year, there was a Supreme Court decision called Citizens United. They're allowed to spend as much as they want without ever revealing who's paying for the ads. That's exactly what they're doing—millions of dollars. And the groups are benign-sounding: Americans for Prosperity. Who's against that? [Laughter] Or Committee for Truth in Politics. Or Americans for Apple Pie, Moms for Motherhood—I made those last two up. [Laughter]
None of them will disclose who's paying for these ads. You don't know if it's a Wall Street bank. You don't know if it's a big oil company. You don't know if it's an insurance company. You don't even know if it's a foreign-controlled entity.
In some races, they are spending more money than the candidates. Not here, because here the candidate's spending a lot of money. [Laughter]
They're spending more money than the parties. They want to take Congress back and return to the days where lobbyists wrote the laws. It is the most insidious power grab since the monopolies of the Gilded Age. That's happening right now. So there's a lot of talk about populist anger and grassroots, but that's not what's driving a lot of these elections.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Honest and Trustworthy" -- Not

Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan write at The Washington Post:
A majority of voters in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll do not believe President Obama is “honest and trustworthy,” a precipitous shift from past findings that reveals the depth of the damage he has incurred due to his misleading “if you like it, you can keep it” pledge about health insurance.
Fifty-two percent of registered voters in the new Post-ABC poll say that Obama is not honest and trustworthy; a year ago, in mid-October, as Obama was moving toward a sweeping reelection victory, a strong majority (56 percent) said that he was both honest and trustworthy. And, earlier in Obama’s first term, the numbers were even higher, with 74 percent of people calling him honest and trustworthy in April 2009.
What happened seems obvious. Obama’s second term has been defined by two major (and markedly negative) stories: The massive surveillance program run through the NSA and the problem-plagued rollout of Obamacare. In both instances, Obama came across as something less than forthright about what he knew and when he knew it.
CBS reports on a new poll that confirms this finding:
When compared to recent two-term presidents, President Obama's approval rating is similar to that of George W. Bush at this point in his presidency, but lower than the ratings of both Bill Clinton (58 percent) and Ronald Reagan (65 percent). In November 2005, 35 percent of Americans approved of the job President Bush was doing. That number mostly declined over the rest of his term, hitting a low of 20 percent in October 2008.

President Obama has also taken a hit on views of his honesty. During the presidential campaign last fall, 60 percent of voters said Mr. Obama was honest and trustworthy, but just 49 percent of Americans think that today.

Most Democrats (84 percent) say the president is honest and trustworthy, but most Republicans don't think he is (77 percent). Independents are more divided in their assessments: 43 percent think President Obama is honest and trustworthy, but 53 percent don't think he is.
Earlier, the Quinnipiac Poll reported:
For the first time today, American voters say 52 - 44 percent that Obama is not honest and trustworthy. His previous lowest marks on honesty were May 30, when 49 percent of voters said he was honest and 47 percent said he wasn't.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Boratcare

The movie Borat begins with a satirical version of the Kazakhstan national anthem. “Filtration system is a marvel to behold,” the song goes. “It removes 80 percent of human solid waste.” Needless to say, the joke is that 80 percent is a ridiculously low standard for something that ought to be 100 percent effective.

This line, from The Hill, is not a joke: “Administration officials say they’ll deem HealthCare.gov a success if 80 percent of its visitors can buy health insurance plans online.”

Crossroads and Big Checks

Three massive checks helped fuel Karl Rove’s $300 million dollar campaign against President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.
Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit affiliate of the super PAC American Crossroads, reported receiving three eight-figure contributions —of $22.5 million, $18 million and, $10 million, during 2012, according to tax documents released Monday

The nonprofit group reported receiving $179.7 million and spending $188.9 million in 2012. The super PAC, meanwhile raised and spent $117 million in 2011 and 2012.
The names of all three mega-donors to Crossroads GPS were redacted. Tax law allows Crossroads GPS and other similar nonprofits to keep their donors secret. The group voluntarily released a redacted list of all donation amounts over $5,000 with donor names removed.
Crossroads GPS had 53 contributions of $1 million or more to the organization in 2012, with 291 donors giving more than $5,000. The group reported that 1,545 donors gave during the 2012 calendar year.
The nonprofit spent nearly $190 million during the calendar year, including $74.5 million on advocacy, $35 million in grants to other nonprofits and $74.2 million on direct political activities.
It also spread the wealth to other nonprofits — including $26.4 million to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform group. GPS gave $2 million to the nonprofit Americans for Job Security and about $2.2 million to the Center for Individual Freedom — both 501c nonprofit groups allowed to keep their donors secret.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Christie Can Win

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green offers some advice to Chris Christie:
If you are to win the Republican nomination and then remain viable, you must do three things. First, get a top notch tech team up and running, the sooner the better. Second, build bridges to Southern Republicans, who have yet to cotton to you. Third, lessen your tropism toward Wall Street.
...
Before I forget, there are also things of substance. After the failures of Iraq and Obamacare, the country needs a president who can just “do it,” who is not swept up into believing that he hears God’s call or is enamored with his own Messianic pretensions.

Kicking demon rum and delivering a message of personal redemption are not qualifications for the office. Speaking in front of Greek columns while accepting a nomination, stressing your own transformational capacities, should only make one a motivational speaker—and nothing more.

America is tired of avatars and ideologues. Reality calls.

Over the last dozen years, we have been sadly reminded that basic competence matters and that grandiosity is not what is needed first and foremost. √Član helps, a common touch is useful, and a narrative can be compelling. But they are not ends in themselves.

If we are looking at you going toe-to-toe with Hillary on Election Day 2016, it may not necessarily feel ennobling, and it will likely be devoid of the Vision Thing, thankfully. But it will be normal, and these days that’s plenty.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crossroads Money in 2012

Thomas Catan and Brody Mullins write at The Wall Street Journal:
Two Karl Rove-backed Republican campaign groups raised more than $325 million during the 2012 election cycle, a draft tax return shows, a record haul for an outside political group that for the first time eclipses the fundraising efforts of a national political party.
That total means American Crossroads and its nonprofit sibling, Crossroads GPS, together outraised the Democratic National Committee, which took in $316 million during the 2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending.
The Democratic Party as a whole was still ahead if you include its congressional campaign committees, and the party also benefits from the backing of organized labor. But the amount raised by the Rove-backed groups underlines a seismic shift in power and resources in American politics as “outside” groups start to rival the spending power of the Republican and Democratic parties during elections.
The trend helps explain the dwindling power of the national political parties on their members — particularly Republicans — who are becoming more willing to buck their national parties as they become less dependent on them for financing. Outside groups now perform many of the same functions that parties have traditionally exercised to support candidates including running ads, sending mailings and coordinating get-out-the-vote efforts, said Viveca Novak, CRP’s editorial director.
“They won’t totally replace [the parties] but they’re becoming 800-pound gorillas,” she said.
Open Secrets reports:
Two small trade associations gave big -- relative to their size -- in 2012 to some of the largest dark money groups involved in federal elections, including Crossroads GPS.

The largest of the two new grants, uncovered by the Center for Responsive Politics, came from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, which gave $500,000. Another trade association, the AGC Public Awareness and Advocacy Fund, sent $100,000 to Crossroads last year.
The two grants were a drop in the bucket for Crossroads. The group, co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, raised $180 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, which received a draft of the group's Form 990 tax return covering 2012 (the form is due to be filed Friday). Crossroads reported to the Federal Election Commission that it spent nearly $71.2 million in the last election cycle, while its super PAC affiliate, American Crossroads, spent another $104.7 million.
Still, the grants from the trade groups are only the second and third ever documented to Crossroads -- which, like other 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations under the tax code, is not required to publicly report its donors. The first was a $4 million grant from the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2010, which CRP first reported on last year.

Crossroads reported raising funds from 291 donors of greater than $5,000, whose names were redacted on its 990. The largest contribution was a whopping $22.5 million. But the gifts from the trade groups show that Crossroads was prospecting widely for funding.

Health and Moose Lotteries

The New York Times reports that things were looking good for Democrats during the shutdown...
Then the problems with the Internet-based health exchanges came into focus, followed by millions of letters from insurance companies canceling individual policies that did not meet the health law’s minimum coverage requirements. Republicans found their voice. Democrats lost theirs. The polling gap closed, and Republican wallets opened. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $3.8 million in October, its best monthly showing of the year.
Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called it “a Category 5 political hurricane.”
New Hampshire may be ground zero in the political war over the Affordable Care Act, a state where the three Democratic members of the congressional delegation are under serious threat because of the fumbled rollout of the health care law. Suddenly they must balance their loyalty to the White House with the needs of an angry constituency that has had to absorb some of the worst problems with the new law.
The problems are many. The Tea Party-fueled legislature passed a law prohibiting the governor from setting up a state health insurance exchange, so the state must rely on the faulty federal government website, HealthCare.gov. So far, only 269 people have signed up for a plan that way, a total dwarfed by the number of residents whose policies have been canceled.
Ryan Williams, a Republican consultant from New Hampshire, noted that this year, 281 residents were issued permits to hunt moose. “You’ve got a better chance of winning the moose lottery than getting health care coverage through Barack Obama’s broken website,” he said.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Team of Nobodies

Another gap between promise and performance lies in the administration of the executive branch.  Glenn Thrush writes at Politico:
For any modern president, the advantages of hoarding power in the White House at the expense of the Cabinet are obvious—from more efficient internal communication and better control of external messaging to avoiding messy confirmation battles and protecting against pesky congressional subpoenas. But over the course of his five years in office, Obama has taken this White House tendency to an extreme, according to more than 50 interviews with current and former secretaries, White House staffers and executive branch officials, who described his Cabinet as a restless nest of ambition, fits-and-starts achievement and power-jockeying under a shadow of unfulfilled promise.

Obama, many of his associates now concede, never really intended to be pushed out of his comfort zone. While he personally recruited stars such as Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, most other picks for his first Cabinet were made by his staff, with less involvement from the president. “[Bill] Clinton spent almost all of his time picking the Cabinet at the expense of the White House staff; Obama made the opposite mistake,” says a person close to both presidents.That’s a far cry from the vision Obama sketched out in the months leading up to his 2008 election. Back then, he waxed expansive about the Cabinet, promising to rejuvenate the institution as a venue for serious innovation and genuine decision making. “I don’t want to have people who just agree with me,” he told Time magazine, after reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s classic account of President Abraham Lincoln and his advisers, Team of Rivals. “I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone.”

You Can Keep It, Senate Edition

Byron York writes about the "you can keep it" pledge:
How many Democrats made the promise? There's no comprehensive list of all of them, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office has compiled a list of 27 Democratic senators who pledged that Americans could keep their coverage under Obamacare. The list includes the entire Democratic leadership in the Senate as well as Democrats facing tough re-election races in 2014, like Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, and Kay Hagan. Here is that list, compiled by McConnell's office:
SEN. HARRY REID (D-Nev.): “In fact, one of our core principles is that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.8642, 8/3/09)
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: “We believe — and we stand by this — if you like your current health insurance plan, you will be able to keep it, plain and simple, straightforward.” (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.6401, 6/10/09)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “If you like your insurance, you keep it.” (U.S. Senate, Finance Committee, Bill Mark-Up, 9/29/09 
... 
NRSC has video.  It is a glorious moment to be a Republican oppo guy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You Can Keep It

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has posted quotations from 61 House Democrats:
Let’s not forget that it wasn’t just President Obama who repeatedly told people that if they like their healthcare plan, they could keep it. When Obamacare was finally passed in the House, 219 Democrats voted for it, repeating the same false promise as the President did to the American people. Tomorrow, House Democrats have an opportunity to clarify whether they truly meant for people who liked their healthcare plan to be able it keep it, or if this was just a sales tactic to shove an already unpopular bill through Congress.
Running into Democrats who can’t quite remember making this promise? We’ve compiled a few examples for you below. We fully expect them all to be “yes” votes on Chairman Upton’s “Keep Your Health Plan Act” (HR 3350).
Oh, and pay special attention to the highlighted Members. They originally made this promise, but have since “updated” their websites. Whatever is plaguing Healthcare.gov must be catching…
...
  • Rep. Van Hollen: “If you like your doctor and your plan, you can keep them.” (Press Release, 7/14/2009)
  • Rep. Wasserman Schultz: “Let me be clear: if you like your current plan, you’ll be able to keep it. Rather, we will build on our current system, so we can give you the freedom to choose what works best for you and your family. If you like your doctor, keep your doctor. If you like your current plan, keep your current plan. If you don’t, or if you don’t have one, then get one that works for you.” (Press Release, 7/1/2009)
  • Rep. Watt: “Under the ACA, those who already have health insurance coverage under the following plans will continue to enjoy their coverage without interruption and without taking any action: Employer-sponsored plans” (Obamacare FAQ)
  • Rep. Waxman: “If you like your doctor and your current plan, you keep them. But we fundamentally reform the insurance company practices that are failing our families.” (Press Release, 3/21/2013)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Colorado Canary

The GOP is not doomed. At The Washington Examiner, Michael Barone writes that Colorado is becoming a canary in the Democratic coal mine.  Case in point:  a ballot measure that would have raised taxes to support education.
Amendment 66 supporters — including Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg and Colorado teacher unions — spent some $12 million in support of the amendment.

Last week, Colorado voters rejected Amendment 66 by a 65-to-35 margin. It carried only in Denver and Boulder counties. Voters in the other 62 counties turned it down.

This was a much more smashing defeat than political insiders expected. Coming as it did during the rocky Obamacare rollout, it looks like a rejection of big government generally and of the proposition that more government spending will produce better results.

It was an especially stinging defeat for teacher unions, which also failed to oust a reform-minded school board in exurban Douglas County, south of Denver, and saw a pro-union school board thrown out in Jefferson County, the mixed suburbs west of the city.

This does not necessarily spell defeat for Hickenlooper or the Democratic legislative majorities. As Brownstein points out, Colorado Republicans have been fielding stunningly weak candidates for major office in recent years.
...
But like voters nationally on Obamacare, Colorado voters seem to be rejecting liberal policies Democrats assumed would be widely popular. An interesting lesson from “America, writ small.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Explaining Virginia

There are more signs that the GOP will be around for a while. At Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg explains that the results in the Virginia governor race stemmed from candidate weakness rather than the "coalition of the ascendant."
The survey data are pretty clear on why Cuccinelli lost. He lost because he was unable to match Romney’s percentages with key demographic groups that almost always vote Republican. Those voters showed up at the polls, but too many Romney voters crossed over to cast ballots for McAuliffe or Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
The Republican nominee for governor won a plurality of male voters (48 percent), but well below the 51 percent that Romney won in the state last year. Cuccinelli would have gained an additional 48,000 votes if he had matched Romney’s percentage, much of which would have come from McAuliffe, thereby completely erasing the Democrat’s 55,100 victory margin. (See Virginia’s total vote here.)
Add in white women (Romney won 59 percent of them in the state in 2012, while Cuccinelli won only 54 percent this year) or wealthy voters (Romney won 51 percent of voters earning at least $100,000 a year in Virginia in 2012, while Cuccinelli drew just 43 percent of them and lost the category to McAuliffe) and the Republican would have had a comfortable victory last week.
And if you don’t want to focus on gender, the marital status numbers tell the same story. Romney won 55 percent of married voters in Virginia last year, while Cuccinelli won only 50 percent of them this year. That’s about 75,400 fewer married voters than a Romney-like Republican gubernatorial nominee should have drawn.
Though you hear a lot about the changing face of the electorate, both nationally and in Virginia, that’s not why Cuccinelli lost last week.
So why did Cucinelli underperform?  First, McAuliffe had more money and ran a better campaign with a technological edge. Second, Cuccinelli's reputation as a social-issue ideologue turned off some voters who who have supported a mainstream Republican like Romney.

It is a sign of the power of the Obamacare issue that Cuccinelli came as close as he did.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Digital Virginia

A year after the 2012 election in which the Obama campaign dominated on data and Republicans wondered how they could catch up, both parties saw 2013 as not only a testing ground for new digital strategies but also a test of how much ground the GOP has made up.
Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, building on the foundations of Obama’s 2012 data operation, was able to adapt many of Obama’s data strategies to a state-level race.
As for the GOP, even though GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign made strides — it created a data platform that could be used by all parts of the campaign — it never made digital a real priority. Ultimately, the candidate’s lack of funding — combined with what GOP digital consultants call a more general lack of attention and resources for digital — kept the Republican candidate from closing the gap with McAuliffe.
“For the first time on a major [GOP] campaign, the digital team had a major seat at the table and was involved in most of the decision making,” said Wesley Donehue, Cuccinelli’s lead digital consultant. “The problem is that you’re still not a top priority, and the spending on the digital side is … still extremely low.”
Take the spending figures on digital. According to data from the Virginia Public Access Project, McAuliffe’s campaign paid its digital advertising agency 13 percent of what it paid for TV and radio expenditures. The corresponding figure for the Cuccinelli campaign was 2.5 percent
.


Obama: Passive-Negative?

Passive-negative types are in politics because they think they ought to be. They may be well adapted to certain nonpolitical roles, but they lack the experience and flexibility to performeffectively as political leaders. Their tendency is to withdraw, to escape from the conflict and uncertainty of politics by emphasizing vague principles (especially prohibitions) and procedural arrangements. They become guardians of the right and proper way, above the sordid politicking of lesser men."
Politico quotes James Carville: “Obama’s problem, I think, is he’s a man in politics that doesn’t like politics."

At Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum writes of Obama's coldness and self-containment.
But this quality, perhaps Obama’s greatest strength in gaining office, is his greatest weakness in conducting it. And as he ends the first year of his second term, that weakness seems to dog him—and to matter—more and more. At a time when the abrasions of office leave any president most in need of friends, Obama is the capital’s Lonely Guy.
Obama’s self-evident isolation has another effect: It tends to insulate him from engagement in the management of his own administration. The latest round of “what did the president know and when did he know it” on the disastrous rollout of Obamacare and the tapping of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone raised troubling questions: Were Obama’s aides too afraid to tell him? Was he too detached to ask? Or both? At the least, such glaring failures cast fresh doubt on Obama’s invariable assurance to those around him in times of trouble: “I got this.”
...
The structural partisan realities of modern American politics are such that no one believes that Obama could really do himself any good by inviting John Boehner to share even a magnum of his favorite Merlot, if only because the recent government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis showed that Boehner can barely control his own hotheaded Republican caucus, much less strike a binding bipartisan deal with the White House. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that Obama did not do himself at least some real harm in September by abruptly canceling the annual congressional picnic at the White House—which had already been postponed from June—on the grounds that members would be too busy considering the president’s request for authority to use force in Syria. The rain check was delivered in a terse, graceless, 53-word e-mail to Capitol Hill offices, announcing that “[t]he President and Mrs. Obama look forward to welcoming Members of Congress and their immediate families at the Congressional Holiday Ball in December.” Immediate families. Such a friendly, legalistic ring.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Voters in the Individual Market

Resurgent Republic argues that Democrats err badly by minimizing the political significance of voters in the individual insurance market, many of whom are facing cancellations because of Obamacare.
The percentage of voters in the individual market is larger than their share of the population at large. Among the total U.S. population, 5 percent (or as many as 15 million people) pay for their health insurance individually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the lead up to last year’s presidential election, 21 percent of likely voters were in the individual market. This figure is very similar to our finding in 2009 where the self-insured equaled 18 percent of registered voters. Exit polls did not ask if voters have health insurance or what type, so it’s difficult to estimate the final percentage of the 2012 electorate. Even if turnout of low-enthusiasm voters cut the percentage in half, the percentage of self-insured voters would still be larger than their share of the population.

Like most voters with health insurance, self-insured voters are overwhelmingly satisfied with their coverage. Three-fourths (77 percent) of those self-insured are either very or somewhat satisfied with their plan. That’s not far off from the electorate at large where 84 percent report being very or somewhat satisfied. Therefore, the salient reason why President Obama is on the defensive regarding his “if you like it, you can keep it” pledge is not just because he misled voters. It’s because he did so on a topic where solid majorities of voters do indeed like their health plan and thereby assumed the law would not upend their coverage.
...
Despite favorable demographics, data during the 2012 campaign indicate Republicans underperformed with self-insured voters. They held a favorable opinion of President Obama (51 to 45 percent), and an unfavorable opinion of Mitt Romney (49 to 43 percent). Congressional Republicans faced a similar 6-point deficit on favorability and a 3-point disadvantage on the generic ballot. These are not the type of numbers one would expect from this voter profile.
The group reports that the issue could resonate in key Senate races:
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ambassadorships and Campaign Money

Previous posts have discussed the federal posts that have gone to contributors and bundlers. Barndon Conradis reports at Open Secrets:
President Obama's choice to be the next ambassador to Hungary is Colleen Bradley Bell, a television producer who made a name for herself working on the daytime soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" -- and who has been a major contributor to Obama since his first presidential race.
In 2008, Bell contributed $63,900 to the president. During the following election in 2012, she contributed $102,400, and bundled more than $500,000 on top of that. In addition, she and her husband, Bradley, held a re-election fundraiser for Obama at their home in Los Angeles last year, which the president attended.
Bell is the latest of Obama's friends in the entertainment industry to be named official envoys of the U.S. James Costos, HBO's vice president of global licensing and retail, as well as a past Obama campaign and inaugural donor, was chosen to be the next ambassador to Spain this summer. In 2012, Charles Rivkin, who bundled at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and was at one time president and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, was appointed ambassador to France.

Similarly, in 2009, Obama nominated Nicole Avant, a major bundler for the president with ties to the music industry, to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas. That choice didn't turn out so well: Her tenure ended less than two years later, when she resigned amid reports of failed leadership.
Consider the case of Howard Gutman.  During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised not to make an issue of his opponents' private lives.  Then ABC reported:
On the Laura Ingraham Radio show, Friday, attorney Howard Gutman — an original member of the national finance committee for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — very directly criticized the parenting of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
...
"This has nothing to do with gender, whether Todd Palin was the nominee or Sarah Palin was the nominee," Gutman said. "If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant, we have a family problem,’ I wouldn’t say, ‘You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem…and you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go on the international stage and broadcast this to the world.’"
Gutman continued, "this wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue…The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need, a Down’s baby who needs them — mother or father."
"So you are judging her parenting skills," Ingraham said. "You’re saying you don’t think she’s a good parent for doing this job."
"I’m saying the proper criticism is not that it’s a woman or man – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Todd or Sarah," Gutman said. "Think of how many politicians have said it’s not the right time in my family’s life for me to run."
Obama did not separate himself from Gutman.  Instead, he appointed him ambassador to Belgium.  It did not go well.  In 2011, Haaretz reported:
Some Jewish groups and others were demanding Sunday that United States President Barak Obama take action against his ambassador to Belgium, following comments the envoy made to the effect that Israel’s political positions serve as some sort of explanation for anti-Semitism amongst Muslims.

Ambassador Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, made the controversial remarks at a conference on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union in Brussels last week.

“A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Gutman reportedly told those gathered, going on to argue that “…an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”

In reaction to the comments, and the subsequent uproar they caused, the White House released a statement distancing itself from Gutman's words: "We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel," read the statement, which was sent out over the weekend to Jewish leaders.
In July of this year, The New York Daily News reported:
The U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Tuesday denounced what he called “baseless allegations” that he solicited sexual favors in a Brussels park.
“I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations, and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity,” said Howard Gutman, who has held the post for four years.
Gutman’s name has emerged in connection with an internal memo from the U.S. Department of State’s inspector general that claimed senior State Department officials quashed eight different internal investigations of wrongdoing in the diplomatic corps.
He soon quit.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The GOP is Not Doomed

The 2014 campaign season approaches. At The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Kohut writes that the GOP is not doing so badly after the shutdown.
A mid-October Pew Research national poll found that a plurality regard the Republicans as "better able to deal with the economy" than the Democrats (44%-37%). Independents favored the GOP on the economy by a whopping 46%-30% margin in that survey.

The Republicans took most of the blame for the shutdown, yet a growing number see the GOP as "better able to manage the government." In December 2012, the Democratic Party held a 45%-36% advantage over the GOP as the party Americans viewed as better able to manage the government. By Oct. 15—in the midst of the shutdown and debt crisis—the Democratic lead on this measure disappeared: 42% said the Republican Party is better able to manage the federal government, compared with 39% who named the Democrats.

An early read of voter preferences for the House in 2014 by the Pew Research Center in mid-October had the Democrats with a six-point edge: 49% to 43% among registered voters. In historical terms, this is a relatively modest margin. Six points is the same lead the Democrats had in 2009, a lead that steadily eroded in 2010. The GOP picked up six Senate seats and 63 House seats in that year's midterm.

One clear troubling sign for the Democrats at this early stage is independent voters, who decide most elections. They are evenly divided, according to Pew's mid-October survey: 43% say that "if the elections for Congress were being held today," they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, 43% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate.

It is not too much of an oversimplification to say that Democrats are struggling because President Obama is struggling.
Newsmax reports:
Although much attention was focused on the elections on Tuesday of decidedly left-of-center Democrats in Boston and New York City, little reported was the major gain of Republicans in two Northeastern states long considered "no man's land" for the GOP. Republicans took considerable new ground in contests for city halls and county offices in New York and Connecticut.

In New York, Republicans re-elected county executives in Westchester and Nassau Counties, captured the mayoralty in Binghamton and a majority of the county legislature in Erie County for the first time since 1977, and won a special election for the state Assembly in Suffolk County.
...

In Connecticut, Republicans had an extraordinary Tuesday as they swept the shoreline of the Nutmeg State and won mayoral races in such blue-collar Democratic bastions as Bristol, Meriden, and New Britain.
The New York Times reports on Democratic overreach that threatens the "Colorado model" for party gains:
They had $10 million in contributions, a barrage of advertising and support from the usually warring factions of the educational establishment. But Democratic leaders in this swing state were dealt a stinging defeat on Tuesday as voters resoundingly rejected an effort to raise taxes by $1 billion a year to pay for a sweeping school overhaul.

The outcome, a warning to Democrats nationally, was a drubbing for teachers unions as well as wealthy philanthropists like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Bill and Melinda Gates, who pumped millions of dollars into the measure, and it offered a sharp rebuke to Gov. John W. Hickenlooper and the Democratically led legislature, who have recently tugged Colorado to the left with laws on gun control and clean energy.
...
“It was a statement of a loss of faith in government,” said State Senator Mike Johnston, a Democrat and architect of the measure. “The reality may just be that Coloradans just deeply prize being a very low-tax state.”

In Denver, where per-student financing would have increased by 15 percent, the measure scraped by with 53 percent support. The measure was pummeled in suburbs that voted for President Obama, and that helped prevent Republicans from seizing a Democratic Senate seat during the Tea Party wave of 2010.

In richer counties with healthy school systems, both Democrats and Republicans were leery of raising their own taxes to finance struggling schools in poorer districts. Conservative Douglas County, south of Denver, voted 72 percent against the measure. And in the liberal mount