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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Diversity and GOP Recruiting in 2014

Shaila Dewan reports at The New York Times:
As Republicans took control of an unprecedented 69 of 99 statehouse chambers in the midterm elections, they did not rely solely on a bench of older white men. Key races hinged on the strategic recruitment of women and minorities, many of them first-time candidates who are now learning the ropes and joining the pool of prospects for higher office.
They include Jill Upson, the first black Republican woman elected to the West Virginia House; Victoria Seaman, the first Latina Republican elected to the Nevada Assembly; Beth Martinez Humenik, whose win gave Republicans a one-seat edge in the Colorado Senate; and Young Kim, a Korean-American woman who was elected to the California Assembly, helping to break the Democratic supermajority in the State Legislature.
In Pennsylvania, Harry Lewis Jr., a retired black educator, won in a new House district that was expected to be a Democratic stronghold; he printed his campaign materials in English and Spanish. Of the 12 Latinos who will serve in statewide offices across the nation in 2015, eight are Republican.
“This is not just rhetoric — we spent over $6 million to identify new women and new candidates of diversity and bring them in,” said Matt Walter, the executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. “Most of these chambers were flipped because there was a woman or a person of diverse ethnicity in a key targeted seat.”
The wins, by candidates carefully chosen to challenge the traditional notion of the Democratic base, bode well for Republicans in future elections. They had a net gain of 59 women in state legislatures; Democrats lost 63 women. Republicans added 10 Latinos; Democrats lost five. Republicans reported 17 newly elected blacks; a comparable figure for Democrats was not available. In 2008, only about 31 percent of women in state legislatures were Republicans; in 2015, that figure will rise by eight percentage points.
Here is NALEO's list of Latinos in statewide elected office:

  • CA Alex Padilla (D) Secretary of State
  • CO Joseph Garcia (D) Lieutenant Governor
  • FL Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) Lieutenant Governor
  • IL Evelyn Sanguinetti (R) Lieutenant Governor
  • NM Susana Martinez (R) Governor
  • NM John Sanchez (R) Lieutenant Governor
  • NM Dianna Duran (R) Secretary of State
  • NM Hector Balderas (D) Attorney General
  • NV Brian Sandoval (R) Governor
  • RI Nellie Gorbea (D) Secretary of State
  • TX George P. Bush (R) Commissioner of the General Land Office
  • UT Sean Reyes (R) Attorney General

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In the Year of the Pig

First, Joni Ernst brags about castrating hogs.  Now this.

AP reports:
Republican Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a politically charged bill that would have banned the use of certain pig cages in his state, a move many observers see as aimed at appeasing Iowa voters ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run.
In a veto message issued Friday, Christie called the bill opposing gestation crates a "solution in search of a problem."
"It is a political movement masquerading as substantive policy," he said.

The crates, which are so small that pregnant pigs can't turn around in them, have been criticized by animal welfare activists as cruel. Pigs can spend years in them, and advocates say they don't want their use to spread.
The bill had overwhelming support from Republican and Democratic state lawmakers but would have had little to no impact in New Jersey, whose roughly 300 pig farms don't regularly use the crates.
But the crates are widespread in Iowa, which is home to millions of pigs and the nation's first presidential nominating caucuses. Christie has invested significant time building relationships in Iowa, campaigning on behalf of its Republican governor, Terry Branstad, who had urged him to squash the bill.

Friday, November 28, 2014

California: Low Turnout, Lots of Rolloff

John Myers writes at KQED:
The abysmal turnout of California voters in the Nov. 4 elections was widely predicted. The final numbers won’t be available for a few more days, but the statewide vote appears to reflect a turnout of about 42 percent, a new record for lowest turnout in a California gubernatorial election.
But a deeper dive into the numbers finds a much lower percentage of votes — in some cases less than half of that statewide turnout – cast in several races for the California Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Let’s go back to that Los Angeles race for the state’s 39th Assembly District, where freshman incumbent Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) conceded defeat on Monday to fellow Democrat Patty Lopez, a local activist whose campaign was well under the political universe’s radar until the votes started to be tallied on Election Night.
“While the vote tally is incredibly close,” said a statement from Bocanegra on Monday evening, “it is clear that my opponent will be victorious by the narrowest of margins.”
The real killer, though, was overall turnout. The final tally by Los Angeles County elections officials shows only 45,033 votes were cast in the Bocanegra versus Lopez race. That’s only 22 percent of all registered voters in the San Fernando Valley district.
Even worse: Lopez will take the oath of office on Dec. 1 in Sacramento with the backing of just 22,750 voters — that’s slightly less than 5 percent of all the people who live in her Los Angeles County district (using census data compiled during the 2011 redrawing of political districts).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Schumer's Way

In a speech at The National Press Club, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)  admitted that the Obama administration's initial focus on health care was a political mistake. With unusual candor, he said:
It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40% of those registered voting. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5% of the electorate.
Give him credit for consistency.  In 2010, Jeffrey Toobin reported in The New Yorker:
After Brown won the Senate race in Massachusetts, and the Obama agenda seemed stalled, Schumer told a meeting of his fellow Democratic senators, “If we ignore that and don’t change, we are like Thelma and Louise. We are headed right over the cliff. They were all saying, in as loud a voice as they could, all the middle-class people of Massachusetts—listen to us.” As he explained to me, “What the public hates the most is when they think the politicians aren’t listening to them. They understand that we can’t solve all their problems with a snap of our fingers, but they sure want us to try, because we are public servants.” Schumer said that Obama needed to heed the voters in Massachusetts and change course. “They said, ‘We’re not against doing health care, but right now we are hurting. Jobs, the economy, stretching the middle-class paycheck—which even those with jobs are having a tough time doing—start doing that.’ That’s what they said.”
Schumer also called on Democrats to embrace big government and take on special interests.  Francine Kiefer writes at The Christian Science Monitor:
First, a gut check. Polls paint a different picture about Americans’ views of government than Schumer does. The 2014 midterm election exit polls showed that a majority of voters (54 percent) believe that the “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” while just 41 percent think “the government should do more to solve problems,” The Washington Post reported.
From Gallup to the Pew Research Center, 2014 polls show Americans’ trust of government at historic lows.
Second, about those special interests. While liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts champions consumers even as she charges at Wall Street, on Capitol Hill, Schumer is known as “Wall Street Chuck,” according to The Huffington Post. He has raised millions for Democrats from the financial sector, which he oversees as a member of the Senate Banking Committee.
“Chuck Schumer taking on special interests is like Kim Kardashian taking on media hype,” says John Pitney, a congressional expert and professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “The likely 2016 presidential nominee is Hillary Clinton, who is also no stranger to Wall Street.”
Third, Democrats had a pro-government middle-class plan, and they still lost the Senate. The plan, called a “Fair Shot” agenda, included raising the minimum wage, pay-equity for women, and affordable student loans. Its chief architect? Schumer.
Schumer quoted Reagan’s “government is the problem” line out of context, omitting the crucial lines that followed moments later: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”

The 2016 election will be about reality, not messaging. If the economy is doing okay and we are not in the middle of an international crisis, then the Democrats have a very good opportunity to hold the White House. If events go south, so do Democratic chances.

Meanwhile, the best advice is a paraphrase of one of President Obama’s favorite lines: don’t say stupid stuff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conservative War Chest v. Obama (and Landireu)

At Bloomberg, David Weigel writes:
No political PAC has challenged the American attention span quite like Conservative War Chest. The pro-Republican group, best known for its epic "Gang of Five" attack ads on various Democratic candidates, is heading into Louisiana for a buy that could go as high as $100,000.
Into the gap left by Democrats, who have started to cut bait on Senator Mary Landrieu, comes this spot: Two minutes of attacks on Barack Obama's SCOTUS defeats, executive orders, treaty negotiations, and general affronts to America, ending in a portrait of Thanksgiving dinner and an out-of-nowhere appeal to vote for Landrieu's opponent, Bill Cassidy.

Archie Bunker Still Lives, and He Is Not a Democrat

At the Washington Post, Philip Bump correctly notes that, although white working-class voters are shrinking as a share of the electorate, there are still a lot of them.
The concern is obvious in this chart, which shows House exit poll data broken out by race and education. (We use education as a proxy for class because it correlates with income levels and isn't subject to shifts from inflation.)

The higher up the line on this chart, the better Republican House candidates did with the voting population. That light red line that's cruising along above the dark red one represents the shift toward the Republicans by white non-college graduates. The gap between college-educated whites and non-college graduates is the widest it's been -- and to the GOP's benefit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More on Blown GOP Opportunities in California

Tony Quinn writes at Fox and Hounds:
On Election Night, an unknown and unfunded Republican farmer from Fresno named Johnny Tacherra was leading veteran Democratic Congressman Jim Costa by 700 votes. He eventually lost, but only by 1,300 votes. To his north, unknown and unfunded Republican Tony Amador held Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney to just 52 percent. Every expert called that race safe for McNerney; it was not. And in the counties north and west of Sacramento, another veteran, Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, held off retiring GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue with just 53 percent.
What do these three races have in common? Each was in California parched Central Valley where farm folks believe, with good reason, that urban Democrats and environmentalists are starving them for water during the drought while taking care of the cities and the fish.
That this was a massive issue should have been clear to GOP leaders, but it was not. All House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) had to do was step outside his front door and he could have seen what the drought was doing. It was a huge political issue totally missed by congressional Republicans. A little GOP money could have gone along ways in these three Central Valley districts.

Three structural reasons also contributed to the Republican losses in several of these districts.
  • Republicans have let their registration collapse, especially in suburban districts. Had Gorell and Ose been running with the Republican numbers in these districts when the Redistricting Commission drew them, they would have won.
  • Republicans have no late ballot program; Democrats are masters at awakening their voters on Monday and Tuesday and making sure they get their absentee ballots in; Republicans made little effort to encourage their less interested voters to cast their mail ballots. In the end thousands of GOP mail-in ballots were never mailed.
  • Republicans spent nothing on their statewide candidates, so there was no GOP enthusiasm to get out and vote, other than what could be ginned up by local campaigns. It was not enough.
Republicans did very well in the legislative races, making important gains. That they failed in every single congressional race is a testament to the lack of knowledge of the nuances of California on the part of the national party, and their failure at the basic mechanics of winning close elections. This was the year for big Republican gains in Congress and in the end they got nothing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Learning to Govern

At The Hill, Scott Wong notes that the leaders are publicly trying to take a hard rhetorical line against the Obama immigration plan.
GOP leadership aides are even distancing themselves from a comment from powerful House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that angered GOP immigration hawks like Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Rogers suggested that conservatives’ efforts to defund Obama’s actions through an appropriations bill would be “impossible” because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gets its money from fees.
“Rogers was not prodded by leadership to do that,” a GOP aide told The Hill. “He was not speaking on behalf of leadership.”
At the same time, GOP leaders are working hard to get their own members on board the no-shutdown train.
They don’t want to be caught in a trap the White House sets to goad Republicans into shutting down the government or impeaching the president.
And their success can be seen in the fact that even GOP rabble-rousers are toning down the impeachment talk.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an anti-immigration hard-liner in the Senate, ruled out impeachment on Friday. While King hasn’t gone that far, the vocal Obama critic acknowledged that pursuing impeachment would backfire.
“I’ll just say nobody wants to go there,” King, who sat in the audience of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings in 1998, told reporters this week. “Those things don’t end well for our country. It divides our country and it pits us against each other.”
The Iowa Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee has been pushing legislation to defund agencies in the government that would pay for Obama’s executive immigration order.
That points to the challenge for Boehner and his leadership team.
Still, other conservatives who have been thorns in the side of Boehner appear to be trying to help their leadership find a way out.
Alex Isenstadt and Kyle Cheney write at Politico:
What has changed is the underlying balance of power in the party and, perhaps, the terms of debate within the GOP over how to deal with the Democratic Party and its surprisingly aggressive leader. Obama might be behaving like a usurping monarch without a mandate, in the eyes of the newly powerful GOP, but no one is seriously threatening to impeach him — as Republicans have repeatedly done in past years. Nor, despite the angry rhetoric, does there seem to be a serious possibility of government shutdown.
Yes, outliers are still threatening actions that could lead to a stalemate a la 2013: Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, voicing anger against the executive action in a way that typified many Southern and Western Republicans, called the move an “impeachable offense,” and earlier circulated a letter urging House Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to defund any presidential effort to supply work permits or green cards to illegals — potentially prompting a veto and a shutdown. The more than 50 representatives who signed the Salmon letter included many of the same House members who adopted the strategy in 2013 that led to a shutdown then.

And yet Rogers and the House leadership, as well as a substantial portion of the Republican caucus, have made it clear they’re not ready to take that course again. “People are being very thoughtful about this,” said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is widely seen as a rising star in tea party circles. “I’ve heard no one mention a shutdown except the press.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

American Crossroads Is Back With the Spelling Bee Ad

The attack ad season is not quite over. American Crossroads is again using a "spelling bee" ad, this time linking Obama to Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana runoff.

More on Why the GOP Won

At FiveThirtyEight, By Harry Enten and Dhrumil Mehta write:
This year was different from other wave years because of the unusually strong influence of the presidential vote in individual states in the last two cycles. It explained over 75 percent of the variation in results across the races this year. That’s the highest ever.
When controlling for the presidential vote, incumbency had 40 percent of the explanatory power it normally does. While it would be tempting to assert that incumbency doesn’t matter as much as it used to, it would also be wrong. In 2012, controlling for the presidential vote, the explanatory power of incumbency pretty much matched the historical average from 1982 to 2014.
In other words, negative feelings towards President Obama almost entirely overwhelmed the incumbency advantage in 2014. That’s why Democratic Sen. Mark Warner — a former popular governor who won his seat by 31 points in 2008 — nearly lost in Virginia even though Obama won the state twice. Republican Thom Tillis beat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the purple state of North Carolina. And in Iowa, which has voted just once for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, Republican Joni Ernst beat Democrat Bruce Braley.
They go on to mention candidate quality as another reason for the outcomes.  Right after the election, David Brooks surveyed the biographies of newly-elected GOP senators and governors:
Let’s pause over some of the institutions mentioned in these mini-bios: IBM, Reebok, the Red Cross, McKinsey and the Army. These are not fringe organizations. These are the pillars of American society.

Republicans won this election in part because they re-established their party’s traditional personality. The beau ideal of American Republicanism is the prudent business leader who is active in the community, active at church and fervently devoted to national defense.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Democratic Non-Coordination Coordination

Paul Blumenthal writes at The Huffington Post:
Republican Party committees and outside groups shared polling data over Twitter during the 2014 elections, according to a CNN report on Monday. The purpose was to circumvent federal anti-coordination rules -- and the practice appeared to be part of a growing bipartisan effort to get around those rules by posting information in public.
While those Republican accounts have garnered the attention since the CNN report, they were not the first use of Twitter by a party committee to hide coordination in plain sight.
In 2012, the Democratic Party shared information about advertising buys through a seemingly unconnected Twitter account called AdBuyDetails. This account, which posted tweets from Aug. 31 until Oct. 23, 2012, sent out data on ad buys made by Democratic House candidates in tight races across the country.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The 2016 Target List for House Dems is Mighty Small

It was a good year for House Republicans, and they are already in reasonably good shape for 2016. Philip Bump writes at The Washington Post:
If we look just at how each party did in its margins of victory each year, you can see 1) that most races are won by 10 points or more, and 2) Republicans had a remarkably low number of victories that were in the single digits -- 17 to be exact. That's the lowest number of similarly close races for either party in any of the last four cycles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Demographics, Turnout, and the Vote for the House

David Wasserman writes at FiveThirtyEight:
When the 114th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, House Republicans will boast their largest majority since Herbert Hoover was president. If all leaders in the yet-to-be-called races hold their leads, Republicans will go from 234 seats to 247, a triumph that exceeds their “Drive to 245” goal. Not even Republicans anticipated they were in for such a good year.
So how did they beat the point spread? The answer lies less in what Republicans did, and more in what Democratic voters didn’t do: show up to vote in so-called orphan states.
To ease my post-election withdrawal, I built a spreadsheet of results in all 435 districts to analyze what happened. What it illustrated: By winning just 52 percent of votes cast for the House, Republicans were able to win 57 percent of all House seats. Thanks in part to favorable redistricting after the 2010 Census, Republicans will likely have won five more seats than they did in 2010, even though Republican candidates won by less of an aggregate vote margin than they did four years ago.1
The election of a historically large Republican majority coincided with thelowest turnout in a midterm election since 1942. But the 2014 race for the House played out in two very different sets of states. In the 24 states hosting high-profile, competitive Senate or gubernatorial races, raw votes cast in House races were down an average of 30.5 percent from 2012.2 But in the 26 states that weren’t, raw votes were down a much more severe 43.9 percent.3
Sean Trende writes at RealClearPolitics:
The major difference was that in 2012 Barack Obama was a moderately popular president. In 2014, he is an unpopular president. If this does not change between now and 2016, demographic shifts alone will not save the Democratic nominee.

We can illustrate this best by borrowing a page from Harry Enten, and seeing what would have happened if the 2014 electorate had instead more closely resembled the 2012 electorate. That is to say, let’s keep whites voting 60-38 for Republicans, Hispanics voting 62-36 for Democrats, and so forth, as they all did in 2014, but alter their shares of the electorate to resemble 2012 (72 percent white, 10 percent Hispanic, and so forth) rather than 2014 (75 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, and so forth). This allows us to isolate the effects of demographic change between 2012 and 2014.
The results are underwhelming: If the 2014 electorate had resembled the 2012 electorate in terms of race, the Republican vote share would shrink by just 1.97 percentage points. In other words, in a 2012 electorate, Republicans would have won the popular vote for the House by 4.5 points, rather than 6.5 points. That’s not nothing, as they say, but it still only explains a relatively small share of the difference between the 2012 and 2014 results. Put differently, if Obama had put up the same vote shares among racial groups in 2012 as Democrats ultimately did in 2014, he’d have lost.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Twitter and Non-Coordination Coordination

CNN reports that the NRCC and outside groups did non-coordination coordination via Twitter.
The Twitter accounts were hidden in plain sight. The profiles were publicly available but meaningless without knowledge of how to find them and decode the information, according to a source with knowledge of the activities.
A typical tweet read: "CA-40/43-44/49-44/44-50/36-44/49-10/16/14-52-->49/476-10s." The source said posts like that -- which would look like gibberish to most people -- represented polling data for various House races.
At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP.
The Twitter operation underscores the uncertain state of campaign finance rules after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision upended limits on outside spending in politics. Regulations provided by the FEC in the wake of the court ruling leave much to interpretation about what constitutes "coordination," creating a Wild West environment that, according to campaign finance experts, gives outside groups ample opportunity to share information while arguing they stayed within the confines of the law.
"It may bend common sense, but not necessarily the law," said Daniel Tokaji, a professor of Constitutional Law at Ohio State University who co-authored a study this year examining the relationship between outside groups and campaigns. "A lot of things you and I would consider coordination are not coordination under the law. I don't think sharing polling data is going to be enough to establish that the campaign was materially involved in decisions about content, target audience or timing."
In response to this story Monday, FEC vice-chair Ann Ravel said the commission may address the use of social media to share campaign information, but conceded that the rules governing campaign finance are "murky."

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Despicable Mailer

Dan Morain reports at The Sacramento Bee:
Mike Gipson won his Assembly race thanks to the clout of Rep. Maxine Waters and Assemblyman Isadore Hall, the California Democratic Party, heavy contributions from the moneyed interests that matter, and a lie.
The California Teachers Association, oil producers, casino owners, payday lenders, soda and alcohol companies, unions representing nurses, public employees and construction workers, insurance companies and, of course, tobacco companies paid to bring Gipson to Sacramento.
Using some of their money, Gipson fabricated and sent to voters in his South Central Los Angeles Assembly district one of the most vile mailers I’ve ever seen. There is little recourse. With other new legislators, he will take the solemn oath of office on Dec. 1.
Like all freshmen, Gipson will be a backbencher. But the smart people who select and elect candidates see potential. They spent $2.7 million on the campaign for and against Gipson and his opponent, Prophet Walker, who was running for the first time.
Gipson’s deception wasn’t clever. Anyone with a computer could have done it. He cut out a photo of Walker and pasted it in a dark hoodie, and manipulated the photo to depict Walker aiming a gun and grinning, though in context it looks like a snarl. Gipson placed a photo of his own face onto a police officer in uniform.
The verbiage described Walker’s criminal past and Gipson’s good work. But that was secondary. The point was the menacing image, juxtaposed against “Officer” Gipson. Gipson was a cop 20 years ago in Maywood, a gritty L.A. suburb that in 2010 disbanded its police force because of its history of brutality and corruption.
Read more here:

  Campaign mailer for Mike Gipson in his Assembly race against Prophet Walker in South Central Los Angeles.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Missed GOP Opportunities

It was a good election for the GOP but it could have been even better.

Steven Shepard writes at Politico:
For two years, Republicans had been working to correct one of the party’s greatest embarrassments of recent years: the flawed polling that led so many in the party to believe Mitt Romney was on the cusp of victory in 2012. But after dramatically underestimating Democratic turnout in 2012, it was now obvious that the GOP had erred in the other direction in 2014. Their pollsters had understated Republicans’ leads in a number of states, causing the RNC and GOP campaign committees to pour money into places where it wasn’t needed and hold money back from places where it might have made a difference — such as Virginia, where Republican Ed Gillespie lost by less than a percentage point.
“It’s just as bad to be wrong by being too conservative,” said [RNC chief of staff Mike] Shields. “It’s just as big a mistake to tell a client that you’re only winning by one point when they’re winning by eight. Especially at the party committee level, there are just too many decisions being made … That money can be used elsewhere.”
Jon Fleischman writes at Breitbart:
Nationally, Republicans had an outstanding election earlier this month. Besides the huge gains in the U.S. Senate, House Republicans made modest gains (12 seats), bringing their majority to an impressive 244 of 435 members. That said, one cannot help but note that House Republicans could have had an even better night but for being completely routed by Democrats in California. Here is a snapshot of nine separate House races, all likely won by Democrats, that could have gone Republican.
Obviously hindsight is, as they say, 20-20. But there is simply no way to look at all of these results and not conclude that, had the NRCC made different decisions, there could have been a whole bunch of new freshman Republicans from California, replacing Democrats. 2016, a Presidential election year, will make all of these seats more difficult for GOP pickups in two years.
It is worthy of note that strong performances were made by two GOP incumbents in tough seats in California — both in the Central Valley — Jeff Denham and David Valadeo. And it should be said that this year the California GOP turned the tide back a bit in the state legislature, going from 12 up to 14 members in the 40-member State Senate, and from 25 to 28 members in the 80-member State Assembly. These state legislative gains were in no small part due to a strong focused and well-financed plan largely orchestrated by State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte.

Tillis, Crossroads, and NRSC

How did Thom Tillis upset Kay Hagan in North Carolina?  Alexis Levinson writes at Roll Call:
It was not clear how much outside help Tillis would get in the home stretch. Heading into the final month, Republican groups faced a gaping $7 million spending disparity with Democrats.Only Crossroads had reserved airtime for October. The NRSC, already stretched thin, had not put any money in.
“It was a huge investment for us. And there was talk, do we put 5, 6 million here, or do we go up and shore up these other states — because we were pretty confident in Iowa and Colorado,” [NRSC political director Ward] Baker told reporters after the election.
They believed Tillis could win, but they knew they had to close the spending gap for that to happen. Outside groups, they were sure, were not going to fill a hole that big. In the second week of October, the NRSC’s independent expenditure arm put $6 million into the race.
“As soon as we did that, a race that could have been left for dead, you saw all the other outside groups do what we hoped they do, which was all of a sudden going to their donors, and filling a $2 million hole is a lot easier,” NRSC Executive Director Rob Collins said.
A major turning point in the campaign, said Tillis supporters, was the Oct. 8 debate, after which Hagan admitted that she had missed a classified hearing for Armed Services Committee about ISIS to attend a campaign fundraiser in New York City.
It gave the Tillis campaign a concrete data point on which to hang the charge that Hagan, like Obama, was mishandling ISIS and the nation’s security. And while few people watch Senate debates, plenty of North Carolinians saw Hagan’s remarks. Three days later, Crossroads GPS, the NRSC, and the Tillis campaign were all running ads attacking her for missing the hearing.
At that same debate, Hagan took heat for her husband’s company that received money from the government stimulus, which Hagan had voted for. The story had come out in September, but those attacks amped up in the final weeks, and, in an environment where distrust of Washington is high, they hurt her.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Agents of REDD

Jon Ward reports at Yahoo about a January NRSC meeting at New York's Standard High Line Hotel:
The group included general consultants for most of the competitive Senate campaigns, mail vendors, pollsters, TV buyers, principals at the top Republican digital and data firms, and NRSC leadership and staff. They met in the High Line room on the third floor, whose glass walls provided a view of the city on one side and the Hudson River on the other.
“I think there were more blazers in The Standard those two days than any other period of the hotel’s existence,” said Matt Lira, the NRSC’s deputy executive director.
The High Line summit was a table setter, a beginning. It did two things: it cleared away obstacles to greater cooperation among the GOP’s paid consultant class and between them and the NRSC, and it delivered a clear message to them that the NRSC was expecting the consultants to execute digital-savvy campaigns. But Lira, with the backing of NRSC executive director Rob Collins and political director Ward Baker, was going to do more than just ask. He was determined to hold the campaigns accountable.
So Lira assembled a team to do just that. In March, he hired Mindy Finn, a well-respected digital strategist who had worked on multiple presidential campaigns and also as an executive at Twitter’s D.C. offices. Finn’s sole responsibility was to create what she named the R.E.D.D. program, short for Republicans Excelling at Digital and Data.

Here is the REDD report 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jerry Brown and the Clintons

At Fox and Hounds, James Poulos writes of speculation that Jerry Brown may run for president:
Brown, who made almost no effort this year to campaign for his own re-election, has not lifted a finger to stoke buzz around a possible presidential run. In March, Brown told CBS Channel 5 in San Francisco that he’d be interested in running for a more modest office. “There are always races around. I certainly enjoyed being mayor of Oakland. That was a real wonderful opportunity. I never made the most of it,” he said.
Then, in May, Brown told George Stephanopoulos that Hillary Clinton’s frontrunner status brought “risks” and required a “cautious and wise” approach. (Brown, notoriously, contestedBill Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 1992 long after it became impossible for him to win.)
In early July, however, Chuck Todd opined that Brown would be the most likely candidate to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. Brown, said Todd, was as much a “nemesis to the Clintons” as Al Gore, although his “resume with the left and populist movement is as strong, if not stronger.”
But recently Bill Maher delivered a forceful endorsement of Brown. “If Jerry Brown was 55,” he said on Real Time, his political commentary show on HBO, his record in California “would have Democrats hyping him for president. But they’re not. Because he’s 76, and ageism is the last acceptable prejudice in America.”
Brown’s personal and political experience, Maher implied, exceeded that of the rest of the Democrats’ presumptive field. “Wisdom isn’t something you can just Google. And governing is where we need wisdom. A concept that wise, ancient cultures already know.”
One should not rule it out.  Brown really, really hates the Clintons. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What the Voters Said

  • The ballots have been counted and the results are in. The November issue of AEI’s Political Report provides a comprehensive picture of what voters had to say on Election Day, presenting a compilation of exit-poll data from significant demographic groups in national House elections since 1986. This month’s report also includes a closer look at voters’ opinions on politically contentious social issues.
  • A sour mood: Of the 65 percent of voters who said the country is on the wrong track, a large majority (69 percent) voted for the Republican House candidate. Seventy percent of voters characterized national economic conditions as “not so good” or “poor.”
  • The marriage vs. gender gap: In 2010, 48 percent of women voted for the Democratic House candidate, whereas 52 percent of women did so in 2014. The marriage gap remains larger than the gender gap: In this year’s election, 58 percent of married voters chose the Republican House candidate, compared to 55 percent of nonmarried voters choosing the Democratic one.
  • Views toward government and the economy: Sixty-three percent of voters in this year’s House elections said the US economic system favors the wealthy. Forty-one percent said the government should do more to solve Americans’ problems, while 54 percent said the government is doing too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals.
  • Legal or illegal? According to the exit-poll data, voters’ opinions of legalizing same-sex marriage vary by state. For example, 70 percent of voters in New Hampshire’s Senate race said gay marriage should be legal in their state. Almost the same percentage (69 percent) of voters in Arkansas’ Senate race said gay marriage should not be legal in their state.
  • Assessing the Affordable Care Act: In 18 Senate races, voters were asked to register their opinion of the 2010 health care law. In 17 of those races, more than 40 percent said the law “went too far.” Oregon voters expressed most satisfaction with the law, with 34 percent saying the law “did not go far enough.”
  • Looking ahead to 2016: Thirty-nine percent of Arkansas voters said Hillary Clinton would make a good president, while 50 percent said Mike Huckabee would. In Florida, 40 percent of voters said Jeb Bush would make a good president.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Losing the White Working Class

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes:
The Democrats have taken identity politics a step too far. Somehow, their message has gone from lunch-bucket concerns to a date with Girls. In the face of record low workforce participation, the Democrats have paid a high price for making the unholy trinity of Lena Dunham, Al Sharpton, and billionaire climate-change crusader Tom Steyer the face of their party.

According to the exit polls, 60 percent of white working-class voters went Republican, the same as in 2010, while a record 64 percent of white men did the same. Sometimes, jobs and paychecks come out ahead of self-actualization.
Still, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who were turned off by the Democrats slicing and dicing the electorate. Core Democratic constituencies also had enough of what the President was selling. In a marked reversal from past elections, a majority of Asian-Americans went Republican, as did a third of Latino voters. But it was more than simply ethnic blocs; it was also about deep blue states saying please don’t tell us that what you’ve put on our plates is chicken salad.
At The New York Times, David Leonhardt writes:
We’re living through the great wage slowdown of the 21st century, and nothing presents a larger threat to the Democrats’ electoral fortunes than that slowdown.
The Democratic Party fashions itself as the defender of working families, and low- and middle-income voters are indeed more favorably disposed to Democrats than to Republicans. Those voters have helped the party win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. But if Democrats can’t deliver rising living standards, many voters aren’t going to remain loyal. They’ll skip voting or give a chance to Republicans who offer an alternative, even a vague alternative.
At The New York Times, Thomas Edsall points to Obamacare (Fred Lynch):
Obamacare shifts health care benefits and tax burdens from upper-income Americans to lower-income Americans, and from largely white constituencies to beneficiaries disproportionately made up of racial and ethnic minorities. The program increases levies on the overwhelmingly white affluent by raising taxes on households making more than $250,000.
To achieve its goals, Obamacare reduces by $500 million, over 10 years, spending on Medicare, according to the Medicare board of trustees, which oversees the finances of the program. Medicare serves a population that is 77 percent white. Even as reductions in Medicare spending fall disproportionately on white voters, the savings are being used to finance Obamacare, which includes a substantial expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid recipients are overwhelmingly poor and, in 2013, were 41 percent white and 59 percent minority.

In addition to expanding Medicaid, the overall goal of Obamacare is to provide health coverage for the uninsured, a population that, in 2010 when the program was enacted, was 47 percent white, and 53 percent black, Hispanic, Asian-American and other minorities.
It’s not hard to see, then, why a majority of white midterm voters withheld support from Democrats and cast their votes for Republicans.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crossroads, Fundraising, Coordination

At Bloomberg, Annie Linskey reports that Crossroads GPS initially had fundraising problems, the result of a disappointing 2012.
The donor freeze started thawing in September when polling began to tighten in a number of races and big-names such as Sheldon Adelson started opening their wallets. He wrote a $10 million check to Crossroads GPS in September, a nonprofit arm of the Rove organization. GPS, as a nonprofit, is not required to disclose its donors. Adelson's windfall was leaked to the news media. "Typically donors who support Crossroads are pretty sophisticated consumers of political information," Law said. "My guess is donors paid attention to what they saw on sites like Real Clear Politics."

The group scraped together $36 million to put into television for Senate races in the last 90 days of the campaign, according to figures provided by Crossroads. It was the lead spender in Colorado, Arkansas and Alaska, where GOP Dan Sullivan is about 8,000 votes ahead of Democrat Mark Begich.

However, resources weren't arriving evenly or predictably. That forced Crossroads and some of the other GOP groups to cooperate this year in ways they've never done before. One example came in October when Crossroads realized there was a "hole in our budget" for Colorado, Law said.
Law emailed Brain Baker at Ending Spending Action Fund, the super-PAC backed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and the two worked out a deal—the Ricketts group would go up on the air and continue pounding incumbent Democrat Mark Udall while Crossroads took a week off. "Ending Spending filled a gap," Law said. "The take away for all of us was sharing information and strategy was smart for all of us." Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The California Gerontocracy

California, the land of youth, has the nation's oldest senator and governor.

At The Washington Post, Aaron Blake reports:
A new poll from the University of Southern California shows that although Feinstein and Boxer have image ratings that are much more positive than negative (by double digits), about six in 10 Californians (59 percent) would prefer that they not seek reelection. Just three in 10 (29 percent) say they should run again.
Nearly half of Californians -- 48 percent -- say they "strongly" want new people to run. Even among Democrats, 44 percent say it's time for new blood, while 43 percent say the two senators should seek reelection.
At least part of the reason for the call for a changing of the guards is undoubtedly that Feinstein and Boxer are among the nation's oldest senators. Feinstein is the oldest senator, at 81, while Boxer, who is 73, ranks 16th.
Also note that the just-reelected Jerry Brown  (born April 7, 1938 (age 76)) is the oldest governor in the United States,* and both the oldest and longest-serving governor in California history.  What is more, a member of the Brown family was on the statewide ballot in 15 of the past 18 gubernatorial election years.

A few months ago, Alexander Burns noted at Politico:
The most prominent member of the congressional delegation, 74-year-old House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, started out as chairwoman of the California Democratic Party when Ronald Reagan was president. The current party chairman, 81-year-old John Burton, is a former congressman who first went to Washington in the 1974 post-Watergate revolution.

* Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie is also 76 but was born a few weeks later, on June 26, 1938.  In any case, he will no longer be governor next year, as he lost his primary.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The United States of Republican Ambition

In his influential 1991 book, The United States of Ambition, Alan Ehrenhalt argued that Democrats had a fundamental advantage. Smart, ambitious Democrats tend to go into politics, he suggested, while smart, ambitious Republicans go into business. Therefore they have better candidates. As a prime example, he cited Democratic gains in Wisconsin, quoting a Democratic state senator: "The Republicans hate government. Why be here if you hate government? So they let us run it for them."

Lower offices are the farm clubs for higher offices.  If your side is short on state legislators, you will also be short on good candidates for the House.  And if you do not elect a lot of House members, you will be short on good candidates for the U.S. Senate.

Things seemed to change with the election of a GOP Congress in 1994.  But during the decade of GOP dominance that followed, Democrats retained considerable strength in state legislatures. And as we point out in After Hope and Change, GOP setbacks in 2006 and 2008 appeared to be putting American politics back on the path that Ehrenhalt described.

But now, after the 2010 and 2014 drubbings, it is the Democrats who have the underpopulated farm club.  

Alexander Burns writes at Politico:
At the start of the 2014 campaign, Democrats envisioned an election that would produce new national stars for the party in at least a few tough states – Georgia Sen. Michelle Nunn or Kentucky Sen. Alison Lundergan Grimes, for instance, or maybe even Texas Gov. Wendy Davis. Even if the party fell short in those “reach” states, Democrats hoped to produce new heavyweight blue-state Democrats – Maryland Gov. Anthony Brown, the country’s only black state executive; or Maine Gov. Mike Michaud, who would have been the first openly gay candidate elected governor.

Any of them could have landed on a vice presidential short list in 2016.
Instead, all of them lost.
Joining them were numerous down-ballot Democrats widely viewed as future contenders for high office: attorney general candidates in Nevada and Arizona who looked like future governors; aspiring state treasurers in Ohio and Colorado who could have gone on to bigger things; prized secretary of state candidates in Iowa and Kansas as well as countless congressional hopefuls around the country.
Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
When President Obama was elected in 2008, his victory signaled a generational change and the prospect of renewal for the Democratic Party. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Over the past six years, the party has been hollowed out.
The past two midterm elections have been cruel to Democrats, costing them control of the House and now the Senate, and producing a cumulative wipeout in the states. The 2010 and 2014 elections saw the defeat of younger politicians — some in office, others seeking it — who might have become national leaders.
 As the post-Obama era nears, the Democrats’ best-known leaders in Washington are almost entirely from an older generation, from the vice presidency to most of the major leadership offices in the House and Senate. The generation-in-waiting will have to wait longer.
The more serious problem for Democrats is the drubbing they’ve taken in the states, the breeding ground for future national talent and for policy experimentation. Republicans have unified control — the governorship and the legislature — in 23 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats control just seven. Democrats hold 18 governorships, but only a handful are in the most populous states.
At Vox, Libby Nelson writes:
The next redistricting isn't until after the 2020 Census. But the overwhelming Republican control of state legislatures already matters for elections down the line in at least one key way: by weakening the Democrats' legislative bench.
Statehouses are fertile ground for candidates for higher office from both parties. Nearly half of all members of Congress started out in statehouses. Forty-three Senators were once state legislators, including 27 Democrats. So were 217 voting House members, the majority of them Republicans. And, of course, there's a former Democratic state senator from Illinois with a pretty important elected office right now.
There are still plenty of Democratic state legislators out there. But the fewer statehouses there are under Democratic control, the fewer opportunities those legislators have to make policy, become visible, and rise through the ranks. That's a loss with ramifications that could last a generation.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Iron Law of Emulation: Campaign Tech Edition

Previous posts have discussed the iron law of emulation: the tendency of both sides in a conflict to copy each other.

Ashley Parker writes at The New York Times:
The Republicans’ ground game and digital strategy in 2012 were disasters, bad enough to become a political punch line. The party was determined not to repeat those mistakes, and operatives were well on their way to overhauling its systems this election cycle when the Democrats announced their “Bannock Street project,” an ambitious voter-mobilization program.
Though the Republicans were already building a national ground game, they decided to leverage the Democrats’ $60 million get-out-the-vote effort to their own advantage. They devoured news reports about the project and scoured Federal Election Commission filings to learn as much as they could about how their rivals were structuring their turnout operations in battleground states.
“It was kind of a mirror image of what we were doing,” said Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It gave us the scope, it gave us the size, and it gave us the target, which was helpful.”
Both sides have a tendency to overstate the role of the technological wizardry, especially after a lopsided election. “Frankly, it’s easier to say the other side had better computers than to say we had worse ideas,” said Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”
But, he added, those tactics can make a critical difference in a close election — and keep an election closer for a party facing political headwinds.
“It appears that Bannock Street was successful in what they were trying to do,” said Mike Shields, chief of staff at the Republican National Committee. “The difference is we are now in this game, too, and they don’t have the game to themselves.”
At National Journal, Ron Fournier writes:
A review of the RNC's targeting operation (including a preelection sample of specific projections) suggests to me that the GOP has made significant advances on targeting and mobilizing voters. While the Democratic Party may still own the best ground game, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus has narrowed, if not closed, the tech gap.
A few Democrats saw this coming. "Our side has underestimated the GOP ground game," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told me Tuesday morning. "Their electorate doesn't look like ours, so we don't recognize or respect what they're doing."

How the GOP Did It

Public Opinion Strategies has a slide deck of election findings: click here.

Alex Roarty writes at National Journal that GOP party organizations and outside groups learned from Senate disappointments in 2010 and 2012.
"Defeat can be a great teacher because it forced us, and the committees especially, to look at everything we had done and not done and figure out how we could do it better," said Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads.
For Law, that meant months of in-depth discussions and seminars with Silicon Valley strategists and former committee leaders to determine how it could improve the quality of its TV ads and data analytics. AFP removed much of its senior national staff after its effort at grassroots mobilizing in the 2012 presidential election failed to materialize much influence on voters. The changes were biggest at the NRSC, which invested time and money in recruiting candidates and then training them to handle the high-pressure scrutiny of a Senate race.
The group hired Republican strategist Kevin McLaughlin in part to work directly with those campaigns in their home states. While the party's data and digital failures received most of the attention, McLaughlin told reporters on Thursday that the GOP's problem was closer to its core—something he told Collins and NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran when they hired him.
"Our candidates suck," he said then. "Our staffs suck. We are way behind."
As Sean Sullivan reports at The Washington Post, GOP officials said that they had learned their lessons.
"We didn't just win this election on Tuesday. It started a year ago by deciding we couldn't be Akin'd anymore. No more witches. No more gaffes," said Ward Baker, the political director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Baker, who briefed reporters alongside colleagues at the NRSC, was referring to Todd Akin and Christine O'Donnell, disastrous GOP Senate nominees in 2012 and 2010 who destroyed the party's chances of picking up states they had been poised to flip.
About 80 percent of 2013 was spent on recruiting candidates, Baker said. "There were people that were either going to run or have us arrested for stalking," he quipped.
Fresh off winning back the Senate majority Tuesday and perhaps gaining as many as nine seats, NRSC officials also said that effective spending and polling, a superior ground game and flaws with the Democratic strategy boosted them to victory.
The Republicans said their ground game worked well, despite the outsize attention paid to highly-touted Democratic efforts. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dubbed its $60 million, 10-state ground operation the "Bannock Street Project." NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring argued that the effort fell flat and turned out to be "The New Coke" of the 2014 cycle.
Among other things, NRSC did shock training by confronting candidates with mock trackers at Reagan National Airport. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report at The Washington Post:
From the airport, the startled candidates were whisked off to NRSC headquarters for a series of meetings. There were policy briefings led by Lanhee Chen, Mitt Romney’s former policy director, as well as communications boot camps and media training from Roger Ailes associate Jon Kraushar, who has mentored Fox News personalities.
Looming large were the ghosts of combustible campaigns past: Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Ken Buck, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle.
“How do you fundamentally go about making human beings who are wildly unpredictable more predictable?” the NRSC’s Collins said. “It’s not about replacing what they believe. Pro-life is a majority view in this country, so how do you talk about it in terms that are relevant and not characterized as extreme?”
The efforts were not just an attempt to coach up their candidates; they were also designed to prove to donors that Republicans had what it takes to win.
After Romney’s devastating defeat in 2012, many donors “stood on the edge of throwing in the towel,” said Karl Rove, who spent 2013 trying to raise money for American Crossroads, a GOP super PAC. “They had real doubts about whether it was possible to get back in the game.”
When Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), the NRSC vice chairman, met with major donors in New York early last year, he heard harsh complaints. “You guys blew it,” donors told Portman, according to a GOP official. “We blame you. It’s not just bad luck. You guys don’t know what you’re doing.”
After hearing similar grievances, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus narrowed the RNC’s core mission to data, digital and field operations, ceding expensive TV ads to outside groups.
The GOP party committees have a memo titled "How We Did It." 

And see a blog post about oppo and the role of America Rising.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Middle of the Stairs

The upstairs/downstairs Democratic coalition leaves out a lot of people in the middle of the stairs.

Joel Kotkin writes at Forbes:
“The Democrats have committed political malpractice,” says Morley Winograd, a longtime party activist and a former top aide to Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton years. “They have not discussed the economy and have no real program. They are offering the middle class nothing.”
Winograd believes that the depth of white middle- and working-class angst threatens the bold predictions in recent years about an “emerging Democratic majority” based on women, millennials, minorities and professionals. Non-college educated voters broke heavily for the GOP, according to the exit polling, including some 62% of white non-college voters. This reflects a growing trend: 20 years ago districts with white, working-class majorities tilted slightly Democratic; before the election they favored the GOP by a 5 to 1 margin, and several of the last white, Democratic congressional holdovers from the South, notably West Virginia’s Nick Rahall and Georgia’s John Barrow, went down to defeat Tuesday night.
Perhaps the biggest attrition for the Democrats has been among middle-class voters employed in the private sector, particularly small property and business owners. In the 1980s and 1990s, middle- and working-class people benefited from economic expansions, garnering about half the gains; in the current recovery almost all benefits have gone to the top one percent, particularly the wealthiest sliver of that rarified group.
Nate Cohn writes at The New York Times:
For decades, Southern Democrats could count on winning local and statewide offices, even though the voters in their states would often withhold support for the Democrat in presidential races. No longer.
Despite efforts to distance themselves from President Obama, none of the Democratic Senate candidates in the South outdid his 2012 results on Tuesday. Democrats lost Senate races, sometimes by wide margins, in Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina, most of which were thought to be competitive for much of the year. They nearly lost in Virginia, where they were thought to be heavy favorites and where The New York Times has not yet projected a winner.
The inability of Southern Democrats to run well ahead of a deeply unpopular Mr. Obama raises questions about how an increasingly urban and culturally liberal national Democratic Party can compete in the staunchly conservative South. It raises serious doubts about whether a future Democratic presidential candidate, like Hillary Clinton, can count on faring better among Southern white voters than President Obama, as many political analysts have assumed she might.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Night of Crossroads

Two years ago, some on the left and the right criticized Karl Rove for the defeat of Crossroads-backed candidates.  The midterm is different as Michael Beckel, Carrie Levine, and Dave Levinthal write at Slate:
Groups connected to Rove and the Koch brothers were among the biggest winners in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Of the 10 U.S. Senate races where either the Rove-linked nonprofit Crossroads GPS or its sister super PAC, American Crossroads, was active, their favored candidates prevailed in at least six—with the Alaska Senate race still too close to call at this writing and a runoff election coming next month in Louisiana. Similarly, of the nine U.S. Senate races where the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity was active, its favored candidates also prevailed in at least five contests. Only in New Hampshire and Michigan did the Crossroads groups and Americans for Prosperity see defeat.

In the Granite State, incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen kept Republican challenger Scott Brown, who previously represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, at bay. And in Michigan, Rep. Gary Peters defeated former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to win an open-seat race. As of press time, incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, was trailing GOP challenger Dan Sullivan, the state’s former attorney general and natural resources commissioner, by about four percentage points.

Ultimately, the current occupant of the White House decided the 2014 election, said Steven Law, president of American Crossroads. “This election was about President Obama,” Law said in a statement. Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Sunlight Foundation reports:
Two years ago, when we took the post-mortem of the presidential-year elections, powerhouse conservative spenders like Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had almost nothing to show for the tens of millions of dollars they funneled into that campaign. In 2014, conservatives turned the ship around, drubbing their liberal rivals in a year in which independent groups on both sides dropped unprecedented amounts of money.
The three conservative organizations mentioned above all had success rates under 20 percent two years ago. This year? Each group batted .800 or above. With several races remaining to be decided, the National Republican Senatorial Committee also boasts a 94 percent success rate.
Nicholas Confessore reports at The New York Times:
American Crossroads and its affiliated nonprofit group spent $50 million on political advertising, and at least $20 million more on so-called issue ads, a spokesman said. The groups dominated outside spending in Alaska, where the Crossroads groups put about $7 million into television advertising, and Colorado, fielding close to $14 million, which helped crush Senator Mark Udall, the Democrat who was once favored to win.
All told, Republican outside groups spent about $205 million on television advertising in Senate races, according to a Democrat tracking media purchases, who agreed to share the information on condition of anonymity, while Democratic groups spent $132 million.

For many conservative strategists, this election was a dress rehearsal for the next one. Beginning next year, they face the prospect of a formidable presidential contender in Hillary Rodham Clinton and a Democratic Party that is itself quickly mastering the mechanics of unlimited fund-raising.
“The key to success in most endeavors, including politics, is learning and adaptation,” said Stuart Stevens, who served as a top strategist to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. After Tuesday, Mr. Stevens said, “Republicans have that experience — and it’s an advantage.”