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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Acknowledging Oppo

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star mentions the Milton Wolf x-ray fiasco, then appears to acknowledge where his paper got information for another anti-Wolf story:
Also this week, The Star wrote about a lawsuit in which a former employee accused Alliance Radiology — Wolf is a partner in the firm — of a “price-fixing scheme” designed to prevent competition and drive up costs for services such as MRI diagnoses.
The Roberts campaign quickly suggested that Wolf is more into profits than patients, which Wolf denied.
This is what opposition research, often leaked to the press, does.
The timing was exquisite. It came as Wolf continued to raise questions about Roberts’ residency, or lack of it, in Kansas.
Now the residency story is off the rails — replaced by Wolf’s Facebook fiasco. Wolf needed to run a nearly perfect campaign and present himself as an almost perfect candidate to beat a longtime incumbent.
Now Sebelius’ prospects look much better than Wolf’s.
ABC News Radio reports:
In essence, some Tea Party candidates may fail to net victories in their most coveted races this year because despite the trappings of a mature political operation, they are still far behind in some key but basic areas of the modern campaign: candidate vetting and opposition research.
One of the groups that have drawn the ire of establishment Republicans for backing Tea Party challengers to incumbent Republicans is the Madison Project, which endorsed Bevin, Wolf, and several other Republicans who in recent weeks have struggled on the campaign trail.
Daniel Horowitz, the group’s political director, said that the hallmark of a Tea Party candidate is actually that they aren’t polished politicians with whitewashed backgrounds. But he acknowledged that despite efforts to better support candidates this year, the movement is clearly still falling short.
"It clearly is necessary," said Horowitz of the need for Tea Party candidates to compete with opposition research.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/02/28/4855858/a-bad-week-for-milton-wolf-benefits.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Times Poll Puts GOP Ahead

The New York Times reports:
Republicans are in a stronger position than Democrats for this year’s midterm elections, benefiting from the support of self-described independents, even though the party itself is deeply divided and most Americans agree more with Democratic policy positions, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows.
The independents in the poll — a majority of whom were white or male or under age 45 — continued to sour on President Obama’s job performance. Republicans hold their edge despite the fissures in their party over whether it is too conservative or not conservative enough, and many are discouraged about the party’s future.
Democrats, in turn, are more optimistic and relatively united. Nonetheless, they, too, are held in low regard over all by a public fed up with Washington’s failure to compromise, and they have failed so far to energize a broader segment of the population.

A majority of Americans surveyed also said they wanted both parties to do more to address the concerns of the middle class, reduce the budget deficit with both tax increases and spending cuts, and let illegal immigrants stay in the country and apply for citizenship. Mr. Obama shares those positions on the budget and immigration.
Those stances among voters have not translated into support for the president’s party, as 42 percent say they will back Republicans in November, and 39 percent indicate that they will back Democrats, a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error.
There is a sense of foreboding in the public as well, with 63 percent of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track, and 57 percent indicating that they disapprove of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy. In addition, eight in 10 Americans are dissatisfied or angry with how things are going in Washington.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Roberts Runs Ad Against Wolf

A classic oppo play is to provide information to the media, then make an attack ad based on the resulting story.

Pat Roberts goes after Milton Wolf:

Hunger Games and NRSC

AP reports:
Republican senators are attacking GOP challengers earlier and more aggressively than in past elections, including using opposition research to try to knock out upstart rivals before they become serious threats.
These senators are eager to avoid the fate of colleagues who fell victim to tea party-backed rivals they had shrugged off.
In Kentucky, the tea party-backed challenger to Sen. Mitch McConnell is trying to explain old investor letters that recently surfaced, undermining his criticisms of government bailouts of banks.
In Kansas, the physician trying to oust three-term Sen. Pat Roberts is apologizing for posting graphic images of gunshot victims on his Facebook page some years ago.
Both stories have the markings of ‘‘opposition research,’’ the term for time-consuming digging into documents that well-funded campaigns often carry out. Campaigns sometimes offer the material as tips to news outlets, or seek to publicize it themselves.
...
Mainstream Republican groups that once took a hands-off view of primaries are now active in undermining challengers they view as weaker potential candidates against Democrats.
‘‘We’re not anti-conservative,’’ said Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. ‘‘We’re just anti-people-who-can’t-win.’’
Collins said his group dug up bankruptcy records that helped knock out a potential tea party challenger to West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, seen as the strongest Republican contender for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

...
Collins, whose group supports Roberts, defended the tough tactics against Wolf. ‘‘Do they have some fantasy that Democrats wouldn’t use that?’’ Collins said of the Facebook images. [emphasis added]
Republican strategist Brian Nick said senators have learned from watching the fate of colleagues such as Lugar. The lesson, he said, is ‘‘don’t allow one of these candidates to get traction, because then they can cause major headaches.’’
 Sean Sullivan writes at The Washington Post:
Part of the reason tea party challengers are feeling heat like never before is that incumbents and their allies have simply had more practice. Before the rise of the tea party in the 2010 midterms, sitting senators were unseated only four times in more than a quarter century. It's happened four more times since 2010.

Where they failed in the past to recognize the threat posed by these challengers, now senators and supporters are redoubling their efforts to avoid getting taken down by the right as conservatives have flooded the field with ambitious challengers who idolize conservative rabble-rousers like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). (Half of the GOP senators running for reelection this year are facing primary challengers.)
The result, strategists say, is a sharper opposition research effort and a more robust supplementary movement from deep-pocketed groups.
"Republicans felt burned by Senate challengers and incumbents that weren't ready for prime time in the last cycle," said Ron Bonjean, a former House and Senate GOP leadership aide. "Many Republicans felt that we could have taken the Senate majority back if it wasn't for rookie mistakes made by candidates. The combined opposition research efforts of outside groups and investigative journalists have created a political 'Hunger Games' that could eventually weed out weak primary candidates who could implode over time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back ... With Oppo

Alex Roarty writes at National Journal:
Rep. Steve Stockman's antiestablishment quest to topple Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is winding toward an abysmal finish: Polls suggest that he'll not only fall short of knocking out the incumbent during next week's primary, he'll be lucky to outperform a handful of tea-party unknowns. Stockman was never embraced by outside conservative groups, but many grassroots activists were expecting a more vigorous challenge to an establishment denizen than what the quirky congressman provided.
Stockman's tale isn't a unique one. The last month has provided numerous examples of tea-party favorites proving they're not ready for political prime time. Indeed, of the six Republican senators facing primary opposition this year, only one—Thad Cochran of Mississippi—looks like he's facing a credible threat.
Take Milton Wolf in Kansas. The radiologist's campaign was handed a race-altering gift when The New York Times reported that his opponent, Sen. Pat Roberts, barely kept his residency in Kansas. But now his effort is faltering under the weight of revelations that he published and joked about graphic images of his patients. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has actively promoted Wolf's travails to reporters as eagerly as the group has dished oppo against vulnerable Democrats.
Or take Matt Bevin in Kentucky, whose personal fortune was supposed to help fuel a well-funded effort to take down Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Instead, he's deflecting accusations from his nominal allies that he backed the government's multibillion-dollar Wall Street bailout during the height of the financial crisis. McConnell's aggressive campaign and outside allies are playing a pivotal role in preventing Bevin's campaign from getting any traction.
The trifecta of disappointing returns for conservatives isn't coincidental. In previous years, insurgent conservative candidates like Christine O'Donnell weren't taken seriously in the GOP primary, with the problematic parts of their record hidden away until a general election.
But with incumbents now keenly aware of the danger they face in a primary, those same tea-party-aligned hopefuls are finding themselves under more scrutiny than ever. And oftentimes they're not holding up well.
"Inevitably, in a statewide race, any issues in any candidate's background would come to the forefront," said Brian Walsh, a former NRSC communications director. "And we're seeing incumbents who aren't taking anything for granted."

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Wolf of Main Street

The Topeka Capital Journal reports that Kansas Senate candidate Milton Wolf apologized for posting gruesome medical images on Facebook  Wolf, a radiologist and distant cousin of President Obama, is a tea party challenger to Senator Pat Roberts.
Reaction to The Capital-Journal story chronicling Wolf's involvement with the graphic images and macabre jokes was swift, bipartisan and uncomplimentary. The newspaper published excerpts of Facebook exchanges involving Wolf and others regarding the X-rays, but chose not to publish in the newspaper or online gruesome images accompanying Wolf's commentary.
"It raises serious questions about a person's character, their ethics, their judgment and their stability," said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Dayspring said Wolf's contention the X-rays were made public on Facebook for educational purposes didn't make sense given Wolf shuttered the site prior to opening his Senate campaign. If the material had educational value, Dayspring said, Wolf logically would have continued to contribute similar images to Facebook.
The NRSC has endorsed Roberts, and is currently chaired by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
...

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which in December endorsed Wolf as the "principled conservative" in the August primary race against Roberts, offered a defense of Wolf framed as an attack on the three-term Senate incumbent. The organization's contribution to Twitter: "Pat Roberts is trying to smear Dr. Wolf because Roberts doesn't live in Kansas anymore and lied to voters about it for years."
In recent weeks, the Wolf campaign raised questions about the frequency Roberts returned to his Kansas residence in Dodge City. Wolf repeatedly questioned Roberts' residency status and referred to him as a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scandals That Probably Won't Change Many Votes

Recently-released emails suggest that aides to Scott Walker mixed politics and government business while he was Milwaukee County executive, and that he may have known more about their activities than he let on.  But so far it's a snoozer of a story. Elizabeth Titus writes at Politico:
A trove of the Wisconsin governor’s aides’ emails released this week so far appear to contain few of the elements of a career-damaging digital scandal. Instead, the most serious accusations involve campaign laws more likely to elicit yawns than outrage.

Even ordering a public employee axed over shots of her in a thong got more eye-rolls than anything else. It’s as if, to borrow from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the controversies of recent years are defining digital deviancy down.

Whereas once an embarrassing email could do some major damage, the Republican governor is following in the footsteps of pols who have raised the bar on what is truly shocking.
Here’s how the Walker email controversy is different.
...
“The scandal that hurts most is a titillating one that can run on 24-hour cable news over and over and over,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “But a complicated campaign finance story never resonates with voters in the same way.”
Moreover, the story is old, involves aides instead of the governor, and focuses on activities that may have been technical violations but did not (unlike Bridgegate) directly hurt anybody.

The e-trail could still lead to more damaging revelations, but so far it's a fizzle.

In California, one state senator faces a perjury conviction for lying about his residence and another is under indictment for fraud, bribery, and money laundering.  The impact? Meh! True, two members of the latter's family are running for office this year, and they may face some problems.  Chris Megerian and Melanie Mason write at the Los Angeles Times:

But Bill Carrick, a Democratic strategist, said that in legislative races, incumbents won't be tarred unless they're directly involved in wrongdoing, and he doubted ethics controversies would become a defining election issue.
"Races are decided one by one — by the quality of the candidates and the quality of the campaigns," he said.
Most Californians just don't pay attention to state politics.  Unless they live in the districts of the politicians in trouble, they probably don't know about these cases.  "Vote against senator X because he belongs to the same party as senator Y, a crook you've never heard of."  That's a tough case to make.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Six Californias: A Crazy Idea

Wesley Lowery writes at The Washington Post:
Let's start here: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper's plan to carve California into six separate states-- a proposal known as 'Six Californias' -- isn't likely to become a reality anytime soon or, probably, ever.
But, even if it never happens, the proposal creates any number of fascinating scenarios to examine for political junkies. And, no, we can't resist.
Let's start with the basics. The number of U.S. Senators would jump to 12 -- as each of the five new states would be allotted two Senators. As for the House, the addition of five new states would change the current dynamics but not dramatically; the most populous regions (which are heavily Democratic) would still have more representatives than the more sparsely populated ones.
"It seems like there is a net plus of safe Democratic seats in the Senate," said Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP strategist, who added that while it seems far-fetched, the six-state plan is -- on its face -- plausible. "If you look at these proposed states in a vacuum, they all make sense."
Using 2012 presidential election vote tallies as a baseline, we've determined that the Six Californias would break down this way: 1) Three solidly blue states (North California, Silicon Valley, West California) 2) Three swing states (Jefferson, Central California and South California - two of which would lean Republican).
At The Huffington Post, Joe Rodota writes:
Unlike venture capitalists, voters don't calculate risk. They seek to minimize it. And splitting the state into six pieces carries obvious and arguably insurmountable political risks.
The nonpartisan and independent Legislative Analyst, in its 16-page analysis of Draper's proposed initiative, writes that California as a whole ranks 12th in per capita personal income among the 50 states. If divided as Draper proposes, the state of "Silicon Valley" would be the highest income state in the nation, and the state of "Central California" would be the lowest -- about $150 below Mississippi.
Jefferson California, a new state to be comprised of counties in the far north, would have not one campus in the University of California system if split off from the rest of the state as proposed. Just how would a family from Redding or Chico feel about paying $36,000 in out-of-state tuition to send their son or daughter to UC Davis?
Think of the thousands of business transactions that take place between Southern and Northern California each day. Many of those would now be between states, triggering federal regulation of interstate commerce.
How many Californians would need to file two, three, or more state income tax returns every year?
And how would the new state of Silicon Valley, which is a net importer of water, guarantee adequate water supplies to its residents and industries?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Talent Gap Between the Parties

Alex Roarty writes at National Journal:
The biggest deficit Republicans face isn't the skills of their operatives or the absence of newfangled campaign technology. It's their numbers: The GOP simply doesn't have enough people—or a wide-enough variety of them. And even those men and women who are working are often fitted into the wrong kind of job.
A December study by the progressive political firm New Organizing Institute found a wide chasm between the number of staffers on Democratic versus Republican campaigns—nationally, the ratio was close to 3-to-1 in favor of Democrats.  In swing-state Nevada, where Republicans had hoped the housing bust and vibrant Mormon community would lift Mitt Romney to victory, the totals were even more lopsided: 498 Democrats worked the state, to only 20 Republicans.
...
Worse, according to some Republicans, those who are working aren't in the right positions. "Anyone who has hung around GOP campaigns can tell you that this sounds totally intuitively right," Ruffini wrote in a blog post assessing the data. "Republicans concentrate their talent on the most traditional aspects of campaigning, while Democrats tend to blaze new ground in areas like data analytics, and focus more on [the] field."
Fieldwork might sound mundane, but it's where many smart campaigns are investing the most money. There's no better example than Obama's last campaign, which emphasized voter-to-voter contact among its army of volunteers and low-level employees. The ground game was the largest in presidential history.
To Ruffini and other Republicans, this misallocation tugs at a related and equally daunting challenge. GOP leaders have hemmed and hawed about the party's digital and technology gap since losing to Obama's technologically superior effort in 2012. They've invested millions of dollars, especially at the Republican National Committee, to remake their voter-outreach and political-analytics efforts. But as the NOI data show, money's not the big problem. It's people. And the GOP can't train, or retrain, a generation of operatives overnight.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

American Opportunity Alliance

Politico reports on a new outside group:
A group of major GOP donors, led by New York billionaire Paul Singer, is quietly expanding its political footprint ahead of the midterm elections in an increasingly assertive effort to shape the direction of the Republican Party.
The operation was launched discreetly last year, with the previously unreported formation of a club called the American Opportunity Alliance to bring together some of the richest pro-business GOP donors in the country, several of whom share Singer’s support for gay rights, immigration reform and the state of Israel. Around the same time, Singer and his allies also formed a federal fundraising committee called Friends for an American Majority that raised big checks for a select list of the GOP’s most highly touted 2014 Senate hopefuls.
Those candidates are among the big names expected at a two-day retreat organized by the American Opportunity Alliance set for the last week of February at a swanky Colorado resort. The closed-door event — which is also expected to draw House Speaker John Boehner and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, according to Republicans familiar with the plans — is seen in GOP finance circles as a grand debut of sorts for Singer’s still-amorphous club.
At Redstate, Erick Erickson casts a wary eye:
This group will push social liberalism within the GOP. They’ll start with gay marriage, but no doubt over time will transition to abortion rights. That’s the way these things typically happen. They’ll push amnesty too. And they’ll want to convince the GOP that what is good for Wall Street is good for America, which is less and less true these days.
By the way, it appears this group favors Thom Tillis in North Carolina, which means conservatives in North Carolina need to rally behind someone other than Tillis to get through the primary season.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

America Rising Website

Dylan Byers reports at Politico:
The Republican opposition research firm America Rising PAC has relaunched its website to read and perform like a news site, a move that is indicative of an ongoing shift in the way political organizations approach the web.
Just as the Obama administration has made WhiteHouse.gov a source for news updates, blog items, photos and videos, AmericaRisingPAC.org will become a content-focused site featuring negative news and oppo research about Democratic candidates. The site, which relaunched on Wednesday, will be updated daily and feature lead stories and a list of news items that appear in reverse-chronological order, like a blog.
"We looked at the political sites that were out there, and a lot were stale: They just put up press releases, so there's no reason to go back to the site," Tim Miller, the executive director of America Rising PAC, told POLITICO. "We wanted to create a site that gives people a reason to come back, that's oriented like a news site and serves as a resource for voters, reporters and bloggers looking for information."
Many political organizations' websites are indeed stale: The Senate Majority PAC hasn't posted anything for two weeks. Before this month, American Crossroads hadn't posted any news since November. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's "news" page consists of a collection of press releases.
An MSNBC segment :


Crossroads v. Sink

Sunshine State News reports:
With three weeks to go until the Pinellas County congressional election, a group with ties to prominent Republican strategist Karl Rove -- who is best known for guiding George W. Bush's two successful presidential campaigns -- is getting more involved.

Republican-aligned super-PAC American Crossroads announced on Tuesday it was launching a new television ad taking aim at former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate running in the special congressional election for the seat that had been held for decades by the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. Sink takes on Republican David Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 election.

McDaniel v. Cochran

At Politico, Alexander Burns explains why Chris McDaniel, the conservative challenger to Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, is the Republican most likely to take out a Senate incumbent in a 2014 primary:
Among the conservative activists challenging incumbent U.S. senators in 2014, McDaniel is the only one to receive the unanimous support of all the powerful outside groups that fuel campaigns on the right. When he announced last October, he won instant endorsements from the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison project; FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots followed only a little while later.
It didn’t happen by accident.
As early as the start of last summer, McDaniel was reaching out to national conservative groups — including SCF, FreedomWorks and the Club — to ascertain their interest in a challenge to Cochran. The operatives who met with him came away wowed and heard from local activists who had urged McDaniel as early as 2012 to consider a challenge to Cochran.
“We heard he was looking into running for [the] House. We looked into him and heard so many good things about him that we pushed him to run for Senate,” said Daniel Horowitz, a strategist for the Madison Project.
McDaniel’s early outreach paid off handsomely. As of last week, the Club and the SCF had routed approximately $310,000 into McDaniel’s coffers, according to the two groups. (As of Dec. 31, McDaniel reported raising a total of $461,000 for his campaign.) He has hired the same consulting firm, Cold Spark Media, that is advising Kentucky activist Matt Bevin’s primary challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

NextGen Climate

Outside money is big this year. At The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore reports on billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $11 million to elect fellow rich person Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia.
In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.
The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.

...
Mr. Steyer poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project.

Those efforts cemented his partnership with Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist, and heralded the emergence of NextGen Climate, now a 20-person operation encompassing a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit. The group employs polling, research and social media to find climate-sensitive voters and spends millions of dollars in television advertising to try to persuade them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Are Outside Groups Supplanting State Party Organizations?

Politico reports that outside groups are vacuuming money that would have gone to state parties, and these groups are taking over voter contact, outreach, and other functions.
The effect is that candidates can be more beholden to national organizations or single-issue groups rather than state party leaders. That’s leading to a change in candidates and their beliefs and the issues that come up in elections and statehouses.
The GOP takeover of North Carolina in 2010 and 2012, for example, was bankrolled largely by the network founded by GOP megadonors Charles and David Koch and primarily directed through the nonprofit Americans For Prosperity. AFP’s former chairman, Art Pope, now serves as North Carolina budget director.
In Texas, two Democratic outside groups have essentially built a party organization outside the official Texas Democratic Party. Several Obama campaign veterans are running the group Battleground Texas as a field and turnout operation, while the Lone Star Project is doing opposition research and tracking against Republicans.
In New Jersey, labor groups funneled money into legislative elections through a group now called General Majority PAC, a free-spending outside group headed by a former top aide of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In Wisconsin, it was labor money that drove recall fervor against Gov. Scott Walker and several GOP state senators in 2011. State Democratic officials were quietly hoping to negotiate with state Republicans — before ultimately backing the labor-driven recall efforts.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unions and City Elections

The sagacious Willie Brown, former California Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor, writes at The San Francisco Chronicle:
The real news in the San Diego mayoral race isn't that a Republican won, but that the candidate backed by public-employee unions lost.
That is a real shift in California politics. And it's the second time it's happened in a big-city mayoral race in less than a year.
In San Diego on Tuesday, City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, a middle-of-the-road Republican, knocked the stuffing out of the union-backed Democrat, Councilman David Alvarez.
And he did it in part by hammering on the big union money behind Alvarez, much of which came from out of town.
In some ways it was a replay of the Los Angeles mayoral race last year, when labor's heavy backing of Wendy Greuel ultimately proved to be a liability for her in her race against Eric Garcetti.
It might be time for the public-employee unions to go on a retreat and rethink both their tactics and their goals. The politicians they're backing aren't exactly winning points by running on platforms of allowing transit strikes and maintaining the status quo on public pensions.
If labor's candidates can lose in heavily Democratic Los Angeles and in San Diego, they can lose here, too.
P.S. I was a big admirer of David Alvarez's- and a contributor to his campaign as well.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Factions and Election Strategy

Jaime Fuller writes at The Washington Post:
When it comes to electing Republicans, the two sides of the party aren't quite at odds, though. They just have different methods for achieving the same end. To reiterate the Conservative Victory Project logic for how to choose candidates: "we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.” Americans for Prosperity thinks the same thing — it tends to think less conservatively about how risky they can be with picking conservatives. In the race to replace Max Baucus in the Senate, Americans for Prosperity has spent $400,000 supporting Montana Representative Steve Daines, who has a considerable lead in the GOP primary. His opponent, Champ Edmunds, is staying in the race despite his long odds, because "Montanans deserve a conservative choice on the ballot ... Steve Daines votes are in line with establishment Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell." In the GOP primary for a senate seat in Texas, Americans for Prosperity has not thrown any money behind Steve Stockman, the representative who has called incumbent John Cornyn, who has a 94 percent rating from Americans for Prosperity, a raging liberal. The Koch's outside group has a good track record with knowing how much conservative they can get away with.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Asserting the 17th Amendment in Montana

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in December to stay out of his decision to nominate a replacement for former Sen. Max Baucus (D).
Bullock said Reid called him to offer a suggestion before the news of the senator’s ambassadorship to China was made public.

“He wanted to weigh in on who I should choose, and this was before it was even public,” Bullock said, according to the Helena Independent Record. “And I said it was none of your damn business.”
Bullock eventually tapped his Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) to the position — a decision many expected since Walsh was already running to replace Baucus.
Baucus was set to retire at the end of this year before making an early departure to fill the diplomatic post.

“I said, ‘You know what. Stay out of my decision-making. This is a decision I make and no one else. This is one of those decisions that voters have entrusted me with,’" Bullock said.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

American Crossroads v. Walsh in Montana

Michael Beckel writes at The Huffington Post:
American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC behemoth that slumbered through 2013, is awakening.
In recent days, the group has spent more than $187,000 on negative advertisements targeting Democrats, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Of that sum, about $137,000 went toward television ads critical of John Walsh, the Montana Democrat who will be sworn into office Tuesday to replace Max Baucus, the veteran legislator who the Senate last week confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to China.
Another $50,000 funded mailings opposing Alex Sink, the Democrat running in the March 11 special election in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Politico has reported that TV ads are also in the works. The seat has been vacant since the death in October of Republican Rep. Bill Young.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rare News Squared -- A GOP Big-City Mayor ... in California

UT San Diego reports on a GOP victory (albeit in a nominally nonpartisan election):
Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer won a decisive victory over Democratic Councilman David Alvarez in the San Diego mayor’s race Tuesday, signaling a new chapter for the city after the scandal-plagued tenure of former Mayor Bob Filner.
Faulconer had 54.5 percent compared to Alvarez’s 45.5 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.
A Faulconer victory breathes new life into the local Republican Party by restoring its control of the Mayor’s Office that its candidates have occupied for much of the past four decades.
Faulconer also becomes the only Republican mayor of a top 10 U.S. city, making him one of the party’s highest-profile leaders in the state.
The results dashed the hopes of Alvarez to become San Diego’s first Latino mayor and its youngest in nearly 120 years. It also blunted a push by Democrats to have a like-minded mayor join the party’s 5-4 majority on the City Council to shepherd a new era of progressive politics for America’s Finest City.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Incentives and Disincentives

CBO reports that the Affordable Care Act includes work disincentives. Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast:
Significantly, the CBO did not point the finger at business for the anticipated drop. Instead, the CBO explained that the “estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor.” Great, so Wayne and Garth—the basement dwelling metal-heads first made famous on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, can keep on living with their parents for the rest of their lives.
There was a time when Democratic presidents thought that work incentives were good and work disincentives were bad.

John F. Kennedy, February 1, 1962:
In order to make certain that welfare funds go only to needy people, the Social Security Act requires the States to take all income and resources of the applicant into consideration in determining need. Although Federal law permits, it does not require States to take into full account the full expenses individuals have in earning income. This is not consistent with equity, common sense or other Federal laws such as our tax code. It only discourages the will to earn. 
Lyndon Johnson on February 21, 1968:
Now we are beginning to launch the work incentive program. Its objective is very simple:
--Replace the dole with the payroll.
--Rescue thousands of Americans from the waste of welfare.
--Start them along the pathway to productive lives. 
Jimmy Carter on May 2, 1977:
This is another defect in the hodgepodge welfare system that runs counter to the basic commitment of American people that work on a full-time basis--for those who are able to work--is beneficial, ought to be beneficial to a family.

Another thing that happens in the welfare system is that those who are working and receiving benefits, if their income should increase, either to more hours per week, or to a higher wage scale, is quite often counterproductive, and it doesn't take a working person, adult, long to figure out that an increased effort pays no dividends.
For instance, for a family head who again is earning the minimum wage, if they got an increase in income of $100, they would lose--this is kind of an average for the whole Nation--they would lose $66.67 in AFDC payments! The earned income tax credit--they would lose $10; food stamps--they would lose $9.90; housing assistance, where that is paid, lose $8.25. So, they would lose, out of the $100 increase in check, salary, $94.82, which means that they would have a net reward of only $5 out of an increase in earnings of $100.

So, you can see there's very little incentive to work your way off welfare.
Bill Clinton on November 2, 1994:
My proposal to change welfare as we know it is not punitive, it's positive. It gives people a chance to move to independence, and it removes all the disincentives to move to independence.
Barack Obama on December 2013:
And it's also true that some programs in the past, like welfare before it was reformed, were sometimes poorly designed, created disincentives to work.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Tea Party and Other GOP Factions

Thetea party has lost some momentum in Congress.  The government shutdown was a reminder that confrontation can backfire and that Americans actually like a certain level of government service.

Still, the tea party faction retains considerable influence.  Is it responsible for GOP problems in devising a positive agenda?  Not exclusively --tea partiers are only part of the story.  Different issues involve different constituencies and different ideological perspectives within the party.

With unemployment insurance, the tea party faction makes common cause with deficit hawks such as Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL).

With immigration reform, there is widespread opposition within the GOP, and not just among self-identified tea party folks.  The GOP grassroots grew skeptical of liberalized immigration laws long before the tea party started in 2009.  A big part of the story was the perceived failure of Simpson-Mazzoli.

ENDA faces opposition from the religious right, which is separate and distinct from the tea party.  See: 

As for the “Paycheck Fairness” bill, opposition comes from all wings of the party:  business interests, traditional conservatives, tea party folks, the religious right.  With business, obviously, self-interest is involved, but most Republicans just think that it’s very bad policy.  Indeed, opposition to such ideas goes back decades:  Reagan economic adviser William Niskanen called "comparable worth" -- Paycheck Fairness 1.0 -- "truly crazy."



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Obama Then and Now

We went back 1,818 days to one of the first speeches Barack Obama gave as the 44th president. Back to Feb. 12, 2009, less than a month from his first morning in office when he grandly announced the imminent closing of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility.
There he was in East Peoria, Ill., at the massive Caterpillar factory, selling his then-$879 billion stimulus spending plan wending its way through the two Democrat-controlled houses of Congress. But you know what struck us as we read down memory lane?
It's us that's changed. wiser now about this president's wily words. Obama hasn't changed a bit. Well, not much. He's changed in two minor ways.
As his poll numbers and trust have shrunk, his speeches have grown longer, much longer. As if throwing additional speeches and words at a public falling out of love with him will persuade more people. Like he threw so much of our money at so many not-really shovel-ready projects that were going to thrust us out of the recession.

The Peoria pitch was barely 2,000 words long, just 15 minutes. Today's typical "remarks" are usually at least twice as long, even more.
His State of the Union last week to a Congress with only one Democrat-controlled chamber was more than 7,000 words long, 65 full minutes. Which seemed like 95 because we've heard the same things over and over. And over. And over.
Also, as a two-termer Obama refers to himself a lot more now. He says "I" all the time, usually 40 or more per speech. In Peoria it was "just" 20.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Broken Obamacare Promises

At The Weekly Standard, Christopher Conover lists the broken promises of Obamacare:

Immigration Punt

Speaker Boehner has suggested that the House will not act this year on immigration reform. There are serious political costs on both sides of the equation.  But the costs of acting seem to outweigh the costs of not acting. From a purely political standpoint, it made sense for Boehner to punt.

First, business does not have a unified front.  Though NFIB broadly supports immigration reform, it had problems with the Senate bill.

And among groups that support  reform, immigration isn’t necessarily their top issue. Even if immigration reform fizzles this year, the US Chamber of Commerce is still going to back Republicans.

Second, support for immigration reform would probably not bring significant benefits to Republicans in the short term. Hispanics aren’t single-issue voters.  And on a broad range of issues, they tend to side with Democrats, not Republicans.    Yes, in the long run, Republicans have to do better among Hispanics.  But reelection candidates have a time horizon that stops on November 4, 2014.  They can’t afford to worry about what will happen to other Republicans in future years.

Third, there would be a significant political cost to moving immigration reform.  It would lead to bitter debates within the party and could raise the risk that some members could have trouble in primaries.  Most of all, it would eclipse stories about Obamacare problems.  Why step on your own best lines?

Why is there so much GOP opposition?  Obviously, the GOP base voters are deeply skeptical of what they regard as "amnesty." And Republicans at all levels are deeply skeptical of President Obama himself.  Speaker Boehner says:
And frankly, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the one of trust.
The American people, including many of our members, don’t trust that the reform we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be.

The president seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he likes.
 Now, he is running around the country telling everyone he’s going to keep acting on his own. He keeps talking about his phone and his pen.
And he’s feeding more distrust about whether he is committed to the rule of law.
Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.
It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dems Maintain Tech Edge

Reuters reports:
According to interviews with a dozen strategists from both parties, Democrats appear set to maintain their technological edge, potentially boosting their prospects in the 2014 midterm elections just as other factors - such as President Obama's sliding popularity - are likely to favor Republicans.
It is not that the Republicans are not trying.
The Republican National Committee is spending "tens of millions of dollars," spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski says, to "change the culture of our data and digital program" with new data analysis teams in Washington and Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, independent conservative groups funded by big-money donors such as the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch continue to have their own digital teams, typically focused more on issues - such as opposing Obama's healthcare overhaul - than on individual candidates.
But in a reflection of some of the divisions between the Republican Party's most conservative members and its more moderate establishment, campaigns and other groups often do not share information about voters and tactics.
And even as party leaders are aggressively pursuing a new digital game plan, Republican strategists acknowledge that some conservative candidates and their supporters remain wary of changing tactics they have used for years, such as reaching voters through television ads and door-to-door campaigning without much help from analyses of voter databases.
Some Republicans' skepticism was fueled in 2012 by the embarrassing failure of the Romney campaign's ORCA project, a data system that was designed to help get conservative voters to the polls and improve communication between campaign offices. ORCA crashed on Election Day, potentially harming Republican turnout.
"There's a fundamental cultural problem" in how Republicans have dealt with technology in recent elections, said Vincent Harris, a Republican digital strategist who this year is helping candidates such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"Democrats are still a couple (election) cycles ahead of us," Harris said.

Obamacare Numbers

Byron York reports at The Washington Examiner:
This week, the health consulting firm Avalere found that only 1 to 2 million of the 6.3 million who signed up for Medicaid were new enrollees brought into the program by Obamacare. The rest were people who were eligible and would have signed up for Medicaid irrespective of Obamacare, in addition to people who were already on Medicaid but were renewing their status. (The researchers reached their conclusion by comparing the Obamacare sign-ups with a recent period before the new health law went into effect.)
...
Then there are the roughly three million people said to have signed up for private insurance. In mid-January, the Wall Street Journal reported that a relatively small percentage of the new sign-ups were previously uninsured Americans gaining coverage through Obamacare. The rest were people who were covered and lost that coverage in the market disruptions largely caused by Obamacare.
A McKinsey and Co. survey cited by the Journal found that just 11 percent of private insurance signups were people who previously had no coverage. Other surveys found that about one-quarter of new sign-ups were previously uninsured.
Whatever the precise number, it appears that a large majority of the activity in Obamacare private coverage sign-ups is essentially a churn operation: The system throws people out of their coverage, and then those people come to the system to sign up for new coverage, and that is reported as a gain for Obamacare.
Put the two together — Medicaid and private insurance — and it's clear the response of the nation's uninsured to Obamacare has been far less enthusiastic than the administration claims. Which means that the Affordable Care Act has gotten off to a terrible start at its core mission, insuring the uninsured.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated there are 57 million uninsured people in the United States. Even if Obamacare worked perfectly, an estimated 31 million would remain uninsured when the law is fully in effect. And if Obamacare continues to sputter and fail as it has so far, that number of still-uninsured could be much higher. Was it worth roiling the nation's health care system to achieve such lackluster results?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Following the Koch Money

At Slate, David Weigel writes:
Within a couple hours of each other, Chris Moody, Andy Kroll, and Daniel Schulman published a trove of new info about the Koch donor network.

Moody reports that the sort-of-viral 1980s action figure parody, The Kronies, "grew out of Public Notice, an advocacy group and polling firm that’s part of a sprawling political advocacy network overseen by billionaire activists Charles and David Koch," but the campaign attempts to hide that—it claims, as a joke, to be a product of Chimera Inc. "Chimera Incorporated has worked together with our partners in Washington to become officially too big to fail," reads the ad copy. "As a result, your investments in Chimera are ultimately backstopped by the American taxpayer." Rimshot!

Kroll/Schulman get their hands on a list of donor meetings that were scheduled for (and presumably took place at) last month's Koch confab in Palm Springs. "At least half of the one-on-one sessions involved representatives of Americans for Prosperity," they report, "the political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers and their top political adviser and strategist, Richard Fink, a Koch Industries executive vice president and board member. The AFP officials called to duty for these discussions included AFP's president Tim Phillips, chief operating officer Luke Hilgemann, vice president for state operations Teresa Oelke, and vice president for development Chris Fink (Richard Fink's son)."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Upstairs, Downstairs

It’s welfare redux time. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the Obamacare will cost the country the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time jobs by 2024, as people choose not to work or work less in order to keep their Obamacare subsidy. Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution announced yesterday that Obamacare stands to shift wealth from the top 80 percent on America’s income ladder to the lowest fifth—a cash grab from most of the bottom half. President Obama and his congressional allies have sacrificed the work ethic and growth on the altar of the Democrats’ upstairs-downstairs coalition, with the emphasis on “downstairs.”
...
Against this backdrop, the political calculus for punishing the nearly 60 percent of voters with incomes above $50,000 must have stared Obama’s operatives in the face like a bull seeing red. But why tag those who make only between $30,000 and $50,000, and why throw a lead weight around the recovery?
But we do know why, and it’s called redistribution and it’s about demographics, much as the administration may half-heartedly deny it. Just ask Richard Daley, the former Obama White House Chief of Staff who helped make Obamacare the reality that it is. In Daley’s own words: “Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people’s minds. … It’s a word that, in the political world, you just don’t use.” Sometimes the truth can be so inconvenient
This brings us to demographics and the Democrat’s upstairs-downstairs coalition. It relies heavily on political contributions from the rich on both coasts; prays for the votes of enough upscale suburbanites; and is electorally wedded to Americans in the lower socio-economic tiers who are disproportionately uninsured.
Three years ago, POTUS had this exchange with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Do you deny the assessment? Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth? 
OBAMA: Absolutely.
O'REILLY: You deny that?
OBAMA: Absolutely. I didn't raise taxes once, I lowered taxes over the last two years.

Yet More Bad Obamacare News

Dana Milbank, hardly a conservative shill, writes at The Washington Post:
For years, the White House has trotted out the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to show that Obamacare would cut health-care costs and reduce deficits:
CBO Confirms Families Will Save Money Under Health Reform.”
CBO Update Shows Lower Costs for the New Health Care Law.”
CBO Confirms: The Health Care Law Reduces the Deficit.”
Live by the sword, die by the sword, the Bible tells us. In Washington, it’s slightly different: Live by the CBO, die by the CBO.
The congressional number-crunchers, perhaps the capital’s closest thing to a neutral referee, came out with a new report Tuesday, and it wasn’t pretty for Obamacare. The CBO predicted the law would have a “substantially larger” impact on the labor market than it had previously expected: The law would reduce the workforce in 2021 by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers, well more than the 800,000 originally anticipated. This will inevitably be a drag on economic growth, as more people decide government handouts are more attractive than working more and paying higher taxes.
This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans’ charges is much easier than refuting the federal government’s official scorekeepers.
Gallup reports:
President Barack Obama defended his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, before Congress and the nation last week in his State of the Union address, but public opinion toward the law is little changed since November. Americans are still more likely to disapprove (51%) than approve (41%) of the law.

The latest results, from a Gallup poll conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 1, show that even though many provisions of the law are now in effect, Americans' views of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," still tilt negative.

Underpinning this lack of overall support is the fact that most Americans believe the law so far has had no effect (64%) or a harmful effect (19%) on their family. These opinions are broadly consistent with Gallup polling dating back to February 2012, when fewer provisions of the law were in place.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Obamacare Problems Persist into February

With the federal online insurance exchange running more smoothly than ever, the biggest laggards in fixing enrollment problems are now state-run exchanges in several states where the governors and legislative leaders have been among the strongest supporters of President Obama’s health care law.
Republicans have seized on the failures of homegrown exchanges in states like Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon — all plagued by technological problems that have kept customers unhappy and enrollment goals unmet — and promise to use the issue against Democratic candidates for governor and legislative seats this fall.
“People see incompetence when they look at this,” said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “Everyone that’s associated with it is going to have to deal with the consequences of this terrible law, including the state legislators who created these exchanges and the governors in charge of running them.”
Last month, the Republican National Committee filed public-records requests in Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon seeking information about compensation and vacation time for the exchange directors, four of whom have resigned. All five states have Democratic governors whose terms end this year. Three of them — Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon — are seeking re-election.
Amy Goldstein reports at The Washington Post:
Tens of thousands of people who discovered that HealthCare.gov made mistakes as they were signing up for a health plan are confronting a new roadblock: The government cannot yet fix the errors.
Roughly 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the government to try to get mistakes corrected, according to internal government data obtained by The Washington Post. They contend that the computer system for the new federal online marketplace charged them too much for health insurance, steered them into the wrong insurance program or denied them coverage entirely.
...

The Obama administration has not made public the fact that the appeals system for the online marketplace is not working. In recent weeks, legal advocates have been pressing administration officials, pointing out that rules for the online marketplace, created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, guarantee due-process rights to timely hearings for Americans who think they have been improperly denied insurance or subsidies.
But at the moment, “there is no indication that infrastructure . . . necessary for conducting informal reviews and fair hearings has even been created, let alone become operational,” attorneys at the National Health Law Program said in a late-December letter to leaders of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees HealthCare.gov. The attorneys, who have been trying to exert leverage quietly behind the scenes, did not provide the letter to The Post but confirmed that they had sent it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Outside Groups on the Right

Nicholas Confessore reports at The New York Times:
The drop in establishment Republican fund-raising is also empowering other conservative factions, particularly the political and philanthropic network overseen by the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Americans for Prosperity, the free-market advocacy group founded by David Koch, has become by far the biggest single spender on early-campaign issue advertisements against Democratic incumbents. Since October, it has spent more than $23 million, chiefly on attacks against Democrats for supporting Mr. Obama’s health care law.
That spree underscores the shifting balance of power within the party. During the 2012 campaign, Republican leaders counted on Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, the nonprofit arm of Mr. Rove’s group, to soften up Democratic candidates by financing issue ads in the early campaign season. Now that job is falling largely to Americans for Prosperity, which has been critical of Republican leaders’ strategy on issues like the debt ceiling.

“The model that we have been building for the past eight years — a state-based organization with a supportive home office but a permanent infrastructure on the ground, with real troops, and with real support behind it — is one that our supporters believe in,” said Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity.
Four Republican-leaning groups with close ties to the party’s leadership in Congress — Crossroads and its super PAC affiliate; the Congressional Leadership Fund; and Young Guns Action Fund — raised a combined $7.7 million in 2013. By contrast, four conservative organizations that have battled Republican candidates deemed too moderate or too yielding on spending issues — FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth Action Fund, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Tea Party Patriots — raised a total of $20 million in 2013, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed on Friday.
Matea Gold and Dan Keating report at The Washington Post:
Republicans are now far more likely than Democrats to field attacks by independent groups in their primaries. In 2012, super PACs and nonprofit groups reported spending nearly $36 million in GOP congressional primaries, compared with less than $10 million in congressional Democratic primaries, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance records.
A similar dynamic played out in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, when the contenders were pummeled by super PACs aligned with their rivals. This year, the attacks by the GOP’s tea party flank are spurring a financial arms race, as major ­center-right groups and business organizations step forward to bolster incumbents — an indication that the 2014 primary battles could be bloodier than past cycles.
“Right now, the Republicans all have their cannons aimed at each other,” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP chairman who is heading a new group, the West Main Street Values PAC, to help Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) fend off challenges from four primary opponents, “and the Democrats are getting a free ride.”
The 2014 battle lines are being drawn by powerhouses such as the Club for Growth, which launched a “Primary My Congressman” effort last year to take on centrist Republicans. The organization is already backing challengers to eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) and may engage in more primaries.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, a group started by former senator Jim DeMint that promoted last year’s government shutdown, has rallied behind conservatives taking on McConnell, Cochran and Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.).
In Kentucky, the organization has already devoted nearly $1 million to help Matt Bevin, the conservative candidate challenging McConnell in the primary. More than half of that amount has gone to ads and mailers. A bruising TV spot it ran in the state in November charged that McConnell “helped Barack Obama and Harry Reid fund Obamacare.” The group has also given a large share of its funds directly to Bevin’s campaign.