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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kamala Harris: Unknown but Favored

Seema Mehta reports at The Los Angeles Times:
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, the only major candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, is unknown by more than half the state's registered voters, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
Even more — six in 10 — have no impression of her, favorable or dim.
The primary election is more than a year away, giving Harris, a Democrat, ample opportunity to raise enough money to introduce herself to California's nearly 18 million registered voters. But voters' lack of knowledge about Harris — a state official since 2011 — presents an opportunity for a challenger.
A well-financed Democratic challenger might be able to make a go of it, but a Republican?  Tony Quinn doubts it:
Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is becoming more and more the inevitable successor to Sen. Barbara Boxer, but one thing will assure Harris’s election, and that is if a Republican ends up in the top two runoff against her. It is impossible for any Republican to be elected United States Senator from California.
That is because federal offices have become the symbol of our polarized nation. Consider Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. Inhofe is congress’s leading climate change denier; he regularly calls global warming a fraud and a hoax. So you would think he would be seriously challenged when he ran for re-election last year, but you would be wrong. Inhofe won re-election in Oklahoma by 68 percent.
That’s because Oklahoma is a solidly Republican state; there are no Democrats in its congressional delegation. Its voters are perfectly happy with Inhofe, especially since he has now replaced Boxer as the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
But would Californians ever vote for climate change denier Inhofe? Fat chance. However, a vote for a Republican candidate for US Senate in 2016 would be a vote to keep Inhofe as chairman of the environmental committee. Californians would not do that.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Obama and Spock

After the passing of Leonard Nimoy, President Obama said:  "I loved Spock."

Indeed, comparisons between the president and the Vulcan have long been a staple of mass media:

President Obama, interview with Newsweek's Jon Meacham, May 15, 2009
Now, movies I've been doing OK [with] because it turns out we got this nice theater on the ground floor of my house … So Star Trek, we saw this weekend, which I thought was good. Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out and—[the president makes the Vulcan salute with his hand].
David Jackson, USA Today, December 22, 2012:
President Obama is rejecting comparisons to Mr. Spock, the emotion-less Vulcan character on Star Trek.
Asked by Barbara Walters of ABC News what the biggest misconception of him is, Obama replied: "Me being detached, or Spock-like, or very analytical."
 Jeff Greenwald in Salon, May 7, 2009: 
Like Spock, part of what makes Obama so appealing is the fact that although he’s an outsider — “proudly alien,” as Leonard Nimoy once put it — he uses that distance to cultivate a sense of perspective. And while we’re drawn to Spock’s exotic traits — the pointy ears, green blood and weird mating rituals — we take comfort in his soothing baritone, prominent nose and ordinary teeth.
Maureen Dodd in The New York Times, February 28, 2009:
Speaking of the Enterprise, Mr. Obama has a bit of Mr. Spock in him (and not just the funny ears). He has a Vulcan-like logic and detachment. Any mere mortal who had to tell liberals that our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over and tell Republicans that he has a $3.6 trillion budget would probably have tears running down his face.
Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, May 9, 2009:
In the “Star Trek” prequel, Spock’s father tells him, “You will always be a child of two worlds,” urging him not to keep such a tight vise on his emotions. And Spandexy Old Spock, known as Spock Prime, tells his younger self: “Put aside logic. Do what feels right.”
Mr. Obama is also a control freak who learned to temper, if not purge, all emotion. But as a young man of mixed blood, he was more adept than Young Spock at learning to adjust his two sides to charm both worlds, and to balance his cerebral air with his talent for evoking intense emotion. 
John Dickerson in Slate, May 18, 2009:
Obama is often compared to Spock because he never gets too hot or too cool and speaks in the careful way of a logician. But the president and the fictional character seem to have the same kind of empathy, too
At Bloomberg, Joshua Green disputed Matthew Yglesias over the Spock analogy, October 24, 2014:
Of the president’s response to Ebola, I wrote, “Obama’s Spock-like demeanor and hollow assurances about what experts are telling him feel incongruous.” This prompts the following unhinged, pro-Spock rant from Yglesias:
Critics, including Green, like to satirize Obama’s cool by comparing him to Spock. But Spock, though often played for laughs, was a damn fine officer. His clear thinking not only saved the Enterprise on countless occasions but was instrumental in brokering a historic peace accord between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
Look, my point was merely that Obama isn’t the most commanding public speaker. I did not mean to malign Mr. Spock or the broader Trekkie community. In hindsight, I might have used a more balanced Trekkie analogy, such as one later suggested by Bloomberg’s White House editor (and Trekkie?) Joe Sobczyk: “The public wants Captain Kirk in the Oval Office and is getting Spock instead.” I’ll try harder next time.

Jeb: You're With Me or Against Me

Michael Barbaro and Maggie Haberman write at The New York Times:
Mr. Bush has vowed to run a “joyful” presidential campaign free from the seamier sides of party politics, projecting the air of a cerebral man almost effortlessly drawing together Republicans eager to help him seek the White House. But behind the scenes, he and his aides have pursued the nation’s top campaign donors, political operatives and policy experts with a relentlessness and, in the eyes of rivals, ruthlessness that can seem discordant with his upbeat tone.
Their message, according to dozens of interviews, is blunt: They want the top talent now, they have no interest in sharing, and they will remember those who signed on early — and, implicitly, those who did not. The aim is not just to position Mr. Bush as a formidable front-runner for the Republican nomination, but also to rapidly lock up the highest-caliber figures in the Republican Party and elbow out rivals by making it all but impossible for them to assemble a high-octane campaign team.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Questions on HRC and Foreign Money

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger write at The Washington Post:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.
Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.
The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.
The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.
In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.

The money was given to assist with earthquake relief in Haiti, the foundation said. At the time, Algeria, which has sought a closer relationship with Washington, was spending heavily to lobby the State Department on human rights issues.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Early Polls

PPP's  national  poll has Walker is at 25% to 18% for Ben Carson, 17% for Jeb Bush, 10%
for Mike Huckabee. Chris Christie and Ted Cruz at 5%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Rick Perry and Marco Rubio at 3%.

In South Carolina, PPP  has Bush in a statistical tie with Walker 19%-18%.  Carson and Graham tie for in third at 13%, Huckabee with 12%, the rest in single digits.

Quinnipiac has Walker at 25% among likely Iowa Republican caucus participants with 13% for Paul, 11 %each for Carson and Huckabee and 10 % for Jeb Bush. No other candidate is above 5% and 9% are undecided.  In a combination of first and second choices, Walker has 37%, with 21% percent for Paul, 20% for Bush, 19% for Carson and 18%  for Huckabee.

The Field Poll finds Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 18%, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 16%, holding a small lead in California over a host of other Republican hopefuls who divide another 47% of the vote. About one in five likely GOP primary voters (19%) are undecided.


..................................First Choice Second Choice
1. Ted Cruz .................20% .............12%
2. Scott Walker ...........19 ................15
3. Jeb Bush ...................9 ................6
4. Ben Carson ...............9 ................13
5. Rick Perry ................8 ..................8
6. Mike Huckabee ........5 ..................7
7. Rand Paul .................4 ................7
8. Marco Rubio ............4 ..................7

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bush and Grant

Jay Cost compares Jeb Bush to US Grant.  At the 1880 GOP convention, 306 delegates backed him for a third term.
To be clear: the Bushes certainly are not spoilsmen. They play politics with sharp elbows, just like anybody else at that level, but the Bush ethos of civic duty places them far above the grubby pay-to-play politics of the Gilded Age. And yet there is today a class of professional politicians -- a modern group of consultants, advisors, donors, lobbyists etc. -- who prospered under 12 years of Bush presidencies. They are eager for a Bush restoration in 2016, just as the Stalwarts were clamoring for a return to Grantism in 1880.
Meanwhile, the broader GOP electorate seems wary, at best. At this point in the 2000 cycle, George W. Bush was polling upwards of 40 percent nationwide. By the end of 1999 it would rise to 60 percent. According to RCP, Jeb currently is clocking in under 15 percent -- even though he is at least as well known now as his brother was in early 1999. There is clearly a hesitancy among the rest of the party -- i.e. those who do not draw a living from politics -- for a Bush restoration.
This points to Jeb’s big challenge. He might be able to attract his own version of the “Immortal 306,” corralling a sizeable portion of the GOP’s professional class, but as Grant’s experience in 1880 illustrates, that is not enough. One has to make a broader offer to the party. In 1880, Grant failed to do that. The logic of a Grant restoration made little sense that year -- at least to those who did not draw a living from politics. Hence, he never made it past those core supporters. The country, and for that matter much of the Republican party, had moved on. So Grant lost.

Monday, February 23, 2015

HRC's Money Issue

American Crossroads is using the foreign money issue against Hillary Clinton.  (The audio is Elizabeth Warren.)

 

At AP, Ken Thomas provides some background:
The foundation launched by former President Bill Clinton more than a decade ago has battled HIV and AIDS in Africa, educated millions of children and fed the poor and hungry around the globe. It also has the potential to become a political risk for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she moves toward a second presidential campaign.
The former secretary of state has struggled with some recent bad headlines over large donations given to the foundation by foreign governments in the past two years, and the $200 million-plus the organization has raised since 2013, ahead of her anticipated White House campaign.

James Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus report at The Wall Street Journal:
Among recent secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton was one of the most aggressive global cheerleaders for American companies, pushing governments to sign deals and change policies to the advantage of corporate giants such as General Electric Co. , Exxon MobilCorp. , Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co.
At the same time, those companies were among the many that gave to the Clinton family’s global foundation set up by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. At least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during her tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public and foundation disclosures.
...
President Barack Obama ’s transition team worried enough about potential problems stemming from Clinton-organization fundraising while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state that it asked Mr. Clinton to quit raising money from foreign governments for the Clinton Global Initiative and to seek approval for paid speaking engagements, which he did. The transition team didn’t put limits on corporate fundraising.
The foundation resumed soliciting foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton left the State Department. The official name of the foundation was changed to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Mrs. Clinton became a director. All told, the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates have collected donations and pledges from all sources of more than $1.6 billion, according to their tax returns. On Thursday, the foundation said that if Mrs. Clinton runs for president, it would consider whether to continue accepting foreign-government contributions as part of an internal policy review.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reform Conservatism, New Ideas, and Neocons

At The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren writes that Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is working to be the GOP's new new-ideas guy:
Lee knows he isn’t the presidential candidate conservatives are looking for, but he’s got his eyes on that “positive, innovative, and unapologetically conservative agenda.” He’s not shy about the role he’d like to play. “I do want to influence that debate,” Lee says. His slate of policy proposals isn’t light fare. Since 2013, Lee has introduced bills to make the tax code more family friendly, take on cronyism in Washington, reform the college accreditation system, and change the way the federal government funds transportation infrastructure. But what Lee really wants is to change the way conservatives think about domestic policy, reorienting the Republican party toward a family-focused, constitutional populism to help the GOP win back the White House. If Lee succeeds, it will make him one of the most consequential conservatives of his generation.
Lee’s touchstone is Ronald Reagan, but not in the rote way you might think. “It’s important for us to remember that by the time 2016 rolls around, we will be about as far away from Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 as Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 was from D-Day, and it’s important for us to update our agenda to make sure that it fits the times,” says Lee. “We need to stop simply talking about Reagan and start acting like him.” That doesn’t mean slashing the marginal tax rate or getting rid of the Department of Education. Lee says acting like Reagan means applying principles of limited government, constitutionalism, and a healthy civil society to the issues of the day—namely, the rising cost of living and economic insecurity of the American middle class.
If the Republican party needs another Reagan, Lee wants to fill the role of Jack Kemp, who as a junior congressman took the lead in formulating the tax cuts that were central to Reagan’s agenda once he took office. Like Kemp, Lee has made tax reform his signature issue, despite not having a seat on the tax-writing Finance Committee. The target of Lee’s tax proposal is what he calls the “parent tax penalty.” Parents, like everyone else, pay some combination of income and payroll taxes. The “penalty,” Lee says, is that parents also bear the costs of raising children who will grow up to become taxpayers themselves. The current child tax credit isn’t enough to offset these additional costs. Lee’s plan looks a lot like other Republican tax reform ideas—simplifying the brackets, lowering rates, removing costly deductions—while adding an extra $2,500-per-child tax credit that can apply to any parent’s combined tax liability. It’s money that could pay for child-care costs or cover expensive dental work or even help one parent stay home to raise the kids.
Arit John writes at Bloomberg:
Ahead of his foreign policy speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Jeb Bush released a list of 21 familiar foreign policy advisers joining his staff. Nineteen of the names would have been familiar to foreign policy wonks (they’d served under one of more of the last Republican presidents) but only one brought back memories of the neoconservative movement that led the U.S. into Iraq: Paul Wolfowitz.
As several people, especially liberals, have pointed out, by including Wolfowitz—whose brief, scandal-plagued tenure as president of the World Bank is overshadowed by his key role in America’s unpopular invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush—the former Florida governor did little to distinguish himself from his brother’s foreign policy.

But while Jeb Bush is adding neoconservative Iraq War baggage to his 2016 presidential campaign, expected Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has spent years dealing with her own. One of Clinton’s biggest weaknesses with the Democratic base has been her perceived hawkishness—Barack Obama used her vote for the Iraq War against her in 2008, andDemocrats criticized her critique of President Obama’s foreign policy in the Atlantic last year, when she argued that the U.S. should have armed moderate Syrian rebels to prevent the rise of groups like the Islamic State.
In July of last year, the New York Times ran two pieces tying Clinton to the neoconservative movement. In “The Next Act of the Neocons,” Jacob Heilbrunn argued that neocons like historian Robert Kagan are putting their lot in with Clinton in an effort to stay relevant while the GOP shies away from its past interventionism and embraces politicians like Senator Rand Paul...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Gene Prescott

Lloyd Green writes at Breitbart that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are not that far apart ideologically.  Moreover, the Clintons and the Bushes have developed a relationship over the years.
Among their points of intersection, both Bush and Clinton have strong ties to Gene Prescott and his Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, and that nexus may yet haunt Bush on his quest for the nomination. Bush keeps his office suite at the posh Biltmore, exercises in the hotel’s gym, and is Prescott’s workout buddy. Sounds innocuous enough, huh?
Not exactly. Prescott isn’t just some hotelier. Can you say “Lincoln Bedroom,” “Tony Rodham,” “Roger Clinton,” and “Russian Mob”? Good, I knew you could.
For starters, Prescott was one of the Clinton donors who back in the day overnighted in the Lincoln Bedroom. From there, things became a family affair.
In 1997, Hillary’s brother, Tony Rodham, while working as a consultant for a Prescott company, arranged a White House meeting for Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s mayor. At the time, Prescott’s company, IBN, was seeking to bring “smart” credit-debit cards to Russia and was hoping for the support of Luzhkov. Prescott knew Luzhkov wanted to meet with Clinton, and asked Rodham if he could set it up, this according to Rodham himself.
And it gets better; much better. Luzhkov had been accused of having links to Russian mobsters, and of having been involved in a dispute with an American businessman who was subsequently found murdered in Moscow. 
...

While Prescott is a Democrat, his wife, Ana Navarro, is a Republican, and a big Bush booster. In a January 18, 2014 tweet, Navarro let the whole world know of the esteem in which she and Prescott held Bush, while giving folks a glimpse of their ties to the Clintons. Per Navarro, writing in the terse language of Twitter:
 My Dem hubby, @JebBush workout buddy--/"I think it's 60% he runs in '16 & I'll even vote for him". Did I mention he's a Friend of Bill's?
As for the G.O.P. base, by contrast, Navarro holds it in considerably less than total admiration. In an interview with Buzzfeed about the Biltmore, Navarro had this to say, “But somehow, somewhere, it turned into this. The inmates have taken over the asylum.” Inmates? Asylum? Apparently, the feeling from the base toward Bush may be mutual.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Brown and the Gray

[Two ] demographic trends ... may most affect the political landscape in the 11 states that both parties now treat as decisive swing contests. As the charts show, all of these states are simultaneously growing more racially diverse and older. But these twin transformations are operating at very different rates in the states likely to decide the next presidential election. While diversity is the key dynamic in the swing states across the Sun Belt, aging is the defining characteristic of the Rust Belt battlegrounds.
State
White share of eligible voters, 2008
White share of eligible voters, 2012
White share of eligible voters, 2016 (projected)
Change 2008-2016 (points)
68.7%
64.9%
61.3%
-7.3%
Florida
68.9%
66.7%
64.4%
-4.5%
Colorado
78.6%
76.5%
74.4%
-4.3%
Virginia
71.6%
69.8%
68.0%
-3.6%
North Carolina
71.3%
69.6%
67.9%
-3.3%
Pennsylvania
84.7%
83.2%
81.7%
-3.1%
Wisconsin
89.2%
87.9%
86.6%
-2.6%
Iowa
93.1%
91.9%
90.7%
-2.4%
Michigan
80.7%
79.6%
78.3%
-2.4%
Ohio
85.1%
84.1%
83.0%
-2.1%
New Hampshire
95.6%
95.0%
94.4%
-1.2%
State
Share of eligible voters aged 50+, 2008
Share of eligible voters aged 50+, 2012
Share of eligible voters aged 50+, 2016 (projected)
Change 2008-2016 (points)
New Hampshire
43.5%
46%
47.1%
3.6%
Michigan
42.7%
44%
45.3%
2.6%
Colorado
38.5%
40%
40.9%
2.5%
Ohio
43.1%
44%
45.6%
2.5%
North Carolina
42.6%
44%
45.0%
2.4%
Wisconsin
42.7%
44%
45.1%
2.4%
Iowa
43.2%
44%
45.5%
2.3%
Florida
47.9%
49%
50.0%
2.1%
Nevada
40.9%
42%
42.9%
2.0%
Virginia
41.6%
43%
43.5%
1.9%
Pennsylvania
45.2%
46%
47.0%
1.8%

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Millennials for Jeb

My advisees, Lucas Agnew, has started a super PAC.  Matea Gold writes at The Washington Post:
It was a visit by the Ready for Hillary bus last year to the campus of Claremont McKenna College in Southern California that got Lucas Agnew thinking – Republicans of his generation needed to start getting organized.
Clinton supporters “have a huge presence already, especially on college campuses,” said Agnew, a senior at the college.
So last month, Agnew filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to start Millennials for Jeb, a new super PAC that aims to excite young voters about expected presidential candidacy of the former Florida governor.
“I hope this is the start of a counteraction by millennial Republicans,” he said. “We’re just focusing on Jeb, not trying to saying anything about Hillary.”
The 21-year-old said he does not know Bush or anyone in his political operation, but he admires Bush's approach to education reform and to immigration, particularly his refusal to bend his stances to make them more palatable to conservative GOP primary voters. “I really respect that,” Agnew said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Obamacare Still Hurts

 Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reports at AP:
The official sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law may be over, but leading congressional Democrats say millions of Americans facing new tax penalties deserve a second chance.
Three senior House members told The Associated Press that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year.

The three are Michigan's Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. All worked to help steer Obama's law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010.
The lawmakers say they are concerned that many of their constituents will find out about the penalties after it's already too late for them to sign up for coverage, since open enrollment ended Sunday.
That means they could wind up uninsured for another year, only to owe substantially higher fines in 2016. The fines are collected through the income tax system.
The fines, of course, would hit in a presidential election campaign.  That's not the only politcal problem, as Byron York reports:
The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll on Obamacare, released last week, shows that 40 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the law, while 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion and the rest don't know or won't say. There have been some slight ups and downs over the years, but public opinion seems pretty set: A plurality of Americans has disapproved of Obamacare virtually since the day it was passed.
The basic problem is that Barack Obama promised his healthcare plan would benefit everybody. It doesn't. Under Obamacare, the government subsidizes the health coverage of some Americans while making it more expensive for others. People who have faced higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower choices of doctors know they're getting a bad deal.
From Kaiser:

 Figure 13Figure 11

Monday, February 16, 2015

Walker v. Profs

Inside Higher Ed reports:
Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, hasn’t announced a presidential run. But it’s a safe bet that higher education will come up often if he seeks the Republican nomination, as many presume.
That’s because the second-term governor has been cast, or positioned himself, as a primary antagonist of the academy.
During the last few weeks Walker has battled with the University of Wisconsin System over budget cuts and anabortive attempt to edit the Wisconsin Idea, the century-old and unusually beloved mission statement of the university.
The tumult probably hasn’t reached the intensity it did in 2011, when Walker challenged collective bargaining for public employee unions, including those of faculty members and graduate students. Back then he also floated a plan for the state’s flagship, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, to leave the university system.
But the net result has been the view that while Walker’s office in the Capitol is a mile from the Madison campus, the two are worlds apart. And that can be an asset to a politician looking to cultivate the Republican base.
Walker is politically shrewd to cultivate the animosity of professors.

As FDR said:  "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Prosecuting Illegal Coordination

On Thursday, Russ Choma wrote at Open Secrets:
The U.S. Department of Justice announced this afternoon its first criminal prosecution for violation of campaign finance laws prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside groups working on their behalf. Tyler Harber, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of coordinated federal election contributions, and one count of making false statements to the FBI.
According to federal court documents, Harber masterminded a complex scheme to coordinate a super PAC’s fundraising and expenditures in support of a Virginia candidate running for a U.S. House seat — all while working as the campaign manager for the candidate. Additionally, Harber acknowledged that he was personally paid a percentage of the super PAC’s expenditures, and he later lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents investigating the case. The documents do not name the campaign and super PAC involved, but based on the description of the events, OpenSecrets.org data indicates that Harber was working for Chris Perkins, a Republican candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly in Virginia’s Eleventh Congressional District.
While issues of coordination are not new in the super PAC era, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 and subsequent legal decisions substantially raised the stakes by allowing their creation and giving them the ability to raise and spend unlimited funds. A key tenet of the decision, however, was that while these groups can spend money to support a candidate, they cannot coordinate strategy or spending with the campaign; otherwise the unlimited donations to the outside group become, in reality, donations to the campaign. There has been growing suspicion that there is indeed coordination between some super PACs and the candidates they back, but this is the first federal prosecution for such activity.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Establishment Bracket: Bush's Shock and Awe, Christie's Slip and Slide

Jeb Bush has quickly and efficiently been locking in one of the most sought-after prizes of the early Republican presidential primary race: Mitt Romney’s donor network.
In the two weeks since the former Massachusetts governor announced that he wasn’t going to run again for president, Bush has aggressively scooped up key former Romney contributors in the private equity and investment worlds. That adds to Bush’s own substantial network in place before Romney’s brief flirtation last month.
“It’s absolutely a kind of aggressive shock-and-awe strategy to vacuum up as much of the fund-raising network as you possibly can,” said Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a prolific Romney fund-raiser now helping Bush. “And they’re having a large measure of success.”
Chicago investment manager Muneer Satter, who was cochairman of Romney’s national finance committee, is hosting a fund-raiser on Wednesday for Bush in Chicago. Emil Henry, a senior treasury official in the George W. Bush administration who was among Romney’s largest fund-raisers, recently agreed to raise money for Bush.
“I am certain that the majority of Romney’s major donors and fund-raisers will line up with Jeb, whose early organization is impressive,” Henry said.
Of Romney’s top five lobbyist bundlers in 2012 — who each raised at least $1 million — four are supporting or likely to support Bush. The fifth is on the fence.
Matea Gold writes at The Washington Post:
Bush’s press for dollars has been so intense — averaging one fundraiser a day — that his Republican competitors do not even claim they can compete at his level and acknowledge that he is the unrivaled financial leader.

“Are they raising a lot of money? Yeah,” said Ray Washburne, a Dallas real estate developer who is heading efforts to solicit contributions for Gov. Chris Christie’s new political action committee. “We’re in the making-friends stage.”
...

“Everybody says, ‘Bush, but I like Walker,’’ or ‘Walker, but I like Bush,” said one senior party figure, who declined to be named to describe private conversations with donors. “I don’t hear anyone saying Christie.”
...

“Gov. Bush will get the majority of the money here, the big money,” said Theresa Kostrzewa, a lobbyist in North Carolina who backed Romney in 2012 and is now supporting Bush. “And Gov. Walker will get a fair share. But I think the interest in Gov. Christie was fleeting.

“For people in North Carolina, it’s like going on a date with the high school football star and you’re wowed, but then it’s not deep enough to form an attachment,” she said. “Then when he’s been stumbling, what little attachment there was has fallen away.” 
At NBC, Perry Bacon, Jr. writes that Chris Christie is not doing so well right now:
The signs of Christie's decline are subtle but telling as Republican strategists, operatives and donors are trying to determine which candidates to back early in the 2016 process. New Jersey State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who chaired Christie's 2009 gubernatorial campaign, attended a small dinner with Jeb Bush and some of Bush's supporters last month and refused to commit to Christie in an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger after the dinner.
Appearing on Fox News, influential conservative columnist Charles Krauthhammer recently predicted Bush, Walker or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would win the nomination, leaving out Christie, who is courting many of the same moderate Republicans as those three.
Gary Kirke, who was part of a group of Iowa Republicans unsatisfied with Mitt Romney and who flew from the state to Trenton to implore Christie to run four years ago, says he is now open to supporting other candidates. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had also unsuccessfully pushed Christie to run in 2012, attended a luncheon in support of Bush this week, according to the New York Observer.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Inheriting a Coalition

Ben Smith interviewed the president at Buzzfeed:
You were elected with this new coalition of young people, people of color, women, and I wonder, is that a coalition that the next Democratic nominee — Hillary Clinton or not — inherits?
Obama: I don’t think any president inherits a coalition. I think any candidate has to win over people based on what they stand for, what their message is, what their vision is for the future. I think what’s true is that I’ve done very well among younger Americans, and that’s always been something I’ve been very proud of: our ability to reach out to get people involved who traditionally have not always gotten involved or have been skeptical about politics. I think the fact that we got a lot of support from African-Americans or Latinos or Asian-Americans is just reflective of the shifts in the country. I think it’s also important to remember that I won Iowa, which doesn’t have one of the most diverse populations in the country. I think there’s been, you know, talk that there’s a need to reach out more to older Americans or middle America or white working-class families that Democrats haven’t done as well on, but that hasn’t been unique to me, that’s been going on for a while.
Obama's history is wrong.  Of course, presidents have inherited coalitions.  Truman inherited the New Deal coalition, and Bush 41 inherited the Reagan coalition.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Evolution, Scott Walker, and the GOP

Matt Berman reports at  National Journal:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, speaking at Chatham House in London, was asked Wednesday by a British moderator if he believes in evolution. He chose not to answer.

"I'm going to punt on that one as well," Walker said after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution, and if he believes in it. "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other."
In a statement later Wednesday obtained by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker said "Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God" and that "I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand."
Pew reports that Republicans are much less likely to believe in evolution than Democrats or independents, and that GOP belief in evolution has declined since 2009:
FT_Belief_Trends

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jeb Bush, Henry Kravis, Super PACs, and Coordination

Ken Kurson reports at The New York Observer:
On Wednesday night, several dozen people with the means to attend an event so pricey its invitation doesn’t list an expected contribution will gather in the Park Avenue apartment of Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis to meet Jeb Bush and add to the quickly filling coffers of Right to Rise, the PAC set up to aid Mr. Bush’s presidential ambitions. The affair will be co-chaired by Mr. Kravis’ colleagues at KKR, including Ken Mehlman, who managed George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign and later became chairman of the Republican National Committee.
This is the second event Mr. Kravis, a coveted GOP donor who leads the storied leveraged buyout firm that bears his name, has hosted for Mr. Bush in a month. On the afternoon of January 8th, KKR hosted an event at its offices where the still undeclared candidate met with 80 supporters. The night before, Mr. Bush traveled to Greenwich, where an even larger crowd of 130 greeted the former Florida governor.
It’s no secret that Jeb Bush has been moving aggressively to vacuum up cash and secure support. These three events are part of that effort and the Observer’s cover story last week shared for the first time names of more than a dozen New Jersey and New York finance heavyweights who attended a fourth event – a January 8th dinner hosted by New Jersey lawyer and former RNC finance chief Larry Bathgate.
But it’s an event scheduled to take place this Thursday afternoon, February 12th, that might send the clearest signal yet of Jeb Bush’s dominance of the Republican establishment. According to two sources, including one inside the Bush organization, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will be the star attraction at a lunch hosted by Right to Rise at which Mr. Bush will also appear.
Ben White writes at Politico:
The event comes as Bush continues a shock and awe approach to early 2016 fundraising that people close to the campaign say could eventually see the former governor reach a total of between $50 million and $100 million between the super PAC, a traditional political action committee and an eventual presidential campaign.
Paul Blumenthal writes at The Huffington Post:
The launch of Bush's super PAC -- Right to Rise Super PAC -- marks a new phase in the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending as the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision approaches on Jan. 21.
Where many super PACs and nonprofit groups are deeply entwined with party leadership or particular candidates, no previous unlimited money group had been launched by candidates -- or potential candidates -- themselves as a means to fully evade the campaign finance limits placed on candidates soliciting large contributions and determining immediate or future strategy.
...

The launch of this pre-presidential campaign super PAC provides an explicit way for large, and politically important, donors to make an early statement that will shape the election before it even officially begins. This is a goal for any candidate and will almost certainly be copied by other potential candidates who are not currently in office.
There is also another loophole opened by the pre-presidential super PAC. Current rules place limits on the revolving door between super PACs and campaigns. Any super PAC hiring an employee from a campaign must wait 120 days before advertising on that campaign's behalf. But it does not apply the other way around. [emphasis added] This means Bush could use his super PAC to hire a large staff early that's funded with unlimited contributions, and then shift the employees all onto a campaign.
 Emma Roller and Stephanie Stamm write at National Journal:
Here, we break down that system to show the many ways individuals can donate—directly or indirectly—to benefit the presidential candidate of their choice. How much can one well-heeled philanthropist spend to influence the outcome of a presidential election over the course of a year? Below is our answer, and an exhaustive guide to all of the groups hoping to vacuum up donors' money over the next year and a half



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The State of the Parties

In Steve Schier's edited volume, Ambition and Division: Legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency, I have an essay titled "The Culminating Point."  It anticipates some items from today:

Michael Barone writes:
In three of the last four presidential elections, both parties have won between 47 and 51 percent of the vote. And in nine of the 11 House elections from 1994 to 2014,
Republicans won between 48 and 52 percent of the popular vote, and Democrats a bit less, between 45 and 49 percent.
Democrats have had the advantage in presidential elections because their clusters of base voters give them more safe electoral votes. Republicans have had the advantage in House and legislative elections because their voters are spread more evenly around the rest of the country.
To put this in historical perspective, neither party has really had a permanent majority for an extended period, as Sean Trende argues persuasively in his book "The Lost Majority." And the two political parties' coalitions over the years have been of a different character. The political cartoonists are right to portray them as two different animals.
The Republican Party has always been built around a demographic core of people considered by themselves and others to be typical Americans, even though they are not by themselves a majority. Northern Yankee Protestants in the 19th century, white married people today. When they come up with policies that have broader appeal beyond that core, they can win majorities. Otherwise, they can't.
The Democratic Party has always been a coalition of disparate groups that are different from the Republicans' core. Southern whites and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century; blacks and gentry liberals today. When they cohere, Democrats can win big majorities. When they split apart, the party is a disorderly rabble.
Jay Cost writes of the decay cycle of a party's fortunes.
Sean Trende and David Byler of Real Clear Politics have produced an interesting metric of party strength, combining the standing of each party in the White House, Congress, governorships, and state legislatures. Their data indicate that there have been seven full political cycles in the postwar era (from Eisenhower to George W. Bush). In five of them, the dominant party’s first White House victory was its high-water mark. In the other two, it was the reelection four years later. After that, the opposition party began improving, often substantially.
...
We are now in the seventh year of a Democratic cycle. So what is the Democrats’ best case scenario? While there is never a guarantee, a Democratic presidential victory in 2016 might facilitate some gains down-ballot, but these would likely be muted. Although it is quite possible that the Senate could return to the Democrats, it would be quite unlikely for them to win the 29 House seats needed to reclaim a majority in the lower chamber. Moreover, most governorships will not be up for grabs. While gains in state legislative seats would probably follow for Democrats, it is unlikely that they would come in large numbers.

Flash forward two more years, to 2018, and Democrats would still face the voters’ relentless impulse to hedge—which would probably facilitate Republican gains. Given the landscape in the Senate in 2018—where Democrats will have to defend a mind-boggling 25 of 33 seats—Democratic losses could be substantial in the upper chamber.

And there remains the specter of a recession. Economists are not projecting a downturn in 2015 or 2016. (As late as September 2008, economists polled by the Wall Street Journal still thought that the economy would grow at a 1.5 percent rate that year!) But a recession will come sooner or later. If the past is a guide, we are probably closer to the start of the next recession than we are to the end of the last one. What will Democrats do if they hold the White House during the next economic downturn?
The answer is simple: They will lose.