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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hillary's Rivals Have Problems

David Zurawik writes at The Baltimore Sun:
Martin O’Malley got a lot of national cable news attention Saturday morning in Baltimore when he announced he was running for president.
But most of it was bad, with analysts criticizing him from the left and the right before and after live coverage of his announcement.
The big narrative on CNN and MSNBC, not surprisingly given TV’s short memory and lack of historical interest, was that O’Malley’s “zero tolerance” policing initiatives as mayor of Baltimore were a major contributing factor to the civil unrest and rioting here last month.
“When he went back to Baltimore last month at the height of the riots, he was shouted down,” Chris Moody, senior politics correspondent, told anchor Randi Kaye on CNN after the announcement. “People recognized him and said, ‘This is your fault.’”
Pre-announcement over on MSNBC, Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now,” hit hard at O’Malley on zero tolerance while he was mayor and the consequences for Baltimore today.
...

Talking about him as a possible standard bearer for the Democratic Party by referencing last year’s gubernatorial election, CNN’s Kaye said, “He couldn’t even keep his state in Democratic hands.”
If there was any good news in the analysis on O’Malley, I didn’t find it on cable TV Saturday. Within 10 minutes of O’Malley’s announcement speech which took on Hillary Clinton over her coziness with Wall Street, analysts on CNN were saying he should forget Clinton at this point and just aim at U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who has much better financing and is running well ahead of O’Malley.
Melinda Henneberger writes at Bloomberg about a 1972 Bernie Sanders column musing on the rape fantasies of men and women.
His defenders argue that the article is so far in the past that what he wrote then is irrelevant, while critics feel it’s only fair to crown him this year’s Todd Akin. (Unless you’ve mentally blocked it, perhaps in the same way that Akin said women can mentally block conception following “legitimate rape,” you’ll recall that the GOP congressman, who was Senator Claire McCaskill’s Republican challenger in 2012, became his party’s poster child for how not to talk about sexual violence.)
...
The senator’s own response to the story, which was broken by Mother Jones, was not at all serious. Michael Briggs, a Sanders campaign spokesman, told CNN it was just a “dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication” that “in no way reflects his views or record on women. It was intended to attack gender stereotypes of the ’70s, but it looks as stupid today as it was then.’’
The statement doesn’t begin to answer how Sanders thought about rape then and thinks about it now, or whether he feels his essay is not only “dumb” and “stupid” but also offensive. Do we in the media really only care about appalling views when Republicans and/or front-runners hold them?.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Crime Issue, Redux

Heather McDonald writes at The Wall Street Journal:
The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.
In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing.
Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.
Those citywide statistics from law-enforcement officials mask even more startling neighborhood-level increases. Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%.
By contrast, the first six months of 2014 continued a 20-year pattern of growing public safety. Violent crime in the first half of last year dropped 4.6% nationally and property crime was down 7.5%. Though comparable national figures for the first half of 2015 won’t be available for another year, the January through June 2014 crime decline is unlikely to be repeated.
If crime roars back, the effects will not be good for candidates who have moved  left on the issue, including Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Another Smelly Revelation about the Clinton Foundation

The Clinton Foundation is the gift that keeps on giving ... to oppo guys. The New York Times reports:
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, a Czech model who survived the disaster by clinging to a palm tree, decided to pull out all the stops for the annual fund-raiser of her school-building charity, the Happy Hearts Fund.
She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramis├╣ and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation.
The gala cost $363,413. But the real splurge? Bill Clinton.
The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pataki Echoes Powell

In a video posted this morning on YouTube, former New York Governor George Pataki says: “Washington has grown too big, too powerful, too expensive, and too intrusive,” 

The line echoes what Colin Powell told the 1996 Republican National Convention: " I became a Republican because I believe, like you that the federal government has become too large and too intrusive in our lives."




GOP Dominates Cromnibus Loophole

Russ Choma and Ben Jacobs report at Open Secrets:
A new loophole stuck into a budget bill last year allows donors to gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties. However, only the Republican party is benefiting from it.
A provision quietly inserted into the combination continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill – or Cromnibus – last year increased the maximum that party committees can accept from $33,400 to over $334,000 each year. (The limits were also increased for Senate and congressional campaign committees to $234,000 apiece.)
And while Republicans are already taking advantage of this and have several donors giving this amount, Democrats are not keeping up.
According to the most recent FEC finance reports, while the Republican National Committee has six donors who have given the maximum of $334,600 to the GOP, not a single Democratic donor has even approached these totals in gifts to theDemocratic National Committee. This imbalance is less pronounced but still present in contributions to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee versus those to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The result is that even as Democrats worry about the growing rise of Republican super Pacs heavily funded by conservative mega-donors, they are lagging even further in competing with the GOP in this new category of hard money.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Reason for GOP Confidence

At The Los Angeles Times, economist Ray Fair says that his election-forecasting model should boost Republican spirits.
Most economists believe the economy will grow at about a 3% annual rate between now and November 2016. If that happens, my equation predicts the Democrats will win about 46% of the vote in a two-party contest. In order for them to win more than 50%, the economy would need to grow at about 4%, and even in that case their predicted vote share would climb only slightly above the halfway mark.
My equation's average prediction error over the 25 elections since 1916 is between 2.5 and 3.5 percentage points. Assuming the economy does indeed grow at 3%, the probability that the Democrats will win is low, between about 5% and 13%. Republicans have cause for confidence.
My analysis is, of course, based on the assumption that the future will be like the past. What if voters start caring more about income inequality than economic growth, and perceive the Republicans to be poor on that issue? Or what if the GOP nominates someone further from the mainstream than ever before?
Shifts in priorities can never be ruled out, but the best I can say is that the conditions that sway voters appear to have been fairly stable for 100 years — and my equation has a fairly good track record.

Hillary, The Other

Chris Cillizza reports at The Washington Post:
The Associated Press reported late Monday that Bill Clinton has a limited liability corporation -- called WJC, LLC -- that serves as a "pass through" entity designed to "channel payments to the former president."
If you have no idea what the heck the sentence above means, you are not alone. And therein lies the problem for Hillary Clinton as she seeks to sell herself as the voice of everyday Americans in her bid for the White House in 2016.
Here's why: Remember in early 2012 when Mitt Romney released his taxes? Sure, we all knew he was rich -- and the returns affirmed it, showing that he made $42 million in 2010 and 2011. But, that wasn't the big issue for Romney. It was the exoticness of his finances that proved problematic. He had a Swiss bank account, investments in the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg and hadn't made any wages in those two years. I wrote this about Romney back then:
The simple fact is that there is nothing more dangerous in politics than “otherness.” (John Kerry’s windsurfing, Michael Dukakis in the tank, John McCain’s inability to remember how many houses he owned, George H.W. Bush and the grocery scanner.) People voting for president want to feel like their leader “gets” them; the vote for president is a far more personal vote than the vote for a House or Senate candidate, for example.
Romney already struggles with connecting to people. His rivals — in the primary and if he becomes the Republican nominee — will do everything they can to paint him as exotic, other, different.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Dark Art Rises

Evan Halper writes at The Los Angeles Times about the rise of oppo:
Changes in the way voters consume information, a numbness to the negative politicking that once so offended them and the emergence of new research and data distribution technologies are clearly playing a role.
“Things once considered taboo just aren’t taboo anymore,” said Alan Huffman, an opposition researcher who co-wrote a book about the craft, “We’re With Nobody.” He attributes the shift to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when so many tawdry details were unearthed and the public became jaded to the airing of a politician’s dirty laundry. Others point to the modern news cycle, which is filled with outlets – many of them partisan – constantly trolling for content. Operatives who once valued discretion above all else now focus on mass disbursement, as items placed with even the most fringe websites can gain traction and dominate a news cycle.
The prominence of "super PACs" and campaign-oriented nonprofits is also driving once-shadowy operatives into the sunlight.
“Our focus is driving negative news narratives against [Hillary Rodham] Clinton,” said Colin Reed, executive director of America Rising PAC, a formidable Republican operation with scores of staffers scouring campaign events, public filings, social media and any other resource they can find for nuggets that might harm the Democratic candidate.
This self-styled “new generation of Republican research and rapid response” is split into two organizations. The PAC distributes material generated by a much bigger private company staffed with researchers. The higher the profile the PAC creates, the more clients the business side reels in.
Reed proudly ticks off the damage his group has inflicted on a range of candidates. He guides a reporter through the process of finding and then leaking an embarrassing internal memo from the campaign of Michelle Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia who lost her bid for Senate last year. It mostly involved clever use of Google.
The method was not that different in 2006 when Democratic operatives stumbled on embarrassing audiotape of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – only then, nobody was rushing to take credit for finding the material. The governor launched a state police investigation to find out who slipped the audio to the Los Angeles Times. No wrongdoing was discovered – just some poor file management by the Schwarzenegger administration.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Republicans Unhappy about the GOP Congress

Pew reports:
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted May 12-18 among 2,002 adults, finds that just 22% approve of the job performance of Republican congressional leaders, little changed since the summer of 2011. Ratings for Democratic congressional leaders are somewhat better (33% approve).
Unlike after some previous partisan turnovers on Capitol Hill, negative assessments of the new Congress now cross party lines. Today, just 41% of Republicans approve of the job their party’s leaders in Congress are doing. By comparison, in April 2011, 60% of Republicans approved of GOP leaders’ job performance and in April 1995, 78% approved of GOP leadership’s policies and proposals.
And just 37% of Republicans say their party’s leaders are keeping their campaign promises, while 53% say they are not. In 2011, after the party won its House majority, 54% said GOP leaders were keeping promises. And in April 1995 — as the Republican-led Congress hit the 100-day milestone — fully 80% of Republicans said this.
Democrats were also relatively upbeat about their party’s leaders at the 100-day mark in 2007, when 60% said Democratic leaders were keeping their campaign promises.
Currently, Republicans (36%) are about as likely as Democrats (38%) or independents (38%) to say Congress is accomplishing less than they expected.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Marco Rubio Scares Me"

Jeremy W. Peters writes at The New York Times:
An incipient sense of anxiety is tugging at some Democrats — a feeling tersely captured in four words from a blog post written recently by a seasoned party strategist in Florida: “Marco Rubio scares me.”
What is so unnerving to them at this early phase of the 2016 presidential campaign still seems, at worst, a distant danger: the prospect of a head-to-head general-election contest between Mr. Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Yet the worriers include some on Mrs. Clinton’s team. And even former President Bill Clinton is said to worry that Mr. Rubio could become the Republican nominee, whittle away at Mrs. Clinton’s support from Hispanics and jeopardize her chances of carrying Florida’s vital 29 electoral votes.
Democrats express concerns not only about whether Mr. Rubio, 43, a son of Cuban immigrants, will win over Hispanic voters, a growing and increasingly important slice of the electorate. They also worry that he would offer a sharp generational contrast to Mrs. Clinton, a fixture in American politics for nearly a quarter-century who will turn 69 before the election.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sanchez's Very Bad Start

Lauren French reports at Politico:
Loretta Sanchez is not having the best campaign roll out.
After having a “draft” of her official launch announcement leak and making a “war cry” gesture while describing Native Americans at a California Democratic convention, Sanchez was caught on camera dancing in front of signs blasting Rep. Ami Bera, a fellow California lawmaker who is facing criticism from progressives and union leaders for his decision to support fast track authority.
It’s highly uncommon for lawmakers of the same party to appear at events where their colleagues are being protested but a video dated May 18 shows Sanchez clapping in front of signs blasting pro-trade lawmakers like Bera. One sign slams him directly.
The video, shot last weekend at the California Democratic convention, is drawing criticism from senior Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill who are heavily engaged in the legislative fight over fast track authority — a top priority for President Barack Obama’s second term.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Changed World for the Crossroads Groups

Eric Lichtblau and Maggie Haberman report at The New York Times that the Crossroads groups are facing an environment that has changed considerably since 2010.
The nonprofit arm of Crossroads is facing an Internal Revenue Service review that could eviscerate its fund-raising. Data projects nurtured by Mr. Rove are being supplanted in Republican circles by a more successful initiative funded by the Koch political network, which has leapfrogged the Crossroads organizations in size and reach.
And the group faces intense competition for donors from a new wave of “super PACs” that are being set up by backers of the leading Republican candidates for president, who are unwilling to defer to Mr. Rove’s authority or cede strategic and fund-raising dominance to the organizations he helped start.
In recent weeks, Crossroads has begun carving a niche for itself in attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner. The group will use polling data and opposition research to paint her as “a typical politician who would say or do anything to get elected,” said Steven Law, president of Crossroads.
If the group’s role seems diminished, Crossroads officials are not complaining publicly. If anything, they are lowering expectations for an organization that raised $300 million in the 2012 cycle.
“Our goal is not to make American Crossroads the big dog of 2016,” Mr. Law said in an interview. “Our goal is to win the White House and hold the Senate and the House.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Republicans Have a Positive View of Their Field

Pew reports:
From the start, the Republican presidential field for 2016 has been much more crowded than the Democratic field. But voters in each party have similar views of the quality of their party’s candidates.
Nearly six-in-ten (57%) Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say they have an excellent or good impression of their party’s presidential candidates. That compares with 54% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters who have positive impressions of the Democratic Party’s candidates.
Republicans are more positive about the GOP field than they were at nearly comparable points in the past two presidential campaigns. In May 2011, 44% of Republicans viewed the field of GOP candidates as excellent or good. In September 2007, 50% gave the presidential candidates positive marks.
Democrats are less positive about the current group of candidates than they were in September 2007, at a somewhat later point in the 2008 campaign. At that time, 64% said the Democratic candidates as a group were excellent or good. Throughout the fall of 2007 and early 2008, Democrats consistently expressed more positive views about their party’s candidates than Republicans did about theirs.
In September 2003, just 44% of Democrats and Democratic leaners gave positive ratings to their party’s field of candidates. At that time, the Democrats were challenging an incumbent president, as were the Republicans in 2011.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Republican Strength

At RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende uses his index of party strength to appraise the GOP:
Before the 2014 elections, the parties were pretty close to parity: The index stood at 7.98. This indicated an insignificant advantage for the Republicans, although it placed them well above their post-World War II average of -20.
It goes without saying that Republicans improved upon their showing in the 2014 elections. Their 54 Senate seats represent the second-best tally for the party since 1928. Their 247 House seats is the most the party has won since 1928, although when combined with the popular vote percentage, it drops to the second-highest since then (in 1946, the party did slightly better).
At the state level, the GOP’s share of governorships is the ninth-highest since Reconstruction, and the third-highest in the post-war era (1996 and 1998 were higher). The party’s showing in state legislatures is the highest since 1920, the ninth-highest ever, and the third-highest since the end of Reconstruction.
Overall, this gives the Republicans an index score of 33.8. This is the Republican Party’s best showing in the index since 1928,and marks only the third time that the party has been above 15 in the index since the end of World War II.
...
None of this is to say that Republicans are building a permanent majority of any sort. It is simply to say that when one takes account of the full political picture, the Republican Party is stronger than it has been in most of our readers’ lifetimes. This is important, and more analysis should take account of this fact.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Candidates and the Party Networks

At The Washington Post last year, Seth Masket explained:
American political parties have become much more complex in recent decades. The demise of those political machines and the rise of the civil service meant that party leaders couldn’t just hand out public jobs to their supporters; they had to attract volunteer labor from ideological activists, which became easier as the parties moved toward the ideological extremes. Campaign finance laws prevented prominent party leaders from handing sufficient funds to their preferred candidates. Money is now raised in small amounts from a wider range of donors and coordinated across many different organizations.
The modern American party is a network in this sense: It is a collection of different sorts of political actors — candidates, officeholders, activists, major donors, media figures, and others — working together to determine who gets nominated for office and thus what direction the government moves. These different actors are connected to each other in a variety of ways, including theexchange of information and the transfer of campaign money, all of which involve picking candidates and backing them at the presidential,congressional, or local level.
Gregor Aisch and Karen Yourish write at The New York Times:
Presidential candidates change, but the people who run the campaigns often remain the same. Here is how the teams behind some likely and announced candidates are connected to previous campaigns, administrations and organizations close to the possible nominees.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Mrs. Clinton is relying on a mix of Clinton loyalists, seasoned Obama operatives and other key strategists to modernize and force discipline on her campaign (in other words, to avoid many of the mistakes of her 2008 primary race). At the top are John D. Podesta, a Clintonite with strong ties to President Obama; Robby Mook, known for his no-drama approach to managing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign; and Huma Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide. Campaign veterans loyal to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are running Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Mrs. Clinton, which operates outside the official campaign.
Jeb Bush
The former Florida governor is building a sizable political operation in anticipation of a likely campaign announcement. His team includes longtime advisers, key operatives from Mitt Romney’s presidential races, and a few veterans of George W. Bush’s campaigns. Sally Bradshaw and Mike Murphy form the core of Jeb Bush’s inner circle. Ms. Bradshaw and David Kochel are expected to head the campaign, and Mr. Murphy will oversee Right to Rise, the pro-Bush super PAC.
Jonathan Martin follows up here. 

One Nation

CNN reports:
One Nation, a new 501(c)4 linked to the Karl-Rove-backed American Crossroads super PAC, is spending more than $1.9 million on print, radio and digital ads highlighting the efforts of Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey to pass the "doc fix" legislation that realigned payments to Medicare providers with inflation.
The group is headed by Steven Law, the former Mitch McConnell chief of staff who also serves as American Crossroads' president.
It looks to be a likely vessel for the GOP's messaging on policy issues this cycle, as the party faces a difficult political climate with a tough Senate map to defend. All of the incumbents featured in the group's initial ad blitz except for Burr are running in states that Obama won in 2012 and remain top Democratic targets.
According to spokesman Ian Prior, who fills the same role for American Crossroads, the group "will be a platform that will focus on communicating the legislative accomplishments of this new, Republican-led Congress, as well as advocating for legislative issues and solutions currently being debated in Congress."
Its website features a cinematic launch video that splices together clips of presidents from both parties speaking about the American Dream, all under the theme of the U.S. motto, "E Pluribus Unum" — "Out of many, one.


 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Clinton Cash

Jonathan Allen reports at Vox that Corning and other companies paid very hefty speaking fees to Hillary Clinton:
During Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The company has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family's foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.
In the laundry-whirl of stories about Clinton buck-raking, it might be easy for that last part to get lost in the wash. But it's the part that matters most. The $225,500 speaking fee didn't go to help disease-stricken kids in an impoverished village on some long-forgotten patch of the planet. Nor did it go to a campaign account. It went to Hillary Clinton. Personally.
The latest episode in the Clinton money saga is different than the others because it involves the clear, direct personal enrichment of Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, by people who have a lot of money at stake in the outcome of government decisions. Her federally required financial disclosure was released to media late Friday, a time government officials and political candidates have long reserved for dumping news they hope will have a short shelf life.
... 
Corning's in good company in padding the Clinton family bank account after lobbying the State Department and donating to the foundation. Qualcomm and salesforce.com did that, too. Irwin Jacobs, a founder of Qualcomm, and Marc Benioff, a founder of salesforce.com, also cut $25,000 checks to the now-defunct Ready for Hillary SuperPAC. Hillary Clinton spoke to their companies on the same day, October 14, 2014. She collected more than half a million dollars from them that day, adding to the $225,500 salesforce.com had paid her to speak eight months earlier.
...
That storyline should be no less shocking for the fact that it is no longer surprising. The skimpy fig leaf of timing, that the speeches were paid for when she was between government gigs, would leave Adam blushing. And while most Democrats will shrug it off — or at least pretend to — it's the kind of behavior voters should take into account when considering whether they want to give a candidate the unparalleled power of the presidency. It goes to the most important, hardest-to-predict characteristic in a president: judgment.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bush Cash

Beth Reinhard and Christopher S. Stewart report at The Wall Street Journal on Jeb Bush's reliance on the Bush family network.
The Bush circle includes the family of Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, which has given more than $1 million to the campaigns and political committees operating during Bush presidencies and governorships, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics; the family of private-equity firm KKR co-founder Henry Kravis gave nearly $600,000; and the family of Richard Kinder, the co-founder of energy company Kinder Morgan, gave more than $800,000.
...

The Wall Street Journal identified 326 donors who hosted fundraisers this year for Mr. Bush’s super PAC, based on invitations and news reports compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government watchdog.
One in five were either members of the “Team 100,” those who raised at least $100,000 for the Republican National Committee during George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign—or “Pioneers” or “Rangers,” who collected at least $100,000 or $200,000 for George W. Bush’s national campaigns.
Nearly a quarter worked in at least one of the Bush White Houses or received a presidential appointment; 24 were tapped by Mr. Bush’s father or brother to serve as ambassadors; 46 worked in Mr. Bush’s administration in Florida or were appointed to advisory boards. A number of donors belong to more than one of these categories.
Mr. Bush’s top allies include 11 billionaires, six former and current owners of professional sports teams and former Vice President Dan Quayle. There is an internationally competitive sailor, a former chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, as well as the author of “Nice Guys Finish Rich: The Secrets of a Super Salesman.”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Carson Cash

Russ Choma reports at Open Secrets:
When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson announced his bid for the GOP nomination earlier this week,everything about it was unconventional — including the gospel choir crooning an Eminem song and Carson’s wife playing the violin. But breaking the mold is apparently paying off: Carson’s presidential exploratory committee raised $2.1 million over just 29 days in March, Federal Election Commission filings show. And long before Carson began exploring a run, a super PAC set up to encourage him — theNational Draft Ben Carson for President Committee — raised a whopping $13.5 million. Establishment candidates may not think much of him, but Carson’s name appears to be campaign finance gold.
And most of that money didn’t come from the usual donors giving a couple thousand dollars each. The exploratory committee, now a presidential campaign committee, reported raising 71 percent of its total take, or roughly $1.5 million, from donors giving $200 or less. These “small” contributions are reported as a lump sum, without donors being individually named, so most of Carson’s enthusiasts are impossible to identify. But of the 1,443 people who made donations between $200 and $5,400 (the maximum this cycle to a campaign), the majority gave gave amounts at the lower end of the scale: Eighty-four percent wrote checks for less than $500. No headliner names showed up among those who made donations of $5,000 or more. In contrast to candidates like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who appear to be courting donor royalty, there were no donors who have previously shelled out millions, or even tens of thousands, for super PACs in previous cycles.
When candidates raise a lot of money from small donors, they can go back to the well and hit them up for more money later on.

Meanwhile, some data raise troubling questions about the super PAC
But, unlike Carson’s campaign thus far, the super PAC spent money as fast as it could raise it. In the 2014 cycle, the group parted with $12.8 million, almost none of which was spent to directly boost Carson’s 2016 presidential effort. While super PACs are primarily designed to spend big on independent expenditures — political advertising that isn’t coordinated with a candidate but which explicitly advocates for them, the National Draft Ben Carson Committee spent only $480,000 on these types of ads, specifically a series of radio ads that attacked Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan(N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (La.). The vast majority of the money spent by the super PAC — more than $10 million — was for fundraising costs. Another $259,000 went to buying copies of Carson’s book.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Constitutionalist Agenda

At NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru and Reihan Salam write of a "constitutionalist agenda" for the GOP. They write that conservative remedies are other either fanciful (constitutional amendments) or inadequate (appoint conservative judges).
A practical constitutionalist agenda for the Congress would attempt both to strengthen constitutional principles such as federalism and the separation of powers and to habituate legislators to the idea that they have a role to play on these questions. The agenda would also illustrate how these principles would make for better government. Here are a few ideas that conservative congressmen, and presidential candidates, should be considering.
... 

  • Medicaid:  "As Michael Greve has argued in The Upside-Down Constitution, the Founders envisioned a sharper division between state and federal responsibilities, a division that enabled competition and accountability. The best way to move back in that direction would be for the federal government to cash out most of its spending on Medicaid and give it to the beneficiaries to help them buy insurance in the private market. The federal government should simultaneously make it easier for states to do the same thing with most of their Medicaid spending. And the federal contributions should no longer reward states for higher spending."
  • Regulation: "The REINS Act: Many Republicans have, to their credit, advocated legislation requiring a congressional vote before major regulations can take effect, and it was one of the first bills House Republicans passed when they took Congress in 2011. Republicans have mostly described the legislation as a way of safeguarding economic growth and economic liberty, but it too has a constitutional dimension: It is a means of countering the tendency of modern government to vest legislative power in unelected agencies."
  • Spending: "Bring agency spending under congressional control: Another step toward reining in agencies would be to make their funding depend on Congress. Congressional power over spending — a powerful protection for self-government that predates the Constitution — has been eroded as government agencies have been given independent funding streams."
  • Taxes: "Eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes: Believers in federalism should loathe the state- and local-tax deduction, which in effect transfers resources from taxpayers living in low-tax states to those living in high-tax states and, worse, raises the average state tax rate...Eliminating the deduction would also make voters in states such as New York, New Jersey, and California more tax-sensitive, as they would no longer be shielded from the full impact of their tax bills."  And it would drive these states even deeper into the Democratic column.
  • Marijuana; "Allow states to go their own way on marijuana: Public opinion on marijuana is changing rapidly."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

No Blue Wall

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver offers a sensible analysis:
Nowadays, of course, it’s become common to hear talk about the “blue wall” — the set of 18 states that, along with the District of Columbia, have voted for the Democrat in each of the most recent six presidential elections, from 1992 through 2012. Together, they represent 242 electoral votes. Many pundits, ignoring the lessons of history, claim the “blue wall” or some close variation of it puts the Democratic nominee (likely Hillary Clinton) at a substantial advantage for 2016.
The error that these commentators are making is in attributing the Democrats’ recent run of success to the Electoral College. In fact, the Electoral College has been a minor factor, if it’s helped Democrats at all, and one probably best ignored until the late stages of a close presidential race.
But wait. Wasn’t Barack Obama’s margin in the Electoral College in 2012 — 332 electoral votes, to Mitt Romney’s 206 — awfully impressive given that he won the popular vote by only a few percentage points?
Actually, it was pretty much par for the course. The nature of the Electoral College is to accentuate small margins in the popular vote; Obama’s electoral vote tallies have been fine, but historically ordinary.
...
But for now? The Electoral College just isn’t worth worrying about much. If you see analysts talking about the “blue wall,” all they’re really saying is that Democrats have won a bunch of presidential elections lately — an obvious fact that probably doesn’t have much predictive power for what will happen this time around.
I’m not saying Clinton is doomed. Rather, I think the “fundamentals” point toward her chances being about 50-50, and I wouldn’t argue vigorously if you claimed the chances were more like 60-40 in one or the other direction. But Clinton is no sort of lock, and if she loses the popular vote by even a few percentage points, the “blue wall” will seem as archaic as talk of a permanent Republican majority.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bush Stumbles on Iraq

The New York Times reports:
Jeb Bush on Tuesday sought to arrest a chorus of criticism from Democrats and some conservatives after he told an interviewer that, knowing what history has since shown about intelligence failures, he still would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Calling in to Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show, Mr. Bush said he had misunderstood a question that one of Mr. Hannity’s Fox News colleagues, Megyn Kelly, had asked him in an interview shown on Sunday and Monday nights.
“I interpreted the question wrong, I guess,” Mr. Bush said. “I was talking about, given what people knew then.”
The attempt at mopping-up was quick, but it did not bring the controversy to an immediate end: When Mr. Hannity asked about the 2003 Iraq invasion again, in yes-or-no fashion, Mr. Bush said he did not know what the answer would have been, saying,
“That’s a hypothetical.” Then, he seemed to go out of his way to absolve his brother, former President George W. Bush, who ordered the invasion: “Mistakes were made, as they always are in life,” Mr. Bush said.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Democratic Crackup?

Robert Draper writes at The New York Times Magazine:
For all the much-discussed ailments of the Republican Party — its failure to win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections; the corrosive bickering between its mainstream and its Tea Party stalwarts; and the plummeting number of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans — the inescapable reality is that the Democrats have fallen into a ditch arguably as deep and dismal as the one Republicans have dug for themselves. “It isn’t that the Democratic Party is struggling,” says Jonathan Cowan, the president of the centrist policy center Third Way. “It’s that at the subpresidential level, it’s in a free fall.” The Democrats lost their majority in the Senate last November; to regain it, they will need to pick up five additional seats (or four if there’s a Democratic vice president who can cast the tiebreaking vote), and nonpartisan analysts do not rate their chances as good. The party’s situation in the House is far more dire. Only 188 of the lower chamber’s 435 seats are held by Democrats. Owing in part to the aggressiveness of Republican-controlled State Legislatures that redrew numerous congressional districts following the 2010 census, few believe that the Democratic Party is likely to retake power until after the next census in 2020, and even then, the respected political analyst Charles Cook rates the chances of the Democrats’ winning the House majority by 2022 as a long shot at best.

Things get even worse for the Democrats further down the political totem pole. Only 18 of the country’s 50 governors are Democrats. The party controls both houses in only 11 State Legislatures. Not since the Hoover Administration has the Democratic Party’s overall power been so low. A rousing victory by Hillary Rodham Clinton might boost other Democratic aspirants in 2016; then again, in 2012 Obama won 62 percent of Electoral College votes yet carried 48 percent of Congressional districts and a mere 22 percent of the nation’s 3,114 counties. Through a billion dollars of campaign wizardry, the president did not lift up but only managed to escape a party brand that has come to be viewed in much of America with abiding disfavor.

Monday, May 11, 2015

HRC and Super PACs

Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore report at the New York Times:
Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin personally courting donors for a “super PAC” supporting her candidacy, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has fully embraced these independent groups that can accept unlimited checks from big donors and are already playing a major role in the 2016 race.
Her decision is another escalation in what is expected to be the most expensive presidential race in history, and it has the potential to transform the balance of power in presidential campaigning, where Republican outside groups have tended to outspend their Democratic counterparts.
But, the honest truth is that Clinton isn't likely to be heavily pressed on the question by anyone other than the media. Why? Because for all the sturm und drang about the corrosive role that money plays in politics, there's very little evidence that anyone outside of a narrow swath of committed campaign finance reformers would even consider making it a voting issue in 2016.
Take a look at Gallup's polling on the most important issue(s) facing the country. Asked an open-ended -- meaning, no possible answers were given -- question on the most important problem in the country, one in three people in early April said something that fell under the broad "economy issues" umbrella. Here's a look at what the other seven in ten said. (The numbers on the far left are from the April poll; moving left to right the numbers come from Gallup surveys in March, February and January, respectively.)
... 
There isn't a mention of "money" or "campaign finance" or any other synonym for them in the lot. The category that gets closest to money in politics is the one percent of respondents who said "elections/election reform" were the biggest problem facing the country. But, even that's generous given that "election reform" can also encompass voter ID measures, polling place hours or even how primaries or general elections are conducted.
And, it's not just the poll numbers. Think back to the 2010 and 2014 elections. In each, Democrats -- from the White House on down -- tried their damndest to make where Republicans were getting their campaign contributions an issue. Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, lambasted the Koch brothers almost daily from the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2014. And yet, it didn't seem to make much of a difference as Republicans romped in both elections.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Classic Clinton Tactics

At Politico, Annie Karni describes how the Clinton war room pushed back against Clinton Cash:
Campaign operatives leaked single chapters of the book to national media outlets, sources with knowledge of the deals said — a strategy that allowed them to undercut the reporters who, through exclusive agreements with Schweizer, had obtained early copies of the entire tome, and also to attack the content at the same time.
Schweizer, in an interview, said he was aware of the strategy.
“I knew fairly early on they had access to the book,” he said. “Sure, it helped them. They’re famous for that. I was aware they were leaking selectively chapters, particularly as journalists who had access to the full book had contacted them with questions. They didn’t want to share the complete book, just chapters. For me, the power of the book is in the pattern of the behavior.”
Schweizer said he caught on to the strategy when the New York Times investigative team was working on a 4,000-word story about the connection between Clinton donor Frank Giustra and the approval of a sale of a mining company to Russia, which drew from chapters 2 and 3 of his book.
Indeed, the Clinton team was particularly concerned that the Times and Post would use his book as a jumping off point for investigations — coverage that would make it harder for them to simply dismiss Schweizer as a tool of the right.
Just as the New York Times was preparing to publish its investigation of the Giustra matter, “the Clinton team is sending chapter 3 of the book to Time magazine and other reporters,” Schweizer said. “Who gets just one chapter of the book? They gave them chapter 3 but not chapter 2, which is also on the uranium deal. You’ve got reporters running with stories that didn’t have the full picture. That was the Clinton strategy: to muddy the waters and not have an honest conversation.”

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Conservative Bucks Against Huck

Russ Choma writes at Open Secrets:
As for Huckabee’s pledge to raise his funds from regular Americans making small donations, there’s both good news and bad news for him on that front. Although the total number of donors to federal candidates and political committees is declining (even as the cost of elections continues to rise) and larger donors seem to be growing more important, there are nevertheless strong networks of conservative grassroots donors. Organizations like Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund have been raising large sums, both from large donors to their super PACs and from vast numbers of donors who contribute small amounts that the groups then pass on to candidates they support.
In 2014, Club For Growth’s PAC raised $2.8 million from individual donors to its PAC and passed $2.2 million onto candidates in the last cycle. That same cycle, Club For Growth’s super PAC raised $9.3 million, albeit from a much smaller number of donors, many of whom rank high in the ranks of the .01 percent of American political contributors — like hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who donated $1.1 million to the group. The super PAC spent those millions on ads supporting Republican candidates like Chris McDaniel who were running to the right of the GOP establishment.
The bad news, for Huckabee, is that as vibrant as those outside-the-establishment conservative groups and their networks of smaller donors are, they are unlikely to be available to Huckabee. Club For Growth’s super PAC spent $100,000 on television ads attacking him on his first day as a candidate for raising taxes when he was governor of Arkansas.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Huckabee and the Great Communicator

At The Washington Post, Steve Hendrix writes of Mike Huckabee: "But mostly, here is Mike the Microphone, the consummate radio and TV guy who’s been logging airtime for nearly half a century, the folksy showman commanding a mike (in this case, a skinny tube extending from an earpiece) to sell his book, his ideas and himself."

Sounds like someone else we know.

In his 2013 book, The Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High Risk TV, Alan Schroeder wrote: "The cumulative experience of fifty years as a radio announcer, film actor, television host, corporate spokesman, and political celebrity gave Reagan an edge in debates other candidates could only of."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Clinton on Crime

President Bill Clinton on Wednesday conceded that over-incarceration in the United States stems in part from policies passed under his administration.
Clinton signed into law an omnibus crime bill in 1994 that included the federal "three strikes" provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. On Wednesday, Clinton acknowledged that policy's role in over-incarceration in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
"The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison," Clinton said Wednesday. "And we wound up...putting so many people in prison that there wasn't enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives."
In an interview with Esquire in 2000, however, Clinton said:
So there was '93 and '94 where we did a lot of the things that caused us to lose the Congress but basically ensured the success of America. I mean, the economic plan brought us back; the crime bill had a lot to do with bringing down the crime rate.
In a 2007 debate, Joe Biden got in the act:
And I do have -- I do have a record of significant accomplishment. The crime bill, which became known as the Clinton crime bill, was written by Joe Biden, the Biden crime bill. That required me to cross over, get everyone together, not -- no one's civil liberties were in any way jeopardized.
We put 100,000 cops on the street. Violent crime came down.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Case for Super PACs

Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal:
But for all the fretting, the fact that it takes fewer donors to sustain a presidential campaign is healthy for democracy because it makes it easier for underdogs to compete. The most important consequence of super PACs is that they lower the barrier to entry, not that they give the wealthiest candidate an insurmountable advantage.
The paradox of this presidential election is that despite the record amount of money that will be poured into the race over the next 18 months, fundraising actually will matter less than in recent presidential campaigns, and the value of retail political talent will be at a premium. Each individual donation matters less when the pot is so large and nearly every viable candidate boasts a number of super-donors, meaning no one uber-wealthy donor can reshape the race in his or her image.
There's massive inflation taking place in the world of campaign finance. The value of a buck—or a million of them—isn't what it used to be. What's most important is the number of candidates that can reach a certain financial level to compete in the early states. Simply racking up eye-popping fundraising numbers isn't as important; there's a diminishing law of return past a certain dollar amount.
...
"It used to be you had to do all this laborious fundraising, one fundraiser at a time, and you had to do that a lot. You had to go to a million of these agonizing rubber chicken dinners," said Republican strategist Rick Wilson. "Now you just have to build a relationship with a handful of multimillionaires."

Just look at how the current, crowded Republican primary is already playing out. When Jeb Bush entered the race, the early thinking was that his fundraising ability and connection to lifelong Bush donors would grant him frontrunner status. At the least, his stature in Florida would block the path of his in-state Republican rival, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. But in practice, Rubio plowed ahead with his own presidential campaign, and is securing support from his own group of wealthy donors, including Miami businessman Norman Braman and,potentially, Sheldon Adelson. Despite the shock-and-awe efforts from Jebworld, Rubio leads his mentor in the latest two national GOP primary polls.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

You'd Think the Former CEO of HP Would Know About This Stuff..

A website attacking Carly Fiorina reinforced an important digital-age campaign lesson: Secure your domain names.
Carlyfiorina.org, a website that mocks the California Republican and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, begins with the line “Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain.”

The site continues, “So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard,” before 30,000 frowning faces, representing the 30,000 workers Fiorina allegedly laid off during her tenure at the helm of the technology company.
The bottom of the site features a quote from the 2016 GOP hopeful about how she would handle the layoffs if she could take charge anew: “I would have done them all faster.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Law and Order Redux?

Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast:
According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll released Sunday, a majority of Americans and almost three-in-five whites blame the rioters and looters for the rioting and looting—not the cops and not the system. At the same time, 96 percent of America expect a hot summer ahead.
Message to Hillary Clinton: Law and order still counts.
Yet, Clinton has embraced the demands of the urban end of the Democrats’ upstairs-downstairs coalition, history be damned. Her campaign rollout video had no footage of cops or firefighters. Then, last week, as the keynote speaker at Columbia University’s 18th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum (the fate of Dinkins, defeated for reelection after a single term because of the law-and-order issue, ought to tell her something), Clinton demanded body cameras in every police department in the country, and the end to an “era of mass incarceration.”
As Lloyd has also pointed out, the crime issue to likely to bite Rand "Here I am with Al Sharpton" Paul. 

Expect to see a lot of this photo.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One Percent of the One Percent

Open Secrets reports:
In the 2014 elections, 31,976 donors — equal to roughly one percent of one percent of the total population of the United States — accounted for an astounding $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level. Those big givers — what we have termed the Political One Percent of the One Percent — have a massively outsized impact on federal campaigns.
They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Slightly more of them skew Republican than Democratic. A small subset — barely five dozen — earned the (even more) rarefied distinction of giving more than $1 million each. And a minute cluster of three individuals contributed more than $10 million apiece.
The last election cycle set records as themost expensive midterms in U.S. history, and the country’s most prolific donors accounted for a larger portion of the total amount raised than in either of the past two elections.
The $1.18 billion they contributed represents 29 percent of all fundraising that political committees disclosed to the Federal Election Commission in 2014. That’s a greater share of the total than in 2012 (25 percent) or in 2010 (21 percent).
...
Though both parties depend on these donors, the GOP received more from them than Democrats, based on the contributions we could conclusively attribute to helping one party or the other. Mirroring the overall trend of the election, in which conservatives edged their liberal opponents in fundraising, Republican committees and conservative groups that support them pulled in about $553 million from the donors on our list, more than the $505 million that Democratic and liberal political groups received. The donors themselves, however, aren’t interested in hedging their bets — most of the contributors’ giving patterns heavily favored one party.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Chris Christie, Carrion

At The New York Times, Michael Barbaro notes that Chris Christie came to national prominence by telling people off.
But the in-your-face instincts and boundary-breaking behavior that Mr. Christie brought to public life found a vindictive host in the fiercely loyal circle around him, as the federal indictment of a top appointee and a former deputy chief of staff in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal laid bare on Friday.
The 37-page charging document recounts a ruthless act of political retribution: To punish a small-town mayor for refusing to endorse Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election, the governor’s confidants unleashed a major traffic jam that gridlocked ordinary commuters, emergency responders and children on the first day of school.

Nowhere does the indictment say Mr. Christie, a Republican, knew of the scheme or was involved in it.

Yet it was a crime of political vengeance, the indictment makes clear, that was conceived in furtherance of Mr. Christie’s political ambitions, and carried out in his name.

Now, the growing risk for Mr. Christie is that the very belligerence that electrified voters, the press and the Republican Party, and catapulted him into a credible contender for the White House, may wind up putting the presidency out of his reach.

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University who has studied Mr. Christie closely for years, said the indictments of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, once two of the governor’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants, spelled the death knell for his national aspirations.

“Even if he is not directly connected to the indictments,” Professor Harrison said, “he is guilty of creating a political culture in which corruption was allowed to flourish.”
The vultures are circling.  Alex Isenstadt reports at Politico:
Jeb Bush is quietly waging a behind-the-scenes offensive to pick off disillusioned home-state supporters of Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor whose presidential prospects have dimmed in recent months.
Bush’s effort to undermine Christie’s network of donors, power-brokers, and political players is conducted mainly through emails and phone conversations — and he tracks the progress closely.
At a get-together with donors in Miami last weekend, Bush sat down for a private conversation with Lawrence Bathgate, a prominent New Jersey attorney and former Christie donor who is now behind the Florida Republican. During the talk, Bathgate, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman, outlined to Bush a plan to have a majority of the state’s 16 Republican state senators endorse him.
Bush responded with a question. How soon, he wanted to know, would the endorsements start to roll in? And could some of them be announced sooner rather than later?
The former Florida governor is said to court Christie boosters with frequent emails and makes himself accessible to them. “He’s a great emailer,” said Hersh Kozlov, a major Republican Party fundraiser in New Jersey and former Christie supporter who’s now with the former Florida governor.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Very Early Look at 2016

The Public Religion Institute looks at factions:

PRRI2

Gallup on familiarity and favorability:
Potential 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates: Familiarity and Favorability, March 2015

The Fundamentals of November



Age and generation
A look back at 1996

Narrowing Democratic Edge Among Millennials

Nick Corasaniti reports at The New York Times:
Despite a hipster Republican millennial ad campaign, the popularity of theConservative Political Action Conference and the prevalence of Taylor Swift-animated gif press releases from prominent Republicans, young voters still predominantly back Democrats when it comes to presidential elections, according to a new poll by Harvard University. But their edge is starting to shrink.
Indeed, 55 percent of those polled, which included likely voters from ages 18 to 29, preferred a Democrat to maintain control of the White House in 2016, compared to 40 percent who wanted a Republican. But that is a far cry from the 67 percent of millennials who voted for President Obama in 2012. The I.O.P. nationwide poll was conducted online by GfK March 18 to April 1 with a random sample of 3,034 adults aged 18 to 29. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
“The margin at the moment looks much more like the 2004 race than the Obama campaigns,” said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard. “If Republicans can hold the Democrat nominee to less than 60 percent of the young vote nationally, their chances are dramatically improved for a Republican electoral college win, in my opinion.”