Search This Blog

Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Questionable Conservative PACs

A good deal of conservative political money never reaches candidates or campaigns.  At Open Secrets, Will Tucker explains:
[Scott] Mackenzie serves as treasurer for nearly 30 political groups, several of which have drawn scrutiny previously for allegedly misleading donors about how they’ll use their money; that includes Conservative Strikeforce, the most well-known of the organizations. Quarterly disclosure reports filed by that group and five of Mackenzie’s other political action committees this week show that of more than $2.2 million raised by all six PACs from April through June, just $1,000 went to a political campaign, that of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). Gohmert hasn’t faced a real challenger since 2004
Despite making only a single contribution, though, all the groups spent between 92 and 146 percent of what they raised during the quarter. That included a $25,308 payment by one PAC to Conservative Strikeforce for the “purchase of donor file names,” and a $25,000 outlay by Conservative Strikeforce for legal fees. Another of Mackenzie’s groups, Freedom’s Defense Fund, paid 69 percent of its income — most of which came in as donations smaller than $250 — to firms linked to Mackenzie. 
“The extraordinarily high administrative expenses reported by these PACs should raise a red flag with any potential contributor,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and expert on election law. “A charity that reported such high fundraising costs relative to contributions made would face a serious risk of an IRS audit.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trump, Populism, and Outsiderism

Now that Occupy has fizzled and the Tea Party leaders are morphing into insiders, the outsiders are looking elsewhere.  Among the Democrats, it's Sanders.  On the GOP side, it's Trump.

Matthew Continetti writes at The Washington Free Beacon:
Two decades ago, in the spring of 1996, Newsweek magazine described a group of voters it called the “radical middle.” Formerly known as the Silent Majority, then the Reagan Democrats, these voters had supported Ross Perot in 1992, and were hoping the Texas billionaire would run again. Voters in the radical middle, Newsweek wrote, “see the traditional political system itself as the country’s chief problem.”

The radical middle is attracted to populists, outsiders, businessmen such as Perot and Lee Iacocca who have never held office, and to anyone, according to Newsweek, who is the “tribune of anti-insider discontent.” Newt Gingrich rallied the radical middle in 1994—year of the Angry White Male—but his Republican Revolution sputtered to a halt after the government shut down over Medicare in 1995. Once more the radical middle had become estranged from the GOP. “If Perot gets in the race,” a Dole aide told Newsweek, “it will guarantee Clinton’s reelection.”
...
That Trump is not a conservative, nor by any means a mainstream Republican, is not a minus but a plus to the radical middle. These voters are culturally right but economically left; they depend on the New Deal and parts of the Great Society, are estranged from the fiscal and monetary agendas of The Economist and Wall Street Journal. What they lack in free market bona fides they make up for in their romantic fantasy of the patriotic tycoon or general, the fixer, the Can Do Man who will cut the baloney and Get Things Done. On social questions their views tend toward the moderate side—Perot was no social conservative, either. What unites them is opposition to elites in government, finance, culture, journalism; their search for a vehicle—whether it’s a political party or an outspoken publicity maven—that will displace the managers and technocrats and restore the America of old.

Our political commentary is confused because it conceives of the Republican Party as a top-down entity. It’s not. There are two Republican parties, an elite party of the corporate upper crust and meritocratic winners that sits atop a mass party of whites without college degrees whose worldviews and experiences and ambitions could not be more different from their social and economic betters. The former party enjoys the votes of the latter one, but those votes are not guaranteed. What so worries the GOP about Donald Trump is that he, like Ross Perot, has the resources and ego to rend the two parties apart. If history repeats itself, it will be because the Republican elite was so preoccupied with its own economic and ideological commitments that it failed to pay attention the needs and desires of millions of its voters. So the demagogue rises. The party splits. And the Clintons win.
Peter Wehner writes at Commentary:
Mr. Trump is given a special absolution – amnesty, if you will – from his past/current liberal deeds and words. And that absolution, that amnesty, is granted by virtue of Trump’s style. He embodies what some on the right apparently believe politics needs more of. And that’s the problem for many of us. Trump embodies crudity and insults, anger and attacks, banalities and “barstool eruptions,” in the withering words of Charles Krauthammer. Yet it turns out that those qualities make a man like Trump, who has held left-wing positions, a star with some on the right. Being perceived as an enemy of the much-loathed “establishment” is a ticket to stardom. Nothing else really matters, or matters nearly as much.
Which leads me to my final point: What appears to be happening is that some of those who claim to be champions of conservatism are actually champions of populism. They are not the same thing, philosophically or temperamentally. (Populism has beendefined as “an ideology which pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.” It has different manifestations, some more responsible and some less, but resentment is often a key ingredient in populism. It’s also a movement that’s been historically susceptible to demagogues, a concern held by philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to the American founders.)
There is room for populism within conservatism — it can be a “cathartic response to serious problems,” in the words of George Will — but it should not define conservatism. Yet increasing, in some quarters, it is; and the sympathy and support some on the right are giving to Donald Trump is clear evidence of this.
This distinction between conservatism and populism goes a long way toward explaining why different people on the right, who might otherwise agree on a fair number of things, react in fundamentally different ways to Donald Trump. And it’s why the Trump candidacy may well catalyze a broader, clarifying debate about what the true definition of conservatism is. For many of us who are conservative, Donald Trump not only doesn’t define it; he’s antithetical to it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Problem for Anti-Clinton Issue Advocacy Ads

At Politico, Tarini Parti and Kenneth Vogel tell why some 501(c)(4) groups have been slow to run anti-Clinton ads:
“The IRS’s standards are hopelessly vague and complicated,” fumed Jim Bopp, a top GOP campaign finance lawyer who brought the landmark Citizens United to the Supreme Court. “They aren’t standards. They are un-standards when you’re figuring out what’s lawful or not.”
The tax provision in question — section 501(c) — allows groups such as AFP and the Karl Rove-conceived Crossroads GPS, to keep donors secret. But it requires them to spend more than half of their total cash on issue advocacy that is not expressly election-related.
That’s easy when your target is a sitting president, cabinet member or senator, because you can criticize them on issues — even when they’re on the ballot — and count it towards your so-called “primary purpose” of issue advocacy.
It’s harder, though, when the target hasn’t been in public office for many months, like Clinton, who stepped down as Secretary of State in early 2013 and hasn’t occupied an elected office since she left the Senate for the State Department in 2009. Compounding the ambiguity, conservative legal sources say, is an unclear Internal Revenue Service interpretation of the provision.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The GOP Is Not Doomed

At USA Today, Ross Baker questions forecasts of GOP doom, noting that while pro-Democratic population groups are growing, populations and electorates are two different things.
The very groups predicted to swell the numbers of Democrats are also those least likely to show up at the polls, especially in non-presidential elections. For example, in 2014, a non-presidential year, voters ages 18-29 constituted only 13% of the electorate, compared with those 65 and older, who were 22% of those casting ballots. In 2012, a presidential year, the youngest cohort of voters was a more robust 19%.
A strong youth turnout in presidential elections favors Democrats, but the falloff of the youth vote in non-presidential elections magnifies the influence of Republican-leaning groups such as seniors. This tends to produce a situation in which, increasingly, Democratic presidents will face a Republican Congress and hostile governors.
Turnout for Democrats is equally underwhelming in non-presidential years with minorities, most notably African Americans, the most loyal Democrats. The party has been heartened by the rise of Hispanics in the population, but a portion of that rise includes the estimated 11 million undocumented residents of the U.S., most of whom are Hispanic and cannot legally vote. Even among those who can, turnout has been dismal. Last year, more than 43% of likely non-voters were identified as non-white. President Obama lamented this anemic contribution to Democratic voting strength shortly after the 2014 elections. But what of 2016?
Intensity of feeling drives participation in elections, and one of the most intense groups has been the backers of Donald Trump. This is partly because of his celebrity and bumptious oratory, but there is an audience out there for the issues he has chosen to emphasize that extends well beyond Trump himself, an unlikely GOP presidential nominee. These issues, captured by a more electable Republican, will certainly enhance GOP turnout in 2016.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Abortion in 2016

Jeremy W. Peters writes at The New York Times:
Rick Perry’s voice softens when he talks about the joy he gets from looking at his iPad and seeing “that 20-week picture of my first grandbaby.” Marco Rubio says ultrasounds of his sons and daughters reinforced how “they were children — and they were our children.” Rand Paul recalls watching fetuses suck their thumbs. And Chris Christie says theultrasound of his first daughter changed his views onabortion
If they seem to be reading from the same script, they are. 
With help from a well-funded, well-researched and invigorated anti-abortion movement, Republican politicians have refined how they are talking aboutpregnancy and abortion rights, choosing their words in a way they hope puts Democrats on the defensive. 
The goal, social conservatives say, is to shift the debate away from the “war on women” paradigm that has proved so harmful to their party’s image.

Democrats were jolted by the latest and perhaps most disruptive effort yet in this line of attack by activists who want to outlaw abortion: surreptitiously recorded video of Planned Parenthood doctors casually discussing how they extract tissue from aborted fetuses.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crossroads 2016

Patrick O'Connor reports at The Wall Street Journal:
Crossroads has spent months conducting polls, focus groups and other research to determine the best ways to undercut Mrs. Clinton. The group is hoping to craft specific attacks that resonate with individual segments of the electorate, rather than lob the sort of broad-brush attacks that didn’t work against Mr. Obama in 2012. 
It is a lesson Crossroads operatives learned in the 2014 midterms. In Alaska, polling and focus groups showed ads linking former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich to Mr. Obama weren’t that effective. Instead, the Crossroads team discovered Anchorage residents didn’t have a favorable view of Mr. Begich’s tenure as mayor. They ran three separate ads tapping into those concerns. The first two didn’t move the needle, causing Mr. Law to question the strategy. The third struck a nerve, forcing the Democrat to respond to the attacks. Mr. Begich never recovered. 
“We were building stories, not simply throwing punches,” Mr. Law said of the group’s ads in 2014. “That’s a key part of connecting with voters, especially in a highly cluttered environment.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Clinton: Drip Drip Drip

Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast that Hillary Clinton has some problems.
But it’s no longer about just about optics, polls, crowds, and visuals. It’s coming down to a drip-drip-drip of foot-dragging and wrongdoing by Clinton and the Obama administration. It’s about whether or not Clinton broke the Criminal Code, and whether or not the government itself is above the law.
  • Item. According to a June 29, 2015 memo obtained by the New York Times, inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies concluded that Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.”
  • Item. According to a memo sent on July 17, 2015, also obtained by the New York Times, the inspectors general determined “that at least one email made public by the State Department contained classified information.”
  • Item. On Monday, Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court for the District of Columbia zinged government lawyers about why that had dragged their feet in responding to Freedom of Information requests made by the Associated Press, some of which were four years old. As the Judge put it, “for reasons known only to itself,” the State Department “has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding.”
  • Item. On Wednesday, the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks announced that it planned to call Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff to explain why the State Department has not produced documents subpoenaed by the Committee. As Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chairman, framed it, “The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents.” Can you say cover-up?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scandalabra: Investigation

Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.
It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.
But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.
The Washington Post has an update:
The Justice Department said Friday it has been asked to investigate the “potential compromise of classified information” in connection with the private e-mail account that Hillary Rodham Clinton used while serving as secretary of state.
A statement issued by the Department said it had received a “referral” on the matter, although it did not say whom it had come from.
“It is not a criminal referral,” the statement said.

Justice officials also said that no decision has yet been made about whether to open an investigation.
The statement came after media reports — initially confirmed to The Washington Post by Justice Department officials — that a criminal investigation was being considered. The New York Times first reported Thursday that the inspectors general of the State Department and the intelligence agencies had asked for a criminal investigation related to Clinton’s e-mail account.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump: Not Really Republican

Carl Cannon writes:
Certainly, there are thrice-married Republicans in this country. There are also Republicans who consider Bill Clinton a successful president, just as there are Republicans who believe George W. Bush was “the worst president in history.” Some Republicans care so little about abortion that they can’t explain if they are pro-life or pro-choice. There are also Republicans who have said that all 11 million illegal immigrants in this county deserve “a path” to citizenship—and there are other Republicans who have called for an impenetrable wall between the United States and Mexico. There are even a few Republicans who have donated money to Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid.

But there are no Republicans about whom you can accurately say all those things—unless you count Donald Trump. In a recent interview, Ari Fleischer, who was White House press secretary under George W. Bush, said it was clear that Trump was “no conservative.” The real issue is more basic: there’s not much evidence he’s even a Republican.

Trump and Graham's Phone

Taylor Wofford reports at Newsweek:
Republican presidential contender Donald Trump revealed the personal cell phone number of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina during a televised campaign speech in that state Tuesday.
The real estate mogul said the senator gave him his personal cell phone number three or four years ago when Graham "begg[ed]" Trump to "mention [his] name" on the FOX News show "Fox & Friends," on which Trump was a frequent guest. "I don't know if it's the right number," Trump said before reading the number aloud. It was the right number.
 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trump Surge and Future Decline

CNN reports:
New polling released Monday -- nationally and in Iowa -- finds Donald Trump squarely in the top tier of candidates, but raises some questions about whether he'll be able to maintain that standing.
Overall, the new national poll from the Washington Post and ABC News finds Trump at the top of the field nationally with 24% support among Republican registered voters, well ahead of his closest rivals, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (13%) and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (12%).
But there are some signs Trump's Saturday remarks questioning Arizona Sen. John McCain's military service may have been a turn off to some potential voters. The poll, fielded from Thursday to Sunday, found a drop-off in support for Trump in interviews conducted on the final day of fielding. While he earned 28% support during the first three nights of interviewing, that dipped to single digits on the final day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

GOP & Tech: A Very Blunt Appraisal

Jon Ward writes at Yahoo:
The Republican Party “was a terrible place for a smart technologist to come work,” Andy Barkett, a former Facebook engineer, said at a conference on technology and politics hosted by Lincoln Labs, a conservative nonprofit group.
Barkett, who was hired by the Republican National Committee as its chief technology officer two years ago, made reference to his time at the RNC, which did not go smoothly.
“I mean, it was a terrible place for me when I started. It was horrible. It was, like, the worst experience of my life,” Barkett said of his entry into Republican politics after spending more than a decade at Silicon Valley companies, where he moved into angel investing on the side. “It was just, like, atrociously bad.”
...
“There’s a whole bunch of people in politics who say a lot of words, all the buzzwords that we talked about, and they say, ‘I want more analytics.’ None of them have any idea what any of those things mean,” he said, seated on a stage during a panel discussion alongside digital operatives working for the presidential campaigns of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
They have no idea what the difference is between building an infrastructure of servers that know how to send e-mails to having an e-mail list or the difference between the records in the voter file and the analytics that you do in addition to those,” he said.
Barkett urged people in politics doing tech-related work to “get over the impostor syndrome and learn what the ef you are talking about.”
“Be honest with yourself — you’re probably a political person, and you probably don’t know what the ef you’re taking about. And the first thing you should do is probably dig in and learn. In the short run it will hurt you, because you will be exposed as a fraud,” he said. “You people will learn that you don’t know these things yet. And in the long run it will help you, because you will then be one of the 1 percent of people in politics who do know what they’re talking about.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

GOP Nomination Process: Time and Money

Patrick O'Connor and Reid J. Epstein write at The Wall Street Journal:
The expanding roles of super PACs and a condensed nominating calendar are fundamentally transforming the way the 2016 primary campaign will be conducted. Gone are the days when campaigns could just scrape together enough money to advertise in Iowa and New Hampshire, counting on an early victory to spur an infusion of fresh contributions.
With 16 Republicans running and the polls muddled, this year more than ever, a premium is attached to building up enough money for a mad dash through big states. Roughly 62% of the delegates will be allotted in the first 52 days of voting, from Feb. 1 to March 22. Eleven states hold nominating contests on March 1, including Texas with its 20 media markets.
...
Because delegates will be allotted to candidates based on their percentage of the vote until March 15, there is a chance the nomination remains up-for-grabs even after March 1. And the tight timeline means it will be difficult for an underfunded candidate, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was in 2012, to score an early win and collect enough money to get on the air in the March 1 media markets.
...
TV stations must give candidates a low rate, but supply and demand will dictate the cost for super PACs. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s super PAC was charged $3,600 to air three 30-second ads during one New Hampshire program; the Romney campaign paid half that for the same time.

The Loony Left Strikes Again

Noah Rothman reports at Commentary:
On Saturday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley were confronted by aggressive and unreasonable members of what the press has dubbed the “black lives matter” movement. Both candidates were rudely interrupted by those protestors who stormed the stage on which the candidates were seated, seized the microphone, and commandeered the event. But the most shocking episode to emerge from Phoenix this year involved a repudiation of the notion that all people of every racial background deserve to live.
When confronted by chants of “black lives matter” during his address to the conference, O’Malley replied: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” Contrary to press reports that suggested the crowd erupted in protest when O’Malley dared contend that “all lives matter,” video of the event clearly indicates it was his contention that “white lives matter” that proved truly unacceptable for the event attendees. For this perfectly reasonable contention, O’Malley was compelled by the unreasoning mob to apologize.
“I meant no disrespect,” O’Malley told the hosts of the web-based program, This Week in Blackness. “That was a mistake on my part and I meant no disrespect. I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”
The nation’s political press will no doubt devote far more attention to the Trump spectacle than a Democratic candidate’s apology for daring to contend that all lives have value. That will not reduce the impact of this moment. When a crowd of Democratic National Committee attendees erupted in a chorus of “boos” when the party platform was amended to add a reference to God and the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the discomforting moment did not dominate the evening news but it was both powerful and consequential. Even today, that episode lives in infamy in the minds of voters. The press will not prompt Democrats to confront the excessive and irrational elements within their party. For Democrats as well as Republicans, they run the risk of allowing the nastier elements of their bases to come to typify both parties in the minds of unaffiliated voters. With the prodding of the press, however, only one party is busily confronting that condition.

The Trump Balloon Springs a Hole

Nate Cohn writes at The New York Times:
Donald Trump’s surge in the polls has followed the classic pattern of a media-driven surge. Now it will most likely follow the classic pattern of a party-backed decline.
Mr. Trump’s candidacy probably reached an inflection point on Saturday after he essentially criticized John McCain for being captured during the Vietnam War. Republican campaigns and elites quickly moved to condemn his comments — a shift that will probably mark the moment when Trump’s candidacy went from boom to bust.
His support will erode as the tone of coverage shifts from publicizing his anti-establishment and anti-immigration views, which have some resonance in the party, to reflecting the chorus of Republican criticism of his most outrageous comments and the more liberal elements of his record.
His surge in the presidential polls began on June 16 when he declared his candidacy. Announcements of that type always yield a wave of media coverage, just as they did for candidates like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. So far this year, media attention from announcements has helped the best-known candidates by an average of six percentage points, with the effect degrading steadily afterward.

 Embedded image permalink

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What a Jerk!

Ben Schreckinger reports at Politico:
Donald Trump might finally have crossed the line.
Appearing on Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, the real estate mogul took his running feud with Arizona Sen. John McCain to a new level.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The remarks, which came after days of back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, were met with scattered boos.
McCain, a former Navy pilot, spent roughly five-and-half years in a notorious North Vietnamese prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was repeatedly tortured. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement.
At a press availability following his remarks, Trump denied saying that McCain isn’t a war hero and said, “If somebody’s a prisoner, I consider them a war hero.”
He also continued his attacks on the Arizona senator, saying, “I think John McCain’s done very little for the veterans. I’m very disappointed in John McCain.”
Trump received four student deferments from military service between 1964 and 1968. In Ames, he told reporters another medical deferment he received after graduating was for a bone spur in his foot. When asked which foot, Trump told reporters to look up the records.

The Size of the GOP Field

Patrick Healy writes at The New York Times:
From Jeb Bush’s vantage point, having 14 Republican rivals gives him a chance to look even-keeled and experienced among an array of attention-seekers and newcomers. For Marco Rubio, the older, whiter faces let him stand out as young, Hispanic — different. Donald J. Trump looks like a truth-teller (or a hothead) compared with the typically buttoned-up politicians running, while Scott Walker wants to come across as the most electable of the hard-right conservatives in the race.
And for all of them, the size of the 2016 Republican presidential field is creating extraordinary opportunities to win primaries and delegates next winter with only slivers of the vote. It is contributing to the dizzying volatility and unpredictability of the race, and making it potentially harder for the eventual nominee to demonstrate a breadth of the party’s support.
Charles Cook writes at National Journal:
The situation in which Republican voters find themselves these days is looking more and more like the experience of someone visiting a Baskin-Robbins. Walking into the ice-cream shop, one is immediately overwhelmed by the choices afforded by 31 flavors, but delight soon sets in. One starts off with a large number of options to consider, narrows it down to a handful, and maybe samples a few before making a final decision.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Turnout in 2014

From the Census:
The 2014 congressional election turnout rate of 41.9 percent was the lowest since the U.S. Census Bureau first began asking Americans about voting and citizenship status in 1978. The 2014 voting rate was 7.0 percentage points lower than in 1978 and down from the 45.5 percent that reported voting in the 2010 congressional election.

These statistics come from Who Votes? Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978-2014, which uses data collected by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. This report provides a detailed historical portrait of voters in congressional elections, and it examines voting patterns by age, race and Hispanic origin and includes a look at early and absentee voting.
... 
 In the most recent congressional election of 2014, nearly a third (31.2 percent) of all voters reported either voting early, voting by mail or using some other form of voting. This was about a threefold increase from 1996, when only 10.5 percent of voters reported voting by alternative methods.
In addition to the report, the release also includes a detailed table package.
The cliche is that midterm electorates are much whiter than presidential electorates.The white share of the 2014 electorate was 76.3 percent, was indeed slightly higher than 2012 (73.7 percent) but it was exactly the same as in 2008.  Instead, the big difference is in age distribution.  Whereas 19.5 percent of 2008 voters were 65 and over, the figure for 2014 was 28.4 percent.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

No Recall, No Scott Walker Presidential Campaign

Three days after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker formally entered the 2016 White House race, the state’s Supreme Court cleared a dark legal cloud hanging over his bid by siding with the Republican in a long-running investigation into his 2012 recall election.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Mr. Walker’s campaign and a coalition of conservative groups supporting him didn’t violate campaign-finance laws in the run-up to the 2012 recall vote, a race that thrust the Wisconsin governor into the national spotlight.
The court, in a split decision, ordered the prosecutors investigating Mr. Walker and his advisers to “cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.”
Chris Cillizza writes:
Looking back, it's clear that without the recall, there is no Scott Walker presidential announcement today. What the recall did was turn Walker into a conservative hero/martyr -- the symbol of everything base GOPers hate about unions and, more broadly, the Democratic party. He went from someone no one knew to someone every conservative talk radio host (and their massive audiences) viewed as the tip of the spear in the fight against the creep of misguided Democratic priorities. He became someone who had the phone numbers of every major conservative donor at his fingertips. He became what he is today: The political David who threw a pebble and slew the mighty liberal Goliath.
Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod agrees.
  Jul 13In airport watching rally with no sound. Did he offer tnx to authors of ill-conceived '12 recall that set him up as GOP hero?76 retweets76 favorites

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Super PACs: Crutches for Spoilers?

The ghosts of the (still alive) Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson haunt the 2016 race.  Kenneth P. Vogel and Tarini Parti explain at Politico:
Concerns are mounting among top donors and party elites that an influx of huge checks into the GOP primary will hurt the party’s chances of retaking the White House. Long-shot candidates propped up by super PACs and other big-money groups will be able to linger for months throwing damaging barbs at establishment favorites who offer a better chance of victory, the thinking goes.
Already, big-money groups have raised about $86 million to support a handful of second- and third-tier candidates — Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former CEO Carly Fiorina and former Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. In some cases, the lion’s share came from a handful of ultra-wealthy partisans, including a pair of Dallas billionaires who combined to give $11 million to a pro-Perry super PAC and a handful of donors who accounted for the majority of the $37 million reportedly raised by a pro-Cruz super PAC.
...

“A super PAC for a broadly successful candidate makes them doubly formidable. A super PAC for a marginal candidate keeps them alive. And that’s what’s different now,” said former President George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer.
As a point of reference, he cited the crowded GOP presidential primary in 2000, when he worked for Elizabeth Dole, one of the many candidates who dropped out before primary voting began due to insufficient fundraising. “That’s the way it used to be, and it helped sort out the race to the real contenders. The super PAC era is going to make it harder to sort out the race, and particularly for the Republicans, who have so many candidates to begin with, it just keeps the clutter going,” said Fleischer.
He helped lead a Republican National Committee forensic analysis of the GOP’s shortcomings in the 2012 election. It flagged the potential downsides of big-money spending in primaries, asserting “Super PAC money is a wild card that weakens our eventual nominee, regardless of who he or she is, due to the onslaught of negative ads against that candidate.”

Trump Opinion

Gallup reports:
One in four Americans consider Donald Trump a "serious candidate" for president. Americans view Trump's present bid for the Republican nomination no more seriously now than when the real estate mogul and media personality competed for the Reform Party's nomination in 1999.
...
While a consistent percentage of Americans take Trump's presidential candidacy seriously, views by party groups have changed over time. Today, with Trump competing for the GOP nomination rather than a third-party bid, 41% of Republicans say they consider Trump a serious candidate, compared with 20% in 1999. Democrats, meanwhile, take Trump even less seriously as a candidate today (12%) than they did in 1999 (20%), while independents' views haven't changed.
...
While Trump is attracting a lot of attention, the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of him is at a nominal low. Thirty-one percent of Americans see Trump favorably, compared with 43% in March 2011, when he was discussed as a potential candidate for president. Trump's previous low (33%) was in October 1999, when he was actively seeking a presidential nomination.
...
Trump fares better with Republicans overall, with a 49% favorable rating and 38% unfavorable score. But his high-profile candidacy appears not to have won him any additional admiration among Republicans -- his favorable rating among this group is about where it was in 2005. Trump's relatively high unfavorable rating among the GOP gives him a "net favorable" rating among Republicans of +11, well below several other candidates for the nomination. Among Democrats, Trump's favorable rating has cratered, from a high of 49% in 2005 to today's low of 17%.
Chris Cillizza reports:
Donald Trump's popularity has surged among Republicans after dominating several news cycles with his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, according to anew Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly six in 10 -- 57 percent -- Republicans now have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 40 percent who have an unfavorable one. That marks a complete reversal from a late-May Post-ABC poll, in which 65 percent of Republicans saw Trump unfavorably.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

'Vilifying" HRC?

Howard Kurtz writes at Fox about a New York Times piece about the GOP's oppo on Clinton, led by American Crossroads.
But the headline sounded like the Times was offended: “The Best Way to Vilify Hillary Clinton? GOP Spends Heavily to Test It.”
Vilify?
As in, use bad-guy methods to blacken her reputation?
The dictionary definition says it means to “defame,” to “slander,” which kinda sorta implies that it’s unfair.

Do the mainstream media talk about Democrats vilifying Republicans? Or just attacking them, going negative against them, or holding them accountable?
...
So let’s fire up the Google machine and see how the Times handled it when Priorities USA went after Mitt. Here’s a piece that said the group was “highlighting a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and suggesting that Mitt Romney’s plans would raise taxes on the middle class while cutting them for the wealthy.”

Here’s another one on how the Priorities commercials —“including the ‘coffin ad,’ featuring workers laid off from a plant acquired by Bain Capital, Mr. Romney’s former firm — helped define Mr. Romney early in the campaign.”

See? Romney wasn’t vilified by a liberal PAC, he was “defined.”
...
The story did spotlight an interesting note: “One problem in developing negative messages about Mrs. Clinton, Republican strategists have found, is that she and her husband have survived so many controversies by dismissing them as partisan attacks. So the Republican organizations are seeking to develop lines of attack that resonate more deeply or raise unsettling questions about Mrs. Clinton’s character.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

White Males and Electoral Demographics

S.V. Date writes about white males at National Journal:
"Democrats are hemorrhaging those voters and need to figure out how to stop the bleeding," said Mo Elleithee, a former top Democratic National Committee official who now runs Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service. "There could come a point where Democrats cannot afford to lose any more white voters. It's in the interest of Democrats to be taking steps to reverse that now."
Elleithee pointed to Florida, where President Obama's 2-and-a-half-point 2008 victory narrowed to a 1-point 2012 win, which then became a 1-point loss in Democrat Charlie Crist's run for governor in 2014—even though the Crist campaign hit its turnout targets for African-Americans and Latinos.
...
Meanwhile, Republican pollster Bill McInturff scratches his head while watching all this hand-wringing over a demographic group that will continue to decline in significance.
For one thing, he said, the 27-percentage point advantage Republicans built among white men in 2012 is probably about as bad as it can get for Clinton, given that a sizeable percentage of white men are white-collar liberals.

McInturff has prepared an analysis that even increases the Republican advantage with white men, to 31 percent, and decreases the GOP's disadvantage among black and Latino voters slightly. But it still shows Republicans losing the next election by 3 points.
So to him, it's not even worth debating whether Clinton should work to appeal more to white men, which her husband Bill Clinton successfully did 23 years ago, rather than the "Obama coalition" of urban whites, young people, and minorities.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Trump v. Trump

On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd demonstrates Trump's many flip-flops.  The title of the piece, "Trump vs. Trump," is a subtle allusion to his divorces.

Trump and the Base

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes:
And no, Trump almost certainly won’t win the nomination, but Republicans are rightfully concerned that today’s rhetoric will haunt them a year from now. America’s changing demographics further weigh against them, so simply beating up on Trump will leave the challenges posed by his candidacy unanswered. Resistance to immigration is not just about culture or ethnicity (although they are certainly factors), it’s also about economics, something Trump with his bar-stool political rhetoric understands.
Prospective Republican nominees must be able to say how they will re-ignite 3 percent-plus growth, while spurring wages upward. (For the record, since 2006 annual GDP growth has been below 3 percent. The 4 percent growth promised by Jeb was last seen in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency.)
Meanwhile, employee compensation as a percentage of GDP remains near an all-time low. Working-class Americans understand this in their gut and feel it in their wallet, so they can’t be blamed for thinking that liberalized immigration helps no one but illegal immigrants, their families, and employers across the board. Those are not only Trump’s people; they’re the Republican base.
So while Trump’s take is tart, he has a hit a nerve in this prolonged era of economic insecurity and froth. Labeling Trump a villain, or calling on Americans to labor for longer hours misses the mark. Rather, getting out from Trump’s shadow will require the Republican nominee to make America’s workers an offer they won’t want to refuse. As Trump would say, it’s all part of “the art of the deal.”

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Walker, Strategist

Jonathan Martin writes at The New York Times:
When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin met privately here at the Capitol Hill Club recently with a group of congressional Republicans, he did not just seek their support for his presidential candidacy. He also laid out a state-by-state assessment of how the 2016 race would unfold.
He pointed to his family roots in Iowa and said he would be able to appeal to moderates and conservatives there. He noted that he was already doing well in New Hampshire polls. And he predicted that when the campaign moved to Florida next March, either Senator Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush would be forced from the race.
“It was a pretty good analysis,” said Jim Talent, an adviser to Mr. Walker and a former senator from Missouri, who attended the meeting. “He’s up on the strategy.”
To say the least.

As Mr. Walker, 47, prepares for his formal entry into the presidential contest, he has brought on a campaign manager, a pollster and a group of press aides. But he has not hired a strategist — because it might be needlessly duplicative: Those who know him well say that Mr. Walker has always been his own.
...
To think like an operative, after all, is to find a way to appeal to the political marketplace at a given moment, to devise a way to win. But a fixation on salesmanship can also lead to shifting on issues, something Mr. Walker did this year when he moved to a harder line on immigration to align himself with conservative primary voters. And by embracing the language of the abortion rights movement in his re-election commercial last year, he opened himself up to complaints from abortion opponents that he had changed his tone, if not his tune.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Rise of Right to Rise

Will Tucker reports at Open Secrets:
In the first half of the year ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the super PAC affiliated with Jeb Bush raised four times as much money as all super PACs — combined — during the same period in 2011.
Together, all super PACs had raised nearly $26 million by the end of June 2011, according to an OpenSecrets Blog analysis. The top fundraiser at that point, the Mitt Romney-backing Restore Our Future, had brought in $12 million.
Right to Rise USA announced Thursday that it had raised the money from about 9,900 donors and declared that 400 of those gave more than $25,000. Restore Our Future, at the end of the same period in 2011, had just 90 contributions of more than $200, reports show.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Super PACs and Voter Mobilization

Trip Gabriel reports at The New York Times:
In previous election cycles, super PACs — which can raise unlimited donations from corporations and individuals alike — largely channeled money from wealthy donors into political advertising. But now they are branching out into what had seemed a fundamental function of a campaign committee: organizing voters one at a time.
.
Candidates “are pushing as much of the stuff as they can over to the super PACs because that’s where the real money is,” said Terry Giles, who recently quit as the campaign manager for Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, to start a super PAC that will support him.
The practice of having super PACS, which can be entirely financed by a single billionaire, take over such operations allows campaigns, which may raise only $2,700 from any one donor, to outsource the costly, labor-intensive work of recruiting activists and building lists of supporters.
It could also allow second-tier candidates to be more competitive, prolonging the nominating process. And in the general election, a Republican nominee whose organizing is paid for by a super PAC might level the playing field with Democrats, whose allies in labor have traditionally given the party an edge in mustering volunteers to help turn out voters.
But there are risks to outsourcing a field campaign. Candidates, who are legally forbidden to coordinate with super PACs, are in danger of being cut off from their most ardent supporters as they head into caucus and primary elections

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rules of Coordination

Matea Gold writes at The Washington Post:
The rules of affiliation are just about as porous as they can be, and it amounts to a joke that there’s no coordination between these individual super PACs and the candidates,” said Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), who has sponsored legislation that would put stricter limits in place.
A close reading of FEC regulations reveals that campaigns can do more than just publicly signal their needs to independent groups, a practice that flourished in the 2014 midterms.
Operatives on both sides can talk to one another directly, as long as they do not discuss candidate strategy. According to an FEC rule, an independent group also can confer with a campaign until this fall about “issue ads” featuring a candidate. Some election-law lawyers think that a super PAC could share its entire paid media plan, as long as the candidate’s team does not respond.
...
A sweeping boundary was drawn by the Supreme Court in its seminal 1976Buckley v. Valeo decision, which said that political activity by outside groups must be done “totally independently” of candidates and parties. A similar standard was set in the 2002 ­McCain-Feingold Act, which said that independent expenditures cannot be made “in cooperation, consultation, or concert” with a candidate.
But in practice, defining coordination has not been easy. The FEC wrestled mightily with where to draw the lines, issuing regulations that were challenged repeatedly in the courts.
A set of FEC rules approved in 2010 prohibits a campaign from coordinating with an independent group on a paid communication. The agency laid out specific tests to determine whether a campaign has illegally shared internal strategy used to guide an independent group’s advertising.
But the rules do not ban coordination in general — much less conversations between each side.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Leftward, Ho

Ben Schreckinger and Jonathan Topaz write at Politico:
No one asked Bernie Sanders what he thought about the Greek referendum on Sunday, but he shared his thoughts anyway.
“I applaud the people of Greece for saying ‘no’ to more austerity for the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly,” Sanders said in welcoming Sunday’s vote, even as it rattled world markets and provoked predictions of economic doom. The statement didn’t just align Sanders with left-wing Europeans; it aligned him with lefter-wing Greek socialists who are too radical for some of those left-wing Europeans.
Democratic primaries have always featured liberal insurgent candidates, but perhaps none quite so liberal or insurgent as the socialist senator from Vermont. Sanders’ comments are a reminder of just how far the second-place Democratic presidential candidate stands from the American mainstream on some issues, and the looming reckoning Democrats face with their party’s leftward drift.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Perry at the National Press Club

At The National Press Club, Rick Perry became a born-again reform conservative.
From 2005 to 2007 more African-Americans moved to Texas than all but one
other state, that state being Georgia. Now many were coming from blue states, like New
York and Illinois and California. Many came from Louisiana, where they had lost their
homes due to Hurricane Katrina. But each one of those new residents were welcomed to
Texas with open arms. They came to a state with a booming economy. We kept taxes
low, regulations low. We kept frivolous lawsuits to a minimum. We worked hard to
educate every child.
Now let me be clear, we have not eliminated black poverty in Texas. But we have
made meaningful progress. In New York, the supplemental poverty rate for blacks is 26
percent. In California, it is 30 percent. In Washington, D.C. it is 33 percent. In Texas, it is just 20 percent. And here is how it happened. We curtailed frivolous lawsuits and
unreasonable regulations. It’s far cheaper to do business in Dallas or Houston than it is in
Baltimore or in Detroit. And those lower costs, they get passed down to consumers,
especially low income consumers in the form of lower prices.
There's a lot of talk in Washington about inequality, income inequality. But there
is a lot less talk about the inequality that arises from the high cost of everyday life. In
blue state coastal cities you have these strict zoning laws, environmental regulations that
have prevented buildings from expanding the housing supply. And that may be great for
the venture capitalist who wants to keep a nice view of San Francisco Bay. But it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.
 If he had been this good during the 2012 campaign,he would have been the nominee.

The Donald Does Something Stupid! What a Surprise!

As the immigration battle among presidential candidates heats up, the attacks are getting personal.

Donald Trump retweeted an offensive comment about Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, who came to this country legally from Mexico.
 "@RobHeilbron: @realDonaldTrump #JebBush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife."
That tweet was later deleted, but still able to be seen on the cached version of the page.

A press aide for the Bush campaign responded by saying, “It’s not surprising Donald Trump deleted his offensive tweet. As Governor Bush has said, Trump’s comments on immigrants were wholly inappropriate and not reflective of the Republican Party’s views."

The issue surged into the news cycle last week after a woman was killed in San Francisco by a man who was an undocumented immigrant. Francisco Sanchez, a convicted felon, had been deported five times, according to U.S. immigration officials and questions still abound over how we was able to roam free.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rope-A-Dope

Jeremy W. Peters and Ashley Parker write at The New York Times:
But as campaigns adjust to a new self-focused social media world, some are left wondering whether more meaningful voter-candidate interactions are suffering. When candidates oblige so many people, some requesting multiple takes to straighten that smile, square a double chin or get a pesky photo bomber out of the frame, are they losing the chance to clarify a policy position, listen to concerns or even just look a voter in the eye?
The answer: no. Candidates never "clarify a policy position" on a rope line.

Dan Merica reports at CNN:
Hillary Clinton's campaign used a rope to keep journalists away from the candidate on Saturday while she walked in this small town's July Fourth parade.

The ensuing photos of journalists, including a CNN reporter, being somewhat dragged by a thin white rope as Clinton walked down Main Street caught fire online.

Initially, Clinton's campaign was not using a rope to corral the press, allowing journalists to get close to her and ask her questions.

But campaign aides said they brought the rope out because they feared the press scrum of around a dozen reporters and photojournalists would obstruct the view of New Hampshire voters attending the parade.

The rope was held by two of Clinton's advance staffers, who at times walked ahead of reporters, seemingly pulling them along the parade route.
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"This Is Not Bill Clinton's Democratic Party"

In The Huffington Post, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) denounces the recent trade bill:
Consider that this new fast-track trade authority was opposed by every member of the House Democratic leadership and an overwhelming 85 percent of House Democrats; all but two of the Senate leadership and 70 percent of the Democratic senators; and every Democratic candidate for president, including the most likely nominee, Hillary Clinton. The president prevailed by one vote, literally without a single vote to spare.
I've been counting votes long enough to know that it takes only one vote more than the other guy to win. But I also know that when an issue is decided by only one vote, the fight's not over. This isn't 1993, and this is not Bill Clinton's Democratic party.
When President Bill Clinton won passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, he had the support of 40 percent of the House Democrats and exactly half of the Senate Democrats. Then, most of the liberal economists, including Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert Reich, also enthusiastically backed NAFTA and other agreements critical to the global economy.
DeLauro is married to Stanley Greenberg.  As Bill Clinton's pollster, he did as much as anyone to create "Bill Clinton's Democratic Party."