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“Missouri Suicide Haunts Ted Cruz Campaign”: Campaign Manager Jeff Roe’s Bad-Boy Brand Is Major Hindrance To Cruz’s Presidential Hopes

One year ago today, the Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich took his own life.

Schweich’s political mentor, former Sen. John Danforth, blames Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, for contributing to his death and said Cruz’s decision to hire him should give voters pause.

It’s not a universal view—far from it. Roe rejects any responsibility for the suicide, and police haven’t in any way assigned him with legal culpability for Schweich’s death. But as Cruz’s opponents question his character, some point to Schweich’s death as evidence of a morally sick presidential campaign.

At the very least, it’s a PR nightmare.

As Cruz gears up for a month of primaries that will likely determine the Republican nominee, his campaign manager has gotten significant attention. That includes a Page One New York Times story describing Roe as “an operative with a reputation for scorching earth, stretching truths, and winning elections.”

Danforth says the truth is less sexy: that Roe loses—a lot—and that his bad-boy brand is a major hindrance to Cruz’s presidential hopes.

A year ago, Roe was working for Catherine Hanaway, who was (and still is) running in the primary to be Missouri’s next Republican gubernatorial nominee. Schweich, then the state auditor, was the contest’s frontrunner. The race got ugly fast.

One of Hanaway’s supporters, John Hancock, started telling people that Schweich was Jewish. Hancock said he may have mentioned Schweich’s heritage to a few people as a neutral fact, and didn’t intend to hurt his chances by stoking anti-Semitism.

Schweich, in fact, was not Jewish; he was Episcopalian, though of Jewish ancestry. Schweich suspected Hanaway’s allies had launched an anti-Semitic whisper campaign against him—a prospect he found deeply disturbing, according to reports from local and national publications.

Another part of the race was weighing on his mind as well: a radio ad, narrated by a Frank Underwood sound-alike, that criticized his physical appearance by saying he looked like the deputy sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. The ad, which you can listen to here, also called Schweich weak.

“Once Schweich obtains the Republican nomination, we will quickly squash him like the little bug that he is,” intoned the narrator.

Roe, working for Hanaway’s campaign, took responsibility for the ad. He told The Kansas City Star that he paid for it to air during The Rush Limbaugh Show. The ad left Schweich deeply shaken, according to his friends.

“I talked to Tom two days before he shot himself to death and he was terribly upset,” Danforth told The Daily Beast. “And he was upset about two things: One was the radio commercial that was being run making fun of his physical appearance. But even more, he was upset about what I would call a fishing expedition in the waters of anti-Semitism.”

Two days after that conversation, Schweich shot himself. The death shocked the Missouri political world. According to The Washington Post, his wife subsequently told police that he’d talked about suicide in the past while holding a gun.

Danforth said Roe bears some responsibility for Schweich’s death.

“Yes, of course, of course he does,” he said. “When two days before a man shoots himself to death he’s upset about a radio commercial and it’s Roe’s commercial—of course. You don’t just do dirty things to people and then just walk away from it as though, ‘Oh, I didn’t do anything.’ Of course you did. ‘I’m not responsible.’ Of course you are. Of course you’re responsible.”

Danforth made similar comments in the homily for Schweich’s funeral, which he delivered.

“Words, for Jesus, could be the moral equivalent of murder,” he said in the homily last year. “He said if we insult a brother or sister, we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool, we will be liable to hell.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Roe declined to give additional comment on any allegations of culpability for Schweich’s death.

A few months after the suicide, Roe told The Kansas City Star that the death had saddened him. And he defended the ad.

“His resemblance to Barney Fife had been characterized in Missouri newspapers,” Roe told the paper. “He made fun of himself on the stump. It was a parody.”

Speaking with The Daily Beast, Roe said attacks on the moral character of Cruz’s campaign are meritless.

“This campaign is being fueled by millions of people around the country who are putting their heart and soul into electing a consistent conservative, and of course our opponents would have to attack our underlying credibility of telling the truth,” he said.

“They want to change the subject from their liberal records, that they admit, and that’s exactly what we see here,” Roe added.

Though Danforth—the elder statesman of Missouri Republican politics—blames Roe for the death, other prominent conservatives in the state defend him.

“Nobody should be blamed for a guy’s suicide,” said Ed Martin, the president of Eagle Forum, which is based in St. Louis. “I don’t lay it on Roe or anybody.”

Martin added that he disapproved of Danforth’s homily.

“Danforth’s homily, when I sat in the pew, it was a terrible thing—it was a terribly inappropriate thing,” he said. “Danforth should have held a press conference afterwards, not at the eulogy. And because of that, it really spun the whole argument in a way that wasn’t really fair.”

And he said the attacks Schweich faced are just politics as usual—and that if he hadn’t committed suicide, they wouldn’t have drawn special reprobation.

Bill Kenney, who heads Missouri’s Public Service Commission, concurred.

“I think any politician realizes that politics is politics,” said Kenney, who is a former state senator. “The radio ads didn’t cause Tom Schweich to take his life.

“I like Jeff,” he added. “I’m glad I’m out of politics so I don’t have him against me.”

After Schweich’s death, many called for a change in Missouri’s political culture.

“The auditor might have pulled the trigger, but the bullies who were campaigning against him held the gun to his head,” read an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Tom Schweich is a martyr for the cause,” the same editorial said.

But a year later, Danforth said, things aren’t better. And now, one of the men he holds partly culpable for Schweich’s death is running a top-tier presidential campaign.

Danforth also said the so-called dirty tricks that have damaged the Cruz campaign’s reputation are all classic Jeff Roe. As examples of those tricks, he pointed to the “voter violation” mailer in Iowa, the false statement that Carson was about to drop out of the presidential race, and the use of a photoshopped image of Marco Rubio shaking hands with President Obama.

“I don’t know Roe, but I know what he did to Schweich,” he said. “And as soon as I saw what happened to Carson in Iowa, I said to myself, this is Jeff Roe.”

Martin said Cruz shouldn’t be surprised that his campaign is taking significant heat for its tactics. After all, he said, that’s what Cruz should have expected when he hired Roe: controversy and criticism.

“He likes to play very aggressively and flashily,” Martin said. “There are plenty of people who do hardball tactics who you never hear from, you never know. Then there’s the Lee Atwater model, where you talk about it, and the Jeff Roe model, where you revel in it.

“He’s got a problem now,” Martin continued. “And I bet they’ll address it, but they definitely have a perception problem.”

Danforth said the Cruz campaign has far greater problems than its image.

“In The New York Times article about Roe it said, ‘Well, he’s a master of dirty tricks, but it works,’” Danforth said. “Well, I don’t think it does.”

Danforth noted that while Roe has helped several candidates win statewide races, he’s also chalked up a number of high-profile losses—including a blistering defeat in Jackson County, where he led a $1 million effort in 2013 to hike sales taxes. Fewer than 14 percent of voters ended up supporting the effort.

“I don’t think losing a campaign in Kansas City 86 to 14 is exactly a stellar accomplishment,” Danforth said. “You almost have to try to do that. Who’d ever hire this guy?”

Other statewide losses include Sarah Steelman’s defeat in the 2008 gubernatorial primary, Brad Lager’s 2008 general election bid for treasurer, and Bill Stouffer’s campaign in the 2012 Republican primary for secretary of state.

Roe has won plenty of races, especially on the local and congressional levels. But statewide, he’s also lost a lot.

A year later, Schweich’s family and friends still grieve.

“I think he was probably too sensitive a person to be in elective politics, but so what?” Danforth said. “Does that mean that we all only want the rough-and-tumble people in politics? I don’t think so. Is it OK to pick on somebody who is sensitive? I don’t think so.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, February 26, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Jeff Roe, Missouri Republican Party, Ted Cruz, Tom Schweich | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making America More Bigoted And More Racist Again”: Trump Takes His Racially Charged Message To The Airwaves

Ordinarily, a presidential candidate releasing a new television commercial wouldn’t be especially newsworthy, but the new ad from Donald Trump is a little different than most – both in circumstances and in content.

Consider the message itself, first reported by the Washington Post. Viewers hear a voice-over say:

“The politicians can pretend it’s something else, but Donald Trump calls it ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on. He’ll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our Southern border that Mexico will pay for.”

The ad then cuts to Trump himself speaking at a campaign rally, vowing, “We will make America great again.”

The imagery, of course, matters. When the commercial references terrorism, the ad shows the San Bernardino shooters. When it touts Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, viewers are shown masked terrorists. And when the spot references immigration, there’s grainy video of people running at a border.

So, why is this important? For one thing, it’s Trump’s first television ad of the entire election cycle. While some of his rivals have already invested millions – Jeb Bush and his allies spent about $38 million on campaign commercials in 2015 – Trump has spent just $217,000 on some radio advertising. Now, however, his campaign is spending $1.1  million to air this spot in Iowa and nearly $1 million for airtime in New Hampshire.

The New York developer is the first modern presidential candidate to excel by relying exclusively on free media and campaign rallies, and it’s hard to say with confidence whether his first foray into television advertising will help, hurt, or make no difference.

But let’s not brush past the nature of Trump’s pitch too quickly.

In recent months, as Trump has maintained a sizable lead over the rest of the GOP field, there’s been ample discussion about what’s driving his success. One of the more common explanations is the economic anxieties felt by working-class white voters, with whom Trump’s version of conservative populism resonates.

Putting aside whether or not the thesis has merit, what this ad helps demonstrate is something far simpler and more straightforward: the Republican frontrunner recognizes the power of his racially charged appeals; he understands the degree to which his support is dependent on racially divisive rhetoric; and so his campaign ads are sticking with what works.

How do we “make America great again”? It’s not by weakening the influence of special interests, or creating more jobs, or even applying lessons from Trump’s successes in the private sector.

No, according to the GOP frontrunner, to make America great we simply need to elect a president who’ll focus on Muslims and Mexicans.

The Post’s report added, “The first ad, titled ‘Great Again,’ makes clear that Trump’s closing pitch to voters will be as visceral and arresting as the one he delivers at raucous rallies. It is a full embrace of the most incendiary of his proposals, as opposed to the more biographical spots that some other candidates favor.”

Anyone who’s heard Trump’s stump speech knows this isn’t exactly new rhetorical territory for the candidate, but it matters that when putting together the campaign’s first television ad, Team Trump came to an important conclusion: bigotry works.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“When Democracy Becomes Must See TV”: Is The United States A Democratic Republic Or A TV series?

To anybody who watches cable TV news, it’s clear that the nation has embarked upon a great political experiment. Its object would be instantly clear to readers of Neil Postman’s 1985 classic Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

To wit, is it even possible for a democratic country to govern itself when news becomes “infotainment,” and infotainment news?

At any given moment, one of two TV “news” stories predominates to the exclusion of all other topics: Donald Trump and terrorism. CNN has covered almost nothing else since the tragedy in San Bernardino. Tune in any time, day or night, and it’s either Trump, terror, or panels of talking heads discussing them.

Meanwhile, the network had been running a countdown clock in the corner of the screen keeping viewers apprised of the weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds remaining until Tuesday night’s GOP debate—as if it were a moon launch or, more appropriately, a pay-per-view professional wrestling match.

In between live broadcasts of Trump’s speeches, advertisements feature full-screen photos of the contestants dramatically lit like WWE stars, promoting the upcoming Showdown in Las Vegas — the final Republican debate of the year!

Cue Michael Buffer: “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE…”

OK, so there will be something like 84 more debates in 2016. It’s nevertheless your patriotic duty to feel the excitement.

Or not. Actually, I see where the noted scholar and media critic Charles Barkley has beaten me to it. The famously outspoken basketball jock was recently asked his opinion of the GOP debates on TNT’s Inside the NBA.

“To be honest with you, CNN has done an awful job this election, an awful job. They have followed ratings and sound bites this entire cycle,” Sir Charles opined. “I love CNN because they’re part of our company, but they’ve been kissing butt, chasing ratings…. They follow every single sound bite just to get ratings for these debates. It’s been sad and frustrating that our company has sold its soul for ratings.”

(CNN and TNT are subsidiaries of Turner Broadcasting.)

However, it’s not just CNN. The TV networks generally, where most Americans get their news, have abandoned all pretense of public service in the drive for enhanced market share.

Quick now: Which cable network has covered Trump the most assiduously?

Surprise, it’s MSNBC. According to figures cited by Washington Post blogger Jim Tankersley, the allegedly left-wing network has mentioned The Donald some 1,484 times during the current campaign. That’s roughly 100 more mentions than CNN, and three times as many as Fox News.

Like CNN, MSNBC often breaks away from live programming to broadcast Trump speeches live — something neither network does for any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. That’s free campaign advertising no politician can afford to buy. The second most commonly cited Republican, Chris Christie, has drawn 144 mentions on CNN, the rapidly vanishing Jeb Bush, 88.

In a 17-person GOP race (now “only” 14), fully 47 percent of TV mentions have gone to Trump since he announced his candidacy last June. Is there any wonder the bombastic New Yorker is leading in opinion polls? His is apparently the only name many low-information voters can recall.

Look, Trump gives good TV. Under ordinary circumstances, for example, my sainted wife would prefer undergoing a root canal to a GOP presidential debate. I’m forced to record the fool things for professional purposes. Trump, however, she’ll watch, if only in the hope he’ll humiliate some rival fraud. Multiply her by a few million, and you’re talking real advertising dollars.

The New York Times, whose editors apparently have no TVs, recently devoted considerable column inches to the seeming mystery of “High Polls for Low-Energy Campaigners.”

Specifically, how come Jeb!, who normally does multiple campaign events every day, appears to be getting nowhere, while Trump, a comparative homebody, surges?

Um, let’s see: Morning Joe in the AM; followed by Good Morning America; a sit down with CNN’s Chris Cuomo; a face-to-face with NBC’s Chuck Todd, who basically calls Trump a barefaced liar, but invites him back for Meet the Press; next, a blustering speech covered live by MSNBC’s Hardball; followed by “Breaking News!” of a pre-recorded interview with Don Lemon.

And then to bed.

Would it also surprise you to learn that, according to the Tyndall Report, which compiles such figures, ABC World News Tonight has devoted 81 minutes of programming this year to Trump’s campaign versus 20 seconds total to Bernie Sanders, who arguably has more supporters? (Each man has roughly 30 percent support in his respective party, but there are many more Democrats than Republicans.)

In my judgement, neither Trump nor Sanders has a very good chance of becoming president. But that shouldn’t mean an exclusive diet of Trump’s bombast, braggadocio, conspiracy theories, and bald-faced lies simply because the one-time “reality” star gets good ratings.

Is the United States a democratic republic or a TV series?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The New Republic, December 16,2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | Cable News, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Network Television | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“This Too Shall Pass”: Everyone Should Calm Down About Trump’s Ongoing Presence At The Top Of The GOP Field

I’ve been consistent in my belief that former reality TV star Donald Trump will not be the Republican nominee. I wrote as much a week-and-a-half ago arguing that neither Trump nor retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson would be the nominee, given that never in history has a major party nominated someone as bereft of political or military experience as either of these two.

Since then Carson has started his descent back into oblivion – he’s dropped five points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls over the last two-and-a-half weeks – perhaps because the Friday the 13th attacks in Paris exacerbated questions about his grasp of foreign policy. Trump, as has been the case at virtually every turn since his announcement of candidacy, has benefited, gaining three points over this same time period.

So it was gratifying to see yesterday a post by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver arguing that everyone should calm down about Trump’s ongoing presence at the top of the GOP field. He makes a few strong arguments, the first being that while Trump has remained comfortably in the 25-30 percent range, his “middling” favorable ratings make it unlikely that he will be able to grow that base as the field winnows. Another is the question of whether the Trump coalition will actually show up and vote (a question we’ve previously considered in this publication).

And, he adds:

It can be easy to forget it if you cover politics for a living, but most people aren’t paying all that much attention to the campaign right now. Certainly, voters are consuming some campaign-related news. Debate ratings are way up, and Google searches for topics related to the primaries have been running slightly ahead of where they were at a comparable point of the 2008 campaign, the last time both parties had open races. But most voters have a lot of competing priorities. Developments that can dominate a political news cycle, like Trump’s frenzied 90-minute speech in Iowa earlier this month, may reach only 20 percent or so of Americans.

He looks at Google search data and exit-poll data from previous elections to demonstrate both when voters have typically indicated that they made up their minds and also when their interest (as expressed by their online search patterns) starts to rise. “This burst of attention occurs quite late – usually when voters are days or weeks away from their primary or caucus,” he writes.

So as he suggests, everyone should calm down. Return to your regularly scheduled wondering if Trump’s latest insanity will be the event to pop – or at least start taking the air out of – his balloon. Last week it was his flirtation with fascism (yes, I know that he didn’t come up with the idea of stripping Muslims of their constitutional rights, but he didn’t bat an eyelash at it either and to the best of my knowledge still hasn’t actually repudiated the idea); over the weekend he mused about how roughing up a protestor at one of his rallies was the right thing to do. Now we’re onto his fabricated recollection of “thousands” of Jersey City, New Jersey, residents – he has identified them as Muslims but even supposing such an event took place, how would he be able to tell their creed over the television? – celebrating the 9/11 attacks. “It was well-covered at the time,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” What’s actually been well-covered is the fallaciousness of his memory on this topic. Think about this: Is there any way that mass celebrations in an American city would have not been – to borrow a Trumpism – a yuuuuge story in the supercharged days, weeks and months after 9/11? If such video existed, it would have run on an endless loop on Fox News Channel. It would have become an instant and enduring meme on conservative talk radio and on the right-wing of the Web. Even Carson, who initially shared Trump’s “memory,” has since retracted the claim. I suppose the same conspiracy that has purged every news report of the thousands of cheering New Jerseyans from the collective memory and all contemporaneous news reports must have gotten to Carson too!

The Iowa Caucus is scheduled for February 1 of next year. One circumstance that is bound to change in the more than two months before that event kicks off the formal primary season is advertising. Most of the ads that have run thus far have been positive and soft – basic introduce-the-candidate ads. But sooner or later rival candidates and other outside groups will start training their negative ads on Trump. There is reason to believe that advertising has been able to move numbers – which makes sense if you believe that the polls thus far have been driven by news coverage (which I do). Let’s see what happens when the ad dollars start flowing in earnest and especially start recounting some of Trump’s greatest hits, like those mentioned above.

The whole thing is bizarre – and will be superseded by his next outrageous pronouncement, which will no doubt be that Muslim terrorists attacked the first Thanksgiving dinner.

This too shall pass, in other words – rather like the Trump candidacy.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report; November 27, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, GOP Presidential Candidates, Racism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Fully Fledged Substitutes For Campaigns”: When Is A Campaign Not A Campaign? When It’s A Super Pac

These days, presidential candidates are not just raising money for their own campaigns. They are also raising money for outside groups with generic sounding names like Priorities USA, Right to Rise and Our American Renewal.

These are Super Pacs (political action committees), affiliated with each outside campaign but nominally independent. In 2012, they were helpful appendages. This year, heading into 2016, they are becoming fully fledged substitutes for campaigns, taking over functions including opposition research, polling and even knocking on doors.

Super Pacs are just five years old. Like most developments in modern campaign finance law, they were created by accident through judicial decisions, not by legislation.

First, in 2010 the Citizens United supreme court decision struck down restrictions on independent expenditures in campaigns by nonprofits. Citizens United was followed the same year by a decision by the DC circuit court of appeals in a case called SpeechNOW, which said political groups that sought to make only independent expenditures could not be subject to federal campaign contribution limits.

These two decisions combined to create “super” versions of previously existing political action committees, that would make expenditures independently of the candidates they supported and thus could raise as much money as they wanted. In other words, one donor can fund an entire Super Pac.

In the 2012 Republican primary, Super Pacs were credited with keeping the campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum alive for months, extending the race into the spring.

In that race and the general election that followed, Super Pacs were primarily used to run television ads. American campaigns have long focused on saturating the airwaves with advertisements; Super Pacs provided a new vehicle to air even more commercials. Campaigns, however, still have major advantages over Super Pacs when it comes to buying television time.

Within 60 days of a general election or 45 days of a primary, political campaigns are entitled to something called “lowest unit rate”. It means that a political campaign gets the lowest rate a television station offers to any advertiser, and it is coupled with the requirement that stations give political campaigns “reasonable access” to run ads. Lowest unit rate also means TV stations cannot censor or restrict ads that federal campaigns seek to run.

None of these rules apply to Super Pacs. This means that they have to pay a much higher rate per ad and may find it more difficult to get their advertisements on television.

However, all such advantages for campaigns pale next to the fact that Super Pacs can raised unlimited money from an individual donor. Federal campaigns can only take $5,400 from any individual ($2,700 for a primary election and another $2,700 for a general election). So while campaigns can get more value for their money when spending on advertising, Super Pacs don’t have to worry too much about value.

And this year, they are not worrying too much about just running television ads.

The nascent campaign of Jeb Bush has been entirely headquartered out of an organization called Right to Rise. The group is on pace to raise more than $100m in May alone and is expected to be significantly better-funded than Bush’s inevitable presidential campaign.

Bush has also set up a connected nonprofit, Right to Rise Policy Solutions, which is serving as a parking place for campaign policy advisers until the former Florida governor announces his candidacy.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Right to Rise is that it is expected to be led by Bush’s top political adviser, Mike Murphy. Because Super Pacs cannot coordinate with campaigns, this means that Bush will probably be unable to communicate with Murphy for the duration of the campaign.

While Bush has yet to declare his candidacy, Ted Cruz, who has announced his bid for the White House, has also bragged about the success of the four interrelated Super Pacs that are backing his campaign.

In a speech at the April meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, the Texas senator boasted that a Super Pac supporting him had “raised $31m” in the first week of his campaign. “That’s more money than any other Super Pac has raised … in the history of politics” in a comparable period, he said.

Each of the four Super Pacs supporting Cruz is funded entirely by one major donor and devoted to one specific campaign task.

Nor are Republicans alone in such activity. Hillary Clinton, the clear Democratic frontrunner for 2016, is holding a number of fundraisers for one of her affiliated Super Pacs, Priorities USA. A separate group, Correct the Record, has spun off from the Democratic research Super Pac American Bridge, solely to do rapid response for Clinton.

Correct the Record insists it will be able to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, despite taking unlimited contributions, because it will not run any ads on her behalf.

Not all of this may end up being legal. But as Rick Hasen, an election law expert who teaches at University of California, Irvine, points out, even “if some of these things don’t pass muster with the courts”, such matters probably won’t be resolved until after the 2016 election.

Furthermore, campaign finance may have changed dramatically by the time such legal issues are resolved.

“Nothing is permanent when it comes to campaign finance,” said Hasen.

For now, though, the landscape is dominated by Super Pacs.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Guardian, May 17, 2015

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United, Super PAC's | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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