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“Creating Winners And Losers”: Are The Beltway Media Helping Mitch McConnell Stay In Power?

The Beltway media are at it again, creating winners and losers long before Election Day. Yesterday I wrote that Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s one and only Senate debate, and if you watched the debate, you might agree.

But if you had only followed the media coverage, you might well believe that Grimes is a goner, that her refusal to say whether she voted for Obama was of such import that it rightly overshadowed all other issues the candidates fought over—minimum wage, jobs, climate change, student loans, healthcare—and that her demurral was far more worthy of coverage than McConnell’ s actual lies and deceptions about the healthcare of 500,000 Kentuckians.

And if Grimes’s non-answer wasn’t a pretend disaster enough for the media to hyperventilate over, they got more confirmation later yesterday when the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee announced it wasn’t going to spend more to run ads in Kentucky. Well, surely that showed that Big Dems agreed with Big Media that Grimes was out. Money speaks. She’s over. Or so it seems.

But the media have it wrong. First, on the debate: Columbia Journalism Review did a large round-up of the political media responses to Monday’s debate and found that the coverage was “imbalanced” and that it “calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.”

Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

Grimes’ non-answer received headline treatment on web stories at CBS, NBC ABC, and CNN. The Washington Post devoted an entire piece to the refusal, which led the Associated Press’ story , and Politico and National Journal both listed it as their top takeaway of the debate. Such stories either omitted McConnell’s claim or played it down relative to Grimes’ comment. mentioned only the latter, meanwhile, and The Wall Street Journal left McConnell’s statement as its story’s kicker, unchallenged.

It’s not as if the media was hearing Mitch’s lie for the first time and simply lacked the time to study up on it. It had all been reported on before:

Liberalmedia and a few national outlets, such as the AP, challenged the five-term senator’s claim back [in May]. Indeed, an Obamacare repeal would have huge consequences for the Bluegrass State, as an estimated half-million residents have signed up for health coverage through its Kynect exchange. A Washington Post Fact Checker column soon after concluded, “the history of individual state exchanges shows it is not credible for McConnell to suggest that the state exchange would survive without the broad health-care system constructed by the Affordable Care Act, such as an individual mandate and subsidies to buy insurance.”

Given the availability of such reporting, not to mention McConnell’s hazy logic in a race in which Obamacare has been a central theme, it’s unclear why the national media didn’t pounce on his answer Monday. What’s more, local coverage of the debate suggests that Grimes’ voting history—a sign of her allegiance to President Barack Obama—is merely one of many concerns or Kentucky voters.

It is true that the DSCC stopped running ads in Kentucky in order to redirect funds to other state races. But the Democratic Senate campaign arm is still funding Grimes’s get-out-the-vote drive, and is “monitoring the race for future investments,” according to a DSCC official. In any case, Grimes is very well-funded herself, having just announced a record breaking nearly $5 million haul for the third quarter.

But the national media were quick to jump to the most melodramatic conclusion. As Daily Kos pointed out:

Today a rumor was spread throughout national media by irresponsible nationally-known media (Chris Cillizza, Jon Heilemann, Mark Halpirin, MSNBC, CNN) that “Democrats have abandoned Grimes”.

Heilemann and Halperin agreed on their program that “Her campaign is dead”.

This rumor was based upon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) not having pre-purchased ad buys in KY market for last 3 weeks of campaign. The DSCC has been very active in the Kentucky market, with great ads playing. The DSCC acknowledged this was true, but that they were open to purchases if necessary.

Guy Cecil, the Executive Director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, posted at about 8:00pm eastern Tuesday night 10/14, on Twitter:

Guy Cecil ‏@guycecil 3h 3 hours ago

Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That’s an interesting view of “pulling out of the race”

And for all this, you’d never know that as of Wednesday afternoon, Alison Grimes is only three points behind Mitch McConnell in the RealClearPolitics average.


By: Leslie Savin, The Nation, October 15, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Vampire Slayer Election”: Democrats’ Best Weapon For Midterms, Fear Of A Red Senate

We’ve known for a long time now that the Democrats have a lot of Senate seats to defend in red states where Barack Obama’s approval numbers aren’t much higher than George Zimmerman’s—indeed, in these states, surely lower.

But I feel like the fear has just set in here in the last couple of weeks; that is, Democrats coming to terms with the possibility-to-likelihood that they might lose the Senate this November, and after that, the utter bleakness of a final Obama two years with both House and Senate in GOP hands, saying no to anything and everything except, of course, any remote whiff of an opportunity to bring impeachment charges over something.

Republicans need a net pickup of six seats. Democrats are trying to defend incumbent status in six red states (North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Alaska); also in two blue ones (Michigan and Iowa). They’re hoping for upsets in two red states (Georgia and Kentucky).

You’ll read a lot about Obamacare and the minimum wage and the War on Women and everything else, and all those things will matter. But only one thing really, really, really matters: turnout. You know the lament: The most loyal Democratic groups—young people, black people, single women, etc.—don’t come out to vote in midterms in big numbers. You may dismiss this as lazy stereotyping, but sometimes lazy stereotyping is true, and this is one of those times.

So how to get these groups energized? Because if core Democratic voting groups turn out to vote in decent numbers, the Democrats will hold the Senate. Two or three of the six will hold on, the Democrats will prevail in the end in Michigan and Iowa, and either Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky or Michelle Nunn in Georgia will eke out a win. Or maybe both—if Democratic voters vote. And if not? Republicans could net seven, eight.

The other side will be motivated: They’re older, white, angry that Obama continues to have the temerity to stand up there and be president, as if somebody elected him. This will be their last chance to push the rage button (well, the Obama-rage button; soon they’ll just start pushing the Hillary-rage button). But what will motivate the liberal side?

I call this the vampire-slayer election. I’ll explain that farther down. But first, let’s hear from Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, making his team’s most plausible case for why 2014 isn’t destined to be a repeat of 2010.

Canter acknowledges that the Democrats talk about “field” in every off-year election. But now, he vows, “This is the year we’re going to say it and mean it.” In the 10 states I mention above, Canter says, the goal is to spend $60 million on field operations alone, with an aggregate 4,000 paid staff in those states. It’s called the Bannock Street Project, after the street that housed the campaign HQ of Michael Bennet, the successful Democratic Senate candidate in that state in 2010. Bennet, you might recall, was one of the few Democrats not running against witches who held on to beat a Tea Party GOPer. The effort will be to quasi-nationalize what happened in Colorado then.

Look also, Canter says, at what happened in Montana and North Dakota in 2012. In both of those states, Obama was getting walloped by Mitt Romney—by 14 and 20 points, respectively. And yet, Democratic Senate candidates won in both states. Turnout was much higher in these two states: It was 53.4 percent nationally, but 59.4 in North Dakota and 61.5 in Montana. In both cases, Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp ran well ahead of Obama and are senators today.

Canter says the operations in those 10 states will look like this. Every voter in those states—yes, every single voter in those 10 states, he says—will be given two scores on a scale of 1 to 100: a support score and a turnout score. So if Molly Jones in Paducah is a 58 likely to support the Democrat and 38 likely to turnout, she can expect a lot of contacts from field operatives this fall.

But… contact her saying what? This is where I was a little less impressed by the things Canter had to say. I think he makes a plausible logistical argument. The Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota examples are real things. So are 60 million simoleons and 4,000 operatives. But they still need a compelling, unifying message. This is where we get to Buffy.

One of the all-time great Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes was Season 3’s “The Wish,” when a female demon grants Cordelia, the classic senior-class Queen Bee-beeyatch, one wish. Cordelia wishes instantly that Buffy Summers—who makes her life far more complicated than she wishes it to be—had never come to Sunnydale. The wish is granted. The next thing you see is, indeed, what would have happened to Sunnydale if Buffy, the vampire slayer, had never hit town. The high-school population is reduced by more than half. There’s a 6 p.m. curfew. Those who remain live in fear. The vamps have taken over. It’s a death town.

See where I’m going here? That’s Washington if the Republicans get the Senate. Vamp town. Imagine if Ruth Bader Ginsberg retires. If the Republicans control the Senate, will they even give a mildly left-of-center Supreme Court nominee a hearing? What about less high-profile federal judgeships across the country? How many of those are going to go vacant? If a Cabinet official or high-ranking sub-Cabinet member resigns, will they even permit the position being re-filled? Remember—41 of the 45 current GOP senators voted against confirming Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. And he was a former senator. And a Republican one at that!

Picture the mad Darrell Issa having a counterpart in the Senate to launch baseless investigations. It’s one thing for the House to be banging on about phony IRS and Benghazi scandals, but the Senate doing it is another matter entirely—far more serious. You really think a Republican Senate won’t? And I haven’t even gotten to regular policy. You think a GOP House and Senate combined won’t try every trick in the book to pressure Obama to fold on Social Security and Medicare?

The unique 2008 election aside, fear is a much better motivator in politics than hope. Democrats need to make their base voters see vividly the potential consequences of a GOP Senate majority and live in mortal fear of it. That and $60 million just may stem the tide.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unlimited Spending”: This Is How The Koch Brothers Plan To Win The U.S Senate

The Koch brothers* are hiring.

You’ll find job listings for campaign staff positions in Koch-funded groups in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. Some of the ads call for experts in social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, YouTube, Google, and OutBrain to effect a strategy that’s both agile and overwhelming.

And you’re already seeing $20 million worth of TV ads from the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) targeting incumbent senators in Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Louisiana for supporting Obamacare. Similar ads are now up Michigan and Iowa, where veteran Democrats Carl Levin (D-MI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) are vacating their Senate seats.

Now Democrats are sounding the alarm to their donors in a moment that’s reminiscent of the note the Obama campaign hit with an email in which the president said, “I will be outspent.”

“Democrats need money at this early stage in order to fight back against the limitless spending from the Kochs,” Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The New York Times. “The limitless spending from the Kochs means we need Democratic donors to step up in a bigger way immediately.”

Republicans need six seats to take over the U.S. Senate and the Kochs are trying to expand the map to put even the states that twice voted for President Obama in play. And they’re building on a model that they perfected in 2010 when right-leaning groups hammered the president and Democrats in Congress for a year over the “failed” stimulus before it even had a chance to work.

With Democrats holding virtually every swing seat in the nation after the landslide of 2008, they defended on all fronts and avoided trying to nationalize the race, even though the choice was made for them. As the midterm election hit, in the midst of the worst job market in 60 years, Republicans won more elected offices than they had at any time since before the Great Depression.

The right tried to reprise this strategy in 2012 with dismal results. But in an off-year election, without President Obama on the ballot and with Obamacare disapproval soaring in red states, there’s a clear opportunity to use health care reform to define Democrats early.

And that’s what the Kochs are doing wherever they see an opportunity.

With former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land polling better than expected against her likely Democratic opponent Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), especially in polls that under-sample African-Americans, Michigan presents such an opportunity. Land supported Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare in previous budgets, but she’s unlikely to produce the sort of gaffes that cost Republicans Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, Nevada and Rhode Island.

Land recently touted outside groups supporting her run right as AFP’s ad targeting her opponent began a $1 million three-week run — even though collaboration between candidates and these groups is illegal. Wink, wink.

Democrats also hope to expand the Senate map to Georgia — where Obama only lost by 8 percent without spending a dime in the state. Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the state’s former beloved senator Sam Nunn, will likely be the Democratic nominee and could easily end up facing Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who was voted “Most Likely to be the Next Akin.” His primary opponent, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) — who recently said that children would benefit from working — was a close second to Broun.

While Karl Rove is actively trying to influence Republican primaries to ensure the most electable candidates win, Americans for Prosperity retains its Tea Party credibility by aiming its fire only at Democrats and sticking to the issue that will preoccupy the right for the third national election in a row — Obamacare.

So if you’re in one of those 13 targeted states, expect to hear about #fullrepeal of a law that’s been on the books for almost four years now on TV, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email and anywhere the Kochs can find you.

*The Kochs go out of their way to obscure how they spend the millions they invest in Republican politics. Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4) social welfare group that doesn’t have to release the names of its donors — though we know David Koch helped to found the group. These non-profits, which are limited in the amount of resources they can apply to political efforts, were the subject of the controversy where the IRS used political keywords to identify conservative and progressive groups for extra scrutiny. Big groups like AFP and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS avoided such scrutiny, until recently, at least.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 15, 2014

January 16, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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