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“For The GOP, It’s Always A Base Election”: Only Change Is The Idea Of How To Give The Base What It Wants

I wonder if anyone has come up with workable definition of a base election. The idea is simple enough. Some elections are won not by winning an argument with the other side and persuading swing voters or independents or undecideds, but by doing a better job than your opponents in convincing your core voters to turn out to vote.

It seems to me that this is roughly how the Republicans won the 2004 presidential election, and also probably how they won the 2002 midterms. It’s definitely how they won the midterms in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, I think the Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 precisely because they convinced people in the middle (and even many Republicans) to come over to their side. I think you can probably make the same case for 2012, although that seems to have been more of a hybrid of the two.

In any case, it seems to me that the Republicans last won a presidential election using a base mobilization strategy in 2004, and we shouldn’t forget how close of a call that was. When the polls closed, most people looking at the exit polls thought that John Kerry had won. And he would have won if Bush hadn’t done such a great job getting out his base in Ohio. Yes, there were also shenanigans in Ohio that may have changed the outcome, but it’s definite that the red parts of Ohio turned out in huge numbers, largely motivated by their opposition to gay marriage.

So, 2004 is a fairly recent example that shows that the Republicans could theoretically win a base election. It won’t be easy to replicate, though. First, demographic changes since 2004 have made it harder for the Republicans to win a base election because their base is now smaller and the Democrats’ base is now larger. Second, it helped Bush a lot that he was the incumbent and could direct media coverage and attention at will. It also helped that he had a willing partner in shenanigans in then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Since 2004, the Republicans have tried and failed twice to win an election by pandering to their base rather than pursuing voters in the middle. All the proof you need of that is that Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan were chosen as running mates, both of whom were supposed to please the mouth-breathers and rally them to the cause.

After the Republicans lost in 2012, the RNC’s after-report was clear about the futility of trying to win a base election again in 2016. Yet, the idea seems more popular right now than it was in the last two cycles. Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the idea of how to give the base what it wants. Does it want someone who is frothing at the mouth about immigration even if they’re pretty inconsistent as a conservative on many other issues? Or, are they looking for the most hated man in Washington, DC, just because they hate Washington, DC so very much?

That’s really the choice they have between Trump and Cruz, although Trump promises to at least change the shape of the Republican base. That doesn’t mean he will enlarge it though.

This is admittedly a weird election season and unpredictable, but I think a base election is close to unwinnable for the Republican Party in a presidential year. If they win, I don’t think it will be because their base turned out and the Democrats’ base did not. If they win it will because the persuadable voters liked their candidate better than the Democratic candidate. And the more their candidate panders to the base, the less likely that the persuadable voters will like them better.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Base Elections, GOP Base, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fire One, Fire Two, Fire Three”: GOP Circular Firing Squad Locked And Loaded

Apparently, it’s Republican circular firing squad week here in Washington. Item 1: David Corn of Mother Jones got hold of the proceedings of a secret group of conservatives scheming to take hold of American politics and shove it where it needs to go:

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks.

I have to commend Corn for getting these documents, but unfortunately, Groundswell isn’t exactly the right-wing A-Team. It’s more like the C-Team. Members include Ginny Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas; anti-Muslim zealot Frank Gaffney; religious nutball and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; and some reporters from the Washington Examiner and Nevertheless, despite their lack of actual influence, it’s interesting just to see what these kinds of folks do when they get together and try to conspire.

And the answer is, pretty much exactly what liberals do when they try the same thing. They complain about their enemies. Everyone offers their own brilliant messaging ideas, few of which anyone ever uses. They say, “If I were making a 30-second ad, this is how it would go…” They begin with a sense of urgency that gradually fades. And eventually, attendance at the meetings declines, people stop bothering to contribute as much to the email lists, and it just peters out.

In my previous work as a partisan, I was part of some efforts that were similar to Groundswell, though none of them had such a snappy name. Some consisted of nothing more than a monthly meeting of various liberals to share gripes and toss around ideas, few of which were ever implemented. Others were a little better-organized, meaning they produced—prepare yourself—the occasional memo. None resulted in dramatic political change.

So if this is the group that’s gunning for Karl Rove — which apparently is their main focus—I don’t think he has much to worry about. Rove may be overrated, but he’s still a professional, and these people are amateurs.

On to item 2: According to Politico, there’s a feud a-brewin’ between, on one side, congressional Republicans who hate Obamacare so much they want to cry, and on the other side, congressional Republicans who hate Obamacare so much they want to stamp their feet. The strategic question at play has to do with the fact that in order for the government to keep functioning, Congress is going to have to pass a continuing resolution in September. A CR is what you do when you haven’t passed an actual budget; it says that funding for everything will continue at its current level. Congress passes CRs all the time, because if you don’t, it’s kind of disastrous. But where you and I see disaster, someone like Marco Rubio, desperate to restore his Tea Party cred in the wake of immigration reform apparently failing, sees an opportunity. So he and a few other GOP senators like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are pushing their colleagues to make this threat: They’ll block the CR and thus shut down the government unless Congress votes (and President Obama agrees!) to defund the Affordable Care Act, for all intents and purposes repealing it.

So threatening to shut down the government has become the all-purpose means by which some Republicans believe they can achieve almost any policy goal. Can’t cut food stamps? Shut down the government! Can’t repeal Obamacare? Shut down the government! “Mr. Chairman, if our proposal to declare August to be National Ted Nugent Appreciation Month is not passed by this body, we will have no choice but to shut down the government!”

Fortunately, many Republican senators are sane enough to realize that shutting down the government in an attempt to stop Obamacare would be a political catastrophe for the GOP, so they’re not going to let it happen. But the whole thing is sure to breed plenty of displeasure and resentment. Just what the party needs.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 26, 2013

July 27, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Facing A Groundswell”: The Plotting And Scheming Of An Assorted Cast Of Cringe Worthy Conservative Clowns

If you’ve ever found it curious that far-right media activists all seem to say the same thing at the same time about the same issues, it’s not your imagination. David Corn offers an explanation.

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington — including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner — has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell — including aides to congressional Republicans — cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders.

There’s quite a bit to Corn’s scoop, including the fact that Groundswell really has no use for Karl Rove’s effort to protect more electable Republicans in GOP primaries.

There’s also quite a cast of characters at play, led in part by Ginni Thomas, and including an ignominious assortment of cringe-worthy clowns, including former ambassador John Bolton, former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Ken Blackwell, Frank Gaffney, Jerry Boykin, and Capitol Hill staffers, including a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Groundswell has collaborated with conservative GOPers on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Cruz and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a leading tea partier. At its weekly meetings, the group aims to strengthen the right’s messaging by crafting Twitter hashtags; plotting strategy on in-the-headlines issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, and the sequester; promoting politically useful scandals; and developing “action items.”

That may make Groundswell sound kind of scary, but there’s reason to believe these right-wing activists — surprise, surprise — aren’t especially sharp.

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics: “We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.'” The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican,” a phrase, the memo noted, that “changes minds.” (His name is actually spelled “Frederick Douglass.”) The meeting notes also stated that an “active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them” with “vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight.”

The right’s preoccupation with manufactured fake scandals, however, is coming into sharper focus.

The notes from the March 20 meeting summed up Groundswell griping: “Conservatives are so busy dealing with issues like immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts there is little time left to focus on other issues. These are the very issues the Left wants to avoid but we need to magnify. R’s cannot beat Obama at his own game but need to go on the offense and define the issues.” The group’s proposed offensive would include hyping the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking controversy, slamming Obama’s record, and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal.

To be sure, there’s nothing illegal or necessarily untoward about this kind of coordination, but the fact that these folks feel the need to get together to plot and scheme, as part of their perceived “war” with the left, explains quite a bit about the problems with much of the political discourse.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 25, 2013

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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