Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Last Call For The State Of Play

This month's Pew Research poll is up on the state of American politics in the wake of the GOP wins last week, and they're very informative.  First of all, while Democrats want President Obama to work with Republicans, Republican want Congress to tell President Obama to go to hell, effectively the same place things were in 2010.

Two-Thirds of Republicans Want GOP Leaders to ‘Stand Up’ to Obama

Secondly, nearly half of Latino voters see no difference between President Obama and Republicans on immigration reform legislation.

Many Hispanics See ‘No Difference’ Between Obama, GOP on Immigration

Food for thought, and much more at the link.

The Sinister Six

Senate Republicans seem pretty confident they can get things past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate to force president Obama to veto things.  There's three scenarios there: 

  1. Mitch McConnell will use budget reconciliation tricks to require a 51-vote majority with no filibuster on things like Obamacare,
  2. Senate Republicans will get rid of/severely limit the filibuster altogether,
  3. There's enough Democrats that will vote with the GOP to break a 60-vote filibuster.

TPM's Sahil Kapur looks at scenario three there and identifies six Dems who can be flipped.  Regular readers should be able to guess who they are already.

If he does manage to keep his caucus united, here are McConnell's six top Democratic prospects for reaching 60 votes.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri

It took Todd Akin of "legitimate rape" notoriety to save McCaskill from electoral doom in 2012, and this second-term Missourian recognizes that she can't vote in lock-step with her party if she wants to stay in the good graces of her conservative-leaning state. Look for her to side with Republicans from time to time to appease her right flank, on issues such as the Keystone pipeline. 
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia

This conservative Democrat has always looked for ways to make himself attractive to West Virginians, from literally shooting the cap-and-trade bill in a campaign ad to voting against Reid on filibuster reform. With the ranks of conservative Democrats diminished in the wake of the 2014 blowout, Manchin will look for opportunities to tout his bipartisan bona fides. 
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota

Heitkamp won her first Senate election in 2012 by a razor-thin 1 percent margin in deep-red North Dakota. Not shy about breaking with her party, she was one of just four Democrats who voted to block the popular gun background checks legislation in 2013 — the other three have retired or lost reelection. Expect her to hunt for issues where she can align herself with the new Republican majority. 
Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana

Donnelly largely owes his seat to Indiana Republicans who threw out an untouchable incumbent in 2012 in favor of a candidate to imploded amid a rape gaffe in the general election. One of the more conservative Democrats, he'll likely be willing to partner with McConnell's Republicans in some cases, such as reversing the 30-hour work week definition under Obamacare. 
Sen. Angus King of Maine

King, a progressive-leaning independent who says he'll continue to caucus with Democrats, has often looked for ways to polish his nonpartisan credentials. In two years as a senator, King has tried to play deal-maker and split with Democrats on issues like gun control and student loans. 
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana

Tester survived reelection in the Democrat-friendly year of 2012, but his party got wiped out this year in the race for Montana's other Senate seat. Tester has been willing to buck Democratic leaders at times, most notably when he helped kill the DREAM Act by filibuster in 2010.

Of those six, Manchin and King are going to be the largest problems, but McCaskill is wholly involved in her own self-aggrandizement as well, and the rest can be counted on from time to time to play the same role Olympia Snowe did as a Maine Republican and Evan Bayh did as an Indiana Democrat: the person who will make the call on pass or fail and who can extract the most from both sides.

Manchin is especially keen on allowing the GOP majority to pass bills.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) made in clear in an interview published Monday that he has no plans to support Democrats who want to take a page out of the GOP playbook by obstructing the new Republican majority. 
"That's bullshi—…. I'm not going to put up with that," Manchin told Politico when discussing the prospect of Democrats blocking the Republican agenda over the next two years. 
Manchin didn't appear to be alone either. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) also talked about the need to get something done. 
"Our caucus needs to take a hard look at the way we do things and make sure we are putting the policy issues first before politics," McCaskill told Politico. "The habit we got into in doing nothing, no one was happy with that. I hope that we never go back to that."

In other words, if you thought President Snowe jokes were annoyingly accurate in 2009, you've not seen anything yet with these six lovely individuals, who won't waste a minute in rushing to screw over Obama heading into 2016.

And Manchin?  Well, don't be surprised if he decides to stay in West Virginia and run for Governor again, opening the door for a second GOP senator from that state in 2016 to go along with Shelly Moore Capito's win last week.

What a guy, huh?

The Real 2014 Election Winners

Let's not forget that the real winners in last week's elections were the billionaire Republican donors who bought eight new Senators for their oligarchy.

To get from the 2012 doldrums to the 2014 victory, GOP groups went through significant transformations. The network of groups backed by David and Charles Koch started buying attack ads with a new super-PAC instead of the nonprofit it used two years ago. The upside for them is the operation is more efficient (tax rules require nonprofits to spend at least 50 percent of their budget on nonpolitical activity, so every dollar on TV political ads must be matched with nonpolitical work). The downside is donor names are disclosed.

Perhaps the greatest example of a turnaround is Rove's American Crossroads. The group was the biggest loser two years ago, dumping more than $120 million into campaigns and watching 10 of the 12 Senate candidates it backed go down in defeat. This time Rove's group won 8 of the 11 Senate races where it made investments.

Crossroads went on a well-publicized soul searching mission last fall, including a donor meeting that kicked off the week of the government shutdown in 2013--an event that infuriated the business community. Despite the group's efforts to improve it's image, big checks were slow to come in. Over the summer Republicans were outspent in key races, Crossroads President Steven Law said in an interview. "Many of our candidates hit Labor Day and were underwater with their image," Law said. 

Unlimited money made all the difference this year.

The donor freeze started thawing in September when polling began to tighten in a number of races and big-names such as Sheldon Adelson started opening their wallets. He wrote a $10 million check to Crossroads GPS in September, a nonprofit arm of the Rove organization. GPS, as a nonprofit, is not required to disclose its donors. Adelson's windfall was leaked to the news media. "Typically donors who support Crossroads are pretty sophisticated consumers of political information," Law said. "My guess is donors paid attention to what they saw on sites like Real Clear Politics."

The group scraped together $36 million to put into television for senate races in the last 90 days of the campaign, according to figures provided by Crossroads. It was the lead spender in Colorado, Arkansas and Alaska, where GOP Dan Sullivan is about 8,000 votes ahead of Democrat Mark Begich.

And money buys cooperation.

However, resources weren't arriving evenly or predictably. That forced Crossroads and some of the other GOP groups to cooperate this year in ways they've never done before. One example came in October when Crossroads realized there was a "hole in our budget" for Colorado, Law said. 
Law emailed Brain Baker at Ending Spending Action Fund, the super-PAC backed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and the two worked out a deal—the Ricketts group would go up on the air and continue pounding incumbent Democrat Mark Udall while Crossroads took a week off. "Ending Spending filled a gap," Law said. "The take away for all of us was sharing information and strategy was smart for all of us." Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner. 
Ending Spending took the lead in other places, including Georgia where Republican David Perdue beat back Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn, in a race that was widely thought would go to a runoff.

So these GOP billionaires joined forced and coordinated their attacks worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  As a result, Democrats were utterly crushed across the country.

There's a lesson here if Democrats wish to choose to learn it.  You'd better believe the 2016 ads designed to depress voter turnout are already starting too.

Billionaire Republican donors bought Congress outright with this election.  If they get the White House as well, this country is done.

And it doesn't look like anyone can stop them unless we vote.  While you still can, that is.


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