The coming Republican bloodbath?

Stu Rothenberg has joined the chorus of prognosticators predicting Republicans will win the Senate majority in November. In many ways, that’s irrelevant because of three incumbent governors.  Polls show tight races for Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, and Rick Snyder in Michigan; Sam Brownback in Kansas isn’t blowing the doors off his challenger, either.

The importance of these seats goes beyond the fact that the states tend to be close in Presidential years; in his own way, each of the four governors has enacted reforms that make a real-world case for conservative policies. The mantra that “Republicans have to be FOR something!” is as tired as it is true. Each of these incumbents has enacted policies that have improved their respective states. Losses in any one state could wash away years of real progress, and it might make Republicans in other states suddenly reticent to push a reform agenda.

There are other conservative reformers out there who either aren’t up for reelection this year or who don’t have a serious opponent. These tight races will be a good electoral test for policies which have, so far, been effective. That means even more to the Republican Party than who runs the Senate in 2015.

(In the interest of disclosure, the firm I work for has done work for Walker, Scott, and Snyder and for party committees in the respective states – but as should be patently obvious, no inside information was used in linking to thsoe publicly available polls.)

Scott Brown should double down on his “gaffe”

Look and what that crazy Scott Brown said last week: 

Here’s the thing, folks say, what are you going to do to create jobs? I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs. It’s yours. My job is to make sure that government stays out of your way so that you can actually grow and expand.

The American Prospect called it a “horrible gaffe and a few left-wing outlets are trying to make some hay out of it. They may want to think twice about giving Brown’s comments more oxygen. Polls from the past few months show that the American public is gaining confidence in the business world and losing confidence in the institutions of government

Ethereal opinions are one thing, the campaign trail is another. This campaign trail cuts through New Hampshire – a state whose license plates read “Live Free or Die.” Something tells me those voters might respond well to a candidate who can articulately state that yes, government’s power has limitations.

There is not one phrase of Brown’s quote that is damning. In fact, it may be helpful in wooing independents and Republicans disillusioned with the recent four-way primary.

“No doubt someone’s preparing an ad right now based on the quote,” opines the American Prospect. That’s for sure – and it should be someone working for Scott Brown.

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IT’S A TRAP: Obama delays executive action on immigration

There won’t be any executive action on immigration policy before the November elections, according to President Barack Obama. Nationally, the issue has looked like a loser for Democrats, so it seems like a pretty obvious move.  Delaying action protects Democrats from being saddled with yet another unpopular Obama policy.  But as one of the great military leaders of our time said, “It’s a trap!”

For Democrats running in tough states where independents can be persuaded (and weak Republicans can be persuaded to stay home) based on immigration issues, this move is exactly what it looks like. But it also gives GOP candidates a false gift: the ability to claim that the looming threat of mass amnesty of illegal immigrants looms over the nation. That’s not a bad issue – for now. But remember that in 2002 and 2004, protecting state-sponsored traditional marriage was a good issue for Republicans; by 2012 the issue had reversed. In addition to the light cover offered to 2014 Democrats, Obama’s immigration delay paves the way for future Democrats to point to 2014 GOP rhetoric as evidence of racism. All it would take is for one candidate to Mourdock up a debate by talking about “the Mexican menace at our border” or some such crap.  It could also work as a shorter-term micro-issue: Democrats could identify pro-immigration pockets of both parties and drum up the issue as an example of Congressional intransigence. It wouldn’t be a stretch with the data infrastructure that’s already in place.

The messaging on this issue, as with all issues, has to be nuanced; the do-nothing message cuts both ways. Immigration could be one more issue on which the President has chosen not to lead. And that opens the door for campaign-trail discussions about new solutions that use the best of Republican and Democrat ideas – and casts aside the worst ideas, like wholesale amnesty or the President’s refusal to compromise on anything. The real opportunity for Republicans on immigration is to re-orient public positioning on the issue for 2014 and beyond.

 

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The NRSC’s Horrible, Horrible Video Game

The NRSC released Mission Majority this week, a simple online game with an 8-bit look that is just absolutely awful.

The game follows the adventures of an elephant named Giopi – like GOP, get it? – who is collecting keys and flipping switches to help the Republican party take back the Senate.  It’s obviously pure click bait, intended to draw in people and maybe squeeze out a donation.  It is kind of fun to play if you’re looking to waste some time at work.

The real problem is that the NRSC is not a video game company, so making a fun little time-waster isn’t enough. With 64 days to go until Election Day, everything released by a party committee has to have a message. Giopi’s mission is, as the game suggests, winning back the majority of the US Senate.  If you beat the game, you get a congratulatory note about how taking back the Senate will mean the end of the “red tape” and “regulations” holding America back.

“Red tape?” “Regulations?” Is that the compelling case the GOP is making to American voters this year?

People have lost their health coverage or been forced to pay more. Hourly workers are seeing their shifts cut short because the money isn’t there to pay them. Middle East terrorists are operating with no fear of retribution.

Maybe it’s just a game, but the NRSC’s tone deafnesses and inability to verbalize what they can offer the electorate in such an easy setting should be unsettling to anyone thinking about cracking their wallet open.

 

The “Against the Spread” Election

Princeton University’s Sam Wang thinks Democrats have a 65% chance of holding onto the Senate.  Republicans should be spreading that news far and wide.

Unfortunately for the GOP, most of the news media seems to take a Senate flip as fait accompli.  The concept of the “point spread” – a staple of fall once football season kicks off – applies to elections, too.  Expectations are the point spreads of politics.  For example: Conventional wisdom in January stated that Sens. Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu were toast.  But both are legacy politicians in states which favor such things, making the incompetence and indifference of their party’s nominal leader less relevant.  Fewer people than anticipated in Arkansas or Louisiana seem ready to link their November vote to the fact that the last year of the Obama Presidency has looked like a mix between a Jerry Lewis movie and that scene in Office Space where Peter stops pretending to care about his job.

Should Pryor and Landrieu pull off razor-thin victories, pundits will cluck that even in red states, Republicans were unable to win enough support to topple vulnerable incumbents.  On a national scale, if Republicans fail to win the Senate despite major media outlets anticipating a flip, there will be similar indictments of the GOP’s messages and strategies.

Now would be a good time to temper national expectations.  Party officials should talk about the lack of a national wave, while pointing out that frustration has been building for some time.  Political reporters should hear a steady drumbeat of phrases like:

  • “This isn’t 2010.”
  • “People are frustrated with all of Washington right now, we’ll see how individual races shake out.”
  • “A Senate flip would be pretty drastic based on the numbers of seats we’d have to pick up. We have some great candidates, but that might be a little bit of a stretch.”

A round of stories right around Labor Day throwing cold water on the national excitement wouldn’t be the worst thing (though it might have been better about a month ago). By framing a Senate switch as drastic, historic, and improbably, the GOP could have been in a position to claim an even greater popular mandate heading into 2015.

As it is now, a Republican majority is something the chattering class are expecting – which would frame even an appreciable gain of five Senate seats a crushing national loss.

Robin Williams’s death gets a White House statement. Where’s the one for Maj. Gen. Harold Greene?

Hours after the news of Robin Williams’s death broke, the White House issued a heartfelt and sincere statement.

Major General Harold Green was killed in action several days ago, in Afghanistan. The White House was slow to respond to the death of a high-ranking servicemember, and has not yet posted a statement on the White House website.  

Most people don’t know Gen. Greene’s name, while just about everyone knew Williams’s.  He was so adept at shifting among adult-themed comedy, serious acting, and family-oriented silliness that most people have a favorite Robin Williams movie or appearance.

The Facebook and Twitter tributes back that up: Williams’s death is a trending topic.  And the Obama White House has a keen sense of zeitgeist (one that makes their apparent, frequent tone deafness tough to understand).  The White House statement on Williams passing will make it into news feeds and be retweeted, so speaking out on his death – and doing so quickly – becomes a priority.  

Treating death this way is unfair – not only to Maj. Gen. Greene, but to Williams, who deserves to be more than social media fodder for a politician.

Obama blames GOP extremism for not appreciating how brilliant he is

Our American President mused in a New York Times interview that the series of speedbumps that have knocked him off course for the past five to six years has a lot to do with the extremists he faces in the other party: 

“Our politics are dysfunctional,” said the [P]resident… “Increasingly politicians are rewarded for taking the most extreme maximalist positions,” he said, “and sooner or later, that catches up with you.”

Extreme and divisive politics sure does catch up to you. For example, you reaching across the aisle when you finish a bitter election season and your best negotiating point with your opponents is, “I won.”  (This is especially true if it comes right after spending a year promising “a new kind of politics.”)  And once is bad enough, but then if you do it again, you’re really going to have problems. 

Hopefully the Obama Adminstration can overcome such a toxic political enviroment.