Why Obama’s “On the Ballot” remark was secretly genius.

About ten days ago, President Barack Obama seemed like he had decided to write political ads for Republicans by declaring that his “policies are on the ballot.” Republicans crowed and Democrats moaned that it was a mistake destined to hurt Democratic candidates, who are running away from the president with cartoonish urgency.

The last few days have indeed been poor for Democrats, but that’s largely the doing of a set of candidates who either forgot how to talk or who looked at their wheelchair-bound opponent with the suspicious disdain of Walter Sobchak. That all this followed the President’s comments is largely coincidence. Their undisciplined candidates have proven as adept at self-destruction as Republican candidates have been in the previous three election cycles.

Throw in an unfavorable issue environment, and 2012 is an election that could get away from Democrats. But as a recent Gallup poll shows, Republican voters aren’t geeked for November 4 like they were in 2010:

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In other words, Republican gains in 2014 will be as much or more the result of disillusionment and lethargy on the left as it is about excitement on the right. Two years ago, these voters were excited and motivated – which is why Romney winning the supposedly vital “independent vote” didn’t help him at all.

Will independent voters be turned off by Obama’s policies being on the ballot? Maybe, but if you’re the Democrats, who cares? You won without them in 2012, and the only way to win in 2014 is to drag out the people who thought it was so important to elect and reelect the President.

The political “digital divide” is closing – but not because of this

Politico pointed out that Republicans lead Democrats in viral videos this election cycle:

By generating hundreds of thousands of clicks, the Republicans’ digital success represents a remarkable tech turnaround compared with 2012, when President Barack Obama’s campaign easily outpaced Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP field in the production of the most popular Web content.

That’s right and wrong at the same time, which is really tough to do.

A higher click total is not a sign of better use of technology, but a sign of better use of message. The article goes on to talk about why the Republican message has been so video-friendly, which underscores the point.

The technology to make an online video is pretty simple, any yahoo with a Mac can make something that looks pretty decent. Clicks come from content – what the video says is more important than Politico lets on.

If you want to know why Republicans have closed in on the Democrats’ tech advantage, look at the actual technology and how it’s being used. For example, i360, a data firm that caters to conservative movement organizations, and DataTrust, the data wing of the GOP, are sharing their voter data. If one of those companies found out that you’re an independent and the other one knows you’re left handed, campaigns would have access to both tags and could use both to shape how they talk to you. That’s a legit tech upgrade over the sloppy, fractured Republican data infrastructure of the past.

This video should scare Democrats, and not just in Kentucky

If you’re a Democrat Senate candidate, you should be very scared about the videos James O’Keefe is dribbling out this week, like this one:

And not just because his Project Veritas Action released a second video today. If you look at O’Keefe’s body of work/trail of tears, it becomes clear that not only does he understand how to use video to tell a story but how to use multiple videos to establish a narrative.

The smart money is that there’s more video out there of more Democrat campaign supporters in more states saying more stupid stuff.

Project Veritas has seized on the idea that Alison Grimes isn’t quite as pro-Kentucky energy as she’s let on, and now she’s stuck between her extreme supporters and the mainstream voters she wants to court. And every Democrat in a targeted Senate race has some issue where they have a similar disconnect with their voters. (Heck, Mark Pryor got asked about Ebola and he couldn’t answer for fear of providing fodder for a round of negative ads.)

Right now, senior Democrat campaign operatives in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Iowa, and Michigan should be wondering if one of O’Keefe’s crew has one of their people saying something stupid on candid camera.

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Strategic Negativity (or, Why the “Latte Salute” Fizzled)

Moral outrage is the greatest motivating force in politics, according to my former boss Morton Blackwell. When you can stoke passionate disapproval over something your opponent does, you’re on your way to winning an issue.

The problem is that people don’t get mad as hell over everything, so shooting for moral outrage can make you look silly. Last week served up an excellent example of just that when the White House thought it was a good idea to drop a video of President Barack Obama absent-mindedly saluting Marines without putting his coffee cup down.

Military supporters were understandably upset, and conservative commentators decried the President’s seeming indifference to the troops. Their shrill and immediate protests backfired; Jon Stewart and MSNBC mocked the response to such a trivial matter. The story went away within two days. And if you are part of the majority of America that is not steeped in the tradition and customs of the military, you might also wonder why conservatives’ panties were bunched so.

In this case, moral outrage didn’t catch on with the general public.  But outrage isn’t the only way to score points against an opponent. Ridicule works, too.

Jokes about President Obama having mentally checked out from his second term a couple years early are becoming a staple of late night monologues. Left alone, the Latte Salute would have given them another punchline to the same joke. Instead of wringing hands over the President’s salute being disrespectful, why not make fun of him for looking like a guy whose weekend starts at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon?

The foundation for the current disapproval of the President stems from issues which do deserve outrage. For starters, people are losing their health insurance or being forced to pay more for less; policies meant to elevate the poor are perpetuating poverty; and our foreign policy is indecisive and poorly informed. It would be easier to mobilize voter unrest on those issues if people have an image of a detached President. Smart jokes about Obama’s careless, tone-deaf salute could have helped paint that picture.

Buck Showalter ended Derek Jeter’s career

Derek Jeter plays his last home game Thursday night, with his first major league manager, Buck Showalter, in the opposing dugout. Plenty of people will point out that Showalter was Jeter’s first big league manager back in 1995, but few appreciate how Showalter has helped run Jeter out of The Show.

Showalter took over the Orioles in 2010. After a down year in 2011, the 2012 Orioles gave the Yankees a run for their money in the final month of 2012. It took New York until the final game of the season to clinch the division. Joe Girardi had to pencil Jeter into the lineup every day, despite the fact that he was dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle. The Orioles pushed the Yankees for 162 games, then pushed them again in a thrilling, five-game ALDS.

It took New York167 games to finally get past Baltimore. In Game 168, Jeter’s ankle famously gave out:

[Yankees GM Brian] Cashman said that himself, Girardi, [trainer Steve] Donahue and Jeter’s former manager, Joe Torre, as well as Reggie Jackson and Tino Martinez were all in the room when Jeter heard he was done for the playoffs.

” ‘It’s something you can’t play through.’ That’s something Doc had to emphasize, because Derek is as tough as they come,” Cashman said.

(Sidebar: It took six people – including two Hall of Famers – plus a doctor, to tell Derek Jeter: “No, sorry, Derek, after getting dragged off the field in Game 1 because your leg snapped, you will not play in Game 2.”)

After a season of rehab and re-injuries, Jeter announced his retirement after one more season. It was bound to happen eventually, but the lengthy effort to get back on the field let him know it was time to go.

This year Orioles are going to have no worse than the second-best record in the American League, and can boast three straight winning seasons.

Those are the Orioles, by the way. That may not seem so odd now, but the team hadn’t posted a winning record since the days of Cal Ripken and Armando Benitez. Their last postseason team had a rotation fronted by Mike Mussina and Jimmy Key (before and after the Yankees had them, respectively) and also had Scott Kamieniecki as another starter. Don’t remember Scott Kamieniecki? Neither does anyone else. Camden Yards was perennially a second home field for Red Sox and Yankees fans, and the Orioles were usually kind enough hosts not to put up too much of a fight. They were a lost franchise stuck in a loop of mediocrity like Sidney Ponson at a buffet an hour after the lunch rush.

Then came Buck Showalter, who scuffled with Tony LaRussa in his first year as Yankee Manager and hasn’t lost his fighting spirit yet.  In inspiring that in his new team, he pushed his old team (and his old player) more than they had been pushed in some time.

In 1995, Showalter wrote out the first major league lineup card that included Derek Jeter’s name (a year earlier than the Yankees expected thanks to a rash of middle infield injuries). Twenty seasons later, Showalter had a big hand in hastening Jeter’s retirement.

[Washington's NFL team]‘s name will definitely change

This promo for South Park’s 18th season – really? 18? – debuted yesterday during the Eagles/Redskins game:

Twenty years ago, calls for the Redskins to change their name could have been dismissed as a fringe cause for politically correctness. Slowly, those calls have echoed by more mainstream liberals who previously might have cared as much or who might dismissed questions about a sports team as unimportant.

But losing South Park? That’s a good sign that the momentum for a name change has spilled over from a left-wing niche issue and into the mainstream. Dan Snyder may not like it (or may intend to use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a newer new stadium), but the Redskins team name probably has less than a decade left.