Thursday, December 17, 2015

How DCCC Incompetence Will Protect The GOP House Majority Even With Herr Trumpf Or Cruz At The Top Of The Ticket


This morning I spoke to an old friend, a prominent and well-off progressive attorney who lives in a red-leaning swing district with a low-profile, relatively inoffensive-- albeit very right-wing-- Republican congressman. He ran against the congressman once but, largely due to typical duplicity and incompetence from Steve Israel and the DCCC, he ended the cycle by saying he would never run again. This week, he was at the White House where he was persuaded to maybe give it another try. How did that happen? Herr Trumpf or Ted Cruz, one of whom is almost sure to be on the top of the ticket next year, will leave districts like his very winnable-- at least on paper.

Underlying the report from Simone Pathé today in Roll Call about Democrats running in pretty red congressional districts in Indiana is the same thinking: Trumpf or Cruz will have powerful reverse coattails and drag non-Confederate state Republicans down the toilet. In Indiana "several Democrats," wrote Pathé, "are mounting challenges to GOP incumbents or going after an open seat currently held by a Republican-- a sign that Democrats are looking to keep their options open should the presidential race make the state’s map more competitive." (One thing that hasn't changed in Indiana, however, is the completely erroneous assumption that the path forward for Democrats is the Republican-lite path, but that's a different story for a different day.)

Abby Livingston, writing for the Texas Tribune reports how uneasy Beltway Republicans are about what a Cruz or Trumpf nomination could do to GOP chances of holding onto their historic majority in the House. "While Cruz and Trump are enjoying success in running campaigns that appeal to the GOP base," she wrote, "some political experts and operatives say their messages could prove unpalatable to general election voters in dozens of GOP-held House districts in the Northeast and in some suburbs, where voters are often fiscally conservative but socially liberal."
“I think it has to play out, but there is nervousness with Cruz, who is clearly not part of the establishment, that you don’t find with [Marco] Rubio or [Jeb] Bush or [John] Kasich in some of those districts," said former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., an expert on House races. He added that although Cruz could be a drag in the Northeast, where there are vulnerable incumbents from Pennsylvania to New England, and in upper Midwest states like Michigan, the Texan could also boost candidates in the western U.S., where Republicans are in tough Nevada and Colorado districts.

Davis, however, cautioned that it is too early in the election to know which issues will drive voters to the polls next fall.

...Cruz is running a sharply conservative campaign based on the theory that he will energize evangelical voters to turn out and overwhelm the margins that President Obama racked up in 2008 and 2012.

Some House Republican campaign operatives worry that such a strategy would alienate voters in suburban Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit and in upstate New York.

“If you have someone like Sen. Cruz, the members who are most vulnerable are in states like New York and Pennsylvania and swing states, and if you have a nominee who is widely out of step with voters in those states, there’s no question that would be a recruiting tool for the Democrats," said GOP consultant Brian Walsh.

"The irony is that it is Republicans who are least aligned with Cruz who would pay the biggest price for the nomination," he said of more moderate incumbents in suburban districts.

Walsh, a former U.S. House and Senate staffer, would not subscribe to the House-is-in-play theory, arguing that even with substantial GOP losses, his party's majority is too large for Democrats to threaten.

"Given where the maps are, Cruz would make the House interestingly competitive and worth pulling the calculator out of the drawer to count seat by seat," said Stu Rothenberg, a political analyst with the Rothenberg/Gonzales Political Report.

Rothenberg added that a Cruz or Trump nomination puts a vulnerable Republican incumbent in a Catch-22. A vulnerable Republican incumbent might aim to differentiate oneself from such a nominee, but "doing that has a downside, too-- you’re going to alienate some Republicans if you are distancing yourself from the nominee," he said.

Campaign operatives from both parties point to the 26 GOP-held seats that are in districts where Obama won a majority of the 2012 popular vote. The Republican fear-- and Democratic hope-- is that Cruz falls short of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's performance and throws those seats into contention.

...Democrats are actively making plans around a would-be Cruz or Trump nomination as they enter the final stretch of 2016 candidate recruitment.

Several House Democratic sources said the party pitch to recruits shifted this fall: If there is any time to run for Congress, it's the year when Republicans are postured to run a controversial nominee.

Their hope is to have candidates in place in the event Cruz or Trump is at the top of the ballot and the bottom falls out for downballot Republicans next November.

"We’ve have been actively recruiting in races across the country, but the farther the Republican presidential primary moves toward the fringes, the more clear the choice becomes for voters up and down the ballot," said Matt Thornton, the spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House’s Democratic campaign arm.

Thornton maintained that competing in 70 new districts has been the strategy since the beginning of the cycle.

Rothenberg called Democratic recruitment "mixed," but said that a polarizing Republican nominee "could possibly make underwhelming Democratic recruits look more impressive and threatening."

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who is active with the House’s Democratic campaign arm, said that having any one of Cruz, Trump or retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson being the GOP nominee would be a boon to her party’s recruitment.

“I have talked to candidates who are waiting to file if [the nomination] goes that way,” Frankel said.
Republicans aren't overly worried that there's any chance of actually losing the majority for several reasons, successful gerrymandering and an utterly incapable DCCC-- geared entirely towards grubbing money from corporate America and Wall Street-- being first among them. DCCC recruitment strategy is so fatally flawed that even a Cruz or Trumpf nomination will still leave the Republicans in control of the House.

The possible impact down-ticket of a Cruz or Trumpf nomination was also implied in Greg Sargent's Washington Post column today. Citing polling data, he writes that "those GOP voters and GOP-leaning independents who support Trump or Cruz are overwhelmingly more likely to be animated by anti-Muslim attitudes than Republicans overall are... 78 percent of Trump/Cruz supporters support Trump’s temporary Muslim ban; 62 percent of them believe U.S. Muslims do not face unjustified discrimination; and 53 percent of them believe mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims. By contrast, among those GOP voters who back any one of the other candidates, only minorities agree with those sentiments. What’s more, Trump/Cruz supporters are significantly more likely than Republicans overall to agree with these ideas."
GOP candidates who are trying to steer the debate away from Trumpian Islamophobia understand that an extended GOP wallow in Trump’s xenophobic cesspool could prove bad for the party in the general election. But the candidates need to compete in the GOP primaries first. As Brian Beutler puts it: “Rallying Islamophobic voters into their camps is essentially the task at hand. But in the longer term, the political merits of this strategy are much less clear.”

Our chart above suggests that this really may be the task at hand for the GOP candidates, and that at this point, that task could be very challenging for those of them who are not named Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. As Trump put it in one of the most interesting lines of the night: “we’ve opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up.”

By “we,” Trump of course meant, “me.” And as the chart shows, Trump is right. But it’s not clear how-- or whether-- those Republicans who recognize that this “big discussion” is potentially destructive to the party can bring it to an end.
It's times like this that Republicans can thank their lucky stars that Pelosi appointed the likes of Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen, Steve Israel (and Israel's sock puppet, Ben Ray Luján) to run the DCCC, competence having never been a factor in her very flawed decisions, which only took into account the ability to raise money and, in the sock-puppet's case, the ability to placate Latinos. Action item: pick one and let's bend the arc of history away from DCCC failure. Entertainment while you're choosing...

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