Monday, October 23, 2017

Will Republican Cannibalism Do What The DCCC And DSCC Are Incapable Of?


A YouGov poll for The Economist last week showed congressional approval at 8% and disapproval at 71%. Yeah, Congress is not popular. An overwhelming majority of Americans see Congress as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. They're right. And congressional leadership is especially loathed by most voters-- all the top leaders' favorability has been underwater in every poll this year. A Morning Consult poll for Politico last month had Ryan's favorability at 32% and hs unfavorability as 45%-- almost as bad as Pelosi's, whose favorability was at 29% and unfavorability at 47%. McConnell was at 22% favorable and 43% unfavorable and Schumer was 26% favorable and 30% unfavorable. Worse yet-- for them and their parties-- voters are starting to say they will take out their dislike for the leaders on their own candidates for Congress. Look at this:

Asking voters the same question for Pelosi and Schumer yield about the same ugly results. On the other hand, registered Democratic voters still back their party’s legislative leaders. 45% said they’d be more likely to vote for a member who supported Pelosi, with 21% saying they’d be less likely. Among registered Republicans, 40% said they would be more likely to support a member of Congress who approves of Ryan Speaker, while 28% said they’d be less likely. Pelosi is facing more and more resistance to her leadership within congressional Democratic ranks. Texas Blue Dog Filemon Vela said that he thinks, "you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top. Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons." Since then California Democrat, Linda Sanchez, a member of Pelosi's own leadership team, told her-- quite publicly-- it's time to say goodbye and make room for the next generation of leaders.

Over the weekend, The Hill reported that when Republican candidates for Congress are asked if they'll vote for McConnell they try to avoid answering. (The same dynamic is at play for Ryan and for the Democratic leaders.) Bannon has succeeded into turning McConnell into "a flashpoint" among Republicans.
The Hill asked nearly two-dozen Senate candidates this week if they would support McConnell as leader if elected. Not one campaign said outright that they would support McConnell, although two candidates appear to have expressed support for McConnell in the past.

Several candidates declared their opposition to McConnell and attacked their GOP primary opponents for not taking a stance on the question. Other candidates deflected, or spoke on background about the bind they’re in over the question of McConnell’s leadership. Most candidates were eager to avoid the question entirely, and ignored multiple requests for comment.

The candidate survey underscores the tricky balancing act facing Republican Senate candidates in 2018, which is shaping up to be a proxy war between the party establishment and its grassroots base.

On one side is McConnell and his deep ties to the national party’s donor network, a prized asset for any candidate facing a tough primary. On the other side is Breitbart chairman and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, the anti-establishment provocateur with the influential news outlet who is asking candidates to oppose the majority leader.

... In primary races in Ohio and Missouri, candidates with crossover appeal between the grassroots and the establishment have both declined to endorse McConnell but are under fire from their Republican opponents nonetheless.

GOP Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons is calling on state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the favorite in the race, to sign his petition demanding that McConnell retire.

Mandel, who received millions of dollars in outside support from the McConnell-aligned group American Crossroads GPS for his failed 2012 bid, ducked the question at a press conference this week and told reporters he’d address it when elected.

“Just like we would expect from the career politician that he is, Josh is refusing to take a position,” Gibbons said in a statement to The Hill.

Mandel’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

In Missouri, Austin Petersen, who is running against state Attorney General Josh Hawley, the favorite, is similarly on the attack. Hawley has dodged the question of whether he would support McConnell, even as Rove publicly boasts about how he and McConnell recruited Hawley to get into the race.

“Hawley refuses to say whether he’ll support him,” Petersen told The Hill. “That’s playing politics. I said two months ago I wouldn’t support McConnell and I had everything to lose when I did that.”

Hawley’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In Arizona and Nevada, insurgent candidates Kelli Ward and Danny Tarkanian are demanding Republicans move on from McConnell as they seek to upset incumbent Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Dean Heller (R-NV), respectively.

So too is Alabama’s Roy Moore, who won his September primary runoff against incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) even after the Senate Leadership Fund-- another McConnell-aligned group-- poured millions of dollars into the race to oppose Moore.

Wisconsin’s Kevin Nicholson and Pennsylvania’s Jeff Bartos both told The Hill it might be time for new leadership in the Senate. A spokesperson for Nicholson said, “he’s prepared to support new leadership because of the Senate’s failure to pass a conservative agenda,” while Bartos said he’d tie his vote to whether McConnell could “deliver for the people who support the president’s agenda.”

  McConnell’s allies say there is no need for prospective senators to weigh in on hypothetical leadership votes and believe there is more support for the majority leader than is being publicized by the candidates.

They don’t think primary voters care about who the candidates might support for majority leader and are frustrated by what they view as Bannon needlessly sowing division within Republican ranks. Bannon has vowed to put up primary challengers to every incumbent running for reelection with the exception of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, GOP strategist Karl Rove, who oversees the powerful Senate Leadership Fund that seeks to reelect incumbents, attacked Bannon as a “failed presidential adviser and alt-right sympathizer.”

Rove accused Bannon of launching a “jihad against incumbent Republicans” and singled out Ward and Tarkanian as surefire general election losers and part of Bannon’s “collection of misfits and ne’er-do-wells.”

Bannon’s critics say he is getting too much credit for swooping in late in Alabama, where they say Moore was already headed for certain victory over Strange, the McConnell-backed candidate.

They view Bannon’s efforts as a money-making scheme to raise his profile and note that the incumbents he plans to primary have voted with Trump more than 90 percent of the time.

“If you’re a candidate wrapping yourself around an axle of who you’ll support in a leadership election that presumes you’ve already won a Senate seat, you’re doing it wrong,” said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of staff.

“Voters don’t have an ounce of interest in who wins a prospective leadership race, they care about jobs. This is nothing more than a vanity project for Steve Bannon and, like all vanity projects, it will go about as far as you can throw a thousand-pound stone. Bannon doesn’t have a movement behind him. The president does and without President Trump, Bannon is a nobody.”

Still, there is roiling anger at McConnell in some conservative quarters and those looking to harness that anti-establishment energy insist that running against the majority leader will be a winning issue for GOP primary candidates.

“Of course primary voters care about leadership elections,” said Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks, which opposes McConnell. “They’ve seen failed leadership in the Senate for years and want to see the member they vote for be able to enact the agenda they ran on.”

The attacks between the two wings of the party are heating up and becoming increasingly personal.

“In 2018 we ought to revisit this question and find out if these people are still happy to be associated with Bannon,” said Holmes. “When you’re facing voters, I’d take one of the most successful majority leaders in history over a white supremacist any day.”

Andy Surabian, an adviser to Bannon, fired back.

“No amount of smearing can change the fact that not a single U.S. Senate candidate was willing to go on the record and say that they supported Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader,” he said. “Everyone can see right through the clearly desperate, unfounded and pathetic attacks coming from McConnell Incorporated.”
On Fox News Sunday yesterday, McConnell told Dana Perino that Bannon and his allies are "specialists at nominating people who lose... They've been out there for a number of years. They cost us five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012. We would have got the majority sooner but for the fact they were able to nominate people who could not win in November. In '14 they were defeated everywhere, in '16 they were defeated everywhere, and the difference is we've been in the majority in 2014 and 2016, two Congresses in a row... The kind of people who are supported by the element that you've just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November. And that's what this inter-party skirmish is about. Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win, and the people who win will be the ones who enact the president's agenda."

Bannon is expanding his war against the Republican establishment-- and, as we hoped, he's involving himself in House races beyond just backing Mafia goon Mikey Suits against Ryan ally Dan Donovan in Staten Island/Brooklyn NY-11. His new target: former Crusade for Christ activist and North Carolina state Senator Robert Pittenger, who represents a Charlotte metro congressional district that has been largely ethnically-cleansed. Pittinger was elected to Congress in 2012 in this R+8 district that Obama lost both times and that went for Trump last year 54.4% to 42.8%. Pittinger, who has a solidly conservative voting record, has been a target of the Tea Party extremists since 2014 when he said he wouldn't support shutting down the government over defending Obamacare. They ran crackpot Michael Steinberg against him, and Pittenger won with 67%. He faced no Democratic opposition. Last cycle he had two GOP primary challengers from the right, Mark Harris and Todd Johnson, which proved to be a tough race for Pittenger:

Berniecrat Christian Cano ran against him in the general and Pittenger beat him 58-42%. Cano hopes to run again but the DCCC and the Blue Dogs have recruited a Republican-lite candidate named Dan McCready. Harris is primarying Pittenger again, this time, in all likelihood, with Bannon's help. There's even talk of fellow North Carolina Republican, Mark Meadows, head of the neo-fascist Freedom Caucus, endorsing Harris against Pittenger. The race is rapidly becoming part of the proxy war between Bannon and Rove.
Meadows, a deeply conservative North Carolina congressman, has “typically never been involved in Republican primaries against a sitting member, but Dr. Harris, he’s a credible candidate who would be helpful in the majority.” 
Harris is the former pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, who came within 134 votes of unseating Pittenger in last cycle’s congressional primary and outraised him in the last fundraising quarter. He told McClatchy he would like to join Meadows’ Freedom Caucus should he win-- and would “certainly be interested in being engaged and involved.”

Meanwhile, “Bannon now plans to meet with Harris,” said a source close to Bannon, in an interview Thursday after Rove’s op-ed posted. “Bannon has decided to target Pittenger.”

... [Rove] appeared with Pittenger publicly last week at a rally at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in Charlotte, and headlined two fundraisers for the congressman.

It’s an alliance his challenger is eager to exploit. Indeed, Bannon’s Breitbart already is referring to Pittenger as the “Karl Rove-backed” candidate.

"It, in many ways, draws the lines in this race,” said Harris, who also ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014. “Karl Rove has certainly represented the establishment. He has been wrong as many times as he's been right in recent elections. Robert Pittenger has decided to set his stakes with the establishment and the status quo.”

Adam Brandon, the president of the conservative group FreedomWorks, said Harris had been his activists’ choice “for a while.”

“But gasoline was poured on the fire when this is becoming a proxy battle between Karl Rove and Steve Bannon,” he continued. “We were getting involved in that race regardless of what was happening, but this is kind of a choice between a typical establishment Republican guy and someone who reflects the grassroots.”

In an interview with McClatchy, Pittenger, a frequent and vocal Trump supporter, laughed when asked about the criticism he faced over his connection to Rove.

“How silly these guys are, grasping for anything,” he said. “Let’s take a reality check, OK? No. 1, look at the record. My record in voting [with] Trump. I have 95.6 percent. Higher than Congressman Mark Meadows, OK? So let’s be clear on that.”

Pittenger was referencing FiveThirtyEight’s “Trump score,” a tally of how frequently a member of Congress votes with Trump (Meadows’ number, by that measure, is 93.3 percent, though he has worked closely with the White House and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, attended a fundraiser for him last month).

Pittenger ticked through a long list of conservative endorsements he’s notched over the years, including the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life, and noted his efforts on economic and anti-abortion measures underway on Capitol Hill right now.

His campaign staff also passed along a document titled “Rep. Robert Pittenger: Unapologetically Pro Trump,” which detailed the “over 200” media appearances, six rallies, nine town halls and other instances in which Pittenger has offered robust defenses of the president.

“My conservative credentials are impeccable,” he said. “This is simply a little power play by a few people who are gaming this. I’ve stood for conservative principles. I will win this election because my positions, what I’ve stood for, will be validated, regardless of what type of smoke other people try to throw up there. Pure nonsense.”

Rove too was dismissive. Asked about Bannon’s reaction to his op-ed, Rove said: “Now he’s just making himself sound unhinged.”

But some conservative groups are paying attention to the contest for reasons that have little to do with Rove and much more to do with Harris’ last electoral performance-- and recent fundraising numbers.

“I can tell you that Mark Harris is a rock-ribbed conservative, and he posted one hell of a third quarter,” said Andy Roth, vice president for government affairs at the conservative Club for Growth. He was referencing Harris’ $251,000 fundraising haul. “That opened our eyes quite a bit.”

Pittenger, who also faces a well-funded potential Democratic opponent, reported raising $242,000, though in the interview, said “we haven’t really started” and added that he is sure he will outraise Harris next time as he ramps up his fundraising focus.

In a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer, Rove praised Pittenger as a “consistent conservative in Congress,” and a “defender of the president’s policies.”
One closing thought that points to the danger-- for Republicans-- of all this in-fighting. As Josh Kraushaar pointed out over the weekend at National Review things are staring to look more desperate for Ryan and his majority than anyone expected. He and his team, wrote Kraushaar, "are growing increasingly alarmed that some of their most vulnerable members aren’t doing the necessary legwork to protect themselves from an emerging Democratic tidal wave. In some of the biggest media markets, where blockbuster fundraising is a prerequisite for political survival-- most notably in New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston-- Republican lawmakers aren’t raising enough money to run aggressive campaigns against up-and-coming Democrats."

He pointed out miserable fundraising numbers for vulnerable Republicans Steve Knight (CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), John Culberson (TX), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Claudia Tenney (NY) and Leonard Lance (NJ).

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At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you might have a point here. The DCCC is clearly trying to stay in the minority. The DSCC appears to have the same goal, though they're not quite so blatant about it.

Both are recruiting and drafting neorepublican shitstains to run instead of anything resembling traditional democrats. One might presume they are thinking that D voters won't bother to turn out to support tepid to fetid candidates. And normally they would be correct.

But if bannon and the mercers succeed in primarying enough incumbent fascists, it's theoretically possible that R voters in pink districts (that are not in the south) may also stay home in disgust.

If both happen, the Pelosi/scummer strategy to stay in the minority may backfire, kind of. If they gain ONE chamber, the other one will be their excuse for failure. But if they win BOTH, their refusals to honor one single part of the voter mandate will be naked proof that the democraps are shit. It would reiterate and reinforce their refusals in 2009. With special emphasis on the SP issue, again, they'll refuse to do it AND they'll have to put on some kind of show of pretense. Just like they did in 2009.

2018 could be the lowest turnout in history.

Geepers, DWT, what an opportunity this would be for a new, truly left, party to make serious inroads. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. EVER!


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