Friday, March 23, 2018

Figuring Out What Will Happen In November, But Not 2019


Alexandria Ocasio is such an underdog in her primary challenge to Joe Crowley-- one of the biggest big shots inside the Beltway-- that none of the Inside the Beltway prognosticators ever even mention her race against the Pelosi heir-apparent, one of Congress' most corrupt members. That's not because the media is lazy; it's just that they're stupid and unimaginative... and lazy. Crowley, who lives in Virginia and has virtually no connection whatsoever to a district that has rapidly changed since 1998 when he first wormed his way into the seat, is extremely vulnerable to a primary challenge. We'll discuss this later today. Now I just want to point out that out of touch congressmen are vulnerable. If that wasn't the case young and vigorous California congressmen Ro Khanna and Eric Swalwell wouldn't have beaten, respectively, 18-year incumbent Mike Honda and 40-year incumbent Pete Stark in primaries that shocked a geriatric Democratic establishment. Neither Honda nor Stark were prepared to defend themselves from what hit them. Donna Edwards and Matt Cartwright had managed to pull off the same thing in Maryland and Pennsylvania against entrenched incumbents Al Wynn and Tim Holden, horrifying sclerotic party bosses in DC.

When the 2010 Republican wave hit the Democrats hard, the GOP gained 63 seats, the biggest House swing since 1948. Some of the worn and tired old-timers were smart enough to get out of the way before being swept away. Entrenched senior incumbents like Dave Obey (WI), Marion Berry (AR), Vic Snyder (AR), Brian Baird (WA), Bart Stupak (MI) and Dennis Moore all retired voluntarily, their districts falling to Republicans in November. 52 Democrats who fought for reelection were defeated, including some very senior members who had, basically, lost the skills to fight a competitive race in a bad environment-- John Spratt (SC), Gene Taylor (MS), Jim Marshall (GA), Jim Oberstar (MN), Rick Boucher (VA), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Paul Kanjorski (PA), Baron Hill (IN), Earl Pomeroy (ND), Allen Boyd (FL), Ciro Rodriguez (TX), Bob Etheridge (NC) and Ike Skelton (MO).

Old history? Sure... but, Politico sported an interesting headline yesterday: House leaders’ biggest 2018 fear: The lazy Republican. It could have been a mirror image of 2010: Ryan freaking ou: "GOP members who haven’t had a tough race in years are being warned to start running scared." Quite a few, including Ryan, have been rumored to start running for the exits instead. Rachael Bade happened to begin her report in TX-07: "On paper, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) appears to be a shoo-in for reelection. He‘s served nine terms in what’s been a GOP stronghold for decades, hasn’t had a serious challenger in years and sits on one of the most powerful committees in Congress. But Culberson‘s suburban-Houston district went for Hillary Clinton by 1 percentage point in 2016. And when GOP leaders found out last year that he was being outraised by Democrats and barely had a campaign staff, they were exasperated. Get your act together, they warned Culberson in so many words, according to sources familiar with the dressing-down. Culberson’s slow start to his reelection campaign is what GOP leaders fear most heading into the thick of the midterm elections: incumbents who haven’t seen a real race in years snoozing as a Democratic wave builds. Speaker Paul Ryan and the National Republican Congressional Committee are less concerned about their battle-tested swing-district members-- who face tough races every election cycle-- and more worried about complacent Republicans not prepared for a fight."

What Bade doesn't fit into her narrative it what the NRCC has been always able to count on when they're in a tough spot: the incompetence and corruption of the failed DCCC. There are two Democrats in the May 22 primary runoff-- Laura Moser, a progressive and Lizzie Fletcher, an EMILY's List creation. Fletcher, the establishment candidate, has an anti-union reputation that alienates and deflates a significant portion of the Democratic base. Meanwhile-- and for various reasons that have to do with DCCC staff corruption, anti-progressive mania and arrogance-- the DCCC has worked to make Moser unelectable against Culberson. Ironically, she probably wouldn't have even been in the runoff had the DCCC not attacked her! DCCC support is so toxic among a portion of the base that they are the same kind of kiss of death as Trump is on the GOP side. Immediately after the DCCC smear campaign began, small donors rushed to contribute over $100,000 to her campaign. And TX-07 primary voters decided to send the DCCC a lesson about not interfering in their primary. Back to Bade:
“This is a very tough environment for Republicans. If you’re getting outraised or if you haven’t started your campaign yet, you need to be scared and start today,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund. “Saying ‘I’ve never lost before, therefore I can never lose this time’ is not a campaign plan.”

It’s one of the reasons Ryan’s political team and NRCC officials have started holding a series of meetings with lawmakers from traditionally reliable GOP districts. Their message: Get ready for a roller coaster and begin your campaign in earnest now.

It’s too early to tell whether leadership’s message is registering. More than 40 GOP incumbents were outraised by Democratic challengers during the last three months of 2017, a staggering number that senior Republicans said is unacceptable and amounts to nothing short of laziness.
What the 2 establishment DC parties haven't learned from the past is that in wave election cycles money won't save the necks of incumbents. I studied ever single district outcome in the 2006 blue wave and the 2010 red wave. In 2006 Republicans who outspent Democratic challengers by five times were swept away anyone (as long as the challenger had enough money to get out his or her message). And the same thing was true in the 2010 midterms, when Democrats who outspent GOP challengers by massive amounts went down badly. Ryan and his team think 2018 will be all about money. It won't; it will be all about Trump and the congressional enablers.
“Many of our members have not been in Congress during a possible ‘wave’ election cycle, as happened in 2006 and 2010,” added a Republican campaign staffer. “Members in Republican-leaning districts should heed the warnings from House leadership and get ready for a fight.”

Rep. Glenn Grothman’s team is another office that’s received a talking-to. Ryan is personally helping campaign for the Wisconsin Republican, who hasn’t had a competitive race since he was elected in 2014. His sprawling district partly abutting Lake Michigan has been a Republican stronghold since the 1960s. But Grothman now faces a wealthy Democratic challenger who’s planning to spend hundreds of thousands of his own money on the race.

Grothman acknowledged in an interview the battle he’s in for and said he's doing "100 percent" what he can to prepare. The 62-year-old former attorney pulled up his schedule on his phone and read a list of constituent events: a fish fry, a bowl-a-thon, some St. Patrick’s Day parades and Lincoln Day dinners.

“Obviously, that’s a bigger problem than the typical year,” Grothman said of his Democratic challenger, Dan Kohl, the nephew of former Milwaukee Bucks owner and ex-Sen. Herb Kohl. “I’ll raise more money, I think, because there’s more a necessity… My opponent has a lot of money, and he’s telling people he’s going to spend a lot of money… so it’s concerning.”

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) also hails from a solid Republican district but is facing a well-funded Democratic opponent who last quarter raked in over $100,000 more than the incumbent. His staff, like Grothman’s, has been warned to be ready-- particularly because Pittenger is still introducing himself to constituents after a recent redistricting changed his district’s borders.

Another North Carolinian on GOP leaders’ radar is freshman Rep. Ted Budd. His well-connected Democratic opponent, philanthropist Kathy Manning, raised $564,000 last quarter, compared to his $183,000 haul.

Budd said he realizes “the environment is tough this year,” and he just hired a campaign manager who will start next month.

Ryan’s political executive director, Kevin Seifert, and deputy executive director, Jake Kastan, are handling many of the reality-check meetings with incumbent Republicans or their staffs. While Ryan’s team often helps incumbents, it's hosting more meetings than usual, and with a greater sense of urgency.

Ryan and NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) have also delivered the same message to lawmakers in conference gatherings in recent weeks: Raise money now, be active in your districts, find legislative issues that resonate with constituents and tout your accomplishments constantly. Also, define yourself and your opponent early, and label Democrats as obstructionists.

“When you have a million dollars spent attacking [GOP lawmakers] for the first time, a lot can change, and quickly,” Bliss said.

The warnings from leadership aides are also expected to extend to a handful of Freedom Caucus members who typically feel safe enough to vote with the far right of the House Republican Conference-- if they haven't already. Three Democratic opponents of caucus member Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) outraised him in the last fundraising quarter, two of them by $100,000.

Garrett's district elected a Democrat to the House in 2008, before a Republican reclaimed the seat two years later. And Garrett’s conservative votes could make him more susceptible in a Democratic wave year, senior Republicans said.

Ditto, they said, for Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), another Freedom Caucus member, who upset former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary.

Brat declined to discuss his campaign with Politico; two Democratic opponents collected more than him in the final three months of 2017-- including one by nearly $150,000.

“Policy, policy, policy,” Brat said when asked about his reelection effort. “All I talk is policy.”

At least one Republican, Culberson, appears to have heeded the warnings from leadership, aides say. He has hired new staff and outraised his Democratic opponents in the last quarter of 2017, though in the first six weeks of this year, his top two competitors collected more money than him, according to campaign filings.

“I’m always ready,” Culberson in a brief interview this week, “and even more so this year.”
Yesterday, at The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein posited that Trump has already sealed the GOP's midterm fate. Brownstein focuses in on one aspect: Ryan and McConnell and their teams are "sending an unmistakable signal to voters: So long as Republicans hold the congressional majority, they will not act to meaningfully constrain, or even oversee" a moron and uncontrollable, self-centered, selfish Trumpanzee with an id run amuck. Brownstein calls it an "epic gamble... Their approach," he wrote, "threatens to persuade less partisan voters that they need a Democratic House (and perhaps Senate) to impose any limits on a president who daily redefines the words 'mercurial,' 'belligerent,' and 'volatile.' ... Some GOP strategists believe the imperative of energizing the GOP base-- which preponderantly supports Trump-- justifies the risk of alienating less partisan voters inclined to restrain him. And in some Republican-leaning places, that calculation may compute. But in almost all swing House districts, 'you can’t get to 50 percent [of the vote] with just base voters,' noted Meredith Kelly, the communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That threshold requires 'crossover support and independents'-- the sort of voters that may prefer some constraints on Trump, even if they don’t entirely reject his direction."

Every time Donald Trump breaks a window, congressional Republicans obediently sweep up the glass. That’s become one of the most predictable patterns of his turbulent presidency-- and a defining dynamic of the approaching midterm elections. Each time they overtly defend his behavior, or implicitly excuse him by failing to object, they bind themselves to him more tightly.

It happened again last weekend when Trump fired off a volley of tweets that, for the first time, attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name. A handful of GOP senators responded with warnings against dismissing Mueller. More congressional Republicans said nothing. Party leaders, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, tried to downplay the attacks by insisting that Trump would not act on them and fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Most important, and regardless of their rhetorical posture, Republicans almost universally locked arms to reject legislative action to protect the special counsel.

That reaction reflected a hardening pattern. Whatever the provocation-- reported payoffs to a porn star, a chaotic security-clearance process in the White House, the public belittling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions-- congressional Republicans have found ways to excuse or simply ignore behavior that would have launched a thousand subpoenas under a Democratic president.

...As American politics has grown more tribal since the 1990s, attitudes toward the president have become a decisive factor in congressional elections. In each midterm since 1994, 82 percent to 86 percent of the voters who disapproved of the incumbent president voted against his party’s House candidates, exit polls found.

That effect may be even more intense under Trump because such a high proportion of those who disapprove of him do so strongly: An Election Day poll in last week’s Pennsylvania special election, for instance, found that fully 93 percent of Trump disapprovers backed Democrat Conor Lamb, the victor. In this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 87 percent of Trump disapprovers said they intend to vote Democratic for Congress.

One group has emerged as especially alienated from the president: college-educated white women. The group ordinarily leans Democrat, but only slightly: Since 1992, Democrats have never carried more than 52 percent of their votes in House elections, and Hillary Clinton won 51 percent of them in 2016. However, this week’s NBC/WSJ poll found that 63 percent of them now disapprove of Trump and 62 percent intend to vote Democratic in November.

...For congressional Republicans, the choice to tie themselves to Trump now looks irreversible. The question remains whether they have fashioned a lifeline or a noose.

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At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(republicans) snoozing as a Democratic wave builds."

As in 2006 and 2010, finally mentioned by a DWT contributor other than me, the wave is not positive.
2006 was anti-red where the cheney/bush stink made shitty democraps look better by only by comparison.
2010 was anti-blue as the refusal of the obamanation "FDR" congress to enact anything at all in their voter mandate made even teabagger Nazis look better only by comparison.

2018 is a bigger anti-red year than 2006 because there is no stink as bad as trump stink. But the democraps have been so bad for so long, the scummer/Pelosi stink is making the democraps look LESS better by comparison than they normally would.

2018 is a year where it's a battle between trump stink vs. scummer/Pelosi stink. Which will out stink? We won't know for sure until November.

The blue stink could very well keep the turnout so low for democraps in a lot of districts that the Nazis may even keep their majority. Should that happen, I'm sure the democraps would keep Pelosi around to fix it!! And DWT would never see the light.

religion is like that. when all the evidence is against your belief, you believe harder.

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...what the NRCC has been always able to count on when they're in a tough spot: the incompetence and corruption of the failed DCCC."

Congratulations! You get it! What to do about that now? Increasingly, DCCC is pushing out anyone who could win in favor of their stable of GOP-lite lap-lickers. The Blue Wave is disappearing faster than the Arctic Ice Pack.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Obama or Pelosi never went after Bush/Cheney for their war criminality in Iraq i.e. they decided that the country should move forward??? Well with Trump now appointing John Bolton, Cheney's old point man, I guess the direction (forward or backwards) is as always nowhere. The $Trillion dollar$ Iraq war goes on 15 years later because we let criminals walk free in the halls of our government. Still only one wave left in our failed land and it's a $$Green$$ wave.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:45, well said.

We still have TBTF and bank fraud (see: Wells Fargo, D Bank...) because nobody went to prison for 2008's $20 Trillion in fraud.
If cheney goes to prison for aggressive war and torture, no Bolton... likely no trump nor R majority.

This is why obamanation should go down as our very worst president ever. He created the vacuum that is being filled by true Nazis and imbeciles.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama was truly the walking definition of the useful idiot. I cannot come up with one single thing that he did which didn't make things worse in general. And he brags about being the "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican" as if that was a good thing.

May he choke on his $65 million payoff.


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