Alison Lundergan Grimes

A Reminder of the Stakes

Steve Benen considers one of the quieter, yet more important stakes on the table in today’s midterm election:

We’ve probably all seen comparisons between the 2014 elections and “Seinfeld” – it’s the campaign cycle about “nothing.” The analyses are understandable, given just how little focus there’s been on anything resembling substance. Quick quiz: name the defining issue of this year’s elections.msnbc

If you said, “Ebola-carrying terrorists hiding in Mexico,” you appreciate just how vapid much of this campaign season has been.

But for many Americans, a great deal is at stake today. These families may not get a lot of attention, and they may not be as fascinating to political reporters as Bruce Braley’s neighbor’s chickens or Alison Lundergan Grimes’ 2012 presidential preference, but they’re probably wondering today whether the election results will allow them to receive affordable medical care.

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Benen, Steve. “Medicaid expansion on the line in many key races”. msnbc. 4 November 2014.

Another Detail

USCapReflection

A certain point works its way to the fore; but does it really matter?

The conservative narrative of a nationwide Republican wave is incubating in these states, where Democrats are underperforming Obama. It must therefore be true that allegiance to Obama is a decisive factor everywhere.

But that narrative cannot account for the GOP’s remarkable underperformance in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. Mitt Romney won those states by eight points, 22 points, and 23 points respectively. Right now, also respectively, Republican David Perdue is leading Democrat Michelle Nunn by two to six points; GOP incumbent Pat Roberts is running behind Independent Greg Orman by about a point; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is leading Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by three to five points. Grimes is outperforming McConnell’s 2008 challenger Bruce Lunsford, who lost by six points in a Democratic wave year. Kraushaar attributes this better-than-the-fundamentals resilience to “her attempts to appease both the party base and more-conservative voters in her state,” which have been “painfully awkward.”

If I had to, I’d put money on Democrats losing all three. But you have to be really invested in a certain conception of politics to explain races that close in states that red as evidence of a national anti-Obama wave. Or to attribute their losses to insufficient Obama bashing.

(Beutler)

That is to say it would seem this should be obvious to any reasonably attentive political observer, but the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise. It is, however, somewhat gratifying to know that we aren’t the only ones who noticed.

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Beutler, Brian. “It Won’t Be Obama’s Fault When the Democrats Lose the Senate”. The New Republic. 30 October 2014.

Mitch and the Mailers

A Kentucky GOP mailer intended to deceive voters in the 2014 election.

Narratives.

Detail: Eric Lewis, "Animal Nuz #223".  1 November 2014.  Via Daily Kos.Eric Lewis certainly shows confidence, titling his latest installment of Animal News (#223), “Buh-Bye Mitch Edition”. And whatever we might believe about the polling, the averages, the aggregators, the modelers, year-six elections, or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s advantage in the numbers heading into election day, it really does seem as if the incumbent’s campaign senses greater insecurity in those numbers; of all the close races leading toward what is predicted to be a Republican triumph, the senior senator from Kentucky has one of the most visible advantages.

Then again, he did fall back to trying to cover his Social Security gaffe with an astoundingly innovatinve campaign argument: “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance.” Far be it for us to pretend to be any arbiter of all things, but something seems amiss about that formulation.

And that would have been what it was, except, well, Lewis has a point with is sensational “headline”:

Senator McTurtle’s illeglally deceptive mailer is just one of many signs his campaign is starting to panic.”

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The Future, Revealed?

Jobs, jobs, jobs ... j'abortion!

We might for a moment pause to recall 2010. Republicans achieved a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the real story was in the state houses, where the GOP made astounding gains by hammering away at the economic instability their Congressional partners worked so hard to create.

And then they tacked away from jobs. As Rachel Maddow memorably put it, “Jobs, jobs jobs … j’abortion”. State-level Republicans passed record numbers of anti-abortion bills, knowing that most of them were unconstitutional. And it is certainly an old conservative scheme, to tilt windmills, lose, and then bawl that the sky is falling because the Constitution is Sauron and Democrats and liberals the armies of Mordor.

With many predicting a Republican blowout in the 2014 midterms, some are looking ahead to figure out just what that will means in terms of policy and governance. And some of those are Republicans.

Yet there is a week left; perhaps this isn’t the best time to be telegraphing the Hell they intend to call down upon the Earth.

Or, as Lauren French and Anna Palmer of Politico explain:

Conservatives in Congress are drawing up their wish list for a Republican Senate, including “pure” bills, like a full repeal of Obamacare, border security and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — unlikely to win over many Democrats and sure to torment GOP leaders looking to prove they can govern.

Interviews with more than a dozen conservative lawmakers and senior aides found a consensus among the right wing of the Republican Party: If Republicans take the Senate, they want to push an agenda they believe was hamstrung by the Democratic-controlled chamber, even if their bills end up getting vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Their vision could create problems for congressional leaders who want to show they aren’t just the party of “hell no.” And while conservatives say they agree with that goal, their early priorities will test how well John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can keep the party united.

Two points: Swing voters can’t say they weren’t warned. And conservative voters complaining about gridlock should admit that’s what they’re after.

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A Question: Why Do We Need to Lower the Bar for Iowa?

Joni Ernst and Sarah Palin push misogyny as an Iowa value.

Because Joni Ernst and Sarah Palin say so.

Hey, Iowa, are you embarrassed yet?

Republican Joni Ernst defended Tuesday her decision to abruptly cancel a meeting with the Des Moines Register Editorial Board last week, telling CNN “it didn’t make sense” because she knew they would back her Democratic opponent.

(Bash)

How about now?

Meanwhile, this is a Republican wanting to change the rules.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell

This paragraph from Sam Stein is either amusing or unsettling, depending on how one’s sense of humor is feeling today:

The Huffington Post asked the McConnell campaign that very question the day after the debate. We asked the campaign the same question twice more that day. Then, we posed the question to them seven more times over the subsequent nine days. We also called the campaign twice. The campaign never responded.

The story here is simple; a bit over two weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faced his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes in the only debate of the Kentucky race for U.S. Senate. During the debate, Mr. McConnell called for the end of the PPACA. Except Kynect, the Kentucky health care exchange, has been quite successful, so the question arose whether the senior Kentucky senator would destroy that, too. “The website can continue,” McConnell explained.

Questions arose immediately as to what that statement actually meant in terms of practical function; without the rest of the ACA, Kynect would be generally useless, an advertising portal for a private market sector infamous for finding ways to renege on its contracts in order to increase its bottom line by refusing to fulfill its obligations. Without some detail to the other, this is what Sen. McConnell seems to have told Kentucky: You can have the damn website, but you’re screwed, anyway. Vote for me!

One might be tempted to think persistent questions from press and public pushed Team Mitch to find an answer. Split the difference; they found a punch line.

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A Fallacy in Motion

The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Charles Lipson is a walking fallcy, a professor of political science who prefers to use that credential that he might promote crackpot theses that ignore the details. To wit:

Charles LipsonWhen presidents become unpopular, they are no longer welcome on the campaign trail. They’re trapped in Washington, watching their party abandon them. It happened to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency collapsed amid protests over Vietnam. He left Washington only to visit his Texas ranch and assorted military bases, where he gave patriotic speeches to silent battalions. Richard Nixon, drowning in Watergate, was confined to Camp David and a few foreign capitals, where he was greeted as a global strategist. Jimmy Carter, crushed by the Iranian hostage crisis and a bad economy, stopped traveling beyond the Rose Garden.

Now, the same oppressive walls are closing in on President Barack Obama. He is welcome only in the palatial homes of Hollywood stars and hedge-fund billionaires or the well-kept fairways of Martha’s Vineyard.

Well-written, indeed, if it was listed as fiction. But it’s not, and that means it’s a fraud.

The simple fact is that President Obama is avoiding states where Democrats are running competitively but against the odds. To wit, why would Alison Lundergan Grimes want President Obama onstage with her? She’s running against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who has so botched his handling of the Senate Republican Conference that Grimes can even run close.

Lipson’s criticism about palatial homes is unusual; most political science professors would suggest it very unwise to ignore rich donors during an election season, but Lipson would prefer you believe otherwise because it helps his poisonous narrative. Christopher Keating noted that Obama’s second trip to Connecticut in a week—a scheduled rally—was cancelled because, well, he’s the president and has a job to do. You know, ebola and all that. The palatial home Lipson refers to would appear to be in Greenwich, where Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Gov. Malloy.

The president is also welcome in Wisconsin, hoping to boost support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

One wonders what the political science would say of someplace like Kansas? Would the president’s presence in the Sunflower State help or hurt Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis? Given that the incumbent Republican presently has the slightest edge in an otherwise dead heat (less than a percent), the question might be how Gov. Sam Brownback found himself in such a weakened position that he must actually face the possibility of losing. Then again, it’s not much of a question: Brownback and his Republican allies have wrecked the states finances.

In that context, it’s hard to lose faith in Obama if one never had any.

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Why Chuck Todd Should Resign or Be Fired

Chuck Todd, host of NBC News' Meet the Press

“Chuck Todd does not get it. Once he becomes the news in this manner he has failed as a journalist.”

Egberto Willies

Maybe it is difficult for some to recall the days when journalism as an industry was raised on a pedestal as the Fourth Estate, the Guardians of the People against Tyranny.

Really. Was a time. Technically, it’s why we have a constitutional provision guaranteeing free press.

Journalism has, of course, changed. One would hope the industry has evolved, but the question remains whether the Fourth Estate has evolved with it, or “evolved to extinction”. While it is easy enough to pick on, say, FOX News in this manner, NBC’s Meet the Press has long been viewed as a fixture of the Fourth Estate.

And whatever we might think of David Gregory’s embarrassing watch, Chuck Todd seems determined to use the helm to run Meet the Press into the rocks. Or, as Egberto Willies explains for Daily Kos:

Daily KosChuck Todd does not get it. Once he becomes the news in this manner he has failed as a journalist. A few days ago Alison Lundergan Grimes was interviewed by the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board. They asked her whether she voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. She justifiably refused to answer.

The talking heads and pundits claimed she was not prepared for the question. The lack of sophistication of the traditional media is astounding. It was evident that she was prepared for the question and she intended not to answer it. It was evident that her team likely thought the downside was worse if she answered.

Chuck Todd in another case of irrational verbal diarrhea said that her answer “borders on disqualification.” One wonders how not answering an inconsequential and silly question borders on disqualification yet he never said such on the various substantive lies and misstatements by Mitch McConnell (e.g, implying that Kynect is not Obamacare, etc.).

It is a fair point, indeed even a necessary question. Observing that employers cannot ask job applicants who they voted for as a prerequisite of hiring, we can at least consider the principle in the question of politics. Willies notes that Grimes’ refusal to answer “denied Mitch McConnell’s team a sound bite that would have been replayed ad naseum in a state where President Obama is less popular than dog meat”. Tactically speaking, he has a point that, “In a low-information, sound-bite driven society, denying that sound bite was likely the better move”.

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How Chuck Todd Can Do His Part to Save Journalism From Itself

To: Chuck Todd

re: Excuses, excuses, excuses

Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post reported earlier today:

“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd stood by his recent comment that Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes “disqualified herself” by refusing to say who she voted for in the last presidential election, a remark highlighted by her Republican opponent, Mitch McConnell, in a new ad.

In a Tuesday email to The Huffington Post, Todd said that “campaigns that try to make others the issue are usually trying to avoid their own scrutiny.”

“I don’t take back my analysis,” Todd continued. “But no journalist likes to be used in a TV ad. It is cheap and likely useless. And McConnell has hidden himself from questions for months. This is a highly cynical campaign we are witnessing in Kentucky. Very uninspiring debate.”

One would hope Mr. Calderone’s reporting is mistaken, because it would be really, really stupid for you to actually try to say something like that, Mr. Todd.

To put it bluntly: This is what you get when you try to make yourself part of the story.

Are you a reporter, or a participant? I mean, really, if reporters aren’t supposed to call out lies when a candidate is clearly lying, then what the hell explains a reporter deciding who is “disqualified” from running for office? It’s one of the reasons the press gets so little sympathy when reporters bawl about how mean the White House is being. You’re supposed to report the stories, not manufacture them.

It’s kind of like how the Roberts Court will write a random decision at odds with constitutional precedent, and then try to say they’re not setting a precedent, or their decision shouldn’t apply to anyone or anything else. We all know it’s excrement, and as we saw with the Windsor case, federal judges around the country have disregarded the Chief Justice. And for good reason.

People should also be disregarding you, Mr. Todd. And with good reason. You’re not a proper reporter or journalist; you’re a hack politician."Waaah!  It's not fair to hold me accountable for the words I say!  I'm just a poor, defenseless reporter!"

NBC News should have buried Meet the Press with Mr. Russert. But they wanted the product to live on, so they put it in David Gregory’s hands, and we all know how awful that went.

And now it’s yours, an outcome the American people will suffer for.

If you want to make a political splash and then cry when people use your words and you find yourself taking heat from real journalists, then quit pretending to be a reporter and just run for office.

It’s not that I loathe you, sir. To the other, if you keep asking that people should look so poorly upon you, then don’t complain when they finally do.

You have no business pretending to be a journalist. Please do the right thing and resign. Someone of your skills has plenty of suitable career opportunities. Maybe play press contact for a 2016 Romney run? I mean, really, they’re going to need someone of your ethics who is capable of doing better than Eric Fehrnstrom’s “Etch-a-Sketch” bit. And, you know, why wouldn’t he run? He’s already got plenty of other pretend journalists trying to “draft” him for a third run. They, too, are trying to manufacture a story. But none of them have yet whined that it’s cheap and useless to hold them accountable for their words.

Do the right thing, Mr. Todd. Resign from Meet the Press and retire from journalism. At least then, in having done the right thing for journalism, you could at least pretend that you care about the profession … and the rest of our society, too.

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Calderone, Michael. “Chuck Todd Defends Grimes ‘Disqualified’ Critique, But Says It’s ‘Cheap’ To Use In TV Ad”. The Huffington Post. 14 October 2014.

Just One of Those (Republican) Things

You know, from the outset we all learn that politicians lie. Still, though—

In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is putting Rep. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) support for the Ryan budget to good use, and polls suggest Pryor may have an edge in his re-election bid. In Montana, appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) has an uphill fight ahead of him, so he’s using Rep. Steve Daines’ (R-Mont.) vote for the Ryan plan against him.

Yeah, we feel that way, too, Congressman.In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is using Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R) support for the Ryan budget as a key part of her campaign, and in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) launched her first critical ad of the cycle, hitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) for having backed the Ryan budget, including its anti-Medicare provisions.

This week, McConnell’s campaign team offered a curious response to the criticism.

… McConnell’s 2011 vote was on a motion to proceed to consider the Ryan budget. The motion failed on a mostly party-line vote, so there was no Senate vote on the Ryan budget itself. The McConnell campaign said, “There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments.”

Oh, I see. After having championed the Ryan budget, McConnell is now rolling out the “Who, me?” defense.

It’s deeply flawed for one big reason.

The Lundergan Grimes campaign unveiled a new web video this morning that shows McConnell on “Meet the Press,” specifically saying, “I voted for the Ryan budget.”

(Benen)

—one is hard pressed to find a way to describe the state of today’s Republican Party in anything but extraordinary terms.

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Benen, Steve. “Democrats aren’t done thanking Paul Ryan”. msnbc. 10 July 2014.

Image credit: Detail of image by Stephen Malley, 11 April 2014.