The Times They Are A-Changin’

Yep, it’s time to evolve. I have enjoyed writing here for the last several years but moving forward you’ll find me at Practical Politicking.

If you’ve enjoyed my articles here, please come visit our exciting new site, poke around and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. I think you’ll like what you see, and the practical and realistic approach our team has about campaigning, electioneering and politics.

As a bon voyage here but a welcome at my new home, I leave this blog with a classic. Enjoy and I hope to see you soon at Practical Politicking!

 

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SOTU Leaves Vulnerable Democrats Weakened

NOTE: This piece, as are most of mine now, was first published at Practical Politicking.

Last night’s State of the Union speech left many Democrats running in red states with half a bag, maybe less, and several were quick to react. Capable Democratic campaign managers have known for a while that the presidential coattails were going to be diluted in value but they may not have planned on the possibility of the president becoming an actual liability.

The Wall Street Journal summed up the goals in President’s Pitch Is Aimed at November.

Among the many political challenges confronting President Barack Obama this midterm election year, two stand out: regaining a foothold with independent voters and reassuring Democrats increasingly apprehensive about his presidency.

Mr. Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to tackle both, packing the speech with policy proposals deliberately tailored to reanimate Democrats who have started to stray, as well as independents who are increasingly pessimistic about the country’s direction.

The goal was lofty and on both counts the president came up very short. Consider the first by looking at the lackluster reaction from Republican’s (to be expected) but also from Independents.

The Bing Pulse of the speech paints a clear picture of how badly Obama missed with Indies.

bing_pulse_sotu

Save for the opening, the mention of the USA Olympic team later on and the salute to Ranger Cory Remsburg, the green Independent line never crosses above 50 and spends most of the evening in the 25 to 30 range. Hardly what one would call “regaining a foothold with independents voters”.

The second mission was to engage Democrats running for election, particularly in the Senate, and given the rapid response from many Dems backing away from the President and his polices, Obama missed the target here as well.

With a hat tip to Politico’s Morning Score, vulnerable Democrats were quick to back away.

RED-STATE DEMS RESPOND: Within the myriad statements and responses to Obama’s speech last night, some are more important than others-and the criticism red-state Senate Democrats had for the president, on everything from energy to the NSA to the Keystone XL pipeline, is a sign of what’s to come. Here’s what they said:

-Alaska Sen. Mark Begich: “I was disappointed I didn’t hear what Alaskans wanted from the President tonight. While the President delivered a lot of sound bites that may sound good in a speech, we need to hear a clear plan and commitment to economic growth.”

-Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor: “Overall, I’m disappointed with the President’s State of the Union address because he was heavy on rhetoric, but light on specifics about how we can move our country forward. I’ve always said that I’ll work with the President when I think he’s right, but oppose him when I think he’s wrong. That’s why I’ve opposed his policies on gun control, the Keystone Pipeline, military action in Syria, regulatory overreach on our farms-to name a few-and why I’ll continue to oppose his agenda when it’s bad for Arkansas and our country.”

-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu: “Nearly three years ago, I urged this Administration to act swiftly to begin construction of this pipeline. I’m disappointed, as are many of my colleagues, that the Administration still has not acted despite the overwhelming economic and environmental evidence that favors immediate construction.’

-Montana Democratic Senate candidate John Walsh: “[L]ike most Montanans, I believe the president must do more to protect law-abiding citizens and end the NSA’s surveillance program. As leaders, we must have the courage to responsibly cut our debt, cut spending and live up to the promises made to America’s veterans.”

-West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant: “If the President wants to promote opportunity, he needs to rethink his energy policies. The President is wrong on coal and I will fight him or anyone else who wants to take our coal jobs.”

Additionally, Sen. Mark Udall from Colorado, currently embroiled in his own mess, hedged his bets on whether he wanted the President in his home state but clearly was leaning to a “leave me alone” stance.

There has been plenty of punditry on the speech, check out Required Reading for suggestions, but forgetting the substance (or lack thereof) for a moment and looking at the political cause-effect we may see the greatest failure of the evening.

Just recently I wrote Senate 2014: GOP Increases States in Play, but after last night not only has the number of states in play increased for Republicans but the strength of the Democrats in those states has been seriously diminished.

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Senate 2014: GOP Increases States in Play

The trend is clear and the Republicans are increasing the states in play and the odds of a GOP majority in the Senate come 2015. Red, purple and light blue dominate the landscape.

Using current ratings that include the Practical Politicking Report, Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Rothenberg Political Report; and plotting the averages things look good for the GOP.

senate_scores_012714

There are 18 states where at least one of the four ratings is not SAFE in the chart, and 16 of them are currently blue states with only 2 red ones and they’re reasonably safe for the GOP.

Dark blue are states where the Democrats look good and will probably remain solid; Massachusetts, Colorado and Hawaii.

Bright red are states where Republican wins are virtually assured and three of them would be pickups; South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana.

Purple states are basically tossups right now but there are positives for the GOP in every one of them, with mostly negatives for the Democrats, with the possible exception of Iowa.

  • Arkansas: Cotton is polling ahead of Pryor, raising money at a proficient pace and Gallup has Obama’s approval at just 34.9% (seventh lowest in the nation).
  • North Carolina: Rasmussen Reports is out today with latest polling that puts Tillis up by 7% over Hagan, and Tillis is extending his lead in the GOP primary race.
  • Louisiana: Landrieu seems incapable of shaking her close ties to Obama, where his current approval rating is only 40% and disapproval of ObamaCare is rising almost daily.
  • Alaska: Begich’s favorables are underwater, his fund-raising is flat and Obama’s approval is down to 33.5% (sixth lowest in the nation). Sullivan is a fund-raising machine right now and outside PAC money is pouring into the state attacking Begich.
  • Michigan: Land had a tremendous Q4 money haul basically tying Peters in cash-on-hand and polling is within the margin-of-error making this a dead-heat currently. Americans for Prosperity though is pouring money into the race attacking Peters and ObamaCare, and even though Obama’s numbers are better here they are still below 50%.
  • Iowa: This may be the only state in the purples that Dems can take any positives from with Braley sitting on a hefty war chest, up in all polling and benefiting from a GOP nomination process that is patently absurd.

Light blue states are Democratically favorable but all with an asterisk.

  • Virginia: Gillespie’s entrance into the race makes this a premature call now. Warner’s preliminary numbers against Gillespie are still strong but weaker than may have been expected. Only time will tell if this one gets closer after the Gillespie people have a chance to expose their candidate to the entirety of the state.
  • New Hampshire: Shaheen has comfortable leads over all the current GOP candidates but is barely outside the MoE against Brown if he decides to run. This basically dead-heat exists in spite of an unprecedented amount of resources devoted by the Dems against Brown without him being an official candidate. If Brown jumps in this one could go red very quickly.
  • Minnesota: Obama’s approval numbers, while still just under 50%, here are better than any of the other light blues. Franken is holding his own but McFadden had solid Q4 fund-raising numbers and if the polling gets tight and outside money floods in Franken may want to start polishing his stand-up comedy act again.
  • Oregon: This is my new dark-horse race with Wehby having raised more than $500K in less than two months, only a third of Oregonians believe Merkley deserves another term and there is simply no way ObamaCare plays in Oregon. With its own exchange website debacle. Merkley cannot compete with Wehby on healthcare (she is a pediatric neurosurgeon). I’ll have a full profile of Dr. Monica Wehby later this week but for now Oregon is the first state where I expect the other ratings to weaken for the Dems very soon.

All in things look very good right now for the Republicans.

Three solid pickups, six tossups that all are looking more red every day, and four blue states with asterisks – that’s 13 out of 16 current Democratic seats that could go Republican in November, and the GOP only needs six to demote Harry Reid to minority leader.

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John Walsh: Democrat Darling has Disappeared

Montana Lt. Governor John Walsh appears to be AWOL, or whatever it’s called when you’re a state executive and the hand-picked Democratic Party darling as the next US Senate candidate from Big Sky.

As I wrote on December 28, Dem Candidate for Senate Abused National Guard Position, John Walsh abused his position as an officer in the Montana National Guard. The allegations, backed up by a 2010 report from the Inspector General of the US Army and reported by KXLH-TV, cited Walsh for abusing his position in the Guard for personal gain.

The impact noted in my first article had to do with the then recent machination of President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid to install Walsh as an incumbent to replace outgoing senator, Max Baucus whom Obama had nominated as Ambassador to China.

The story has now taken on several new twists and the whereabouts of the Lt. Governor are a bit of a mystery. As reported in the Missoulian the day after my article, Walsh wants appointment to Baucus Senate seat, it was clear that Walsh indeed wanted an appointment from Governor Bullock to fill the seat vacated by Baucus.

That was then and this is now, and now is a bit bizarre to say the least.

Last week KXLH-TV reported they obtained evidence that Walsh had been formally reprimanded for his actions in 2010.

Montana’s lieutenant governor John Walsh, the former commander of the Montana National Guard, was formally reprimanded by the U.S. Army in 2010 over his advocacy of an organization that promoted National Guard interests.

An Army Inspector General document first reported in December said Walsh improperly used government resources for personal gain and to “solicit/coerce” Guard officers into joining the National Guard Association of the United States. That report said Walsh wanted to boost Montana Guard membership in that association because he was running for vice-chairman of the group.

The Inspector General report referred the matter to the Army JAG, or Judge Advocate General. That in turn resulted in a “memorandum of reprimand” obtained Friday by MTN News under the Freedom of Information Act.

That memo says Walsh, now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, violated federal codes of ethics when he used government resources in the effort.

Now it’s being reported this information was kept from top Montana officials, including then Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who defended Walsh’s actions in 2010.

Brian Schweitzer defended John Walsh in 2010 when Schweitzer was governor of Montana, and Walsh, then the commander of the Montana National Guard, was under scrutiny by the Army for his on-the-job advocacy of an outside group that promotes the National Guard’s interests.

But at least two of the state’s top elected officials didn’t know until much later about the investigation, Army Inspector General report, and October 2010 reprimand of Walsh, who is now Montana’s lieutenant governor and a candidate for U.S. Senate.

In a September 2010 letter released Sunday by the Walsh campaign, Schweitzer told the Army he had “utmost confidence” in Walsh, whom he had appointed Adjutant General of the Guard. He called Walsh “an exceptional officer” and “a take charge leader who leads from the front to make things happen.”

It seems the former Governor had not been privy to all the facts before throwing his whole-hearted support behind Walsh. It is also uncertain exactly how much now Governor, then Attorney General, Bullock knew at the time of the report and subsequently when he asked Walsh to be his running mate.

Governor Steve Bullock was attorney general in 2010 and said he learned of the matter in March 2012 when he was considering Walsh as his running mate in the governor’s race. He’s endorsed Walsh in the Senate race.

Asked Jan. 9 if he should have been in the loop at the time of the Inspector General investigation and report, Bullock said he wasn’t concerned.

“As attorney general, I had constitutional and statutory responsibilities,” Bullock said. “I consulted with the Governor on a number of things; this isn’t one of them. I heard about the report before I asked now-Lieutenant Governor Walsh to join my ticket, heard about the full airing of it. It didn’t concern me and I think that he’s provided tremendous service to the state throughout his career.”

From his statement, Governor Bullock was fully aware of the report but dismissed its significance at that time and proceeded to add Walsh to the ticket. One question this obviously raises is exactly what report was Bullock referring to with his “heard about the full airing of it” statement; the report that was apparently dismissed as partisan politics citing Walsh for his abuse of power or the more damming report that he was reprimanded.

As if there was not a huge cloud of doubt already hanging over Governor Bullock and Walsh, the hand-picked Democratic candidate to take on the likely GOP senate candidate, current congressman from Montana, Steve Daines; Walsh’s recent behavior certainly adds to the intrigue.

Walsh is in a primary battle for the Democratic nod against former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger, who served under former Governor Schweitzer for eight years (if you’re getting a bit confused trading cards are available for a small donation to the DSCC), and both men were slated to appear together this past Tuesday night. Both were to attend the Yellowstone Democratic Club Dinner in Billings, the largest city in Montana, but Walsh was a no-show and apparently without any warning or prior notice.

This resulted in a tweet from Bob Brigham, Bohlinger’s campaign manager, who was as baffled as anybody by Walsh’s absence, questioning the whereabouts of Lt. Governor Walsh.

While the Lt. Governor’s current whereabouts are a mystery, Brook Hougesen, NRSC Press Secretary, noted earlier today:

We do know that on Wednesday, January 29th, Walsh has a fundraiser scheduled in Washington, D.C. Will he show up? Or will he remain in hiding?

“In the face of growing scandals and questions plaguing his campaign, John Walsh, the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama and Harry Reid avoids questions at all costs,” said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. “John Walsh’s campaign operation keeps him locked away, letting press releases and a staff run Twitter feed speak for him, making it a campaign without a candidate at this point. John Walsh may be the favorite in Washington, but in Montana his absence in the face of scandal raises serious questions and doubts about his ability to be a United States Senator.”

If Walsh does not appear in DC next week, somebody is going to have to tell me what the equivalent of AWOL is when you are the hand-picked favorite son of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and the DSCC because I’ve never seen anything like this and I’d like to use the correct term to refer to the “Democrat Darling that has Disappeared”.

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Can Dems Bear Obama’s Weight in 2014 Elections

It’s a long-standing tenet in politicking that the mid-terms are tough for the party of a sitting second-term president. Last August, on a conference call, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the NRCC said, “Historically the sixth year is a bad year for a party, but we have to make our history it doesn’t make itself.”

True enough but do the Republicans have a “12th man” in Barack Obama for the 2014 elections?

The stock market is hovering at all-time highs and has little appetite for any correction; the US trade deficit is at its lowest level since 2009; analysts are raising their forecasts for domestic Q4 GDP growth; and the unemployment rate just dropped to 6.7% (yes I know why but the average American does not).

On the surface, it would seem things on the economic front are moving in positive directions and, while still plagued by security issues and other back-end problems, even the ObamaCare rollout has provided a little “spinnable” data for the administration.

Yet in spite of these events the approval rating for the President remains near historic lows.

The current Real Clear Politics average is a negative 9.3%, including an outlier from Rasmussen Reports that’s at plus 1% which if removed bumps the president’s number over minus 11%. Recently it seems no amount of news can drag Obama’s numbers back up and that could create a considerable burden for the Democrats in the upcoming mid-terms.

Geoffrey Skelley, Associate Editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball weighed in recently:

On Dec. 3, 2013, President Obama hit his low point in approval as president, at least according to RealClearPolitics’ aggregate average of approval polling. That day, Obama fell below 40% for the first time in RCP’s measure, sinking to 39.8%, though he has since rebounded slightly to 42.1%. Two days after Obama dropped under 40%, Gallup released a report on the president’s approval that showed how his support among different demographic groups had fallen over the past year, in some cases a great deal, with a particular focus on the decrease in approval among Hispanics.

Needless to say, we can’t predict what will happen with Obama’s approval from here. Is the worst over for him? Will he dramatically fall off or bounce back up?

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, respected non-partisan analyst, Stu Rothenberg offered his thoughts.

With Election Day more than nine months away, the question is whether this marks a low ebb for Mr. Obama and his party, or a lasting trend.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, which tracks congressional elections. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

Obviously it’s elementary politicking to accept Obama’s approval rating can be a drag on the entire Democratic Party, save for gerrymandered house districts, and it’s also clear that numbers like these are fluid and can change quickly. What’s not near as clear is why, in spite of all the good news, the American people are not responding in a positive manner.

Has media coverage changed and impacted their attitudes? Not likely given the MSM preoccupation with Governor Christie’s travails in New Jersey. Has the Republican message started to resonate with the voters? Given there’s been no clear and concise course of action offered by the GOP yet, that cannot be it. Has a historically apathetic group of people, the general electorate, suddenly awoke to intellectually recognize the disaster of the last five years? Not intellectually by any stretch but the answer may lie in this realm.

It may simply boil down to this … people are tired of the bullshit.

It could just be as simple as the President has told one lie too many and the public, while tolerant of isolated incidents, have heard enough false promises, obfuscated narratives and outright falsehoods.

From a campaigning and politicking perspective, the Democrats are stuck with Obama and his ratings, whether they like it or not. Many vulnerable Dems have already started to back away from Obama like Sen. Kay Hagan recently did in North Carolina and Sen. Mary Landrieu did late last year. It’s likely there will be more of this “not in my state” attitude but as the standard bearer for the party, Democrats can never absolve themselves of the President or separate themselves completely. They are in fact stuck with Barack Obama, whether they like it or not.

The political fallout from all of this, along with some able-bodied assistance from some Democrats themselves (like the Mark Udall mess in Colorado) is already visible. Two months ago there were seven or eight openly poachable seats in the US Senate for the Republicans to garner the six needed to regain the majority. Today that number has swelled to more like a dozen with Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon all coming into play.

Are we seeing the foundation for a wave election? That seems implausible since the House has very few truly competitive races on a relative basis, with only a swing of a half-dozen seats in either direction likely, but we certainly may be seeing an easier route to a GOP senate majority headed into the next Congress.

Can Obama bounce back and become a net positive for the Democrats in November? Maybe but with every passing day and poll the odds are dwindling, and it’s more probable they’ll be burdened with the crushing weight of a president plagued with ratings that are bouncing along the bottom of the trendlines.

While in very many ways Barack Obama is a lightweight this is not one of those, and the Democrats may well be soon saying “He’s too heavy, he ain’t my brother” all to no avail.

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Something Stinks in Colorado, and it’s Not Pot Smoke

There’s a foul stench in the air in Colorado and it is not from the newly legalized use of marijuana. It’s from the circumstances surrounding Sen. Mark Udall’s staff, the Colorado Department of Insurance (DOI), and the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), parent of the DOI.

Last week Deb Fillman delved into the allegations that Udall staffers pressured the DOI to revise the publicly announced number of insurance policy cancellations downward.

The crux of the matter then was whether Udall’s office exercised undue influence by threatening an “investigation” if the DOI did not comply with their request. There was a lot of rendering of syntax about what constituted a “cancellation” versus a “renewal”, and as reported by the Denver Post on January 9, DOI staffers felt intimidated.

An administrator at Colorado’s Division of Insurance felt intimidated by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s legislative director in November after the aide pushed back against claims that 250,000 Coloradans had policies canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, according to internal e-mails.

The emails referenced by that article show initial push back by the DOI and a subsequent statement that the relationship with Udall’s office was contentious, at best.

udall_doi_email_1

The message above from November 14, 2013, was followed the next day with:

udall_doi_email_2

Per the message content, Jo Donlin, the DOI Director of External Affairs, writes:

Following my e-mail, I received a very hostile phone call from Sen. Udall’s deputy chief of staff. Marguerite is on the phone with his chief of staff now.

The following day the Denver Post reported, Rep. Amy Stephens asks for probe of claims Udall’s office bullied regulators.

State Rep. Amy Stephens on Friday asked the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to investigate reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s office pressured a director at the state Division of Insurance to change the number of insurance policies her office said were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.

“I am deeply concerned about recent reports that U.S. Senator Mark Udall and/or Senator Udall’s staff exerted inappropriate and undue pressure on the Colorado Division of Insurance,” Stephens, a Republican from Monument, wrote in a letter to DORA executive director Barbara Kelley. “I am requesting that you investigate these reports to determine the level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff, and whether any laws or rules were violated as a result of this conduct.”

Tuesday of last week, the Denver Post next reports, State clears Udall’s staff of intimidation on Obamacare cancellations, exonerating Sen. Udall’s office of any wrongdoing.

Colorado regulators Tuesday cleared U.S. Sen. Mark Udall staffers of accusations they tried to bully the state’s insurance division into reducing its report that nearly 250,000 residents had their health insurance canceled under the Affordable Care Act.

Given a four-calendar day and two-business day span between Stephen’s request and the report from DORA, this may be one of the quickest government investigations in history.

The complete exoneration of Udall’s staff is summarized in two paragraphs in the Post’s article that read:

“A neutral and objective panel from the executive director’s office interviewed a number of Division of Insurance staff, collected and reviewed e-mails and other correspondence between the (division) and Sen. Udall’s staff,” wrote Department of Regulatory Agencies director Barbara Kelley in a letter to state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

Kelley said the review found “no evidence of any intimidation and ‘the level of coercion by Sen. Udall and/or his staff’ was zero.”

It is utterly amazing that any government agency could empanel a group of investigators, conduct interviews, collect and review e-mails and other correspondence and issue a final report in such a short time frame. This calls into question just how in-depth and serious was this investigation, or was it just a dismissal of the issue by a Democratic state administration “investigating” charges levied against a Democratic senator?

Not having access to details it is impossible to answer that question at this time but it does warrant, in this writer’s opinion, much further review and full disclosure of all pertinent documents.

To that end the Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Rob Collins, sent a letter to Sen. Udall requesting a voluntary release of all information. Congress is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

However, the DOI and NORA are not exempt from such requests made under the Colorado Open Records Law, and last week NRSC General Counsel, Megan Sowards, sent a letter to the state agency requesting all records regarding the communication between the DOI, DORA and Udall’s office be released.

Only time will tell if Sen. Udall, a champion of transparency (at least until now), voluntarily releases any documents and if the state of Colorado complies with Ms. Sowards request. It will be interesting to see if either request is complied with nearly as fast as DORA completed its entire investigation but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Of further interest from the same, most recent article (emphasis added):

The issue prompted U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, to send a letter to the division to further question the numbers.

In a separate letter to Gardner on Tuesday, the division’s commissioner, Marguerite Salazar, said the total number of Coloradans to receive cancellation notices as of Jan. 13 is about 335,500.

“Ninety-two percent, or 308,840 people, were offered the opportunity of early renewal,” Salazar wrote.

Gardner on Tuesday said this “raises new questions as even more than was originally reported have lost insurance.”

“It’s stunning that Obamacare has led to this many canceled plans, and now it’s coming to the forefront,” Gardner said.

Something does stink in Colorado, in the office of one of its US Senators. The question now is how long will it take for the release of the documents requested by the NRSC, and will the stench become more offensive.

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Let’s Bring a Winner Home in FL13, David Jolly

Accepting the Republican nomination for the upcoming special election, David Jolly, had this to say on Tuesday night of last week:

Pinellas County has picked a Republican for this race; the Washington establishment has picked a Democrat. My opponent wants to win this race for Washington DC; I want to win this race for Pinellas County.

 

Jolly takes on the DC Democrat darling, Alex Sink, former Florida CFO and very recent transplant to the Florida 13th … can you say carpetbagger … in the special election on March 11 to replace the late Bill Young.

With less than two months to election day, this one will be a sprint and money will be key. Sink has huge financial support from outside the district, even outside the state and reaching all the way to the hallowed halls of Congress. At the moment, Sink has the fund-raising advantage by nature of some close ties to many influential Democrats in Congress and PAC’s.

PACs tied to Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jim Clyburn, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch — all progressive U.S. House members — gave significant sums to Sink’s campaign.

About 30 percent of Sink’s overall contributions came from PACs, many of which have decidedly progressive agendas — a political leaning at odds with Sink’s moderate, fiscally conservative blue-dog reputation.

Pinellas County is demographically moderate and very anti-ObamaCare (currently 35%-63% on maintain vs. repeal) so Sink’s connections to progressive Congressional members and PAC’s may not play so well with voters. Certainly an issue I’d expect David Jolly’s campaign to hit her hard on for the next 8 weeks.

While money will be key there is also the issue of longevity and service to Pinellas County, and here Jolly has the upper-hand since Sink is a “Pinellas Resident Come Lately”. From his website, it’s clear who has the longer local track record:

David Jolly has spent his entire career working on behalf of the people of Pinellas County, advancing and supporting community interests in the United States Congress and serving in multiple civic and community leadership roles here at home. He is a candidate with unparalleled Congressional experience, including serving Pinellas County residents as General Counsel to the late Congressman Bill Young during some of Washington’s most challenging times.

On the issues, Jolly has honest conservative bona fides while possessing a practical attitude that should resonate with the voters on March 11. He’s strong on fiscal responsibility and immigration, an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and veterans, and he is ardently opposed to ObamaCare.

Alex Sink on the other hand is a supporter of ObamaCare, as cited in the Tampa Bay Tribune today:

Those closely watching the race say for Sink to win she’ll have to distance herself from the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and campaign more aggressively than she did against Rick Scott during her unsuccessful run for governor.

Sink also has a history of wasting taxpayer dollars, something pointedly addressed in an online ad from the NRCC.

 

It’s possible this message has already begun to resonate with the voters in the district since CL Tampa Bay released the first public poll this morning and it has Jolly up by a 47%-43% margin. More telling is David Jolly has a 10 point favorable spread (45%-35%) while Alex Sink has only a 2 point spread (45%-43%) and that 8% delta in the unfavorable is something to watch.

From the Republican Party perspective this is an opportunity for many factions and their respective checkbooks to come together. While the Tampa media market is not cheap, it would not take massive amounts of money to level the financial playing field. People and organizations like the Koch brothers and the US Chamber of Commerce can all find a lot to like in David Jolly; and their financial support could help to widen that 4% delta.

With little time to go, Jolly has the issues on his side, is firmly entrenched in the community, and has the broad appeal to a large bloc of Pinellas County voters. If the varying factions of the current GOP can come together in a practical way and fill Jolly’s war chest, we could collectively chalk up a victory that further erodes any hope for the Democrats in retaking the House majority.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please LIKE David Jolly on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to get current campaign info, sign-up and donate (if you can) at his website, and use the Twitter hashtag we started #SinkSink to show your support for the Republican nominee in the Florida 13th. David Jolly is a candidate that all Republicans can get behind. Let’s do it together and bring home a winner on March 11.

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Michigan Looking Very Red, Land Up By 8%

For a state that went to President Obama by just under 10% in 2012, a recent poll conducted by Harper Polling for Conservative Intelligence Briefing concludes, things are looking very red in Michigan.

The toplines from the poll, conducted January 7 and 8, show Republican Senatorial candidate, Terri Lynn Land, with an 8% lead over Democratic candidate, Gary Peters. That alone is enough to celebrate but looking just a bit deeper reveals even more to like.

Two questions asked of respondents were, would you prefer a Democrat or a Republican for the US Senate and for governor. The first was 40%-41% favoring the Dems and the second was 39%-41% favoring the Republicans. On the surface those results paint a tighter picture than reality may well be right now.

As the headline states, Land is up eight points over Peters; also when asked specifically about the gubernatorial race between Rick Snyder, the Republican, and Mark Schauer, the Democrat, the margin was plus 12% favoring Snyder. Notable as well in the AG race, the Republican was plus 9% over the Democrat. 8, 12 and 9 percent are healthy margins, even this early in the cycle and tend to belie the tighter R vs. D generic results.

On the question of approving or disapproving of Barack Obama’s job as president the results were a staggering minus 20% (35% approving, 55% disapproving, 10% not sure); and the ACA results were almost identical with 33% favorable and 55% unfavorable.

Those results represent a 30% negative swing in just over a year, and that is the number to truly be celebrated.

The numbers are so solidly in favor of the GOP, logic dictates the demographics of the poll will be called into question but they are rock solid. Party affiliation breaks down to 32% Democrat, 27% Republican and 41% Independent, all numbers in line with other national and Midwest polling.

The remainder of the demographics including age, gender and ethnicity are also reasonable and reminiscent of the 2012 exits so overall the topline analysis is verifiable and solid.

In his article releasing the results, David Freddoso, makes several more astute observations that you can find here, #MISen Poll: Land (R) up 8 over Peters (D).

Graphically the results are powerful optics that paint a very red picture of Michigan.

michigan_polling_011314

Granted it’s early in the year, and there are still a lot of unknowns and undecideds in Michigan but for the moment, a very blue state in 2012 is looking very “Republican Red” right now.

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Transparency Must Be, Well … Transparent

The worst kept secret in Washington is the lack of love between the “GOP Establishment” and the Senate Conservatives Fund, and while not completely accurate, for many the point-people for the “establishment” in this acrimony is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Thursday an article appeared in Politico, The Senate Conservatives Fund’s Unbending Leader, which kicked off a maelstrom of vitriol on social media that extended into the evening on The Mark Levin Show.

The short version, which many already know, stems from a statement in the Politico article:

Much of the SCF is bankrolled by small donations, and Hoskins says his average donation in 2013 amounted to $37. But without a board of directors, Hoskins and his team can choose to spend with little accountability.

Such expenditures include purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of conservative commentator Mark Levin’s books to hand out to donors as a freebie for their contributions. His group also paid $143,360 over three years to a luxury design firm to renovate office space in Washington townhouses, according to campaign-finance filings.

Shortly after the article went online, NRSC Communications Director, Brad Dayspring quantified “hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth” by citing FEC filings from the SCF that listed three separate purchases totaling $427,000 and opined there could be a beneficial link between the SCF and Mark Levin. Mr. Levin has spoken highly of the SCF on his syndicated radio show on occasion, and on his Facebook page Thursday posted a link to donate to the Senate Conservatives Fund.

That’s about all it took for Twitter to light up with tweets from people across the entire Republican spectrum (and more than a few Democrats who were delighted with the intra-party acrimony). As the day wore on blog posts from all sides popped up, some quite vitriolic and others more subdued but the dialogue continued into the evening.

One of the more temperate blog posts came from Dylan Byers, Mark Levin Dismisses Pay-to-Play Charge, which is noteworthy. While My. Byers was immediately castigated by many Levin supporters, he is also the same writer who offered up Conflicts of Interest: U.S. News Columnist Brian Walsh on the NRSC Payroll, back in November which was critical of both the magazine and the author for not disclosing that Mr. Walsh is also a consultant to the NRSC.

The effect of Politico’s reporting on that story was U.S. News has appended Mr. Walsh’s biography to include his affiliation with the NRSC. The irony of this, of course, is Politico and Mr. Byers were heroes to the opponents of the NRSC in November.

Thursday, however, was a different story. Politico took it on the chops most of the day from the very same people who only three months ago were singing their praise, including Mr. Levin sharing on his Facebook page, Left-wing POLITICO does a hit on Senate Conservatives Fund.

Then that evening, on his radio show, Mr. Levin took umbrage with the events of earlier in the day and spent a good portion of the last hour of his show attacking the NRSC, Politico and Mr. Dayspring; defending his own position; and supporting the SCF.

The one thing that was notably absent from most of the dialogue Thursday is Mr. Levin did benefit from the SCF purchase simply as the author of the books purchased. Obviously any purchase of an author’s book results in some amount of money flowing to the author’s checkbook.

From The Author’s Guild – Improving Your Book Contract, seventh in a list of nine tips for authors states:

Royalties

What the clause does:

You should earn royalties for sales of your book that are in line with industry standards. For example, many authors are paid 10% of the retail price of the book on the first 5,000 copies sold, 12.5% of the retail price on the next 5,000 copies sold, and 15% of the retail price on all copies sold thereafter.

Negotiation tips:

Base your royalties on the suggested retail list price of the book, not on net sales income earned by your publisher. Net-based royalties are lower than list-based royalties of the same percentage, and they allow your publisher room to offer special deals or write off bad debt without paying you money on the books sold. Limit your publisher’s ability to sell copies of your book at “deep discounts” – quantity discount sales of more than 50% – or as remainders.

Limit your publisher’s ability to reduce the percentage of royalties paid for export, book club, mail order, and other special sales.

With Mr. Levin’s success as an author and his ability to negotiate well, it is reasonable to assume his arrangement with his publisher is as least as good as the standard deal. Even with possible discounts for the bulk purchase, older book, etc. his royalty, while impossible to quantify unless Mr. Levin would like to disclose it, most likely lies between $40,000 and $60,000. That’s not an inconsequential sum of money and, in the interest of transparency, should have been acknowledged by Mr. Levin given his support of the SCF.

Not that any of the preceding may matter because I don’t see this entire issue being about transparency, though that would be a good thing, rather it is just another episode in the ongoing saga within the current Republican Party.

When even calm and respected people like Hugh Hewitt are chastised for just trying to bring some reasonableness to the debate, one can only assume there is no end in sight in this conflict. Most regrettably the impact of that is we all lose as the Democrats gain ground, and that reduces our chances of winning in November, which must come before we can effectively legislate for any conservative principles.

Personally, I’d like to think events such as these could actually draw the party closer together as the various groups work together to resolve differences and find some common ground. Then again, while I was born at night it was not last night since I watched all these events unfold Thursday, that seems quite unrealistic and that’s the real shame.

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Attention Republicans, It’s Time for a Bigger Tent

The essence of campaigning and electioneering is to win, period. It is not to deliver a message of purity while falling on one’s sword but it certainly seems that tenet is foreign to many on the extreme right.

Ken Gardner opined in his article, Why Realism Not Idealism is the GOP Path Forward:

If, as Republicans, we want to govern and set policy, we must first win elections and become the majority party. If we want to win elections, we must expand our political base. If we want to expand our base, we must ditch the ideological purity tests that drive many otherwise persuadable voters away. At the same time, we must find the areas of broad agreement that will attract more right-of-center voters. As conservatives, we are better off winning with someone who agrees with us 80% of the time than losing with an ideologically pure but unelectable candidate.

In response to Ken’s article Stephen Green, on his VodkaPundit blog, wrote:

The first thing you must accomplish in politics is win elections or there’s no second thing you can accomplish.

Our country is more socially libertarian than ever — laissez faire even, if you’ll pardon my French. SoCons can lose on gay marriage as they have been doing, to progressives who are using “the gay agenda” (I hate that phrase) as a cudgel to beat the churches and strip the 1st Amendment of whatever meaning it has left. Or they can lose on gay marriage to small government types, who would get government out of marriage and give it back to the churches where it belongs.

Either way though, they’re going to lose. You can’t fight the zeitgeist. You certainly can’t fight it as a member of the permanent minority.

And with that the firestorm of comments on Stephen’s post was off and running.

We don’t need conservatives who have turned hypocritical, we don’t need “centrists” that have no beliefs beyond the next election, we don’t need holier-and-weedier-than-thou libertarians who can’t abide Christians. We need for liberty-minded people to explain why their ideals should appeal to conservatives.

Exactly. It’s less about expanding the tent and more about having a good carnival barker selling the show inside. And make sure we have a good show.

The problem with the “purity message” strategy is it will not win elections, period.

Gallup’s latest poll, Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents, cites:

Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.

gallup_poll_010814

While an Independent affiliation does not necessarily mean centrist or moderate it also surely does not mean social conservative, and there’s better odds it is the former. Most notable is the precipitous drop in Republican affiliation which has basically been in freefall since 2005.

This is not difficult math, in fact it’s quite simple … the GOP must embrace candidates that are conservative in the areas that truly matter like debt reduction, economic growth, job creation, smaller government and a return to productivity on Capitol Hill.

These are the things that matter to the 42% of self-identified Independents. These are the things that will expand the tent. These are the things that will win elections, without which there will be no forward progress on any of the issues conservatives’ value.

Finally, lest you think all of Stephen’s readers are trapped in delusional thoughts of converting this 42% to their way of thinking, a few rational comments.

Nobody’s saying you need to toss your long-held beliefs, just stop voting based on them. It’s the wrong tool. It doesn’t work. All it does is get vile progs elected, and have no interest in your beliefs – except to use them as weapons to gain more power.

Put it this way — unless we adopt what amounts to a Democrat style circling of the wagons, however distasteful it may be at times, we’re toast. Ten years ago that might not have been an issue, but after eight years of vote buying? I quite honestly weep for the future that some people want to give away so they can crow from the moral high ground.

The challenge as we head into the 2014 elections is for more conservatives to embrace what these last two commenters seem to have accepted. It is time to do the simple math, it is time to expand the tent, and it is time to embrace reality.

It’s time because without all of these there will be no victory and therefore no advancement of any conservative principles.

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