How Will GOP Governors "Save You From Obamacare"?
In an interview with National Review, pollster Kellyanne Conway spreads the gospel of the Cuccinelli stab-in-the-back. Cuccinelli's 2.5-point loss, in which he ran 11 points behind his vote from his 2009 campaign for attorney general, is proof that "the 'war on women' has run its course," that "Obamacare was a toxic drip" for Democrats, and that the national party could have saved the candidate. Nothing new here—to the consternation of "establishment" Republicans, who kind of saw this coming, Cuccinelli's defeat is being read by conservatives as proof that they are doing nothing wrong.
But I was fascinated by how Conway thought Cuccinelli should have spun his opposition to Obamacare.
October 1 should have been the first day of five weeks’ worth of him reminding Virginians that he had been the Paul Revere of Obamacare from the get-go. He always knew it could not work or was built on lies, and that it would never reach the shores of Virginia with him as governor.
He did say that, characterizing the Medicaid expansion (which he opposed) as an "Obamacare expansion." But what, functionally, would it mean to make sure the law would "never reach the shores of Virginia?" It seems to have jumped across the Potomac with ease, as any Virginian trying to buy into the exchange or seeing his individual plan changed or getting coverage that would have been canceled before can testify.
The whole theory of "protecting" civilians from Obamacare was pushed by Chris Christie, too. Here he was on This Week, two days ago, asked about insurance cancellations.
Listen, anybody who has run anything in their lives could see this coming a mile away. And that's why we didn't do a state-based health exchange. We didn't do it because we could see that this whole program was going to be a problem.
But ... how does the lack of a load-bearing exchange in New Jersey do anything to thwart the law? It merely shunts New Jersey residents onto healthcare.gov. We're just looking at quotes from/about two gubernatorial candidates who were up this year, but we can expect to hear much more of this from Republicans in the states. To allow more people in the state to climb onto Medicaid, or to buy into a smaller state-run exchange, is to Expand Obamacare.
Can the White House Short-Circuit the "Keep Your Plan" Campaign?
Buried at the end of Emma Dumain's report on "the Upton bill"—the shorthand for a bill to grandfather back in the individual health plans being canceled now to comport with regulations—is the White House's way out. Democrats are somewhat fearful of their conservative counterparts in the Senate signing on to such a bill, but they expect either Republicans to screw things up, or the White House to make up a new rule.
The current legislative text could fall prey to conservative amendments, vaporizing Democratic support. The White House, which is exploring an “administrative fix” to address the dilemma, could unveil a plan that satisfies Democrats and, in their estimation, renders Upton’s bill irrelevant.
It's happened before. A similarly shaped escape hatch got the administration out of the contraception mandate fix (though it didn't stave off lawsuits). But what the White House would need to write, here, probably would have to leave in the grave all the plans it's criticized (the super-cheap plans that are useless in a catastrophe) and protect some of the comprehensive plans that got swept up.
Elizabeth Warren Campaign Saves Media From Slow News Week
Noam Scheiber wrote a fantastic political profile of Elizabeth Warren but bundled it with a much newsier argument about how she might run for president even if Hillary Clinton does. This created much buzz on a week that needed it; this also made very little sense, as I tried to explain in a response piece.
Charlie Pierce joined me in the peanut gallery, sniping away at the trope that "running for president" was the only natural way for Warren to up her influence. Ben White and Maggie Haberman actually reported out the speculation, which did produce this amusing quote.
“The nightmare scenario for banks is to hear these arguments from a candidate on the far left and on the far right,” said Jaret Seiberg, a financial services industry analyst at Guggenheim Partners. “Suddenly you have Elizabeth Warren screaming about ‘too big to fail’ on one side and Rand Paul screaming about it on the other side and then candidates in the middle are forced to weigh in.”
To me, that quote just emphasizes that bankers are the whiniest people on the planet. It would be Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren's doing if the banks got "screamed at"? The banks aren't unpopular enough on their own—otherwise, they'd expect to buy off candidates to get back to their pre-2007 public esteem? Sorry, that just seems unachievable. It would be better for the banks if hyped "anti-bank" candidates ran and lost by landslides.
White Guy Wins Election by Pretending to Be Black
The entire Internet seems to be ripping off this KHOU story about Dave Wilson, an anti-gay campaigner in Houston who won a six-year term on the Houston Community College System by giving every indication that, like most of the district, he was a black guy.
A lot of people seem to be skipping past the factor that made this close at all—the system had been scandalized all year, stoking an anti-incumbent vote. But the "white guy who voters might think is black" phenomenon is not unique to Houston. Longtime D.C. voters will remember the epic 2010 campaign of "White Mike" Brown, aka Michael A. Brown, the caucusian politician whose middle initial disappeared during the campaign. Cynics/people who paid attention wondered whether Brown was trying to dupe voters into thinking he was Michael D. Brown, the black city councilman. Late-game campaign signs just straight-up published Brown's white face, warning votes not to be "fooled," and Brown lost.
Chris Christie: Not Actually a Hypocrite
I'm a big fan of Chris Moody's reporting, but I think he swings and misses with this one. Or maybe gets on base but is tagged out quickly. Someone, please send me better sports analogies.
Chris Christie criticized strategists for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign on Sunday, saying no one should “give a darn” about their political advice, but the New Jersey Republican governor isn’t nearly as dismissive of their input as he lets on.
During his re-election campaign this year, Christie hired a political consultancy firm run by Romney’s former top strategists and paid more than $46,000 for their services.
But he didn't pay for "advice." As he did in 2009, Christie paid the Stevens & Schriefer Group to make stirring campaign ads. They did so, coming up with a campaign that referred to Christie, simply, as "the governor."
Point is, I don't think Christie sees this as a deal between himself and "Romney advisers." He re-upped with the firm that did his 2009 ads; he paid them to portray him as an awesome governor.
Democrats Might Have Won the Last Big Election of 2013 With an Overlooked Voting Machine
The vote count in Virginia's race for attorney general was expected to flip tomorrow, when provisional ballots from Fairfax County were counted again. As of this morning, Republican candidate Mark Obenshain was up by 15 votes statewide, out of more than 2 million cast; Democrats hoped that a break to their candidate, Northern Virginia's own Mark Herring, would allow him to take the lead.
But they didn't expect the reversal to happen today. Six days after the election, a precinct in the city of Richmond—Democratic turf—reported that not all of its machines had been counted. The Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman was among the reporters watching that count.
Voting machine #3791 in Richmond precinct 501 gave Herring (D) 153, Obenshain (R) 37. Its addition gives Herring #VAAG lead by 99 votes.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 11, 2013
If that holds and there are no more big surprises (two big ifs), Democrats are now on track to sweep Virginia's statewide offices—gov, LG, AG—for the first time in more than 20 years.* I think a Herring victory would also mark the first time that a Republican AG who sued to stop the Affordable Care Act was replaced by a Democrat.
Correction, November 13, 2013: This post originally said Democrats are on track to sweep Virginia's statewide offices for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
"Pryor Is Helping Obama Pack a Key Court With New Liberal Judges"
The not-so-secret story of Arkansas' U.S. Senate race is the role of outside money. Early this year, not long after the presidential election ended, the Club for Growth started dive-bombing the airwaves with anti-Pryor ads and conducting polls about a hypothetical challenge by Rep. Tom Cotton. The polls moved against Pryor—the hypothetical race became real.
So Arkansas is the state to watch if you want to see conservative messages tested in real time. This one, from the Judicial Crisis Network, marks the first instance I've seen of the filibusters of D.C. Circuit judges being used against a Democrat.
The ad's footnote makes it clear: the "packing" move was Pryor's vote to allow Patricia Millet's nomination to proceed. The continued Republican insistence that "court-packing" means allowing the twice-elected Democratic president to fill the empty circuit seats remains impressive.
CBS Botches the "Benghazi" Apology
On Friday I wrote about the amazingly successful campaign by progressive media-watchers to get 60 Minutes to apologize for its "Benghazi" story. But I gave short shrift to the current demand from Media Matters: that CBS conduct a "full investigation" of what went wrong, and why it ran a report tethered to the testimony of a defense contractor who had given superiors and the FBI a different account of 9/12/12 than he gave his book agent.
Given how CBS News handled the screw-up, the Media Matters ask makes sense. Last night's "apology" put reporter Lara Logan—who claimed the Benghazi report was the product of a year of journalism—in front of a screen telling viewers that nothing was more important than the truth. It was basically what she'd told Norah O'Donnell in a previous in-house apology. It didn't explain how the producers apparently got buffalo'd by a source whose fresh story added drama but no facts to the story. Brian Stelter and Bill Carter checked in with the critics.
“Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar,” Mr. Silverman said in an email. “There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed.”
“In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News,” said Paul Friedman, CBS’s executive vice president for news until 2011. “In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”
The liberal critics have their motives, sure, but in the meantime, if CBS doesn't explain what went wrong, the latest "break" in the Benghazi story continues to wither. And that's frustrating for the people who want to keep digging. "It appears to me as if they are trying to shoot the messenger here, rather than try to explain the total mishandling of this whole situation," John McCain told me for my story.
Ken Cuccinelli Probably Won in Virginia Because Maps
By a country mile, the most fun explanation I've seen for the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia comes from Steve Jalsevac, a co-founder of the anti-abortion LifeSite News. Jalsevac shows readers a picture of the state's election map, and asks them if they want to live in such a crazy world.
All the solid red areas voted a majority for Cuccinelli. The small dark blue ares went Terry McAuliffe (Yes, I know those are the most densely populated areas of Virginia). The rest were mixed. Notice that the map seems to be almost solid red. And yet, Ken Cuccinelli somehow very narrowly lost to his Democrat opponent. To me, something smells about all this and I suspect Ken Cuccinelli actually won Virginia, but certain things happened to ensure that that would not be the official result.
Just a crazy analysis on one site, but you have to appreciate this sort of magical thinking for three reasons.
1) It gives false hope on election nights. Here, for fun, are two other maps of close races.
That's the 2008 race for U.S. Senate in Oregon. Democrat Jeff Merkley won seven counties, and won the election as ballots around Portland were counted. I remember driving through Georgia listening to talk radio and hearing confident predictions of how Merkley would lose because with 90 percent counted, he was still down.
That's the 2012 election in Pennsylvania, won by Barack Obama after the legendary "late play" made by Mitt Romney. The president won a mere 12 counties, but deviously chose the ones that humans lived in. On all three election nights (2008, 2012, 2013), you could hear conservatives blowing the predictions because they didn't know where the votes were.
2) The false hope leads to mistrust. At Cuccinelli's election night party, I overheard some Republican voters grousing about how Democrats were probably holding back Fairfax County so it could supply the last votes they needed. Yes, Fairfax County, a suburban area that voted Republican for president as recently as the year 2000—this was our new Chicago, our new Rio Grande Valley. It sounded crazy, yet it was the thinking that led a powerful Republican to insist that voter ID would let Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania—cancelling out those 200,000 fraudulent votes from Philly—and encourages Republican election-watchers in Fairfax County to tighten standards on the votes they're counting, after the election's over.
3) The "hey, look at all that red" theory skews our view of which party represents "real America," or "most of" America. It also ends up justifying gerrymandering. Republicans now wipe Democrats out in most of white, rural America, something that only really got underway in the Bush years and has become stark under Barack Obama.* When Obama won Ohio, he took only 17 counties, mostly the ones with population centers. When Jimmy Carter won Ohio, by a smaller margin, he won 28 counties. It wouldn't actually be tougher to draw a competitive map of Ohio now than it was then, but when the majority party gets wiped out with rural whites and gets over the line with urban black voters, it's easy to pack their base into a smaller number of districts and argue that you're being fair.
*When Mike Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush, he won 33 counties in Oklahoma. No Oklahoma county has voted Democratic for president since 2000. Cherokee County was closest in 2012—Obama merely lost it by 14 points, while losing the state by 34 points.
Correction, November 11, 2013: This post originally said Obama lost Cherokee County by 16 points.
Chris Christie Proves Just How Stupid the Sunday Shows Are
In October 2006, a little further along in that presidential election cycle than we are now, freshman Sen. Barack Obama appeared on Meet the Press to hawk his new book. The subtext: Obama might run for president. But Tim Russert didn't lead off with a question about that.
"Let me start with Iraq, because you write about it in your book and you’ve been talking about it on the campaign a little bit," said Russert. "This is what you told New Yorker magazine: 'There’s an old saying in politics: when your opponent’s in trouble, just get out of the way... in political terms, I don’t think that Democrats are obligated to solve Iraq for the Administration.' Is there an obligation in non-political terms?"
As the interview went on, Russert picked quotes and numbers from Obama's book and threw them right back at the senator. Did he want to intervene in Darfur? Which government programs did he think weren't "working as advertised"? Why did he vote against John Roberts's confirmation?
None of this made news at the time, because by the end Russert asked whether it was "fair" to say Obama was considering a bid for president, and four months later Obama was running. But it was a model interview, one that got a slippery candidate to search for answers on a ton of policy questions.
I bring this up just to emphasize how laughable Sunday's rounds of interviews with Chris Christie went. If the governor of New Jersey came away thinking that the beltway media would be easier to conquer than the media in New Jersey, he could be excused -- no one even tried to lay a glove on him. Here, to start, are all the questions David Gregory asked him on Meet the Press.