Back in October, Fred Barnes wrote: Democratic senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina was pounded last winter and spring in TV ads by conservative groups for having voted for Obamacare and echoed President Obama’s false claim that people could keep their current health insurance. “They had her on the ropes,” says Marc Rotterman, a Republican consultant in North Carolina.
Then Senate Majority PAC, Harry Reid’s personal political action committee, intervened. Its television spots defended Hagan and attacked Thom Tillis, her Republican challenger, for supposedly dubious ethics. This was only the beginning. By last week, Reid’s PAC had spent $9 million to boost Hagan’s reelection. And Hagan’s candidacy was saved from an early, and possibly fatal, tailspin.
“Outside spending by groups—mostly super-PACs—that disclose their donors… is dominated by the left.”
Hagan has outraised Tillis, the state house speaker, $19.2 million to $4.8 million. But that’s only one measure of her money advantage. Liberal and Democratic groups have devoted $26.3 million to going after Tillis—a chunk of it on ads while he was still running in the Republican primary—and another $4 million touting her. Conservative and Republican groups were unable to neutralize the anti-Tillis barrage. They’ve spent $17.3 million against Hagan and $10.9 million to promote Tillis. In overall campaign spending, Hagan tops Tillis by $53.7 million to $33 million. This, however, doesn’t count undisclosed millions in “issue ads” criticizing Hagan by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group.
The result: Hagan, a mediocre candidate at best, led Tillis in polls for months. Only in mid-October, with spending for Tillis finally matching that for Hagan, has the race tightened. He was ahead by a percentage point or two in several recent polls. Still, Hagan felt confident enough of winning to skip a scheduled debate with Tillis last week.
The North Carolina campaign is a reflection of what’s happened in many of the competitive Senate races. The political fundamentals favor Republicans. President Obama is so unpopular that Democratic candidates avoid mentioning his name, much less inviting him to appear at their campaign events or in their TV spots. Meanwhile, the economy is stagnant. Foreign policy failures continue to stack up. America’s global influence fades. Two-thirds of Americans are pessimistic about the country’s future. Democrats have few national issues they’re comfortable talking about. Read the rest of this entry »
Fred Barnes writes: President Obama is famous for proclaiming a “pivot” to a new issue—to the economy, to jobs, to Asia. By my count he has announced more than 20 pivots during his presidency, invariably to matters that bring political benefits and away from those that don’t.
The story of this year’s campaign in the dozen or so races that will decide who controls the Senate is uncomplicated. Republicans have a single talking point: Their Democratic opponents are partisan clones of Mr. Obama. Democrats often rely on one response: Pivot to an issue that has nothing to do with the president.
The pivot strategy has also been a major feature of Democratic campaigns that conclude with Tuesday’s midterm election. And it is understandable why Democrats have employed it. Redirection is the best response they could come up with to the Republican charge that they are closely tied to Mr. Obama and his policies.
“Watching Democrats struggle to escape Mr. Obama’s ideological grip was the most fascinating aspect of the campaign. They have tried everything from identifying with prominent Republicans to openly rejecting Mr. Obama.”
Democrats would rather not discuss their relationship with the president, much less dwell on it. He is unpopular and so are his major policies (ObamaCare, national security, the economy). So candidates pivot to another issue. We saw this strategy at work in Louisiana’s Senate race last week. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu , trailing Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in most polls, suddenly raised the explosive issues of racism and sexism. She insisted that racism makes Mr. Obama unpopular in Louisiana and sexism causes her re-election to be a struggle.
“Over the weekend, Mr. Obama was still trying to pivot, this time to make the campaign agenda more liberal.”
Pivoting can be a clever strategy—when it works. And no Democrat has been more effective at adopting it than Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Six months ago, she was viewed as vulnerable, even doomed. Not only had she voted for the president’s health-care law, but she had also declared publicly that North Carolinians could keep their current insurance policies and doctors. For a while, she hid from reporters to avoid talking about her vote. Read the rest of this entry »
Polls from major networks, researchers and newspapers agree: America’s in a bad mood.
For Politico, Lucy McCalmont reports: In just one week, polls found politicians of all stripes are hitting approval numbers with record lows. The president finds himself roughly as popular as a trip to the dentist. The entire Democratic Party gets the thumbs down. Oh, and so does the Republican Party.
“What we’re really seeing in an unprecedented way, especially in the key Senate races, is that voters don’t like either of the major candidates.”
— Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling
Pollsters say it all adds up to a country that feels “everything is terrible,” as one put it, a mood that campaigns should consider as they head into the midterm homestretch, when turnout should be all about enthusiasm — not pessimism.
“With an ‘everything is terrible’ mindset, I’m mostly thinking about how after several years of cantankerous and unproductive lawmaking in Washington, there are very few political figures or institutions who the public trusts anymore,” Scott Clement, The Washington Post’s polling analyst, said in an interview.
When it comes to candidates, voters are also less than thrilled with both incumbents and their challengers. Read the rest of this entry »