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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: July 2012

‘Low-Information’ Undecided May Swing 2012 Outcome

A good choice if you want to read just one election-related article today would be “Meet the Undecided” by Larry M. Bartels and Lynn Vavreck in The New York Times. Among their salient observations:

The one fact everyone seems to agree on is that there aren’t many of them. …The Washington Post describes the election as “a settled issue for nearly nine in 10 voters.” The race is “tight and stable,” according to the Post’s Ezra Klein, who adds that “Romney and Obama are realistically fighting over three or four percent of the electorate.” And Paul Begala says “there are about as many people in San Jose as there are swing voters who will decide this election” — 916,643 people in six swing states, to be much too precise.

The authors take a data-driven crack at it, tapping the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project survey, mining the responses of 10,000 individuals in a “mega-sample” surveyed each month since January. Further, say the authors

… Crucially for our purposes, 592 of the 10,000 respondents (5 percent of the weighted sample) said they were not sure which presidential candidate they would vote for, then declined to express even a tentative leaning toward Obama or Romney in response to a follow-up question. These people seem to be truly undecided — and there are enough of them to provide an unusually detailed and reliable picture of undecided voters in the country as a whole.

Their findings strongly suggest a large “low information” segment among the undecided:

…they are rather less knowledgeable about politics, and much more likely to say they follow news and public affairs “only now and then” or “hardly at all.” (Almost 40 percent are unsure which party currently has more members in the House of Representatives, and another 20 percent wrongly answered that it was the Democrats.)

In addition, 69 percent call themselves “moderates.” Yet only about 30 percent of them are real independents, with 40 percent leaning Democratic and 23 percent leaning toward Republicans. The authors believe President Obama could “make some headway” in securing the Democratic leaners in the months ahead, although the data does not much clarify which are the hot button issues that could be leveraged toward that end. A whopping 60 percent of the Democratic leaner undecideds have an unfavorable opinion of Romney. If the right “ifs” fall into place, Bartels and Vavreck see “a seemingly “tight and stable” race narrowly in favor of the incumbent.”

TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira: Public Says Tax Hike for Rich Not Unfair

Apparently the GOP meme that a tax hike for the wealthy would be unfair and bad for the economy is getting very little traction. As TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira explains in his latest ‘Public Opinion Snapshot’ at the Center for American Progress web pages, a recently released Pew Research Center poll indicates quite the opposite:.

To start, most people do not believe raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more would make the tax system more unfair. Only 21 percent of Americans endorse that idea, while more than double that number (44 percent) think raising taxes on the rich would actually make the system fairer. Another 24 percent think it would have no effect one way or the other on fairness.
As for the suggestion that raising taxes on the rich would hurt the economy, only 22 percent of Americans agree. Again, twice that number (44 percent) hold the directly opposite view–that raising taxes on the rich would help the economy. Another 25 percent do not think the economy would be affected negatively or positively.

As Teixeira concludes, “These data suggest that conservative arguments on taxing the rich do not convince the public. On the contrary, the public is clearly open to seeing taxes rise on the affluent. Policymakers need to take note.”

Political Strategy Notes

Corruption is a usually better issue for Democrats, since Republican candidates are more likely to get caught with fingers in the till. But it could be a great issue this year, since a Gallup poll released today finds that “Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that reducing corruption in the federal government is an “extremely important” or “very important” priority for the next president, compared to 92 percent who said the same about creating good jobs,” reports Politico’s Tim Mak’ in “Poll: Corruption is No. 2 issue for 2013.”
Yes, Dems do advertise to influence Republican primaries (and no doubt vice versa). AP’s David Espo spotlights senate races in MO and WI to illuminate the strategy.
Eric Sapp’s “The Unreported Political Implications of Pew’s Religion Poll” offers a fresh perspective for Democrats on polling and punditry about religious values in politics. Sapp argues, “Democratic faith outreach shouldn’t look like what the religious right does. When our outreach works, it’s authentic and humble and focused on relationships and clearly-articulated values. And when it works we win because when American voters understand what our core values are, the vast majority recognize they are the ones they share. But we can’t count on voters to figure it out. And as the Pew poll shows, we can’t expect them to ignore the lies from the Right if we ignore them.”
So here we have a Linda Chavez op-ed entitled “Stoking the fire of class resentment,” which I flag here as a typical example of GOP meme-mongering trying to shame voters into thinking that any form of opposition to current income inequality is a form of “class envy.” Dems need to say it plain; We are not against people getting wealthy as a result of their hard work. But we do strongly oppose the worsening exploitation of working people so stockholders can reap exorbitant profits and CEO’s can literally make hundreds of times what their workers earn.
At The Guardian U.K., Heather Hurlburt explains why “Why Mitt Romney’s sabre-rattling on Syria signifies nothing.”
Harold Meyerson ponders a depressing scenario — what Dems and progressives should do if Romney and the Republicans win control of the white house or all branches of government because of racially-driven voter suppression, i.e. a return to ‘electoral apartheid.’ Says meyerson: “…What should Democrats do if Romney comes to power on the strength of racially suppressed votes? Such an outcome and such a presidency, I’d hope they contend, would be illegitimate — a betrayal of our laws and traditions, of our very essence as a democratic republic. Mass demonstrations would be in order. So would a congressional refusal to confirm any of Romney’s appointments. A presidency premised on a racist restriction of the franchise creates a political and constitutional crisis, and responding to it with resigned acceptance or inaction would negate America’s hard-won commitment to democracy and equality.
Nate Cohn’s TNR post “The Case of Pennsylvania’s Missing Ads” probes the curious decline in GOP ads on PA’s airwaves, even though the Obama campaign does not see the keystone state as a sure thing. Could it be that the GOP’s internal polling points toward the midwest as a better bet?
You’ve probably heard versions of the argument that lost cause campaigns should be funded anyway, if only to keep the GOP from allocating their economic resources to more competitive campaigns elsewhere. Dennis S provides some instructive examples PolitcusUSA in his post, “When Underdog Democratic Candidates Don’t Fight Like Hell, Many Republican Candidates Benefit.”
it is gratifying that the “Mitt the Twit” meme appears to be sticking in Europe. Even better, however, First Lady Michelle Obama is getting raves for her grace, class and diplomatic acumen at the Olympics. As Sarah Jones reports at PoliticusUSA: “The Evening Standard called our First Lady a smashing success, “As a lesson in good natured statesmanship – if not to say simple manners – it was a masterclass.” They continued, “For Michelle Obama cast aside stuffy protocol to join in the fun and games to celebrate today’s opening of the Olympic games with more than 1,000 children.”

Mitt Romney’s Incredible Shrinking Biography

This item is crossposted from The New Republic.
The most fascinating aspect of the 2012 presidential campaign has become Mitt Romney’s incredible shrinking campaign-relevant biography. Seriously, think about it: his entire strategy is to keep the focus on unhappiness with the performance of the economy under Barack Obama’s stewardship, and then glide to victory after easily crossing the invisible threshold of acceptability that challengers to struggling incumbents supposedly need to navigate.
Yet the number of items from his resume that he is willing and able to talk about in order to cross that threshold is close to the vanishing point. His governorship of Massachusetts? No way; it’s loaded with base-angering heresy and flip-flops. His Bain Capital tenure? Not any more, particularly now that he can’t even establish when he left that company. His “success” as measured by his fabulous wealth? Not so long as he won’t release his taxes. His clear, lifelong identification with a coherent ideology? Not applicable! His party’s agenda, as presented most comprehensively in the Ryan Budget? Don’t wanna go there! His values as expressed in his strong personal faith? You gotta be kidding!
What was left until this week as the one untarnished moment of Mitt Romney’s adult life was, of course, his triumphant stewardship of the 2002 Olympic Games. And now, having been talked by his staff into coordinating his obligatory pre-election international trip with the opening of the 2012 Games in London, that decision is looking hourly like less and less of a good idea. And we haven’t even gotten to the dressage competition.

TDS Co-Editor William Galston: Obama’s Remaining Challenge

This item by TDS Co-Editor William Galston is cross-posted from The New Republic.
The emerging conventional wisdom among many Democrats takes the form of two equations: 2012 = 2004, and Bain = Swift Boats. There’s also a supporting narrative: The negative campaign against John Kerry fatally weakened his candidacy, securing the victory of an incumbent who could not have won based on his own record. And so, the idea goes, a president whose performance the public doesn’t much like can power his way to a narrow, less than pretty win by eviscerating his challenger.
But the evidence in favor of all of these propositions is remarkably thin. The basic structure of the 2004 campaign differed fundamentally from the one we’re now enduring. The available evidence suggests that even in the short-term, the attacks on Romney have been measurably less successful than were those on Kerry. And Obama’s supporters seem to have forgotten that the reason Bush prevailed was because enough Americans ended up approving of his record and leadership in the areas they cared about the most.
In 2012, there is a single dominant issue–the economy. The people are trying to decide whether Obama has managed our economic challenges well enough to deserve another four years and, if not, whether Romney’s economic experience and plans make him an acceptable alternative.
In 2004, by contrast, there was no single dominant issue. An NBC/WSJ survey published a few days before the election found 24 percent naming terrorism as the single most important issue, followed closely by the economy (22 percent), the war in Iraq (also 22), and social issues and values (17). A CBS/NYT survey conducted not long after the election asked the respondents to name the one single consideration that had mattered the most as they cast their votes. The answers were all over the map. At the top was George W. Bush himself, with 13 percent, following by war (12 percent), Iraq (11), the economy and jobs (9), terrorism (8), and moral values (6).
Indeed, the 2004 election featured a struggle to define the agenda. Democrats focused on the economy and health care, while Republicans emphasized terrorism and values. In mid-September the public was split down the middle, 44-44, on the relative importance of these two baskets of issues. The people saw Bush as significantly more able to handle the former, and Kerry the latter. So the fact that by the eve of the election fully 50 percent had come to see the issues where Bush was strong as more important contributed to the late surge that put him over the top. 52 percent of the people thought that Bush would do a better job dealing with terrorism and homeland security, versus 29 percent for Kerry; they preferred Bush on Iraq, 50 to 37; on moral values, by 47 to 29. Kerry led 48 to 32 on jobs and unemployment and by an even wider margin of 51 to 28 on health care, but by election day those issues didn’t top the concerns of enough voters.
But what about the notorious “Swift-boating” of the decorated Vietnam veteran who headed the Democratic ticket? Most surveys suggest that it did drive down Kerry’s support in August of 2004. The RealClearPolitics survey average showed a decline from 48 percent at the beginning of the month to 45 percent at the end. But according to a detailed Pew report released in mid-September, the effects of that attack waned significantly in the two weeks after Labor Day. Kerry continued his gradual climb throughout the remainder of the campaign, finishing with a share of the popular vote slightly higher than his early August peak in the polls. Moreover, many of the negative impressions of Kerry were long-standing, not the product of the Republicans’ summer assault. For example, as early as mid-March Bush led Kerry by 52 to 34 percent as a strong leader and by 63 to 27 percent in his perceived willingness to take and maintain an unpopular stance. According to CBS/NYT survey released on the eve of the election, 60 percent of respondents felt that Kerry said what he thought people wanted to hear rather than what he really believed. But that can’t be attributed to the mid-summer Republican attacks, because 61 percent felt that way as early as April and never changed their minds. (By contrast, 60 percent felt that Bush said what they believed–again, an impression they formed early on and never revised.)
Because the Republican assault on Kerry focused so heavily on his service in Vietnam and subsequent anti-war activities, one might have expected it to undermine the public’s confidence in his ability to serve as commander-in-chief. But the evidence suggests that just the reverse occurred during the course of the campaign. In May, only 34 percent expressed confidence in Kerry as a potential commander-in-chief, while 61 percent expressed reservations ranging from moderate to intense. But Kerry’s stature grew steadily, even during the summer-long attack on his military record. By mid-October, the share of the electorate who felt confident in him had grown to 44 percent while the share with worries fell by 13 points, to 48 percent.
The real story of the 2004 isn’t that attacks disqualified Kerry as a potential president–they didn’t–but rather that in the two months from Labor Day until the election, the incumbent persuaded just enough people that his record warranted reelection. (His unwavering support of the war in Iraq temporarily halted the erosion of public support for his decision, despite its unexpectedly difficult aftermath.) During that period, the right track/wrong track numbers moved up, and the public’s assessment of Bush’s record on foreign policy, the war in Iraq, and the economy all improved. On the eve of the election, his overall job approval averaged about 50 percent, up from less than 48 percent in mid-summer and closely predicting the 50.7 percent share of the popular vote that he received.
Obama now faces a similar task. In the fourteenth quarter of his presidency, which ended July 19, his job approval averaged 46.8 percent–a bit higher than Gerald Ford’s 46.0 percent in mid-1976, but more than a percentage point lower than Bush’s 47.9 percent. While inductive generalizations are not necessary truths, the fact remains that no incumbent has ever been reelected with a job approval below 50 percent. The most recent CBS/NYT survey illuminates the challenge Obama confronts. Not only is his job approval down to the levels of last fall and winter, before four months of good economic news pushed them up, but also other indicators–such as right track/wrong track and management of the economy–are moving in the wrong direction. The people have noticed the difference between 225 thousand new jobs per month and 75 thousand, and they’ve drawn the obvious inference: Only 24 percent of Americans think the economy is improving, down from 33 percent in April.
So the president has some work to do, and he can’t get the job done simply by attacking his adversary. Indeed, as I’ve argued in previous articles, the evidence that the all-out assault on Romney record at Bain Capital is making a difference remains thin at best. Since July 1, while Obama’s survey average has declined from 47.5 to 46.0 percent, Romney’s has actually edged up slightly, from 44.1 to 44.7 percent. A Gallup/USA Today survey released July 24 finds 63 percent of Americans believing that the challenger’s “background in business, including his time as head of Bain Capital,” would cause him to “make good decisions . . . as president in dealing with economic problems that U.S. will face over the next four years.” Only 29 percent disagree. This helps explain why Romney leads Obama by 10 points, 51 to 41, on managing the economy and by 6 points (50-44) on creating jobs.
The survey goes on to suggest that Obama still runs even with Romney because of his perceived edge in character. He leads Romney by 30 points on likeability and by 11 on understanding the problems American face in their daily lives. If the election comes down to these differences, Obama might well win a narrow victory. But there’s one other personal characteristic that tilts in the other direction: Romney has a 5-point edge over the president as a leader who can “get things done.” If the voters care more about efficacy than empathy as they enter the polling booths, Nov. 6 could be a long night for Democrats.

Abramowitz: ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ Favoring GOP is Way-Overstated

The following article by Alan I. Abramowitz, author of The Polarized Public, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
According to the Gallup Poll, there is a fairly large enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to voting this year. In an article just published on their website, Gallup’s Jeff Jones reports on the findings of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted from July 19-22 in which Americans were asked whether, compared with previous elections, they were more or less enthusiastic about voting this year. Fifty-one percent of Republican identifiers and leaners said that they were more enthusiastic than usual versus only 39 percent of Democratic identifiers and leaners.
The 39 percent of Democrats who were more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year represents a sharp decline from four years ago when 61 percent of Democrats reported that they were more enthusiastic than usual. On the other hand, the 51 percent of Republicans who are more enthusiastic than usual this year represents a significant increase from the 35 percent of Republicans who were more enthusiastic than usual four years ago.
According to Gallup’s Jones, the 12 point enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, which was up from 8 points in February, would pose a serious threat to President Obama’s chances of reelection if it continues into the fall and results in a Republican turnout advantage. But before speculating about how the enthusiasm gap might affect turnout of party supporters in November, there is an important question that needs to be asked. Is the enthusiasm gap real or is it an artifact of the way this particular question was worded?
A potential issue with the wording of this question is that it asks about enthusiasm compared with previous elections which would appear to cue respondents to think about their feelings during the most recent presidential election in 2008. Thus, Democrats might be comparing their level of enthusiasm this year with their very high level of enthusiasm four years ago while Republicans might be comparing their level of enthusiasm this year with their relatively low level of enthusiasm four years ago.
The fact that Democrats feel less enthusiastic than four years ago and Republicans feel more enthusiastic than four years ago does not necessarily mean that Democrats are now less enthusiastic than Republicans in any absolute sense. To determine whether that is the case, we would need to ask a question that focuses on respondents’ absolute level of enthusiasm, not their enthusiasm compared with 2008. Fortunately, the Gallup poll asked just such a question one month ago and the results present a very different picture of the relative enthusiasm of Democrats and Republicans.
In a national survey conducted on June 25-26, Gallup asked Americans to rate their enthusiasm about voting this year on a five-point scale. The choices offered were extremely enthusiastic, very enthusiastic, somewhat enthusiastic, not too enthusiastic or not at all enthusiastic. On this question there was almost no difference between the responses of Democratic identifiers and leaners and those of Republican identifiers and leaners: 43 percent of Republicans were extremely or very enthusiastic compared with 39 percent of Democrats. On the other hand, 34 percent of Republicans were not too enthusiastic or not at all enthusiastic compared with 32 percent of Democrats. On a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 is the highest enthusiasm score and 5 is the lowest, the average score was 2.87 for Democrats and 2.88 for Republicans.
These results indicate that Democrats are just as enthusiastic about voting this year as Republicans. And other evidence from Gallup’s national tracking poll suggests that there is unlikely to be an unusually large Republican turnout advantage in November. In Gallup’s most recent three-week compilation of their tracking poll results from July 3-22, 83 percent of registered Democrats said that they would definitely vote in November compared with 87 percent of registered Republicans.
One important point to bear in mind when it comes to turnout is that Republicans almost always turn out at a higher rate than Democrats, regardless of enthusiasm. So the 4 point gap in the Gallup tracking poll is nothing unusual. In fact, according to evidence from the highly respected American National Election Study surveys, Republicans turned out at a higher rate than Democrats in both 2004 and 2008 despite the supposed Democratic advantage in enthusiasm in those elections.
Republicans will almost certainly enjoy an advantage in turnout this year but it won’t be because of their greater enthusiasm. It will be because Republicans identifiers are disproportionately white and affluent and find it easier to overcome numerous obstacles that make it difficult for many lower income and minority citizens to register and vote including, increasingly, voter identification laws enacted by Republican legislatures.

The invasion of Iraq overthrew Iran’s most lethal enemy and replaced it with a regime that is now Iran’s closest and most reliable ally. Depressingly, Mitt Romney has chosen the architects of this massive strategic fiasco as his principal advisors.

A recent profile of Colin Powell described his growing concern about Romney’s disturbingly narrow range of foreign policy advisors. As the article noted:

Romney’s team of about 40 foreign policy advisers includes many who hail from the neoconservative wing of the party…Many were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq War, and many are proponents of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran.

This group includes a number of well-known Neo-con figures like John Bolton, Elliot Cohen and Robert Kagan but it also includes a variety of lesser-known individuals who were intimately connected with the botched planning and execution of the war in Iraq. As a Nation review of Romney’s advisors noted:

Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush. “I can’t name a single Romney foreign policy adviser who believes the Iraq War was a mistake,” says the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble.

Given Romney’s very narrow set of pro-invasion advisors, it becomes particularly important to review what the invasion of Iraq actually accomplished in strategic terms. Dan Froomkin, who wrote penetrating commentary about Iraq for the Washington Post during the period of the Iraq War, recently wrote a very useful review of that history and an overview of the situation today. He began his review as follows:

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, neoconservative hawks in and out of the Bush administration promised that the U.S. invasion would quickly transform that country into a strong ally, a model Arab democracy and a major oil producer that would lower world prices, even while paying for its own reconstruction.
“A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region,” President George W. Bush told a crowd at the American Enterprise Institute in 2003, a few weeks before he launched the attack.

In fact, the Neo-con promises for what the invasion of Iraq would produce were actually even more flamboyantly manic and — in retrospect — patently delusional then even this summary suggests. The Neo-con’s actually promised that the invasion would achieve two objectives of absolutely breathtaking scope.

Political Strategy Notes

In her CNN post, “GOP’s Obama obsession will lose it the election,” TDS Advisory Board member Maria Cardona has a few choice comments about the GOP’s xenophobic rhetoric, including: “As an American Latina born in Colombia, I recoiled at this language, the same way I did in 2008 when Bachmann used it. It reminds me — and I suspect it reminds many other Latinos in this country — of the lengths to which many in this Republican Party have gone to marginalize those who represent the new and changing demographics in the United States…Given that experts say Romney needs at least 40% of the Latino vote to win, this is an odd strategy for someone who enjoys Latino support in the low 20s…”
Concerning Elizabeth Warren’s challenge to defeat Se. Scott Brown in Mass., Adam Carlson reports that “HuffPost Pollster’s current trend estimate of the race, which takes into account all available public polling, shows Warren ahead by 2.5 points (43.5 percent to 41.0 percent), which is essentially unchanged since the beginning of 2012,” which is within the margin of error. This race is a top priority for GOP fat cats, who fear Warren’s savvy about their financial shenanigans. Dems who want to help elect one of the smartest progressive candidates of 2012 can do so at Warren’s ActBlue web page.
It’s a little late, but good for eBay and UPS for recently joining the growing list of advertisers to quit sponsoring Rush Limbaugh. According to Jason Easley’s report at PoliticusUSA, Limbaugh’s remaining sponsors include Lifelock, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Kia, Papa John’s, Home Depot, Angie’s List and NBC-TV. More on the boycott at the StopRush Project.
Although Jews are a fairly small demographic group in the U.S., they could well be a pivotal voting bloc in Florida, where they are an estimated 7-8 percent of the overall turnout in recent years, with a turnout rate of 96 percent of eligible Jewish voters in 2008, when Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote, Reuters reports. Nearly a half-million Jewish voters reside in South Florida.
And at HuffPo, Chris Weigant speculates that it’s just possible that GOP voter suppression may backfire in Florida, because of it’s disproportionately large senior population.
Nate Silver’s latest calculations at his FiveThirty Eight blog bring some good news for President Obama: “…As of Tuesday afternoon, President Obama’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls was 1.3 percentage points over Mitt Romney….Mr. Obama led by a mean of 3.5 points in the RealClearPolitics averages for the 10 states (Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin) that are most likely to determine the election outcome, according to our “tipping point index.””
Ron Brownstein’s National Journal article, “Public to Congress: Bend, Don’t Break” reports on the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, indicating “a notable uptick in the share of Americans who said they prefer political leaders who “make compromises with people they disagree with” over those who “stick to their positions without compromising.”” Perhaps it’s a measure of false equivalency conflict-aversion on the part of the pollsters that they apparently didn’t even ask the rather important question, “So, which party do you blame for the lack of compromise?”
Scary headline of the day: “New GOP-Backed Voter ID Law Could Keep 43 Percent Of Philly Voters From Polls” by Talking Points Memo’s Ryan J. Reilly. The story also notes that “the percentage of Philadelphia voters who lack a current form of Pennsylvania-issued identification far outnumbers any other part of the state.”
Stat comparison of the Day, via Mother Jones: Between 2000 and 2010, there were 649 million votes cast in general elections, 47,000 UFO sightings, 441 Americans killed by lightning and 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation.
In his post at Media Matters for America, “Note To WSJ: Romney Didn’t Build The Olympics On His Own,” Simon Maloy collars the Wall St. Journal for shamelessly gushing that Romney’s leadership as CEO of the ’02 Winter Olympics “remains one of the clearest examples of how he sought to transfer his corporate-restructuring experience to a public institution, a theme that runs through the heart of his challenge to Barack Obama.” The WSJ article conveniently neglected to mention that the games were supported by hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government.

New Report: Obamacare Has ALREADY Saved Seniors Nearly $4 Billion — on Drugs Alone

Steven Perlberg reports at Think Progress that The Centers for Medicare And Medicaid Services (CMS) has just released data indicating that more than 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities have already saved nearly $4 billion on prescription drugs “as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.”
This is very significant, especially considering that seniors are the demographic group with the highest voter turnout, as well as a potentially-pivotal demographic in a key swing state, Florida. Perlberg adds,

The CMS data also showed that over 1 million people with Medicare saved an average of $629 on prescriptions in the “donut hole” coverage gap since the beginning of the year. So far in 2012, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent, saving Medicare beneficiaries a total of $687 million. Over the next few years, the government will cover more and more of brand-name and generic drugs until donut hole is closed in 2020.

Of course, the political benefit in November will undoubtedly depend to a great extent on how effectively this information is shared with seniors. This story deserves the full attention of Dems’ best messaging gurus.

Idea-Bankrupt GOP Wages War of Attrition Against Facts

Slate.com’s “The GOP’s War Against Facts” by Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari puts the high beams on a fundamental change in American politics that you’re not going to hear much about in the traditional broadcast and print media. Subtitled “The truth became dangerous for the Republican Party when it ran out of arguments,” Vasvari and Lithwick open their case with a point about the much-noted “decline of reasoned discourse in America”:

…The real end of civic discourse can be traced to the new conservative argument that facts themselves are dangerous…It’s a dangerous contention not just for what it hides, but also for what it reveals: a lack of any other arguments…First Mitt Romney–interviewing for the position of president–declined to release his tax returns because, as he explained, the Obama team’s opposition research will “pick over it” and “distort and lie about them.” He isn’t actually claiming that his opponents will lie. He’s claiming he’s entitled to hide the truth because it could be used against him. As Jon Stewart put it, “You can’t release your returns, because if you do, the Democrats will be mean to you.” These are tax returns. Factual documents. No different than, say, a birth certificate. But the GOP’s argument that inconvenient facts can be withheld from public scrutiny simply because they can be used for mean purposes is a radical idea in a democracy. It has something of a legal pedigree as well.
Probably not coincidentally, last week Senate Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE Act–a piece of legislation many of them once supported–again on the grounds that Democrats might someday use ugly facts against conservatives. The principal objection to the law is that nasty Democrats would like to know who big secret donors are in order to harass, boycott, and intimidate them. The law requires that unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations report campaign-related spending over $10,000 within 24 hours, and to name donors who give more than $10,000 for political purposes. Even though eight of the nine justices considering McCain-Feingold in Citizens United believed that disclosure is integral to a functioning democracy, the idea that facts about donors are dangerous things is about the only argument Senate Republicans can muster…

Lithwick and Vasvari quote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whining that “This amounts to nothing more than member and donor harassment and intimidation” and relate it to identical language used in Republican efforts to prevent a California ruling that the state had a compelling interest public disclosure of campaign contributions.” The authors add:

The California case was brought by James Bopp, a conservative Indiana lawyer, who has relentlessly challenged campaign disclosure laws in the courts with only limited success. Mitch McConnell borrowed a page from his playbook last week when he warned that forcing deeply established and well-funded groups to make their donations in the bright light of day would invariably bring howling mobs to their doors. In an effort to do away with transparency, McConnell needs to paint an apocalyptic image of wealthy donors in fear for their very lives. Enemies lists! Intimidation! Nixon!!!!
..There is a shameful irony in Mitch McConnell and James Bopp attempting to shield the political contributions of the well-funded establishment–indeed, in the senator’s case, the economic elite–from public gaze through a doctrine meant to protect the weak and disenfranchised; cynically invoking the legacy of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to let the Koch brothers write their massive checks in private. Overheated rhetoric about violent protest and “enemies lists” is supported by no factual showing. It’s a fantasy used to obscure the truth about who is buying and selling our candidates and state referendums.
Three years ago, James Bopp sued the state of Washington, seeking to prohibit the disclosure of names on a ballot initiative that would have put the question of repealing domestic partner benefits just extended to same sex couples to a vote. In 2010, the Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that making the names of those who sign petitions public always threatens to silence political speech because signatories might fear retribution.
Eight justices rejected that argument, none of them so strongly as Justice Scalia, whose distaste for political anonymity lead him to write separately a warning that merits repetition here, both with respect to the DISCLOSE Act, and the argument that truth must be hidden because some people may be mean someday.
There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.
Someone should tell Mitch McConnell.

McConnell’s whining is about what you would expect from a leader of a political party that has run out of fresh ideas. For Dems, however, the challenge is to put full disclosure of all large-scale campaign contributions in the forefront of voter priorities.