Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jack Conway

Snowing the Voters? Good Luck With That

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

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Another Brilliant Idea of the Left

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.'”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.'”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

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Ads Like You’ve Never Seen

Jack Conway isn’t going to win the Kentucky Senate race, but he will be remembered as the candidate with the single worst ad in the 2010 midterm cycle. How do we know? Well, it gave birth to one of the most effective counterpunches – a montage of liberal Democrats ripping Conway for attacking Rand Paul’s religious beliefs.

Howard Kurtz at his new Daily Beast perch observes that Conway’s is only the worst of a bad lot. It’s been an especially nasty season for Democratic ads:

We’re talking ugly stuff here …

“The party is doing stuff that is too hot for candidates,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks television advertising as president of the nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group. “You see ad after ad going at them right between the eyes. It’s personal, it’s cutting. It’s ‘here’s what we found in the oppo dump and we’re going to put it in the worst light possible.’”

Kurtz provides a useful compendium of some of the more outlandish ones. He observes that the ads “represent the kind of scorched-earth tactics that strategists employ when their clients are in danger of losing, and losing big. The party is spending heavily on these aerial attacks.” Yes, negative ads sometimes “work,” but by going beyond the bounds of normal political combat, the candidates, like Conway, risk making themselves appear desperate and ethically challenged. And to the degree that independents hate partisanship, these ads are likely to be a major turnoff.

On the bright side, it does seem that the mainstream media and liberal punditocracy are embarrassed by all this. Alas, they had hoped for so much more from the Hope ‘n Change president.

Jack Conway isn’t going to win the Kentucky Senate race, but he will be remembered as the candidate with the single worst ad in the 2010 midterm cycle. How do we know? Well, it gave birth to one of the most effective counterpunches – a montage of liberal Democrats ripping Conway for attacking Rand Paul’s religious beliefs.

Howard Kurtz at his new Daily Beast perch observes that Conway’s is only the worst of a bad lot. It’s been an especially nasty season for Democratic ads:

We’re talking ugly stuff here …

“The party is doing stuff that is too hot for candidates,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks television advertising as president of the nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group. “You see ad after ad going at them right between the eyes. It’s personal, it’s cutting. It’s ‘here’s what we found in the oppo dump and we’re going to put it in the worst light possible.’”

Kurtz provides a useful compendium of some of the more outlandish ones. He observes that the ads “represent the kind of scorched-earth tactics that strategists employ when their clients are in danger of losing, and losing big. The party is spending heavily on these aerial attacks.” Yes, negative ads sometimes “work,” but by going beyond the bounds of normal political combat, the candidates, like Conway, risk making themselves appear desperate and ethically challenged. And to the degree that independents hate partisanship, these ads are likely to be a major turnoff.

On the bright side, it does seem that the mainstream media and liberal punditocracy are embarrassed by all this. Alas, they had hoped for so much more from the Hope ‘n Change president.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

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Conway Blows Himself Up

Howard Fineman is not exactly a conservative shill. But it is apparent that both he and a slew of Democrats are aghast at Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. (But the prize for indignant liberal goes to Chris Matthews.) Fineman writes:

Democrats in Kentucky and elsewhere seem ready to bail — perhaps wholesale — on Democrat Jack Conway for his “mocking Christianity” attack on Dr. Rand Paul.

“I wouldn’t have done it,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the popular Louisville Democrat who is also a member of the House leadership, told The Huffington Post. “And it looks like it’s backfiring.” …

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri criticized the ad theme, and other Democrats have privately done so, but open criticism from the politically savvy Yarmuth — on the ballot in Kentucky with Conway — is a sign that the ad is rapidly coming to be regarded as a one-step-too-far move in a year in which nothing seems to be over the line.

The ad is so distasteful that you wonder what in the world Conway and his campaign advisers were thinking. And because it comes from the party that can’t get enough of finger-wagging at us for “religious tolerance,” it makes it virtually impossible for Democrats to defend. What makes it doubly bizarre is that Paul is not without his vulnerabilities, but now the entire “he’s a wacko” attack is undermined. It’s Conway who seems like he’s from a parallel political universe.

This is why politics is so much fun. The ability of candidates and parties to annihilate themselves provides constant amusement, and it reminds us that politics is as much about human fallibility as anything else.

Howard Fineman is not exactly a conservative shill. But it is apparent that both he and a slew of Democrats are aghast at Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. (But the prize for indignant liberal goes to Chris Matthews.) Fineman writes:

Democrats in Kentucky and elsewhere seem ready to bail — perhaps wholesale — on Democrat Jack Conway for his “mocking Christianity” attack on Dr. Rand Paul.

“I wouldn’t have done it,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the popular Louisville Democrat who is also a member of the House leadership, told The Huffington Post. “And it looks like it’s backfiring.” …

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri criticized the ad theme, and other Democrats have privately done so, but open criticism from the politically savvy Yarmuth — on the ballot in Kentucky with Conway — is a sign that the ad is rapidly coming to be regarded as a one-step-too-far move in a year in which nothing seems to be over the line.

The ad is so distasteful that you wonder what in the world Conway and his campaign advisers were thinking. And because it comes from the party that can’t get enough of finger-wagging at us for “religious tolerance,” it makes it virtually impossible for Democrats to defend. What makes it doubly bizarre is that Paul is not without his vulnerabilities, but now the entire “he’s a wacko” attack is undermined. It’s Conway who seems like he’s from a parallel political universe.

This is why politics is so much fun. The ability of candidates and parties to annihilate themselves provides constant amusement, and it reminds us that politics is as much about human fallibility as anything else.

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Democrats Aid Tea Partiers

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

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Rand Paul Sinking?

Public Policy Polling is a Democratic outfit, but its polls are generally well regarded and haven’t been out of whack in the primary races. So Republicans should perk up over the latest poll on the Kentucky Senate race:

[Rand] Paul and Jack Conway are getting 43% each. The more Kentucky voters get to know Rand Paul, the less they like him. When PPP first polled the race in December Paul’s favorability was a +3 spread at 26/23. By May it was a -7 spread at 28/35. Now it’s a -8 spread at 34/42. The national media attention Paul has received has hurt his cause with voters in the state- 38% say it has made them less likely to support Paul while 29% say it has made them more inclined to vote for him and 33% say it hasn’t had an impact on their attitude toward Paul one way or the other.

As other polls are released, we’ll see if this is an outlier. But Paul has a problem. Since his civil rights debacle, he’s largely been hiding from the media. As a result, he’s not giving voters anything positive to counter the overwhelmingly negative media coverage he’s received. He needs to explain his views and assure voters that he’s not an extremist. And if he really does hold extreme views on a variety of topics or can’t articulate what views he does have, the GOP primary voters will have made a big mistake, and a relatively “easy” seat may slip through their fingers.

Public Policy Polling is a Democratic outfit, but its polls are generally well regarded and haven’t been out of whack in the primary races. So Republicans should perk up over the latest poll on the Kentucky Senate race:

[Rand] Paul and Jack Conway are getting 43% each. The more Kentucky voters get to know Rand Paul, the less they like him. When PPP first polled the race in December Paul’s favorability was a +3 spread at 26/23. By May it was a -7 spread at 28/35. Now it’s a -8 spread at 34/42. The national media attention Paul has received has hurt his cause with voters in the state- 38% say it has made them less likely to support Paul while 29% say it has made them more inclined to vote for him and 33% say it hasn’t had an impact on their attitude toward Paul one way or the other.

As other polls are released, we’ll see if this is an outlier. But Paul has a problem. Since his civil rights debacle, he’s largely been hiding from the media. As a result, he’s not giving voters anything positive to counter the overwhelmingly negative media coverage he’s received. He needs to explain his views and assure voters that he’s not an extremist. And if he really does hold extreme views on a variety of topics or can’t articulate what views he does have, the GOP primary voters will have made a big mistake, and a relatively “easy” seat may slip through their fingers.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

Read Less




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