Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michael Steele in Trouble

RNC Chairman Michael Steele has a lot riding on the mid-term elections coming up this November. In fact, his political career may rest on achieving near impossible goals. The GOP looks poised to do well and make significant gains in the 37 governors' seats that will be up this November, but more and more, I suspect that only taking back either the House or the Senate will be enough to change his fortunes and neither seems very likely to me (I am among those that believe that the GOP will make net gains of between 15-20 seats in the House and 3-4 in the Senate).

How did it reach this point?

In short, Steele's reign has been a complete disaster. His fundraising has been lackluster (when Steele came on-board, the RNC had $22 million cash on hand, but now has only $9.4 million - meaning that his burn rate is higher than his rate of receipts). He tends to go "off the reservation," message-wise, on a regular basis.

And now, of course, in quick succession, the press was leaked a memo that described RNC donors in terms both offensive and condescending and now donors have learned that, on at least one occasion, their donations were used by staff to pay for "meals" at a West Hollywood club that specializes in performances of simulated lesbian sex.

Michael Steele is up for re-election as chair of the RNC in 2011. Right now, he is saying that will stand for re-election. Anecdotally, Steele is said to remain popular among the rank and file grassroots, but with the establishment donor base already souring on Steele and with the Tea Party-wing taking an ever larger role at the grassroots level, it does not seem likely that anything less than seismic victories at the federal level will be inadequate to keep folks happy.

If Republicans defy the odds and win 40 seats in the House currently held by Democrats, then all will be forgiven. If the GOP does what everyone expects and picks up significantly less, you can expect Steele to claim that flipping the open Wyoming governor's seat from D to R shows that the RNC's efforts have been a success under his tenure. You can also expect the actual voting members of the Republican National Committee to disagree.

(picture courtesy of Keeping It Real with Michael Steele)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Find a Job in (Mostly Democratic) Politics

I've been getting a lot of emails lately from folks asking me how to find a first job in politics, so I figured I'd share what I know. I run in Democratic circles, so I am simply not up to date on how the Republican party tends to disseminate the resumes of job seekers, so this will mostly be for fellow Democrats.

Firstly, there are three different world that do not coincide as much as you might think - electoral campaigns (including candidate campaigns, ballot initiatives, and federal, state and local party committees), non-profits (including think t anks and unions), and "the Hill" (working for a member of Congress or some part of a presidential administration, including cabinet departments).

Like many folks in politics, I personally, have worked in all three worlds, but generally, you pick a "track," so to speak and you do not cross over to other tracks for very long. When you do cross over, you will likely find yourself a further back in the pecking order than if you had stayed in your primary track.

Folks who work on the Hill think they are the real power, non-profit folks tend to be the most idealistic, and campaigners wonder why either group ever thinks they can accomplish anything without the correct people in elected office.

You will see a lot of Hill staffers dispersing in September and November to various campaigns. When they get back, they tell horror stories about how hard it was and how it was and how many hours they worked and how they'll never do it again. I used to just roll my eyes at this. On my first campaign, we got flooded with with Hill staffers and, I admit, I developed a real resentment. I found most of them very interested in feeling important and delegating, and not so interested in doing the "scut" work that actually needed to be done, but I have since had to revise upwards my overall opinion of Hill staffers. That said, having been a legislative assistant (which is the title of the average policy staffer) does not at all qualify you to hold a senior position - which goes both ways, because, as a campaigner, you will not really be suited to be a legislative assistant or "LA" unless you have some other

But enough digressions. Let's talk jobs.

So you want to work on the Hill? Ok. Your first job is likely to be an internship. An unpaid internship. Your one bit of good fortune - Washington, DC's unemployment rate is pretty low, so you can probably find a job waiting tables at night to, you know, pay for food and shelter. If you are very lucky (by which I mean, have some truly awesome connections), you might get as an office assistant or staff assistant. These jobs pays in the low twenties (I know, I know - it's not a highly paid profession, at least not in the early stages). Competition for jobs is fierce - DC is a mecca for young people looking for jobs with non-profits and the Hill. To make matters worse, if you want a job on the Hill, you generally have to be in DC. The average office will not even call you back if your resume says that you live in Minnesota. Yes, I know, it's even worse than you thought. You have to move to an expensive city and essentially do it on "spec."

Want to work on a campaign? Your first job is likely to be "field organizer," "canvasser," "finance assistant," or (more rarely) "communications assistant." The first two are field positions. The first position will have slightly more responsibility for doing community outreach, the second is basically door knocking/phone calling. Finance assistant will be working with the finance team to create call time sheets, doing paperwork, picking up larger checks, helping organize fundraisers, etc. Communications assistant will provide logistical help to the communications director, but not many campaigns have more than a communications director and maybe a press secretary, but a race of at least $500,000 will often have finance assistants. Also, communication staff, even the most junior ones, usually already have some experience. Junior finance staff will often just be someone hard working and organized. On a smaller race ($100,000 or less), especially if you know the candidate or are a regular volunteer on local races, you may get hired as a campaign manager right away.

Ok - so let's get to the meat of the matter. Where should you look? I've got a list of websites and listservs below. (listserv) (listserv) (the primary website for looking for dem jobs) (non-profit jobs) (unions) (policy and non-profit jobs) (the U.S. Senate job bulletin) (U.S. House job bulletin) (small monthly fee, but a very good list of DC-based jobs) (jobs at the DCCC) (DCCC's talent bank) (DSCC job bank and job listings) (non-profit jobs in Florida) (field consultants) (field consultants) (field consultants) (field consultants, primarily West Coast)

Knock yourselves out, but feel free to contact me via email or via the comments section for additional information or advice.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two Floridians on Sarah Palin's 'Target List'

Sara Palin has unveiled her list of the top 20 congressional Democrats targeted for defeat in 2010.

Two Floridians are on that list - Allen Boyd in the Panhandle and Suzanne Kosmas in central Florida.

Boyd is a conservative Democrat, but he did vote for the healthcare bill. That said, he is pretty safe unless the GOP can come up with a top tier challenger and for now, his biggest challenge is coming from the left - State Senator and one of the deans of Florida politics, Al Lawson, is challenging him in the Democratic primary.

Kosmas is perhaps a little more vulnerable now that is she isn't facing the ethically challenged Congressman Feeney (who she defeated in 2008 to take the 24th District), but, once again, money is a factor. She is a strong fundraiser (though not an overwhelmingly strong one), but none of the R's lining up to take her on have really shown the kind of financial muscle necessary to unseat her, especially since Florida has a late primary, meaning a long an expensive primary season that Kosmas can use to make her position ever more secure, while the twelve Republicans currently running against her beat each other up (though right now it seems like the winner will be either Craig Miller or Sandy Adama).

Oh - and notice how Grayson is NOT on that list. Folks up in DC do not seem to realize that Grayson is simply not vulnerable right now. Yes, he's polarizing, but the people who love him, really love him, and his populism is, well, popular, even among many Republicans. Finally, he is a rock star fundraiser running against a field of less than stellar fundraisers. Palin's team, at least, seems to realize this and have decided to take a pass on challenging Grayson for now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Last Night Was Romney's Waterloo

The biggest loser of last night's healthcare vote in the House was not, in fact, House Minority Leader John Boehner. If there was one clear closer, it was Mitt Romney.

It has long been noted that the healthcare reform passed by the House last night is very much like the healthcare reform signed into law by then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Romney's strategy for becoming the 2012 GOP nominee revolves around two main ideas. The first, is positing himself as, for lack of a better word, "next in line." Republican GOP primaries tend not to nominate surprise candidates, a la Obama, but rather someone who is "due" their turn. Often (though not always), this person has run before and lost in the primary to the eventual nominee. This list includes McCain, Reagan (remember - Reagan ran against Gerald Ford in 1976), Dole, and Bush 41 (Bush 43 was more of a legacy candidate, but still fits into the overall theme of the importance of hierarchy in the process).

But he needs another leg to stand on - and that will be the economy. Romney has long sold his work for private equity funds as being just the sort of economic acumen this country needs.

So what's happening with that? As to the first part of the strategy, the appearance of Obama has sparked a desire for a more inspirational candidate than usual, and Romney is many things, but inspiring is not one of them.

As regards the economy, by 2012, all signs indicate that employment levels will be noticeably recovering (the economy as a whole is already recovering, but employment is a lagging indicator).

So, the legs that support Romney's candidacy are already wobbling a little. With that being true, the last thing he needs is something new for his opponents (Palin, Huckabee, Thune, Santorum, Pence, Pawlenty, etc.) to beat him over the head with - but last night's healthcare reform is exactly that.

Whether you agree with the reform or not, I think we can all agree that a significant percentage of the voters who will make up the participants in GOP primaries will see it as a bad thing - and every one of them will see television ads and receive direct mail explaining how "Obamacare" is actually just "Romney-care."

To drag the metaphor out further, without another leg to stand, Romney's almost certain to fall under that kind of bludgeoning.

Bush Speechwriter Thinks Healthcare Reform Is Here to Stay

Despite the claims of folks like McCollum that healthcare reform will be repealed, former George W. Bush speechwriter is less sanguine:

“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the ‘doughnut hole’ and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year-olds from their parents' insurance coverage?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Regarding My Last Post...

It seems that the St. Pete Times agrees.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Effects of Healthcare Reform on the Tampa Bay Area

The House Commerce Committee has posted some reports on the impact of healthcare reform on various congressional district, including our own 9th (Bilirakis), 10th (Young), and 11th (Castor).

In my own home district (the 10th), the reform would help an estimated 13,600 residents with pre-existing conditions keep or get healthcare. This is a big deal, because the fine folks in Tallahassee have been allowing insurance companies to flatly deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions trying to buy insurance in the individual market (though letting the insurance industry get away with whatever they want can't be surprise to those who read about this) - which means that 13,600 people in the district are, among other things, discouraged from starting a small business, because they can't buy coverage, but must take a position at a larger company that provides healthcare benefits through a group plan. The only other options are to go without health insurace or to go on Medicaid.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Healthcare Polling - Swing and "Blue Dog" Districts

A little caveat here: John Anzalone has been a friend of the family for fifteen years or so (predating, even, the start of my political career) and he has done polling for one of my past campaigns.

March 15, 2010
To: Interested Parties
Fr: John Anzalone / Matt Hogan
Re: Summary of Findings from Swing District Health Insurance Reform Poll

Anzalone Liszt Research recently conducted a poll of 2010 likely voters across 92 Frontline, Blue Dog, and Rural districts on behalf of AFSCME, CWA and NEA. The key findings from the poll included the following:

· Strong majorities of these voters want reform and want it this year. There is still strong support for reforming the healthcare system, as 59% of voters in these districts - which are slightly more conservative than the electorate overall - favor major reform or a total overhaul of the current system. They also want reform now, as over 60% believe that it is important to pass health insurance reform this year, including 64% of swing voters (those who do not side with either party in the generic ballot and who make up 28% of voters in these districts) and 93% of Democrats.

· Once voters learn about the plan, a majority supports it. As we've seen in earlier polling and focus groups, voters are largely unaware of any benefits of reform beyond expanding coverage for the uninsured. The vast majority of voters who already have coverage therefore don't see how reform will help them. After hearing about some of the benefits of the plan however, support for it among voters overall increases from 42% to 51%. Swing voters were particularly receptive to information about the plan, with their level of support rising from 35% to 50% after learning more about it.

· Ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions and requiring members of Congress to have the same plan as tens of millions of Americans are the most compelling components of reform. These two components were seen as the best reasons to support health insurance reform, both when tested on their own and as messages. They are the most popular components of reform among voters overall, and also among key audiences, including seniors. Although these were the most popular components of the plan, fourteen others were also tested, and each was supported by at least 60% of both swing voters and voters overall.

· A majority of swing voters still say they need more information about the plan before taking a firm position on it. Despite all the debate over health insurance reform over the past year, 40% of likely voters in these districts - and 55% of swing voters - say that they need more information on the President's reform plan before they can take a firm position on it. Meanwhile, those voters who have made up their mind on the plan lean Republican by a 20-point margin.

· Swing voters are just as concerned about continued insurance company abuses as they are about any potentially negative consequence of reform. Over two-thirds of swing voters (67%) were very concerned that premiums would continue to rise in the absence of reform, and 62% were similarly worried about insurance companies continuing to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. These concerns were equal to or even greater than the level of fear over reform's impact on the deficit, taxes or government involvement in healthcare.

Anzalone Liszt Research conducted 1,003 live telephone interviews with likely 2010 voters in 92 Blue Dog/Frontline/Rural Caucus House Districts between February 26 and March 4, 2010. Respondents were selected at random, with interviews apportioned geographically based on past voter turnout. Expected margin of error for these results is ±3.1% with a 95% confidence level.

Monday, March 15, 2010

GOP Primary Poll - March 9th

InsiderAdvantage / Florida Times-Union
3/9/10; 512 likely Republican primary voters, 4% margin of error
Mode: Automated phone

2010 Senate: Republican Primary
60% Rubio, 26% Crist

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This ad ran on Glenn Beck's show...

Wow. People are now using Glenn Beck to microtarget those demographics who A) believe that America will turn into The Road Warrior by next Christmas or B) own a compound that will shortly be surrounded by ATF agents.

Very Expensive, Emergency Damage Control Time at the RNC

Remember when the RNC divided their donors into people driven by fear and people driven by ego and a desire for "tchochkes?" Yeah - me, too. That was hilarious.

Anyway, the RNC has now been forced to do even more damage control over that little debacle. They have, in fact, been forced to run ads on television - dropping almost a million dollars on an ad buy.

What is the purpose of these ads? To win over undecided voters who may be souring on the President? Conservative Democrats who can be convinced to join the Republican revolution in November? Or are they supporting vulnerable Republicans, to make sure they don't give up any electoral ground in the fall?

If you guess any of these, you guessed wrong! These ads are aimed at - REPUBLICAN DONORS. They messed up so badly that they feel that they have to run television ads to reassure that they don't really think they are frightened, ego-manical, obsessive keychain collectors and that they really do love and respect their donors.

They are running these ads in Palm Beach, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Cincinnati.

Super awesome job, Michael Steele.

Monday, March 08, 2010

John Cornyn Wants Someone Younger and Prettier for the Florida Senate, But Won't Leave Crist for the Sake of the Children or Because He's Catholic or Something Like That

Do you remember the big fuss back when NRSC Chair and Texas Senator John Cornyn endorsed Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate? You probably don't, because that was back in the bad old days when Crist was not absolutely dead man walking in the GOP primary and before everbody who wanted to show the conservative cred lined up to endorse Rubio.


Here's what Cornyn had to say about that now awkward endorsement:
"I think I'm honor-bound to leave it as it is. It doesn't mean we're going to be spending any money in the primary or saying anything bad about Marco Rubio."

I'm trying to come up with a metaphor that sums this up - "You used to be skinny and hot, but now you're fat and ugly now and I would rather be having sex with almost anyone else on the planet, but I will stay with you for the sake of the kids, however, as soon as the kids go off to college, (i.e., the Republican primary is over) I am totally leaving you for someone half your age."

Friday, March 05, 2010

RPOF Red Flag?

The Republican Party of Florida has announced that they will be running a significant (six figure) television buy against Alex Sink. Instead of producing their own ad, the RPOF is simply re-running the ad produced by the Republican Governors Association (which also did a six figure buy).

What does this suggest?

The mere fact that the RGA was running ads in February says that they thought McCollum (or Dockery, though McCollum has to be favored) would ultimately struggle against Sink. This follows the common wisdom, which says that McCollum (who has so far failed to keep up with Sink on the fundraising front – Sink even boasts a $500 contribution from the new chair of the RPOF!) is lackluster candidate with a history of not quite making it on the biggest stage, whereas Sink is more of a rising star. Despite polling which shows McCollum in the lead, no one really seems to believe that he’ll come good on his own in the end.

If the RPOF is running those same ads again, that suggests they think that those dynamics which seem to favor Sink have not been altered.
It also says the RPOF’s money woes have not abated, despite the appointment of uber-insider John Thrasher as the Chair of the state party.
“How can he say that?” you ask. “They just dropped a lot of money into ads against Sink and it’s only March!”

Let me explain my reasoning – it is typical to run different series of television ads, with the same message, with the same branding, but with more or less subtly different images and words, over the course of an election season. Campaigns do this for the same reason that your local affiliates don’t just run the funniest Seinfeld episode (in my opinion, the one where George does the opposite of all his instincts) every night at 8 pm. Yes, there repeated viewings of the ad are important for getting through to the average voter, but there is such a thing as overkill. It’s why large campaigns will often run multiple ads simultaneously.

For the RPOF to simply take over the RGA’s buy – that says they looked at their coffers and said: A) We have to do something to keep Sink from winning this but B) we can’t afford to run a negative ad AND produce it. Solution – we’ll cut corners and just run someone else’s television ad.

Another possibility is that recent and much publicized shake-ups at the RPOF have left the decision making team so traumatized that they don’t feel capable of putting together a process to get a new ad approved.

Either way, something funky is going on in Tallahassee (which is hardly surprising, I know).

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Even Better Than Wonkette

Even better than the Wonkette's take on things is this piece by Kevin Huffman in the Washington Post.

Frameworks bring clarity to the fundraising process, and your plan has a simple, clear message: We have fun peddling fear to Luddites...


...your plan divides Republican donors into two main categories: small donors who are "visceral," "reactionary" and motivated by "fear," and large donors who are "calculated," "ego-driven" and motivated by "access."

Classic stuff.

And no end of fun. And a warning not to put to put language insulting your donors on paper. In the end, everything gets leaked.

RNC Hilarity Or Another Reason Why Michael Steele Was A Bad Choice

If you haven't seen the whole thing, you must check this out. I have included the most hilarious of the power point slides - a wonderful combination of condescending arrogance, sad estimation of human nature, and the all around deep lack of respect for Republican donors that Republican fundraisers have for the very people who pay their nice salaries.

As you might expect, Wonkette has the most succinct summation of the whole thing, but if you must have more detail, check out the right-leaning, insider baseball magazine Politico's fuller take on it here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What To Do, What To Do?

Today's musings are in response to Peter Schorsch's recent "To Do List" for Florida Democrats.

I will say that Peter is mostly spot on in his observations, so let me offer some ideas for the Pinellas and Hillsborough DECs as they move forward.

The most important thing to remember is to not just focus on the big, "sexy" races. A state house race, for example, may not be as exciting to some folks as a congressional race, but they are often more winnable.

Pinellas was ground zero for Democrats in 2006, flipping a number of legislative seats from R to D. In 2010, those opportunities are strongest in Hillsborough with HD 60, where Russ Patterson, by all reports is running an aggressive field effort, and HD 57, where Faye Culp is termed out. It's also not too early for Hillsborough Dems to ask themselves who will be their strongest standard bearer next year, when the Tampa mayor's race opens up. Republicans are likely to rally behind Rose Ferlita, but it's not clear to me that Dems have a clear frontrunner.

In Pinellas, Bob Hackworth does a path to victory for the County Commission against (maybe) Susan Latvala. I say maybe because we all saw the numbers, wherein Latvala looked less than impressive against Beverly Biliris. In a Republican primary likely to be dominated by Rubio supporters and Tea Partiers, Latvala's road to the GOP nomination looks a little rocky. Hackworth has name recognition from his congressional race two years ago and though his self-imposed campaign finance limits of $100 per donor and no corporate monies will almost certainly mean that he will be outspent, he is a tireless door knocker and whoever comes out of the August 24th GOP primary will likely be a little bruised (and also probably be starting from zero in the money race - both Latvala and Biliris will almost certainly have to spend most or all of their warchest just to make sure of getting out of the primary).

In respect to Peter's exact points, he is absolute right about the primacy of the governor's race and the attorney general's race. I have already said that I think that either Aronbeg or Gelber will be strong in a general election matchup. Sink's campaign sometimes seems to be having some difficulty really taking off, so to speak, but she remains in the lead in the money race. In addition, is Paula Dockery puts some of her own money into her campaign, the GOP primary has the potential to become a little tricky (I must admit, Dockery is a little bit of mystery to me, but it is clear that she has some very devoted fans, whereas McCollum is at best liked, rather than loved, and has the ability to self-finance; she could become the next Rubio or just the next Joe Negron [the 2006 GOP primary for AG - look it up]).

I will say that Meek apparently portrayed himself as pretty confident of getting enough petitions to qualify when he spoke at the Pinellas Kennedy-King Dinner. He could have been bluffing, he could have been fooling himself, or he could know something we don't know. Or my spy could have totally misread the mood of the speech. Nonetheless, I will remain cautiously more sanguine than Peter about the Congressman's chances of qualifying by petition.

Finally, I have long believed that Fair District will go a long way towards the goal of good government for Florida (something we have not had for some time), whatever your political affiliation.

It's Not Really About Rubio

Salon has a nice piece on the Crist/Rubio match-up. Probably the most interesting point it makes is that the major, perceived dynamic of the race is a false image - the moderate Crist vs the conservative icon Rubio.

In terms of actual actions in their elected positions - Crist as governor and Rubio as speaker - can anyone name a significant number of actions that taken in their respective offices that makes Rubio more conservative than Crist?

You can't. Not really.

Rubio is not the conservative in the race. For an angry, anti-incumbent electorate, it is enough that Rubio is not Crist. That is why when the Crist camp points out that Rubio is absolutely part of the "establishment" as a lobbyist and as a former speaker of the house, it doesn't get any traction. If this were ever about Rubio, he would still be twenty points behind. Instead, it's all about Crist, so Rubio's lead is eighteen points and only getting stronger.

We saw a similar dynamic in Massachusetts, where a moderate, pro-choice Scott Brown became the darling of a conservative, pro-lifers across the country.