This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
For the Political Scientist in You … Winners and Losers From Primary Night (and runoffs!) … Denial is More Than a River in Egypt … Let the War Spending Games Begin … Anniversaries … Obit for Immigration Reform … Is Stupidity Contagious? … and other news of interest.
The Washington Report will be back on July 11th. Have a great 4th of July!
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kate Venne)
WHAT YOU MISSED WHILE WATCHING THE WORLD CUP June 30th marks the end of the the Supreme Court’s 2013 term, which means SCOTUS is scrambling to rule on the major cases they heard last fall. Thursday, they issued two unanimous decisions, taking on presidential appointments and protections for abortion clinics. ‘BUFFER ZONE’ REJECTED NJ writes, “In a unanimous decision Thursday, the court ruled that the state law requiring a 35-foot protest buffer zone around abortion clinics to protect public safety violates the First Amendment. The decision in McCullen v. Coakley is the most significant abortion-related ruling to come out of the court since its 2007 decision upholding a ban on certain late-term abortions. WHY DOES THE SUPREME COURT HAVE A BUFFER ZONE? (just asking) … the court issued a regulation in 2012 prohibiting demonstrations on the 252-by-98 foot area right outside the building. Protesters must instead remain on the adjacent sidewalk. (HuffPost) How’s that work? ALSO…OBAMA’S RECESS GAMBLE GOES BUST In a rebuke to President Obama, the Supremes struck down three of his recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board as unconstitutional. The decision gives the Senate broad power to thwart future recess appointments, but did not go as far as some conservatives hoped to undercut the president’s ability to fill vacant executive branch posts and judicial slots. AND THIS WEEK the Court ruled that police must GET A WARRANT before searching a cell phone –privacy advocates hail the ruling as a powerful check against the prying eyes of government and banned companies from capturing broadcast TV signals and streaming them on the web for users.” (ABC v. Aereo).
FOR THE POLITICAL SCIENTIST IN YOU (and me) — There’s more to American politics than left and right: “beyond the ideological wings, which make up a minority of the public, the political landscape includes a center that is large and diverse, unified by frustration with politics and little else.” To summarize “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology” – Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that the new typology has eight groups:
… Steadfast Conservatives are staunch critics of government and the social safety net and are very socially conservative.
…Business Conservatives share Steadfast Conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform. And Business Conservatives are far more moderate on social issues than are Steadfast Conservatives.
… Solid Liberals express liberal attitudes across almost every realm
… Young Outsiders lean Republican but do not have a strong allegiance to the Republican Party; in fact they tend to dislike both political parties.
… Hard-Pressed Skeptics have been battered by the struggling economy, and their difficult financial circumstances have left them resentful of both government and business.
… Next Generation Left are young, relatively affluent and very liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But they have reservations about the cost of social programs.
… Faith and Family Left lean Democratic, based on their confidence in government and support for federal programs to address the nation’s problems.
… And finally, Bystanders, representing 10% of the public, are on the sidelines of the political process. They are not registered to vote and pay very little attention to politics.”
ANNIVERSARIES The Atlantic writes, “Fifty years ago last weekend, civil-rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including a deputy sheriff, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Next Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the monumental achievements of the 20th century. And this past Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Two recent books (by journalists Todd Purdum (An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and Clay Risen (The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act) make clear that there were many heroes inside and out of government (Johnson, Humphrey, Martin Luther King Jr., A Philip Randolph, labor and faith communities, etc.) but it would not have been a meaningful Civil Rights Act, much less the Voting Rights Act in 1965, without the efforts of Republicans, especially Representative Bill McCullough of Ohio, Rep. Clarence Brown of Ohio, and senators including Tom Kuchel of California, Jacob Javits of New York, and especially Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the Republican leader in the Senate. McCullough, Brown, and Dirksen were strong conservatives, deep believers in a small government that should leave business and free enterprise alone. There were many features of the Civil Rights Act that challenged those tenets. They also knew that supporting civil rights was unlikely to provide much political benefit. But these men believed that segregation was fundamentally immoral and needed to be undone. Their actions represent one of the great profiles in courage in American history. FAST-FORWARD In 2006, when the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized, no Republican senators voted against it. In 2014, no GOP senators have stepped forward to co-sponsor the amendment to update it.
COCHRAN TOPPLES T-PARTY The Fix writes, “Sen. Thad Cochran (R) narrowly survived the toughest election of his four-decade political career, holding off an insurgent Tea Party challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Tuesday night’s runoff after one of the most expensive and nasty primary campaigns of the year. Cochran outperformed his vote totals from the primary election three weeks ago in many parts of Mississippi and he held a lead throughout the night.”
WINNER AND LOSERS FROM PRIMARY NIGHT (and runoffs!)
Voters in seven states cast ballots on Tuesday, one of the busiest days (and nights) of the entire 2014 primary season (Adapted from the Fix).
The Barbours: Yes, Cochran won. But, talk to any Republican — in either Mississippi or DC — and they will tell you that without the Barbours, Cochran wouldn’t have even come close to victory. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was, functionally, the campaign manager for the campaign. Austin Barbour, Haley’s nephew, ran the communications operation for Cochran. Henry Barbour, Austin’s brother, ran the main super PAC supporting Cochran, which wound up raising almost $3 million.
Black Mississippians: Cochran won for a variety of reasons but the big one seems to be the number of African American votes he collected. With black voters making the difference between Cochran winning and losing, they now, presumably, have a chit to call in with the incumbent sometime down the line. (OF NOTE … In Mississippi’s 24 counties with a majority black population, turnout increased an average of 40% over the primary. In the other 58 counties, the increase was 16%.)
Chamber of Commerce/National Association of Realtors: Both groups spent heavily for Cochran in the primary and didn’t let up in the runoff even when things looked dire in the immediate aftermath of the June 3 vote. That investment, against all odds, paid off on Tuesday night.
Colorado Republicans: Former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who won the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, probably isn’t going to beat Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) this fall. But, by beating controversial former Rep. Tom Tancredo in the primary, Beauprez robs Democrats of the chance to turn not only the governor’s race but also the state’s very competitive Senate race into a referendum on Tancredo’s views on immigration.
Charlie Rangel: He did it, again. Rangel, the 22-term New York Democratic Congressman, defeated his primary challenger (47%-44%) after an acrimonious Dem primary that truly tested Rangel’s strength in a district with shifting demos.Final vote tallies could still change depending on absentee and provisional votes, but unlikely to change the outcome.
Mitt Romney: Dude is now 10-0 in contested primaries in 2014. Ten wins, zero losses. Not too shabby.
Stuart Stevens/Russ Schriefer: The media consultants for Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 had a very good night. They did the ads for Cochran as well as for Larry Hogan, who won a contested Republican gubernatorial primary in Maryland, as well as Stefanik.
James Lankford: Some people thought that the Republican primary race in Oklahoma between Lankford, a two-term Congressman, and African-American State House Speaker T.W. Shannon was something close to a toss up. Um, no. Lankford absolutely crushed Shannon — winning 57% of the vote in a three-way primary and, in so doing, virtually ensuring he will be the next Senator from the Sooner State.
Mississippi Secretary of State: The national spotlight shone brightly on the Magnolia State on Tuesday and the election returns process ran smoothly and, relatively, quickly — particularly given how close the race wound up being. Kudos.
Chris McDaniel: Yes, McDaniel is an obvious loser because, well, he got less votes than Cochran. But, what really earned him a spot on the loser list was his bizarre and decidedly ungracious “concession” speech on Tuesday night. Anyone can be gracious when you win; true character is revealed by being gracious when you lose.
Travis Childers: The former Democratic Congressman’s entire path to victory was premised on the idea that McDaniel was going to be the Republican nominee. Whoops! Now Childers is stuck in a race for the next five months against a many-time elected incumbent in a state that strongly favors Republicans. Even worse for Childers? The key to Cochran’s primary victory appears to be reliably Democratic African American voters, who crossed over to support the Republican incumbent. Gut punch.
National Republicans: No one would say it publicly but national Republican leaders would have loved to see Shannon make it through the GOP primary in Oklahoma, adding a second African-American Republican to the Senate. (South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott is the only black Republican in the Senate at the moment.)
Doug Gansler: The Maryland attorney general, had been plotting a run for governor for years. But, his campaign effectively ended last fall when he was shown at a Delaware beach party in which there appeared to be significant underage drinking. He got 24% of the vote in Tuesday Democratic primary, less than half of what winner Anthony Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor, received.
South Carolina Political Dynasties: Sally Awater, the wife of the late legendary political consultant Lee Atwater, lost a Republican runoff for State Superintendent of Education while Mike Campbell, the son of iconic former Gov. Carroll Campbell, lost a GOP runoff for lieutenant governor. Not a good night for dynasty building in the Palmetto State.
Chris Cillizza (Writes the FIX): Who wrote repeatedly how it seemed impossible for Cochran to win a runoff after getting less votes than McDaniel in the primary. He should have remembered the first rule of politics (and the main reason we love it): Surprises happen.
BOEHNER TO SUE OBAMA The Hill writes, “Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday said he plans to sue President Obama on behalf of the House over his frequent use of executive actions that Republicans believe are beyond his authority. … could take years to wind through the courts and outlast the Obama presidency. DENIAL AIN’T JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT (h/t Mark Twain…and LAR who brought it to my attention) Boehner denied it was designed to gin up the Republican base ahead of the November midterm elections. WHY JB IS REALLY SUING OBAMA The Fix writes, “This is generally being interpreted as Boehner expressing frustration about executive orders. That’s incorrect. At least, that’s not the whole picture. This is, really, a fight about executive action. FACT #1 As Wonkblog and others have noted, Obama has actually signed far FEWER executive orders than past presidents. The Brookings Institution determined that he’d signed fewer per day of his presidency than anyone since Grover Cleveland. And most of the executive orders he signs are hardly the sort of thing that would seem to put America on the brink of a constitutional crisis. HERE’S THE SKINNY In his letter to his peers, Boehner never mentions executive orders. “President Obama has circumvented the Congress through executive action,” he writes, without pointing to specific examples. The fight isn’t over executive orders; it’s over executive authority. That’s a much different — and much bigger — battle. BEST FUNDRAISING DAY OF THE YEAR for the DCCC on Wednesday, bringing in $584,000 “following House Speaker John Boehner’s “announcement that House Republicans would sue … Obama for misusing executive authority.” (Politico)
POLITICAL OBIT FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM Politico writes, “The best chance in three decades to rewrite immigration laws has slipped away just one year after the Senate garnered 68 votes for sweeping reform of the system, 20 months after strong Hispanic turnout for Democrats in the 2012 election sparked a GOP panic, and five years after Obama promised to act. …Immigration reform’s slow but steady failure exposes how an ideologically diverse and powerful network of supporters couldn’t bend the one group that mattered: House Republicans.” WashPo writes, “The two-year attempt to push immigration reform through Congress is effectively dead. … with no progress evident in the GOP-controlled House and few working days left in the year to approve legislation.”
VA REFORM? “Lawmakers in both chambers are now meeting as part of a conference committee to finish a joint bill that must be approved by both the House and the Senate. [Time is getting short] before the August recess, after which it will be difficult to move anything through Congress. …Republicans and Democrats are split over how to handle the VA bill’s costs, with the GOP saying offsetting spending cuts should be found and Democrats calling for the bill to be passed as emergency legislation, with its costs added to the deficit.” (The Hill)
HOPE FOR THE HIGHWAYS Politico writes, “The Senate Finance Committee, in a last-minute push for bipartisanship, canceled a vote on Thursday to plug a hole in the highway trust fund amid signs members are willing to compromise in order to keep the popular program humming. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the panel will resume deliberations the week of July 7 after he’s had more time to address Republican complaints that his proposal to cover a $9 billion funding gap in the program didn’t include any spending cuts. Wyden unveiled a revised draft Thursday that drops a $1.3 billion tax increase on very heavy vehicles, which he called an olive branch to Republicans.”
LET THE WAR SPENDING GAMES BEGIN Politico writes, “President Barack Obama’s long-awaited request for supplemental war funds is now in the hands of Congress, which is set to begin the annual ritual of shifting money in and out. His Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request for fiscal 2015 – which includes $58.6 billion for DoD and $7.3 billion for the State Department – makes two things clear: The administration intends to rein in its reliance on supplemental defense funds as the war in Afghanistan winds down. But it doesn’t plan to scrap the supplemental account altogether. First point: The $66 billion OCO request, which isn’t restrained by the spending caps that have forced the Pentagon to reduce its base budget, is a sharp cut from this fiscal year’s $92 billion and the lowest amount in many years. But it’s still well above what it will actually cost to support a residual force of fewer than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan next year. Which leads us to … Second point: The White House is sending a signal that OCO is here to stay, funding a long-term global war on terror that transcends Iraq and Afghanistan. The request includes $1 billion for European security and $5 billion for counterterrorism efforts worldwide. Part of that will go toward training and equipping moderate opposition forces in Syria – an initiative that could face resistance from libertarian Republicans and dovish Democrats, especially if a vote for OCO becomes synonymous with voting for an escalation in the U.S. involvement in the civil war there. SO WHAT’S NEXT? Congress will mull the request over and add it to the long list of appropriations measures that are stalled (as usual) in the Senate. The HASC plans to hold a hearing on the request. … The SASC hasn’t decided whether to hold hearings, a spokeswoman says, though Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) did issue a statement of support yesterday for using OCO funds to bolster the Syrian rebels. NOT EVERYONE HAPPY Meanwhile, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen says the request “is nearly five months late and cries out for oversight.”
U.S. FORCES BEGIN ASSESSMENTS “… about 130 total Army Special Forces, special operations and other troops are in Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday. They’ll have two to three weeks to assess the state of the conflict there and the condition of the Iraqi military before going into an ‘advise and assist role’ to help Iraqi commanders.” (Politico)
INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION Passed by voice vote, the bill would authorize spending for the CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency (DNI). Funding levels authorized by the bill are classified. Less than two weeks ago, the Senate passed its version by voice vote. All set for the president. (The Hill)
MIDTERMS NJ writes, “The campaign for control of the Senate has changed, somewhat, since the Hotline last released its Senate race rankings in February. The top nine pickup opportunities still belong to Republicans, more than enough for them to win back control of the Senate. But some of the most threatened Dem incumbents have stabilized and they could yet manage enough red-state victories to keep the Senate in Democratic hands. Control of the Senate in 2015 comes down to four red-state Democratic seats in Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Alaska. All three are unquestionably good pickup opportunities for Republicans, though Democrats still have reason for cautious optimism their incumbents can hold on in each of them. ARKANSAS may be the most intriguing Senate race out there for this reason: Republican and Democratic polling there is so divergent that margins of error can’t account for the difference. Someone must have the wrong idea about what the electorate is going to look like in the fall. Republicans have abandoned their hopes of clinching Sen. Mark Pryor’s (D) defeat early, but their polling still shows Rep. Tom Cotton (R) ahead. Democrats, meanwhile, say they’ve never had Pryor behind in their surveys. ALASKA meanwhile, is looking more promising for Dems than their other red states. “Mark Begich’s campaign is batting 9- or 10-for-10” so far, one GOP strategist said. The key issue, for him, was that even though both sides are airing plenty of TV ads, Begich has been responding to and neutralizing some of the attacks against him, while Dan Sullivan (R) let some of the Dem attacks slide for a while. But will Begich’s early advantage last after the late GOP primary concludes? NORTH CAROLINA A new poll of RVs from conservative advocacy group Civitas Institute, conducted June 18, 19 and 22, shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leading state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) 42-36%. In the previous poll, conducted May 20-22, Tillis led 39-36%. “… things should be looking up for Kay given the support she received from EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood this month, combined with Thom Tillis’s preoccupation in an increasingly ugly legislative session. The latest Civitas poll indicates those factors may finally be moving the needle, especially among female voters. Hagan went from a one point disadvantage with this demographic in May to a 13-point lead this week.” LOUISIANA Mary Landrieu has built herself up in the past few months, with emphasis on how important her energy committee chairmanship is for Louisiana. Landrieu wants to make the race as much about local issues as possible. If she can’t win outright with a majority in November and the race goes to a December runoff with control of the Senate on the line, staying local could get difficult.”
HOW POLITICS MAKES US STUPID Alan MacLeod, in our DC office, brought this article in Vox to my attention…found it fascinating. It makes the point that the “More Information Hypothesis” isn’t just wrong. It’s backwards. Cutting-edge research shows that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become. Check out the full article. And then another incredibly interesting article in Neurosciencemarketing — IS STUPIDITY CONTAGIOUS? It discusses how “Writers need to think about more than the quality of their writing — they need to worry about the quality of the comments on their content. This is based on a recent experiment that produced an interesting finding: the presence of low-quality comments on an article caused the article itself to be considered lower in quality. Adam Felder, writing at The Atlantic, had two groups of subjects rate the same article. One group saw the article without comments, and the other saw it with a batch of obnoxious comments. Even though the instructions only told the subjects to read the article, those who read the commented version rated the article itself about 8% lower in quality. THE AVERAGING EFFECT Another weird thing our brains do is blend multiple items together and “average” them even when that process makes no sense. So, it’s possible that the same thing happens with dumb comments. Our brains may average out the mass of content, and decide that it’s less than the sum of its parts. IN THE END the experiment suggests there’s risk in allowing commenting that isn’t well-moderated. For those interested in the full article.
ULTIMATE STATESMAN AND NICE GUY … GREAT CONCILIATOR OF THE SENATE DIES WashPo writes, “Former senator
Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked, ‘What did the president know, and when did he know it?’ and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn.” I’m sharing a family photo from my photographer brother of Ronald Reagan and Howard Baker (with that ever-present camera) at the Republican Convention in 1980. RIP
Photo credit Larry Rubenstein