The Morning Plum: Dems sound alarm about right wing money

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Democrats are increasingly alarmed that the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity is swamping vulnerable Dems with anti-Obamacare ads, leaving them with no way to fight back, the New York Times reports this morning.

AFP has spent $20 million on ads hitting red state Senate Dems and marginal House members, including nearly $2 million in Michigan and Iowa, most funding ads that blast Dems over Obama’s claim about people keeping coverage and higher costs Obamacare will supposedly bring. Glenn Kessler explains what’s fair and what isn’t in the AFP line of attack, which telegraphs the main GOP messaging this year.

“Democrats need money at this early stage in order to fight back against the limitless spending from the Kochs,” the head of the DSCC tells the Times. “The limitless spending from the Kochs means we need Democratic donors to step up in a bigger way immediately.”

But what would that look like? I asked a Democratic strategist close to many Senate campaigns for more detail, and he emailed this:

“The spending is really incomprehensible, and in many of these states Democrats don’t even know who they’re running against yet. It’s critical that progressive allies and wealthy individuals consider how they can help right now. The Kochs have done their calculations. They are going to spend over $100 million or even $200 million if that’s what it takes. No one else has that kind of means, but people and organizations with some resources need to make a move here.”

Translation: it’s time for traditional Dem allies, such as unions and outside liberal groups — the Leagoe of Conservation Voters; EMILY’s List; Planned Parenthood; NARAL — and major Dem donors who want to combat the Tea Party, to step up. It was supposedly big news the other day when Mike Bloomberg gave $2.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC, which helps elect Dems. But that’s parking meter change compared to the support Dems will really need.

Ideally, such groups would be going up on the air right now, defining little-known Republican candidates by highlighting their Tea Party positions on economic issues before they can define themselves; hitting them over the House GOP’s plans for Medicare and highlighting the fact that Dems would protect the program; and pushing back on Obamacare attacks by clarifying that Dems want to improve the law — shifting the health care debate in ways that help Dems.

* REPUBLICANS TO RUN ON ECONOMY: Related to the above: The Hill reports that Republicans are banking on the sluggish recovery to help them in 2014. As John Boehner puts it:

“It’s going to be about the issue of jobs, and when you look at it, the American people have a right to continue to be asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ The president has been in office now for almost five years. It’s time for the president to admit that his policies are not working.”

Hmm. Could this help explain why Republicans killed the extension of unemployment benefits, which would have helped the economy?

That aside, it’s worth noting that Democratic strategists, too, think the economy could help Dems (provided, of course, that the most recent jobs numbers are not an accurate gauge of the health of the recovery, and that predictions that it is picking up prove accurate).

* OBAMA TO EMBRACE PARTIAL NSA REFORM: The New York Times has the details on what Obama will embrace on NSA surveillance reform. The crucial tidbit:

Mr. Obama plans to increase limits on access to bulk telephone data, call for privacy safeguards for foreigners and propose the creation of a public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court. But he will not endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records…instead of taking the storage of bulk data out of government hands, as recommended by a review panel he appointed, Mr. Obama will leave it in place for now and ask lawmakers to weigh in….Mr. Obama has decided not to require court approval in every case, but might still require it in some circumstances.

The details will matter, but for now, it looks as if Obama will embrace only partial limits on the government’s access to meta-data, without fundamentally altering existing programs. By asking lawmakers to weigh in on how the meta-data might be stored, however, Obama is not foreclosing the possibility of more reform later.

* ACLU HITS OBAMA OVER NSA REFORM: Reacting to the Times report, Jameel Jaffer, a senior attorney at the ACLU, emails this statement:

If the Times’s report is right, it sounds like the President will be tinkering with the edges rather than making far-reaching reform. But for now I’m going to hold on to the hope that the Times report is inaccurate or at least incomplete.  Obviously we’ll be listening closely to the details on Friday.  

This suggests that if the changes proposed don’t fundamentally change the terms under which the government can access metadata, the criticism from civil libertarianians is going to be very harsh indeed. But we should wait to see the details.

* DEMS TO HIT GOP OVER UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Politico reports that Democrats believe that Republican process excuses for killing UI will not wash, and that in the end, voters will remember that Republicans cut a lifeline for 1.3 million Americans, while Dems tried to restore it.

Judging by much of the coverage, Republicans have successfully gotten the press to portray the death of UI as a casualty of procedural Beltway bickering — Congress can’t get its act together! — rather than the result of a fundamental ideological difference between the two parties.

* CONGRESSIONAL GOP’S NUMBERS IN THE TOILET: A new Washington Post poll finds that 71 percent disapprove of Congressional Republicans, versus only 25 percent who approve. Seventy two percent of independents, and 73 percent of moderates, disapprove of the GOP. For Dems, the overall approval numbers are 34-60.

Obviously Obama’s approval numbers matter the most for 2014, but is it possible Obamacare’s supposed collapse is not necessarily translating into huge gains for Republicans?

* OBAMACARE WILL PROBABLY BE FINE: Good points from Brian Beutler, explaining why the law is likely going to be okay over time, even if the latest enrollment numbers aren’t exactly where the administration hoped:

Compare current enrollment figures from Healthcare.gov and non-Healthcare.gov states, and it’s clear that the website failure has artificially depressed signups…They might still fall short of their goals, but not nearly far enough to threaten the integrity of the system. If Obamacare faced the real threat of collapse, insurers would probably be panicked. But at an industry conference in New York on Tuesday, executives were cautiously optimistic about enrollment totals and composition, and much more optimistic that the exchanges are real growth opportunities and will be functioning profit centers in the years ahead.

Obviously Republicans aren’t going to give up campaigning on Obamacare failures unless and until they can no longer derive any political advantage from it. Given the right’s fanaticism about the law they might keep it up for longer than that. But at this point their parallel efforts to curb enrollment stand only to harm the people who listen to them and take them seriously.

* AND CHRISTIE SURVIVING BRIDGE-GATE SO FAR: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 66 percent of New Jersey voters don’t think Chris Christie ordered the traffic jam; they say by 54-40 that Christie is more of a leader than a bully; and his approval rating sits at 55-38 (though that’s down). As noted here the other day, after Christie’s performance at his presser, it’s way premature to conclude his long term viability has been destroyed.

What else?

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