One strategic problem Dems face in 2014 is this: Given that control of the Senate will be decided in states where Obama is deeply unpopular, how do you make the case for reelecting Dem incumbents to voters who may be inclined to agree that a GOP-controlled Senate is necessary as a check on the Obama agenda? Dems have gotten around this by emphasizing their independence and deep ties to their states.
The tougher case for Dems to make to swing and persuadable voters in these states is that GOP control of the Senate would be actively bad for them — worse than keeping the president’s party in charge of the Upper Chamber.
In an interview with Politico, Mitch McConnell spelled out the consequences of GOP control of the Senate in surprisingly stark terms: It could lead to more government shutdowns.
Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or risk a government shutdown.
In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to “move to the center” if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress. In short, it’s a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency…
…asked about the potential that his approach could spark another shutdown, McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.
Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process,” McConnell said. “He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”
Without more direct quotes from McConnell, it’s hard to know exactly what he envisions, but Dems are jumping on this. Matt Canter, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, emails:
This is a rare bout of honesty for Mitch McConnell. He’s admitting to America that he has no interest in forging compromise or solving problems. He’s determined to shut down the government and create utter chaos and instability for our economy, hurting middle class Americans.
As multiple Dem strategists have explained it to me, one of the dominant factors of this cycle is that voters may really dislike Obama, but they also really dislike everybody. Wrong-track numbers are off the charts and approval of Congress overall is at record lows. Obama’s numbers on multiple issues are in the toilet, but polls show deeper disapproval of Congressional Republicans than of Democrats, and voters really hate Washington and its dysfunction.
In this telling, if there is anything that can get voters to channel that hatred of Washington towards Republicans in ways that could actually impact the outcome of the elections, it is the sort of reckless brinksmanship we saw during last fall’s government shutdown and debt ceiling standoff. Remember, the GOP brand absolutely tanked during that battle, which is why Republicans are adamantly determined to avoid such an outcome again before the elections.
The shutdown fight prompted Dems to outline a strategy of making 2014 a referendum not on Obamacare and the president (as Republicans want) but on the destructive excesses of Tea Party rule. (The 2010 shellacking took place before anyone had yet seen the consequences of Tea Party governance.) The Obamacare website disaster wiped out that strategy. But even as Dem incumbents and candidates continue to emphasize local issues and their roots in their states, national Dems will seize upon McConnell’s helpful explication of the consequences of a GOP-controlled Senate as another data point in the ongoing effort to reactivate this national message.
* ERIC HOLDER HEADS TO FERGUSON: With some criticizing Obama for failing to calm racial turmoil in Ferguson, the Attorney General heads there today, and he spells out his priorities in a new op-ed piece:
We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance…At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public….It requires that force be used in appropriate ways.
As David Nather explains, Holder’s challenge is to balance his status as first black Attorney General with his law experience to let people on both sides let the federal government is on the case.
* ACCOUNTS OF MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING DIFFER: The New York Times has a deep dive into witness accounts of the shooting. All agree it began with Brown talking to officer Darren Wilson in his car, but:
Many witnesses also agreed on what happened next: Officer Wilson’s firearm went off inside the car, Mr. Brown ran away, the officer got out of his car and began firing toward Mr. Brown, and then Mr. Brown stopped, turned around and faced the officer. But on the crucial moments that followed, the accounts differ sharply, officials say. Some witnesses say that Mr. Brown, 18, moved toward Officer Wilson, possibly in a threatening manner, when the officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving and may even have had his hands up when he was killed.
* WHITE HOUSE MOVES TO CALM BLACK LEADERS: The Post reports that Holder and senior adviser Valerie Jarret are reaching out to African American leaders to appeal for help in calming the situation. These leaders want Obama to speak more forcefully to the pain African Americans are feeling:
“People have been dying left and right; it’s time for this president, who I love dearly, to speak up and say what’s in his mind and his heart — that we can’t allow any more black boys, 18 years old and younger, to be shot and killed by police,” said [Charles] Ogletree, who has known Obama since his days at Harvard Law School.
And so the White House is also trying to buy time from critics who want Obama to more directly address the racial dimensions of the shooting.
* ESTABLISHMENT FAVORITE WINS ALASKA GOP PRIMARY: Former state attorney general Dan Sullivan prevailed yesterday in the battle to face Dem Senator Mark Begich of Alaska. Dems hoped to face Tea Partyer Joe Miller, but they say they’re prepared for the Ohio-raised Sullivan, who will be tarred as an outsider and stooge of the Koch brothers.
Outside groups backing Sullivan will blitz the state with ads tying Begich to Obama, and the race will turn largely on whether Begich can make it about local issues and his own deep roots in the state. Begich leads by three.
* WHY DEMS MAY HOLD ALASKA: Nate Cohn explains why Democrats may have a decent chance of holding the Alaska Senate seat even if the state votes Republican in presidential elections:
The often forgotten fact is that Alaska is full of persuadable voters: 59 percent are not affiliated with either major political party, and the G.O.P.’s nearly two-to-one registration advantage looks a lot different when it’s described as 27-to-14. The large number of persuadable voters makes Alaska the type of state that can swing significantly from one election to the next,…the large number of persuadable voters also might make Alaska the type of red state…where a well-known Democratic incumbent, like Mark Begich, might be able to consistently outperform a Democratic presidential candidate.
Those persuadables are the target of Begich’s relentless emphasis on his roots in the state and his suggestion that he is a “thorn” in the president’s [expletive].
* THE MITT ROMNEY OF GEORGIA: I’m late to this, but watch the new ad that Michelle Nunn is running in the Georgia Senate race, pillorying Republican David Perdue over his tenure at a textile company that closed down after Perdue ran it and left with $1.7 million. The ad features laid-off folks speaking to the camera, just as the anti-Romney Bain ads did.
Nunn needs to undercut Perdue’s claim that his private sector experience qualifies him for the Senate and drive up his negatives, contrasting that experience with her own nonprofit volunteer background. Perdue is up five.
* AND AMERICANS APPROVE OF AIR STRIKES, DISAPPROVE OF OBAMA: A new Post poll finds that Americans approve of the decision to launch airstrikes in Iraq by 54-39, yet disapprove of Obama’s handling of Iraq overall by 51-42.
Interesting nugget from the crosstabs: This divide is particularly pronounced among Republicans, who overwhelmingly support the airstrikes (61-32), while overwhelmingly disapproving of his overall handling of Iraq (72-21).