Friday, September 22, 2006

WI 8th CD Race - Attack Ads Fly

UPDATED 10/11/06

Both the DCCC and the NRCC continue to pour money into this race. No sign anything has changed yet. A couple of smaller PAC's have jumped in to support Gard, but their spending is dwarfed by that of the Campaign Committees. Total outside spending is now over a million dollars, and continuing to increase at a rate of about two hundred thousand dollars a week.


Lots of outside money is flowing into the 8th Congressional District race between Steve Kagen and John Gard, almost all of it for attack ads. Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) have been pumping dollars into this race. Each has spent well over a quarter million so far this month, with over 95% of that on both sides for negative ads.

Here are the details, as pulled from PoliticalMoneyLine:

10/6/2006 - $9,750 for production of ads against Gard
10/3/2006 - $88,047 for ads against Gard
9/29/2006 - $9,151 for production of ads against Gard
9/26/2006 - $67,604 for ads against Gard
9/26/2006 - $18,516 for ads in support of Kagen
9/21/2006 - $5800 for production of ads in support of Kagen
9/21/2006 - $5800 for production of ads against Gard
9/20/2006 - $84,107 for ads against Gard
9/12/2006 - $82,065 for ads against Gard
9/12/2006 - $8,900 for production of ads against Gard
9/5/2006 - $80,907 for ads against Gard
9/5/2006 - $8,200 for production of ads against Gard
Totals: $24,316 for positive ads, $444,531 for attack ads

10/10/2006 - $4,411 for phone calls against Kagen
10/9/2006 - $4,818 for phone calls against Kagen
10/6/2006 - $83,985 for ads against Kagen
10/4/2006 - $8,235 for survey
9/29/2006 - $89,278 for ads against Kagen
9/28/2006 - $7,560 for production of ads against Kagen
9/22/2006 - $84,210 for ads against Kagen
9/20/2006 - $11,417 for survey
9/15/2006 - $89,130 for ads against Kagen
9/14/2006 - $7,448 for production of ads against Kagen
9/8/2006 - $78,766 for ads against Kagen
9/5/2006 - $75,987 for ads against Kagen
9/1/2006 - $7,192 for production of ads against Kagen
9/1/2006 - $813 for production of ads against Kagen
Totals: $19,652 for surveys, $533,598 for attack ads

National Right to Life PAC
10/10/2006 - $5,239 for mailing flyers in support of Gard
10/6/2006 - $12,049 for printing flyers in support of Gard
Total: $17,288 for ads in support of Gard

Trust in Small Business PAC
9/25/2006 - $6,930 for cable ads in support of Gard
9/25/2006 - $4,610 for production of ads in support of Gard
Total: $11,540 for ads in support of Gard

A couple of interesting things here. First of all, the fact that both Congressional Committees are involved shows that they believe this is a competitive race that could go either way. And it's pretty typical for them to run lots of attack ads. Part of the reason for this is that outside groups can't coordinate their efforts with campaigns, so it often makes more sense for them to just attack the other guy rather than to risk messing up their own candidate's message discipline by running ads in his favor. I'm not trying to justify this, just explain it.

The NRCC just did a survey in this race, and this is a national pattern. They've spent a lot of money this cycle on surveys and on mailings, while the DCCC is concentrating on TV ads. Since the Republicans are usually ahead of us and do a better job in terms of the mechanics of campaigns, there's probably a lesson to be learned here.

It looks like the DCCC is planning to run another round of ads in the near future because they just paid to produce a couple of new ones. No response yet by the NRCC, although if their polling shows that Gard is still in the running they will probably do the same in the next couple of days.

DISCLAIMER: I want to get this out of the way now, and I won't mention it again. I've met and talked to Steve Kagen, and in my opinion he's an arrogant jerk. I'm not at all convinced he's anything close to being a progressive, and I think a lot of good Democrats in the 8th CD are in for a rude awakening.
But he won the primary, and he is our candidate, and I, being a generally rational person, would much rather see him in that seat than John Gard.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The New Republican Logo

Iran - The October Surprise?

Assume you're George Bush. You're the most powerful man in the world, and infallible (well, almost) 'cause God tells you what to do. But you've got a serious problem. Two of them actually...

Elections are coming, and things don't look good for the home team. Those pesky Democrats might take control of the House, and maybe even the Senate. Which wouldn't matter all that much, since you'd still be The Decider, except you played kinda fast and lose with the rules to get what you wanted. And if the Dems win they'll have subpoena power, and they'll dig through all your dirty laundry. Which wouldn't exactly be good for the old legacy.

The other thing is those damn Iranians. You kicked Saddam's ass, but your popularity just keeps falling because of the Iraq war, while the Iranians are taking home the bacon. They effectively control half of Iraq through their Shi'a party patrons. They're making nukes (thank God for stovepiped intelligence!). And they strut and threaten the US and Israel because they think you've got so many troops tied up in Iraq that you can't do anything about them.

Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to get rid of both those problems at once? Kill two birds with one stone?

Now, how could you possibly do that?

What about a massive air attack on Iran a couple of weeks before the elections? Hit 'em with everything we've got. Blow 'em back to the friggin' stone age. Americans love displays of firepower! Shock and awe! Wave the flag! And say that anybody who opposes the attack is a terrorist-lovin' liberal traitor, and that only Republicans can protect America from all those scary Iranian nuclear warheads.

You know, the nuclear warheads they don't really have, and probably won't have a for at least a decade, or two. But those are details, and you're a big picture guy. More importantly, so is the American public. It'll take them months to figure out the've been used, but by then it'll be too damn late...


Not very likely, right?

I don't know. But there are clues.

It looks like the efforts to corral the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese to agree to sanctions aren't exactly going very well (insert snide remark about herding cats here), so the administration is trying to pressure Iran in other ways.

One tactic is to cut Iran off from the international banking system, which would force Iran to sell oil through middlemen and make it difficult, and more expensive, for Iran to purchase imports. We're also busy grossly exaggerating Iran's nuclear capabilities to make them seem a lot scarier than they actually are. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), not exactly known for boldly sticking their necks out, actually called part of the most recent Bush administration report on Iran's nuclear efforts "outrageous and dishonest".

And it looks like we're well into the advanced stages of planning an attack on Iran, and may have started to move the necessary military assets into the Persian Gulf.

Now, all of these steps are arguably both reasonable and prudent if Bush is serious about finding a diplomatic solution to this issue. But given that we saw a very similar pattern before we invaded Iraq, we must ask if the diplomatic effort is just a sham, and if the President has already made up his mind to attack Iran, given the potential domestic political benefits.

The only way to tell that is to look for political hints, and to watch for military preparations that would indicate such an attack is imminent. In both these areas there's evidence that worries me. According to the conservative website Newsmax, Carl Rove is promising Republicans that there will be an October surprise to help them win the November elections. And on the military side it looks like we may be moving minehunters and minesweepers into the Persian Gulf.

But there's another possibility. Bush may put a partial or complete military blockade around Iran. Of course the Iranians would be kind of pissed, and it's likely this would eventually lead to outright conflict. But this plan could explain both Rove's comments and the ship movements (they would be needed to mine Iranian harbors), and would have some significant political and tactical advantages. It puts off the necessity of an outright attack, and the risk of being seen to do it for political reasons, until after the elections. It can be achieved with relatively limited military assets, many of which are already in the Persian Gulf. And it would virtually guarantee that Iran would be sufficiently provoked to provide the casus belli Bush needs to justify a war down the road, if he wants one.

Keep your eyes open...

Why Bush's Approval Ratings Suck

...ironic, ain't it.

You Gotta Love the DLC

The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), or the Democrats of the Leisure Class as some like to call them, has a problem. A few years ago the IRS yanked their 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status, basically because they call themselves Democrats, and (c)(4)'s aren't supposed to be partisan.

So what does the DLC do?

It sends a letter back to the IRS saying that they really are nonpartisan, and the proof is that on many issues more Republicans than Democrats support them.

Good to know...

Read the whole thing in Forbes (free registration required):

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WI Democratic AG Primary Analysis - Part II

There's more! The first part of my analysis showed how effective Kathleen Falk's TV blitz was, at least in the areas where Peg Lautenschlager couldn't respond due to insufficient campaign cash. But I made the statement that Falk won the race due to this factor, and part II will back up that statement, and look at some of the other interesting aspects of this election.

The map in my first analysis showed how strongly each of the counties in Wisconsin supported one of the AG candidates. While this is very useful for evaluating the effectiveness of campaign and advertising strategies, it's only part of the story. Counties are not created equal, and some have a heck of a lot more voters than others. After all, cows can't vote in Wisconsin, although Republicans would probably like to change that. So I made another map, only this time the intensity of the color shows by how many votes one of the candidate won each county. Once again, Red is Falk, blue is Lautenschlager.

As you can see below, Dane (Madison) and Milwaukee counties had by far the largest margins for their favored candidates. But interestingly enough, the two counties almost canceled each other out, with Dane showing a margin of 10113 votes for Lautenschlager, and Milwaukee a margin of 8397 for Falk. But Falk won the election by almost 20,000 votes, so where did they come from?

As I claimed before, they came from the red stripe; the Wausau/Rhinelander and the La Crosse/Eau Claire media markets. Despite the fact that there aren't a huge number of votes in any of these counties individually, which is why the stripe is light pink in this map, Falk won all of them by healthy margins, totaling about 23,000 votes, more than enough to offset the fact that Lautenschlager actually won in the rest of the state.

Below are the two maps side by side. The left map shows how strongly each county tilted to one or the other candidate (essentially the margin in percentage terms), and the right map shows the same, but reflecting the actual number of votes.

The lesson here is that despite the large number of votes in Madison and Milwaukee, you ignore the rest of the state at your peril. In this election there were about 360,000 total votes, with just under a third of those coming from Dane and Milwaukee counties combined. Because Lautenschlager didn't raise nearly as much money as Falk (the reasons why might make a rather interesting discussion), she wasn't able to respond to Falk's ads, particularly the negative ones. Progressives have to remember that money buys elections, whether we like it or not. As my political mentor says, "Work like hell for campaign finance reform, but until then donate 'til you bleed."

Update: A few people have asked where they can find the full fall '06 primary results. The most complete online listing I know of right now is in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.