A Few Thoughts On Health Care Reform

First, Republicans will pick up seats in November. But can we all stop treating it as proof of some kind of Republican comeback or national opposition to health care reform? It’s standard for the party in power to lose seats in the first election after taking the White House.

It happened in 1994, 1990, 1982, 1978, 1970, 1966, 1962, 1954 and 1946 (2002 and 1974 were exceptions for what should be obvious reasons)–in other words, it’s a phenomenon that goes all the way back to the days of Harry Truman.

So the GOP will win seats this fall, but it’s not exactly the sign of a Republican resurgence–it’s just a normal cyclical phenomenon that has been part of American politics for nearly 70 years.

Second, conservatives keep pointing to the polls showing how unpopular health care reform is as reason why Democrats shouldn’t pass it.

But the entire conservative movement has been waging a year-long misinformation campaign on health care reform–they’ve spent a year lying to and scaring the American people.

So the question isn’t really whether or not the American people support health care reform, but if they even know what reform would do.

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Politico obtained an RNC fundraising presentation that shows what party leaders really think of their donors:

The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to “save the country from trending toward socialism.”

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.

In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party’s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.


“What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate…?” it asks.

The answer: “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”


One page, headed “The Evil Empire,” pictures Obama as the Joker from Batman, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid are depicted as Cruella DeVille and Scooby Doo, respectively.


The most unusual section of the presentation is a set of six slides headed “RNC Marketing 101.” The presentation divides fundraising into two traditional categories, direct marketing and major donors, and lays out the details of how to approach each group.

small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading “Visceral Giving.” Their motivations are listed as “fear;” “Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;” and “Reactionary.”

Major donors, by contrast, are treated in a column headed “Calculated Giving.” Their motivations include: “Peer to Peer Pressure”; “access”; and “Ego-Driven.”

[Emphasis mine]

So if you’re a small donor to the GOP, congrats: they think you’re petty, fearful and reactionary.

And if you’re a big donor to the GOP, congrats: they think you’re easily manipulated and egotistical.

That’s what the folks currently running the Republican Party think of their own donors.

But I think the best part of this story is how Politico obtained the presentation:

The 72-page document was provided to POLITICO by a Democrat, who said a hard copy had been left in the hotel hosting the $2,500-a-head retreat, the Gasparilla Inn & Club.

That’s right–the RNC put together this long, detailed, insulting presentation outlining their entire fundraising strategy for 2010 and someone just left it at the hotel, where it was discovered and handed over to the press.

This is what you’re paying for, Republican donors: to be insulted by people so incompetent that they leave a major campaign document sitting around in hotel.

I’d be asking for a refund if I were you.

Michael Steele Demonstrates Republican Priorities

The RNC Chair is living the high life using other people’s money:

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is spending twice as much as his recent predecessors on private planes and paying more for limousines, catering and flowers – expenses that are infuriating the party’s major donors who say Republicans need every penny they can get for the fight to win back Congress.

Most recently, donors grumbled when Steele hired renowned chef Wolfgang Puck’s local crew to cater the RNC’s Christmas party inside the trendy Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, and then moved its annual winter meeting from Washington to Hawaii.


A POLITICO analysis of expenses found that compared with 2005, the last comparable year preceding a midterm election, the committee’s payments for charter flights doubled; the number of sedan contractors tripled, and meal expenses jumped from $306,000 to $599,000.

“Michael Steele is an imperial chairman,” said one longtime Republican fundraiser. “He flies in private aircraft. He drives in private cars. He has private consultants that are paid ridiculous retainers. He fancies himself a presidential candidate and wants all of the trappings and gets them by using other people’s money.”


When Steele took over the chairmanship last winter, he inherited a $23 million surplus. Since then, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has raised $10 million less than the party collected in 2005 and has spent $10 million more. By the end of 2009, the committee’s surplus had shrunk to $8.4 million, according to campaign finance reports.

[Emphasis mine]

The RNC tries to justify this mess by saying that, since there isn’t a Republican in the White House, Steele has to travel a lot more to fundraise than some of his predecessors.

But, again, Steele is spending more and raising less–it certainly doesn’t look like the exorbitant travel, lodging, food and floral (really?) expenditures are profitable investments.

Personally, if I were a Republican donor, I’d be angry that my hard-earned money was going to pamper the RNC Chairman rather than win elections.  Without enough funding, the pool of potential GOP pickups will shrink–and for what? Fancy food, private jets and all of the pretty flowers Michael Steele desires.

(Not to mention the hypocrisy of complaining about Democratic spending policies when the Chair of the GOP is using other people’s money to keep himself knee-deep in Hawaiian junkets and gourmet food. At least we’re creating jobs and improving health care.)

BREAKING: IN-SEN: Ellsworth In

The Indiana Democratic Party is likely to select Rep. Brad Ellsworth as their candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh.

Ellsworth, a decorated sheriff, was first elected to Congress in 2006. He defeated 6-term Congressman John Hostettler–who was first elected as part of the GOP’s 1994 takeover of the House–61 to 39, the most lopsided margin of defeat for  any incumbent that year.

The Indiana Democratic Party is also expected to tap state Rep. Trent Van Haaften as their candidate for Ellsworth’s seat.

The Party Of No (Ideas) (UPDATED X2)

So, I had a post all set to go about the GOP’s Mount Vernon Statement, which is supposed to be the political blueprint for Republican success in November.

I was going to examine the 1994 Contract with America and point out how much of it the Republican Congress failed to pass, demonstrating how the GOP is long on making big election-year promises but short on delivering.

Problem is, I couldn’t do that. Why? Well, here’s the most substantive portion of the Mount Vernon Statement, which advocates:

A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the
    rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American
    politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and
    economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom
    and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood,
    community, and faith.

Yup, there’s the much-hyped Mount Vernon Statement–a list of cliched talking points without a single concrete proposal.

Are they serious? They want us to vote for them based on nothing more than vague notions like “the central place of individual liberty” and “the individual entrepreneur?”

Concerned about health care? On one side we have President Obama and the Democrats, who worked for more than 6 months and put together a health care reform bill that will reduce the deficit, help middle-class families buy good insurance and cover 31 million uninsured Americans.

On the other side you have Republicans, who didn’t even think health care was important enough to include in their little manifesto.

Care about jobs and the economy? President Obama and the Democrats passed the recovery act, creating 1.6 million jobs (with another million on the way). They’re also working right now on a jobs bill that will put millions more Americans back to work.

The Republicans are offering nothing but talking points about “free enterprise,” “the individual entrepreneur” and “economic reforms grounded in market solutions,” whatever those mean. If you ask them what they’ve actually done to fix the economy and create jobs, you’ll get silence.

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Congressional Retirement Watch

In the Senate, 5 Democrats are retiring (Dodd, Kaufman, Burris, Bayh & Dorgan).

Meanwhile, 6 Republicans Senators are retiring (LeMieux, Brownback, Bunning, Bond, Gregg & Voinovich)

In the House, 14 Democrats are retiring (Davis, Berry, Watson, Snyder, Meek, Abercrombie, Melancon, Moore, Hodes, Sestak, Kennedy, Gordon, Tanner & Baird).

Meanwhile, 18 Republican Reps. are retiring (Boozman, Shadegg, Radanovich, Castle, Putnam, Deal, Diaz-Balart, Buyer, Kirk, Moran, Tiahrt, Hoekstra, Ehlers, Blunt, Fallin, Brown, Barrett & Wamp).

Just something to keep in mind the next time some dopey Republican tries to say that Democrats are dropping like flies.


In an unexpected turn of events, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) has announced that he will not seek reelection in the fall:

Two-term Sen. Evan Bayh says ever-shriller partisanship and the frustrations of gridlock made it time for him to leave Congress. Republicans aren’t buying it, saying he and fellow Democrats sense that voters will be after their heads this fall.

The Indiana Democrat, a moderate who twice came close to being added to his party’s national ticket, said Monday he will not seek re-election this November. The announcement gives Republicans a strong chance of capturing his seat and makes it likelier that the 59 votes that give Democrats command of the 100-seat Senate will dwindle.

I can’t imagine Bayh worried about being defeated–he was elected statewide 5 times in Indiana, including 2 Senate terms, and he started 2010 with a staggering $13 million in the bank. In addition his likely Republican opponent, former Sen. Dan Coats, is–for lack of  a better word–a joke.

Not only that, but the filing deadline to run in this race is this Friday, meaning that any potential Democratic candidate has 4 days to collect 500 valid signatures from each of Indiana’s 9 Congressional districts.  Unless someone puts forth a herculean effort to get on the ballot, the Indiana Democratic Party will be the ones to select whose name will replace Bayh’s on the ballot.

I would also hope that most–if not all–of Bayh’s massive warchest is transferred to whoever eventually ends up being the Democratic candidate, considering that $13 million is a huge amount of money for a state like Indiana.

Overall, this is just a headache that the Democrats don ‘t need–it’s not a given that the Republicans will win this race, but the Dems are going to have to spend time and money fighting for a seat that, had Bayh not retired, would have easily remained in their column.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion about the filing deadline but–as you can see on one of the official signature forms–the filing deadline is noon today. Apologies for erroneously claiming that the deadline was Friday.

UPDATE II: There are rumors that a Bloomington cafe owner by the name of Tamyra d’Ippolito–obviously a political newcomer–might just have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot, making her the only Democratic candidate in the race.

Unsurprisingly, some conservatives are putting on their dirty tricks hat and are helping d’Ippolito gather the required signatures.

UPDATE III: A few hours after the filing deadline and state officials are saying that only Bayh had enough valid signatures to qualify as a Democratic candidate.

This gives the state Democratic Party the power to decide who will replace Bayh on the ballot. In all likelihood, it will probably be either Rep. Brad Ellsworth or Rep. Baron Hill.

UPDATE IV: The above-linked Politico article gives us a taste of what’s to come:

The state Democratic Central Committee, a group of 32 party leaders loyal to Bayh, must choose a candidate by June 30. Bayh’s late decision effectively prevented the prospect of a contested primary for his seat — and allows the senator to play a pivotal role in determining his successor.