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Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: How to save a Senate seat in Missouri

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 08:00
Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill

Leading Off:

MO-Gov: Despite Democrats losing control of the Senate, no one challenged Harry Reid for the position of minority leader, though at least half a dozen mostly red-state senators voted against Reid in Thursday's secret-ballot election. That kind of thing is mostly stunty, and community member Taget explains why it's unlikely to even help any of the dissenters. (Bottom line: You're already on record as previously supporting Reid for majority leader.)

But perhaps the one interesting "nay" came from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who simultaneously refused to rule out a bid for governor. It's not entirely a surprise: Over the summer, a local columnist floated her name (perhaps at the suggestion of McCaskill loyalists). Now, though, that she's publicly set herself on the outs with Reid and Senate leadership, a run for governor might seem more appealing, especially since it seems like that's the job she always wanted in the first place.

Among other things, McCaskill would have the benefit of presidential-year turnout, as Missouri is one of just a dozen states to hold gubernatorial elections in years divisible by four. The seat will also be open, as Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon faces term limits. And if she's successful, she'd avoid what would be an exceptionally difficult Senate re-election bid in 2018.

However, there's one big obstacle: Attorney General Chris Koster. Koster's long had his eye on the top job (as the old joke goes, "AG" stands for "aspiring governor"), and right now, he looks like the consensus Democratic candidate. While the Republican field is likely to turn into a toxic shitshow and yield a damaged nominee, a Koster-McCaskill primary would be incredibly expensive and could undo the advantages that a clear path to the nomination might otherwise yield for Team Blue.

But there's a deal to be had here, and Koster has reasons for wanting to make it. If he defers to McCaskill and McCaskill wins, then she (or Nixon, depending on the exact timing) can appoint Koster to fill out the last two years of McCaskill's Senate term. Koster wouldn't have an easy time of winning a full six-year term in 2018 either, but with a law-and-order profile and without the taint of DC on him, he'd have a better shot than the current incumbent.

What's more, Koster, who got his start as a Republican in the Missouri state Senate, is a wheeler-dealer who would be well-suited to the U.S. Senate. (Koster switched to the Democrats before running for attorney general.) McCaskill, meanwhile, is more a creature of state politics: She initially served as state auditor, then unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2004. Chuck Schumer courted her assiduously to run for Senate in 2006, and she won in a nail-biter, but the governorship is probably still her first choice—and someone with her heart set on another four years in the Senate wouldn't have just flipped the bird to Reid.

There's something else at play, too. Koster is currently the subject of a troubling New York Times investigation into the questionable influence that lobbying firms have been exerting on state attorneys general, and things are going to get worse before they get better. If he can put off his next appearance before voters for four years rather than two, however, that'll give him more distance from this ugliness. Studies show that the impact of scandals fade with time, and Koster would be wise to take advantage of this.

One downside is that right now, as someone seeking state office, Koster can raise virtually limitless sums of money with ease. If he instead runs for Senate, he'd be limited to begging for $2,600 checks, undoubtedly an unappealing prospect. However, Koster would almost certainly be able to count on super PACs rallying to his side in a big way, so the switch from state to federal financing wouldn't be as painful as he might imagine.

Just a few weeks ago, Koster looked like the strongest Democrat to hold the governor's mansion in 2016. But you should never underestimate the power of the Times to undermine a legitimate contender—just consider how badly Shelley Berkley got hurt in the 2012 Nevada Senate race thanks to some fairly bogus accusations that she helped saved a transplant clinic in order to benefit her husband. If Koster wants to hedge his bets, he should seriously consider holding off and locking in a switcheroo.

Abbreviated pundit roundup: The GOP's strategy to oppose Obama, rising income inequality and more

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 07:42
Charles Blow looks ahead to the GOP strategy:
The grown-ups on the right — to the degree such people exist — know full well that shutdowns and impeachment proceedings are suicidal, but such is the political blood lust on that end of the spectrum that one can’t be sure that cooler heads will prevail over hot ones. [...]

Liberal ideology depends on a productive federal government; conservatism rises when that government is crippled.

Republicans, in all their cynicism, are increasing their efforts to break the government.

Isn’t America great?

E.J. Dionne:
House Speaker John Boehner has said that President Obama would “poison the well” for legislative action on immigration reform by unilaterally issuing executive orders. But how can you poison a well that has already been filled with partisan cyanide?

Obama’s Republican critics say that his forceful approach on immigration, climate change and “net neutrality” show he isn’t paying attention to what the voters said in the midterm elections.

In truth, he is paying close attention to the feelings of a very important group of voters — the tens of millions who supported him two years ago but were so dispirited that they stayed away from the polls on Nov. 4. They are hoping Obama will show them that political engagement is worth the effort.

Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.

Open thread for night owls: Australia lobbies G20 to stop 'in danger' listing for Great Barrier Reef

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:00
Diver examining corals of the Great Barrier Reef The Guardian:
The Queensland government is furiously lobbying Unesco representatives behind the scenes of the G20 to stop the Great Barrier Reef from being listed as “in danger” by the UN’s cultural and heritage body.

The state premier, Campbell Newman, told Guardian Australia on Saturday that his environment minister, Andrew Powell, was talking to G20 countries who were members of the Unesco world heritage committee to combat the “dishonest” campaign being waged by environmentalists about threats to the reef. [...]

A decision will be taken next year, but Australian authorities fear that an “in danger” listing could damage the $5.2bn tourism industry that exists around the reef.

Speaking at the G20, Powell said he would lead a delegation that included the director general of Unesco, Irina Bokova, her technical advisers, as well as reef park representatives and environment department officials.

“We are getting them out on the reef so they can see first-hand that it’s in good shape.”

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003The battle for the soul of the Democratic Party:

Divisions over ideology can be easily accepted in our party. We do have a big tent, and policy divisions are a reality we can learn to live with. Indeed, we have to live with them. Electoral realities mean that Democrats in the south have to be more moderate or conservative than those in the West Coast or in new England.

But the hatred the establishment feels against Dean has nothing to do with ideology. Dean hasn't paid his dues with the establishment. Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi has made his name working the campaigns of insurgent (hence anti-establishment) candidates like Jerry Brown. He is not part of the chummy inside-DC club of Democratic Party consultants.

If Dean wins the nominnation, he becomes the head of the Democratic Party. He gets to replace McAuliffe and fill the top ranks at the DNC. Suddenly, a "DNC Chairman Joe Trippi" is a real possibility, and for an establishment that has spent the better half of the last decade laughing at Trippi's antics and dismissing him as a kook are suddenly standing on shaky ground.

I always knew about the "establishment" distaste for Dean and Trippi, but Lizza's piece puts the blame squarely on the Clinton crew.

As the party's split into Deaniacs and anti-Dean Clintonites unfolds, one of the most intriguing subplots concerns the machinations of Gore. Immediately after the Florida recount was decided in 2000, Gore's senior aides were purged from the DNC and Clinton's were installed. Some ex-Gore staffers are still bitter about the coup, and several express admiration for what Dean is doing. And Gore himself seems to be modeling his resurgence on the Dean phenomenon […] Tweet of the Day 25th Anniv. of El Salvador Jesuit Murders: Documents from 1989 Show US Balked on Salvadoran Military's Responsibility http://t.co/...

Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."

High Impact Posts. The Week's High Impact Posts. Top Comments

She may not want to, but we need Elizabeth Warren to run for president

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 21:15
Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton The country needs her to run. So does our party. And so does Hillary Clinton. The midterms didn't go so well. As I said about a week ago, the Democrats should have run on economic populism. They should have put forth a coherent vision of where they want to take our country, one that includes a frank assessment of our current problems, and a concrete set of proposals to address them. Instead they tried to run to the right of President Obama by distancing themselves from Obamacare and other administration priorities. One candidate even tried to keep "private" the fact that she voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.

Democrats will never win by running as what Harry Truman called "phony Democrats." We can only win by contrasting what we believe and what we've done when in power with the beliefs and actions of our Republican opponents. There is no alternative. And there's no one in our party better suited to make that contrast to the American people than the woman who said this:

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. [...]

The Republican vision is clear: "I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own." Republicans say they don't believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.

[snip] Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people.

That woman, of course, is Elizabeth Warren. And damn if those words don't get me excited. Many people have said this before. I'm one of them. But I'm going to say it again, because it must be said after our losses in the midterms: We need Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Whether she wins or loses, no one else can more effectively reshape the message and policy agenda of the Democratic Party, and there's no better way for her to do so than with the platform of a White House run.

Please join me for more discussion beyond the fold.

Dolly Parton and her 'lack of judgment'

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 19:30
Matthew 7:1

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

The fact that Dolly Parton has become such a beloved entertainer across so wide a spectrum of American audiences is a unique story. She is one of country music's brightest stars, but she is so much more. That big hair floating above her flamboyant outfits straining to contain those epic boobs, Dolly is a talent bursting at the seams. Dolly Parton is loved for many reasons, but most of all she is loved for her authenticity.

Please join me below the fold.

How the racists of the South have ruled this nation from the very beginning

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 17:45
It all started with a Constitution that allowed slavery to continue unmolested in the Southern states, only limiting the importation of additional slaves after 1808. In addition to requiring the return of escaped slaves to the slave labor camps, it required them to be included in the census as three-fifths of a free person for taxation and representation.

Because seats in the House of Representatives are based on population, not on the number of registered voters or even on the number people eligible to vote, but of total population—including people held in slavery, even if each was only considered three-fifths of a man—the South received more that their fair share. And it was not just extra House seats that their slave population provided, but also additional muscle in the Electoral College that selects the president. According to Edward E. Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism:

One result was the South’s dominance of the presidency over the next seventy years. Four of the first five presidents would be Virginia slaveholders. Eight of the first dozen owned people. Oh, but you say, we fought a Civil War and ended all of that nonsense when we freed the slaves. Slavery ended 150 years ago, it is time to move on. To get past it. Get over it.

I wish that we could, but if you follow me below the fold I will trace for you the reasons it never ended and continues today.

You win elections to enact policy, not the other way around

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 15:59
Both parties' record of futility in midterms Charlie Cook is something of a godfather figure in the community of electoral prognosticators, and everyone in the business of handicapping races owes a debt to him for paving the way. He doesn't write about policy much, though, and after this week's offering, well, maybe it's better that he doesn't.

He starts out well enough in his post-election column for National Journal, correctly describing that exit polls found most American voters most concerned about the economy (although that's the case with the exit polls after almost every election), and that, although the economy looks good on paper, wage stagnation and insecurity keep people from feeling good about their personal economies. However, then he gets to the nut paragraph:

In mid-summer 2009, polls universally showed that Americans wanted the president, along with the overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, to focus on the economy and job creation. Instead, in its infinite wisdom, Congress chose to focus almost exclusively and obsessively on health care reform. Although this was a worthy objective, the effort would likely have been better spent in a time when people weren't so worried about their economic well-being. This horrific choice, to focus on the Affordable Care Act rather than the economy, besides costing Democrats their House majority—not to mention platoons of Democratic governors and state legislators who would have been handy in drawing the congressional redistricting maps the next year—created scar tissue that remains to this day. I can think of at least four things wrong with that idea, and I'll address all of them, going from the most specific to the most meta. First, there's the problem that the first thing out of the gate in the 2009-2010 session was a very large stimulus package. In retrospect, it's pretty clear it wasn't big enough to stave off a serious recession, but at the time, it was perceived as quite large, larger than the New Deal in current dollars but transformative in subtler ways. The well was pretty much dry for further stimulus spending, especially considering that, with 59 Democratic senators at the time, any stimulus at all was conditioned on getting the votes of not only every Blue Doggish senator but also at least one moderate Republican.

Sure, Congress could have kept on passing more small-ball "jobs" bills in the following year as the stimulus dollars worked their way through the system, but really, given the constraints created by Blue Dogs' and/or Republicans' deficit hysteria, there wouldn't have been more infrastructure spending or direct payments to people. Anything else passed would have been tax cuts, or simply pleasant window dressing with "jobs" in the title, not likely to have any trickle-down effect for the actual Americans losing their jobs or houses. It was a better use of the Democrats' time to move on to one of the other pressing items on their to-do list.

(No doubt someone out there is sputtering "tax cuts are stimulus too!!1!" Well, yes, I suppose so, but even some Republicans know that infrastructure spending and direct payments are a much more effective way to stimulate the economy than tax cuts. Former McCain advisor Mark Zandi (granted, of the "even Mark Zandi" meme) made clear that the ratio of GDP increase to cost is best for payments like unemployment insurance and food stamps, followed by infrastructure spending, followed by tax rebates, and bringing up the distant rear, permanent tax cuts.)

There's more over the fold.

President Obama heard the electorate: GO LEFT!

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 14:15

When President Obama walked up to the podium to talk about the thumping the Democrats got in the 2014 midterm election, he was not slouching. He seemed resolute. It is clear that while the president nominally accepts blame, he must know that acquiescing to the will of Democrats to mostly stay out of campaigning with them likely sealed their fates. They decided not to run on Democratic accomplishments that are now paying dividends.

President Obama’s seeming disaffection about the election results was so obvious that Fox News Ed Henry’s questions became a bit contentious. "I haven’t heard you say a specific thing during this news conference that you would do differently," Ed Henry said. "You’ve been asked it a few different ways. I understand you’re going to reach out. You’ve talked about doing that before. It’s almost like you are doubling down on the same policies and approach you’ve had for six years. So my question is, why not pull a page from the Clinton playbook and admit you have to make a much more dramatic shift in course these last two years?"

In other words, Ed Henry and his ilk are asking the president to capitulate to the Republicans. He brought up President Clinton as if Clinton was a model to follow. One should remember that Clinton’s capitulation—or maybe chameleonic triangulation—effected the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a repeal hat was partially responsible for the 2008 financial collapse.

Follow below the fold for more.