‘There are a ton of new polls this morning and most are really bad for Democrats’

That headline comes in a Tweet this morning from Taegan Goddard, publisher of Political Wire. Yes, polls are breaking for Senate Republicans. Normally, in mid-term elections, polls across the country show a turn or confirm a direction that forecasts election day. So the smart money is on the Republicans.

But before the GOP celebrates and begins looking toward 2016 with overflowing optimism, party leaders may want to ponder one more thing: This election should not have taken so long to show a direction. The Republicans should have taken a clear lead weeks ago.

The post mortem

Following the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee undertook an analysis to determine why the GOP kept losing elections. Many Republicans decided that the message was the problem. Others decided that the candidates were the problem. They went about trying to fix their perception of the problem. Whoa!

Too many Republican candidates or their political advisors tried too hard to fit the “message.” As they tried to adjust, many were not really “themselves.” Eventually, most found their footing. But that took a while and meant that voters needed more time to decide.

Luck helps

Republicans were lucky. Some Democrats stuck too long with the Democratic versions of Republican “messaging.” Senator Mark Udall of Colorado hammered on the “war on women” long after the voters wanted to move on. His Republican opponent is headed to a victory that Udall could have prevented if he had just been Udall all along.

One Republican has been headed to a big win all year – Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Why? He is who he is. In these days of issues-research-driven ads and candidates, Kasich is refreshingly simple. Ohio voters get it. They figured Kasich out long ago. But nationally, nobody has been talking about him. That ends Wednesday.

Wait! They’ve been here all along

The talking heads will talk up Kasich as a plausible presidential candidate. He will be “Chris Christie without the bullying,” “a smarter Rick Perry.” The spotlight may begin to focus on a few Midwestern Republican governors. That’s no surprise. That the mainstream media took so long to catch on is a surprise.

Will the Republican operatives in Washington figure it out? If so, when?


Are non-citizens voting in numbers that could change the results in close elections?

by Ken Feltman

A new twist is about to be added to the national debate on immigration.

Several conservative news outlets and blogs – PJMedia, for example -are reporting that non-citizens and illegal immigrants are voting in higher-than-expected numbers in elections. Hot Air discusses an Old Dominion University study of North Carolina voting by illegal immigrants and other non-citizens.

Some mainstream news outlets – the Washington Post, for example – have carried articles detailing the problem.

Media Matters dismisses the idea that elections may be swung by non-citizen voting. But other factors should trigger increased scrutiny of non-citizen voting. First, the close Minnesota Senate race in 2008 still haunts Republicans. Senator Al Franken won in a recount by 312 votes and went on to cast crucial votes in the Senate. Next, the White House’s anticipated actions on behalf of immigrants after the November 4 election coupled with the disputed evidence of non-citizen voting on November 4 is sure to keep the issue alive.

Put non-citizens voting in a search engine such as Google to find more articles. Then get ready to read and hear more about this as the 2016 Presidential campaigns heat up and the incoming Congress tackles immigration while President Obama considers executive action.

This is not going away. How much will it damage the hopes of law-abiding, productive but undocumented immigrants?

Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech

by Ken Feltman

While suggesting books, I should plug a fun new book co-authored by my friend David Mark, editor-in-chief of Politix and former senior editor at Politico. David teamed with Chuck McCutcheon to translate the political jargon that confuses, confounds and entertains most Americans. Jeff Greenfield wrote the foreword.

Any political junkie will enjoy and quote this book, but probably never stop using the “secret code.” Normal human beings will be better prepared to understand the nuances and nonsense of Politi-Speak. This is a funny and enlightening book.

Thank you, David!

Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech

Ideas in conflict: Leadership and management are not the same thing

by Ken Feltman

Taegan Goddard reminded me of the lessons to be learned from an old favorite by Alan Murray:

“Perhaps there was a time when the calling of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. A foreman in an industrial-era factory probably didn’t have to give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. His or her job was to follow orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency.”

“But in the new economy, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”

Like Murray’s ideas or not, you can read more here:

The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management: Lasting Lessons from the Best Leadership Minds of Our Time

Little words can foretell big trends

by Ken Feltman

Focus groups across the country are smothering political campaigns with huge amounts of information. That information – call data by most of the young analysts who try to interpret it – is “crunched” and conveyed to the creative types who produce the ads that so many people complain about.

The data also provide insights into what words Americans use to express their feelings.

Here is one: Crazy.

Many more Colorado voters used the word crazy (or crazies) to describe Republicans than voters anywhere else. What does that mean for the future of the Republican Party in Colorado?

When asked, Colorado Republican officials most often responded with a laundry list of problems that they blame on Democrats. They quickly leaped to criticism of Democratic Senator Mark Udall, who is in a tough reelection fight.

Is Udall in a close battle partly because his Republican opponent is not thought of as crazy?

Senator Udall’s Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, was not perceived by focus group participants as crazy. Does the fact that crazy was not applied to Gardner have something to do with the close race in Colorado? A Colorado Democrat (female, 28) said, “the Republican isn’t bad, he’d be okay, he’s not like so many of them.”

Can Mitch McConnell benefit from the contrast with crazy Republicans?

The states with the next largest percentages of crazy comments are South Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Kentucky. When focus group participants who said they are Republicans used the word crazy, they often used it as a substitute for Tea Party, except in South Dakota, where it was used most often to describe Washington.

Kentucky voters, both Democrats and Republicans, used crazy to describe ardent supporters of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Kentucky Democrats also used it to describe Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Washington. Republicans sometimes applied it to Washington but, in more cases, to Paul.

McConnell is in a close fight for reelection. Will he benefit from the contrast with Paul and his supporters? Here is what one Kentucky independent voter (female, 59) said: “I had doubts about Mitch McConnell. Then I listened to Rand Paul and decided McConnell was pretty good after all.”

Are voters falling out of love with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul?

Even when they support Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Texas Republicans seem to accept describing Cruz as crazy. One Texas Republican (female, aged 35) said, “It takes someone who’s a little crazy to get something done in Washington.” How many people, in Texas and elsewhere, have thought or said something similar? Another Texas Republican (male, 63) said, “Cruz makes (Governor) Rick Perry look good.”

Senators Cruz and Paul have devoted followers but seem to be accumulating more and more critics within the Republican Party. A California Republican (male, 27) described them as “dysfunctional.” A Missouri Republican (female, 56) said, “I listened and liked what they said at first but the more I learned, the more they seemed extreme. And they attract even more extreme people.” A Texas independent (male, 42) said, “I voted for Cruz but he won’t get things done. He’s part of the Tea Party. It’s their way or nothing. They won’t work with anybody else.”

A Republican from Texas (male, 33) said, “I supported Cruz at first but he has this huge ego. It will become harmful if he doesn’t change.” Another Texas Republican (male, 51) followed up that comment: “He won’t change. He thinks the rest of us are wrong.”

Is the obstructionist streak in the Tea Parties beginning to wear thin with voters? We will need more data before we can make that statement, but we know that the word crazy is used by voters of all persuasions to describe Republicans much more often than Democrats.

He’s baaaaaaack! What? Romney? Back?

by Ken Feltman

A friend called me this morning to tell me that Mitt Romney “hit the ball out of the park” on Fox News Sunday. He was excited, hardly able to get the words out fast enough.

A strong and vocal Romney supporter in 2012, he became distressed as Romney drifted into unforced errors on the campaign trail. He got quieter and quieter. Shortly before election day, he stopped calling. After election day, he stopped returning my calls.

Romney may or may not be back. My friend is.

Obama doesn’t seem to know how to be president

By Ken Feltman

Two years ago, a PhD student from Stanford University spoke with several former Obama White House staff members. Naturally, they were guarded in what they said but, every so often, a few of them made a revealing comment or two.

The student reported to me that lower level staffers followed the Obama Administration talking-points and blamed the Republicans for the legislative gridlock. But the higher-ups in the chain of command sometimes expressed a quiet frustration.

A woman said: “He (President Obama) created what was like a college dorm atmosphere in the West Wing. People were never certain what their job was because someone would change the priorities just like that.”

A man remarked: “There was a lot of brainstorming about things with no decisions made or plan of action, or timetable, and no results.”

Another man commented: “A president does not really have a fixed job description. He gets to make up his own, sort of. Obama could have used some help in deciding what he should concentrate on. Like one day he was wandering around and twice he poked his head into my office and asked what we were doing. Completely took us off track for several minutes each time.”

Yet another man: “The President seemed restless. If he didn’t have fixed appointments, some mostly ceremonial like greeting the Super Bowl winners or a movie star or veterans or something where he’d give an award and they’d take pictures, he didn’t know what to do and he interrupted others who were working.

A woman: “It was a little scary that the Commander-in-Chief wasn’t busy on some important work. He did love the speeches and that’s where he was great.”

A man observed: “We learned who had a direct line to the President. I tried to avoid them. They seemed to take pride in being able to hurt people with the President and (the First Lady). They didn’t want to hear bad news. I realized that they thought it was disloyal.”

Another woman said: “I think it drove the organized staff members crazy. It was government by B.S. sessions.”

A man: “One senior staff member told me that it became clear to him and others that the President didn’t read the briefing books and reports. He just learned by verbal reports and asking questions. Sometimes the questions were pretty far afield.”

Another man commented: “He didn’t do the homework that I guess I expected.”

A woman remarked: “He was out of the loop on things. Some people said, that way, he could shift the blame if something went wrong. It also meant that a lot didn’t get done.”

Many of these things could be said about any White House, any President, any White House staff. Make what you will of these comments and opinions.