The Obamacare debacle has gifted Republicans with a fighting chance to retake the U.S. Senate, and who better to cast as the evil spirit that haunts Congress’s upper chamber than Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid is the face of a Democratic Senate caucus that has tied itself in knots trying to fix what ails the health care law. Plus, his decision to strip the Republican minority of its power to filibuster President Obama’s judicial and executive appointments has unleashed a fresh wave of derision from the GOP. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called Reid “a dictator,” and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., declared that the majority leader was acting like a “bully.”)
Already, Republicans on the trail are tying their Democratic opponents to Reid.
The Judicial Crisis Network launched a TV ad Monday against vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., accusing her of voting to pack the courts with “Obama’s liberal activist judges.” The ad alludes to Reid’s invocation of the “nuclear option” to clear the way for judicial appointments, stating “Landrieu even helped change the rules, helping Obama pack a key court with new liberal judges.” The ad includes a photo of Landrieu speaking with Reid looking over her shoulder.
Reid’s presence in the ad is particularly notable because the group issued a nearly identical ad targeting Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in early November, before Reid changed the filibuster rules. That ad had no images or references to Reid, signaling that the Senate leader’s recent actions have nudged him under the Republican heat lamp.
In Georgia, GOP Senate candidate Phil Gingrey released an ad on Nov. 12 pledging, if elected, to retire after one term if he doesn’t successfully repeal Obamacare. Gingrey says, “As a doctor I took an oath to do no harm, and Obamacare is so harmful that I voted to repeal or defund it over 40 times. But our efforts die in the Senate,” at which point Reid’s image appears as the face of a Democratic Senate resistant to repeal.
Reid’s unpopularity is nothing new. His job-approval ratings — along with those of other congressional leaders — have nosedived. In a national Quinnipiac University poll last month, Reid’s approval ratings stood at just 27 percent, compared with a 52 percent majority who disapproved. Those ratings were similar to those of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Reid’s emergence as the Republican Party’s Public Enemy No. 1 bumps Pelosi from the top of the list. Her name and face were regular fixtures in conservative micro-sites, Web ads, TV commercials, and fundraising pitches during the 2010 and 2012 cycles. The playbook against Pelosi was simple: Whether it was her stewardship of Obamacare and the “failed stimulus,” or the characterization of her as “a San Francisco liberal,” the evocation of her name served as a rallying cry for Republicans looking to win back and protect their majority in the House.
But Pelosi’s not in charge of the House anymore, and with the possibility of fundraising to oppose Hillary Clinton perhaps a year or two away, Republicans appear to be looking for a fresh bogeyman.
Brock McCleary, founder of the GOP automated-polling firm Harper Polling and a veteran of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said voters will “greet Harry Reid back as the minority leader” if Republicans can effectively make their case against Obamacare now that it exists as more than “mere theory” as it did in 2010. And if Gingrey’s ad is any indication, Reid is likely to become one of the main public faces of the law’s problems.
Republican ad maker Brad Todd of OnMessage largely agrees, saying because Obama won’t face reelection again and Pelosi has already been deposed, the one place where voters can take out their frustration on Obama’s agenda is with Reid. Todd said in past years Reid has “been trickier to use in advertising” because he’s been relatively successful at shielding vulnerable members of his caucus from controversial votes. But moving forward, as Reid’s “role in the Senate becomes more central” and “the fact that Obamacare has now become as central as it did,” Reid will have to “own” his stake in the law’s problems and unpopularity.
Todd put it this way: “If you want to change things in Washington, the lever for change is Reid’s hold on the Senate.”
What We're Following See More »
The Federal Open Market Committee today voted to leave interest rates alone, but "upgraded its assessment of the economy’s recent performance and said near-term risks to the outlook have diminished, effectively leaving the door open to raise rates later this year, possibly as early as September."
"Spurred by VP pick Mike Pence, a former congressman with close ties to many lawmakers, the Trump campaign in recent weeks has stepped up its courtship of wary Capitol Hill Republicans. And the efforts appear to be bearing fruit." Central to the charm offensive: invitations to more than a dozen "Senate and House members into his family’s private box for some power-schmoozing with him and his kids" during the Republican National Convention.
Donald Trump essentially encouraged more Russian espionage against Democrats in a press conference this morning. "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” That prompted Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan to say: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
Investigations are never far from the Clintons, and here's another: At the behest of "dozens" of Republican lawmakers, the IRS is opening a fraud investigation into the Clinton Foundation."The move signals a shift from the IRS's announcement last year that it would not look into allegations of financial irregularities at the well-connected charity."
"Bickering commissioners, ineffective managers and lousy internal communication rank among the top reasons why the Federal Election Commission" has some of the worst morale in the federal government. That's the conclusion of an inspector general's report, which put "the most blame on the FEC’s six commissioners: three Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees who have regularly criticized one another and frequently (but not exclusively) deadlocked on high-profile political issues before them."