There wasn’t much doubt about this beforehand, but this week’s political advertising news confirms how Americans for Prosperity has taken control of the Senate and House landscapes. All over the country, Democrats have been forced to react to the well-funded nonprofit’s moves, which even have some Republicans guessing.
— AFP’s perch in the driver’s seat has been especially clear of late. AFP doubled its spending against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) last week with a $700,000 buy, at which point the Democratic outside group Patriot Majority jumped in again versus Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s (D-LA) striking decision to drop $2.6 million on TV in the spring about equaled what AFP had previously spent against her. (The group then upped its investment.) And Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) took direct aim at AFP and the Koch brothers in his first TV ad AFP also fired the first (million-dollar) salvo in Colorado this week.
— It’s not just the Senate landscape, either. House-focused Democrats are playing defense against AFP more than anything else right now. After spending 2013 poking at potentially vulnerbale GOP incumbents like Mike Coffman, Joe Heck, and Steve Southerland, sometimes drawing an AFP response, House Majority PAC has spent 2014 chasing AFP into Arizona, Florida, and West Virginia to mitigate damage from attacks against Democratic lawmakers. In Rep. Nick Rahall‘s WV-03, another Koch-connected group’s ads on coal have also seriously damaged the longtime incumbent.
— AFP’s individual ad buys have occasionally puzzled Republican strategists eyeing the House, too, with a few wondering where the group was during the FL-13 special election. But they’re happy with the results: Some Dems are taking damage, and it’s forcing them to spend resources now.
The usual suspects — the party committees, Crossroads, etc. — have barely gotten involved in independent expenditures yet, and things may change as the election draws nearer and more advertising comes online. But for now, AFP appears to be in charge.
— Scott Bland
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President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.