One year ago, the Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroads announced the creation of the Conservative Victory Project, an initiative it promised would torpedo Senate candidates who were too flawed to win a general election. The days of Todd Akins and Sharron Angles costing the party winnable Senate seats were over, so its backers said.
But as activists ridiculed CVP as doomed to fail, it didn’t raise any money from donors last year, and most activists forgot the once-ballyhooed project even existed. The message was clear: Even with all its vast resources, Crossroads still faced inherent challenges in handpicking its favored candidates. Crossroads officials were left to ponder the next steps.
Now, they’ve found their footing. The buys on behalf of Dan Sullivan in Alaska and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, two establishment-friendly candidates, offer clues about the group’s new cautious approach in GOP primaries. Both ads praise the candidates without making reference to the weaknesses of their Republican opponents. And while the spots don’t significantly alter the contours of their primary fights, Republicans believe they could be critical in avoiding ugly primary fights.
It’s a far cry from the group’s original intentions of spending big money to disqualify flawed challengers. But with its altered approach, Crossroads might be regaining its stature as the head of the Republican super PAC establishment, a title threatened by the group’s weak fundraising last year after a disappointing 2012 election cycle. The lingering question is whether it is content to play the role of boosting already-favored Republicans, or whether it will navigate in trickier primaries where the stronger candidates need more aggressive assistance.
The dilemma facing Crossroads, one that also confronts other establishment Republican groups nationwide, is that any help they might offer a candidate of choice could backfire. At a time when anti-Washington sentiment runs high, no one wants to be seen as the handpicked candidate of the establishment.
Crossroads is side-stepping that pitfall by entering the races where it faces the least risk. Supporting Dan Sullivan in Alaska, for instance, isn’t a particularly controversial decision: Not only does he have the implicit support of most Washington Republicans, but he also has the endorsement of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.
The case is murkier in North Carolina, where Tillis, the state’s House speaker, faces a mélange of foes seeking the tea-party mantle (and must reach 40 percent in the May primary to avoid a runoff). But even here, save for endorsements of competitors from Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Mike Huckabee, there’s broad consensus that Tillis is the best-positioned Republican in a weak field to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
The state House leader’s opponents say they plan to use Crossroads’s endorsement against him — but they already were tarring him as Rove’s hand-picked candidate before the ads were even announced. (Tillis participated in fundraisers with Rove last year.) Tillis’s campaign manager, Jordan Shaw, welcomed the cash influx as proof his boss was the superior candidate. “We have to build a campaign and a network that is able to defeat an incumbent Democrat who is going to be well funded by liberal special interests,” he said.
The Crossroads ads themselves are risk-averse. In a rarity for super PACs, they’re each positive, and neither takes any swipes at a fellow Republican. Sullivan’s spot features an endorsement from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while Tillis’s ad touts his conservative bona fides. There’s not much for conservatives to get angry about. It’s a departure for the group, whose leaders in the past have been skeptical that outside groups can be effective in running positive spots for a candidate.
Even the campaign of one of Tillis’s opponents, the pastor Mark Harris, concedes Rove won’t be much of an issue. “Karl Rove is not on the ballot,” said Tom Perdue, a consultant for Harris. “Rank-and-file grassroots people might now know who Karl Rove is.” (Perdue adds that Crossroads’ investment proves they’re worried about his chances. “I have seen a lot of media people and campaign consultants dress up a candidate, but I’m not sure putting lip stick on a pig is going to make people think it’s a hunting dog.”)
Where and when Crossroads strikes next is unclear; the group’s political director, Carl Forti, told National Journal he did not want to discuss its future plans. But if it wants to expand its reach to other Republican primaries, it might find that other Senate primaries aren’t as inviting for outside interference. A state like Iowa, for instance, has two establishment-friendly candidates — state Sen. Joni Ernst and former energy company executive Mark Jacobs — who are viewed as the front-runners. Both bring different assets to the race: Jacobs is personally wealthy, while Ernst’s profile as a female military veteran is potentially appealing.
And in Georgia, home to possibly the party’s most competitive Republican primary, a similar situation has unfolded: Businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston have emerged as the front-runners, and both are considered favorably by the party establishment. Republican strategists are concerned about the candidacy of tea-party-aligned Rep. Paul Broun, but airing ads against him would only motivate his core supporters.
“I think there’s so many Senate races this year that Republicans are competitive in, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend resources in a state where your likely nominee is going to be a strong nominee,” said Eric Tanenblatt, the Atlanta-based finance co-chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
If Republicans can nominate electable candidates from these murky primary fields — no small feat — Crossroads will have played a crucial, if unheralded role, in helping the GOP’s chances of retaking the Senate majority. It may not get as much attention for itsr efforts as in past elections, but the results are shaping up to be more rewarding.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”