SPOTLIGHT

Democrats Addicted To Koch, Too

Commanding attention: David and Charles Koch
National Journal
Alex Roarty
March 14, 2014, 7:43 a.m.

The Demo­crat­ic Party’s polit­ic­al ma­chine has set its sights on Charles and Dav­id Koch. In Harry Re­id‘s floor speeches, the mul­ti­tude of re­leases com­ing from the DSCC, and a new ad re­leased this week from Alaska Sen. Mark Be­gich, blast­ing the Koch broth­ers is shap­ing up to be a dom­in­ant mes­sage in the 2014 Demo­crat­ic play­book. But is this really a smart play for Demo­crats?

— Voters don’t con­sider the bil­lion­aire duo from Kan­sas at the top of their 2014 pri­or­it­ies list. They care about jobs, they care about Obama­care, and they might even care about loom­ing for­eign policy crises. Most hardly are fa­mil­i­ar with the Kochs. The mes­saging is strik­ingly sim­il­ar to the Demo­crat­ic at­tacks against well-fun­ded out­side groups, like the Cham­ber of Com­merce over “for­eign money” or DCCC hits against Karl Rove and Cross­roads in 2010. Those at­tacks didn’t stop Re­pub­lic­ans from net­ting 63 dis­tricts and re­tak­ing the House.

— The key for Demo­crats is try­ing to make a group as in­flu­en­tial as the Koch-backed Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity the center­piece of the elec­tion. Usu­ally, most at­tacks against well-heeled donors are about mit­ig­at­ing dam­age. But this time, Demo­crats are try­ing to make the Koch broth­ers akin to the can­did­ate. The Alaska Sen­ate nev­er men­tions the GOP fron­trun­ner, Dan Sul­li­van, but blares K-O-C-H in gi­ant let­ters.

— Watch how one of the Demo­crat­ic Party’s best midterm hopes, Michelle Nunn, handles the Koch broth­ers. They own Geor­gia-Pa­cific, a com­pany that em­ploys thou­sands in the Peach State. Will she have to dis­tance her­self from her own party’s at­tacks?

The Demo­crats’ strategy makes sense as a way to rally lib­er­al act­iv­ists and donors to their cause. And the Koch broth­ers’ busi­ness activ­ity could put some Re­pub­lic­ans in un­com­fort­able po­s­i­tions. But with a dif­fi­cult year loom­ing, Demo­crats are ig­nor­ing his­tory if they think it will be a sil­ver bul­let that will over­come voter dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the eco­nomy and the health care law.
— Alex Roarty

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