We’re less than a week into 2014, but you wouldn’t know it from the glut of early campaign activity. This week has already brought new TV ads from Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse (R), Arkansas gubnernatorial hopeful Mike Ross (D) and would-be New York Rep. George Demos (R).
— Stuart Rothenberg writes Tuesday that these early TV ads are nothing new, citing an article he authored in 1986 documenting ad buys in the preliminary stages of that year’s midterm elections. Unsurprisingly, Rothenberg finds little correlation between spending early and winning. Some losing candidates hit the airwaves early — Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-FL) — and lost anyway. Others — Bob Graham (D-FL) and then-Democrat Richard Shelby (AL) — spent early and won.
— The common thread here is party affiliation. President Obama‘s approval ratings start the year hovering near record-lows. And, as Charlie Cook writes, the “6-Year Itch” theory isn’t lacking for historical evidence. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), like Hawkins 28 years ago, is both his party’s most vulnerable incumbent seeking reelection and the most aggressive incumbent on the air so far. And the half-dozen TV ads Pryor has run thus far are a testament to his vulnerability, not just testing a tactic.
— Early ads can have some limited impact. A study of early-2012 TV advertising in the presidential race found the effects were very temporary and usually canceled out by the other side. But in midterm races, when polls are infrequent, and your opponent might not be on the air yet, capturing a snapshot of public opinion immediately after a new ad can help with fundraising and other perception-driven goals. And with the proliferation of outside-group ad spending — like the Club for Growth in Pryor’s case — candidates and other groups sometimes need to go up earlier just to fight to a draw.
Rothenberg is right that the ads ultimately don’t matter as much as the fundamentals of the race: party cues and perception of the president. But with money flooding candidates and outside groups alike, combined with the diffusion of Americans’ media usage, early paid advertising isn’t going anywhere.
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In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.
In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."
"President Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite his criticism of the Justice Department head's decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, the White House said Thursday. 'Clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the attorney general,' spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at an off-camera briefing."
"The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Trump administration for records on an executive order President Trump reportedly planned to release targeting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, ACLU claimed the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, and Treasury violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release the records it requested on the reported draft order."