TIME Congress

The Trumpification of Congress

People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.
MARK RALSTON—AFP/Getty Images People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.

The GOP Establishment better be ready

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Donald Trump’s bombastic brand of establishment-hating populism is succeeding: he’s leading in the polls and in media attention. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that some Republicans in Congress are following his example.

On Tuesday, an obscure second-term Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, filed a motion to try and force House Speaker John Boehner from his post. The measure is more than likely to fail, but the move earned Meadows instant media recognition, numerous cable news appearances and instant notoriety.

Meadows isn’t the only one causing congressional GOP leaders headaches these days. During a rare weekend session forced in part by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smacked down efforts by Cruz and fellow Tea Partier Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to hijack the amendment process on a transportation bill. The duo had hoped to force votes to defund Planned Parenthood and block President Obama’s deal with Iran but McConnell squashed them, going so far as to distribute an e-mail from a Lee staffer to every Republican senator showing that the pair only sought to play politics with the system, not work for solutions.

“To see the so-called Republican leader whip against allowing a vote to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz railed to reporters outside the Senate chamber, “makes clear that the McConnell-[Democratic Senate leader Harry] Reid leadership is united in favor of Big Government.”

Cruz, Lee, Meadows and Trump have one thing in common: their disdain for the Republican establishment. All four are seeking to harness discontent within the GOP base to their advantage. And that discontent pays: all four have raised millions of dollars and each bomb they drop earns them more money, more infamy and more attention—all great things whether one is running for president or fending off a primary challenge in 2016.

The idea of committing some incredible antic or uttering an outrageous statement and then running online to monetize it isn’t a new strategy in Washington. As Michael Scherer and I wrote six years ago, members like Michele Bachmann and Alan Grayson had already honed the online money bomb. What’s new here is the target: leadership.

The problem with this strategy is that it heightens dysfunction in a city where dysfunction has already hobbled the system. McConnell will likely get through a long-term extension of the transportation bill this week, but the House won’t be able to pass that bill so quickly. So both chambers will have to pass a three-month stop gap by the end of the week to give Boehner more time to corral his recalcitrant rank and file on the larger bill.

And if getting a transportation bill through is this tough, what’s facing Congress in the coming months is even more daunting: a potential government shut down and default on U.S. debt. McConnell and Boehner better have some aces up their sleeves. Because as Meadows, Cruz and Lee have shown this week, there’s never been more incentive to play the Trump card.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, Republicans Play Different 2016 Gender Cards

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns in Iowa
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, July 17, 2015.

The Clinton campaign see opportunity in a Republican critique

Lost in Donald Trump’s wowza of a speech in South Carolina on Monday, where he revealed Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number, was his tiny mockery of Hillary Clinton. About 30 minutes into the speech, Trump asks: “Who would you rather have negotiate against China, for example? … Trump or Hillary?”

He then pursues his lips, leans to the right and waves his right hand as if he was one of his Miss Universe contestants, batting his eyelashes: “Hi, everybody, hi.” He then straightens and fires directly at Clinton, “She’s the one with the tone.”

It’s not the first time Trump has gone after Clinton by referencing her gender. “You know, she’s playing the woman card really big. I watched her the other day and all she would talk about was, ‘Women! Women! I’m a woman! I’m going to be the youngest woman in the White House! I’m not going to have white hair, I’m going to dye my hair blonde!’” he said in his first campaign speech in Iowa after announcing his candidacy earlier this month.

Given the tsunami of outrage Trump tends to inspire, it’s not surprising that his comments on Clinton have only made moderate waves. But what’s surprising is that he’s not the only Republican who has criticized Clinton for acknowledging that she is a woman. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went after Clinton in the same way. “I don’t think arguing ‘vote for me because I’m a woman’ is enough,” the Kentucky Republican said at an event in his home state on Monday, according to The Associated Press. “You may recall my election last year,” McConnell said, referring to his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, whom he defeated by double digits in the 2014 midterm election. “The gender card alone is not enough.”

The Clinton campaign saw that comment as an opportunity. Perhaps waiting for the GOP to make the gender play, campaign aides quickly shot back with this sleek video where they literally play gender cards:

Echoing the video, Clinton responded to McConnell during a Facebook question-and-answer session. “Wow,” Clinton said. “Mitch McConnell really doesn’t get it. There is a gender card being played in this campaign. It’s played every time Republicans vote against giving women equal pay, deny families access to affordable child care or family leave, refuse to let women make decisions about their health or have access to free contraception.”

Republicans have always disdained identity politics, and playing to women is no exception. But McConnell risks misplaying his hand by comparing Clinton to his former opponent. Grimes had a relatively thin resume, Clinton has a record of championing women’s issues that goes back decades. “It’s just not true that she doesn’t have a record or that she’s running simply to be the first female president,” said Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “McConnell’s statement seems belittling and sexist.”

McConnell and Trump’s attacks open the door for Clinton to play to her strengths, reminding voters that the GOP record on women’s issues like equal pay, contraception and rape. President Obama won women in 2012 by 12 percentage points, one of the biggest gender gaps in history. As potential first female president, Clinton has the potential to expand that gap. “Hillary may be able to boost turnout among the groups of women that Democrats target and may even be able to pull off enough of the women that generally lean more Republican such as white suburban women to build a winning coalition,” said Michele Swers, a government professor at Georgetown and author of two books on women in politics.

The debate riles up Republican women sick of seeing their party tarnished as anti-women. “There’s a hypocrisy with Hillary’s gender bashing,” said Katie Packer Gage, who was Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager in 2012 and now runs an all-female GOP consulting firm. “She’s not the only one for equal pay for equal work. Everyone is for that.”

Republicans oppose Democratic legislation on equal pay because it could lead to more lawsuits and a boon to trial lawyers. They’ve introduced their own legislation that increases incentives for companies to provide equal pay. Those bills died, though, both in the House and the Senate at the end of the last Congress and the GOP has yet to reintroduce them again this session. Indeed, Republican men should probably not be talking about gender and Clinton at all, Gage said. “I don’t think it’s a particularly smart move for the men in our party to be leading the charge on this because it’s the gender card,” Gage said. “It’s better for women to speak out on it.”

But the GOP’s lone female presidential candidate, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, has been noticeably mum on the issue. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment. And none of the GOP’s high profile elected women have seemed inclined to wade into the debate. Meanwhile, unfortunately for the GOP, the only ones being heard on gender are Trump, McConnell and Clinton.

TIME 2016 Election

Bush Hails Uber, While Clinton Criticizes

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at The New School on July 13, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the New School in New York City on July 13, 2015

The tricky politics of the gig economy

Uber hitched an unexpected ride on the 2016 campaign trail this week.

During a rollout of her economic plan Monday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton took companies like Uber to task for not giving drivers benefits. On Friday morning, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush plans on hailing an Uber in San Francisco to show his support for the ride-sharing company and others like it.

For some Republicans, the contrast made Clinton an easy target.

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, argued the former Secretary of State was out of touch with the younger generation. “If you look at millenials, we love those companies [like Uber], we love consumer choices,” she said. “It’s a big mistake, I think, that Secretary Clinton chose to go after those companies that are really disrupting those industries for the better.”

But the politics of Uber aren’t so clear cut for either side.

While Republicans love the idea of breaking taxi unions, GOP support for the sharing economy isn’t so clear-cut. Most of the sharing economy vanguard—companies like Uber, AirBnB and Lyft—were born in California, a big blue state, and their corporate blueprints assume the kind of large social safety net favored by Democrats.

As Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told reporters in Washington in November, the Affordable Care Act was “huge” for his company because the “democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living.” In other words, his company didn’t have to provide health insurance because drivers could buy it on their own through Obamacare. (That was eight months before a California court ruled that Uber drivers are, in fact, employees and thus were owed typical benefits, a decision the company is appealing.)

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who built a fortune in cell phone technology, calls it “the gig economy.” Part-time or temporary workers already account for 40.4% of the workforce, up from 35.3% in 2006. Many of these workers have several jobs doing things like driving for Uber, renting out their couch through Airbnb or doing freelance journalism, software coding or videography. These jobs provide workers with flexibility and give them an alternative to unemployment, but the drawback is that they don’t come with the standard package of benefits most full-time workers have long enjoyed.

Underlining Clinton’s concerns about the gig economy, Jake Sullivan, one of her top policy advisors, told a group of Washington journalists at a breakfast Tuesday organized by the Christian Science Monitor that there’s no easy answer. “It’s a huge question and a very hard one,” he said.

While Clinton faces the risk of looking uncool by criticizing companies like Uber, Bush faces an even tougher question. After all, repealing Obamacare is at the top of every 2016 Republican candidates’ list. It’s one thing to ride in an Uber, but quite another to figure out how to fix its business model if the safety net shrinks.

But if the 2016 candidates are just skirting around the edges of the issue, Congress has barely touched it.

A self-described pro-business moderate, Warner is just about the only one on Capitol Hill thinking about these issues. He’s exploring legislation that would help freelancers, such as creating an Obamacare-type program for retirement benefits or building off the model that some trade unions have for contract workers to receive benefits. He also is looking to revamp the tax code to create a category for “dependent workers,” a hybrid between a contractor and a full-time employee that would end the debates, if not the legal challenges, on exactly what kind of an employee gig economy workers are.

But Warner is months, if not years, away from legislation and little is likely to pass before the election, regardless. Which leaves the issue open for debate among the 2016 field. Where should workers in the gig economy get benefits: from their employers or the government?

TIME Congress

13 Reasons the Government Could Shut Down Again This Fall

Congress Convenes On Columbus Day As Government Shutdown Continues
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The U.S. Capitol in Washington in 2013.

Democrats and Republicans don't see eye to eye on spending

Do you miss the government shutdown? Don’t worry, another one could be coming as soon as this fall.

You might have thought the threat of another shutdown was shelved last year when congressional Budget Committee Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray came to a two-year bipartisan deal to fund the government.

But the new Republican Congress blew up that deal, and a shutdown could be part of the fallout.

Republicans are now attempting to undo controversial cuts to military spending in the 2013 sequester. Democrats are having none of that: if the Pentagon gets its money, they argue, so too should entitlements, as was part of the original deal. Unless Republicans relent on this point, Democrats have vowed to block all 13 appropriations bills from coming to the Senate floor.

But even if those bills were to get voted on, odds are they won’t pass since they have dozens of provisions that Democrats object to — and which President Obama has threatened to veto.

If some sort of funding isn’t passed by the end of September, the government will shut down. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell swears that will not happen on his watch, but for now the two sides aren’t even talking.

So what could cause a shutdown? Here’s a look at the 13 most controversial provisions, any one of which could trigger a partial or total government shutdown if Democrats and Republicans can’t come to an agreement.

  1. Obamacare: Of course, the bills cut funding for the implementation of Obamacare — the same law that caused the last shutdown.
  2. The environment: The bills would essentially defund or block the President’s climate change plan—including his recently issued controversial rule for coal fired power plants, a clean water rule and a bunch of endangered species listings. All told there are more than 30 riders that environmental groups are protesting.
  3. Cybersecurity: On the heels of a massive breach of personal information for tens of millions of government employees, the GOP budgets would delay installation of cybersecurity upgrades to federal agencies to protect against foreign attacks and cut funding to protect the nation’s electronic grid from cyber attacks and extreme weather by 40%.
  4. Education: The GOP bills would cut nearly $6 billion in education funding, eliminating six pre-K-12 programs, slashing Head Start by $1.5 billion, cutting 21st Century Community Learning Centers by 10% and School Improvement Grants by 11% and $300 million in Pell Grants.
  5. Labor: As the President negotiates two of the largest free trade pacts in the world, he has pledged to ensure that they will meet fair labor standards and not empower countries to abuse their workforces. But the enforcement of these provisions falls on a Labor Department office, the same office that Republicans are looking to cut by 67%. Also on the chopping block: 5% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s budget and 8% of the budget of the office that protects workers from wage theft and abuse.
  6. Veterans: Despite the ongoing scandal plaguing the Veterans Affairs Administration, the budgets cut $255 million from veterans medical care and $105 million from maintenance for VA hospitals.
  7. Consumer protection: The GOP bills would cut $200 million in funds to implement Wall Street re-regulation, or the Dodd-Frank bill passed in the wake of the financial crisis to prevent something like that from happening again. And it attempts to defund Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s darling, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up in the wake of the crisis to better protect Main Street from the risks Wall Street is taking.
  8. Women’s health: The bills cut funding for Title X family planning service programs, eliminating access to birth control for the 4.7 million clients that the programs served in 2012, preventing an estimated 1.2 million unintended pregnancies. They also slash funding to prevent teen pregnancies by 81%.
  9. Infrastructure: In the wake of a fire in a Chicago radar facility that knee capped Midwest air traffic for weeks as air traffic controllers tracked planes with pen and paper, the Transportation Department asked for more money for air traffic control. Instead, Republicans are seeking to cut $255 million from the air traffic control system. Other targets include: $479 million in cuts to water infrastructure $400 million in cuts to innovation grants and $1.7 billion in cuts to transit projects across the country.
  10. Job training: The bills propose cutting $650 million from job training programs.
  11. Wildfires and disease: The GOP budgets envision cutting $1 billion from funding to fight wildfires. Also on the chopping block: $500 million for the Agriculture Department to research diseases like the avian flu.
  12. National parks and national service: The bills cut the National Park Services budget by $321 million, despite the fact that the agency has a massive $11 billion backlog. It also cuts $340 million, or 29%, from AmeriCorps, which translates into 32,000 fewer members serving their communities.
  13. Health: The GOP budgets propose cutting lead paint removal in low-income households, potentially putting more than 2,000 children at risk. And they cut funding for 9,000 scientists’ research at the National Science Foundation.

TIME 2016 Election

GOP Congresswomen Have Some Advice for Their Party’s 2016 Candidates

Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., right, and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., are pictured during the election for Speaker before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor, January 6, 2015.
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., right, and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., are pictured during the election for Speaker before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor, January 6, 2015.

House Republican women have some advice for the largely male field of 2016 would be GOP presidential nominees hoping to take on Hillary Clinton: listen to us before you speak.

“Women are the majority!” exclaimed Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, referring to the fact that America is 52% female. “We really have to watch our language when we’re talking about some of these issues. … The language just turns women off because we come off as the party of just cold, lack of compassion.”

McSally cited an exit poll in the 2012 presidential election that showed that 81.2% of voters felt President Obama “cared about people like me,” compared to just 17.6% of voters for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Romney lost the election in large part because he lost women by 12 percentage points to President Obama. And though Republicans in 2014 won back the Senate and made gains in the House, they only incrementally added women: a net of two in the House and one in the Senate. And they net lost one female governor.

Pundits often talk about GOP demographic challenges with minorities and young voters, but since the so-called War on Women petered out after 2012— after Republicans figured out how to stop saying egregiously insulting things about rape, little has been said about the GOP’s biggest demographic challenge: women. “We have a problem,” said Mimi Walters, a California Republican and the freshman representative on the House leadership team, “and we’re working to address it.”

The conservative National Review magazine and Google gathered five Republican Congresswomen—McSally, Walters, Missouri’s Ann Wagner, McSally, Walters, Virginia’s Barbara Comstock and New York’s Elise Stefanik—on Tuesday to talk about the challenges their party faces with women. All agreed that the GOP candidates needed to be consulting them, especially when the eventual nominee will likely be running against a woman: Hillary Clinton. “I will tell you: we will fail, and these men will fail, if they try and package [Clinton] as someone who’s stupid and doesn’t know her job, hasn’t done her job, and isn’t real, isn’t strong,” said Wagner, who is the sophomore class’ leadership representative. “They need us at the table to remind them of the words to use, the words not to use.”

All of the women said they had heard from one or more of the campaigns and were consulting with them and/or the Republican National Committee. They also spoke of their own efforts to find and elect more women to Congress, though they acknowledged that that effort was hamstrung by the limited number of competitive races given how gerrymandered congressional districts have become.

On the presidential level, Comstock said it was important that the campaigns hire senior women to run them, which could be a challenge because women don’t like to take risky jobs that may not lead to permanent employment should their candidate lose, Comstock said. So, she said, the campaigns had to be proactive and seek women out.

“One of the things I’ve asked them is: where am I at the table? Who do you have on staff?” Comstock said. “The reality is if there are women at the top they recruit other women and bring them in and that is also something I have been demanding of the candidates.”

So far the candidates don’t seem to be listening too closely. Only one major candidate has a female campaign manager: Mike Huckabee’s daughter Sarah is running her dad’s bid. A quick search reveals that of the top 16 GOP candidates, only Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have set up “Women for…” pages on Facebook.

That said, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—one of the 13 without a dedicated page for women—has spent a lot of time courting the women’s vote. “I hope she makes the top 10, I think she’s been very effective in going after Hillary Clinton,” said Wagner, referring to the debate cutoff of the top 10 candidates in polling. “I think she’s done it in a way that’s responds with women.”

In the latest round of surveys, Fiorina broke into the top 10 for the first time, with 3% of the vote.

TIME Iran

Iran’s Zarif Says They Have ‘Never Been Closer’ to a Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed optimism that a deal could be reached in talks between Iran and six world powers over the country’s nuclear program, he said in a YouTube video shot from the Palais Coburg where marathon negotiations have been taking place.

“At this eleventh hours, despite differences that remain, we have never been closer to a lasting outcome,” said Zarif in English. “Getting to yes requires the courage to compromise, the self confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable, the wisdom to set aside illusions and the audacity to break old habits.”

Though Zarif did not name his negotiating partners—the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia—his choice of vocabulary was clearly aimed at the United States. With his use of the words “audacity” and later in the four-minute statement, “hope.” The title of President Obama’s second book was The Audacity of Hope.

Iranians are known for their careful and symbolic choice of language. Zarif ended his remarks with a quote from Kay Khosrow, a revered king and character in the Shahnameh, the Persian-speaking world’s national epic written around 1010 A.D. by nobleman Abol-Qasem Ferdowsi Tusi: “Be relentless in striving for the cause of good / Bring the spring, you must / Banish the winter, you should.”

Those lines were cited by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2013 and again later tweeted by Rouhani as a reference to turning a page and remaking the dawn of a new era.

This is not the first time Zarif, who spent five years from 2002 in New York as Iran’s United Nations representative, has taken to YouTube to address the West directly in English. In November 2013, he defended Iran’s nuclear program on a similar YouTube video—replete with the same piano muzak opening and closing.

Interestingly, Zarif did not focus his remarks solely on the talks being held by the so-called P5+1, for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. He also mentioned the importance of building strong relationships to fight violent extremism, a clear reference to ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “Our common threat today is the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism,” Zarif said.

The talks, which include Secretary of State John Kerry, were due to end on June 30, but were extended until July 7 to allow for more negotiations. Zarif’s remarks come as some perceived a hardening of Iran’s position given remarks by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week demanding the end to bruising economic sanctions by the six world powers before Iran begin to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.

TIME global trade

Democrats Borrow From the Republican Playbook

The Senate leader faced a wall of press on the second floor of the Capitol, just outside the chamber, his face a mask of outrage: “They were going to try to stop the Senate in its tracks from passing bipartisan legislation until they got what they wanted…” he fumed.

Until January, this could have been virtually any Democrat, railing against Republicans taking the debt ceiling, the budget or any number of bills held hostage to extract budget cuts. But, the last five words Texas Republican John Cornyn uttered last Tuesday showed the complete turnaround: “…when it comes to spending.”

Now in the minority, Democrats have taken a page from the Republican playbook.

In their eight years in the minority, Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, developed a strategy of routine filibustering—requiring a supermajority of 60 votes—until they extracted concessions. This tactic was most evident in the debt ceiling negotiations, where Republicans in recent years demanded cuts equal to the amount the ceiling was raised. Now, Republicans are getting a taste of how frustrating such maneuvers can be for the party in power: Democrats are holding legislation hostage. Only they aren’t seeking to extract more cuts; they’re looking for more money.

Take the trade bill that cleared a major procedural vote 60-37 in the Senate Tuesday morning. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried last week to hold portions of this bill hostage to extract a more favorable highway trust fund deal, which is also pending before Congress. While that gambit failed, her Senate counterparts succeeded in using the trade measure, sought by many Republicans, to leverage concessions on steel protections and quick passage of a bill designed to help poor African countries gain better access to U.S. markets.

And trade is only the beginning. The bill Cornyn was referring to with such apoplexy last week was the National Defense Authorization Act, which organizes and oversees the Pentagon annually. Republicans inserted into that bill a clause that would enable them to restore military cuts from the sequester, painful across the board spending cuts that are a legacy of one of the GOP’s hostage episodes in 2011. Democrats last week allowed the NDAA to pass, but they are holding hostage the funding in all 13 of the annual appropriations bills until Republicans agree to either leave the Pentagon cuts in place or allow equal increases in entitlement spending as was originally envisioned in the 2011 deal. If Republicans don’t find a way to satisfy Democratic demands, the government will shut down again come the end of September.

And then in October, we have an oldie but goodie: the debt ceiling. Though Senate Democratic leadership has said they want a clean extension, some Democrats are already dreaming up what they’d like to see funded in order to allow that one through. Some candidates: the highway trust fund, if that can gets kicked down the road again, and No Child Left Behind reauthorization.

As Bishop Robert Sanderson once told British King Charles I in the 1630’s, “Whosoever thou art that dost another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing a game, and thou his.” A young Sir Isaac Newton studied Sanderson at Cambridge; Washington could only hope that some logic may yet emerge from the bitter experience of turning the Senate’s chess table.

TIME 2014 Election

Exclusive: Women Turned Out for Hillary in the Midterms

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Campaigns With Jeanne Shaheen In New Hampshire
Darren McCollester—Getty Images Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) campaigns with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (L) at Nashua Community College in Nashua, N.H. on Nov. 2, 2014.

Clinton's appearances on the campaign trail gave discernable bumps in female support to various Democrats, according to an analysis by Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary group

In the aftermath of the Democratic shellacking, episode 2, in the 2014 midterm elections, many pointed fingers at Hillary Clinton as an electoral loser.

“Somebody should ask Hillary Democrats why they got wiped out tonight. Clearly, Hillary is yesterday’s news,” Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful, said in an email to Breitbart News — just one of the many times he linked the Democratic drubbing to the party’s likeliest 2016 presidential candidate.

Added another 2016 potential GOP candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “I think in many ways [Clinton] was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that is wrong with Washington,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. Even journalists piled on. “The loser from last night in the a 2016 context: Hillary Clinton,” said Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin.

Not so fast, says pro-Clinton group Correct the Record. The group, linked to Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, compiled polling data that shows Clinton delivered discernible bumps in female support to most of the candidates for whom she appeared or stumped, according to an analysis obtained exclusively by TIME.

Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Colorado’s Mark Udall both saw three percentage point bumps amongst women after Clinton appeared with them in the final weeks of campaigning, according to an analysis of polls before and after Clinton’s visit by the group.

Though both Hagan and Udall lost, Clinton gave incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado a turbo charge: his lead amongst women nearly tripled from a 4.8% advantage a to 12% lead after Hillary’s visit, and Hickenlooper eked out a win.

In New Hampshire and Illinois, incumbent Democratic Govs. Maggie Hassan and Pat Quinn both saw eight percentage point boosts, though it wasn’t enough to save Quinn. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters saw their support amongst women go up five percentage points apiece after Clinton’s visits.

Georgia gubernatorial hopeful Jason Carter got a 4 percentage point bump, though it didn’t help him to victory. And Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana got a 2 percentage point boost, helping her beat out Bill Cassidy 42% to 41%, though she didn’t avoid a Dec. 6 run off.

“Women’s support for Clinton translated to support for the candidates she backed in 2014, despite an overwhelming trend against Democrats in the election,” Correct the Record said in a statement released with the analysis, pointing to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s success with female voters in 2013 after Clinton campaigned for him as further evidence of the trend.

Of course, much of this support could simply be women breaking in the final month of the campaign one way or another. It’s impossible to say if Clinton was the deciding factor. And, while support amongst women who voted was boosted in each case, the number of women voting was at the lowest levels since the GOP wave of 2010, meaning that off-presidential year voters were not successfully turned out at the polls.

That said, it’s clear Clinton didn’t have a negative impact on female voters, and her underlying message of women’s empowerment could remain a potent one for 2016, should she run, where women are expected to show up in larger numbers at the polls.

Read next: Another Year of the Woman? Not Exactly

TIME

Mitch McConnell’s Secret Weapon: His Wife

Elaine Chao Mitch McConnell Kentucky
Mark Lyons—EPA US Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, waves to supporters with his wife Elaine Chao during his victory celebration at the Marriott East Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 4, 2014.

Campaign insiders say Chao was a driving force of his reelection campaign

The weekend before the midterm election, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, campaigned at a restaurant in Montgomery County, east of Lexington. Chao introduced McConnell to the packed house, but after the event was done McConnell sat down to grab a late lunch with a staffer. A woman and her two daughters approached the leader and asked for a photograph. His aide said, “Sure thing, can you just wait until the leader is finished eating?”

“Sure,” replied the women, who then continued to stand, staring at the leader as he ate.

Chao then sat down and she motioned for the woman and her daughters to join her at the other end of the table. And for 10 minutes, Chao engaged the family. “Are you two sisters?” she asked. They shyly nodded.

“I grew up with a lot of sisters, too. There’s nothing better than girl power,” she said, regaling the girls with stories of her five younger sisters and her family, who arrived in the U.S. from Taiwan on a freight ship in 1961, when Chao was eight, fleeing the communist revolution on mainland China. By the end of her stories, the girls were beaming and giggling.

McConnell, 72, was never one for retail campaigning. Childhood polio left him tender and averse to backslapping. To avoid it on the campaign trail, he’ll often grip a person with his left hand on the upper arm, holding them away from him, as he shakes their hand with his right. He’s also hard of hearing, which means in loud rooms he often misses what people say. But on the campaign trail, Chao, 61, makes up for her husband’s shortcomings.

Over the past two years, Chao headlined fifty of her own events and attended hundreds more with and on behalf of McConnell. She also raised “a huge part” of McConnell’s $30 million war chest, says John Ashbrook a spokesman for McConnell. But, perhaps most importantly, she was the campaign hugger.

Dr. Noelle Hunter said she’s formed a “special bond” with Chao over the past year, after McConnell worked to recover Hunter’s eight-year-old daughter, Muna, from Mali, when she was taken there by Hunter’s ex-husband. The political science professor, who was the subject of one of McConnell’s most memorable campaign commercials, was a former Democrat until she met the McConnells at a parade in Paintsville last year in August. “I went to shake her hand and she just grabbed me and held me gave me a mom-type hug,” Hunter said. “She said, ‘We are praying for you to get Muna home.’ She was so warm and gentle. I’d never met her before. I had no idea she even knew about my situation. And it meant the world to me that clearly these two people were talking about Luna over the dinner table.”

Chao is also the one who keeps tabs on various political allies across Kentucky. “She very actively listens. She really pays attention and remembers details about people,” says Kelly Westwood, head of the Kenton County women’s Republican group. “She doesn’t see them for months and then says, ‘I know you sprained your arm, how’s it going?’ Or, ‘How’s you bid for city council going?’ She remembers everything.”

It is perhaps Chao’s personal touch that helped McConnell offset his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes’ attacks on him as anti-women. Chao starred in several ads on McConnell’s behalf talking about his record on women’s issues. In the end, McConnell beat Grimes 56% to 41%. “The biggest asset I have by far is the only Kentucky woman who served in a president’s cabinet, my wife, Elaine Chao,” McConnell said at the annual Fancy Farm GOP political picnic in August.

Soon after that event, Kathy Groob, the founder of a Democratic PAC, Elect Women, mocked Chao’s heritage on Twitter. “She’s not from KY… She is Asian and [President George W.] Bush openly touted that,” Groob said. Groob also referred to Chao as McConnell’s “Chinese wife,” and said McConnell is “wedded to free trade in China.

Groob deleted the tweets and shut down her account. The Kentucky Democratic Party also condemned them.

Perhaps the only thing that really angers McConnell is when Chao is attacked. This has happened before, in 1996, when surrogates for his opponent that year (Democrat Steve Beshear, who is now governor of Kentucky) started saying, “It’s time to elect an All-American family to represent Kentucky.”

“It was a racial slur in my view and it infuriated the Senator,” says Billy Piper, a longtime former McConnell aide, who remains close with the leader. “He is not ever going to take it when she gets attacked.”

Chao is proud of her family’s history. Not only did they struggle against communism in a very personal way, but her father came to the U.S. with nothing and built a multi-million dollar shipping business.

And that legacy of hard work rubbed off on Chao, who wanted to give back to the country that gave her family so much. She graduated from Mount Holyoke and Harvard Business School before becoming a White House fellow in the Reagan Administration. She served as deputy Transportation Secretary under George H. W. Bush and director of the Peace Corps. In the Clinton era, Chao was named the head of the United Way before becoming Secretary of Labor for all eight years under George W. Bush.

McConnell, who married Chao in 1993, often quips: “People remark that I’m in a mixed marriage. I don’t see it that way. In my first marriage, I married a Liberal. Now that was a mixed marriage. With Elaine, she and I understand one another.”

Read next: Go Inside Senator Mitch McConnell’s Winning Campaign

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