TIME 2014 Election

House Democrats’ Message to Outside Groups: Don’t Forget About Us

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the DCCC, speaks at the National Press Club's Newsmaker series on how Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget will effect the midterm elections on April 2, 2014.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the DCCC, speaks at the National Press Club's Newsmaker series on how Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget will effect the midterm elections on April 2, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call

Democrats are preparing themselves up for a disappointing year

The top Democrat charged with winning House races had a message Wednesday for outside political groups that have become increasingly focused on preserving the party’s Senate majority: don’t forget about us.

New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters that he is resigned to a “tough and unpredictable” election night. “We’re in trench warfare,” he said at Democratic National Committee headquarters, “in a very difficult environment.”

With 20 days remaining until voters go to the polls, House Democrats are preparing themselves up for a disappointing year, shifting scarce resources to protect vulnerable incumbents. In recent days the DCCC, House Democrats’ campaign arm, has canceled planned spending in several open-seat races or on behalf of Democratic challengers in order to shore up surprisingly vulnerable incumbents.

“Everything that has been in our control we have performed and performed well,” Israel said, defending his decision to protect incumbents as “our absolute strategic imperative.”

“What’s outside of our control is the outside groups on both sides of the equation,” he said. “So I can’t control what the Koch Brothers or Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce throw in, and I cant control what our outside allies do.

“House Majority PAC is doing a very, very good job,” Israel said, referring to the main super PAC supporting House Democrats.

Israel is barred from coordinating with outside groups, but he is allowed to use the press to send messages to allies he can’t talk to directly. That was precisely his aim Wednesday. “There are still opportunities in these 32 races for other outside groups to make a fundamental difference,” he said, in thinly veiled plea for outside spending for his candidates.

DCCC aides say Democratic outside groups—other than House Majority PAC which has their official blessing—are behind by $18 million from their 2012 spending on House races.

“When you’ve got 32 races within six points and you are making tactical and strategic decisions to shore up incumbents, it is frustrating that the cavalry that has always been there doesn’t seem to be there,” Israel said. “The point is we still have 20 days, and that’s an eternity for outside groups to round-up the cavalry and get up to the hill.”

Israel said his hope is that outside groups “will assist in these races and at the end of the day not leave a single race on the table,” even as the DCCC narrows its focus.

Despite repeatedly refusing to outline what a victory or defeat would be on Nov. 4, Israel appeared to be steeling himself for the worst possible outcome, arguing that Democrats were laying the groundwork by protecting incumbents for a counter-punch in 2016, when they will have a more favorable electorate. “There is no question that we’re facing headwinds now,” Israel said. “But I really do believe that Republicans will be facing strong headwinds in 2016.”

“If I were a Republican… I wouldn’t feel too comfortable,” he added, in reference to suburban races where Republicans have proven resilient this cycle. “These guys may think that they have a comfortable environment over the next 20 days, but on Day 21 they wake up to a really hostile environment going into 2016.”

TIME 2014 Election

Obama Sightings Will Be Rare This Election Season

President Obama heads to the Marine One helicopter to travel to Andrews Air Force Base for a meeting with foreign defense chiefs from more than 20 countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia on strategies for fighting Islamic State, in Washington
U.S. President Barack Obama heads to the Marine One helicopter to travel from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base for a meeting with foreign defense chiefs from more than 20 countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia on strategies for fighting Islamic State, in Washington D.C. on Oct. 14, 2014. Jim Bourg—REUTERS

The president will appear at only 7 campaign events before November's midterm election

President Barack Obama will be all but absent from the Democratic campaign trail this midterm election season, appearing in just seven campaign rallies in blue-leaning states before election day Nov. 4.

Increasingly a political liability for his party, Obama will appear with just one Democratic candidate for the Senate, Gary Peters in Michigan, as his party struggles to hold onto a majority, a White House official said.

The president’s poll numbers are near historic lows, and in contested races, Democrats believe Obama’s endorsement would be a lead weight for their candidates. Republicans have run tens of millions in ads tying Democrats to Obama, as Democratic candidates have tried to argue their independence from him.

On Wednesday, Obama will travel to Connecticut to campaign alongside Gov. Dan Malloy, and on Saturday he will hold a rally with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago and in Maryland with gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov Anthony Brown. During the final full week of the campaign, Obama will hold rallies with Democratic gubernatorial candidates Mary Burke in Milwaukee, WI., Tom Wolf in Philadelphia, Mike Michaud in Portland, ME., and with Peters and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer in the Detroit area.

Democratic governors may prove to be the bright note in an Election night forecast to be generally dismal for the party next month, with Republican odds of taking the Senate increasing and House Democrats preparing for a net loss of seats.

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Says Wife ‘Supportive’ of 2016 Bid

"This is ultimately my decision with as much consideration as I can to take into account the people that I really love"

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has won a big endorsement for a potential 2016 presidential run: his wife.

Bush told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that his wife Columba, who is widely known to be wary of the political spotlight, is “supportive” of him if he decides to mount a campaign.

“My wife is supportive, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the challenges that this brings,” Bush said. “This is ultimately my decision with as much consideration as I can to take into account the people that I really love.”

Bush added that his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, has come around to having a third Bush in the White House. Last year she said that “we’ve had enough Bushes” as president, even though she thinks Jeb Bush is “by far the best qualified man” for the job.

“As it relates to my mom, my mom’s been around the track,” Jeb Bush said. “She just believes that it’s something that she doesn’t want my family to go through, although she’s changed her mind on that. So I’m marking her down to ‘neutral, trending in a different direction’ than she was.”

[AP]

TIME Congress

Record Number of Black Candidates Seeking Office

Cory Booker
Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits a campaign center Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Willingboro, N.J. Mel Evans—AP

(WASHINGTON) — More than 100 black candidates will be on the ballot in statewide and congressional races next month, a post-Reconstruction record that some observers say is a byproduct of President Barack Obama’s historic presidency.

At least 83 black Republicans and Democrats are running for the U.S. House, an all-time high for the modern era, according to political scientist David Bositis, who has tracked black politicians for years. They include Mia Love in Utah, who is trying to become the first black Republican woman to be elected to Congress.

Four other black women — Bonnie Watson Coleman in New Jersey, Brenda Lawrence in Michigan, Alma Adams in North Carolina and Stacey Plaskett in the Virgin Islands — are expected to win seats as Democrats, Bositis said. If they all win, and no black female incumbents lose, there should be 20 black women among House members, an all-time high, Bositis said.

There are at least 25 African-Americans running for statewide offices, including U.S. senator, governor or lieutenant governor, also a record number.

The previous record for black candidates seeking House seats was 72 in 2012, the year Obama, the nation’s first black president, was re-elected to a second term. The previous record for statewide contests was 17 in 2002, said Bositis, formerly of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank in Washington that focuses primarily on issues affecting African-Americans.

Those statewide numbers include Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, the U.S. Senate’s only black members.

Booker is seeking a full term next month, having won a special election last year to replace the deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Scott, appointed last year, is seeking to finish out the two years remaining in the term of former Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned from the Senate in 2013.

An Obama “coattails effect” is partly responsible for this large candidate pool because it spurred blacks to vote, and encouraged them to pursue offices they might not have sought in the past, said political science professor Fredrick C. Harris, director of Columbia University’s Center on African-American Politics and Society. America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It may be that this is a reflection of political opportunity,” Harris said. He noted a similar increase in black candidacies in 1988, when Jesse Jackson made a second, unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Bositis said the increase may also be a result of changing political demographics in regions like the South. “The fact is that many of the increases are occurring in states (especially in the South) where most whites are withdrawing from Democratic Party politics — leaving black candidates the nominations by default,” Bositis said.

Republicans have been heavily courting minorities, spending millions to woo black voters and to recruit women and minorities to run for state and local office. “If elected, these candidates will be great representatives for all their constituents and will continue to play a major role in the party’s efforts to expand the electorate,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Orlando Brown.

While the GOP is building up its numbers, the Democrats have a record number of African-Americans running for statewide and congressional offices, according to Bositis. There are at least 65 Democratic nominees, surpassing the previous high of 59 in 2012.

“The historic number of black Democrats running for office at all levels this year once again confirms that the Democratic Party is a broad coalition of Americans from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds, focused on expanding opportunity for all and building ladders to the middle class,” said Kiara Pesante, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman.

TIME 2014 Election

America Needs More Crazy Debates Like In Vermont

C-Span

Vermont's gubernatorial debate was a sure cure for the nation's political blues

Most televised political debate in the United States is a lifeless, platitude-laden sideshow with virtually no value except as a grim form of entertainment, like watching democracy itself fed to the lions at the Coliseum. That is why Vermont’s recent gubernatorial debate, in which every candidate on the ballot was invited to participate, was such a breath of fresh air.

Vermont’s Democratic incumbent governor Peter Shumlin has a virtual lock on the election, with a double-digit lead over Republican challenger Scott Milne. Fortunately, the five other candidates on the ballot made for a lively discussion October 9.

In a world where political campaigning has been largely reduced to platitudes and soundbites, Vermonter and revolutionary socialist Pete Diamondstone called for the overthrow of the entire capitalist system and the outlawing of private enterprise. His solution for the problem of illegal drug use is to legalize everything and make the government the national drug dealer. One need not pass judgement on the quality of his program, but if suggesting that Uncle Sam start slinging smack isn’t thinking outside the box, pretty much nothing is. Plus the whole time, he appeared to be wearing jorts with suspenders and tall white socks, which counts for something as long as we’re going to fight about whether or not the president is allowed to wear a tan suit.

Emily Peyton
Emily Peyton

So much is taken for granted when our politicians get together to argue. Not so in Vermont last week, when self-described “lightworker” and most-chill candidate ever Emily Peyton answered a question about healthcare by suggesting we start by alleviating poverty. With poverty a major player in our obesity epidemic, her point may be too often left aside in our debates on healthcare. Peyton’s comment that money spent on healthcare “ought to go to the healers” may be a little rich in New Age lingo but her point is worth considering, with administrative costs a major driver of the increase on the pricetag of going to the doctor.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 5.05.13 PM
Bernard Peters

And it’s not just the refreshing willingness of dark horse candidates to state the obvious that endears one to this debate, but the humble honesty on display. To a question about how to lower the cost of college in Vermont, Bernard Peters—who is either a Duck Dynasty fanboy, a very dedicated hipster or just extremely legit—said, more or less, that he had no idea. Later the Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano was asked about the incumbent governor’s program to get drug offenders into recovery rather than behind bars. He said, without equivocation, that he’d do literally nothing different. Good luck finding a mainstream candidate who would publicly take that position.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 6.06.40 PM
Cris Ericson

There’s the pure entertainment factor too (which was in no short display at Idaho’s similarly bizarre debate earlier this year). Through it all Cris Ericson and her extraordinary hat were fighting the good fight for highway rest area enthusiasts, chemtrail conspiracy theorists and food stamp recipients, who, she noted for reasons unknown to the rest of us, might be using food stamps to buy lottery tickets to get rich to be able to afford fruits and vegetables. So there’s also that, whatever that is.

Two of the candidates said one of the most important things they’d do if given the power is ensure that debates are open to every candidate on the ballot. Until Game of Thrones comes back there’s no better entertainment out there and with the dark horses thrown into the mix we might actually have some useful discussion.

You can watch the entire debate here.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: October 15

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Third Ebola Diagnosis in Texas

Another health care worker in Texas has tested positive for Ebola, marking the third person to be diagnosed with the virus on U.S. soil. The Texas health department issued a statement on the new infection early Wednesday, with more details expected soon

‘The Talk’ No Longer Embarrassing

New data shows that while parents and young people are perfectly willing to chat about sex, they may not be talking as often as they should

Democrats Run From Obama

President Obama has become toxic to members of his party, who fear his low approval ratings will lose them the Senate as midterm elections loom near

More Americans Say Ground Troops Needed to Fight ISIS

A growing number of Americans think combat ground troops need to be deployed to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, a new poll finds, with about 41% of those surveyed saying the campaign against the group should include “air strikes and combat troops”

Supreme Court Halts Some Texas Abortion Restrictions

Justices sided with abortion-rights advocates in suspending an appeals-court ruling that Texas could make abortion clinics statewide spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades, a key part of a law that has closed all but eight facilities providing abortions there

Cities Have Figured Out a Way to Boost Traffic-Ticket Cash

U.S. municipalities are shaving time off yellow traffic lights, resulting in more tickets being issued. In Chicago, shortening the time by a fraction of a second led to nearly $8 million from an additional 77,000 tickets, according to the city’s inspector general

5 Teens Charged After Cruel Ice Bucket Challenge Prank

Five Cleveland teens, aged 14 to 16, were charged in juvenile court Tuesday for assault, delinquency and disorderly conduct after dumping a bucket filled with urine, tobacco spit and water on a 15-year-old autistic boy who was completing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

California’s Foie Gras Ban Is Upheld by Supreme Court

The court on Tuesday allowed California’s ban on foie gras to stand, refusing to hear an appeal against the state’s kibosh on products made from the fattened livers of ducks and geese. Animal-rights activists say the production of foie gras is cruel and unethical

Claims of Police Brutality Shock Hong Kong

In a case that has shocked Hong Kong and inflamed tensions in a city now in its third week of mass pro-democracy protests, six police officers have been caught on video kicking and beating a prominent activist, who appears to be offering no resistance

Stem Cells Allow Nearly Blind Patients to See

A new report provides the first evidence that stem cells from human embryos can be a safe and effective source of therapies for two types of eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy

Crimea’s Gay Community Flees as Russian Bigotry Sets In

The gay community in Crimea is wary of Russian legislation banning “homosexual propaganda.” The 2012 law is billed as an effort to protect children from learning about “nontraditional sexual relationships,” though critics say it encourages homophobia

Bono Is Sorry for Forcing That Album on You

The U2 frontman apologized for dumping the group’s latest album Songs of Innocence, released on Sept. 9, straight into iTunes users’ music libraries, saying, “Oops. I’m sorry about that.” He added: “I had this beautiful idea and we got carried away with ourselves”

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TIME politics

Michelle Obama: ‘Turnip for What?’

Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by school children as they harvest peanuts in the annual fall harvest at the White House on Oct. 14, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

The First Lady films a hilarious vine about veggie consumption

First Lady Michelle Obama has brought her fresh-produce campaign to the most appropriately named venue yet: the six-second video app Vine.

The advocate of healthy eating — known for her White House garden — poses with a turnip in her brief video clip, before asking “Turnip for what?” It’s a fun play on DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s summer hit “Turn Down for What,” a song that’s had a longer-than-expected life as a voter-registration anthem. It was the perfect response to an Obama impersonator using Vine to ask the First Lady how many calories she burns when she “turns up.”

Perhaps this is the easiest and most cost-effective way to remind a generally disaffected young voter base of the appeals of the Obama presidency leading into the midterm elections. Or maybe the First Lady really just wanted to boogie with a root vegetable. Either way, this is perhaps the most unscripted Michelle Obama we’ve seen yet — willing to expend far more energy on TV appearances from The Biggest Loser to Parks and Recreation, none of which has caught the public’s imagination quite so vividly. We look forward to whatever may be her next veggie-themed song parody (good luck, as no veggie names spring to mind as rhymes for “All About That Bass” or “Shake It Off”) — or just the next time she has fun advocating roughage consumption.

Read next: Michelle Obama Thinks Pencils Are a Crummy Halloween Gift

TIME 2014 Election

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu Gives President Obama a Passing Grade

“I think he’s had some really tough issues to deal with,” Sen. Landrieu said

On a scale of one to ten, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said Tuesday that she rates Obama at “six to seven,” giving the president a passing grade even as vulnerable members of the Democratic Party work to distance themselves from the President as Election Day draws nearer.

During the candidates joint Senate debate in Louisiana, all three candidates for Senate—Democratic incumbent Landrieu, Republican challengers Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness—were asked how they would rate both President Obama and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Obama, who has about an 38.7% approval rating in Louisiana, according to the Huffington Post pollster, was ranked zero by both Republican candidates.

Landrieu, however, was willing to cut him some slack. “I think he’s had some really tough issues to deal with,” Sen. Landrieu said.

Jindal fared better between the two Republicans, gaining a seven rating from Cassidy and a five rating from Maness. Landrieu gave Jindal a three.

The candidates sparred over issues like Common Core and health care coverage throughout the debate, with the Republican candidates largely focusing on Landrieu’s record of voting with the President. Because the race is split between three candidates, the contest may not be decided in November. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote on election day, a runoff election will be held on December 6.

TIME 2014 Election

Texas Voter ID Law Back in Play for Midterm Election

An appeals court ruled to let stand rigid rules for voter identification in the Lone Star State ahead of the upcoming election

Texas’s controversial voter identification law is back in play for the upcoming midterm elections, after an appeals court ruled Tuesday to let it stand.

The strict photo identification law requires voters to present one of 7 specific forms of ID at the polling place. Student IDs are not included among the acceptable forms of identification. Critics of the law say it risks disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of registered voters, many of whom are people of color.

But the Fifth Circuit Court found that the risk of confusion at the polls is too great to change voting procedures with less than a week to go before early voting begins on Oct. 20. Though the state filed a motion of appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday to stay a district court ruling that blocked the law, pending appeal.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, a 2011 Obama appointee, determined last week that Texas’s 2011 voter ID law is unconstitutional, violates the Voting Rights Act, and “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax,” a powerful statement running in contrast to the state’s argument that the sole purpose of the law was to prevent in-person voter fraud.

“This is not a run-of-the-mill case; instead, it is a voting case decided on the eve of the election,” the ruling reads. The appellant court found that though “individual voter plaintiffs may be harmed by the issuance of this stay,” that harm does not outweigh the damage a change this close to the election could have on the process.

Texas’s law is one of several that have been tied up in the courts as the election draws nearer. The same day the district court ruled to block Texas’s law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to block a voter ID law in Wisconsin that advocates said could have disenfranchised over 300,000 residents.

Days earlier, the Supreme Court ruled to allow a sweeping voting law to stand in North Carolina, though voting rights advocates argued it disenfranchised minority voters and an appeals court moved to block some parts of the law in late September.

TIME 2014 Election

Democratic Group Goes Dark in Key Senate Race

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Pablo Alcala—AP/The Lexington Herald-Leader

The DSCC is not airing TV ads in Kentucky, where Alison Lundergan Grimes in campaigning to unseat Mitch McConnell

The Democratic candidate in one of the most closely-watched Senate races in the country is entering the homestretch of her campaign without TV advertising support from a key party group.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is not airing TV ads in Kentucky, a DSCC official confirmed, where Alison Lundergan Grimes in campaigning to unseat Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The DSCC has now spent more than $2 million in Kentucky and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments,” the DSCC official said. The committee, Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, could still announce a TV ad buy in the future.

The DSCC, which has outraised its Republican counterpart group, is on the air in many other competitive states, including Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Dakota, as the party fights to keep its Senate majority.

McConnell is leading Grimes by about three points, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polling data.

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