TIME 2014 Election

The Surprising Struggles of Mark Udall to Win Colorado Women

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver. Doug Pensinger—Getty Images

He is not the only Democrat in trouble with the one demographic Democrats bet would save them the midterms

If you live in Colorado, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 midterm elections are about one thing: abortion. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday released a new television ad hitting GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall for his Colorado seat, for not “being honest with women.”

“Cory Gardner is trying to hide that he is sponsoring a new law to make all abortions illegal, even for victims of rape or incest,” says the DSCC release. The ad features OB-GYN Dr. Eliza Buyers, who slams Gardner: “Cory Gardner is wrong to make abortion illegal and just as wrong not to tell the truth about it.”

Udall himself has two other ads up targeting female voters. In one, another Colorado OB-GYN talks about Gardner’s “long record of fighting to roll back women’s access to health care.” And a second ad calls out Gardner “for personhood lies.” About half the ads he has run again Gardner have highlighted what Democrats call Gardner’s extreme stances on women’s reproductive rights.

The problem is Gardner refuses to play along. In March, he retracted his support for a measure on so-called personhood, or the belief that life begins at the moment of conception, and has since backed making contraception—though not all forms of it—available over the counter.

Now, with a week to go before the election, Udall is down 2.8 percentage points in polls, according to an average of Colorado polls by Real Clear Politics. More troublingly he’s down amongst female voters in at least two polls. If Udall loses women, he’s lost his seat.

Udall’s narrow focus helped cost him the support of the Denver Post, the state’s largest paper. “Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives,” the Post said in its endorsement of Gardner. “Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”

And Udall isn’t the only Democrat struggling to turn the focus on women into a winning strategy. In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes is even with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell with women, as is Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat fending off a strong GOP challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Like Udall, both Grimes and Pryor have invested heavily in turning out the women’s vote.

The “War on Women” is a playbook Democrats ran successfully in 2012, with significant assists from GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock whose inopportune remarks on women and rape helped paint the party as out-of-touch on female issues. Unfortunately for Democrats, there have been no Akin and Murdoch repeats and candidates like Gardner have been much savvier in their messaging on women’s issues.

“A myopic focus on reproductive freedom and the ‘War on the Women’ does not seem to be an effective way to mobilize and motivate women in a year when the economy and jobs are at the forefront of voters’ minds, and GOP candidates have not made the same kinds of mistakes that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did in 2012,” says Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “In other words, courting the women’s vote is a smart move; the way several Democrats have gone about doing it has been not so smart.”

To be fair, the strategy is clearly working in other states like North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire where Democrats hold double-digit leads with women. And Colorado is notoriously difficult to poll. A Democratic poll released Monday showed Udall up by 9 points amongst female voters. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC, says that Colorado’s move to an all-mail voting system this cycle favors Democrats. Canter also noted that in the early voting returns thus far many female voters who did not vote in 2010 but did in 2012 are already turning out for Udall. “Public polls in Colorado were wrong in 2012 on Mitt Romney and they were wrong in 2010 on failed GOP Senate contender] Ken Buck,” says Canter. “We believe we maintain a strong advantage with women and that advantage is important for all these races.”

Certainly, Democrat Michael Bennet’s race against Buck is the template for Udall’s tough reelection. “In 2010 Michael Bennet was able to survive a midterm election in which Democrats lost their House majority in what Obama called a shellacking losing a record 63 seats and they barely hung onto Senate control because of his strength with women voters,” says Michele Swers, an associate professor at Georgetown University who specializes in women in U.S. politics. “Udall is trying to replicate that.”

The problem is, unless Udall’s polls are to be believed, “the gender gap in this race isn’t as great as it has been in past Senate races, notably 2008 and 2010,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Arguably, the focus on turning out the women’s vote has kept 2014 from being a wave year: the only seats in play are in purple or red states, not blue ones. Progressive Sen. Al Franken, for example, is sailing through to reelection in Minnesota.

But unmarried women, the demographic Udall is targeting, are notoriously bad drop off voters in non-presidential years and clearly they seem to be motivated in some states more so than others. Udall has bet his race on turning them out. If they fail to materialize, Democrats will have to ask themselves: Was winning women the right strategy for all of their races? And when does it work and when doesn’t it and why?

 

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats Positioned to Elect Republican Congressman in Washington State

Washington Primary
Fourth Congressional District candidate Dan Newhouse smiles after learning Aug. 5, 2014 in Yakima, Wash. that he was one of the top two finishers in the congressional primary. Gordon King—Yakima Herald-Republic/AP

The question these days in central Washington is not whether a Democrat or a Republican will represent the Congressional district, but what kind of Republican. And Democrats will play a big role in making the decision.

For the first time in the state’s history, Washington’s top-two system will pit two congressional candidates of the same party: Tea Party-backed former Redskins tight-end Clint Didier and state legislator Dan Newhouse. Democrats, upset with having no representation in the general election, will likely turn to Newhouse, the moderate alternative endorsed by incumbent Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

“It’s hard for me to believe that all of those people who have been voting for Democrats over the past decade are suddenly going to vote for Didier—I just don’t see that happening,” says Democrat Jay Clough, who ran unsuccessfully against Hastings the past two cycles. Of the around 75,000 Democrats who have voted the past few cycles in Washington’s 4th district, Clough suspects that “at least half if not more” will go to Newhouse, and only a “small contingent” will sit out of the race or throw in a write-in ballot. In 2012, 38% of the district voted for Barack Obama.

“Newhouse is most likely going to win because of Democratic support,” says Clough.

It’s clear why Democrats wouldn’t like Didier, who ran and lost races for statewide office twice before winning the primary this year by around 6,500 votes. In an interview with the Tea Party News Network this year, Didier said that he wants to go back to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, end foreign aid, and relinquish the United Sates’ membership in the United Nations. He has been endorsed by Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin.

Newhouse, who served under former Democratic governor Christine Gregorie as the state’s Department of Agriculture director, calls himself a “strong conservative” on his website. But despite the lack of good polling in the region, the nonpartisan election handicappers at the Cook Political Report say the race is leaning Newhouse due to “his greater appeal with Democrats.”

“While we don’t like Newhouse—he doesn’t agree with us on very many issues…[he] has been appointed by a Democratic governor in a pretty prestigious position and has said publicly that he not only is willing to but sees it as a duty of holding office to work with the other party,” says Clough. “There’s a difference between that and a guy who wants to tear down basically the structures of government in our country.”

“It’s not a huge stretch to say that Democrats have a lot more in common with Newhouse than Didier,” he adds.

Larry Stickney, the Didier campaign manager, says that Didier’s personality and views on protecting civil liberties, including opposition to National Security Agency domestic surveillance and “unconstitutional wars,” will attract Democrats to their side. Stickney called Newhouse a “cheerleader for the John Boehner crowd” but Didier “a bit of a populist conservative.”

“He’s a guy with some charisma and even some celebrity from his NFL days—kind of favorite son status here,” says Stickney of Didier. “[He] has a lot of personal appeal and some of the Democrat folks are willing to forgive him maybe on some of his conservative views because they like him.” He adds that the Democrats “don’t seem to be really super organized” too.

Indeed, the Democrats have not embarked on any voter mobilization efforts, although Clough and other party leaders have “suggested” voting for Newhouse, according to Clough. “What I’ve said as chair of the Benton County Democrats is that we will not work for a Republican candidate because we’re not Republicans,” Clough says. “We’re Democrats.”

“Right now we’re trying to do what’s best for our community,” he adds. “And what’s best for our community right now is not Didier.”

TIME 2014 Election

Democrat vs. Democrat Down To Wire in Silicon Valley House Race

Barack Obama, Mike Honda
President Barack Obama is greeted by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., as the president arrives in Los Altos Hills, Calif., where he will attend a fundraising event Wednesday, July 23, 2014, during his three-day West Coast trip to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. AP

California hopes the non-partisan, open system will lead to a more functional Congress

Don’t look now, but a moderate might get elected to Congress next month from California.

In California’s 17th congressional district, which encompasses much of Silicon Valley, two Democrats are on the ballot on Nov. 4. One is seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda, 73, and the other 38-year-old former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna, who is trying to unseat his fellow Democrat.

Why wasn’t this battle decided in California’s June 3 primary? Honda and Khanna both “won” that primary: they both gained enough votes to advance to the general election and under California’s new rules—this is the second cycle the system has been in place—it doesn’t matter that they are both Democrats. In fact, seven out of California’s 53 congressional districts have two candidates from the same party competing in the General Election.

More than 30 years ago, California led the country in closing its primaries. But that, coupled with redistricting that gerrymandered safe seats, led to increasingly partisan politicians more afraid of a primary challenge than of losing to the other party. In other words: politicians more likely to blow up the government than make deals across the aisle.

So in 2010, Californians voted to take the parties out of redistricting and opened up its primary process in the hopes of electing people who didn’t think compromise is a dirty word, or at least seek to work with their opponents instead of vanquishing them.

Whether this political experiment has worked remains to be seen. But if any place in the country understands disruption and reinvention, it’s Silicon Valley. And the Honda/Khanna race, while troubling fratricide to most of the party, carries undertones of California’s intent: moderation.

Khanna spent a whopping $3 million to come in a distant second in the primary, which Honda won by 20 points. Honda has the endorsement of much of the establishment, including President Obama, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and the California Democratic Party. Khanna enjoys the backing of some deep-pocketed Silicon Valley tycoons, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a campaign team drawn from Obama’s presidential bids.

Khanna burned through another $1 million post primary and by the end of September had just $218,000 cash on hand compared to Honda’s $965,000. “We were always the underdog going into this thing,” Khanna tells TIME. “But we will have enough money to compete on Election Day. We’ve built a strong campaign on a lot of retail politics.”

Khanna has been attacking Honda as ineffectual and unwilling the reach across the aisle to get things done. During the debate Khanna mocked Honda’s “bipartisanship.” Honda has been attacking Khanna as a Republican in Democratic clothing. “He sent out a mailer labeling me a liberal,” Honda tells TIME. “I am a Democrat. He is?” Honda has also been promoting his seniority and his ability to deliver for the district, including helping to secure a BART train extension to the area. And, yes, he has touted his “bipartisan” credentials working with Republicans on legislation and initiatives.

Polls show the race in a dead heat with just three weeks to go until Election Day. But just the fact that the race is a debate over which candidate would be more functional, pragmatic and less dogmatic is already a victory for state reformers.

TIME 2014 elections

No, Republicans Aren’t Yet Winning the Women’s Vote

Jeanne Shaheen,Scott Brown
United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), right, listens as her Republican rival, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown speaks during their debate , Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 in Conway, N.H. Jim Cole—AP

One poll doth not a trend make

The Associated Press dropped its latest national poll Wednesday ahead of the midterm elections due to be held in less than three weeks. The poll had a spate of expected findings: likely voters favor Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate, the top issue remains the economy, and no one likes either party very much. Then, buried in the seventh paragraph of the story, was this nugget about women voters:

Women have moved in the GOP’s direction since September. In last month’s AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

Given Democrats’ unrelenting drumbeat on women—their women’s economic agenda, the GOP’s “War on Women”—for the last six months, this looked like surprising news. Democrats have staked the fate on the Senate on turning out one demographic: unmarried women, who vote reliably Democratic but tend not to show up in off presidential elections. Democrats have won women every year since the Reagan era except for 2010 and in losing them they lost control of the House and six Senate seats. Thus their strategy this year to turn out unmarried women in order to prevent a 2010 from happening all over again. If the AP poll is correct Democrats are in deep trouble.

Needless to say, paragraph seven led the Drudge Report much of the morning: “Poll shock: Women want Republicans!” That spawned a spate of headlines from conservative news sites. Townhall led with: “Poll: More Women Plan to Vote For Republicans in Midterms.” And Hotair blared: “Republicans closing the [gender] gap.”

But the poll is just one data point, and there is a good reason to be skeptical of a major shift in the female electorate. The reason is the voter screen that the AP used.

“Their likely voters screen in this survey is very similar to the 2010 electorate—i.e. more conservatives than moderates are likely to vote,” says Dave Winston, a GOP pollster. “But if you’re looking at variety of different surveys, the voter screening differences are huge, so you’re depending on how they phrase a question—are you likely to vote—or a series of questions to come up with who’s in the poll.”

Winston says the AP took steps after its polls proved off course in 2012 to correct what they saw as flaws in their survey-taking. But their new processes remain unproven. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he says.

The AP says they stand behind the poll. “The poll does show quite clearly that women who are likely to vote and have a preference for who controls Congress have shifted toward the Republicans. And I stand firmly behind that finding,” says Jennifer Agiesta, the AP’s director of polling.

Granted, every midterm electorate skews older, more conservative and more male and Democrats face an uphill battle trying to turn out a demographic that doesn’t usually vote, but this poll is either wrong or “it’s a precursor to a trend that none of us have spotted yet,” says Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who together with GOP pollster Ed Goeas does George Washington University’s Battleground State polls. “But I haven’t seen any other poll that shows that.”

“It seems off, honestly” Lake says. “We aren’t seeing any place where there isn’t a gender gap. We haven’t’ seen any polling that shows women trending Republican. You see men more enthusiastic for Republicans than women are for Democrats, sure. And women are sitting more undecided, which is why both parties are looking to convince women voters before election day, but we haven’t seen anything even approaching gender parity, let alone women trending Republican, in our polls of likely voters.”

The only other recent national poll that breaks out likely voters by sex came out with opposite results. Fox News found Dems winning women 44% to 35% amongst likely voters in a survey conducted Oct. 12-14. And polls in battleground states have Dems winning women by double digits and unmarried women by as much as 30 points in many cases.

“This just isn’t what we’re seeing in competitive races. North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan all have decisive and, in some cases, historic gender gaps with women favoring Democrats,” says Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, which helps elect pro-choice female Democrats. “The GOP can try to cling to this national poll, but the reality is that they continue to be underwater with women voters in key races – women don’t trust them on the economic issues that matter to them and their families. Whether it’s ending gender discrimination in pay, raising the minimum wage or protecting access to health care, women voters know that it’s Democratic candidates who are squarely on their side and they’re going to show it at the ballot box.”

In 2012, Democrats benefitted from a couple of GOP senatorial candidates who said dumb things about women and rape, comments that turned off female voters, helping President Obama and the Democrats win big with women. This cycle, Republicans have avoided such missteps. Both Mark Udall in Colorado and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen have turned away from War on Women ads and attack lines in the last week. But are Republicans winning women? The preponderance of state and other national polls indicate that isn’t happening.

TIME 2014 Election

Super PAC Backed by Nancy Pelosi Concedes Likely Democratic Defeat In 2014

Weeks before election day, Democrats have turned their sights to the next election cycle, hoping for better results.

The Nancy Pelosi-backed super PAC campaigning for House Democrats has thrown in the towel on the party’s chances to retake the House majority this year, telling donors in a email fundraising note that it needs their help for 2016.

“I don’t think I will shock anyone by saying that it is an uphill climb to win a majority in the House this year,” the email, titled “Long-term planning,” from House Majority PAC states. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t lay the groundwork for 2016 now.”

Acknowledging that retaking the majority was always a long shot at best for House Democrats is one thing, but saying it publicly just two weeks before polls close is another. Pelosi is barred by law from dictating messages to the super PAC, though it has a history of following her public comments. She has appeared at events for the group, which is run by former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aides and focused on her goal of retaking House control.

At a press conference earlier this month, Pelosi said, “I think we’ll do okay,” when asked about the upcoming election, before shifting focus to 2016. “You know what, their days are numbered,” she said of Republicans. “I know that in two years there will be a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.”

At an event Monday in San Francisco with Hillary Clinton, Pelosi again focused on 2016, without predicting the outcome of the current election cycle. “I am frequently introduced as the highest-ranking woman in political office in our country,” Pelosi said. “I’d like to give up that title and elect a Democratic woman for President of the United States. And soon.”

Last week DCCC Chair Steve Israel said the party is up for a “tough and unpredictable” election night, saying there are 32 races within six points—enough to tip the balance. But in recent weeks the party has had to refocus on shoring up its incumbents, not targeting potentially vulnerable Republicans.

The House Majority PPAC email was sent in the name of former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. It says the party must keep fighting this year to maintain any hope of retaking the majority for the next Democratic president—a thinly-veiled hint to potential White House hopeful Hillary Clinton.

“Important legislative actions like raising the minimum wage and immigration reform are virtually dead,” the email continued. “Instead House Republicans would prefer to waste their time trying to dismantle Obamacare. That is exactly the fate our next Democratic president’s agenda will suffer in 2016 if we don’t regain the majority.”

“If we want to have a chance at 2016, we have to hold the line in the House now,” the email concludes.

In a follow-up email to donors Tuesday morning, House Majority PAC Executive Director doubled-down. “Did you see Governor Dean’s message, friend? He’s right. 2014 isn’t about winning the majority — it’s about laying the groundwork for electing a Democratic majority in 2016 to get our next Democratic president’s back.”

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the people who founded the House Majority PAC. They were former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aides.

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 Campaign Finance

FEC Clears Doubling of Donations With Convention Ruling

US Campaign 2012
The Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Charles Ommanney—Getty Images

Separate convention funding will allow parties to tap as much as $250,000 per donor every four years

Four weeks before the midterm elections, the Democratic and Republican Parties set aside their political differences to celebrate a development they could both agree on: raising more money.

The rare bout of bipartisanship follows a Federal Election Commission decision to allow the parties to raise extra cash to put on their increasingly irrelevant quadrennial prime time love-fests: the presidential nominating conventions.

Congress decided earlier this year to strip each party’s convention of public financing—$18,248,300 a piece in 2012—in hopes of diverting the funds to fund pediatric medical research.

As a result, the committees faced the prospect of funding the conventions from their existing “hard money” accounts, taking dollars out of field campaigns or television advertisements to pay the expensive three- or four-day long events.

To get around that problem, the parties jointly asked the FEC to let them set up separate committees to raise funds and pay for the conventions.

Last week the FEC’s attorneys prepared dueling opinions for the commission to vote on. One argued that the separate convention committees would be arms of the party and should be subject to the same limit. That opinion lost. The other argued the parties should be allowed to have a separate limit. Democratic Vice Chair Ann Ravel joined commission Republicans to pass that option by a 4-2 decision.

The result was a big win for both parties. Instead of tapping core budgets, which are built on maximum donations of $32,400 per donor annually and fund nearly everything the party does, the parties can double dip, raising another $32,400 from the same donors, just for the convention.

Campaign finance reform advocates blasted the outcome Thursday, noting that individuals can now cumulatively donate over $250,000 to the RNC or DNC each presidential cycle. “This is a disgraceful and activist decision that ignores the laws passed by Congress to combat corruption,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center in a statement. “One has come to expect such efforts to dismantle the current contribution limits brick by brick from the current Republican Commissioners, but Vice Chair Ravel’s vote to give the national party committees a new way to tap wealthy donors is incredibly disappointing and irresponsible.”

The Campaign Legal Center warned in comments submitted before the meeting that it could lead to a slippery slope where different party functions are broken off into separate accounts with their own contribution limits, subverting longstanding laws designed to limit the amount of money in the nation’s political system. (The Republican National Committee has filed suit to lift those individual contribution limit to national parties.)

The RNC and DNC celebrated the ruling as “an important, if modest, first step for the parties in continuing to meet their historic responsibility to conduct conventions, which play such a vital role in our democratic process.” But in recent decades the carefully-scripted conventions have become increasingly irrelevant to the political process, as nominees lock up the required delegates well before the gatherings and the party platforms are frequently ignored by candidates for president on down. And while they are opportunities for each party to promote its message on television for a week in prime time, viewership is down and they rarely move the polling dial to lasting effect. Indeed, nominating conventions have become little more than expensive opportunities to reward party insiders with swanky parties and access to political figures.

In fact, the new convention funds are separate from the tens of millions raised by both parties’ “host committees” which are exempt from FEC contribution limits and accept millions in corporate and individual donations. The FEC justifies this separate fund arguing that the host committees are primarily engaged in promoting the cities in which the convention is held, not nominating the party’s presidential candidate. But that distinction is tenuous, at best, particularly when the party’s candidate is asked to step in to help close a shortfall, as Mitt Romney was asked to do in Tampa in 2012. Not to mention longstanding research showing that conventions don’t actually boost the economic development of the host cities.

President Barack Obama’s 2012 host committee secured a loan from Duke Energy that was later forgiven by the Charlotte, NC-based energy company, skirting the candidate’s pledge not to accept corporate funds.

“We appreciate the FEC’s recognition that, as the party convention committees adjust to the loss of public funding, they have authority to raise funds that will help pay the costs of their national conventions,” both parties said in their unusual joint statement.

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats See Obamacare Silver Lining in 2014 Playbook

From fierce opposition to a "fading issue"

A year ago, the health care reform law was an albatross around the Democrats’ collective neck. Its disastrous roll out dominated headlines. Republicans gleefully predicted they would build on their House majority and take back the Senate in the midterm elections thanks to the unpopularity of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Republicans may well still pick up House seats and win the Senate—but if they do, it won’t be because of Obamacare. The “incredibly fading issue,” as U.S. News and World Report recently called it, it has become “background noise” in an election dominated by parochial interests, as Politico put it. Indeed, some Democrats are going so far as to predict that Obamacare could end up a silver lining come Election Day.

The Affordable Care Act is now the second-most important issue for unmarried women, according to a new poll by Democracy Corps for the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a key demographic Democrats are hoping to turn out this November. Unmarried women vote reliably Democratic, but tend not to turn out in midterm elections. If Democrats can turn out that one group at the same levels they voted in 2012, forecasts indicate Democrats would keep the Senate and take back the House.

That kind of turnout is highly unlikely. But every little bit counts as Democrats try to fend off the kind of wave election that drowned them in 2010. That year, a genuine backlash against Obamacare helped Democrats lose the women’s vote for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and the House with it. In most battleground Senate races, Democratic candidates are winning by double-digits with women, particularly unmarried women

The law is also popular with minorities, another demographic with which Republicans have struggled. Some 74% of minorities support the Affordable Care Act, according to the Democracy Corps poll. “The health care law has become much more important as a reason why people are voting for Democrats,” says Stan Greenberg, a co-founder of Democracy Corps. “The threat of repeal appears to be giving unmarried women and minority voters a reason to vote.”

Republicans seem to have felt the tide receding. In April, Obamacare was the subject of 54% all political TV ads; by July that number had fallen to 27%, according to a July report from nonpartisan analysts Kantar Media CMAG. “Obamacare will not be the most important issue,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres, co-wrote in an August memo outlining 57 alternate lines of attack for outside spending groups such as Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network.

Still, opponents still use the issue far more than supporters; overall this election cycle, anti-Obamacare groups have spent 15 times as much on ads than groups supporting the law, the Kantar Media CMAG found. “Did Obamacare dominate the midterms as some Republicans had predicted? Definitely not,” says Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “But has it been used widely by GOP candidates for House and Senate in their TV ads and on the stump? A resounding yes. And that makes sense. Midterm elections are low-turnout battles between the two party bases. Any hot button issue that gets partisan voters to cast a ballot is used extensively. Obamacare still causes Republicans’ blood pressure to rise.”

The Affordable Care Act almost surely remains a net negative for Democrats. “It helped bake voters’ opinions into the general election cake,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “The early advertising effort also kept vulnerable Democratic incumbents on the defensive. This was particularly helpful in states in which Republicans had primaries.”

Support for Obamacare remains in the red, with 51.1% opposing the measure and only 38.7% supporting it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls. Which is why the handful of positive ads Democratic candidates have attempted to run on behalf of the law—most notably in Arkansas and West Virginia—have been resoundingly mocked by Republicans.

But all the negative attention paid to Obamacare also had another side effect for Democrats. The four states that have seen the highest per capita anti-Obamacare ad spending—Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina—have conversely seen higher rates of enrollment, according to a July study by the Brookings Institution. “In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future,” wrote the study’s author, Niam Yaraghi. “People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.”

TIME politics

Latinos Are Stuck In an Abusive Relationship With Democrats

LA May Day Marches Celebrate Workers, Push For Immigration Reform
Marchers rally under the Chinatown Gateway before marching to the Metropolitan Detention Center during one a several May Day immigration-themed events on May 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Demonstrators are calling for immigration reform and an end to deportations of undocumented residents. David McNew—Getty Images

Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente Action and Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group.

If we don't take a stand and break up with the Party, we may never see Obama take action on immigration

It is clear that President Obama, and perhaps the Democrats more broadly–are starting to see Latinos as a political football to be tossed around when it suits their political needs.

For months, President Obama promised that he—and the rest of the nation—were done with Republican obstructionism on immigration reform. In June–President Obama told us—told the world—that by the end of the summer he would announce how he would use the power of his office to end the threat of deportation for more immigrant families.

In calling out Republican efforts to block reform, the President attempted to paint Democrats as Latinos’ only option for relief. He painted himself, and the Democrats, as our beacon of hope–all while four Senate Democrats plotted behind the scenes to undercut us for political gain.

Senators Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen joined the charge led by Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz to derail the only pathway that can provide relief for immigrant families–and President Obama caved to their political demands.

President Obama put the politics of their re-election before the lives of countless immigrant families currently under siege.

Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.”

The President, and the Democrats, have been testing Latinos–they have been slowly increasing the injustices committed against our communities to see what our breaking point is. And they have finally found the point of resistance.

If we do not resist–we may never see the President take action to stop deportations, despite the fact that he has the power to do so. We also may never see relief for our communities, for it is clear that relief is not coming from Democrats of their own volition.

The President’s sheepish move put politics over the safety and well-being of immigrant families and communities—all but guaranteeing that many more families will be torn apart, and that thousands more of our undocumented friends, relatives, colleagues, classmates and neighbors will face the horrors of midnight ICE raids and mass deportations.

The Democratic Party is telling us that they no longer have the well-being of Latinos and other immigrant communities at heart–but will we listen?

The national Democratic political apparatus acts to appease us when they fear political cost because they understand that as Latinos become a larger portion of the American electorate, we are crucial to their political power.

But so long as Latinos identify with the Democratic Party when they treat us as political pawns instead of a key constituency they should be wooing, we should not expect better treatment.

To borrow an old, sexist, trope: Why should they buy the cow when they get the milk for free?

Power concedes nothing without a demand. This historical moment demands a new approach: a strategy for changing the nation’s terroristic immigration policy that recognizes that the Democratic Party is not our friend simply because so many members of the Republican Party have shown themselves, in no uncertain terms, to be our enemy.

Latino political power must begin and end with the independence of the Latino vote. It’s time to drop Democratic Party affiliations, and ask the Democrats to work for our votes.

We can’t afford to continue buying into the false choice presented to us by the two dominant parties. That’s why Presente Action has chosen to encourage Latino voters and our allies to turn out in force for the November elections but not vote for the Dirty Four Senators who betrayed our community so publicly and so shamefully: Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen.

Confronted with broken promises, if Democrats want our votes, they should damn well have to work for them.

Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente Action and Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group.

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