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September 17, 2014 5:16 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Another rush-hour blogging adventure on I-285 heading to another family appointment. For the thousandth time, wish metro Atlanta had a lot more of the socialist curse of land-use planning. C’mon Agenda 21!

Here are some remains of the day:

* At TNR WaMo contributor Stephen Burd discusses ways in which poor students sacrificed to steps colleges take to do well on prestige-based rankings like those of U.S. News. (Burd’s report for NAF is here).

* Gates asserts Obama “trapping himself” with IS strategy that will require ground troops.

* Stewart and Colbert mock Lindsay Graham’s Sunday Show terror tantrum.

* At Ten Miles Square, Seth Masket notes Thomas Frank’s hostility to political science goes back to an argument with Larry Bartels.

* At College Guide, Andre Perry argues New Orleans schools still haven’t incorporated lessons of Katrina.

And in non-political news:

* So if you were as puzzled as I was about what Jameis Winston shouted in the FSU cafeteria yesterday, earning a first-half suspension, here is the WARNING OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE explanation.

That’s it for Hump Day. Let’s close with one more Hank Williams classic: “Jumbalaya on the Bayou.”

Selah.

September 17, 2014 4:15 PM Slavery and Theocracy Day

I might be forgiven for not remembering earlier that this is Constitution Day, insofar as it was invented in 2004 by Sen. Robert Byrd as a mandate on instruction in schools receiving federal funds. But as you can imagine, it’s not easy these days to reach agreement on the meaning of the Constitution, and as Dahlia Lithwick explains at Slate today, the Tea Folk tried to hijack the whole thing in 2011:

In 2011, Tea Party groups attempted to “adopt” local public schools and provide them with Constitution Day materials created by W. Cleon Skousen, author of the 5,000 Year Leap, whose views of slavery were controversial, to say the least, drawing from discredited sources that suggested that the real victims of slavery were the slaveholders themselves. Despite the fact that history had all but passed him by, Glenn Beck adopted Skousen as the founding father of Tea Party Constitutionalism. The Tea Party Constitution Day curriculum thus emphasized Skousen’s strange views on states’ rights and taxation and contended that the framers of the Constitution were deeply interested in enmeshing church and state. The perversity of using a federally mandated holiday, which conditions funding of education on teaching a specific piece of history, in order to promote states’ rights may have escaped them. The fervor all seems to have died down for reasons that have nothing to do with any lack of continued enthusiasm for enmeshing church and state.

It’s probably best that we quietly acknowledge the blessings of the Constitution at home.

September 17, 2014 3:25 PM What Are We Fighting For?

I know it’s perilous in progressive blog-land to quote Thomas Friedman, but I have to say he raises some pretty important questions about what the United States seems poised to do in the Middle East:

[W]hen you act out of fear, you don’t think strategically and you glide over essential questions, like why is it that Shiite Iran, which helped trigger this whole Sunni rebellion in Iraq, is scoffing at even coordinating with us, and Turkey and some Arab states are setting limits on their involvement?
When I read that, I think that Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners, is correct when he says: “When it comes to intervening in the Arab world’s existential struggle, we have to stop and ask ourselves why we have such a challenge getting them to help us save them.”

He goes on to argue that it’s in the strategic interests of the United States to get Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, not America, to act as the security guarantors of the region. Any course of action that leads these countries away from their responsibilities may well be counter-productive in the long run, even if the immediate “threat” is somehow extinguished.

Makes sense to me, and I hope the coalition-building efforts of the Obama administration are quietly moving in that direction.

September 17, 2014 3:13 PM Cruz’s Litmus Test For Middle-Eastern Christians

You may have given passing notice, as I did, to an incident last week where Ted Cruz stalked off the stage of an event to honor persecuted Middle Eastern Christians because he encountered boos when insisting that Israel is the best friend Christians in the region could ever hope for. I figured Cruz was beefing up his reputation for pro-Israeli zealotry in pursuit of the votes of very different Christians (the kind that tend to participate in the Iowa Caucuses and South Carolina primary), and didn’t give it much thought.

But Ross Douthat chastised Cruz and the conservatives who immediately cheered him in no uncertain terms:

If Cruz felt that he couldn’t in good conscience address an audience of persecuted Arab Christians without including a florid, “no greater ally” preamble about Israel, he could have withdrawn from the event. The fact that he preferred to do it this way instead says a lot — none of it good — about his priorities and instincts.
The fact that he was widely lauded says a lot about why, if 2,000 years of Christian history in the Middle East ends in blood and ash and exile, the American right no less than the left and center will deserve a share of responsibility for that fate.

Douthat predictably got a lot of grief for his column, and now he’s come back with a more defensive argument, full of all sorts of disclaimers about the good faith of Cruz’s defenders and Israel’s benign treatment of its own religious minorities. But he doesn’t back down from his criticism of Cruz himself:

[I]n this world, most Middle Eastern Christians are in one of the following three positions relative to Israel: It’s an occupying power, at best a lesser evil (compared to Hamas) but certainly not a benevolent ally by any reasonable definition of the term; it’s an erstwhile ally which they feel left them to reap the Islamist whirlwind after years of loyal cooperation; or it’s a far-off country with few ways to aid them and which they stand to face a great deal of immediate danger for being associated with in any way. Combine these positions with the stark reality of ongoing genocide, and I think it should be clear why so many of us think Cruz was wrong to address an audience of Middle Eastern Christians as he did: Because the propositions he was advancing are a description of how an ideal world might be, not of the world they actually inhabit, and because it’s unreasonable to ask people whose communities are on the knife’s edge of destruction to pay homage to a vision that they either have good historical reasons to dissent from, or feel they cannot endorse for fear of making their own situation worse.

And Douthat doesn’t extend his tolerant attitude towards Cruz’s defenders in this affair to the junior senator from Texas himself:

Based on what I’ve seen from him these last two years, I rather strongly doubt the purity of Ted Cruz’s motivations in this whole affair….
I would just suggest, to Cruz’s defenders, that it’s the people currently being ground under history’s wheel who most deserve the benefit of the doubt, and that litmus tests that are understandable in other contexts need to be applied more flexibly in this one. With death knocking at their doors, Middle Eastern Christians don’t need to be told who their friends are; they need to be shown the kind of understanding that true friendship presently requires.

Now if Ross Douthat were not addressing people on his own “team,” he’d probably just come right out and call Cruz a demagogue and a bully who used a rally for persecuted people to score ideological points. But given the circumstances, I think he deserves some real credit for calling Cruz out.

September 17, 2014 1:57 PM Lunch Buffet

Discovered today that the Tag and Title Office is a lot easier to deal with when you take your mother-in-law who knows everybody there.

Here are some mid-day news/views treats from local bake sales:

* NRA announces plans to run ads in seven Senate races and three gubernatorial races, all on behalf of Republican candidates, of course.

* At the Prospect, Paul Waldman weighs the odds of various trajectories for the new Benghazi! hearings. Something responsible and boring actually could even happen.

* At MoJo Kevin Drum argues latest incarceration trends reinforce his hypothesis that reducing lead exposure means permanent reduction in violent crime.

* Gallup finds trust in mass media cratering again, matching all-time low.

* Neil Irwin points out actual household income stagnate even as the economy grows.

And in non-political news:

* Lolo Jones first celebrity to get booted off Dance With the Stars this year.

As we break for lunch, here’s Hank Williams’ highly religious alter ego Luke the Drifter performing “Men With Broken Hearts,” accompanied by photos of the homeless.

September 17, 2014 1:18 PM Is Rand Paul a Realist Islamophobe?

So one of this month’s enduring topics of conversation is how to describe Rand Paul’s foreign policy orientation, since “weasel of an opportunist” apparently won’t do. Jason Zingerle has an extensive column on the subject today at TNR, in which he allows as how Paul has zigged and zagged and bobbed and weaved, but accepts he has arrived in a semi-coherent place:

[W]hatever his motivations, Paul, through it all, has arrived at something of a coherent foreign policy philosophy. As he explained it in his biggest foreign policy speech to date, at the Heritage Foundation last year, “I am a realist, not a neoconservative nor an isolationist.” If that sounded Obama-esque in its attempt to find a middle way between competing straw men, the fact is that, in GOP foreign policy debates, those straw men are real people like John McCain and Ron Paul. In the same speech, Paul went on in (in unspoken contrast to his father, who worshipped at the feet of the isolationist Senator Robert Taft) to cast himself as an heir to George Kennan, the foreign policy thinker behind America’s “containment” strategy during the Cold War.

After quoting Paul as continuing to think it’s a bad idea to mess with “secular dictators” in the Middle East, Zengerle equates him to a couple of other “realist” icons:

In this, Paul sounds as much like Kennan as Brent Scowcroft, the realist disciple of Henry Kissinger who served as George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor—and later became a critic of George W. Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy. As Scowcroft told Jeffrey Goldberg in 2005, “I’ve been accused of tolerating autocracies in the Middle East, and there’s some validity in that. It’s easy in the name of stability to be comfortable with the status quo.”

You can almost hear Paul and his staff cheering in the background at this mission-accomplished moment, as a progressive journalist identifies him with a safe if not universally accepted Republican foreign policy tradition.

But if you look at Paul’s own words, it sure looks to me like he’s improvising madly. In a highly sympathetic interview with The Federalist’s Ben Domenech, Paul spends a lot of time beating up on the I-word straw man:

The thing that I in some ways laugh at, because nobody seems to get this, is that I spent the past five years in public life telling everyone that “hey, I’m not an isolationist” … and when they find out I’m not, they say I’ve switched positions, because I’m not the position they were saying I was. You know what I mean? So for five years they’ve been accusing me of being something that I say I’m not. And then when they find out I’m really not, they say I’ve changed my position. You can see how it’s a little bit frustrating for me.

Oh, c’mon, Rand, don’t be obtuse. In the history of American foreign policy no one has ever, ever labeled him- or herself as an “isolationist,” so the idea that we’re all supposed to take his word for it that he’s not one is ludicrous. To use the less invidious term, there has not been until recently any reason to doubt that Paul like his father was a “non-interventionist,” someone who only believed in the use of military force when the territorial United States was threatened. What’s happening how is that Paul is not only open to but avid for an intervention involving IS, and while it’s very interesting he wants to do so without discomfiting any “secular dictators” like Assad, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s being a “realist” in that sense. Check out his own explanation for the distinction:

With ISIS, they’re beheading American citizens, they’ve actively said that if they can, and when they can, they’ll come to New York. They’re within, I think a day’s march or a day’s drive of Erbil and the consulate there. I think that they probably would be repelled in Baghdad, but they could be a threat to Baghdad. I think ultimately if left to their own devices, they could organize the same way Al-Qaeda organized in Afghanistan, and if given a safe haven that they could be a real threat to us at home.

This doesn’t sound very Kissingerian to me. It sounds (along with a lot of rhetoric blaming “moderate” Sunni countries for indirectly aiding IS) Islamophobic. So again, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Paul’s sudden identification of a situation where he thinks military intervention is essential all too conveniently coincides with a need to court conservative “base” voters spoiling for a fight with those evil Muslims. But in any event, the longer you pay attention to Paul’s rationalization of his foreign policy views, the more you realize he’s not embracing any sort of “doctrine” or “world-view,” but rather a complex series of calculations and rationalizations and provisos and hedges that gives not the United States, but his own self, maximum flexibility.

September 17, 2014 11:44 AM Plagiarizing Pet Rocks

Somebody, presumably at BuzzFeed, noticed that a health care “plan” that was once featured (but has since been deleted) from Oregon GOP Monica Wehby’s web site bore a remarkable similarity to a set of health care policy “messages” in a poll previously released by Crossroads USA. BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski wrote it all up in embarassing detail: with a few minor exceptions, Team Wehby did indeed seem to cut-and-paste—or to use a technical term, plagiarize—Crossroads’ stuff on health care, not that Rove’s group is about to sue her or anything. What makes this striking is that Wehby is a practicing physician.

I love the Wehby campaign’s rejoinder:

“The suggestion that a pediatric neurosurgeon needs to copy a health care plan from American Crossroads is absurd,” a Wehby campaign spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry.”

Yeah, it is absurd, isn’t it—not so much the “suggestion,” but what it “suggests” about Wehby’s campaign.

In her defense, though, the stuff in both Crossroads’ poll and in Wehby’s plan is so incredibly hackneyed, such a tired assortment of conservative health policy pet rocks—-HSAs, interstate insurance sales, high-deductible catastrophic insurance for everybody, tax deductions for individual insurance purchases—that use of the very same words isn’t that surprising. It’s not like any original thinking is going into this, so why use any original writing to describe it?

To put it another way, as my friend Will Marshall used to say when Republicans talked about Bill Clinton “stealing their ideas:” You can’t steal from an empty wallet.

September 17, 2014 11:26 AM America’s Worst Colleges: A Discussion at NAF

Last week I did a post on a new category in WaMo’s annual College Rankings: a listing of America’s worst colleges—or to be precise, four different listings based on slightly different criteria.

Because this is a new and controversial entry into the typically upbeat world of college rankings, WaMo is holding a discussion on the subject in conjunction with the New America Foundation, next Tuesday from 9:30 - 11:00 at NAF. Our own Paul Glastris will moderate, and speakers will include James Merisotas of the Lumina Foundation, Amy Binder of UC-San Diego, Kevin Carey and Ben Miller (who wrote the WaMo article on “worst colleges”) of NAF, and Zachary Schrag of George Mason University.

Click here for more details, and to RSVP. It should be a lively event.

September 17, 2014 9:43 AM Quiet Counter-Revolution on Abortion Rights

If you’ve only casually followed the law and politics of the abortion issue in recent years, you may wonder why there’s so much activity and controversy when the basic constitutional law of reproductive rights hasn’t really changed. But as Jeffrey Toobin explains in a wonderfully succinct column at The New Yorker, it has changed in subtle ways, mainly because its most recent formulation—Sandra Day O’Connor’s prohibition of abortion restrictions that pose an “undue burden” on the right to choose prior to fetal viability—is capable of being turned inside out.

[T]he key phrase did not have a fixed, self-evident definition. And as the Court moved to the right, following O’Connor’s resignation, the scope of the constraints on state power began shrinking. In 2007, the year after Samuel Alito replaced O’Connor on the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, for a 5-4 majority, the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld Congress’s ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. Kennedy quoted O’Connor’s language from Casey, in which she defined an “undue burden” as existing when the “purpose or effect [of the regulation] is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” But then Kennedy went on, essentially, to ignore that definition, since he was approving a law that disallowed what was then the most common form of second-trimester abortion.
The decision in Carhart was followed, in 2010, by landslide Republican legislative victories that brought several state governments under the full control of the G.O.P. In virtually all of these states, and in several others that were already in Republican hands, politicians sought to make obtaining an abortion even more difficult. In Texas, this meant the passage of a law that required abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, which are more or less miniature hospitals. There were already only forty-one abortion clinics in the state, for a population of five million women of reproductive age, and more than twenty were forced to close because of the new requirements; when further restrictions went into effect, the state was on the verge of being left with only a half-dozen clinics, and none at all in the Rio Grande Valley. This was the very definition of an undue burden—a law whose “purpose or effect” was “to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” In August, a courageous federal district-court judge in Austin, Lee Yeakel, reached just that conclusion and held that the new provisions violated a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. “The ambulatory-surgical-center requirement is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previabilty abortion,” Yeakel wrote in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of abortion providers.

Nonetheless, the Texas law has been upheld by the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

[T]he members of the Fifth Circuit panel seem to believe that anything short of a nationwide ban on abortion does not amount to an undue burden on women’s rights. This is the argument that will soon be heading to the Supreme Court. Will the Court’s conservatives—who appear to have, with the addition of Anthony Kennedy, a one-vote majority on this issue—define the “undue burden” test into meaninglessness? Or will they junk the test altogether and give states an even freer hand to restrict abortion rights? O’Connor has been gone from the Supreme Court for nearly a decade. The question, now, is whether her great achievement will soon be gone, too.

It’s entirely possible SCOTUS will radically restrict abortion rights while blandly insisting (outside fiery concurrences from Scalia and Thomas) it’s not challenging precedents at all. That’s how quiet judicial revolutions—and counter-revolutions—play themselves out.

September 17, 2014 9:25 AM What Could Go Wrong Here?

Before the change in direction of the polls and polling analysis became apparent yesterday, I knocked out a TPMCafe column discussing the various things that could go wrong for the GOP between now and November 4, from a surprising money disadvantage to a candidate gaffe. I was less concerned with prophecy than with reminding myself and others that strange things happen in the final stages of elections that defy both the “fundamentals” and earlier expectations. If historical precedent provided the only guide to how elections will turn out, Terry McAuliffe would not be governor of Virginia (after all, he broke a streak of nine consecutive gubernatorial elections in which the party controlling the White House lost). And earlier expectations didn’t factor in Kansas becoming extremely competitive this year.

Once the dust settles on November 4 (or 5), I’m sure we’ll continue to have arguments over why what happened happened. After all, we’re still arguing over the true meaning of the elections of 1980, 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2008. But sometimes accidents happen, and even predictable developments combine in ways that produce surprising outcomes. That’s what makes politics fun for junkies, even if it drives the determinists crazy.

September 17, 2014 8:53 AM November Gets Iffier

Just when much of the punditocracy was settling in for a few happy weeks of arguing over the extent of the Republican “wave” in November, while Mitch McConnell figuratively measured curtains for the Majority Leader’s offices, the worm has turned a bit, at least in the polling data, and the GOP victory parade seems a bit premature. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza sums up the confused state of prophecy:

Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.
Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control…..
The movement toward Democrats in the Election Lab model isn’t unique. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, gives Republicans a 51 percent chance of winning the Senate — but that is down significantly over the past few weeks.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago.

Meanwhile, Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the forecaster who focuses strictly on polling data, and refuses to tilt the data to reflect “fundamentals” like historical precedents, presidential approval ratings and the condition of the economy, has the probability of continued Democratic control of the Senate at 81%.

As Cillizza notes, though, the most prominent traditional forecasters—who do not use statistical models and tend to put a greater emphasis on factors like campaign spending and “momentum” and national trends—seem to be moving in the opposite direction:

What’s interesting about the election models is that they are moving in the opposite direction of political handicappers. In recent days, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the two best-known, nonpartisan prognosticators in Washington, have each written that the possibility of large-scale Republicans gains is increasing, not decreasing

I don’t know if this disconnect between poll- and non-poll-based analysis will generate the level of ferocious debate we saw during the Great “Skewing” Battle of 2012. But it is interesting that despite the shifting winds, in the heart of conservative-land there’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Republicans are on their way to a historic win in November that will carry over into 2016, and presumably last foreover. Check out these lines from TV celebrity pundit S.E. Cupp in the New York Daily News:

It’s hard to imagine Democrats can course-correct in less than two years the failures they — and Hillary Clinton, in particular — have overseen for more than six.
In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, Democrats have tried and failed to figure out successful campaign strategies. They tried to resurrect the “war on women,” but believe it or not, Democrats have a bigger problem with men than Republicans do with women.
According to GWU battleground polling, Republicans are only six points behind among women, whereas Democrats are 15 points behind among men, and 28 points behind among white men in particular. That’s a lot of ground to make up.
Raising the minimum wage turned out not to be the barnstormer Democrats hoped it would be either.
Another of their “big ideas” was to make tax inversion, where businesses move to foreign countries to avoid steep corporate taxes here, a turnout issue. Last week Politico called that effort a “massive dud.”
Without any cohesion — united only, it seems, by their desire to distance themselves from their standard-bearer — Democrats are having to run a spaghetti strategy: throw it on the wall and see what sticks.
Republicans won big in the 2010 midterms but weren’t able to swing back to the center in time for 2012. With all this momentum behind them, the pathway is clear. And not even Hillary Clinton should be able to stop them.

There’s a rather obvious and irreconcilable gap between those who look forward to elections by consulting at empirical data and those who view them as representing moral judgments on the truth or error of world views. Think I’ll stick to empirical data, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a liberal, God help me.

September 17, 2014 7:49 AM Daylight Video

Hank Williams (Sr.) was born on this day 91 years ago. Here’s one of his greatest songs, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.”

September 16, 2014 6:01 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Yes, Tuesday nights without primaries feel kinda strange. But just seven weeks before the Main Event.

Here are some remains of the day:

* The Scottish independence movement sure hasn’t gotten any encouragement from British media.

* FBI and DHS struggling to explode made-up claims IS is lurking across (or within!) U.S.-Mexico border.

* GOP Senate candidate in Minnesota trying magically to make Al Franken (via Obama) the culprit in recruitment of Minnesotans by IS.

* At Ten Miles Square, Aaron Panofsky discusses the heavily negative reaction to the first major claim in years that racial inequality is mainly genetic.

* At College Guide, Clare McCann reports surprising bipartisan congressional progress towards reauthorization of major federal child care program, the first since 1996.

And in non-political news:

* Not surprising after mega-drought: Wildfires ravaging Northern California.

That’s it for Tuesday. We’ll close with Steppenwolf’s “Draft Resister.”

Selah.

September 16, 2014 5:25 PM Ukraine Approves EU Deal; Putin, Where’s Thy Sting?

As Brother Benen points out today, the unanimous approval by the Ukrainian Parliament of a deal that will lead to EU membership—the original cause, one might remember, of the revolt against former president Viktor Yanukovich, who rejected a similar measure—not only calls into question Vladimir Putin’s supposed mastery of the region, but also the constant invidious comparisons U.S. conservatives have made between the all-powerful Putin and the weakling Obama:

[A]s the international crisis grew more serious, Republicans in the United States not only praised Putin, they used their affection for Putin as a way to condemn President Obama at the same time. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) gushed, “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles.” Sen. Ted Cruz recently added, “Sadly, the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat.”
A Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted Putin to be “head of the United States,” at least temporarily.
And yet, revisiting a piece from last month, let’s pause to take stock of what’s transpired. In case the right has lost sight of this, the Russian president has made a series of bold moves this year, and all of them were fairly disastrous for his country. Russia’s international standing (outside of conservative circles) is in shambles; Putin’s policies have led to an economic recession; and the conflict with Ukraine hasn’t advanced Russia’s interests at all.
As Thomas Friedman recently put it, “Let’s add it up: Putin’s seizure of Crimea has weakened the Russian economy, led to China getting a bargain gas deal, revived NATO, spurred Europe to start ending its addiction to Russian gas and begun a debate across Europe about increasing defense spending. Nice work, Vladimir. That’s why I say the country Putin threatens most today is Russia.”
And today, the one thing Putin hoped to avoid most - a Ukrainian political/trade pact with the EU - is exactly what’s happened.

I doubt we’ll hear any mea culpas from American conservatives. Most of them don’t really give a damn about Ukraine, and have only used the Macho Bear image of Putin to diminish the perceived stature of Obama, the still point of their turning world. In the Right’s demonology, it’s really not one thing after another; it’s one thing over and over again.

September 16, 2014 5:08 PM Guess Who’s Got the Money Advantage?

With all the dark money sloshing around these days, it’s hard to figure out which side in any given cycle has a money advantage, or has the most resources in reserve as we near Election Day. But there’s a growing buzz that if Republicans win the Senate, it won’t be because Democrats were significantlly outgunned financially.

Here’s how Charlie Cook put it in his latest National Journal column:

Perhaps the biggest untold story of this election is how so many Republican and conservative donors, at least those whose last name isn’t Koch, have kept their checkbooks relatively closed. In many cases, GOP candidates are not enjoying nearly the same financial largesse that existed in 2012, and in some races, they are well behind Democrats. While Republican candidates, national party committees, and super PACs are hardly starving, their Senate and House campaign committees have not been able to keep pace in fundraising with their Democratic counterparts. Their super PACs do not have nearly the funding that they had in 2012 (even allowing for the absence of a presidential race this year). And, in a number of key races, Democratic candidates, party committees, and their allied groups have been on the air significantly more than Republicans. GOP strategists have privately said that if it were not for spending by organizations affiliated with the Koch brothers, they might well be in really bad shape.
Many Republican and conservative donors appear to be somewhat demoralized after 2012. They feel that they were misled about the GOP’s chances in both the presidential and senatorial races that year, and/or their money was not well spent. In short, they are giving less if at all, and it has put Republican candidates in a bind in a number of places.

On the spending side of the ledger, the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks campaign ads, shows Democrats with a sizable advantage in the number of Senate ads run the last two weeks. During the same juncture in the 2010 cycle, Republicans led in ads run by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Again, this could all be misleading or not especially matter. But as I keep trying to explain, the widespread assumption that Republicans would get all the breaks down the home stretch of this cycle seems to depend on various unsubstantiated assumptions, including (most likely) the expectation that the GOP would have a late money advantage. It’s really not looking that way.

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