Ben Smith at Politico:
A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration’s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama’s candidate, in Arkansas.
“Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”
Lincoln relied heavily both on Obama’s endorsement, which she advertised relentlessly on radio and in the mail, and on the backing of former President Bill Clinton, who backed her to the hilt.
Lincoln foe Bill Halter had the unstinting support of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME and other major unions. And labor officials Tuesday evening were already working to spin the narrow loss of their candidate, Bill Halter, as a moral victory, but the cost in money and in the goodwill of the White House may be a steep price to pay for a near miss.
Did President Obama agree with the senior White House officials who expressed significant frustration to Ben Smith and me about labor’s $10 million decision to try and beat Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. Here’s what Robert Gibbs said in today’s briefing. See the bolded portion. Seems the answer is: kinda of, yes.
Robert, back to Arkansas for just a second. A senior White House official called reporters last night and said after the results were known, “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet in a pointless exercise.” Is it the official word from the White House on the results of the Arkansas primary?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think that the President would necessarily agree with that characterization made by somebody here. I think we would certainly agree that we are likely to have very close elections in very many places throughout the country in November. And while the President might not have agreed with the exact characterization, I think that whether or not that money might have been better spent in the fall on closer elections between somebody — between people who cared about an agenda that benefited working families and those that didn’t, that money might come in more handy then.
Big Labor cost Lincoln a lot of time and money, but it also facilitated the message that she’s an independent advocate of Arkansas’ interest in Congress. It allowed her to portray herself as a foe of special interests. It elicited Bill Clinton’s message speaking at a rally for Lincoln that Lincoln used in her television advertisements: “This is about using you and manipulating your votes.” He ought to know.
An Obama administration honcho — I would guess Rahm Emanuel — called Ben Smith last night to make this pointed observation: “Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the honcho said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”
Whatever the merits of the first part of the observation, I doubt that money is going to be much of a problem for Democrats in November. And the hefty gentleman featured in the Times photograph remains available for deployment elsewhere.
AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale responded to the Obama administration honcho’s statement with the observation that “labor isn’t an arm of the Democratic Party.” It may not be the arm; it’s more like the fist.
Michael Barone at The Washington Examiner:
Blanche Lincoln’s (narrow) victory leaves the unions’ strategy in ruins. They can’t credibly threaten any Democratic incumbent who opposes card check with political defeat. Some, in states less anti-union than Arkansas, might be vulnerable to a challenge like Halter’s; but others won’t. And in some states or districts there won’t be an opportunistic challenger like Halter willing to go along with the strategy and well enough established to be a serious primary challenger. Give the unions credit for daring, and for putting their money (or the money of their members) on the line. They’re playing for high stakes—for the ability to plunder the private sector for dues money as they have successfully plundered the public sector (i.e., taxpayers) for dues money in states with strong public employee unions like New York, New Jersey and California. They just came up a little bit short.
Obviously this is a case of a divergence of interest between the unions (which want to deter any Democrat from opposing card check) and the Obama administration political strategists (who want to maximize the number of Democrats elected no matter what their position on substantive issues). Which brings to mind the old saying about honor among thieves. When you’re trying, in different ways, to plunder a once productive private sector economy, you won’t always agree on how to do so. As you watch the videotape of Blanche Lincoln’s rather shrewd victory speech, you might want to keep that in mind.
I simply refuse to see how it was a bad decision to support Halter. Lincoln is just a horrible candidate who is most likely going to lose in November anyway, was notoriously and openly hostile to just about everything important to the Democratic base, and the netroots were able to find a good solid candidate to attempt to primary her. If ever there was a case to primary someone, this was it- there was quite literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And Halter came very, very close to beating her. I just fail to see why anyone should be embarrassed, or feel foolish or demoralized. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always lose if you never try. Rather than mocking the attempt or getting some schadenfreude because people you don’t like on the internet feel bad today, you should get off your ass and make sure this sort of action, primarying bad politicians, becomes more rather than less common.
Justin Elliott at Talking Points Memo:
Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle earlier in her career spoke out strongly against fluoride, the substance known alternately for improving dental health and as a Communist plot to undermine Western democracy.
Angle, the tea party favorite who is taking on Sen. Harry Reid, tends to be skeptical of government programs, and her opposition to fluoridation of municipal water supplies back in the late 1990s is no exception.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April 1999 that the state assembly, of which Angle was a member, voted 26-16 for a bill that required fluoridation in two counties including the cities of Reno and Las Vegas. Angle was a strong opponent of the measure. The paper reported (via Nexis):
Before the vote, Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, sought to postpone the vote so she could add an amendment to block fluoridation in Washoe County. The Washoe County Commission in 1992 rejected fluoridation, and Angle said the Legislature should not approve fluoridation in her county without a vote of its people.
David Gibson at Mother Jones:
She may have never advocated bartering for health care with chickens, as her opponent Sue Lowden did, but Angle already has some issues. Beyond embracing the Tea Party, she’s also reached out to the Oath Keepers, the fringe patriot group whose core membership of cops and soldiers are gearing up to resist the Obama administration’s anticipated slide toward outright tyranny.
Back in April, Angle told TPM‘s Evan McMorris-Santoro that she was a member of the Oath Keepers. This Monday, Angle’s husband Ted told TPM‘s McMorris-Santoro and Justin Elliott that “We support what the organization stands for” and that he and his wife “desire” to join it. Oath Keeper founder Steward Rhodes said that candidate Angle had paid a visit to the group’s Southern Nevada chapter last fall.
For the full scoop on the Oath Keepers and what they stand for, check out the in-depth investigation MoJo published about them this spring. In it, Justine Sharrock profiles Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray, a young soldier who joined the group to prepare for the day when he might have to turn against his commander-in-chief to resist martial law and the mass detention of American citizens. Pray told Sharrock that he’d been recruiting buddies, running drills, and stashing weapons—just in case. Like all Oath Keepers, he’s sworn to disobey any orders he considers unconstiutional or illegal.
Jonathan Chait at TNR:
This is a prime pick-up opportunity for the GOP. The incumbent, Harry Reid, is wildly unpopular in the state, and his defeat would be a prized pelt for the Republicans. Almost any warm body could beat him in a walk. But Angle appears to be a genuine lunatic:
* Inflammatory rhetoric: In an interview last month with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Angle had this to say about gun laws: “What is a little bit disconcerting and concerning is the inability for sporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock,” she told the newspaper. “That tells me the nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of their government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways. That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”
* Abolishing wide swaths of the federal government: Angle believes the U.S. Education Department should be abolished, as she explains on her campaign Web site: “Sharron Angle believes that the Federal Department of Education should be eliminated. The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level.” Angle went further in an interview with a Nevada online publication, writing that she favored the termination of the Energy Department, the EPA and much of the IRS tax code; complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
How crazy is Angle? Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck! — warned against her. She is at least somewhat tied to the militia movement. Moreover, she has undergone little scrutiny, and it’s a good bet that more will produce of further radical views. Her nomination is just a staggering failure of the party establishment.
The response of conservatives who helped push Angle to victory? Bring it on.
“You could characterize the mood around here as one big yawn,” said Mike Connolly, spokesman for the Club for Growth, which spent more than $400,000 on TV ads for Angle. “We know Sharron Angle pretty well. A lot of folks around here have worked with her. We’ve endorsed her in the past. This tactic is neither new nor surprising.”
Asked about a 1999 article in which Angle criticized water flouridation, something Democrats are passing around today to define the candidate as a kook out of “Dr. Strangelove,” Connolly expressed only a little surprise.
“I hadn’t heard the flouride thing before,” he said, “but this is what they have, this is what their campaign is going to be — digging around in things she’s said and taking them out of context. And the polls haven’t moved for Harry Reid. He’s been a dead man walking, politically, for months.”
Sal Russo, whose Tea Party Express endorsed Angle when no one was taking her campaign seriously, compared Reid’s strategy to the strategy Gov. Pat Brown (D-Ca.) used against Ronald Reagan in 1966, when the actor was making his first bid for office.
“Brown helped Reagan behind the scenes by spreading around damaging information about George Christopher, the mayor of San Francisco, who Brown thought was going to a bigger threat in the general election,” Russo said. “He learned that you should be careful what you wish for.”
Russo said that TPE knew that Angle’s record and statements would be combed over by Reid, because “Reid can’t win if the election’s about him.” But he argued that the blah nature of the first attacks on Angle proved that Democrats weren’t ready for her.
“They had multiple volumes of books on Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian,” said Russo. “They probably had a sheet of paper on Angle. That’s why you’re seeing stale stuff, because I don’t think they were ready for her.”
I’m hearing the same from other Republicans. The Reid assault on Angle was telegraphed weeks ago — Rand Paul primed the pump for reporters to look for “crazy” candidates, so if she avoids brand new gaffes this week, they’re not sweating it.
Daniel Foster at The Corner:
And as expected, I’ve had an exponentially larger number of e-mails from readers offering responses, by proxy, to the Nevadans who intimated they were leaning toward Reid — most of which can be summed “are you %@#$ing nuts???”
A few thoughts. One, the Reid-leaning NRO readers are quite obviously outspoken outliers — so we shouldn’t think there are too many of them. Two, it’s the morning after, and if they were rooting for Lowden or Tarkanian they’re obviously still a little disappointed and perhaps not thinking clearly. Three — and some people have asked me this — what’s so wrong with Sharron Angle? Well, Greg Sargent and Paul Kane lay out Harry Reid’s plans to paint Angle as somewhere between Rand Paul and Orly Taitz.
Look, I wish Sue Lowden had won. Why? Because Harry Reid was weak and she could have beaten him. Sharron Angle probably (probably) cannot. I’ve maintained that the biggest lesson from the Obamacare debacle in the Senate is that party affiliation matters, far more than actual ideology, in determining the fate of the Obama agenda. To those who say they’d rather have 40 Jim DeMints in the Senate than 50 Lindsey Grahams or 60 Susan Collinses, I say this: If you held everything else in the Obamacare debate constant and flipped the Ds to Rs next to the names of Landrieu, Specter, and Nelson — there wouldn’t be an Obamacare. Simple as that.
UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #2: On Angle’s appearance on Fox and Friends:
UPDATE #3: More on Angle: Robert Costa at National Review