Thursday, December 29, 2011

The GOP's Answer to Union Money

Am happy to see that Republicans are getting organized in a way that might make a difference. I guess the only problem I have is that the organizers are headed by Washington insiders who are somewhat to the left of mainstream Republicans. They may stop a major calamity, but will not roll back inroads the progressives have made since FDR.

For Mr. Law, it was a revelation and a lesson. He concluded that the labor movement had enlarged and strengthened the coalition that helped produce Democratic landslides in 2006 and 2008.

Now, as president and CEO of the independent pro-Republican group American Crossroads (AC), Mr. Law is preparing to fund seven or eight conservative organizations and create a broad front of support for Republican candidates in 2012. As a trial run, AC gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, $4 million to Americans for Tax Reform, and $1.5 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee in last year's midterm election campaign. Republicans won a massive victory, and Mr. Law decided it was money well spent.

"Funding the right," as AC calls it, isn't the only political tactic Republicans are swiping from Democrats for use next year. Another is focusing on early voting in the weeks before Election Day, a tactic that helped Democrats capture both houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. AC tested an early-voting operation in a special House election in Nevada in September. Republican Mark Amodei won a majority of early voters and was elected handily.

The organization has also embraced two other tactics that have been applied more effectively by Democrats in recent elections than by Republicans. One is "stretching the battlefield," as a Republican consultant describes it, to make the Republican presidential candidate competitive in normally Democratic states—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, for example. The other would expand the issue environment by raising subjects, such as the Solyndra solar-subsidy scandal, that voters may have heard of but failed to understand.

American Crossroads is prepared to fill the gap and spend millions of dollars on a TV blitz defending the Republican candidate and criticizing Mr. Obama to ensure that "the candidate remains viable," as a Republican operative told me. Then, in the final weeks of the campaign, AC aims to help nullify the usual Democratic advantage. That's when Democrats spend the most. Creating a balance in late spending is included in AC's playbook.

AC won't be alone in all this. The group is part of the Weaver Terrace Group, named for the location of Mr. Rove's residence (although he's since moved) where two dozen groups gathered last year to share their plans for the midterm election. Now they convene monthly in Mr. Law's office in downtown Washington.

AC will concentrate on the presidential race and a few tight House and Senate contests. The American Action Network, which was active in the 2010 campaign, is targeting House races. The new Young Guns political action committee plans to support Republican House candidates. Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, stirs grass-roots activism.

Read the full WSJ article here.

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