The Note: Narrative Wars

Oct 6, 2010 9:16am


NARRATIVE WARS. Framing, framing, framing. With just under a month to go until Election Day strategists from both parties are doing their best to control the narrative of individual races and focus on uber-messages that will resonate with voters more broadly. For Democrats, outsourcing is one of the themes they’re pushing the hardest. As Hotline’s Jeremy P. Jacobs reports: “In the past week, at least five Senate contenders locked in tight races this year have aired ads that directly attack their Republican opponents on outsourcing. In some cases, Democrats are betting their entire campaigns on the issue. Most recently, on Tuesday Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) launched a particularly hard hitting ad on the issue in the Indiana Senate race." Jacobs points out that the outsourcing strategy “fits into the broader case Democrats are trying to make: That they stand for the working class while Republicans have stood by Wall Street interests.” 

Republicans have a number of effective meta-themes at their disposal, many of which seek to tie Democratic candidates to the Obama administration. Party elder and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday advised GOP candidates to try out a variation, casting the election as a battle between the Republican Party (the party of “paychecks”) and the Democratic Party (the party of “food stamps”). “It is an unassailable fact that in June, more food stamps were distributed by the government than ever before in American history," Gingrich wrote in an open letter to Republicans, adding that members should “aggressively repeat over and over” that message from now until Election Day. 

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin chimed in with her own framing advice on Wednesday night in a speech in Texas. Palin said that the midterms represent a choice between candidates who support a “culture of life” and those who favor a “culture of death.” CNN’s Peter Hamby (dateline: Houston) reports: “Palin, delivering a paid speech to an anti-abortion group in Texas, claimed that President Barack Obama oversaw ‘the biggest advance of the abortion industry in America’ by signing landmark health care reform legislation that, she said, allows for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

NOTED: Democrats are also hitting Republicans on the minimum wage. Among other places, it has become a hot topic in the Senate race in Connecticut where Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal has accused Republican opponent Linda McMahon of being open to lowering it. But it goes far beyond there. Democrats are launching an all-out push to make the minimum wage a tool with which to bludgeon the GOP over the next few weeks. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports: “Strategists have begun urging members to press both incumbents and their general election challengers to formally state where they stand in the debate. The template is the campaign that Democrats ran in 2006 forcing GOP lawmakers and candidates to explain where they stood on privatizing social security.”

TONIGHT IN FLORIDA. The three candidates competing for Florida Senate — Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek and independent Gov. Charlie Crist — meet face-to-face in a debate tonight at 7p.m. moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. It is one of five debates that ABC News, along with local affiliate partners, will host in four key battleground states between now and November. Watch the debate live in Florida on WFTV or WFTS or, from anywhere, on and Facebook. Don’t forget to tune into “Good Morning America” on Thursday for reaction and analysis.

STATE OF THE RACE: ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf sets the stage for tonight’s showdown in the Sunshine State: “Florida ‘s senate race has been long and hot, lasting more than a year and featuring one of the first big victories for conservative Tea Party when conservative Marco Rubio drove moderate but largely popular Governor Charlie Crist from the party. … Recent polls show Rubio, the child of Cuban émigrés, with a slight lead. But debates have a history of making the difference in Florida, according to Adam Smith, who is political director at the St. Petersburg Times. ‘It's not over, but Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek can't afford to wait much longer to shake up the race,’ said Smith, who pointed out that absentee voting is already underway and early voting begins Oct. 18th. ‘Last minute surprises or attacks no longer suffice. The latest polls indicate Crist is within striking range, so the stakes really are pretty high for the debate,’ he said.”

DEBATE PLANNER. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos previews the rest of our debate specials: “On Friday Oct. 15 my colleague Jake Tapper will moderate a KMGH Colorado Senate debate between Michael Bennet and Ken Buck as well as a gubernatorial debate between John Hickenlooper, Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo. The following week on Tuesday, Oct. 19 I’ll be in Illinois for a Senate debate between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk, airing on WLS-TV. And finally on Wednesday, Oct. 20 I’m heading to Pennsylvania for a WPVI match-up between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey.”

THE OUTSIDERS. Two Republican-friendly organizations that are wielding huge influence on the midterms by spending millions on ads and other campaign efforts are coming under scrutiny from liberal organizations. CrossroadsGPS, the advocacy group with ties to Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are both in the cross-hairs of two major Washington watchdog groups, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, as well as the liberal MoveOn. “In a complaint filed with the IRS, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center say the group — an arm of the American Crossroads political committee — is using its nonprofit status to shield the identities of its wealthy donors,” the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen reports.

Separately MoveOn is pressing the Department of Justice for an investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is spending tens of millions this year, for allegedly using foreign money to finance their election activities — a claim that the Chamber has denied. MoveOn also sent a petition to its extensive member-base to generate momentum for the investigation. 

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that a new right-leaning nonprofit group, the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, has failed to properly file disclosure reports for ads that they are running against a number of Democratic House candidates. It’s all part of a concerted effort by Democrats to undercut the donor base of these groups while raising questions about who’s been bankrolling some of the biggest outside players in 2010 races.

PRESIDENTIAL PLANNER. President Obama is scheduled to award Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2008, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. This evening, the president is scheduled to travel to Newark, N.J., to attend a DNC dinner at a private residence in Cresskill, N.J.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: Jonathan Karl and Amy Walter speak to New York Congressional candidate Nan Hayworth who is running in the state’s 19th Congressional district. Karl and Walter will also have a conversation about the election landscape with The Hill’s campaign reporter Shane D’Aprile, who will take a closer look at the results of a new poll conducted by the Hill and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (Sneak peek below). Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



OBAMA-CLINTON 2012? Bob Woodward shook the Washington rumor tree again on Tuesday, raising the possibility that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would trade places with Vice President Joe Biden in 2012. Clinton would step in as Obama’s running mate and Biden would become Secretary of State. In an interview on CNN’s “John King USA," Woodward said the switcheroo was “on the table” in White House circles. "Some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012," Woodward said. "President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries — so they switch jobs … not out of the question.” The White House, however, is saying that such a move  has not been a topic of discussion. Senior adviser David Axelrod went a step further, characterizing the theory as “absolute fiction.”

THE STRUGGLE FOR WOMEN. At a speech to women business leaders in Washington last night President Obama joked to the crowd, “all of you know who I am,” but as ABC’s Jake Tapper reports the White House is very worried that female voters won’t turn out for Democrats on Election Day. Per Tapper’s report: "Women voters are 10 points more apt than men to be Democrats but the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll of generic congressional candidates had women voters only narrowly breaking for the Democrat, 47 percent to 44 percent. … [The] president needs those women in order to hold the House and Senate. It’s one of the reasons why you hear the president talks so much about education on the stump.” And as Tapper points out it’s no accident that next week First Lady Michelle Obama begins a six-state fundraising swing.

THE DONALD FOR PREZ? “For the first time in my life, I'm actually thinking about it,” Donald Trump said in a television interview yesterday. “I'm a Republican so if I did anything, I'd do it, I guess, as a Republican,” Trump said. "I've been asked for years to do it. And I had no interest.” Watch video of Trump discussing his possible presidential ambitions.

GAME ON. A new Facebook game, called Campaigns, officially launched this week. Billed as America’s “first political Facebook game,” Campaigns is designed to enable political parties to target and reach voters through an online social media platform. The game gives users the opportunity to compete in virtual elections, earn votes, create video ads, solicit donations from friends and compete against others who have signed on to the platform. “Players are learning about how to run for office, they're building political connections online, they're getting accustomed to voting for candidates. In other words, they're becoming politically activated,” and that’s the point, Campaigns founder Aaron Michel said. “Political campaigns and other organizations can use this tool to advertise to players in a very targeted way … It's an incredibly powerful social media tool.”



The number of races where freshman Democrats are trailing Republican challengers in a new poll of 12 races that could have a critical impact on which party controls the House conducted by The Hill and America’s Natural Gas Alliance. According to The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile (also today’s “Top Line” guest), the “poll also detected a glimmer of light for Democrats; not one of the 12 Republican challengers has reached 50 percent, and half of them have leads so small that they are within the margin of error. The 12 districts this week are the first of 42 in The Hill/ANGA polls that will be conducted in the next four weeks. The first week’s focus is on freshmen, next week’s is on open seats, the following week’s is on two-term incumbents, and finally, in the week before the election, the polls will be in districts of long-term incumbents thought to be in trouble.”



@GlennThrush: hrc-biden swap story is both less and more than it seems: less cos it won't happen–more cos Biden has seized part of her portfolio already.

@romenesko: Howard Kurtz on his move to The Daily Beast: "I could not have imagined doing this five years ago."

@ThePlumLineGS: Don't miss Sharron Angle's vicious ad starring swarthy young illegal immigrants scheming to take your jobs and money:

@DavidMDrucker: Sen. Schumer (D-NY) raises money for Dem Senate candidates:

@amieparnes: I just learned a new DC catch phrase: "first time cool." Guys who were total nerds until they arrived in DC


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