links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on November 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Politics, media and the politics of media.The

We all know that Bill de Blasio will win the New York City mayoral race by a landslide tomorrow—but the right is desperately hoping that maybe, just maybe, some last-minute explosive revelation about de Blasio will help his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, “eke out” a victory, as Lhota told Chuck Todd this morning he would indeed do.

Crazy, huh? But in just the last few days, de Blasio has been hit with negative stories, from the minor to the self-inflicted to the ridiculous, that could ever so slightly knock a few points off his margin of victory, which polls have steadily put at around forty points. Let’s start with the ridiculous:

He’s still a commie! Really!

Having failed earlier in the season to red-bait de Blasio for supporting the Sandinistas in the late ’80s, the New York Post—remarkably, at this late date—is at it again, and with a laughably desperate Hail Mary. On today’s cover, they’ve smeared de Blasio in red ink, literally, showing de Blasio’s face next to a hammer and sickle. The headline: “Back in the USSR!: ‘Progressive’ Bill’s secret Cold War trip.”

It’s hard to say which makes the Post look more frozen in amber: the quotation marks around the word progressive (that’s just code for pinko, see?) or the word secret, a notion that’s belied by the unrevelatory story inside, “De Blasio visited Communist USSR in college.”

De Blasio didn’t try to hide the trip he took as a NYU student in 1983; as the Post itself writes: “De Blasio listed the trip on a résumé from the 1990s. Under ‘travel,’ he said he visited ‘West Africa, Europe, Israel, Puerto Rico, USSR.’?” These are the sort of places that college students, if they’re lucky, get to write home about. As a spokeswoman for the de Blasio campaign, said, “When he was a presidential scholar at NYU, Bill attended an annual trip that took him to Lithuania and Russia. In other years, he traveled—along with other presidential scholars—to Spain, Israel and Senegal.”

But the Post, forever trying to frame its foes, wants to make the trip sound subversive, if only because it went against the prevailing group-think of the time: “It was the same year,” the Murdoch paper reminds us, “that President Ronald Reagan referred to the country’s regime as ‘The Evil Empire.’?”

The Belafonte Bump

Introducing de Blasio at a Harlem church on Sunday, Harry Belafonte likened the Koch brothers—actually, their supporters—to the KKK. From the Politicker:

“Already, we have lost 14 states in this union to the most corrupt group of citizens I’ve ever known,” he said near the end of his speech. “They make up the heart and the thinking in the mind of those who would belong to the Ku Klux clan. They are white supremacists. They are men of evil. They have names. They are flooding our country with money. They’ve come into New York City.… The Koch brothers, that’s their name,” he said, adding, “They must be stopped.”

As Mr. de Blasio took to the stage, he greeted Mr. Belafonte with a big hug, before heaping praise on the singer and civil rights activist, who remained seated by his side.

Asked about Belafonte’s comments afterwards, de Blasio said, “I have great respect for Harry Belanfonte, but I think that was the wrong way to talk about them and I don’t think that’s fair.” He rightly reminded reporters what’s wrong with the Tea Party–supporting Koch empire: “I do think the Koch brothers have hurt the American Democratic process greatly. I think they have been amongst the most aggressive at trying to undermine campaign finance laws that keep money out of the political system.”

It’s too late for even the New York Post to turn Belafonte into de Blasio’s Rev. Wright. But Lhota’s campaign gave it a shot, releasing its own over-the-top statement, saying: “It’s reprehensible that a candidate for mayor of the city of New York would closely associate himself with an individual who has equated the American government to al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers and has a long history of hateful, racist remarks.”

David Koch gave big money to a pro-Lhota PAC before the general election kicked in, and just a few days ago, donated $200,000 to a second pro-Lhota PAC after it won a Citizens United–like court decision to lift New York State contribution limits.

Stop-and-Frisk Lives to See Another Day

At least for a while. Conservatives are hoping that another court decision will hurt de Blasio. On Thursday, a federal appeals court temporarily halted reforms of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy that de Blasio has fought hard against and that a judge had earlier determined was unconstitutional and racially discriminatory.

Former Mayor Giuliani campaigned in Staten Island with Lhota, who served as one of his deputy mayors, hailed the latest decision. “The court of appeals has just basically said to [de Blasio]: that is a bunch of malarkey,” he said. “I hope it had a dramatic effect on the race.” He later added, “I think [Lhota’s] gonna to win the election,” he said.

But de Blasio has said that, if elected mayor, he’d drop the city’s lawsuit, effectively stopping the worst of stop-and-frisk.

Sleep for Me but Not for Thee?

This was one of those self-inflicted wounds. De Blasio is known for being late. No huge deal, lots of pols are late (remember Bill Clinton and his “Elvis time”?). But on Saturday, de Blasio screwed up beyond the usual:

From The New York Times:

Even with a relatively light schedule for the final Saturday before the election, Mr. de Blasio was an hour late for his first rally, on the Upper West Side. “I am not a morning person,” he told reporters later, explaining that he had been awakened by a phone call at 5 a.m. and then had to rest for a few more hours. (A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio’s Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota, posted on Twitter that he wakes up at 5:15 a.m. every day—even on weekends.)

At a “Women for de Blasio” rally later that day

Mr. de Blasio encouraged his supporters to go without sleep in the final days of the campaign. “A combination of espresso and Red Bull will take you all the way through,” he said, “and people will admire you for it.”

None of these developments will derail de Blasio, as the right would wish. At most, they might cut into his margin a tiny bit, becoming footnotes to a historical victory.

Katrina vanden Heuvel throws her support behind Bill de Blasio on the Working Families Party line.



Democrat Terry McAuliffe has defeated Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in the race to become Virginia’s next governor, according to exit polls from Edison Media Research and vote returns with more than 90 percent counted. The race captured national attention, as voters decided between McAuliffe, a veteran Democratic fundraiser, and Cuccinelli, whose conservative views made him an icon of the tea party movement.



Mr. McAuliffe, 56, ran as a social liberal and an economic moderate focused on job creation. Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican who was the first attorney general to sue over President Obama’s health care law, ran as a hard-line social conservative and aimed his campaign almost exclusively at the Tea Party wing of his party.

Still, despite substantially outraising Mr. Cuccinelli, $34.4 million to $19.7 million, Mr. McAuliffe won by a margin — just over two percentage points — that was smaller than some pre-election polls had suggested.

Mr. McAuliffe benefited from an electorate that was less white and less Republican than it was four years ago. He drew about as large a percentage of African-Americans as Mr. Obama did last year. Blacks accounted for one in five voters, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research. Mr. Cuccinelli’s strong anti-abortion views also brought out opponents, with 20 percent of voters naming abortion as their top issue; Mr. McAuliffe overwhelmingly won their support. The top issue for voters was the economy, cited by 45 percent in exit polls.

In a victory speech here, Mr. McAuliffe thanked the “historic number of Republicans who crossed party lines to support me” and invoked a tradition of bipartisanship in Richmond, the capital. In a checklist of recent governors who had moved the economy forward, he included the incumbent, Bob McDonnell, a Republican.


But Chris Christie, a purple Republican, was Re-elected Governor of New Jersey pointing out that getting of the Koch Tea-fed trees in Liberal Republican fashion recreates a right of center potential Javits/Rockefeller ruling class that reaches out again to minorities, women and the young.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey won decisively, making impressive inroads among younger voters, blacks, Hispanics and women – all groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract.


Dan Balz
Dan Balz
The Take – The Washington Post analysis.

Virginia, New Jersey results highlight Republican Party’s divisions, problems.

Tuesday’s elections, which produced a resounding Republican victory in New Jersey and a dispiriting loss for the GOP in Virginia, highlighted the challenges ahead for a badly divided party — and will probably intensify an internal debate about how to win back the White House in 2016.

At a time when the party’s image has sunk to record lows nationally, the results of the gubernatorial elections will reverberate far beyond the borders of Virginia and New Jersey. Off-year elections are hardly foolproof in predicting the future, but as GOP leaders digest what happened Tuesday, the lessons they take away from the races after their autumn of discontent will shape the coming rounds.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) rolled to reelection by a margin that will make him a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, should he decide to run. His victory in a solidly blue state will be touted as a model for a party that needs to expand its coalition in national campaigns. But will the formula Christie employed in New Jersey work in Republican primaries and caucuses or in a national election for president?

In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, a tea party favorite, came closer than many expected but fell short in his race against Democratic businessman and party fundraiser Terry McAuliffe. What Republicans will debate was whether Cuccinelli was personally too conservative — and his party too toxic after the recent government shutdown — for what is now a classic swing state.

The outcomes set up a battle for power between competing wings of the Republican Party. Call it the establishment vs. the tea party, or the gubernatorial wing against the congressional wing. This competition is less about ideology or policy — there is no disunity, for example, when it comes to the party’s dislike of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — than about purity vs. pragmatism, tactics and strategy. Or, as Christie has put it, it is about winning an argument vs. winning elections.

Christie’s campaign will embolden the establishment wing and many of the GOP’s major fundraisers, who have been on the defensive as tea party conservatives flexed their muscles in Republican primaries and in the battle in Congress that led to the shutdown. Those establishment forces have vowed to become more active in opposing the insurgency that has moved Republicans to the right.

But Cuccinelli’s narrow loss will not necessarily change the underlying shape of the party or the attitudes of many grass-roots conservatives about the need to oppose Obama and the Democrats at every turn. Cuccinelli ran hard against Obama’s health-care law in the closing days of the campaign, and many Republicans might conclude that with another week or two, he would have prevailed. They will make opposition to the health-care law the first page of the playbook for 2014 races, and possibly for 2016 as well.

Nor will Christie’s victory necessarily translate easily into a winning strategy in a national election. His win was personal, not an endorsement of his party. What has worked for him in New Jersey may or may not be easily transported to states with very different electorates. One exit poll question pitted Christie against Hillary Rodham Clinton in a hypothetical presidential race. Even in New Jersey, Clinton prevails.

What sank Cuccinelli will be the topic of debate among Republicans as they consider the tea party’s culpability in the defeat. There is little doubt that Cuccinelli’s past policies and statements badly hurt him. McAuliffe’s campaign, which had a sizable financial edge, pounded Cuccinelli early, leaving him deeply wounded politically.

But factors beyond his control also contributed. One was an ethics scandal that engulfed Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and that touched Cuccinelli. The other was the shutdown, though Cuccinelli compounded the problem by inviting an architect of the GOP strategy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), to campaign for him.

Christie did not run from his party, noting throughout the campaign that he opposed abortion rights and same-sex marriage and favored the kind of tax cuts that are part of conservative orthodoxy. As one of many governors who criticized the shutdown, he also kept himself insulated from its damage.

His success was testament to his powerful personality, his authenticity and his governing strategy, which combined conservative principles with a willingness to work with Democrats. Most significantly, perhaps, was the leadership he showed after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of his state a year ago.

What Christie pointed to throughout his campaign was winning a bigger share of traditionally Democratic constituencies. Early exit polls showed that he boosted his numbers over his 2009 election among Hispanics and blacks.

One glaring contrast with Cuccinelli was the women’s vote. Christie was winning a majority of the votes among men and women. Cuccinelli was losing among women, and he was losing among unmarried women, a key Democratic constituency, by better than 2 to 1.

Mike Murphy, a GOP strategist who sides with the establishment wing of the party, said the shorthand from Tuesday’s results was plain. “Christie’s a how-to manual and Virginia is a how-not-to manual.”

John Brabender, the chief strategist for the presidential campaign of former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), sought to throttle back those kinds of assessments. “I think you’ll see a lot of people try to read in that the moderate [Christie] did well and the conservative [Cuccinelli] struggled,” he said. “I think that’s a grand oversimplification.”

As they look to 2016, Republicans can anticipate a potentially brawling nomination contest. A GOP strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid said many primary and caucus voters will not look favorably on Christie’s willingness to work with Democrats. “They want you pure,” he said.

That suggests that the debate about the way forward for the Republicans will continue to rage.




Bradley Byrne {a business Republican} wins Republican House primary in Alabama over tea-party-backed Dean Young.

Republican Bradley Byrne defeated his insurgent conservative opponent in an Alabama congressional primary runoff Tuesday, notching a hard-fought victory for the business wing of the GOP.

With 100 percent of votes tallied, Byrne topped Dean Young, a Christian conservative aligned with the tea party, 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

The campaign marked the first big electoral test for business-minded Republicans in their showdown with the GOP’s tea party wing. Riled by the recent government shutdown and standoff over the debt ceiling, the business wing of the party decided that it was time to fight back against the tea party insurgency. Byrne, a business lawyer and former state senator, said during the campaign that the shutdown was not good for the country, while Young said it “was not the end of the world.”

The result in Alabama was one of several blows to the most conservative wing of the GOP on Election Day. Conservative Ken Cuccinelli II’s loss in the Virginia governor’s race and centrist Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s resounding win in New Jersey are sure to stoke talk in GOP circles about the party’s need to get behind more moderate candidates.

Byrne is now in the driver’s seat to succeed Republican Jo Bonner, who vacated the 1st District seat this year to take a position in the University of Alabama system. Byrne and Young were the top two vote-getters in a September primary in which no candidate won a majority of the vote.

Bonner was part of a flurry of establishment GOP support that rallied to Byrne’s side during the runoff. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent at least $199,000 on his behalf, while big companies such AT&T and Home Depot donated thousands to Byrne’s campaign down the stretch.

Byrne often cast himself as a “workhorse” in an effort to contrast with Young, who he characterized as a “show horse.” He urged voters to send someone to Washington not just to fight but to be an effective voice for the district.

Despite being outspent and having almost no support from national conservative groups, Young made a race of it by rallying his base of evangelical Christians and tea party voters angry with the federal government and eager for the next fight. He sought to criticize Byrne as a politician beholden to establishment interests who would mean business as usual if elected to Congress. Young cast himself as a fresh voice ready to shake things up.

For business leaders, the victory in Alabama is a much-needed boost of momentum headed into 2014, when they will be looking to elect like-minded candidates to other seats across the map, including those currently represented by tea party Republicans. Two such seats are in Michigan, where tea-party-aligned congressmen Kerry Bentivolio and Justin Amash have already drawn primary challengers.

Another possible front is in Idaho, where business groups may opt to help Rep. Mike Simpson, who has drawn a primary challenger running to his right. The anti-tax Club for Growth has lined up behind that challenger, lawyer Bryan Smith.

Byrne will face Democrat Burton LeFlore in the Dec. 17 special general election to succeed Bonner. The Republican is expected to win easily. Mitt Romney won more than six in 10 votes there in 2012.


Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article