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Desperately Seeking a Comforting Face to Combat Ebola Scare

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden testifies during a hearing on Ebola before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee October 16, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Health officials faced tough questions at the hearing examining the nation's response to the Ebola outbreak after a second nurse who cared for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas traveled on a commercial flight while she was carrying the Ebola virus. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Alex Wong / Getty Images

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For the first time last night, President Obama acknowledged that it “may be appropriate” to appoint a national spokesperson to help manage the U.S. government’s effort -- and P.R. -- in handling the Ebola scare. "It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person, not because [the current team members] haven't been doing outstanding job,” Obama said in response to a question from NBC’s Kristen Welker. The president did not have any names to share who that person could be, saying, "If I appoint somebody, I will let you know." Here’s the reality: The administration needs someone in this position -- a modern-day C. Everett Koop -- simply because the president himself is too politically toxic (especially weeks before the midterm elections) and because the White House is managing so many other crises (ISIS, the global economy). Another reason the president seemed to be hinting about an Ebola czar: He’s been getting pressure from congressional Democrats, who see the Ebola panic starting to impact Democrats in key Senate races. And this early struggle by the White House to appear on top of the Ebola concern harkens back to another crisis: The BP oil spill when it tapped Thad Allen to be the government’s face of the response to constantly update reporters and the public. And if the White House should have learned anything from that experience, it was to not under-react (something they appeared to do at the time). Eventually, the White House got it right and successfully navigated through that crisis. That should be the model.

It can’t come soon enough for Democratic candidates on the ballot

As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews observed on “Morning Joe,” Rudy Giuliani received a tremendous amount of praise for his city’s response after 9/11, because it was calm and reassured city residents. The Obama administration, it seems, is looking for someone else to help do the same thing with the Ebola scare. And for Democrats on the November ballot, the president’s search for a public face for Ebola can’t end soon enough.

Every news story feels so temporary

Yet here is another reality check on the Ebola story from your First Read authors: Everything in the news right now feels so temporary. After all, it was just TWO WEEKS ago when the U.S. Secret Service director resigned after a series of embarrassing revelations. (It feels like two years ago, right?) And it was just a MONTH ago when Ray Rice was suspended. (Feels like an entire season ago, doesn’t it?) Bottom line: News stories with white-hot intensity no longer last. And that’s why it’s important for the White House to find an additional spokesperson to hold the public’s hand, as well as to ensure that all steps are being taken to prevent any more Ebola cases don’t pop up in the coming weeks. We may very well think Ebola is the October surprise to these midterm elections. But given all the other stories that have come and gone over the past few months (Bowe Bergdahl, the undocumented kids crossing the border, Ferguson, the ISIS beheadings), it’s quite possible there’s ANOTHER October surprise between now and the midterms. There’s simply too much time.

GOP winning the Senate ad-spending war

And speaking of the midterms, here’s a story that hasn’t received enough attention in the waning days before the election. And, in fact, it is a conventional wisdom upturning story: Republicans have outspent Democrats in EVERY top Senate battleground. The conventional wisdom has been that Democrats were winning the spending war, given their deep-pocketed incumbents, Super PACs, and campaign committees. But many of those analyses simply missed the spending from the 501c4 groups like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. According to data we received from GOP ad-buyer Smart Media, here is the total ad spending for the general election (meaning all spending since a state’s primaries). It includes the campaigns, committees, Super PACs, and 501c4s:

Alaska: Total Dem: $11 million; Total GOP: $14.3 million

Arkansas: Total Dem: $16.5 million; Total GOP: $24 million

Colorado: Total Dem: $26.2 million; Total GOP: $30.9 million

Georgia: Total Dem: $10 million; Total GOP: $11 million

Iowa: Total Dem: $24.8 million; Total GOP: $27 million

Kansas: Total Indie: $2.3 million; Total GOP: $6.8 million

Kentucky: Total Dem: $14.4 million; Total GOP: $22.9 million

Louisiana: Total Dem: $19.1 million; Total GOP: $23.2 million

North Carolina: Total Dem: $38.4 million; Total GOP: $39.2 million

New Hampshire: Total Dem: $8.4 million; Total GOP: $9.3 million

Of course, as we learned in 2012, money spent doesn’t always equal the most TV ads (Republican groups and the Romney campaign outspent Obama, but OFA ended up airing more ads because they were able to buy them more cheaply). But in terms of money, the GOP -- once again -- is winning the total ad-spending war.

Koch Brothers groups outspending Tom Steyer’s by nearly 6 to 1

Our ad-spending numbers tell another story: The Koch Brothers-led groups (Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Concerned Veterans for America, Generational Opportunity) have outspent Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, $33 million to $5.6 million. And that’s in money spent just in the general election (after the primaries). It doesn’t include any spending in 2013 through the primaries, when Americans for Prosperity was bombarding Democratic incumbents on health care.

Additional nuggets from this week’s NBC/WSJ poll

One of our pollsters breaks down some other numbers from our most recent poll:

  • Among those who view both the Democratic and Republican parties negatively (who make up 17% of the sample), 99% disapprove of the job that Congress is doing. The other 1%? They don’t approve either – they opt for being not sure.
  • 1% of voters who voted for Romney in 2012 say that looking out for the interests of women is one of the most important issues in deciding their vote while 15% of Obama voters say it is for them.
  • Among those who view both parties negatively (who make up 17% of the sample), breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington to get things done is the most important issue in deciding for whom they will vote (40%).
  • Among non-Tea Party Republicans, 32% say breaking partisan gridlock is one of the most important issues in deciding their vote, for Tea Party Republicans it is just 13%
  • Voters in urban areas believe that the economy will get better during the next twelve months by 39% to 17%, while voters in rural areas believe the economy will get WORSE by 37% to 17%.

Countdown to Election Day: 18 days

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