Republicans couldn’t have more things going for them this cycle -- President Obama’s job-approval rating is hovering around 40%; the Senate playing field is disproportionately in red states; and an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. But here’s the thing: Republicans suddenly are panicked … over money. A week ago, GOP strategist Karl Rove, who helps spearhead two of the biggest Republican outside groups, sounded the alarm in his Wall Street Journal column. “As of this writing, between Sept. 1 and Election Day, Democratic Senate candidates, party committees and outside groups have run or placed $109 million in television advertising, while Republican candidates, party committees and groups have $85 million in television time.” That was followed over the weekend by a National Republican Senatorial Committee email stating: “There’s one potential obstacle [to success] -- the Democrats’ financial advantage.” For a party that USUALLY has the money edge, the GOP is slated to be outspent over the next six weeks. And so they’re essentially sending this message to their big donors, who are understandably gun-shy after 2012, “Help us now, because we don’t want to blow Election Day.”
And it feels different than your usual we-need-money plea
Of course, campaigns and outside groups send alarms all the time as a way to motivate donors. “We’re being outspent!” “We’re tied!” “We need your help!” But this feels VERY different. Republicans know that -- right now -- they don’t have the financial cavalry they did in 2010. And here is the reality staring at their party: They are going to have a GOOD year. But they are being judged by one thing and one thing only, having a GREAT year, and that means getting the Senate. Winning 10 House seats and five Senate seats will been viewed as a failure, especially in this environment and with this map. That’s why they’re sounding the alarm.
On Obama’s UN speech
The speech that President Obama delivered at the United Nations yesterday wasn’t the speech he wished he could give -- like his aspirational 2009 Cairo address. But given the stakes (U.S. military action in the Middle East) and the audience (a skeptical world), it might have been the most memorable speech of his second term. And it was the rare Obama address (at least these days) where few complained afterward. It had two messages: 1) a robust defense of American leadership, and 2) a call for the Muslim communities to get their houses in order, saying it was time for them “to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL,” using another acronym for ISIS. Making a not-so-subtle reference to Saudi Arabia, Obama added, “It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy, and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.” And he mentioned America’s own flaws, pointing out last summer’s tragedy and unrest in Ferguson, MO. But he ended the speech this way: “[W]e welcome the scrutiny of the world -- because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary.” His unmistakable message: Can the same be said for the Muslim world?
“Hope and change” replaced by “realpolitik”
It was the most realistic speech (in foreign-policy terms) he’s delivered since his Nobel Peace Prize address. National Journal’s George Condon smartly frames the speech as an evolution from his past UN speeches. “In that first address, on Sept. 23, 2009, the still-new president described himself as ‘humbled’ to be there and his message was of ‘a discontent with a status quo’ in the world. As he had done in his campaign domestically, he urged other world leaders that day to join him in a global vision he said was ‘rooted in hope, the hope that real change is possible.’ He spoke of ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and talked of ‘extremists’ rather than ‘terrorists.’ Russia was a partner, Guantanamo Bay would soon be emptied, and negotiators would find a way to close the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Overhanging all else was the need to pull the world back from the economic abyss.” Condon adds, “That was the start. And, today, 28,000 words and five U.N. addresses later, ‘hope and change’ has taken a step back; realpolitik has stepped forward. There was no more talk of partnerships with Russia. Instead, there was tough talk for the Kremlin of the type not heard in more than a decade.”
U.S. and coalition partners strike ISIS oil refineries in Syria
The U.S. military action from yesterday, per NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski: The U.S. and coalition airstrikes targeted modular oil refineries, a major source of income for ISIS at 12 separate locations, all inside Syria. Each of the 12 modular refineries, relatively small refineries that can be easily transported and assembled, produce up to 500 barrels of refined oil per day. It's estimated that ISIS makes up to $2 million per day in sales of oil on the black market.
On Hillary, the press, and trips to the bathroom
A story becomes damaging when it plays into a stereotype, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday when a New York Times reporter wrote that she and her colleagues covering the Clinton Global Initiative had to be escorted to use the bathroom. And as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza observed, it shined a spotlight on the Clintons’ 25-year antagonism with the political press corps. “[T]he episode also reflects the dark and, frankly, paranoid view the Clintons have toward the national media. Put simply: Neither Hillary nor Bill Clinton likes the media or, increasingly, sees any positive use for them.” If Hillary runs in 2016, she HAS to have a better relationship with the press than she had in 2007-2008. And if this episode is any early indication, it appears Team Clinton hasn’t gotten that message.
Why Pat Roberts is so vulnerable
Turning to the midterm races, don’t miss the quotes about vulnerable Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) from both voters and strategists in this Washington Post piece. “Looking back over my life, I’m wondering, ‘What major things has he done for Kansas?’ I’m coming up empty,” a GOP voter said. “I know he has a house in Virginia. Dodge City is supposed to be his home, just up the highway, but I don’t hear of him coming back too much.” Said another: “I’m 78 years old, and I’ve been voting for [Roberts] since the beginning. I don’t wish him any ill will. I just think we need a change.” We’ll see if Sarah Palin stumping for Roberts changes those sentiments. Here’s also the dispatch from MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt and Ben Mayer: “Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is standing in the atrium of the decaying Dodge City Mall, scantily-clad mannequins on display behind him in the window of a store called Illusions, warning a hometown crowd that the country is descending into national socialism... This new, harsher Pat Roberts has emerged in the face of a suddenly career-threatening challenge from Greg Orman.”
First Read’s Race of the Day: IL-12: Enyart vs. Bost
Before Bill Enyart nabbed this seat in 2012, it was held by Democrat Jerry Costello for two decades. When Costello retired, Democrats’ first choice candidate pulled out of the race for health reasons, setting Enyart up as the party’s nominee. He proved to be a strong candidate, besting Republican challenger Jason Plummer by almost 10 points. But this cycle, Republican challenger state Rep. Mike Bost has been posting good fundraising numbers, and he’s got plenty of experience: he’s serving his 10th term in the House of Representatives (although that tenure is marked by a House floor tirade that earned him the nickname “Meltdown Mike.”) Bost, who grew up working for a family trucking business and now owns a beauty salon, will try to siphon off Democratic voters by focusing on economy and energy issues.
Countdown to Election Day: 40 days
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