Mojo - November 2012

Barack Obama Wins Reelection

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 12:27 AM EST

With multiple networks now calling Ohio for the president, Obama will return to the White House for four more years. Stay tuned for more soon from MoJo's David Corn, reporting from Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

On social media tonight there is much chatter about the 47 percent; Romney's infamous comments to rich donors, revealed in the video published by MoJo back in September, marked an inflection point in the race by many counts. Watch the video here and read the full transcript here.

 

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George Allen Fumbles Virginia Senate Race—Again

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 12:06 AM EST
Virginia's next senator, Tim Kaine.

In an Senate race that pitted two former governors against each other in Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine has eked out a win over Republican George Allen.

Kaine, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, won one of the most expensive Senate matches of this election. The race attracted more outside spending than any other in the country, topping $52 million. (That's beyond the $32 million that the campaigns themselves spent.)

Allen sought to reclaim the Senate seat he held from 2001 to 2007, when he lost to Jim Webb, a Democrat that served as the Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. That loss was largely attributed to a viral video in which Allen was seen calling a Democratic tracker the racially-loaded term "macaca." Mother Jones' reporter Tim Murphy chronicled Allen's comeback attempt earlier this year.

Claire McCaskill Shuts Down Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 11:43 PM EST

Call her Comeback Claire.

Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill engineered one of the most stunning reversals of fortune in the 2012 election cycle, defeating Republican Rep. Todd Akin to claim another six-year term in the US Senate. At her campaign's outset in the summer of 2011, McCaskill was largely seen as the weakest Democratic senator on the ballot anywhere in the country. But ultimately it was McCaskill's gritty campaign combined with Akin's eyebrow-raising comments about rape that sealed her victory on Tuesday and denied Republicans a must-win seat if they hoped to reclaim the Senate majority. In an interview with a local TV station in mid-August, Akin claimed that if the rape of a woman is "a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin's "legitimate rape" comment ignited a political firestorm, angered women everywhere, and flipped Missouri's US Senate race on its head. Akin later said he "misspoke," but the damage was done. Powerful Republican groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC, its affiliate Crossroads GPS, and other outside groups pulled their money out of Missouri. So damaging were his comments that a chorus of Republicans demanded Akin drop out of the race. Rove even joked about Akin's murder at the Republican National Convention in August.

Akin stood firm. "The people of Missouri chose me to be their candidate," he told ABC in late August. "And I don't believe it's right for party bosses to decide to override those voters."

But Akin, like fellow rape-gaffe Republican Richard Mourdock in Indiana, never recovered from his "legitimate rape" comment. Despite regaining some of his political and financial support, he trailed McCaskill by 6 percentage points heading into Tuesday's election in RealClearPolitics' polling average.

McCaskill's win, like Sen. Sherrod Brown's in Ohio, shows that outside money isn't so useful when it supports a weak candidate. McCaskill faced tens of millions in attacks from super-PACs and dark money groups—to no avail.

The Missouri Senate race marks yet another disappointment for Republicans. They were supposed to send McCaskill packing. But they couldn't muster the candidate to get the job done.

Tammy Duckworth Sends Tea Party Loudmouth Packing

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 11:23 PM EST

Ladda Tammy Duckworth is the child of a gun-loving World War II vet and a Thai immigrant of Chinese descent. She lost her legs piloting a Blackhawk helicopter through an insurgent attack in Iraq. In January, using prosthetic legs, she will step onto the floor of the US House of Representatives as the first combat-injured female member of Congress in the history of the United States.

Duckworth was elected to the House on Tuesday by voters in Illinois' 8th District, unseating Joe Walsh—a loud, brash tea party freshman whose tough talk on fiscal matters was belied by a personal history that included delinquent child support and a condo foreclosure. The deep-blue state Legislature had redistricted the 8th into a Democratic-friendly mix of affluent Chicago suburbs and immigrant strongholds; Walshwho'd only won election in the tea party wave of 2010 by 290 votes out of more than 200,000 castwas basically abandoned by national Republicans. It didn't help that Walsh called the president "a tyrant," and at virtually every opportunity dismissed Duckworth's military service and yelled at constituents.

In his place, Capitol Hill receives a favorite of the Democratic establishment; Duckworth is a former Obama assistant secretary of veterans affairs, a solid blue vote, and an impossibly upbeat personality headed to a fractious and frozen Congress. But in the Illinois 8th, a major waypoint for Midwestern industry and infrastructure, she pushed local issues: manufacturing, jobs, and social programs for the underprivileged. "My strength is in finding ways to make the government work for the people," she told me this summer, "finding waste, or money that is not being properly used…or finding opportunities that are out there and making them work for the community."

But before she heads to Washington, Duckworth has an extra stop to make next week: On November 12, she'll gather with old Army buddies in St. Louis for her "alive day," when they celebrate surviving the attack that took her legs. She'll reunite with the copilot of her fated helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Milberg, who beams when he thinks about Duckworth's future in Congresseven if they don't always see eye-to-eye on politics. "Too many people, military people included, are too willing to have a pity party. Man, there's no time for pity parties—look at this gal," he said. "I look at her and I think: 'What have I got to be cryin' about?'"

We'll Have Alan Grayson to Kick Around Again

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 11:20 PM EST

Alan Grayson, the bomb-throwing Florida Democratic congressman who was tossed out in the tea party wave of 2010, is going back to Washington. After moving to the newly drawn, deep-blue 9th congressional district after redistricting, Grayson is easily topping his Republican challenger, lawyer and perennial candidate Todd Long, by double digits.

Grayson, who served just one term in Congress before losing to GOP Rep. Dan Webster, carved out a reputation in Washington as a progressive capable of exploding at any moment on nearly any issue. Among other things, Grayson said that former Vice President Dick Cheney has blood "dripping from his teeth," called a female lobbyist a "K-Street whore," said Rush Limbaugh was "more lucid when he was a drug addict," and warned "Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."

But if you expected Grayson to tone down his act during his two years in the wilderness, you obviously don't know anything about Alan Grayson. On Sunday, he wrote on his Facebook page that, "Sometime between now and Tuesday, they'll say that an Obama victory means the Mayan Apocalypse, 45 days later, and only Mitt Romney/Todd Long/whoever can save us from that. They just keep pushing that big, red PANIC button, over and over and over again."

Grayson's bombast could be exhausting at times, but as my colleague Andy Kroll noted in 2010, he was also a voice for issues even Democrats tended to ignore:

In the recent foreclosure debacle, which introduced regular Americans to "robo signers" and "foreclosure mills," Grayson was a leading voice demanding investigations and highlighting the most glaring problems with the foreclosure pipeline. His pressure, combined with dozens of other members of Congress, helped to spur a nationwide probe involving by all 50 state attorneys to scrutinize into banks' alleged wrongdoing in the foreclosure process.

If GOP Rep. Allen West holds on to win, Florida can probably lay claim to the two members of Congress most hated by the other side.

"Do Not Use the Green Line" Guy Loses DC Delegate Race

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 11:12 PM EST
Bruce Majors, candidate for DC Delegate to US House

We probably don't need an exit poll to say with some confidence that DC real estate agent Bruce Majors has lost his race against incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton for the ever-so-powerful job of DC Delegate to the US House of Representatives. Majors is best known for his 15 minutes of fame two years ago when he wrote a guide advising people visiting DC for a Glenn Beck rally to stay away from subway lines that serve predominantly poor black areas. That earned the scorn of everyone from Rachel Maddow to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who said he thought Majors was "scaring white people." He was an unlikely challenger for Norton's job. A tea partier, libertarian, professional Internet troll, and gay rights advocate who has given thousands of dollars to Democrats in years past, Majors has been a fixture in local city politics for a couple of decades.

He ran against Norton mostly with his own money, and didn't ever have much of a shot of winning. But he seems to have an ulterior motive for his campaign: securing a permanent slot on the DC ballot for the Libertarian Party. It's a laudable goal. When it comes to local politics, DC is a one-party town. Virtually every city office is held by a Democrat or a Democrat pretending to be an independent to win a seat on the city council, where the law requires two seats to be held by people of a different party. If Majors wins 7,500 votes from the city's libertarian/Republican/Ron Paul voting block, the Libertarians won't have to spend a small fortune every two years to get on the ballot, and DC voters might have another choice, even in races as meaningless as the DC delegate race.

The DC delegate election is one of the more depressing features of voting as a DC resident. Those of us who live in the nation's capital suffer from taxation without representation in the US Congress. Voting for Norton is just a reminder of that second-class status. The 22-year incumbent gets to attend congressional hearings and hang out with real members, but she doesn't actually get to vote on anything outside of committees. Yet every two years, she raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, mounts a campaign, a fringe candidate makes a stab at running against her, and we pretend it's a real exercise in democracy.

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Richard "God's Will" Mourdock Won't Be a Senator

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:53 PM EST

Update: Sen. Claire McCaskill has won her reelection bid against Todd Akin in Missouri.

In the hotly contested Senate race in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly pulled out a win over Republican Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock, who had the backing of tea partiers in the state, demolished longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary and was widely favored to win the general election. That is, until he stated in a debate in late October that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape it is "something that God intended to happen." It was only one of many ill-advised rape comments this election year, but it came close to the election—and had an immediate, significant impact on Mourdock's poll numbers.

Donnelly is a moderate Democrat who has served two terms in the House. His campaign aimed to win over moderates from both parties who had supported Lugar, a 35-year veteran of the Senate, by painting Mourdock as an "extreme" right-wing candidate. Mourdock certainly furthered that impression with his rape comment last month.

But the thing is, Donnelly also holds relatively extreme anti-abortion views. Last year he cosponsored and voted for the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" that would have restricted federal funding for abortions even more than the Hyde Amendment already does. He also supported early versions of the bill that would have redefined rape as only "forcible rape"—which would exclude statutory rapes, cases where a woman is drugged or drunk, date rapes, or when the victim has limited mental capacity.

Given his own views on abortion, that Donnelly won the race largely because of Mourdock's comment on the subject is pretty remarkable.

Elizabeth Warren Takes Down Scott Brown

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:44 PM EST
Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (right) with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Two years ago, Elizabeth Warren told David Corn that she'd rather stab herself in the eye than go back to Washington. On Tuesday, the Harvard Law professor and creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ate her words, knocking off Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) in one of the most closely watched—and at times nastiest—races of the 2012 cycle. Warren's win isn't just a case of a Democrat winning in Massachusetts; perhaps no candidate, President Obama included, inspired as much enthusiasm from progressives across the country. (She raised more money than any other Senate challenger in the country, much of it from out of state.) NBC News called the race shortly after polls closed in Boston.

Warren did it largely by sticking with what made her a political star in the first place—a fierce defense of the social contract, which led Republican to dub her "Matriarch of Mayhem" for her support of Occupy Wall Street:

For Republicans, a what-might-have-been remains the campaign finance truce Warren and Brown agreed to, which barred outside groups from buying TV ad time in the Bay State (per the agreement, any independent expenditure would have to be offset with a chartiable donation from the campaign). Given the extent to which Republican outside groups outspent Democratic groups in 2012, that bargain almost certainly ended up working in Warren's favor. It also meant that the fiercest attacks on Warren's character—hitting her, for example, for identifying as Cherokee at Harvard—came from Brown himself, eroding his largely positive image in Massachusetts.

For the 53-year-old Brown, this is likely not the end of his political career. With Sen. John Kerry rumored to be a top choice to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there's a possibility a new seat could open up as early as December. In that case, Brown would be a heavy favorite for the Republican nomination, and with a comparably weak Democratic bench in the state, stand a decent shot at getting his old job back. Alternatively, with Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick term-limited after 2014, he might just opt to try his luck closer to home.

This post was originally published based on inaccurate reports that the race had been called for Warren. The race has since been called by CBS and NBC.

Video of Ludicrously Long Voting Lines in Florida

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:38 PM EST

As I've previously reported here, Florida has been beset by massive delays at the polls due to shortages of key voting equipment such as ballots and ballot scanners, and understaffing at polling places. Now comes this shocking video from Video The Vote, showing a voting line snaking around the block in Miami. It should be noted that, as of 6:40 EST, the Florida presidential race was insanely close. NPR was reporting a 500-vote difference.

Sen. Sherrod Brown Fights Off the Dark-Money Machine to Win in Ohio

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:36 PM EST
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Republican super-PACs and dark-money groups hurled everything they had at Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)—upwards of $40 million in outside money, according to the Brown campaign. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, you name it: The heavyweights in the GOP big-money universe blitzed Ohio with TV ads, mailers, and billboards bashing Brown and supporting his opponent, Republican Josh Mandel.

But Brown didn't buckle. Instead, he defeated Mandel on Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race at 9:23 p.m. EST.

Brown's defeat deals a blow to the GOP's hopes of reclaiming control of the US Senate. (Democrats controlled 53 seats heading into Tuesday's election.) A year ago, the Republican Party and powerful outside groups ranked Brown alongside Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri as vulnerable incumbents ripe for ousting. The road to a Republican Senate majority ran through Ohio, Montana, and Missouri, as well as contested states like Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, and North Dakota. That's why GOP groups invested tens of millions of dollars in beating Brown and electing Mandel. In Ohio, Brown has left with them nothing to show for it.

Mandel, Ohio's youthful treasurer and an Iraq war veteran, proved no match for the gravelly-voiced Brown. He was dogged by missteps and mini-controversies throughout his campaign: stubbornly refusing to take a position on the US auto bailout, racking up a miserable attendance record for boards on which he served, even confronting a Democratic tracker in the presence of a reporter and then misleading the public about it. At one point Mandel had amassed more "Pants on Fire" ratings from PolitiFact Ohio than any other candidate in Ohio.

Despite all the money poured into defeating Brown, Mandel never took the lead in the race. The closest Mandel got was a 3-point deficit in early September. Heading into Election Day, Brown led Mandel by 5 percentage points, 50 percent to 45 percent, in RealClearPolitics' polling average. Mandel's lackluster support could have something to do with his refusal to stake out a position on the auto bailout. The bailout saved tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio, a state that's home to car plants and auto suppliers, and the bailout itself was a salient issue in both the Brown-Mandel Senate race and the presidential race. Brown voted for the bailout and openly touted his choice throughout the campaign.

Brown's victory puts the Senate Democrats one seat closer to keeping their slim majority. It also serves as a lesson: Even a staggering amount of political money can't always propel a subpar candidate to victory.