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SCOTUS Strikes Down Aggregate Contribution Limits">SCOTUS Strikes Down Aggregate Contribution Limits

Good. It’s argu­men­ta­tively stu­pid to cap the total amount of money an indi­vid­ual can give to a group of can­di­dates.  We don’t cap TV adver­tis­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the sta­tions which run cam­paign ads.  There sure as hell isn’t a cap on char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions or invest­ments, so cap­ping polit­i­cal giv­ing is derivative.

Besides, there sure as hell is no limit on giv­ing to 527 or 501 groups.

A split Supreme Court Wednes­day struck down lim­its on the total amount of money an indi­vid­ual may spend on polit­i­cal can­di­dates as a vio­la­tion of free speech rights, a deci­sion sure to increase the role of money in polit­i­cal campaigns.

The 5 to 4 deci­sion sparked a sharp dis­sent from lib­eral jus­tices, who said the deci­sion reflects a wrong-headed hos­til­ity to cam­paign finance laws that the court’s con­ser­v­a­tives showed in Cit­i­zens United v. FEC , which allowed cor­po­rate spend­ing on elections.

If Cit­i­zens United opened a door,” Jus­tice Stephen G. Breyer said in read­ing his dis­sent from the bench, “today’s deci­sion we fear will open a floodgate.”

Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opin­ion strik­ing down the aggre­gate lim­its of what an indi­vid­ual may con­tribute to can­di­dates and polit­i­cal committees.

The deci­sion did not affect the limit an indi­vid­ual may con­tribute to a spe­cific can­di­date, cur­rently $2,600.

But Roberts said an indi­vid­ual should be able to con­tribute that much to as many can­di­dates as he chooses, which was not allowed by the dona­tion cap.

An aggre­gate limit on how many can­di­dates and com­mit­tees an indi­vid­ual may sup­port through con­tri­bu­tions is not a mod­est restaint at all,” Roberts wrote. “The gov­ern­ment may no more restrict how many can­di­dates or causes a donor may sup­port than it may tell a news­pa­per how many can­di­dates it may endorse.”

There is a sim­i­lar case pend­ing in fed­eral court that the gang over at the Wis­con­sin Insti­tute for Law and Lib­erty is work­ing on.  It effects Wisconsin’s aggre­gate con­tri­bu­tion lim­its which are even more insane than the fed­eral one. It’s called Young vs. GAB.

Young v. GAB is a fed­eral case chal­leng­ing Wisconsin’s aggre­gate cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion lim­its, which are even lower than the fed­eral lim­its.  In fact, Wisconsin’s aggre­gate limit is set at the same level as the indi­vid­ual limit, mean­ing that if a donor gives a max con­tri­bu­tion to one can­di­date, he or she can­not give even $1 to any other can­di­date.  WILL brought this case on behalf of Fred Young, a local phil­an­thropist and busi­ness­man, alleg­ing that the limit vio­lates the free­dom of speech and expression.

The GAB has moved to dis­miss the case, argu­ing that the com­plaint does not suf­fi­ciently allege that Mr. Young is harmed by the limit. The par­ties have agreed to put the case on hold until McCutcheon v. FEC, a fed­eral case pend­ing before the U.S. Supreme Court chal­leng­ing fed­eral aggre­gate lim­its, is decided.

That gulp­ing sound is Kevin Kennedy out of Madison.

Nat­u­rally, the Dems are angry — even though now their donors too can rejoice in giv­ing to as many of them as they please — and have promised “leg­isla­tive rem­edy” to the rul­ing.  They’ve been promis­ing that since Cit­i­zens United but they haven’t done that while Super­PAC spend­ing on both sides of the aisle only goes up and up.

Politico lists some of the pro­pos­als, admit­tedly, only one of them sounds appeal­ing to me.

Mean­while, Maine Sen. Angus King, an inde­pen­dent who cau­cuses with Democ­rats, said he intro­duced leg­is­la­tion intended to make dona­tions more trans­par­ent by requir­ing all con­tri­bu­tions of $1,000 or more to be dis­closed to the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion within 48 hours. A cam­paign bill in the House will be intro­duced by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Why does this not bug me?  Well 1) I’m alright with instant dis­clo­sure over the Inter­net.  Makes sense.  2) Cam­paigns already have to do this any­way in the final days between their “Pre-Election Report” to the Fed­eral Elec­tions Com­mis­sion and Elec­tion Day.  That typ­i­cally is the last week to ten days of a campaign.

Heck was dur­ing that time in 2010 that I dis­cov­ered Bruce Sping­steen dropped a max dona­tion to Russ Fein­gold dur­ing my daily exam­i­na­tion of his finance reports.

Ah…good times.

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Another One of Those Geographically-Challenged Politicians Pops Up

Might be time we start form­ing a list for these sorts of things.

Sec­ondly, you ever notice that this stuff hap­pens mostly dur­ing debates on Immi­gra­tion?  (Just saying…)

While attempt­ing to attack an amend­ment to the “Gang of Eight” immi­gra­tion bill that would require a fence be built along Mexico’s bor­der with the U.S. before legal­iza­tion, Sen. Mary Lan­drieu (D-LA) made a sig­nif­i­cant geo­graph­i­cal gaffe.

Lan­drieu, who rep­re­sents Louisiana in the U.S. Sen­ate, was try­ing to under­mine the amend­ment Sen. John Thune (R-SD) offered. In doing so, she tried to argue Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was more qual­i­fied to talk about bor­der issues than Thune because McCain rep­re­sents Arizona.

A smart fence, which is what Sen­a­tor McCain and I want to build–since he’s from Ari­zona, I think he knows more about this than the Sen­a­tor from South Dakota who only has a bor­der with Canada and that is quite dif­fer­ent,” Lan­drieu said.

South Dakota does not share a bor­der with Canada. It does, how­ever, share bor­ders with North Dakota, Wyoming, Mon­tana, Min­nesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

I know what you’re think­ing?  “But Kevin, didn’t you and the rest of the Ron John­son cam­paign say New York wasn’t a Great Lakes State in 2010?”

No.  I’m say­ing I knew our ad guys were wrong when I was research­ing the ad for back-up facts and got vetoed and over-ruled on it.   Still to this day I’m shocked it took the state AP two days before they fig­ured out the error.  Frankly, since both cam­paigns looked like crap after that mid-July exchange of smear ads, I think every­one learned their les­son there.

There’s a dif­fer­ence between that and a politi­cian play­ing Geog­ra­phy pro­fes­sor at a Sen­ate hear­ing or dur­ing a debate in the Mil­wau­kee Co. Board Chambers.

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What Would We Do Without Studies?

Thanks sci­en­tists.  You’re efforts are not all for naught.

A top Demo­c­rat acknowl­edged Thurs­day that Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care bill hurt his party in 2010. And a new study sug­gests it cost the Democ­rats some­thing pretty spe­cific: their House majority.

It was clearly a lia­bil­ity in the last elec­tion in terms of the public’s fear,” House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thurs­day dur­ing a brief­ing with reporters.

The study, by five pro­fes­sors from insti­tu­tions across the coun­try, looks at the health care bill along­side other con­tentious votes in the 111th Con­gress and deter­mines that, more so than the stim­u­lus or the cap-and-trade energy bill, it cost Democ­rats seats. In fact, they lost almost exactly the num­ber of seats that decided the majority.

The study ran 10,000 sim­u­la­tions of a sce­nario in which all vul­ner­a­ble Democ­rats voted against the health care bill and found that the rejec­tions would have saved Democ­rats an aver­age of 25 seats, which would have made the House par­ties close to a tie. (Repub­li­cans won 63 seats over­all, but the study sug­gests around 25 of them would have been salvaged.)

In 62 per­cent of the sim­u­la­tions, Democ­rats were able to keep the House.

The study uses district-level data to show that the vote cre­ated “ide­o­log­i­cal dis­tance” between the Demo­c­ra­tic mem­bers of Con­gress and the median vot­ers in their dis­tricts, com­pared with sim­i­lar dis­tricts where the Demo­c­ra­tic incum­bent voted against the bill.

Demo­c­ra­tic incum­bents who sup­ported health care reform were seen as more lib­eral on aver­age by their con­stituents than those who did not,” the study says.

The study comes at an impor­tant time for the health care bill — just as it’s threat­en­ing to become a major issue again in the 2012 election.

Real shame we didn’t have one after “Healthy Wis­con­sin” bombed in 2007.  Then again, the Democ­rats not act­ing on it when they con­trolled all the reins of Wis­con­sin gov­ern­ment from 2009–2010 prob­a­bly tells you what their own inter­nal num­bers were show­ing them.

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L. Brent Bozell: Christine O’Donnell is a Buffoon

I got no issues with this.  Felt the same about the woman when she waltzed into the Blog­gers Lounge at CPAC in Feb­ru­ary of 2010.

It’s time to weigh in on the Chris­tine O’Donnell v. Piers Mor­gan dust-up Wednesday.

In short, O’Donnell’s behav­ior was beyond inde­fen­si­ble. It was down­right bizarre.

The ques­tions Piers Mor­gan put for­ward may have been trite, even seem­ingly silly, but given to whom they were being posed, they were not inap­pro­pri­ate. He asked if in her heart O’Donnell has com­mit­ted lust.

He asked her views on gay mar­riage. He asked her views on witch­craft and on mas­tur­ba­tion. Tit­il­lat­ing ques­tions? Sure, but O’Donnell has staked out pub­lic opin­ions on all these fronts and it is those pub­lic state­ments she’s made that invite ques­tions like his. She had to know she’d be asked these things when she accepted the inter­view invi­ta­tion. If she didn’t then she’s liv­ing in a par­al­lel uni­verse. More­over, Mor­gan was nei­ther Chris Matthews rude nor Keith Olber­mann offen­sive. He sim­ply asked the questions.

O’Donnell had no right to reject the ques­tions. Even worse, in declar­ing them inap­pro­pri­ate she made an ass of herself.

She answered the gay mar­riage ques­tion by declar­ing, over and over, that the answer could be found in her book, which book she was there to pro­mote, except she refused to dis­cuss her posi­tion on gay mar­riage, which was in the book. She declared she was there to “talk about the issues I chose to talk about in the book,” and when asked by Mor­gan, “Do you answer that ques­tion in the book?” she answered, “I talk about my reli­gious beliefs, yes. I absolutely do.” But she wouldn’t answer his ques­tion about gay mar­riage, and instead accused him of being rude to her.

Non­sen­si­cal is too kind. She is a buffoon.

O’Donnell had no right to walk off the set. But in a sense I’m glad she did — if it means she’ll never come back. Con­ser­v­a­tives do them­selves no favors by defend­ing this woman and she is doing con­ser­v­a­tives no favors by going on national tele­vi­sion pro­grams to talk about — God only knows what she’ll talk about, or not talk about, next. Please, Chris­tine O’Donnell, call it a day.

Frankly, what I would love to see some­day is some­one finally go off in a full col­umn on the jack-offs at Red­State and other blogs who felt that “Ide­o­log­i­cal Purity” mat­tered more than win­ning a Sen­ate seat with Mike Cas­tle instead and left us with this freak of nature.  That was a seat that, to quote Mil­wau­kee Buck announcer Ted Davis, was ‘in the bank and earn­ing inter­est’ for Repub­li­cans and this woman and her back­ers turned it into a loss.

So con­grat­u­la­tions guys, for both the loss for the GOP and stick­ing her on us for the fore­see­able future.

Then again, on the other hand, I should prob­a­bly be grate­ful for the O’Donnell can­di­dacy.  With the major national blogs com­pletely under the spell (pun intended) of the O’Donnell can­di­dacy, it kept our race off their radar long enough to not worry about them.  Though it was rather funny to read tweets from Kos­sites on Twit­ter dur­ing the cam­paign going “Dear God peo­ple, why are we focus­ing on the Crazy Witch, Russ Fein­gold is losing!”

(Yes, I mon­i­tored Twit­ter.  Tweets from Fein­gold staffers were often a hoot.)

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GWC">Troy Merryfield Comes Out Swinging at GWC

This took guts given the hor­ror he’s gone through.

Also, this is not the first time the statewide left has used and abused the Mer­ry­field broth­ers in the name of polit­i­cal gain.  Troy’s brother Todd was used by Keith Olber­mann, Crooks and Liars, TPM, and statewide blogs like that of for­mer Fein­gold flack Jud Louns­bury — who used his Daily Kos posts to make the news national –  to smear Ron John­son late in the 2010 Sen­ate race.

Can the statewide left for once just leave the Mer­ry­field broth­ers alone?

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Wisconsin’s Great Pot Advocate Dying of Lung Cancer

At one time or another, any­one on the left or right, has bat­tled with Ben Masel on some­thing.  It’s been both cor­dial and…well, interesting.

That being said, this is sad news nonetheless.

Ben Masel, the long­time face of the move­ment to legal­ize mar­i­juana in Madi­son, is dying of lung cancer.

Doc­tors can’t say whether there’s a direct con­nec­tion between Masel’s can­cer and his mar­i­juana use, since he also smoked tobacco for 40 years. But unlike his cig­a­rette use, which was light but long term, Masel acknowl­edges his mar­i­juana smok­ing has been heavy “by anybody’s standards.”

Dr. Michael Fiore, direc­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin Cen­ter for Tobacco Research and Inter­ven­tion, said it’s impos­si­ble to deter­mine what caused Masel’s lung cancer.

What is known is that the longer a per­son smokes, and the more cig­a­rettes he or she smokes, the greater the risk of lung can­cer, Fiore said. “In terms of mar­i­juana and lung can­cer the jury is still out, but the answer is that it is prob­a­bly a cause of lung cancer.”

Masel, 56, was diag­nosed with lung can­cer in Jan­u­ary and learned two weeks ago the can­cer was stage IV, mean­ing it has spread beyond his lungs. Med­ical scans showed that the can­cer has metas­ta­sized past a cure, he said.

At that point, his treat­ment strat­egy went from “cure to con­tain,” he said this week from his home away from home, EVP Cof­fee on East Wash­ing­ton Avenue.

Dur­ing the Sen­ate race, Masel was so con­fi­dent of a Fein­gold win of 100,000 votes,  he offered via Twit­ter a bet on August 24th.  Even money odds, $50 min­i­mum bet / $500 max­i­mum bet.

We on the John­son cam­paign were pri­vately barred from tak­ing him up on it.

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Sweet, We Won a “Pollie!”

Con­grats again to the team at OnMes­sage for win­ning a Pol­lie, the polit­i­cal con­sul­tant industry’s ver­sion of an Oscar for “The John­son Family.”

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Oshkosh Teachers Union Head Disciplined Over Emails

(H/T Jerry Bader)

Break­ing via the Oshkosh Northwestern:

The pres­i­dent of the Oshkosh has been dis­ci­plined for using his dis­trict email to encour­age oth­ers to call in sick to work so they can join protests in the state Capitol.

Also, dis­trict staff who joined the protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s bud­get repair bill on Feb. 17 and 18 will not receive any sick leave pay and will have to reim­burse the dis­trict the cost of a sub­sti­tute teacher, school offi­cials told The North­west­ern on Friday.

Oshkosh Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Len Her­ricks said he would not com­ment on the dis­ci­pline he received and deferred to a press release pre­pared by dis­trict admin­is­tra­tors Fri­day morning.

First of all, dis­ci­pli­nary issues are not pub­lic infor­ma­tion for any employee. So, that infor­ma­tion is con­fi­den­tial and off lim­its,” he said.

The press release states: “Mr. Her­ricks has acknowl­edged that he may have become overly involved in the statewide effort to chal­lenge the pend­ing Bud­get Repair Bill, and the Oshkosh Area School Dis­trict has dealt with this incor­rect advice and the mat­ter of emails sent by Mr. Her­ricks as a per­son­nel matter.”

Super­in­ten­dent Don Viegut told The North­west­ern Her­ricks received both ver­bal and for­mal dis­ci­pli­nary action.

The North­west­ern has requested a copy of the dis­ci­pli­nary records through the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

Expect to see more reports like this in com­ing days and weeks.  WEAC and their local union heads have no doubt been busy with var­i­ous union actions.  Already we have the t-shirt story in Two Rivers, there will no doubt be others.

Also, school dis­tricts in North­east Wis­con­sin are now com­ing down with their pun­ish­ments for those teach­ers who did protest in Madi­son. Kim­berly is adding a day to the cal­en­dar; tak­ing away a day of sum­mer vaca­tion, while Oshkosh is pun­ish­ing all teach­ers who called in sick with­out pay.

The Kim­berly Area School Dis­trict sent a let­ter to par­ents Fri­day say­ing a full day will be added to the school year on Fri­day, June 3, to make up for the teach­ers’ absences on Feb­ru­ary 18 that forced the school dis­trict to can­cel classes.


A num­ber of teach­ers from the Oshkosh area called in sick last month to attend the protests after being told they would be paid for their sick days. Now we’re told that’s not the case.

In a news release Fri­day, the Oshkosh Area School Dis­trict said those teach­ers were incor­rectly advised by the Oshkosh Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent that they would be paid even though they called in sick to protest.

The school dis­trict said, “Mem­bers who attended the ral­lies in Madi­son will not be paid for those days, and the dis­trict will be com­pen­sated for the cost of a substitute.”

It went on to say, “The dis­trict can­not… sup­port absences from the workplace.”

Finally, an aside as one who saw Len Her­ricks will­ingly pimp him­self out to the Fein­gold cam­paign — prov­ing where his real loy­al­ties were — because now-Senator Ron John­son men­tioned him [Her­ricks] as an indi­vid­ual he asked be included on an edu­ca­tion com­mit­tee for the bet­ter­ment of Oshkosh’s chil­dren.  So yes, my take on Her­ricks tak­ing on it on the chin can be summed up as…couldn’t hap­pen to a nicer guy who betrayed a man who hon­estly saw him as his friend.


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Dear Lord, What Have We Started?

Found this at a British pol­i­tics and pub­lic pol­icy blog.

The white board seems to come into its own in US cam­paign­ing in recent times. First we saw Wis­con­sin Sen­a­tor Ron Johnson’s very suc­cess­ful cam­paign ads in the last elec­tion cycle, with John­son stand­ing in front of a white board explain­ing how the Sen­ate was dom­i­nated by lawyers, with few com­ing from a busi­ness back­ground. In fact, these ads were so iconic in the cam­paign, Johnson’s oppo­nent Russ Fein­gold ended up doing his own white board ad. Now tech­Pres­i­dent links to this new video from the White House show­ing adviser Stephanie Cut­ter going through the health­care debate on a white board.

You can see why this white board approach is suc­cess­ful. Unlike many pre­sen­ta­tion tech­niques, the white board approach tends to amplify what the speaker is say­ing rather than tak­ing atten­tion away from it. Peo­ple tend to draw sim­ple graph­ics that empha­sise cer­tain points, or to write up cer­tain key words. Con­trast this with the stan­dard pow­er­point approach which often drowns the audi­ence in mas­sive amounts of data and text that they can’t pos­si­bly process while lis­ten­ing to a speaker at the same time.

It’ll be inter­est­ing to see if any UK cam­paigns pick up on this. It’s pos­si­ble to think of quite a few who might ben­e­fit from this approach.

I’ve actu­ally seen a few of the White House’s white­board pre­sen­ta­tions since they started doing them in late Sep­tem­ber ini­tially, and really picked them up with the tax cut debate dur­ing the 2010 “Lame Duck” ses­sion.  One could say the White House and Chair­man of the Eco­nomic Advis­ers Austin Gools­bee ripped off the idea from us in the John­son campaign.

57” was released ear­lier that week and imme­di­ately was abuzz among the DC polit­i­cal class.  Was the White House copy­ing the John­son Cam­paign ad, or was it in the hop­per for a while?

You decide.

As for Feingold’s late in the game counter-ad on the “White­board” image, I actu­ally thought it was way too late in the cam­paign to make much of a dif­fer­ence.  Also, upon its release was prob­a­bly the first time dur­ing the race I hon­estly thought we on the John­son Cam­paign were going to win it.

Guys on the verge of vic­tory don’t attempt to co-opt an image from the other cam­paign.  Guys about to lose do.

It will be inter­est­ing to see if British cam­paigns also start using the white­board in their cam­paigns.  In Britain, cam­paign ads last up to five-minutes in length and are called “Polit­i­cal Broad­casts.”  (See last year’s from the Tories here, Labour here, and the Lib Dems here.)  You won­der if using a white­board image will work with that sort of length, or would it get buried in wonk-speak.

Finally, I’d be amiss if I didn’t give all the credit to our ad team.  Brad and Curt, you guys rock!

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The Post-Mortem Feingold Fans Dreaded Has Arrived

Via the Rothen­berg Polit­i­cal Report’s Nathan L. Gon­za­les, writ­ing in Roll Call.

Given its author and loca­tion, this will be pri­or­ity read­ing for most of polit­i­cal Wash­ing­ton by lunch tomorrow.

The high­lights:

The Rede­f­i­n­i­tion of Russ

As long as he held on to his inde­pen­dent moniker, he was pretty much unbeat­able,” Johnson’s poll­ster, Wes Ander­son, told Roll Call. “If we don’t explore that, we don’t win.”

Through early focus groups, the John­son cam­paign believed there was a crack in Feingold’s inde­pen­dent armor. It “zoned in” on two key ele­ments of Feingold’s strength: “fis­cally respon­si­ble and inde­pen­dent mav­er­ick.” It tried to peel away the inde­pen­dent label and claim it for Johnson.

We zoned in on those two things and had the ammu­ni­tion from the last two years with Obama,” said Johnson’s media con­sul­tant, Curt Ander­son, Wes Anderson’s brother, who worked at the National Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­ial Com­mit­tee in 1992 when Fein­gold defeated Kasten.

Curt Ander­son said the John­son team believed Feingold’s inde­pen­dence was based on some “incon­se­quen­tial votes.”

Fein­gold told vot­ers on the cam­paign trail he’d opposed bank bailouts under Pres­i­dents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He may be best known as the sin­gle dis­sent­ing vote against the USA PATRIOT Act.

But in an elec­tion in which vot­ers were most con­cerned about the econ­omy, Repub­li­cans focused on Feingold’s votes for the $787 bil­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus bill, health care reform and Obama’s budget.

Democ­rats admit that instead of rewrit­ing his­tory and dis­tort­ing Feingold’s record, Repub­li­cans were able to focus on what they believe he is now. By the end of the race, Feingold’s great­est strength was sapped.

Going National Hurt He Who Knew “Wis­con­sin Like the Back of His Hand”

Some Democ­rats in the state said the Senator’s national rep­u­ta­tion — and his brief flir­ta­tion with a 2008 pres­i­den­tial bid — may have exceeded his con­nec­tion to the Bad­ger State.

He thought vis­it­ing 72 coun­ties every two years would be enough to insu­late him from the envi­ron­ment,” a Demo­c­ra­tic source said.

In gen­eral, mul­ti­ple Demo­c­ra­tic observers in the state said, Fein­gold over­es­ti­mated him­self and under­es­ti­mated Johnson.

Quite frankly, Russ was a lit­tle arro­gant,” a sec­ond Bad­ger State Demo­c­rat said.

Fein­gold arro­gant?  Say it ain’t so!

The Col­lapse of the Ads

The decision-making process was far dif­fer­ent,” Feingold’s long­time media con­sul­tant, Steve Eichen­baum, told Roll Call in a recent inter­view. Con­trary to the past three races, the Milwaukee-based media con­sul­tant found him­self tak­ing orders rather than hav­ing cre­ative input.

They weren’t our ideas,” Eichen­baum explained about the ads that made the air­waves. “We were more of a pro­duc­tion company.”

So who was the director?

Russ Fein­gold runs Feingold’s cam­paigns,” accord­ing to one Demo­c­ra­tic insider. “He micro­man­ages his races in a mad­den­ing way.”

Until now, it hadn’t been much of a problem.

Russ Fein­gold has always been a good judge. His instincts were infal­li­ble up to this point,” Eichen­baum said. “Russ just believed he couldn’t do what he did in the past and have it work.”

Fein­gold declined to be inter­viewed for this report.

Even though Eichen­baum dis­agreed with the direc­tion of the cam­paign, he still has “noth­ing but the high­est respect” for Fein­gold, and he’s not sure that his dis­carded ideas would have changed the outcome.

The Strength of Ron Johnson’s Ads

What’s most remark­able about the John­son cam­paign is that no one can seem to agree which ad was the Republican’s best.

Apple Pie” and “Fam­ily” have received some recog­ni­tion because the bio spots mocked typ­i­cal cam­paign ads for their over-the-top whole­some­ness. But “57” may go down as Johnson’s sig­na­ture ad of the cycle.

The spot fea­tured John­son and a white board point­ing out the num­ber of lawyers in the Sen­ate (57) com­pared with the num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers (zero) and accoun­tants (one). Fein­gold is a lawyer; John­son is both a man­u­fac­turer and an accountant.

It sim­pli­fied the race for a lot of peo­ple,” accord­ing to Mark Graul, a for­mer adviser to then-Rep. Mark Green ®.

The can­di­dates spent well over $10 mil­lion each in what will go down as the most expen­sive Sen­ate race in Wis­con­sin his­tory, with Fein­gold ask­ing the Demo­c­ra­tic Sen­a­to­r­ial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee to stay out of the race.

My per­sonal fave of our ads was also “57.”

I was the one who had to go through all the offi­cial bios (and then some) of all the United States Sen­a­tors to double-check the facts of the ad — not an easy task since the 111th Con­gress has seen it share of deaths and mem­ber­ship changes in the Sen­ate — it was nice to see all that read­ing and hard work pay off in the fash­ion the ad team and the rest of the cam­paign wanted.

The Loss of the Wis­con­sin Inde­pen­dent Voter

Not only did Fein­gold strug­gle to main­tain his inde­pen­dent image, he strug­gled with inde­pen­dent voters.

In 2008, Obama won inde­pen­dents in Wis­con­sin 58 per­cent to 39 per­cent and won the state by more than a dozen points. This year, Fein­gold lost inde­pen­dents
56 per­cent to 43 per­cent and lost the race by 5 points.

“Johnson’s mes­sage of a career politi­cian, big gov­ern­ment spend­ing, too many taxes and too much spend­ing res­onated with these inde­pen­dent vot­ers,” said Madison-based lob­by­ist Scott Tyre, who worked for for­mer Sen. Bob Gra­ham (D-Fla.).

Feingold’s strug­gle with inde­pen­dent vot­ers mir­rored Demo­c­ra­tic prob­lems nation­wide, and a closer look at this year’s elec­tions in Wis­con­sin begs the ques­tion of whether this race had any­thing to do with the Senator.

Not only did Fein­gold lose re-election, but Repub­li­cans cap­tured the gov­er­nor­ship for the first time in eight years and took over both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture in a state where res­i­dents can vote a straight party ticket, a process allowed in fewer than 20 states.

A county-by-county analy­sis revealed that even though John­son and GOP guber­na­to­r­ial nom­i­nee Scott Walker had very dif­fer­ent résumés and ran dis­tinct cam­paigns, their per­cent­ages of the vote were nearly the same. The two Repub­li­cans ran within 2 points of each other in 67 coun­ties and only 3 points apart in the remain­ing five.

Of the few Democ­rats who have talked to me freely since Elec­tion Day, many of them off the record have told me the same thing: “The Fein­gold Camp didn’t think they were los­ing until early October…and their cam­paign tac­tics reflected it.”

Out in DC last week, I had more than a few con­ver­sa­tions with friends and a few web jour­nal­ists (Off-the-record in those cases) who cov­ered the race on the road with the Fein­gold cam­paign.  Many of them told me they were amazed at how Democ­rats in Wis­con­sin were unwill­ing to accept the bad envi­ron­ment in front of them [Slate’s Dave Weigel per­son­ally told me out-going State Sen­a­tor Pat Kre­it­low (D-Chippewa Falls) told him he was going to win his race.  On Elec­tion night, Kre­it­low lost to Terry Moul­ton 54% to 46%.].

Gon­za­les pretty much nails what many of us on the John­son cam­paign felt dur­ing the race.  Now it’s just inter­est­ing, and a bit reas­sur­ing, to read them be con­firmed a month after Elec­tion Day.

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