Democrats Are Even Losing the Re-Write of the 2014 Election

Even the next day spin of the midterm elections has gone to the Republicans.
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The dueling teams of Jeremy Peters/Carl Hulse and Phil Rucker/Robert Costa are up with rich, must-read, narrative-hardening stories about how the Republican establishment won the midterms. To paraphrase Bill Hader's beloved Stefan, these stories have everything—Senate Democrats on the record trashing the White House, NRSC staffers recalling the murder boards that warned candidates not to make rape gaffes, Mitch McConnell personally scouring FEC reports to find people who owed him money, Bob Dole micromanaging Pat Roberts's campaign. (Dole's micromanagement of his own previous campaigns had always been covered as a flaw.) Read them, know them, love them.

Also, take in some fascinating examples of history being written by the victor. From the Peters/Hulse story, here's a retelling of the Obama gaffe that thrilled the GOP.

When he delivered a speech last month at Northwestern University and declared that his policies were “on the ballot” alongside the candidates who were trying desperately to distance themselves from him, it infuriated Democrats.

This will be forever remembered as an example of the White House arrogantly including a line that stroked Obama's ego, and failing to see the political cost of it. Forgotten in the whispering mists of time: The fact that Obama was not actually talking about all of his policies. His Northwestern speech, which never made political sense, was entirely about economic policy, an example of the White House trying and failing to convince voters that the economy had turned around. The "these policies" line referred to "the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy," etc; the issues mentioned in the speech. No one will ever care.

In the Rucker/Costa piece, we learn that Democrats were aware of Bruce Braley's doofus problem.

The Braley campaign had problems. With each of his missteps — a gaffe about towel service at the House gym, hostile questioning of witnesses in committee hearings and a local fracas over a neighbor’s roaming chickens — Braley caused heartburn in Washington.

Indeed it did. In the final days of the election, in talking to the aforementioned Democratic strategists, I found universal agreement that Braley was a world-beatingly bad candidate who fumbled at the very sight of a ball. One Democrat recalled to me that he was horrified to learn that Braley, not an avuncular candidate like Representative Dave Loebsack or Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, was the party's Iowa recruit. He described Braley with a slur that combines a feminine cleaning product with the waste receptacle one might use to dispose of it.

And yet ... Braley's "farmer" gaffe was leaked in March 2014. The "towel service" gaffe occurred in October 2013. The "hostile questioning" is a reference to Braley's badgering of conservative scholar Sally Pipes over whether she had "advanced degrees" suitable for her testimony. That happened in 2009, but was re-run like a sitcom reunion episode several times throughout the cycle. Braley made no big gaffes, in real time, after the "farmer" incident.

It's just true that Republicans used "these policies" to freshen up their message about Democrats voting with the president, and true that after farmer-gate, everything Braley did fit into a storyline about how arrogant he was. They're going to be remembered as even worse for Democrats because of the killer re-thinking of turnout and analytics that Republicans committed to after 2012. That, and the new GOP media infrastructure—oppo shops like America Rising, "combat journalism" from the Washington Free Beacon—rattled Democrats who were not used to losing the media's story lines.

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