Democrats have conducted a full-court press in North Carolina, not against Republicans or a GOP candidate, but against two libertarian billionaires. Just as Harry Reid demonized David and Charles Koch on the Senate floor and the Democratic Party got four Pinocchios for its own attack two weeks ago, the party started flooding some battleground states with fundraising pitches and attack ads going after the Koch brothers for their free-market activism. National Journal looks at a non-partisan poll and calls the strategy a flop — at least for now:
After absorbing millions of dollars in outside spending from groups connected to the Koch brothers, congressional Democrats have made the conservative billionaires the star villains in a messaging counteroffensive. But a new nonpartisan poll highlights a problem with the plan: A majority of likely 2014 voters have never even heard of the Kochs.
A 52 percent majority of respondents in the new George Washington University Battleground Poll said they had never heard of the Koch brothers, with an additional 11 percent saying they had no opinion of the conservative industrialists. Of the small slice who registered an opinion of the Kochs, 12 percent viewed them favorably and 25 percent viewed them unfavorably. The survey is one of the first to test opinions about the Kochs since they became a big subject of political conversation in the last few years.
In other words, this is red meat for the base. Most everyone else could care less, mainly because the “look — billionaires!” scare tactic is so blatantly hypocritical. Republicans used it with George Soros after the trader made public his desire to spend his fortune to keep George W. Bush from winning a second term. Reid and Senate Democrats just hijacked the Senate chamber for an all-night stunt on behalf of billionaire Thomas Steyer’s global-warming agenda without bothering to even propose a single piece of legislation … even though Democrats control the Senate. Republcians haven’t done anything remotely close to that to advance any particular agenda item for the Kochs.
This led to an interesting conversation on Twitter with Sam Stein, ABC’s Rick Klein, CNN’s Jake Tapper, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, and myself. Sam suggested that it’s too soon to judge whether the Koch attack is effective, comparing to the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney. That, I replied, was apples to oranges:
March 25, 2014 — 52% unaware of Koch bros http://t.co/ckFZDJQjm4
May 22, 2012 – 53% unaware of Bain Capital http://t.co/ypxDK6dRCO
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) March 25, 2014
@samsteinhp I don't think Bain really resonated either, though. I think it was the "47%" remark.
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) March 25, 2014
@samsteinhp Also, Bain related directly to the candidate. Kochs=Soros. People shrug because billionaires are on both sides (see: Steyer).
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) March 25, 2014
Rick and Jake pointed out that the Bain attacks did resonate in Ohio, though, and that it still pushes the narrative into the direction Democrats want:
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 25, 2014
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) March 25, 2014
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) March 25, 2014
I’m inclined to agree more with Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster participating in this bipartisan survey, correctly diagnoses this as a fund-raising ploy rather than a serious attempt to argue the issues, and notes that it will be just as effective as GOP attacks on George Soros. North Carolina Democrat strategist Thomas Mills also agrees, and would like to see Democrats stop going off on tangents:
When I was growing up, there was a joke about a priest, a hippie and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in an airplane. The plane’s engines gave out but there were only two parachutes. Kissinger quickly said, “Well, I’m the smartest man in the world and the world needs me.” He grabbed a pack and jumped out of the plane. The priest looked at the hippie and said, “Go ahead, my son. I’ve already lived a long and good life.” The hippie replied, “No worries, Father. The smartest man in the world just jumped out of the plane wearing my backpack.”
That’s how I feel about the consultants who’ve decided the way to keep the Senate in Democratic hands is to try to wrap every Republican candidate around the Koch brothers. I’m just dismayed that candidates like Kay Hagan are following them and not finding real parachutes. If some group wants to take it on themselves to discredit the Kochs, fine but the guilt-by-association strategy seems so obviously flawed that watching the resources go into it is disheartening.
In North Carolina, we’ve built a cottage industry attacking Art Pope and wrapping Republican policies and candidates around him. So far, it’s succeeded in getting us the first Republican governor in 20 years and a Republican legislature with veto proof majorities. Now, the Washington Democrats are adopting the model.
We’ll see just how much the Koch attacks resonate as the election draws near; Democrats don’t seem inclined to drop it, especially when they’re getting cover from the media through blatantly biased and false reporting. Voters, however, will probably continue to be more interested in the candidates than which billionaire is contributing to which party, and have ObamaCare and five years of economic stagnation and stalled job creation prioritized over nonsense attacks on side issues.