Storified by Brian Empric· Thu, Mar 21 2013 18:42:22
“Democrats are plotting an aggressive effort to defend their most imperiled House members in 2014. On Tuesday (3/5/13), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will unveil its incumbent-retention program, known as Frontline, which will include 26 incumbents from districts across the country.”
“President Barack Obama has promised to raise money for the House Democratic campaign arm, and party officials say some of that cash will be directed to the vulnerable members.”
“Democrats are starting the cycle facing stiff headwinds: Only four Republican incumbents are in seats that favor Democrats, while 15 Democrats are in seats that lean toward the GOP. And midterm elections typically favor the party that does not control the White House.”
“Republicans say the Frontline program rollout shows that Democrats are on defense at a relatively early point in the election cycle. The National Republican Congressional Committee is expected to unveil its incumbent-retention effort, known as the Patriot Program, later this year.”
“Democrats started the year talking about how they were going to win the majority, yet now, they are releasing a list of 26 vulnerable incumbents they are not even confident will win,” said Andrea Bozek (@AndreaBozek), an NRCC spokeswoman. “Doesn’t sound like Obama’s dream of Nancy Pelosi being speaker again is based in reality.”
“Of the 26 incumbents in Frontline, 13 are in districts that favor Republicans, and 17 won in 2012 by less than 5 percentage points. Twenty-five are among the 34 Democrats The Cook Political Report has projected as the most at risk of losing in 2014… The vast majority of those in Frontline — 19 — are freshmen, a group of less established members that is traditionally among the most vulnerable in any election year.”
“They decided that the conservative movement simply did not have what liberals did: An infrastructure to train and nurture the next generation of campaign operatives and develop cutting-edge techniques. So they decided to take a shot at filling the void, by developing a proposal for a suite of new outside groups that would mimic, and eventually outpace, Democratic efforts. ‘We are not going to start a single group that is going to solve all the problems,’ said Ruffini, a former eCampaign director for the Republican National Committee who is now president of the consulting firm Engage. ‘What it is going to involve is an ecosystem.’”
“But the Empower Action Group is just the first of four new organizations they hope to create. Another proposed effort, provisionally called The R&D Lab, would be a conservative response to the liberal Analyst Institute, which develops and tests new techniques for progressive voter contact and persuasion, all of which informed the Obama campaign in 2012…”
“The group also hopes to create a new organization provisionally called The Venture Fund, which is meant to repeat the success of the liberal New Media Ventures, a start-up incubator founded by the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of wealthy progressive benefactors…”
“The final effort envisioned by Ruffini and his colleagues would be a Club for Growth-style campaign fundraising organization, which would promise donations to Republican campaigns that adopt data-driven techniques…”
“It is still too soon to know if these efforts will grab hold among the Republican fundraising community. Other efforts are underway, both by the Republican National Committee and Charles and David Koch’s network of organizations, to assess the reasons for the 2012 defeat and proposed fixes. But the Ruffini effort does benefit from involving many of the young strategists who will likely be a part of any solution.”
“What, if anything, could a sports analytics conference teach a political junkie?
“Since President Obama's reelection, we've heard countless stories about the startup nature of his campaign, with its focus on digital, technology, and analytics to drive decisions about messaging and marketing.”
“Obama's embrace of analytics has caused a reckoning, particular for conservatives. It's not that other campaigns ignored data, but Chicago clearly made it a priority in a different way.”
“Data is an incredibly valuable resource for organizations, but you must be able to communicate its value to stakeholders making decisions -- whether that's in the pursuit of athletes or voters.”
“Each night in the final stretch of the race, Obama's analytics team ran 66,000 simulations through its computers to have a fresh perspective on the battleground states. That real-time data then drove decisions on how to spend money and make it count.”
“No political candidate in recent memory did a better job than Obama of using emotion to persuade voters -- and he did so while relying on team of self-described nerds in his Chicago headquarters. Whether optimizing emails, building polling models, developing a communications strategy, or creating a social-media army, analytics made the campaign better.
“There's nothing stopping any campaign or organization from embracing analytics. Sports teams that fail to do so risk losing; the same lesson applies in politics. As conservatives seek a comparative advantage, this is one approach worthy of closer examination.”
“One of the conclusions some of us have come to is that our problem is not just message or messenger, but our own detachment from the needs of struggling, working families and our lack of vision and policies that address them.”
“What do we need to do to reposition the party, connect with Americans, and to address what Peggy Noonan so astutely observed – that it’s not that ‘they’ don’t like us, but that ‘they’ don’t think we like them?”
“I tried to provide a vision for hard-working families I came across during my campaign. Middle America is hurting. But I didn’t always keep this in mind in a personal way. I remember being chastised by my staff when, during the second South Carolina debate, none of us expressed empathy toward the unemployed woman who asked us how we would address her health insurance needs. We talked policy, but we did we really care about her?
“I believe the conservative approach that focuses on family, community, the private sector and a limited role of government provides the better framework to develop policies that will address the realities of millions of struggling families. But we have to be much more intentional in applying them.”
“The way forward is getting back to our basic principles but applied to the challenges we face today. We must not be the party of plutocrats, country clubbers and corporate interests…”
“We must represent and create opportunity for all Americans… We must be the champions for working taxpayers and families…”
“We must continue to be proponents of fundamental human rights and human dignity by affirming the right to life for the unborn, disabled and aging as well as protecting freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of speech and association.
“We must be advocates for vulnerable, at-risk children by programs that strengthen marriage, fatherhood, vibrant supportive communities, quality health care and educational options.”
“We haven’t shown America that we have the tools to put the rungs back on the opportunity ladder – the ladder up – to achieve the American dream. That must change.
“I’m not convinced we can rely on the establishment of the Republican Party or today’s elected leaders in Congress to get us back. And it’s not about moving to the left; it’s about appealing to working Americans with a vision that represents opportunity and a better life and offering real solutions to their problems.”
“Today, just 35 percent of voters believe the economy is fair to middle-class Americans. Only 41 percent believe it is fair to those who are willing to work hard.”
“If a CEO gets a huge paycheck after his company received a government bailout, that's a problem. People who get rich through corporate welfare schemes are seen as suspect. On the other hand, 86 percent believe it's fair for people who create very successful companies to get very rich.
“In other words, it's not just the income; it's whether the reward matched the effort… The United States is supposed to be a land of opportunity, where everyone can pursue their dreams. Throughout our history, many have started with nothing and risen to the top. But those on top today are busy rewriting the rules to limit entry into their club.”
“Given a choice between a worker who gets more done and someone who has a higher level of education, only 9 percent think the person with the higher level of education should be paid more. Seventy-one percent place a higher value on the person who gets more done.”
“As the national GOP seeks to improve its dismal standing with Hispanic voters, the 65-year-old former oil man has some advice.
“’You just have to show up, all the time, everywhere,’ he said, during a recent barnstorm tour of his district, which sprawls across the southern half of this border state. ‘Most Republicans don't bother. I do. I bother.’”
“[H]e contends that changes in policy platforms aren't enough to reverse the party's decline among voters like those in his district. Republicans must spend time in Latino neighborhoods with the respectful attentiveness of a small-town mayor.”
“Mr. Pearce's success among voters here, even those who disagree with him, underscores the hope and the difficulty of the task. Mr. Pearce said he logged more than 90,000 road miles in his district last year, a travel regimen that often separates him from his wife for weeks.”
“Bald and bespectacled, he has won the southern half of New Mexico five times since 2002. In November, he nabbed around 42% of the Hispanic vote, or nearly twice what Mitt Romney received nationally, and better than Republican Susana Martinez's share when she won the New Mexico governor's race in 2010, according to various polls.”
“Mr. Pearce favors drug tests for welfare recipients. He opposed the Dream Act, which would have helped the children of illegal immigrants gain legal status. He voted against the fiscal-cliff budget deal and was one of just nine House Republicans to oppose the re-election of John Boehner as House speaker.
“The Boehner vote is one of several maverick positions that have made Mr. Pearce persona non grata among the GOP House leadership. As a result, Mr. Pearce complained, he has been kept out of GOP discussions about overhauling the immigration system, despite being the sole House Republican serving a district on the U.S.-Mexico border…”
“During last year's presidential campaign, Mr. Pearce lured Mr. Romney to Hobbs, where the GOP presidential nominee rolled out his energy plan last fall. But Mr. Pearce said he failed to persuade Mr. Romney ‘to get out and really mix it up in the Hispanic community.’
“Mr. Pearce said he kept telling Mr. Romney and his staff, ‘C'mon, man, get out there. Talk about it. Do it. But they never did.’”
“Rove, the former top political adviser to President George W. Bush, generated strong pushback from tea party groups earlier this year when he announced the formation of another offshoot, ‘Conservative Victory Project,’ dedicated to helping electable candidates sail through Republican primaries.”
“During the last cycle, American Crossroads and its non-profit arm, Crossroads GPS, spent more than $104 million on federal elections with a success rate of 1.3%, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Regardless of its success rate in 2012, Crossroads played a major role in the election and in the 2010 mid-terms, when Republicans took back the House of Representatives.
“The letter, however, points to the multiple 2012 Senate races in which Crossroads spent money against the Democratic candidate, yet the Republican candidate failed to win…”
“Now, in an attempt to explain the astonishingly low return on the hundreds of millions of dollars investment in Crossroads, Karl Rove and others are attempting to blame conservatives and the tea party,” the letter read.