Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A New Anti-Republican Attack Machine

From Bloomberg:
With his Citizen Strong partners, all veteran researchers, Burton has spent the year choosing his targets. In February he decided to focus on districts that leaned slightly right—ones like Rohrabacher’s that haven’t been competitive but would be if a Democratic wave emerged. That bet looks prescient. A recent New York Times poll showed Rohrabacher, a 15-term incumbent, tied with his Democratic challenger. Control of Congress will hinge on whether Rohrabacher and other endangered Republicans can withstand a midterm wave. Citizen Strong’s October surprises will make survival that much harder.

Burton has a trove of anti-Republican material. The art of oppo lies in culling and distributing that kind of information to tell a particular story—a negative story—that will tarnish the incumbent and weaken his or her support. Sometimes researchers will quietly slip it to reporters, hoping it will yield a story and gain the imprimatur of a nonpartisan news outlet. Other times, oppo can be the basis of an ad campaign or used to build a website voters and the media can scrutinize—a bit like WikiLeaks. (Burton says none of his material is obtained through hacking or other illegal means.) With the midterms looming, he’s begun disseminating his “citizen oppo” in three Senate races, 22 House races, and 133 state legislative races across 13 states. He’s hoping these last-minute attacks will help push many of these races into the Democratic column, flipping control of the House—and possibly even the Senate—as well as state legislatures that will play a critical role in redrawing congressional lines in 2020, a process that will shape national politics for the next decade.

While the story of the Resistance tends to focus on the positive—the revival of civic activism—Burton has the hard-bitten perspective of someone who’s fought in the campaign trenches and knows that placards and pussy hats aren’t enough to beat Republicans. “John is willing to go where we need to go,” says his friend Laura Moser, a former Democratic congressional candidate. “He knows we’ve got to play dirty to win.” (Read more.)

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