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An Instance of the Permanent Campaign

The 2012 election, in which nearly every traditional rule about presidential politics was broken, showed that we have entered a new era. One feature of this new era is the permanent campaign. Until now, there has always been some respite–growing shorter over the years, admittedly–between the end of one campaign and the beginning of the next. The Democrats have now obliterated that gap; the 2014 Congressional campaign began on the day after the 2012 election, and President Obama’s re-election campaign was seamlessly transformed into a vehicle to support Democratic Congressional candidates.

While Republicans are still scratching their heads over what happened last November, the Democrats’ 2014 campaign is already in high gear. The party’s faithful are being barraged with pleas to contribute to the Democrats’ war chest. Over the last ten days, I have received a series of emails that shed light on the Democrats’ tactics. The occasion is the end of the first quarter of 2013, which is tomorrow–the first post-November deadline for reporting fundraising totals to the FEC. The Democrats began this particular effort a little over a week ago, on March 20, in an email titled “Downright sickening.”

John –

This is downright sickening.

Today, House Republicans will vote for Paul Ryan’s Medicare-destroying budget. And guess what Ryan’s doing right after?

Here’s what: Hosting a lavish fundraiser in the shadow of the Capitol, hobnobbing with those who will benefit the most from his budget — deep-pocketed millionaires and billionaires. You can bet they’ll use all that cash to tear down everything President Obama proposes.

We can catch them — but only if we hit 200,000 members before the quarterly fundraising deadline. John, we need you to be a part of this, but we just noticed that your membership is still pending.

Please do your part to close the gap — make a donation of $3 or more right now.

The ultra-wealthy and their shady special interests are the Republican Party’s biggest supporters. But we’ve got you. And that means a lot.

So when the big-money backers come out of the woodwork tonight, will your grassroots power be there to match them?

The next day, the Democratic faithful got the bad news, along with a call to arms:

John — This is our worst case scenario:

Paul Ryan raised a record-breaking $14.4 million over glasses of champagne last night – and his radical budget just passed on the House floor.

John, I won’t mince words: If Ryan can bury us under a wave of corporate special interest cash, then his Medicare-destroying budget really has a chance to become law and seniors are in real trouble.

We need you right now.

We absolutely have to hit 200,000 members before the FEC deadline. If everyone who’s been waiting to give pitches in $3 or more today, we can start closing the fundraising gap today. [Ed.: There is no fundraising gap, the DCCC out-raised the NRCC in both January and February.]

This outrageous amount of money came right in time for Ryan. With $14.4 million worth of momentum, the Republicans will try to steamroll over President Obama and all the Democrats standing in the way of Ryan’s radical budget.

That’s why this upcoming fundraising deadline is so important. It’s our chance to show that together we can take on the Republicans and their billionaire-backers. Can we count on you to step up?

This was followed up the next day with another alarming email, this one headed “we could lose this.”

John —

In the last 48 hours, things have gone from bad to worse:

* Paul Ryan raised a record-breaking $14.4 million in one night
* The Republican House passed the Medicare-destroying Paul Ryan budget
* Boehner’s Super PAC allies launched ads attacking Democrats for rejecting the Ryan budget

If we don’t fight back quick, Paul Ryan and the billionaire backers of the Republican Party will dismantle Medicare and collect the spoils for themselves. We need to hit 200,000 dedicated members right now — before the FEC fundraising deadline.

Matching the Republican fundraising blitz with your grassroots strength is the only way to fight back against these vicious and powerful attacks. If we fall short, we could lose the fight against Boehner and Ryan’s corporate cash.

In the Democrats’ world, Republicans are cartoon villains; you can picture them with top hats, capes and waxed mustaches. The Democrats’ claims vary between ludicrous and insane, like the suggestion that Republicans “will dismantle Medicare and collect the spoils for themselves.”

The hysterical drumbeat continued. This one was sent out on March 28 and headed “John, we’re in real trouble.”

John –

I’m going to be very honest with you:

If we fall short right now, our chances of winning a Democratic House for President Obama are slim to none.

Here’s the deal: Our first quarterly fundraising deadline is in just 72 hours. John Boehner is already bragging about the $14.4 million that Republicans have raised to attack President Obama and protect their Tea Party buddies. If we want to take back the House, we can’t let them pummel us like this right out of the gate.

We’ve run the numbers and we can close the gap — but it’s going to take another 35,000 supporters stepping up before Sunday’s FEC fundraising deadline. We need you to be a part of this.

If you’re as committed as I am to gaining a Democratic majority in 2014 — and hitting Republicans hard until then — donate whatever you can today.

Kelly Ward
DCCC Executive Director

This one came out on March 28, too:

John — We are conducting a membership audit before the first FEC deadline of President Obama’s second term. Your membership is pending.

If you support President Obama’s agenda, it is CRITICAL that you renew your membership in the next 72 hours.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan have already stockpiled millions of dollars for the sole purpose of blocking President Obama’s second term agenda. If we don’t catch up soon, we are in real trouble.

According to our audit, we need 35,000 renewals by Sunday’s fundraising deadline to keep pace. That means we need you. This is urgent.

Boehner and Ryan depend on the Koch Brothers and Big Oil; we rely on your grassroots support.

From here, the bombardment accelerated. And a remarkable inducement was added: the Democrats will triple-match any donations to their 2014 campaign. They sent this one on the morning of March 29. The subject? “Boehner is already bragging.”

John –

There are only 48 hours left — so I’ll be blunt:

If we get blown out on this first quarterly fundraising deadline, President Obama’s agenda is toast.

Boehner is already bragging about the Republicans’ $14.4 million haul this month. With that kind of cash, they can rip apart everything President Obama proposes for the next two years.

The only chance we’ve got is to call out their lies, fight back with the facts, and expose Republicans’ extreme Tea Party agenda.

As of 9am, we are $737,000 short of what we need to close the fundraising gap and fight Republican attacks before Sunday’s fundraising deadline.

You and I worked too hard in 2012 to let the Republicans derail President Obama’s agenda. Let’s use the first big fundraising report of the year to show that we’re not done fighting for change.

Donate $3 or more right now — when your donation will make the biggest difference.

All donations are triple-matched: http://dccc.org/48-Hours-Left

The Democrats never say who will triple-match contributions. Presumably it is someone other than “the ultra-wealthy and their shady special interests;” Democratic donors’ interests are never special and never shady. Still, it would be interesting to know who is putting up the millions of dollars needed to triple-match this week’s contributions.

This one came out just a few hours later, headed “The bad news first.”

John –

First, the bad news.

A few hours ago, we alerted you about Boehner’s plans to tear down President Obama’s progressive agenda after their $14.4 million fundraising blitz last week.

BUT here’s the good news: over 173,000 supporters have stepped up this year, chipped in, and put a real dent in the fundraising gap.

John, according to our records, you’re not one of them.

There are only 48 hours until the FIRST quarterly fundraising deadline of the year — let’s show John Boehner and Paul Ryan that there’s a whole movement ready to fight their attacks and back up President Obama.

Renew your membership for only $3: http://dccc.org/Renew

By the end of the day, there was a glimmer of hope. The next email was headed “as of 5 pm: (good news!)”

John –

Paul Ryan’s not going to like this:

In the last three hours — yeah, THREE hours — over 4,200 of you have stepped up and chipped in to support President Obama’s agenda. We can hardly believe it!

If we can hit 200,000 donations before Sunday’s FEC deadline, it would be a historic milestone for our grassroots support, and a HUGE blow to Paul Ryan and House Republicans trying to block President Obama’s agenda.

Donate $3 right now and we’ll triple-match your gift!

Let’s go!

So a little bit of sunlight is beginning to peek through the clouds. Still, it wasn’t due to my contributions, so I got this email–”bad news”–too:

John –

Last year, you were one of our biggest supporters.

Pause on that. Actually, last year I gave them $3, as part of a test of the Obama campaign’s readiness to accept apparently illegal campaign contributions. No matter–I am one of their “biggest supporters.”

This email included text from an earlier email to me (not quoted above) that said:

John — There’s no time left to wait.

A few hours ago, we alerted you about Boehner’s record-breaking fundraising dinner last week. Now we’ve gotten word that they’re pouring that cash into attacking President Obama’s progressive agenda.

If we want to fight these Republican attacks, we have got to close this $737,000 fundraising gap before Sunday’s fundraising deadline.

For the next 48 hours only, all donations will be triple-matched.

Your $3 will equal $9 >>

Your $10 will equal $30 >>

Your $20 will equal $60 >>

We can’t let the Republicans get away with tearing down President Obama’s agenda because we didn’t have the resources to call out their lies. We need you on this.

While March 29 saw the first glimmer of hope that the Democrats might actually match those evil Republicans, the pressure didn’t let up. I got this one a couple of hours ago, titled “Haven’t been able to reach you…”

John –

We haven’t heard from you.

If you’re planning to support President Obama’s progressive agenda, we need you to renew your membership in the next 24 hours.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan have already begun filling their war chests with shady corporate money. They’re expected to file an FEC report of over $14.4 million, all raised from their big dinner last week.

We need no less than 18,000 renewed members before tomorrow’s fundraising deadline to have any chance of keeping pace. …

Lots of great supporters have already stepped up, but so far, we don’t see any contribution from you. Click the link below to make a gift — all gifts today will be triple-matched:

Your $3 will equal $9 >>

Your $10 will equal $30 >>

Your $20 will equal $60 >>

If supporters like you — that have been strong and steadfast in the past — step up immediately, we have a chance to make President Obama’s agenda a reality. Otherwise, we could be crushed by shady special interest money.

We need you to back us up on this.

John, click on this personalized link to renew your membership AND triple your impact at the same time!

Thanks,

Democrats 2014

How will it all end? For sure, the emails aren’t finished. They will continue to pour in until midnight tomorrow. I have a sneaking suspicion that when the dust settles, the Democrats will have blown away the Republicans during the first quarter, and the triumphant news will be broadcast Monday morning.

What do we make of this? First, the Democrats are in full campaign mode. The Republicans aren’t doing anything like this, and probably don’t have the infrastructure to do it, even if they wanted to.

Second, the low-class tone of the Democrats’ communications is intentional and carefully calculated. I received dozens (maybe hundreds) of similar emails from the Democrats and the Obama campaign during 2012, but I misinterpreted them. I thought that no campaign would humiliate itself by using such a hysterical tone and over the top hyperbole unless it was desperate. I concluded that the Obama campaign’s polls must be showing their candidate behind. I was entirely wrong: rather, the Democrats have figured out that this tone, simultaneously informal and vicious, with absurd claims and cartoonish caricatures, is what appeals to Democrat-leaning low-information voters. Through hundreds or thousands of these communications, the Democrats have not only created a narrative that by this point is unshakable, they have imbued millions of people with the sense that they are valuable members of a team that is engaged in a touch and go, life or death struggle with an evil foe. And, along the way, they have raised money in amounts undreamed of until now.

Should the Republicans adopt a similarly lowbrow strategy? I don’t think it would work. It is a truism of social science that conservatives tend to be happy people, while liberals tend to be bitter, unhappy and angry. I don’t think you could rally conservatives behind a message that is essentially one of hate, even if you wanted to, which the Republican Party doesn’t. So where does that leave us? Time will tell, but I am afraid that there is, indeed, a Snidely Whiplash in this melodrama; only it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are being tied to the railroad track, and the train bearing down on them has a big D on it.

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