Koch network sounds alarm of a Democratic wave

At a confab in the California desert this weekend, leaders of the powerful political and policy network founded by bi...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 7:28 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 7:28 AM

At a confab in the California desert this weekend, leaders of the powerful political and policy network founded by billionaire benefactors Charles and David Koch issued a stark warning for the midterm elections: President Donald Trump's unpopularity could be churning up a Democratic wave.

"Let's be frank right up front: these elections are going to be brutally tough," Emily Seidel, CEO of the Koch group Americans for Prosperity, told a ballroom filled with hundreds of the network's biggest donors Monday.

AFP President Tim Phillips echoed that dire warning, equating the political landscape this year with that in 2010, a historic wave election that swept Republicans to control of the House, but "with one big difference."

"This year, we're on defense," Phillips said.

Historically, a new president's party faces steep odds in the first midterm election -- but Trump's approval ratings, typically a strong indicator of party performance in an election, are particularly anemic. Those numbers, coupled with low approval for the Republican-led Congress, are "making the environment even more challenging this year," Seidel said.

Meanwhile, elections last year with high Democratic turnout suggest the party is energized leading into the midterms, Seidel said. Democrats have consistently led Republicans on the generic ballot polling during the past year.

John DeBlasio, a Chicago-based donor who was attending the Koch seminar for the first time, noted the President's low approval as a clear "headwind" for Republican candidates.

"So, what do you do?" DeBlasio said. "I think that's going to be a challenge for members in how they accept the President's policies, but distance themselves a little bit from him personally."

Acknowledging these dynamics, the Koch network confirmed this weekend that it plans to spend close to $400 million on political and policy messaging during this election cycle, a new high-water mark for the network in a midterm election.

Their strategy will encompass early media spending in the first half of this year, and further investments in the network's grassroots infrastructure, which now spans 36 states.

AFP has identified 14 key Senate races and is already engaged in four: Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana and Florida. And 80 competitive races will comprise the House battlefield, they said, including the 23 Republican districts where Hillary Clinton won.

Retirements shaping the map

The House landscape is complicated further for Republicans by a flood of retirements in swing districts, they said. Underscoring the challenge, an audiovisual presentation shown to Koch network donors Monday was already out of date by the time Seidel and Phillips took the stage -- not taking into account the announcement Monday morning by House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, that he will not seek reelection.

That announcement brings the total competitive districts where Republicans are retiring to 16, Phillips said, "and it's only January."

As Koch networks donors convened this weekend for an annual retreat, they marked a glittering year for their political and policy priorities, in which congressional Republicans approved and the president signed into law a sweeping tax reform measure. But a sense of foreboding also hung over the meeting, with network leaders and donors collectively sounding the alarm regarding the coming election cycle.

"This midterm is going to be hard," donor Gail Werner-Robertson told Charles Koch and the rest of the assembled crowd during one session Sunday. "We need everybody to help. We can't lose the progress you have fought so hard for."

Speaking with reporters later Sunday, Art Pope, a prominent North Carolina donor, said he is "very concerned" about the landscape for Republicans in 2018. "Historically, the first election for the President's party, that does not work out favorably for them."

Pope said he believes that Republicans are better positioned this year than Democrats were in 2010, due to strong economic indicators. But the energy among Democratic voters in elections last year nevertheless suggests a challenging environment for Republicans, he added.

"There is absolutely no doubt that the Democrats are motivated," Pope said.

Some pockets of hope among donors

Some donors were more optimistic. Doug Deason, a Texas-based patron, said he believes Republicans will gain seats in the Senate and maintain control of the House.

But, he added, "We're going to have to spend a lot of money."

Leaders of the Koch network confirmed this weekend that they are prepared to do just that. Of the roughly $400 million budgeted for this election cycle, the network plans to spend $20 million selling the new tax law to the public.

However, their reach will have some limits. The network historically has not engaged in party primaries, and Phillips said there are no plans to do so this year. And the network will not give candidates air and ground cover across the map: Notably, the Koch network does not have a presence in California, which is expected to be a key battleground in Democratic efforts to take back the House.

But the network's leaders stressed Monday that they will make a difference where they can, employing a "business-like approach" to the election.

"We've never faced a challenge like this year brings," Seidel told donors Monday. "But we see pathways to success. ... So, folks, let's fight. And let's fight now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 25°
Columbus
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 32°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 23°
Starkville
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 30°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather