CHARLOTTE – TNR’s Noam Scheiber has been doing funny-as-hell work about one of the convention’s few real stories – the care and feeding of donors. Here, he watches a tired but effective bagman tell donors how to get the best treatment and perks. (The headline above quotes some of the advice.) Scheiber’s second, fascinating piece describes the scene in a one-on-one Democratic Super PAC fundraiser… before, of course, the reporter is frogmarched out. But before that he got to hear Paul Begala’s (pundit, Priorities USA booster) elevator pitch.
[H]e talked about how Democrats were united while the GOP was divided—they had to contend with the “Cro-Magnons” and the “Neanderthals,” among other factions. But then he doubled back to the sheer size of the GOP stockpile. Back and forth this went—one second the skies were blue, the next second there was reason for despair—until you wondered whether it was neither, or both, or maybe it all balanced out—it was tough to say. In the end, Begala’s best argument may have been his most Republican argument: None of us will forget what you in this room have done. It’s the argument of mafiosos and drug king-pens and, you know, Tom DeLay. But it just may have succeeded.
Compare this to Sheelah Kolhatkar’s fantastic scoop from the RNC – her unapproved drop-in on a Karl Rove briefing for American Crossroads. Maybe it’s apples and kumquats, the difference between personal meetings and a big breakfast, but look how Rove proves that donor money will be spent effectively.
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with “all the major groups that are playing” in the election. “As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don’t try and do this alone. We have partners,” he said. “The Kochs—you name it.”
What had emerged from that data is an “acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable” voters. “If you say he’s a socialist, they’ll go to defend him. If you call him a ‘far out left-winger,’ they’ll say, ‘no, no, he’s not.’” The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him—by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he’s actually done.
In a word: Data. Rove, taking advantage of his reputation, convinces donors that the laboratory is ready but needs better test tubes. Begala is PANIC PANIC PANIC. Rove has a bigger donor base to start with, but you see the distinct appeal of his approach.