John Osoff ran an ad that was just him leaning on a desk tweeting

You lost me.

Democrat Jon Ossoff has lost the most expensive race for a House seat in US history. Republican Karen Handel beat him by pert near four points, becoming the new representative of Georgia’s sixth congressional district and shattering Democrats’ hope of retaking the House with the aid of a fortunate meteor strike. This election was not very important. To hear FiveThirtyEight and various other pundits tell it, it wasn’t even good for a bellwether. The only thing we can say conclusively is that it occasioned the spending of more money—about $55 million, by the Times’s count—than was ever before spent on a congressional race.

Was it worth it? Not for Democrats, who only managed to wedge another loss for low-agenda centrism into their electoral postseason. I hesitate to say it was worth it for Republicans, either. They squeezed donors tightly to increase by one their majority in a chamber that seats 435. But at least a shitload of consultants got paid—and in an off year, no less. Say what you will about the Democrats’ recent streak of expensive moral victories; at least it’s funded commercials like this:

I’m no veteran campaign operative, but I think the idea for this advertisement was actually an idea for some tweets. What does this message gain from becoming a video? Maybe the campaign wanted to reach voters who watch television instead of using the internet but still admire people who stare numbly at their phones. Perhaps their research found that voters in GA-6 liked Jon Ossoff but wanted him to more strongly resemble a two-episode character on Veep. Or maybe the old ad-budget pie got sliced up in a way that left an off piece.

But wait, you say, ever on the lookout for opportunities to be charitable, this looks like B-roll footage. Maybe this ad was made from the kind of bland, soundless footage campaigns release publicly so that unaffiliated groups can use it in their own spots. The whole tweeting conceit is probably just a clever workaround. But no, the last frames inform us that the ad was paid for by Jon Ossoff for Congress and, almost as improbably, approved by Jon Ossoff.

It’s easy to second-guess the Democratic Party lately, and I think now is a good time to remember that no one else has demonstrated any better understanding of how to beat Republican candidates. But ads like this one explore the limits of campaigning without a strong policy agenda. To a lot of viewers, this is footage of a bland corporate type promising not to be Donald Trump. That doesn’t offer much to voters who worry that bland corporate types are running the country into the ground—a description that covers a substantial portion of the electorate, plus many of the people who hold themselves outside it. It’s funny how limp Democratic messaging has become. But only for a second, and then I get scared.

Citigroup takes fall for rollback of Dodd-Frank

Mime Elizabeth Warren fights back against Big Box.

Mime Elizabeth Warren fights back against Big Box.

Let’s start with the good news: Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will avert government shutdown, ensure that schoolchildren are getting enough salt, and free cattle farmers from greenhouse gas regulations. I guess the good news stopped with the first clause in that list, but still—soluble government! It does come at a cost, though. Remember the financial collapse triggered by an unstable derivatives market that required a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to correct? Trick question: we never corrected it. But banks are doing pretty well now, so they’re ready to leverage themselves into risky derivative trades again, and could they please do it with federal deposit insurance? Granted! Thus a key provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations is rolled back, and Congress recreates the conditions that preceded the worst economic collapse in three generations—falling gas prices and all.

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House Republicans mull shutdown

"So the priest says—hang on. If you want to hear the rest of the joke, give me ten dollars right now."

“So the priest says—hang on. If you want to hear the rest of the joke, give me ten dollars right now.”

According to a Politico report that has scared hell out of the nation and briefly thrown me into agreement with Ross Douthat, a substantial number of House Republicans are considering refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The plan is to use the threat of default and/or federal shutdown to force Obama to agree to spending cuts—cuts he has repeatedly refused to make. That part of the story should be eerily familiar from last year, when maneuvering over the debt ceiling ended in the downgrade of the credit of the United States. Everyone agreed that was a disaster, both for the union and for the Republican caucus. This year, though, will be totally different. Alarming quote after the jump.

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In torrent of money, Scott Walker floats

Human gestures developed thousands of years before still photography.

The recall votes are in, and Scott Walker has easily remained governor of Wisconsin. Walker won by seven points over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who is the same person he defeated in the election of 2010. Let it never be said that the Democratic Party is a political slug who believes its moral superiority entitles it to win elections simply by not being the other guy. Wait, I did that wrong—let it always be said that thing about the slug. There is a silver lining in the Wisconsin Democrats’ plan to do the same thing and get different results, though. Two elections between the same two guys two years apart give us a rare opportunity to isolate variables, and there happen to be two things different about Walker vs. Barrett 2010 and Walker vs. Barrett 2012: The Rewalkering. One, the Supreme Court declared limits on corporate political spending unconstitutional in Citizens United v. FEC. Two, the first Walker/Barrett tilt cost $18.9 million, whereas yesterday’s recall cost $63.5 million.

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A little insight into the Tea Party constituency

Image courtesy of our platonic friends at

First of all, when is Obama gonna get going with the infanticide already? He’s been in office for fifteen months now, and I haven’t seen even one centurion dash a Christian child against a tall palm. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been looking in Florida, though. The New York Times has conducted what appears to be the first semi-scientific poll to determine Tea Party demographics, and found that “the 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is counterintuitive is that Tea Party supporters turn out to be, on average, richer and more likely to hold college degrees than the general public. The majority describe the amount of money they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” They usually or almost always vote Republican, 57% of them hold a favorable opinion of George W. Bush, and a plurality of them believe that Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president. And 25% of them say that the federal government under Barack Obama favors blacks over whites. Sounded almost sane there, for a second, didn’t they?

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