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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Bill Maher Creates An Opportunity In The 2nd District

Category: John Kline
Posted: 09/16/14 09:02, Edited: 09/16/14 12:51

by Dave Mindeman


Talking Points Memo picked up on Maher's FlipADistrict selection of John Kline as his target. A slightly different take from an alternative media source but with a similar national media conclusion. They went to the usual sources to comment....

Election forecaster Larry Sabato predicts a "likely Republican" victory. The Cook Political Report doesn't register Kline's district in its list of 70 House seats that are competitive or could become competitive -- he's considered safe. And the Rothenberg Political Report says Kline has a solid hold on the seat.

Yeah. That's the mantra. At least for this article they let Mike Obermueller weigh in on the matter....

"They are all wrong," Obermueller told TPM in an interview on Monday. "We are going to be competitive and this is a seat we can absolutely flip. Mr. Kline has had an extremely low profile. People don't know his voting record. He looks like a statesman -- he looks the part, but people don't know his voting record." Obermueller is pleased that his sleepy race has received a boost from Maher. "The effect we'll see from Bill Maher is to put a spotlight on that voting record. And that's why Mr. Kline is worried," the Democrat said.

I appreciate the "conventional" prognosticators points on this. On the surface, this looks like another ho-hum reelection of an incumbent.

But with Bill Maher, this race has taken an unconventional turn. Let me explain what I see here....

What is the Democratic strategy for 2014? Answer: Turnout. And what demographic is the toughest to turn out? Answer: Young people.

So here's the strategy....and I am hoping the DCCC and the State DFL will be taking some notes. You plant Bill Maher right smack dab in the middle of Northfield. You rally all those college students...St. Olaf, Augsburg, and Carleton...with a pep talk from Bill Maher. If anybody can motivate them to get out the vote and get active, it would be Bill Maher.

Heck, have him hit the U of M as well. While it is not the 2nd District, it can't hurt to let everybody know about the Kline record. Because he is the worst of the worst when it comes to the biggest threat to a student's future, debt from student loans.

Maher is not only going to help the 2nd District with that turnout, he will help all the campaigns in the state, because the younger demographic needs to have a reason to vote. And Bill Maher can explain it to them in language that , although colorful, is something they understand and get.

And if Bill Maher is controversial, so be it. That might actually rouse a sleepy main stream media to pay attention. Outside of some obligatory mentions, the local media has been ignoring the 2nd District. Well, it is hard to ignore Bill Maher.

And, chances are, Kline will have to respond. And Kline tends to over respond. He gets angry when questioned and pops off some pretty ludicrous statements when nervous. Kline generally likes to stay quiet and give the obligatory talking points. But, get him off script.....well, it usually isn't pretty.

Bill Maher can tick some people off. But, on the other side of the coin, he knows how to get to the crux of the matter. And he already gets it on Kline's culpability on student debt. Maher mentioned the For Profit aspect of putting students into a debt ridden life. Students, and the parents who have to contribute monetarily, all get it. And its not just the scams from For Profit colleges -- tuition is steamrolling higher and student loans rise accordingly.

What is worse is that student loan interest rates have risen under John Kline's tenure as chair of the Education and Workforce Committee. When I was in school, consumer interest rates were hitting 10 to 12%, but because of government intervention, I was able to get grants and 3% loans to get me through a 5 year program. I paid off my debt in less than 10 years. Now we have consumer loans at 3 or 4%, but student loans are higher. Stafford loans moved to 4.66% this year, while unsubsidized loans are over 6% and Direct Plus is over 7%.

Couple that with shady recruitment by For Profits, who talk low income (and veterans) into borrowing to go to their schools....and then at the end they find out these schools don't have the accreditation to give them a useful diploma. What they do is criminal....and guess which Congressman they give their lobbyist money to? That's right, John Kline.

Now here's another part of that strategy....and the DCCC has to play their part on this one. Over in the 7th District there has been talk of Torrey Westrom giving Collin Peterson some trouble. There isn't any polling data to support that assertion, but the media still portrays it that way. Why? Because the Republican Congressional PAC is spending money there. Where the money is spent creates a contest. So why isn't the DCCC doing the same in the 2nd? Maher's involvement is a change. It is an unpredictable enhancement to this race - which is also a chance for the DCCC to at least explore and support that development.

And then there is the state DFL. I realize that they need to be more concerned with state wide races, but if you want to Get Out The Vote, Maher is creating an opportunity for you that needs to be promoted.

These are things that should all be happening now. If nothing else, Democrats, wouldn't it be nice to put the GOP on the defensive in the 2nd and take a little pressure off the outside money juggernaut in the 8th?

How about everybody sit back and think about that.

Then let's do something!
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John Kline: Discrediting The Attacker

Category: John Kline
Posted: 09/14/14 15:14

by Dave Mindeman

John Kline's campaign reacted to his selection by Bill Maher as the worst of Congress in typical John Kline fashion:

"Minnesotans are tired of sleazy and slimy politics, but DFL candidate Mike Obermueller certainly isn't. Maher saluted 9/11 terrorists and called our troops 'cowardly,' he repeatedly has degraded Christians and calls them 'schizophrenic,' and he repugnantly compared special-needs children to 'dogs,' yet Mike Obermueller promotes this behavior essentially naming Maher as his campaign manager," Young said in a statement.

Here are some points to remember....

1) Maher has never even mentioned Kline's opponent, Mike Obermueller, even once. In his Esquire interview, Maher stated that he doesn't even care who the opponents are in his #FlipADistrict campaign. His focus will be John Kline. All Obermueller has done is announce the result....so for Kline's campaign to say that Obermueller "promotes this behavior" or "essentially naming Maher as his campaign manager" is kind of a desperate attempt to link Obermueller to Maher's tactics. Maher has had nothing to do with Obermueller's campaign. He has never spoken to him up to this point and probably couldn't have given you his name prior to the final announcement. But Kline has to try.

2) Some of the Maher statements that the Kline spokesman referred to are from years ago. The "cowardly" remark was from a dozen years ago and he was referring to military tactics, not the troops. And frankly, Maher's comment was a reaction in agreement with contraversial conservative commentater, Dinesh D'Souza's statement to the same effect. And it is no secret that Bill Maher is an atheist who criticizes religion (not just Christian) for a lot of the problems in today's world. But the comments criticized came during Maher's run of a show called Politically Incorrect which ran on TV and cable from 1993-2002. After his show was cancelled in 2002, he received a Los Angeles Press Club award for championing free speech in America. He is a controversial person - but I can't say that he has been criticized for definitions of rape or been indicted for bribery or political coercion. John Kline consorts with those types of people all the time.

3) The statement is right about one thing. The American people are tired of sleazy and slimy politics - the kind of politics that takes money from lobbyists to promote corporate protections. The kind of politics that uses the power of the chairman's gavel to wipe out corporate accountability. The kind of politics that allows campaign donors to control the agenda. Yes, they are tired of that and so is Bill Maher. And that is why he looked for the Congressperson that people would most want to get rid of - and it was John Kline's name that came to the top of the list.

When John Kline gets uncomfortable he brings out the insults. When he feels threatened, he attacks the attacker. That is what is happening here. In a way, it is a good sign that Kline lashes out. It means he is feeling some heat and is finally a bit worried.

You can look for a lot more Kline propaganda in regards to Bill Maher. You notice that he never talks about the substance of what Maher accuses Kline of doing. Kline doesn't talk about his own way of doing things. And that is probably because what Kline does is impossible to defend. So it is important to make Bill Maher the issue. Make the one pointing out how Kline operates as the real problem.

When John Kline feels a little exposed, this is what he does. We will be watching it all unfold.
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The John Kline Race: Conventional Wisdom vs Social Media

Category: John Kline
Posted: 09/13/14 03:17, Edited: 09/13/14 03:20

by Dave Mindeman

Congressman John Kline won a dubious honor tonight. He wins the media spotlight of Bill Maher......and Maher will not be kind.

But what it all means is really an unknown. Nothing like this has happened before and who it ultimately benefits or hurts is anybody's guess right now. But it does put some scrutiny on the power of social media in politics.

Congressman John Kline has been in Congress for a long time now. And he has succeeded in moving a very conservative agenda by avoiding the spotlight. By being nondescript. Quietly gaining power by being a Boehner loyalist and voting generally down the line with the Tea Party conservative agenda without seeking leadership in that faction. He leap frogged other Republicans to gain a powerful committee chair.....which in turn, gave him access to lucrative lobbyist support. He learned how to obstruct without being noticed and how to line his campaign pockets without much effort.

In other words, John Kline has become the consummate Washington politician. He can be bought.

Although Democrats in the 2nd Congressional District haven't had much luck in shining a public light on Kline's tactics, someone outside the district DID notice.

When Bill Maher initiated his FlipADistrict campaign, it occurred about the same time as the student loan interest rates increase - early July. And this was a result of supposedly "bipartisan" agreement a year earlier that beat a deadline for doubling rates when a previous authorization was due to expire. The Obama administration wanted a fix that would hold the line by using a low rate bench mark. Kline, as chair of the Education and Work Force Committee would have to sign off, but he would only do so if a more "free market" rate benchmark was used. Because of deadline pressure, Kline's bench mark was used.

"We wanted to get out of the partisan squabbling that has been happening in this city every year - let the market do it in a way that is fair to students and the taxpayer," said Education Committee Chairman Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican.

Well, the taxpayer is actually doing better because rates rose again in July.

Which brings us to a group of students that wanted to draw attention to how all of this student loan debt was affecting their lives. As student debt reached $1 trillion this year and surpassed credit card debt as a consumer burden, a website emerged called studentdebtcrisis.org which pointed out the problems and fallacies of Washington policies. When Maher made his announcement regarding FlipADistrict, their focus turned to John Kline and his unwillingness to help students and their life long burden of education debt.

They instigated a social media campaign that garnered the attention of Maher's staff and vaulted John Kline into the final four. This, coupled with a growing social media counterpart in the 2nd District of Minnesota, became the impetus of Kline's final four "win".

So what happens now?

Conventional wisdom in the punditry and Washington establishment says that it won't change anything. Nice publicity stunt for Maher, but Kline is one safe incumbent.

The Washington Post column, The Fix states it this way:

Yes, he comes from a swingy suburban district in the Twin Cities suburbs -- a district that went by the narrowest of margins for President Obama in 2012 and by slightly more in 2008. On it's surface, it would seem ripe. But Kline has never taken less than 54 percent of the vote, including when he was an actual target in the 2012 election.

As it happens, Kline faces a rematch this year with the same guy he beat by eight points in 2012, former state Rep. Mike Obermueller ((D). Except Obermueller this time is dealing with a much less favorable environment. And the Cook Political Report, which has rated 29 Republican seats as being potentially in play in the 2014 election, doesn't even include Kline among the least-vulnerable on that list.

The Hill was equally pessimistic:

But Maher will have a tough time trying to defeat Kline, who's not a top Democratic target and is expected to cruise to a seventh term.

But the problem with "conventional wisdom" with this effort is that there is nothing conventional about it. It may be a publicity stunt for Maher, but publicity is the idea. And John Kline has prospered by avoiding publicity....avoiding the spotlight.

But that changes now. Now, John Kline gets some scrutiny. Love him or hate him, Bill Maher knows how to get attention. DFL challenger Mike Obermueller may be way behind in funds but he could spend a million dollars in advertising and never get the same kind of attention that Bill Maher can bring with that simple FlipADistrict announcement.

And one more thing. The power of social media will be evident in the 2nd District from now on. Social media brought Kline out of the shadows and now that it has had some success, who knows how much more it can do. Young people are influenced by the new medium and they are also ready to blame someone for that mountain of student debt. The perfect convergence of all that is John Kline.

There are no guarantees, but Maher obviously is willing to put some of his reputation on the line to try.

So, let's throw conventional wisdom out the window. Let's let social media take its course and see where it leads. The 2nd District just got a whole lot more interesting.

Welcome to Minnesota, Bill Maher!
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