Hardball | November 08, 2012
>>> with might be retiring that particular logo now because it may well be that the dirty money didn't get anywhere this election. back to "hardball" for some good news for people who don't like too much money in politics. outside of mitt romney , karl rove might have been the biggest loser this election day . two days ago the political wiss ard spent the night on fox news denying reality as the returns came in on ohio and he couldn't believe them. he also had a surprising lack of success when it came to the spending by his big super pac crossroads. rove convinced a handful of billaires and millionaires to waste a lot of money to help losing candidates. according to a study by the sunlight foundation , american crossroads spent millions not only on the presidential race and mitt romney but senate races. look at his track record. connie mack in florida , denny rehberg in florida lost, tommy thompson in wisconsin, lost. george allen , a loser. heather wilson in new mexico, lost. todd akin in missouri , lost. his only winners of the night were dean heller , the incumbent appointed senator in nevada and deb fischer . more than $100 million went to candidates who won versus those who lost. it turns out his rate of return if you want to put this in business terms was an anemic 1.29% return on the dollar in terms of winners and beating people he didn't like. he was asked about it, mr. adelson, on fox, actually rove was on fox.
>> yeah, look, if groups like crossroads were not active this race would have been over a long time ago. president obama came out of the box on may 15th with $215 million of advertising over 2 1/2 month period designed to demonize mitt romney .
>> how is that for an argument. if it wasn't for his own money, romney would have been less competitive and would have lost earlier. how will that fly with the billionaires who put their money into this thing. michael isikoff knows about this stuff. he's national investigative correspondent for nbc news. john heilemann is with new york magazine and an msnbc political analyst . gentlemen, you're both pros. money, money talks . bs walks. you heard the old phrase. this time money didn't seem to talk, at least not in the general election , or at least not for senate and presidential.
>> we've been talking about the post citizens united world with the super pacs , with their affiliated dark money groups and how they can collect unlimited amounts and add it up --
>> anonymously -- to very little. rove's job, what he was telling people is he was going to take back the senate for the republican party . wasn't just winning the white house . the white house was going to, you know, depend on a whole lot of things, but his job, what he focused on was winning back the senate . there were others, the chamber of commerce spent north of $30 million. their rate of return according to the sunlight foundation , 5%. you go down the list of all these big super pacs , and they struck out left and right.
>> let's go, john heilemann, larger universal look at this. i heard the other night, must have been yesterday, a producer told me -- executive producer said no democrat office holder lost yesterday on tuesday. is that true? all the incumbents got re-elected. is that still there? did that end up being true for the whole night?
>> i don't know if that's true, chris .
>> congress people, members of congress and senators, the big office holders all got re-elected.
>> i can't think of an exception no that rule.
>> isn't that amazing.
>> there may be one but i can't think of what it is off the top of my head. you know, obviously it was a huge night for democrats. i would say not in karl rove 's defense but just as a statement of reality, karl rove didn't pick these candidates in the senate . the party picked those candidates. part of the problem in the republican party has right now as we've discussed on this show many times is that the far right of the party in the primary process controls things so you end up of the selection usually with the most conservative candidate, often extremely conservative process in the primary process so you end up with nominees that are far outside the mainstream and often uncompetitive in states like indiana or missouri where they should be more competitive. karl rove , michael is obviously right, the senate was a huge target for him, but again he didn't pick those candidates. he had to try to help candidates who were flawed in really, really deep ways, and it may be true what he says, that some of those candidates in fact would have been less competitive than they were. he couldn't save -- some of these candidates were so flawed that no amount of money was ever going to save them.
>> the moderates did so well. i look at races like north dakota , denny rehberg , they're not bad candidates. they were supposed to win.
>> what john is saying was absolutely true in indiana and missouri . not necessarily true in some of the others. north dakota , montana, i mean, they thought they had --
>> josh mandel turned out to be a good candidate.
>> it does raise larger questions about the effectiveness of these outside groups. now, that said, i think there's still the question -- so, you know, the political insiders will look at that and say, see, so the whole issue of super pacs and dark money is overblown, let's just forget about it. there's also the health of american democracy issue which is still very real and when you have the seven-figure donors people giving --
>> can i give you the bad news now. i gave you the good news. here is the bad news. you first, michael , apparently -- i talked to a top democrat this afternoon, a top democrat -- she said it still works in house races. you can go into a house race, get a candidate or incumbent who is not that well-known in -- not even a swing district but a beatable district, aged blow them away. you can still do that. number two, it worked for john -- let me start with you. it worked for you for mitt romney . remember, he went in and destroyed rick santorum , destroyed newt gingrich with huge amounts of super pac money . you can do that and clear the field for yourself in the primaries in the caucuses and you can destroy house members. is that still true with big money ?
>> i believe both those statements are still true. look, in house races you still have -- the media markets are small enough that a relative small amount of money can provide the loudest megaphone in the race, louder than the candidates themselves. and so they can still influence those races. that's certainly true. and, look, there's no other way to explain the way that mitt romney got the republican nomination than through the kind of metaphorical equivalent of firebombing at dresden when it came to rick perry , newt gingrich , and rick santorum . despite all the problems with the republican base, he won through overwhelming financial force and a lot of that money did come from restore our future from the super pac that was backing him. he could not have been the nominee had it not been for that money.
>> michael , i want you to respond to sheldon adelson . he reportedly spent at least $53 million. there's no tax break for that, by the way, on republican candidates. most of them lost on election night . a norwegian reporter got to him -- i think i know that guy -- asked about that money. let's take a look at him and a norwegian reporter.
>> how do you think your money was spent? was it well-spent?
>> by paying bills. that's how you spend money. either that or become a jewish husband. you spend a lot of money.
>> that's off nor weeken tv. i wonder how the joke will translate in oslo. there are two ways in which i think this issue will return next year and be with us for a while. first of all, you're going to see a big push in the senate with the white house backing to do something about the unlimited money and to curb super pacs to do something about the post citizens united world, whether it can get through with mitch mcconnell in the senate and republicans in the house is unclear, but i think the white house will give a big push to that. secondly, remember, as bad as the republican super pacs did, the democratic super pacs , although they didn't spend as much money did quite well. you will see a big focus on who their big donors were. and there were some --
>> okay. that's one other example at work. i'm told by the pros like you, john, that one thing that did succeed in terms of big spending was the attempt -- the success, rather, in defining mitt romney early on by the white house people and their allies.
>> absolutely incredible. priorities usa action, they made a bunch of really strategic decisions. they didn't have that much money relative to the larger republican conservative super pacs . they decided to go in hard into certain states, particularly ohio , where they spent the bulk of their money. they ran a bunch of ads that were incredibly -- that got an aincredible amount of attention in terms of they got a lot of air time in terms of what they paid for and generated a lot of earn media, a lot of free media coverage. some of the most striking ads of the cycle were done by that group. i think the president's people would concede they mitt mitt romney hard in ohio also but it was the double punch. it was that one-two punch in ohio of the two of them over the summer on bain, on taxes, on outsourcing and all that stuff that proved really quite effective in that race and it shows you -- it does show you it's not the bulk of money that matters. it's about spending enough money effectively but in those cases when you do that, you can move the needle, especially in certain markets, certain states.
>> mike, i haven't talked to you in a while. were you surprised by the results tuesday night?
>> i was surprised if you look at the final polls, how few surprises there were. almost in every case the pollsters had it right.
>> you want to look at the contours of the election, were you surprised by the sort of stunning sweep we saw the other night?
>> i certainly was, chris . you know, the obama people were very confident and their model -- the way they describe what had they were going about doing i thought made sense analytically but they won even the states they thought they were going to win by bigger margins. they thought colorado would be a razor thin election like florida and they won by five or six points. they were an incredible machine , and the fact that they were able to get african-american turnout in ohio to go up by 33%, to go from 11% of the electorate to 15%, no one on either would have thanks the obama campaign could do that and that was the margin of victory for them in ohio .
>> how many days before the election did romney know his goose was cooked that he had to go to pennsylvania and michigan and minnesota? how early did he know he had to go for the long shots, that he was probably going to lose?
>> i don't know that he ever thought that, chris . i think that they were to the last day, i think they were somewhat shocked. they really believed the electorate that would come out on tuesday night was a different electorate than the electorate that showed up. they convinced themselves the electorate would look more than 2010 this and 2008 and i think they believed it in their hearts and souls. i think that's part of the reason why they had such a hard time conceding. they couldn't believe what they were seeing in ohio and other places.
>> great reporting. thank you, michael , thank you for coming in.