tv Newsmakers Guy Cecil Priorities USA CSPAN October 22, 2018 3:07pm-3:42pm EDT
>> most privacy policies are not designed to protect your privacy. any're designed to give you idea or the lawyers an idea of the kind of information the use about you often share about you. a retailer, say, kroger or target or wal-mart, they will tell you that they use just about everything you do in them.onship to they take your information. they use your information. of yourre parts information and they even buy you that willout compliment the information they already have. >> watch "the communicators" at 8:15 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. >> as the midterm election draws, our guest on news makers cecil.
stephen shepherd is chief pollster with politico. let's get started here. on your twitter feed, you made this comment in the past month -- the key to the 2018 election is the gap between what is being talked about on cable news and what is being discussed in the campaigns. what are you saying their? -- there? mr. cecil: i do think there is a big schism between what candidates are talking about, what voters are talking about, and what is being covered. a lot on stormy daniels and mueller and the happenings in
d.c. and when you get out of d.c., what you find is most candidates on the democratic side are advertising on pre-existing conditions and opioids and jobs and their record, and i think the difference has been a tour this cycle than almost any i have in -- been part of. >> why do you think republicans are making this effort, not just president trump, but even the republican super pac to talk about angry mobs and brett kavanaugh? mr. cecil: the reality is remember when we were talking several months ago about how the tax bill was going to save the republican party and be the popular thing because once everybody got their tax rebate, they were going to find their paychecks work a little bit bigger, and that did not work. the tax bill is more unpopular now than ever. they said it would be about repeal and replace. now you have republicans -- i mean, daniel wore boxer, who i think to call extreme would be a
kindness, who is now using his own children as political khans to say he is in favor of protecting pre-existing conditions you have republicans, who on one hand are trying to other the election, and on the other hand, they are trying to become democrats when it comes to the issue. you have more republicans now running on protecting pre-existing conditions than you do republicans running on the tax bill, and i think that is telling in terms of where the american people are. >> the point you make is true. the one thing i would ask you is what are you seeing in the data since republicans pivoted to this argument? you mentioned about some of the angry mobs. we have seen in public polling, some of the numbers look better for republicans. we have seen president trump's numbers picking up a little bit.
you said the strategy of running on the tax cuts wasn't working, but is this working? mr. cecil: immediately after the kavanaugh hearings, you did see some changes, particularly on the polling. even in the last, i think, three days you have had two pulls in tennessee which showed in the margin of error rates, which was a lot different than what polls showed two weeks ago. i think the kavanaugh debates sped up partisanship. we are finding a lot of house races are in the suburbs and you look at the "washington post" pulled from last, 33% of independent women are supporting democrats. 30% of moderate voters are now supporting democrats. on one hand, they are desperate to motivate their base because for the first time in a while,
democrats are more motivated, but the balance is they are alienating the very voters they need in these competitive balances. >> obviously, there is a lot of competition on both sides, but how much his priorities usa and its various arms going to end up raising and spending? mr. cecil: i think we will probably end up somewhere over the course of the cycle raising about $100 million. that will include work we do both in partisan politics where we are focused on elections, and also some of our nonpartisan activity. one of the things we have been particularly focused on over the last two years is litigation focused on voting rights. for example, in the last about nine months, we have had the conclusion of five court cases in five states, all victories on behalf of priorities usa and their plaintiffs.
that's not part of the work we do which is designed to help lower barriers to voting and to get underrepresented communities like people of color and young people more engaged in the process, so we are on track roughly to hit our goal for the cycle, but we are certainly still raising and we are engaged in about seven senate races, 44 house races and 33 governors races and we are still raising for those. >> just a follow-up -- you see a number of democrats across the country disavowing pac money, saying they will not take pac money into their own coffers and disavowing super pac's coming in on their behalf. do you think your involvement in the race could be viewed as a detriment to a candidate running from big-money? to take that a step further, in 2020, if there's a democratic
nominee who disavows super pac's, will you stand down? mr. cecil: there is certainly a democrat that will not take corporate pac money and i respect that and i have advised a lot of democrats to take that position. i do not believe in unilateral disarmament. i do not believe we should allow the republican party and right-wing conservatives to spend hundreds of millions of dollars tearing down democrats and progressives and sibley sit there on our hands and watch it happen. from our perspective, if a candidate chooses not to have a super pac engaged in the race, we would not be engaged in the race and that is how we would approach 2020 as well. >> you mentioned the races in which you are involved in this cycle. you were last on this show back in may and you at the time said the democratic chances to take back the house were in great shape. you said about the possibility
of even taking that the senate majority "we have a shot." we are taping this with 18 days until election day, is that still where you see the landscape? mr. cecil: i do. i think we are leading in enough races to take back the majority of the house. we still have a ways to go. there's no question that the senate is a tougher map, a map dominated by states that president trump won, and a think a unit half ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a democrat that would imagine we would have six or seven races within the margin of error, which is what we have now. the fact that we do not have races in ohio and pennsylvania, that wisconsin has become less competitive over time, i think really describe what this election cycle is about, but there's no question that in places like missouri and indiana, in west virginia, we are dealing with with single-digit races. if the "washington post" numbers hold up, we have a fighting
chance. if we are doing that well among independent women, among moderates, we have a chance in these races, but there's no question overall the map is a pretty hard map, and is fundamentally different than the governors races or house races. >> you are a student of that map. are democrats starting in the whole one seat? mr. cecil: i remember three or four days before the election in 2012, there was a poll on the front page of the paper in north dakota that said heidi was going to lose by 10 points. i think her chances of winning the election were somewhere between 8% and 12%, so i have learned not to underestimate heidi. in small states, you find favorable ratings matter more than in large states.
in florida or ohio or california, the reality is most people are getting to know you because of television or because of digital advertising. in places like north dakota, people get to know you and i think the people there know her and i think that is why it is a remotely competitive race. i am certainly not conceding north dakota. we are active in north dakota. i just do not underestimate heidi. >> you recently made a big splash by announcing priorities usa would not weigh in on behalf of two candidates because they came out in support of brett kavanaugh's nomination for the supreme court. do you think democrats would be better off if they did not have senators like that in their caucus? mr. cecil: no, and i think it is completely logical for organizations and individual
donors to support those candidates. we are not a democratic organization. we are not just an electoral organization like planned parenthood or emily's list or league of conservative voters. we have a set of priorities that are important to us, and at this particular case, we decided we would not support candidates that supported the confirmation of asexual assaulter. that was a pretty straightforward thing for us. it does not mean we do not want them to win. it means we're focused on seven other seats. that is where we are going to spend our money. >> what were you doing in those states, and was the announcement more of an effort to drive up donor interest? mr. cecil: when we were asked about it, we said we had not been involved in those races, that we were planning on being involved in the tennessee race, and we had prepared, then we decided to halt the buys. for us, it was not a stunt because we are not raising money off of that. if anything, you might have
traditional democratic donors that would be upset by it. for us, it was just a statement of values. >> did you gain money from donors who were proud of that stance? >> certainly no. >> you mentioned your ad buys. one of the things priorities is doing different with cycle is an almost exclusive focus on digital advertising -- one of the things priorities is doing different. now that we are less than three weeks until election day, how would you evaluate the digital program? is it bearing the kind of fruit you guys expected? is not investing that money on television perhaps hurting some of your democratic candidates? or is it helpful to have it on digital? mr. cecil: going into the cycle, one thing was clear, and that is democrats had dropped the ball when it came to digital communication, whether that is digitally organizing, mobilizing the base, talking to persuadable voters. we are a party that
disproportionately relies on young people and people of color, and yet, we had campaigns and campaign organizations spending less than 4% of their budgets talking to voters online. that is unacceptable. it is a recipe for losing. it wasn't just the clinton campaign in 2016. it was true in senate races and house races, and we needed to make a fundamental change. and so, our goal is we wanted to do things to build a permanent democratic and progressive infrastructure that would help us close the gap. we wanted to encourage, shame, incentivize -- whatever the right word is -- other democrats and progressives to spend more money online. and they are. the gap has not closed. we still have a gap between republicans and democrats, particularly on google
platforms, for example, that need to be closed. but i think we have made a lot of progress in a really short time and, frankly, with smaller budgets and the other side, and i don't think we are losing anything by not spending the billions of dollars on television. if you look at most of these airwaves, the fact of the matter is in a lot of these races, democrats are matching if not outspending republicans in the same markets we are matching if not outspending republicans in the same markets we are getting outspent online. >> are you saying money is being wasted on tv? mr. cecil: i think you hit a diminishing return when you are on your 3000 point of television in the campaign. it is still an excellent way to communicate with voters, but like with anything else, you have point of diminishing return where a voter seeing your ad for the 21st time might not be as effective as seeing the ad the fourth, fifth, 12th time. >> as part of your digital
operation, one of the things you are doing is putting up whole websites, videos, and other content on social media that looks a lot like news and gets mixed in with people's newsfeeds. i've heard democrats complain what you're doing is sort of contributing to the polarization of the media landscape and can increase the suspicion of media writ large and play into donald trump and republicans' efforts to cast mainstream media as fake news. what do you think about that? mr. cecil: i wouold say those democrats are wrong, and they probably have my email address or phone number and am happy to explain to them why we should
not cede important ground. we are not creating fake news organizations. we are not creating breitbart. we are not engaging in religious intolerance. we are not playing on people's fears around race or religion. we are not trying to divide the country along lines that the republican party and conservatives have. what we are trying to do is communicate with people in the best way possible. frankly, for young people, they do not want to see the same 15-second b roll advertisement. we have all seen them, of the candidate looking very studious with a hardhat on walking through the manufacturing center. listening to you because it is the most important thing you had to say. we have seen those ads, so we need to do things creatively that bring people's attention to the fore. the other thing i would say about, for example, the facebook website that you mention, they all actually say who they are paid for by, which is us, which is a lot different than websites that have been promulgated by conservatives and the right. >> it was ok to have news content or content that looks like news that is sort of biased or one-sided as long as it is from your bias? mr. cecil: i don't know if you have a specific ad. i would be happy to respond. i think, generally speaking,
saying something looks like news is difficult to respond to in the abstract. i do not think that has been our approach to how we are communicating with voters. the issue is not about bias, and this is where i think reporters get it wrong. this is about truth. it is not biased to say that the republican party has been against protections or pre-existing conditions. that is the truth. it is not biased to criticize the senate candidate in missouri like dana rohrabacher, using his child and a political ad, to suggest that he is in favor of protecting pre-existing condition protections, when he is suing the government to eliminate pre-existing condition protection. that is not biased. that is the truth. i would stand by any of the advertisements we have done as being truthful, and, frankly, pac's are held to a higher standard than candidates because our ads can be taken down on television.
a candidate cannot. i think it is an important difference to make in terms of a higher standard we have to hold ourselves to. >> ken asked you about 2020 and what the prospective democratic nominee might think about outside groups like yours. the reality is is it is going to take a while before we know who that democratic nominee is. it looks like there are at least a dozen serious democrats going now to campaign desk going to mount a campaign, if not more. while all that will be litigated over 2019 and the first half of 2020, president trump is building out his campaign infrastructure. how much do you worry about the history of incumbent presidents being knocked off after the first term? george h.w. bush, jimmy carter, but it doesn't happen a lot. most get reelected. how much are you concerned if
priorities for other outside groups will not be able to fill the void that will exist when a democrat wins the nomination in march or april or may while president trump has been building up his infrastructure all this time? mr. cecil: frankly, that's why we exist. part of the reason priorities decided to be active in the midterm and off here was we saw there were structural disadvantages, not just in reference to the presidential campaign, although that is a big one, but just generally speaking. when you have organizations with donors that at the beginning of a cycle say they are putting in $200 million into a race, $300, $400 million -- that's more than the three major democrat super pac's have combined, so that allows them to build structure that is not just about trump but the whole conservative movement. our existence keeping priorities open in the midterm, which was unusual and had not really happened in the past, was
because we felt like there are structural advantages that the republican party has and there are structural advantages donald trump will have as a result of the primary and we have to try to fill those. am i concerned? certainly. my concern is being met with action and we are trying to make sure we are prepared to do that, and we will be active to do that. >> of the $100 million you will raise the cycle by your estimate, are you saving any of that for the 2020 cycle? mr. cecil: very little. >> you plan to spend most of it this cycle? mr. cecil: we are doing everything we can to combat donald trump. we are pretty clear about that. almost all of our resources will be spent and we will be back to the grind stone to raise money in january. >> you talk about building permanent infrastructure, and you have a number of different arms. i have heard a number of operatives on both sides talking
about forming private companies -- llc's if you will, that would do some of the work super pac's and 501(c)4's typically do. are you concerned? are you concerned about the potential loss of transparency? mr. cecil: certainly around the data infrastructure and how they share data across infrastructure. a lot of that gets done through private companies and llcs. it is not a change to the structure we will be making, but my view is the legal representation of the structure, whether a c4 or llc, is insignificant to if we can get the job done and that we should set up a structure that makes the most sense, but it is not something we are considering. >> it is significant as a c4. quite obviously, the left has
been more concerned with transparency. do you think it is hypocritical for you to be taking money from anonymous donors back on other donors who do want to have anonymity as it condition of their contribution? mr. cecil: i think there are a lot of organizations that have c4 arms. chamber of commerce is a c4 -- >> but they don't make of big deal about transparency. the left does. mr. cecil: emily's list has a c4. planned parenthood has a c4. i think we get a lot of attention because we have a large pac as well, but the work we do inside our c4 is about building the infrastructure of the party. it is about, for example, suing the state of missouri because they are engaged in voter id laws that are making it more difficult to vote. working with our c3 and c4 to sue the state of florida because the secretary of state unilaterally decided public
colleges and universities should not be early vote locations. we won that case. a lot of work we are doing inside priorities usa, which is our c4, is critical not just from a partisan point of view, but, frankly, to engaging more people in civic life. so, it is not something we have a problem with. we certainly have donors that give to one organization or another, and they do it for a host of different reasons. i don't know if you have noticed, but this president has a way of making people's lives miserable when they are a political opponent of his, so some just do not want the spotlight. they do not want to be in the crosshairs of the president or conservatives. that is how they choose to give. >> have you seen that increase? more donors wanting to give because of this? mr. cecil: no, our super pac still raises more than our c4 and not by a close margin. >> we have two minutes left. i have a question for each of you. >> go for it. >> i will go first. when you were last on the show in may, you talked about encouraging senate candidates to
run more positive advertising, building up their brands. have you seen that, or is there a concern that as this campaign has turned pretty sharply negative over the past three to four weeks now, that some of that work is harder to achieve and this is turning into an arms race of negative ads? mr. cecil: i still think certainly on the campaign side, you still see positive ads being run and i do think it is really critical because i do think there are a relatively small but significant subset of voters that -- they want calm. they want rational behavior. they feel uneasy about the direction of the country, and it's not a matter of partisan or ideological points of view. i think especially in red states where you are trying to convince somebody to vote for something that is different than their
ideological bent, i think it's important you run positive ads. by the way, we run positive ads. i know super pac's are mostly per trade as negative, but the fact is a significant portion of our budget is allocated to positive ads for the candidates we work for. >> but do they usually go viral? mr. cecil: no. no. no. that is exactly right. >> i guess if i can follow up on that point about the news content or the content put on peoples facebook pages, that it's not really about bias or the perception that the media tries to capture both sides of it. there might not be another side. do we think there would just do you think we would be better off if there were fewer outlets trying to engage in this both-siderism? mr. cecil: i think we would be better off if we had more organizations that are truthful and engage in a constructive way, and i think that is fundamentally different than how
our president chooses to engage. when you are encouraging and congratulating members of congress or body slamming members of the media, that is not a responsible way to engage in the process. when you are gladhanding, aw-shucksing a regime responsible for murdering a reporter, that is not a constructive way to engage in the process. i'm in favor of anybody, conservative or liberal willing to engage in a constructive way. >> we will see how the process works out in about two and a half weeks. thanks for being here. "newsmakers" is back with stephen shepherd of politico and ken vogel of "the new york times." overall, what is different about the 2018 midterms? tactically, when you're looking across the campaigns, the super pac's, and the parties? >> democrats have just absolutely annihilated republicans in hard dollar fundraising.
this is largely because of small donations being given online. democrats have long had an advantage on this front because they have this portal, act blue it's called, which serves across different campaigns and the electoral landscape to alert democratic small donors of races they might not have heard of and allow some of these candidates, like a beto o'rourke, who has shattered fund-raising records in his race against ted cruz in texas to raise a lot of money from out of state. of course, there's also small donor enthusiasm because of antipathy on the left for president trump. republicans have tried to offset that advantage by raising this big money into super pac's that come into these races were democrats have a huge small dollar advantage and even the playing field a little bit. it is the job of priorities usa to make sure the democratic big money is holding its own and
keeping democrats with that financial party overall. >> what are the polls telling you about how voters are responding to all of this? >> certainly, democrats are closing in on winning the majority in the house. we have them favored to win 209 seats. republicans, as we've written, would essentially have to sweep or come close to sweeping those tossup races that are all within the margin of error. it's not over, but right now, democrats are favored. as guy talked about, the senate map is very different. there are 10 democratic senators seeking reelection in states president trump carried. five of those by double digits. only one republican is seeking reelection in a state that hillary clinton carried. heidi talked about polls in her 2012 defeat of rick berg. it is true polls showed her behind then, but they show her behind now, and most folks think
she is trailing. claire mccaskill in missouri is essentially tied with josh holly, if not a couple points behind. indiana is a tossup race. montana is close. meanwhile, democrats have not really been able to put any of the races in their column. nevada seeking reelection, that race is tied. in arizona, where they help to win the seat of retiring senator jeff flake, that's roughly tied. all these states are tight. they all have to go democrats'way for them to even have a chance at winning back the majority in the fall. >> the president has been out and will be until election day energizing his base. when you are looking at the data, the democrats' strategy is all on young people and people of color. what will get them to the polls? >> i really think it is trump, and guy's characterization of these issues that are more important than the national sort
of political debate i think ignores the fact is the reason why so many democrats are engaged and giving money and tweeting and sharing facebook content is because they are fired up because they don't like donald trump. to some extent, that's just normal. that's the way it works in the first midterm of a sitting president, but i think we have seen trump really energize the base of democrats and now of republicans in a way that there is just no avoiding it is all about trump. this is a referendum on the president. >> it's really unknown, this digital strategy, and whether or not it will get young people and people of color to the polls, but what is your recent polling? i was just reading "the new york times." it suggested the enthusiasm was among suburban white voters and less so among this demographic that democrats are favoring. >> that data indicated that roughly 80% of the electorate would be white in this election, which is whiter than previous elections.
it is white suburban voters who have turned against president trump. a lot of them are traditional voters going back decades. they are finding it harder to support democratic candidates in the trump era. voters in rural areas who traditionally voted for democrats to vote for republican candidates, that is why he was in montana and rural nevada. he is in places where he can speak to those voters he has been able to bring in to the gop. >> white suburban voters, that is where a lot of the key districts are, but not having the big turnout of voters of color for democrats and turnout of rural voters for republicans.
>> what we you be looking at the most in the next two weeks? >> it is a cliche, but the turnout. turnout operations and what democrats are doing. you have heard us talk about a digital push on getting voters out to the polls. republican super pac's are investing in infrastructure on the ground people knocking on doors. >> i am watching where each party will send money. both parties have cast a wide net in the races they are engaging in, but when it comes to time to spend those last dollars in places where it will really make a difference, they make some key cuts. those may be places coming off the board in some of these places as we close out this campaign. >> thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018]
>> in two campaign rallies today forck obama in las vegas the get out the vote rally. live coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. eastern. at 7:30 president trump will be speak at a rally in houston. of texas senator ted cruz and his reelection bid. one coverage of both rally c-span. later today republican facesssman rob whitman democrat vangie williams. at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. online atso watch c-span.org or use the free c-span radio app. days until the ballots are cast, make c-span your campaignource for 2018. join us tonight for american history tv in prime time. evening historians discuss how the founders envision the three branches of government and
idea of separation of powers has been important for the survival and success of the republic. watch american history tv in tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern on c-span 3. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created a as public service by america's companies andon today we continue to bring you congress, coverage of the white house, the supreme court and public policy events d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. 15m elections. we are talking about congressional leadership and the future of it. at the table is al weaver, political reporter for the "washington examiner," a repeat