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Senate Democrats' January of doom

DSCC drenches supporters in negativity to wring cash from them

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently predicted that Democrats will successfully defend their Senate advantage over Republicans following the 2014 midterms.

But since late December, in a bid to raise big bucks, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has shown little such confidence, expressing itself with equal parts hysteria, hyperbolie and doomsaying.

The degree to which it does so well exceeds the routinely over-the-top national party fundraising efforts by Democrats and Republicans alike, all of whom employ provocative subject lines to attract readers' attention — and dollars.

"Deep trouble" is the title of a missive from Reid, via the DSCC, on Dec. 13.

"Republican groups — including one backed by the Koch brothers — are redoubling their efforts to destroy [the Affordable Care Act] by spending millions on deceitful attacks against Democrats in key battleground states," Reid writes. "If Democrats can’t urgently respond to these attacks, it could put our Senate majority in jeopardy."

Relatively standard political fare, so far. But the gloom had just begun.

"Critical" is the subject of a Dec. 18 dispatch from the DSCC.

It's followed in December by messages entitled "Nervous," "Revolting," "BLINDSIDED," "Deep Trouble," "Catastrophe," "Heavy toll," "Doomed," "Bad news first," "Disgusting," "Doomed" (again), "I won't sugarcoat this" and "Panicking."

Senate Democrats' romp through diagnosable disorders continues in January with "I need your urgent help," "Doomed" (for a third time), "Catastrophic," "A crushing blow," "Disastrous," "This is disturbing," "Disgusting and angering" and "serious trouble."

Reid on Friday wrote of being "in danger." By Saturday, matters had become "dire."

Most of these DSCC messages present billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch as the Democrats' arch enemies. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell periodically plays the role of the Kochs' elected henchman.

The messages often go on to warn how Senate Democrats are at grave risk of being outspent during the 2014 midterm elections, and, in the words of one plea, how the "Koch brothers are now shoveling limitless amounts of cash into must-win Senate battlegrounds to drag down strong Democrats. Right now, we’re being significantly outspent."

They also seemingly contradict the scant feel-good communications the DSCC has sent its supporters of late, such as a New Year's message from Executive Director Guy Cecil that reads: "Together, we closed out 2013 strongly and raised an incredible $20 million from grassroots supporters to protect our Democratic majority and stop a Republican Senate takeover. That amazing total puts us in a great position to grab the momentum heading into the election year."

Officials at the DSCC declined to answer Center for Public Integrity questions about their pessimistic messaging.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee's come-ons, meanwhile, have been consistently upbeat during December and Janaury.

"Can I count on you?," "We have great candidates," "Friend, this is it" and "The Key to Success" are among recent lead-ins.

If anything, Senate Democrats have more reason for optimism than their Republican counterparts, at least by one measure.

The DSCC's most recent campaign finance filing indicated it had about $12 million cash on hand and $5 million in debt, for a net $7 million. That's more than the NRSC, which reported $6.4 million cash on hand and no debt.

Republicans need a net pick up of six seats to retake the majority. This fall, Democrats will be defending seven seats in states carried by Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.