GOP fundraising off Obama 'latte salute.' Appropriate?

The National Republican Senatorial Committee created a pop-up web site, Semperlatte.com, that charges Obama’s 'latte salute' is indicative of a 'larger pattern.'

Larry Downing/Reuters
US President Barack Obama arrives at the White House in Washington after flying from Baltimore aboard Marine One earlier in September.

The Republican Party is raising money off President Obama’s awkward coffee-cup salute.

You’ve heard about latte-gate, right? On Tuesday when arriving in Manhattan, Obama exited Marine One with a hot beverage cup in his hand. When the Marine guard at the foot of the stairs saluted the debarking commander-in-chief, the president lifted the cup to his forehead in return. It wasn’t a graceful gesture.

Lots of people got upset that the president wasn’t showing proper respect to the troops, despite the fact that President Bush once did the same thing when holding his dog Barney. So on Wednesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee figured they would try to take advantage of this perceived outrage to make some cash.

They’ve created a pop-up web site, Semperlatte.com, that charges Obama’s poor salute is indicative of a “larger pattern,” though it doesn’t specify what that larger pattern is.

“Put that coffee down!” says the big red banner splashed across an Obama salute image on the site.

Why are they doing this? Well, the opportunity presented itself. Why not? Consultants are always saying “politics is not bean-bag” in a sage manner, though none of them really have any idea what “bean-bag” is and whether it’s a symbol of restraint.

Also, they need the money. Heading into the last weeks of the 2014 mid-terms, Democrats have outraised Republicans across the board. GOP strategist Karl Rove wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal that in Senate races Democrats have spent $24 million more than Republicans on TV ads. This disparity might allow Democrat Harry Reid to remain majority leader, Mr. Rove warned.

“Republican candidates and groups must step up if they are to substantially reduce that gap,” wrote Rove.

That’s what the Semperlatte site represents: The NRSC stepping up and trying to close the gap.

North Carolina’s Senate race shows how the Democrats’ cash advantage is playing out in practice. Through the end of June, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan raised four times more money than the GOP candidate, state Rep. Thom Tillis, according to The New York Times. That advantage has probably dwindled since then but Senator Hagan is “all but assured to spend more money on the general election than [Rep. Tillis] will,” writes Nate Cohn of the Times’ Upshot data site.

Lots of political pros figured Hagan was a goner this time around. But she’s leading Tillis narrowly in the polls. If she wins reelection, it becomes that much harder for the GOP to win a Senate majority.

As to the propriety of the Semperlatte fundraising, does that question even need to be asked?

Both parties will try and raise money off every scandal, real and/or perceived. Democrats have waved the flag of a possible (but highly unlikely) GOP impeachment attempt to get funds for their own Senate candidates. Republicans have used alleged Democratic stonewalling on what went on when three Americans died in an attack in Benghazi, Libya.

The liberal group People for the American Way has fundraised off GOP fundraising on Benghazi, points out the sage political commentator Jonathan Bernstein. Maybe they’ll even try to fundraise off the GOP latte-gate site.

But the people who actually donate should be wary of the great fundraising circle of derp, according to Bernstein. It may encourage their party’s worst instincts.

“If you don’t want your part to be in the business of producing over-the-top reactions to nonsense, then don’t click the donate button at Republicansaremuderousthugs.com or Democratsarenationalsocialists.com,” Bernstein writes. “If that’s the kind of appeal you respond to, then that’s the kind of party and candidates you’ll get.”

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