The best laid plans of Kochs...

I was thinking about what headline would most infuriate Harry Reid, and it is this one: “Koch Brothers celebrate majority leader’s decision to retire.”

That thought occurred to me after two of POLITICO's finest, Ken Vogel and Burgess Everett, considered the question of the Koch Brothers’ Newtonian reaction to Reid’s obsessive crusade against the Kansas billionaires.

The POLITICO headline, “The Kochs' plan to beat Harry Reid,” probably evoked the same reaction from Reid as it did from me: A chuckle.

The reason: If the “plan” is to spend a fortune in Nevada trying to build a grassroots organization to compete with Team Reid, that is a fool’s errand. Vogel and Everett came up with some great information, including about LIBRE, the Hispanic group designed to show Reid was wrong when he said, "I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay."

What I found most interesting was the piece's focus on Americans for Prosperity, the most well known Koch political arm. No one tracks this stuff as Vogel does, and he has written a book about it.

But so far in Nevada, AFP has been a dud, despite some energetic, smart young operatives. First, Adam Stryker, and now Zac Moyle, a former GOP executive director, have led the group. Moyle has many connections and is a savvy guy. But let me tell you what AFP has done so far:

A silly waste of money in Nevada legislative races.

A meaningless stunt in the 2012 Senate race.

►A move this cycle to organize in Congressional District 3 using Obamacare, which evidence on the ground shows is not resonating.

Here’s what one knowledgeable insider working with Republicans brutally said about AFP's efforts to help Rep. Joe Heck against Erin Bilbray:  “AFP morons are actually going door-to-door in CD 3, asking independent voters to call Heck to thank him for voting against Obamacare.  I guess they didn't get the memo that all of the Obamacare Republicans won their Republican primaries in Nevada against AFP parrots who squawked the party line.  AFP will do more harm than good for Heck.  If the Koch brothers start running commercials against Bilbray, put your money on Bilbray.”

That’s not to say that Moyle & Co., with unlimited funding, can't do some damage this cycle or against Reid in 2016. But it ain’t there yet.

UPDATE: I've learned that Moyle recently left AFP over differences with the national organization. It's even worse than I thought. Headless, they are here.

Vogel and Everett also are correct that AFP might be the vessel into which Sheldon Adelson and others might pour money to make up for the comedy show a k a the Nevada Republican Party. But the biggest challenge for the Kochs in defeating the indefatigable Reid despite his horrific numbers (55 percent unfavorable in a recent poll) – remember he was declared dead in 1998 and 2010, too – is a lack of a challenger.

Sen. Dean Heller, looking to challenge me in the pundit game, told POLITICO: “If we nominate a weak candidate, he’s going to get reelected.”


Their problem is that Gov. Brian Sandoval has evinced little interest in running and Heck, whom I have always thought could be formidable against Reid and whom the POLITICO reporters describe as “among the Koch favorites to challenge Reid,” told me last year he prefers to remain in the House.

Of course these things can change. Pressure from the national GOP. Ambition percolating. The oracular Heller predicting they can win.

But Reid is likely to face a second-tier foe, who could be competitive but not simply because the Kochs wheel a truck full of cash into Las Vegas. This is déjà vu from 2010, when the Rovian American Crossroads made the same noises. And even more so than Crossroads, the Kochs provide plenty of fodder to rev up Democratic Party base groups, especially because of some of the positions they have taken and candidates they have elected.

That is, defeating Reid is not just a money problem. He has the best political team in the business and so far they have been fortunate to find relative amateurs on the other side.

As for the possibility all of this activity may induce Reid to retire, think again. Vogel and Everett used the right word – “giddy” – to describe how Reid feels about taking on the Kochs. He relishes it, either bravely or recklessly.

If Reid's health and his wife’s health are fine, he not only won’t retire but I wouldn’t bet against him finding a way to win again no matter how much the Kochs spend. To twist Mencken, a lot of people have gone broke underestimating Harry Reid.