At Talking Points Memo, Sahil Kapur explains "Why Harry Reid Is Waging War On The Koch Brothers":
The Democratic Senate majority leader is using his bully pulpit to pick an increasingly acrimonious fight with the billionaire oil tycoons.... In recent weeks he has called them "un-American" plutocrats who "have no conscience and are willing to lie" in order to "rig the system" against the middle class. He has also accused them of bribing foreign governments in order to expand their energy empire....Right -- that strategy has worked for Republicans, especially in midterm elections. Republicans routinely nationalize elections by picking targets such as Kennedy and Pelosi (and Reid himself, and, to a lesser extent, the senator Republicans always call "Chucky" Schumer). This strategy opens wallets, builds party loyalty, and increases turnout.
So, what's really driving the Nevada Democrat's fight? The brothers, Charles and David, are reportedly worth a stunning $36 billion, and they're pouring millions into an all-out effort to dismantle Reid's Democratic majority in the upcoming congressional elections....
"[Reid] is smart enough to know that in politics that you need an enemy to draw out distinctions," said Jim Manley, Reid's former top spokesman through 2010. "For instance, in his time in the Senate he has seen the Republicans try to demonize people like Leader [Nancy] Pelosi in order to have a foil to run against -- and before her it was Senator [Ted] Kennedy."
Is there any Republican officeholder who reliably motivates Democrats to donate and vote? In the last decade it was Bush and Cheney -- but when Republicans don't hold the White House, Democrats are terrible at identifying and defining any Republican as the embodiment of everything they oppose. They got lucky in 2012 when Todd Akin talked about "legitimate rape," but that gaffe was a gift.
Democrats and liberal media figures don't really try very hard to make targets of McConnell or Boehner or Cantor; they get a bit of mileage out of Ted Cruz, and they used to get mileage out of Michele Bachmann, but the leadership gets a pass. (It's easy for Republican candidates in competitive districts to pretend that some like Cruz or Bachmann has nothing to do with them.)
And so Reid goes after the Kochs -- though I don't see a hell of a lot of his congressional colleagues doing the same. Meanwhile, he's not launching ad hominem attacks on the GOP leadership -- but there's no reliable left-wing noise machine getting that job done.
Democrats need to do a better job of defining the enemy and personalizing the fight. It may be a low-rent tactic, but it works.