Friday, November 28, 2014

California: Low Turnout, Lots of Rolloff

John Myers writes at KQED:
The abysmal turnout of California voters in the Nov. 4 elections was widely predicted. The final numbers won’t be available for a few more days, but the statewide vote appears to reflect a turnout of about 42 percent, a new record for lowest turnout in a California gubernatorial election.
But a deeper dive into the numbers finds a much lower percentage of votes — in some cases less than half of that statewide turnout – cast in several races for the California Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Let’s go back to that Los Angeles race for the state’s 39th Assembly District, where freshman incumbent Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) conceded defeat on Monday to fellow Democrat Patty Lopez, a local activist whose campaign was well under the political universe’s radar until the votes started to be tallied on Election Night.
“While the vote tally is incredibly close,” said a statement from Bocanegra on Monday evening, “it is clear that my opponent will be victorious by the narrowest of margins.”
The real killer, though, was overall turnout. The final tally by Los Angeles County elections officials shows only 45,033 votes were cast in the Bocanegra versus Lopez race. That’s only 22 percent of all registered voters in the San Fernando Valley district.
Even worse: Lopez will take the oath of office on Dec. 1 in Sacramento with the backing of just 22,750 voters — that’s slightly less than 5 percent of all the people who live in her Los Angeles County district (using census data compiled during the 2011 redrawing of political districts).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Schumer's Way

In a speech at The National Press Club, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)  admitted that the Obama administration's initial focus on health care was a political mistake. With unusual candor, he said:
It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40% of those registered voting. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5% of the electorate.
Give him credit for consistency.  In 2010, Jeffrey Toobin reported in The New Yorker:
After Brown won the Senate race in Massachusetts, and the Obama agenda seemed stalled, Schumer told a meeting of his fellow Democratic senators, “If we ignore that and don’t change, we are like Thelma and Louise. We are headed right over the cliff. They were all saying, in as loud a voice as they could, all the middle-class people of Massachusetts—listen to us.” As he explained to me, “What the public hates the most is when they think the politicians aren’t listening to them. They understand that we can’t solve all their problems with a snap of our fingers, but they sure want us to try, because we are public servants.” Schumer said that Obama needed to heed the voters in Massachusetts and change course. “They said, ‘We’re not against doing health care, but right now we are hurting. Jobs, the economy, stretching the middle-class paycheck—which even those with jobs are having a tough time doing—start doing that.’ That’s what they said.”
Schumer also called on Democrats to embrace big government and take on special interests.  Francine Kiefer writes at The Christian Science Monitor:
First, a gut check. Polls paint a different picture about Americans’ views of government than Schumer does. The 2014 midterm election exit polls showed that a majority of voters (54 percent) believe that the “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” while just 41 percent think “the government should do more to solve problems,” The Washington Post reported.
From Gallup to the Pew Research Center, 2014 polls show Americans’ trust of government at historic lows.
Second, about those special interests. While liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts champions consumers even as she charges at Wall Street, on Capitol Hill, Schumer is known as “Wall Street Chuck,” according to The Huffington Post. He has raised millions for Democrats from the financial sector, which he oversees as a member of the Senate Banking Committee.
“Chuck Schumer taking on special interests is like Kim Kardashian taking on media hype,” says John Pitney, a congressional expert and professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “The likely 2016 presidential nominee is Hillary Clinton, who is also no stranger to Wall Street.”
Third, Democrats had a pro-government middle-class plan, and they still lost the Senate. The plan, called a “Fair Shot” agenda, included raising the minimum wage, pay-equity for women, and affordable student loans. Its chief architect? Schumer.
Schumer quoted Reagan’s “government is the problem” line out of context, omitting the crucial lines that followed moments later: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”

The 2016 election will be about reality, not messaging. If the economy is doing okay and we are not in the middle of an international crisis, then the Democrats have a very good opportunity to hold the White House. If events go south, so do Democratic chances.

Meanwhile, the best advice is a paraphrase of one of President Obama’s favorite lines: don’t say stupid stuff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conservative War Chest v. Obama (and Landireu)

At Bloomberg, David Weigel writes:
No political PAC has challenged the American attention span quite like Conservative War Chest. The pro-Republican group, best known for its epic "Gang of Five" attack ads on various Democratic candidates, is heading into Louisiana for a buy that could go as high as $100,000.
Into the gap left by Democrats, who have started to cut bait on Senator Mary Landrieu, comes this spot: Two minutes of attacks on Barack Obama's SCOTUS defeats, executive orders, treaty negotiations, and general affronts to America, ending in a portrait of Thanksgiving dinner and an out-of-nowhere appeal to vote for Landrieu's opponent, Bill Cassidy.

Archie Bunker Still Lives, and He Is Not a Democrat

At the Washington Post, Philip Bump correctly notes that, although white working-class voters are shrinking as a share of the electorate, there are still a lot of them.
The concern is obvious in this chart, which shows House exit poll data broken out by race and education. (We use education as a proxy for class because it correlates with income levels and isn't subject to shifts from inflation.)

The higher up the line on this chart, the better Republican House candidates did with the voting population. That light red line that's cruising along above the dark red one represents the shift toward the Republicans by white non-college graduates. The gap between college-educated whites and non-college graduates is the widest it's been -- and to the GOP's benefit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More on Blown GOP Opportunities in California

Tony Quinn writes at Fox and Hounds:
On Election Night, an unknown and unfunded Republican farmer from Fresno named Johnny Tacherra was leading veteran Democratic Congressman Jim Costa by 700 votes. He eventually lost, but only by 1,300 votes. To his north, unknown and unfunded Republican Tony Amador held Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney to just 52 percent. Every expert called that race safe for McNerney; it was not. And in the counties north and west of Sacramento, another veteran, Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, held off retiring GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue with just 53 percent.
What do these three races have in common? Each was in California parched Central Valley where farm folks believe, with good reason, that urban Democrats and environmentalists are starving them for water during the drought while taking care of the cities and the fish.
That this was a massive issue should have been clear to GOP leaders, but it was not. All House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) had to do was step outside his front door and he could have seen what the drought was doing. It was a huge political issue totally missed by congressional Republicans. A little GOP money could have gone along ways in these three Central Valley districts.

Three structural reasons also contributed to the Republican losses in several of these districts.
  • Republicans have let their registration collapse, especially in suburban districts. Had Gorell and Ose been running with the Republican numbers in these districts when the Redistricting Commission drew them, they would have won.
  • Republicans have no late ballot program; Democrats are masters at awakening their voters on Monday and Tuesday and making sure they get their absentee ballots in; Republicans made little effort to encourage their less interested voters to cast their mail ballots. In the end thousands of GOP mail-in ballots were never mailed.
  • Republicans spent nothing on their statewide candidates, so there was no GOP enthusiasm to get out and vote, other than what could be ginned up by local campaigns. It was not enough.
Republicans did very well in the legislative races, making important gains. That they failed in every single congressional race is a testament to the lack of knowledge of the nuances of California on the part of the national party, and their failure at the basic mechanics of winning close elections. This was the year for big Republican gains in Congress and in the end they got nothing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Learning to Govern

At The Hill, Scott Wong notes that the leaders are publicly trying to take a hard rhetorical line against the Obama immigration plan.
GOP leadership aides are even distancing themselves from a comment from powerful House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that angered GOP immigration hawks like Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Rogers suggested that conservatives’ efforts to defund Obama’s actions through an appropriations bill would be “impossible” because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gets its money from fees.
“Rogers was not prodded by leadership to do that,” a GOP aide told The Hill. “He was not speaking on behalf of leadership.”
At the same time, GOP leaders are working hard to get their own members on board the no-shutdown train.
They don’t want to be caught in a trap the White House sets to goad Republicans into shutting down the government or impeaching the president.
And their success can be seen in the fact that even GOP rabble-rousers are toning down the impeachment talk.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an anti-immigration hard-liner in the Senate, ruled out impeachment on Friday. While King hasn’t gone that far, the vocal Obama critic acknowledged that pursuing impeachment would backfire.
“I’ll just say nobody wants to go there,” King, who sat in the audience of Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings in 1998, told reporters this week. “Those things don’t end well for our country. It divides our country and it pits us against each other.”
The Iowa Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee has been pushing legislation to defund agencies in the government that would pay for Obama’s executive immigration order.
That points to the challenge for Boehner and his leadership team.
Still, other conservatives who have been thorns in the side of Boehner appear to be trying to help their leadership find a way out.
Alex Isenstadt and Kyle Cheney write at Politico:
What has changed is the underlying balance of power in the party and, perhaps, the terms of debate within the GOP over how to deal with the Democratic Party and its surprisingly aggressive leader. Obama might be behaving like a usurping monarch without a mandate, in the eyes of the newly powerful GOP, but no one is seriously threatening to impeach him — as Republicans have repeatedly done in past years. Nor, despite the angry rhetoric, does there seem to be a serious possibility of government shutdown.
Yes, outliers are still threatening actions that could lead to a stalemate a la 2013: Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, voicing anger against the executive action in a way that typified many Southern and Western Republicans, called the move an “impeachable offense,” and earlier circulated a letter urging House Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to defund any presidential effort to supply work permits or green cards to illegals — potentially prompting a veto and a shutdown. The more than 50 representatives who signed the Salmon letter included many of the same House members who adopted the strategy in 2013 that led to a shutdown then.

And yet Rogers and the House leadership, as well as a substantial portion of the Republican caucus, have made it clear they’re not ready to take that course again. “People are being very thoughtful about this,” said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is widely seen as a rising star in tea party circles. “I’ve heard no one mention a shutdown except the press.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014