Search This Blog

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Party Money in 2008

The FEC has released data on party finance during the 2008 election cycle.  CQ Politics reports on key differences:

In the 2008 cycle and early in the 2010 cycle, the Democratic committees were more reliant than their Republican counterparts on the larger, more-than-$200 donations that have to be itemized on federal campaign finance reports. ... The Democrats have been more adept than the Republicans in attracting the maximum contribution amount from individual donors. For the 2010 campaign cycle, an individual can give up to $30,400 per year to a national party committee.

The FEC analysis also showed a large Democratic advantage in raising money from members of Congress. There’s no limit on the amount of money that a member of Congress can transfer to a national party committee from his or her campaign committee.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Idaho 1

In Epic Journey, we discuss the Democrats' success in capturing some heavily Republican House districts. One of our examples (p. 180) is the First District of Idaho, where Walt Minnick beat freshman Republican Bill Sali. CQ Politics reports that Republicans will have to work very hard to get the seat back:
[Minnick's] tireless constituent outreach, low-key, non-ideological demeanor and centrist voting record has earned plaudits from traditionally Republican-leaning interest groups. “People are very comfortable with him and his views,” said John Thompson, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation spokesman. “I think he’s doing what he knows he needs to do get re-elected.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Voting Procedure and the Internet

Convenience voting reached new levels in 2008. According to the Pew Center on the States, 37% of voters cast ballots before Election Day, either at early voting centers (18%) or by mail, (19%). It would seem that Internet voting is the next step.

The City of Honolulu recently chose neighborhood boards in the nation's first paperless, all-electronic election. Initial reports indicated that the election went smoothly and was relatively inexpensive to conduct. But a story in today's Honolulu Advertiser suggests that Internet voting is not necessarily the gateway to greater participation:
The first all-digital and telephone election in the country drew less than 6.5 percent participation, down from 28 percent in the city's last Neighborhood Board elections, in 2007.Unfamiliarity with an entirely new voting system is now being cited as one of the chief reasons "turnout" was so low in what had been hailed by the city and election system vendor Everyone Counts as the first of its kind. Joan Manke, Neighborhood Commission executive director, said yesterday she was "very disappointed" with the results. "My sense is because it's something new, change often takes time."

Jim Pinkerton notes another problem with Internet voting: "[If] vote fraud is already a problem, what will happen when the “vote” is simply an electronic pulse, that could have come, potentially, from anywhere in the US–or around the world? Who will oversee the e-voting process? And who will oversee the overseers?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ethnicity and Campaign 2008

At Daily Kos, Docta Jones details how the Hispanic vote helped Obama in key states.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has been releasing exit poll data showing Obama's advantages among Asian American voters in New York City, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gallup on Party Identification

Gallup reports:
The decline in Republican Party affiliation among Americans in recent years is well documented, but a Gallup analysis now shows that this movement away from the GOP has occurred among nearly every major demographic subgroup. Since the first year of George W. Bush's presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has maintained its support only among frequent churchgoers, with conservatives and senior citizens showing minimal decline. Among the groups that Gallup listed, the drop in GOP identification was biggest among those with postgraduate degrees: 13 points.
This datum reinforces Michael Barone's argument that the party should "go upscale" by nominating candidates who appeal to educated voters. Perhaps the president was trying to thwart such a strategy when he nominated the Mandarin-speaking Jon Huntsman to be ambassador to China.

Still, one should be cautious about assuming that these numbers are permanent. As Jim Gimpel reminds us, party ID can shift rapidly, especially among weak identifiers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Abortion Politics

Fresh survey evidence indicates some shifting on a key issue:

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995 ...

With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Political Future and Hispanic and Asian Americans

In 2008, the Hispanic and Asian shares of the electorate reached historic levels, and Democrats did well among these groups. Projections of greater Democratic strength have hinged on projections of rapid growth among these groups. But new census data may require a revision of these forecasts. The Washington Post reports:
Deterred by immigration laws and the lackluster economy, the population growth of Hispanics and Asians in the United States has slowed unexpectedly, causing the government to push back estimates on when minorities will become the majority by as much as a decade.
The Census data are here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

GOP Online

At CyberINK, Jean Latz Griffin notes that Republicans have lost their previous dominance in political technology:
[The] game changed when the Obama campaign dominated the social networks, online organizing and other new media such as texting and placements in video games, and translated contributions, volunteer hours and self-organizing into votes. The dominance was recognized in April when, among the 23 Golden Dot Awards given by George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, only six went to clearly identified Republican campaigns, eight went to to Democrats and the rest to issue campaigns.That only sounds balanced between the Rs and the Ds until you notice that two of the Republican awards went to Ron Paul, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination for President.

Nevertheless, she gives good grades to the RNC's current website and quotes its former director of e-campaigning that the party has a good chance to bounce back.

Monday, May 11, 2009


For years, the Christian right and the secular left had a co-dependent relationship. Groups such as the Christian Coalition on the one side and ACLU on the other drew millions in contributions by attacking each other. We now see a similar relationship between ACORN and the Republican National Committee. During the 2008 campaign, Republicans routinely accused ACORN of election fraud. Now, David Weigel writes in The Washington Independent:
“ACORN’s community organizers are eager to once again take action to aid their old friend in the White House,” wrote RNC Chairman Michael Steele. “You can be sure they’ll be manipulating population numbers.The 39-year-old group has never been more controversial. Bertha Lewis, the chief executive officer and chief organizer of ACORN since the middle of last year, could not have been happier.“Fine, bring it,” Lewis said in an interview with TWI, inside ACORN’s national offices near Capitol Hill. She brought up her fists in a boxing stance. “Let’s bring it. We know what the true facts are. We know that we’ll win in court. Our strategy now is to beef up our operations so we can defend ourselves.”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Generations and Party Identification

Gallup reports:
Although Democrats currently enjoy a party identification advantage over Republicans among Americans at every age between 18 to 85, the Democrats' greatest advantages come among those in their 20s and baby boomers in their late
40s and 50s. Republicans, on the other hand, come closest to parity with Democrats among Generation Xers in their late 30s and early 40s and among seniors in their late 60s

As mentioned before in this space, however, Jim Gimpel offers cautions about the durability of party identification.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Way to Victory

In The Weekly Standard, Gary Andres addresses the common assumption that the GOP, as a whole, must shift in a certain ideological direction.

This view assumes all voters place the entire political world on a single, left-right spectrum and support candidates and parties closest to themselves on this hypothetical scale. They don't--or at least many do not. Instead, they view electoral choices through a less ideological prism. For them, electoral choice transcends ideology. ...

The way to victory for both parties seems pretty clear. It's about winning on the margin and realizing Americans are not homogeneous in the way they conceptualize politics. So the key is to retain and mobilize those who agree and think ideologically, and persuade enough of the rest ... They don't ask if a politician's or party's views are "correct." They ask, "Will they do a good job?" These are the voters Republicans lost in droves in the last two cycles. Thinking that winning them back means simply "moving to the center" is a prescription for more electoral failure.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How Durable is the Shift in Party Strength?

In Canada's Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson sees an enduring trend that helps Democrats:
The United States is shifting slightly to the left, led by younger voters, minority voters and better-educated voters who want to see better access to health care and quality education, within a framework of balanced budgets. They want to see a responsible approach to the environment and a more modest posture in foreign relations.

At The Monkey Cage, however, Jim Gimpel cautions against drawing long-term conclusions from short-term shifts:
[It] is highly doubtful that the weak partisans who are shifting are switching their party identification based on detailed issue and policy considerations. More likely, they are “nature-of the-times” voters as described in the classic study, The American Voter, from 50 years ago. They move according to their vague sense of how things are going with the economy and the presidency. They have not shifted because they have calculated that their current party is out-of-synch on some specific policy stand.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hedge Funds and the President

Dow Jones reports:
U.S. President Barack Obama's criticisms of hedge funds last week, after some funds rejected a debt restructuring plan for Chrysler LLC, indicates a nasty fight may be brewing over government plans to regulate the industry. Already this week, an Obama administration official has re-ignited calls for hedge fund regulations, suggesting Obama may still be hot under the collar with regards to these investment pools. ... Obama quickly slammed the lenders who rejected the deal, and unnamed administration officials specifically called out hedge funds as being the ringleaders, and suggested their decision was unpatriotic. The creditors held out for "an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout," Obama said in an angry tone. "I don't stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices."
The President did not always have such a strained relationship with hedge fund managers. Check out contribution data at the Center for Responsive Politics. A year ago, as we note in Epic Journey, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote in the New York Times:

[M]any of the wealthiest hedge fund managers are lining up behind the Obama campaign.Many of the top 10 managers on Alpha magazine's mind-blowing 2007 rich list, which was released last week, have put money on Mr. Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. They have each given the maximum donation allowed, $2,300. (Let’s face it, this is pocket lint to these guys.) ...

So why is Mr. Obama such a popular choice among the hedge fund crowd? In a word, access. Unlike Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama is relatively new to national politics and is therefore open to bringing new people — and new money — into the tent. For money types who want a table, or at least to look involved and get an invitation to the right parties, Mr. Obama is the candidate. As one of the hedge fund managers on the Alpha list said, “To be in Hillary’s inner circle, you had to be giving a decade ago, when Bill was president.” ...

And then there is what some Wall Streeters describe as the “iconoclast thing.” Hedge fund managers like to think of themselves as outsiders with fresh perspectives. The Obama campaign is trying to project a similar image. Mr. Obama might be struggling with the blue-collar vote in Pennsylvania, but he has nailed the hedge fund vote.

Pluralism in the Electorate

The Pew Research Center reports:
The electorate in last year's presidential election was the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, with nearly one-in-four votes cast by non-whites, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center.1 The nation's three biggest minority groups -- blacks, Hispanics and Asians -- each accounted for unprecedented shares of the presidential vote in 2008. Overall, whites2 made up 76.3% of the record 131 million people3 who voted in November's presidential election, while blacks made up 12.1%, Hispanics 7.4% and Asians 2.5%.4 The white share is the lowest ever, yet is still higher than the 65.8% white share of the total U.S. population.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Latest Research on the 2008 Election

At Patchwork Nation, Jim Gimpel analyzes a 2008 survey asking whether government policy should favor jobs or the environment.  
The "jobs" side often wins:Jobs were most heavily favored in locations where lower incomes prevail: “Evangelical Epicenters,” where the divide was 42 percent for jobs and 25 percent for the environment; “Service Worker Centers,” where jobs were favored by a 40 to 30 percent margin; and “Minority Central,” where it was 39 to 30 percent. (In all cases, the balance of respondents favored an equal emphasis.) These figures may not mean that environmental politics is a luxury of the rich, but it does suggest that the economically vulnerable are worried about how they’d fare in the labor market in the event that a government action shuts down a mine or factory.

In Policy Review couple of months ago, David Brady, Douglas Rivers and Laurel Harbridge wrote: 
Very few Republicans actually become Democrats. Only 1.2 percent of the strong Republicans and 8.0 percent of the weak Republicans from 2004 say they are Democrats or lean Democratic in 2008. Instead, the decline of Republican strength occurs when strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans become independents, and independents lean more Democratic or even becoming Democrats. These voters are not necessarily permanently lost to the Republican Party, but this has the look of an emerging party-realignment, with the Republican base shrunken substantially.

More recently, a Pew analysis found:  
But these Republican losses have not translated into substantial Democratic gains. So far in 2009, 35% of adults nationwide identify as Democrats, about the same as in 2008 (36%). While GOP identification has fallen seven points since 2004, the Democrats have gained only two points over that period. Instead, a growing number of Americans describe themselves as independents, 36% in 2009 compared with just 32% in 2008 and 30% in 2004.

And a new Pew survey hold a glimmer of good news for social conservatives: 
Public attitudes on a pair of contentious national issues - gun control and abortion - have moved in a more conservative direction over the past year. In both cases, the changes have been driven in part by relatively large shifts among men, while opinions among women have not changed very much.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

If Edwards Had Dropped Out Early...

In an interview with ABC, (on which Ben Smith follows up at Politico), Clinton strategist Mark Penn suggests that Clinton would have won if John Edwards had withdrawn earlier:
“If he had come out and dropped out of the race particularly early, I think a lot of voters would have taken a good fresh look at Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Remember they supported Edwards ’cause they thought he was honest and trustworthy. And then they had questions about her being honest and trustworthy. And so if that equation had been reversed, she might well have picked up those votes.”

Similar speculation came up last fall, and a survey knocked it down:
A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll conducted the night of the Iowa Caucuses suggests the opposite: that the absence of Edwards would have helped Obama. The survey administered to one randomly selected caucus participant in every precinct in Iowa on Jan. 3, 2008, included a question on second-choice preferences if a first-choice candidate was not viable. Eighty-two percent of those who had Edwards as their first choice said if he was not viable, they would support another candidate. When asked which candidate they would support, 51 percent said Obama and only 32 percent picked Clinton.

For such a high-level operative, Penn has a remarkably low level of information. In a story we cite in Epic Journey, Time reported last year:
As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?"

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama's Choice to Replace Souter

Whom will the president nominate to replace Justice Souter? During a debate among Democratic candidates on November 15, 2007, he said:
I would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the right to privacy. But you're right, Wolf. I taught constitutional law for 10 years, and when you look at what makes a great Supreme Court justice, it's not just the particular issue and how they ruled. But it's their conception of the court. And part of the role of the court is that it is going to protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the outsider, the minority, those who are vulnerable, those who don't have a lot of clout. And part of what I want to find in a Supreme Court justice -- and Joe's exactly right. Sometimes we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the courts. If we can find people who have life experience, and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court.

At a campaign appearance in Indiana several months later, he expanded:

Where there's a clear legal precedent, I think it should be followed. But where the Supreme Court really matters is on that five percent of cases, two percent of cases, where there's no clear precedent and the law is ambiguous. And the question then becomes: what kind of values does a Supreme Court justice bring to those issues? And what I really believe is that the Supreme Court has to be, first and foremost, thinking about and looking out for those who are vulnerable in our political system: people who are minorities, people who have been historically discriminated against, people who are poor, people who have been cheated, people who are being taken advantage of, people who have unpopular opinions, people who are outsiders. And the reason that's important is because powerful people -- insiders -- they typically already control the other two branches of government. They have access. They will get their laws passed. What you need from the Supreme Court is somebody who's willing to look out for those who don't have power.

That's not to say that I want the Supreme Court to be ruling in favor of the powerless all the time because sometimes the powerless may be wrong. Sometimes a minority group or somebody who is trying to change the system may not be going about it the right way.

Video here: