This blog continues the discussion that we began with Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009).The latest book in this series is Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Obama Girl Has Second Thoughts
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Skepticism About the Freeze
One of the key new initiatives in President Obama’s State of the Union speech is a three-year freeze on discretionary government spending, but voters overwhelmingly believe the freeze will have little or no impact on the federal deficit.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just nine percent (9%) think the freeze will reduce the deficit a lot.
Eighty-one percent (81%) disagree, including 42% who say it will have no impact. Another 39% say the freeze in nearly all areas except defense, national security, veterans affairs and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will reduce the deficit a little.
Friday, January 29, 2010
TNR on OFA in MA
The Coakley operation failed to tap into the deep well of Obama-inspired volunteerism in Massachusetts. But OFA hasn’t done a much better job of cultivating and channeling the kind of movement from which it was born—there’s a disconnect. “I think it’s not about the campaign,” says Massachusetts grassroots organizing consultant Tony Mack, who’s involved with a similar group called Cambridge-Somerville for Change. “If they were doing real organizing, which is encouraging leaders to think for themselves and developing their own priorities, then people would be ready to mobilize more when the time came.”
“The way you build up a strong leadership capacity is to give people independence and power,” Mack goes on. “They didn’t have that, and to some degree, the OFA model right now ends up being that people wait for instructions.”
Thursday, January 28, 2010
POTUS v. SCOTUS
July 10: And let's be clear, the Supreme Court's ruling on equal pay is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's at stake in this election. Usually, when we talk about the Court, it's in the context of reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade. And make no mistake about it, that's a critical issue in this election. Senator McCain has made it abundantly clear that he wants to appoint justices like Roberts and Alito – and that he hopes to see Roe overturned. Well, I stand by my votes against confirming Justices Roberts and Alito. And I've made it equally clear that I will never back down in defending a woman's right to choose.
I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. He's an intelligent man and an accomplished jurist. And there's no indication he's not a man of great character.
But when you look at his record - when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American's individual rights....
When it comes to how checks and balances in our system are supposed to operate - the balance of power between the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Judiciary, Judge Alito consistently sides with the notion that a President should not be constrained by either Congressional acts or the check of the Judiciary.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are under funded. I went to increase early childhood education and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this Medicare subsidy doesn't make sense.
I disagree with Senator McCain about an across-the- board freeze. That's an example of an unfair burden sharing. That's using a hatchet to cut the federal budget.
Well, look, I think that we do have a disagreement about an across-the-board spending freeze. It sounds good. It's proposed periodically. It doesn't happen.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 34
SAWYER: Health care -- going forward, should all the conversations, all the meetings be on C-SPAN?
OBAMA: You know, I think your question points out to a legitimate mistake that I made during the course of the year, and that is that we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right. But I had campaigned on process. Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency and I think it is -- I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.
Now I think it's my responsibility and I'll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more.
The White House website does not have a transcript of this interview.
Monday, January 25, 2010
What I haven’t been able to do in the midst of this crisis is bring the country together in a way that we had done in the Inauguration. That’s what’s been lost this year.
The 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats' (88%) and Republicans' (23%) average job approval ratings for Barack Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, greatly exceeding the prior high of 52 points for Bill Clinton.
Overall, Obama averaged 57% job approval among all Americans from his inauguration to the end of his first full year on Jan. 19. He came into office seeking to unite the country, and his initial approval ratings ranked among the best for post-World War II presidents, including an average of 41% approval from Republicans in his first week in office. But he quickly lost most of his Republican support, with his approval rating among Republicans dropping below 30% in mid-February and below 20% in August. Throughout the year, his approval rating among Democrats exceeded 80%, and it showed little decline even as his overall approval rating fell from the mid-60s to roughly 50%.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Omens in 2008
[T]here were signs along the way that Obama's reserved demeanor might be a liability as well as an advantage. During the interminable series of Democratic debates beginning in April 2007, Obama's professorial tone and discursive drift made him seem weak and windy. Razor-sharp Clinton bested him nearly every time.
At the height of the primary season, when Obama remarked at a fund-raiser in San Francisco that struggling small-towners in Pennsylvania and the Midwest "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," he came across as elitist and cold, unconcerned with the real lives of real people. A year after his inauguration, many Americans still complain they find him too remote, too removed. They want to see him show a little anger or passion when talking about lost jobs, the limping economy and terrorist threats.
Obama's tendency to rely on a small cluster of advisers has hurt him too. While all candidates assemble a core of loyalists, Obama's extreme dependence during his campaign on "the suits" - the triumvirate of David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe - has carried over into the White House in a stiflingly insular fashion. Although Obama now confers with a broader group to help him gather data as President, some critics believe his prevailing preference for working directly within a tight camp when many big decisions are made has done him a disservice.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Epic Journey Redux
President Obama is reconstituting the team that helped him win the White House to counter Republican challenges in the midterm elections and recalibrate after political setbacks that have narrowed his legislative ambitions.Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall. The president ordered a review of the Democratic political operation — from the White House to party committees — after last week’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, aides said.
Friday, January 22, 2010
TPM v. BHO
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Democrats' Agenda Is Hurting Them Politically
For the first time in memory, the suburbs are under a conscious and sustained attack from Washington. Little that the adminstration has pushed—from the Wall Street bailouts to the proposed “cap and trade” policies—offers much to predominately middle-income-oriented suburbanites and instead appears to have worked to alienate them.
And then there are the policies that seem targeted against suburbs. In everything from land use and transportation to “green” energy policy, the Obama administration has been pushing an agenda that seeks to move Americans out of their preferred suburban locales and into the dense, transit-dependent locales they have eschewed for generations.
As in so many areas, this stance reflects the surprising power of the party’s urban core and the “green” lobby associated with it. Yet, from a political point of view, the anti-suburban stance seems odd given that Democrats' recent electoral ascendency stemmed in great part from gains among suburbanites. Certainly this is an overt stance that neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton would likely have countenanced.
Health care is hurting, as David Brady, Daniel Kessler, and Douglas Rivers document:
We have polled voters in 11 states likely to have competitive Senate races in November on how they feel about health reform and how they might vote in November. The interviews were conducted from Jan. 6-11 with 500 registered voters in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The polls were conducted by YouGov using a panel of Internet users selected to be representative of the registered voters in each state.
Health reform is more popular in some of these states than in others. Where it's popular, Democratic candidates don't have too much of a problem, but where it's unpopular—and that includes most states—the Democratic Senate candidates are fighting an uphill battle. Support for health reform varies in these 11 states from a low of 33% in North Dakota to a high of 48% in Nevada. Democrats trail Republicans in six of the states; three are toss-ups; and in two, Democrats have a solid lead.
Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 33
If you're dealing with the interest groups here in Washington, don't get too comfortable. That's something you have to constantly reinforce and remind.
What do you mean, "Don't get too comfortable"?
Don't get too comfortable in the sense that there's a culture in this town, which is an insider culture. That's what I think people outside of Washington legitimately can't stand. A sense that they're not being heard. I think we've done actually a pretty good job of working in this town without being completely consumed by it. But from the outside, if you're just watching TV and all you're hearing about is the reports, people may get the false impression that somehow [the insiders] are the folks we're spending more time listening to.
But how false an impression is it? The President insisted, lamely, that he spends plenty of time hearing from average Americans. But he seemed to spend as much time overseas during his first year as he did traveling the country, experiencing the economic anguish firsthand. And he seems to have fallen headlong into the muck and madness of Washington, pursuing a historic goal — universal health care — that is certainly worthy, and central to his party's unfinished legacy, and crucial to the country's long-term economic future, but peripheral to most Americans, who have relentlessly told pollsters, by huge majorities, that they are happy with the health care they currently receive and far more worried about other things. On this defining issue, the President and his party have lost touch with the country.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 32
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not on the campaign trail, now. You're right here in the White House. You're the head of this system. You promised transparency, putting the health care debates on C-span. It didn't happen. People said he promised to get rid of earmarks. They look at the health care bill and see all these carve outs for Nebraska, for Louisiana. They say you're not living up to your promises.
OBAMA: Well, look, there's no doubt that when I look back in the course of this year, what I'm constantly balancing is how do I move on these big agendas and at the same time, try to reform a system that has a lot of bad habits built up into them. So am I satisfied with the progress that we've made on changing how Washington works, absolutely not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Could you become complicit?
OBAMA: Well, I think that if I had to make the same choices this year about do we have to get a strong economic recovery package passed, even though that means that there are going to be some things that people stick in there at the last minute that I don't like. Do we have to make sure that we are saving the financial system so it doesn't collapse, even though how it was originally structured was not my preference. Do we have to tackle health care and do I believe that the end product of insurance reforms that we've been fighting for for decades, essentially a patient's bill of rights on steroids, that makes sure that people don't lose their insurance when they get sick and make sure that kids can stay on their parents' health insurance until they get their own insurance. Was fighting for those things worth it, even though there are some compromises that have to be made along the way, then I would say yes.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Evening After
This was a repudiation of Barack Obama. Certainly Martha Coakley was a bad candidate and ran a terrible campaign but that doesn't change the fact that we found Obama's approval rating at only 44% with the electorate for today's contest, a huge drop from the 62% of the vote he won in the state in 2008. Brown won over 20% of the vote from people who cast ballots for Obama in 2008, and we found that most of those Brown/Obama voters were folks who no longer approve of the job the President is doing. And in one of the bluest states in the country barely 40% of voters expressed support for the Democratic health care bill.
[T]here are distinct disadvantages to holding unified control of the elected branches of the federal government. In the wake of the 2008 election, Democrats hold responsibility for governing, in a comprehensive and highly visible manner, in a very difficult environment ... A worsening economic situation, a new terrorist attack inside the United States, slippage in Iraq or Afghanistan -- Democrats will own them all, fairly or unfairly. And a statute of limitations on blaming the Bush administration for the nation's ills will be imposed at some point
Monday, January 18, 2010
GOP Gains in Tech Battle
At the Huffington Post, David Meerman Scott writes of the Massachusetts race:
GOP members of Congress have more than twice as many Twitter followers than their Democratic counterparts and tweet five times more often. Minority Leader John Boehner may look like a character from Mad Men, but the Don Draper of the House has a “director of new media” and more than 30,000 Facebook fans – almost four times as many as Nancy Pelosi.
Look at the Massachusetts Senate race, where Republican insurgent Scott Brown is using the same technologies Obama once did to mount a campaign that might derail the president’s domestic agenda.
Using tweets, text messages and e-mails, Brown raised $1.3 million online in one day and brought together an overflow rally to compete with the president’s stump speech for Democrat Martha Coakley.
Politics and platforms and personal connections are important. But didn't Obama for America teach us that the Web has the power to push a candidate over the top? Obama also showed the importance of young people (whose communications of choice is digital).
Let's look at a few numbers. As I compare the morning before election day, @MarthaCoakley has 3,520 Twitter followers compared to @ScottBrownMA with 10,214 followers. Coakley counts 14,487 Facebook fans to Brown's 76,700 fans. Advantage Brown by more than three to one.
Scott attended the Obama rally for Coakley at Northeastern University. He noticed something missing:
How do college students communicate? Facebook and SMS of course! Yet these two forms of communications played absolutely no formal part in the rally. The brochure that was handed out had no web addresses or social media sites. At the rally, Coakley fans were asked to vote. They were asked to volunteer at phone banks. They were asked to talk to neighbors and friends.
But were the many college students in the crowd told to talk up the Coakley campaign on Facebook, the college student communications tool of choice? No. Were people at the rally asked to tweet? No. Were they asked to join Coakley's fan page? No.
The Religion of Humanity
The character of the event will not be grasped until the focus begins to shift from Barack Obama to the yearning for Barack Obama. It is in the thoughts and actions of those who adored him that the most interesting and important dimension of the campaign took place.
The rise of the Religion of Humanity is what best describes this event. This strange term designates an actual sect, now defunct, that enjoyed a considerable following and prestige in intellectual circles in the 19th century. John Stuart Mill was a prominent convert, pronouncing the “culte de l’humanité [to be] capable of fully supplying the place for a religion, or rather (to say the truth) of being a religion.” In America, where the religion wore the respectable label of the “Church of Humanity,” the acolytes included the well-known journalist David Croly and his son Herbert, the founder and longtime editor of the New Republic. If it were not for the Religion of Humanity, Americans today might not have the pleasure of reading Jonathan Chait on “The Rise of Republican Nihilism” or E.J. Dionne “In Praise of Harry Reid.”
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Losing to Win
Had John McCain been elected last year, then all of the above could still be true -- and Coakley would be winning by 30 points. But with Republicans locked out power in Washington, swing voters in Massachusetts -- and every other blue state -- are, for the first time since 1994, ready to blame their problems on Democrats and use the GOP as a protest vehicle. And with 10 percent unemployment, voters have a lot of anger to vent.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Expectations That He Could Not Meet
As a candidate, Barack Obama set expectations that he could not meet as president
Yet signs of disappointment abound. According to Gallup, his overall approval rating is anemic, and strong majorities disapprove of the way he is handling health care and the economy. Another recent poll shows an even split on whether the country would have been better off if he had lost to John McCain.
The president's basic problem is that he set expectations that he could not meet.
On the night he clinched the 2008 Democratic nomination he declared that future generations would remember "that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." All politicians indulge in tall talk, which voters wisely tend to discount. Obama was different because millions believed that he could actually do these things.
Even after his election, he kept raising hopes. In January 2009, his transition team predicted that the stimulus bill would cap unemployment at 8 percent. By year's end, it had hit 10 percent. White House aides insisted that the measure prevented joblessness from going even higher. Whatever economic arguments they could make for that claim, their political case was lame. Voters roll their eyes whenever a politician pleads, "Hey, things are lousy but they would have been worse without me!"
On climate change, the president's beautiful language came under assault by a mob of brutal facts. Despite his international popularity, he could not get other countries to overlook their own interests, so he came out of the Copenhagen summit with a moonshadow of an agreement. Rightly or wrongly, record-cold temperatures in much of the country made it harder to stir fears of global warming. The costs of action became clearer as Congress considered climate-change legislation, and the public started to turn more skeptical.
On health care, likewise, the legislative process laid bare the inevitable economic and political trade-offs. The president talked about expanding access, improving quality and controlling costs. Those goals are noble, but serious policy analysts know that you cannot achieve all three at the same time. If and when the president signs a bill, many Americans will worry about limited access, lower quality, or higher costs.
Several times during the campaign, the president promised that the passage of health legislation would be a high-minded deliberative process visible to everyone via C-SPAN. Instead, he struck bargains with industry groups and lawmakers made deals with one another, all behind closed doors. David Axelrod, the president's chief strategist, merely shrugged when a reporter asked about the congressional dealmaking: "That's the way it has been. That's the way it will always be."
Many political observers would agree with Axelrod, but that's beside the point. If Democrats had wanted a nominee with experience in "the way it has been," they would have chosen Hillary Clinton. They turned to Barack Obama because he promised to be different. As he told a crowd early in 2008, "we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again." By casually accepting business as usual, Axelrod was repudiating the entire rationale of the president's campaign.
It is still early in President Obama's tenure, and his political fortunes could change again. Improvements in the economy or triumphs in international relations could bring his approval ratings back up and limit Republican gains in this November's midterm elections. But the president will never completely recapture the spirit of hope and change that accompanied his inauguration.
John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. He, along with James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch, authored "Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics" (Lanham, MD Rowman and Littlefield, 2009).
Still More Rough Water for Democrats
The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll released yesterday reported that, while Obama's approval rating remains at a relatively high 61 percent among Hispanics, that's down 21 percent from the April 2009 figure of 81 percent. Hispanic support for the president has dropped more than white support (-15 percent) and black support (-2 percent) over the same time span.
And 41 percent of Hispanics said Obama isn't paying enough attention to the concerns of Hispanics, according to a Pew survey (focusing primarily on blacks' attitudes toward race, released on Tuesday).
"That 3-point difference doesn't sound too bad for the Democrats, but the party's numbers are boosted by high levels of support in districts that the GOP has no chance of winning this year," says Holland. "In safe Democratic districts, the Dems have a 21-point advantage over the GOP."
The poll paints a different picture in more competitive districts, those where the incumbent won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. In those districts, the poll indicates Democrats are currently facing a 27-point deficit, with 59 percent of registered voters in the competitive districts now saying they would vote for the Republican candidate for U.S. House if the election were held tomorrow, and only 32 percent that they would choose the Democratic candidate.
"That suggests big losses for the Democrats this November. But keep in mind that there is a lot of white noise in the data, because it is almost impossible to accurately model individual House districts," adds Holland.
Report on Organizing for America
- OFA successfully mobilized and sustained a new corps of super-activists between election cycles in 2009, according to cumulative participation estimates and OFA members interviewed for the report. This kind of governance activism is unusual for the national political parties – and has never been achieved at this frequency, or with such a massive, direct communications network.
- OFA focused on two priorities in its first year: Lobbying for health care reform, which constituted 44% of the group’s member communications; and community maintenance, aimed at sustaining the social capital and community networks developed during the presidential campaign, which constituted about 10% of communications.
- Congressional staff in both parties say OFA has mobilized constituent lobbying, but do not say OFA was a major or powerful force on Capitol Hill in its first year. Congressional aides do not think OFA is changing Members’ votes. [emphasis added]
- Some former staff for Obama’s presidential campaign contend that the White House did not prioritize grassroots organizing in 2009.
- While noting that OFA faces a large challenge in converting a campaign network into lobbying activities, some former Obama campaign staffers say OFA’s programs are not targeting Congress effectively, or providing sufficiently diverse engagement opportunities for OFA members
Thursday, January 14, 2010
More Rough Water for Democrats
A year into his tenure, a majority of Americans would already vote against Pres. Obama if the '12 elections were held today, according to a new survey.
The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll shows 50% say they would probably or definitely vote for someone else. Fully 37% say they would definitely cast a ballot against Obama. Meanwhile, just 39% would vote to re-elect the pres. to a 2nd term, and only 23% say they definitely would do so.
Charles Cook suggests that 2010 will not be great for Democrats:
Come November, Senate Democrats' 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.
As for the House, we at The Cook Political Report are still forecasting that Democrats will lose only 20 to 30 seats. Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats' chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either "Solid Democratic" or "Likely Democratic," meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their "Solid" and "Likely" columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs.
Both Cook and Stuart Rothenberg rate the Massachusetts Senate race as a tossup.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Obama and Health Care Money
While some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats' massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate in 2008. A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for Raw Story by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President Obama received a staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry during the 2008 election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his presidential rival John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center found.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Obama Speech Patterns
In an analysis of the Harry Reid flap, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times makes a similar point:
When he spoke to some black audiences, Mr. Obama’s consonants tended to linger a bit. He would speak with a certain staccato and rhythm – particularly in churches – that he had not used when addressing white audiences in Iowa or New Hampshire.
This, of course, is hardly unique to Mr. Obama.
Other black politicians have followed a similar pattern. And the same is true for many white politicians – Bill and Hillary Clinton, for example – when a Southern accent suddenly is more pronounced during a campaign speech below the Mason-Dixon Line.
For Mr. Obama, the pattern began well before he started running for president. It was noticeable as he gave speeches across the country as a freshman senator. One day in 2005, after he delivered an address in Detroit at an anniversary celebration of the N.A.A.C.P., I asked Mr. Obama about the differences.
“I know if I’m in an all-black audience that there’s going to be a certain rhythm coming back at me from the audience. They’re not just going to be sitting there,” Mr. Obama told me. “That creates a different rhythm in your speaking.”
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
President Obama set a new record last year for getting Congress to vote his way, clinching 96.7 percent of the votes on which he had clearly staked a position
That was a bit less than 4 percentage points higher than the previous record, set by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, according to an annual study by Congressional Quarterly
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Taxing Health Benefits
When millions of blue-collar workers were leaning toward JohnMcCain during the 2008 campaign, labor unions moved many of them into Barack Obama’s column by repeatedly hammering one theme: Mr. McCain wanted to tax their health benefits. An A.F.L.-C.I.O. ad warned union members that it believed voting for Senator John McCain in 2008 would be a mistake. But now labor leaders are fuming that President Obama has endorsed a tax on high-priced, employer-sponsored health insurance policies as a way to help cover the cost of health care reform.And the unions can cite what the president himself said during the campaign:
September 12, 2008:
Apparently, Senator McCain doesn't think it's enough that your health premiums have doubled, he thinks you should have to pay taxes on them too. That's a $3.6 trillion tax increase on middle class families. That will eventually leave tens of millions of you paying higher taxes. That's his idea of change.October 4, 2008:
John McCain calls these plans "Cadillac plans." In some cases, it may be that a corporate CEO is getting too good a deal. But what if you're a line worker making a good American car like Cadillac who's given up wage increases in exchange for better health care? Well, Senator McCain believes you should pay higher taxes too. The bottom line: the better your health care plan - the harder you've fought for good benefits - the higher the taxes you'll pay under John McCain's plan.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Presidential Approval and Midterm Results
POS, with the help of data from the Gallup Organization and information from our friends at National Journal and The Cook Political Report, took a look at how presidential approval effected mid-term House losses for the President’s party in every mid-term election since 1962. The results were staggering. If the President’s approval rating was 60% or higher, the President’s party picked up an average of 1 seat. If the approval rating was between 50 and 59%, the average loss was 12 seats. Finally, if the President’s approval rating was below 50%, the average loss was 41 seats (one seat more than the 40 seats GOPers need to win back control of the House).
New Campaign Finance Data Analysis
Barack Obama's relative success in raising campaign funds from small donors during the 2008 primary season is well known. Not as well known is that Obama raised an even higher percentage from donors of $200 or less during the general election.
According to a new study released today by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI), about one-third (34 percent) of the $337 million the Obama campaign raised from individuals for the general election came from donors who gave the general election campaign a total of $200 or less. (Almost all presidential campaign contributions come from individuals, with only a scattering from political committees.) The $114 million Obama received from these $200-or-less donors exceeded the $85 million his Republican opponent, John McCain, received as his campaign's full public funding for the general election. Another 23 percent ($79 million) of Obama's general election funds came from donors who gave $201-$999 while the largest portion, 42 percent ($143 million) came from donors who gave $1,000 or more. Obama was the first major party presidential nominee since the public financing system was created in 1974 not to accept public financing for the general election.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Rough Patch for Democrats
Clifford Young, a pollster for Ipsos Public Affairs, sees a normal turn against the party in power, saying the Democrats overstated the significance of the 2008 election results. "It was basically an election for change, so it favored the party out of power," Young said. "But it didn't say anything about a major shift in values. We didn't see a huge shift in values that would favor the Democrats in the long term."Either way, the Democratic Party's push to build a durable political majority is stalling. That's evident in national polls, such as a recent Gallup survey that found an average of 49 percent of Americans calling themselves Democrats last year, the first time in four years that the party has dropped below the majority level. That was still better than the Republicans, but the Democratic edge was shrinking, not growing.Gallup elaborates on the last point:
The 2009 yearly averages do not tell the whole story of changes in party support last year, as they to some degree obscure the sharp decline in the Democrats' advantage over the course of the year. In the first quarter of 2009, coincident with the beginning of the Obama administration, Democrats enjoyed one of the largest advantages for either party since 1991, 13 percentage points (51.7% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, versus 38.7% who identified as or leaned Republican). In each subsequent quarter, the percentage of Democratic supporters declined, and by the fourth quarter, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to 5 points (47.2% to 42.2%).
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Dems to Go Negative
So what should Democratic candidates do to survive 2010? A strong consensus has emerged among Democratic operatives, based on a strategy developed under the guidance of pollster Geoff Garin. Garin declined to be interviewed for this story, but other party strategists say the most crucial order of business in each contest is to prevent Republican challengers from turning the race into a referendum on the Democratic candidate, the Democratic Party, President Obama, or all three. Rather, they say, Democrats need to turn the public's attention to the failings of the Republican candidate and the national GOP.There are a couple of problems with a strategy of going negative. First, the national GOP does not present a target-rich environment, precisely because it lacks real power. A few months ago, in fact, the rap against the national party was that it was "leaderless." Second, a negative strategy contradicts a major premise of Obama's election, namely that he would transcend such approaches. As he said the night he won the North Carolina primary:
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says that as soon as her clients know who their opponents will be, her advice is "to get them [the Republican candidates] defined." Democratic candidates, Lake and others say, should pre-empt Republicans seeking to present a positive image to the public. Among the techniques to achieve this goal are floating negative stories in the press, taking full advantage of sympathetic bloggers to create a hostile portrait of the GOP opponent, and actively using "less visible" means of communication such as phone banks, direct mail, and canvassers.
More importantly, because of you, we have seen that it's possible to overcome the politics of division and distraction; that it's possible to overcome the same old negative attacks that are always about scoring points and never about solving our problems. We've seen that the American people aren't looking for more spin or more gimmicks, but honest answers about the challenges we face.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
As they seek to retain control of Congress, Democrats are finding that voter sentiments that gave the party its victory margins here and in other swing states in 2008 could turn against them for 2010. Voters as a whole, rattled by continuing economic problems, tell pollsters they are disillusioned with incumbents -- including Obama and congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, tensions within the Democratic coalition, muted during the presidential campaign, are sharpening as Obama's broad campaign promises morph into specific proposals. And most ominous of all for Democratic prospects, the highly motivated swarms of young voters, Latinos and independents who made the difference between victory and defeat in 2008 now seem dispirited, while conservatives seem reinvigorated.New data from Rasmussen tend to support this observation:
Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP's biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 35% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. While the Republican lead has reached a new high, it should be noted that support for GOP candidates rose just one point over the past week, while support for Democrats dropped four points to its lowest level in years. In addition, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats fell to the lowest level recorded in more than seven years of tracking.
Monday, January 4, 2010
The Obama Elite
Every president and political movement, of course, brings to power an often-hoary group of grasping interest groups. Under the conservatives and George W. Bush, the favored classes included standbys like the fossil-fuel energy companies, Big Agriculture, suburban homebuilders, and the defense industry. Rather than the “good old boys,” Obama’s core group hails from what may be best described as the “creative class”—the cognitive elite, or, to borrow from the Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Postindustrial Society, the “the hierophants of the new society.” They come not from traditional productive industry, but the self-conscious “knowledge” sectors—such as financial services, the software industry, and academia. From early on, Barack Obama attracted big-money people like George Soros, Warren Buffett, and JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon far more effectively than his opponents in either party. As The New York Times' Andrew Sorkin put it back in April, "Mr. Obama might be struggling with the blue-collar vote in Pennsylvania, but he has nailed the hedge-fund vote.”In Epic Journey, we touch on this phenomenon, citing the Sorkin article on p. 106.
At the Huffington Post, Mile Mogulesu amplifies this theme by noting the liberal corporatism at the heart of health legislation:
For the first time in American history, Democrats are about to pass a bill that uses the coercive power of the federal government to force every American -- simply by virtue of being an American -- to purchase the products of a private company. At heart, the Democrats' solution to 48 million uninsured is to force the them to buy inadequate private insurance -- with potentially high deductibles and co-pays and no price controls -- or be fined by the federal government.
[Obama] promised transformative "Change" (although, as some critics pointed out at the time, he left the direction of "Change" so vague that voters of various stripes could read what they wanted into it). That's why a majority of progressive Democrats supported Obama over Hillary Clinton in the primaries, particularly after the more populist John Edwards withdrew. They didn't want to see a return to the centrism, corporatism, and triangulation of Clintonism.
But from the moment he was elected, Obama has governed not as a progressive liberal but as a corporatist liberal. Progressive liberals hoped Obama would be like FDR. Instead, he's been like Bill Clinton on steroids.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Sifry on Obama and Grassroots Politics
The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. And this is the big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn't happen, in the first year of Obama's administration. The people who voted for him weren't organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and the special interests--banks, energy companies, health interests, car-makers, the military-industrial complex--sat first at the table and wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wantingThese observations square with our analysis in Epic Journey. For more on campaign finance, see Michael Malbin's working paper. And a CQ article has more on the enthusiasm gap.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
January 21, 2008
With respect to universal coverage, understand what this debate is about. And this is a legitimate policy debate. And I respect the positions that John and Hillary have taken. They have decided that we should mandate coverage for all adults. I believe that the problem -- and understand what that means. A mandate means that, in some fashion, everybody will be forced to buy health insurance. Now, John has been honest that that may mean taking money out of people's paychecks in order to make sure that they're covered. Senator Clinton has not been clear about how that mandate would be enforced. But I believe the problem is not that folks are trying to avoid getting health care; the problem is they can't afford it.
January 31, 2008:
February 26, 2008OBAMA: Now, under any mandate, you are going to have problems with people who don't end up having health coverage. Massachusetts right now embarked on an experiment where they mandated coverage. And, by the way, I want to congratulate Governor Schwarzenegger and the speaker and others who have been trying to do this in California, but I know that those who have looked at it understand, you can mandate it, but there's still going to be people who can't afford it. And if they cannot afford it, then the question is, what are you going to do about it?
Are you going to fine them? Are you going to garnish their wages? You know, those are questions that Senator Clinton has not answered with respect to her plan, but I think we can anticipate that there would also be people potentially who are not covered and are actually hurt if they have a mandate imposed on them.
And the last point I would make is, the insurance companies actually are happy to have a mandate. The insurance companies don't mind making sure that everybody has to purchase their product. That's not something they're objecting to. The question is, are we going to make sure that it is affordable for everybody?
Friday, January 1, 2010
Party Prospects in 2010
After losing the White House and nearly 70 congressional seats in the last two elections, Republicans are poised for a strong comeback in 2010, with significant gains likely in the House and a good chance of boosting their numbers in the Senate and statehouses across the country.
Could we see a repeat of 1994? Maybe, but the settings are not identical. For House races, one important difference is the reapportionment/redistricting cycle. Congressional district lines following the 1990 census were good for the GOP. In the first election of the new cycle, 1992, the party did not realize all of its potential gains because George H.W. Bush's poor performance was a drag. In 1994, Republicans were due for some "timed-release" pickups. The 2010 election comes at the end of a cycle. As we explain in our chapter on congressional and state elections, the district lines for this cycle were not as favorable as they seemed at first: in Texas and some other states, Republican line-drafters overreached. Instead of drawing a smaller number of relatively secure GOP seats, they drew a larger number of more marginal seats. When population shifted and incumbents got into trouble, many of these seats went from red to blue.
The GOP may realize some gains after the next census, recent estimates suggest, but we will not know for sure until the census has reported the data and the states have drawn their lines.
Incumbents in 2010
MATTHEWS: Can a Republican lose this year coming up? Can a Republican incumbent lose any race anywhere next year?
COOK: I would not be surprised to see no Republican incumbent, House or Senate, lose.
MATTHEWS: How about a Democrat? We‘ve got five vulnerable people here, Specter, Lincoln, Bennet, Dodd. You say Dodd is the most vulnerable. Who is the second-most vulnerable?As I have noted elsewhere, national parties in recent decades have played "sack the quarterback." That is, they try to take out the other side's congressional leaders by defeating them at the polls (Tom Foley, Tom Daschle), or by exploiting ethics issues (Jim Wright, Newt Gingrich) and gaffes (Trent Lott). As we point out in Epic Journey (pp. 183-184), Harry Reid targeted Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell for defeat in 2008. McConnell survived, and is eager to strike back by taking down Reid in 2010.
BROWNSTEIN: Reid or Lincoln. Lincoln is in a situation where, again, it‘s more generic than personal. This is a state kind of filled with the kind of voters that have been most resistance to the direction Obama is setting. I think that‘s a real problem.
I think Colorado‘s a real challenge, too, because Bennet is operating, to some extent, as the shadow of the governor, Bill Ritter, who has a very uneven first term, some successes, a lot of disappointments. He could face a very—and Obama‘s approval there was dropping before the Fall.