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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, May 31, 2010

CA: Air War, Not Ground War

According to census estimates, California has 37 million people, about 50 percent more than the next-largest state (Texas, with 25 million). A pair of stories in the Los Angeles Times suggest that California's sheer immensity means that the air war matters more than the ground war.

"It's crazy out there," said Sheri Sadler, a Democratic political media buyer, who said lower-tier candidates are having difficulty finding airtime to purchase. Television stations are turning away their regular clients because of the amount of money that Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman are pouring into television, she said.

"They are literally buying anything they can get their hands on, every spot that's available to them, everything that opens up," Sadler said, and Whitman and Poizner's camps haven't stopped even now: "They're calling every single day."

Whitman has spent $47 million on television and radio ads, while Poizner has spent nearly $18 million in his ad campaign, which began months after Whitman's. Californians have been unable to avoid the deluge — according to a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll, 77% of voters surveyed from May 19 to 26 had seen a political advertisement recently. Of those voters, 80% had seen a Whitman ad and 71% had viewed a Poizner ad.
In the Senate race, tea party support for Chuck DeVore can only do him limited good.
Dawn Wildman, California coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group, said she constantly hears about independent efforts for DeVore — including precinct walking, sign rallies and voter-to-voter calls — in her weekly conference calls with organizers of the 160 Patriots groups.

"One of the few races that I've seen absolute consensus on has actually been the Chuck DeVore race," she said. But she admits that it is more difficult to marshal grass-root forces in California than in a smaller state like Kentucky.

"Just from the distance perspective, it truly is like herding cats in California," she said.

CA: Poll on Arizona Immigration Law

Even in California, supporters of the Arizona immigration law outnumber opponents among registered voters. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Overall, 50% of registered voters surveyed said they support the law, which compels police to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, while 43% oppose it. That level of support is lower than polls have indicated nationwide.

But attitudes among the state's voters are not uniform. Strong majorities of white voters and those over 50 support the Arizona law, while Latinos and those under 30 are heavily opposed.
Click here for the full results. The numbers do not changewhen respondents hear arguments on both sides:

Q.51 This law requires police who stop a person to question that person's immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that he or she is in the United States illegally and gives police the power to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. It requires people to produce documents verifying their status if asked, and allows officers to detain anyone who cannot do so. Do you favor or oppose this new law?

Strongly favor.......................................................................41
Not so strongly favor.............................................................8
Not so strongly oppose..........................................................7
Strongly oppose...................................................................36
(Don't know)...........................................................................6
Total favor............................................................................50
Total oppose.........................................................................43
Favor - Oppose......................................................................7

Q.52 Now let me read you some statements that supporters and opponents of the law may make.

Opponents of this law say that we need to do something to address immigration, but this law goes too far and is not consistent with our American values. This law could legitimize racial profiling and encourage some police officers to stop people they suspect of being here illegally just by looking at them - even if they have no evidence whatsoever.

Supporters of the law say that with as many as 15 million illegal immigrants in this country, we need to address immigration now. This law allows police officers to crack down on those violating the law, will reduce the number of illegal immigrants here, deter people from crossing the border illegally, reduce crime, and stop the flow of drugs into our country.
After hearing those two statements, do you favor or oppose this law?


Strongly favor.......................................................................42
Not so strongly favor.............................................................8
Not so strongly oppose.........................................................8
Strongly oppose....................................................................35
(Don't know)..........................................................................5
Total favor............................................................................50
Total oppose.........................................................................43
Favor - Oppose......................................................................7

Sunday, May 30, 2010

CA: The Non-Candidates

The Los Angeles Times quotes Dan Schnur:

"The single most important things that happened in California politics this year were the decisions of Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa not to run for governor," said Schnur. "Had Brown faced a credible primary opponent, he'd be facing a scramble back to the political center the same way Whitman would be. Because he's had the field to himself, he's been able to set up shop on the 50-yard line."

There, Brown has been emphasizing stances broadly popular in the general election, if not necessarily in a Democratic primary: among them, opposing any tax hikes without explicit permission from voters and opposing a measure to legalize marijuana. Both issues help knock down lingering images of Brown as a conventional liberal.

Social Media and House Republican Strategy

Kathleen Parker writes:

For Boehner, being called the "Party of No" isn't a regrettable invective. It is a strategy aimed at highlighting the contrast between those running things and those who want to run things. That deafening silence you hear from Republicans about the gulf oil spill? All the better for Americans to hear the glubglubglub of Democrats and the administration going down the drain.

Boehner & Co. are busy, meanwhile, conducting a massive digital listening tour via the GOP's new "America Speaking Out" Web site, where voters can submit and vote on ideas. It's user-friendly to a fault, with undertones of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," such that Dick, Jane and even Spot can play.

YouCut, unveiled by Rep. Eric Cantor this month, where Americans can vote on spending cuts. In one video, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announces the winner: pay raises for Congress and federal employees (except military personnel).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

CA: The Kaus Campaign

Blogger Mickey Kaus is running a longshot campaign against incumbent Barbara Boxer for the Democratic Senate nomination in California. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Earlier this week, while Boxer was raising some serious cash with President Obama at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Kaus invited her to debate him down the street at a Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue. “All she had to do was show up and have at it,” Kaus said. She did not. So someone stuck an empty cardboard box on a lectern as her stand-in. “The box was on the defensive the entire debate,” Kaus wrote on his campaign blog.
“At one point, I called her ma’am,” Kaus told us. Then he played the now-famous audio clip of Boxer objecting to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brigadier general addressing her as “ma’am” last year. (“You know, do me a favor,” a prickly Boxer interjected. “Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ma’am?”)
(Carly Fiorina, one of the trio of Republican candidates vying to face Boxer in November, gets lots of mileage from that incident of apparent tone-deafness on Boxer’s part.)
But Kaus played it strictly for laughs. “I don’t have any personal objection to Boxer,” he said. “She reminds me of all the women I’ve tried to date -- sharp, smart, short and a little insecure.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hispanic Party Identification Trends

MSNBC First Read reports:

Dropping like a rock: It didn't use to be this way. In 2004, George W. Bush, the former governor of Texas, won some 40% of the Latino vote. But in 2006, that percentage for Republicans dropped to 30%, and it was 31% in '08. And check out these party identification averages among Latinos that our Hart (D)/McInturff (R) pollsters put together from our past NBC/WSJ polls; this chart puts together the YEARLY average of all Hispanics surveyed for each year (approximately 900 respondents are included in each yearly sample):

-- In 2004, Dems held a 22-point edge in party identification among Latinos (49%-27%)
-- In 2005, it was 24 points (48%-24%)
-- In 2006, it was 26 points (50%-22%)
-- In 2007, it was 30 points (52%-22%)
-- In 2008, it was 35 points (57%-22%)
-- In 2009, it was 31 points (50%-19%)

And so far in 2010, it has been 36 points (58%-22%).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama Echoes Carter

During his press conference, President Obama brought a personal dimension to the Gulf oil spill: "When I woke up this morning, and I'm shaving, Malia knocks on my bathroom door and peeks in her head and says, `Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?'"

In his 1980 debate with Ronald Reagan, President Carter made a similar reference to his 13-year-old daughter: "I think, to close out this discussion, it would be better to put into perspective what we're talking about. I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weaponry - and the control of nuclear arms."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CA: Running Against Schwarzenegger

Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Poizner has run three television ads comparing Ms. Whitman with Mr. Schwarzenegger, who is subject to term limits.

One particularly memorable ad shows Mr. Schwarzenegger's face morphing into Ms. Whitman's face. After the transformation, U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, a Poizner endorser, appears onscreen with this message: "California can't afford Arnold Schwarzenegger's third term, and that's Meg Whitman."

The Whitman campaign has responded to the attacks with its own name-dropping charges.

"There's only one candidate in the race who has spent $20 million [in previous campaigns] trying to convince voters that he's the Schwarzenegger politician, and that's Steve Poizner," Mike Murphy, a Whitman strategist, said Tuesday. He added that the commercials have been "entertaining, but it's an ineffective thing for the Poizner campaign, so I hope they keep on doing it."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CA: Gains for Whitman and Fiorina?

California Watch reports on swinging polls:

Two weeks before the primary, the Republican contest for governor is a blowout again, with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman surging to a 27-point lead, 54-27, over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

That’s according to SurveyUSA, the same pollster that, two weeks ago, reported that the GOP race was a dead heat, with Poizner trailing by two points and Whitman seemingly on her way to squandering what had once been a 50-point lead.

So SurveyUSA, which did the polling for four California television stations, has the contest swinging wildly toward Poizner, and then wildly back toward Whitman, all in less than a month.

“It’s obviously a volatile race,” SurveyUSA CEO Jay Leve said in a phone interview last night. “I was as surprised as you are.”

But he said it’s interesting to note that the poll showed that Whitman isn’t the only female candidate coming on strong in the final days of the GOP primary.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who in other polls was neck and neck with former Rep. Tom Campbell, has opened up a 23-point lead, 46 to 23, in this one.

And the San Jose Mercury News reports on endorsements that may help in the primary, but not the general:

When Carly Fiorina launched her campaign for U.S. Senate late last year, she wanted little to do with Sarah Palin. "I've never met her," Fiorina replied when asked about the former Alaska governor's leadership skills. "Next question."

And Meg Whitman, the front-running GOP candidate for California governor, probably wasn't planning to ask Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich to endorse her when she launched her ubiquitous ad campaign last fall.

But as the races for governor and senator go down to the wire before the June 8 primary, big name Republicans are jumping into the fray with endorsements — 11th-hour nods that may offer big boosts now but carry serious risks in the fall, when the primary winners face the general electorate in a solidly blue state.

Palin endorsed Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, on May 6. Former Vice President Cheney endorsed Whitman 10 days later. And former House Speaker Gingrich endorses the eBay billionaire in an op-ed piece in the Mercury News today, calling her "a transformational leader for California."

Not surprisingly, Tom Campbell's views on social policy are drawing fire. The LA Times reports:

The National Organization for Marriage, which already spent $300,000 this spring on anti-Campbell television ads, has begun making automated calls to more than 600,000 likely Republican voters, emphasizing Campbell's opposition to Proposition 8, the California ballot measure banning gay marriage.

Brown said the group's polling made clear that many Republican voters did not know Campbell's position on same-sex marriage. His group plans to spend at least $200,000 before the primary to make sure they do.

Beginning Monday, many of those same voters will be the target of at least three rounds of calls by the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports women candidates who oppose abortion. The group has endorsed Fiorina. Its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said Campbell's abortion views have been "a great mystery" to voters.

CA: Gains for Whitman and Fiorina?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Krugman on American Crossroads

In The New York Times, Paul Krugman writes:
If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.
Insofar as he is suggesting that Social Security reform was some kind of bait-and-switch, Krugman is completely wrong. Bush first outlined his plan on May 15, 2000.

As for Rove's role, the Wall Street Journal reports:
Republican political strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie are informal advisers to the group American Crossroads. A May 17 U.S. News article about ad spending by political groups incorrectly said that they had set up the group.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Arizona Law and the Hispanic/Latino Vote

According to Latino Decisions, Hispanics disapprove of the Arizona immigration law and the GOP's handling of the issue -- but aren't happy with Democrats, either:
While the salience has increased, the survey finds that Obama’s poll numbers are slipping, especially on the issue of immigration, perhaps due to perceived inaction. More Latinos now disapprove of Obama’s handling of immigration in Arizona than approve, and a majority now feel that inaction by Obama is going back on a campaign promise. As the November election draws near, both political parties have a lot of work to do in addressing the immigration issue if they are to engage and mobilize the Latino electorate.

"And please tell me if you approve, disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling each of the following issues. How about immigration?" If unsure: "If you had to choose, do you lean more toward approving or disapproving of the way Barack Obama is handling immigration?"




"Who do you trust to do a better job of handling illegal immigration: the Democrats or the Republicans?"




Saturday, May 22, 2010

CA: Whitman and Poizner Morph into Conservatives

The Sacramento Bee reports:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nationalized Elections, Now and Then

"What we learned from this election - and I think hopefully the Republicans saw clearly - is nationalizing the election, talking about Speaker Pelosi and President Obama was not as appealing to the public there as Mark Critz talking to them about their jobs." -- Nancy Pelosi on the GOP, May 20, 2010.

"This election is about them. This is a referendum on them. Making them lame ducks is good enough for me." -- Nancy Pelosi on the GOP, 60 Minutes, October 22, 2006.

Crossroads Contributions

Politico reports:

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California:
Support for Meg Whitman has plummeted 23 points since March, and she is now in a far closer race with Steve Poizner to become the Republican nominee for governor.... Less than a month before the June primary, Whitman leads Poizner 38 percent to 29 percent among Californians likely to vote in the Republican primary. A third of likely voters (31%) are undecided. In January, Whitman led Poizner by 30 points (41% Whitman, 11% Poizner, 44% undecided) and in March, by 50 points (61% Whitman, 11% Poizner, 25% undecided).

The Republican senate primary race is also close, with Carly Fiorina (25%) and Tom Campbell (23%) deadlocked, as they were in March (24% Fiorina, 23% Campbell), and support doubling for Chuck DeVore (16% today, 8% March) among GOP likely voters. Thirty-six percent are undecided. Fiorina and Campbell have similar levels of support among men (29% Fiorina, 25% Campbell, 17% Devore), with 29 percent undecided. Support for the two candidates is also similar among women (21% Fiorina, 20% Campbell, 14% DeVore), but 44 percent of women are still undecided.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


As mentioned in an earlier post, the Ceaser-Busch book on the 1992 election, Upside Down and Inside Out, offers insights into the current political climate. It is particularly relevant to yesterday's election results. In Pennsylvania, incumbent senator Arlen Specter lost to a challenger who ran to the left. In Arkansas, another challenger from the left forced Senator Blanche Lincoln into a runoff. In Kentucky, a Senate candidate from the libertarian right defeated the establishment choice in the GOP primary. In a special House election in Pennsylvania, a Democrat won by running against his own party's liberal agenda and the GOP's purported pro-corporate bias. (See an ad here.)

The media have noted anti-establishment tone to the results. This "outsiderism" has roots in the anti-federalists, the Jeffersonians, and the Jacksonians. Ceaser and Busch explain how candidates as disparate as Rand Paul, Joe Sestak and Mark Critz can call claim the same "outsider" mantle:
[Modern outsiderism] functions almost entirely as a symbol, devoid of any specific content. Its essence is the appeal of being "not part of," and thus not tainted by, the inside, or the establishment, or the ways things are done ... Outsiderism has a powerful attraction in part because it is so amorphous and multifaceted. It is like an empty box with a false bottom from which almost anything can be pulled. Some outsider positions may be serious and thoughtful, others meaningless or downright dangerous. But much of the time, it is not a question of position, but merely of positioning. What strategists and candidates understand is that with the use of a vague symbol, they can appeal to diverse positions united only by a common mood or discontent

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CA: Items on the Races

Tom Campbell is relying on targeted mailers instead of TV -- perhaps an appeal to mail voters. Meanwhile, the NRA is telling members to vote against him.

Fred Davis, Fiorina's media consultant, is doing quite well indeed.

In the gubernatorial race, Jerry Brown kicked off his campaign by calling the GOP candidates apostles of darkness and ignorance."

Poizner is attacking Whitman over eBay's adults-only section., asking: "Do Republicans want a governor who directly profited from selling pornography and sex paraphernalia?"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Outside Money in 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Outside political groups have spent three times as much on political advertisements for the 2010 midterm elections as they had at the same point in 2006—an early sign both liberal and conservative groups plan to play a bigger role than ever in this year's congressional races.

The nonpartisan Campaign Media Analysis Group reports that advocacy groups seeking to influence elections have spent a total of $62 million thus far in the 2009-10 election season.

At the same point in the previous midterm election, outside groups had funded a total of $22 million in television ads.


Three of the largest labor organizations—the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and Service Employees International Union—say they will spend a combined $150 million on the midterm election, according to interviews with political strategists at the unions. Other organizations, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Sierra Club, plan to spend tens of millions more.

One new conservative organization says it will spend $50 million on the election. The organization, called American Crossroads, was set up by Republican political strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. American Crossroads is one of two pro-Republican organizations created by Mr. Gillespie so far this year.

CA: Cheney Endorses Whitman

Dick Cheney may have relatively low (albeit improving) approval among the nationwide general public, but he remains popular among conservative Republican primary voters. So his endorsement of Meg Whitman in today 's Orange County Register will have an impact. So will his attack on Steve Poizner:

In 2000, when I first ran on the national ticket with President George W. Bush, Mr. Poizner endorsed Vice President Al Gore. With the election hanging in the balance, he donated $10,000 to the Gore-Lieberman Recount Committee in Florida. In 2004, during the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, Mr. Poizner, who was then a candidate for the state Assembly, opposed the tax cuts that were the centerpiece of our economic recovery plan.

He also broke ranks with our party on national security and the "war on terror." Mr. Poizner opposed the war in Iraq. To amplify his opposition to the national security policies of the Bush administration, he invited Richard Clarke to campaign for him in California.

In the words of another old boss of mine, Al D'Amato, "The world is round."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

CA: Northern Exposure

Of California's six major candidates for governor and senator, five have their base in Northern California: Jerry Brown (former mayor of Oakland), Barbara Boxer (who owns a home in RanchoMirage but made her career in Marin County), Tom Campbell (former House member from the Silicon Valley), as well as high-tech businesspeople Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Steve Poizner. Only Chuck DeVore has firm roots in the Southland.

That situation is an anomaly, since Southern California has much more of the state's wealth and population. So what's happening? Mike Zapler of the San Jose Mercury News reports:

Experts in the state's political geography chalk up the slate of northern candidates this year to several factors: the engine of wealth that Silicon Valley has become, producing a rash of ambitious, well-heeled executives who can finance their own campaigns; the growing Democratic voter registration in the Los Angeles area, narrowing the terrain for Republicans to blossom into viable statewide candidates; and pure happenstance.

"With the exception of Schwarzenegger, who's anomalous in a lot of ways, there hasn't been a pool of Republicans from Southern California who are next in line to run statewide," said Ken Miller, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "Instead, their base has increasingly become the Inland Empire and Central Valley, but there's not a lot of (campaign) money in those areas. So you've got this weird situation where Republican candidates are coming from the Bay Area, and they're much more socially moderate than the median voter in a Republican primary."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

CA: Browns on the Ballot

A member of the Brown family has been on the California statewide ballot in 14 of the 17 midterm elections since 1946:
  1. 1946: Pat Brown, attorney general (lost)
  2. 1950: Pat Brown, attorney general (won)
  3. 1954: Pat Brown, attorney general (won)
  4. 1958: Pat Brown, governor (won)
  5. 1962: Pat Brown, governor (won)
  6. 1966: Pat Brown, governor (lost)
  7. 1970: Jerry Brown, secretary of state (won)
  8. 1974: Jerry Brown, governor (won)
  9. 1978: Jerry Brown, governor (won)
  10. 1982: Jerry Brown, US senator (lost)
  11. 1986:
  12. 1990: Kathleen Brown, treasurer (won)
  13. 1994: Kathleen Brown, governor (lost)
  14. 1998:
  15. 2002:
  16. 2006: Jerry Brown, attorney general (won)
  17. 2010: Jerry Brown, governor

James Madison Rules

In his forthcoming book, James Madison Rules America, William F. Connelly Jr. shows how the Constitution governs the behavior of politicians. A few examples from today's headlines:

National party organizations have come to play a major role in congressional elections -- major, but not all-powerful. In our federal system, local politics may dominate, as we see in Hawaii. Politico reports on the role of Senator Daniel Inouye:

Friday, May 14, 2010

CA: Curse of the Former Governors

Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman are tying each other to former governors.

Jack Chang of the Sacramento Bee reports:

More on Anti-Incumbency

Charles Cook writes:
My colleague David Wasserman, the House editor of The Cook Political Report, points out that in the past two weeks a dozen House incumbents, six Democrats and six Republicans, have been held under 70 percent of the vote in their primaries. Many of their challengers raised and spent very little money.
These hurricane-strength forces contain an anti-incumbent element, but Democrats should not take much solace from that. By every polling dimension, it is becoming clear that a vote cast in a Republican primary against a GOP incumbent is not a general election vote for a Democrat. Rather, it is a chance to hurt an incumbent in Washington without voting for a Democrat. I remain convinced that Rep. Joseph Cao, who represents a heavily African-American and Democratic district in New Orleans, is the only Republican member of the House or Senate who is in serious danger of losing in the general election.
Right now, many ambitious politicians are smacking their foreheads, realizing that they might have forgone their best chance to beat an incumbent House member in a primary. In the primary season, some incumbents have survived their opposition was not only weak but divided. Gail Collins has some shrewd observations:

The fabled Tea Party Movement, which is spreading terror in the hearts of trembling incumbents throughout the land, does not seem to be nearly as effective as advertised. It keeps being undone by its own candidates’ tendency to cluster like moths, beating against a targeted insider in groups of four, five or six.

Dan Burton, the longtime Indiana representative, just won renomination with 30 percent of the vote in a seven-way primary. You may remember Burton from the Clinton administration when he used his chairmanship of the House oversight committee to attempt to prove his theory that the late deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, had been murdered. Or from the sex scandal or the missing-votes-to-go-golfing controversy. One less Tea Partier in that primary and Burton would have been forced to return home, where he once staged a backyard demonstration of his conspiracy theory, personally shooting a watermelon that was playing the role of Foster.

Unless Tea Party candidates mount serious third-party campaigns in the fall, however, such conditions will not apply to the general election.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Incumbency Disadvantage

In 2010, the Washington Post reports, Republicans are pursuing a decapitation strategy against committee chairs:

In particular, the GOP has gone after half a dozen or more committee chairmen who had not faced stiff competition in years. It is a double-barreled approach: Republicans think the threat of energetic challengers will propel some veterans into retirement, making for easier pickup opportunities. Or, should they choose to run, the Democrats might find themselves with deteriorated campaign skills, making them vulnerable in what amounts to their first tough race in the YouTube era...NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) and his staff crafted the strategy of challenging the chairmen and other veterans along with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the GOP's lead recruiter, who has studied past wave elections in which control of the House flipped. Republicans are taking a page from the Democratic playbook in 2006, when they picked up 31 seats and reclaimed the majority.

The Hill reports that pork has become toxic:

The landscape for earmarkers in Congress has changed dramatically this election cycle.

Appropriators from both parties have become the hunted, losing primary races to challengers more hawkish about reforming the provisions lawmakers insert in spending bills to steer money to specific projects in their districts or states. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was derisively dubbed “Earmark Queen” by GOP gubernatorial primary winner Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) was ousted last weekend by two earmark hawks. And Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, lost to a conservative Democrat who questioned the propriety and impact of Mollohan’s earmarks

John Feehery gives some historical context:

It used to be said that there were three political parties in Congress: Republicans, Democrats and appropriators. The appropriators were notorious for protecting their own turf and fighting together to resist the influence of leadership.

But the leadership fought back, threatening to punish those who resisted their entreaties. And the committee became more partisan, less collegial and less effective.

Over the years, the committee gained a reputation not for efficiency or high ethical standards, but as a place where members cuts deals to benefit themselves personally or, worse, to benefit friendly lobbyists.

And as its reputation became tarnished, it became more and more of a liability to serve on the once-powerful perch that used to assure reelection.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Polls and Immigration

Like other polls (see earlier posts here and here), Pew finds that Americans tend to favor the Arizona law on illegal immigration. Support is stronger among older Americans, who are more likely to vote in a midterm than younger ones. Pew also notes:
As has been the case since last fall, the public is highly critical of Barack Obama’s handling of immigration policy. Just 25% approve of the way Obama is handling the issue, while more than twice as many (54%) disapprove. That is little changed from last month (29% approve) and down slightly from last November (31%).
Gallup measures public perceptions of the nation's most important problem every month. The 10% citing immigration or illegal immigration in the latest poll, conducted May 3-6, is the highest Gallup has recorded in more than two years. Mentions of immigration last reached double digits in January 2008, and peaked at 19% in April 2006.
So by drawing national attention to the Arizona law, its opponents are raising the profile of the illegal immigration issue, which hurts the Democratic party nationwide.

CA: Prominent Blogger May Back Fiorina

CNN reports:
A prominent conservative is issuing an ultimatum, essentially telling the candidate he supports to do better in the polls – or lose his support.

Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of, backs Assemblyman Chuck DeVore in the California Republican senate primary. DeVore is locked in a battle with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Rep. Tom Campbell for the right to face Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.

Speaking Tuesday with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, Erickson – a CNN contributor - said he won't support DeVore much longer if the candidate does not improve his political standing.

CA: TV Story on Tightening Polls in the Race for Governor

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inside, Outside, and TARP

The "Insider/Outsider" theme that Ceaser and Busch analyzed in the 1992 election seems to be crucial in the 2010 midterm. It helps explain why Utah Senator Robert Bennett (an ally of the minority leader and himself the son of a senator) lost renomination this weekend. Charles Cook identifies TARP as a defining issue:

All of Bennett's other problems, though, pale in comparison with TARP.

Utah's senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, who supported TARP along with Bennett and 72 other members of the Senate, privately told others he doesn't think he'd be able to win a Republican primary if he were facing re-election this year.

Republicans are very lucky that they don't have more House or Senate incumbents who supported TARP facing competitive primaries this year.

Against this backdrop, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is fighting for his political life, facing an aggressive challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

McCain seems to have the inside track at the moment, but barely. History shows that well-known and well-defined incumbents generally lose the lion's share of undecided votes, which means that this race is really close to a 50-50 proposition.

While Bennett had never gone out of his way to offend conservatives in his state, McCain has a long track record of picking fights with the more ideological wing of his party.

The now-dropped "maverick" moniker was not exactly invented during the 2008 campaign, as McCain has always been a boat-rocker in his party. Given the hostile, anti-Washington environment and particularly the rebellion over TARP, it's a wonder that McCain is hanging on at all.

Obama Triangulation

John Harwood writes:

President Obama made another effort last week to project fiscal discipline — and reminded Congressional Democrats why he sometimes exasperates them.

Amid heightened public concern over spending, the White House disclosed that Mr. Obama wanted increased authority to strip wasteful projects from spending bills.

That is, wasteful projects placed in spending bills by members of Congress — which is controlled by Democrats, who do not appreciate the suggestion that, while doing Mr. Obama’s bidding in a threatening election season, they have not been minding the fiscal store.

“Congress is working to try and rein in spending — how about pointing that out?” groused Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. Mr. Van Hollen said the political fault lines that count divided Democrats from Republicans, not the White House from Congress, and “the president has not done enough to draw those distinctions.”

One problem with Van Hollen's comment is that Congress has failed to pass a budget resolution this year, and that failure is giving ammunition to the GOP. And as The Hill reports:

Democratic leaders are looking in the next three weeks to send President Barack Obama a slew of measures that cost more than $200 billion, including a multiyear extension of unemployment benefits, an extension of expiring tax provisions and Medicare doctor payments totaling $180 billion and a $33 billion Afghanistan war supplemental bill.

Harwood notes that presidents typically have some conflict with Congress, even when their own party is in charge. He continues:

Addressing the Business Council last week on the economy and financial reform, Mr. Obama did not speak the words “Democrat” or “Republican.” Instead, he urged Americans to abandon the “easy talking points” and “good political theater” of Washington.

“Politicians can rail against Wall Street, or against each other,” he said. “It just traps us in the same debates that have held us back for a very long time.”

The president sounds very much like Bill Clinton. In 2000, as his own administration was winding down, Clinton looked back and said:

And yet, in Washington, we just kept repeating over and over and over again the same debates. Each party took the same sides, staked out the same opposite position. Paralysis occurred, and the results were not particularly satisfying to the American people.

Monday, May 10, 2010

CA: Whitman-Poizner Race Tightens

A new poll suggests a closer race:

Whitman is hitting back:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CA: Election Month

In the San Jose Mercury News. Ken McLaughlin and Denis Theriault report:

If you noticed your mailbox was stuffed yesterday with negative political ads and the TV commercials about your favorite candidates were particular nasty, here's the reason:

"Election Day starts Monday," said Sarah Pompei, spokeswoman for Meg Whitman, the front-running GOP candidate for governor.

Starts is the key word here. While the finish line for the heated primary election is June 8, the day the polls open, a sizable percentage of the state's voters — including two-thirds in Santa Clara County — will get their ballots in the mail this week.

It's part of an extraordinary trend that has forever altered the way California's political campaigns are run.

"We've gone from an election day to an election month," said Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican consultant who handicaps election campaigns as publisher of the nonpartisan California Target Book.

Here is the vote-by-mail percentage in gubernatorial elections:

..................Primary General

  • 1982 5.57% .......6.51%
  • 1986 8.63% .......9.00%
  • 1990 15.02% ...18.38%
  • 1994 20.37% ...22.58%
  • 1998 25.26% ...24.72%
  • 2002 26.08%...27.09%
  • 2006 46.90%...41.54%

More on early voting here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

CA: Dems Try to Pick GOP Nominee

In 1966, California Democrats undercut George Christopher in hopes that Ronald Reagan would win the GOP gubernatorial primary. The tactic backfired when Reagan proved to be a strong candidate. In 2002, they attacked Richard Riordan in hopes that Bill Simon would defeat him. This time, it worked. And now, as Steve Harmon reports:
Democrats are injecting themselves directly into the Republican primary with a so-called issues ad that is an obvious outright attack on GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. It’s all under the guise of asking voters to sign a petition and call Congress to support a bill, Senate Bill 506, that would close a tax loophole that allows the wealth to hide assets in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Island and Bermude. Oh, by the way, Meg Whitman ironically is doing that very thing! Though the state Republican Party sniffed at the sneaky, underhanded ploy, the Whitman campaign actually seemed quite pleased to see that the Democratic Party still views her to be the candidate to beat.
Calbuzz wanted to discuss the strategic political purpose of the ad, so we rang up CDP Chairman John Burton. He insisted the purpose of the ad is to support Levin’s anti-tax haven legislation (as if this were the No. 1 priority for the California Democratic Party). When we said we were hoping to have an honest discussion about the political strategy of the ad, Burton exploded: “Are you calling me a liar? [EXPLETIVE DELETED] you!” And he hung up the phone. Hey Burton! Thanks for nothing, you jackass.

Friday, May 7, 2010


The president's overall approval rating is so-so, but he enjoys support from younger Americans. Ronald Brownstein reports on a recent poll:

In recent elections, Millennials have tilted toward the Democrats (Barack Obama carried 66 percent of them in 2008) and displayed a marked receptivity to activist government. Those inclinations are still apparent in the survey, but the recession appears to have dented them. In the poll, Obama's job-approval rating among Millennials stood at 56 percent, with 36 percent disapproving; 46 percent say they would vote to re-elect him, while 39 percent would not. Both measures suggest that Obama's popularity among this generation has declined, but this far out from 2012 his approval rating is almost certainly a better gauge of his strength than the re-election number.

A plurality of Millennials say they believe that the president's agenda will increase rather than diminish opportunities for their generation (41 percent to 27 percent). More respondents say that his policies averted an even worse economic crisis (44 percent) than believe that Obama ran up the national debt without doing much good (36 percent). By 46 percent to 31 percent, they also say that the comprehensive health care reform bill Obama recently signed into law is a good thing for the country. Just one-fourth believe that the country is worse off because of the president's policies; the rest feel that his efforts have significantly improved conditions (16 percent) or are beginning to move the nation in the right direction, even if they haven't yet produced major gains (43 percent).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CA: Carly, Sarah, and Demon Sheep

Sarah Palin has used Facebook to endorse Carly Fiorina:
Carly is the Commonsense Conservative that California needs and our country could sure use in these trying times. Most importantly, she’s running for the right reasons. She has an understanding that is sorely lacking in D.C. She’s not a career politician. She’s a businesswoman who has run a major corporation. She knows how to really incentivize job creation. Her fiscal conservatism is rooted in real life experience. She knows that when government grows, the private sector shrinks under the burden of debt and deficits. We can trust Carly to do the right thing for America’s economy and to make the principled decisions she has throughout her professional career.

Palin also states that Fiorini "grew up in a modest home with a school teacher dad." But the several biographies I've seen of the candidate state that she is the daughter of "Joseph Sneed (a law professor and judge) and Madeline (a painter; maiden name unknown)."

Joseph Sneed was an iconic law professor at Stanford. I missed him by a year, but often stared at his portrait in the main lecture hall (he seemed to stare back). His former students would be amused to hear him referred to as a school teacher and, from what I've heard, to see the word "modest" in a the same sentence as his name.

Indeed, her dad's status as a judge could be a vulnerability, as Politico reported a while back:

California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina was negotiating for a lucrative job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. a decade ago at the same time her father wrote a significant appeals court opinion that the high-tech industry had aggressively lobbied for, a new book reports.
In July 1999, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Sneed, Fiorina’s father, issued a ruling that made it far more difficult for class-action lawyers to file securities lawsuits. Breaking with two other courts of appeals, Sneed said a legal reform Congress passed in 1995 at the urging of high-tech executives besieged by such suits meant plaintiffs needed solid evidence of wrongdoing before they went to court.
Seventeen days later, Fiorina was named as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard with a compensation packaged valued at the time at between $80 million and $90 million.

Meanwhile, the California Democratic Party and DSCC preview their fall line of attack:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Turnout in Early Primaries

Omen or outlier? The answer will be clear in November, but the early returns are not good for Democrats, as Reid Wilson reports on Hotline:

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.

In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in '06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced serious primary opponents.

Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters -- or 18% of all registered Dem voters -- who turned out in '04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term.

And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in '02 and the 304K who turned out in '06.

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Republican Targets

CQ/Roll Call reports:

Controlling the federal purse strings in Washington, D.C., has been a time-honored way for powerful lawmakers to curry favor at home and secure re-election year after year.
But this year, three powerful Democratic chairmen — Budget Chairman John Spratt (S.C.), Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.) and Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.) — face tough races as a surging GOP looks to use the lawmakers’ power against them and turn them into electoral trophies...
The National Republican Congressional Committee is already making the case against Spratt and Obey, running ads against both calling them architects of the Democratic agenda.
“Spratt is [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi ’s budget chairman, and the Spratt budget has a trillion-dollar deficit,” says a narrator in a spot the NRCC cut in January that ran on cable in South Carolina for a week. “And Spratt’s the architect of legislation Democrats may use to ram through a government takeover of health care.” The NRCC’s Obey ad, which also ran on cable in his district last month, called the Wisconsin Democrat “the architect of Obama’s spending.”
“Obey chairs the Appropriations Committee,” the narrator says. “Obama’s spending gets Obey’s stamp of approval. It’s a Niagara Falls of money flowing out of Washington.”
A few weeks ago, Rhodes Cook suggested a parallel:

The Republican tidal wave of 1994 could be considered a “model” election of sorts. The defeated Democratic House members were largely of a type that are viewed as vulnerable – narrow winners in their previous election, stuck in difficult political terrain, and in large measure, freshmen.

To be sure, there were several long-time Democratic heavyweights that were ousted that year – led by House Speaker Thomas Foley of Washington, a 15-term House veteran; former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, an 18-term veteran; and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks of Texas, who had 21 terms in Congress under his belt.

Their defeats came as a shock, but they should not have been totally unexpected. The trio was part of what is now a closely watched category called “declining incumbents.” Foley, Rostenkowski and Brooks all drew a higher share of the vote in 1990 than they did in 1992, when all three were beginning to show signs of electoral vulnerability.

Resurgent Republic Poll

Resurgent Republic reports on a new poll, which gave voters a choice between two options:
Congressman A says more Republicans in Congress will lead to more gridlock and stand in the way of President Obama's agenda to create jobs and make needed reforms to our economy.
Congressman B says we need more Republicans in Congress to act as a check and balance on runaway Washington government that is bankrupting the country and mortgaging our children's future.
A majority of voters agrees that more Republicans are needed to provide a check and balance by 51 to 40 percent, including a two-to-one margin among Independents (61 to 28 percent).
In his book on midterms, Horses in Midstream, Andrew Busch provides some context:
[The midterm's] task has been not merely to check in a simple and negative sense, to prevent action by the president or his partisan allies, though it can most assuredly do that. It task is also frequently to balance in a much broader sense: to end the dominance of one party and to clear the way for dominance by the other, and to serve as a positive tool for innovation and the long-term rejuvenation of the opposition party.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More Polls on the AZ Law

CBS finds that Americans approve of the Arizona law:

Despite their expectation that it will burden police departments and disproportionately affect certain ethnic groups, a slim majority of Americans believe the controversial illegal immigration measure recently signed into law in Arizona is "about right" in its approach, according to a newly-released CBS News/New York Times poll.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed say the law, which critics say essentially mandates racial profiling, takes the right approach, and nine percent say it should go even further.

Thirty-six percent say the law goes too far.

Similarly Bellwether Research reports:

We found that 79% of voters have heard about the new Arizona immigration law. Time and budget did not allow us to test all the provisions or implications of this new law, but we believe our wording captures its essence a bit better than other recent polls. favor-oppose AZ immigration comparison Voters express strong support for this new law. Whether or not this question serves as a proxy to capture anger over the lack of action on illegal immigration or as an accurate reflection of the strong actions voters support, we can’t be certain.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Politics of the Oil Slick

Five years ago, the response to Hurricane Katrina suffered from poor coordination between President Bush and the Democratic governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco. The 2010 oil slick may well worsen partisan polarization and blame-shifting. Every governor of a Gulf Coast state is a Republican:
  • Rick Perry of Texas
  • Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
  • Haley Barbour of Mississippi
  • Bob Riley of Alabama
  • Charles Crist of Florida
Crist, of course, is now running for the Senate as an independent. But the president and other Democrats are supporting their party's own candidate, Kendrick Meek.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

CA: Poizner Uses Goldman against Whitman

On January 22, 2004, the San Mateo County Times wrote of Poizner's race for State Assembly:

He is personally guaranteeing a $500,000 loan to his campaign by Goldman, Sachs and Co., according to campaign finance records. He leads the field with $586,100 and has no challengers for the Republican nomination.

Loans from commercial lending institutions, such as Poizner's, do not count against the $100,000 Proposition 34 loan cap. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the same provision to secure a $4.5 million loan for his gubernatorial campaign.