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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Obama and Cigarettes

The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama is using nicotine replacement therapy to help himself quit smoking, according to the results of his physical exam released Sunday.

Navy Capt. Dr. Jeff Kuhlman examined Obama at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland Sunday morning and recommended that the president "continue smoking cessation efforts."

Obama's opponents and some in the press raised his cigarette smoking as an issue on the campaign trail. Last June, Obama called himself a "former smoker" who occasionally "slips up" and has a cigarette, but never in front of his family.

Otherwise, Kuhlman noted that Obama is in "excellent" health and is "fit for duty" and is expected to remain that way for the duration of his presidency.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Still the Red and Blue Hill

National Journal's annual vote ratings confirm what the CQ numbers suggested earlier in the year: The 2008 election did not end the red-blue divide on the Hill. From the article by Richard E. Cohen and Brian Friel:

Just over a year ago, Democratic and Republican members of Congress gathered on the Capitol's West Front to hear President Obama's Inaugural Address. Like many of his predecessors, Obama called on Congress to change the way it does business. "The time has come to set aside childish things," he said, quoting scripture. "On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."

But Congress didn't change for previous presidents. And it hasn't changed for this one.

Liberals, moderates, and conservatives stuck to their guns in 2009, whether for ideological, partisan, parochial, or electoral reasons, stymieing much of Obama's agenda. National Journal's annual vote ratings, which have ranked members of Congress on a conservative-to-liberal scale since 1981, found telling consistency in the long-standing ideological divides that define legislative battles on Capitol Hill. Some of those gulfs even deepened as the decades-long partisan sorting of liberals and conservatives into opposing camps continued apace last year.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Even More Bad Numbers for Democrats

Political scientist Alan Abramowitz does not offer encouraging words to Democrats:
According to a statistical model that has proven highly accurate in forecasting the outcomes of congressional elections, Republicans now have a good chance of regaining control of the House of Representatives in November. The model uses four independent variables to predict Republican seat change in congressional elections: the president’s net approval rating in the Gallup Poll, the results of the generic ballot question in the Gallup Poll, a dummy variable for midterm elections that is positive in Democratic midterm years and negative in Republican midterm years, and the number of seats held by Republicans before the election.

Based on the current values of the four predictors, the model predicts that Republicans will gain 37 seats in the House of Representatives in November—very close to the 40 seats that they need to regain control of the House. This forecast is fairly close to those of a number of prominent political analysts based on more informal judgments about the national political environment and opportunities for seat switches.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Disturbing Datum for Democrats

Concessions to labor in the health bill are not likely to get much sympathy in the broader public. The Pew Research Center reports:
Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression.
While 66% of Americans continue to believe unions are beneficial to their own members, a slight majority now say unions hurt the nation's economy. More broadly, fewer than half of Americans -- 48%, an all-time low -- approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GOP Gains in 2010?

A Dartmouth junior has a thought-provoking blog post predicting that the GOP will gain control of the House in 2010. One might dismiss that forecast as the musings of an undergraduate, but uber-analyst Charlie Cook is saying the same thing:
I've spent the last couple of days talking to some of the brightest Democrats in the party that are not in the White House. And it's very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don't lose the House. It's very hard. Are the seats there right this second? No. But we're on a trajectory on the House turning over....
What could change the trajectory? Probably not the passage of a health bill. As Brendan Nyhan noted several months ago, enactment of signature presidential initiatives does not tend to raise approval ratings. By contrast, here are a few things that might help the president and his party:
  • Unexpected growth in the economy, bringing unemployment below 8 percent;
  • A national-security triumph for the administration, such as capturing Osama bin Laden;
  • Skillful presidential handing of a disaster (e.g., Clinton after Oklahoma City);
  • GOP failure to mount good campaigns in individual districts.
Then again, these variables could turn in the other direction: President Obama could have his own Katrina, for instance. Let's hope not, but the point to remember is that stuff happens. Election forecasts are different from home loans: percentages are not locked in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mitt Again

Since the mid-20th century, the GOP has usually nominated a candidate who has previously run and lost: Dewey (1948), Goldwater (1964, if you count the 1960 Goldwater boomlet), Nixon (1968 and 1972), Reagan (1980 and 1984), Bush (1988 and 1992), Dole (1996), and McCain (2008). So it is significant that USA Today reports:

While former Alaska governor Sarah Palin sparks more passion among many Republicans and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee conveys more folksy charm, Romney is waging the most deliberate and methodical campaign of any GOP presidential contender in at least two decades for the nomination in 2012.

After spending the first year of Barack Obama's presidency out of the public eye, Romney will launch a 19-state, three-month tour next week to promote his new book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Included are speeches and appearances in the states that hold early contests in 2012, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Do Attacks on "Obstructionism" Work?

Peter Nicholas reports in the Los Angeles Times: "As voters lose patience with political gridlock, the Obama administration is embarking on a strategy aimed at putting Republicans on the spot: Either participate in bipartisan exchanges initiated by the president, or be portrayed as the party of obstruction."

This line of attack is not new. Republicans tried it in the run-up to the last midterm election.

Some of today’s reactionary Democrat leaders have even embraced the ultimate symbol of obstructing progress in America. Today’s Democrat party has become the party of the filibuster.

Without solutions to today and tomorrow’s problems, and determined to obstruct progress, many Democrat leaders have rejected an honest and civil dialogue in favor of trash talking and name calling. Senator Reid has called the President a “liar,” accusing him of being “drunk with power.” Nancy Pelosi has called the President “morally irresponsible,” “an incompetent leader. . .In fact he’s not a leader.”

This is a Democrat Party that has no agenda. Can't come up with an agenda. Has no solution. All they've got is the strategy of personal destruction and character assassination and it hasn't worked in the past. It isn't going to work in the future. They are a permanent minority party.

Roll Call, September 13, 2006:

Republican aides said the GOP is hoping to leverage this year's difficulty in moving high-profile legislation as a way of tarring Democrats as obstructionists - and also as a warning of what could happen if Democrats take control of either chamber in November.

A senior Republican leadership aide explained that the GOP will argue not only that "Obstructocrats" are "delaying the good things of this Congress" but also that "putting them in charge in next Congress doesn't mean a change of direction, but just flat-out gridlock."

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), Congressional Record, September 14, 2006:

Mr. Speaker, we have looked through the material that is available from the minority leader's office and other publications. We have yet to find the vision that the Democrats are presenting. They have no such vision. They have been lately the ``party of no,'' and they have really developed no plan to lead this Nation.


The fact is, energy prices are down, and they are down because of the policies of a Republican House, not down because of the naysaying Democrats, the obstructocrats, that have been trying to stop everything that has come through this House floor in the last year.

In the 2006 midterm election, Democrats won control of both the House and the Senate.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cautions for the GOP

Recent electoral news should not make Republicans overconfident. They have to deal with some long-term trends and problems. James Gimpel has an important analysis at the Center for Immigration Studies:

The conclusion is inescapable and uncomplicated. As the immigrant population has grown, Republican electoral prospects have dimmed, even after controlling for alternative explanations of GOP performance. A typical drop in Republican support in a large metro area county is about six percentage points. In other words, an urban county that cast 49 percent of its vote for the Republican candidate in 1980 could be expected to drop to 43 percent by 2008.

Across all U.S. counties, including many rural counties, the estimated effect of immigration is to drop Republican vote share 1.7 to two percentage points. Even in seemingly remote locations with negligible immigrant populations, the effect is sufficient to move a 51 percent county to a 49 percent county. Aggregated over the large number of counties and viewed through the template of the Electoral College’s winner-take-all system of elections, the impact of immigration is easily sufficient, by itself, to decide many current and future presidential elections.

At National Review, Henry Olsen examines the importance of independents in the general electorate and ideological divisions within the GOP:

An opposition party can hold together and rally the public against an unpopular opponent, but once it takes power, internal fissures grow more prominent and a skeptical public becomes much less indulgent. The ongoing trends mentioned above will make the task of governing even tougher for the Republicans, should they regain power, than it now is for the Democrats.

This long-term lesson must not be lost on the GOP. Relying on Obama and the Democrats to double-fault may win one election, but is unlikely to produce a lasting majority. If the Republicans do not resolve their internal tensions and adjust to demographic shifts and changing public attitudes, they could easily resume their decline and perhaps even go the way of the Whigs.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Campaign Language That Comes Back to Bite

White House press release, February 18, 2010:

Today, President Obama will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and announce that former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson will serve as the Commission’s co-chairs.

Remarks in Golden, Colorado, September 16, 2008:

Just today, Senator McCain offered up the oldest Washington stunt in the book - you pass the buck to a commission to study the problem. But here's the thing - this isn't 9/11. We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I'll provide it, John McCain won't, and that's the choice for the American people in this election.

History shows us that there is no substitute for presidential leadership in a time of economic crisis. FDR and Harry Truman didn't put their heads in the sand, or hand accountability over to a Commission.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Parties after Citizens United

What should parties do after the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United? One possibility is increased use of independent expenditures. Michael Malbin writes:
Almost all of the Senate parties’ independent spending in 2008 went for attack ads, as did three-fifths of the House parties’. Many of the ads were hard-hitting, but when reporters asked candidates about them, many would say, “I had nothing to do with that.” This is an absurd state of affairs. Except for the rare maverick, the parties and their candidates are not independent of each other and ought not to be required to behave as if they are. Neither candidates nor parties like the inefficiencies of independent spending, and the voters deserve better accountability.

My co-authors and I therefore argued that parties should be able to make unlimited coordinated expenditures instead of being pushed into a false and damaging independence. But we oppose taking this route unless it is coupled with one major caveat. Individuals are allowed to contribute much more to a party than to a candidate. We know from past experience that the parties can set up earmarked accounts for specific candidates. Giving money to a party to support a coordinated campaign can therefore be an obvious and easy way to get around the contribution limits for candidates.

We therefore recommend unlimited coordinated party spending, but only from party money raised from small donors. The receipts from under-$200 donors alone in the last election cycle would have let the Congressional parties turn half of their independent spending into coordinated spending. And we know from recent elections that the small-donor pool is much bigger than we once thought, and it is growing.

With this kind of a change in the law, the Congressional parties would have a major incentive to boost their small-donor efforts even more than they already have since 2002. This simple change would have been valuable even before the latest court actions. It should be part of any legislative response to Citizens United.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Barone on the GOP Challenge

Michael Barone writes:

The political numbers tell a grim story. In five decades of closely following American politics, I have never seen the Democratic Party in worse shape. Democrats trail in polls in 11 of the 18 Democratic-held Senate seats up this fall and lead in polls in none of the 18 Republican-held seats. ... But if I have never seen the Democratic Party in worse shape, I have seen the Republican Party in better shape — in 1972 (when Richard Nixon unaccountably failed to boost his party), at various points in the 1980s and 1990s, in 2002 and in 2004, when enthusiasm for George W. Bush eluded most political reporters but showed up in the election returns.

Republicans could win a majority -- but then they would have to face the responsibilities of governing. In the face of the deficit and the looming entitlements problem, those responsibilities will entail a lot of cutting. Barone says that cutting is risky...

But there is a case for boldness. The architects of Bush’s victory in 2004 and of Obama’s victory in 2008 dreamed of establishing permanent governing majorities for their parties. But as political scientist David Mayhew has argued, and as the events following those victories suggest, a permanent majority is a will o’ the wisp.

Better to put into place public policies that will be enduring as party majorities come and go. This is what the Republican Congress elected in 1946 did: It repealed wartime wage and price controls, it revised labor law to reduce unions’ powers and it provided bipartisan support for Harry Truman’s Cold War policies. Democrats won back congressional majorities in 1948, but Republicans’ policies stayed in place, shaping prosperous postwar America.

Americans have rejected the Europeanizing policies of the Obama Democrats. Republicans may get a chance to put us on a better American path. They need to be prepared to do so.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Day, Another Bad Polls for Dems

CNN reports:
  • "Only a third of U.S. voters think that most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected this year, according to a new national poll. That's the lowest number ever recorded for that question in a CNN survey."
  • "According to the survey, 51 percent feel their member of Congress should be re-elected - also an all-time low in CNN polling - while 44 percent say their representative doesn't deserve to be returned to office in November."
  • "The poll suggests Americans are split when it comes to their vote this November, with 47 percent of registered voters saying they will support the Republican candidate in their district for the House of Representatives and 45 percent saying they will back the Democrat. Republicans trailed the Democrats by 6 points in November."
  • "While President Barack Obama is not up for re-election this November, he will be in 2012 if he decides to run for a second term. According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House."
Full results here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea Party and Republican Party

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Conservative activists who once protested the political establishment are now flooding the lowest level of the Republican Party apparatus hoping to take over the party they once scorned -- one precinct at a time.

Across the country, tea party groups that had focused on planning rallies are educating members on how to run for GOP precinct representative positions. The representatives help elect county party leaders, who write the platform and, in some places, determine endorsements.

"That's where it all starts. That's where the process of picking candidates begins. It's not from [GOP leader] Michael Steele's office down. It's from the ground up," said Philip Glass, whose National Precinct Alliance is among the groups advocating the strategy. "The party is over for the old guard."

In Arizona and Ohio, Republican Party officials report an increase in candidates running for precinct positions, which often sit open because of a lack of interest.

In South Carolina, a coalition of tea party groups has made a formal agreement with the state GOP to urge its members to get engaged at the precinct level.

In this sense, the tea party activists resemble the Christian conservatives of the early 1990s, who started out as a separate and distinct movement, then folded into the mainstream GOP.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Palin Power

Dan Balz in The Washington Post:
A recent Gallup poll showed a wide-open race for the Republican nomination in 2012. Asked to name their preferred candidate, 14 percent of Republicans named Romney; 11 percent said Palin. But 42 percent offered no opinion, and the rest were scattered among a slew of other candidates.

As for the widespread lack of confidence in her ability to be president, one adviser said Palin has time to turn that around if she decides she wants to run in 2012. Another Republican said that if she chooses not to run, she can play an influential role in determining who wins.

For now, she remains the Wasilla-based mother who is rapidly becoming the embodiment of the anger and disenchantment that has been rising since Obama took office. As good as that might make people feel, that is far from a willingness to entrust their futures, and the country's, to her.

"Her challenge is to fill in the substantive blanks in a way that demonstrates that capacity, without losing her uniqueness and her role as provocateur," said Tom Rath, a GOP strategist who has been part of Romney's political team. "Not easy."

More than half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents say that she is not qualified to be president. If she wants to change those numbers, she has to do some tough press interviews and show that she knows her stuff. There is no other way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 36

In an interview with Bloomberg Business Week, President Obama declared himself an agnostic on a middle-class tax increase:

If your deficit commission comes back and says we would recommend raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year, would you accept that as part of a larger deal?

I don't want to prejudge the commission because the whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table, and let's see what folks can come up with.

What I want to do is to be completely agnostic in terms of solutions. I want everybody to sit down and work off of a common base of facts. And the fact of the matter is that we have a structural deficit that is in place that was there before the recession. The recession has compounded it.

But our real problem is not the spike in spending last year or even the lost revenues last year, as significant as those are. The real problem has to do with the fact that there is just a mismatch between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out. And that is going to require some big, tough choices that, so far, the political system has been unable to deal with.

This statement represents a change in the president's thinking. He earlier instructed his tax reform commission not to consider such an idea:

Note: The mandate to the PERAB is NOT to recommend a new tax system. They are to consider ideas on tax simplification, better enforcement of tax law, and reforming corporate taxes and to present the pros and cons of potential tax options. They were instructed not to consider options that involve raising taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. So be mindful of their constraints when submitting ideas.

On April 15, 2009, he said:

For too long, we've seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams. That has to change, and that's the work that we've begun. We've passed tax cuts that will help our economy grow. We've made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes increase by a single dime.

On February 24, 2009, he said:

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.

Friday, February 12, 2010

President Obama's Midterm Exam

A Parents Weekend Presentation

Saturday, February 13 at 2:45 pm in Mary Pickford Auditorium.

By some measures, the president has done extremely well:

Success on congressional roll calls

Global public opinion


But US public opinion remains a mixed bag:

Approval is down.

Political and policy climate has gotten chillier for his party.

What happened?

In the 2008 campaign, he raised expectations very high.

He has kept many promises, but broken some.

The deficit:

Total Revenues and Outlays


Unemployment Rate

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fighting in the Snow

Political warfare continues even during snowstorms. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank reports:
The day began as all others, with e-mails from the Democratic National Committee's Brandi Hoffine forwarding the party's favorite news stories and blog postings.

One credited Democratic strategists with a "ferocious barrage" of attacks on a prospective Republican Senate candidate. One announced: "Obama Trying Harder Than the GOP to be Bipartisan." Another was titled "Newt Gingrich WRONG."

Republicans had their own pile of dirt to dish. The RNC sent out a document about Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine, titled "THE DNC DUD." House GOP leader John Boehner (Ohio) sent out an article arguing that Obama wants "GOP Surrender." There was also an RNC video making fun of Vice President Biden.

Hoffine, for her part, was back with an e-mail highlighting the White House branding a Republican senator's remarks "pathetic." As morning became afternoon, the e-mails accumulated like the snow.

As one Confederate said at Gettysburg, "We'll fight them sir, till hell freezes over, and then sir, we will fight them on the ice."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ABC News/Washington Post Poll

For the moment, at least, the data are not looking good for the Democrats. The latest numbers come from an ABC News/Washington Post survey:
The Republican Party has grown dramatically more competitive in public trust to handle the country’s most pressing issues, capitalizing on seething economic discontent and doubt about Barack Obama’s performance to challenge the Democrats in midterm election preferences. Among registered voters in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, 48 percent say they’d support the Republican candidate in their congressional district if the midterm elections were today, 45 percent the Democrat. That’s a rare level of GOP support in nearly three decades of polls.
Other measures also have tightened sharply since fall. Among all Americans, the Democrats’ lead in trust to handle the country’s main problems has dwindled to a slim 6 points, 43-37 percent, down from 33 points – a record in a generation of polls – after Barack Obama’s election

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

OFA, Campaigning, and Governing

A Washington Post article quotes a perceptive comment by my student Abe Shimm about the difference betweeen campaigning and governing.

[E-mail] now comes from Organizing for America, the campaign's online network, renamed, that helped deliver Obama to victory and was supposed to smoothly pivot toward pushing his agenda through Congress. It hasn't worked out that way. Election Day was black-and-white; it declared a winner. Inauguration Day was the beginning of gray; it brought the grind of governance, with its weird parliamentary maneuvers and bizarre negotiations.

The members of "the movement," in their loose confederation online, are still paying attention, says Abe Shimm, 22, a Claremont-McKenna College senior who took two summers and a semester off to organize for Obama in Iowa and Indiana. "When there is an actual campaign presence, to be told by an organizer, 'If you knock on these doors, you'll get these votes' offers you a tangible result. . . . It's far more difficult to express what a phone call is going to accomplish" if made to a member of Congress wobbly on the health-care overhaul plan.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 35

From Katie Couric's interview:
KATIE COURIC: A lot of people, including Democrats, wrote to me saying, "You campaigned on a slogan of change you can believe in. But their lives and the ways of Washington," they wrote, "haven't changed at all. What would you say to them?"

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it's not true that they haven't changed at all. Let's just take, we're sitting in the White House here. Every single person who comes into the White House now is posted on a website, so you know every visitor to the White House. That's never happened in the history of the Republic. We are eliminating lobbyists from boards and commissions that have significant power throughout Washington. That hasn't happened in a previous Administration.

There's more transparency on something like the Recovery Act and how taxpayer dollars are being spent than there's ever been on a project of this size and scale. So, here in the White House, actually, we have instituted a whole range of changes that give people a lot more confidence in what we're doing. We haven't done as much as needs to be done. So, for example, on earmarks -- what people consider to be pork projects.
What we've said is, "Member of Congress, if you're gonna introduce a project that benefits your district, you should post it on the internet so people can see it, before you vote on it. And we'll put it on a centralized website." But all these things take time. I mean, you know, you're not gonna transform a culture in Washington or anywhere else over the course of a year. You just gotta keep on chipping away at it, and that's what we've tried to do
No transcript of the interview is available on the White House website.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Palin in Nashville

An earlier post here quoted David Plouffe's observation that YouTube and other new media have changed message production and consumption. The latest example is SarahPalin at the Tea Party (below). Ann Althouse has a savvy blog post about the earlier perception that Palin's resignation had turned her into political toast:
I thought she needed to get out of Alaska (in order to run for President). It's innovative the way she's staying in Alaska. As a blogger, operating from my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, I love that she's working through Facebook and staying rooted in Wasila, Alaska. Fox News is building a TV studio in her house in Wasila. That's so not toast.

As for the tea party movement, more thoughts here:

View Full Clip

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Obama Approval in the States

The 2008 election continues to provide a useful baseline for understanding the political map. Gallup reports:
How the residents of each state view Obama continues to be strongly related to 2008 voting patterns. Approval toward him was particularly high in the states that gave him the most support in the 2008 election -- led by Hawaii and Washington, D.C. His lowest support as president came from states that voted strongly for John McCain -- particularly Wyoming and a number of other Western as well as Southern states.
But Obama approval does not translate into electoral success. The home state of Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) ranked sixth (with DC counting as number one).

West Virginia is the only state where Obama approval lags behind Democratic identification. The state thus continues its journey into the solid-R column in presidential politics. Before 2000, it was solid-D, going Republican only in landslide years. In that year, Karl Rove saw that cultural and environmental issues were pushing it away from the Democrats, so he poured resources into what seemed a quixotic effort to win its electoral votes. Had he not done so, Gore would have won.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Demographics, Economics, and House Elections

There is an important new National Journal article on the demographics of the 2008 vote for the House. See excerpt below. For full text, click here.
Generally, the greater the district's nonwhite population and the higher the education level of its white residents, the more likely it is to be represented in the House by a Democrat. In contrast, the analysis found, the whiter the district and the lower its number of white college graduates, the more likely it is to elect a Republican...
In the struggle for House control, the two parties thus face tests with contrasting timeframes. As racial minorities and better-educated whites, or both, become a larger share of the population in more districts, the long-run challenge for Republicans is to compete across a demographically broader range of districts than they do now. Democrats face a more immediate trial: Avoiding a repeat of the huge wave, particularly among working-class whites, that carried Republicans to control of the House in 1994. The increase in the number of high-minority and well-educated districts provides House Democrats defenses that they lacked back then. But if the tide of white working-class discontent reaches high enough or spills over to include enough upscale white voters, even those levees may not protect the House majority that Democrats labored so long to recapture.

Why have Democrats not made greater inroads among working-class whites? Why have these voters responding to Scott Brown populism? Michael Barone suggests an answer:
One reason is that Americans, unlike Western Europeans, tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that's fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The GOP Civil War That Isn't

When the Republicans nominated John McCain over more conservative candidates, some pundits saw a mere fluke. The GOP, they opined, was destined for a civil war in which conservatives would wipe out moderates. But in The Politico, Jonathan Martin reports that these forecasts are proving wrong:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Happens in Vegas

Hotline reports:
In remarks yesterday at a town hall meeting in NH, Obama touted fiscal responsibility, pleding to rein in government spending. "You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college," Obama said.

Under pressure from Harry Reid, the president took it back:

"I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn't saying anything negative about Las Vegas. I was making the simple point that families use vacation dollars, not college tuition money, to have fun," Obama wrote. "There is no place better to have fun than Vegas, one of our country's great destinations. I have always enjoyed my visits, look forward to visiting in a few weeks, and hope folks will visit in record numbers this year."

Obama had made similar comment about Las Vegas a year ago. This time, Mayor Oscar Goodman was not in a forgiving mood:

He has a real psychological hangup about the entertainment capital of the world. An apology won't be acceptable this time, I don't know where his vendetta comes from but we're not going to let him make his bones by lambasting Las Vegas, that's why (the press) is here today.

He didn't learn his lesson the first time, but when he hurt our economy by his ill conceived rhetoric, we didn't think it would happen again, but now that it has I want to assure you, when he comes I'll do everything I can to give him the boot back to Washington and to visit his failures back there.

I gotta tell you this, everybody says I shouldn't say it, but I gotta tell you the way it is. This president is a real slow learner.

The gaffe is not helpful to Obama's hopes of winning the state in 2012. Obama carried Nevada in 2008 -- but only because of Clark County, home of Las Vegas. Outside of Clark County, McCain carried the state by 2,778 votes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Public Opinion Challenges for Democrats

More poll data suggest challenges for Democrats. Though the president supports strong regulation of business, the public thinks otherwise. Gallup reports:
At a time when the debate over the optimal role of government involvement in regulating business is a prominent policy debate, new Gallup polling shows that 57% of Americans are worried that there will be too much government regulation of business, while 37% worry that there will not be enough. Half of Americans believe the government should become less involved in regulating and controlling business, with 24% saying the government should become more involved and 23% saying things are about right.
The president also hit some sales resistance in his State of the Union. Rasmussen reports:

The president in the speech declared that his administration has cut taxes for 95% of Americans. He even chided Republicans for not applauding on that point. However, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that taxes have been cut for 95% of Americans. Most (53%) say it has not happened, and 26% are not sure. Other polling shows that nearly half the nation’s voters expect their own taxes to go up during the Obama years. The president also asserted that “after two years of recession, the economy is growing again.” Just 35% of voters believe that statement is true, while 50% say it is false. Obama claimed that steps taken by his team are responsible for putting two million people to work “who would otherwise be unemployed.” Just 27% of voters say that statement is true. Fifty-one percent (51%) say it's false


Monday, February 1, 2010


Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, delivered some decidedly mixed news last week. In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, he said:
Hiring usually lags behind output during the initial stages of a recovery because firms tend to increase output first by boosting productivity and by raising the number of hours that existing employees work; adding employees tends to occur later. CBO expects that the unemployment rate will average slightly above 10 percent in the first half of 2010 and then turn downward in the second half of the year. As the economy expands further, the rate of unemployment is projected to continue declining until, in 2016, it reaches 5 percent, which is equal to CBO’s estimate of the rate of unemployment consistent with the usual rate of job turnover in U.S. labor markets.
CBO expects unemployment to average 10.1 percent for calendar 2010, 9.5 percent in calendar 2011 -- not good for Democratic electoral prospects.