Monday, January 31, 2011

No Bump

Gallup reports:

Gallup Daily tracking finds no change in President Obama's job approval rating after his State of the Union address. The president's 50% average for the week ending Sunday, Jan. 30, matches the prior week's rating, which was the highest weekly average for Obama since May.

Those who watched or saw coverage of the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 25 generally gave it positive reviews. The speech does not, however, appear to have significantly affected Obama's job approval rating. Obama averaged 50% for the five days preceding his speech (Jan. 20-24) and 50% for the five days afterward (Jan. 26-30).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Social Media in 2010

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports:

After first gaining prominence as tools for political engagement during the 2008 presidential election, social media became a regular part of the political environment for voters in the 2010 midyear elections. Some 22% of online adults used Twitter or social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace in the months leading up to the November, 2010 elections to connect to the campaign or the election itself.

In contrast to the 2008 race—in which Democratic voters led the way in their use of online social networks for political purposes—Republican voters and supporters of the “Tea Party” movement caught up with Democrats in their use of social media in 2010.

“The social networking population as a whole has grown larger and demographically more diverse in recent years, and the same is true when it comes to political activity on social networking sites.” said Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher Specialist and author of the report. “These platforms are now utilized by politically active individuals of all ages and ideologies to get news, connect with others, and offer their thoughts on the issues that are important to them.”


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Students for Daniels

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Gov. Mitch Daniels is about to hit the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and his home state of Indiana, months before any other potential 2012 candidate.

Except the Republican governor isn’t behind the TV spots, and is still a long way from deciding if he even wants to join the GOP nomination brawl.

The ads are being paid for by a growing student-run Draft Daniels movement, based at Yale University and now with 36 other campuses. The group says it will run the spot during this Sunday’s NFL Pro Bowl on a Fox affiliate serving the greater Des Moines market. The group promises to run it later in Indiana and New Hampshire.

Iowa and New Hampshire will kick off the nomination race a little over a year from now.

The 30-second spot features an unnamed Yale political-science major recounting how happy she was when someone came along and bought her a car and subsidized her medical insurance.

“Everything was perfect. Until I got my credit card bill,” she says. “It turned he was spending all of my money!”




Friday, January 28, 2011

Health Care Debate

In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jamie Dupree notes something that will be a GOP talking point right through the 2012 campaign:
Republicans in the Congress began their real effort to attack the Obama health reform law, using a pair of hearings to launch a variety of attacks, as the GOP was presented with a golden piece of information from one witness.

That piece of info came from the Chief Actuary of Medicare and Medicaid, Richard Foster, who told the House Budget Committee that two main claims of the Obama Administration about the health law probably won't come true.

Foster said the health law probably won't drive the cost of health care down as promised - and he also raised questions about the repeated claim of the White House that everyone will be able to keep their health insurance if they like it.

The answers were trumpeted throughout the day by Republicans, and are certain to be repeated for weeks and weeks to come as Republicans try to find a way to overturn this controversial law
.



The Old Rules Might Not Apply

Michael Barone cautions that three "old rules" may not apply to the 2012 GOP nomination contest.

The first is the notion that Republican nomination always goes to the candidate next in line in seniority.

Yes, Republican primary voters and caucus goers are probably more inclined than Democrats to defer to seniority. But when you look back at the Republican nominating contests in the post-1968 era, and there are not many of them, you find that most of the nominations were close-run things.

...

The next-in-line candidates did win in 2000 and 2008. But George W. Bush only narrowly survived a rout in New Hampshire, and John McCain's strategy eight years later--wait for all the other candidates' strategies to fail--is one that usually guarantees defeat rather than victory.

As for 2012, the next-in-line candidate is said to be Mitt Romney, on the basis of a successful business career and a single term as governor of Massachusetts.

The next rule that needs to be debunked is that Republican candidates must pass a litmus test on cultural issues, especially abortion. This was true in 1988, 1996 and 2000, when religious conservatives were a newly energized political force and one stirred to action by Bill Clinton's misconduct.

But Sept. 11 changed a lot of things, including this old rule. A pro-choice stand on abortion didn't prevent Rudy Giuliani from leading Republican polls until November 2007, when his appointee as police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, was indicted. And going to all 99 counties swearing he was a right-to-lifer didn't save Mitt Romney in the majority-religious conservative Iowa caucuses in January 2008.

The financial crisis and protracted recession have once again changed the focus of Republican voters. Polls have showed that Tea Party activists, who number in the hundreds of thousands, tend to be cultural conservatives, but they moved into politics to oppose the stimulus package and Obamacare, not abortion and same-sex marriage.

The third rule that may not be applicable this time is that you have to start early to win. Tell that to Bill Clinton, who announced his candidacy in October 1991, just four months before the Iowa caucuses. Many potential and putative Republican candidates this time seem to be biding their time. You may be able to ramp up a campaign pretty quickly in the Facebook era.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Romney and the GOP Detente

In the 2008 cycle, candidates started early. As noted in a previous post, Mitt Romney formed his exploratory committee on January 3, 2007. Reid Wilson reports at National Journal:

As presidential candidates jockey for position ahead of next year’s nominating contests, Republicans in New Hampshire believe that the race will come down to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—and the rest. If Romney is to be defeated, both friends and foes say, someone will have to emerge as the anti-Romney consensus.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom among the Granite State’s political class. But what has them scratching their heads is a more fundamental question: Where, exactly, has Romney gone?

He has not held a public event in New Hampshire since late October. His next scheduled stop is an address to the Carroll County Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, on March 5. As other contenders hit the trail, Romney has left his best battleground undefended for four months.

..

Romney benefits, perhaps more so than his rivals, from the d├ętente that’s preventing the 2012 campaign from kicking off in earnest. Until the campaign gets under way, he will not suffer the slings and arrows sure to head his way once it starts. As the perceived front-runner, Romney will become an easy foil for long shots, and for anyone determined to be the anti-Romney.

The seeming lack of urgency extends beyond Romney to the rest of the field. After the grueling pace that political professionals kept over the last three cycles, all of which produced tumultuous political climates, starting the next cycle so early holds little appeal. Jumping into a presidential race early, strategists for many contenders point out, means that a candidate has to start spending resources earlier.

“One of the lessons we learned from the last campaign is that things got started way too soon. Mitt is in no hurry to make an announcement,” [Romney spokesman Eric] Fehrnstrom said. Added the adviser who asked to remain anonymous: “There was a real fatigue in the campaign four years ago. It was a long slog.”


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winning the Future

Ben Smith writes at Politico:

Newt Gingrich's staff yesterday noted that the former speaker wrote a 2005 book whose title, "Winning the Future," the president used as the theme of his speech.

And this wasn't a totally obscure publication. A publishing industry source adds that Gingrich's book, from Regnery, sold quite well: 70,000 hardcover copies and 40,000 paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan, which captures most bookstore sales but doesn't count bulk sales directly from the publisher.

By comparison, Eric Cantor's "Young Guns" has sold, according to BookScan, 10,000 copies, while Dick Armey's "Give Us Liberty" has sold about 20,000.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Criticism of FEC

At Slate, legal scholar Richard Hasen attacks the GOP commissioners on the FEC:

President Bush quickly nominated in his stead a Republican staffer on the Senate rules committee, Matthew Petersen. That broke the logjam. The Senate quickly approved Peterson and three more FEC nominations: Cynthia Bauerly, a Democratic Senate staffer, Caroline Hunter, a reliable Republican vote during her service on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and Donald McGahn, a Republican election lawyer.

McGahn is everything McConnell could have hoped von Spakvosky would be—a strong opponent of campaign finance regulation in an agency charged with writing and enforcing those regulations. And he is so much more. Instead of inviting controversy, McGahn is a smart, under-the-radar ringleader of the Republican commissioners. (His name gets only three hits from Google News in all of 2010.) With Petersen and Hunter, who garner even less attention than he does, McGahn is dismantling the country's campaign finance laws.

The Republican commissioners have eviscerated campaign finance law simply by resisting the enforcement of such laws. Consider the all-important topic of campaign finance disclosure. As part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold reforms, Congress required that virtually all contributions that pay for television or radio ads close to an election and feature a federal candidate must be disclosed in reports filed with the FEC. The disclosure requirement became even more important after Citizens United, because the Supreme Court's ruling for the first time allowed corporations to spend money directly in federal elections. If the corporations can spend money while shielding their activities from public view, they can avoid alienating customers.

Over the summer, the three Republican FEC commissioners blocked an investigation into whether the conservative group Freedom's Watch violated the disclosure provisions by failing to identify its donors. As Paul Ryan of the reform-oriented Campaign Legal Center describes, in a Statement of Reasons explaining the vote, the Republican commissioners made clear that they will not require the disclosure of the identity of a contributor to a group like Freedom's Watch unless that contributor earmarks the money for a specific ad. In other words, unless someone donates with instructions like "Use this money to run an ad on Channel 7 against Barbara Boxer on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m.," the contribution need not be disclosed.

Commissioner statements like this one signal to campaign finance lawyers what their groups can and cannot do. You can imagine the predicate effect of this one: no more disclosure of most contributions funding election ads.

Romney's Religious Hurdle in Iowa

Alexander Burns reports at Politico:
FIRST IN SCORE – IOWA SNAPSHOT – STILL NOT BUYING: The same evangelical voters who helped Mike Huckabee defeat Mitt Romney in Iowa three years ago are still enthusiastic about the former Arkansas governor – and remain a difficult bloc of voters for Romney to crack. In a Neighborhood Research poll of likely caucus-goers conducted earlier this month, Romney was trailing Huckabee by wide margins among Baptist voters and members of other evangelical denominations, even as the former Massachusetts governor did well with other observant Christians. With Baptists (a tenth of the sample of churchgoing voters), Huckabee took 39 percent of the vote to Romney’s 16 percent; Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich each took 10 percent. With voters identified as non-Baptist, non-Reformed evangelicals (17 percent of the sample), Huckabee was in first place with 34 percent, followed by Palin with 14 percent and Romney and Gingrich tied for third, at 7 percent.

WHERE MITT WINS – Even if evangelical voters still have hesitations about Romney, it’s not clear that their objections are enough to make the caucuses unwinnable for the former Bain executive. In the top line numbers for Neighborhood Research, Romney was only 5 points behind Huckabee among all likely caucus-goers. And among the 65 percent of respondents who said they were weekly churchgoers, pollster Rick Shaftan notes that Romney has areas of some strength: “Romney leads Huckabee 26-22 with mainline Protestants [nearly a quarter of the sample]. Gingrich is at 7, Pawlenty and Palin at 4, Paul and Bachmann at 3. … Romney leads Huckabee 25-16 with Catholics [19 percent of the sample] with 11 for Palin, 10 for Gingrich and 5 for Pawlenty.” The kicker: “Of the four Mormons sampled, three were for Mitt Romney and one for Ron Paul.” Here’s the full memo on churchgoing respondents: http://politi.co/fwn68v ; and here’s the original analysis of the poll’s top line numbers: http://politi.co/g2GxoQ

Investors More Bullish on Obama

Bloomberg reports:

President Barack Obama is gaining popularity among investors as he pivots to promoting U.S. global competitiveness in the State of the Union Address he delivers tonight.

Fifty-three percent of investors now view him favorably, up from 49 percent in November, reversing a yearlong deterioration in perceptions of the U.S. president, according to a quarterly poll of 1,000 Bloomberg customers who are investors, traders or analysts conducted Jan. 20-24. The turnaround follows Obama’s conclusion of a free-trade agreement with South Korea and a lame-duck legislative deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Investors are now almost evenly split on the impact of his policies on the U.S. business climate, compared with an almost 2-to-1 negative assessment only three months ago. During this same period, he has also regained some ground with the U.S. public.

The tax cuts, says poll respondent Charles Doraine, 63, president of Doraine Wealth Management Group in Corpus Christi, Texas, “have created a sense of certainty that we all needed.” He says recent efforts by Obama to reach out to business leaders are “an unexpected bonus.”

U.S. investors and their foreign counterparts continue to hold divergent views of Obama, as they have since the quarterly poll began in July 2009. While 56 percent of U.S. investors say they are pessimistic about the administration’s impact on the investment climate, that is an improvement from November, when 68 percent said they were pessimistic.

Obama’s personal popularity has dropped slightly among U.S. investors, with 64 percent viewing him unfavorably, compared with 62 percent in November. Among European investors, 66 percent view him favorably, up from 60 percent in November; among Asian investors, 58 percent hold positive views, up from 56 percent.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gingrich in Georgia

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is bearish about Newt Gingrich's prospects in his home state:

So here’s a prediction: Assuming that Gingrich is still in the race come Feb. 7, after the Iowa caucuses and primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, he will not win the Georgia primary. In fact, I’d be surprised if he even managed a close second.

Some of that depends on who decides to enter the race and who doesn’t. In a Magellan poll taken last June, 29.8 percent of Georgia Republicans said they would vote for Gingrich in a primary, making him the nominal frontrunner. (He was followed by Mike Huckabee (24.5 percent), Mitt Romney (14.4 percent) and Sarah Palin (12 percent).

Not surprisingly, Gingrich did best among Republicans 55 and older, who are more likely to link him to Georgia. (Palin, by the way, got only 3.4 percent of Georgia Republicans between 18 and 34). But given the favorite-son status that Gingrich wants to claim here, you have to look at that 30 percent figure as closer to his ceiling than his floor.

As those numbers indicate, he has no great reservoirs of fondness, gratitude or state pride to draw upon here, and I doubt that many Georgia Republican leaders will be willing to cast their lot with him at the risk of alienating candidates perceived to be much more viable nationally. A lot of factors are at play in the endorsement game, but it usually comes down to wanting to side with a winner.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Man and Superman

On CNN, Colin Powell said: "But, you know, we didn't elect Superman, we elected a human being, Barack Obama, who came in with an idea, with energy, and I think with a youthful -- a more youthful approach to things."


2009-01-13-0obama

Daniels as Babbitt

Jonathan Martin writes in Politico:

The Indiana governor has been showered with favorable coverage from political thinkers and analysts in recent months, most of which heaped praise on his thoughtful and principled approach to governing while celebrating his serious yet down-to-earth mien.

“Of all the Republicans talking about the deficit these days, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, has arguably the most credibility,” claimed The New York Times’ David Leonhardt in an Indianapolis-datelined economics column recently.

Daniels is hardly the first presidential prospect to be greeted with bouquets from the cognoscenti as the Last Honest Man in politics. There is a long, bipartisan tradition of White House aspirants who play the truth-teller role and they almost invariably receive better reviews in print than at the polls.

Bruce Babbitt, Paul Tsongas, Ross Perot, John Anderson, Lamar Alexander and John McCain in 2000 all won plaudits from elites for their willingness to speak hard truths about the real problems facing the country rather than just pandering to the partisan rabble.

... as Mike McCurry, the Democratic strategist and former White House press secretary, recalled of his days working for Babbitt’s ‘88 campaign, there are dangers in being the pundits’ favorite candidate.

“We were dealt a fatal blow by a column that said Babbitt is tough, honest and will seriously address fiscal issues — and then had a paragraph saying he’ll never win,” McCurry said with a chuckle. “The activists just saw that paragraph and said, ‘I don’t want to be with a guy who’s going to lose.’”


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Citizens United Plus One

At Politico, Kenneth Vogel reports on a celebratory video:

Citizens United “helped close the gap that the left had opened up in the political process,” said Ed Gillespie in the celebratory video, which was released late Thursday by Citizens United and also featured praise for the decision from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who called the case “one of the most sophisticated, methodical and serious strategies I’ve seen in my years in looking at government”), as well as clips of tea party protests and generic baseball players interspersed with sweeping aerial footage of the U.S. Capitol and the Statue of Liberty.

Gillespie — who, along with another former George W. Bush political aide, Karl Rove, helped start two of the most active GOP-allied outside groups of the cycle, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which raised more than $70 million — says in the video that the case “opened the playing field up to voices from the right, more free-enterprise oriented, less government oriented voices to come into the process.”


Friday, January 21, 2011

Calculating the Net GOP Gain in the House

Q: Everyone is saying that the GOP picked up 63 House seats on November 2. But since going into the election they had 178 seats, and now they have 242, shouldn't the total be 64 seats? I know Mark Souder's seat was vacant, as was the New York seat of Eric Massa. Please don't say that, well, we just ascribe the Souder and [vacant upstate New York Democratic] Eric Massa seats to the parties that held them prior to their respective resignations. When someone resigns (or dies or is expelled), his party automatically loses that seat that day. — David Ray, Annandale, Va.

A: Your math is correct: 242 minus 178 is indeed 64. But, as you guessed, they don't count Souder's (R-Ind. 03) open seat as a GOP pickup because it was theirs to begin with, even if it was vacant. I have not seen anyone else making the case that Republicans should be credited with a gain in the Indiana seat.

Policy Priorities

The Pew Research Center reports:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mixed Poll Results on POTUS

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Barack Obama is riding a surge of public support into next week's State of the Union address, with more Americans approving of his performance and more seeing him as a political moderate, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The latest WSJ/NBC News poll shows a boost in President Obama's approval numbers and the perception among Americans that he is more moderate. Unemployment, however, remains a sticking point among those polled. WSJ's Jonathan Weisman reports from Washington.

But public concern is coalescing around the stubbornly high unemployment rate, now 9.4%, a potential pitfall for the president. If rising optimism about the economic recovery dwindles, the surge of support could fade, pollsters say.

In the survey, 53% said they approved of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, up eight percentage points from December. Forty-one percent said they disapprove of the president's performance, down from 48% last month. The poll surveyed 1,000 adults from Jan. 13-17.

CNN reports:

As President Barack Obama marks two years in office, a new national poll indicates that Americans are divided over whether his presidency has so far been a success or failure.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, 45 percent say the first two years of the Obama administration have been a success, with 48 percent describing it as a failure. The poll's Thursday release comes on the second anniversary of the inauguration of Obama as president.

Full results (pdf)


"The generation gap that surfaced in the 2008 election persists two years later," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Most people who are 50 or older say that Obama has been a failure in office; a plurality of younger Americans think his administration has been a success."


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Polls on Health Care Reform

A plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health care reform bill, including a majority of Independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), Independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose). Voters aren’t swayed one way or the other by arguments for and against repealing and replacing
the law (50 to 44 percent overall), suggesting that they have already absorbed enough information on the subject and are settled in their views.

A Washington Post poll shows little shift in sentiments, with one telling exception. On the question of "Who [sic] do you trust to handle health care reform," it shows that "Republicans in Congress" have pulled even with the president for the first time.















More on the Slow Start to 2012

Michael O'Brien writes at The Hill:

A resurgence in President Obama’s popularity could force Republican presidential hopefuls to move up their 2012 announcement dates.

Already, most of the GOP contenders are lagging behind the 2008 cycle, for which all of the candidates had announced their intention to run by the end of January 2007.

Now the question is: How long is too long to wait, particularly as Obama’s approval ratings have risen in recent polls?

"It is surprising that the potential GOP field seems to be holding back," said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican consultant who advised President George W. Bush. "The clock is in play and every day that goes by is a potential day wasted that could have been used to organize or raise money."

Only one Republican, former Senate candidate and Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, has formally declared an intention to run for president. While other candidates are expected to jump into the race, they're aiming for a much later announcement date.

For comparison, click here for a 2008 timeline.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blame

At Politico, Andy Barr reports on a CNN/Opinion Research poll out Monday (1,014 adults, Jan. 14-16 MOE +/-3).

Sixty-nine percent of those polled said the shooting that left six dead and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), has not changed their opinion on gun control. Twenty-eight percent said the shooting has made them “more likely” to support stricter controls on the sale of firearms, while 3 percent were “less likely.”

Those surveyed were split on whether access to guns and harsh political rhetoric deserve any blame for the incident.

Fifty-two percent said lenient gun sale laws deserve either a “great deal” or a “moderate amount” of blame, while 47 percent believe gun laws should not be held responsible for the incident.

Roughly the same is true of political rhetoric, as 48 percent said its use deserves blame compared with 49 percent who said it does not.

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin was widely vindicated in the poll for posting a map on her PAC’s website last year showing cross-hairs on Gifford’s district, as well as the district of 19 other members. Some on the left pointed the finger at Palin following the shooting, but only 35 percent of those polled said Palin deserves any blame. Fifty-nine percent said she deserves little or no blame.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slow Start to 2012

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported:

Pizza magnate and potential presidential aspirant Herman Cain says President Barack Obama has done at least one thing well.

“He has awakened the sleeping giant called ‘we the people,’” Mr. Cain said, talking from his hotel room in Phoenix, where he has been stranded due to the snow and ice in his hometown of Atlanta.

Mr. Cain got a jump on other potential GOP 2012 candidates Wednesday when he formed a presidential exploratory committee, which allows him to raise money for a possible White House run. None of the likely frontrunners have taken that step.

The 2008 campaign got off to a faster start. By mid-January 2007, the following had all announced exploratory committees:

  • John McCain (November 10, 2006)
  • Rudy Giuliani (November 10, 2006)
  • Tommy Thompson (November 15, 2006)
  • Evan Bayh (December 1, 2006)
  • Mitt Romney (January 3, 2007)
  • Joe Biden (January 7, 2007)
  • Barack Obama (January 17, 2007)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Outside Money in 2010

In The Forum, Michael Franz finds that outside groups did sponsor a large number of broadcast ads (see below) but that pundits have hyped their impact.









He concludes:
It is absolutely true that interest groups spent more on television advertising in 2010 than in any previous cycle, for example. But candidates also spent more, and the share of interest group advertising was still reasonably low. It is also true that Republican groups spent vast sums more than the Democrats, but Democratic candidates spent more and leveraged their incumbency advantage to raise more. The Democratic Party also helped to fill the void.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Essays on 2010

The Forum has a special issue on the 2010 elections.

It includes an article by Epic Journey coauthor Andrew E. Busch: "The 2010 Midterm Elections: an Overview." From the abstract:

This paper addresses three key questions related to the midterm elections of 2010: What happened? Why? And what difference does it make? Republicans made historic gains in the U.S. House and in state elections while making strong gains in the U.S. Senate. They benefited from an economic and issue environment that strongly favored them; in the House they also benefited from the overexposure of Democrats. Republican Senate gains were limited partly because Democrats were not overexposed there and partly due to factors specific to individual races, particularly candidate quality. A number of key demographics moved against Democrats, and the elections were marked by the emergence of a new popular movement in the form of the Tea Party which helped mobilize Republicans and conservative independents. The election results are best understood as a repudiation of Democratic rule, though a simple economic explanation is not sufficient. The long-term importance of the 2010 elections will depend on the interaction of important contingencies with the underlying alignment of the electorate, the character of which remains uncertain.

Zachary Courser of Claremont McKenna College writes of "The Tea Party at the Election." From the conclusion:

If those Tea Party supporters who voted Republican in 2010 are disappointed at the results they observe, they should consider embracing political association and letting go of independence as a political creed. Rather than reading Saul Alinsky, the political observations of Alexis de Tocqueville would be of greater use. Tocqueville observed that "in democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all others," and commented on how Americans in the 1830s were unusually good at combining to effect political change:

As soon as several Americans have conceived a sentiment or an idea that they want to produce before the world, they seek each other out, and when found, they unite. Thenceforth they are no longer isolated individuals, but a power conspicuous from the distance whose actions serve as an example; when it speaks, men listen.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Palin and "Blood Libel"

In a video, Sarah Palin says it was a "blood libel" to accuse conservatives of creating the climate for the Tucson shootings.


Matthew Cooper writes at National Journal:

After all, it's not the first time Palin has aligned herself subtly with Jews. She has noted that after her election as governor in 2006, her childhood pastor suggested that she take the Bible's Queen Esther as a role model. Esther was a beauty queen who became a fierce protector of the Jewish people. Palin is comfortable in the role of Esther, and many of her evangelical supporters see her in that guise, describing her as Esther-like. The multi-faith website Beliefnet called this phenomenon "Esther-mania."

By adopting the blood libel language, Palin was most likely trying to pull another Esther -- aligning herself with Jews, not denouncing them. It appears to have been a badly miscalculated effort, but it's unlikely that it was her intention to offend.

"It was a dog whistle," said one Jewish Republican who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration and declined to be named to avoid becoming enmeshed in the intraparty debate over Palin. The reference was to a device that's silent to some ears but calls to others. "The media didn't get it, but Christian activists did," this source added.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Poll on Rhetoric and the Tuscon Shootings

CBS reports on a new poll:
Overall, 57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did. Republicans were more likely to feel the two were unrelated - 69 percent said rhetoric was not to blame; 19 percent said it played a part. Democrats were more split on the issue - 49 percent saw no connection; 42 percent said there was.

Independents more closely reflected the overall breakdown - 56 percent said rhetoric had nothing to do with the attack; 33 percent felt it did.

The telephone poll was conducted Jan 9-10 among 673 adults across the country. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Politics of the Racial Gap

Ronald Brownstein writes:

Fully 60 percent of whites nationwide backed Republican candidates for the House of Representatives; only 37 percent supported Democrats, according to the National Election Poll exit poll conducted by Edison Research. Not even in Republicans’ 1994 congressional landslide did they win that high a percentage of the white vote.

Moreover, those results may understate the extent of the white flight from the Democratic Party, according to a National Journal analysis of previously unpublished exit-poll data provided by Edison Research. [SEE DATA HERE]

The new data show that white voters not only strongly preferred Republican House and Senate candidates but also registered deep disappointment with President Obama’s performance, hostility toward the cornerstones of the current Democratic agenda, and widespread skepticism about the expansive role for Washington embedded in the party’s priorities. On each of those questions, minority voters expressed almost exactly the opposite view from whites.

...

On election night, much attention focused on the exit-poll result that showed voters divided almost exactly in half on whether Congress should repeal the comprehensive health care reform legislation that Obama signed last year or should preserve or even expand it. But that convergence obscured a profound racial contrast. The vast majority of minority voters said they wanted lawmakers to expand the health care law (54 percent) or maintain it in its current form (16 percent), while only 24 percent said they wanted Congress to repeal it. Among white voters, the sentiments were almost inverted: 56 percent said that lawmakers should repeal the law, while much smaller groups wanted them to expand it (23 percent) or leave it alone (just 16 percent).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Democrats' Bad Day

It was not a good day for Democrats. Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza write in The Washington Post:

With 19 Democrats withholding support from Nancy Pelosi for House speaker on Wednesday, it represented the largest defection from a party's speaker nominee in nearly a century.

The resistance in the Democratic Party to back now-former Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the ceremonial first vote of the 112th Congress registered higher than at any point since 1913, according to data from the Congressional Research Service.

That year, which happens to be the last year for which records are available, featured 23 votes for Republicans other than that party's speaker nominee. Of the 19 Democrats who didn't support Pelosi on Wednesday, 18 voted for other Democrats and one voted "present."

In no other election in between do the numbers approach those two races (with an asterisk next to 1923, when 22 votes were cast for other Republicans on the first ofnine ballots; by the ninth and final ballot, though, there were only two defectors).

Back in the 1920s, though, defections were much more common. Since 1945, only seven such protest votes have been lodged -- total.

...

The data overall is spotty, with no good numbers on which members voted for whom for House speaker. But a comparison of the House speaker vote totals and a look at the partisan breakdown of the corresponding Congresses shows that defectors have been few and far between -- and in most cases, those not voting for their party's candidate simply didn't vote (perhaps because they weren't present).

Looking at those numbers, this appears to be the first time in at least 35 years that the number of Democrats not supporting their speaker candidate has been in double digits.

In 2010, 45% of Americans identified as Democrats or said they were independent but leaned toward the Democratic Party, while 44% identified as Republicans or said they were independent but leaned Republican. The 1-point Democratic advantage is the party's smallest since 2003, when the parties were even, and represents a sharp decline from the record 12-point Democratic advantage in 2008.

Party Identification (Including Independent Leanings) Annual Averages, Gallup Polls, 1991-2010


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Huck Rising?

Tom Jensen writes at PPP:
Why Huckabee's better than Gingrich and Palin. You could answer this question in one simple word: electability. In nine swing states where we've polled since November (Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida) Huckabee has trailed Obama by an average of 2 points. In those same places Gingrich has trailed by an average of 7 points and Palin by an average of 11 points. Huckabee is massively more viable in a general election than these two. That's at least partially because he has the most appeal to Democrats of the Republican front runners.

Why Huckabee's better than Romney. Romney has actually done a little better than Huckabee in these early swing state polls, trailing Obama by an average of just 1 point. In addition Romney has shown the most appeal to independents so far of the top Republicans. There's a large difference in how much enthusiasm there is for Huckabee and Romney with the GOP base though. 73% of conservative Republicans have a favorable opinion of Huckabee, putting him just behind Palin's 77%, and well ahead of Romney's 58%. For all the hand wringing of the last two years you better believe Democrats are going to be excited about going out to reelect Barack Obama in 2012. Republicans need to be able to match that and they're going to need a candidate they're enthusiastic about to make that happen- for now Huckabee fits the bill on that front and Romney doesn't.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some Good News for POTUS

Gallup reports:

Barack Obama's job approval rating reached the symbolic 50% mark in the latest three-day average from Gallup Daily tracking. Obama's approval rating has been in the mid-40% range for much of the latter half of 2010. He last hit 50% approval in a three-day average near the end of May/beginning of June.

Bloomberg reports:

Orders placed with U.S. factories unexpectedly rose in November, led by gains in demand for capital equipment that signal business investment and exports will keep contributing to economic growth.

The 0.7 percent increase in bookings compares with a 0.1 percent drop median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and follows a 0.7 percent decrease in October that was smaller than previously estimated, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Orders for capital goods like computers climbed 2.6 percent.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Health War Goes On

At Commentary, Tevi Troy analyzes how health care affected the 2010 election and looks ahead to the next two years:

Republicans are taking over the House of Representatives with a justified belief that the American people have given them a mandate to “repeal and replace” the health-care bill. They can’t succeed at it. Even if a repeal vote passes the House—and it is likely that such a vote will take place early in the year—Republicans will not be able to get that bill through the Democratic-controlled Senate, and President Obama would veto it in any event. As a result, House Republicans will have to spend the next two years making the case for repeal, using the tools of the majority—gavels, more staff, and subpoena power—to highlight the case.

There are, however, two possible means of repeal. There is actual legislative repeal, passed by both Houses and signed by the president, which cannot happen until 2013 at the earliest. And there is effective repeal, in which the body politic rejects the substance of the bill, seeks waivers and exemptions, supports defunding important provisions, and challenges it in court, all of which would have the effect of making the whole scheme unworkable. This could be the ultimate fate of Obama’s signature legislation.

Many Democrats are sure to keep telling themselves, as President Obama has, that “the outcome was a good one.” That conviction should comfort them as they continue to deal with the consequences arising from the intensity of the electorate’s rejection. The Pyrrhic victory Democrats secured for themselves in March 2010 may prove not to have been a victory at all but rather an ever-roiling, ongoing, and recurring act of political and ideological self-destruction.

The New York Times reports:

For their part, the Obama administration and Democrats, who largely lost the health care message war in the raucous legislative process, see the renewed debate as a chance to show that the law will be a boon to millions of Americans and hope to turn “Obamacare” from a pejorative into a tag for one of the president’s proudest achievements.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, is coordinating the administration’s response. In a recent speech, she cataloged the damage she said would be done by the law’s repeal. Outside groups that fought for the law, like Families USA and Health Care for America Now, also say they will join the fight to preserve it.

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Huntsman 2012?

Newsweek reports on the ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, Jr.:

“You know, I’m really focused on what we’re doing in our current position,” he says. “But we won’t do this forever, and I think we may have one final run left in our bones.” Asked whether he is prepared to rule out a run in 2012 (since it would require him to campaign against his current boss), he declines to comment.

The winking response—about as close to a hat-in-ring announcement as you’ll get from a sitting member of the incumbent’s administration—could just be a hollow cry for attention. But sources close to Huntsman (who requested anonymity to speak freely without his permission) say that during his December trip to the U.S., he met with several former political advisers in Washington and Salt Lake City to discuss a potential campaign. “I’m not saying he’s running,” says one supporter who has worked with him in the past. “But we’re a fire squad; if he says the word, we can get things going fast.” What’s more, Huntsman tells NEWSWEEK that when he accepted the ambassadorial appointment, he promised his family they would “come up for air” sometime in 2010 to decide how much longer they would stay in Beijing. “I’m not announcing anything at all,” he says. But he sure seems to be hinting.

James Fallows is skeptical:

Huntsman is part of the Obama Administration. He is right in the middle of dealings with America's most important foreign-policy partner/challenge. So in the GOP Primaries, how exactly is he going to out-anti-Obama anyone else in the field, given that he has served Obama (and, yes, the country) so loyally? The retorts from all the other Republicans are almost too easy. "If Ambassssadorrr Huntsman is so concerned about the Obama threat to America, then why,...?"

And if he got through that process, he would run against his current commander-in-chief .... how? And why? What is the issue of principle so important that it compels him to challenge Obama's continuation in office, but has not justified any disagreement while he's serving now? "Huntsman 2016" would be a very logical inference from his current position. "Huntsman 2012" would require suspension of basic laws of politics and common sense.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Debatable Farewell

At Bloomberg News, Albert Hunt bids farewell to Representative David Obey (D-WI) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). The article is open to debate. "For a combined three-quarters of a century, David Obey and Christopher Dodd walked the halls of Congress; they are both retiring this year on a high."

  • Obey chaired the Appropriations Committee. In 2010, Congress failed to pass a single regular appropriations bill. Hunt cites the stimulus as an Obey success, but many would disagree. For instance, Vermont's stimulus czar recalls: "The stimulus failed to keep the national unemployment rate below 8%, as had been promised. Overall, the stimulus had a negligible effect on overall unemployment, although it saved government jobs (temporarily) at the expense of private employment. Counts of `jobs created or saved' are meaningless. Jobs lost due to higher taxes, national debt or government crowding-out were not counted."
  • Dodd announced his retirement after his corporate ties caused his popularity to plummet, making reelection unlikely. He leaves the Senate with a majority of Connecticutians disapproving of his job performance.