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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Democratic Coalition

At The Hill, Cameron Joseph writes of the New Democratic Coalition in the House, some of whose members may face tough fights in 2014.
The group now includes 53 members, down from the 68 at their peak but an improvement over their low of 41 after 2010.

“We’ve always fashioned ourselves as the faction of new ideas and innovation,” Kind said. “These new members are impressive. They are more pragmatic; they are more reasonable; they’re trying to break through this hyper-partisanship and get things done.”

The 2012 turnaround came after a disappointing 2010 cycle, when several New Democrats were swamped by the GOP wave.

Now, they’re playing defense again.
The New Democrats who could face tough races this election include: Reps. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Pete Gallego (D-Texas), Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The New Democrats are looking to avoid the fate of the Blue Dog Coalition, which has been hit hard by redistricting, retirements and high voter disapproval of Obama in their more rural, often Southern districts.

The Blue Dogs fell from 54 to 25 members in 2010 and saw their roles further decreased to 15 after the last election.

Monday, July 29, 2013

GOP Tech Company

National Journal reports on GOPstaff/campaign veteran Phil Musser.
Musser and partner Alex Skatell -- he's 26 -- recently launched a budding digital empire, Media Group of America LLC, which includes a digital consulting firm, a center-right news site viewed by more than 3.5 million people this month, and a technology tool they claim will "leapfrog" President Obama's cutting-edge campaign. (Asked if he's worried, Obama's top digital strategist quipped, "In a word, no.")
Let the trash-talking commence. Musser and Skatell are among a handful of Republican operatives clamoring to bridge the digital divide revealed by the 2012 election, in which Obama's campaign deployed a sophisticated data-mining operation to reshape the electorate into a winning coalition of young people, women and minorities.
MGA's signature online tool is called COR, for Central Organizing Responder, and like Obama's Narwhal, it can merge different campaign spreadsheets on one data platform. That means canvassing lists, phone banks, fundraising reports, event sign-in sheets and social networks are all integrated with outside data for highly detailed profiles of voters and supporters.
One key difference between COR and Obama's digital strategy: it's for sale. Possibly as soon as next month, Musser and Skatell envision a Netflix-like sharing arrangement in which campaigns pay a monthly fee for software that even an old-school political consultant can navigate.

Too Divided for Civil War

Byron York  --who really understand the GOP -- makes an important if paradoxical point:  the party is too divided for a civil war.  Republicans are fighting each other over the right approach to Obamacare, national security, and immigration, among other issues.
The conflicts inside the GOP today just don’t line up in the configuration of a classic civil war. There are multiple issues involved, and the lawmakers on various sides of various issues don’t lean the same way on each issue. Republicans who are opponents on one issue are allies on another. Looking at the Senate, for example, it’s unlikely that there will be a total civil war between Senate Faction A and Senate Faction B when some members of the opposing factions are united in Faction C, or Faction D, or so on. In other words, it may be that the Republican Party is too divided to have a real civil war. Perhaps chaos would be a better description. We’ll know more later.
In other words, the party is divided every which way. And at least some of that division is entirely understandable. It’s what happens to parties when they don’t have a leader. And Republicans, after two straight presidential losses, have no one who even approaches national leadership. So factions appear and divisions worsen.

But the very number of divisions within the GOP makes it difficult to imagine the party falling into a classic civil war, with two sides lined up against each other over some irresolvable dispute. The coming battles inside the Republican party will be a series of moving fronts, with changing sides and changing tactics. It could be ugly at times, and it could be serious enough to ensure a chaotic presidential primary fight in 2015 and 2016. But all-out civil war? Probably not.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Court and Country

As theories go, it’s well suited to the times. The story of the last decade in American life is, indeed, a story of consolidation and self-dealing at the top. There really is a kind of “court party” in American politics, whose shared interests and assumptions — interventionist, corporatist, globalist — have stamped the last two presidencies and shaped just about every major piece of Obama-era legislation. There really is a disconnect between this elite’s priorities and those of the country as a whole. There really is a sense in which the ruling class — in Washington, especially — has grown fat at the expense of the nation it governs.
The problem for conservatives isn’t their critique of this court party and its works. Rather, it’s their failure to understand why many Americans can agree with this critique but still reject the Republican alternative.
They reject it for two reasons. First, while Republicans claim to oppose the ruling class on behalf of the country as a whole, they often seem to be representing an equally narrow set of interest groups — mostly elderly, rural (the G.O.P. is a “country party” in a far too literal sense) and well-off. A party that cuts food stamps while voting for farm subsidies or fixates on upper-bracket tax cuts while wages are stagnating isn’t actually offering a libertarian populist alternative to the court party’s corrupt bargains. It’s just offering a different, more Republican-friendly set of buy-offs.
Second, as much as Americans may distrust a cronyist liberalism, they prefer it to a conservatism that doesn’t seem interested in governing at all. This explains why Republicans could win the battle for public opinion on President Obama’s first-term agenda without persuading the public to actually vote him out of office. The sense that Obama was at least trying to solve problems, whereas the right offered only opposition, was powerful enough to overcome disappointment with the actual results.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Statehouse Haunting

At Politico, Glenn Thrush reports that the GOP's 2010 statehouse victories still haunt the president.
“The Obama team has done some amazing things, those guys are really something, but the Democrats plain got skunked on the state houses,” says former Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of REDMAP, the group founded by Republican ├╝ber-operative Ed Gillespie in late 2009 to influence state races ahead of the critical once-a-decade map-drawing process.
“They weren’t in the same league as us, and that’s having lasting consequences,” added Reynolds, who represented the Buffalo, N.Y. area for five terms.
It might be the greatest opportunity cost of the Obama Era in terms of sheer damage to Democrats, a gift that keeps giving to the Republicans in the form of GOP-dominated redistricting and a barrage of state actions that challenge Obama’s core agenda on health care, civil rights and abortion.

“Huge pain in the ass, yeah, every day,” is how one senior Obama aide described the GOP’s creation of safe House seats — and the subsequent assaults on Obamacare, abortion rights, gun control, voting rights and municipal unions emanating from suddenly GOP-dominated states like North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
”Everyone is focusing on the House as hampering us, but no one has really focused on losing all those governorships and state legislatures,” the person added.

GOP Tech

Peter Wallsten reports at The Washington Post that RNC is planning to open a Silicon Valley office and hire software developers.
Officials say the multimillion-dollar program would give Republican candidates the ability to amass more detailed information than ever about individual voters. The data would help candidates narrowly tailor appeals for votes and money. The system would, in many ways, try to mimic many of the digital innovations that helped President Obama’s reelection campaign last year.
The move follows a scathing spring review by the Republican National Committee, which assailed the party and the campaign of its 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for falling short in digital marketing and voter outreach. The report called for more “intellectual curiosity” and for party members to be “more sophisticated” with data and to improve collaboration. In short, it said, “Republicans do not do this very well.”
Although they’re behind, Republican officials say their new effort could at some point put them ahead of Democrats, who are assessing how to make the Obama campaign system available to other party candidates. The RNC program will be housed largely inside the party structure, giving GOP candidates up and down the ballot easy access to data, party officials said.
“We’re thinking big,” said Andrew Barkett, 32, a former Facebook engineer who joined the RNC in June to oversee the new system. Barkett describes what he’s building as a “tool belt” for GOP candidates that will prove more effective than the “locked treasure chest” created by the Obama campaign.

Some in the party, although welcoming the effort, caution that leaders shouldn’t expect it to solve more fundamental problems, such as how Republicans can broaden their appeal before the next presidential campaign.

The RNC plan “addresses the data problem, but you still have a content problem — one that will affect all the candidates in 2016,” said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of the pro-GOP data firm Targeted Victory and Romney’s 2012 digital director. “You can find all the voters, but you still need to determine what you are going to say to them.”

Christie v. Paul

Politico reports:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is ripping libertarians — including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — for challenging government surveillance programs and failing to understand the dangers of terrorism.
“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” the New Jersey GOP governor said on Thursday at a Republican governors forum in Aspen, Colo. “You can name any number of people and (Paul is) one of them.”
Christie, a potential 2016 candidate who appeared on the panel with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, said lawmakers who are questioning government surveillance programs should hear from the families affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.
“These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have,” Christie said.
What is Christie up to?  Some possibilities:
  1. He's sincerely articulating his policy views.
  2. He sees Rand Paul as a threat to the GOP.
  3. He thinks that he could beat Rand Paul in a head-to-head contest for the GOP nomination. With his penchant for making gaffes and hiring neo-Confederate wackos, Paul is more self-destructive than other potential GOP contenders. Christie may be trying to build Paul up now so that he can take him down later.

I vote for number 3.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Future of the GOP Coalition

At The Guardian, Harry Enten argues that the GOP does not need to change fundamentally in order to win the 2016 election.
Indeed, there is little to no sign that Mitt Romney did worse than he should have, given the state of the economy. President Obama won by a little less than 4pt, when the two best fundamental models (based solely on numerous different economic factors) had him winning by 3pt and 5pt respectively. Taking into account Obama's approval rating and the economy, as the original Alan Abramowitz model does, shows Obama should have won by a little more than 4pt.
That's the reason why I don't buy the argument that the shrinking white population in this country necessarily spells doom for the Republicans. This is a two-party system where the economy almost always dictates who wins and loses elections. No one has yet proved that the 2012 election indicates that the Republican party needs to change fundamentally in order to win, despite hundreds of column inches expended on the subject.
For Republicans to win, they'd need economic conditions slightly more favorable to the out-party (that would have been, in 2012, a worse economy and less confidence). Following the 2012 pattern, this would allow them in 2016 to continue to do exponentially better among white working-class voters. Sean Trende, who believes that the GOP could win with a mostly white coalition, anticipates Republicans also gaining a few more points among minorities.
Of course, many doubt this steady-state strategy could work for Republicans. Karl Rove said a few months ago that Republicans would have a hard time regularly winning the white vote by 25pt or more. But that's the funny thing about electoral rules: they're made to be broken. For example, the aforementioned Alan Abramowitz said that Republicans would have a very hard time getting above the 58% of the white vote in 2010 that they had in 1994. In fact, they won 62% of the white vote in the last midterms.
But does the shift in the white vote reflect a change in party support or a specific reaction to President "Bitter Clinger" Obama?  If the latter, might Hillary "Beer Track" Clinton do much better among working class whites?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Growing Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

A new CBS News poll finds more Americans than ever want the Affordable Care Act repealed.

According to the poll, 36 percent of Americans want Congress to expand or keep the health care law while 39 percent want Congress to repeal it - the highest percentage seen in CBS News polls. The poll also found a majority of Americans - 54 percent - disapprove of the health care law, 36 percent of Americans approve of it and 10 percent said they don't know about it.

The health care law is a chronic issue for the White House, CBS News political director John Dickerson said on "CBS This Morning." "There's an operational part to this, which is that the White House has got to get people to sign up for these health exchanges, particularly younger, healthier Americans, and so they are tactically running a campaign much like the presidential campaign, reaching out, using the techniques of that campaign to get younger people to sign up for these health exchanges."

The poll also found just 13 percent of Americans say the health care law will personally "help me" while 38 percent said they believe the law will personally "hurt me."
Fox News reports:
Voters think ObamaCare is going to hurt their wallet and over half want the law repealed, according to a new Fox News national poll.
By a large 47-11 percent margin, voters expect the 2010 health care law will cost them rather than save them money in the coming year. Another 34 percent think the law won’t change their family’s health care costs.

Those negative expectations come at a time when a majority of the public remains unhappy with the way thing are going in the country (63 percent dissatisfied), and over half say they haven’t seen any signs the economy has started to turn the corner (57 percent).
Republicans are three times as likely as Democrats to think ObamaCare will cost them money over the next year (70 percent vs. 23 percent). One Democrat in five expects the law will result in savings for their family (21 percent).
The poll asks people to take an up-or-down vote on ObamaCare: 40 percent say they would vote to keep the law in place, while just over half -- 53 percent -- would repeal it.
The Washington Post reports:
The landmark health-reform law passed in 2010 has never been very popular and always highly partisan, but a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a group of once loyal Democrats has been steadily turning against Obamacare: Democrats who are ideologically moderate or conservative.
Just after the law was passed in 2010, fully 74 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health-care system. But just 46 percent express support in the new poll, down 11 points in the past year. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have continued to support the law at very high levels – 78 percent in the latest survey. Among the public at large, 42 percent support and 49 percent oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47 percent apiece last July.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

GOP 50-State Project

I have written about an "iron law of emulation" by which each political party tries to copy the successes of the other. CNN reports that the RNC is planning its own version of Howard Dean's 50-state project.
The RNC’s 50-state project begins with putting new boots on the ground in the two states with gubernatorial elections this fall, Virginia and New Jersey, said party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. In both states, the RNC will be testing voter contact efforts with controlled experiments and fine-tuning their engagement efforts with African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic communities who are firmly entrenched in the Democratic camp.
In May, the RNC hired new staffers and opened offices in Virginia, which has a competitive governor’s race, and in New Jersey, the site of a less competitive gubernatorial contest and a special U.S. Senate election.
The committee has also placed “state directors,” who will work alongside existing state party organizations and candidates to coordinate with the national party, in 10 other states with competitive Senate, House and gubernatorial races in 2014.
Republican state directors have already been deployed to Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. There are currently 125 RNC operatives in the field as of this week, a staff footprint larger than the one at party headquarters on Capitol Hill.
By the end of the year, Kukowski said, the RNC will have “hundreds of staffers” and “nearly 100” offices around the country, all trained in Washington. Not every state will have a state director, she admitted, but every state in the country, including Democratic strongholds, will have at least one paid staffer and possibly more.
The party has also dispatched political staffers – they won’t say how many - to work deep-red Texas and deep-blue California, both mega-states with substantial and growing Hispanic populations that will figure prominently in future election cycles.
At Governing, Louis Jacobson looked back Dean's record:
Before we crunch the numbers, we should note that the patterns below can't be linked exclusively to Dean's 50-state project. After all, the Democrats experienced two of their strongest election cycles during that time. They benefited from a strong congressional tailwind in 2006 and a winning presidential candidacy in 2008. Meanwhile, the numbers began to turn negative during the midterm election of 2010, a Republican rout.
That said, the patterns are suggestive. In the 20 states we looked at -- those that have voted solidly Republican in recent presidential races -- Democratic candidates chalked up modest successes, despite the difficult political terrain. Then, after the project stopped, Democratic success rates cratered.
The 20 states we looked at are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. We excluded any state that has voted Democratic in recent presidential contests or was considered potentially competitive for the Democrats, even if the state ultimately sided with the GOP (such as Arizona and Missouri).
Here's how the Democrats fared in the reddest of red states between January 2005 and January 2009, the period when the 50-state project was in operation:
  • State House seats: Net gain of 39 seats, a 2 percent increase of all seats in the states analyzed
  • State Senate seats: Net loss of two seats
  • Governorships: Net loss of one
  • Attorney generalships: Net gain of one (elected seats only)
  • U.S. House seats: Net gain of three seats
  • U.S. Senate seats: Net gain of one seat
  • Presidential performance: In 15 of the 20 states, the Democratic nominee saw an increase in vote share between 2004 and 2008. In three other states, the vote share remained constant. It dropped in only two states.
"Where we really made a big difference was in states like Nebraska, where Obama won an electoral vote in 2008," Dean said. "He had a real party to work with."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

After Hope and Change Come Declining Approval Ratings

Challenges across the policy spectrum are keeping Barack Obama in political peril, with the public divided on initiatives ranging from Senate-supported immigration reform to Obama’s signature health care law.
As he readies a new pitch on economic growth, the president’s job approval rating has slipped below 50 percent for the first time since September in ABC News/Washington Post polls. Even with a recovery in consumer sentiment, just 45 percent approve specifically of his handling of the economy, and 60 percent say the country’s headed seriously off on the wrong track.
See PDF with full results and charts here.
Congress, for its part, manages just a 21 percent approval rating – up by 5 points since March to more than a two-year high, but still dismal by any measure. And whatever Obama’s challenges, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Republicans are hardly rejoicing: They’re far more critical of their own party’s leadership than are Democrats of theirs, with 52 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents – a new high by a substantial margin – saying the GOP’s going astray.
David Lightman writes at McClatchy:
Stung by Americans’ persistent worries about the economy and a capital gripped by controversy and gridlock, President Barack Obama is suffering his lowest job approval numbers in nearly two years, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The plummeting numbers – still higher than those of Congress – come after weeks of rising gasoline prices, revelations about domestic spying and turmoil in the Middle East.
The disappointing results come as the White House this week looks to turn the national conversation back to the economy. Obama will deliver the first of a series of speeches Wednesday aimed at offering his vision for boosting economic growth, even as the new poll found that just 37 percent of the respondents approved of his handling of the economy, while 56 percent disapproved.
Overall, the poll found Obama’s job approval at 41 percent last week, a sharp drop from April’s 50 percent and his worst showing in the poll since 39 percent in September 2011. Forty-eight percent disapproved in the latest poll, up from April’s 46 percent.
Gallup reports:
President Obama's job approval rating averaged 47.9% during his 18th quarter in office. His quarterly average has declined in each of the last two quarters after showing improvement in each of the five previous quarters, culminating with his re-election.

The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 45,000 U.S. adults during Obama's 18th quarter in office, which ran from April 20-July 19.
Obama's best quarterly average to date was during his first quarter in office, during the honeymoon phase of his presidency, when he averaged 63.0% approval. His worst was 41.0% during his 11th quarter, at a time when he and Congress engaged in contentious negotiations to raise the federal debt limit, after which the United States' credit rating was downgraded and the U.S. stock market tanked.
Obama began his 18th quarter enjoying a modest rally after the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks. Presidents' approval ratings often increase after significant events, particularly those that relate to national security. From late April through early May, Obama's approval ratings were mostly at or above 50%. His approval rating held below 50% for most of the rest of May and nearly all of June. His Gallup Daily tracking three-day approval average has not been as high as 50% since June 25-27.
Carla Marinucci writes at The San Francisco Chronicle:
President Obama's job performance rating has plummeted 10 points in solidly blue California since February, an across-the-board decline that is steepest among his most fervent backers, according to the latest survey by the Field Poll.
A bare majority of California voters, just 52 percent, now approve of Obama's record in office, with 35 percent disapproving and 13 percent holding no opinion, according to the poll of 846 registered voters in the state.

The poll shows Obama has suffered the biggest erosion in support among grassroots groups including women, whose approval of the president has dropped a whopping 15 percentage points in the last five months.
Similarly, Obama's job approval ratings among registered Democrats, under-40 voters, and college graduates have declined 14 points, white non-Hispanics are down 13 points, nonpartisan voters declined 12 points, and Latinos are seven points lower in their support, the poll shows.
"Look at the constituencies that have fallen off most. ... They've basically changed their views over the last few months" regarding the president's performance, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

America Rising and Lawful Coordination

The Washington Post reports on America Rising:
[I]n a sign of how political gravity has shifted, the RNC is now working to mesh itself more closely with independent players on the right. An “autopsy” report of the party’s 2012 failings released in March urged RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to convene meetings with outside groups within the constraints of campaign finance rules.

RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said such gatherings are now regularly taking place.

“The party’s brand is something that still matters,” said Spicer, who described the work by independent groups as complementary to that of the RNC. “We can’t do everything. We have to do the ground game and brand messaging, and other things can be picked up by outside groups that have the ability to raise corporate money.”

The RNC report also recommended the creation of a third-party research and tracking group. A few days later, former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades filed paperwork establishing America Rising, which he is running with former RNC research director Joe Pounder and former RNC spokesman Tim Miller.

The party plans to hire America Rising, which was set up as a private limited-liability company — allowing the group to sell its research to its related super PAC, as well as to candidates and party committees. As an LLC, it is not required to disclose its funders or other financial details.
Hiring the group “allows us to start something a lot earlier, keeping an eye on 2016 without bringing on the amount of people it would require,” Spicer said.

America Rising was a direct response to American Bridge, the Democratic-allied opposition-
research super PAC that portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat in 2012.

“In the last cycle, you saw Democrats do a better job in investing in research and tracking,” Miller said. “I think there was a feeling throughout the party that this was something that we needed to catch up in, both for 2014 and in preparing for 2016.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rand Paul Aide Quits

Aaron Blake reports at The Washington Post that Rand Paul aide Jack Hunter has resigned.
Hunter said in an e-mail to the Daily Caller that he will resume his career as a pundit and that he didn’t want to be a distraction for the senator, who is considered a top potential 2016 presidential candidate. Paul’s office has confirmed his departure to Post Politics.
Paul stood by Hunter two weeks ago, saying his past comments were “absolutely stupid,” but that he didn’t think Hunter held any racist views.
“If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately,” Paul said.
Hunter formerly described himself as the “Southern Avenger” and wore a Confederate flag mask. He also wrote about raising a toast the John Wilkes Booth and was an activist for secession.
His past writings were first revealed by the Washington Free Beacon.
Last week, Michael Gerson wrote:
Paul’s attempt to dismiss the matter has only added to the damage. “It was a shock radio job,”the senator explains.“He was doing wet T-shirt contests. But can a guy not have a youth and stuff? People try to say I smoked pot one time, and I wasn’t fit for office.”

But Hunter’s offenses were committed as an adult. They included defending a regime founded on slavery, comparing Abraham Lincoln to Saddam Hussein and raising (in Hunter’s words) a “personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.” This was not a single, ideological puff but rather a decade spent mainlining moonlight and magnolias in the ruins of Tara.
Paul is rumored to be considering a 2016 presidential run. So his dismissal of the sympathetic treatment of a presidential assassin as the equivalent of sponsoring a wet T-shirt contest requires some explanation. The easier political course for Paul would have been to cut this embarrassing tie and reduce the damage. He still might be forced to do so. But his reluctance is revealing.
This would not be the first time that Paul has heard secessionist talk in his circle of confederates — I mean, associates. His father has attacked Lincoln for causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Others allied with Paulism in various think tanks and Web sites have accused Lincoln of mass murder and treason. For Rand Paul to categorically repudiate such views and all who hold them would be to excommunicate a good portion of his father’s movement.
In the past, Paul expressed misgivings about civil rights legislation. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

2016 Speculation

USA Today reports:
Long-time Obama political adviser David Axelrod predicted that the former secretary of state would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, though he left the door open for a campaign by Vice President Joe Biden.

"I think that Hillary Clinton probably will be the candidate," Axelrod said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "If she doesn't run, I think Biden will run."
That tracks with the conventional wisdom: Biden will run only if Clinton chooses not to.

As we noted yesterday, Biden told GQ magazine he has yet to decide about 2016:

"The judgment I'll make is, first of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now? Do I feel this? Number two, do I think I'm the best person in the position to move the ball? And, you know, we'll see where the hell I am."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be traveling to Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, in August.

The North Iowa Democrats said today she’ll be the keynote speaker for the 10th Anniversary North Iowa Wing Ding Fundraiser at the Surf Ballroom on Friday, Aug. 16. Doors open at 5 p.m., according to a post on the Iowa Democratic Party’s Facebook page.

Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, is one of the Democrats who has been identified as a possible 2016 presidential candidate – if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.

She will be the first Democratic possible 2016′er in Iowa since the 2012 election.

During the festivities for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural, Klobuchar stopped by an Iowa bash in Washington, D.C. And during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. she popped in at the Iowa Democrats’ breakfast tent for a short get-to-know-you speech to activists.

Past Wing Ding speakers include John Edwards in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2007.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

GOP Factions -- The Story Continues

In Epic Journey and After Hope and Change, we discuss factionalism in the GOP.  The story is a very old one, literally going back to the 1850s.  For the latest chapter, see Politico:
The once-united Senate Republican Conference is splintering. On issues ranging from gun control to immigration to President Barack Obama’s nominees, Senate Republicans are now split into three major factions: the leadership; hard-line conservatives; and a bloc led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Some previous examples:
  • "Feuding among congressional Republicans threatens to derail two of their legislative priorities and may damage the party's chances of retaining control of the U.S. Congress in the November midterm elections.The once-united Republicans were unable last week to come to an agreement on legislation overhauling the U.S. pensions system, and House leaders said they would continue to hold public hearings to criticize the immigration measure approved by the Republican-led Senate." (Bloomberg News, July 31, 2006)
  • "Bush's lurch to the right has opened up chasms in the previously united Republican party. Moderates are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism. Central to this group is Arizona Senator John McCain, a Vietnam war hero and rival to Bush for the 2000 presidential nomination." (The Observer, June 5, 2004).
  • ONCE-UNITED REPUBLICANS NOW DIVIDED -- A FIZZLED REVOLUTION. A FALTERING LEADER. ONE CONGRESSMAN SAYS SOME SEEM ``SHELL-SHOCKED.' "For a group known for its discipline and togetherness, congressional Republicans have been doing a lot of public feuding lately.The bickering has gotten so noticeable that they're starting to remind people of the Democrats - when they controlled Congress." (Philadelphia Inquirer, March 23, 1997)
  • "Even if Robertson lacks enough support to win the nomination, his movement is deepening divisions in Republican ranks - divisions that threaten to splinter the Reagan coalition, the key to Republican power since 1981." (New York Times, October 25, 1987)
  • "The once united Republican ranks have splintered over the President's insistence on tax increases a scant year after tax reductions." (New York Times, August 20, 1982)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Health Rebates

AP reports:
Another year, another round of exaggeration from President Barack Obama and his administration about health insurance rebates.
In his speech defending his health care law Thursday, Obama said rebates averaging $100 are coming from insurance companies to 8.5 million Americans. In fact, most of the money is going straight to employers who provide health insurance, not to their workers, who benefit indirectly.
Obama danced around that reality in remarks that also blamed problems in establishing affordable insurance markets on political opponents, glossing over complex obstacles also faced in states that support the law.

On Fox Business, Robert Moffit of the Center for Policy Innovation and Jonathan Collegio of American Crossroads provide critical perspectives:

Red State Blues

Democrats' red state blues are a big deal considering Democrats have to defend seven seats more Republican than the nation as a whole, while Republicans only have to beat back a Democratic challenge in one state won by President Obama. Seven minus one equals the six seats the Republicans need for control.
Yet, I would argue that 2014 recruitment failures are as much about the current state of each party's coalitions than anything particular to this election cycle. There are now more states that lean Republican than lean Democratic. Twenty-six states are more Republican than the nation as a whole. Only 23 states are more Democratic. Virginia votes with the nation. Translating that to Senate seats, we'd expect something like a 53 to 47 Republican advantage on presidential vote alone.
Just twenty years ago, this Republican state edge might not have been so big of a deal. In 1993, 49% of the Senate Democratic caucus came from red states, and 28% of the Republican caucus came from blue states.
Now though, straight-ticket voting is becoming the rule for senate elections. Only 25% of the Democratic Senate caucus comes from red states, while 16% of Republicans come from blue states. The 25% and 16% listed above should fall even further as Republicans bump up their numbers with red staters in 2014, while the Democratic caucus will become more limited to blue staters.
These statistics explain why Democrats are having such recruitment problems in red states in 2014, and why they should for years going forward. People don't want to run in races they'll probably lose.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crossroads GPS v. "ObamaCareNado"

Talking Points Memo reports:
The Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS released a web video Thursday entitled "ObamaCareNado," bashing the Affordable Care Act as an ode to the Syfy channel hit B-movie 'Sharknado.'

"Obamacare. Tornado. ObamaCareNado," an ominous sounding narrator says in the video, with images of President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) projected on several tornadoes. "Just when you thought it was safe to go to the doctor...a rising tide of healthcare costs...nobody's safe from its wrath."


Liz Cheney Runs for Senate

Liz Cheney is running in the Wyoming GOP Senate primary against Mike Enzi.

At The Huffington Post, Luke Johnson reports on her first press conference.  She found a way to flip the "Washington insiders v. Wyomingites" issue:
Cheney's father is still widely admired in his home state, yet some Republicans already are lining up behind Enzi. They include Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and the state's lone U.S. representative, Cynthia Lummis, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee led by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
Cheney downplayed her opposition from fellow Republicans.
"I am really going to work hard for the votes of the people of Wyoming. I think that the people of Wyoming are pretty smart about these things," she said by phone after the news conference.
"When you hear things like the NRSC is behind Sen. Enzi, I think that frankly a lot of the response of the people of Wyoming is: `We're going to decide this. Nobody from outside the state is going to tell us how to vote.'"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

America Rising is...Rising

The former high command of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign plans to gather in Washington next week to boost the new GOP super PAC America Rising, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO.
The July 23 event is advertised as a “Happy Hour with Matt Rhoades and Team Romney (‘08 and ‘12) to celebrate the launch of America Rising PAC.”
Rhoades, the former Republican National Committee research director who managed Romney’s 2012 race, is one of the primary founders of America Rising.
The group was launched earlier this year as a Republican counterpart to American Bridge, the Democratic outside group that gathered opposition research and tracking footage on Republicans throughout the last election cycle.
Mother Jones reports:
The biggest anti-Hillary money-grabber is America Rising, a Republican super-PAC created to research and track Democratic candidates on a year-round basis. Run by Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, America Rising planted its anti-Hillary flag last month with the creation of, a website dedicated to raising cash for America Rising.
For $5, online donors get a Stop Hillary 2016 bumper sticker—before there is anything to stop. And this past week, America Rising hosted a "Stop Hillary"-themed fundraiser in Manhattan. "The Clinton machine is extremely powerful, and we have seen it in action time and time again," Rhoades wrote in an email to supporters. "We need to stop it before it is too late."
The group has yet to file any reports on how much it's spent or raised.
Tim Miller, a spokesman for America Rising, would not say how much money the Manhattan event brought in, but he adds, "Absolutely we will continue with Stop Hillary efforts." He says it's never too early to start fundraising to fund opposition research efforts for 2016. "One of the biggest lessons learned from 2012 is that President Obama gained an advantage from having a head start on the GOP competition, and we need to remedy that in 2016," Miller says.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Parties Switch Sides on the Filibuster

At The Washington Post, Scott Clement provides more evidence that where you stand depends on where you sit.
In 2005, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found 64 percent of Democrats preferring to “keep” the filibuster rule for judicial appointments, while only 20 percent wanted to “eliminate” it. Republicans took the opposite view – wanting to end the filibuster – by a similar margin. The survey question described the main arguments of political leaders at the time: Republicans want to eliminate the filibuster saying it’s unfair for a minority to block a full Senate vote while Democrats want to retain it so the minority can block judges it strongly opposes.

May 2005 Washington Post-ABC News poll

Monday, July 15, 2013

Silver on Senate Control

In the wake of Montana, Nate Silver appraises GOP chances of winning the Senate in 2014:
A race-by-race analysis of the Senate, in fact, suggests that Republicans might now be close to even-money to win control of the chamber after next year’s elections. Our best guess, after assigning probabilities of the likelihood of a G.O.P. pickup in each state, is that Republicans will end up with somewhere between 50 and 51 Senate seats after 2014, putting them right on the threshold of a majority.
In a strong Republican year, the G.O.P. could win all of the tossup and “lean Democratic” seats and pick up one of the “likely Democratic” seats like New Hampshire, which would give them a net gain of nine seats and leave them with a 55-45 majority in the chamber. In a strong Democratic year, the party could lose only West Virginia and South Dakota – and pick up New Jersey and one of Kentucky and Georgia – and hold their current 54-46 edge. It is therefore important to watch macro-level indicators – especially Mr. Obama’s approval ratings, the generic Congressional ballot and major economic measures – in addition to following the recruitment and polling in individual states.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Abortion and Party Politics

With no immediate hope of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion, Republicans around the country are increasingly pushing legislation to restrict the procedure, and Democrats say they'll make the GOP pay in coming elections.
From statehouses to Congress, Republicans have advanced a range of ideas: banning nearly all abortions beyond the 20th week after conception; making abortion clinics follow regulations for surgical care; mandating that clinic physicians have admitting privileges at local hospitals; requiring women to get ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.
But Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say Republicans already have overreached — the noticeable uptick in restrictions began with GOP gains in 2010 elections, before Gosnell's prosecution began — and that moderate voters have other priorities.
Polls on abortion have long suggested nuanced divisions in public opinion. In a May Gallup poll, 26 percent of Americans said the procedure always should be legal; 20 percent said outlaw it in all cases. Fifty-two percent, meanwhile, said it should legal under some circumstances, implying acceptance of legal restrictions. Yet fewer — 42 percent — feel it's morally defensible to end a pregnancy, while 49 percent said it's morally wrong.
One does not have to rely on implications from broad questions:  there are survey data on the specific restrictions that lawmakers are considering.  These restrictions enjoy wide support.  As recent posts have indicated, polls by National Journal and the Huffington Post  show that either plurality or majority of Americans support banning abortions after the 20th week. (A number of European countries have more stringent waiting periods.)  A 2011 Gallup poll asked about other restrictions:
U.S. Support for Specific Abortion Restrictions -- by Gender, Party ID, July 2011

Note that women are slightly more likely than men to support waiting periods, parental consent, informed consent, and mandatory ultrasound.

Granted, Republicans such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock have managed to botch the issue, but the notion that it automatically helps Democrats is inconsistent with the public opinion data.  In this case, pro-choice Democrats resemble Republicans who ignored the consensus of the 2012 polls and thought that Mitt Romney was sure to win.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Schweitzer and the Senate Majority

Politico reports:
Former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s surprise announcement Saturday that he won’t run for Senate in Montana imperils Democrats’ chances of holding the seat and could further narrow an ever-shrinking 2014 Senate map.
Already, Republicans are favored to win two seats left vacant by Democratic retirements — in West Virginia and South Dakota — and the Schweitzer move will make it much easier for the GOP to win in Montana.
That means the battle for the majority will likely be fought in a handful of red states with Democratic incumbents, including North Carolina, Arkansas and Alaska.

Schweitzer roiled the Senate landscape when he told the Associated Press Saturday that he wants to stay in Montana rather than move to Washington, D.C. But his potential candidacy was also raising red flags within the party: After weeks of courting the 57-year-old Schweitzer, Democratic leaders reversed course in recent days.
Scrutinizing Schweitzer’s past, they concluded there was too much ammunition for Republicans to use against him in the campaign to replace the retiring veteran Democrat Max Baucus, according to a source familiar with the thinking of those leaders.
Polls had shown the gregarious and folksy ex-governor as a favorite in the race, given his popularity after two terms in office. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had said as recently as Wednesday there would be “tremendous support” for Schweitzer if he decided to run.
Schweitzer had been hit with a series of damaging stories about his ties to “secret money” and a nonprofit group run by former aides. But sources said the laundry list of opposition research went much deeper — and could have crippled a Schweitzer campaign for Senate. Moreover, there was fear that Schweitzer’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks would hurt his ability to respond effectively to the barrage of GOP attacks.
For an example, see the clip from America Rising:

New Poll on Abortion

Opponents of restrictions on late-term abortion think that public opinion is on their side.  It isn't. At The Huffington Post, Emily Swanson and Mark Blumenthal write:
Most Americans would favor sweeping new national restrictions on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But the poll also shows many Americans remain conflicted in their views on abortion.
By a margin of 59 percent to 30 percent, respondents to the new poll said they would favor a federal law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A recent United Technologies/National Journal poll found Americans divided over the possible ban, with a narrower plurality of 48 percent to 44 percent supporting it.
Respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll were split in their views on whether abortion should usually be legal or illegal, with a large number falling somewhere in the middle -- a finding consistent with other surveys. Nineteen percent said they think abortion should always be legal, while 27 percent said it should be generally legal, but with some restrictions. Another 17 percent said that abortion should always be illegal, while 30 percent said it should be generally illegal, except in special circumstances.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Immigration and House Republicans

PPP poll, touted by Politico, finds that “voters in seven GOP-held congressional districts would be less likely to vote for their current representative if he doesn’t support immigration reform.”
Seven isn’t many, and at least some of the seven congressmen are already backing amnesty-style reform.
But there are at least two problems with the PPP finding. First, as Mickey Kaus shows, the wording of the survey questions is badly slanted. For example, the lead-off question is:

There is bipartisan immigration reform legislation being debated in Washington. The bill would secure our borders, block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and make sure that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with no criminal record register for legal status. If a long list of requirements is met over more than a decade, it provides eligibility for a path to citizenship. Would you support or oppose this proposal?
Like Kaus, I find it “amazing. . .that 28% of the voters were ornery enough to oppose this fabulous collection of prospective achievements.”
Second, one the seven “endangered” Republicans — the only one whose district we’re familiar with — happens to be John [Hinderacker]’s congressman, Rep. John Kline. (The others are Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Gary Miller, of California, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Joe Heck of Nevada and Mike Grimm of New York).
But John tells me that “the idea that there is some kind of mania for amnesty or greatly increased low-skill immigration in my district is absurd.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013


What he says:

What he means:

Obamacare Delay

The Hill reports:
Republicans are launching a new offensive against President Obama’s healthcare law, hoping flaws in the implementation will help undermine public confidence in the Democrats who passed it.
Republicans’ anti-ObamaCare sentiments have ratcheted up to a fever pitch since the administration announced last week that it would delay a provision of the healthcare law requiring large employers to offer healthcare coverage to their workers or pay a penalty.

“The law is unraveling, and one of the threads to that was the delay,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said at a news conference Wednesday.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have quickly put together a slew of hearings, press events and other messaging opportunities to beat up on the healthcare law. And GOP campaign committees have launched fresh attacks on vulnerable Democrats who supported the reforms.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee targeted eight senators over ObamaCare on Wednesday, including Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
“Now that Democrats admit what a disaster ObamaCare is to implement, Begich is running as fast as he can from the taxes, mandates, and fees imposed by his deciding vote,” the NRSC said in a release.
The administration’s decision to delay the law’s employer mandate handed Republicans a hook to focus on attacking the Affordable Care Act, an issue they believe will work to their favor in 2014, just as it did in 2010.
John Fund writes at National Review Online:
Ultimately, the greatest damage from delaying the employer mandate may come in the way it solidifies House Republican doubts about the immigration bill. Representative Phil Roe (R., Tenn.), chairman of an Education and Workforce subcommittee, says that he doubts the administration can be trusted to enforce the will of Congress when it comes to border security or any other part of the immigration bill. “They have shown no respect for traditional Constitutional separation of powers, and that makes it difficult to pass laws where the fear is that they will simply ignore the parts they don’t like,” he tells me. The Obama administration has not hesitated to simply ignore the clear language of Obamacare. Why wouldn’t it disregard the immigration bill in the same way? In addition, the Gang of Eight bill is stuffed with instances of discretion – in other words, opportunities for administrative meddling. It includes 222 mentions of the word “may” and 153 uses of “waive.” That’s an awful lot of discretion to hand to an administration that is expert at interpreting laws creatively to suit whatever political advantage it desires.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Class and Immigration

Ross Douthat writes of the argument -- made recently by Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol -- that the Senate immigration bill will not advance the GOP's more pressing political interest, appealing to younger and downscale voters.
This is also the point suggested by the recent argument, marshaled by Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics and amplified by others, that it makes as much sense to see the G.O.P.’s 2012 defeat as a reflection of the party’s failure to woo Perot-ish, downscale, disaffected white voters as it does to just pin Romney’s defeat on demographic changes and anti-anti-immigration backlash. Liberals have portrayed this thesis as an argument that the Republicans should just double down on their existing, largely white base, but that’s not the sensible implication of what Trende is saying. Rather, it’s that many of his “missing white voters” are the lowest-hanging fruit for a party trying to rebuild itself, and that the kind of populist arguments that resonate with that constituency might actually offer the Republicans a better chance with minority voters in the longer run as well.
Now of course there are ways to mix and match these points. One could invoke the Trende thesis, as some talk radio figures have done, to justify basically standing pat ideologically on both immigration reform and economic policy writ large. It’s not a very plausible argument, but it’s one that some conservatives will obviously find appealing. Alternatively, and somewhat more plausibly, one could take the approach of many Bush administration veterans and argue for immigration reform as a necessary signal to Hispanics that requires follow-up on other fronts, and that makes sense as part of a larger, multi-issue shift intended to improve the G.O.P.’s standing with the pan-ethnic working class.
But much of the energy in the immigration fight comes from factions within the Republican tent that regard the Rubio-Schumer bill as a brilliant-and-easy way to avoid any kind of broader rethinking on economics, and that are pressing immigration reform on their co-partisans as the only conceivable alternative to swift political extinction. This is the argument Lowry and Kristol are mostly pushing back against: No, they’re saying, there are other paths the party could take. And they’re right.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Perry Redux?

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014, leaving open the possibility of another presidential run in 2016.  Jay Root writes at The Texas Tribune:
Perry was at the top of his game as governor when he decided to throw himself into the 2012 presidential race. He entered the contest in August 2011, quickly raised millions and immediately shot to the top of the polls. But soon a series of missteps and gaffes began to drag down his once promising candidacy.

Then on Nov. 9, 2011, during a nationally televised debate in Michigan, Perry entered the political blooper hall of fame when he couldn’t remember the third of three federal departments he wanted to shut down if elected president.

“I would do away with the Education, the, uh, Commerce, and, let's see," Perry said toward the end of 53 seconds of campaign horror. “I can't. The third one I can't. Sorry. Oops.” (For the record, it was the Department of Energy.)
The embarrassment came as Perry’s campaign was struggling to revive a candidacy that had already become the stuff of late-night comedy routines. After the oops moment, he never recovered. Perry came in fifth in first-test Iowa, did not compete in New Hampshire and then withdrew before the South Carolina GOP primary — a southern state that had held promise for him — in January of last year.
Perry, who jumped into the race with almost no advance preparation, later pointed to his sudden entry in the contest and the health fallout from his July 2011 back surgery as major reasons why his candidacy faltered.

He’ll have a lot more time to prepare if he runs again as many expect, and analysts see a tough but not impossible road ahead for Perry should he get into the 2016 race.

Jim Henson, a Tribune pollster and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said Perry has already made a first impression, and what voters saw was a gaffe-prone, shoot-from-the-hip Texan. Now the first order of business is dialing that back.

“The first task is not to establish an image, it’s to reset one,” Henson said. “That presents difficult, if not insurmountable problems.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Jindal Falling

At The New Republic, Marin Cogan writes of the relationship of David Vitter and Bobby Jindal:
What makes their rivalry particularly noteworthy is that Vitter—who has been the butt of many more and much better jokes than Jindal’s—may now be more popular and influential in the Louisiana Republican Party. This doesn’t just testify to Vitter’s underrated political skills; it also pulls back the curtain on Jindal’s overrated ones. While Jindal was traveling the country, giving speeches on fixing the Republican Party and stoking presidential and vice presidential speculation, Vitter, who once seemed so isolated and politically vulnerable, was quietly and carefully courting influence in the state GOP.
Now, it’s Jindal who is isolated and vulnerable. His approval rating has plummeted after voters revolted against his handling of the state’s budget crisis. Other Republicans in Louisiana describe a governor so cut off from his party that he and his team operate “like a cult.”
Making matters worse, Jindal is term-limited as governor in 2015—and Vitter could be the candidate to replace him. If Jindal’s off-putting style has driven Louisiana Republicans into the arms of a man more famous for his personal peccadilloes than his legislative record, then just imagine what he’ll do for Marco Rubio or Chris Christie as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bipartisan Incompetence

In After Hope and Change, we explain that expectations for President Obama were very high when he took office in 2009.  In particular, many Americans in both parties hoped that he would mark a fundamental change from the administration of George W. Bush.  But in a number of ways (e.g., political insiderism, NSA surveillance), he has continued in the ways of the previous administration.  At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green notes another unfortunate similarity:
Who says that the bipartisan spirit is dead? Just last week, Pew Research listed incompetent as the word most frequently associated with President George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama. A day later, the administration announced that it was putting Obamacare’s much-vaunted employer mandate on hold for a year, until January 1, 2015, even as television cameras steadily streamed pictures from Cairo of the lethal tumult once known as the Arab Spring.
Obama barely talks to the Democrats and is incapable of communicating with congressional Republicans (for his part, House Speaker John Boehner can’t corral his caucus). But beyond the mechanics of legislation, Obama appears to be over his head. Winning the hearts of the Democratic donor base is one thing, but imposing America’s will on foreign governments, gaining Vladimir Putin’s respect, or mastering the implementation of signature legislation are different challenges, and right now Obama seems lacking.
Also note errors in political stagecraft, where the president has often been more effective. As the Egyptian crisis began, the news media reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was boating in Nantucket.  The State Department denied the report but had to backtrack in the face of photographic evidence.  Organizing for Action compounded the error by cheerily tweeting an old photo of the president in a kayak -- not the image that a president wants to convey as a key nation verges on civil war. George W. Bush suffered great political damage from a photo showing him strumming a guitar during Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Sean Trende pushes back against the notion that long-term demographic trends favor Democrats:
At the end of the day, I remember the aftermath of the 2004 elections, when almost everyone was convinced that Democrats had to reach out to white “values voters” to win elections. God, guns, and gays were killing the Democrats, so the argument went, as was opposition to the Iraq War. Howard Dean was urging the party to send staffers to Mississippi and to learn to talk with voters who had Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks. Demographic analysts were trumpeting the fact that Republicans had won 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties, and claimed that Democrats were in danger of becoming a regional party, concentrated on the coasts, if they didn’t quickly moderate their appeal.

How quickly things change. Democrats did focus on improving their vote share with working-class whites to some extent in 2006, with positive results. But the approach was largely abandoned in 2008 in favor of targeting the “coalition of the ascendant” we hear so much about today. The conventional wisdom about what Democrats had to do was completely, utterly wrong.

The thing is, it was wrong not because of its particulars. It was wrong in a more general sense: Parties always have an almost infinite number of coalitions they can target their pitch to and emerge successfully from elections if the overall environment is favorable to them. That hasn’t changed in the past 100 years, much less since 2004. Put differently, if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee in 2008, she probably would have done somewhat worse with young voters and African-Americans, but probably would have done better in Appalachia. Gordon Smith of Oregon might still be a senator, but Mitch McConnell might not be. As I’ve said here since 2009, there are no permanent majorities, because every action in politics tends to create an opposite one.

I suspect the current conventional wisdom will last only until the Republicans next encounter a favorable national environment, and win an election. (There actually hasn’t been an unambiguously favorable environment for them in a presidential year since 1988, so they’re due.) At that point, the conventional wisdom will likely shift, reflecting a belief that Democrats must undertake some major changes in their coalition if they are going to ever win another election. But that conventional wisdom will be badly flawed, just as the present conventional wisdom is badly flawed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Even the Good News Is Bad

At the end of a lousy week for the White HousePolitico reports:
Welcome to the good-news-could-be-bad-news economy.

Friday’s Labor Department report showing a better-than-expected gain of 195,000 jobs in June was a heartening sign for many that the economic recovery continues to move ahead at a modest pace. But it could ultimately turn out to be bad news, especially for Democrats, because it means that the Federal Reserve might start winding down its extraordinary efforts to boost the economy later this year.

And if the Fed takes the juice away too soon it could tank the stock market, crush housing prices, snuff out the four-year-old economic recovery, and make life exceedingly difficult for any Democrat who hopes to run in 2016 for what will essentially be President Barack Obama’s third-term.

“This jobs report is a data-point that will get people wondering if the Fed will really start pulling back as soon as September, as many people are expecting,” said Nigel Gault co-chief economist at the Parthenon Group. “And it certainly raises the stakes for the next for the next three jobs reports.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"A Crisis of Competence"

After Hope and Change continues to sound like a prescient title. At National Journal, Josh Kraushaar writes:
.The administration is facing a crisis of competence. At a time when trust in government is already at an all-time low, the events of this past week illustrate the limits of this president's power. The White House seems more comfortable stage-managing the news than dealing with the uncomfortable crises that inevitably crop up. (If there's anything to learn from the Benghazi crisis, it was the administration's attentiveness to detail in how to avoid blame in the aftermath of the crisis but a lack of focus in how to react as the crisis was occurring.)
The other worrying sign, is that politics is getting in the way of smart policymaking. Wary of the last war in the Middle East, Americans don't want the United States to intervene in Syria. The White House, heeding the polls, gladly obliged, even figuring out ways to forestall proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people—the red line that the president famously set. Obama doesn't want to say anything to take sides between the Egyptian president he backed and the growing throngs of protesters, and then take ownership in a crisis that's showing no signs of abating. Politically speaking, it's a lose-lose situation.
On health care, with the 2014 midterms approaching and control of the Senate in play, the administration decided to buy time by delaying the employer mandate until after the elections. Former HHS spokesman Nick Papas said the delay was "about minimizing paperwork, not politics." But it's awfully politically convenient to delay implementation of a law that's been growing more unpopular and whose implementation is shaping up to be a "train wreck," in the words of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat.
Obama's second-term legacy is shaping up to be more about avoiding crises than accomplishing big things. Salvage the core of a health care law, avoid worst-case scenarios in Egypt and Syria, and don't get in the way of his party's efforts to win Republican support for a landmark immigration reform plan. It's a far cry from the idealism of his second inaugural. But at this point, the president needs to simply show that he's paying attention to the fires burning around him.