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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Browns on the Ballot

If Jerry Brown runs for reelection in 2014, a member of the Brown family will have been on the California statewide ballot in 15 of the 18 midterm elections since 1946:
  1. 1946: Pat Brown, attorney general (lost)
  2. 1950: Pat Brown, attorney general (won)
  3. 1954: Pat Brown, attorney general (won)
  4. 1958: Pat Brown, governor (won)
  5. 1962: Pat Brown, governor (won)
  6. 1966: Pat Brown, governor (lost)
  7. 1970: Jerry Brown, secretary of state (won)
  8. 1974: Jerry Brown, governor (won)
  9. 1978: Jerry Brown, governor (won)
  10. 1982: Jerry Brown, US senator (lost)
  11. 1986:
  12. 1990: Kathleen Brown, treasurer (won)
  13. 1994: Kathleen Brown, governor (lost)
  14. 1998:
  15. 2002:
  16. 2006: Jerry Brown, attorney general (won)
  17. 2010: Jerry Brown, governor (won)
  18. 2014: Jerry Brown, governor

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Minimum Wage as an Issue

At The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Michael Shear report:
Democratic Party leaders, bruised by months of attacks on the new health care program, have found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014: an increase in the minimum wage.
The effort to take advantage of growing populism among voters in both parties is being coordinated by officials from the White House, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups.
In a series of strategy meetings and conference calls among them in recent weeks, they have focused on two levels: an effort to raise the federal minimum wage, which will be pushed by President Obama and congressional leaders, and a campaign to place state-level minimum wage proposals on the ballot in states with hotly contested congressional races.
With polls showing widespread support for an increase in the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage among both Republican and Democratic voters, top Democrats see not only a wedge issue that they hope will place Republican candidates in a difficult position, but also a tool with which to enlarge the electorate in a nonpresidential election, when turnout among minorities and youths typically drops off.
Of course, for the overall strategy to work for the Democrats they need Republicans to oppose an increase, and history suggests that is not a given.
At the meeting this month in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Mr. [Gene] Sperling, who was an adviser in President Bill Clinton’s White House, recalled that in the election year of 1996 Republican leaders decided that fighting a minimum-wage increase was not worth the political trouble and let a bill raising the rate pass after inserting some provisions helping small businesses. 
In 2012, only 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers made the minimum wage.  Even though voters express support for raising the minimum wage, its direct impact on the electorate is very small.  Health care, by contrast, does affect the electorate in a very direct way.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Governorships in 2014

Republicans picked up governorships in 2010.  Can they hold their gains in 2014? Thomas Beaumont writes at RealClearPolitics:
Democrats are counting on a backlash from voters upset over the policy shift to the political right. But they have struggled to field top-tier contenders in several key states, including some that President Barack Obama carried last year when he won re-election. Democrats attribute their candidate recruitment woes to the continuing popularity of Republican governors, despite disapproval of the congressional GOP after the federal government shutdown in October.

"While the federal party is suffering, it's much harder to pin that on candidates for statewide office," acknowledged Nathan Daschle, former director of the Democratic Governors Association.

Republicans control 29 of the nation's 50 governorships, including 20 of the 36 that will be on the ballot in 2014. GOP-controlled states include Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin, which together accounted for roughly half of Obama's 126-electoral vote margin over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

But in Nevada and New Mexico, Democrats have all but conceded that Republican Govs. Brian Sandoval and Susana Martinez will win re-election, even though both states have booming Hispanic populations that overwhelmingly went for Obama in 2012. In the Midwest, Democrats so far have fielded only little-known challengers to Govs. John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, despite large Democratic-leaning union constituencies upset over the anti-labor policies of all three governors.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Unified Government in the States

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz writes about unified party control of state government:
Today, 37 of the 50 states are under unified party control. Republicans hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the legislature in 23 states; Democrats have full control in 14 states. In 12 states, power is divided between Republicans and Democrats. (The other state, Nebraska, has a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature, although the governor is a Republican and the legislature is conservative.)

Justin Phillips, a political scientist at Columbia University who has written extensively about state government, said the degree of unified party control in the states is greater than at any time in more than half a century.

“This allows governors to behave very differently than they do under divided control,” Phillips said. Acknowledging that the parties long have had different philosophies about how to govern, he added: “The difference between what Democrats want and what Republicans want is growing. With unified party control, they don’t have to compromise.”

The National Governors Association once was an arena where governors of both parties came together to find consensus. But Ray Scheppach, who spent three decades as the organization’s executive director, said the governors’ partisan organizations — the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association — now dominate, producing a sea change in the way states are being governed.

“They used to be governors first and Democrats or Republicans second,” Scheppach said. “Now they’re Democrats and Republicans first and governors second. In my mind, that’s a huge change.”
Graph of Party Control by State:

Jim Brulte and the California GOP

At The Sacramento Bee, Peter Schrag writes of California Republican Party chair Jim Brulte:
Brulte seems to believe that the party’s problem is not so much its message as its failure to engage, to be heard in the countless communities and regions that it simply conceded to the Democrats. “There’s lots of places,” he said, “where we’re not making a sound.”

People don’t vote for a party, he told me, they vote for candidates. That’s classic California stuff: It’s not likely that you’d hear that from many pols in Boston or Chicago.

But it may be true of California’s anti-political politics. In any case, that seems the strategy: Develop a bench of Republicans in local office, mayors, city council members, county supervisors, one that includes more women, more Latinos, maybe a few gays and you have “farm team” of future candidates for higher office.

Brulte has numbers, and some names: 40 percent of local officials are women, he said, and many are Republicans. Then there’s Carl DeMaio, the openly gay San Diego “New Generation Republican” who’s running for the House in the 52nd District. There’s GROW-Elect, headed by former San Mateo supervisor, former Bush White House aide and former San Diego Chamber of Commerce President Ruben Barrales.

GROW-Elect’s aim is not outreach to Latinos but inclusion – to find promising candidates and get them elected at the local level. Like Brulte, Barrales says you can’t build a party from the top down – that’s failed – only from the bottom up.

Read more here:

Friday, December 27, 2013

GOP Ahead in Generic Ballot

CNN reports on a new CNN/ORC international survey
Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling. 
But the Democratic lead evaporated, and a CNN poll a month ago indicated the GOP holding a 49%-47% lead. The new survey, conducted in mid-December, indicates Republicans with a 49%-44% edge over the Democrats.
Democratic voters seem particularly unenthusiastic about voting, and that is likely to benefit the GOP. Thirty-six percent of Republicans say they're extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. That number drops to 22% among Democrats. 
Another GOP advantage is the President's standing with the public: 55% of registered voters say that they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes the President than one who supports him and four in 10 say they are likely to vote for a candidate who supports Obama.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Establishment Strikes Back

Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party's most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year.

GOP House leaders are taking steps to impose discipline on wavering committee chairmen and tea-party factions. Meanwhile, major donors and advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads are preparing an aggressive effort to groom and support more centrist Republican candidates for Congress in 2014's midterm elections.

At the same time, party leaders plan to push legislative proposals—including child tax credits and flextime for hourly workers—designed to build the party's appeal among working families.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce early next year plans to roll out an aggressive effort—expected to cost at least $50 million—to support establishment, business-friendly candidates in primaries and the general election, with an aim of trying to win a Republican Senate majority.

"Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates," said the business group's top political strategist, Scott Reed. "That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.".


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Alternatives to the Crossroads Groups

The New York Times reports on GOP outside groups arising as alternatives to the Crossroads groups.  After the disappointing 2012 results, some in the part developed a skepticism about the Crossroads brand.
Now Crossroads appears to be testing a new approach. The group has so far stayed out of Kentucky, for example, where Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, is facing both a Tea Party challenger in the primary and a strong Democratic opponent. Instead, Mr. McConnell is backed by a new group called Kentuckians for Strong Leadership. Although it is legally separate from Crossroads, most of its cash came from Crossroads donors, Mr. Law sits on its board, and the two organizations share a treasurer.

Crossroads has lobbied to help set up similar groups in races where its brand may be less appealing to voters or donors, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the conversations. But Mr. Rove has grown so controversial among some conservatives, the Republicans said, that candidates worry that donors will not contribute to a super PAC if it is connected to Crossroads.

In West Virginia, Mr. Law warned supporters of Representative Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who is a top prospect to win a Senate seat next year, that if they formed their own super PAC, Ms. Capito would not be able to count on significant support from Crossroads, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

But some new super PACs are choosing to work instead with a broader array of ad buyers and consultants. In private meetings with potential donors and clients, their strategists criticize Crossroads for what they call a “cookie-cutter” approach to advertisements and messaging.

Many of the upstarts are being organized by former aides and longtime supporters of the Republican candidates, who argue that they will be the best stewards of their former bosses’ political interests.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advice to Huck

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green says that Mike Huckabee's religious conservatism might help in the primaries but would be problematic in the general election.  He argues that Huckabee should instead pound economic populism:
Huckabee should deliver a jeremiad lambasting Washington for its role in fostering the housing collapse and the Great Recession. He should hammer home how the government precipitated economic calamity by juicing up the housing market, and turning housing policy into a taxpayer-funded vehicle for vote-buying. And Huckabee should not hesitate to use the recent words of federal judge Jed Rakoff, who was appointed by Bill Clinton to the federal bench to make his point.

In Rakoff’s telling, “in the year 2000, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo increased to 50 percent the percentage of low-income mortgages that the government-sponsored entities known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were required to purchase, helping to create the conditions that resulted in over half of all mortgages being subprime at the time the housing market began to collapse in 2007.” The judge leaves no doubt as to who is to blame.

Still, playing on resentments has its limits. Criticizing Natalie Portman for first becoming a mother and then a wife—as Huckabee did in 2011—is bad politics. According to the Pew Research Center, single mothers make up one in four households with children under 18; and, as Chris Cilizza of The Washington Post notes, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

So Huckabee needs to show some non-judgmental leg on modernity, and going after Portman is not the way to do it. Instead, he should also talk about launching a war on Alzheimer’s disease, as baby boomers now file through retirement. Just as FDR set in motion the March of Dimes to eradicate polio and Puritan minister Cotton Mather went after smallpox in early 18th-century Boston, Huckabee should make eliminating this malady a stated priority. If 2012 teaches the Republicans anything, it is that simply bashing Obamacare is not enough to get you to the White House.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A New Low for Obamacare

CNN reports:
Support for the country's new health care law has dropped to a record low, according to a new national poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that most Americans predict that the Affordable Care Act will actually result in higher prices for their own medical care.
CNN/ORC International survey full results
Only 35% of those questioned in the poll say they support the health care law, a 5-point drop in less than a month. Sixty-two percent say they oppose the law, up four points from November.
Nearly all of the newfound opposition is coming from women.
"Opposition to Obamacare rose six points among women, from 54% in November to 60% now, while opinion of the new law remained virtually unchanged among men," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "That's bad news for an administration that is reaching out to moms across the country in an effort to make Obamacare a success."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Huck 50-50 on 2016

At The Hill, Molly Hooper reports:
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) says there's a 50-percent chance he will run for president in 2016.

The 2008 GOP presidential contender told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace that "at this point it's 50/50" at this point that he would pursue a presidential bid.
Huckabee, who recently announced his intention to leave his nationally syndicated radio program, opted not to run for the White House in 2012.
The folksy politician explained that he "would never make this decision based on circumstances, it would be a decision of the heart."
"I've tried to be honest ... so when people ask me, are you open to the possibility? The honest answer is 'yes.' Does that mean I'm running? I don't honestly know," Huckabee said.
In a presidential race, Huckabee would have some important assets:
He also has some liabilities:
  • His outsiderism may make it hard for him to raise money from the affluent people who fund presidential campaigns.
  • His gubernatorial record -- especially on clemency -- will provide material for opposition researchers.
  • Though he is usually very fluent in media interviews, he has made a disturbing number of gaffes.
  • His background as an ordained minister may help in primaries but could trigger anti-evangelical prejudice in the general election.
  • Conversely, his eclectic stands on economic issues could help in the general election but have already triggered strong criticism from groups such as the Club for Growth.
  • What Ed Rollins reportedly told him in 2011 still applies. From Election 2012: The Battle Begins
"Mike, I've put all these things together for you, but you've got to do something for me—you've got to lose forty pounds,” Rollins said. “Look, I'm a fat man, you're a fat man, but I didn't write a book about how I lost a hundred pounds."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Schweitzer for President?

Chris Cillizza writes at The Washington Post:
Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer went to Iowa Wednesday night. And, as he has a knack for doing, he made news.
“I didn’t vote for that war, and I didn’t think it was a good idea,” Schweitzer said of Iraq. “George Bush got a bunch of Democrats to go to that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana.”
There’s, of course, only one Democrat who voted for “that war” who is thinking about running for president in 2016: Hillary Clinton. Schweitzer and everyone else in the audience — and the broader political world — knew who he meant. In case you missed that, he added this gem: “Gosh, we had Bush, Bush, Bush and Clinton, Clinton and now we’re talking about a Bush or a Clinton again and I think in America we’re always looking for leadership that takes us to the future and we’re not often looking in the rear view mirror for our leadership.”
There’s a very clear reason that Schweitzer targeted Clinton. He knows that no matter how big a frontrunner Clinton is in the 2016 race, there will always be a desire on the liberal left to get behind a candidate who isn’t part of the D.C. political establishment. If that candidate isn’t Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — and she has given every indication it won’t be – then, Schweitzer figures, why shouldn’t it be him? (“Why not me” is a surprisingly common reason for running for offices.)
AP reports that he has not yet decided...
But he noted that his rural roots may appeal to Iowa voters: "If I did run for president, I'd be the first one who came to Iowa who could tell you how many kernels of corn to plant per acre."

Visits to Iowa from Democrats eyeing the presidential race have been sparse this year, with many hopefuls watching to see whether Hillary Clinton decides to run. The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state would be the leading contender for the Democratic nomination.

But Iowa Democrats said that even if Clinton runs, voters will want to consider their options, possibly providing an opening for someone like Schweitzer, who has little name recognition in the state.

"Secretary Clinton is obviously very popular among Iowa Democrats. But at the same time, Iowa Democrats I can't imagine are looking for a coronation," Democratic political consultant Jeff Link said.
The Des Moines Register offers a reality check:
 But most Iowans don’t know who the heck Schweitzer is. A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll published Sunday shows 68 percent of Iowa adults of all political leanings and 70 percent of Iowa Democrats don’t know enough about Schweitzer to form an opinion.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jerry Brown for President?

The Huffington Post reports:
Supporters of California Gov. Jerry Brown are pushing him to make a 2016 presidential bid. And though Brown hasn't confirmed the rumors, he hasn't explicitly denied them either.
When asked by The Huffington Post, Brown did not have a comment on the presidential rumors, but a representative did reference a statement he made at the California Chamber of Commerce host breakfast in May, during which Brown said "time is kind of running out on that." And polls show Brown could enjoy an easy reelection for governor in 2014.
But some argue that Brown's actions -- particularly his recent fundraising efforts -- suggest otherwise.
“Every move he’s making is the move of a presidential candidate,” said Ralph Nader, a five-time presidential candidate himself, to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s almost a blueprint.”
As KCAL9′s Dave Bryan noted, many political analysts believe a presidential run for Brown would be both unlikely and unsuccessful. But it's also not an impossibility.
"You call late December the holiday season; in the political world we call it the crazy season," he said. "That doesn't mean it can't happen."
Reasons he won't do it:

Reason he might do it:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Even the Uninsured Dislike Obamacare

You know that the Affordable Care Act is in trouble when it faces opposition even from the uninsured.  The New York Times reports:
Americans who lack medical coverage disapprove of President Obama’s health care law at roughly the same rate as the insured, even though most say they struggle to pay for basic care, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Fifty-three percent of the uninsured disapprove of the law, the poll found, compared with 51 percent of those who have health coverage. A third of the uninsured say the law will help them personally, but about the same number think it will hurt them, with cost a leading concern.

The widespread skepticism, even among people who are supposed to benefit from the law, underscores the political challenge facing the Obama administration as it tries to persuade millions of Americans to enroll in coverage through new online marketplaces, a crucial element of making the new law financially viable for insurers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FEC Dismisses Complaint Against Crossroads GPS

Politico reports:
The Federal Election Commission has closed a long-running investigation into the activities of Crossroads GPS — the nonprofit group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove.
According to a letter sent by the FEC to Crossroads GPS and provided on Tuesday to POLITICO, the election enforcement agency dismissed the complaint — which was filed in 2010 — because there were insufficient votes on the commission supporting allegations that Crossroads GPS violated campaign finance law.
The FEC said it would follow up with a statement to Crossroads GPS explaining its reasons for the closure of the complaint.
The initial complaint was filed against Crossroads GPS in 2010 by the watchdog groups Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections. It alleged that the 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization was actually operating as a political committee — like a PAC or super PAC instead of a tax-exempt nonprofit group. The complaint also claimed that Crossroads GPS should be forced to disclose its donors and list its expenditures — just like PACs, super PACs, campaigns and political parties.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Twitter Primary

At The Washington Examiner, Hugh Hewitt writes about the Twitter power of potential GOP presidential candidates.
We won't know until three years from now what percentage of Twitter followings as of Dec. 13 turned into actual campaign activists or contributors, but there is no reason not to think that the "Twitter followers" number doesn't mean something given the importance the MSM talking heads pay to their own running totals. These totals are at least a measure of the potential candidates' online efforts.
Here's the Twitterific facts on the Twitter primary as of that day. Where the potential candidate has more than one account, I used the higher number of the two (or three). I have also rounded to the thousand. Their relative rank in "Twitter power" follows their actual number of "followers."
Bolton: 108,000; 10
Bush: 101,000; 11
Christie: 420,000; 3
Cruz: 234,000; 6
Huckabee: 318,000; 5
Jindal: 143,000; 9
Kasich: 56,000; 13
King: 17,000; 16
Paul: 351,000; 4
Perry: 210,000; 8
Rubio: 475,000; 2
Ryan: 561,000; 1
Santorum: 222,000; 7
Snyder: 30,000; 14
Thune: 27,000; 15
Walker: 73,000; 12

Monday, December 16, 2013

Obamacare Problems Are Not Going Away

An AP-GfK poll finds that people with health insurance blame Obamcare for their increasing premiums and deductibles.
The poll found a striking level of unease about the law among people who have health insurance and aren't looking for government help. Those are the 85 percent of Americans who the White House says don't have to be worried about the president's historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured.
In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year - mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law's passage.

Sixty-nine percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say annual deductibles or copayments are increasing.

Only 21 percent of those with private coverage said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care, though coverage of preventive care at no charge to the patient has been required by the law for the past couple of years.

Fourteen percent said coverage for spouses is being restricted or eliminated, and 11 percent said their plan is being discontinued.
At The Wall Street Journal, economist Michael Boskin says that things will get worse:
The "sticker shock" that many buyers of new, ACA-compliant health plans have experienced—with premiums 30% higher, or more, than their previous coverage—has only begun. The costs borne by individuals will be even more obvious next year as more people start having to pay higher deductibles and copays.

If, as many predict, too few healthy young people sign up for insurance that is overpriced in order to subsidize older, sicker people, the insurance market will unravel in a "death spiral" of ever-higher premiums and fewer signups. The government, through taxpayer-funded "risk corridors," is on the hook for billions of dollars of potential insurance-company losses. This will be about as politically popular as bank bailouts.
The "I can't keep my doctor" shock will also hit more and more people in coming months. To keep prices to consumers as low as possible—given cost pressures generated by the government's rules, controls and coverage mandates—insurance companies in many cases are offering plans that have very restrictive networks, with lower-cost providers that exclude some of the best physicians and hospitals.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

House Seats: Advantage GOP

At The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman writes that the Democrats have lost the political edge that the shutdown gave them.
At the moment, the political environment appears to have come back down to earth. And, with the 2014 election back to looking more like a referendum on President Obama than House Republicans, we have updated our outlook to a GOP gain of zero to ten House seats.
The candidate most symbolic of the times is Democratic Omaha Councilman Pete Festersen, who entered the race against weak GOP Rep. Lee Terry (NE-02) in the midst of the shutdown but dropped out this week. This shouldn't come as a shock: every cycle has a "gut check" time when candidates reevaluate the climate or their own capabilities, and many candidates who come storming out of the gate in off-years find they can't sustain their momentum.
But for Democrats to have really built on their October progress, they would have needed 1) the promise of more Republican intransigence on continuing resolutions and debt ceilings, 2) more Republican retirements from marginal or semi-marginal districts, and 3) a raft of five to ten more "grade A" candidates in GOP-held districts. In the aftermath of the ACA's launch, none of the three have materialized.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Greenberg's Health Care Predictions

Alex Roarty reports at National Journal:
On Thursday, senior Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg told reporters that the Republican focus on hitting Democrats over Obamacare was a political "trap." Citing a new Democracy Corps poll he helped conduct, Greenberg said if Republican dwell on repealing the law while Democrats focus on fixing the economy, Democrats will come out on top.
In November 1993, Greenberg said:  "Health care will prove to be an enormously healthy project for Clinton, for labor and for the Democratic Party." (Ann Devroy and Dan Balz, "For President, Coalitions Are In Constant Flux," Washington Post, November 18, 1993)

In the 1994 midterm, Democrats lost control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Will Huck Run?

Mike Huckabee is considering a presidential run in 2016, reports Jonathan Martin at The New York Times:
Since his defeat in 2008, Mr. Huckabee, a pastor-turned governor, has made a living off his own eponymous show on Fox News, a talk radio program he just gave up and a steady schedule of paid speeches all over the country. He said he did not run for president in 2012 because he did not think President Barack Obama could be defeated, but he also acknowledged he has enjoyed earning a measure of financial comfort and celebrity through his show.
It is those two factors, along with the rise of super PACs that let a single wealthy individual sustain a candidate lacking a major financial network, that he says are making him look closely at a second presidential run.
But he also suggested that one of the reasons he granted an interview about his political future after addressing a gathering of pastors is that he is still bothered about how his first presidential run ended - and he wants the respect of somebody who performed better than more vaunted candidates and one who remains popular with many conservatives.
Discussing the potential Republican field in 2016, Mr. Huckabee said it would be “tough” for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to win such conservative redoubts as Iowa and South Carolina, two early nominating states.
“Let me show you some polling,” Mr. Huckabee said, brandishing a two-page memo about a survey his longtime pollster took earlier this month showing him leading the Republican field in both Iowa and South Carolina. He boasted that such good numbers came at a time when “nobody has even talked about me being named” as a candidate.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Barriers to Third Parties

At RealClearPolitics, Scott Conroy discusses the barriers to third parties, and focuses on the failure of Americans Elect.
When Americans Elect began its efforts, organizers believed that gaining ballot access in all 50 states would be their biggest challenge. As it turned out, the signature-gathering process, the parameters of which are unique to each state, was indeed as onerous and costly as they imagined it would be.
But in the end, the piece of the puzzle that the group initially assumed would fall into place relatively neatly -- attracting a candidate who could actually win the race -- proved the most unworkable element of the entire enterprise.
“We had the money and the people to achieve 50-state ballot access,” said Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd. “But of all the people we briefed on this idea who would’ve been credible candidates, to a person they all decided not to do it. And I guess that attests to their sanity because they knew that they were going to be in a brawl with the two parties, especially if they got serious and got some traction.”
The organization’s fizzle came four years after a similarly minded organization, Unity08, failed to gain much interest and also collapsed.
There is a key reason, it turns out, why the last viable third-party presidential candidate was Ross Perot in 1992: He was a self-starting billionaire. In other words, the candidate came first and the organization followed. And on the presidential level, it appears that’s the way it has to be.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Low Tea

Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal:
To the uninitiated, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas holds the resume of someone who could threaten Sen. John Cornyn. The two-time congressman's outspoken, off-the-cuff conservatism would, on paper, be the right pose for a challenger mounting an insurgent campaign against a deep-pocketed senator who's seen as too close to the establishment.
But dive a bit deeper, and Stockman's record is filled with obvious landmines that would scare away even the most committed tea-party allies. As a congressman in the 1990s, he accused the Clinton administration of staging the Waco raid to promote an assault-weapons ban. Stockman supposedly managed several businesses that may not even exist. He was once caught smuggling Valium wrapped in his underwear. He currently holds more campaign debt than money in his campaign account. Even the Club for Growth, which enjoys pestering the GOP establishment, declined to endorse his candidacy Tuesday, while praising Cornyn's conservative record.
Stockman may be an extreme example, but behind the tea-party wave that's challenged the supremacy of the Republican establishment is a slew of not-ready-for-primetime conservative Senate candidates. Outside groups, led by the Senate Conservatives Fund, have rallied behind numerous primary challengers, more focused on their principles than their ability to win. But like an undisciplined batter swinging at every pitch, the GOP has shown that there's little concerted strategy behind the opposition. Conservatives may boast a record number of candidates running against sitting Republican senators--seven of the 12 GOP senators up in 2014 are facing primary opponents--but their batting average could be embarrassingly low at the end.
Indeed, the Club for Growth has endorsed only one of the renegades, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, with no plans to get involved in any other Senate races.
Of the seven primary challenges, Republican strategists view the Mississippi Senate race as the only contest where the challenger has a serious shot at winning. In that race, McDaniel, known as the Jim DeMint of the Mississippi state Legislature, jumped in the race before Sen. Thad Cochran announced his reelection plans. After the Thanksgiving holiday, Cochran announced he's running for a seventh term, but he hasn't faced a serious challenge in decades. Conservative groups have commissioned polling in Mississippi, concluding that the senior appropriator is at risk of losing reelection.
Gallup reports:
For the first time, a slim majority of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement. About one-third view the movement favorably, a new low. A smaller percentage, 22%, in a separate question identify themselves as supporters of the movement, while 24% describe themselves as opponents. Nearly half (48%) are neutral.
The majority of Republicans, 58%, say they have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, with slightly more than one-quarter (28%) viewing it unfavorably. Democrats, on the other hand, are largely unfavorable toward the group, with 74% reporting an unfavorable view. Independents fall in between the two parties, but are more likely to view the movement unfavorably than favorably.
Though the Tea Party espouses conservative fiscal goals, self-identified conservatives, as a whole, are somewhat divided about the movement. A full third (34%) of conservatives have an unfavorable opinion of the group, while 48% are favorable.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Q Poll: GOP Up, Obama Down

A release from Quinnipiac:
President Barack Obama's job approval among American voters drops to a new low, a negative 38 - 57 percent, as the outlook for Democrats running for Congress and the U.S. Senate fades also, according to a national poll released today. He even gets a negative 41 - 49 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old and a lackluster 50 - 43 percent approval among Hispanic voters.

The president's job approval compares to a negative 39 - 54 percent score in a November 12 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Today, Obama gets negative scores of 6 - 92 percent among Republicans, 30 - 62 percent among independent voters, 31 - 64 percent among men, 44 - 49 percent among women and 29 - 65 among white voters. Approval is 76 - 18 percent among Democrats and 85 - 9 percent among black voters.

American voters say 41 - 38 percent that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year the Democrats come up on the short end of this generic ballot. Independent voters back Republican candidates 41 - 28 percent. Voters also say 47 - 42 percent that they would like to see Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and the House. Independent voters go Republican 50 - 35 percent for each.

"A rousing chorus of Bah! Humbug! for President Barack Obama as American voters head into the holidays with little charitable to say about the president," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Unions & GOP Primaries

Scott Bland reports at National Journal:
The Republican Main Street Partnership has emerged as an outspoken, deep-pocketed player in pro-business GOP plans to beat back tea party challengers next year. But the group's new super PAC has an unexpected source for its seed money: labor unions.
The super PAC, called Defending Main Street, has not yet submitted a major donor disclosure to the Federal Election Commission. But documents filed by other groups show that two labor organizations, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Laborers' International Union of North America, directed a combined $400,000 to the Republican group in September and October.
Main Street says it has raised roughly $2 million total between its super PAC and an affiliated non-profit group so far – and that means labor has supplied at least 20 percent of those funds.
For the unions, this is not a surprising move. While both labor groups direct most of their millions to Democrats, they have consistently given smaller amounts to friendly Republicans.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

GOP and Asian American Voting

Not long ago, the Republican National Committee did something out of the ordinary: The party issued a formal statement marking Diwali, an important Hindu holiday.
Diwali and the lighting of the Diya celebrate the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance," read the salutation from GOP headquarters in Washington, which bid good tidings to "our Hindu, Jain and Sikh friends" and ended with the traditional greeting "Saal Mubarak!"
It was a small step toward addressing a big concern.
After years of divided loyalties, Asian American voters have swung heavily behind the Democratic Party and its candidates, posing a serious threat to Republicans whose political base — older, whiter, more conservative — is shrinking by the day. (Although referred to as the Asian American community, "communities" might be a better word to reflect the diversity of groups tracing their roots from the Indian subcontinent to the Far East.)
The problem is every bit as acute as the GOP's widely chronicled difficulties with Latino voters. Though fewer in number, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population and a rapidly expanding part of the electorate, nationally and in battleground states such as Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.
In 1992, Republican George H.W. Bush won 55% of the Asian American vote against Democrat Bill Clinton. Last year, President Obama won 73% against Republican Mitt Romney, a better showing than the president's 71% support among Latinos, according to exit polls.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Outsiders v. Insiders

America has met the enemy, and it is Washington.

That was the message from a focus group of 11 Cincinnati-area voters, who issued a scathing and impassioned indictment Wednesday of Washington, D.C., and everyone in it -- from lawmakers to the president and, most strikingly, a political system that makes them feel powerless to change it.

"They're indicting the president, they're indicting Congress," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the two-hour session exclusively for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

"It is a sense that the system doesn't work, and they don't have an answer, but they know what they hate."

These voters -- who described themselves as independents who tend to lean one way or another -- assailed the distrust, gridlock, weak leadership and callousness from a government they said seemed indifferent to solving problems. And, they added, they felt "helpless" to punish the lawmakers responsible.

"We have a political class now," said Jerry Laub, a 54-year-old casino card dealer who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. "They're above us."
At Politico, Democratic consultant Doug Sosnik writes:
One biproduct of all of the anger toward the political class is the disapproval ratings of both political parties. The late October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed the Republican Party with a 22 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative one. Although Democrats are doing better, they are also underwater, with a 37 percent positive rating and a 40 percent negative one.
Due to recent Supreme Court rulings, power and money has flowed away from both parties. With this increasingly decentralized party structure, political entrepreneurs are increasing dominating the debate, making the parties less important in the political process.
There is clearly an opening for a third party in our country. While most of the focus is at the presidential level, there is a long-term opportunity to build this movement from the bottom up, state-by-state. This could take several years to grow, but as the country continues to move further and further away from the two-party system, this slower build is more likely to ultimately metastasize into an effective national movement. This third party will most likely be led by community-based leaders who are focused on getting things done to improve people’s lives rather than by professional politicians interested in their own agenda.
There are, of course, daunting barriers to third parties:  first-past-the-post elections, the electoral college, campaign finance rules, and (in California), an electoral process that effectively bars third parties from the general election ballot.
The ballot box has traditionally been the place where Americans’ voices their discontent. But the political system has built-in safeguards through reapportionment and redistricting that will limit the vulnerability of most incumbent elected officials. These lines will not be redrawn until the beginning of the next decade, forestalling the massive desire for change that is building in our country.
This all suggests that the period of turmoil and dissatisfaction that we have been experiencing for the past 10 years could well continue through the end of this decade. However, underneath this turmoil you can see the shape of an emerging populist movement that will, in time, either move the politicians to action or throw them out of office. The country is moving toward new types of leaders, those who will be problem-solvers and build institutions that are capable of making a difference in people’s lives.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Obamacare Troubles

At the rate the signups are going — even with the speedier, newly functioning Obamacare website — the administration has a vast distance to travel before the estimated 4 to 5 million people with canceled policies get new health coverage.

In fact, health care experts say, it’s not out of the question that the Obama administration could face the worst-case scenario on Jan. 1: the number of uninsured Americans actually goes up.

That’s a long shot, and there are plenty of reasons why it might not happen, since there are other ways those people could replace their health coverage, like signing up directly with insurers. Not all of the policies will expire in December. And even if the ranks of the uninsured did increase, it could be such a brief event that no one would ever be able to confirm it.
But even with all the variables, one thing is for certain: the Obama administration has one seriously long road to travel from the signups it has now to the number who will likely need to replace their coverage. That’s a bad place to be, given that the point of the law was to cover more people, not fewer people.
CNN reports:
Just because you've picked an Obamacare insurance policy doesn't mean you've got coverage.
If you want to be insured come Jan. 1, you have to pay your first month's premium by your insurer's due date, often Dec. 31.

Sounds simple enough, but federal officials and insurers are concerned that many consumers don't realize they have to take this last step and will remain uninsured. What's more, those who don't pay by then may have their Obamacare applications terminated, forcing them to re-enroll via for coverage that will begin later in 2014.
The tight deadline and continuing errors with consumers' applications being sent to insurers also risk leaving some folks uncovered. Obama administration officials are advising consumers to check with their insurer of choice to make sure it received their application and payment and that coverage will begin Jan. 1.

Politico also reports on state-level problems:
It’s a new twist in the unfolding saga of so-called 834 forms — industry jargon for the application files that insurers receive when someone signs up for coverage through an exchange.

Insurers in Kentucky and New York, for example, say they’ve received flawed 834 enrollment forms from their local exchanges, though the extent of the errors is unclear. Washington state has already had to correct thousands of 834s with faulty information about federal tax credits.
Several state exchanges waited until late last month to even start sending application data to insurers, meaning potential errors haven’t had much time to surface.
At the least, these issues run counter to the popular storyline: that states’ enrollment systems have vastly outperformed the Obama administration’s effort. At the worst, they could endanger coverage for thousands of people who think they’re already enrolled for the start of 2014.
Gallup reports:
After two months of glitches with the new federal healthcare website and attempts to fix it, the percentage of Americans who prefer that Congress scale back or entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or "Obamacare," has changed little. Fifty-two percent favor scaling back (20%) or repealing (32%) the law, similar to the 50% from mid-October.
At least half of Americans have said they would repeal or scale back the law each time Gallup has asked this question since January 2011.

The latest results are from a Gallup poll conducted Dec. 3-4, after a tumultuous two months for the Obama administration's healthcare website. Technical issues hamstrung potential buyers from purchasing health insurance through the website.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Obama Losing Hispanic Support

A recent IOP poll shows the president losing ground among Millennials.  Gallup reports that he is also dropping with another previously-supportive group:
President Barack Obama's job approval rating averaged 41% in November, down 12 percentage points from 53% last December, his high-water mark since his first year in office. Hispanics' approval has dropped 23 points over the last 12 months, the most among major subgroups, and nearly twice the national average. His approval rating also showed above-average declines among low-income Americans, nonwhites, moderates, and moderates who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.
Hispanics' approval ratings of Obama have shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency. That means their views of him are less firmly anchored than those of other groups, which may help explain why their opinions of the president soured more than any other group's in recent months. Despite the significant decline in their approval ratings over the past 12 months, a majority of Hispanics, 52%, still approve of the job Obama is doing.
All major subgroups showed at least some decline over the past year in their views of the way Obama is handling his job as president.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Chamber of Commerce Gears Up

At The Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib writes:
The opening for action, business leaders believe, has been shown by polling Mr. [Doug] Schoen has done for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks. At a time when the favorability rating of Congress lurks in the low teens, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's favorable rating is 71%—and 85% of voters have a favorable view of their local Chamber of Commerce, in Mr. Schoen's polling.
The polling also pointed toward one potentially significant mission for business groups: early voting. In 32 states, it's now possible to cast ballots before Election Day rolls around, and Democrats have jumped well ahead of Republicans in getting their voters to take advantage.
Mr. Schoen surveyed 2,000 early voters and found that 50% said a Democratic campaign helped facilitate their early vote, while just 35% said a GOP campaign had done so. Chamber officials now see an opening to use their financial and organizational network to drive early voting toward GOP candidates they prefer.
That finding is helping the Chamber plot its role in next year's congressional elections. On Tuesday it will launch a TV ad on behalf of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a tea-party primary challenger in his home state of Kentucky. "Our whole strategy this cycle is we're going to go local," says Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative who advises the Chamber. "We're going to run it like a sheriff's campaign."
The model was created in last month's runoff in Alabama's first congressional district to determine the GOP nominee to run for a vacant seat. It pitted Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former state senator, against tea-party favorite Dean Young. Business groups backed Mr. Byrne with money and organization, says William Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, and helped drive turnout higher than in the original primary. That sets up an almost-certain victory for Mr. Byrne—and his business backers—in the general election in two weeks.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fracking, Jerry Brown, and the Top Two Primary

Environmentalists are heckling California Governor Jerry Brown for not taking a tougher stance against fracking.

The protests will have no effect.  Brown -- who has championed environmental causes since the 1970s -- would never lose many votes over the issue.  If anything, the protests reinforce his image as a pragmatist.

What is more, the top-two primary eliminates a source of environmentalist leverage.  Under the old system, a Green Party candidate could siphon votes from the Democrats in the general election.  In a close race, this spoiler effect might even deny victory to a Democratic candidate -- as Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.   But now, only the top two candidates -- most likely Brown and an underdog Republican -- will be on the ballot in November.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Obamacare, Boratcare

At The Washington Post, Sarah Cliff reports on improvments in the Obamacare website:
Taking this all together, Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters that as of Dec. 1, "we're more in the zone of 80 percent of users being able to [sign up]."
As Ezra Klein and NPR's Julie Rovnerhave pointed out, it's difficult to verify this type of metric independently. "The zone of 80 percent" could stretch downward toward half of users having a successful experience, or upward, with nearly all shoppers getting through the enrollment process.
As noted earlier, the 80 percent standard is reminiscent of Borat's version of the Kazakhstan national anthem:  "Filtration system a marvel to behold. It remove 80 percent of human solid waste."