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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Democrats' Health Blues

Kaiser Health News reports:
Uninsured Americans — the people that the Affordable Care Act was designed to most aid — are increasingly critical of the law as its key provisions kick in, a poll released Thursday finds.
This month’s tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 47 percent of the uninsured said they hold unfavorable views of the law while 24 percent said they liked it. These negative views have increased since December, when 43 percent of the uninsured panned the law and 36 percent liked it. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)
The poll did not pinpoint clear reasons for this drop, which comes in the first month that people could start using insurance purchased through the online marketplaces that are at the heart of the law. It did point out that more than half of people without insurance said the law hasn’t made a difference to them or their families. In addition, the pollsters noted that almost half of people without coverage were unaware the law includes subsidies to offset premium costs for people of low and moderate incomes.
Among all Americans, the sentiment was also negative, with 50 percent holding unfavorable views of the law and 34 percent supporting it. Views on the law have not been even since the end of 2012. Despite this, just 38 percent of the public wants the law to be repealed.
Most Americans say they have not been personally affected by the law. However, 27 percent say they have had a negative experience, while 15 percent say they’ve had a positive one. People with negative views chalked it up most often to the high costs of health care and insurance.
At National Journal, Sam Baker reports on a Democratic congressional brain drain on health issues:
  • Edward Kennedy (chaired the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; died)
  • Chris Dodd (ran the HELP Committee while Kennedy was sick, retired)
  • Tom Harkin (chairs the HELP Committee now; retiring in 2014)
  • Max Baucus (chaired the Finance Committee during Obamacare markup; principal author of Obamacare; retired to be ambassador to China)
  • Jay Rockefeller (No. 2 on Finance Committee; advocate for Medicaid; retiring in 2014)
  • Pete Stark (senior member of Ways and Means Committee; career-long interest in health care; lost reelection in 2012)
  • George Miller (Pelosi lieutenant; chaired Education and Labor Committee during Obamacare markup; retiring in 2014)
  • Henry Waxman (chaired Energy and Commerce during Obamacare markup; long career in health issues; retiring in 2014)
  • Allyson Schwartz (active on Medicare and the health care delivery system; retiring to run for governor of Pennsylvania)
And while Democrats' ranks have diminished, Republicans' have swelled.
There are now 21 members of the House GOP Doctors' Caucus (not all of them are doctors, but they're all health care professionals), and some still practice. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who's challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu, still sees patients—many of them on Medicaid—when he's back in his district, a fact he has emphasized while attacking Landrieu for supporting Obamacare.
The exodus of experienced Democratic lawmakers also means a loss of experienced staffers, health care lobbyists noted. Some experienced health care aides cashed out after Obamacare passed, heading for lucrative lobbying and consulting jobs, and some of those who remained will likely follow suit next year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Waxman and the Class of 1974

In 1974, the Watergate scandal led to the election of a large class of House Democrats who pledged to reform the institution.  Henry Waxman (D-CA), a member of that class, announced his retirement today.  He and fellow Californian George Miller, who has also announced his retirement, are the last two "Watergate babies" in the House.

Waxman gained fame for his work as a committee chair, and therein lies an irony.

The class of 1974 sought to rein in committee chairs because the newcomers thought that the old bulls were obstacles to enacting a progressive agenda.  Years later, Newt Gingrich and his GOP allies learned from Democratic colleagues such as Waxman, and when they got the chance, they too empowered the leadership at the expense of the committees.

Thus the Democratic class of 1974 served as a role model for the GOP class of 1994.

The Republicans took it a step further by forbidding any GOP member from serving more than six years as a committee chair.  So because of the movement that Waxman helped launch, there won't be any more Waxmans anytime soon.

California Blues

At The Sacramento Bee, Christopher Cadelago reports that the California GOP may not even be able to field a full slate of credible statewide candidates in 2014.
In the last election alone, California Republicans surrendered supermajority control of the state Legislature, lost decisive congressional races and saw their voting ranks drop below 30 percent statewide.
“Their problem is that they don’t just lack a deep bench, their entire arena is empty,” said Jason Kinney, a Democratic political consultant. “California Republicans just don’t have anybody around who can move the needle. They’ve got to rebuild from the ground up, which is going to be a long-term play, and in the short term that’s going to hurt them.”
Ken Khachigian, a Republican strategist, said the 2010 clash between Harris and Cooley was an indicator of the GOP’s increasing challenges in statewide elections.
Harris, the district attorney of San Francisco, personally opposed the death penalty. Cooley, the district attorney of Los Angeles, supported the death penalty and challenged her commitment to enforce it. He also was a relatively well-known incumbent prosecutor in a county roughly 10 times the size of San Francisco.
“That was probably the canary in the coalmine that California is becoming so blue that it’s hard even for a high-name-ID Republican to win a race like that,” said Khachigian, who managed Dan Lungren’s successful run for attorney general in 1990 and Chuck Poochigian’s unsuccessful bid for the office in 2006.
The new voter-approved primary system, in which the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the fall runoff, may only exacerbate Republicans’ problems here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Senate Elections: Good Signs for Team Red

At National Journal, Beth Reihhard totes up signs that the Senate field is expanding in the GOP's favor:
-- Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman with an enviable fundraising network, announced he would challenge Democrat Mark Warner. Warner is popular and has $7 million in the bank. But Virginia is shaping up to be a true swing state and Gillespie doesn't have to worry about a competitive primary. On Monday, one possible rival dropped out and another declined to jump in.
-- Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land proved she could keep up with Peters' fundraising and put in $1.6 million of her own money to boot. Polls show a tight race. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will also be on the ballot. "Everyone is bullish about Michigan right now," said Republican strategist Rick Wiley.
-- Democrats are so worried about the possibility of former Sen. Scott Brown challenging New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that they ran a pre-emptive attack ad against him on television. The former Massachusetts senator moved into his vacation home in the Granite State last year.
"I think it will be a barn burner if he gets in," said Democratic pollster John Anzalone. "Boston is the dominant TV market in New Hampshire, so he is universally known. He has a national fundraising base at well."
-- In North Carolina, one of the bellwether Senate races, two automated polls this month show Sen. Kay Hagan trailing one Republican opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis. One of those surveys is from North Carolina-based Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling. The state backed both President Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Hagan has been a prolific fundraiser, but is a first-term senator who isn't particularly well-known throughout the state.
-- Americans for Prosperity, the conservative juggernaut bankrolled by the Koch family, broadened its televised attacks on Obamacare to two states carried by Obama -- Michigan and Iowa. The group has spent $22 million already this cycle. A tongue-in-cheek post by the Center for Public Integrity noticed that the subject lines of the fundraising e-mails from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have gotten increasingly hysterical, from "deep trouble" to "doomed" to "catastrophic."
-- Oregon Republican Monica Wehby announced she raised $500,000 last year. It's a solidly Democratic state, but she's a pediatric neurosurgeon who supports abortion rights and immigration reform. If she wins the GOP primary, she will face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Analysis of Unintentional Gerrymandering

At The New York Times, Jowie Chen and Jonathan Rodden ask whether the GOP owes its House majority to deliberate gerrymandering.
To examine this hypothesis, we adapted a computer algorithm that we recently introduced in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science. It allows us to draw thousands of alternative, nonpartisan redistricting plans and assess the partisan advantage built into each plan. First we created a large number of districting plans (as many as 1,000) for each of 49 states. Then we predicted the probability that a Democrat or Republican would win each simulated district based on the results of the 2008 presidential election and tallied the expected Republican seats associated with each simulated plan.
The results were not encouraging for reform advocates. In the vast majority of states, our nonpartisan simulations produced Republican seat shares that were not much different from the actual numbers in the last election. This was true even in some states, like Indiana and Missouri, with heavy Republican influence over redistricting. Both of these states were hotly contested and leaned only slightly Republican over all, but of the 17 seats between them, only four were won by Democrats (in St. Louis, Kansas City, Gary and Indianapolis). While some of our simulations generated an additional Democratic seat around St. Louis or Indianapolis, most of them did not, and in any case, a vanishingly small number of simulations gave Democrats a congressional seat share commensurate with their overall support in these states.
The problem for Democrats is that they have overwhelming majorities not only in the dense, poor urban centers, but also in isolated, far-flung college towns, historical mining areas and 19th-century manufacturing towns that are surrounded by and ultimately overwhelmed by rural Republicans

Monday, January 27, 2014

Six Reasons Why the State of the Union Won't Make a Damn Bit of Difference

Many pundits are speculating about the possible impact of the president's State of the Union Address.

Here are six reasons why it won't have one.

  1. Even the best of presidents in the best of times can seldom move public opinion with the "bully pulpit."
  2. It's not the best of times for President Obama:  more people disapprove than approve of his performance.
  3. Many Americans think that "you can keep it" was a deliberate lie.  People don't believe perceived liars.
  4. President Obama is in his second term, and second terms usually suck.
  5. Much of this year's agenda consists of stuff he could not do last year.  Leftovers get rancid.
  6. Last year's speech got low ratings.  And as with last year, there is plenty of other stuff on TV.

Trade, Inequality, and Politics

Here is one more illustration of the gap between the expectations of 2008 and the realities of the Obama Administration.  At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes that President Obama will seek Trade Promotion Authority.
Without Republican crossover votes TPA is as good as dead. On the Democratic side of the ledger antipathy towards free trade is presumed and, by now, historic. It is pretty much baked into the Democrats’ DNA. For instance, in 1993 President Clinton was forced to work in tandem with congressional Republicans to secure passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because a majority of congressional Democrats opposed its enactment.

Fast forward to the 2008 Democratic primaries, where Obama expressed his hostility to NAFTA because it favored Wall Street over Main Street—his words, not mine. In a debate held in the pivotal rust-belt swing state of Ohio and hosted by MSNBC, Obama announced that NAFTA “did not have the labor standards and environmental standards that were required in order to not just be good for Wall Street but also be good for Main Street.” For good measure, Obama added that, “I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about.”
Did Obama really believe what he was saying? Well, while the candidate was decrying NAFTA in front of the cameras, Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s senior economic policy adviser, was secretly offering verbal succor to Canadian diplomats. According to Joseph De Mora, a Canadian political and economic affairs consular officer, Goolsbee admitted that Obama’s stated position was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.”
Suffice to say, NAFTA hasn’t been renegotiated. Suffice to say, details of the now-pending trade deals were being hammered out with Obama in the White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton ensconced in Foggy Bottom.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Women, Huckabee, and Walker

In an interview with PostTV, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Republicans should avoid “taking the bait” on divisive social issues. The comments were in response to controversial remarks about birth control from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Walker said while part of Huckabee’s comments that referred to a “woman’s libido” were taken out of context, in general, Republicans would be better served by focusing on their economic messages.
Walker’s comments come the day after fellow Wisconsinite and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told the RNC’s winter meeting the GOP needs to be “very conscious of the tone and choice of words” when it communicates its policies.
In his remarks to the RNC, Huckabee encouraged Republicans to push back against the narrative that they are hostile to women and aggressively seek their votes - but it was how he delivered the message that caused a stir.
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," Huckabee said. "Let's take that discussion all across America."

More on GOP Rules Changes

James Hohmann writes at Politico that RNC has voted to compress the 2016 nomination calendar.
An end goal of the tweaks is scheduling the national convention between June 27 and July 18 – compared to the week of August 27 last time.
“If Mitt had been nominated on July 1 versus September 1, the chance of him being president would be exponentially higher,” said Ron Kaufman, a national committeeman from Massachusetts and a close Romney ally. “A lot of folks think we lost it in those two months when we had no primary dollars left.”
A candidate cannot spend money allotted for the general election or coordinate directly with the national party until he has officially secured the nomination. President Barack Obama’s campaign attacked Romney during the summer when the Republican had relatively limited ability to respond forcefully on the air.
Among the approved changes to streamline the selection of the next Republican nominee: Stiffer penalties for states that schedule primaries before March 1 to protect the four early voting states; a requirement that states award delegates proportionally, rather than on a winner-take-all basis, in the first half of March; and a rule that delegates be selected 45 days before the national convention, as opposed to the current 35 days, to encourage states such as Utah to meet earlier.
At the invaluable FrontloadingHQ, Josh Putnam offers an important caveat:
Regular FHQ readers will recall that I spent a great deal of time and space pushing back against the nature of change that the introduction of the proportionality rules caused before and during the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. John Sides and I even showed that it was the calendar changes and not the proportionality requirement that was the culprit -- if a rules-based change was to be blamed -- that drew the process out. And while many continue to harp on the "rebrand" the Republican Party has undertaken with regard to issues, most forget that one of the findings of the Growth and Opportunity Project was that impact of delegate allocation rules (ie: proportionality) is dynamics-dependent. In other words, every nomination race is different and the ways in which those delegate allocation rules affect the process are different because of it.
That said,  I think a number of analyses are overstating the changes the Republicans put in place this week. And much of it has to do with the supposedly new proportionality requirements. Hohmann mentions this "new" rule that allows a (proportional) state (before March 15) to award all of its delegates to any candidate that clears the 50% threshold statewide. Additionally, Ambinder hints at the 20% of the vote that states can now require candidates to hit in order to receive any delegates.
Both changes sound like they could have some impact on any race; 2016 or otherwise. But they aren't new. In fact, both thresholds are the exact same as they were in 2012. The only real change is that both have been officially added to the broader list of rules.[emphasis added] That wasn't the case in 2012 when the office of the RNC legal counsel provided a memo to states and other ne'er do wells about compliance with the new requirement. That memo was the guide for compliance.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Polling Tea Leaves for 2014

The tea leaves do not look great for Democrats, though there could be some turnover in primaries -- provided strong challengers emerge.

Peter Grier writes at The Christian Science Monitor:
A new Associated Press/GfK poll demonstrates his residual personal appeal. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said Mr. Obama is very or somewhat likeable. That’s an increase of nine percentage points since the end of the partial government shutdown in mid-October.
But there’s a cliché about where nice guys finish. Hint: It’s not first. That’s reflected in AP’s numbers, in that only 31 percent find Obama to be an outstanding or above average president. Forty-two percent rate his presidency as below-average or poor. Twenty-five percent say it's average.

A just-released CBS survey contains numbers that are better for Obama, but only just. It shows Americans almost exactly split on his merits, with 46 percent approving of Obama’s job performance, and 47 percent disapproving.
RealClearPolitics political analyst Sean Trende crunches the numbers on this in a long piece that’s attracting attention among experts at the moment. In short, Mr. Trende says there’s a relationship between the level of presidential approval and the vote share of the president’s party in congressional races. Applying Obama’s current numbers to the 2014 electoral landscape produces a mild surprise, says Trende: Right now it’s possible, even likely, that Republicans will win control of the Senate.
Gallup reports:
Consistent with abysmally low congressional approval ratings and widespread dissatisfaction with the nation's system of government, the proportion of registered voters saying Congress deserves re-election has hit an all-time low of 17%. While Congress as an institution is no stranger to voter disenchantment, American voters are usually more charitable in their assessments of their own representatives in the national legislature. But even this has fallen to a new trough.
Typically, results like these have presaged significant turnover in Congress, such as in 1994, 2006, and 2010. So Congress could be headed for a major shake-up in its membership this fall.
However, unlike those three years, when one party controlled both houses of Congress, the beneficiary of the anti-incumbent sentiment is not clear in the current situation, in which one party controls the House and the other, the Senate. Partisans on both sides of the aisle are displeased with Congress. But with so few voters saying they are willing to re-elect their own representative, it suggests that many officeholders will be vulnerable, if not in the general election, then perhaps in the host of competitive primaries soon to take place.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2016 GOP Nomination Process

At The Huffington Post, Jon Ward sums up RNC's changes in the GOP nominating process:
Scheduling the first four primary contests for February 2016, so that those states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) don't hold their contests any earlier in January or December.
Holding their convention earlier, at some point between late June and mid-July. Campaign finance laws forbid nominees from spending funds raised for the general election until after the convention. Moving the convention forward allows the nominee to spend those funds much sooner, so he or she is not defenseless against attack ads through much of the summer, as Romney was in 2012.
They also want to avoid having a primary that is decided in one day or even a few weeks. If the primary is too short, it gives an advantage to candidates with more money and name recognition, and does not vet the party's nominee as thoroughly.
This means:
Penalizing heavily any state that holds its primary before March 1, by taking away most of its delegates to the convention. Loss of delegates means that candidates don't have an incentive to come to your state. It's also likely your delegation to the convention ends up in a hotel located farther away from the convention hall, and with the worst seats inside the hall.
Exempting the first four states from those penalties to prevent any mutually assured destruction affect. For example, without exemptions for the first four states, another state like Florida could try to leap-frog ahead of them on the calendar, knowing that any penalty it might face would be negated when the first four jump back ahead. Without the exemption, the penalties are far less meaningful.
Requiring any state that holds its primary between March 1 and March 15 to award its delegates to candidates proportionally, according to the percentage of the vote won rather than awarding all of them to the winner. This allows candidates running second or third after the first four states to stay in the game and in the delegate hunt.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't Mess with Mitch

Politico reports:
For Matt Bevin, the rookie Senate candidate taking on one of the most powerful Republicans in the countryand possibly the most ruthless — every day on the stump brings a new hazing.
There was the time before he even jumped into the race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when Bevin was warned he’d be shunned by fellow churchgoers once McConnell was finished making mincemeat of his reputation. Campaign trackers follow Bevin constantly, recording his every public utterance to turn the slightest slip into an attack ad or Web video.
Vendors and consultants one day say they’re ready to come on board only to ominously reverse course the next, after mulling the repercussions of crossing McConnell.
“I’ve had people who’ve said, ‘You can use our donor list’ or ‘I’ll come on with the campaign,’” Bevin said during a recent daylong campaign excursion around Louisville. “Then all of a sudden they change their minds.”
Some have told him they were warned “it will be the last job you ever have in this business” if they joined his campaign, he said.

“It is thuggery,” Bevin added. “It’s literally like something out of Tammany Hall. It’s dusting off Boss Tweed. I say bring it on.”

Naming Names

The IRS is going after yet another conservative group.  The New York Times reports:
In a famously left-leaning Hollywood, where Democratic fund-raisers fill the social calendar, Friends of Abe stands out as a conservative group that bucks the prevailing political winds.

A collection of perhaps 1,500 right-leaning players in the entertainment industry, Friends of Abe keeps a low profile and fiercely protects its membership list, to avoid what it presumes would result in a sort of 21st-century blacklist, albeit on the other side of the partisan spectrum. 
Now the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing the group’s activities in connection with its application for tax-exempt status. Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.
Those people said that the application had been under review for roughly two years, and had at one point included a demand — which was not met — for enhanced access to the group’s security-protected website, which would have revealed member names. Tax experts said that an organization’s membership list is information that would not typically be required. The I.R.S. already had access to the site’s basic levels, a request it considers routine for applications for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status
Do people in the entertainment industry have any reason to fear a blacklist?  In San Francisco, KPIX reports:
An actress is facing a backlash in San Francisco’s Latino community, after she voiced support for a conservative candidate for California governor.

Maria Conchita Alonso starred in a campaign ad for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino County, a Tea Party favorite who is seeking the Republican nomination.

Alonso is an actress of Cuban and Venezuelan descent. She is perhaps best known for her role in the movie “Moscow on the Hudson” with co-star Robin Williams.

The actress was to perform next month at the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco’s Mission District in a Spanish-language version of “The Vagina Monologues,” scheduled for a run from February 14th through 17th. The show is being produced by none other than Eliana Lopez, wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

“We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately,” Lopez told KPIX 5. She said Alonso abruptly resigned from the cast on Friday, given the backlash on the immigration issue.
“Of course she has the right to say whatever she wants. But we’re in the middle of the Mission. Doing what she is doing is against what we believe,” Lopez said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Churchill, Newsom, Cows, and Tigers

At Governor Brown's State of the State today, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom tried quoting Winston Churchill but did not get it quite right.  Here is the actual Churchill passage, from his last political speech on September 29, 1959:
Among our Socialist opponents there is great confusion. Some of them regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. [Here WSC made the motion of milking a cow with his hands.] Only a handful see it for what it really is - the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart along.

Kashkari and TARP

Neel Kashkari has announced that he is running for governor of California.  His official bio reads:
Neel’s interest in public policy and service took him to Washington, D.C. in 2006, when President George W. Bush appointed him to the Department of the Treasury. His initial work brought together experts from across the government and private sectors to craft policies to encourage alternative energy sources that would enhance both national security and environmental sustainability. When the housing downturn started, Neel led the Department’s work with non-profit organizations, congressional leaders, and financial institutions to help distressed homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures.

Neel was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 2008. As the financial crisis erupted, Neel negotiated with congressional leaders of both parties to write and pass landmark legislation to prevent a widespread economic collapse. The program he implemented not only has recouped all the money spent, but also has made a $13 billion profit for taxpayers to date. For his leadership, Neel received the Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department’s highest honor.
That "program" was the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

At Bloomberg, Michael Marois and James Nash report on the reaction from the camp of incumbent Jerry Brown.
Brown’s supporters already are using Kashkari’s job running TARP against him with voters who viewed the rescue as a bailout of the banking industry. 
“It’s hard to imagine why someone with such a thin resume would think he’s qualified to be governor -– he’s rarely bothered to vote, and his one public policy act was handing $700 billion to Wall Street banks,” said Dan Newman, a Brown campaign adviser. “There’s absolutely no rationale for Kashkari’s candidacy.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Bully Pulpit is Getting Creaky

The bully pulpit is overrated -- and seldom useful at all during a second term.  Pew reports the latest example:
President Obama’s speech on Friday outlining changes to the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone and internet data did not register widely with the public. Half say they have heard nothing at all about his proposed changes to the NSA, and another 41% say they heard only a little bit. Even among those heard about Obama’s speech, few think the changes will improve privacy protections, or make it more difficult for the government to fight terrorism.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that overall approval of the program has declined since last summer, when the story first broke based on Edward Snowden’s leaked information.
Today, 40% approve of the government’s collection of telephone and internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts, while 53% disapprove. In July, more Americans approved (50%) than disapproved (44%) of the program.

Monday, January 20, 2014

George H.W. Bush's 1988 Victory

Today is the 25th anniversary of George H.W. Bush's inauguration as president.

Often we forget how impressive his 1988 victory was.  (Declaration of interest:  I worked in the 1988 Bush campaign.)

In 1988, Bush got a higher share of both the popular vote and the electoral vote than any candidate since then, including Barack Obama in 2008:

Bush 1988Obama 2008
Popular Vote %53.37%52.86%
Electoral Vote%79.20%67.80%

Obama won under more favorable circumstances.  The other party had been in power for two terms and was presiding over the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Bush was the vice president of an administration that had been in power for eight years, so the "time for a change" mentality worked against him.  No sitting vice president had been won the White House since Martin Van Buren. The economy was growing and the Cold War was winding down, but Bush had to deal with the aftermath of the 1987 market meltdown and the Iran-Contra scandal.  For a long time, many thought that he would lose.

In May 1988, E.J. Dionne reported at The New York Times:
Michael S. Dukakis is capitalizing on deep public doubts about Vice President Bush and the Reagan Administration's handling of key issues and has emerged as the early favorite for the Presidential election in November, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Mr. Dukakis, the probable Democratic nominee, ran ahead of Mr. Bush, the almost certain Republican candidate, by 49 percent to 39 percent among 1,056 registered voters.
The survey, conducted May 9-12, represented a significant advance for Mr. Dukakis since a Times/CBS News Poll in March when Mr. Bush had 46 percent and Mr. Dukakis had 45 percent.
In the latest poll, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts led in all regions, but he ran especially well in the Northeast and Middle West. The poll found Mr. Dukakis with very substantial advantages over Mr. Bush among women, union members, Roman Catholics and blacks/
A couple of months later, the Times reported:
In the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention, the party's nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, has expanded his lead among registered voters over Vice President Bush, the probable Republican nominee, according to a Gallup Poll.

This was among the findings of a national public opinion poll of 948 registered voters conducted late last week for Newsweek magazine by the Gallup Organization. The telephone interviews took place on July 21, which was the last night of the convention, and on the night after that.

Fifty-five percent of the 948 registered voters interviewed in the poll said they preferred to see Mr. Dukakis win the 1988 Presidential election, while 38 percent said they preferred to see Mr. Bush win. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
In the end, however, Bush not only won comfortably, but he carried states that we today consider to be deep blue, including California, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Democratic Advantage in the Electoral College

Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post that the GOP will struggle to assemble 270 electoral votes.
For perspective, I asked William H. Frey, a demographer and census expert at the Brookings Institution, as well as Republican and Democratic strategists of past campaigns, for their assessments of trends in the battleground states, based on demography and internal politics.
Frey analyzed nine states and found little good news for the Republicans. He found five — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia — definitely moving toward the Democrats because of their growing diversity. Obama won all but North Carolina in both of his presidential races.
Frey cited Ohio as one state that could become more hospitable to Republicans, because aging white baby boomers continue to make up a large part of the population there. Noting that candidate quality can make a difference, he wrote in an e-mail, “Democrats would have to be lucky and much more pro-active with blue collar whites to continue success there.”
He sees some glimmers of hope for Republicans in Michigan and Pennsylvania, if the GOP can find the right candidate. But he also envisions potential problems for the party in states such as Arizona and Georgia, which he said could be toss-ups by 2016 and could lean Democratic in the long run.
Frey said three states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — probably will continue to be toss-ups, in large part because of smaller minority populations. But none can be said to be moving in the GOP’s direction.
The underlying problem for the GOP is that it has carried the popular vote only once since 1988.  Al Gore actually had a popular-vote plurality in 2000.  George W. Bush did win the popular vote in 2004, but by a very narrow margin.

After the 2012 election, some suggested that the Democrats have built a structural advantage in the electoral college.  If a uniform national shift in the popular vote had given Romney a 2-point margin, Obama still would have carried the electoral vote. The trouble here is that one cannot really extrapolate from a single election. Obama had unique strengths (e.g., an ability to inspire high black turnout) that the next candidate won't replicate, so voting patterns will be different.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Neel Kashkari Needs a Vulnerability Study

Investment banking executive Neel Kashkari may run for governor of California as a Republican.  If so, he will need to do a serious vulnerability study.

Josh Richman writes at The San Jose Mercury News:
Kashkari is a fiscal conservative, but supports abortion rights, pro-gay marriage and is a gun owner who says he doesn't object to background checks for all firearm purchases -- stances that might have sunk him in a traditional GOP primary. Yet thanks to the state's new top-two primary system, he won't have to toss red meat to the right-wing Republican base and take positions that damage him in a general election in which a growing number of independent voters usually pick the winner.
Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a fellow moderate, dropped out of the race Thursday., and the only other GOP candidate is Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who is best known for being an anti-illegal-immigrant activist and staunch gun-rights defender.
Whether his general-election opponent is Donnelly or Kashkari, Jerry Brown is a heavy favorite to win. But Kashkari would be more competitive than the eccentric Donnelly, who would  probably lose in a landslide. Democrats want such a landslide in order to help their downballot candidates. And so expect them to carrry out serious opposition research on Kashkari, in the hope that Donnelly will outpoll him in the primary.  They executed a similar strategy in 2002, taking down Richard Riordan in the GOP primary, leaving them the opponent they wanted:  William Simon -- an intelligent, nice person but a weak candidate.

Kashkari needs to anticipate such attacks by doing a vulnerability study, that is, opposition research on himself.  As much as possible, he should address his weaknesses and preempt attacks.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Not-Great Public Opinion Numbers for Democrats

More Americans, 42%, say they are financially worse off now than they were a year ago, reversing the lower levels found over the past two years. Just more than a third of Americans say their financial situation has improved from a year ago.
These results come from Gallup's annual "Mood of the Nation" poll, conducted Jan. 5-8. Gallup has found that Americans' economic confidence, self-reported consumer spending, and perceptions of job creation improved in 2013. Despite Americans' more positive views of the overall U.S. economy in 2013, nearly two-thirds believe their personal financial situation deteriorated or was stable over the past year.

Though down from mid-2013, the percentage of Americans saying they are financially better off than a year ago is nearly in line with the historical average (38%), spanning 1976-2014. On the other hand, the share of Americans saying they are financially worse off compared with a year ago is, by historical standards, high -- eight percentage points above the average. The record high of 55% occurred in May and September 2008, the year (and, in the latter case, the month) of the global financial meltdown.
Americans are now more satisfied with many issues than they were 13 years ago, but they are significantly less satisfied with the economy and the role the U.S. plays in world affairs. The 40-percentage-point drop in Americans' satisfaction with the economy, along with a 21-point drop in the world affairs issue, contrasts with gains in satisfaction on issues such as the position of gays and lesbians in society, taxes, the nation's military strength, and race relations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

AFP v Obamacare

Democrats are increasingly anxious about an onslaught of television ads hitting vulnerable Senate and House candidates for their support of the new health law, since many lack the resources to fight back in the early stages of the midterm campaign.

Since September, Americans for Prosperity, a group financed in part by the billionaire Koch brothers, has spent an estimated $20 million on television advertising that calls out House and Senate Democrats by name for their support of the Affordable Care Act.

The unusually aggressive early run of television ads, which has been supplemented by other conservative initiatives, has gone largely unanswered, and strategists in both parties agree it is taking a toll on its targets.

Building on the success, the deep-pocketed organization disclosed on Tuesday that it was expanding its Senate efforts with $1.8 million in airtime to attack Democratic House members running for the Senate in Iowa and Michigan, where Democrats are viewed as holding an early advantage. The group was also moving into Montana, a state where Democrats may struggle to defend a seat, on behalf of a Republican House member running for the Senate.

At National Journal, Alex Roarty reports that AFP has emerged as the top outside GOP group.
But what makes its efforts so significant now is that it's spending big bucks while the other major Republican outside groups are standing pat. American Crossroads has barely raised any money since the last election. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political arm has spent relatively small sums in several GOP primaries. Even the Senate Conservatives Fund, whose PAC launched several high-profile TV ads against fellow Republicans, has spent only about $5 million in the last year, according to a source close to the group.
In fact, by one measure, AFP has bought almost as much airtime as every other outside group combined. Total spending from Republican and Democratic outside groups totaled only $5 million more than AFP's, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Not all political spending, including Americans for Prosperity's, is reported to the Federal Election Commission, so it's not an apples-to-oranges comparison, but it's nonetheless illustrative of the group's sizable investment.
But money alone doesn't explain its success; timing has been just as important. While other groups kept their powder dry for 2014, AFP's negative spots coincided with dismal reviews of Obamacare's opening months. While voters were hearing about faulty websites and canceled health plans at work and home, they were watching ads that laid the blame on Democrats on their TV. The ads themselves—which have frequently featured a lone man or woman explaining to the camera how Obamacare has hurt them and their family—have won plaudits from other GOP strategists for their personal touch.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Super PAC Heads Make a Lot of Money

Eliza Newlin Carney (who coined the term "Super PAC") reports at Roll Call:
Many super PACs that reported their spending to the Federal Election Commission omitted salary or payroll information, making it impossible to know just how much their top executives made.
But many such political action committees ran tax-exempt affiliates, which must file a Form 990 with the IRS. Though such forms withhold donor names, they do — for the most part — list the salaries of top executives. Dozens of big-spending political nonprofits, having requested filing extensions of up to six months, finally submitted their 990s late last year.
The new filings show that liberal groups, which in many cases outperformed their conservative counterparts, typically paid their executives less money. Liberal super PAC, nonprofit and labor salaries tend to land in the $250,000 to the (at most) $600,000 range, while many conservative organizers are pulling in at least a half-million, and several make into the millions over an election cycle. Findings from the new IRS 990 forms include:
Steven Law, the president of the American Crossroads super PAC and its tax-exempt affiliate, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, made $1.1 million during the election cycle. That includes $602,935 from Crossroads GPS in 2011 and $637,562 in 2012. Together the super PAC and the nonprofit spent more than $325 million on the election but had an underwhelming return on investment. According to the Sunlight Foundation, 1.3 percent of the super PAC’s money supported candidates who won and opposed candidates who lost in the general election. The Crossroads GPS return on investment was 14.4 percent.
Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, a political organization that supports female Democrats who back abortion rights, received a $263,194 salary for the entire 2012 cycle, according to Political MoneyLine data derived from FEC reports. The EMILY’s List super PAC Women Vote spent $7.7 million in the 2012 elections and had an 80 percent return on investment, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

The Six-Year Itch is a Myth (for the House)

At Mischiefs of Faction, Dave Mayhew questions the idea of a six-year itch in House elections:
Here are the average House seat losses.
  • 28 – first midterm (including Truman)
  • 29 – second midterm (including Truman)
  • 24 – first midterm (without Truman)
  • 29 – second midterm (without Truman)
There it is, you might say. Leaving aside Truman, the contrast of 24 versus 29 shows exactly a special six-year itch. But not so fast! All these numbers are small. They can easily be veered. What about Obama? We don’t have a sixth-year result for Obama, but we certainly do have a second-year result—the Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010. Why lose this information? Plugging it in moves the above first-midterm figure of 24 to a higher 29. As for the second midterm, does anybody expect a Democratic loss of House seats in November 2014 that exceeds 29? Probably not. When the dust settles next November, it is an excellent bet that adding Obama’s two midterms to the comparison will kill off entirely any idea of a special sixth-year penalty on the House side. Also, note that five of the relevant presidents have lost more seats, or in Obama’s case will have done so, in their first midterm than in their second—Wilson, the asterisked Truman, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama. Only three have lost more in their second midterm—FDR, Eisenhower, and Bush 43. How about losing party control of the House? Truman, Eisenhower, Clinton, and Obama suffered that fate in their first midterm. Wilson and Bush 43 suffered it in their second.
He does point out that there is a six-year itch in Senate elections. Senators who win on a president's coattails must run without them under very different conditions six years later. In 1980, the GOP took over the Senate in a great year for the party nationwide.  But 1986 was not so great, and Republicans lost their majority.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christie Impact on Normals: Meh!

The public paid far more attention to last week’s cold snap than to the controversy swirling around New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. There also has been little short-term change in opinions about Christie: 60% say their opinion of Christie has not changed in recent days, while 16% now view him less favorably and 6% more favorably.
The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 9-12 among 1,006 adults, finds that just 18% paid very close attention to Christie’s apology on Jan. 9 for the highway lane closures ordered by his aides. By contrast, 44% very closely followed news about the cold winter weather that gripped much of the U.S. and 28% tracked news about the economy.
The survey finds that majorities of Republicans (69%), Democrats (55%) and independents (60%) say that their opinion of Christie has not changed lately. Among Republicans, about as many say their opinion has become more favorable (9%) as less favorable (10%).
More Democrats say their opinion has become less favorable (25%) than more favorable (3%). Among independents, 14% say their opinion of Christie has become less favorable and 6% more favorable.
The Asbury Park Press reports:
About half of New Jersey adults think Gov. Chris Christie knew his staff was involved in the “Bridgegate” scandal before emails became public last week, according to a new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.

And 51 percent say they do not think the governor has been “completely honest” about what he knows about the incident, the poll found.

But 52 percent do not believe Christie was personally involved in the decision to slash Fort Lee’s access to George Washington Bridge toll lanes last September, according to the poll.

The scandal has caused Christie’s job approval rating to slide. His post-election high of 65 percent in December dropped to 59 percent over the weekend, according to the poll. That number, though, is still higher than before superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in October 2012, when he was at 53 percent.
But the Republican governor’s popularity doesn’t translate well to higher office. Forty-nine percent said they do not think Christie has the right temperament to be president, up from 34 percent in September.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Clintons' Enemies List

At the end of the 2008 nomination campaign, the Clintons assembled a "favor file" -- or less charitably, an enemies listJonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write at Politico:
There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school. On one early draft of the hit list, each Democratic member of Congress was assigned a numerical grade from 1 to 7, with the most helpful to Hillary earning 1s and the most treacherous drawing 7s. The set of 7s included Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.).
Yet even a 7 didn’t seem strong enough to quantify the betrayal of some onetime allies.
When the Clintons sat in judgment, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) got the seat closest to the fire. Bill and Hillary had gone all out for her when she ran for Senate in 2006, as had Obama. But McCaskill seemed to forget that favor when NBC’s Tim Russert asked her whether Bill had been a great president, during a Meet the Press debate against then-Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) in October 2006. “He’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said of Bill, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
McCaskill regretted her remark instantly; the anguish brought her “to the point of epic tears,” according to a friend. She knew the comment had sounded much more deliberate than a forgivable slip of the tongue. So did Hillary, who immediately canceled a planned fundraiser for McCaskill. A few days later, McCaskill called Bill Clinton to offer a tearful apology. He was gracious, which just made McCaskill feel worse. After winning the seat, she was terrified of running into Hillary Clinton in the Capitol. “I really don’t want to be in an elevator alone with her,” McCaskill confided to the friend.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chris Christie Learns That the World Is Round

Many Republicans resent Chris Christie.  Sometime the resentment is personal.

Former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean, one of the state’s most revered figures and a mentor to current Republican Gov. Chris Christie, contends that the leadership qualities Christie has shown while in office should give pause to voters nationally, as they begin to size up Christie as a potential president.
“On the one hand, I think he’s got a lot to offer. I think he’s the most able politician since Bill Clinton,” Kean (R) said in an interview with The Washington Post. “On the other hand, you look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?”
Kean’s comments come as the current governor is beset by controversy over revelations that officials loyal to Christie engineered closure of part of the George Washington Bridge in September, inconveniencing tens of thousands of state residents in an apparent act of vindictiveness against a local mayor.
There is no evidence that Christie knew of the actions of his subordinates and appointees, some of whom he has since fired. But Kean — who has known Christie since the current governor was a teenager -- faulted Christie for establishing a culture in his tight inner circle in which no one “will ever say no to him, and that is dangerous.”  [Keep an eye out for references to "establishing a culture" or "creating an atmosphere."]
What is Kean's motive? Last November 7, the Newark Star-Ledger reported:
Republican state Senators, long used to taking orders from Gov. Chris Christie, defied him today and re-elected Tom Kean Jr. to a fourth term as their leader.
Despite a Christie-backed challenge from state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex), Kean (R-Union) won 10 out of his caucus’s 16 votes as their leader in a reorganization meeting this afternoon — two days after Kean failed to pick up a single seat in the Senate despite a Christie landslide at the top of the ticket.
“I’m honored to again lead the Republican Caucus in the Senate and I thank my colleagues for their overwhelming support,” Kean said in a statement. “The responsibility to my caucus and all New Jerseyans is one I hold with great respect. I look forward to working with Governor Christie, Steve, Vincent and Jon.”
Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations said that Christie pushed for O’Toole as the next minority leader. But Kean wouldn’t address that when he and O’Toole emerged from their Statehouse caucus meeting, both sweating.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Willie Stark and Chris Christie

Oppo guys are undoubtedly hard at work on Chris Christie.  Will they find something?

Consider a couple of passages from All the King's Men:
We clocked off five miles more, and I said, "But suppose there isn't anything to find." And the Boss said, "There is always something." And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge." And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something."
For nothing is lost, nothing is ever lost. There is always the clue, the canceled check, the smeared lipstick, the footprint in the canna bed, the condom on the park path, the twitch in the old wound, the baby shoes dipped in bronze, the taint in the blood stream. And all times are one time, and those dead in the past never lived before our definition gives them life, and out of the shadow their eyes implore us.
That is what all of us historical researchers believe.
And we love truth.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christie and Walker

David Umhoefer writes at The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Will Gov. Scott Walker zoom past New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on his motorcycle thanks to the developing scandal related to creation of traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge?
So says John Hayward at Human Events.
"One of the little preliminary races that pundits have been placing some early bets on, years out from the 2016 presidential election, is whether the Establishment Guy in the GOP primary would be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie," Hayward blogged. "The race may just have been settled..."
Not so fast, counters Peter Grier, Washington editor at the Christian Science Monitor.

"Does it show that Christie is a bully who at the least created an atmosphere where such vindictiveness could flourish? His opponents think that already, and in “Bridge-ghazi” will see confirmation of their view," writes Grier. "Is he a take-charge guy who is willing to break a little china to get stuff done? There are probably lots of Republican primary voters who do not believe that jamming up New York City’s intake routes is a bad thing."
Back in November, John Dickerson wrote in Slate that if governors have an edge over senators, Walker would be Christie's main competition.
That narrows the field down to the pool of leading current and former Republican governors: Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry, and Walker. All of those men have something to recommend them, but "no one checks as many boxes as Walker does," as an Iowa GOP strategist puts it. Walker has near hero status in the grassroots for taking on Wisconsin’s public sector unions. Cruz talks about taking stands on principle, but he lost his fight. Walker took a stand, was targeted by the full force of the Democratic machine, and stayed alive. He won a recall election with a larger margin than his original victory. He raised $30 million for that race, so he knows how to tap wealthy donors. Social conservatives also consider him one of their own for his pro-life views and his pedigree: His father was a Baptist minister.

Jindal and Perry have supporters in conservative circles, but Jindal can't match Walker's union-slaying story and Perry's accomplishments won't help him overcome the memories of his disastrous 2012 run. If the incentive is to pick a Christie alternative who can survive, it also helps if the candidate comes from a battleground state—even better if they come from a swing state in the Midwest. Walker also brings helpful connections to Iowa, that early caucus state. Besides governing in nearby Wisconsin, Walker grew up in Iowa. Right now GOP operatives describe the competition in the Hawkeye State as one between Rand Paul (whose forces control the state party) and Sen. Ted Cruz (who excites the base).

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hails from a swing state, but he himself has admitted that he is out of step with the Republican Party on immigration. He may still be noodling a run, but he could easily be painted as a GOP moderate—and that space is already occupied by Christie. That leaves just John Kasich of Ohio. Like Walker, Kasich also took on the unions, but he lost. In the eyes of conservatives, he did something else that may be unpardonable: He took federal Medicaid money as a part of the Affordable Care Act. That robs Kasich of an issue he could have used to distinguish himself from Christie (who also took Medicaid money) and, say some conservatives, dismantles his ability to argue for smaller spending in Washington. Walker, on the other hand, refused the Medicaid money, and is launching his own state solution, which is receiving praise from conservatives.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How To Do Oppo

Many posts have discussed opposition research.  Though nominally about a criminal investigation, this sequence from The Wire offers a wonderful lecture on the process by Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters).

Poverty, Social Mobility, and the Midterm

The New York Times reports:
Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who is up for re-election, is admonishing Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, says that her party’s thinking is “stale and old and doesn’t really address the magnitude of the problem.”
Poverty is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace.
President Obama will highlight income disparity in his State of the Union address this month, part of a broader effort by Democrats to push a populist theme for their midterm campaigns against Republicans. Republicans are offering solutions that would give the states and the private sector, not the federal government, more authority to help improve the plight of the poor.
Peter Wehner writes at Commentary:
Yesterday Senator Marco Rubio delivered a major speech on poverty and social mobility. It’s impressive for several reasons.
While not ignoring the issue of income inequality, he made what I think is the correct and important point: Lack of social mobility, not income inequality, is what we should focus on. And the speech was intellectually impressive in part because it was intellectually honest. Senator Rubio explained with some sophistication the reasons for what he calls “opportunity inequality”–including long-term economic, social, cultural, and educational causes. This speech was not politically partisan or shallow; it admitted the causes of poverty and decreasing social mobility are complex. (Many European countries now have as much social mobility as, and more opportunity than, the United States; and today a child’s future depends on parental income more in America than it does in Canada and Europe.) Senator Rubio’s address deepened the public’s understanding of these issues, and that’s all to the good.
On the policy side of things, Senator Rubio’s proposals on the Flex Fund (which would consolidate many anti-poverty programs that in turn would be distributed to the states to enact their own anti-poverty agenda) and transforming the Earned Income Tax Credit into a real wage subsidy are promising steps, with more, I gather, to follow.
What Mr. Rubio unveiled yesterday merits support on federalism and subsidiary grounds, in terms of how we should think about the working poor versus those who are unable to work, because it incentivizes work and creates incentives to avoid unemployment programs, and because it makes upward mobility more, not less, likely. (For a more detailed and illuminating discussion of the merits of Rubio’s proposals, seehere and here.)
Michael Barone writes of New York Mayor de Blasio and the liberal perspective:
Liberal pundits are hailing de Blasio and his politics as a harbinger of the political future and a return to the liberal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and his political ally New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
But in 1944, the heyday of FDR and La Guardia, the five boroughs of New York City cast 7 percent of the nation’s votes. In 2012 they cast only 2 percent of the national vote.
It’s interesting that New York, which has had more liberal and redistributionist public policies than almost anywhere else in the nation over those 68 years, also has one of the nation’s highest rates of income inequality.
High tax rates and high housing costs (exacerbated for many years by rent control) have squeezed middle-class families out of New York. They have migrated in the millions to lower-tax, lower-housing-cost places like Florida and Texas.
The Obama Democrats did reduce economic inequality somewhat by raising the top income tax rate back to 39.6 percent. The proposals they’re talking about now are either small potatoes, or moves to have the working middle-class subsidize non-workers or the young to subsidize the old — redistribution, but not very progressive.

Enthusiasm Gap

Pew reports:
Overall, the percentage of the public that is looking forward to this fall’s midterm election is about the same today (51%) as it was in January 2010 (50%). Currently, 63% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats say they are anticipating the midterm elections; a similar gap was evident four years ago (60% of Republicans vs. 48% of Democrats).
Last month, a Pew Research survey found that more Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters (53%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (47%) were “very enthusiastic” about voting in this fall’s elections. But the GOP’s advantage was narrower than it was a year before the 2010 midterms.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dead Donors

Politico reports:
The Republican Party’s on the hunt ahead of 2016 for younger voters — and younger megadonors.
Conservative super PACs were dealt a blow in the past nine months, when two of their biggest benefactors died, Texas billionaires Harold Simmons and Bob Perry.

Combined, the two men, who were the second- and third-biggest donors behind the Adelsons in the 2012 elections, gave nearly $50 million last cycle — that’s more money than the next 10 Republican donors combined.
The void the two leave behind represents an even bigger problem for the Republican Party: just as it struggles to attract younger voters, it also must win over younger elite donors.
Among the top 10 Republican donors of the 2012 election cycle, only one was under the age of 60 — Peter Thiel, who is 46 – and only three were under 70 – Miriam Adelson, 68; Robert Mercer, 67; and Robert Rowling, 60, according to public records. On the Democratic side, half of the top 10 donors were under 70 and three were under 60.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Not-So-Great Economy and the Midterm

Last month, Charles Cook wrote in National Journal:
Conventional wisdom holds that if people see the economy improving, they will be less likely to "throw the bums out" in the next year's elections. But the key is public perception of the economy, not month-to-month shifts in numbers. Although the National Bureau of Economic Research dates the last recession as beginning in December 2007 and ending in June 2009, according to polls taken as recently as this summer, a majority of Americans believe we are still in a recession. My hunch is that those analysts predicting that the new economic numbers will prompt a change in the political dynamics of 2014 are getting a bit ahead of their skis.
The first thing to keep in mind is that even as the reports last week showed lower unemployment, more jobs, and stronger economic growth, they also revealed that the nation's overall personal income dropped by $10.8 billion, or a tenth of 1 percent. Disposable personal income dropped by $23.6 billion, or two-tenths of a percent, in October; Mesirow Financial's chief economist, Diane Swonk, notes that gains in real disposable income came more from declining gasoline prices than higher wages.
In short, few economic benefits are trickling down to the poor or, for that matter, to the working and middle classes. Indeed, economists say the GDP growth came from a buildup of business inventory, which usually results in lower growth in subsequent periods, as owners draw down those inventories before manufacturing orders head back up. As the Dec. 10 Blue Chip Econometric Detail report, which accompanies the monthly Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey of top economists, put it, "The large upward revision to third-quarter GDP was due entirely to a $30 billion upward revision to inventory investment. The consensus anticipates GDP growth will slow sharply in the fourth quarter to 1.6 percent before rising to 2.5 percent in the first quarter of next year. GDP growth is expected to pick up gradually over the remainder of the forecast, reaching a 2.9 percent annual rate in the second half of 2014."
At the end of December, Gallup reported:
The Gallup Economic Confidence Index averaged -17 last week, significantly improved from the -39 found in mid-October during the federal government shutdown. But the index remains stuck in negative territory at the end of 2013 and is considerably below the peak of -3 measured in early June.
And Drew DeSilver writes at Pew:
Nearly 10.3 million Americans were unemployed in November, and almost 4 million of them, or 38.8% of all unemployed, have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. (December unemployment figures are due out Friday morning.)

The number of Americans who have remained unemployed for more than 26 weeks soared during and after the Great Recession, peaking at 6.7 million people — 48.1% of total unemployed – in April 2010. (All figures used here are unadjusted for seasonal variations.) While long-term unemployment has fallen slowly since then, it remains well above pre-recession norms, both in absolute and percentage terms: The averages in 2008 were 1.76 million and 19.7%, respectively.
LT unemployment2
Number of people unemployed 27 weeks or more (in thousands) Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics