Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 2010 Election (Let's Get This Over With)

It wasn't easy writing about the 2010 campaign for month after month with a growing sense of doom. And as Led Zeppelin sang, "The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath." Sigh. Ok, let's do this thing.

What went wrong, in one sentence: Any time unemployment is hovering near 10%, the people in power are going to lose the next election.

What went wrong, encapsulated in a single race. The open-seat race in Pennsylvania featured Republican Pat Toomey versus Democrat Joe Sestak. Toomey won 51% to 49%. A CNN/Time poll just before the election showed Toomey leading by four among likely voters, but Sestak winning by four among registered voters. So that means they polled a bunch of people who said they preferred the Democratic candidate, but who also said that they weren't voting this year. In races all over the country, Democrats faced this same problem.

Again, Democrats stayed home due to disappointment with the President and Congress over the economy. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Democrats are disappointed about a lot of other things that the President and Congress didn't deliver. This subject deserves, and will get, a whole post of its own sometime soon right here on this blog.

Some other observations

Democrats aren't likely to get the House back in 2012
So maybe Obama will win in two years, and Democrats will flip the 20-odd seats they need to recapture House? Yes, it's possible. In fact, if Sarah Palin is the nominee, I'd almost guarantee it. But there are three reasons why Republicans are likely to keep the House for a few years. First, it's always the case that after the House changes hands, the survivors in the losing party retire in large numbers. Just wait and see; a bunch of House Democrats, finding that it's no fun to be in the minority, will move on to greener pastures (meaning they'll retire to take high-paying lobbying jobs). That means a bunch of open-seat races next time around, some of which will be juicy targets for the Republicans. Second, the decennial redistricting of the House happens next year, and it couldn't come at a worse time for Democrats, who just handed a bunch of state legislatures and Governor's offices over to the Republicans. That means the Republicans will totally control the redistricting process in a lot of states, and will naturally draw up the new districts so as to eliminate as many Democrats as possible. Lastly, in 2010 we saw corporate groups pour money into elections, mostly to the benefit of Republicans. Get ready to see that as a permanent fixture of American democracy.

Tea Party candidates were a disaster in statewide elections
Given a choice between semi-sensible conservatives and totally wacko Tea Party candidates as their nominees, Republicans mostly went for the tea baggers, and cost themselves a lot of races and a ton of money. Specifically:
* The GOP cost itself the Senate seats in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Nevada by nominating tea baggers over more electable and only marginally less conservative candidates.
* The Republicans also chose tea baggers over more electable candidates in Florida and Kentucky. And while they won those races, they were forced to spend many millions of dollars that they would not have had to had they chosen nominees with broader appeal.

The biggest losers: Blue Dog Democrats

If you're not familiar with the Blue Dogs, they are House members, "identifying themselves as moderate-to-conservative Democrats committed to financial and national security and favoring compromise and bipartisanship over ideology and party discipline." The majority of the Blue Dogs lost their reelection bids this year; 27 went down to defeat and 26 survived. I've generally been an advocate of the Blue Dogs, because I'd rather see swing districts won by conservative Democrats than conservative Republicans, and because it's good to have debate within the Democratic party.

Unfortunately, for the past two years the Blue Dogs have foolishly sided with Republican nonsense more often than with their own party's agenda. As Markos said, the brunt of Democratic losses in the House were, "felt by the very same people who helped obstruct the Democratic agenda, who fought middle class tax cuts and the Public Option, and who fueled the "Dems are divided" narrative. We'll get rid of the hypocrites who, like their Republican BFF's, scream about "fiscal responsibility" while fighting desperately to cut taxes on the wealthiest." Now do you get it, Blue Dogs? If you want Democrats to vote for you, you're going to have to consider supporting the Democratic agenda. You're not going to magically win election by getting the votes of "conservative independents" or something.

I'm amazed to say this, but it was Senator Harry Reid, in his race against Tea bagger Sharron Angle, who showed Democrats how to win in a tough year like 2010. That is, to energize supporters by continuing to support and defend the Democratic agenda and the party's accomplishments. As Michael Blood of Huffington Post wrote, "Reid pointed to Angle's proposal to privatize Social Security as a defining contrast between them. He calls it one of the great government programs in history."

And finally: Congratulations, Governor Quinn
Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois trailed in all the polls right up to election day. I never met him personally in the years I worked in Illinois politics, although I knew some of the people who worked for him. Quinn is one of the nicest, most decent public servants in America, and I'm very pleased he was able to beat the odds and win election to a four-year term.

On to 2012. We're going to need more than hope.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Can Republicans now buy every election?

Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is for sale. And the corporations buying our democracy are only interested in one thing: electing Republicans who want to eliminate taxes and regulations on corporations and Wall Street.

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

As the New York Times said the day after the decision, the ruling, "overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

The 2002 law, usually called McCain-Feingold, banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections."

To recap, this disastrous decision by the Court means that corporations and other groups can not only spend an unlimited amount of money on electioneering, but also that they don't have to reveal the source of their funding. Suppose that a Saudi Arabian prince wants to give millions to the US Chamber of Commerce to run attack ads on a Congressman from New York. He's now perfectly free to do so. And guess what? The Chamber of Commerce doesn't have to tell anyone where they got the money to run the ads.

I recommend this article from USA Today for text and graphics that demonstrate the huge boost that Republicans got in 2010 from "outside groups" thanks the the Citizens United decision.

"Conservative spending has topped $187 million this year, up from $19.6 million in 2006, the last midterm election,"

"In the 48 House contests in which outside groups spent a combined $1 million or more, Republicans won two-thirds, a USA TODAY analysis of election results and campaign reports shows. In one Upstate New York district, conservative groups such as American Crossroads, the Tea Party Express and the 60 Plus Association bought $2.8 million in negative ads attacking freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy on health care, helping Republican Christopher Gibson win 55% of the vote.

Here's another way to look at this year's spending by outside groups, as detailed in the same article. The top four groups, led by the US Chamber of Commerce and groups formed by Karl Rove and Wall Street hedge fund moguls spent a total of $97 million, virtually all of which went to Republicans. The Service Employees International Union, which gives money principally to Democrats, was a distant 5th with $15 million spent.

Last year, I wrote about how Democrats are gradually gaining an inherent advantage in electoral politics due to the country's changing population demographics. To summarize those observations, the Republican party derives nearly all of its support from suburban college-educated whites and rural whites with less than a college education. And because those two groups are making up a smaller and smaller percentage of American voters, it's becoming harder and harder for Republicans to win elections. I mention this because the Citizens United verdict may be just what the doctor ordered for Republicans to combat the Democrats' increasing demographic advantage. Most elections are won by the side who raises and spends the most money. So if corporations are going to start giving Republicans a blank check every year, then Republicans are going to win.

The conservative corporate-backed groups who bought so many elections this year like to claim that they are striking, "a decisive blow for freedom."

But isn't it a funny sort of "freedom?" We're already familiar with the "freedom" of corporations to rely on Americans as their principal consumer market, while refusing to give Americans good jobs. As I noted in September, corporate profits in America are currently near their all time high, even as unemployment continues to hover near 10%. Corporations also insist on the "freedom" to take all the advantages that America has to offer while giving nothing in return. Exxon-Mobile, for example, routinely makes about $1 billion dollars in profit per week and pays zero income taxes in this country, due to its off-shore incorporations. Then of course there's the insistence on "freedom" from government regulation, even as episodes like the sub-prime credit crisis continue to prove that deregulation leads to disaster.

Now cap all of those "freedoms" with the "freedom" to buy elections, and to tell no one where the money came from. Isn't it great to be free?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

2011 and 2012 Gubernatorial Predictions

Most recent updates: 8/27/12: DE, NH, NC, WA

Three states will hold their gubernatorial elections in 2011 and eleven will in 2012.

Delaware 2012

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Jack Markell (incumbent)
Republican: Terry Spence, former state Speaker of the House?
Overview: (11/6/10) Markell has had a very successful first term in office and should cruise to victory in blue-state Delaware.
(8/27/12) It's hard to even find information on this race. This suggests Markell has nothing to worry about.

Indiana 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Congressman Mike Pence (incumbent Mitch Daniels term limited)
Democrat: Former Speaker of the state House John Gregg
Overview: (11/6/10) This is shaping up to be the most interesting of the 2012 races for Governor. Incumbent Daniels is term-limited, opening the door for rising Republican star Mike Pence. Former Senator Bayh may weigh in for the Democrats, who can expect a good turnout in Indiana in 2012. One of the biggest surprises of 2008 was President Obama's victory over John McCain in the Hoosier State.
(6/9/12) Pence will cruise to victory.

Kentucky 2011
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Steve Beshear (incumbent)
Republican: State Senate President David Williams?
Overview: (1/16/11) Democrats are never going to have an easy time in red-state Kentucky, but I've yet to see any bold predictions that Republicans are going to topple Beshear this year. His polling numbers are solid.

Louisiana 2011
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Bobby Jindal (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: (1/16/11) Huge numbers of Democratic voters left Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and never went back. Given the state's hard swing to the right, the Louisiana Democratic Party is having a difficult time finding candidates willing to be sacrificial lambs in statewide elections.

Mississippi 2011
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Lt Governor Phil Bryant (Haley Barbour term limited)
Democrat: Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree?
Overview: (1/16/11) Phil Bryant is a very seasoned politician, and about as close to a sure-fire winner as you'll ever see in an open-seat race with a contested primary.

Missouri 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Jay Nixon (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Dave Spence
Overview: (11/6/10) This one is tough to gauge. President Obama nearly carried Missouri in 2008, but he is not currently popular is this part of the country. That may prove troublesome for incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon.
(6/9/12) Given that Republican prospects in Missouri this year are pretty good, it's strange that their gubernatorial candidate will be a nobody like Dave Spence. Nixon has nothing to worry about.
(8/27/12) Nixon was leading by a wide margin even before the Akin disaster crippled the GOP ticket in Missouri.

Montana 2012
Rating: Toss up
Democrat: State Attorney General Steve Bullock (incumbent Brian Schweitzer term limited)
Republican: Former congressman Rick Hill
Overview: (11/6/10) This open-seat race is anybody's game, but the northern plains are more friendly to Republicans.
(6/9/12) Current polling shows this race as a dead heat. I think Bullock has a slight edge. Rick Hill has won statewide before, but he only managed 34% of the vote in the GOP primary.

New Hampshire 2012
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Former state Senator Margaret Hassan or former state Senator Jackie Cilley (incumbent John Lynch retiring)
Republican: Attorney Ovide Lamontagne or former state Representative Kevin Smith
Overview: (11/6/10) Lynch emerged victorious in 2010 against a tough Republican challenge. Things will probably be easier in 2012 when he seeks a third 2-year term.
(6/9/12) Ovide Lamontagne is a New Hampshire attorney who's been running for office for two decades without winning anything. Polls show him tied with either likely Democratic candidate. Lamontagne is just not a strong candidate, and I think New Hampshire is likely to go blue this year.
(8/27/12) The most recent PPP poll shows that a Hassan versus Lamontagne is most likely, with Hassan leading the Republican by 2 points for the November election. So far so good.

North Carolina 2012
Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Former Charlotte mayor Walter Dalton (incumbent Beverly Perdue retiring)
Republican: Lt Governor Pat McCrory
Libertarian: Perennial candidate Barbara Howe
Overview: (11/6/10) Governor Perdue's approval ratings are nothing to write home about. She's likely to face a stiff Republican challenge. Many were shocked when President Obama carried North Carolina and Perdue won a toss up race in 2008. Can it happen again?
(6/9/12) Polls show this race as competitive, but Dalton is a much better known candidate. I think Obama may be able to beat Romney here this year, but the cards are stacked against the blue team in the gubernatorial race.
(8/27/12) Libertarian Barbara Howe is polling around 7%. Virtually all the votes she would get would be siphoned off from McCrory, giving Dalton a shot at winning this race. So far though, Dalton is polling remarkably badly.

North Dakota 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Jack Dalrymple (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Ryan Taylor
Overview: (11/6/10) Dalrymple has just inherited the Governor's office from Senator-elect John Hoeven. He'd have to screw things up pretty badly to not win a term in his own right in conservative North Dakota.
(6/9/12) Dalrymple has raised enough money in this race to silence any doubts about his winning (if there was any doubt in the first place).

Utah 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Gary Herbert (incumbent)
Democrat: retired General Peter Cooke
Overview: I had a dream where a Democrat won a statewide race in Utah. I also had a dream where it rained White Castle cheeseburgers. It's 1,600 miles from my house to the nearest White Castle.

Vermont 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Peter Shumlin (incumbent)
Republican: State Senator Randy Brock
Overview: Shumlin won a very close open-seat race in 2010, but he probably has an easy path to reelection in 2012.
(6/9/12) Shumlin might double his opponent's vote total.

Washington 2012
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Congressman Jay Inslee (incumbent Christine Gregoire retiring)
Republican: State Attorney General Rob McKenna
Overview (11/6/10): In 2004, after multiple recounts, Christine Gregoire beat Dino Rossi by 129 votes out of more than 2.7 million cast. 2008 saw a wild rematch against Rossi, in which she beat him easily one day after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer all but guaranteed victory for Rossi. Gregoire may or may not run for a third term in 2012. The likely Republican candidate is already known however; Attorney General Rob McKenna has been grooming himself for the job for years.
(7/3/11) A new poll shows Inslee with a 3-point lead over McKenna. Unless something happens to Inslee late in the game that causes voters to abandon him, this race is already over. Obama crushed McCain in my home state by 17 points in 2008, and the number of crossover votes that McKenna might get from Obama voters in 2012 is nowhere near the number he would need to win this race.
(2/29/12) Please forgive my irrational exuberance over Inslee. McKenna now has a substantial lead in the polls. I'm also seeing his ads all over the darn place. I sort of get the impression that Inslee is using a rope-a-dope strategy and plans to come out fighting later in the contest. I certainly hope so.
(4/2/12) The very reliable polling firm PPP has this race as a tie. Considering the way McKenna has owned the media coverage so far, that has to be good news for Inslee.
(6/9/12) Documents show that while KcKenna was a King County Councilman, he illegally used his office for campaign activities. Whether or not this scandal will get a lot of attention remains to be seen.
(8/27/12) The most recent polls of this race show Inslee ahead. A recent SurveyUSA poll shows Obama leading Romney by 17 points here. If McKenna wants Obama voters to crossover and support him, he's got to make headlines. And he's just not doing that.

West Virginia 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Earl Ray Tomblin (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Bill Maloney
Overview: (11/6/10) As President of the West Virginia Senate, Tomblin inherited the Governor's mansion after Governor Manchin was elected to fill the remainder of the late, great Robert Byrd's Senate term. Tomblin was a member of the state Senate for 30 years. Presuming he wants to win a term as Governor in his own right, he's going to need his high name recognition and a lot of other resources, as President Obama is likely to lose West Virginia by a substantial margin.
(6/9/12) This race is a rematch of last year's special election, when Tomblin beat Maloney by 2.3%. President Obama may run very poorly here, but the only recent poll of this race shows Tomblin with a big lead.