Jeb Bush for President, Really?

Jeb-BushOn Tuesday it was reported that Jeb Bush was forming an exploratory committee in preparation for a Presidential run.  Bush announcing this early is not surprising.  The oldest Bush has not won an election since 2002.  Considering the Presidential election is not until 2016 that would be a gap of 14 years between elections.  Smart Politics finds It has been 150+ years since the last time there was a 14-year gap between a presidential candidate’s last electoral victory and a successful White House campaign.

There may be other reasons Bush announced his intentions so early.  Rand Paul offered up one on Fox News, ““Maybe he has more ground he needs to gain. He’s been out of this a while so maybe he needs to get back in and practice up a bit.”  Other analysis has focused on the idea that Bush needs time to develop a national infrastructure (if not donor base).

But, the biggest calculation has to be that Bush is not well-known by the base.  Of those who do know about him the opinion is decidedly mixed.  Bush’s team has to know that like Romney they need to get out early and combat the idea he is just another, big government establishment Republican.  How they go about this is anybody’s guess.

Bush’s liabilities with the party faithful run deep.  He is a huge fan of Common Core and has not really offered up a nuanced position on Immigration Reform.  His green record on conservation offers up comparable images to Newt Gingrich sitting next to Nancy Pelosi and chatting up climate change.  He has also said that a Republican needs to lose the primary to win the general.  Um, okay.

Ted Cruz summed up what he thought of a Bush candidacy, “The GOP will lose with another moderate.”  Of course Cruz is likely to run for President so take this with a grain of salt.  But, Cruz’s sentiment echoes what many feel about yet another Bush on the ticket.  Democrats may feel all warm and cuddly with a Hillary candidacy because they think of the good old days under Bill but for Republicans and Bush the sentiment is far from similar.

Bush does have his strengths.  The guy was a strong, pro-growth Governor of Florida.  He aggressively cut taxes, $19 billion by his count, implemented a first in the nation school choice and voucher system while creating accountability standards for teachers.  He even offers up something for social conservatives when in 2005 and 2006 he became involved in the Terry Schaivo controversy.

Democrats are sure to use his conservative past against him.  Teachers unions loathe him as much as they dislike Scott Walker.  Abortion activists fear his actions in the Schaivo case reveal he is a more ideological culture warrior than George.  Democrats will argue he is another slash and burn Republican because of his stances on government.

Bush’s successes are mired in the murky past.  It is his most recent statements and actions that seem to carry more weight.  At a Congressional hearing in 2012, Bush responded when asked whether he would take a budget deal that cut spending but raised taxes, “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach.” The panel was not impressed.  Neither was Grover Norquist.  At the same panel Bush made clear he had not signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

Further adding to Bush’s woes is the fact that conservative groups are pointing to a 45% increase in state spending during his tenure.  Not exactly a great thing to court conservatives with.  Even the fact that hurricanes hammered the state consistently from 04-06 is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Bush is ultimately dragged down more by his name more than anything else.  There is no warm feeling from conservatives to the Bush name and the actions the former Florida Governor has taken since he has left office has not helped.  If Jeb wants to be President he should really, really realize you do have to win the primary to win the general.  To do that Jeb needs to start mending his fences with the base and soon.


Addendum: This is part I of a two-part series on Bush’s Presidential aspirations.  The next edition will feature what competition Bush would likely be up against in the primary.







Election Did Not Solve DC’s Woes

Budget-DealElections have consequences.  In 2008, the election of a Democratic President and strong Democratic majorities gave the party unified control of DC.  With this power they passed Healthcare Reform, the Stimulus, Dodd-Frank and a host of other liberal initiatives.  In 2012, Barack Obama was reelected, ensuring his legacy laws would survive.  Voters rebutted the President a mere two years later in 2014 by giving the GOP a huge majority in the House and control of the Senate.  Yet, even after America voted the dysfunction that has characterized DC continued with the last ditch effort to pass the Cromnibus.

Republicans and Independents voted for GOP control of Congress to be a check on the President.  Yet, in doing so, they eliminated many of the remaining moderates in the Democratic Senate and House Caucuses.  Thus, Nancy Pelosi is now ideologically closer to her Caucus’s positions.  Elizabeth Warren has been given an even bigger pulpit to preach her vehement opposition to anything related to money in politics or Wall-Street.

Meanwhile, conservatives feel emboldened after November to oppose the President at every turn.  This belief is partly at fault for the government almost being shut down again.  Soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner believe the public wants more than that.  The public wants compromise and governance.  Hence, their insistence they will push for entitlement and tax reform.  But the confluence of electoral events working against them makes it likely such successes will be hard to achieve.

The Democratic Caucus in the House has been whittled down to a Northeastern and West Coast party also composed of numerous majority-minority Southern districts.  This means few, moderate bipartisan ideas are likely to come out of the party that Boehner and his conservative Caucus can accept.  On the flip-side, Boehner is likely to see his Caucus become more moderate as many winning GOP candidates won centrist or slightly left of center districts.  Still, the most conservative elements of the party, largely elected in 2010, can upend any deal made.

GOP wins in the Senate are not likely to move their Caucus to the right.  Joni Ernst (IA) and Corey Gardner (CO) are far from moderates but they hail from swing states that will not like their Republican officials aiding a dysfunctional DC.  Many of the Republicans who won in GOP leaning states are also more establishment and pro-government than their colleagues elected in 2010.  Indeed, for several GOP freshman in left leaning states up for reelection in 2016 they also have an incentive to notch policy successes.  On the other hand the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, just like the House, has become even more liberal.  Fortunately for Republicans there are enough moderate Democrats from red states that will side with them on popular issues (ND, WV, MT, MO) to provide them with a filibuster proof majority to pass legislation.

The recently concluded budget debate highlighted this trend and keep in mind this was with the lame duck Congress (elected in 2012).  Various factions of both parties revolted against the Cromnibus, touted by the media and party leaders as a compromise that was a sign of true governance.  If this is how the old Congress reacted one should be worried about how the next one will.  Progressive heroine Elizabeth Warren was allowed to shine while Nancy Pelosi openly railed against the budget agreement the President supported!   The netroots has sworn they will remember their party leadership’s betrayal. Meanwhile, numerous Senate liberals and House and Senate Republicans voted against the final package.  Many conservatives found themselves echoing the Democratic netroots opposition to their leadership’s proposal.  Blind adherence to partisanship and ideology is not always good but if more Republicans and Democrats are willing to break with their party on bipartisan bills than more bipartisan bills may die.

There is little hope this will change in the short-term.  Democrats have been devastated at the state level which means their recruitment of center-left or moderate candidates for federal office is sure to suffer.  New ideas are unlikely to flourish from up and coming candidates.  With the party controlling the levers of power in so few states policy experimentation and the elevation of star candidates to higher office becomes tougher.  Demographics do not help this trend as most of the party’s base is consolidated in the urban areas of many states where stalwart adherence to progressivism is the only way to get elected to dog catcher.  There is hope Republicans can become more moderate and pro-governance while sticking to their roots  but their conservative factions in Congress are still strong enough to block any legislation if they choose.  Against this backdrop, big ticket ideas like tax and entitlement reform seem doomed to die before any proposals even hit paper.  And America loses because of it.

The 2014 election will leave an indelible mark on American politics.  Voters supported Republicans and Democrats for many reasons but in the end they gave the GOP strong control of Congress.  Unfortunately, the GOP is divided and the Democratic Party is more liberal than ever.  Perhaps if Obama wants a legacy he may tack more to the right to get GOP support on popular policy ideas.  But maybe I am being a little optimistic.  The President is not known for being anymore conservative on many issues than Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren.



Budget Battle Showcases Democrats Post-Obama Family Feud

Elizabeth WarrenI wondered how long it would take for Democrats to openly break with the President.  Apparently it took just over a month from a midterm shellacking the party may not recover from for a decade.  I speak of the debate over the Cromnibus which amusingly pitted conservatives and progressives together in an effort to kill the bill.  Of course, each side had different reasons for doing so.

Conservatives hated the bill because they saw it as giving Obama full funding for the rest of the year and not opposing Obama’s Executive Order on immigration.  Buried in the Cromnibus’s 1000+ pages are a smorgasbord of things conservatives dislike; chief among them Obamacare funding.  Progressives wanted the bill to die for largely two reasons.  The first, it roll back provisions in the Dodd-Frank reform package of 2010 regarding risky derivative language.  The second, something Harry Reid actually suggested, was to massively increase the donation limit of individuals to state parties to a whopping $1.5 million per election cycle.

Both Republican and Senate Democratic leadership were fully on board with the final package.  The White House weighed in on Wednesday that it supported the package.  Ultimately, what you had were John Boehner and Barack Obama both whipping votes for the package.  Of course this does not mean House Democrats were on board with the package.

Thursday afternoon House Republicans put on the floor a vote on the rules that would govern debate on the Cromnibus.  Not a single Democrat voted for the rule, John Boehner actually had to vote for it for it to pass (unusual) and the vote had to be held up for ten minutes so two more GOP votes could be found to pass the bill.  Some of the House Democrats that voted against the rule did vote for final package but it is telling they would openly defy the President’s wish the bill be passed quickly.

Nancy Pelosi actually announced her opposition to the bill when Josh Earnest was delivering the daily WH Press Conference.  Though she did not whip her members to oppose the bill it was clear her opposition made a large number of her Caucus voice displeasure with the legislation as well.

Now the drama shifts to the Senate where several members of the Democratic Caucus are openly vowing to oppose the budget bill.  Progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren, an arch enemy of Wall-Street, is calling the bill a “sham” and will oppose it.  Whether she holds it up remains to be seen.  Bernie Sanders (I-VT), arguably in a run-up for President is also opposed to the bill.  And the problem Boehner ran into in the House is likely to show up in the Senate as well as several Republicans have voiced displeasure for the bill.

But while Republicans have largely been seen as the party that is divided it is becoming clear that Democrats have their own internal schisms to deal with.  Their caucus, liberal now but even more so in the 114th Congress, will adhere more to the Warren side of progressivism than the Obama or Clinton side.  Further, after two massive midterm defeats many of these Senators and let’s not forget the House will feel like they can break from the President.  To a degree.

The President is still the most visible face of their party and spiting him on everything would make the party look weak and disorganized with a Presidential election in less than two years.  Unfortunately, much as the Tea Party’s adherence to ideology has confounded GOP electoral warnings the same may be true of the Left’s progressive faction.  Yet, even among Democrat’s progressive faction there is a split.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean endorsed Clinton for President.  Yet, the very organization he founded, on the same day of the Dean endorsement sent out a fundraiser to supporters to help with a “Draft Warren” movement.  The move, even it is unsuccessful, reflects that the Democratic Party may find itself facing a GOP 2012 moment where the party’s candidate, Mitt Romney, struggled to unite and appease his party’s various wings.  Clinton could suffer the same fate. This does not necessarily reflect on Obama. It is more of a reflection on Democratic ideology and how the party has moved further left just as the GOP has moved further right under the President.

As it stands, it looks like the post-Obama Democratic feud will be fought over the next decade (if Clinton runs and wins).  This would upset the conventional wisdom of partisanship in DC.  Conservatives in control of Congress might often unite with progressives to kill bills they oppose or stall Presidential actions.  Establishment Democrats and Republicans might be forced to unite in support of pieces of legislation they loathe.  This would mask the ideological differences between the parties but they would definitely still be there.

Republicans have their issues to hammer out but so do Democrats.  It is becoming increasingly clear that Democrats have yet to figure out the party they are or will be in the post-Obama era. If the Cromnibus drama is any indication the Democratic family feud is going to be anything but civil.


Southern Democrats: Gone For A Long Time

Mary Landrieu, who lost on December 5th, was the last Democrat elected statewide to represent a Deep South  state.

Mary Landrieu, who lost on December 5th, was the last Democrat elected statewide to represent a Deep South state.

Take a look at the electoral map it is hard to find a white Democratic Congressman (or Senator) representing a statewide office in the South outside of Florida (Jim Hood of Mississippi).  Take a look at the legislative map of the region and one will find that Democrats do not control a single chamber or Governorship from the Carolina’s down to Texas.  In fact, the sole Governorship and legislative chamber Democrats control in the South, both located in Kentucky, are expected to flip in 2015 and 16.

Mary Landrieu’s defeat in Louisiana’s Senate run-off this Saturday closes the book on a chapter in Southern history.  A long history.  Landrieu, like many Southern Democrats, was an all to common breed well into the new millennium even as the region was supporting Republican candidates for President consistently.  Sean Trende has an excellent recap and historical analysis here. But, to a lesser extent under George Bush and more significantly under Obama, white Democrats have become an extinct species in the South.

Consider that when Obama took office in 2008 Democrats had total control of the AL, AR, MS LA, WV, NC, legislative chambers.  Democrats also held the North Carolina and Arkansas Governorships.  Today, all those legislative chambers and Governorships are held by the GOP.  In some cases the GOP has a 2/3rds majority in many of the chambers.  As Southern voters have come to associate any Democratic candidate with the national party the local, centrist Democratic brand that long-held sway in the region has been battered.  As Trende notes, it has not been helpful Southern Democrats have increasingly moved left in their voting habits. In 2004 then Georgia Senator Zell Miller (D) delivering a fiery denouncement of his party’s Presidential nominee, John Kerry, and endorsing George Bush.  The move now looks reflective of the partisan transition many white Democrats have made in recent years.

Not all Southern Democrats were caught off guard by the region’s first shift in 2010.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (D) easily won reelection while the legislature went Republican.  White congressman John Barrow (D) won reelection in the Deep South.  In West Virginia, former Governor Joe Manchin won election to the Senate and the Governorship was held by his party (albeit narrowly).  In North Carolina, due to strong Democratic gerrymandering, the GOP only gained a single Congressional seat even as they took control of both legislative chambers for the first time since Reconstruction. In 2012, the region’s shift to the GOP accelerated.  The party gained more seats in legislatures, a number of Congressional seats in NC due to retirements and a new Congressional map and the state’s Governorship.  This occurred even as Obama was winning nationally by 4% and the House national vote favored Democrats by about a million votes.

Fast forward to November 2014 and almost every vulnerable white, Democratic officeholder lost their seats.  John Barrow (D) lost to a no-name Republican, West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall was crushed and Senator Jay Rockefeller’s Senate seat went red.  The Arkansas Govenorship flipped to the GOP.  Every vulnerable Republican Governor and Congressman (minus Steve Southerland) won reelection.  The Democrats were lucky to hold the Kentucky House. Now, not a single white Democrat represents the region (excluding FL) for federal office.  Mary Landrieu’s defeat was merely an exclamation point on the region’s massive shift.

The question must be asked, what changed?  Did voters in the region move further to the right or did the Democratic Party move left?  Partisans and strategists will debate the question endlessly but recent events suggest the party moved left.  Southern Democrats ran on a centrist, economic brand and promotion of social conservatism.  Due to their long tenure many of them held powerful Committee positions that held back their party’s most progressive legislative impulses.  When Democrats took control in 2008 and Nancy Pelosi and Obama took the helm of their party many of these Southern Democrats were minimized.  Further, to get Obamacare and the Stimulus passed, every Southern Democratic Senator had to vote yes to get the bills passed.

These votes by Southern Democrats were against the views of many of their constituents. Constituents remembered those votes six years later.  May Landrieu lamented the fact that during her reelection campaign voters were not remembering all that she had done for the state.  Oh, they were.

While Senators who voted for Obamacare and the Stimulus had the luxury of not seeking election for four years after the vote many House, Southern Democrats who did, and didn’t, vote for the law, did.  Notably, many of the white, Southern Democrats that voted against the law lost in 2010.  Rahall and Barrow, who voted against the law and won in 2010, were merely collateral damage.

The Democratic brand in the region is tattered and that is putting it nicely.  Exit polls in the region’s key statewide races found younger voters favored Republican candidates suggesting the next generation of voters in the region is becoming Republican.  If true, this means that even if demographics push the rest of the US to the left the region will remain right of center.  Some Democrats hope that a return to the party’s centrist, pragamtaic and populist roots will appeal to young and old voters alike.  But, if the electoral map is any indication, this is a long-shot hope at best.

Addendum: Further adding to Democratic woes are the fact that the party’s base does not want centrist, Southern Democrats in the party.  Rather, much as Republicans have struggled with since 2008, purists want solid progressives in the Senate rather than moderates.  



Obamacare Broke the Democratic Coalition’s Back

obama_coalition_onpageTo many analysts and pundits when Chuck Schumer said Obamacare had hurt the Democratic Party in 2014 they did not bat an eyelash. But in the eyes of many Democrats what he said amounted to mutiny. On November 25th at a National Press Club meeting discussing Obamacare Chuck Schumer said “Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform. The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed. But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make; Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their health care. This makes sense considering that 85 percent of all Americans got their health care from either the government – Medicare or Medicaid – or their employer. And if health care costs were going up, it didn’t really affect them.”

He further elaborated “Only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40 percent of those registered voted. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5 percent of the electorate. To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought, the Democrats are not paying enough attention to “me.” He succinctly pointed out the advere policy and political consequences of the law. “Had we started more broadly, the middle class would have been more receptive to the idea that President Obama wanted to help them. The initial faith they placed in him would have been rewarded. They would have held a more pro-government view and would have given him the permission structure to build a more pro-government coalition. Then Democrats would have been in a better position to tackle our nation’s health care crisis.”

Numerous Democrats disagreed. Most notable, Nancy Pelosi, who said “We come here to do a job, not keep a job.” Not surprisingly, several former White House staffers also came out in support of the law and the President. The LA Times even came out against Schumer. But while many Democratic officials and some media outlets may disagree with the senior Senator the public has generally sided with Schumer.

The Affordable Care Act has not had majority support since its early conception in 2009. A solid majority of all adults in countless polls have said the law will cause them negative consequences, has their disapproval or will cost them more money. This is not surprisingly when one considers that a majority of voters consider it a wealth redistributionist scheme. Look at some of the key points of the law.

First-off, consider the law takes over $500 billion from Medicare to fund Medicaid. People on Medicare tend to be middle to higher income and largely white while those on Medicaid are generally poor and majority-minority. Second, by requiring young, healthy individuals to purchase insurance under the Individual Mandate to fund healthcare for the poor the young are seeing their limited wealth transferred. Lastly, the law’s primary support largely rests on racial identification with blacks and Hispanics generally supporting it and whites opposing it.

To say this has had electoral ramifications is an understatement. In 1994, after Democrats attempted to pass HillaryCare, whites voted GOP 58-42 in the election. In 2010, after Obamacare’s passage, white voters Republican by the largest margin since 1994, again at 58-42. In 2014, whites further fell into the GOP’s camp and voted 62-38 for GOP candidates. The group that most supported Republicans were working class, non college educated men and women who used to form the backbone of the Democratic Party.

These voters went 64-34 for GOP candidates and more importantly overwhelmingly supported GOP candidates in critical swing states such as Iowa and Colorado. Both these state’s white working class is far more friendly to Democrats than the national white working class. Not so much this election.

This has led some Democrats such as Schumer, and rising liberal star Elizabeth Warren to suggest the party needs to return to promoting wage and economic growth based policies. But whether the party can do this in a convincing way remains to be seen. Political analyst Charlie Cook says Obamacare has left an indelible mark on how white voters view the Democratic Party. Short of the GOP imploding like it did under Bush Democrats remain likely to struggle among whites.

Democratic efforts to make the law and their image more palatable to whites are hindered by two significant facts. The first is the GOP is unlikely to let Democrats make the law more acceptable to whites. Second, considering the law is a massive redistributionist scheme and is predicated on funding itself through taxes levied largely on whites. eliminating any onerous provisions on largely white constituencies would surely annoy Democratic constituencies.

As if this was not bad enough the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said “many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.” Even if more of these people are registered to vote than Schumer suggests the odds of this giving them a reason to go out and vote is pretty slim.

Beyond the glaring roll Obamacare has played in the elections, another statistic stands out. Out of the 60 Senators that voted for Obamacare, 30 have lost reelection or retired. Of the white Democratic Congressman in Southern states who voted for the law who represented majority white districts in 2009 not a single member still remains in Congress. Considering the above it is easy to see why.

The 2014 elections also showed that Democrats may also not be able to rely solely on the nation’s changing demographics in the short and perhaps long-term. Specifically, Republicans won 37% of the Hispanic vote and 49% of the Asian vote. In key GOP leaning states such as TX, GA and FL the party’s Senate and gubernatorial candidates ran ahead of their party’s margins in key states. Perhaps Democrats should not be so bullish on 2016, Hillary or no Hillary.

What to Expect in Louisiana Saturday

Mary Landrieu (D) is living on borrowed time and she knows it.

Mary Landrieu (D) is living on borrowed time and she knows it.

Louisianans might have sent a message to President Obama and his party on November 4th, but electorally that message was largely muddled.  Combined with Louisiana’s unique majoritarian-blanket primary system three major federal races remain outstanding; the 5th and 6th Congressional districts and the state’s US Senate race.

In all three races Republicans are heavily favored.  The reasoning is simple.  Both the 5th and 6th Congressional districts are heavily Republican. The 5th has a PVI of R+15 and the 6th a PVI of R+21.  The state of Louisiana has a PVI of over R+12 though until recently Louisianans had little qualm with electing Democrats statewide.

First, let’s look at the two Congressional races before we move to the marquee Senate race. Geographically, the 5th CD is massive, running from the Northeastern corner of the state to St. Tammany Parrish.  The district has some majority-minority parrishes but other than that Democrats have no clear strongholds there.  The 6th is a largely suburban district centered around Baton Rouge with a few Democratic enclaves.

In the 2014 November primary, Republicans split their support in both districts so no single nominee came close to 50%.  But in both districts, the combined vote of all GOP nominees was well over 50%.  In the 5th, Republicans combined vote was greater than 69% and in the 6th it was over 60%.

This means Republican primary winners Ralph Abraham (5th) and Garret Graves (6th) only have to consolidate their bases on election day.  Abraham faces Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D) while Graves faces former Democratic Governor (and convict) Edwin Edwards (D).  Edwards has the ability to appeal to the few blacks in his district but seems unable to win enough whites. Mayo just lacks cash and name ID outside Monroe.  Both races should easily go Republican.

To many people the most important race in the state is Mary Landrieu’s (D) Senate race.  In the November primary she garnered just over 42% of the vote and beat her strongest rival, Congressman Bill Cassidy (R) by 1%.  But the combined GOP vote for the primary was easily in excess of 42%, 55.8% to be exact.

Historically, Landrieu has outrun her November primary performances as she has consolidated party and Independent support.  In 1996, she garnered only 21% in a GOP heavy primary field but narrowly won in a runoff (50.2%).  In 2002, she garnered 46% of the vote in the primary but won with 51.70% in the runoff.  Most recently, in 2008 she won outright with over 52%.

But while Landrieu has been winning the state has been consistently shifting red.  In 1996, when Landrieu first ran, the state had a GOP Governor but a strongly Democratic legislator.  The make-up of the state’s federal delegation was 5R/4D with fellow Democrat John Breaux representing the state in the upper chamber.  Today, the state has significantly shifted rightward.  Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has been elected twice (no runoffs needed), the GOP dominates the legislature for the first time since reconstruction and only one other Democrat from a majority-minority district represents the state’s federal delegation.  More alarmingly for Landrieu, she is the only Southern, white Democrat elected statewide left in the entire South (excluding Florida).

Combine these factors with the fact her opponent, Bill Cassidy, is a generic Republican and Landrieu has been tied to Obama and her task is herculean.  Somehow she has to assemble a winning coalition of whites and blacks as she has in the past.  Yet, while exit polls showed she won 96% of the black vote she won a mere 18% of whites in the first round.  In 2008, she won over 30% of whites.  To even be competitive she needs to have blacks represent 30% of the vote and win a minimum 25% of whites.

Looking at county level data is also instructive.  In 2008, Landrieu dominated both East and West Baton Rogue Parrishes, racking up 110,000 votes in East and 6,700 in West.  She won 57% in both.  This go around she won a startling smaller percentage in each.  In East she won 76,288 (51.5%) and West 4,207 (44%).  In fact, the total combined GOP vote in West Baton Rogue crushed her vote total by over 5%.  In traditionally Democratic St. Landry Parrish she suffered the same fate.  In 2008, she won 23,762 votes (57%).  But in November she won a mere 15,099 votes which equaled 46% of the vote.  Again, the total GOP vote outran her total.

This county level data from November suggests Landrieu has little room to grow and that she has lost the support of older, more rural, and white Democrats.  She has not done much to win it back with continuous support of Obamacare and clear gender/racial pleas for votes.

Recent polling out of the state shows us what we should see early Saturday night; a high single digit to low double-digit lead for Cassidy that holds through the night (even as Orleans Parrish reports).  The state GOP, including Tea Party candidate Rob Manness, has coalesced around his candidacy.  Conservative outside groups and the National Republican Party are outspending Landrieu and her allies by the millions.

Bellwether counties in the state include traditionally Democratic St. Landry Parrish, Bossier Parrish up North (staunchly Republican) and Orleans Parrish.  The most important thing to watch for out of both Bossier and Orleans Parrish is turnout level.  If turnout in Bossier eclipses 35,000 it means Republicans turned their base out and it is all over.  But if turnout is below 2008 levels and Landrieu manages to get turnout in Orleans Parrish to 150,000 it could mean the race will be closer than expected.

All told though, Cassidy should win.  The fundamentals suggest it, the polls suggest it, and spending levels suggest it.  Obama is a drag on Landrieu, her brand is tarnished and Democrats seem demoralized everywhere since they lost the Senate in November.  Republicans will finish off the 2014 elections strong by adding another seat to their Senate majority (54) and giving themselves the largest House majority the party has enjoyed since Herbert Hoover’s administration (247).

Addendum: Early voting stats out of Louisiana spell disaster for Landrieu.  According to National Journal, as of Monday early voting turnout dropped among every demographic group but the drop was most acute among blacks (23.5%), women (12% and Democrats (17.9%) and in Orleans Parrish.  Meanwhile, GOP turnout in early voting actually increased (3.4%).  This is yet another indication of the mountain Landrieu has to climb in five days and signifies she is living on borrowed time.









How the Democratic Party Became More Ideologically Cohesive

Delegates applaud during first session of the Democratic National Convention in CharlotteThe Democratic Party used to the party of ideological diversity.  It had an urban coalition of cosmopolitan liberals, Northeastern Civil Rights Democrats and conservative Southern Democrats.  This diversity was fostered through the efforts of FDR who held together this diverse coalition through personality, war and handouts to Southern Democrats.

Of course, history is filled with the coffins of electoral coalitions and alignments and this Democratic coalition is all but dead.  Democrats have their urban and Civil Rights elements as well as a cosmopolitan liberal element in the Northeast but there are few, if any, true conservative Democrats anymore.  But as recently as 2008 this was not the case.

Before I go further a brief electoral history is relevant here.  Starting with JFK, the conservative Democratic element, particularly in the South, began to chafe under the cosmopolitan/Civil Rights Democratic element.  This allowed Nixon to deploy his Southern strategy.  Yet, despite GOP success federally in the South they struggled to win other federal or state races in the region.  Heck, the GOP tide at the Presidential level was even turned back somewhat with Clinton in 92 and 96.

But the GOP had already made inroads in the region at the Congressional level with their win in 1994.  It was only in 2006, a mere two years after George Bush was reelected and Republicans took control of the biggest Southern prize’s Congressional delegation, Texas, the Democratic Party finally began to branch out.  With the GOP in firm control of the Senate (55 seats) and the House (232), Democrats sought to branch their party out from the moderate/liberal rump party it had become.  Enter Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, took over the DCCC in 2005 and advocated targeting key moderate and conservative districts represented by Republicans.  He largely eschewed DNC Chair Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy which advocated supporting progressives nationwide.  An unpopular war and unpopular President combined with strong Democratic recruiting heralded the party 6 seats in the Senate and 30 in the House giving them control of Congress.  A mere two years later the party would garner a massive 9 Senate seats and an additional 25 Congressional seats, many in conservative and Republican leaning districts in the South and West.

Hence, in 2009 the Democratic Party looked more like the party of FDR.  It was fairly strong in the South, dominant in the Northeast and on the Pacific Coast and held its own in the Midwest.  It’s control in the Senate rested on strength everywhere but the South.  Most notably, the conservative Blue Dog Caucus was enlarged to 54 members.

Then 2010 happened.  Suddenly the Democratic Party’s fortunes were thrown up in the air.  It’s longtime dominance of legislative races in LA, NC, MS, and AL disappeared.  Arkansas turned red.  Nationally, the GOP gained 63 Congressional seats and a significant 6 Senate seats which combined with Massachusetts gave them 47 overall.  Democrats were crushed nationwide in gubernatorial races and the hold the party held in the Midwest and South largely disappeared.  More important ideologically, many longtime white, conservative Democrats in the South (like Ike Skelton-MO) were defeated.

The strategy Emanuel had used to broaden the party’s appeal was derailed.  Obama’s reelection did not change this phenomenon.  Instead of focusing on candidate recruitment and utilizing the messages of 2006 and 2008, Democrats largely followed the Obama campaign’s lead on identity politics.  Carried by the President’s strong showing the party made inroads among Hispanics and women leading to Congressional gains but only in new and liberal districts (created by blue redistricters).

The 2014 election was an utter disaster for the party.  Not only did Democrats lose in the South but they lost moderate districts in Iowa, Nevada, Florida and New York.  They lost blue Governorships in Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland and failed to win any new legislative chambers while losing 10 nationwide.  Not even the Democratic Midwestern blue firewall could withstand the Democratic wave (hi Senator Joni Ernst).  Former Southern legislatures that had held out for Democrats turned bright red (West Virginia).

Perhaps this could have been avoided.  Emanuel’s 2006 strategy focused on winning blue-collar whites on the economy and foreign policy.  Obama’s strategy in 08 fueled this plan though less so.  But starting with 2009 the Democratic Party has put far more emphasis on ideology and identity politics than broadening their coalition. In some places this strategy has worked.  Democrats are in firm control in multiracial California and are strong in many urban enclaves (though these places have few whites).  It has not worked in many other places. If one looks at an electoral map today they will find a Democratic Party literally controlling the fringes of the US map.  CA, OR and WA state in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast (minus ME, MD, MA).  Of course, the Democratic Party did not exactly become notably liberal in the last three weeks.

Since 2008, the party has shed its moderate personal and appealed to its base.  Healthcare Reform, attempts to pass Cap and Trade and Dodd-Frank were it at the most basic level.  The Stimulus appealed to only unionized whites.  It is not surprising few conservatives and moderates look at it the same way anymore.  Unfortunately for conservative and moderate Democrats who have catered to more than the base they have paid the biggest price.

Worse, the party has run on the same message for virtually three straight elections with little deviation.  Democrats seemed genuinely shocked when their message on Healthcare Reform and notable social issues such as abortion were rebuffed in 2010 (except in Colorado).  In 2012, the same issues were rehashed minus Healthcare Reform, largely because Romney did not want to touch it (Romneycare baby).  Democrats found more fertile ground due to GOP blunders.  This year, Democrats followed the same script and picked a slate of standard candidates to run in open races on the same, old issues their base loved.  Two problems.  Their base did not seem to care anymore and Republicans adapted.

Most notable were the candidacies of Join Ernst (IA) and Corey Gardner (CO).  Both ran on avoiding debates on gay marriage and suppporting contraception.  Former hardline stances on abortion were put to the side and they stressed the hopeful change that the Obama of 2008 had.  Both their opponents stressed the social issues of the day but to little effect.  Calling their victories a romp would be an understatement.  Combine this with conservative Democratic retirements elsewhere in the Senate and the defeats of Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Pryor (AR) and Mark Begich (AK) and there are arguably only three conservative Democratic Senators left in the party and one is likely to lose this Saturday in Louisiana.

Democrat’s don’t have much chance to change course.  It is obvious their identity politics coalition is assembled around cultural issues.  Running away from fights on abortion, gay marriage and income inequality is simply something the base will not tolerate.  Thus, appealing to the middle (if there is such a thing) and increasingly conservative, white America has become harder and harder. Democrats comfort themselves with the thought that their minority-majority coalition is permanent and they can outrun losses among whites. The truth however is the GOP is making gains with traditionally Democratic groups while Democrats stagnate or fall further behind among whites.

If Democrats are thinking of trying to recapture whites for 2016 recent events have not helped the party.  The President’s move on immigration reform through Executive Action has made the base happy.  It appeals o the racial coalition the President has built.  But, notable Democrats representing largely white electorates have voiced concern and opposition.  Republicans are in lockstep opposition while a majority of the public (largely whites) is as well.  A Hillary Clinton is likely to be dragged down among whites due to this decision.

Democratic futures in 2016 look brighter largely because higher turnout means they will win some blue leaning Congressional seats they lost.  But it says nothing of how the party will fair in the post-Obama era where liberalism is now ascendant in the party and the conservative wing is all but silenced permanently.  Probably not well.

Addendum: Not to be forgotten, Elizabeth Warren speaks to the party’s modern coalition far better than Obama or Hillary Clinton ever could.  However, it is unclear how well she speaks to the rest of the country. 





POS Puts to Rest the Myth Most Voters Did Not Vote

AP_voting_jef_141104_16x9_992Public Opinion Strategies, a GOP pollster, has finally put to rest the myth that a majority of US voters did NOT vote this election as President Obama insisted when he said, “To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”

If true, this would surely indicate our system has serious issues.  The real problem? It is not true.  Rather, it is more accurate to say a majority of the Voting Eligible Population did not vote.  Registered voters are something completely different.

To be in the VEP all you have to do is be 18 and an American citizen (minus a disqualifier like being a felon).  But to be a registered voter you actually have to be registered to vote.  Thus, as Shull and McInturff indicate, what we actually should have are two different turnout rates, one for VEP and registered voters.

Thanks to information provided by the US Elections Project this is fairly easy to calculate (as seen below).  Note these numbers are subject to some revision as final ballot counts are certified by various election offices in December.

Estimated Number of Votes Cast: 82.3 million
Estimated Number of Registered Voters: 153.2 million*
Estimated VEP: 227.2 million

Turnout Among RVs: 82.3 million ÷ 153.2 million = 53.8%
Turnout Among the VEP: 82.3 million ÷ 227.2 million = 36.2%

President Obama is wrong. A majority of registered voters did vote this cycle.  A majority of VEP individuals did not.

It is accurate to say that turnout was down this cycle from the 2010 midterm.  However, the drop from 89.2 million to 82.3 million registered voters is largely attributable to five states.  As Shull and McInturff write, “five states that account for just more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Compared to 2010, turnout was down by approximately 2.6 million in California, 800,000 in New York, 700,000 in Ohio, 500,000 in Missouri, and 500,000 in Pennsylvania. In addition to being relatively large, what these states had in common was no Senate election and either no Governor’s race or a non-competitive one.”

Further, as POS notes, due to random chance only 52% of the population lived in states with Senate elections.  Let’s also keep in mind most Senate elections were not that competitive this cycle.  Thus, when you combine the fact that almost half of the population lived in states devoid of a Senate election and many races were uncompetitive hitting a 53% RV turnout rate is not bad historically (nor is 36% of the VEP).

It is also worth mentioning, building on Schull’s and McInturff’s analysis that some of the states with the most competitive gubernatorial and Senatorial elections saw the highest turnout.  Consider the examples below.

Maine: While Maine did not have a competitive Senate race it saw a competitive three-way gubernatorial race.  Turnout among RV’s was the highest in the nation at 59.3%.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin saw an extremely competitive gubernatorial race and it showed.  Lacking a Senate race the state still saw a RV turnout rate of 56.9%, the second highest in the nation.

Alaska: Alaska featured competitive Senatorial and gubernatorial elections.  This led the state to have an RV turnout rate of 53.8%, third highest in the nation.  This is doubly impressive when one considers the geography of the state (though the Begich campaign’s operation might have aided in turnout).

Colorado: Colorado had it all; competitive Senatorial and gubernatorial elections and an all new mail voting system.  The result was a turnout rate among RVs of 53.4%, edging out Oregon’s 52% rate.

Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire: All three of these states featured mildly competitive to extremely competitive Senatorial or gubernatorial elections.  All three also had both.  Turnout rates among RVs for all three states clustered right under or above 50%.

It is also notable that three of the four biggest states in the country, NY, TX, and CA had extremely low turnout rates.  CA saw a turnout of 30.3%, TX a mere 28.5% and NY 28.8%.  Florida which had a few competitive Congressional races and a Gubernatorial contest did better with 42.7%.

All in all, considering the various factors involved in this election turnout was not that bad.  So, perhaps the President and his party should stop blaming the election results largely on turnout.


Addendum: Even Charles Schumer acknowledges Democrats paid a heavy price for the issues they ran on this cycle, especially Obamacare.

Addendum 2: It would be nice if writers and the media would stop saying it is Republicans who benefit from low turnout.  Obviously, the fact the GOP won in states with the highest turnout indicates differently.






Why the Jones/Ybarra Contest Means Little to Idaho Education

Sherri Ybarra and Governor Otter.

Sherri Ybarra and Governor Otter.

If you are a Democrat from Ada County (or heck, anywhere in Idaho) you are probably freaking out that a Republican got elected for Superintendent who is unqualified, lied about her academic career and plagiarized a section of her campaign website.  I speak of course about Sherri Ybarra.

Democrat Jana Jones came close to defeating Ybarra.  She did much better than any other Democratic statewide candidate that night.  But the truth of the matter is if Jones had won it would have made little difference.  Despite the Superintendent’s ability to direct educational policy he/she does not control the purse strings.  The legislature does and thus they hold the majority of power in setting Idaho’s educational agenda.  More specifically, the GOP legislative super-majority does.

It is important to remember (and hard to forget) that Idaho is a strong one party state.  Republicans occupy every statewide office, state or federal, and control exactly 4/5ths of the state house (56/14) and senate (28/7).  This means that while the political concerns for educational policy will be similar to other states (reelection, results) the ideological direction of such policy will be one sided.  In Idaho this has meant increased focus on test scores and teacher accountability.

The legislature guards its power to direct educational policy through the budget voraciously.  Considering over 60% of Idaho’s budget goes towards education this makes the legislature a huge player in the process.  Whether it is JFAC, the House/Senate educational committees or the entire legislature, they set the policy direction of education by what they fund/don’t fund.

I personally witnessed this when I worked for the legislature in 2013.  The Senate Education Committee staged a revolt over fellow Republican Tom Luna’s attempt to fund pilot technology programs.  While the budget passed the committee it failed to pass the whole Senate.  Ultimately, Luna backed down, the Education Committee inserted statutory language into the bill and it passed overwhelmingly soon after.

Despite the legislature’s power yhr Superintendent has broad flexibility in usage of the educational budget.  But, for the most part, the legislature designs the budget to constrain the Superintendent.  That is largely what the debate over the Education Budget was about in 2013.

There are other players involved in the process as well.  Most notably the State Board of Education.  The State Board approves administrative changes made by the Superintendent (who is a member of the Board) and the Educational Department.  If the legislature does not disapprove the rule it goes into effect.

Combine the power of the legislature and the SBOE and you see how the Superintendent’s authority is greatly limited.  Consider the recent example of Tiered Licensure that recently passed the State Board and is likely to be allowed to go into full effect by the legislature next session.

The proposal was in the works well before Jones or Ybarra even faced off in the general election and was passed by the SBOE before the new Superintendent entered office.  It is conceivable that had she been elected Jones could have fought the law but she would have likely lost the battle.  Ybarra, for her part, seems content with managing the new requirements.

There are other factors I will mention only in passing because unlike the above they are not institutional.  The partisan tilt of the legislature does not just ensure a specific policy direction but also conflict between a Democratic Superintendent and a GOP legislature.  Jones made no bones about it that she would fight the legislature during the campaign.  Specifically, she spoke glowingly of the IEA and negatively of Tiered Licensure.

Further, she would have likely sparred with a conservative State Board of Education and been at odds with the Governor.  Likely budgets would not match, compromise would be hard to find and the next four years would be marked by dysfunction at the administrative/political level.

Idaho has endured this before when Superintend Marilyn Howard ran the show.  She constantly fought with Governor Kempthorne and the legislature and she ardently opposed the one cent sales tax hike to fund education that passed in 2006.

It is likely those who voted for Jones were voting for a new direction in Idaho education.  The vote margin Jones racked up in Ada County certainly indicates so.  Many Jones voters were worried Ybarra was not qualified or would be led around by an anti-teacher, anti-education legislature and gubernatorial administration.  But, also keep in mind many Jones voters also supported Republicans down ballot ensuring a GOP legislature.  Many also split their tickets for Governor Otter and his team.  Perhaps they would not have if they had considered the institutional and political barriers they were putting in Jones place had she won.

Regardless, it really does not matter who won.  The SBOE and legislature are the ultimate power centers in Idaho education and the Superintendent largely implements their will.

Addendum: No matter what happens Democratic voters are sure to see Ybarra as unqualified and a failure.  That is how deep some of the opposition to her candidacy and soon to be administration runs.


GOP Wave Misses California Again

California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari

California GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kaskari

If one state has withstood the national GOP environment for the last two midterms it is California.  Consider Republicans gained Congressional seats in WA State and CO in 2010, nearly won the Governorship in Oregon (split the legislature) and retook strong GOP seats in AZ and ID.  They cruised to gubernatorial victories in NM and NV.  Yet, in California, the GOP did not win a single race against an incumbent Democrat at any level.

Admittedly, this cycle there was little low hanging fruit for the GOP to win in the West.  Arguably, the GOP lost two winnable races in Arizona but might win AZ-2 after a state mandated recount.  There really were no competitive Congressional races in OR, WA State and New Mexico.  The GOP did win a surprising victory in a Democratic leaning Congressional district in Nevada though and the ultimate prize was winning Colorado’s marquee Senate race.

Easily, the GOP’s best success came at the legislative level.  Beyond holding all their Governorships the party took control of the WA State Senate, the Nevada House and Senate, Colorado Senate, New Mexico House and tightened its hold in the Arizona legislature.  Unfortunately, this success was not replicated in California.

In 2010 California featured competitive Senatorial and Gubernatorial races.  This drove turnout in down ballot races and yet the GOP did not capture any additional seats.  This is partly due to the 2001 redistricting plan that was created as a deal to protect incumbents.  In 2012, after redistricting, the GOP lost three seats and was reduced to a 15 member Congressional delegation (out of 55).  Worse, Democrats established a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers and thus could easily pass budgets without GOP support.

It is important to keep in mind what has happened since 2012.  In 2013, the GOP won the contested San Diego mayoral race after the Democratic mayor stepped down in disgrace.  At least three Democratic state senators were indicted or accused of corruption.  Earlier this year, the Democratic legislature saw their new push for Affirmative Action squashed because of Democratic Asian American and GOP opposition.

Despite this, the strong Democratic orientation of the state has remained.  The GOP came into the cycle with moderate ambitions for rebuilding the party in the state.  They targeted CA-7, a district based in the Sacramento suburbs and CA-52, a GOP leaning district in midterms based around San Diego.  The state party simply sought to become relevant in the legislature again and deny Democrats their 2/3rds majority in the legislature.

As of this writing it looks likely the GOP will, yet again, come up short on gaining a single Congressional district in the state.  The GOP lost the CA-52 race when their candidate, Carl Demaio, imploded and CA-7 has swung the Democrats way thanks to late and absentee ballots coming in from metro Sacramento.  The party was competitive in some surprising races, notably CA-16 and majority-minority Hispanic CA-31.  However, CA-31 was a seat the GOP won in a fluke in 2012 so the party likely will come out of this election at an even more severe disadvantage in the Congressional Delegation.

Nobody expected the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Neel Kashkari, to win against Brown.  Indeed, he won a dismal 40% of the vote in the state, no better than Meg Whitman’s showing in 2010.  In fact, not a single GOP candidate for statewide office won.

The GOP’s success story is its success at the legislative level.  At the start of the cycle the GOP was outnumbered in the state senate 27/12 and 54/25 in the house.  After the election the GOP had won two new senate seats and three new house seats making them a relevant minority again (hold at least 1/3rd of both chambers legislative seats).  This means they will at least have say in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Admittedly, this is not much to build on but the party did show it is willing to moderate by running a gay candidate for Congress and a American-Indian candidate for Governor.  Even in loss the party might find success in the future.

Still, the GOP wave that struck the country this November and in 2010 missed California.  Democrats have not had the same struggles as they have strengthen their hold on the state’s Congressional delegation and kept Republicans out of any statewide office in the age of Obama.

Addendum 1: Both CA-7 and CA-16 were called for Democrats late last night when absentee and provisional ballots gave them insurmountable leads.  Yet again, the GOP failed to make any traction in the state’s Congressional delegation and actually lost a seat, CA-31.

Addendum 2: With the final results in, CA’s Congressional delegation now represents 38 of the House Democratic Caucus’s 188 seats.  Combine this with WA State and OR and the number shoots up to 47.  The rest of the Democratic Caucus comes from the Northeast and a few majority-minority and blue collar Midwest and Southern districts.  Considering the GOP strength comes from the South it only heightens the likelihood the two Caucus’s will find any common ground on important issues.