Carly Fiorina Could Not Have Won California in 2010

isIt’s somewhat amusing that as Carly Fiorina has risen in the polls and proven to be the most viable outsider candidate that Trump supporters have turned on her with a rabidity not even matched by Trump himself. Not only do these voters think she’s a fake or unprepared but they also think that she could have won California in 2010. Well, it seems a little education is in order here on two fronts: she created more jobs than were lost during her time at HP and second, she could never have won California running on the platform she did.

First-off, Trump supporters and Trump himself can complain little about Fiorina’s record. An entire segment of the second GOP debate was about Trump costing hundreds their jobs when a group of casinos he owned went belly-up in New Jersey. More pertinent to Fiorina, HP had more employees when she left than when she started. How did she accomplish such a feat? She downsized and revamped the company. Unforunately, such a process is painful but ultimately beneficial to the company and future employees.

It’s not surprising to hear Trumpers (as I call them) attack Carly on this point. Obama’s attacks were particularly effective against Romney on that front in 2012. It’s more surprising to hear them say the issue lost Fiorina the 2010 California Senate race. Did I miss something? Are we speaking about the conservative California that exists in an alternate reality?

To be clear; Fiorina could never have won California in 2010. It’s a wonder she kept her loss down to the low double-digits. Consider several factors.

  • In September almost 45 percent (44.9) considered themselves Democrats. Barely 30 percent considered themselves Republicans and the rest were unaffiliated. Those registration numbers are atrocious for Republicans. According to Gallup that year California was the 10th most Democratic state in the country.
  • Gallup also polled the ideology of voters in CA and found that in 2010 24.1 percent identified as liberal. In 2014 27.5 percent identified as liberal, the 7th highest total in the nation. Good luck winning in a state with that kind of trend and Democratic voting base (before even moderates enter into the equation).
  • Fiorina ran as an unabashed conservative in 2010. She only shied away from the gay marriage debate but was more than happy to make it clear she was pro-life. She affiliated with the Tea Party and made little effort to reach out to minorities and it showed. While she won whites by 9 percent she lost every other racial group by double-digits. Keeping in mind California is a majority-minority state that is not a winning campaign formula.
  • Fiorina never led in the race. Sure, she polled strong early but that was when GOP candidates were surging nationally. As the election neared and voters became more engaged Boxer began to pull away in mid to late October.

This to some degree explains why Trump supporters argue she could have won in 2010. Hey, if she can be close with Boxer why can’t she close the deal? Must be the TV ads attacking her business tenure.

But that argument ignores the more relevant points above. It also ignores that polling in 2010 was biased nationally in the Republicans direction by a few points meaning the race was never as close as any poll ever showed.

Fiorina was a strong candidate in 2010 despite her flaws and she is an even stronger candidate nationally. Amid a more conservative electorate her views are resonating not just on style but also substance. It is not a sign of weakness she lost in 2010. It is a sign of just how liberal California is and points out the fact NO Republican could have won the state in 2010.



Idaho Republicans Need to Change to Win Urban Boise…..And They Won’t

thNo series of days better personified the political change that has occurred in Boise than the “Add the words” testimony at the Idaho Capitol in January.  GOP lawmakers, after much deliberation, decided to allow hearings on HB-1.  HB-1 would allow the words “sexual orientation and identity” to be protected under the Idaho Constitution’s Civil Rights section.  For three days, person after person spoke in favor of the legislation.  When the public testimony was over well over 300 had testified in favor and less than 50 against.  After said testimony the committee voted 13-4 to kill the bill.  All 13 Republicans voted no and all four Democrats voted in the affirmative.

In a decade (shorter even), Boise has gone from a battleground to a liberal haven rivaling Sun Valley.  Not a single GOP legislator hails from urban Boise and only the Western suburb based 14th LD remains in GOP possession.  This is a far cry from 2005 when the GOP controlled a majority of legislative seats in Boise.  But GOP control in the area rested on two factors.  First, moderate GOP lawmakers could carve out their own brand.  Second, the state party was not moving to far to the right.  In 2006 the state party started moving rightward by nominating libertarian Congresssman Butch Otter as its gubernatorial nominee.  Meanwhile, the legislature supported a series of unpopular measures including banning gay marriage.  The result was a complete and systemic defeat of every Republican in urban Boise. The 2008 election largely reaffirmed the new partisan nature of Boise.  Republicans gained a temporary reprieve when they won back two legislative seats in 2010 but those seats were subsequently lost in 2012.  The election returns from 2014 show not a Republican candidate in urban Boise eclipsed 40% of the vote.

Boise has changed much since 2000.  It has become wealthier, more diverse and of course more Democratic.  But the Democratic Party has also become much better at exploiting this factor.  In 2003, a turning point in city history, David Bieter, a legislator from the heavily liberal 19th LD, was elected Mayor.  He still resides in the office and is a heavy favorite to win a fourth term.

Boise was never going to be able to be dominated by Republicans.  Many conservative leaning voters have fled to the lower tax and a transient, college population has descended on the city.  These voters lean more left of center.  Worse for the GOP is the population of the North End has shrunk but it is merely because these voters have spread further out in Boise, maximizing their vote.  Republicans, in an effort to appeal to their suburban and rural base also largely abandoned the issues that urban voters care about.

In many ways Boise reflects the urban/suburban/rural divide reflective in American politics.  The issue set these voters value are entirely different.  Further, the dominant party often courts the larger voting bloc.  Boise and Ada County are large but their vote does not outweigh the rest of conservative Idaho unlike neighboring Washington State and Oregon.

The Idaho GOP still does have a chance to eventually recapture Boise though it will take time and a concerted effort.  More painfully for the party though is it will force the party to back off its socially conservative platform and embrace LBGT rights.  This might be to high a price to pay as it would ensure the party would lose many rural voters as well as some suburban backers.  But until the GOP does they will continue to have little power in Boise.


The Summer Of Crime

gty_baltimore_protest_tl_150428_16x9_992Between 1932 and 1968 Democrats had held the White House in seven of the last nine Presidential elections. They had capitalized on the public’s perception the GOP was not a competent manager of the economy. But in 1968 the party could not overcome an issue that devastated their nominee’s campaign: crime!

From New York to Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston, the scourge of crime has returned in spades. In the last week the public has witnessed Illinois police officer Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz be killed by three men and the execution style killing of Harris County, TX officer Darren Goforth.

Democrats appear helpless to stop heading towards their destiny. The party’s bread and butter issues have been a volatile mix of income and race, and with it has come the rise of crime. Democrats have few answers to alleviate the public’s growing concerns.

The response from the White House has been underwhelming. The best the President could muster was, “Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable.” Well, I’m glad the President could stand with the cops.

At the local level Democratic leadership has been unable to solve these problems. The response in Baltimore and Philadelphia has been to blame the police to the horror of suburban taxpayers. Only in Chicago does it seem the Democratic mayor (Rahm Emanuel) is standing by the police.

In an effort to stop a divisive movement within party ranks, the DNC has tried to court the Black Lives Matter movement much as they did with the Occupy Movement. To party elites distress the movement showed them the middle finger.

Unable to mollify the movement the summer of 2015 may be more remembered as the season of crime than the summer of Trump or Sanders. The Democratic Convention of 1968–when the party split on the Vietnam War–is raising its ugly head.

Republicans have taken notice. Ted Cruz excoriated the White House and the Democratic Party for their response and policies. Cruz stated, “From the president, from the top on down as we see . . . whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement.”

Cruz is not the only Republican hammering the issue home though. Donald Trump has called the administration soft on crime and he attacked Bush for calling illegal immigration an “act of love.” Bush fired back a day later by reminding voters of Trump’s past support for Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats might be able to take joy in Republicans taking potshots at each other in another situation. But the real shots being fired are coming from their cities. Republicans have no power in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, or other major cities in the US. Totally run by Democrats for decades on end, the party’s politics have turned these cities into shooting galleries. Democrats response? Stick body cameras on cops.

Such a response is lacking and honestly forgets what initially won the party suburban converts. In 1992 Bill Clinton broke with party elites and promoted anti-crime laws and incarceration. In 1993 he worked with Republicans to sign anti-assault weapon legislation and put 100,000 new cops on the streets. Lastly, he even took Sister Souljah to task for advocating blacks kill whites.

A similar candidate has no chance of getting out of the Democratic primary. Hillary has largely repudiated her husband’s crime legacy and focused on recruiting the Black Lives Matter movement. While it’s clear that Sanders would like to focus more on income inequality, he has been driven to promote civil rights legislation catering to racial grievances. Webb, Chaffee, and O’Malley, well, they don’t even poll as a footnote.

Despite demographic and political shifts that favor Democrats, the issue of crime can serve as a strong political rallying cry. It’s not the political and economic elite that feel the effects of crime but rather the average Joe and Jane.

These are the quintessential swing voters of modern America and they have witnessed murder rates rise up to 76 percent in Milwaukee, 60 percent in St. Louis, 56 percent in Baltimore, and 44 percent in D.C.

This is having an impact on the campaign. Polls show Clinton is barely garnering one-third of the white vote, and she is continuing to lose ground in the pivotal suburbs. In strongly white swing states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, her standing has slipped in virtually every category.

A new NBC/Marist poll finds Clinton trailing Trump by five percent and Bush by a whopping 11 percent in Iowa. In New Hampshire, she holds a one-point lead over Trump but trails Bush by 5%. It’s not a stretch to say these voters have noted the Democratic nominee’s change in tone on crime of late.

Just as the party’s split in 1968 cost them the Presidency, the same could occur in 2016. Unless Democrats find a way to rectify the views of their upscale-downscale base with the rest of mainstream America they will lose next year. That is what the summer of 2015 has truly been about.

Democratic Brand of Identity Politics Sets Up Many Candidates to Fail

isPerhaps it is just not uttered because it is so obvious, or perhaps not, but Democrats have an identity politics problem. It partly explains why every non-female candidate in the Presidential field (short of Sanders) has struggled. It also explains why the party is so annoyed at their preferred choices being challenged in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

No better example of the Democrat addiction to identity politics stands out than the Nevada Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. Democrats did everything in their power to recruit former Attorney General Catherine Masto into the race. Reid and the Democratic elite basically pushed everybody else out of the contest.

But this is only the most recent example. Since 2008 and Barack Obama’s election, Democrats have pushed candidates that appeal to their voting bloc and potentially others. In 2010 the party did not struggle with the issue. Due to their victories in 2006 and 2008 Democrats were defending numerous incumbents. They also had a sizable Congressional conservative contingent hailing from the South.

Yet the party pursued identity politics through its agenda. Obamacare, sold as a benefit to the middle class by bringing down costs, was a massive wealth transfer from the middle class to lower income individuals. Dodd-Frank handed out billions to the big banks and destroyed numerous smaller banks in the process. The stimulus bill and Cash for Clunkers handed out power and money to Democratic constituencies (unions, Planned Parenthood, etc) while leaving the American public further in debt.

The result was 2010. Conservative Democrats, forced to pick between their values and party loyalty, were wiped out. The result was a newly configured Democratic Party more in line with identity politics than ever. And since that time Democrats have embraced it.

President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign was all about identity. The platform he offered and the promises he made were specific to different constituencies in a way Bill Clinton never attempted. Consider that virtually every decision made by the administration was based on how it would play with different constituencies. The perfect example of this was gay marriage. Reticent to embrace the issue in 2012, the President wholeheartedly supported it in 2012 because it would win him the LBGT and youth vote.

Democrats also ran several notable candidates that cycle including Tammy Baldwin, a gay Wisconsin Congresswoman, Shelley Berkley in Nevada, and Martin Heinrich in New Mexico. All three candidates played on key Democratic constituencies (women, minorities, LBGT community).

Just like 2008 benefited Democrats, so did 2012. Identity politics worked well. But it also had its downsides last year (just like 2010). Democrats, lacking strong identity-based candidates, were destroyed in 2014. Turnout dropped by significant margins in Hispanic-heavy states like Nevada, allowing a weakened GOP to sweep the ticket.

The 2016 election is not looking any kinder to the party. The GOP is defending numerous vulnerable Senate seats and demographics and turnout favor Democrats, but the party’s emphasis on identity-based politics and issues means they are stuck with a flawed Clinton as their Presidential nominee. Despite the former First Lady’s email scandal, lackadaisical campaign, and horrid attempts to appear genuine on the stump, the party faithful still overwhelmingly back her candidacy.

As one would expect from a party based on identity politics, her support comes solidly from women, minorities, and the young. Men, particularly college-educated white men, have thrown in their lot with Bernie Sanders as have the party’s urban base. But Sander’s candidacy is more like Trump’s, based on a movement’s beliefs and values and less on what the candidate represents.

It’s clear what Clinton represents. The empowerment of feminism, the wish list of goodies minorities crave like immigration reform, and yet another proponent of redistributing wealth. It’s little wonder why the other three white, heterosexual males in the race (Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee, and Martin O’Malley) cannot gain traction in the race. Their brand of politics and issues do not appeal to particular groups and unlike Sanders they have not been able to campaign on an issue that captivates a political movement’s attention.

Republicans are not immune to this trend, as Trump shows. The party has increasingly dominated statewide and down-ballot races in midterms because of the power of white, middle class men and non-college educated whites. These voters have their own brand of identity politics. Unlike other contingents of the GOP (fiscal conservatives, libertarians) who are true to the cause of limited government, these voters don’t mind a larger state as long as that state redistributes wealth to their benefit. Trump has tapped into these voters’ resentments against the establishment and media in a way few candidates have since Ross Perot in 1992.

Looking forward, identity politics is likely to be the flavor of the day in America. Democrats have invested too much in it to let it fail. Republicans, willingly or not, have allowed the party to be filled with identity politic supporting whites. Assuming it benefits them of course.

Kentucky Clerk Reignites Debate Over Gay Marriage

ap_220157184201Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s decision to not issue marriage licenses to gay couple has to go down as one of the most politically tone deaf moves in history. A solid majority of the public supports marriage equality, it is her duty to do so as a County Clerk, and she is under siege from multiple sides.

On the other hand, her decision to fight the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June only adds to the debate over gay marriage–specifically, religious exemptions. Republicans and culturally conservative Democrats have largely ceded the fight over gay marriage to its proponents. The new front in the battle is religious freedom.

Before Davis there have been at least a dozen other skirmishes over the issue. Rulings in Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon all have sided with the states anti-discrimination clauses over religious exemptions. A baker in Colorado was forced to pay fines and restitution for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. A florist in Oregon was fined and ultimately forced to close his doors due to denial of service to gay couples. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 against the religious objector. However, one astute judge noted the anti-discrimination laws forced individuals to choose between their faith and the law (and in some cases their livelihood).

There is a key distinction between these cases and Kentucky’s. Davis is an elected official, sworn to obey the law, while all the individuals involved involved businesses. Until Davis, we had never seen an elected official openly use religious objections as a reason for refusing to do their job.

The response to Davis’s actions have come at the state and federal level. Davis’s actions have roiled the Kentucky Governor’s race. Republican nominee Matt Bevin has defended religious exemptions and, due to the nature of the Kentucky electorate (more socially conservative than not), so has Democratic nominee Jack Conway.

Outside Kentucky the response has been much different. The Republican establishment has barely touched the issue. Some Republican Presidential contenders have weighed in on the issue while others have avoided it altogether. Democrats have been slow to respond, which is surprising considering the party is in lockstep on stepping on the First Amendment to promote marriage equality.

According to Davis (and Mike Huckabee), she is merely following the law. Unlike other states, Kentucky had not had its Constitutional ban on gay marriage overturned until the Supreme Court’s decision. Further, Davis argues she is merely following the will of the voters who put her into office; arguably they are far more culturally conservative than the average American.

But this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our governmental system works. The Supremacy Clause, often abused, makes federal law paramount unless otherwise stated. Thus, if Congress passed a law legalizing gay marriage all states would have to recognize such a law. Similarly, unless Congress acts to repudiate a Supreme Court ruling, the ruling can have national implications (depends on the case).

Davis either refuses to accept this reality or is a martyr for her cause (more likely the latter). Unlike in prior events involving public or state officials, she is unlikely to back down.

Earlier this year, national politics was roiled when Indiana attempted to pass a RFRA (Religious Freedom and Restoration Act). Passed at the federal level in the 1990s as a response to attacks against traditional values, numerous states followed suit. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, Indiana attempted to protect religious freedoms with the new law. The result was a national uproar. Democrats piled on, several businesses refused to move to the state if the law passed, and protests occurred inside and outside the state. Eventually, the Governor and legislature backed down and did a fake watering down of the bill. Similar situations occurred in Arizona (at the beginning of 2015) and Arkansas.

None of this is to suggest Davis is right or wrong. She obviously believes she is furthering her cause–whatever it is–but that dismisses the larger point. The American public has largely passed the debate over whether gay marriage should be legalized or not.

The debate is now over just how far marriage equality can tread on one’s religious views. The oft-made comparison of marriage equality proponents is that the government did not allow business owners or individuals in the Civil Rights era to deny service to bi-racial couples or blacks. So why should the LBGT community be any different?

This is an inapt comparison. First, nobody had a religious reason to deny services to bi-racial or black couples. It was premised on cultural norms and values. Secondly, it has been well established for decades there are religious objections to LBGT couples and families whether it be for the lifestyle choice, sexual orientation, etc.

However, Davis’s actions appear more the views of a rogue determined to prove their point before one steps off the stage. Her actions don’t further the conversation between marriage equality and the First Amendment.

What the Canadian Elections Can Tell Us About 2016

canada-electionElection analysts and writers in the US are focused almost solely on the Presidential race which is more than a year away. But there is an election on October 19 that can perhaps tell us something about next year.

Canada, our neighbor to the North, just entered its electoral cycle less than two weeks ago after Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested the formal dissolution of his government.

A few details are necessary to understand the differences between the US and Canada. First, Canada utilizes a parliamentary system of government. This means that the head of government is elected from the majority body in Parliament (Prime Minister) as opposed to the general electorate (President).

Second, while Canada uses a first-past-the-post system like the US for single member district elections, party loyalty is more highly valued. This means, unlike in the US, members of a political party cannot create a unique individual brand like they can here (think formerly conservative, Southern Democrats).

Canadian elections can occur in two ways. The Prime Minister can dissolve his government and inform the Governor General, or the majority party can rule for five years until a new election is automatically called.

Since 2006, Conservatives have controlled the Canadian Parliament. That election, conservatives gained a minority of seats and struggled to garner a majority to enact a fiscally conservative agenda. In 2008 another election was called that resulted in minor gains for the party. In 2011 Conservatives finally won a majority in Parliament for the first time in over two decades. That majority might be coming to an end however.

A wave of populist angst has swept Canada much the same as in the US. Conservatives have struggled to stay at the forefront of this wave. The party most able to exploit this angst is the formerly irrelevant New Democratic Party.

In 2011 the party blew apart the formerly Quebec based Bloc de Quebec and gained a significant foothold in Parliament. The NDP is running on a platform very similar to the Democratic Party. They are calling for quality childcare, capping greenhouse gas emissions, investing billions in infrastructure and transportation, and preserving entitlements (Medicare and national pension system).

Such a platform might not be so appealing to voters if the economy was humming along. But the initial boost the Canadian economy received after the financial crisis of 2008 has faded. While the US economy has hobbled along for half a decade, the phenomenon is relatively new for Canada. And while US voters can vent their disapproval with a Democratic administration, Canadians who can do the same with conservative leadership.

Perhaps forecasting what is to come the NDP took control of the conservative Alberta legislative session for the first time in history. Public opinion polls show the conservatives are likely to lose their majority and may not even retain a plurality in Parliament. Further adding to Conservatives woes is an ongoing scandal which is tarnishing the party’s efficient, transparent governmental model.

It remains to be seen whether the NDP’s early success will last. Just like the Democratic Party here at home, they promise big but cannot come up with specifics on where funding for these ideas will come from.

Further, prior polling in the 2014 US elections–and 2015 British and Israel elections–showed a distinct leftward slant. In all three cases the polling was woefully inaccurate. The Israeli right-wing Likud Party defied expectations and held control of Parliament. In Britain, Conservatives gained a surprising majority of seats in London. And you know what happened last year at home.

In the cases of Israel and Britain, right-wing parties co-opted populist movements to their benefit. The 2014 election here at home was less about populism and more simple electoral dynamics. So Republicans would be foolish to simply assume a populist movement would benefit them. If you want a case-in-point, just look at how appealing Donald Trump’s populist appeal is to the general electorate.

Bernie Sander’s appeal in many ways reflects the support the NDP is getting in Canada. Railing against the political establishment, calling for massive investments with no plan to pay for them, refusing to touch entitlements to make them more sustainable, are similar to the NDP’s appeal in Canada. The only difference is Sanders is essentially railing against seven years of his own party’s rule. The NDP has the benefit of blaming Conservative rule in Canada.

These factors should make analysts and the general public look North for what we could see next year. If Canadians are willing to embrace a populist appeal based on governmental intervention it might indicate that Americans are willing to do the same.

New Poll Offers Good, Bad News For Trump

A new Fox News poll heralds both good and bad news for Donald Trump, mostly bad.  But I will get to that in a second.  First, the good.  The poll finds Trump with a commanding lead in the GOP Presidential primary with 25 percent.  Following in second is Ben Carson with 10 percent while Cruz and Bush are at 10 and 9 percent respectively.  The Trump campaign has to herald this as yet another feather in their cap.  After-all, it seems Trump’s weakness in the first debate was overlooked due to his squabble with Megan Kelly.  His base of supporters, for all intents and purposes, has appeared to have held together.

But here is the bad news.  Trump’s lead is built on a base of support that is anti-establishment and anti-DC.  But expanding his coalition is virtually impossible.  Among Republican primary voters, Trump is only the second choice of 11 percent of the other 75 percent.  Bush is the second choice of 10 percent and Rubio is the second choice of 13 percent.  On a sidenote, this is Rubio’s entire problem summed up in one poll.  People like him as a fallback, but not as their first choice.

The Trump camp has argued it did fine in the debates because of the topline numbers of polls like this.  But the poll finds only 38 percent of Republicans surveyed (keep in mind, a sub-sample of the total number of registered voters) watched the debate.  Among the 38 percent of sampled Republicans who watched the debate 20 percent thought Trump performed the worst.  So, Trump’s numbers not changing could be due to the fact few Republicans actually watched the debate.

Specific to expanding his coalition Trump is the least likable candidate among Republican voters by a lot! A whopping 37 percent say he is the least likable candidate in the field compared to only 16 percent who say he is the most likable.  For comparison, Rand Paul is the next least liked Republican at 11 percent.  It’s heard to expand your coalition with numbers like these.  It’s virtually impossible when 56 percent of all voters and a plurality of Republicans think you are not qualified to be President, the highest number of any .  Every other Republican candidate has far better numbers among partisans and the general electorate.

Among all voters Trump has atrocious ratings and it shows in his match-up with Hillary Clinton.  Despite Clinton being bogged down by ethics issues and the Secretary of State email scandal she still manages to lead Trump 47 percent to 42 percent.  Only Carly Fiorina is worse at 47-40.  But Rubio and Bush lead Clinton, albeit by a narrow two percent margin.

Trump’s primary and general election numbers are particularly notable because he has almost universal name recognition.  A Fiorina trailing Clinton at this stage might be understandable because she lacks solid name ID but what about Trump?  It says quite a bit about your viability when you trail the Democratic nominee and garner only 42 percent of the vote while keeping this in mind; a solid 58 percent of all voters say Clinton lied about her email server and 54 percent say she endangered national security.  Trump is losing 16 percent and 12 percent of those voters respectively.

Lastly, I’m a believer in analytics and past results allow analytics to be developed.  On, Harry Enten has a piece that shows since 1980 few candidates who garner less than 33 percent of the primary vote in the summer before the election, go onto win the primary.  Of the losers (Lieberman, Giuliani, Clinton, Cuomo, Hart), Trump shares their major problem; an inability to expand his political support.  Lieberman never had a shot in 2004 due to his support of the Iraq War, ditto Clinton 2008.  Cuomo was too liberal for a political party eager to push a fresh, new image of itself.  Giuliani never was able to get past his support for abortion, gun control and gay marriage.

Some might argue that never has the field been this large so it’s little wonder why Trump leads with less than 30%.  Technically true, but as Enten points out we have had big fields in the past, “The 1988 Democratic field, 2000 Republican field and 2008 Republican field each featured more than 10 candidates, for instance,” and “In 2000’s crowded GOP field, George W. Bush still managed to run up the margin.”  Bush did this because he had strong conservative and establishment credentials.  Honestly, Trump has neither.

Unless Trump can find a way to appeal to new voters he won’t be the GOP nominee.



Republicans Are Making Inroads Into Democratic Territory

Since 1992 Democrats have enjoyed an Electoral College advantage. Consider that in 1992 Bill Clinton won 37o electoral votes and 379 in 1996. George Bush could only garner 271 in his initial bid and only 286 in 2004. Obama won two victories with 365 and 332 electoral votes.

Average out the average Electoral College vote for Republicans and Democrats since 1992 and Democrats lead 327-211. This massive advantage has been fueled by Democratic-leaning demographic trends, but also because numerous swing states or marginally Republican states have swung in the Democratic direction.

Thus, it is incumbent upon the GOP to put at least a few of these states in play. Ohio and Florida are almost always in play and go towards the winner in Presidential contests. But Republicans have come close and fallen short in electoral rich states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin since 1992. However, if recent polls are to be believed, the GOP is putting these states in play as well as making a comeback in formerly red Colorado and Virginia.

Part of this is fueled by the weakness of the Democratic Presidential field, but it is also fueled by the strength of the GOP field. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is bogged down by scandal. Self-identifying socialist Bernie Sanders has a loyal base of supporters but cannot branch out his support among the general electorate (or among Democrats). Meanwhile, the top GOP contenders (minus Trump) are making a play in Democratic bastions.

The latest evidence comes from a Quinnipiac survey of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. The survey tested Sanders, Clinton, and Joe Biden against several GOP contenders. In Pennsylvania, a state that has voted for the Democratic nominee every time since 1992, Clinton trailed Jeb Bush 43-40, Rubio 47-40, and edged out Trump 45-40. Biden beats Bush 43-42, loses to Rubio 44-41, and crushes Trump. Sanders trails Bush and Rubio in all three states and narrowly leads Trump.

This is a head-turning result for Democrats. Pennsylvania is a state that has formed a Democratic bulwark in the Electoral College. Unlike Florida or Ohio that swing with the national mood, Pennsylvania has backed Democrats since Bill Clinton’s first run. Speaking of Ohio and Florida, both states remain competitive and true to their swing nature.

Clinton narrowly edges out Bush 41-39 percent in Ohio but loses to Rubio 42-40. Biden narrowly beats Bush and Rubio and crushes Trump. In Florida, if the GOP nominates Bush or Rubio, the state looks like a sure thing for the GOP. Bush leads Clinton 49-38 in his home state, and Rubio has an even larger edge at 51-39. Biden, on the other hand, runs much closer with his possible GOP opponents.

To their credit, Democrats do not seem to be worried. Clinton has yet to really engage in any of the three states (it is over a year from the general), and Biden has yet to announce. Besides, Democrats have yet to really unload against the GOP nominee. Still, these results have to be disconcerting.

Most worrisome for the party should be Clinton’s horrid image among voters with just 32 percent finding her honest and trustworthy in Florida and Pennsylvania and 34 percent in Ohio. Even Trump had better numbers on trust among voters.

In terms of net favorability in Florida, Clinton is at -18 points, while Trump is -14 points; in Ohio, Clinton is again under, at -18 points, with Trump at -22 points. In Pennsylvania, Clinton is at -17 points, while Trump is at -21 points. Meanwhile, Bush and Rubio had more voters trust than distrust them in all three states.

The poll numbers reflected a similar theme in July when Quinnipiac found voters in Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa did not trust Clinton. They trusted Bush, Rubio, and Walker more.

These results do not mean a Democratic state like Pennsylvania will fall or that Republicans can reclaim Virginia or Colorado. But it does indicate that the electoral advantage Democrats have built might be eroding. In Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Florida, new registration numbers show more voters are registering as Republicans. These numbers are being buoyed by third party groups working to register right-leaning voters who tend to not vote (taking a page from Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns).

If anything, Republicans can claim victory on one front–they have succeeded in putting needed Democratic states in play. Democrats, who were once optimistic about their chances in demographically changing states like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas, are now virtually assured they will not capture any in 2016.

Hillary Clinton Is Just A Bad Candidate

Hillary-Rodham-ClintonDemocrats might as well face the fact that Hillary Clinton is just not a good candidate. She lacks charisma, the ability to empathize with voters, and even the ability to appear clean to voters. This should not be a surprise to the party, yet it seems to be. But the writing has been on the wall for some time.

Consider her first bid for public office–a New York Senate seat. Her opponent Rick Lazio, a no-name Republican, somehow managed to win 43 percent of the vote against the popular first lady. This cannot be explained away by the presidential election. Bush only garnered 33 percent of the vote in the state, meaning Lazio outran his party by a whopping 10 percent. That can largely be chalked up to Clinton running a lackadaisical campaign.

Her 2006 reelection campaign should have been a cakewalk and was. She won with a strong 67 percent, but even this was below expectations. Her 2008 presidential campaign was expected to be a coronation. But then, as now, she struggled to connect with voters via retail politicking, and it cost her Iowa. Her inability to connect with anybody not blue-collar white or Hispanic doomed her candidacy.

This time was supposed to be different. She had a massive lead in the polls (far larger than any she held in 2007), hired the best and brightest young staffers in all the early states, and downplayed her celebrity and past. That past, and her inability to connect with voters, seems to keep catching up with her.

Despite her best efforts to tell her personal story, it has largely fallen flat. Voters are willing to be enticed by a 73-year-old socialist senator from Vermont named Bernie Sanders. Democrats are freaking out over her falling poll numbers, not to mention the ongoing email scandal (drip, drip, drip). To make matters worse, Joe Biden is thinking of running and, yes, even Al Gore’s name has been floated.

Democrats seem to be coming to the conclusion that it is more about the candidate than the campaign. Sure, Obama has weak approval ratings and the economy is struggling, but that should not explain a candidate with almost 100 percent name recognition losing to candidates with barely 50 percent.

This is not just conjecture. Chris Cillizza, over at The Washington Post, spoke with several Democratic operatives, and they echoed a familiar theme: Clinton is just not a good candidate. Said one senior Democrat, “She has always been awkward and uninspiring on the stump. Hillary has Bill’s baggage and now her own as secretary of state — without Bill’s personality, eloquence or warmth.” Still, he expected her to win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton recently joked at a Des Moines, Iowa even that she liked SnapChat because the messages disappear. It is this kind of tone-deaf rhetoric that makes even allied Democrats cringe.

“The combination of messy facts, messy campaign operation and an awkward candidate reading terrible lines or worse jokes from a prompter is very scary,” admitted one unaligned senior Democratic operative.

Those disappearing messages have already had a serious impact on her campaign. At the start of the campaign, Clinton had a wide lead on voter “trust” in opinion polls. Now poll after poll is showing that voters have lost faith in her. Worse, this is hurting her among being able to understand voters (the issue on which Romney lost the election).

Clinton’s response to the email scandal has not made things better. Since March she insisted she would keep her sever private, but she turned it over to the FBI last week. Since then, Clinton has insisted she never stored or sent classified information from her private server, but evidence has emerged to counter that argument. Now it appears there may be hundreds of emails that contain classified information.

Even if Clinton did nothing wrong, the appearance is terrible. Voters may not know whether she did it deliberately or not, but they also have to wonder whether she is even competent enough to be President. As Cillizza points out, I cannot imagine smart campaign staff thinking this is the way to win a campaign by allowing the story to continue in the news and have their candidate appear indifferent to the issue.

In many ways it is classic Clinton–“I am a Clinton therefore I am above the law and do not have to play by the rules everybody else does.” But in reality she does. The FBI and CIA are not going to simply let this go. Neither are voters. Even if they like Clinton on the issues, the fact they don’t trust her probably ensures she loses in a landslide.

Democrats are stuck. That cannot simply replace their frontrunner. She is strong among women and minorities largely on her identity politics appeal. Even Bernie Sander’s has been unable to shake her core support among the group.

What you are left with is a party lacking any viable alternative to a badly damaged frontrunner. Candidates still do matter in campaigns. Romney struggled to connect to voters and lost. Close elections especially depend on the personality of the candidate (think “I want to have a beer with Bush over Gore and Kerry”).

The good news for the party is Clinton has time to get better (or worse). Sanders might force her to hone her message down to an effective theme. A long and bloody GOP primary might allow her to face a weak GOP opponent. But, if not, then what?

Democrats do not have a lot of options. Clinton has now run for President two of the last three elections and for Senate twice. One would think she would have her message and appeal down. Apparently not.

How Damaged Is Hillary?

It’s hard not to cringe when one hears of Hillary Clinton’s sagging presidential bid. Her handling of classified information during her tenure as Secretary of State and her increasingly likely cover-up is continuing to dog her campaign. The FBI may even open a criminal investigation. Bernie Sanders’ numbers are increasing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he is attracting massive crowds in progressive bastions like Seattle and Boulder.

Considering these things, it is pertinent that we assess the damage to Hillary Clinton. These need to be examined from two perspectives: the Democratic primary, and the general election. Clinton’s biggest threat in the primary is Sanders, assuming Joe Biden does not jump in; there are many Republicans she needs to worry about in the general.

The Sanders threat in the primary seems to have faded a bit. Yes, Sander’s is gaining in Iowa, and a new poll has him leading in New Hampshire, but national polls have Sanders stuck at no more than 25 percent. Iowa and New Hampshire both have majority-white, progressive electorates favorable to Sanders. But other than those early states, Sanders is struggling because women and minorities are doggedly sticking with Clinton.

Sanders’ problem is that he needs to broaden his appeal. However, his campaign platforms are to the left of many constituencies that support Clinton. He’s not going to win the conservative whites that dominate the Appalachian primaries, and he would struggle among suburban, college-educated Democratic women.

Sanders does appeal to an important and growing segment of the Democratic Party: white progressives. It’s why Sander’s does extremely well in Iowa, New Hampshire, New England, and the West. However, these wins are not the stuff that a viable electoral strategy is built on. If you cannot win delegate-rich Florida, Texas, Michigan, and California, your candidacy is in deep trouble.

Sanders can shift the gears of his campaign, which has largely been a protest stint until now. To do so, he would need to buck the progressives pushing him to talk only about their issues and instead broaden his message.

Sanders has tried to make inroads into the Clinton coalition by playing up his bonafides on civil rights. His campaign recently released a four plank plan to address racial inequality. But then Sanders runs smack dab into the fact that his campaign is simply to far to the left for many Democrats.

Hillary, on the other hand, seems to be in the middle of the Democratic Party. This leaves Sanders little room to grow. Clinton has the money and endorsements from many of the big-wigs of the party. Lastly, despite Clinton’s email troubles, many Democrats still view her favorably, even progressives. So even the Democrats who support Sanders like Clinton.

Party leaders are not breaking in their support of Clinton, and it’s sucking all the oxygen out of the room for a Biden run or giving a Martin O’Malley room to grow. In other words, Clinton still looks like a lock for the Democratic nomination.

The general election poses much bigger problems for Clinton. President Obama’s approval ratings are in the mid-40s, the economy is limping along, and Clinton’s personal favorability ratings are in the toilet. Some might be tempted to call the race lean Republican, but I call it a true tossup.

To be fair there are different takes on just how damaged Clinton is for the general. Nate Cohn, writing for The New York Times, argues that Clinton’s personal numbers don’t matter as much as core factors: President’s approval ratings, the economy, and partisanship.

However, I think such an analysis misses the mark in a few ways. First, a candidate’s personal appeal still matters in campaigns. It is why Obama was able to caricature Romney as a heartless plutocrat, not nationally, but in the Midwest. Romney, like Jeb Bush, never had strong personal appeal on the stump. Obama had it in spades.

Secondly, partisanship changes. It’s true that most voters will behave in a predictable matter, and that many Independents are closet partisans. However, who people vote for is just as important as if they vote. If many soft Democrats stay home instead of voting for ethic plagued Clinton, and many soft Republicans vote against her, well, you see the problem.

Obviously the economy is a huge issue, but a voter’s views on it can be overcome. Exit polls showed Romney won voters on the economy by four percent, and yet he lost the election by four percent. The economy is not the end all be all.

Clinton’s favorable ratings are particularly notable because they have not just fallen among Republicans and leaners but also because they have fallen among Democrats and Independents. In other words, Clinton is not just struggling to portray a positive image to Republican voters but also left-leaning Independents and Democrats.

A majority would probably come out and vote for her regardless, but how many would not is the key. So I disagree that Clinton is in a more secure position than the general thinking assumes. The economy, incumbent approval ratings, and partisanship matter, but they may not be the determinant.

Clinton is also bogged down by the President. He is alienating her candidacy to Jewish voters with the Iran Deal, Cuban-Americans with normalizing relations with Cuba, and conservative/moderate whites with his climate change plan. None of these efforts are making Clinton stronger with these constituencies. Clinton, due to the scandals, has been forced to move further left and support many of the President’s efforts in this regard.

To be fair, it is quite possible Clinton’s numbers can recover, and I have no doubt they will to a degree. Partisan Democrats and Independents will rally to her candidacy when they have an actual Republican candidate and his/her policies to dislike.

The most recent example to this effect would be the 2012 election. Mitt Romney came out of the 2012 GOP primary damaged and bleeding, but Republican conservatives and leaners gradually found a way to like him. However, not enough of them did.

To many, myself included, the idea that elections always hinge on approval ratings, the economy, and partisanship is far to simplistic. Think about it this way. Ohio Republicans had every reason to come out and vote against the President. The economy was tepid, Romney was not a social issue red-meat candidate, and his economic ideas were moderate at best. But Obama’s early attack ad binge paid off.

On election day, 39 percent of the electorate was Democratic compared to 32 percent Republican. Romney’s margin among Independents could not make up the difference. More importantly, turnout dropped in many rural counties relative to 2004. Either these voters forgot to vote or they saw something in Romney they did not like, and they did not vote as a result.

Of course, as Cohn notes, we only have four presidential elections to look at since the new millennium. Further, only two elections have featured increased turnout among minorities and Democrats.

Clinton and Democrats may be able to fall back on one tried-and-true issue: abortion. Republicans stepped in it in the field’s first debate when several top contenders said they oppose abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest. Democrats succeeded in 2010 and 2012 attacking Republicans on abortion. Such a strategy hit a roadblock in 2014 in Iowa and Colorado. Then again, those GOP candidates largely avoided the issues, whereas the GOP presidential field seems to be taking the issue head on.

Still, as 2012 showed, abortion was a side-issue to the main event. Romney won the economy, but he had worse favorable ratings than Obama, and he overwhelmingly lost among voters who ranked “understands people like me” as their most important criteria for their vote.

If the same pattern holds, Clinton’s favorable ratings will matter a lot more than some analysts and Cohn seem to think.