Is Trump Really Drawing Support From The GOP Base?

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There are two theories about the source of Donald Trump’s support. The first is the most common and states that his support is coming from the annoyed, anti-establishment GOP base. The other theory, more recent in its origin, has resulted from analysis of recent swing state polls that find Trump’s support is coming from moderate and liberal Republicans nationwide and in Iowa and New Hampshire.

So which is true? They both certainly have merit. Trump’s rhetoric fits the stereotype people have of the angry, non-college-educated GOP base. These voters are less accepting of immigration, gay marriage, and a changing America. Trump is certainly channeling some of these views, but only on the surface. Trump is struggling with the elements of the GOP classified as the party’s base.

Consider a recent ABC/WashPost survey in which Trump has jumped to the top of the pack. In the poll Trump finds his strongest support among voters over 50 with no college degrees. However, among very conservative voters he loses by eight percent in a crowded field and garners a weak plurality of the actual GOP vote (he wins GOP-leaning Independents).

Where Trump’s support comes from is moderate and liberal Republicans. That’s not exactly the heart of the GOP, and it is debatable whether they consistently vote Republican.

There are also questions about whether the polls are even giving us a decent sample set to draw conclusions from. The NBC/Marist Iowa survey digitally dialed 919 registered voters, but only 37 percent (or 342) of those voters were Republicans or Republican-leaning Independents. That is an incredibly small sample out of a state with over two million registered voters.

The question of accurate representation goes even deeper than that. In the 2012 election, 121,501 people showed up to vote in Iowa’s GOP presidential caucus. That’s a mere 5.75 percent of all voters and not even close to 37 percent. How many of these voters were conservative to liberal to moderate is hard to state, but anecdotal evidence suggests it’s not the moderates and liberals from which Trump is drawing support.

New Hampshire is a little different, and if Trump can win moderates and liberals he might be able to win the state with a plurality. Unlike Iowa, moderate and liberal Republicans have more sway in the New Hampshire primary.

There is another factor to consider, as it relates to the polling of the race, and that is the candidates themselves. Of all the GOP candidates in the race, only two start out with near universal name recognition–Jeb Bush and the Donald.

Bush, rightly or wrongly, is recognized due to his dad and brother, while Trump is known for his business dealings and celebrity appearances. Trump’s appeal is that he might be able to get low-information, occasional voters who are dissatisfied with the system to answer a poll and state their support for him.

Whether these voters will come out and vote is another story. Most, if not all, polls are not checking how likely these voters are to actually participate in the process, let alone confirm they are actually firm Republicans.

Virtually every other Republican in the race is not as well-known as Trump but has higher favorable ratings among the party. According to the ABC/WashPost survey, 57 percent of GOP voters had a favorable view of Trump to 40 percent who did not. A month ago those numbers were flip-flopped, but not even that improvement can hide the fact that Rubio, Walker, and Cruz all have more room to grow and have just as high or higher favorable ratings among Republicans.

These findings do not lend themselves to the idea that Trump is drawing his support from the GOP base. Rather, they show Trump is drawing support from disaffected individuals. It’s not a great way to guarantee electoral success.

It also explains why Trump is surging after his feud with McCain. The quarrel guarantees media coverage and keeps voters aware that he is in the race, as does his recent trip to the southern border. However, even such high-profile moves, likely to appeal to the party base, have not endeared him to the likely primary and caucus voter.

One can use the ABC/WashPost survey’s question on the general election and Trump as a proxy for just how much appeal Trump has to expanding his support. Voters are asked whether they would “definitely” vote, “likely” vote, or “definitely not” vote for Trump if he is the GOP nominee. A solid 20 percent said they would back Trump but a massive 62 percent said they would not vote.

If we assume the sample is 50/50 in terms of a Republican-Democratic split with Independent leaners included, that means only 40 percent of GOP voters would back Trump even in a general election. That means his ceiling is 40 percent in the GOP primary process. Not exactly the support that winning campaigns are built upon.

For Trump the greatest risk may be finding support among non-college-educated voters. He gets 32 percent of their vote but only eight percent of the college-educated vote. In the 2012 caucuses 52 percent of voters had a college education to 48 percent who did not. If Trump cannot make inroads with college-educated voters and the GOP base in crucial swing states, his ceiling lowers and his floor continues to deepen.

This is not to say that Trump is getting support only from the apathetic. He does touch a cord with some GOP voters. However, the reliability of these GOP voters is another question. Will they participate? Are they only drawn to Trump due to his name identification?

Furthermore, Trump’s struggles with the new face of the GOP–college-educated whites–suggests he cannot continue to climb much higher, even in a split GOP field.

Lastly, the accuracy or recent polls are questionable at best. If they cannot verify whether a participant is a reliable GOP voter, or are not even trying, are they even accurate? Probably not. So assumptions that Trump’s support is coming from the GOP base are dubious at best.

It is a dirty secret of the nomination process that polls can change quickly, as can momentum. What we are seeing with Trump could go away in a week or a day. So while the Walkers, Bushes, and Rubios of the world map out a long-term campaign strategy, including debate prep and meeting voters in the early states, the Trump camp is going for sensationalism and building a brand tailored to appeal to low-info voters. At this rate, even if the polls are accurate, Trump would have to spend millions and millions to make up for likely losses in the early voting states. Big losses.

 

 

 

Florida’s Game of Musical Chairs

Gwen Graham is likely to end up a loser after Florida's special  legislative redistricting  session.

Gwen Graham is likely to end up a loser after Florida’s special legislative redistricting session.

Little more than a week ago the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s Congressional district map violated the state’s 2010 passed Fair Districts Amendment.  The process was supposed to remove politics from redistricting but opponents of the current map argued the GOP dominated statehouse continually violated the Amendment.  Last week the Florida Supreme Court agreed and ordered the state to change eight districts, the 5th, 13th, 14th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 26th and 27th, five GOP and three Democratic districts.  Changing these districts will inevitably impact other districts.

The ruling prompted the state legislature to call a special session in early-middle August to vote on a new map.  The districts included (listed above) run the gambit of an African-American majority district (5th) to many South Florida, heavily Hispanic districts.  The redraw will also have significant political repercussions for the state’s Congressional delegation.

By far, the district most likely to change is the majority black 5th District represented by Corrine Brown.  The district was created in 1990 by the courts to elect a black Representative and was largely left alone in 2000 and 2010 to pack black voters into one district.  The districts snakes down the state, hitting Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Orlando.  In addition, it grabs pockets of African-Americans in Putnam and Seminole counties.  The district is 52% African-American and heavily Democratic.  Odds are good that the district’s Northern edge, anchored in Jacksonville, will be given up to neighboring GOP districts.  This would make the neighboring GOP districts more Democratic but far from swing districts.

Moving further south the GOP controlled 13th and Democratic 14th will likely merge, making the 13th to Democratic for a Republican to hold.  Indeed, Congressman David Jolly, the GOP Representative of the 13th, acknowledged as much when he announced he was running for Senate last week.  Charlie Crist, hailing from the St. Petersburg based 13th, is likely to run making it a virtual lock for the Democratic Party.

The area most likely to be impacted will be South Florida encompassing the Democratic 21st and 22nd Districts and the GOP controlled 25th, 26th and 27th Districts.  The 21st District is a solidly Democratic district anchored in the suburbs of Boca Raton and Palm Springs.  The 22nd is a Democratic leaning district anchored in Palm Springs and Boca Raton.  Likely these districts will become more compact and the 21st will shed Democratic voters to make the 22nd more compact and more Democratic in the process.

The 25th, 26th and 27th are all GOP controlled marginal districts.  The 25th is a district that is anchored in the outskirts of Miami Dade and snakes eastward and North to take in more Republican precincts.  The district has long been represented by Hispanic Mario Diaz-Balart. The 26th is a sprawling majority-minority Cuban Hispanic district spanning most of the Southern tip of the state.  The 26th was controlled by Democrats until last year.  The 27th is barely more Republican than the 26th but is represented by longtime Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who has rarely faced a tough reelection.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what changes will do to this neighboring set of districts.  Odds are good the 25th will become more Democratic as it sheds its rural Northeastern section to become more anchored in the Miami-Dade outskirts.  The 26th and 27th are likely to remain swing districts and it seems likely the 26th will shed some of its size to the 27th for compactness.

These eight districts changing will also impact neighboring districts which is why it is so hard to calculate how it will impact South Florida.  Likely much of the political terrain for that area will be in flux until 2016.  Up north, the district most likely to be impacted will be the 2nd.  If the 5th sheds its Tallahassee based anchor it will need to pick up population from somewhere and also maintain its majority-minority designation under the VRA.  To do this and draw compact maps it is likely the 3rd district will shed its black population and actually pick up some of the 2nd’s.  The 2nd district, represented by Democrat Gwen Graham, with a PVI of R+6 would become even more Republican and likely to conservative for Graham to hold, especially against a decent GOP nominee.

The most likely changes to the map would yield Democrats a likely gain of one or two seats.  If the GOP has a good year the party could gain the 18th which Congressman Chris Murphy is vacating as well as the 2nd and minimize their losses to one (13th) to two seats (South Florida).  If Democrats have a good year the new map could be a godsend to the party and send the GOP’s Congressional delegation plummeting.

Vote For Donald Trump If You Want A Liberal Supreme Court

ap_donald-trump_ap-photo3-e1434548292442Donald Trump knows his GOP Presidential campaign has nowhere to go but down. Over time voters are sure to be turned off by his past policy preferences, donations to Democrats, and his increasingly toxic rhetoric. Trump knows this, which is why he announced last week he might run as a third-party candidate if he feels the RNC does not treat him appropriately.

If one digs deep enough into GOP polls they find he attracts a strongly loyal following of about five percent of primary voters who are likely to stick with him after everybody else abandons him. If Trump did run as an independent, those five percent would likely follow him.

However, these voters should consider the consequences of such an act. Not only would the consequences include the election of Hillary Clinton but also changing the make-up of the Supreme Court.

Republicans already have a sour view of this more conservative than not Supreme Court. A recent Gallup poll pegged GOP support of the court at a mere 17 percent. Imagine what it would be if the court suddenly becomes controlled by progressives. This is a possibility if Trump siphons off five percent of the GOP vote in the general election with a third party candidacy. Unlike Perot, Trump would not attract many Democratic votes.

Consider the ages of the Supreme Court justices. Of the five most conservative justices–John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia–three justices are over the age of 70. Only two of the four liberal justices–Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Gingsburg–are over 70. Worse for conservatives is that Kennedy and Scalia are almost 80 making their retirements as likely as Ginsburg, currently the oldest justice.

Conservatives and Republicans might quibble with some of the individual decisions of the five right-leaning justices, but they should recoil in horror at the four liberal justices. Since 2010 all four liberal justices have voted against the conservative majority on Citizens United, Obamacare’s Medicare expansion, the Contraception Mandate, the Voting Rights Act, and recent EPA regulations.

Whereas the five right-leaning justices are willing to split from each other over government power, (Kennedy backed gay marriage, and he and Roberts backed Obamacare), the four liberal justices have fallen in line to give the government more power time and time again.

Imagine how a liberal Supreme Court would rule if Clinton is President. Executive orders on immigration, campaign finance, and more would likely be found Constitutional. Governmental regulations giving the EPA the power to arbitrarily draft rules without any consideration of the cost would be found appropriate. Perhaps most worrisome of all would be the possibility for religious liberties to be eroded in the name of “fairness.”

Conservatives backing Trump have every right to quibble with the Supreme Court and the crop of current GOP candidates, but they should consider the consequences of their actions. Voting for Trump would allow Hillary to win with a plurality of the vote, and, considering her track record, she would have no issue with taking it as a mandate for progressive government.

It would not be a stretch for her to see vacancies on the court and fill them with reliable progressives. Such an action would be disastrous for American democracy and liberty. So, please, please, don’t vote for Donald Trump.

Democrats And Hillary Clinton Have A White Male Voter Problem

White men are not thrilled with Hillary Clinton.

White men are not thrilled with Hillary Clinton.

Democrats and Hillary Clinton have a problem, a white men problem.  Key to Clinton’s long run in the 2008 primaries these voters have turned away from Democrats and their likely 2016 nominee in droves since the turn of the new decade.  The reasons are fairly obvious and have been written about ad nauseum-relentless focus on social issues, fiscally liberal policies aimed at redistribution of wealth and a lack of concern for male issues (like jobs).

But neither party seems to be paying much attention to this particular facet of our politics.  Republicans are intensively focusing on courting minorities and Democrats are continuing to work on wooing women.  White men who on their own are shifting to the GOP at every age level.  And these white males hold the keys to electoral victory in significant swing states, especially in the Midwest.

White men fueled GOP victories in 2010 and 2014.  In 2010, white men voted 64% for Republicans candidates in Congressional races.  In individual races in key swing states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa their margins provided the GOP big victories.  Fast forward to 2014 and those margins continued.  Take the case of the Iowa Senate race.  White men favored Joni Ernst 58%-40% while white women only 51%-47%.  This made up for Democratic favoring higher turnout among women.  In Colorado, turnout among white men (and men in general) won Republican Corey Gardner the election.  Depending on the exit poll men made up 48%-53% of the electorate and they favored Gardner by 54%-56%.  Among white men Gardner won by a whopping 20%-23%.  Gardner lost white women meaning he needed this increased turnout and strength among men.

These results do not bode well for Hillary.  If she cannot match Obama’s margins among whites and white men she will need increased support among minorities to make up the difference.  And even though she theoretically a 4% popular vote cushion created by Obama it is predicated on strong minority and single women turnout (Obama coalition).  Put thusly by Steve Schale, a Democrat who has worked on three campaigns, “Take Hispanics alone: Every point of white share you lose, you have to win Hispanics by 4 to 5 points more” to make up for it, Schale said. “In ’08, we knew if we really focused on keeping whites above 40 (percent), we couldn’t lose. To me, that makes more sense than always trying to cobble out a tight win. And at some point we are going to max out (with) Hispanics.” That maxing might have already come and gone.  Democrats did not even come close to hitting their 2012 numbers among minorities last year.

Of course, Republicans built a 27 point edge among white men in 2012 and they lost the election.  But in the crucial swing states that margin was much narrower.  Such strong GOP strength among men could be attributed to strength among white Southerners.  Republicans proved in 2014 they can make inroads with white men in swing states.  They also proved they could do it among white-collar men (MA, IL and MD) which could make the difference in rapidly diversifying Mid-Atlantic states (NC, VA).

This could have serious repercussions come 2016.  If Republicans do improve their margins among minorities, turnout drops and white men come into the GOP fold or any combination of the aforementioned Democrats could find themselves fighting in uphill battle across the country.

Clinton has telegraphed her campaign strategy by tailoring her message to the progressive grassroots.  In other words, a relentless focus on abortion, income inequality and the plight of minorities in America.  Left out of the campaign pitch are appeals to men in virtually every form.  Men don’t want to revisit the culture wars but they also want to hear their concerns over manufacturing and blue-collar jobs disappearing addressed.

Male discomfort with Hillary shows in the Democratic nominating contest.  In Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton has commanding leads among women but among men her leads are much narrower or non-existent.  Part of it might be the issues she talks about or maybe it is just the crowd she attracts.  Clinton’s message is heavy on subtle themes of the country is sexist and if you don’t agree/vote for me you are as a result.  Unlike women, men are likely to more assimilate these subtle messages and respond accordingly.  Accordingly being voting for the other candidate.

Regardless, Clinton needs to find a way to fix this problem or she will have an issue.  Relying on Obama level turnout and unprecedented support among women to make up for huge deficits among men is not the stuff Presidential campaigns are built on.  But maybe Clinton is going for another first.

Clinton’s Not Unbeatable Afterall

Former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin work the grill during Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin work the grill during Harkin’s annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Hillary Clinton in national polls seems to have bore it all.  Through the State Department email scandal, issues with the Clinton Foundation and her avoidance of the media she continues to lead a fractured Republican field.  But a new Quinnipiac survey of three battleground states finds the Democratic frontrunner in trouble in three reliably Obama supporting states.

The Quinnipiac survey tested Clinton against three GOP opponents (Bush, Walker and Rubio) in Iowa, Colorado and Virginia.  Against all three opponents in all three states she trails.  In Colorado, she trials Bush 41-36, Rubio 46-38 and Walker 47-38.  In Iowa she falls behind Bush 42-36, Rubio 44-36 and Walker 45-37.  Lastly, in diverse Virginia she trials Bush 42-39, Rubio 43-41 and Walker 43-40.  These numbers are less significant than the opinion voters have of her.

Clinton gets markedly negative favorability ratings in each state, 35-56 percent in Colorado, 33-56 percent in Iowa and 41-50 percent in Virginia  On trust and honesty voters have a low opinion of her.  In Colorado a mere 34 percent say she is trustworthy compared to 62 percent who say she is not.  In Iowa the same problem shows with a 33-59 spread and less so but still present in Virginia 39-55.  She also has not convinced voters she knows their problems.  In Virginia 50 percent say she does not care about their needs and problems to 45 percent who do.  In Iowa her situation is worse with 55 percent saying she does not care about their problems to 39 percent who do.  In Colorado, 57 percent say she does not care about their problems to 39 percent who do.  The only thing she has going for her is that more voters view her as a strong leader than those who do not.

Walker, Bush and Rubio all have higher favorables in every state except Bush in Colorado and have more voters say the care about their issues and are strong leaders than those who don’t.  Particularly troubling for Clinton is her drop in Iowa where voters are so exposed to campaign ads and themes.  In the prior Quinnipiac poll she easily led all her GOP contenders but now has fallen behind.  Part of this might relate to her absence from the state but also from GOP attacks against her.

Now one poll does not a trend make but it is definitely troubling for her campaign.  When one looks at the crosstabs it is clear her campaign does not just need to make inroads with GOP constituencies but also make gains among Democratic leaning groups.  In Colorado, Clinton trials Bush by 8 among Independents, Walker by 11 and Rubio by 7.  Among key constituencies the GOP trio has a distinct edge.  Bush leads among men by 23 while Clinton leads among women by 12.  Rubio leads among men by 28 and Walker by 26 while Clinton has narrower leads among women.  In other words, the vaunted gender gap that served Democrats so well might finally be coming back to bite them like it did in 2014.

Virginia and Iowa are similar stories.  In Virginia Bush leads among men by 13 to Clinton’s 5 among women.  Rubio and Walker win men by 11 to Clinton’s 4 and 5 point edges among women.  Independents are more narrowly split but favor Rubio and Walker and tie among Bush and Clinton.  Iowa is similar to Colorado in finding a larger gender gap and Independents broadly turning against Clinton.  Independents favor Bush by 7, Walker by 16 and Rubio by 13.  Men favor Bush by 19, Walker by 24 and Rubio by 22 while Clinton commands smaller edges among women.

Smart Democrats will look at this poll and scoff at the notion the GOP can keep up these margins.  Maybe they can’t.  But Clinton has telegraphed she is going to make her campaign about gender and race, both things swing men turn against.  While Democrats have proven they can win single women consistently single men are a core swing group that backed Obama in 2012 yet turned to the GOP last year.  A campaign based on themes offputting to any group but women and racial minorities is unlikely to aid Democrats in a strongly white state like Iowa and diversifying but still predominately white Virginia and Colorado.

The overall message from the poll results are that Clinton is far from a shoe-in for the White House.  While traditionally blue states will undoubtedly back her candidacy it is the battleground states that will test whether her campaign can overcome issues about her trustworthiness and ability to empathize with the public.  Romney could not and he actually won voters on the issues.  But with campaigns now being fought over cultural and economic lines the ability of a candidate to convince voters he/she understands them is usually the difference between victory and defeat.

 

http://www.quinnipiac.edu/images/polling/ps/ps07222015_Sg86de.pdf

Donald Trump Is Not A Republican

trumpAt first glance Donald Trump seems to check off each box in a Republican’s wish list for President.  He is bombastic, aggressive, unafraid to speak his mind, and willing to shake up the political order.  Unfortunately, none of this tells us what beliefs or convictions would guide his presidency.

Trump’s political history is a jumbled mess of “I want to be this, now I want to be that.”  Put more simply, it’s an ideology of “what’s good for me?”  This ideology seems to have guided Trump’s thinking when it comes to the political sphere.

To be fair, Donald Trump is not the only political business figure to follow such a strategy.  Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was a Democrat before he became a Republican.  More geographically relevant to Trump, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a registered Democrat when he ran for Mayor in 2001 who knew he could not win the party’s primary, so he ran as a reform minded Republican.

Democrats seem to realize this faster than Republicans.  After Trump’s nasty battle with Senator John McCain (R.-Arizona), a man who was a prisoner of war, Democrats piled on.  Hillary Clinton called Trump “shameful” in response to his comments that McCain isn’t a hero.

Tuesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) called Trump’s comments on immigration “disgusting.” Of course neither Hillary or Reid have any partisan motivation to attack Trump and link him to the entire Republican party– You know, the same people that gave us Hispanic Governors in New Mexico and Nevada, a Hispanic Senator from Florida and South Carolina’s first black Senator since Reconstruction.

Republicans have repudiated Trump. Bush, Rubio, Perry, even Cruz have called Trump’s comments on immigration varying forms of the concept of demagoguery.  They should also point out another reason why they are repudiating him.  He has never been a Republican.

A cursory view of Trump’s history finds his political allegiance has fit at times of convenience.  Americans can change their political allegiances (see examples above) but none come close to Trump.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican who during the last 28 years of their life has variously listed his voter registration as Republican, Independence Party, Democrat, Republican again, and (as recently as 2012) registered himself in New York as “decline to state.” Oh and Trump briefly ran for President as a Reform Party candidate.

Trump’s political giving also tells a tale of a donor with mixed convictions.  Until as recently as four years ago Trump gave significantly more cash to Democrats than Republicans.  These were not centrist, middle of the road Democrats but liberals including Charlie Rangel, John Kerry, Edward Kennedy and the women he would likely face if he gets to the general election, Hillary Clinton. According to F.E.C. records, Trump donated $1.3 million between 1989 and 2011, 54 percent of it going to Democrats. Since 2012, however, federal records show that Trump has given $463,450 to Republicans and only $3,500 to Democrats.

Ideologically, Trump does not fit into the GOP camp either.  He is a pro-gay marriage, pro-choice turned anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage candidate.  He was highly critical of Republican positions during the Iraq War and his foreign policy views are far from the party’s mainstream.

So, considering Trump is not a Republican why is he running as one?  One explanation could be the Rachel Dolezal school of thought where Trump feels like a Republican so he is one.  Still, he seems to not be able to help himself from fawning over Democrats.  He praised former Democratic Congressman and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for his stewardship of Chicago as Mayor.

Another explanation and this is more likely is that New York billionaires feel they can do whatever they want.  “Hey, Bloomberg did it so why not me,” seems an entirely plausible line of reasoning for Trump.  Or, as some Republicans believe, he is a plant from the Clinton camp to paint every Republican as an anti-immigrant, racist bigot.

Finally, perhaps Trump finally broke with the Democratic Party on the issues he cares most about (obviously not gay marriage or abortion).  Maybe Obama’s policies relating to business finally ticked him off, perhaps it was the Democrats group orientated identify politics or something else.  Regardless, Trump certainly seems to be a Republican now, in tone not temperament.

Trump is certainly running for President as a Republican.  But he’s not a Republican.  On the major social and foreign policy issues the party has united around Trump used to be on the opposite side.  He still supports Obamacare for goodness sakes!  His Republican opponents would be smart to point these things out, knock him down a peg and turn the debate away from Trumpism and back to how to make America great again.

Democrats Continue To Use Gerrymandering As An Excuse For GOP Congressional Strength

Gerrymandering is not the only reason Republicans are dominant in Congress and state legislatures.

Gerrymandering is not the only reason Republicans are dominant in Congress and state legislatures.

Democrats continue to try to explain away their Congressional and state legislative weakness as a result of GOP gerrymandering.  How else can one explain their relief in the Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission?  But such an explanation misses other key attributes Democrats are loath to acknowledge publicly but discuss privately.

Democrats political coalition is increasingly upscale/downscale.  Their low-income elements dominate VRA mandated majority-minority districts and urban centers while their upper-income base is clustered in urban suburbs.  Indeed, the farther one gets from urban centers the more conservative leaning individuals become.  This creates two problems, a turnout issue and an ideological issue.

Ideologically, the party’s upper and lower-income base are on the same page.  But when it comes to the results of those programs they are not.  In 2014 Democrats held almost every majority-minority seat they had while they lost upper-income Congressional races nationwide-most notably in the Philly (6, 7, 8) Chicago (10), Detroit (7, 8) and Denver suburbs (6).  Take Maryland’s gubernatorial contest as an example.  Republican businessman Larry Hogan won every suburban county in the state by wide margins.  But when it came to urban Baltimore and Montgomery County he was crushed.  In essence, many upper-income suburbanites who lean Democratic swung to Hogan over the lack of performance of state programs.

The Democrats reliance on a diverse coalition is also a significant problem, especially in midterms like last year.  Key Democratic constituencies like single women and Hispanics will turnout in Presidential years but not so much in primaries. In the 2014 Colorado Senate race single women made up a mere 16% of the electorate compared to over 20% in 2012.  Republican Corey Gardner took the race by 3%. In Nevada and California, Hispanic turnout dropped by over 40% in some races.  In NV-4, a heavily Hispanic district Obama carried by 10% carried in 2012, turnout dropped an astonishing 45% allowing a Republican to carry the seat by a narrow 3%.

By themselves these two factors do not explain why Democrats are at such a disadvantage in Congress and legislative chambers nationwide. Another factor is at work.  It has been described differently by different analysts.  Sean Trende has described it as wasted votes.  Essentially, Democratic votes are increasingly clustered in dense, urban areas making those areas increasing safe for Democrats but the surrounding areas more conservative.

Take the case of North Carolina from 2012 to 2014.  In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state with 50% of the vote.  Yet Democrats won a narrow majority of the Congressional vote but won a mere four of the state’s Congressional districts.  Democrats look at this result as the ultimate form of gerrymandering.  Unfortunately, this is a simplistic explanation.  Consider the distribution of votes across the state.  Democrats won three districts by over 50%.  Their forth they won by a mere .2%.  Republicans, on the other hand, won none of their districts by more than 30%.  This gives Democrats an extremely small pool of voters to scatter across the state’s far less heavily Democratic districts.

This kind of analysis could be performed in numerous other states.  Take another example in Ohio.  Democrats won four Congressional districts in the state in 2012.  One race was uncontested but in the other three Democrats won by over 40%.  Again, this creates a much smaller pool of Democratic voters to be spread across the state.  This situation is a reflection of the nation’s increasingly ideological but also geographical polarization.

Now, Democrats do have a point that Republican gerrymandering helped increase this factor’s impact on the 2012 and 2014 elections.  But, let’s not forget in the states Democrats controlled after 2010 (Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc.) they drew heavily gerrymandered maps in their favor.  Also, Democrats are quick to discount another factor that has impacted Congress’s political affiliation, realignment.

Democrats used to dominate the South due to conservative whites and minorities.  But starting in the 90’s and continuing into 2014, white Democrats have literally disappeared from all parts of the Deep South except for Florida.  Consider what happened last year.  Mary Landrieu (LA-D), the last Southern, white Democratic to hold a statewide, federal office lost in a run-off.  Democratic challenges for Senate seats in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama flipped.  In Georgia the last white Southern Democratic Congressman lost and considering he won in the same district in 2012 it cannot be solely attributed to redistricting.  In West Virginia, 19 term Democrat Nick Rahall lost to Democrat turned Republican state senator Evan Jenkins.  Congresswomen Shelley Moore Capito became the state’s first GOP Senator in 55 years.  Southern whites have ultimately shifted to the GOP ideologically and culturally.

All these factors have had an impact on the composition of Congress.  The extinction of white, Southern Democrats, natural geographic ideological clustering and the Democrats upscale/downscale, majority-minority coalition have all favored Democrats.  To blame Democratic weakness in Congress and the states solely on gerrymandering misses the forest for the trees and only serves to salve the party’s wounds.  For until Democrats come to grips with the fact their agenda is unpopular in dozens of Southern, white districts and does not appeal outside urban, majority minority areas they will be locked out of power in Congress.

 

 

Florida Democratic Primary Getting Increasingly Messy

FLORIDA-PROGRESSIVE-DEMOCRATS-PREFER-ALAN-GRAYSON-REJECT-PATRICK-MURPHYDemocrats may or may not have lost the race for Marco Rubio’s open Senate seat but they sure made it harder on themselves.  Last Thursday. liberal firebrand Alan Grayson declared for the seat and set up an intra-party feud between the party’s progressive wing and its more pragmatic element.  Democrats, hoping to coalesce the party around a young, up and coming centrist Congressman in Patrick Murphy, have seen those hopes dashed.

It should not be forgotten that Republicans have their own primary issues.  The party is looking at a three-way battle between Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera, Jeff Miller and Ron Desantis.  Miller and Cantera represent the party’s moderate conservative wing while Desantis is an unabashed member of the Tea Party and it’s House affiliated Freedom Caucus.  Also in the ring is former defense contractor and vet Todd Wilcox but it is unclear how much of a factor he will be.  Republicans knew their primary would be messy but now they can at least see a bloodied nominee come out on the other side as well.

Grayson and Murphy could not be more different.  Grayson is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, is a bombthrower and is over 50.  Murphy, in his mid 30’s, is a former Republican turned Democrat who has cultivated a centrist, bipartisan image.  If Grayson was willing to engage solely on the issues the party might not be worried.  But it is Grayson’s style that particularly worries the party.

In 2009, Grayson rocketed to the top of the progressive blogosphere when he said on the House floor the GOP’s alternative to Obamacare was “Don’t Get Sick! And If You Do Get Sick, Die Quickly!”  The move appealed to the party base but few voters in his old district.  In a 2010 debate, Grayson referred to his opponent as “Taliban Dan,” trying to insinuate his opponent was an extremist zealot.  The move backfired and he was kicked out of office by a wide margin.  Grayson now occupies a safe Democratic district he won in 2012 after redistricting.

While Murphy has a wide lead on the fundraising front ($2.5 million raised since he announced) and he has a SuperPAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, backing his candidacy Grayson has the ability to self-fund his campaign.  Combined with his former scorched earth tactics he easily has the ability to dig up dirt and attack Murphy relentlessly.  Pointing out just how moderate Murphy is could make progressives stay home in November.

Course Grayson has his own issues.  First off, Grayson is involved in an ugly divorce with his wife where she has accused him (the 27th richest member of Congress) of not paying child support.  Grayson is also facing an ethics probe over his role in managing hedge funds.  Lastly, Grayson has never run a statewide race and his record is pretty shoddy.  He won a swing district in 2008 by a slim margin, was crushed in 2010 and has occupied one of the strongest Democratic districts in the state for the last two terms.

Most Democrats acknowledge Murphy would be the better candidate.  He would have better appeal to the state’s political middle (which favored Obama in 2012) and be able to win moderate Republicans if Desantis comes out of the GOP pack.  Meanwhile, Grayson has promised an “unabashed liberal campaign” and that has his supporters arguing he could better turnout the base.  In his announcement Grayson said he would follow the “Elizabeth Warren” model and campaign on expanding Medicare and Social Security.  He also hits on themes of inequality and increasing the minimum wage.

The messaging war over his candidacy has already begun.  Vox Populi Polling, a Republican robopolling firm, conducted a survey last month that was designed to show Democrats how to beat Murphy with negative messaging. The automated poll showed Murphy led Grayson, 34 percent to 24 percent, among Democrats. But after Democrats heard negative messages about Murphy’s votes in Congress and his prior GOP affiliation, Murphy trailed Grayson by a wide margin.  Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, conducted a survey of the race in April showing Murphy led Grayson, 23 percent to 14 percent, in a Democratic primary, with 63 percent undecided.  Such a large number of persuadable Democrats has both campaigns working overdrive on their message.

Regardless, the road to a victory in Florida continues to run through the I-4 Corridor in Central Florida and the large Cuban Hispanic population in the South.  Grayson might play well in Broward but he would likely struggle down the I-4.  Murphy would arguably do better in the I-4 but not South as turnout might drop.  Benefiting either candidate would be increased turnout from the Presidential race though if Rubio or Bush is the GOP’s nominee it could damage Democratic prospects..  Further, the GOP has done fairly well even in Presidential elections in the state.

Still, all in all, despite their position the GOP has to be happy Democrats are about to endure a dirty primary.  Just like they will.

 

This Constitutes Good News for Idaho Democrats?

AJ Balukoff (D ) lost by 14% in a political environment that favored his party.

AJ Balukoff (D ) lost by 14% in a political environment that favored his party.

Idaho Democrats are buoyant over a new poll showing they are rebounding in the state.  The poll, conducted by Dan Jone’s for Zions Bank finds that “voters are shifting away from the GOP.”  But are they really?  Many aspects of the poll used to defend this analysis are fairly thin.

Exhibit A to defend this analysis is Jone’s survey finding Independents now outnumber Republicans and Democrats.  According to the last surveys before the election Republicans made up around 40%-50% of voters and outnumbered Democrats significantly (Yougov and PPP).  In Jone’s survey 38% now identify as Independents compared to 32% Republican and 16% Democratic.  Jones sums up the data thusly, “Many independents might be voting Democrat by 2018.”  Technically true, and the world could end by then as well.  Neither is likely.

First off, fewer voters identifying as belonging to a political party after an election is fairly common.  Consider results from the recent 2014 midterms.  On the eve of the midterms Gallup found Republicans outnumbered Democrats nationally and in numerous individual states.  But a mere two quarters later and the electorate has returned to normal where Democrats outnumber Republicans and far fewer voters ID as true Independents. This partly is a result of voters identifying with individual candidates and their party before and after the election.  But once that feeling fades voters fall back on the Independent label.

Secondly. just because a voter ID’s as an Independent does not mean they really are.  It has been well documented since 1992 that many Independents when pushed will identify as “leaners” to one party or the other.  These leaners will actually behave in some cases more partisanly than actual partisans.  Short of the GOP nominee advocating for genocide it is hard to see many right leaning Independents voting Democratic.  In a state as red as Idaho Democrats need some sort of cross-over support to win statewide races (paging Jana Jones).

Lastly, new variables will be involved in the 2018 elections.  We will have a new GOP nominee (no more Butch Otter) and a new Democratic nominee (most likely).  The state of the economy, the political mood, etc. all will have changed from today.  To make a blanket statement “Many Independents might be voting Democratic in 2018″ is like saying their might be water left in the oceans by the same time-frame.  It’s an analysis that lacks analysis.

Jone’s survey does have enlightening tidbits for both parties.  Only 44% of Idahoans believe the state is headed in the right direction and it is easy to see why education dominated the 2015 session when 17% of voters identified it as the most important issue facing the state.  Republicans answered it in part with Tiered Licensure and no offense to those who advocate a Democratic takeover they could not take down a two-term incumbent plagued by scandals and allegations of underfunding schools.  He still won.  A new Republican in 2018 won’t feature that baggage.

I have written before on the weakness of the Democratic bench in the state.  When you only hold 21 legislative seats, a handful of County Commission seats and not a single, statewide Executive or federal office your bench is pretty weak.  Republicans face no such issues and have their choice of many top tier, battle-tested candidates.  Democrats can only hope for the same.

 

 

 

Heck Gives The GOP A Shot In Nevada

joe-heck-3Nevada Congressman Joe Heck has made it official.  He is running for Harry Reid’s Senate seat.  In the past I have been doubtful of Heck’s chances, partly because he is a white male and will have to compete with a Democratic Latina candidate. But also because of the new, natural blue lean of the state.  But at least Heck gives the GOP a chance to be competitive.  Until Heck’s announcement (waiting on Sandoval) the GOP had no strong candidates.

Heck is a strong candidate.  There should be no doubting that.  He defeated an entrenched incumbent in Dina Titus in 2010 in a district the President carried by 12%.  In 2012 Heck ran 8% better than Mitt Romney in his redrawn suburban Las Vegas district.  He rolled to a 20% victory in 2014.  Heck’s ability to outrun his party’s performance in a key swing area of the state is a boon to his party.  His name appeal which is high in the Las Vegas area means he also has to spend less cash just introducing himself to voters.

However, his candidacy does come with downsides.  For one, he’s a white male running against a Latina candidate in a year where Latinos are expected to make up more than 20% of the electorate.  In fact, the track record for recent GOP candidates running for US Senate during Presidential years in the state is not exactly stellar.  In 2012, Dean Heller barely defeated a progressive opponent for John Ensign’s open Senate seat.  His victory can largely be attributed to his over-performance in Washoe County compared to Romney.

Heck will not have the same benefit.  He should run strongly in more rural/suburban Washoe County which is majority white but his strength in urban Las Vegas is questionable.  His opponent, Catherine Cortez Masto, should find her strength in urban Clark County but her struggle will be to appeal to the Vegas suburbs.  Demographic and political trends have made these areas more Democratic friendly but they are far more Democratic bastions.

Past election trends suggest Nevada has a history of ticket splitting and the state is competitive.  Since 2000 the state has had a split Senate delegation.  In 2004 George Bush carried the state by 3% but Harry Reid cruised to a 26% victory.  As already mentioned above, in 2012 Dean Heller won an open Senate seat while Obama carried the state by 7%.  The state’s legislature has often rotated between the parties since the new millennium.  The GOP’s best strength in the state has been its consistent hold on the Governor’s mansion.  Since 1998, the party has maintained a lock on the state’s top executive office.

The 2014 midterms proved to be a banner year for the GOP.  They captured both chambers of the legislature, Governor Sandoval was reelected with 70% of the vote and the party gained a D+4 Congressional district based in urban/suburban Vegas.  Even better, the party won every Constitutional, statewide downballot office due to the turnout drop-off Democrats suffered.  In fact, some estimates found Democratic turnout dropped almost 40% from 2012.

This is unlikely to happen in 2016 with a Clinton Presidential candidacy and a Latina Senate candidate driving turnout.  Thus, Heck must find a way to appeal to the state’s fickle middle and find a way to convince the state’s voters to once again split their tickets.  He also will be fighting against history because if he wins it will be the first time in 30 years Harry Reid’s Senate seat would be represented by a Republican.

All in all, the race should be competitive.  The one wildcard neither Heck nor Masto can control is the Presidential race.  If the GOP nominee or Clinton is clearly cruising in the Presidential contest it will benefit their party’s Senate nominee.  It is unclear how well Nevada’s history of ticket splitting will interact with increasing political polarization where fewer voters are splitting their ballots.  Heck, hailing from suburban Vegas, should have an advantage in this regard but you never know.