The “Colorado” Strategy vs. the “Ohio” Strategy

In a piece for the NYT’s it is reported the White House is pursuing a “Colorado” and not “Ohio” based strategy.  These strategies of course are based on the kinds of voters the WH will target to win reelection.  The “Colorado” strategy, which apparently the WH is going with, would mean the WH will try to reassemble the coalition that saw the president elected in 2008.  Minorities, single and college educated women, young and urban voters would comprise its core.  But suburban voters would also be heavily targeted.  In contrast, the “Ohio” strategy would involve targeting working class whites and unions more than suburban or college educated voters.

Both strategies have their pluses and minuses.  The “Colorado” strategy has a couple ofl pluses.  First, it targets the most reliable members of the Democratic coalition.  Single women and minorities are a majority lock for Democrats.  College educated women also seem to be trending towards this outcome consistently as well.  But suburban and other college educated voters (such as single white men) are a highly volatile swing vote.  If the president could win these voters or get close, depending on turnout the president could pull out a squeaker.  Another advantage of this strategy is that it allows the president to motivate his base with blue meat issues.  Issues such as abortion, taxes and income inequality would be front and center.  The base loves these issues.

The “Colorado” strategy is not without its downsides though.  First, it targets a diverse group of voters, socially, economically and politically.  Minorities and single women tend to be extremely liberal, college educated women more moderate, suburban voters and college educated white males more conservative.  Socially, minorities and single women have different values then college educated white males, suburban voters or college educated women.  And economically there is a wide gap between the coalition’s income level.  The second downside to this strategy is the coalition is highly unstable.  College educated and single women are more likely to vote in mass but minorities not so much (2010 being an example).  And suburban voters and college educated white males might not even go with the left.  The election of 2010 for example saw college educated whites and suburban voters turn against Democrats.  Targeting a coalition that might not even appear on election day would surely doom the president.  Lastly, the “Colorado” strategy largely depends on turnout.  Minorities are estimated to make up 26% of the 2012 presidential electorate but that assumes rosy turnout assumptions, especially in bad economy, and Hispanics go 65% for the president.  Furthermore, it assumes college educated and single women turn out for the president as well.  Would this be enough to get the president to a plurality of the vote (or say a minimum need of 48%)?

The “Ohio” strategy has long been pursued by Democrats.  FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Jimmy Carter and most recently Bill Clinton pursued this strategy.  Working class whites and union members have long been members of what some called the FDR Coalition.  The FDR Coalition targeted more downscale and middle class voters.  In other words voters with closer economic outcomes and values.  And this illustrates one of the advantages of this strategy.  Another advantage of going with this strategy is that working class whites are still a large segment of the voting public.  In 2010 they comprised almost 30% of the voting public.  Even if the president won 40% of this voting bloc, combined with minority and female support he might be able to eke out a victory.  Finally, pursing the “Ohio” strategy would allow the president to use his populist message more effectively.  Railing against big banks and the system is not as effective on better educated voters who have access and use the system.  It has far greater appeal to those on the periphery of the system.

All strategies have downfalls however and the “Ohio” strategy is no exception.  The “Ohio” strategy focuses on winning a more conservative segment of the electorate.  Ever since Reagan first won these voters in 1980 they have tended to lean to the right.  In 2008, even when the president was winning demographic after demographic these voters stuck with McCain.  In 2010 they favored GOP candidates for the Senate and House 63%-33%.  So for the president to go all in for these voters is self-defeating.  Another disadvantage of this strategy is it targets a group of voters who are more pessimistic about the future and the economy.  Keeping in mind these voters are on the periphery of the system and it is not surprising.  Finally, pursuing the “Ohio” strategy would likely force the president to compromise with the GOP.  If the president does so then the campaign slogan of “The do nothing Congress” rings hollow. 

It is interesting to note the NYT’s ran a piece citing how the WH is abandoning white working class voters (  Abandoning might be to strong a word.  The WH is sure to try to avoid a 30% drubbing among this group but they are unlikely to try to win 50+1% of their votes.  Instead the WH seems to be going with what prominent Democratic pollsters like Stanley Greenburg and Ruy Teixeira have been telling them.  Winning the suburban, the emerging college educated vote and the growing minority Hispanic vote is critical for the future.  In fact Teixeira writing with Halprin writes that if the president loses working class whites 58%-41% (same as Kerry did in 2004) he can win reelection based on his 2008 totals with other groups staying the same.  James Carville and Greenburg wrote a polling memo to the WH making no mention of the white working class vote indicating that the “Colorado” strategy is what the WH is going to pursue in 2012.

The WH looks to pursue a “Colorado” strategy for reelection.  Whether it works remains to be seen.  The “Colorado” strategy has many downfalls as well as pluses.  But one thing is clear however.  The “Colorado” strategy will require the president to rebuild his 2008 coalition.  Considering the new political and economic realities of the 2010s and that may not be possible.


Texas set for another mid-decade redistricting

Texas Republicans have to be fuming.  After passing a Congressional redistricting plan during a special session of the Legislature it could all be for naught.  The DOJ stepped in and filed a lawsuit saying it violated the Civil Rights Act.  Texas had tried to pre-empt this by having the map approved in a District Court in San Antonio.  The case is also being fought in the DC Federal Appellate Court.  But the court in San Antonio found that the new Congressional map violated the CRA, deliberately diluting the voting power of the state’s growing Hispanic population. For Texas and national Republicans this was a major blow.  The GOP had hoped to shore up vulnerable incumbent freshmen Congressmen Quico Conseco (R-23rd) and Blake Farenthold (R-27th) as well as create three to four new GOP districts.

Another complication was that Texas has early filing deadlines for legislative and federal offices.  With the San Antonio court refusing TX’s argument that their new map did not violate the CRA an interim map, created by the SA court, is expected to be used for the 2012 elections.  And this map is distinctively unfriendly to the GOP.  Whereas in the original map Farenthold’s and Conseco’s districts would be made more Republican both their districts become more Democratic.  Canseco’s San Antonio based district becomes even more Democratic and Hispanic then before.  Both districts in 2010 were already majority-Hispanic districts to begin with.  Two of the four districts the state would gain through reapportionment would also be made majority-minority, almost surely putting them in the Democrats camp.  And as a last sting for the GOP, long-time Democratic Congressman and thorn in their side Lloyd Doggett would see an easy reelection.  The court’s map, instead of dividing Austin (as in the GOP map) reunites the Democratic leaning city.  All told, the map has the chance to give Democrats 13 Congressional seats after 2012.

All this sets the stage for national and state Republicans to be contemplating a crucial question.  After the 2012 elections do they want to attempt another redistricting plan (assuming their original map is not reinstated in 2013)?  The question is not without merit.  Looking at Texas’s history of partisan gerrymandering it seems very possible. 

Since Texas became a state of the union in 1845 it has been dominated by Democrats.  It stuck with Southern Democrats throughout the Civil War, which only saw their support for Southern Democrats harden.  It was not until well into the 20th century that Republicans even gained a foothold in the state.  Texas’s transformation from a Southern Democratic state to a GOP one can be said to have started in the 90s.  And this came even as Democrats passed a friendly redistricting map that year (still held major offices and legislatures).  In 1994 the GOP won the Governorship.  That same year, for the first time in history the GOP narrowly took control of the state senate.  In 1998 the GOP held the Governor’s mansion, took control of every state office, and held onto the Senate.  But they could not break through the Democratic controlled House. 

Due to the 2000 census Texas was slated to gain two seats through reapportionment.  The GOP controlled Governorship and senate could not agree with the Democratic House.  As a result, the GOP asked the Legislative Redistricting Board to draw the map.  The map created two new GOP districts, but preserved Democratic control of the state house and did not fortify GOP control of the state senate.  Even worse for the GOP, the new map preserved a 17D-15R Congressional delegation.  This did not sit well with new GOP Governor Rick Perry and Speaker of the House Tom Delay.

Perry and Delay worked together to get state Republicans to sponsor several bills that would redraw the court created map. Unable to pass them during a regular legislative session, Perry called a special session.  When the GOP could not pass the map through the senate (2/3rd rule) a second special session was called.  Democratic senators fled the state as they were the last holdouts to passing the map.  In a famous episode in Texas politics the Texas Rangers moved into Oklahoma and gave them an ultimatum to come back to Texas.  The Democratic senators conceded and the map was passed.  The new map allowed the GOP to dominate the state senate, state house and 2004 Congressional elections.  The old Congressional delegation of 17D-15R became 21R-11D after 2004 and the state senate and state house turned dramatically red.

The map would not be allowed to stand however without major court challenges.  Even with a Republican administration in the White House several DOJ officials thought the map was discrimanatory.  They were overruled by other senior officials.  But several other groups would take up the charge, including the League of United Latin American Citizens.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that states can redistrict whenever they choose.  However, the Court invalidated District 23 (ironically now represented by a Republican) and ordered it become a majority-minority district.

This history is important to understanding Texas politics.  Democrats for decades redistricted in their favor and the GOP has done the same.  Now with another contentious fight over the new lines ongoing, likely to favor Democrats, and the Supreme Court having ruled that states are free to redistrict whenever they want, Republicans have to be seriously considering redrawing the lines to their benefit, especially if the courts reject their appeals for 2014 election to be based on the original lines.

There are other reasons to expect this move however, despite the state’s history and ongoing redistricting drama. After the SA district court rejected the state’s appeal, state Attorney General Greg Abbott vowed to take the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.  And then there is the 2012 presidential election.  The GOP was able to create a favorable GOP map in 2004 due to having a Republican in the White House.  In 2012, if a Republican takes it back then Republicans will have a favorable administration behind them.  All this sets the stage for another mid-decade redistricting.  One that would eliminate the SA District Court lines and make Republican legislative and Congressional control of the state a reality for another decade.

Blue Dog Coalition finally shatters Democratic unity

The tattered remants of the Democratic majority of 2008 can be seen running for the hills from a certain individual.  The individual in question does not need to be named but the announcement from the Blue Dog Coalition sends a clear signal to party leadership, “We are fed up with your leadership.” 

Today the Blue Dog Coalition announced they were breaking with their party and supporting the House GOP’s Balanced Budget Amendment.  The vote is expected to be on Friday and while even it if passes the GOP House it will be sat on in the Senate it sends a clear signal to voters what GOP control would mean in 2012.  For Democrats who spoke of unity after their 2010 shellacking the Blue Dog Coalition’s announcement just pours salt on an open wound.

Consider what has transpired since 2008.  Democrats came into office with massive majorities and as diverse a caucus in the House they would ever have.  Their members represented suburban, urban, minority-majority as well as rural districts.  Their members had diverse backgrounds of all races and ethnicities.  But that seems a thing of the past.  In 2009 Democratic freshman were pushed out of key committee positions and forced to cross their party on divisive issue after divisive issue.  In the House, in June 2009 Democratic freshmen were forced to vote on Cap and Trade.  Then in September they had to vote for or against Obamacare. 

Things soon got worse.  The tough votes did not let up.  Leadership than forced Democrats to vote again to pass HC Reform, and pass it did, just barely in late March.  All these high-profile votes took a toll on the new Democratic majority.  Individual members ran away from their party (in the case of one Congressman in Alabama, literally).  Others ran against their own party and yet more openly complained about leadership and the WH.  None was more vocal then the 50+ member strong Blue Dog Coalition.  Called by some liberals as the “Yellow Dog Coalition,” these Democrats hailed from conservative to moderate districts across the country.  And they saw the train wreck that was coming with the 2010 election.  Yet for all this they stuck with their party and defended Democratic values.

The Blue Dog Coalition was made up of more than just freshmen, but the Coalition largely represented their interests.  By mid-September of that year many of their members (and many more conservative non Coalition members) had publicly broken with their party on a whole host of issues.  For many of them it did not matter.  The Blue Dog Coalition, 50+ strong before November 2010 is now a former shell of itself.  When the 112th Congress was sworn in the group had 26 members.  Since then 3 members (CA,AR and OK) have resigned and yet another (IN) is running for Senate. 

The situation has not improved for this Coalition.  Their members do not have senior positions on committees and they continue to be shunned by party leadership.  The Democratic leadership and WH’s plan of mobilizing the base with plans to forgive student debt and spend billions and billions on a new “Jobs Plan” has not made them any happier.  And with redistricting giving GOP state legislators a chance to eliminate more of them even more Blue Dogs are moving to the right.  Yet for all this they continued to stick with their party.

But this move represents an inevitable split on a key fiscal issue for the party.  Once Blue Dogs championed HC Reform, before they were forced to vote, and now they are turning to the GOP’s idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Blue Dog Co-Chair Jim Matheson (UT) even said, “If any Blue Dog does not vote for it, I’d have to question how much they’re a Blue Dog.”  And with that the divisions between conservative Democrats and their party leadership has officially blown up.

2008 was supposed to hail the beginning of a permanent Democratic majority in Congress.  But yet 2 1/2 years later their party is shattered and divided.  Blue Dogs are returning to their fiscal roots for a whole host of reasons.  And as they do so, they incraesingly anger their liberal leadership.  The future of the Blue Dog Coalition is unclear, but there is nothing unclear about there action here means.

Pondering presidential reelection strategies

It is now officially less than a year away from the 2012 elections.  The dust from the 2011 elections has settled and several assumptions can be garnered from the results in relation to the 2012 presidential race. 1) The coalition that elected Obama and Democratic majorities in 2008 is in tatters, 2) the moderate suburbs that turned Democratic in 08, Republican in 010, are very up for grabs in 2012, 3) the electorate is dissatified but dislikes major changes regardless (Ohio).

The 2011 election showed that the coalition that gave Obama and the Democrats a massive 2008 victory is now dead and buried.  The unruly coalition of young and senior voters, urban and rural, suburban moderate and fiscally liberal voters proved to much to hold together.  Combined this with the bad economy in 2010 and it was bound to come apart.  This of course means the president’s path to reelection will now have to turn to a set of voters he has struggled with.  White voters, specifically blue-collar voters.  But more on this in a bit.

The 2011 election results in Loudon County, VA, the very heart of the Obama coalition showcase why this coalition is dead and buried.  In this fairly affluent, fairly young, and highly educated white-collar suburb the GOP netted two new state senate seats, three new delegate seats, held all the county supervisor seats and easily held all their senate and delegate seats.  The voters in this district went to Obama by over 15 points according to 2008 exit polls.  In an off-year election when 2010 has passed and the pendulum of politics has swung back to the middle the fact this white-collar county stayed red says a lot.

Despite the public’s clamoring for change in 08, and then the other way in 2010, voters in the swing state of Ohio showed just how much change can be a double-edged sword.  Newly elected GOP Governor John Kasich and his GOP allies in the state legislature earlier in the year pass a massive reform of CBA rights.  The measure was put on the ballot for a referendum (Issue 2) and overwhelmingly the new law was overturned.  This in turn has given Democrats, and especially Democratic strategists hope that the president can put Ohio back on the map.  But not so fast.

Voters in the state also throughly rejected a major tenant of left-wing change.  Issue 3, which called for an amendment to the state constitution banning the Individual Mandate passed overwhelmingly.  Purely symbolic perhaps, but it should give Democratic strategists pause about pursuing a new strategy targeting whites for the White House’s reelection. 

So with the lessons of 2011 past what can the president do to pursue reelection.  Unfortunately, there are not many good options.  The president really has two chocies.  He can try to rebuild his coalition of 2008 of single women, white-collar voters, youth and minorities.  But the seniors that backed him in 08 and the suburban vote did not materialize in 2010 as hoped.  Many of these same moderate to independent voters went Republican in 2010 and showed no inclination they are coming back to the president based on 2011 results.  Furthermore, surveys in key battleground states across the nation show the president continuously underwater with these voters.  Yet these same voters are the very voters giving the president the greatest benefit of the doubt.  Many still blame Bush for the bad economy, call for Republicans to work with the president, and want jobs to be a top priority.  But yet they remain up for grabs in 2012.

The other strategy Democrats could pursue, and one that is likely a necessity to keep several Democratic Senators in the Senate after 2013, is pursue the white blue-collar voters that have never really warmed to the president.  These same voters helped put many Congressional Democrats in office in 08 even while voting for John McCain.  In 2010 they went all in for Congressional Republicans, turning their backs on anything Democrat.  Macomb County, Michigan has been labelled the home of the “Reagan Democrats.”  This county went for Lyndon Johnson by 25 points in 1964 and yet by 1984 went for Ronald Reagan by double-digits.  In 2008, the county and its blue-collar voters went back to Democrats by an eight point margin.  In 2010 they went back to Republicans to the tune of 15 points.  How the president and Democrats fare here could say a lot about 2012. 

Blue-collar voters have little in common with the 2008 Obama coalition.  The Obama coalition is cobbled together out of government dependent voters, technocrats, white-collar suburbanite voters, young voters and minorities.  The blue-collar vote is predominately without a college education, white and a mixture of middle and upper-middle class voters.  Yet Democrats still see an opportunity to make inroads with these voters.  Democrats and the WH cite the fact that blue-collar voters are not necessarily for the GOP protecting tax breaks for the rich or cutting corporate tax rates.  By the same token what drove blue-collar voters away from the president was his push for leftist policies and furthering of welfare and affirmative action polices.

Populism could be the tool the president uses to court these voters.  In Ohio, the success of repealing SB-5, Democrats believe shows them how to court these voters.  Yet they run a risk.  Populism runs better with blue-collar voters than white-collar suburbanites.  And while blue-collar voters could turn back to the president since Reagan they have leaned right and would likely still favor the GOP nominee heavily.  White-collar suburbanites and single woman have traditionally leaned left to centrist and more independent, perhaps telling the left their victory lies with these voters and the states they reside in.

Whichever strategy the president pursues he will have to go all in for.  If the president goes for winning suburbanite voters and rebuilding his 08 coalition his electoral strategy would be built off winning states like Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado, while holding traditionally left leaning states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.  But if the president goes for winning new blue-collar votes his electoral plan for victory would lie on winning traditional swing states such as Ohio and Florida as well as winning the left-leaning Rustbelt.  Going half-way for either strategy is unlikely to work.  It would be hard to present a unified message and even more one set of voters is likely to be turned off by the message the president uses to court the others. 

The election of 2011 portends a hard-fought 2012 president contest.  It also presents the president and Democrats with a dilemma about what strategy to pursue to hold the White House.  Try and rebuild the Obama coalition of 08 or woo blue-collar voters into the Democratic fold and win on a new coalition of voters.  Either way, the election will be close.

What Issue 3 vote in Ohio says about conservatives and the GOP presidential nominee

Tuesday, November 8th saw two monumental votes come and go in Ohio.  By the end of the night both conservatives and liberals had things to cheer about.  SB-5 (on ballot known as Issue 2) was soundly defeated as unions and Democrats fought tooth and nail against it.  Repeal of the law ow means that collective bargaining rights and public employee contributions to their healthcare and pension remain unchanged.  But while unions and liberals celebrate on this issue they were handed a resounding defeat on Issue 3 when voters overwhelmingly supported a Constitutional Amendment banning the Individual Mandate in Obama’s Healthcare Reform.

Leaving aside for the time being the other key outcomes of the night (and the union victory on Issue 2) I want to focus on what the big win on Issue 3 means for conservatives nationally and the Republican presidential race.  Afterall, it is very clear that and other liberal groups spent big on getting voters to not just oppose Issue 2 but also oppose Issue 3.  Unfortunately for the left it did not work out that way. 

There are a few ways to look at the vote on Issue 3.  The first would be it was a huge GOP victory against Obamacare.  The second would be that the left and Democrats largely focused on Issue 2 and did not go all in to oppose Issue 3.  The last would be that Ohio voters simply are not comfortable with the idea of being forced to buy a product, regardless of the other parts of the Healthcare Law.  The third way to look at the vote seems to appeal to most on the left and right.  Afterall, Republicans can claim it is a rejection of Obamacare, and it certainly is true for a key part of it.  The left can claim however that the public just may not like the IM, but is undecided on the rest of the law.  However the vote is looked at though, it should tell conservative and the GOP nationally a few things.

The first is that conservatives should continue to hit on the Individual Mandate.  Ohio if nothing else showed that voters in a swing state are uncomfortable with the idea.  Perhaps even better for conservatives, unions massively turned out their members to vote against Issue 2, yet Issue 3 passed with a massive majority.  That means there had to be quite a few Democrats and union members who opposed the Individual Mandate and voted for Issue 3.  For prospective conservative candidates running across the nation that means they might be able to win a few cross-over votes on the issue.  In thi hyper-partisan environment that would be quite a feat.

Another thing the vote tells conservatives is how unhappy the president’s base really is with him.  If they were really gung-ho for the president and his policies they would have swallowed their misgivings and voted against Issue 3, supporting the IM.  But instead they did not and Issue 3 passed.  Purely symbolic the vote may be, but it should send a clear signal to the White House about how their party faithful views their legislative achievements.  This of course is good news for conservatives and Republicans nationwide.  

The vote in Ohio should also send a clear signal to conservatives and Republicans in regards to the presidential nomination.  And that message can best be summed up as “Not Romney.”  How this message becomes clear is manifested in the fact that if voters rejected the IM overwhelmingly how would it look if the GOP picked a nominee who implemented an IM in his home state?  Romney would not be able to hit the president on this issue at all, considering he would just be labelled a hypocrite.  His attacks would fall by the wayside and nationally Republican candidates would have to explain why their party’s standardbearer supported the same thing they are railing against.

The “Not Romney” message this vote also sends is through turnout and suburbanite preferences.  The overriding belief among Republicans and conservatives is Romney can drag the base out by attacking Obama and winning suburbanites on his moderate record.  But if the Issue 3 vote is any indication that is not a sure thing.  Conservatives came out in force to vote for Issue 3.  Suburbanites votes heavily for Issue 3.  So how would Romney reconcile with these two key groups his passage of Romneycare with an IM in MA?  Would Romney really be able to win suburbanite and get out conservatives when he has passed the same thing the president has?  And as Romney has backed away from his initial support for the IM in his home-state he has been labelled a hypocrit by the left and right.  That is unlikely to change if he wins the primary.

The Issue 3 vote sends clear signals to conservatives.  To run against the Individual Mandate, especially in swing seats.  You might get a few cross-over votes and combined with the president’s and Democrats demoralized base might put you over the top in a close election.  The vote also sends a clear message for conservatives and the GOP to not nominate Romney.  He is easily attackable on his passage of Romneycare’s IM in MA.  Futhermore, he is far from assured of winning suburbanite votes and getting conservatives out to vote.  For the GOP and conservatives the Issue 3 vote holds key messages.  They should heed that message.

Now is Gingrich’s best chance

Two conservative, anti-establishment candidates have fallen by the wayside in the GOP presidential primary.  A third looks likely to as well.  And that leaves an opening for a certain intelligent, charismatic (when he wants to be), and former Speaker of the House to make his move.  Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry have fallen.  Perry can make a comeback, Bachmann is done.  Now the GOP faithful are turning away from their latest hopeful, Herman Cain, after he has made gaffe after gaffe that show he is not ready to be president.  Candidates like John Huntsman and Gary Johnson have not made a dent in the field and Romney and Paul will always have their bases of support (but unable to grow it).  That leaves a large conservative bloc that has shifted support throughout the primary up for grabs.  And for Newt Gingrich, his best chance to win these voters is now.

Newt’s campaign in a lot of ways resembles John McCain’s in its early stages.  In 2007 John McCain’s campaign was left for dead, out of money, lacking staff and having 3-5% support in most polls.  Gingrich’s rollout for president (he was the first to officially declare) was a disaster.  His announcement was eclipsed by events at the time and over the next month stories broke about his unwillingness to engage with voters.  Then on NBC’s Sunday show, “Meet the Press” the bottom of his campaign fell out when he called the Ryan Medicare budget (recently passed by the GOP House) “Right-wing social engineering.”  What support Gingrich had evaporated and his campaign was left for dead. 

But it now seems, like John McCain’s campaign in 2007, the reports of the campaign’s demise were premature.  Just like John McCain, Newt Gingrich has watched conservative candidates rise and fall in the primary and always stayed in striking distance.  And as those candidates have struggled and fallen by the wayside Gingrich has always been impressing in the debates, building up campaign infrastructure and courting key donors.  Now it appears that strategy is paying off.

By any measure Gingrich is not assured the GOP nomination.  Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Perry all have far more donors and campaign cash, more infrastructure and depending on the poll, the lead.  In three recent polls (Rasmussen, Quinnipiac and WashPo) Gingrich has either been in third or fourth and getting 10-14% of the vote.  This compares to earlier in the campaign when he was an afterthought.  But for Gingrich being in third or fourth is far better than where he was prior.

Recent events have also turned the overall campaign in Gingrich’s favor.  Gingrich impressed GOP voters in the last debate and that has given voters time to process and think through what kind of president he would be.  The break in the debate format has also allowed Gingrich to start the retail campaigning he has not been known for, wowing conservative activists primarily in Iowa and Florida.  Furthermore, Herman Cain’s gaffes on foreign policy statements and his incoherent defense of his tenure as head of the National Retail Association (now numbering five sexual harassment charges) have taken the wind out of his sails.  According to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll, Cain’s favorability rating among Republicans dropped to 57% from 66% and about a third of Republicans said his recent actions have made them less favorable toward him.  Among the general public the numbers are even worse (though this was among RV’s which tend to lean farther to the left than the actual election electorate).

All these factors have turned the campaign toward Gingrich.  Conservatives may now start to turn to Gingrich as an alternative to what they deem unprepared conservative candidates and of course Mitt Romney.  One of the unnoticed things since Gingrich’s campaign almost fell apart was his move to the right.  And as circumstances have turned in his favor Gingrich is poised to appear presidential and conservative enough for the “Anti-Romney” vote.

Gingrich still has major vulnerabilities should he start rising further in the polls.  His comments on the Paul Ryan Medicare budget plan are not going to be forgotten and his initial support for the Individual Mandate in the early 90’s and 2009 will not be either.  But Gingrich has worked hard to walk back those comments and it is unclear how much power they would have coming from the likes of Mitt Romney (Romneycare) and weak conservatives candidates such as Bachmann and others.  What is perhaps most in doubt is whether Gingrich can raise the cash to compete with Romney or Perry, both who boast impressive bank accounts and campaign infrastructure.  Even Herman Cain is starting to develop a campaign structure.  Gingrich will need cash and support in abundance to combat his opponents bank accounts.

Perhaps what is most surprising in Gingrich’s rise is how he has done so.  Gingrich has used the unusual number of TV debates to show his policy expertise and shore up his conservative credentials.  At every debate he was poised, polished and intelligent even as the GOP faithful focused on others performances.  And it appears to have paid off with rising poll numbers and a real shot at the GOP nomination.  Gingrich’s best chance to seize the GOP nomination appears to be now.  And he just might seize it.

The Disappearance of the Democratic moderate

Moderate Democrats have been a dying breed in the modern Democratic party since 1994 and the GOP Revolution.  That year dozens of moderate and conservative Democrats across the nation were wiped away in a tide of voter discontent with a Democratic Party that had dominated the House for 40 years.  Moderate Democrats have never recovered from 94 and appear likely to never do so as the country becomes more polarized ideologically.  Whereas Democratic moderates could win in conservative districts a confluence of factors are close to making this impossible in anything but a wave election year.

Democratic moderates have played a critical role in shaping the Democratic party”s history.  They played crucial roles in the Civil Rights era, the Cold War as well as the Reagan Years.  During the Civil Rights Era moderate Democrats in the NE pushed the CRA while Southern Democrats opposed it (leaving Republicans to help liberals pass it).  During the Cold War moderate Democrats, along with Republicans, stood firm in their support of defense spending and opposing the USSR (leading to conflicts such as the Korean and Vietnam War).  And during the Reagan years they were instrumental in helping pass a reform of the tax code and even after 94 helped President Clinton with the GOP balance the budget.

But today the number of moderate Democrats are increasingly shrinking.  During the Bush years from 2000-2004 the number of moderate Democrats held steady (as measured by membership in the fiscally conservative, socially moderate Blue Dog Caucus).  In the 2006 and 2008 elections Democrats gained over 50 House seats, many in traditionally conservative or GOP districts which resulted in a resurgence of Democratic moderates.  The Blue Dog Caucus grew exponentially as a result (well over 50 members).

Many of these members came to DC to institute great changes from transparency to how the process was done to implementing pragmatic government programs.  Instead, they were hamstrung by a powerful liberal wing of the party that dominated debate and discussion. These Democrats did not have the luxury of the pre-1994 election when Southern conservative Democrats sat on powerful committees.  Instead, those committees were dominated by long-time liberal members.  The result was disastrous for moderate Democrats.  Massive programs from Healthcare to Financial Reform to Budget bills were pushed through, often against moderates wishes.  And since many moderates (minus some in the South) had not had time to establish deep constituency ties with their constistuents they suffered greatly.

The 2010 election was the polar opposite of 2008.  Voters turned against Democrats of all stripes and wiped 66 of them from the map.  Many of these were conservative/moderate Democratic members in the House.  Even worse, the 2010 election resulted in the GOP winning multiple governorships and gaining majorities in state chambers just as redistricting neared. This ensures some of them would be drawn out of office.

It appears that being shut out of the leadership posts in the House and the potential of GOP Governors and state legislatures drawing them out of office has driven quite a few of the remaining Blue Dogs to resign rather than face reelection.  In the last few months prominent Blue Dogs Dennis Cardoza (D-CA),Dan Boren (D-OK) and Mike Ross (D-AR) have decided to retire then face voters.  These centrists who survived the wave election of 2010 seem to have lost the heart to continue in the current system.  As a former Democratic Congresswoman from Pennsylvania says “The Democratic Party is not really the ‘big tent’ it claims to be,” and it appears the system is unlikely to change in the near future to benefit Democratic centrists.

With redistricting and ideological polarization sure to drive even more of these moderate Democrats to extinction the question has to be asked whether they can even survive into the future?  Republicans are gunning for their favorable seats, liberal members seem to not care about them and their most prominent members have been leaving.  So what has led to this?  Why is the Democratic moderate threatened?

Some of the factors have been mentioned above.  Ideological partisanship, redistricting and a Democratic party that has become far more liberal.  But perhaps the biggest factors are the transformation of what the Democratic Party is today compared to its roots and demographic change.  These factors tend to be glossed over but they are immensely important to today and the Democratic moderate.

The original Democratic party was composed of unions, none-college educated white voters, Catholics and urban and rural voters.  Today the Democratic Party has moved far away from this past.  Today the Democratic party is composed of women, post-college educated whites, urban minorities, unions and Hispanics.  Many of these groups goals go against the very interests of the kinds of voters centrist Democrats represent which tend to be fiscally and culturally conservative or moderate districts.  The interests of an urban Detroit district are far different from those of a rural Ohio district. 

Demographics has played a large part in this change.  Whites have increasingly transitioned to the GOP over the decades just as Hispanics have become more Democratic and a more powerful voting bloc.  As such, with liberals in charge of the party, the interests of post-college educated whites and minorities are being represented better in the modern Democratic party than rural and non-college educated white voters.  Even more, Democrats are tailoring their national platforms and government programs to increasingly favor minorities over whites (which is why working class whites are moving to the GOP significantly).

All this has helped lead to the demise of the Democratic moderate.  And as this trend continues it looks increasingly likely that Democratic moderates continue to be a rare breed.  White voters continue to look to move to the GOP, in 2012 to express discontent with the economy and a liberal president. The irony is that to get a majority Democrats really need white voters and centrist Democrats to run in these districts.  But the headwinds pushing against a growth of Democratic moderates are great, and the 2012 elections do not look kind to any kind of Democrat.