2014 perfect test case to see if the current GOP coalition can deliver victory in a neutral political environment

80988928America’s last four elections have had deep repercussions.  In 2006 Democrats gained control of Congress.  In 2008 they gained even larger majorities in Congress and the White House.  In 2010, the GOP won back the House and narrowed the Democrats majority in the Senate.  Last year, Democrats held the White House and enlarged their majority in the Senate.  What explains this large partisan voting shifts?  Part of it is the political environment of the time but the far larger part is the electorate, especially the ideological and racial composition of the electorate.

In 2008, Barack Obama and Democrats benefited from a less white and younger electorate.  In 2010 the GOP benefited from a more white and conservative electorate.  In 2012, as in 2008, Democrats turned out their base in large numbers and reaped the results.  Since the 2012 election there have been a number of observations about the election, most on how the GOP needs to embrace diversity to win future elections. Obviously for the GOP any vote they get from any voter is a good thing.  But to embrace diversity the GOP has been split on the debate over immigration reform.  On one side are establishment and Senate Republicans who passed a comprehensive immigration bill in June.  On the other side are House Republicans who do not necessarily believe abandoning their law and order stance is the way to go.

A number of analysts have weighed in on the debate.  Those in the mold of Karl Rove urge the GOP to try to embrace a new and different coalition of voters.  Others, more non-partisan such as Sean Trende and Harry Enten of the Guardian have not said this is the wrong way to go.  But they rightly point out that the GOP coalition of mostly older and white voters can still hand the party electoral victories.  Yes, even in Presidential elections!

The detractors of this theory have valid arguments.  They cite the fact that Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote and still could not win the election.  They also cite the fact that the white portion of the electorate dropped to 72% and less than 70% in key swing states such as Florida and Virginia.  But while all these points may be valid they also ignore a simple fact about elections.  Turnout, turnout, turnout.  In 2012, Sean Trende points out how minority turnout increased from 2008 levels while white turnout dropped.  This in an election where several million fewer people cast ballots then in 2008.  Thus, Romney’s 59% win among white voters was limited by the fact their share of the vote was smaller than ever before.

The 2012 election also was seen differently by the average vote and GOP analysts.  While the economy was not featuring a steady recovery it was far better than 2009.  Thus whereas Republicans thought the economy was terrible the rest of the electorate thought it was good enough to reelect the President.  Yet, even in a political environment where the economy was slowly recovering the President could do no better than 39% among these voters.

The idea the GOP can with a mostly white coalition has been discounted, or at least believed so, by the theories above.  Karl Rove said at one time it would be hard for the GOP to consistently win the white vote by 25%.  But electoral rules have always been made to be broken.  People said JFK could not be elected as a Roman Catholic.  People doubted a Californian Governor could rise to the top of the GOP.  Moreover, the GOP arguably won white voters by 25 points in 2010.  Some could argue this is when the political environment was toxic to Democrats.  True.  But if the GOP can win white voters by 20% in a slightly favorable year to Democrats that margin likely only goes up in years where the Democratic brand is hurting.

Also consider that why many Millennial groups are trending Democratic currently, Millennial white voters are consistently voting Republican.  In 2008, 18-29 year old whites went for Obama 54%-44%.  In 2010 they went for Republican candidates by 10%.  In 2012 they went for Romney by 7 points and for Congressional Republicans by a similar margin.  So the idea the GOP cannot win the newest crop of white voters is not true and it likely ensures the GOP continues to win big with white voters.

So now we come upon 2014.  The economy really has not gone south.  Consumer and economic confidence is up since 2012 even though fewer individuals in polls say they think the economy is recovering.  The political environment remains largely neutral, even with the President suffering several scandals and his agenda being derailed.

Yet Obama’s poll numbers are less than stellar.  More so, his numbers with white voters are staggeringly bad.  Depending on the daily Gallup spread his approval with white voters is about 35%-35% approval.  Pew has it slightly lower.  This is a drop-off from the 37%-38% approval Obama enjoyed with white voters before the 2012 election.  Most interestingly, this drop-off has not occurred because of college educated whites or minorities.  It is because whites without a college degree have abandoned the President by over 10%.  College educated whites and minorities have only dropped 1%-2% in approval since the election.  To prove this point Gallup pools its data and finds white support dropping dramatically while minority turnout has dropped 3%-4%.

Looking forward to 2016 this analysis might be out of date by that time.  The coalitions the parties court could largely depend on their nominees.  For example, a Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden will court different voters same as a Rand Paul or Chris Christie would attract or repel different voters.  Furthermore, minority turnout could drop with Obama out of office and white voters might return to the electoral process if the GOP finds a charismatic, populist nominee.

Overall, the President’s approval among registered voters hovers around 44%-45%.  This at a time in the President’s term when Bush’s was still hovering near 50%.  The President’s numbers give credence to the belief the GOP has a very good shot of winning the White House in 2016 with non-college educated whites returning to the electoral process and pulling the lever for the GOP and a slight uptick among minority and college educated white votes.  In politics, nothing is set in stone.

 

Why the DOJ is trying to stick it to Texas?

MustShowIDToVote_jpg_800x1000_q100On Thursday the DOJ announced it would ask a court in Texas to get permission from the DOJ to move forward with its new Voter ID laws.  The move is predicated on the untouched Section III of the Voter Rights Act known as a “bail-in.”  If a court rules that Texas’s Voter ID law violates the Constitution then Texas would have to work with the DOJ until the Justice Department determines there are no more Constitutional violations.  As expected, GOP Texas Governor Rick Perry called the move outrageous and portrayed confidence the court would rule on the side of Texas.  Even if it does not the ruling is expected to be appealed by the state and could make it the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of appeals or the Supreme Court.

But beyond the particulars of the case one has to wonder why the DOJ has singled out Texas to sue?   Since Section IV of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional in June a number of states have implemented new Voter ID laws in and outside the South.  In the South, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have or are soon to implement Voter ID laws.  Outside the South in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Voter ID laws are pending dependent on court rulings.  However, none of these states have been singled out by the DOJ.

Texas and the Obama administration have a history dating back to early in the President’s term.  In 2010 when forest fires were raging throughout the state, Texas requested help from the Administration.  They did not receive it.  In 2011 when Texas was set to pass its Voter ID law the DOJ sued under Section IV of the VRA and halted its enactment.  The DOJ also tried to stall Texas’s new congressional redistricting map.  Most recently, when Texas requested more help from FEMA after the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West was rejected.

While some of this evidence may seem anecdotal, before 2012 there was a craven political calculation to make Texas look bad.  Governor Rick Perry was seen as being a strong contender to the President.  Turning the state and by extension the Governor into a racist hotbed could have soured voters to Perry.  Today, the political calculus is different but the ends the same.  The President is deeply unpopular with whites across the country and needs minorities and single women to turn out for his party in 2014. Thus, alleging voter discrimination in the South is a way to test whether his coalition will come out when he is not personally on the ballot.

Consider that in 2008 Republicans won 57% of the white vote (at the Presidential level).  In 2012 the GOP won anywhere from 62%-64% of the white vote.  In 2012 the GOP share of the white vote dropped down but still reached a historical high of 59%.  Contrast the GOP performance among minorities, particularly Hispanics (38%) with their performance among Hispanics in 2012 (27%).  The numbers say it all.  In a midterm, if the 2012 results among minorities can be replicated, especially if they compose 28% (2012) of the electorate as oppose to 23% (2010) could spell success or at least survival for many in danger Congressional and Senate Democrats.

But Texas is also on the Democratic hit list for another reason; political demographics.  By all rights Texas should be a blue state.  Whites barely make up 50% of the population and Hispanics, Asians and blacks are rising as a percentage of the population. But while the GOP struggles with all three of the groups nationally, in Texas they seem to have found a rapport with Hispanics and Asians.  In 2010 Perry won 38% of the Hispanic vote and among Asians down-ballot candidates report doing extremely well in suburban enclaves.  Considering virtually every other state has seen its emerging non-white voting base turn heavily blue this makes Texas an outlier.

Thus Texas should be targeted.  Democrats plan to invest over $20 million by 2016 in an organization called “Turn Texas Blue” to make it a battleground state by 2016.  But to do this Democrats need every minority voter they can get.  After being solidly Democratic up to 1994 the white vote in the state has turned and consistently stayed heavily Republican.  In 1994 George Bush won over 60% of the white.  In 2010 Perry won 70% of it.  In 1998, George Bush won 49% of the Hispanic vote, a high-water mark the GOP has never been able to reach.  But increasing margins among white voters have made it irrelevant.

The state has 38 electoral votes to add into any Presidential calculation.  Ginning up resentment among the minority populations of the state could make them come out, register, and pull the lever Democratic.  But whether they will be liberals or more business-friendly moderates such as the Castro brothers remains to be seen.

Lastly, and this is getting on treacherous grounds, Texas has always seemed to symbolize to the administration the arrogance of white power.  It has become clear to the author after viewing the Obama administration that they really do not like white voters.  Their policies, their language and their actions all reflect this.  In turn non-college and even college educated whites have fled the President.  In a way, going after Texas’s Voter ID law is a way to put whites in their place.  A better example of this would be the Zimmerman trial but I leave that alone for now.

The DOJ’s attempt to stick it to Texas might work or it might not.  Whites fed up with the President could turn out in mass in 2014 and hand Democrats heavy losses.  But in 2016 perhaps the Obama strategy will pay off.  Either way, the political calculus is simple.  Pick on Texas and perhaps other southern states to show minorities we care about your rights and white Republicans do not.  Yes, it is that simple!

Chris Christie’s gambit

paul.christieChris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey and strong contender for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016 sparked a mini-GOP civil war with his comments about libertarian foreign policy in the GOP and how Obama’s foreign policy has mirrored Bush’s.  Beyond the obvious that in some aspects Obama has continued Bush’s actions against terrorism, in other ways he has diverged significantly, Christie’s comments signify he is all ready to wade into the discussion on where the GOP should go in the policy arena; advocate a hawkish foreign policy and centrist domestic policy.

In his comments Christie called the libertarian strain on foreign policy in the GOP as “dangerous.”  One would think he would be mindful of the fact the GOP just voted to keep the NSA wiretapping program in effect and that was in the GOP controlled House.  Christie should also be smart enough to realize since Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich left Congress that libertarian strain has only come and gone.  It has never stayed consistent from issue to issue.

But leaving aside the debate on foreign policy, Christie’s comments represent a gambit for the Governor.  He is likely to be reelected by a massive margin this November, giving him a leg up to say he has bipartisan appeal in 2016.  But bipartisan appeal does not get you through a GOP primary.  Even if it does, it means you are left battered and bruised in the process (see McCain and Romney). Thus Christie has to move to the right in some form and what better way to do it while maintaining the image of his bipartisan appeal than doing it on foreign policy?

The ironic thing about Christie is that many voters think the Governor is a social moderate and fiscal conservative,  But in fact the opposite is true.  Christie is a staunch abortion advocate and he opposes gay marriage.  Meanwhile, while he has held the line on taxes in New Jersey, he has allowed state spending to rise and only minorly tweaked the state’s pension plans.  Better to call Christie a social conservative and fiscal moderate.

However, the labels the media and conservative talking heads put on somebody can stick for a long time.  Thus, Christie needs to shed his Northeastern moderate label on social issues and defense.  And seeing as how Rand Paul is a likely contender for the GOP nod in 2016, best to take a shot at him.  Whether the shot sticks or not is the question however,  Rand Paul’s following is as loyal as his father’s and more disconcerting for Christie, Rand Paul is NOT his dad.  Sure, Paul is not a hawk on foreign policy, but on the other hand he sure is not a pure libertarian either.

Instead, Paul blends a libertarian leaning mindset to foreign policy.  In a 2016 contest where just about every Democrat will be espousing Obama’s foreign policy virtues and the GOP will be as hawkish as ever this could be refreshing.  Of course refreshing means little for Christie.  The political calculus for him in 2016 is simple.  Keep the conservative base split between him, other challengers and limit Paul’s support among the group.  Paul is sure to benefit from his father’s following.  If Christie can split the conservative base and overwhelmingly win moderates he could win a divided nomination contest.

On a non Chris Christie’s political future note, the comments show the divide within the GOP.  Christie is far more establishment than anything else and thus his views do not gel with a libertarian view on foreign policy.  However, Paul’s, fellow Senators and Congressmen’s views have also found a stable foothold, for perhaps the first time, in a GOP trying to chart a course forward.  So far, other Republicans have been smart and stayed out of the intra-party battle between two bright stars.  Soon though, other Republicans may not be able to keep doing so.

Brand damage will not hinder Republicans in 2014

n_hardball_2poll_121213.video_620x362I have now read several articles and watched a press conference held by Charlie Cook.  For those who follow politics, you know that Cook is one of the few well-known and established political analysts in the country.  Cook was bullish on GOP chances in 2010 and 2012 (minus the Presidency) and the 2012 results splashed cold water on expectations.  Now Cook seems to be adopting a “Wait and see attitude” compared to his prior stances.

But one stance Cook seems to have put his foot down on believing is that the GOP brand is damaged.  To prove this he cites numerous polls that show the Democratic Party has higher favorable ratings than the GOP consistently.  But this is shallow proof that the GOP brand is actually damaged.

Consider that in the 2010 election polls showed Republicans by leads in the generic ballot test but the Democratic Party had a higher favorable rating.  Also, early polling has shown the GOP generic candidate with a national lead yet the Democratic Party maintains higher favorable ratings.

There are other factors to consider.  In 2014, the battle for both the House and Senate will be fought on conservative turf.  The GOP’s best takeover chances are in the Senate which include West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina.  All of these states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.  In the House the GOP’s 17 seat majority will be hard to overcome.  Of the entire House GOP Caucus, only 4% of 233 members sit in districts Obama won in 2012.  Almost half the Caucus comes from the South, a region that has solidly rejected the Democratic brand since the 90’s.

Certainly, brand damage could hurt the GOP in 2016.  But we have seen how national factors outweighed the GOP brand problem in 2010.  That year Republicans over-performed among groups that consistently favored the Democratic Party.  In 2012 we saw how the profile and campaign of a sitting President can overcome his weakness in approval ratings and a stagnant economy.  Republicans could find a candidate in 2016 that exacerbates their struggles or one that accentuates their strengths.

Long and short-term aside, the battle for 2014 seems unlikely to be impacted based on the favorable ratings of the parties.  Beyond the basic math and political environments of the individual states and districts control of Congress will rest on, voters views of the President will weigh heavily on their decisions.

As of today, the President is around 45%-46% approval in various sites averages of polling.  In Republicans states his numbers are far worse.  In 2010, in the states the GOP won, polls showed the President deeply unpopular.  In other words, voters view of the President greatly impact their decisions in midterm elections.

We know voters can pull the lever for a candidate for any number of reasons.  In 2010 (I keep going back to this election), the largest number of voters said they voted the way they did because of the national economy and they wanted more done by the President.  In 2012, the majority of voters said they voted for the President and his party because they believed he “shared their values.”  In 2010, a sizable minority of voters pulled the lever for Republicans to voice disapproval with the President.  Among Republicans, but also among Independents, this phenomenon was notable.

So while Cook can say brand damage will hurt the GOP the odds of it doing so in 2014 are minimal.  Now a little more about 2016.  In 2004, after George Bush won reelection against a liberal opponent, many Democrats thought they needed a new moderate Bill Clinton.  Instead, both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton ran from the left and in the end Obama helped remake the Democratic coalition in just two elections.  He also further solidified the GOP coalition in 2010.

Republicans have a strong crop of potential candidates for 2016, each with strengths and weaknesses.  For example New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the potential to remake the GOP coalition with newer, moderate voters at the expense of Southern conservatives.  His image as a moderate on social issues could help the GOP brand on social issues.  Senator Marco Rubio could appeal to minorities and give the party a more gentle face on immigration.  Senator Rand Paul could help the GOP connect with younger, libertarian voters less predisposed to a strong national security and social conservatism.  Lastly, a Midwestern conservative such as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin could appeal to pragmatic, moderate voters in a way that could help the party.

This of course is all hypothetical.  The 2016 election is a long ways away.  Nominating the right candidate still does matter a lot.  The brand of a party could mean a lot or a little in the President election.  But in the 2014 election I definitely have to disagree with Cook and say it will not matter.

The IRS Scandal Deepens

IRSThe White House and Democrats are rightly eager to want to turn the page on the IRS scandal, that with other scandals has helped derail their second term agenda.  But perhaps none has been as damaging as the IRS scandal.  Compared to the NSA and Benghazi, scandals that are hard to grasp and split the opposition on privacy vs. security concerns and a “who cares about Libya attitude” the IRS scandal has the potential to impact every American.

The latest information out on the scandal is damning.  House Government Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), accused by Democrats of being on a crusade, has consistently held hearings on the scandal.  His latest hearing counters the White House and DC IRS Office’s interpretation that a group of rogue IRS agents in the Cincinnati office were responsible for blocking hundreds of Tea Party groups applications to receive non-profit tax status.  Progressive groups were given almost instant approval while Tea Party groups were profiled in such a way to make the Trayvon Martin incident look tepid in comparison.

The latest hearing held with several middle level IRS officials says the orders to scrutinize Tea Party groups intensely came from DC.  Where in DC is unknown but you can bet it came from somebody with clout in the IRS union apparatus and ties to the White House in some form.  Darrell Issa’s “crusade” has made Republicans salivate at the prospect of a weakened White House and made Democrats cringe.  The best Democrats can come up with for a defense is having Elijah Cummings, the senior ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, saying he thinks the IRS scandal has been investigated fully.  Oh really?  With new revelations seeming to drop daily this strikes even the casual observer as dubious.

There is more information on the scandal however.  In 2010, when the Republican wave was cresting, Delaware Senate GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell was told by the IRS she had failed to report income for several years.  The IRS made her refile.  This is not in itself unusual but what the IRS did next is inexcusable.  The IRS then gave her tax returns to her later victorious opponent, Chris Coons.  This is a violation of privacy at its worst.  In the coming weeks it could be found the IRS also leaked numerous other Senate GOP candidates.

The steady drip, drip, drip of revelations on the IRS scandal has to be wearing on Democrats.  Notably however, few are calling for an investigation of the situation.  This could be for two reasons. First, many endangered incumbents may simply be trying to run away from the issue and hope it disappears.  Second, endangered incumbents may be afraid to buck the President publicly, especially when he still commands the base’s support.  For Democrats like Hagan in North Carolina, Begich in Alaska and Landrieu in Louisiana it is crucial they get every liberal or Democratic voter out to the polls.

But this strategy could backfire and backfire badly.  The President is once again underwater with Independents, especially white Independents and they show up in midterm electorates in red states.  The IRS scandal combined with recent policy initiatives by the President also could make angry Republican voters return to the polls in the hope they can at least stymie his agenda with a Republican Senate, or at least a more partisanly balanced Senate.  Either way Democrats seem damned whichever path they take.

As for the general public, we are left with the ever fundamental question of whether we can even trust our government?  As it gets bigger, people demand it do more, and become a nanny-state the questions about privacy will become ever more moot.  To take care of us the government will need more control, more power over our decisions and our lives.  It is too early to tell whether the public has yet to realize this but as long as the IRS scandal is front and center for the public to see the opportunity exists for an individual or a political party to point out these fundamental truths.

Abortion beyond ideology and partisanship

family-cuddlingAbortion is one of the less noted phenomenon of American politics.  Of course I do not speak of the endless debates, campaigns and media barrages waged on the issue.  I speak of the shift that both parties have made on the issue and one could argue both have done it rather successfully.

Prior to the 1930’s it was hard to find a pro-life Republican.  By the same token it was hard to find a pro-choice Democrat.  Today’s dynamic is the polar opposite.  Republicans are voraciously the party of pro-life values and Democrats pro-choice values.

Rove vs. Wade in 1973 opened up a Pandora’s box the country has been unable to close for over 40 years.  Partisan and ideological preferences on the issue, slowly changing since Gallup started polling on the issue in the 50’s, suddenly accelerated.  Republicans and Southern white Democrats began to identify in ever greater numbers as pro-life.  The Democratic shift to pro-choice preferences was slower, but that is largely a fact that Southern whites voted Republican for President but remained registered as Democrats.

Move forward to today and this shift can be broken down beyond ideology and partisanship.  Whites overwhelming identify as pro-life, as do Hispanics while African-Americans and Asians identify as majority pro-choice.  Catholics and Protestants identify as pro-life, Jews and others (atheists and deists) identify as pro-choice.

There are regional preferences at work here as well.  Suburban and rural voters are far more likely to identify as pro-life than urban voters.  Of course there is a demographic cross-over here.  Rural voters are older and vote more Republican, just like suburban voters, compared to urban voters.  Slowly, over time, both parties have adapted to these changing values and beliefs.

Ronald Reagan in the 80’s capitalized off dissatisfaction with Roe vs. Wade by courting what was known as the New Right (catholic Eastern Europeans), Evangelicals and suburban women.  George Bush did much the same in 2004 except his approach was to win pro-life Hispanics.  Not until 2008 did we see a national Democrat successfully win on the issue.

Some would marvel at the likes of the Democratic Party and its base salivating at the thought of having a little known, urban Austin, Texas Senator become a national figure.  But she represents the views of a solid majority of the party.  They oppose regulations on abortion clinics and banning abortion at five months.  She also fits the party profile of being a single woman from an urban district.

By the same token it should come as no shock the Texas public support abortion restrictions after five months and new regulations on abortion clinics.  The state has a largely rural and suburban white population and many pro-life Hispanics.

The slate of laws passed recently by GOP states restricting or at least controlling abortion is a direct result of abortion moving beyond partisanship and ideology.  A rural state like Arkansas banned it after five months, a suburban state like Virginia with rural pockets required getting an ultrasound to have an abortion.  Wisconsin, the perfect microcosm of the rural/suburban/urban divide passed a law similar to Virginia’s.  Outside of the state capitol of Madison there was little protest.

Little things like this tend not to get noticed when abortion is discussed.  Usually the conversation comes down to partisan preference or ideology.  As the above examples and light history show this is not always the case.

One last point before I conclude.  Marriage is also a strong indicator of preference on abortion.  A solid majority of married voters identify as pro-life, whether they have children or not, single men and women identify as pro-choice (single men by a lesser degree than single women).  Married voters are also far more strongly Republican than single men or women.  These factors should be considered when one debates political positions on the issue.

Where does the GOP go from here?

a_560x375I have written a series of articles, not exactly consecutively, chronicling the GOP’s struggles with Hispanics, Latino’s women and downscale voters right after the 2012 elections.  They showed just how badly the GOP had done among these groups.  More recently, I have published several articles chronicling the GOP’s struggles with Latinos.  All those posts have ultimately led up to this article.

No issue perhaps encapsulates the debate over the future of the GOP than immigration reform.  The Senate easily passed their bill 68-32 with mostly GOP Senators dissenting.  Meanwhile, the GOP controlled House has indicated they have no interest in the Senate bill and they will move forward with their own package of bills.  Senate Republicans and analysts like Karl Rove urge the GOP to pass the bill because it will help them make inroads with the Latino community.  But more recent and deeper analysis by individuals like Sean Trende (RCP) indicate this is more likely wishful thinking than a fact.  Trende niftily points out the GOP won 38% of the Hispanic vote nationally in 2010 and Bush won 44% of it in 2004.  Nobody predicted those results before election day.  Some still could not believe it after.

In many ways the debate over immigration reform in the GOP reflects a vision of what the GOP electoral coalition should be compared to what it is now.  The GOP controlled House reflects districts that are more white than not (though not more partisanly favorable than Democratic districts).  They also tend to be rural and reflect the views of downscale whites.  But they also reflect the anti-regulatory and anti-tax views of upper-scale whites.  Republican Senators and analysts who trumpet immigration reform look at it very differently.  They see the GOP needing to branch out after two decisive electoral defeats and losses in many statewide races in 2010 and 2012.

It follows that passing immigration reform would allow the GOP to better court young voters, Latinos and upper-scale whites.  But the GOP already has a lock on upper-scale white voters.  Polls do not bear out that passing immigration reform will be a boon to the GOP among the young or Latinos.  Further, and more importantly, the passage of immigration reform could hurt the GOP more than help the party.  Middle and upper class whites might sit out elections, depriving candidates of needed votes.  Let us also not forget that Democrats may pay a price in the Senate for passing reform.  Even though they can trumpet it as bipartisan to the low-income, African-American voter, that argument rings hollow when they worry that their job may be in danger if a surge of new, low-educated workers enter the US market.

All this sets the stage for contemplation of where the GOP should go from here.  Whites have trended more Republican than any other group in the US.  Indeed, African-Americans and Latinos are only slightly more Democratic today then they were in the 70’s.  Asians, who in 1988 voted for HW Bush, now solidly support Democrats but in only a few key swing states do their votes swing elections.  These facts, often ignored, make one wonder whether the GOP really has to go the Senate GOP route.  If the country is really no more Democratic than the 70’s does the GOP really have to shake up their electoral coalition?

Statewide executive office races might offer a clue here.  Federal races, be they for President, Senate or Congress are largely divided by forces outside the control of the candidates; the national political environment, the economy, foreign policy, ideologies of individual voters and so on.  This largely explains why so few swing voters are actually swing voters.  But statewide races, be they for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc. are decided by a different set of factors.  Governors are viewed on whether they can fix potholes, run the government competently, etc. while an Attorney General might be evaluated on his resume and his views on crime and law.  Good luck finding these factors impact a race for Congress.

It goes without saying the GOP has done extremely well at the state level.  The GOP controls 30 of the nation’s 50 Governor’s mansions, a solid majority of its 99 legislatures, and a number of other statewide executive offices.  In many states, GOP control of all facets of government is obvious by the policy prescriptions they use to solve problems.  Look at Kansas, a state where the GOP legislature and Governor passed massive tax cuts for individuals and business.  In Texas, new tax cuts take effect in 2014.  Wisconsin, perhaps the most polarized country in the US, has passed tax cuts and collective bargaining reform (followed by neighboring Michigan).

Most of the media chalks GOP success in the midterm elections and especially 2010 to a 77% white electorate and a bad national environment for Democrats.  However, this ignores the fact the GOP won 38% of the Hispanic vote  and 10% of African-American voters.  A quick perusal of individual state exit polls finds the GOP did quite well among minorities and exceedingly well not just with white voters, but downscale white voters and single women.  These two groups have been exceptionally hard for the GOP to court and are hailed as part of the Democratic Party’s “Coalition of the Ascendant.”

GOP success in statewide races thus reflects a coalition very different than in federal races and any future coalition.  Statewide GOP coalitions are more diverse, more downscale, and younger than their coalitions for Congress or the Presidency.  So perhaps the GOP should start focusing on transitioning their statewide coalitions into Congressional and Presidential coalitions.

I want to highlight a  couple of prominent example of this phenomenon.  Both of these states are slightly more Republican than the country as a whole, have diversifying electorates, have a split Senate delegations (at least 1 Democratic Senator and 1 GOP Senator) yet are both controlled by the GOP at the statewide level.  Both have also undergone great upheaval since 2010 and 2012.  Enter Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Both of these examples start in 2010 when Governor Scott Walker won in Wisconsin and the GOP won the legislature.  In North Carolina the GOP won the legislature for the first time since redistricting (Bill McCrory was not elected until 2012).   The North Carolina GOP sparred constantly with embattled Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue.  In Wisconsin Governor Walker, true to his word, instituted collective bargaining reform.  What followed in Wisconsin was a whirlwind of judicial elections, state Senator recalls and finally a recall of Walker.  What is important to note here is the coalition that reelected Walker in the recall was much the same as the coalition that elected him in 2010.  This coalition was young, diverse, slightly more moderate as a whole but accepted his fix as pragmatic and not recallable.  The coalition that elected McCrory in North Carolina in 2012 had over 20% of its members back Obama for President.  These coalitions were not deeply conservative but they were willing to be swayed and perhaps showcase a way forward for the GOP.

These two coalitions are a stark contrast from the coalition envisioned with the passage of immigration reform.  Some might simplify or mischaracterize this phenomenon as an establishment vs. conservative (or for liberals Tea Party) battle.  However, that characterization is very off the mark.  It misses several key points about electoral coalitions and regional divisions that divide the GOP.  For example, Chris Christie appeals to the Romney backers of 2012 but not to the Rick Santorum voters of the party.  Likewise, Rand Paul makes Ron Paul supporters swoon while a dark horse such as Scott Walker might make populist, down-scale Republicans (also Ross Perot voters) take a second look at reengaging in the political process.

The named candidates above showcase the division within the GOP: rural vs. suburban, moderate vs. conservative, libertarian vs. establishment, etc.  Northeast Republicans, like Chris Christie, would welcome a coalition based on the idea of immigration reform.  It would allow them to win upper-scale voters, down-play environmental rules they enact and also allow them to focus almost exclusively on fiscal policy.  Note: A Northeast Republican has not won the White House since, well, the early 20th century.  However, a more traditional candidate not mentioned such as Marco Rubio could do quite well with the GOP’s current coalition, especially if Democratic turnout drops and the white vote turns even more favorable to the GOP (or just back to its historical normal patterns).

But enter the Midwestern Republican.  These Republicans have shown a willingness to engage in partisan brawls but come out as pragmatic leaders.  They appeal to as mentioned above the Ross Perot voters of the world.  They also are often not mentioned in GOP Presidential circles for a number of reasons.  In a lot of ways these Republicans views can be as wonky as that of Senator Rand Paul.  His followers are true to the core libertarians who believe in an end to the drug war, end of an interventionist foreign policy and fewer regulations.  It is unclear what coalition a Rand Paul could chart for the GOP but it would be younger, more diverse and perhaps less ideologically conservative in several traditional areas.

This article is not meant to suggest which way the GOP should go from here.  The number of coalitions they could assemble is still vast despite what the media proclaims.  It could be down-scale, up-scale, more suburban, more rural, less white, more white, etc.  In a future article I will discuss which electoral coalition seems best suited to the modern GOP and candidates and has the most likelihood of emerging in 2016.