Democrats have already lost the Senate they just do not know it yet

Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Mark Pryor is one of the most endangered incumbents this cycle.

Privately Democratic strategists and experts are coming around to the realization that Democrats are likely to lose the Senate.  Of course, to appease their partisan masters they argue this is only a possible scenario even if Obamacare woes continue.  Democrats saving grace may be that there are currently only a small number of Senate seats the GOP is competing for.  These states include the seven states Romney won in 2012 that have Democratic incumbents.  Three of them are open seat races (WV, SD and MT) and four of them have Democratic incumbents (LA, AR, AK and NC).

Each of these seven states has its own dynamics and the voters in each state are unique.  For example, while Montana has voted GOP for President since 1964 Republicans have lost 19 of the state’s last 22 races for Senate yet have held the at-large House seat (basically a mini-Senate race) in 11 straight elections.  West Virginia has voted GOP for President since 2000 yet still has a Democratic governor, state legislature and two Democratic Senators.  Louisiana and Arkansas have taken hard right turns in recent years.  In 2008 Mark Pryor won reelection unopposed and Landrieu won against an underwhelming opponent with 53% of the vote.  In 2008 Arkansas also had a Democratic legislature and a federal delegation of 5D/1R. Today, those numbers are reversed (1D/5R) and Pryor is the lone Democratic in the state’s federal delegation.  The state legislature is also controlled by the GOP and the Governor’s race is leaning rightward.  Landrieu has seen her state reelect a GOP Governor, elect a dominant GP majority in the legislature and knock out a long-time Blue Dog Congressmen in 2010.

As for Alaska and North Carolina Democrats can console themselves with the facts that Alaska is a truly unique state politically.  While the state has a strong GOP tradition that tradition has been more energy/business friendly.  Begich’s narrow victory in 2008 courting business interests and minorities offers him a path to victory in 2014.  In North Carolina, once a GOP stronghold the state now has a distinctly purplish tinge as evidenced by Hagan’s and Obama’s wins in 2008.  Yet, in 2012 the state elected three new GOP Congressmen, a GOP Governor and Romney won the state by 2%.

Democrats always knew these races would be tough to win.  But Democrats also anticipated better recruiting in open seat races.  For example in Montana Democrats expected to former Governor Brian Schweitzer to run for the seat but he declined.  Democrats have had to settle for Lt. Governor Jon Walsh, an attractive veteran but not a seasoned politico like potential GOP nominee, freshman Congressman Steve Daines. In South Dakota, Democrats have a candidate that is far more liberal than the state and is hostile to energy interests while in West Virginia Democrats have an attractive candidate, SofS Natalie Tennant, but is also untested in partisan races.

In the four races where Democrats have incumbents the GOP has not struggled with recruiting.  In Louisiana the GOP recruited Congressman Bill Cassidy.  In Arkansas the GOP recruited freshman Congressman Tom Cotton and in Alaska the GOP has two strong contenders in Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and state Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan.  Only in North Carolina has the GOP struggled to find a top-tier candidate.  Yet this may not matter if polls are accurate in the state.

Obamacare has taken a toll on Democrats that no other scandal originating from this White House has.  The NSA wiretapping of people’s phones and emails, IRS auditing of Tea Party groups, Benghazi and spying on foreign leaders only registered as a minor bump in public views of the Democratic Party and White House.  But Obamacare is a whole another story.  Specifically relating to the White House, on October 1st when the exchange and website debuted the President had a 50.6% approval rating in the RCP compilation of polls.  At the time of this writing, November 26, only 41% approve and 55% disapprove.  Also, perhaps more importantly, for the first time ever a majority of people now do not trust the President according to a recent NBC/WSJ survey.

Endangered Democratic incumbents have suffered as a result.  In North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana the polls have narrowed significantly and all three Democratic Senators have underwater approval ratings.  There is no polling data out of Alaska.  Before Obamacare rolled out Republican candidates led in West Virginia and South Dakota.  The most recent poll out of Montana gives Steve Daines a huge lead over Walsh due to Obamacare.

Even more worrisome has been a string of new polling data out of Michigan, Iowa and Colorado.  Michigan and Iowa feature Democratic open seat races once thought to be solidly in the Democrat’s camp.  In Michigan Democrats recruited Congressman Gary Peters while Republicans settled for former SofS Terri Lynn.  In Iowa Republicans have a crowded field to face off against Democratic contender Congressman Bruce Braley.  Colorado features popular freshman Democratic Senator Tom Udall running against an underwhelming GOP field.  Until recently these races all looked to be safely in the Democratic camp and ensuring the GOP path to the majority was extremely narrow.

New polls argue differently.  Specifically, a Harper (R) survey finds that in Iowa Braley has narrow leads ranging from 3-6 points against his possible GOP opponents.  In Colorado, Quinnipiac finds that Udall leads by 3-9 points against his possible opponents.  Lastly, in Michigan, a bipartisan survey finds Peters leading Lynn by a mere 37%-36%.  A number of other races in Minnesota and New Hampshire could also be competitive but scant polling has been done on these races to date.

Democrats contend they have strong candidates in Kentucky and Georgia giving the party a chance to pick off a GOP seat.  Even so, in Kentucky Mitch McConnell is a formidable contender and his challenger, SofS Allison Grimes, is untested in federal races.  In Georgia, while a fractured GOP field gives non-profit executive Michelle Nunn (a political dynasty in the state) a chance the political environment and midterm electorate favor whoever makes it out of the GOP primary.

Democrats have not succumbed to this reality.  They continue to hold out hope Obamacare can be fixed and the public will focus on other issues such as social and local issues as the midterm nears.  However, Republicans are unlikely to let this happen, especially in key Senate races, and Obamacare has numerous issues that will continue to plague the party well into next year (ie. the business mandate and exchanges being unaffordable due to sick and elderly getting on and young and healthy doing the opposite).  Further, health premiums will continue to climb and more policy cancellations are expected.  Democrats should start planning for 2016 where the Senate landscape is more favorable (2010 GOP gains will be up for reelection) and the White House will once again be open for a new occupant.

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Nuclear Option will come back to Hurt Democrats and Country

NTc2MGNiMDk2NyMvZVp3eEhjZ0d6YkZvZjdHM255aF9mNlFEZS1JPS84NDB4NTMwL3NtYXJ0L2ZpbHRlcnM6cXVhbGl0eSg3NSk6c3RyaXBfaWNjKDEpL2h0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkZzMy5hbWF6b25hd3MuY29tJTJGcG1idWNrZXQlMkZzaXRlJTJGYXJ0aWNsZXMlMkY1NDkzNSUyRm9yaWdpbmFsLmLast week Democrats took a step 200 years in the making.  More specifically, Democrats eliminated the minority’s ability to filibuster executive nominees by changing Senate rules to require only a simple majority (50 or 51 Senators) to approve the nominee’s appointment (minus Supreme Court justices).  The move indicates several facets of the upper chamber and will have deep repercussions for the nation moving forward.

First-off, the action indicates Democratic frustration with GOP opposition to numerous Presidential nominees.  Democrats point to GOP opposition to Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rich Cordray.  Notably, both these appointments ultimately went through.  Parties threatening to use the “Nuclear Option” is nothing new.  Republicans threatened to use it in 05 and 06 if Democrats did not allow Bush’s Supreme Court nominees to move forward.  But they never took the final step.  Democrats, fed up with GOP opposition to liberal nominees on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, did.

It is important to understand the Senate was designed to be a slow body where consensus was almost always required (hence closure votes requiring 3/5th support).  Among those voting in support of eliminating the filibuster for executive nominees were many Democrats elected in 2008 who have consistently expressed frustration with the slow nature of the Senate.  Perhaps somebody should give them a civics lesson.  The growing partisan divide in the upper chamber likely played a big role in their final decisions.

Though few Americans may note the action its consequences are likely to play out long-term.  One potential consequence is that nominees for judicial and executive positions could be purely ideological pawns.  If you know you only need 50 or 51 votes and your party is unlikely to deny you your executive appointments why would any GOP or Democratic President feel the need to nominate center-right or left nominees?  This could give the country right and left-wing hacks that are setting everything from environmental to health policy to legal precedent.

Republicans once they gain the majority (and they will someday) will likely feel little compunction to not use the tool the Democrats have given them.  Another potential consequence of Democrats actions might be that someday the Nuclear Option is expanded to go beyond Executive nominees.  If a Senate majority feels populist or powerful enough they may just decide to turn the Senate into a smaller House of Representatives (simple majority rules) and eliminate the 60 vote requirements for closure and to end debate on bills or even make a Supreme Court confirmation a simply majority vote.

One would also have to be blind to not note the move comes as the President’s approval is falling due to Obamacare and the polls are turning against Democrats nationally.  The President’s approval has dropped not because Republicans or Independents have left him (they did a long time ago) but because Democrats have fallen out of love with their leader.  Election polls have also started to show a trend of the Democratic share of the electorate in key states shrinking (indicating they are not going to vote).  Eliminating the filibuster to allow more liberal Presidential nominees to move forward would thus seem to be aimed at pleasing the base.  I suspect the base is more worried about the disaster that is the Healthcare law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid heavily pushed the Nuclear Option arguing GOP opposition was hurting the country.  I have heard this argument echoed in numerous blogs and Facebook debates.  Never-mind the answer to the question is deeply rooted in partisan preferences.  However, it is Harry Reid who may deeply wound the country.  By allowing a President and his party the ability to get what they want by a simple majority the accumulation of power within the Executive Branch is only likely to intensify.  Republicans would be foolish not to use the tool once they gain power to push their agenda even if it means using more power in the Executive.  This further leads to the marginalization of Congress and the American public.  Especially if the President and his party use this power to put ideologically pure candidates on federal benches.  Ironic that Harry Reid would not consider this as he is a leader in the Legislative Branch.

Irony aside, the implementation of the Nuclear Option will be bad medicine for the country long-term and not benefit Democrats short-term.  The Executive Branch accumulates more power from such an action and Congress’s and the Court’s oversight authority is further eroded.  Meanwhile, freshman Democratic Senators think they have down the country a favor when all they have done is weaken their party and the institution they serve in.

Is Healthcare an Issue Democrats are Willing to fall on their Sword over?

obama-aca-signing_custom-7219da142d65de9292869c5de18041fa21b2b42d-s6-c30While perusing the internet blogosphere I came upon an interesting post by Sean Trende over at RCP.  In it he posited that repeal of Obamacare in the short-term is near invincible for several reasons but one reason in particular stood out to me.  The reason being that Healthcare may be an issue that many Democrats are willing to go down over (just look at how many did in 2010).

This of course brings up an even deeper and more interesting question.  Why?  Assuming Trende’s theory is true why would Democrats be willing to go down with the ship on Obamacare, ie. Healthcare reform.  Now certainly there are many Democrats who are running away from the law yet many more sitting in Democratic leaning but not wave safe districts voted against the Upton bill arguing it would undermine the law.  Perhaps they feel safe knowing the President would never back off defending his signature appointment.

To understand the Democratic Party’s deep fascination with Healthcare it might be illuminating to consider some history.  Both parties have had a number of progressives in their ranks.  For Republicans it was Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower (in his own way he was).  Democrats have had Wilson, FDR and now Obama.  But neither Roosevelt or Eisenhower were willing to go into or grow the entitlement state while FDR and Obama have gone full speed ahead with the idea.  Heck, we can thank LBJ for giving us Medicaid.

FDR established Social Security and work programs like the TVA that exist to this day.  Other elements of his New Deal package also still stand.  LBJ gave us the “War on Poverty” and with it Medicaid, Medicare, and the origins of CHIP.  Obama gave us, well, Obamacare.  Just looking at these three Democratic Presidents we can see the party is rich with history on the welfare/entitlement state.  Still, there were a number of Democrats that never agreed with this mentality.  I speak of Southern Democrats and even Jimmy Carter.  Keep in mind Southern Democrats were crucial in 93 and 94 in killing Hillarycare. Yet, when push came to shove in 2010 many Southern Democratic Congressmen and women voted for the bill (twice) and thus ensuring their political downfall.

I would posit that Healthcare is a signature issue to the Democratic Party, even its less progressive members, because the issue is connected to their party’s political history at a base level.  Democrats cannot simply walk away from this and still call themselves Democrats.  What would be the point?  Might as well be an Independent or a Republican instead.  I would also hazard a guess that Healthcare is linked to the party because of changing demographics (or steady).

Many of the Southern Democrats who voted for the bill were entrenched incumbents.  More importantly though was that many of them resided in poor, majority-white districts where the law was originally thought to be a benefit.  So perhaps some thought they could survive a wave, just as they did in 1994, and others thought they were taking care of their constituents.  Democrats residing in safer, more urban districts likely voted for the law for many reasons.  Among them one must assume was that it would help low-income individuals and single women and parents.  Indeed, until recently these groups were some of the biggest supporters of the law.

Recent and past history as well as political context seems to only explain the Democratic fascination with Healthcare so much.  All the reasons I have laid out for the Democratic Party’s obsession with Healthcare, history, context, public policy,  I can poke holes in.

The answer might be more simplistic though.  Just as Republicans have focused in on taxes and spending issues like a laser Democrats have done the same with Healthcare and to a lesser extent education.  It is impossible from a 40,000 foot view to know how individual actors have shaped the Democratic Party’s views and actions on Healthcare but it seems to have driven the party to fight tooth and nail for reform.

Today they have that reform.  Whether it is something Democrats are willing to fall on their sword over or abandon to fight the battle another day will be determined in the months ahead.

Sorry to say but Obamacare does not signify the end of liberalism

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren

As a conservative I would love to believe the downfall of Obamacare signifies America is turning into a permanent center-right country.  Indeed, this idea has been parroted in many forms by a number of media talking heads, Charles Krauthammer, Ron Brownstein, Frank Rich and Mark Shields being the most notable.  But I suspect regardless of what happens with Obamacare ,America will still be a competitive politically.  Why?  Three points.  History, ideological inclinations and attention span.

First, let me note we are barely 50 days into the law.  Both Social Security and Medicare got off to rocky starts but are around today.  By the same token Congress’s attempt in 1988 to modify Medicare failed spectacularly and was repealed in 1989 in a bipartisan fashion.  However, the 1988 law was endorsed by a prior President (Reagan) and the current President (HW) at the time of its repeal had never signed onto supporting the law thereby making repeal more likely.  Obamacare is the President’s signature piece of legislation meaning it would be almost impossible for him to walk away from it.

The electoral history of our country is replete with stories of the two parties failing spectacularly but somehow never fading away.  Think of the Republicans of the 1880’s, who when given control of government in 1888 pushed through massive infrastructure projects and eventually becoming known as the “Billion dollar Congress.”  Republicans were thrown out and Democrats claimed unified control in 1893.  Some even speculated it was the end of the GOP (shades of 2009 anybody).  But the William Jennings Bryan Presidency and the scare of 1893 brought voters back into the arms of the GOP.

Need another example, perhaps a little more modern?  Consider the aftermath of Woodrow Wilson’s second term.  Warren Harding was elected with a landslide 26% percent spread (excluding third parties) and Republicans dominated Congressional and Senate races.  In fact, Democrats lost every Senate race in the North.  A mere two years later Democrats would dominate Congressional elections and take a majority in the House.  Ten years later, the country would embark on a 20 year run of Democratic Presidencies.

FDR’s tenure was marked with success and failure and yet liberalism survived.  FDR saw his party get massacred in 34 and 38 and the SCOTUS strike down some of his largest domestic policies, the National Industrial Recovery Act and his court packing schemes yet somehow he was reelected three times (died in office).  In fact, his successor, Harry Truman, would follow almost the exact same domestic agenda policy script (minus civil rights) and be elected in 1948 to a full term.  Yet, just as FDR’s tenure was rocky so was Truman’s.  Republicans would roll to victory in 1946 and proceed over the next two years to demolish the WWI economy and regulatory apparatus.  A mere two years later in 1948 Truman would be elected and Republicans would lose control of Congress.  In 1952 Eisenhower would win the White House and propel his party to victory over a seemingly tired liberal agenda.  Yet, in 1954 Democrats would embark on 40 year control of the House and over two decades of control in the Senate.

LBJ’s tenure was marked with turmoil and somehow liberalism survived.  Nixon did win the White House twice but he did so by dissing some elements of his own party and embracing a moderate image.  Or look at it another way.  Watergate was supposed to kill conservatism and the GOP brand.  Yet, six years after 1974 Republicans retook the White House and gained their first majority in the Senate in decades.

The failure of Hillarycare did not end efforts or demands for liberal reform of our Healthcare system.  It might have slowed them down but it surely did not end them.  Hillarycare called for a single payer system and many Democrats tried to reform our system in 2009 with this plan.  What resulted was a watered down IM system that may or may not succeed.

This history shows that a party can be completely down and out but it is unlikely to become extinct.  Our two-party system virtually ensures this.  More relevant to today however is the ideological polarization of our country.  Fewer voters are willing to split their tickets (especially in federal races).  This means, and it is especially relevant to modern pollsters, we can have wild swings in who shows up to vote on election day.  If partisan voters are fed up with their party they are more likely to stay home than go out and vote for the other party.  Truly, most Independents who lean one way or the other behave the same way.  For Democrats this means they worry about turnout in 2014 and 2016 and not necessarily damaging their brand permanently.

Lastly, the attention span of even the most ardent partisans (high info voters) are limited.  The media only wants to spend so much time harping on a single issue because other issues come up that are just as relevant and they know the public has a short attention span.  Just look at how issues have come and gone in this year alone.  We have had the IRS unfairly auditing Tea Party groups, the NSA spying on average Americans and foreign government leaders.  Let us also not forget the government shutdown.  Yet what is the most consuming issue today on everybody’s mind?  Obamacare and its horrid rollout.  Polls are reflecting this as the GOP narrows the generic ballot and individual state polls show GOP candidates running strong or ahead of their Democratic alternatives.

Obamacare is likely to damage the Democratic brand for a short period of time.  It surely could doom the next Democratic Presidential contender’s chances in 2016.  But is unlikely to be the end of liberalism.  Liberalism will survive beyond the three factors above as well because it is a core part of the Democratic Party.  There will always be Bill de Blasio’s and Elizabeth Warren’s in the party’s ranks, reflecting the views of their base.  Just as conservative candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will be in the GOP’s.  Liberalism will be around for a long time to come and conservatives need to understand this lest they let their guard down and let big government encroach on our rights and freedoms.

 

Why the House is now out of reach of the Democrats (and Senate control might be as well).

Congressman Mike McIntyre
Congressman Mike McIntyre

What a difference a month makes in politics.  In mid-October Democrats were openly gleeful they had gotten the better of their GOP opposition over the government shutdown.  Republicans were divided and feuding, the party’s base was simmering and meanwhile Democrats were raking in hoards of cash and seeing several strong recruits enter newly competitive House races.  Now, with the disastrous roll out of Obamacare Democratic hopes of retaking the House are all but gone even to the most optimistic analyst.  As for the Senate, Democratic strategists concede that even Senators in non-red states such as IA, MN, NH and MI could face tough races due to Obamacare.

As a result of the Obamacare furor generic ballot polls have returned the party’s to near parity among registered voters.  This means the GOP likely leads among the electorate that will show up to vote next November.  More worrisome for Congressional Democrats are that the generic ballot polls do not show the party’s new weakness in the districts they must win to retake the majority in the House.  These seats are diverse in terms of  geography and political composition but they lean to the right.  Mostly suburban/rural districts,  Democrats always needed help to win the majority and take 18 new seats.  The government shutdown promised them that help.  Obamacare’s roll out has stolen that help away and made their climb steeper.  In fact, many of those most impacted by the law’s effects, higher premiums, cancelled plans and loss of access to their preferred carrier reside in these districts.

In contrast to the kind of seats Congressional Democrats need to win to claim the majority Democrats need to hold predominately rural states to keep control of the Senate.  Consider, of the seven states Obama lost in 2012 that have Democratic incumbents up for reelection (MT, WV, AK, LA, NC, SD and AR) only North Carolina can be considered to have more than one major urban area with surrounding suburbs.  The rest all have one urban area with surrounding suburbs.  This means these Democratic incumbents need to win moderate, suburban voters and just enough rural voters to hold their seats.  Obamacare has made that harder.

Along with hurting suburban voters some of the law’s most onerous provisions have impacted rural voters.  Rural voters have lost access to preferred coverage and their doctors and now have to drive to a city to see somebody.  Obamacare has helped accelerate the trend of doctor’s practices being bought up by major hospitals or consolidated in major population centers.  Also, higher premiums have hit rural voters and even worse limited policy options have left these individuals with few choices.  Every Democrat in the Senate up for reelection voted for this law which means they must explain or sidestep the impact their actions have had on rural individuals lives.

Being able to explain or sidestep their votes will be crucial.  A new Fox News poll on Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina (where Democratic incumbents remain in Romney states) finds by a 3-1 (46%-15%) margin adults say a a vote for the Healthcare law would make them less likely to support the candidate.  Nationally, the numbers break down 37% less likely to 21% more likely and among Independents the numbers are 35% less likely and 18% more likely.  Among whites, the largest constituencies by far in swing House districts and Senate races the numbers are even worse, 46% less likely and 20% more likely.

Certainly, elections are about more than just bad laws.  Candidates and money do matter.  But wave elections in 2006, 2008 and 2010 helped propel a number of weak candidates to victory.  In 2006 and 2008 this was to the benefit of the Democratic Party.  In 2010 it helped the GOP.  Many traditional incumbent advantages in these years did not matter. But Democratic incumbent Senators have a number of tough opponents already declared (see prior posts).  The racial and ideological composition of their constituencies also limit their ability to fight the impact of the national political environment.

Republicans have already promised they will do little little to nothing to help Democrats get out of the jam they have wrought.  Democratic leadership would be unlikely to accept their olive branch even if they offered one.  In the House last Friday the GOP offered a bill that would allow Americans to keep their plans if they wanted.  While 1 in 5 Democrats voted for the GOP plan (39 Democrats), including 23 of 25 Democrats rated vulnerable in some form by Roll Call, President Obama said he would veto such a plan if it hit his desk and Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would not bring the bill up for a vote in his chamber (he may have no choice regardless).

All these factors help explain why Democrats are now on the defense heading into 2014.  But even before the government shutdown and Obamacare fiasco the party was facing a headwind known as the “Six year itch.”  This electoral phenomenon has seen numerous two term President’s party lose seats as the party’s base tires of their standardbearer and partisans on the other side work hard to limit the President’s agenda.  Democrats could see this phenomenon magnified in 2014 due to Obamacare.  Republicans certainly would not mind.

Colorado Encapsulates Democrats Struggles Nationwide

welcome_colorado_signColorado once upon a time used to be a reliable Republican state.  Competitive at the state level until 2008 Republicans could count on its vote for President.  Since 2008, the state has voted twice for Obama, has two Democratic Senators, elected a Democratic Governor in the GOP wave year of 2012 and gave the party complete control of the legislature.  Despite their majorities being narrow in the state legislature, Democrats pushed ahead with a bevy of liberal initiatives since 2012.

First off, Democrats in the legislature pushed and passed a new energy efficiency bill that deeply hurt rural counties.  They also pushed through a bill that legalized civil unions and lastly passed a strict gun control bill that not only limited the size of clips but also banned some semi-automatic weapons from being bought in the state.  Not surprisingly these actions received some push-back.  What is surprising is the level of intensity this push-back has seen.

In September, two Democratic state senators, including a Democrat in a district Obama won by 22 points and the State Senate President, were recalled.  Their opponents had little political background and pro-gun control forces vastly outspent pro-recall forces.  In the end the result was a victory for rural counties and voters that are feeling increasingly disenfranchised from representation and power in the capitol in Denver.

Governor John Hickenlooper, elected in 2010 with 51% of the vote, has been aided by his perceived moderate image.  He owned a brewpub and was known as a significant education reformer.  He also seemed willing to explore fracking in the state.  But since his election and especially since he tacked left with the legislature his image has taken a hit.  Soon, he will face a decision over whether to allow fracking in Northern Colorado.  His environmental base and his Democratic legislature oppose the measure but energy advocates and rural voters overwhelmingly support.  This could say a lot about just how far he wants to go before stopping.

Ironically, as the Democratic Party in the state has gone leftward the GOP in the state has moved to the center.  Former Congressman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, best known for being an anti-immigration conservative firebrand has tacked to the middle in his second run for Governor. Unlike 2010 Tancredo has the support of the state GOP and is polling almost dead even with Hickenlooper and more surprisingly is polling fairly strongly with Hispanics (relative considering GOP weakness with Hispanics historically).

Consider also that Colorado voters just a few weeks ago overwhelmingly voted down Amendment 66 which would have eliminated the state’s single income tax bracket and created a two tiered system that would have raised over $975 million in its first year to supposedly fund education.  The massive tax increase was voted down 65%-35% and failed in every Colorado county except Denver and Jefferson. Suddenly Colorado’s leftward turn has slowed down if not come to a screeching halt.

Colorado’s political instability can be viewed as a microcosm of America today.  The varied, competing interest groups at odds with each others agendas, the rural/suburban/urban divide and an older, whiter population feeling disenfranchised from the political process they once controlled or at least had strong influence in.  Indeed, national Democrats seem to be learning the same lessons as Colorado Democrats only their downfall seems related to passage of just one liberal bill, Obamacare.

Like Colorado, America took a massive leftward turn in 2008, saw a slight re-centering in 2010 and returned to leaning left in 2012.  The leftward turn America took gave us Obamacare and the 2012 election was largely fought on other issues.  Now with their liberal masterpiece and its ramifications in full view of the public suburban and rural voters seem to be revolting just as rural and suburban voters did in Colorado.  Seems there is much Colorado can teach both Republicans and Democrats.

Historically Republicans have struggled to field strong candidates in the state.  But with Tancredo they have a decent shot in 2014.  Republicans also have many credible candidates running for Senate and House seats nationally.  But Republicans would also be wise not to follow one facet of Colorado’s political instability.  On the same day the state’s voters voted down Amendment 66, six of eleven Northern counties voted to secede from the state.  This has given the state GOP, riven with internal divisions between traditional conservatives, Tea Party members and libertarians, a whiff of extremism much as the Tea Party has done to the GOP nationwide.

National Democrats would be wise to heed what has happened in Colorado though it may be to late.  A return to the center for the party in 2014 could save some of their endangered members and more importantly assuage the concerns of moderate suburban voters.  With Obama’s legacy and Senate control on the line next year Democrats seem electorally unable to afford to do anything else.

The Disaster that is Obamacare

ozo1If there is one piece of legislation in modern history that has ever dogged a political party it has to be Obamacare.  Campaigning in 2008 then Senator Obama promised all Americans if elected he would solve the nation’s skyrocketing premiums, lower the deficit and cover millions of uninsured Americans.

After the messy passage of Obamacare in 2009 and 2010 with all its kickbacks and other glories the public grew increasingly worried about the law and its impact on a fragile economy.  Hence, Republicans virtually wiped out all vestiges of the Democratic Congressional delegation in the South.

Since its passage however the debate over the law has largely been theoretical.  Despite all the dire warnings and worries over the law it was fought in a real-world impact nether land.  Even as Republicans pushed to repeal the bill multiple times between 2011 and now the public largely yawned and focused on other issues; abortion, the economy, the environment, etc.  As a Republican campaign manager says ” Back then it was all a theoretical problem that future-Joe Voter was going to have to deal with, so human nature being what it is, most people decided to just worry about it later.  Now if you didn’t get a cancellation notice in the mail you at least know someone who did. If you didn’t have trouble logging onto the website you at least know someone who did. It got real in a hurry.”

On October 1st that changed.  For the first time Americans got to see and feel the disaster that is Obamacare and they certainly have not liked it.  They have not liked the fact the website to access the state exchange plans has been down since that fateful day, they have not liked the fact the President lied when he said “If you like your plan you can keep it,” and they have not liked the fact nobody seems willing to try and fix the law or at least delay it.  Furthermore, Americans have been unimpressed with higher premiums for “better” plans and the lack of security for the federal portal.  One wonders how those with insurance through their employer will feel when the business mandate goes into effect in 2015 (delayed from 2013)?

The disaster that is this monstrosity has already had an impact on polls, political agendas and the overall political climate.  In regards to polls gone are the surveys showing the GOP being demolished in the midterms in the wake of the government shutdown.  Individual state and Senate race polls as well as generic ballot surveys show the GOP rebounding strongly.

In the realm of political agendas the Democratic controlled Senate has only been able to pass ENDA (a key issue for their base).  But other issues they want to confront; abortion, minimum wage and further banking regulations have been shelved.   For the President his domestic agenda lays in shambles.  His hopes for entitlement reform (if he had any), immigration reform and cap and trade are gone.  Instead, the President is playing damage control and losing the trust of the American public.  Most notably, not only have his approval ratings tanked but his trustworthiness among the voting public is almost gone.  Call Bush about how the rest of his second term went when that happened.

What a turnaround the political climate has taken from being toxic for Republicans in the middle of October to being fully with them.  Democrats now are the ones swimming against the stream.  One by one Democrats, not just in red states or swing Congressional districts, are being forced to admit the law they crafted is either deeply flawed, needs to be reformed or the Individual Mandate needs to be delayed.  Incidentally, the IM delay was originally a GOP idea and furthermore not a single Republican in Congress today voted for Obamacare.  Democrats fully own this law.

Democrats own the fact over 5 million (at last count) have had their health insurance plans cancelled, they own the fact premiums are skyrocketing, they own the fact that barely 100,000 people have even signed up on the exchanges (and that is even counting those who just put a plan in their cart) and they own the fact they voted for this monstrosity when a majority of the public did not want them to do so.

Democrats and the President simply have no way to hide from the law nor fix it in the short term.  Through a combination of mandates, intimidation tactics and lofty promises full of empty rhetoric (or lies) they have boxed themselves into a corner they cannot get out of.

Certainly many Democrats will be insulated from the electoral consequences of the law.  Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and other members of the Democratic House Leadership would not be voted out of office even if they lost the national House vote 60-40.  Wave elections cannot crest the shores of San Francisco or urban Maryland.  But what it can do is wipe out vulnerable, red state Democratic Senators, Democratic gubernatorial nominees, Congressional candidates and Congressional incumbents in red or swing districts.  Meanwhile, Republicans in swing or left leaning districts may be insulated from a tough race next year due to the national political environment.

In the 2016 Presidential race, whoever runs, whether it be Hilary on the Left or Christie on the Right this law will be front and center in the campaign.  Gone will be a Republican Presidential candidate who is afraid to talk about it because he passed a smaller version in his home state (Romneycare) and gone will be the theoretical public policy debates over the impact of the law.  The impact of the law will have been felt by the American public for over three years by the time November 2016 rolls around and you can bet it will impact some voters choices as well as business with their mandate set to go into effect in 2015.

Now, I am not naive enough to say this is the dawning of the end of modern liberalism.  It may just be the dawning of the end of a technocratic form of liberalism or it could just be viewed by many voters as a failure of a single President and Congress to gung-ho to do something about a problem rather than actually take time to study and fix the problem.  Either way, it bodes badly for Democrats in the here and now and in the future.