New Poll Gives GOP Hope In Virginia And Here Is Why

There is not much good electoral news to be had for Republicans of late.  Sure, the party has held onto every Congressional seat up this year though they occurred in red turf.  But, down-ballot, the GOP has suffered losses in ruby red Oklahoma all the way to a light blue swing state senate district in New Hampshire.  Indeed, this district is a fairly accurate barometer of the political mood and has swung narrowly between the parties.

That said, many of the districts Democrats have been winning are sleepy little special elections with low turnout in an off year.  But, when the spotlight has gotten bigger, none so than GA-6, the party has been unable to cross the finishing line.  Might we be seeing the same thing in Virginia?  Republicans sure hope so and they got some good news on that front today.

A brand new, independent survey on the Virginia gubernatorial race from Monmouth finds the Governor’s race tied at 44 percent between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat (and former Republican) Ralph Northam.

After the dust had settled from the primary last month, Northam won impressively a contested primary while Ed Gillespie almost blew an easy primary.  As a result, the assumption was between this and Trump there was little shot of a Gillespie win here.  But the Monmouth poll shows he has a very real, albeit narrow path.  Further, despite the natural advantages Northam has with Trump and the blue NoVA suburbs, the state can still see big and unexpected electoral swings.

Per the study’s authors, “The Monmouth University Poll  also found some interesting regional differences in current vote intentions. Northam has a 13 point lead over Gillespie in Northern Virginia (50% to 37%) and a 9 point lead in the eastern part of the commonwealth (50%-41%). The race is virtually tied in the central region (43% Gillespie and 41% Northam), while Gillespie has an 18 point advantage in the western half of Virginia (52% to 34% for Northam). Four years ago, when McAuliffe won a narrow victory, the Democrat had a larger 22 point advantage over his Republican opponent in NoVa (58%-36%). Compared to the current poll, the Democrat had a similar 9 point margin in the east (51%-42%), but also had a 4 point edge in central Virginia (47%-43%). The 2013 Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, won the western region by 21 points (57%-36%) that year, which is similar to Gillespie’s current advantage there. When Gillespie himself lost an even narrower race for U.S. Senate the following year, his Democratic opponent Mark Warner claimed a 17 point advantage in NoVa and a 12 point win in the east (55%-43%). Gillespie actually beat Warner by 6 points in central Virginia (52%-46%) and by 19 points in the west (58%-39%).”

The regional breakdown is interesting here.  The best comparison to this year might be the 2013 Governor’s race and the 2014 Senate contest.  In the latter contest, Gillespie almost upset Warner (if not for Fairfax county).  Current Governor Terry McAuliffe won by a more comfortable 2.5 percent.

McAuliffe’s win was predicated on a better result in NoVA and the eastern portion of the state, home to affluent Democrats and minorities.  Warner, due to his time as Governor, outperformed McAuliffe in the Western portion of the state which helped make up for his poor performance in NoVA.

Gillespie lost to Warner by 17 percent in NoVA and according to this poll he is exceeding it.  This is probably because Gillespie is the type of Republican the more affluent Republicans in the Northern Virginia suburbs can support (ie. Bob McDonnell).  If Gillespie can exceed his numbers in NoVA in the age of Trump he definitely is on target to be competitive (at a minimum).

Northam hails from Eastern Virginia.  Reflecting the shifting preferences of voters, Northam, a former Republican turned Democrat, is winning the region by 9 percent.  However, this is a 3 point drop from Warner in 2014.  Northam will need to pad his margins in the region to win by the mid to high single digits.

Showcasing the differing natures of elections, Warner won Centra VA 52-46 based on his overperformance in Richmond.  Northam is losing it 43-41.  Again, this is probably because Gillespie is a conventional Republican and is campaigning on local and not federal issues.  The exact issues that can still win over fiscally moderate and socially liberal voters repelled by Trump.

Lastly, in Western Virginia, Gillespie has an 18 point edge compared to 19 point win in 2014.  Republicans should be happy with the poll results but by no means rest on their laurels.

This is but one poll and national trends have not been kind to the GOP.  However, as GA-6 showed, the GOP base can be mobilized if given the right incentive.  Secondly, if one digs into the cross-tabs the contours of the race show Gillespie is swimming against the President.

Among the 12 percent of voters who are undecided the President has a 22 percent approval rating compared to 60 percent who disapprove.  Gillespie is fortunate a significant chunk of these voters backed third party candidates last year making their support for Northam less likely against a conventional Republican.

Secondly, among Gillespie supporters 78 percent approve of the President and 18 percent disapprove.  That is a high number and it shows just how much Gillespie has to outperform the President to win.  Among all voters, the President is at 37 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval.  More worrying for Gillespie is a plurality of voters, 35 percent, of voters identified healthcare as the top issue.  If Trump were not a factor in the race (admittedly this is a hypothetical), Gillespie would lead 45 percent to 40 percent though many undecideds would still lean left.

It is not all bad news for Gillespie.  He does enjoy a narrow 42-38 edge among Independents and leads among non-college graduates by a bigger margin than Northam does with college grads.

Still, all in all, the poll is good news for Republicans at a time when they need it badly.  Combined with the Senate GOP finally being able to move Obamacare repeal forward they might say they have some sort of momentum.  It also helps when Democrats unveil a slogan stolen from a pizza company run by a registered Republican.

Virginia, despite trending blue, is showing its swing status.  Republicans hope it holds and this poll and recent political events should give them hope it will continue.

 

 

 

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The Most Important New Hampshire Special Election You Haven’t Heard About

Next week, a special election for one of New Hampshire’s 24 state senate districts will be held.  The district, District 16, formerly held by a Democrat won’t change the partisan makeup of the chamber.  Republicans will hold a 14-10 majority even if they fail to gain the seat.  But, the district’s results will tell us much about Republicans can expect to spare in districts that intersect with Obama/Trump “pivot” counties next year.

Now, for some background.  The district had a GOP Senator representing it since 1970.  Until last year when then candidate Scott McGilvray won the open seat by two points.  The district voted for Hillary Clinton by .3 percent at the same time.  McGilvray is leaving the seat and former state senator David Boutin is vying for his old seat against Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh.

New Hampshire is an interesting state.  From the 70’s to the 90’s the “Live free or die” state was a Republican bastion.  But, since 1992 the state has backed Democratic Presidential candidates in every election except 2000.

Since the 90s an equilibrium in power at the state level has occurred.  Democrats, until last year, held the Governorship for all of two years in the last twenty (meaning they have won nine of the last 11 gubernatorial elections).  Yet, short of 2007-2010 the GOP has held at least one chamber of the legislature.  Now, for the first time in the state’s history its federal delegation is completely made up of Democrats while all the levers of power in the state are held by Republicans.

Legislative special elections this year have not gotten nearly as much attention as Congressional contests.  So far, this year, 34 special legislative elections have been held.  Republicans flipped a conservative seat in Louisiana while Democrats have flipped a swing New Hampshire house seat, a blue-collar formerly Republican assembly district in NY state and two suburban districts in Oklahoma.  Unsurprisingly, while Democrats have so far outrun Clinton in legislative special elections they have done best in Oklahoma (run by an unpopular GOP Governor) and flipped swingy districts in NY and NH.  Republicans have held easily seats in Connecticut where the Democratic controlled legislature and Governor cannot even agree on a simple budget.

These results suggest state dynamics matter more than Trump’s popularity.  However, such a proposition will be seriously tested in this near dead even district.  It will be hard for Republicans to ignore the results of this election if a popular, former state senator loses the seat.  If Boutin wins, a pro-union Republican, it would indicate smart GOP incumbents can weather the Trump backlash.  But, if he loses, and GOP turnout is depressed, Republicans will need to start acknowledging unless things change in DC they will be in serious trouble.

Democrats are undoubtedly more excited about this contest than Republicans.  The GOP will still strongly control the chamber regardless of the result and Boutin would not help the party advance some of its goals such as right to work legislation.  Democrats also view many down-ballot contests such as these as precursors to 2018.  State Republicans want to win this but may find enthusiasm is lacking due to Trump and the opposition he has inspired.

In the end, whatever happens next Tuesday won’t change much in Granite state politics.  Or the nation’s.  But it could be a precursor to a big shake-up at the federal level next year.

 

 

 

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/10/11/gerrymandering_isnt_to_blame_for_dc_impasse_120300.html

Democrats Still Lack Ideas

It is one of the biggest refrains of Democratic complains about Republicans during the era of Trump; obstruction works!  Republicans tried to block everything he did, never brought ideas to the table and were rewarded at the ballot box. Twice!  Why can’t we do the same?

Well, I can think of a few reasons why.  Obama’s agenda was politically toxic, he pursued an agenda unrelated to the major issue of the time (the economy) and he ignored any ideas Republicans threw out.  He also ignored the political makeup of his Congressional coalition as he sought to ram healthcare down Americans throats.  The result has been a loss of over 1,000 legislative seats, dozens of Congressional seats and 12 Senate seats. The party’s bench in many states has been decimated to the point they are running political neophytes in the majority of swing states and districts held by Republican incumbents next year.

Democrats, with Trump now in the White House, believe they can harness the power of the “Resistance” and the “Rising American Electorate” by adopting the GOP strategy of the last eight years.  One problem.  While Trump might be personally unpopular and the GOP’s health care plan is not viewed favorably (though topline poll numbers do not tell the whole story), Trump’s agenda is not.

Just look at Trump’s travel ban.  Last week, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found 60 percent of voters approved of Trump’s plan.  A solid majority, 56 percent, of Independents, and even 41 percent of Democrats agreed with the plan.

Maybe this is because Democrats lack ideas on how to deal with the threat.  For example, when we have witnessed terrorist attacks, whether here at home, or witnessed them abroad, the refrain from the Left is we cannot allow ourselves to be terrorized.  Comforting.  But hardly a solution.  Likewise, Bernie Sanders blaming terrorism on global warming hardly offers s solution to Americans who do not want to be killed.

You could argue the ban was crafted sloppily.  You’d be right.  The original rollout was terrible.  The revised ban even had notable flaws though its rollout was much, much smoother.  Yet, compared to arguments global warming causes terrorism it at least seems realistic.

The same dynamic is playing out on immigration.  Building a “big, beautiful wall,” is largely impractical.  But, that said, at least it brings attention to a major problem for border states and towns.

Democrats, on the other hand, talk a lot about compassion and the need to be accepting and progressive.  I can even agree with that sentiment.  But, those are not ideas.  They are feelings.  They do nothing to address the fact states have to spend billions on healthcare to educate and provide healthcare for these individuals.  Every nation on Earth defends its borders.  Why can’t we?

Part of the problem is Democrats know that espousing such a view is an electoral death-knell.  Democrats can’t say they don’t want to enforce immigration laws but they communicate it subtly through inaction.  This wins them an election every now and again but made their grasp on the White House incredibly fragile as Trump showed.

On healthcare and trade Democrats spend an inordinate amount of time calling out Republicans for wanting people to “die” but refusing to make changes to the ACA.  Democrats commonly lash out at big business and banks for having an unfair advantage but then solicit millions in donations and continue to give them favorable conditions through laws and trade agreements to the detriment of Joe and Jane.

It’s common for the party out of power to wander in the wilderness and try to find an appealing new message.  But, the party is increasingly split between big government, populists and identity politick progressives that are pulling the party in different directions.

In this light it is easy to see why party elders (largely part of the identity politick cult) have made the party’s core message “We are not Trump.”  That is fine and all but it does nothing to craft an appealing message, address the issues of the economy, terrorism, or health care, and puts the party at a disadvantage in understanding why the party is so locked out of power.

It’s interesting that when Democrats had a chance to recognize Trump’s appealing message last week they went in the opposite direction.  Speaking in Poland last week, Trump defended Western values and liberals went nuts.  The New York Times and Washington Post both put out articles calling it insensitive and tone-deaf.  Not to be outdone, Vox called it racist.

The Democratic message of today is one of pure opposition.  But the assumption the GOP ran on nothing in 2010 and 2014 is a farce.  Republicans ran on policies of deregulation and lower taxes.  They ran on limiting abortion and slowing destabilizing cultural change.

Democrats are not running on anything similar.  They’re essentially coddling the “resistance” to stay angry at everything Trump does.  This makes the party’s poll numbers look good but they also looked good in 2016.  We know how that turned out.

Democrats need to do more than posturing and virtue signaling.  They actually need to put out some policy ideas.  Better yet, simply signaling they sympathize and understand the problems of Americans outside urban and suburban oases on the coasts would be a good start.

According to a Hill report, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unveiled its latest proposed bumper stickers for the midterm.  One that was widely mocked read, “Democrats 2018: I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

Yes, apparently voters have.  They seem to like them considering how utterly irrelevant the party is in dozens of states across the country.  In states dominated by Democrats, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and Oregon, to name a few, legislators have so paid off political interests (read: public unions) they are facing daunting billion dollar pension crises.  If Illinois and Oregon are any indication, Democrats don’t have the will or knowledge to address these issues.  Funny, how in the state I live in (Idaho), dominated by Republicans, has one of the healthiest pension systems in the nation (PERSI).

Democrats seem to think outright opposition, laughing at Trump and stoking their base will be enough to win big next November.  Maybe so.  But, right now, even soft Republicans and reluctant Trump backers are sticking with him (see Kansas, Montana, South Carolina and Georgia’s special election results).  Additionally, when Trump’s policies poll well because Democrats lack one voters might be saying, yet again, they are willing to support the party and the guy willing to confront the issues they face everyday.