Millennials Aren’t Saving The Democratic Party

Still smarting over a humbling defeat in 2016 and a daunting Congressional map in 2018 the party is looking forward to 2020.  Specifically, because of President Trump’s persistent weakness with Millennials and their potent growth they are poised to offer the party a pathway forward to power.

Writing in the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein lays out the basic Democratic premise.  By 2020, the share of the electorate represented by Millennials is expected to eclipse Boomers.  They continue to oppose Trump at higher rates than other generations of voters and Democrats hope Trump makes the GOP irreversibly racist in their eyes.

But, this analysis (Democrats, not Brownstein’s), is overly simplistic at best and devoid of data at worst. Consider, that in 2000 Bush and Gore split the youth vote.  A mere four years later Kerry won them by nine and Obama carried them by a massive 36 and 30 point margins.  Trump lost Millennials by a small margin than Romney.  Not necessarily an indication of an increasingly liberal bloc.

Of course, not all Millennials are the same.  Trump did not need to do better with all Millennials.  Just certain Millennials.  For comparison, Romney and Obama actually ran close to even among college educated white Millennials.  But among blue-collar Millennials Romney won by 10.  Now flip the script and Hillary ran circles around Trump with white, college educated Millennials.  But Trump won blue-collar Millennials in the right states by massive margins.

Take a look at some of Brownstein’s analysis.  “Exit polls found Trump reduced the GOP deficit among those younger voters compared with Romney in 2012 in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and he actually carried voters under 30 in Iowa. In all of those states except Michigan, Clinton’s vote share among those younger than 30 fell by double digits compared with Obama’s, while Trump improved by 7 to 9 percentage points over Romney. Trump also significantly improved over Romney among young people in New Hampshire and Maine, two mostly white states. Even in the coastal and Sunbelt states where Trump’s vote share among young people was either stagnant or slightly below Romney’s, Clinton’s numbers usually lagged Obama’s, sometimes significantly, as more Millennials drifted away to the third-party options.”

Further complicating Democratic hopes, the share of college educated Millennials in many of the swing states heading into the 2020 election are unlikely to change by a significant percentage.  Sure, Democrats might find somebody better able to appeal to them but odds are good that will turn off their college educated base.  Everything in politics involves a trade-off.

Just look at how the baby boomer vote has shifted over the years.  In 2000, Bush and Gore deadlocked.  But in every election since they have become increasingly Republican.  Unlike Millennials, Boomers also vote far above their actual demographic numbers.  Millennials, not to much.

Democrats would counter Millennials might even turn Georgia or Arizona, perhaps Texas, in four years.  But if they could not pull it this year when every dirty secret about Trump was aired, what are the chances it will happen in 2020?  If nothing else, no higher.

In 2016, Clinton put a massive amount of importance on their votes.  She had reason according to the polls.  Again, according to Brownstein, “In one survey for the liberal groups Project New America and NextGen Climate, which looked solely at Millennials across 11 battleground states, three-fourths of them described him as a racist; roughly an equal number said he was biased against women; and almost 70 percent said they would be “ashamed” for the country if he won.” Yet, on Election Day, Clinton only won 55 percent of their votes.

A common theory batted around about this is that these voters were drawn third party candidates because of James Comey.  But the only exit poll to ask third party supporters who they would vote for if it was Trump or Clinton found a massive 55 percent would not even show up.

Further presenting problems for Democrats in the run-up to the midterms is Millennials have horrible turnout in midterms.  In 2010 and 2014 turnout dropped precipitously from the prior Presidential elections.

It is also unclear how late generation Millennials and the up and coming Social Media generation will shape the path of the youth vote.  John Sides notes that generations of voters tend to lean more towards the opposite party than the one of the President they grew up under. Worse, while the youngest voters are the most diverse they also seem to behave the most conservatively on fiscal issues.

Predicting long-term is a horrible business in politics.  But, we do know Millennial turnout is likely to drop next year.  Even if it it increases massively in 2020 the Presidential map will likely be fought on turf more favorable to the GOP than not.  Whether Millennials can, and will, help Democrats beyond that is the question.

My word of advice for the party.  Don’t put all your eggs in that basket.  Just ask how that turned out for Hillary Clinton.






Democrats Crumbling Blue Firewall

Democalypse_article_story_largeDemocrats have believed since 2004 they have a lock on the electoral college. The idea, first coined by Democratic strategists Ruy Teixeira and Jon Judis in the Emerging Democratic Majority, posited that the growth of urban areas combined with the growth of Democratic friendly Asians, blacks and Hispanics would ensure the party had a lock on the Electoral College. However, the theory rested on an unstated fundamental assumption; Democratic ascendance relied on minorities as well as maintaining the allegiance of blue-collar whites.

This unstated assumption held up during Democratic victories in the 2006 midterms and 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections. In the 2006 midterms, Democrats won non-college educated voters by a 53%-45% margin. In his bid for the White House in 2008 Obama expanded these margins in route to a massive 7% victory nationally. But suddenly, in 2010, the Emerging Democratic Majority theory stagnated. The President and a Democratic Congress, so intent on giving out goodies to their core constituencies, forgot that blue-collar workers continue to be needed by the party to win a majority in Congress. According to 2010 exit polls the GOP won over 65% of the blue-collar white, vote on its way to winning 63 Congressional seats, six Senate seats, dozens of state legislative chambers and over two dozen Governors races.

The 2010 election set the stage for 2012. Democrats and the President, suddenly realizing they still needed the blue-collar vote, put out an early media blitz aimed at ensuring Mitt Romney could never appeal to these voters. The gamble worked and Romney never gained traction. But this mars an important fact that is incredibly relevant for 2016. Blue-collar workers are becoming increasingly conservative nationally, but in the Midwest these voters form the “Blue Firewall.” This firewall almost gave John Kerry the election in 2004 and handed Obama victory in 2012. In other words, Midwestern, blue-collar whites tend to be more moderate than their counterparts nationally.

Consider these interesting facts. Romney lost the college educated vote by a mere 2% nationally and the non-college educated vote by 4%. He won the $50,000-99,999 vote by 6% and the over $100,000 vote by 10%. But in the crucial swing states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, Romney ran into a blue wall. In Wisconsin Romney lost the college educated vote by 7% and the larger non college educated vote by 4%. Romney won the $50,000-$99,999 vote by a single point. Such a result was a startling turnaround from a mere five months ago when Republican Scott Walker easily beat back a recall effort. In Iowa, Romney lost the college and non-college educated vote by 6% and did not even carry the $50,000-$99,999 vote. Quintessential swing state Ohio voted for Obama on the back of his 7% win among con-college educated voters. A similar dynamic can be found in the exit polls from Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

But short of Obama no Democrat has maintained the “Blue Firewall” since the new millennium. No Democrat has also run as well among these Midwestern voters either. Bush won Ohio in 2000 and Ohio and Iowa in 2004. He almost took Wisconsin in both elections as well. But here is the most interesting thing. Without Obama on the ballot to increase turnout among Democratic constituencies the party struggles to survive its weakness among blue-collar workers in midterms. In 2014 Democrats lost every single Governor’s race in the region except Minnesota and Pennsylvania, gave up the longtime Iowa Senate seat of Tom Harkin and lost two Congressional seats in the state. They failed to win a single new Congressional district in the six states and Republicans took control of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

This is relevant to 2016. More so than 2010, the 2014 elections showed just how vulnerable Democratic edge in the Midwest is. Unlike North Carolina and Virginia on the East Coast and Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico in the West these states are not diversifying at a significant clip. Elections are still won and lost on the back of the majority white vote and non-college educated, blue-collar voters form a pivotal plurality of the vote in these key states. Obama managed to increase turnout among core Democratic constituencies while limiting GOP inroads to the group in 2012 but 2014 revealed just how disaffected these voters are becoming from the Democratic Party.

Enter Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s appeal to many Democrats is based on her husband’s ability to appeal to such voters in his Presidential bids. In her last Presidential bid Clinton’s support was built on the backs of these voters. But recent analysis suggests that Clinton would fare no better than Obama among the group, perhaps even worse. The recent ABC/WashPo survey found non-college educated whites favored the GOP’s economic policies over Democrats by a stunning 22% margin. In 2012 Republicans enjoyed a narrow lead. If generic Republican ideas are this far ahead of Democratic ideas you can expect it to translate to the ballot box.

Such results suggest if Republicans find a candidate that can appeal to these voters as well as just make minor inroads with core Democratic constituencies the ball will be put in the Democrats court. Democrats would have to get Obama level turnout without Obama on the ballot. Of course, Democrats could counter that even if they lost a few swing states in the Midwest (most likely Iowa and Ohio) they would still win the election due to the 126 electoral vote edge Obama has built for the party.

Unfortunately for the party this logic is overly simplistic. Since 1968, a majority of swing states have gone to the eventual Presidential winner. Worse, the way most swing states have gone follow the national political trend because they mimic so many elements of the national electorate. For example, Ohio mimics the electorate of Pennsylvania and Iowa, Florida that of Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. Doing some quick math in the Midwest if Republicans won Ohio and Pennsylvania they would jump from Romney’s 206 electoral votes to 244. All they would need would be a big swing state like Florida. If Republicans won Iowa and broke through in a Wisconsin or Minnesota, well if the “Blue Firewall” is breaking that much the party might as well call it a night early. For as the party’s Midwestern firewall goes so go their fortunes in 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Democratic Populism A Recipe For Electoral Disaster

downloadOne of the less noted but no less important aspects of American politics has been the steady leftward swing of the Democratic Party.  The party of Andrew Jackson, representing the poor, forgotten man has now become a party focused on income inequality and composed of an up-scale, down-scale coalition that has a predilection to not show up in midterms.

The progressive movement has a rich history in American politics.  In the 1890’s it was exemplified by the election of Grover Cleveland despite being a subpar candidate. Recognizing the public opinion shift the GOP got in on the act with Teddy Roosevelt (his was a shortlived GOP progressivm).  Following the Laissez-Faire policies of the 1920’s, a new progressive era came to be with FDR, most notably creating Social Security and the foundation for the modern-day alphabet soup of government agencies.

Of course one could call the 60’s an era of progressivism as well.  But that extends so far.  By the 60’s the progressive coalition was united on racial issues but little else.  The Vietnam War split the coalition into different groups (predominately on age) and by the 70’s the Democratic progressive coalition was dead (why else did they pick Jimmy to run in 76?).

Today, Democrats have largely abandoned the centrist pivoting their party undertook in the 90’s under Clinton.  Following defeats in the 80’s the party went with a moderate Governor from Arkansas.  But a mere two election cycles later the party nominated Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama, all progressives. It is only recently though that the progressive wing of the party has taken control of the party’s nodes of power (fueled by losses in 2010 and 2014).  The progressive wing of the party can be exemplified by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and NYC mayor Bill de Blasio.

Founded in 2005 by venture capitalist Rob Stein, the Democracy Alliance is the biggest intellectual and funding contributor to the progressive agenda.  Over 75 organizations joined including unions and environmental groups, all attempting to counter the GOP’s intellectual machine.  The Alliance did not contribute money persay but ideas and recommended to its donors where they should put their cash.  By early 2014 the Alliance had lost its two most moderate Democratic member groups, Third Way and the New Democratic Network.  A month after the 2014 midterm debacle in San Francisco the Alliance showed its true colors and adopted a formal plan to combat inequality.  Such a plan, entitled “2020 Vision Framework,” included combating GOP domination at the state level and laid out three policy proposals, 1) economic inequality, 2) campaign-finance reform, and  3)climate change.

Such an agenda is geared towards promoting the interests of what progressives view as a dying middle class and the “Rising American Electorate.”  According to progressives the middle class has stagnated and is disappearing as almost 100% of wealth goes towards the elite few.  Such a view appeals to many on the left who feel the party has left behind their middle class base of unions and urban centers.

The “Rising American Electorate” is a term coined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenburg.  The electorate, composed predominately of young voters, single women and voters of color is projected to compose a whopping 54% of the electorate and 2/3rds of them plan to vote for Hillary (in case you are wondering that means Hill Dog has a base of 36% of the vote).  According to Greenburg a campaign to target inequality and tackle climate change is geared to appeal to them and usher in a new era of Democratic domination.  The recorded rise in American’s calling themselves socially liberal only fuels their views.

But American electoral history points to the failure of the progressive ideas if they do not moderate.  For example, many progressives champion the idea of Medicare for all, Immigration Reform and Paid Sick Leave.  On the surface many Americans might agree with these ideas but the devil is in the details.  How will they be paid for?  Who will pay for it?  And will Americans continue to support higher taxes even if they favor government helping more than in the past.

Modern progressives tend to look past these questions because they see an electorate divided along the top 10% vs. the 90% or the top 1% vs. the 99%.  To them the only reason the 99% does not vote Democratic is because they have been duped by the wealthy elite and the GOP that their interests are best served through a more free-market system.

Such a view does not jibe with the America of today.  True, those with only a High School degree will struggle to make a living and many industrial jobs are dying but they are being replaced with white-collar, middle class jobs.  This middle class is the fiscally conservative group most likely to vote and most likely to reject progressive policy prescriptions far out of the mainstream.

Secondly, the electoral map and policy map of today is far changed from that of the 30’s, before Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid gave people a security net and provided something to the poor.  The greatest progressive successes of the 20th century also proved to be its greatest struggle by providing some voters with the chance to view more governmental intervention as equaling higher taxes.  This same situation applies today.  Consider the example of the ACA.  Most voters support providing free contraception and covering those with preexisting conditions but they oppose the individual mandate (forced to buy a product or pay a tax penalty).

Lastly, political parties adapt.  They don’t sit still and wait to die.  Much as Democrats did in the 90’s the GOP is doing today in the states.  The 2010 election was fueled by a true grassroots, middle class movement known as the Tea Party.  Progressives have long been unable to replicate the Tea Party.  The Republican wave only crested in California.

Following 2012 many GOP candidates and the national party made a conscious choice to shift course.  That year, GOP gubernatorial candidates in blue Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland avoided controversial social issues (abortion and gay marriage), toned down their rhetoric on poor people and focused on making arguments based on what individuals were getting out of governmental programs.  In predominately white-collar Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts these arguments were devastatingly effective among white-collar, middle class professionals.  They also proved effective among single men, a demographic often forgotten by both political parties.  In the Iowa and Colorado Senate races the GOP’s approach also netted them a greater share of the both the blue-collar and white-collar middle class vote since Reagan.

This would seem to give the GOP a dramatic edge on fiscal issues and it does.  A recent Gallup poll found 39% of voters identify as fiscally conservative while only 26% identify as fiscally liberal.  But Republicans have their own struggles with Tea Party candidates hinting at taking away popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Still, progressives have yet to find a way to mediate their goals with those of the public.  True, they have scored victories in places such as Seattle, NYC, San Francisco and Berkeley with the minimum wage being raised to $15.  In numerous red states last year the minimum wage was hiked statewide and Republicans were brought along to support such hikes.  For example, in Arkansas the state voted to hike the minimum wage to $6.25 to $7.50 per hour on January 1, 2015; to $8 on January 1, 2016; and to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.  The measure passed with 65% and then GOP Senatorial candidate Tom Cotton publicly supported the effort. But in many progressives minds these victories are much to small and gradual.  Much larger changes must occur on Climate Change, tax policy, spending, welfare programs and education.

However, whether the kind of changes seen in places like NYC and Seattle can be replicated in middle America and suburban cities is unclear.  Take the case of Chicago.  Progressives solidly backed City Councilman Chuy Garcia over incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel, who cut his teeth in the Clinton White House, knew moderation and centrism worked.  Indeed, his 2011 election largely focused on conservative principles like streamlining government and creating tax incentives for business to come to the city.  While the race did go into a run-off the contest was never in doubt because ultimately Emanuel was right.  He knew the city was largely upper and lower middle class and his agenda focusing on streamlining government, closing poor performing schools and raising revenue appealed.  Garcia, on the other hand, did not win a single ward with an average income above $75,000K.

Such a defeat in Chicago is ominous for another reason, it threatens to split the modern Democratic coalition.  The Democratic coalition is increasingly young and diverse but this tends to mask its upscale, down-scale aspect.  It’s upscale wing, composed of affluent suburbanites which hold the keys to power in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc. are the individuals most likely to vote and break from their partisan leaning preferences.  Especially if they don’t see very many results from the programs they pay for.

The Democratic Party suffered much the same fate in the 1980’s when a rising affluent, suburban population recoiled against an increasing liberal Democratic Party.  If not for their conservative, Southern contingent, the party would have been locked out of any power in the 80’s.

This creates the modern-day quandary for the movement.  How do they rectify their policy positions with the electorate?  Or do they try to keep ideological purity paramount over winning? These are questions creating the needle Clinton is trying to thread.

Clinton is banking on the Obama coalition (Rising American Electorate) being a permanent coalition galvanized purely on ideology.  Her open policy positions including debt free college, Immigration Reform and opposing TPP are geared towards appealing to the party faithful.  But lacking serious primary competition (nope, Bernie is not serious competition) it is notable she is having to move to the Left just to secure her party’s support (see Mitt Romney 2012 for the GOP version). It may be a miscalculation on her part.  It might motivate the party’s base but the middle and upper class suburbanites that have trended Democratic in recent cycles might not find it so endearing.  Plus, the cultural issues Democrats hurt Republicans with in 08 and 012 might be less prominent this election making the campaign focus more on policy ideas and economic performance.

Ultimately, the progressive movement has a right to feel emboldened but also significant reason to be cautious.  True, they have scored successes at the ballot box and legislatively.  They certainly aided in getting Obama elected.  But now they face a crossroads.  The 2014 midterm showed the very middle class voters the movement needs support from are unlikely to support their expansive agenda.  So what do they do?  Moderate?  Or go all in?  The 2016 elections will tell us a lot about their decision.










Republicans Are Finding Success With The Young

BlairGeneration Z, or the Facebook Generation, unlike their predecessors, Millennials, are still growing into their own politically.  Many in Generation Z are not even old enough to vote for or have graduated High School.  But in a sign of just how important the GOP views capturing or minimizing the Democratic advantage among the youth vote (18-29) the GOP boasts the only two elected Generation Z state legislators and both are women.

The first, Sara Blair of West Virginia was elected when she was 18.  Defeating a 66-year-old Republican incumbent in the primary when she was just 17 she than easily captured her red legislative seat 63%-30% last November.  Blair did have the benefit of coming from a politically active and well-known family.  Her father, state senator Craig Blair, was elected in 2013.  Take the political leanings of the district out of the equation and the fact a 17-year-old lady would run for office and win is amazing.  And it runs contrary to popular wisdom the youth vote is a lock for Democrats.

Now, building on such success comes a recent story out of New Hampshire’s 32 LD.  The legislative district, based in Rockingham County and encompassing the towns of Northwood, Candia, Nottingham, Deerfield and Epping, has largely been considered a swing district at the legislative level.  Former Democratic legislator Maureen Mann, who first captured the district in a 2007 special election and won (2008, 2012) it on and off ran to recapture her old seat.  Then state rep. Brian Dobson was vacating the seat to work for Congressman Frank Guinta.

Mann faced minimal competition in her primary but so did her challenger, 19-year-old Yvonne Dean-Bailey.  Mann, a former public school teacher campaigned on her legislative record and strengthening education.  Bailey, a newbie to politics, campaigned on fiscal conservatism but made the smart choice to avoid directing attacking popular Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan.  Instead, her pleas attempted to turn the election into a referendum on a generic Republican vs. a generic Democrat. On May 19th Bailey won with 1,359 (52.4%) votes to Mann’s 1,233 (47.6%) votes.  Bailey now is the youngest legislator in the state and the second youngest in the country.

Bailey’s victory is not just relevant because it happened but because of what it represents.  The GOP obviously saw the election as a way to get a young woman involved in politics but also as a way to test messages and strategies ahead of 2016 and present a new image of the party.  A who’s who of Republican Presidential contenders descended on the small district to promote Bailey’s candidacy including Rick Perry and Marco Rubio.  Robocalls by other contenders were recorded on her behalf.  As a result the former intern for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former field organizer for former U.S. House candidate Marilinda Garcia saw turnout in the small district increase significantly from past special elections.  That turnout benefited her campaign.

Now, two elections in two states do not necessarily indicate the youth vote is about to swing rightward in 2016.  But combined with other events it does present a hard to ignore pattern.  Since 2012 the Democratic share of the youth vote (Millennials and Generation Z) has been steadily dropping.  In that election Obama captured 60% of the youth vote (compared to 68% in 2008).  The 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election saw Ken Cuccinelli, according to exit polls, win 45%-39% 18-24 year olds but lose 18-29 year olds 40%-45%.  In New Jersey Chris Christie easily capture the youngest demographic.  Moving onward to 2014 and the GOP captured 43% of the 18-29 year old vote in the national House vote.  Individual US Senate and Gubernatorial exit polls saw individual candidates coming close or winning the demographic.  Also, the youngest female Congresswoman ever elected, Elise Stephanik, a Republican won in NY-23.

This 2015 election result fits right in with the pattern.  Republican efforts to broaden their party’s appeal to the young and recruit young, smart candidates to run is paying off.  While Democrats assume they have a lock on the demographic it may not be as secure as they assume.  Recent election results should give the Left pause and make them consider whether the demographic advantage they believe they enjoy is more a passing trend than a permanent one.



LIBRE Might be a Koch Backed Enterprise but it Does Not Make Their Points Any Less Valid

Multi Generation Hispanic Family Standing In ParkThe Koch brothers strongly back immigration reform.  So it should be with little surprise one of their brainchilds to support immigration reform, LIBRE, argues it can occur under a GOP administration.  Traditionally smaller government, socially conservative and pro-liberty LIBRE often finds itself on the side of Democrats when it comes to immigration.  But, with time they argue, the GOP can win Hispanics and become more supportive of immigration reform.

Democrats are admittedly skeptical.  They point to their party’s traditional strength with this voting bloc.  Obama won 71% of Hispanics in 2012 and 80% of all nonwhite voters.  They further assert the GOP’s anti-immigration stances will continue to turn off Hispanic voters.  But these arguments suffer from several weaknesses their proponents may not want to admit.

First, it is debatable whether Obama’s performance among non-white voters in 08 and 012 is transferable to another candidate.  Especially old, white candidates like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  This coalition certainly did not transfer to many Democrats in 2010 and 2014.  For example, Jon Cornyn in TX won 47% of Hispanics while David Perdue in Georgia won 42%.  According to LIBRE Corey Gardner won 45% of the Hispanic vote in his race though this probably inflates his numbers.

Sean Trende notes that Republicans can easily win the Presidency in 2016 and possibly hold the Senate if they merely return to George Bush’s 2004 showing among non-whites.  That year exit polls showed Bush won 40% of Asians, 45% of Hispanics (probably a bit high) and 11% of blacks.  Bush also won 57% of whites.  Whites increasingly flocking to the GOP means the party can increasingly work on courting non-white voters.  Democrats seem to be banking on the fact the Democratic coalition is built on ideology and not an individual candidate (Obama).

Another weakness with the assertion that GOP stances on immigration weaken their standing among minorities is that 2014 proved this argument is not always true.  GOP strength among Hispanics in 2014 (detailed above) shows the party can make inroads with these voters on other issues.  Indeed, a Washington Post analysis found Hispanics are actually trending more Republican than other non-white groups.  Further, Pew found in a post-2012 vote analysis that the more Hispanics become educated and integrated into US culture the more they vote Republican.

Thirdly, recent GOP efforts to contact and court minority voters has seriously lacked in 2008, 2010 and 2012.  Only after these elections did the GOP seem to realize their weakness and make concerted efforts to contact and turn out GOP leaning minorities.  LIBRE is not actively promoting the GOP as a party.  They are merely introducing conservatism to the community.  However, case studies of success GOP outreach efforts abound.  Mike Coffman in 2014 sung a different tune on the issues in a recently redrawn and far more competitive/diverse district.  He won by 9 points against a strong opponent.  Barbara Comstock in VA-10 fought off a spirited challenge for Rep. Frank Wolf’s seat by going into minrity majority communities.

Lastly, groups like LIBRE and GOP leaders with a national presence are starting to talk about issues that appeal to minority communities.  For Hispanics this might be Bush’s embrace of reform.  For blacks it might be Rand Paul’s call for the decriminalization of society.  As for Asians it seems the GOP stressing school reform would be a good place to start.

None of this is to say the GOP will win non-white voters in 2016 or come anywhere close.  But the party does not need to win a majority of these voters; at least not yet.  The party merely needs to get close or return to Bush’s 2004 levels while retaining Romney or Bush level support with whites.  As for Democrats their weakness with whites is unlikely to get better.  That means they must keep their voting levels with minorities like Hispanics intact.  It is debatable whether a non-Obama candidate can accomplish such a feat.


Walker Unlikely to Win Wisconsin if GOP Nominee in General Election

800px-Scott_Walker_by_Gage_SkidmoreWisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a lot going for him as he seeks his party’s nomination for the Presidency. He is a successful two term Governor of a blue state at the Presidential level, has presided over three statewide electoral victories and enacted sweeping legislative reform.

But it is Wisconsin’s blue hue at the Presidential level that stands out as Walker’s greatest weakness.  For all his successes in state politics the Governor is unlikely to carry Wisconsin at the Presidential level.  This, as one of his campaign’s strongest talking points is that he can carry a blue state like Wisconsin and perhaps take another with it (Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, etc.)

Like many “Blue Wall” states Wisconsin is a competitive state at the state level.  But that competitiveness has not translated to Presidential races.  While Bush lost the state in 2000 and 2004 by less than 1% John McCain lost it by 14% in 08 and Romney 7% in 2012 just a mere five months after Walker won his recall by 7%.

Like Bush, Walker contends he can put Wisconsin on the map.  One of the things most people overlook about Bush was his 2004 strength among rural moderates.  These voters are a significant share of the Wisconsin electorate, are pro-gun, split on abortion and fiscally conservative.  Bush had a cultural appeal to these voters.  In much the same mold Walker does as well.

Look at Walker’s three statewide victories.  In 2010 Walker not only racked up huge margins among the suburbs of SE Wisconsin but he also carried Northeastern Wisconsin (home to Green Bay and its populous suburbs) and the heavily rural Northwest.  Walker won suburban voters 43%-56% but rural voters 44%-55%. The last Republican to do so well among these voters at any level was Bush.

Fast forward to the 2012 recall and Walker further solidified his support among the group.  While Walker’s support among suburban voters stayed largely flat he increased his support among rural voters to 60%. Walker’s support in his 2014 reelection bid among suburbanites increased to 57% but his rural support dipped slightly to 58%.

Walker’s runs also hint at other strengths he possesses.  He never won less than 45% of the 18-29 vote and hit a high water mark of 47% among the group in 2014.  The support traditionally conservative SE Wisconsin gave him was also remarkable.

But, this was all done at the state level in statewide races.  The issues boiled down more to pragmatism and cost cutting than debates over abortion, gay marriage, tax cuts for the rich, etc.  Once the debate turns to that how would Walker fare?

Already, Walker’s standing in the state has taken a steep dive.  Since 2011 Walker’s approval ratings remained remarkably steady according to Marquette University, hovering around 45%-51%.  When he was reelected in 2014 52% of voters approved of him and he received 52% of the vote.  But new polls find he is now underwater as he makes his national aspirations known and focuses on courting a larger, national audience.

A PPP survey finds the Governor with a 43/52 approval rating and he trails Hillary Clinton 52%-43%.  More worrisome the more accurate Marquette University survey finds Walker trialing Clinton 52%-40%.  Highlighting one of the Governor’s issues a whopping 64% said the Governor could not handle both the duties of running for President and being state executive.

Admittedly, it is early.  Much can change.  But early polls out of Wisconsin show Walker would struggle to win his state.  However, both PPP’s and Marquette’s samples reflect a more traditional 2008 and 2012 electorate; less Republican and more Democratic, a far cry from the 2000 and 2004 electorates.

Regardless, Walker has his strengths.  He appeals to rural, downscale voters as well as suburbanites not just in Wisconsin but nationwide.  However, if he is to win Wisconsin if he is the GOP nominee he will have to find someway to maintain his appeal to rural voters in the Northwest and suburban voters in the Northeastern suburbs.  Not an easy task when the issues you courted these voters on have changed and become much more polarizing.