Democratic Strategy For 2014: Get Out The Vote But Don’t Ignore The Message

This should be a bad year for Democrats if we go by historical trends. The party holding the presidency typically loses Congressional seats in their sixth year. It makes matters worse when their are economic problems, even if many people do realize that they are primarily due to a combination of problems created by the Bush administration and problems perpetuated by Republican actions to hinder economic recovery in Congress.

Making matters worse, the Democrats have to defend Senate seats in red states, including states where incumbent Democrats are not running for reelection. Democrats do worse in off year elections, when young voters and minorities are less likely to vote compared to presidential elections. Republicans also have a huge advantage in a system where small Republican states receive as many Senators as far larger Democratic states. Their advantage extends to the house. Between gerrymandering and the higher concentration of Democrats in cities. Republican will still control Congress unless Democrats receive about seven percent more votes.

On top of this, Republicans see voter suppression as a valid electoral strategy.

Democrats did much better in 2008 and 2012 than in 2010. They also expect to do much better in 2016, including picking up several Senate seats due to the playing field being reversed with Republicans being forced to defend Senate seats in blue states. The Democrats see the solution as making 2014 more like 2012. Their strategy:

The Democrats’ plan to hold on to their narrow Senate majority goes by the name “Bannock Street project.” It runs through 10 states, includes a $60 million investment and requires more than 4,000 paid staff members. And the effort will need all of that — and perhaps more — to achieve its goal, which is nothing short of changing the character of the electorate in a midterm cycle.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is preparing its largest and most data-driven ground game yet, relying on an aggressive combination of voter registration, get-out-the-vote and persuasion efforts.

They hope to make the 2014 midterm election more closely resemble a presidential election year, when more traditional Democratic constituencies — single women, minorities and young voters — turn out to vote in higher numbers, said Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director.

A campaign based upon getting out the vote isn’t terribly exciting, but it is a realization that this is how elections are won in this polarized era. There aren’t very many swing voters, but there can be huge differences between which party does better in getting their supporters out to vote.

Besides, a high tech get out the vote campaign and an old fashioned campaign to try to sway voters are not mutually exclusive. I do hope that the Democrats also think about better ways to get out their message as the Republicans often win by doing a better job here. Sure the Republican message is pure lies, claiming to be the party of small government while supporting increased government intrusion in the lives of individuals, and primarily using big government to redistribute wealth to the top one tenth of one percent.

Democrats need a coherent message, but they often fail because they are afraid of alienating some voters by saying what they believe in. I suspect that this cowardice turns off even more voters, along with reducing the motivation of their supporters to turn out. Once again, a campaign based upon promoting ideas and one based upon voter turnout are not mutually exclusive. They can be complimentary.

Rather than shying away from social issues, Democrats need to campaign as the party which supports keeping government out of our personal lives and out of the bedroom.

Rather than running away from the Affordable Car e Act, Democrats need to stress its benefits. Beyond all the millions who are assisted by the ability to obtain affordable health coverage, there are the two million people who are freed from the “insurance trap” which forces them to work in jobs they do not otherwise want or need in order to obtain health insurance. As the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has shown, the Affordable Care Act will help reduce unemployment, decease the deficit, and strengthen the economy. Besides, we saw what happened to the Democrats when they tried running away from Obamacare in 2010.

In recent years Democrats have taken national security away from Republicans as an issue. If the Republicans want to run on their debunked conspiracy theories about Benghazi, it might be time for Democrats to remind voters of the very real failings of Republicans on 9/11, from ignoring warnings before the attack to invading the wrong country in retaliation. We saw how that turned out. It is also time for Democrats to take additional issues from the Republicans.

Challenge voters who support Republicans based upon misinformation. If they are concerned about the deficit, point out how much the deficit has dropped under Obama (as it previously dropped under Bill Clinton). Repeatedly we see polls in which voters support liberal positions but identify themselves as conservatives. They say the oppose Obamacare but also support most of the individual components of the Affordable Care Act. The only way to fight the misinformation spread by Fox is for Democrats to clearly say what they believe in and defend their positions.

Democrats are planning to run on income inequality. That is fine, but they better make sure that they make it clear that the reason is that the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of the top one tenth of one percent is a major cause of crippling the economy and keeping down the middle class. Failure to make this connection just plays into Republican memes.

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Early Odds Look Good For Hillary Clinton To Be Elected President And Democrats To Control Senate in 2016

If you believe the current polls, Hillary Clinton’s victory for the Democratic nomination is even more inevitable than it was in 2008 as she has the largest lead in a Democratic nomination race ever. She leads Joe Biden by a margin of 73 percent to 12 percent. Elizabeth Warren pulls in 8 percent. While 2008 showed that inevitability isn’t enough to win the nomination, it is hard to see her getting defeated. There is unlikely to be another Barack Obama to challenge her, and she is certainly not going to repeat some of the mistakes she made such as paying too little attention to the caucus states. For comparison, in December 2006 Clinton led Obama 39 percent to 17 percent.

While it was always questionable if Chris Christie could win the Republican nomination after being photographed with Barack Obama, Christie is now falling in the polls, such as here. Huckabee, who is not hurt by his recent “libido” gaff among Republicans,  moved up. In terms of election strategy he is the anti-Christie. While Christie might have made the Republicans competitive in some northern states, Huckabee would leave the Republicans as a regional party with regards to national elections. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush hasn’t decided yet whether he will run.

Are we looking at another Clinton vs. Bush presidential campaign?

But that is all a long time away. Things can still change. This year we have Congressional elections and Republicans generally have an edge in off year elections due to lower turn out among minorities and younger voters. The party out of office also has an edge when running against a president with low approval ratings. Democrats appear scared when they are now talking about shifting money from the House races, where they have little chance of taking control, to the Senate where either party can win control.

Winning control of the House is unlikely due to the need for Democrats to win by over seven percent  due to gerrymandering and the higher concentration of Democrats in fewer urban districts. Democrats do have a couple of things going in their favor for a possible upset–increased public recognition that the Republicans are more extreme, and responsible for the gridlock, and more people believing that even their own Congressman does not deserve to be reelected.

Odds remain against the Democrats in the House and they have to defend Senate seats in red states this year. If they can hang on until 2016, the Democrats are in a much better position between their advantages in the electoral college, more favorable electorate in 2016, and as the Republicans will be forced to defend several Senate seats in blue states.

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Poll Shows More Voters Seeing Through Claims That Both Parties Equally Responsible For Gridlock

The mainstream media often promotes a false narrative that both sides of the political spectrum are mirror images of each other, each equally extreme and each being equally responsible for gridlock in Washington. Some centrists such as Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have shown that the real problem today is the extremism of the Republican Party. While the media has failed to drop their narrative, most likely due to a false belief that this is how to be unbiased, a Pew Research Center survey shows the public is starting to see through this:

By a margin of 52% to 27%, the public says Democrats are more willing than Republicans to work with political leaders from the other party. A 54% majority also says the Republican Party is more extreme in its positions, compared with 35% of Democrats.

By a 20-point margin, the public sees Democrats (52%) as being more concerned than Republicans (32%) with the needs of people like themselves, while a plurality says Republicans are more influenced by lobbyists and special interests (47% vs. 30% saying Democrats). In addition, four-in-ten believe the Democratic Party governs in a more honest and ethical way (41%), compared with 31% who choose the Republicans. But about three-in-ten (28%) do not pick either side as having an edge on honesty.

Among other findings, deficit reduction has dropped as a priority. It is not clear if this is because people actually realize how much the deficit has declined under Obama. Not surprisingly, there is a tendency for Democrats to be more concerned about the deficit under Republican presidents and vice versa. It wasn’t long ago, when Bush was in the White House, that the Republican mantra was that “Deficits don’t matter,” to quote Dick Cheney.

While more people are realizing that the Republicans are more extreme and unwilling to compromise or work with the opposition, it is questionable whether these results will translate into gains for Democrats in November. There is plenty in this, and other recent polls, which is more favorable for each party. Historically the overall pessimism and declining popularity of the president would predict a poor outcome for the president’s party in an off year election, and off year elections are also more favorable to Republicans due to decreased turnout by the young and minorities.  The safe bet would be that the Republicans will experience moderate gains, although the Democrats could pick up some House seats.

One recent polling finding does raise questions as to whether the election results will be different this year than expected. Often voters express dissatisfaction about Congress but still approve of their own representative. Plus districts are gerrymandered to keep most members of Congress safe.  Gallup found last week that a record low number feel that their own representative deserves to be reelected. Maybe this could mean an unexpected wave election will occur.

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The Democratic Advantage In The Electoral College

If a professional newspaper columnist who has to get a column out on a regular schedule does not want to write about Chris Christie or NSA Surveillance this weekend, there are a number of topics which one can always pull up. Dan Baltz went with a look at the Republican Party’s uphill path in the electoral college. There’s nothing new here, but this is worth considering when looking ahead towards 2016. Baltz looked at the earlier Republican advantage in presidential elections, later switching to favor the Democrats:

What happened? States whose loyalties were divided in the first era moved to become part of the Democrats’ base — a transition that began with Bill Clinton’s two campaigns and continued through 2012. That list includes California, the biggest electoral prize in the country, with 55 votes, but also others that have long been considered contested battlegrounds, including Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

All 16 states that went for the GOP in the past six elections remain solidly in the Republican column. The same is true of most of the states that voted GOP in four or five of the past six. But that leaves the Republicans far short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Over the past six elections, Republicans have averaged just 211 electoral votes and have not won more than 286 since 1988. Democrats averaged 327 electoral votes for those six elections, and their lowest total, even in losing, was 251 in 2004. Given the current alignment, the Republicans must find states that have been voting Democratic and convert them to their column in 2016.

A further look at key states shows advantages for the Democrats. Looking ahead, it is far more likely that red states which are becoming more diverse might shift Democratic than for many of the states which have been voting Democratic to change. The Republicans cannot even count on the South long term, already losing Virginia and with others at risk. It will probably take longer than 2016, but if increases in minority voters in Texas should make that state flip, or even become a battle ground, the Republicans will not have a single large state they can count on.

The Democratic edge in recent years would be even more one-sided if not for Republicans winning the electoral votes of Florida in 2000. It is clear that a majority of Florida voters intended to vote Democratic, with some confused by the butterfly ballots. Retrospective newspaper recounts showed that Gore would have won if he had obtained a state-wide recount. Without the benefits of incumbency, Republicans also probably would not have won in 2004. Even with their short-term advantages, Kerry could have won in the electoral college, while losing the popular vote, if there were more voting machines in the larger cities of Ohio.

Nothing is for certain. John Sides took the opposing viewpoint. He failed to provide a compelling argument as to why many states will flip. It is certainly possible that if economic conditions remain bad that the Democrats could suffer. As the fault is shared by Republicans who created the crash and then blocked recovery, it is questionable whether blue states will turn against Democrats any more in 2016 than in 2012, especially with a change in presidential candidates.

Sides is correct in pointing out how hard it has been for a party to win the White House three elections in a row in modern times, but in looking at modern American presidents we are dealing with a very small sample. We now have a unique situation where the Republicans are under the control of extremists while the Democrats have taken firm control of the center along with moderate left. Republican views have become too extreme for their candidates to have a serious chance of winning in many northern states. There are just not enough low-information white males, the primary source of votes for Republicans, for them to flip these states.  While I would hope for a more knowledgeable electorate, changes in information-sources will also be important. Over time, voters who get their fake news from Fox will increasingly be replaced by those who get their fake news from Jon Stewart.

Looking at potential candidates also makes it unlikely that the Republicans will change current trends in the electoral college. Many Republicans had hoped Chris Christie might be able to alter the current red/blue electoral map. It was already hard for him to win the nomination in the Republican Party even before he became damaged by scandal. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is likely to do better than Obama in some of the larger industrial states which the Republicans need to flip. The same low-information white males who might vote against Clinton due to her gender already have been voting against Obama because of his race.

Things are not entirely hopeless for the Republicans, at least not yet. While the Democrats have a strong advantage in presidential elections, the structure of Congressional elections gives Republicans an advantage relative to their overall support in the country. With small states having the same two Senators as large states, Republican representation in the Senate is far greater than if the Senate was representative of the country. Republican advantage in the House has been even greater, due to both gerrymandering and the concentration of Democrats in urban areas. As a consequence, Democrats win a smaller number of districts by larger margins and Democrats must beat Republicans by seven percent or more to retake control. Unless there is a huge shift in the generic ballot, as happened only briefly last fall, Republicans are likely to retain control of the House even if more people continue to vote for Democrats than Republicans.

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Dreams Of Stopping Clinton In 2016

We have a long time go to until the 2016 presidential election, but political reporting in this country is obsessed with presidential elections and we are going to continue to see a lot of stories centered around the media’s pick as front runners. As I discussed yesterday, Hillary Clinton is a stronger front runner for her party’s nomination than Chris Christie, especially following the recent scandal.It is notable that early front runners rarely win the Democratic nomination, excluding sitting presidents and sometimes the last vice president. While Hillary Clinton is currently in a strong position to overcome the obstacles faced by front runners, she faces problems including the desire of the media to run “man bites dog” stories and highlight any potential political liability. The media will concentrate on a variety of ABC stories (Anyone But Christie and Anyone But Clinton.

There are two stories along these lines today. Michael Crowley has written about Clinton’s hawkish views, which many Democratic voters are likely to disagree with:

As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues—Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid—Clinton took a more aggressive line than Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.

Former administration officials also tell TIME that Clinton was an advocate for maintaining a residual troop force after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq—an issue of renewed interest given al Qaeda’s resurgence there. They also describe her as skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, and firmly opposed to talk of a “containment” policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail.

Recent comparisons of Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic globe-trotting to Clinton’s arguably modest diplomatic achievements have tended to overlook this less visible aspect of her tenure. But no assessment of her time in Obama’s administration would be complete without noting the way Clinton hewed to the liberal hawk philosophy she adopted during her husband’s presidency in the 1990s, and which contributed, less happily, to her 2002 vote to authorize force against Iraq. “The Democratic party has two wings—a pacifist wing and a Scoop Jackson wing. And I think she is clearly in the Scoop Jackson wing,” says former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, now director of the Wilson Center. (Jackson, a Cold War-era Democratic Senator from Washington state, mixed progressive domestic politics with staunch anti-communism, support for a strong military, and backing for the Vietnam War.)

Crowley gave further details on Clinton’s hawkish record and then concluded:
But at a time when fewer Americans support an active U.S. role in foreign affairs, Clinton’s comfort with the harder side of American power could be a vulnerability. A liberal primary challenger might well reprise Barack Obama’s 2007 line that Hillary’s record amounts to “Bush-Cheney lite.” One potential contender, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, has already been zinging her over her 2002 Iraq vote. “When George Bush got a bunch of [Democrats] to vote for that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana,” he said recently. Whether such attacks will hold even a fraction of the valence they did at the Iraq war’s peak remains to be seen.
I fear that changes are not good for a liberal primary challenger to accomplish what Obama did in 2008 in terms of winning the nomination, but Clinton just might be defeated in the Iowa caucuses. CNN looked at the problems Clinton faces in Iowa, despite lack of a credible challenger at this time:

Yet despite having the Democratic establishment at her back, there remains a palpable sense of unease with Clinton in grass-roots corners of the party, even as those very same activists promise to support her if no one else runs.

Part of that restraint is ideological. Iowa’s Democratic caucus-goers remain as dovish as they were in 2008, when Clinton’s support for the Iraq war badly damaged her standing on the left. Clinton helped wind down that same war as Obama’s secretary of state, but she is now linked to his national security apparatus, which has expanded drone attacks overseas and broadened intelligence gathering with controversial surveillance and data collection techniques.

And at a time when progressives feel emboldened to confront issues like income inequality and wage stagnation, Clinton, who delivered paid speeches last year to two prominent private equity firms as well as a group that actively lobbied against the Affordable Care Act, is perceived by some as too close to the deficit-obsessed worlds of Wall Street and official Washington…

Clinton is also susceptible to some of the same whimsical Democratic impulses that propelled Obama to his stunning Iowa victory in 2008. “Democrats love an underdog and we love a story,” is how Meyer put it. With a gleaming resume and the potential to make history as the country’s first female president, Clinton has a powerful story to tell. But she is hardly an underdog.

Some party leaders warned Clinton against reprising the same kind of heavy-handed front-running behavior that rankled so many Iowa activists — not to mention the media — during her 2008 effort.

“I don’t know if she has learned that lesson,” said Jean Pardee, the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2nd District vice chair. “The problem with so much of her staff was that they were all sort of higher class than the mere peasants that they had to campaign with. Everyone was kept at arm’s length by the staff, although a couple of key ones were pretty good. That’s a lesson that should be hopefully learned. But when it comes to human nature, maybe that’s not possible.”

Clinton must also confront the who’s-on-deck inclinations of the Democratic caucus-goer. Unlike Republicans, who have a habit of nominating loyal soldiers who have waited for their turn, Iowa Democrats have a tendency to search for someone new. The last time the party nominated an obvious heir-apparent was 2000, but Al Gore first had to beat back an unexpectedly fierce primary challenge from Bill Bradley on the left.

George Appleby, an attorney and lobbyist in Des Moines who supported Bradley and copped to a “pristine record of picking the wrong guy” in every caucus since 1976 until he backed Obama in 2008, described Clinton as “strong” and “brilliant.”

But he said liberals are suffering from an acute case of “Clinton fatigue.” He named O’Malley, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Iowa caucus winner, as Democrats he’s keeping an eye on.

“Hillary would make a great president,” Appleby said. “She is the odds-on-favorite. But I don’t think she is necessarily going to be the nominee, or going to win Iowa. Sometimes people have been around forever, and there is time for some new blood.”

I’ve previously expressed my preference for current Secretary of State John Kerry over his predecessor and found it interesting to actually see his name come up as a possibility. Unfortunately I find it unlikely he can repeat what Richard Nixon did in the Republican Party, and  in a different era, and win the Democratic nomination after once losing the presidency. He loses out on the “tendency to search for someone new.”

In addition, it is difficulty to run while being Secretary of State. He cannot campaign for other members of his party as Nixon did to obtain support. Nor can he participate in the current “invisible primary” to raise money and develop the framework of a campaign. I can only see two possible ways that Kerry can win the Democratic nomination. One would be if he does something major of historical proportions, such as succeeding in his attempts to broker a peace agreement in the middle east. This would also have to occur early enough for Kerry to then step down and actually run. The other would be if Clinton either decides not to run, or her campaign is seriously derailed, and nobody is able to win enough support to make a credible front runner. The chances of stopping Clinton would be better if another liberal candidate could obtain sufficient support to make a serious run, and at this point I don’t see anyone doing this. Any chance Al Gore is still interested? There is a long way to go and perhaps we will see some new blood.

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Bad News Today For Both Chris Christie And Hillary Clinton

Last week the political news led to the inevitable, even if premature, discussion of the 2016 presidential race. A scandal involving Chris Christie was reported based upon its potential repercussions for the Republican nomination, even though it is far from  certain that the media declaring Christie the front-runner means anything. There are far too many pictures of him with Obama to haunt him in the GOP primaries. Still, he could not be ruled out as 2012 showed how hard it is to find a true conservative Republican who doesn’t become a laughing stock once they actually have to discuss their views on a national stage.

Hillary Clinton is a far stronger front-runner for the Democratic nomination. The 2008 race showed both that there are Democrats who do not want her and that she could be beaten, but it is hard to see someone duplicating what Obama accomplished. Clinton is certainly not going to ignore the caucus states, assuming she runs for the 2016 nomination. Therefore last week was seen as very good for Hillary Clinton. Assuming she runs, Christie polls the best against her of potential Republican candidates (again, assuming he could win the nomination). Looking like the least bat-shit crazy Republican did help Christie in national polls.

So far there is little public interest in Christie’s scandal, but I think it is still too early to tell. While the similarities to Watergate are too slim to justify calling this Bridgegate, it did take a while before Watergate became commonly known and harmful to Richard Nixon. The reports of Christie’s staff closing down the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retaliation have led to many other stories of similar bullying by Christie. Making matters worse, there is now an investigation as to whether Christie misused Sandy relief funds:

Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.

CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used some of that money to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the embattled Republican, who is facing two probes in New Jersey of whether his staff orchestrated traffic gridlock near the country’s busiest bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his re-election.

If the Sandy inquiry by a watchdog finds any wrongdoing, it could prove even more damaging to Christie’s national ambitions. He’s considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

One would think that this should be another good week for Hillary Clinton, but maybe not. Politico (which is not above fabricating drama) cites a book claiming Hillary Clinton maintained a hit list of those who crossed her in 2008:

There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school. On one early draft of the hit list, each Democratic member of Congress was assigned a numerical grade from 1 to 7, with the most helpful to Hillary earning 1s and the most treacherous drawing 7s. The set of 7s included Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), as well as Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Rob Andrews (D-N.J.).

I don’t know how true this is, but The Hill quotes Senator Claire McCaskill as not wanting to wind up in the same elevator as Hillary Clinton. If we are to select the Democratic nominee by looking at recent Secretaries of State, I believe that one of those on Clinton’s hit list, John Kerry, would make a far better president (despite being very unlikely to be given a second chance to run).The scandals surrounding Chris Christie might wind up harming Clinton as well as Christie. All the stories of political retaliation by Christie might make voters think more about the character of who they vote for, and perhaps shy away from a candidate who sounds like they are maintaining a Nixonian Enemy’s List. Perhaps we need another pair of front runners.

Update: Dreams of Stopping Clinton in 2016

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The Implosion of the Republican Brand and Control of the House

Greg Sargent had a useful interactive graph posted here which demonstrates the implosion of the GOP brand based upon recent polling numbers. Key findings are that, compared with September 2012, Republican unfavorability ratings have increased among women, people over age 65, independents, and white college grads. Among other problems, losing the young can have implications for years to come as early voting habits often persist. We know that Republican favorability among minorities is pretty low. The graph does leave out white voters without college degrees. Republicans have generally done the best among low-information white males, but there just aren’t enough of them to win national elections.

Sargent summarized the results:

Observers believe that over the long term, the GOP will have to do a better job winning over college educated whites, who are an increasingly important constituency, along with young voters and minorities, in the Democratic coalition of the future. (Ron Brownstein has dubbed these groups the “coalition of the ascendant,” arguing they are increasingly important in statewide races, not just national ones.)

Among white collar whites, the GOP’s unfavorability rating has shot up by a startling 21 points, to 70 percent. Among college educated women – who may be more critical to the Dem coalition than college educated men – the spike in GOP unfavorability has been somewhat more dramatic than among women overall, jumping 15 points, to 74 percent. If this trend continues, it could fuel future Dem gains among women.

This makes it difficulty for Republicans to win a national election, and if these numbers hold will also hurt them in state-wide races, possibly leading to Democratic pick-ups in the Senate. Of course these numbers are undoubtedly different geographically, and presumably the Republicans will remain strong in more authoritarian-oriented regions such as the south. Republicans continue to benefit from gerrymandering and concentration of Democrats in a fewer number of urban districts, making it more difficult for control of the House to change. There are a number of different projections as to how large a lead the Democrats must maintain in the generic Congressional ballot to flip control of the House. I previously cited an estimate of around seven percent. Yesterday Steve Benen quoted a couple of other views on this yesterday:

Political scientist Nicholas Goedert made the case this week that if Democrats go into the 2014 midterms with a lead on the generic ballot of 5 or more percentage points, they stand a pretty good chance of winning back the House. Nate Cohn, however, recently argued the Dems’ advantage would have to be closer to 10 points.

There are many variables, including whether the Democratic lead on the generic ballot persists, whether this improves Democratic recruitment of candidates and inhibits some Republicans from running, and how it affects fund raising.  Battles over immigration might further harm Republicans.  Republican rooting for the failure of Obamacare might backfire against the Republicans as initial computer SNAFU’s are forgotten and people see that the law is far different from what Republicans have claimed. Demographic changes will also help tilt many districts as each year passes.

Democrats are also likely to do better in the 2016 presidential election (assuming events between now and then don’t radically change the election landscape) when more young and minority voters are likely to turn out. Even if the Democrats fall short of taking control of the House in 2014, they might make gains that year making flipping of House control more likely to occur in 2016. Regardless of who controls the House in 2014, it is doubtful Obama will be able to accomplish much in the final two years of his term as long as the Republicans can use the veto in the Senate. I suspect we will have to wait until 2016 to see further change in how Washington works.

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Support For Obamacare Increases Despite Problems With Exchanges

Conservatives just can’t catch a break in polls since the shutdown. One might expect that at very least the numbers supporting Obamacare might have dropped considering how terrible the initial opening of the exchanges has gone. No, instead approval has increased in several recent polls, including Gallup.

Despite the highly publicized technical issues that have plagued the government’s health insurance exchange website that went live on Oct. 1, Americans’ views of the Affordable Care Act are slightly more positive now than they were in August. Forty-five percent now approve of the law, while 50% disapprove, for a net approval score of -5. In June and August, net approval was slightly lower, at -8.

Keep in mind that any poll regarding approval of the Affordable Care Act can falsely show decreased support because many of those who oppose the law do so because they believe it should do more, or want a single payer plan. There is also considerable misunderstanding of the law, with many people supporting the components of Obamacare when polled while also saying they oppose Obamacare when asked separately.

There are a couple of reasons why support might be going upwards despite the computer problems. This could be part of the overall backlash against Republicans and everything they stand for seen in recent polls. I wonder if coverage of what the exchanges are intended to do is leading to more support for the Affordable Care Act, which is more meaningful than probable temporary computer glitches. The administration has had excellent success with computers when used to revolutionize politics. I think that at times they are also overly optimistic about what computers can do, from handling the complexity of the insurance exchanges to their views on electronic medical records. We have lived with computers long enough to know that glitches are common with a new product, but this does not mean that we don’t adopt the new technology over time. Plus, in this situation, the use of computer exchanges to purchase health coverage says nothing about the quality and affordability of care once insurance coverage is purchased. The most important outcome so far is that insurance costs do appear to be lower than expected due to the exchanges.

We also must keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, and the final law is not exactly what most people wanted. The question is not whether Obamacare is perfect, but whether it is a major improvement over what was in place in the past. Greg Sargent also reminds us that Obamacare passes another important comparison despite the initial problems: “We can keep two ideas in our heads at the same time. The first: Obamacare’s rollout is awful and demands accountability. The second: GOP criticism of the rollout is deeply incoherent and indicative of a larger refusal — one that has gone on for years — to participate seriously in the basic governing necessary to solve this pressing national problem.”

Most conservatives cannot keep these two ideas in their head (and few can even manage one). They see the problems with the roll out as indicative of problems in the overall concept. Others such as Ross Douthat realize that the failure of the conservative aspects of the plan could lead to an even more liberal alternative. Mike Konczal has argued that the exchange problems stem from more conservative or neoliberal ideas included in the Affordable Care Act (which was essentially the conservative Heritage Foundation’s alternative to Hillarycare). He looked at the politics and argued that a true government-run plan “while conceptually more work for the government, can eliminate a lot of unnecessary administrative problems.”

Some of the more cartoony conservatives argue that this is a failure of liberalism because it is a failure of government planning, evidently confusing the concept of economic “central planning” with “the government makes a plan to do something.”

However, the smarter conservatives who are thinking several moves ahead (e.g. Ross Douthat) understand that this failed rollout is a significant problem for conservatives. Because if all the problems are driven by means-testing, state-level decisions and privatization of social insurance, the fact that the core conservative plan for social insurance is focused like a laser beam on means-testing, block-granting and privatization is a rather large problem. As Ezra Klein notes, “Paul Ryan’s health-care plan — and his Medicare plan — would also require the government to run online insurance marketplaces.” Additionally, the Medicaid expansion is working well where it is being implemented, and the ACA is perhaps even bending the cost curve of Medicare, the two paths forward that conservatives don’t want to take.

The old status quo in which insurance companies profited by finding ways to deny coverage to those with expensive medical problems and affordable insurance was becoming increasingly difficult to obtain was not a viable option. The choices were either continuation of private insurance with increased government involvement, as with the Affordable Care Act, or a single-payer plan. Conservatives should be happy about the outcome if they are willing to back away from the extremism of opposing everything which Obama supports. If the exchanges turn out to be too complicated, especially with Republicans attempting to prevent their success (or as Ed Kilgore put it, have unclean hands) as opposed to participating in the process, the choice then become a more simple single-payer plan, not turning to the incoherent alternatives being proposed by Republicans.

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Republicans Fall Into Deeper Hole While ObamaCare SNAFU’s Are Unlikely To Help Them Out

How long will Americans remember recent events? At the moment this CNN/ORC International survey does not look favorable for Republicans:

According to the survey, 54% say it’s a bad thing that the GOP controls the House, up 11 points from last December, soon after the 2012 elections when the Republicans kept control of the chamber. Only 38% say it’s a good thing the GOP controls the House, a 13-point dive from the end of last year.

This is the first time since the Republicans won back control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections that a majority say their control of the chamber is bad for the country…

“John Boehner fares just as badly as the GOP,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Sixty-three percent of all Americans think that Boehner should be replaced as Speaker of the House, a view shared by roughly half of all Republicans.”

According to the poll, only 30% of the public says Boehner, who became Speaker in January 2011, should continue in that role.

However, the election is still over a year away. Democrats need a substantial majority opposed to Republican control of the House due to gerrymandering, along with the concentration of Democratic voters in a smaller number of urban districts.

New issues could shift the balance in either direction. How the Affordable Care Act works out might have an impact. At the moment this doesn’t help the Democrats, but the problems do not appear significant enough to help the Republicans either. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 56 percent of Americans think that the computer problems with the roll are part of a broader problem with the law’s implementation. However this does not translate into agreeing with the Republicans on repeal:

The poll finds that only 41 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the law’s implementation, versus 53 percent who disapprove. Fifty six percent say the website problems are a symptom of broader implementation issues — meaning the public is adopting a very harsh view of these problems.

But even despite this, only one third of Americans support repealing the law. A sizable bloc of those who oppose the law want it to continue, anyway.

The poll finds that 46 percent support the law, versus 54 percent who oppose it or are unsure of their feelings about it. But that second bloc breaks down into 33 percent who oppose and want repeal, versus 20 percent who oppose the law and want to let the law go ahead. That means a total of 66 percent either support the law or oppose it but want it to go forward.

I doubt that this issue will wind up helping Republicans. First of all, computer problems regarding signing up with the plans have nothing to do with the bulk of the benefits of the plan. Once people obtain insurance, any difficulties with the web site will no longer be significant. If anything, the exchanges should help the Democrats as people find they can obtain more comprehensive insurance at a lower rate, even if they could not qualify to purchase insurance in the past due to preexisting conditions. Secondly, the exchanges only affect about eighteen percent of the population, and most people will not vote based upon this.

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The New Political Landscape–The House is Up For Grabs

Going into the budget negotiations, Barack Obama was at a disadvantage. He not only negotiated with the terrorists, he gave in to their demands more than he should have. Now the tables are turned. Obama has shown that he will not repeat that mistake, and the Republicans have shown that they will give in before making the United States dafault. The Republicans have come under so much criticism for even making this a possibility that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have both said they will not cause the government to default on its debts. All of this could have been avoided if Boehner had allowed the full House to vote on a clean budget bill from the start. In the end Boehner did exactly that, preventing the Republican majority in the House from crashing the economy with the help of Democratic votes. Being in an improved bargaining position could also help Democrats over the next year. Voters are more likely to vote for Democrats if the party appears strong, and less likely to vote for Republican if they continue to see them as the party of fiscal and political irresponsibility.

The political question now becomes whether the strong anti-Republican sentiment in the polls will hold until next year. It is possible that this will be forgotten by most voters. It is also possible that this could cause a sizable number of former Republican voters to permanently alter their view of the party, leading to a wave election in 2014. While all the pundits will weigh in, the truth is that nobody knows what will happen a year before an election.

That said, here’s what a few pundits are saying. First from National Journal:

The government shutdown and debt crisis has made 14 House seats more winnable for Democrats, according to new independent ratings released Thursday from The Cook Political Report. There are now—for the first time this cycle—more Republican seats “in play” than the 17 Democrats would need to win in order to take the majority in 2014.

The ratings from the highly regarded political handicapping group, whose founder, Charlie Cook, is also a columnist for the National Journal, is the latest sign that the shutdown has seriously damaged Republicans.

“Democrats still have a very uphill climb to a majority, and it’s doubtful they can sustain this month’s momentum for another year. But Republicans’ actions have energized Democratic fundraising and recruiting efforts and handed Democrats a potentially effective message,” Cook’s David Wasserman explains. Ten Democratic seats remain “toss ups,” meaning the party would probably need to win at least 20 seats to take back the speaker’s gavel…

It’s way too early to know if these movements will hold until November of next year, but its unusual for Cook to move so many districts in one direction all at once. Democrats were losing altitude in generic ballot tests until the shutdown, only to see their numbers climb 5.5 percentage points over the past two weeks. But thanks to gerrymandering, analysts say Democrats need somewhere closer to a 7-point generic ballot lead to retake the House.

From Stu Rothenberg:

The political fallout from the confrontation is very real. Republicans got almost nothing out of the deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling except, of course, that they lost another 10 percentage points in their favorable rating and looked less like an organized political party and more like a disorganized, confused rabble.

Republican operatives are worried that the showdown will improve Democratic House recruiting considerably for 2014, and it could well damage GOP fundraising, both among small-dollar donors and the party’s bigger hitters.

Small donors will be disenchanted that Republican officeholders caved on both the shutdown and debt ceiling, while the larger donors, who tend to be more pragmatic, are likely to sit on their cash for fear that the GOP will do something else crazy to threaten the economy and the party’s electoral prospects.

GOP insiders point out that while the party clearly has lost some ground in recent years among swing voters because of its position on cultural issues, the party’s great strength — at least up until now — was that it was generally seen by independents as fiscally responsible and prudent on economic matters. Now that argument may be more difficult for Republicans to make.

Harry Enten described how difficult it will be for the Democrats to take control of the House, but also pointed out the difficulty in making predictions this early:

The indispensable Cook Political Report has only has 13 Democratic-held seats listed in the relatively competitive tossup or “lean” category. Of course, Democrats need to take 17 seats to win the House. The ratings reflect, among other things, a lack of strong challengers for the Democrats and lack of retirements by Republicans.

The thing is that expert ratings (like most polling) are not all that predictive a year out from an election. At this point in the 2006 cycle, there were 17 Republican seats in the lean or tossup categories (pdf). That’s well short of the 30 seats that Democrats would ultimately take from Republicans. At this point in the 2010 cycle, there were 28 Democratic seats in the lean or tossup category. Republicans, of course, went onto gain 63 seats in 2010.

It’s not until later in the cycle when individual seat rankings become quite useful. That’s when potential challengers and incumbents read the national environment and decide to run or not. Chances are that if the 4-5pt Democratic lead holds, the individual seat rankings will reflect that edge. For now, individual seat ratings probably aren’t all that helpful to understanding which way and how hard the wind is blowing.

If Republicans remain as unpopular a year from now as they are now, Democrats can certainly exceed expectations. Another possibility is that the Republican margin will shrink dramatically in 2014, making it easier for the Democrats to retake the House in 2016 with their chances even better in a year with a presidential election.

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