After the midterm elections of 2010 I found myself living in a red state. This November the Republicans realized that the situation which placed them in power has changed. The Michigan legislature will still be controlled by Republicans in the next session, but their majority is shrinking, and they realize there is a chance they will be removed in another two years. They decided to suddenly push harder for their reactionary agenda in the lame duck session. By now most have heard how Michigan has passed a “right to work” law. This isn’t the only mischief that the legislature has been up to. The Detroit Free Press reports on new legislation to limit access to abortion:
A package of three Senate bills would prevent insurers on the state’s health care exchange — a provision of health care reform that Michigan must still establish — from automatically including coverage for abortion in their policies offered on the exchange.
Rather, an employer or an individual purchaser of the plan would have to request and pay separately for abortion coverage.
As it stands now, nearly 80% of plans in Michigan cover abortion, according to Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan…
The bills need to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder before they would become law.
But a similar measure to make abortion coverage available only through a supplemental policy might be closer to law.
It was tucked inside legislation that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to change its business structure. That bill, with last-minute amendments tacked on that would apply to other insurers as well, is headed for Snyder’s desk. Snyder has pushed for legislation to allow the Blue Cross the change in its business plan.
Voters sent a clear message in the 2012 election that we do not want Republican big government forcing the repugnant moral views of the religious right upon others. If younger and more liberal voters remain engaged in two years and do not stay home as they did four years ago, actions such as this could lead to Michigan becoming a fully blue state once again in 2014. The actions of the Michigan legislature also show why there is no safety in electing a moderate Republican such as Governor Rick Snyder if he is willing to sign most of the bills passed by the Republican legislature. If Jennifer Granholm was still in Lansing, we know she would be vetoing these measures.
It was another strong day for the Democrats, leading up to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. While Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and ultimately Barack Obama dominated their evenings, there were many other strong speakers throughout the convention. The Democrats’ “second string” did a better job than the major speakers at the Republican convention. There was a wide variety of speakers, but they all showed a fundamental difference between the parties. The Democrats offer a big tent while the Republicans tell you to buy your own umbrella.
The two speakers who I have met in the past each did an excellent job. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, spoke on Obama saving the auto industry:
The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse. And with it, the whole manufacturing sector.
We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors, and not Bain Capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new President, Barack Obama! He organized a rescue, made the tough calls, and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator – the workers get the shaft. Mitt Romney says his business experience qualifies him to be President. Sure, he’s made lots of money. Good for him. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense? Too often, he made it at the expense of middle-class Americans.Year after year, it was profit before people.
With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America.
John Kerry had a strong speech on foreign policy, turning around the classic Ronald Reagan line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.” Full video of Kerry’s speech is above.
Joe Biden returned to the line he has used many times: Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive. Biden was brilliant to tie in Romney’s position on the auto industry to the Bain way:
When I look back now on the President’s decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man–Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit. His father ran American Motors. Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. I just don’t think he understood—I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs.
Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.
When things hung in the balance, the President understood it was about a lot more than the automobile industry. It was about restoring America’s pride. He knew what it would mean to leave 1 million people without hope or work if we didn’t act. He knew the message it would have sent to the rest of the world if the United States of America gave up on the industry that helped put America on the map. Conviction. Resolve.
He was similarly hard on Romney’s mistaken view on bin Laden as he described Obama’s strength:
We sat for days in the Situation Room. He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said– “Sir, we can get this done,” I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision. His response was decisive. He said do it. And justice was done.
But Governor Romney didn’t see things that way. When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”
He was wrong. If you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth–to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.
Biden summed up the different visions offered by the two parties: “A future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector.” So much for more bogus Republican framing. As he demolished Romney’s poor decisions, perhaps BIden should extend his line to “Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt.”
Finally the man smart enough to marry Michelle Obama (as Clinton called him yesterday) came on. It was a terrible moment for Mitt Romney. There was no empty chair. Barack Obama showed how successful he can be by campaigning on his record, demolishing a common Republican bromide. First he summarized the differences between the parties and had the best line of the evening:
Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”
“Deficit too high? Try another.”
“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.
Obama countered the Republican false framing that Democrats are the party of big government. Instead he explained that Democrats are the party which understands that there is a role for government:
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
In contrast, Obama pointed out that Republicans are the party of big government intruding in the private lives of individuals, warning about “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.” He promised to prevent Medicare from turning into a voucher program, to protect seniors, and to protect the middle class:
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.
And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”
Republicans avoided talk about Afghanistan and supporting veterans. Obama joined other speakers in warning of the dangers of making someone as inexperienced and uninformed as Mitt Romney become Commander-in-Chief:
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.
This election is far more about the economy than foreign policy, but will Americans elect a president who is so clearly over his head on issues of national security?
It will be interesting to see what effect this convention has on the polls. I’m not sure that there are many voters left who haven’t made up their minds to provide the types of convention bounces we have seen in the past. Romney received little to no bounce after his convention. The Democrats put on a far better convention and we will soon have an answer as to whether any convention can provide a big bounce. Gallup has shown Obama with a one point lead through the entire Republican convention and into today. As they use a seven day average it will take a few more days to see whether their is a bounce. Reuters is receiving a lot of attention in the conservative blogs for saying there has been no bounce for Obama, but this was after only one night, before the speeches by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
There are politics, there are lies, and then there’s you. You take it to a whole ‘nother level.
OK, I admit that I have a particular animus toward you, as a guy that knifed us in the back when Michigan was on its knees, but you simply cannot be our president. It cannot happen.
As you know, Mitt, I was governor of Michigan during that horrible time, when the financial industry was melting down and the auto industry was in free fall. And you were running for president. You saw the polls about the unpopularity of bailouts and you lumped the auto industry in with the bank industry — the auto industry, where your father and so many of your family members had worked.
You raised your finger into the air, saw which way the wind was blowing, and followed it. Way to lead, Mitt.
You weren’t looking into the eyes of autoworkers getting laid off as factory after factory closed.
In the six month period surrounding the president’s inauguration, more than 1,018 Michigan companies had announced mass layoffs in response to the crash.
Our unemployment office was receiving more than 800,000 calls per day from people desperate for help. The auto industry was heading over the cliff, we were begging for help, and you were coolly standing behind us giving your home state a shove over the ledge. And now you have the nerve to claim credit for the auto industry’s rebound? It’s a joke, right?
Steve Rattner, who headed the president’s auto task force said it succinctly today when he said, “Mitt Romney is nuts.” If only that’s all it was.
So Mitt, here’s my request: Just stop it. Stop denying that you were pandering to a national audience when you wrote that Detroit should “go bankrupt” and then stop taking credit for the success of the Obama administration’s intervention to save the auto industry and more than a million jobs that went with it.
The Obama team wasn’t taking advice from you. So just. Stop. Talking. Just stop.
And to you, reading this in The Huffington Post — let’s be honest, most Democrats aren’t going to vote for Mitt Romney anyway. This latest example of his deception and distortion is just that, the latest example.
But to the Republicans and Independents who are reading this: Could you honestly see George H.W. Bush, or John McCain or Bob Dole, or even George W. Bush, demeaning the intelligence of the American people like this? Acting in a way so devoid of integrity?
It’s ironic that on a day in which we focus on the auto industry, we’re debating the merits of a guy who exhibits all the clichés we unfairly assign to used car salesmen.
America is not a business. It’s not about ROI. It’s not a trophy to mount on your wall.
America is an idea. And it’s the solemn responsibility of each “temporary” president to protect and nurture that noblest of all ideas — with integrity.
This man, Mitt Romney, has shown — not through his experience, but through his actions and words — that he is unqualified to carry out that responsibility.
Now that we know that the election should come down to a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney we can speculate on what will happen after next January 20, 2013. If Obama is reelected it seems a safe prediction that he will continue on a moderate course. He will continue to frustrate those on the left at times, but he will be far more rational than the extremist policies now supported by most Republicans. Economic realities will further frustrate many on the left as the fiscal conservative side of Obama is likely to dominate, but if there are to be cuts to spending I would much rather that Barack Obama as opposed to any current Republican be influencing matters from the White House.
Mitt Romeny is a little more difficult to predict considering that on any given day he is likely to have taken any position on virtually any issue. Although he has campaigned as a liberal in Massachusetts, most likely he will at best be a moderate in office, and there is the very real risk he will feel obligated to prove that he is as “severely conservative” as he now says he is.
The outcome of a Romney presidency is likely to be influenced to a considerable degree by the type of Congress which is elected. If, as has often occurred in the post-war era, he is a Republican facing a Democratic Congress, it is possible that he might govern as a moderate, figuring that it is better to get something meaningful done rather than spending his time in gridlock. On the other hand, he might be so indebted to the far right, and fearful of a primary challenge, that he might push a far right wing agenda regardless of whether it could pass in Congress.
Should Romney win, for at least the first two years it is more likely that he would also bring in a Republican Congress with him. It would be difficult for the Democrats to hold enough seats to maintain control of the Senate considering that the Democrats are defending twenty-three seats while the Republicans are only defending ten in a year going the Republican’s way. The Republicans would also only need a tie to control the Senate should Romney win. The Democrats now have a real shot to take control of the House if everything goes their way in 2012, but this becomes a very long shot if we are facing a fall in which Romney is able to take the swing states which as of now are leaning Democratic.
Ezra Klein sees a scenario such as this leading to Romney becoming a transformational president–and not in a good way:
If Romney wins the election, it’s almost a sure bet that Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate. And that matters. Right now, the GOP’s agenda is the Ryan budget, and that’s entirely fiscal: It’s a premium support plan for Medicare, and tax cuts, and deep cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and other domestic programs. All that can be passed through budget reconciliation — which is to say, all that can be made immune to the filibuster.
I would take this a step further. A Romney victory could lead to a move to the far right even if Romneyy preferred more moderate policies. A model for a Romney presidency might be seen in Michigan, where moderates and many Democrats backed Rick Snyder. Snyder is a moderate who is certainly preferable to other GOP choices such as the extremely far right-wing Pete Hoekstra, who has not been on speaking terms with reality for several years. Many Democrats supported Snyder because it was clear that there would be a Republican landslide in 2010 and wanted the lesser evil.
Unfortunately, while we were spared four years of Pete Hoekstra as governor, which would certainly have left us in a far worse situation than we are now in, the GOP wave in 2010 brought in a far-right Republican-controlled legislature. Rick Snyder might prefer to concentrate on the economy and avoid controversial social issues, but the legislature does not feel the same. MLive showed how this has moved Snyder’s agenda to the right, despite his personal views:
Snyder has surprised some insiders by signing some bills that strayed from the economic agenda that he pledged to pursue, or perhaps leaned more to the right than the centrist governor tends to lean.
Snyder talked of staying clear of divisive social issues, but signed bills prohibiting public employers from extending domestic partner benefits.
He has said picking a fight with unions was not part of his agenda, but gave his approval to bills prohibiting school districts from collecting dues for unions.
“Gov. Snyder can keep saying ‘This is not the agenda I want,’ but if he’s going to keep signing these bills it’s certainly the agenda he has,” said Doug Pratt, public affairs director for the Michigan Education Association.
“The governor says he’s a moderate guy, but when it comes to putting pen to paper it sure looks like he’s rubber stamping the extremist policies that he rejected as a candidate.”
Romney, like Synder, might prefer to campaign on economic issues, but he will not be able to avoid conservative social issues. Mitt Romney says we should leave contraception alone, but would anyone trust him to block Republican legislation which restricts it? Rick Snyder has two things between his legs which Mitt Romney lacks. There is little doubt that Romney would not be the political equivalent of a eunuch, showing no ability to stand up to the far right, regardless of how extreme. Democrats might have a better shot of blocking social as opposed to economic issues by filibustering in the Senate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Republicans rewrite the Senate rules to prevent this if they control both Houses of Congress and the White House.
This could lead to a situation where the far right wing of the Republican Party could push their extremist agenda on social as well as economic issues, with no way to block them. In Michigan, Rick Snyder has on occasion stood up to the far right, such as backing stem cell research at the University of Michigan despite Republican opposition. What chance is there that Romney has the cojones to do the same?
It must be fire a bigot day–or perhaps fire an anti-Semite and a homophobe.
The first story involves a bizarre situation here in Michigan which has been going on for a while but which started receiving national attention this week. Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has been publicly harassing University of Michigan student body President Christopher Armstrong. This includes claiming in blog posts that Armstrong has been pushing a radical homosexual agenda and Shirvell has gone to Michigan Student Assembly events holding signs that have a rainbow with a swastika drawn on it.
Shirvell is being investigated by campus police and Armstrong is requesting a restraining order. There have also been calls to fire Shirvell, including from Governor (and former Attorney General) Jennifer Granholm via Twitter. Earlier today there were news reports that Shirvell was suspended or fired, but updates say he took a voluntary leave of absence. I wonder if it was voluntary in the sense that if he did not take the leave he would have been fired.
The second, more high profile case involves Rick Sanchez of CNN and Jon Stewart of a more reliable news organization. Sanchez lashed out at Stewart, who has often made fun of him. Sanchez called Stewart a bigot and when it was pointed out that Stewart is a minority had this response:
I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.
Hope and change were two big themes at the University of Michigan 2010 commencement in Ann Arbor Saturday morning as President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech. Several of those speaking prior to Obama discussed hope and change, relating it to both national policy and the changes in the University of Michigan football program in recent years.
Governor Jennifer Granholm thanked Obama for supporting the auto industry and other measures to help the economy recover. She also thanked Obama for delivering on many promises such as health care, along with thanking him for coming to Michigan rather than that school to the south.
Prior to speaking, President Obama was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree. Obama began by saying “Go Blue” as he admitted he was going for the “cheap applause line to start things off.” He discussed letters he reads to remain in touch with the world outside of Washington, including ones from children:
But it was the last question in the letter that gave me pause. The student asked, “Are people being nice?”
Well, if you turn on the news today – particularly one of the cable channels – you can see why even a kindergartener would ask this question. We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story – which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make the most outrageous comments.
He noted that this is nothing new with political conflict being common through our history. Obama cited accomplishments of previous presidents of both parties, and those who opposed them, along with the proper role of government:
Of course, there have always been those who’ve opposed such efforts. They argue that government intervention is usually inefficient; that it restricts individual freedom and dampens individual initiative. And in certain instances, that’s been true. For many years, we had a welfare system that too often discouraged people from taking responsibility for their own upward mobility. At times, we’ve neglected the role that parents, rather than government, can play in cultivating a child’s education. Sometimes regulation fails, and sometimes its benefits do not justify its costs.
But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. One of my favorite signs from the health care debate was one that read “Keep Government Out Of My Medicare,” which is essentially like saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care.” For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny.
Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university – a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.
The truth is, the debate we’ve had for decades between more government and less government doesn’t really fit the times in which we live. We know that too much government can stifle competition, deprive us of choice, and burden us with debt. But we’ve also seen clearly the dangers of too little government – like when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.
So what we should be asking is not whether we need a “big government” or a “small government,” but how we can create a smarter, better government. In an era of iPods and Tivo, where we have more choices than ever before, government shouldn’t try to dictate your lives. But it should give you the tools you need to succeed. Our government shouldn’t try to guarantee results, but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who’s willing to work hard.
Obama discussed the lack of civility and some of the more extreme and absurd attacks:
But we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.
Again, we have seen this kind of politics in the past. It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth.
The problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized.
The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning – since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.
Obama talked about how the echo chamber can lead to greater polarization, advising people to pay attention to sources with other views. For example, he advised fans of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh to read The Huffington Post, and those who read The New York Times to read The Wall Street Journal, even if it makes their blood boil.
Today’s twenty-four seven echo chamber amplifies the most inflammatory soundbites louder and faster than ever before. It has also, however, given us unprecedented choice. Whereas most of America used to get their news from the same three networks over dinner or a few influential papers on Sunday morning, we now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows.
This development can be both good and bad for democracy. For if we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we will become more polarized and set in our ways. And that will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country. But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.
This of course requires that we all agree on a certain set of facts to debate from, and that is why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Still, if you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.
Obama encouraged the graduating students to be involved in public life. He cited John F. Kennedy speaking in Ann Arbor fifty years ago describing “the ideals behind what would become the Peace Corps.”
Before the conclusion of the commencement ceremony, Barack Obama was called upon again. In his role of Commander in Chief, President Obama swore in the members of the ROTC.
Predicting an election months ahead is risky, but the pundits will certainly keep trying. As I also noted on Tuesday, the media also likes to make matters look worse for the Democrats than they actually are. There are more examples, such as The Note claiming that Democrats Are Dropping Like Flies.
This year is likely to be a bad year for many incumbents of either party, but the media is paying more attention to Democrats who are dropping out than Republicans. Steven Benen notes that fourteen Republicans and ten Democrats are not seeking reelection to the House. Six Republicans and two Democrats are not seeking reelection to the Senate. Three Democrats beyond those prevented by term limits are not running while four current Republicans (and five if we count Sarah Palin) are not seeking reelection.
While often harmful to a party’s chances, sometimes it even helps if the incumbent does not run. Byron Dorgan’s retirement will make it very difficult for the Democrats to hold on to the North Dakota Senate seat. On the other hand, Chris Dodd dropping out makes it very likely the Democrats will hold onto his seat, with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal leading all Republican candidates by at least thirty seats.
The effects are more difficult to call in Colorado where Bill Ritter has decided against running for reelection as Governor. Ritter has divided the Democratic Party in the state and the party’s chances might be better without him running. Among those considering running is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The Denver Post reports that the White House is fine with the idea of him leaving if he chooses to run.
The anti-incumbency mood has also led Michigan Lieutenant Governor John Cherry to drop out of the race to replace Jennifer Granholm. A member of the Granholm administration would have a tough time getting elected. Granholm inherited a weak economy in Michigan when she became governor, and national economic conditions have limited the possibilities for a recovery. It might be tough for any Democrat to win this race, but turning to an outsider as opposed to the sitting Lieutenant Governor should increase the chances.
Political conditions can be very different by November. Unexpected events such as 9/11 and Katrina resulted in rapid changes in how the parties were viewed. Democrats might be at their lowest point now while engaged in a difficult fight over a controversial health care reform measure. It is unlikely they will take up such controversial matters this year.
Republicans do benefit from being the party out of power, especially considering the historical trend for such parties to do well in off-year elections. Republicans, however, might have a problem due to cash problems after spending so much money in 2009. The tea baggers have made a lot of noise (further amplified by the right wing media) but they are not contributing much money to either political party.
–Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on Fox News Sunday in response to Republican governors who claim they will not accept the stimulus money. She elaborated further:
Elaborating in an appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with three other governors, Granholm said the issue “is not about philosophical theory. This is about real people who, through no fault of their own, are laid off because of a recession. They need to be able to put food on the table.
“So you better believe I’m going to take every dollar that is coming to Michigan. And if my colleagues here in Minnesota and South Carolina don’t get — don’t use theirs, I’m going to be first in line to say for my people, for our citizens, to put people to work and to make sure that they can survive through this, I’ll take their dollars, too.”
Anyone really believe that, once the grandstanding is over, there really are any states with Republican governors which will not accept the money?
The Hill has picked up a story in the local newspapers yesterday that my Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, plans to retire at the end of this term. They raise the possibility that he might be planning to run for governor in 2010 when Jennifer Granholm is prevented from running again due to term limits. Many people in both parties are already being mentioned as possible candidates and Hoekstra will not have an easy time winning the Republican nomination. He might be willing to gamble on this as opposed to remaining in the House as a member of the minority party.
Several Democratic blogs are encouraged by the possibility of winning another seat in 2010, often citing this portion of the article:
The battle to replace Hoekstra could give Democrats an opportunity to contest another Michigan congressional seat. His district, based on the shores of Lake Michigan, gave President Bush 60 percent of the vote in 2004, but John McCain won just 50.8 percent of the vote in 2008.
Chances will certainly be better if they don’t have to run against an incumbent, but this seat will still be hard to pick up. Democrats did well in the Congressional races nationally for two cycles but unless Obama and the Democratic Congress are extraordinarily popular in 2010, odds are that the Republicans will regain some seats in the next off year election.
It is far too soon to predict what will happen in two years but I suspect that limiting McCain to 50.8 percent of the vote in a state he was not contesting by the end is hardly a sign that this Republican area will go Democratic in a House race. Hoekstra won reelection with 62% of the vote despite the weakness at the top of the Republican ticket.
Predictions based upon the odds for a generic Democrat versus a generic Republican might not hold up should the Democrats manage to run a far better candidate than the Republicans (keeping in mind that this area is generally happy with most Republicans).