Free Markets, Free People

mid-term elections

Democrats await Armageddon as youth vote deserts them

All the signs are there.   Independents breaking hard for the GOP.  Senior voters, a demographic the Democrats usually own, dissatisfied with the health care bill.  And the youth vote that was so large in 2008 is unengaged in 2010.

In fact, young people are now feeling “abandoned.”  And that has translated into a noticeable lack of enthusiasm on the college campus – a hotbed of Obama and thereby Democratic support:

Now, however, former Obama volunteers nationwide say that they and their former colleagues are less involved and more ambivalent. Experts say the usual midterm effect, in which young voters are especially likely to disengage, has combined with an unexpected distance that has arisen between Mr. Obama and many young constituents. While most of them still view him more favorably than their parents or grandparents do, various polls show that the youthful passion that led to action has not been sustained.

“They were emotionally invested,” said Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. “Somehow that should have been turned into, for Democrats, a revival of progressive policy, and in a neutral way, a revival of democracy starting with young people.”

“So far, it hasn’t happened,” he added.

It isn’t going to happen. It’s the result of writing checks your bank balance can’t cash. It’s the result of taking advantage of the gullibility of youth for political gain by making promises that were unrealistic when they were made. It’s Obama politics.  Grand and soaring rhetoric, while pleasing to the emotions, have to be grounded in the real world.  Over promising has its downside – being unable to accomplish what you’ve promised to do.  Whether or not it is the fault of the politician or the “system”, the politician is the one who made the promises and he’s the one who will be held to account for his lack of accomplishment.  Or that’s the way it usually works.

Obama has never had a record on which he had to run (or defend).  For the first time in his life he’s compiling one.  And it isn’t anything to brag about.  It is that record – doing or continuing a lot of things he promised to change as well as not accomplishing things he said he would – that he’ll be forced to defend in 2012.

If the level of engagement this year (and yes, I know mid-terms see the level of engagement drop in comparison to presidential election years) presages the same sort of level in 2012, Mr. Obama may be in trouble.  Obviously 2 years is a lifetime in politics.  But certain little things indicate that the Obama magic of 2008 just doesn’t work like it once did.   A stop in Cleveland to rally the vote attracts only 8,000 to an arena he filled with 16,000 in 2008.  Democratic candidates avoiding being linked to him or having him help their campaigns.

Many like to cite Bill Clinton as an example of what Barack Obama will do to survive and thrive if the GOP wins the House.   Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.  Clinton was – whether you liked him or not – the best consummate politician of our era, bar none.   The “triangulation” strategy allowed him to work with a Republican Congress to get what he wanted – something he learned after being defeated once as Governor in Arkansas.   Obama is much more an ideologue.  And if anyone could be more self-absorbed (and impressed with himself) than Clinton, it is Obama.  Obama has never suffered electoral defeat so he hasn’t learned Clinton’s lesson.   That will become obvious in the next 2 years.

The question, of course, is whether he and his campaign staff will have the accomplishments necessary to reengage and reenergize key constituencies such as the youth vote in time for 2012.  That depends, in large part, on how Obama retools his approach to working with the GOP.  And, to be quite blunt about it, it also depends, in large part, on how the GOP conducts itself as well.  My hopes are not very high in either area – which means the political season of the next 2 years ought to be very interesting indeed.

~McQ

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House Math

House math is decidedly more complex than Senate math if for no other reason than the number of House races.  All the seats are up for grabs every two years.

At present, the mix is 255/178 Dems (with two vacant I believe).  However, when you look at the races, and consider “safe seats”, the mix goes to 123/163 GOP.  That’s right, the GOP holds a 40 seat advantage in the “safe seat” category.

If we add “likely” for each of the parties, the mix becomes  148/176 GOP.  218 is the number needed for a majority.

That brings us to the “leans” either Dem or GOP category.  Assuming all those in the “likely” category  go to the designated party, “leans” is the first category where things could go either way.  While it is likely that it will go to the party in which the polls “lean”, it isn’t certain.

As it breaks down, there are 29 likely to go Dem and 48 likely to go GOP.  The difference is that of the 29 likely to go Dem, only 2 are seats presently held by Republicans.   However, on the other side, of the 48 seats leaning toward the GOP, 42 are seats presently held by Democrats – most of them Blue Dogs.

Here’s where you have to decide how many on each side will actually go to the party to which the district now leans.  In my case it comes down to a SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess).  I’m saying 70% on each side.  That’s pretty conservative given the way I see this election shaping up.  However that brings our mix to 179/222 GOP (and a majority in the House for the Republicans).

That’s not even counting the 34 “toss up races”.  Of those 34 races, 32 involve incumbent Democrats while only 2 involve Republicans.   Again, going conservative, let’s say they split 50-50.   17 to each side.

The final mix?

196/239 GOP – a solid majority.  Not quite as robust as the existing Democratic majority now, but a huge swing.  And again, note that Republicans can win the majority in the House by winning 70% of the “lean GOP” races and without winning a single “toss up”.

So – my prediction? 

GOP picks up 61 seats.  That’s actually 6 more seats than I was figuring last week.

~McQ

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Democrats whistling past the midterm graveyard

II’m always entertained by those on either side of the political spectrum who, when faced with an obvious and impending defeat, begin lists of why that won’t happen. This whistling past the graveyard is truly a testament to thinking which can somehow put aside every negative fact out there and some how spool up a "positive" outcome for his side. Today’s example is from a Democratic strategist who has discovered four more reasons Democrats will win in the mid-terms.

He sounds strangely like Republican strategists about a month before the 2008 presidential election who had umpteen reasons why McCain would win, none of which panned out. I have a feeling our Democratic strategist will have to reevaluate his ability to objectively analyze political races after the vote in November.

Nevertheless, his four reasons are, 1) Democrats will end up spending as much money as Republicans, 2)Voters aren’t voting for "generic" Republicans and that’s not good for Republicans, 3)Obama has switched to "campaign mode" and will save the day, and 4)the "enthusiasm gap" will close.

Sigh.

I feel for the guy. This is the thin thread upon which he hangs his hopes that Democrats won’t lose the majority in the House or seats in the Senate.

Feel free to read his "reasoning". It is full of stuff that might appeal to a political junkie who is knee deep into the whys and wherefores of this election. But for the average Joe – meh.

As the public’s attention as a whole slowly turns toward this November election, they will be guided by their overall perception of the shape of our country and its economy and who it is they think got us in this shape.  It is going to be incredibly hard shift the blame on the Republicans.  Crying about partisanship and in-fighting isn’t going to answer the mail.  For most, I would guess, the blame has already been placed.  So massive expenditures and “robust” GOTV efforts are unlikely to have the effect this gentleman might expect.  And, as he notes, the other side is going to be spending too – as well as mounting their own GOTV effort.

As for his point about Obama and campaign mode, let me beg to differ.  When has he ever switched out of that mode?  That’s part of his problem and why his job approval rating is 42% and only 38% say they’d vote to reelect him if the election was held today.  You’ve got politicians running from him.  HIs signature “accomplishment” is something not a single Democrat will campaign on.  And, you have professionals like Charlie Cook continuing to move races, as he did with 4 today, from “Solid Democrat” to “Likely Democrat” (see bottom right).

And that fact naturally speaks much more eloquently to this fantasy of closing the enthusiasm gap than anything else I can think of.

The Democrats are in a pickle of their own making.  They have had control of the Congress for 6 years and are hooked up to a failing presidency.  Those stark facts are what the public is going to take with them to the polls, and barring some economic miracle within the next 30 days, all this talk about generic politicians, the savior Obama, enthusiasm gaps closing and money to be spent is going to sound a lot like “we know McCain’s going to win and here’s why”.

Sometimes what is going to happen is just obvious – and this seems to be one of them.

~McQ

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Charlie Cook – November wave will sweep Democrats out of House

There are polls and then there is Charlie Cook – probably one of the most respected of Democratic election analysts. And he’s earned that respect by being one of the most accurate Democratic election analysts in the past. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Cook and his staff probably spend more time analyzing individual House and Senate races than anyone in the business.

And Charlie Cook says Nov. 2nd looks bleak for House Democrats.  The GOP needs a minimum of 39 seats to take back the House.  Cook says that the range he predicts is a gain of 35-45 seats with the chances of reaching the high side much greater than reaching just the low side.

He points to 53 seats as key since these were seats held by Republicans just 4 years ago.

In the Senate, the chances of the GOP taking control are much less probable.  They’d have to take 16 of 18 contested seats and that’s probably an electoral “bridge too far”.

So why does he think the first Tuesday in November is shaping up to be a bad day for Democrats?  History is the teacher:

The basis of his analysis is simple: This doesn’t look or feel like a normal midterm election. "There are two kinds of elections," he said. "There’s sort of the Tip O’Neill all-politics-is-local, and then there are wave elections. We’re seeing just every sign in the world that this is going to be a wave, and a pretty good-sized wave."

What Cook is seeing is all the signs pointing too a 1994 wave election where a fed up electorate sweeps the majority party out of power.  I’d add that another way to explain it is whether or not the election is nationalized (voters have an axe to grind with national leadership) or localized (no real national issues over local ones).  In this case, it is all about national issues and the majority party’s agenda.  And that’s not good news for the Democrats since a large majority of those polled consistently point out the country is on the wrong track.

The open question is will the Democrats find a way to convince voters that what they’ve done with their time in Congress is beneficial and something for which they deserve reelection:

On the other hand, Democrats might figure out how to do a better job convincing the nation of the wisdom of their policies. The apparent return of General Motors to health after President Barack Obama’s bailout might help. Mr. Obama, who, despite his problems, remains far more popular than his party’s congressional leaders, stands the best chance of making that case.

And Democrats’ money advantage, which Mr. Obama was working to enhance this week with a fund-raising tour, will help in the stretch run.

Above all, Democrats might finally get their base more excited.

All indications point to a less than excited base – in fact, there’s open warfare between the White House and the “professional left”.  “Exciting the base” also means women, latinos and the young turning out for Democrats as they did for Obama.  I simply don’t see that in the cards.   And every poll I see says the independents, the most sought after demographic in party politics, going increasingly to the GOP side.

As for Obama’s personal popularity, we may all like someone for many often indefinable reasons – but that doesn’t mean we consider him competent or we’d reelect him or those like him again.  I think many times, popularity is very overrated in polling.  And you see that when you compare popularity with job performance numbers.  Obama has very good popularity ratings while also having very high job disapproval ratings.

All in all, I think Cook will be proved right again.  Dems are going to lose the House and we should finally be rid of Nancy Pelosi.  At that point, we can at least quit worrying about Joe Biden’s health since she’d no longer be third in line for presidential succession.

~McQ

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So how is November looking for the two parties?

Well, the POLITICO is reporting that, against all odds, the Democrat’s Senate majority may be in jeopardy. Apparently,a Republican polling firm, looking at 13 of the races, found them all to be within the margin of error (however the poll was so small that margin of error is huge). Another – American Crossroads – came up with similar results in a larger poll. As POLITICO points out, both together do suggest there’s an opening for Republican Senate candidates that wasn’t really visible previously. All 13 hot races seem to be very, very competitive.

Then there’s the House. Gallup has the generic Republican up by 6, 49% to 43%. In terms of the "generic" polling, that’s a huge gap. And watching the Democrats thrash around for something to run on beside their record tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the House should go.

Also in play are 37 governor’s races.  Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for governor in WI, makes the point that has elected other governors like Chris Christie of NJ – “austerity is ‘in’”.

And the focus of the people – almost all the people – is the economy.  Most are in no mood, given the shape of the economy, to hear about grand new spending programs or the cost of more government.   What they are interested in hearing about is how government is going to get its books balanced without again reaching into their wallets.

That naturally plays much better for Republicans than most Democrats.  Consequently you could see a good majority of those governor’s races going to the GOP.

So to answer my question in the title – not so hot for the Dems, looking pretty darn good for the Reps.  Of course, winning is step one for the GOP – if they don’t step up and do whatever is necessary to rein in this government, cut spending and work toward reducing the debt, they’ll be looking at a bloodbath as well, two year’s hence.

There’s very little patience among the populous these days.  For the GOP, be careful of what you wish for.

~McQ

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Democrats to run against Bush – again – in November

As I pointed out yesterday, for the first time the latest poll shows more blame Obama for the economy than Bush.

However, as someone pointed out, if they’ve blamed Bush this long, the attempt must have met with a measure of success. And that’s probably true.

But, as mentioned in the post, blaming someone else for current problems is only effective if it is clear that person is directly responsible for the situation today.  18 months after taking office and with more than enough time to enact one’s own economic policies makes that former connection iffy at best.  Bottom line – blaming someone else for today’s problems has a shelf life, and in this case it seems it is expiring.

While it may be silly in some respects to blame (or credit) the president in power for the economy, it is the way politics in this country work.  So, given that and the length of time Barack Obama has been in office, people are coming to consider this the Obama economy.  And, as you might imagine, they’re not pleased.

So blaming Bush now, as the new poll demonstrates, is loosing whatever steam it once had.  Common Sense 101 says you abandon that political card in favor of another one then.

But as I’ve pointed out so many times in the past, politicians and common sense seem only to meet by coincidence and not on purpose.  Enter Congressional Democrats.

They’ve decided their best strategy for this November is to dust off the “blame Bush” mantra and have another go at running against the former president.

As they brace for a difficult fall election, dispirited Democrats hoping to get back some of that 2008 magic are turning to the president for inspiration.

President Bush, that is.

Grainy images of the former president flashed across the screen in a recent ad by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is attacking his GOP rival in a Senate race for his "advancement of the Bush agenda."

Even President Obama has begun taking direct shots at his predecessor, something he had been careful to avoid in recent months. "They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas — not one," Obama said during a speeches this week at fundraisers in Atlanta and Chicago.

Such a strategy smacks not only of desperation but of an attempt to divert attention.  If, as Democrats like to claim, they’ve “accomplished more” during this presidency and this Congress than any previous Democratic administration, why aren’t they running proudly on their record?

My goodness, they passed health care and financial regulation. They saved the car companies.  They “saved or created” 3 million jobs via the trillion dollar “stimulus”.  And they’ve got a 1.4 trillion dollar debt heavy budget in the wings waiting to be passed after the election.   What’s not to be proud of?

Well, those polls they pay attention too and they know as well as anyone that running on their “accomplishments” is a sure-fire way to defeat. 

So they will attempt to nationalize the mid-terms on the back of a former president thinking it will rescue them by repeating history.

"God bless America that he’s back in the conversation," a senior Democratic official on Capitol Hill said. "It’s a blessing from the heavens. If this becomes a referendum on George Bush, we are in a much better spot than anyone could imagine."

You have to chuckle at the inanity of such a statement, the pure stupidity that would allow someone to imagine that given their performance in these past 18 months and the visceral voter reaction to that performance, that trying to play the “blame Bush” card will do anything but worsen their defeat.

But most of us have always at least secretly wondered how those that reside within that fantasy land called “inside the beltway” become so disconnected from reality.  Well, here’s a perfect example of exactly that.  It must be something in the water.

~McQ

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Dems want to create 2008 model for mid-terms, GOP will nationalize them

The consensus among election experts is the 2010 midterm elections are most likely to see Democrats lose seats in both the House and Senate.  The question, of course, is how many?  And, will they lose enough seats for the Republicans to take control of the House and/or Senate?

Dealing with the Senate first, the answer is “no”.  The most likely number of seats picked up by the GOP is 7.  That would give them 48 and a very strong minority.  That may end up being better, in this case, than a majority.  Certainly 48 will give them the power to stop just about anything in the Senate, and, if they so desire, pass legislation only with their amendments attached.

In the House, Republicans need 39 seats to take control.  They’ll most likely pick up between 32 and 39.  Even if they don’t hit that magic 39, they’ll have a much stronger minority that will have to be reckoned with by Pelosi and company to get anything done there.

You know it’s going to be bad for Democrats, because Joe Biden is sure it won’t be.

What that all means is even if the GOP doesn’t have control of Congress after the midterms (and many argue – to include myself – that perhaps they’re better off not having control), they will have a considerably stronger hand then now in the national legislature.

Which brings us to the emerging campaign strategies of each party.  On the GOP side, it appears that Republicans want to “nationalize” the elections.  I.e. they want to make the midterms a referendum on the Obama administration.  You’ll be seeing they tying everything back to the first 2 years of the Obama presidency, the economy, the oil spill and the out-of-control spending.  I don’t think it will be hard to sell.

Given the precedent set under the Bush administration when Democrats successfully made all elections referendums on the presidency, it has become accepted by voters that party equals president and they act in concert.  Hence the way you punish the president and his party is to turn out members of Congress that represent that party – or variations on that theme.

Given that, the Democrats will obviously attempt to counter the GOPs strategy by keeping things “local” if possible.  How well that will work, given the tumultuous two years of the Obama presidency and the fact it is Congress under Democratic leadership which has passed deeply unpopular legislation, is anyone’s guess.  Mine is it won’t work very well.  Votes for health care and stimulus, for instance, will be key “national” topics with which GOP candidates will hit incumbent Democrats.

Which then leaves Democrats trying to fashion a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) strategy which they hope will re-create their 2008 electoral victory

To avoid such losses, the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters.

They’re talking turnout here, not percentages – for instance, African-Americans have always voted in the 90% area for Democrats.  The percentage they need in this election is 90% of African-Americans showing up at the polls.  Same with Hispanic and young voters.

And that is the job the DNC plans on giving Obama in the lead up to the November vote.

The likelihood of that happening, however, is not especially good.  We’ve been chronicling the “enthusiasm gap” for months.  The far left is let down.  Independent voters  are disenchanted and the right is very enthusiastic about “change” again. 

Funding is also drying up for Democrats.  The latest big donors to drop Democrats are from Wall Street – a traditional well-spring of funding for the party.

The bottom line here is the stars seem to be lining up for the GOP in the midterms, barring any unforeseen event which might mitigate their advantage.  The question will be have you had enough of hope and change as a billboard in NE Minnesota presently asks.  Conventional wisdom says the answer will be a pretty resounding “yes”.  The only question is how much they want to change the status quo.

We’ll see.

~McQ

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