2010 elections

Obama’s Campus Tour Finding College Conservatism on the Rise

As college students, people always assume we're Democrats. You’ve probably heard the old political saw (often misattributed to Winston Churchill), “”If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There are numerous theories as to why. Democrats have a more optimistic, open-hearted vision for America. Young adults tend to be socially liberal. They saw a lot of themselves in Barack Obama. Liberal indoctrination by college professors. The list could stretch for miles. But today’s young adults may not be pigeonholed the same way. This year Democrats’ cannot take their votes for granted.

That doesn’t mean Democrats aren’t trying. President Obama is kicking off a series of rallies on college campuses, designed to reinvigorate the young adults who carried him into the White House two years earlier.

But the message has drastically changed. Rather than ignite young adults with his hopeful brand of politics, the President is reduced to groveling. As the Washington Post reported today,

When Obama steps onto a grass quad at the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday, he will deliver a newly tailored, more personalized campaign appeal aimed at ginning up enthusiasm, according to White House and senior Democratic officials. Plouffe said Obama will remind students of the work they put into his 2008 campaign and warn them that if they don’t reengage now, “all that could be jeopardized.”

In 2008 he advocated for change. In 2010 he’s advocating for things to stay the same? Not exactly a winning message.

But it is made even more unpalatable given the general lack of change we have actually seen from Obama. It is easy to promise change, it is much more difficult to actually deliver it. And this has been Obama’s failing. As one previous Obama supporter said in a town hall recently,

“I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. And deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people and I’m waiting sir.

Substitute “middle class” for “young adults” and you’ll understand the frustration that is being seen on many college campuses. We wanted something different. We were promised something different. We got more of the same.

More politics. More backdoor dealings. More big government. More spending. More wars. For young adults there really wasn’t much difference between the Obama administration and the Bush administration from which they were so disenchanted.

All told, Democrats have a much tougher sell this time around if they want to recapture magic with young people. Meanwhile, Republicans are beginning to find traction on college campuses. Take college sophomore Edward Dooley, who told ABC News that just two years ago he was a “Kennedy-worshipping, stereotypical Massachusetts liberal.” But now Dooley, like so many other young adults, finds that his political ideology has shifted to the right after being turned off by Obama’s “glossy ideals” and “lack of concrete policies.”

Beyond a failure to live up to promises, Obama’s support among the youth vote has been eroded by his failed attempts to jump start the economy. The recession has been especially hard on young people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics youth unemployment was at 19.1 percent in July – the highest July rate since statistics were first kept in 1948.

Unfortunately for the unemployed the Democrats’ stimulus policies have done little to budge the unemployment needle. In fact, the only thing they have really accomplished is trillions of dollars of additional government debt, money that younger generations will be responsible for paying back.

As College Republican Chair Bob Kosek told ABC News for their story Republicans Rising on College Campuses,

“Hope and change doesn’t put money in your bank account to buy textbooks or pay off your student loans. It doesn’t help you get a job after you graduate either, and I think a lot of students are realizing that now.”

The rampant unemployment and dismal economy that is the Democrats’ legacy of the past two years is perhaps no clearer than on the University of Wisconsin campus where Obama is beginning his college tour. As the Washington Post reports,

The students on this leafy, generally liberal campus once constituted one of the strongest battalions in Obama’s grass-roots army. Two years later, the political dynamic has changed. Across campus, stickers, signs or chalkings for any politician are scarce. The laundromat where Obama’s young volunteers once staged late-night phone banks and planned bus trips to neighboring Iowa has gone out of business.”

A one-time hub for pro-Obama students now out of business. What a fitting, if sad metaphor for this administration.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee

http://speakout.crnc.org/blog/2010/09/27/obamas-campus-tour-finding-college-conservatism-on-the-rise/

New York State of Mindlessness

It's (Still) The Economy, Stupid!

By George Scoville | @stackiii

I have fought every impulse in my being to weigh in on the Cordoba House debate, and to pontificate, lecture, and moralize from atop my libertarian mountain. Now that I'm actually writing about it I find myself stricken nearly dumb by the irony of what I'm about to suggest on a blog entitled THE NEXT RIGHT. But it has become clear that The Current Right has completely forgotten about The Last Right, and this could prove to be the foil for The Next Right -- at least that's my worry. I do not intend to debate the morality or legality of the construction of Cordoba House in either this post or in the comments - so if you're looking for an ideological fight, you've come to the wrong place. The Right has a new messaging problem, and if anyone intends to supplant the Democratic Party in any meaningful, long-term way, it will require pretty swift action.

The Republican Party is polling considerably well among registered voters (Gallup) on a number of factors: party identification, 2010 vote preferences among independents, and 2010 candidate preferences. The Republican Party also seems to be riding a wave of enthusiasm (RCP) that spreads quicksand all over the Democratic Party's uphill battle as November draws near. Finally, the Republican Party has retaken the lead on the generic ballot (PPP). Whatever successes the Republican Party currently enjoys it owes in large part to both the Tea Party movement and the fact that President Obama and the Democrats over-estimated their "mandate." This cannot be overstated, especially in light of the fact that only a handful of Republicans are engaging their Democratic counterparts substantively (The Weekly Standard).

Now, set all that aside for a moment. Step back 26 years to 1984.

Ronald Reagan wasn't polling well, hitting a 35% approval rating in 1983 (Gallup). The economy was in recession. Unemployment was high, though it dropped from 10.8% in '82 to 7.4% by Election Day '84 (Salon). We were at war -- each day every American faced an existential threat. Federal spending was at 22.9% of GDP (EconLib), in large part because Reagan's defense budget crested far above projections he made on the campaign trail in '79 and '80. But Reagan handily won re-election in 1984 because he kept the message simple -- this worked:

Why, then, is former Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a sort of de facto leader of today's Republican Party, an icon of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and potential 2012 presidential hopeful -- foisting a divisive cultural narrative (WaPo) onto an election cycle already dominated by anti-Big Government and anti-spending narratives that, heretofore, have been working (Pew Research via NPR)?

Ezra Klein is pickin' up what I'm puttin' down:

One political question about the Ground Zero Islamic complex/mosque/theater-space/swimming pool: Why are Republicans trumpeting this? And why, a week or two ago, did they start talking about the 14th amendment? Republicans are going to win a lot of seats this year. And they're going to do it on the backs of the economy. Getting into social issues -- particularly social issues that might anger minorities -- is a dangerous play. It loses them long-term votes that they just don't need to lose. It paints their party as intolerant and opportunistic. And it's unnecessary: It's not like they're hurting for things to talk about.

The Cato Institute's Gene Healy blames the Professional Right:

All this posturing is getting tiresome. The "mosque" controversy isn't about property rights or religious freedom. It's a bogus issue seized by the GOP establishment to distract the rank-and-file from the party's reluctance to shrink government.

Will Wilkinson, also of the Cato Institute, blames the amateur Right:

This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don’t. It’s not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies. Support for small government is no more than a bullet point on the Right’s “What We Believe” cheat sheet, mouthed at opportune moments. I approve of what Gene’s trying to do here rhetorically, but the fact is that complaining about Muslims and keeping holy the memory of 9/11 and Ground Zero — the legitimizing altar of aggressive American imperialism —  is a direct manifestation of contemporary conservatism’s essence.

Personally, I don't really care who is to blame for the propagation of this narrative -- whether Gingrich is demagoguing, or the conservative, evangelical base needs some pandering. The bottom line is that playing with this narrative is like playing with fire, and could be as dangerous to the Right long-term as a Gingrich marriage proposal. In many ways the conservative base is like the fuel in a gas can, fuel that powers the political machine that winds up carrying water in elections -- but for God's sake, don't hand the Left a big, fat box of strike-anywhere matches. 2010 and 2012 can -- and should -- be a slam dunk for right-of-center candidates. Let's not botch it.

Update:

Ben Smith (POLITICO) notes that Gingrich's caustic remarks echo those of Mussolini:

 

A regular correspondent wondered why Newt Gingrich's recent declaration on the planned downtown mosque sounded so familiar, and found this:

 

Gingrich:

 

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

 

Mussolini:

 

There will be a mosque in Rome, the Fascist ruler said, only when a Roman Catholic church is permitted in Mecca.

 

The quote is frequently attributed to Il Duce, though I'd be grateful to any Italian-speaking reader who has a primary source.

 

Sorry, folks - you can call me a wet blanket all you want - independent voters just won't trade one statist polemic (Obama) for another (Gingrich).

Cross-posted at Liberty Pundits.

Further reading:

Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine

Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway blog

Doug Mataconis redux, Outside the Beltway blog

David Harsanyi, Reason Magazine

Ben Smith, POLITICO

Garrett Quinn, boston.com

VIDEO: Libertarians and Conservatives, Ad Nauseam

[Blogger's note: I didn't know that TNR couldn't embed Javascript; I will embed the video once Reason makes it available on their YouTube channel - sorry for making you click away in the meantime; at least it will pop open in a new window, and you won't lose your place.]

I have been blogging pretty exhaustively about a fissure in a traditional center-right coalition comprised of libertarians and conservatives (see here and here). The folks over at Reason have finally made video available of the three-way debate between the Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey, AEI's Jonah Goldberg (also of the National Review), and FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe:

I've been blogging as often as possible about this ideological spat because a) as a political scientist, it's a generally interesting phenomenon to observe, particularly when set against the backdrop of the rise of the Tea Party movement, and b) the extent to which this (hopefully temporary) rift gets smoothed over will have, I believe, a significant effect on the 2012 presidential election, if not this year's midterm elections. Of course, I don't have a wealth of empirical data on hand at this point to evidence my thesis - so we'll just have to call it a hunch.

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic is smellin' what I've been cookin' for awhile:

Economic libertarianism is the message du jour, and Pawlenty's budget cutting in Minnesota may get some attention. But really, and he and none of the sober wing candidates have figured out exactly what the non-Palin wing of the party wants. There's no way to get social conservatives on board with Palin or Mike Huckabee in the race. So who's left to help you win primaries and caucuses?

Libertarians.

They are -- they could be -- to the Republican Party what the anti-war left was to Democrats in 2003 -- the out-of-the-establishment power center that can drive the narrative of the race. How do you get the attention of libertarians without losing conservatives? You could shift positions on the war in Afghanistan, or try to fashion a more realist foreign policy. That seems to be a non-starter; the consultants for these candidates are fairly covnentional and are risk-averse. Endorse medical marijuana? Legalized gambling? Something else?

 

Conservatives, Libertarians, and Purity Tests: Can These Groups Win Without Each Other?

After running across this piece in the Economist today, I was reminded of that timeless adage "You'll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar." That's a woefully good reminder for the Right as Election Day draws nearer.

Plenty of noise has been made in the past few weeks about the abrupt resignation/firing of Dave Weigel from the Washington Post blog "Right Now." I have been a defender of Weigel's, in large part because I think people's expectations of Weigel were too high - and that's not to disparage Weigel at all, whose work I have followed for a couple of years. The problem was, in my view, that lots of activists expected him to counter Ezra Klein's "Wonk Book" with an editorial style, using his platform at the Post to propel the Tea Party to the revery where so many believed it belonged. Another part of the problem is that, as Dan Gainor at the Media Research Center notes, the Post was never clear about why it had hired Weigel in the first place. Reporting? Check. Opinion? Maybe? I still think Weigel does a good job of reporting, and if he's guilty of anything, it's a preoccupation with man-bites-dog narratives. Aside from all that, I don't have much to add to the gallons of punditry sloshing around the Internet about Weigel-gate.

The reason I bring Weigel's short-lived stint at the Post back up for discussion is that the reaction from the activist community to Weigel's resignation - particularly on Twitter - was pretty vicious, with lots of "Good riddance" and "we told you so." Then came the announcement that Weigel would be a paid MSNBC contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann - and activists were once again a-Twitter with disgust. Thankfully there was an equivalent outpouring of support for Weigel. I disagree with Keith Olbermann frequently, particularly when it comes to his sneering punditry and progressive worldview. I appreciate that he was the first (and for a long time only) mainstream media personality to cover the devastating flooding in my hometown of Nashville earlier this year, and he and I share in New York Yankees fan-dom. But why the Weigel witch-hunt on the Right?

And then it hit me: the Right and center-right are still obsessed with (plagued by?) litmus tests that, unchecked, can be impossible to pass. And not normal litmus tests either - sure, nobody wants to see another John McCain presidential campaign - I mean the conservative base is so energized right now that it has become bloodthirsty, and it's beginning to feed on itself. Long-time allies to conservatives - the libertarians - have begun to take notice.

I urge everyone to check out this written exchange between Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey, AEI/National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg, and FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe, a debate on where libertarians belong on the 21st century ideological spectrum, and how they can, should, and might play in the activist/political component of the Tea Party movement. Romantic libertarians like yours truly hope wistfully one day to inform a more rigorous social policy agenda - one that actually gets government out of people's lives, including their marriages and sex lives - to complement existing tenets of economic freedom upon which, for the most part, everyone right-of-center seems to reaching consensus. But because of these purity tests, many libertarians worry that the emergence of centrist rhetoric at Tea Party rallies is nothing more than a ruse to grab handfuls of votes on Election Day 2010 and 2012, and then Big Government conservatism does us all in - again.

I am sympathetic to Brink Lindsey's point in this respect. Libertarians - who often sacrifice opportunities to "get involved" in lieu of safeguarding transcendent philosophical values for the sake of practical virtue - should not compromise their core beliefs just because Sarah Palin said we need less government and more personal responsibility. But I also think Matt Kibbe makes great points - the Tea Party movement is as fascinating a paradigm shift in American politics as I will likely ever see in my lifetime. It has unbundled the Left almost completely, who has tried to use every tool at its disposal - from race-baiting in formal media outlets to unscientific opinion polling - to couch the Tea Party movement as garden-variety Republican, and quintessentially racist, xenophobic, and homophobic. Kibbe insists that many Tea Partiers don't know where to place themselves on an ideological scale, and notes that many have never been involved in political discourse before now. This groundswell provides libertarians with that romantic opportunity to inform the policy debate - especially issues like gay marriage, which Tea Party groups support, and like Kibbe, I think it's hasty to accept Lindsey's premise with open arms. So Lindsey's libertarian protectionism can be just as dangerous and self-defeating as the Gainor conservative witch-hunts.

The Tea Party movement is still today very fragile, despite the noise the movement has made and the support it has drummed up. If libertarians and conservatives can agree about anything, it's opposition to power-drunk Democrats; it's probably best that everyone focus on that for now, instead of running reckless with purity tests, and when Republicans win, it will be up to them to follow through on promises they're making to people getting involved for the first time. Those people don't know where they lie on the ideological spectrum, but they know that the government is screwing them.

 

The Health Care Debate, Tea Party & Libertarian Splits, and the 2010 Elections

Doug Pinkham, president for the Public Affairs Council has a new post up at the Public Affairs Perspective blog (emphasis mine):

Grassroots campaigns to protect rainforests, oppose gun laws or fund AIDS research have become commonplace. So have campaigns to expand U.S. manufacturing, reform immigration laws or rewrite financial industry regulations. These campaigns, and thousands like them, have grown increasingly sophisticated; they go way beyond calls-to-action encouraging supporters to send an email or call a congressional office.

They often involve Facebook sites, blog postings, issue advertising, media outreach, town hall meetings, YouTube videos, online petitions, rallies, issue forums and a host of other tactics. Some are organized by advocacy groups, associations, unions or companies; others are organized purely by volunteers.

In terms of grassroots strategy, the healthcare debate fell into the category marked "all of the above." As the Washington Post noted in February, everyone from the National Right to Life Committee to MoveOn.org to PhRMA to AARP to health insurance companies got into the act. (For those who want a peek inside one such campaign, the Columbia Journalism Review deconstructed WellPoint's sophisticated Health Action Network in its March 22 "Campaign Desk" column.)

It's easy to dismiss these efforts as special interests unfairly exerting their influence on the political process. The reality is that people are joining groups they trust to help them speak with a louder voice.

Pinkham seems to be suggesting that the keys to 21st century advocacy are a) build trust, and b) make noise. But before anyone rushes off to register for 10 new platforms a day, they should check out Jon Henke's post over at the CRAFTdc blog earlier this year on the diversification of a campaign's social media portfolio:

If you don’t have a specific purpose for using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or a blog...then don’t use them.

Which gets us back to the subject of this post.  CRAFT sells communications strategy, tactics and execution across all channels.  So, when the question, “Should we have a Facebook Fan Page?” came up for discussion, there were two lines of thought:

  • We don’t currently have a strategic or tactical need to create and maintain a Facebook Fan Page for CRAFT.
  • How can CRAFT sell something that we don’t use for CRAFT?  Shouldn’t we eat our own dog food?

My own conclusion was this: If we do not have a strategic or tactical need to create and maintain a Facebook Fan Page, then we should not have one.  When we decide a Facebook presence is justified, we will create one.  Until then, not using a tool we don’t have a specific purpose to use is eating our own dog food.

Henke is right. Campaigns' uses of social media should be context-sensitive, just like approaches to cyber security should be risk-based. How, then, is Pinkham's post instructive? He continues (again, emphasis mine):

Eighty-four percent of those who contacted Congress in the 2008 CMF survey were asked to do so by a third party, such as an interest group. What's more, respondents - whether they had contacted Congress or not - found information from interest groups to be more credible than information from Congress.

Yes, that's surprising, but it says something important about the inability of Washington politicians to cope with the rise in citizen engagement. Many politicians call sympathetic grassroots campaigns "unprecedented outpourings of support" while dismissing campaigns organized by opponents as "Astroturf." They condemn the influence of some special interests, while encouraging other groups to ramp up letter-writing efforts to provide "cover" for controversial votes.

Worst of all, many refuse to acknowledge that high levels of engagement are a good thing in a democracy. The CMF study pointed out that congressional offices are understaffed, under-funded and often lack the technology or training to respond effectively to constituents.

These are pretty staggering precentages that are difficult to ignore, and when taken with resource issues in Congressional offices (which are every bit as stringent on the campaign trail), it's no surprise that both parties rely so heavily on leveraging interest group support. Acknowledging the utility of interest groups could prove catastrophic to the Right, if not altogether suicidal, especially when populism is surging like nothing we've seen in 50 years.

On the other hand, candidates and causes on the Right can try to capture some of the utility provided by interest groups to voters and brand it. Pinkham concludes:

...Congress should assure constituents that their opinions matter and invite them to become more engaged in policy-making.  When members take positions on energy legislation, they can contact citizens who weigh in on climate change issues. People who complain about high taxes should receive updates on efforts to cut federal spending. In short, grassroots communications should signal the need for dialogue, not the need to build a stronger fence around the border.

This is why I haven't (and can't) come out swinging at platforms like YouCut (which Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway thinks is nothing more than a gimmick) or AmericaSpeakingOut.com (which Jon Henke thinks is crowding the Internet). Party leadership should have branded tools that aren't tied to campaigns. Republicans are poised to take back control of Congress from the Democrats this November. But they will suffer a fate like November 2008 without a policy agenda - without becoming an alternative party rather than being an opposition party.

YouCut and America Speaking Out are fantastic ways for the Right to leverage the utility of interest groups - collecting and collating voter preferences, while empowering them to participate (building trust and making noise) - and they couldn't really be more timely in their advent, coming right at the launch of primary season. These tools might be the first real online method of voter outreach that channels both libertarian policy preferences and Tea Party activism into a substantive national policy platform for Republicans. What once was diffuse, diverse, and disorganized has now become clear, centralized, and convenient - and Republicans shouldn't be shy about reaching out to the little guy.

Implementing the "435 District strategy"--the High Value Enchanced Inquistion plan

In the wake of the Massachusetts Miracle we have achieved far more than even I dreamed possible. I had hoped for a serious scare and some recriminations on the part of the Democrats, not a shattering of party unity and confidence.  

Now what?

Well, I'm told that the GOP is going to "fight everywhere" this year. But not all fights are created equal.  Barring cash in an incumbent's  freezer, once a district gets to D+20 CPVI there's really no path to a Republican victory. And while some back bench incumbents may be weak reeds, it's rather likely that unlike Martha Coakley, they will go down quietly and with little notice from the public. A Zack Space meltdown in Zanesville, OH is not likely to make the national wires.

What the GOP should set aside some resources for is to call out the loudest, most partisan and least appealing leaders of the Democratic senate and house caucuses.  We know who they are. They are the ones who react like stuck pigs to being challenged. They are the ones whom we can readily point to a paper trail of advocacy for deficits, government intervention, and crony dealing.   And these are the people whom we can readily define as the Democratic party for swing voters.   

By their vociferous counterattacks, they will do our job of defining the opposition for us.  Their colleagues in swing districts and purple states will try to win their re-elections based on incumbency and alleged centrism; this plan is designed to make that strategy unworkable for any Democrat.

Some of these people are already "on the list"--Harry Reid and John Murtha.  My plan is to wxpand the list to folks in D+10 plus constituencies, since in the wake of Scott Brown, these seats are no longer locks in the present environment.

The chances that any of these seats actually "flip" to the GOP is still remote. I believe the recruitment of serious candidates and the allocation of resources is still wise for a number of reasons. It will drive the narrative in less high profile seats and force moderates to defend the leadership party line. It will conversely, cause the Democrats to hoard their cash to play defense and cause them to triage their less senior members in swing seats.  Finally, since these folks are easily identified villains to the Right, there's the possibility to drop moneybombs in these places.

Here's my list:

Chuck Schumer

Schumer defeated an obscure GOP assemblyman badly in 2004 in what was a non-campaign. Since then he's been enbolden to play partisan bomb thrower and is one of the  happiest Democrats to lambaste "teabaggers" for the temerity to question Washington.  Schumer is probably one of the most anti-gun and pro-abortion politicians ever elected to office, and has treated Wall Street as an ATM for his campaign warchest. Needless to say this isn't quite the agenda every New Yorker applauds--his recent poll ratings have slipped.

Schumer is still a heavy favorite, but two things make this more than an exercise in wish fulfillment. First is Schumer' arrogance, which may remind voters of disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Second is the demographics of the off-year NY electorate, where Upstate casts a higher percentage of the vote--indeed, nearly half.

Larry Kudlow (whom I thought was still a CT resident) is thinking about this race. But has anyone thought that an upstater associated with the Tea Party--like Doug Hoffman--might send Chuck into orbit?   

Steny Hoyer

Hoyer is Nancy Pelosi's second in command. Unlike San Fran Nan, he actually represents some Republicans in his suburban Maryland district which is only D+11.   As it is in the Washington, DC media market it's not a cheap district to run in, but any misstep by Hoyer will be promptly reported by the national press.  Hoyer will have to explain his party's agenda in a district which contains many of the same sort of outer suburban communities that were Scott Brown strongholds in MA. Good luck, Steny.

Barney Frank

Chris Dodd is gone, but the other architect of the ruinous subprime mortgage bubble, Barney Frank, thinks he's going to coast to re-election. Perhaps he'd best look at the voting results in MA 4 as it appears his district was carried by Scott Brown.  MA 4 is a D+14 district but it is a gerrymandered mess which includes areaas far from Frank's base inside Route 128. These communities--even the blue collar ones--turned hard against the Democrats in the special election.

I'll explain in more detail, but the key to making this seat truly competitive is candidate recruitment and pushing aside a perennial candidate who simply doesn't "fit" this district in favor of one who could peel off a critical region from Frank.  

Henry Waxman

Henry Waxman is probably the one member of Congress most directly responsible for the decline of America's industrial vigor.  As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee he is single handedly responsible for pressing forward on a multifront regime of regulation and government edicts.   He also was foursquare for the government takeover of health care enbodied in the House's "public option" bill.

His district includes Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu so we can be sure the entertainment industry will shell out to give him around. That said, money he gets can't go to Indiana or new Jersey.  His district also now includes large chunks of the San Fernando Valley where a political agenda based on middle class concerns might well receive a receptive response. 

It's pretty clear we would need a very libertarian minded candidate to get an audience here. That said, a "cool" Republican would draw attention to the party and draw attention away from older socially conservative white men in the Red States. And a credible campaign against Waxman--inagine Republican lawn signs on Brentwood hillsides--would be magnified in the national media.

I cna think of less notorious Democrats like New York's Gary Ackerman or CT's Rosa DeLauro who have baggage, atropried campaign skills and districts with appreciable Republican activity. But the bigger point here is to draw out the loudest and least  persuasive advocates for Democratic control of government.

The Democrats made sure they got Jesse Helms a tough race every cycle hoping for a meltdown. Now it's our turn.   

 

Implementing the "435 District strategy"--the High Value Enchanced Inquistion plan

In the wake of the Massachusetts Miracle we have achieved far more than even I dreamed possible. I had hoped for a serious scare and some recriminations on the part of the Democrats, not a shattering of party unity and confidence.  

Now what?

Well, I'm told that the GOP is going to "fight everywhere" this year. But not all fights are created equal.  Barring cash in an incumbent's  freezer, once a district gets to D+20 CPVI there's really no path to a Republican victory. And while some back bench incumbents may be weak reeds, it's rather likely that unlike Martha Coakley, they will go down quietly and with little notice from the public. A Zack Space meltdown in Zanesville, OH is not likely to make the national wires.

What the GOP should set aside some resources for is to call out the loudest, most partisan and least appealing leaders of the Democratic senate and house caucuses.  We know who they are. They are the ones who react like stuck pigs to being challenged. They are the ones whom we can readily point to a paper trail of advocacy for deficits, government intervention, and crony dealing.   And these are the people whom we can readily define as the Democratic party for swing voters.   

By their vociferous counterattacks, they will do our job of defining the opposition for us.  Their colleagues in swing districts and purple states will try to win their re-elections based on incumbency and alleged centrism; this plan is designed to make that strategy unworkable for any Democrat.

Some of these people are already "on the list"--Harry Reid and John Murtha.  My plan is to wxpand the list to folks in D+10 plus constituencies, since in the wake of Scott Brown, these seats are no longer locks in the present environment.

The chances that any of these seats actually "flip" to the GOP is still remote. I believe the recruitment of serious candidates and the allocation of resources is still wise for a number of reasons. It will drive the narrative in less high profile seats and force moderates to defend the leadership party line. It will conversely, cause the Democrats to hoard their cash to play defense and cause them to triage their less senior members in swing seats.  Finally, since these folks are easily identified villains to the Right, there's the possibility to drop moneybombs in these places.

Here's my list:

Chuck Schumer

Schumer defeated an obscure GOP assemblyman badly in 2004 in what was a non-campaign. Since then he's been enbolden to play partisan bomb thrower and is one of the  happiest Democrats to lambaste "teabaggers" for the temerity to question Washington.  Schumer is probably one of the most anti-gun and pro-abortion politicians ever elected to office, and has treated Wall Street as an ATM for his campaign warchest. Needless to say this isn't quite the agenda every New Yorker applauds--his recent poll ratings have slipped.

Schumer is still a heavy favorite, but two things make this more than an exercise in wish fulfillment. First is Schumer' arrogance, which may remind voters of disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Second is the demographics of the off-year NY electorate, where Upstate casts a higher percentage of the vote--indeed, nearly half.

Larry Kudlow (whom I thought was still a CT resident) is thinking about this race. But has anyone thought that an upstater associated with the Tea Party--like Doug Hoffman--might send Chuck into orbit?   

Steny Hoyer

Hoyer is Nancy Pelosi's second in command. Unlike San Fran Nan, he actually represents some Republicans in his suburban Maryland district which is only D+11.   As it is in the Washington, DC media market it's not a cheap district to run in, but any misstep by Hoyer will be promptly reported by the national press.  Hoyer will have to explain his party's agenda in a district which contains many of the same sort of outer suburban communities that were Scott Brown strongholds in MA. Good luck, Steny.

Barney Frank

Chris Dodd is gone, but the other architect of the ruinous subprime mortgage bubble, Barney Frank, thinks he's going to coast to re-election. Perhaps he'd best look at the voting results in MA 4 as it appears his district was carried by Scott Brown.  MA 4 is a D+14 district but it is a gerrymandered mess which includes areaas far from Frank's base inside Route 128. These communities--even the blue collar ones--turned hard against the Democrats in the special election.

I'll explain in more detail, but the key to making this seat truly competitive is candidate recruitment and pushing aside a perennial candidate who simply doesn't "fit" this district in favor of one who could peel off a critical region from Frank.  

Henry Waxman

Henry Waxman is probably the one member of Congress most directly responsible for the decline of America's industrial vigor.  As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee he is single handedly responsible for pressing forward on a multifront regime of regulation and government edicts.   He also was foursquare for the government takeover of health care enbodied in the House's "public option" bill.

His district includes Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu so we can be sure the entertainment industry will shell out to give him around. That said, money he gets can't go to Indiana or new Jersey.  His district also now includes large chunks of the San Fernando Valley where a political agenda based on middle class concerns might well receive a receptive response. 

It's pretty clear we would need a very libertarian minded candidate to get an audience here. That said, a "cool" Republican would draw attention to the party and draw attention away from older socially conservative white men in the Red States. And a credible campaign against Waxman--inagine Republican lawn signs on Brentwood hillsides--would be magnified in the national media.

I cna think of less notorious Democrats like New York's Gary Ackerman or CT's Rosa DeLauro who have baggage, atropried campaign skills and districts with appreciable Republican activity. But the bigger point here is to draw out the loudest and least  persuasive advocates for Democratic control of government.

The Democrats made sure they got Jesse Helms a tough race every cycle hoping for a meltdown. Now it's our turn.   

 

The "bad candidate" excuse

An instant explanation has been advanced by the Left to explain away the beat-down they received in Massachusetts Tuesday.

Well, what do you expect? Martha Coakley was simply a bad candidate

I'm not going to pretend Coakley did a stellar job. Indeed, the last week of her campaign was so full of bizarre gaffes as to wonder if this was Joe Biden after doing really, really bad peyote. But, we are talking about a 100,000 vote clock cleaning.  Prior to Martha deciding to turn her footwear into snack food something had gone wrong for the Democrats in Massachusetts.

The prominent polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, offered this take on the Coakley collapse.

It’s not all her fault.  It’s the policies she supported that were more to blame.  She won the Democratic primary trouncing her opponents and was clearly the best candidate the party had to offer in the state.  She’d won statewide in convincing fashion.  She was a proven quantity.  And, yet this race wasn’t even close.

After watching Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine and now Martha Coakley go down in flames, do you really think that the one thing they had in common was that they were below average candidates running sub-par campaigns?

The question I have is: when exactly did Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine and Martha Coakley become "bad candidates"?

Certaintly not in the primaries. Deeds clobbered two better funded rivals (Terry McAulliffe and Brian Moran) in the VA primary.   Deeds had also faced Bob McDonnell before, and barely lost the 2005 AG race. He then lost to the same opponent for Governor in 2009 and the margin of defeat expanded by a factor of 1000.

 In New Jersey, Jon Corzine hardly broke a sweat dispatching his primary opponents. And while NJ Democrats may have considered swapping him out for Corey Booker, Richard Codey or Frank Pallone, in the end the completely venal NJ Democrats thought Corzine gave them their best chance of victory.

Now Martha Coakley. She was elected Attorney General in 2006 with 73% of the vote. In the Senate race ,she defeated a field of Democratic opponents --including a popular House member and a free spending businessman--convincingly.  

She entered 2010 with a million dollars cash-on-hand and an apparent wide lead in the polls.  So what happened to suddenly make her a "bad candidate"?

Seems the common denominator here is contact with the general electorate, now doesn't it?.

Once the calendar turned to 2010 and Martha Coakley couldn't fall back on the standard liberal bromides, well, she fell apart.  Perhaps she never expected  to be pressed in dark blue MA. But what part of the political environment this year won't inflict this damage on any Democrat whom the Republicans press hard?  

David Plouffe better have the "bad candidate" excuse on his favorites list this cycle. He'll need it. 

One final note. In all three epic losses the Democrats have pursued a strategy of victory by disqualification.  In Virginia, an ancient thesis was supposed to make McDonnell unpalatable; in New Jersey, the Corzine camp sought tp turn the election into a referendum on mammograms, and last week Coakley's thin straw was to allege Scott Brown hated rape victims.

I think even Ray Charles could see a pattern here.

Sure I know the argument about " well, we had to try and win ugly".  Message to Democrats: voters have noticed who's getting ugly. Perhaps that's why the results for your party have been...hmmmm, ugly.

 

Good Question

From a CT blog tonight (the picture are AG Dick Blumenthal and CT's 5 Democrats in the House)

   Is anyone safe?

 

2010 Predictions

Since we are about to come to the end of the year (and decade), I think it is worthwhile to put some predictions down before anything happens in 2010.  I hope to hear some of yours in the comments:

1. 2010 will be a wave election, reminiscent of 1994.  At this moment, Rothenberg Political Report estimates that Republicans will pick up 15-20 seats in the House, and an unspecified small gain in the Senate.  Charlie Cook predicts solid pickups for the GOP, but somewhat less than taking back the House.  I'm inclined to think that the turnover will be on the higher side.  The popular outrage over the unpopular health care plan and the seeming disregard for public opinion will create the conditions for a conservative populist uprising.  One thing to remember about 1994 was that it was the election that finished the realignment in the South, something that is no longer much of a concern (beyond a few stray Blue Dogs).  For similar gains (54 seats), Republicans will have to win seats in areas like the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, and Suburban Northeast.  Republicans need 40 seats to win back the House.  I think the odds of that are 50-50.

2.  The epicenter of the wave will be Arkansas.  There is no state in America that John McCain ran so well compared to George W. Bush's 2004 performance.  Arkansas was 3 percent more Republican than the nation in 2004; it was 13 points more Republican than the nation in 2008.  Arkansas was always a traditional hard scrabble Jacksonian Democrat state, economically populist and socially traditional.  Unlike most Southern states, there is still a conservative Democrat presence on the state and local level.  Currently both Senators and 3 of 4 Representatives are Democrats, putting them in a precarious position in a state shifting sharply to the right.  It's three Democrats hold seats that are R+5, R+7, and R+8.  Blanche Lincoln is trailing essentially annonymous state legislators across the board.  I think any serious Republican challenger could beat any Democrat in Arkansas next year.  Arkansas in 2010 will be like Texas in 1994 and Georgia in 2002, the year in which the realignment on the local level is completed.

3.  There could be another party defection or two.  Parker Griffith's switch today is a rare thing, but a toxic political environment for Blue Dog Democrats could tempt some to switch parties.  Would you really be shocked if Bobby Bright (D-AL) or another Southern Democrat flip to save their seats?  There were a series of party switches after 1994, though the South is more solidly Republican now than back then.

4.  Moderate suburban counties will swing back to Republicans.  In 2009 elections, we saw a definite swing towards the GOP in crucial suburban counties.  Bob McDonnell won the heavily populated Fairfax County in Virginia, while Chris Christie won Middlesex and Burlington Counties.  Less noticed were statewide judicial elections in Pennsylvania and county elections in New York State, where Republicans won competitive elections in suburban Philadelphia and New York City.  All of these were counties that the Republican Party was supposed to be incapable of winning, possibly forever.  That narrative didn't even last a year.  I think we will see some surprising successes in places Republicans may have written off in past years.

5.  The Democratic agenda will be practically paralyzed after the health care fiasco.  The health care "reform" process has taken over a half of a year.  Anyone remember when Obama set a deadline of the end of July for a health care deal?  I think no one in the White House realized how difficult and drawn out this process would be.  Now, Obama's first year has passed and he only got around to addressing two items on his agenda.  He hasn't addressed the major problem of unemployment (the stimulus didn't do that effectively).  My guess for what Obama will do is to focus more on fixing the economy (as he should) and I think he will go after the immigration issue.  The White House will do this because it has divided the Republican Party in the past and it needs something to stop the Republican momentum.  Its not a bad gambit, but I think immigration will be different than 2006-2007 because Republicans are no longer in power and have no obligation to a president with a different agenda.  It could actually be divisive towards the Democratic Party.  Immigration cuts along elite/populist lines more than left/right.  I think Dems may be miscalculating if this is the case.

6.  Marco Rubio wins the Florida Senate primary and the general election.  As of right now, the Rubio-Crist primary is about tied, which is a massive upset considering Crist's high name ID.  Look for this race to open up wide in Rubio's favor early in the year, prompting Crist to make one of two choices: drop out and try to re-enter the Governor's race or change parties and win the Democratic primary easily over the hapless Kendrick Meek.  I'm not familiar with Florida election law, so I don't know when primary races have to be finalized.  While Crist is less to the left than Arlen Specter was, he evidences little principle, and a party switch into an easy primary victory wouldn't surprise me.  But I think in either case Rubio wins and becomes the face of the November 2010 victories.

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