Narrowing the Millennial Gap

Young Conservatives need a better publicist, or should I say a better blogger? For far too long the political parties have taken us for granted. Most assume we won’t vote, and even if we did, we’re sure to be Democrats. Republicans seemed content to win older demographics and hope that we would see the red-tinged light as we aged.

After years of being the red-headed step child of politics 2008 was our coming out party. Unfortunately, Republicans had very little to celebrate. The first to truly capture the importance of Twitter, Facebook, and iPhones, the Obama campaign created an excitement amongst Millennials. Again, the Republican Party seemed willing to play the waiting game, confident they would win young adults’ hearts and minds as they grew older.

After a weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference it was clear Republicans have seen the light on the importance of young adults. As one regular CPAC attendee said,

“I’ve been coming to these for years. This used to be a convention of blue hairs; now it has youthful energy.”

But CPAC is merely the latest symptom of a viral growth in youth support for the conservative movement. Just two years ago, at the height of Obama’s popularity, the Democratic advantage in party affiliation among young voters reached 62% to 30%. This 32% margin was reflective of Obama margin of victory in the 2008 presidential election in which he defeated John McCain amongst young adults by a whopping 68% to 30% margin.

But the tides are turning. A recent Pew Research study found that,

“The “Millennial Generation” of young voters played a big role in the resurgence of the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but their attachment to the Democratic Party weakened markedly over the course of 2009.”

Beyond the short term benefit of picking up votes in the crucial 2010 midterm elections, the shift represents the ability for Republicans to grow the next generation of conservatives. Contrary to the “wait till their older” approach, studies show that a person’s party identification, once formed, remains remarkably stable. As the influential study “The American Voter” found,

“Persons who identify with one of the parties typically have held the same partisan tie for all or most of their adults lives.”

This surprising truth bears out in the course of history. For instance as political scientist Norman Orstein writes,

“All the research done on the dramatic Democratic realignment of the 1930s shows that the key was young voters, coming of age as the Depression hit, influenced deeply by the contrast between Hoover and Roosevelt . . . those voters became lifelong Democrats.”

A similar trend happened in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan captured the hearts of young adults with a patriotic excitement that extolled American exceptionalism. Those same voters played an enormous part in the Republican Revolution of 1994 and remain the Republican party’s strongest age cohort.

The stability of young voter’s ideology combined with Obama’s landslide victory should have spelled long term trouble for the Republican brand. But we’ve bounced back. As the Pew Research study shows,

29 percent of Millennials describe themselves as liberals, 28 percent say they are conservatives and 40 percent identify themselves as moderates.

This snapshot ignores the momentum that is definitely on the side of conservatives. By focusing on issues that resonate with younger adults – small government and lower spending – Republicans have a chance to create a base of support for years to come. The enthusiasm is there. Spending a day walking the halls of CPAC would tell you that. More importantly, walking the halls of a college campus would tell you that. College Republicans have seen an enormous uptick and support. As a College Republican leader told me this past week, “Barack Obama has been the best thing for recruitment we’ve seen.” Beyond being a divisive figure, Obama has engaged young people in a way other presidents haven’t. But political engagement is only half the equation and College Republicans have cultivated that newfound interest into conservative momentum. We are not only the voice of young conservatives…we are future of the party.

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

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Barack Obama finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, or should I say, between Democrats and Republicans. In an attempt to please them both he has satisfied neither.

The death of the Democratic health care reform proposals remain the prime example of the war he finds himself in. Throughout the debate Obama was attacked from his Left flank. Liberal critics such as Howard Dean who attacked the bill’s lack of a public option and went so far as to say that “I would certainly not vote for this bill if this were the final product.” Many Democrats also took hard line stances. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said that,

“[i]t’s time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares.”

This represents the fundamental problem Obama and Democrats find themselves in. As different factions of the party compromise to capture the nation’s political mood – they find their chances at reelection compromised. The question, as John Harris of Politico put it, is “WWCD: What Would Clinton Do?”

In a rare unity of interest, following the Clinton approach would be simultaneously the best thing for Barack Obama to do and the best thing that could happen for the Republican Party. After a disastrous first two years in office, in which Clinton was lambasted for a liberal agenda that included failed attempts at health care reform and gun control, he course corrected. His march toward the right was highlighted by bipartisan achievements such as welfare reform and a balanced budget and crowned with his famous line, “the era of big government is over.” In words as well as deeds, Clinton grasped the fundamental truth that this is a center-right nation.

Political IdeologyBut “triangulating” a path toward the middle is fraught with peril. For one, Democrats will be furious. The party would no doubt begin to share the concern of Rep. Dave Obey, who has already chastised Obama’s centrist leanings saying,

“It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense.”

Second, in the race to the middle some Democrats are going to be left behind. The right-leaning public needs someone to blame amongst a government that at present is solely represented by the Left. If the President follows Clinton towards the middle, many liberal Congressmen will lose the political cover of Obama’s name.

By shifting the target that has been firmly placed on his back, come November the firing squad of the American people will be aimed at liberal Democrats as voters wonder what the heck they’ve been doing with those huge majorities up there in Washington. If Obama decides to stay the course, the political pressure that has thus far been released in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts will be a force again in 2010. Regardless of the path chosen, someone is going to be blamed for being moderate and someone is going to be blamed as liberal.

While Obama attempts to save his presidency by gratuitously distancing himself from the far Left influences of his party, Republicans find themselves in a place of power. Even without majorities, Barack Obama will be compelled to adopt many conservative positions, or at the very least let Republicans into the room. Republicans must use this opportunity to support reforms that relieve some of the pressure faced by America’s youth – namely reform Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to slow the growth of entitlement spending. There is also no doubt that we must pass a health care reform plan that focuses on maintaining affordable health care for America’s youth as well as lowering insurance costs for families and small businesses.

Obama finds himself between a rock and a hard place. But Republicans cannot rest on the knowledge their foe is suffering, we must pick up the mantle of real reform.

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

The Democrat's 2010 Problem

By now, everybody knows about the shockingly bad electoral conditions for Democrats.  If a Republican has a good chance to win Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, then almost every Democrat in the country has to be scared stiff.

But the electoral problem creates a more immediate predicament for Democrats, and I think we're going to see two sustained Democratic freak outs as they try to figure out how to address this.

  • The 2010 elections may mark the end of the Democrat's ability to move a lot of the really big legislation/regulation.
  • But if they try to move the really big legislation/regulation before the 2010 elections, they're only going to make their electoral situation worse.

The first Democratic freak out will be an internal Congressional fight in 2010 over whether to (1) move big and fast while they still have the votes, or (2) slow down and preserve as many seats as they can.

The second Democratic freak out is going to occur in 2011 and beyond, when Democrats try to figure out what the lesson of the 2010 elections really is.

  • Progressives - and especially the netroots - will say the lesson is "Damn the Republicans, Full Speed Ahead", but that's what they always say.  Revolutionaries like bold action more than practical details.
  • Moderates/pragmatists will say the lesson is "don't try to do too much, take smaller steps, make reasonable compromises".  But that is more effective at maintaining power than accomplishing major policy goals.

I think Congressional Democrats are going to become awfully pragmatic.  I'm not really sure where the White House will end up, especially if Rahm Emanuel leaves.  We are definitely going to see a lot of bargaining and ugly deal-making.

Nobody would have predicted this a year or two ago, but....is this going to be the triumph of the DLC over the Progressives within the Democratic Party?

Do Americans Still Have What It Takes? I Say Yes!


I have a friend who insists that Americans have been emasculated. That somehow we just aren’t what we used to be. I take umbrage with a world view that American exceptionalism has somehow fallen by the wayside. It’s very true that the liberals would LIKE to see an androgynous Homo-Americanus that they could mold into their perverted Utopian one-size-fits-all Marxian world.

The 1960s produced some startling social demographic changes starting with the ’sexual revolution’. It’s also true that they made some inroads in that direction by the attempted feminization of the male population through the radical feminist movement, with the resultant ‘compliant’, ’sensitive’ male that we’ve heard described as ‘metro-sexual’ and other less savory descriptions. It’s significant that when they obtain the resultant male they’d been looking to produce, they weren’t satisfied with him either and went around complaining that men aren’t masculine and assertive. The other problematic half of that equation is that the type of female that is produced by adherence to feminist ideals is not the kind of woman a real male wants anyway.

1960s Feminist Demonstration.

I don’t intend to demean feminists. They are what they are and they do what they do. Just don’t get mad at us if we don’t care to play in that ball court.

America was drugged to sleep in the 1960’s. We had a steady drumbeat of socialist dogma coming from our news media and our universities. We had hundreds of thousands of American men fighting a war thousands of miles from home that was never CLEARLY defined for the American people, and an active communist fifth column operating pretty much in the open in our schools. The main stream Americans, the ones no one ever heard from in what is now called fly-over country, knew pretty much only what the available news media of the day was telling them and its message had already been largely usurped by the liberal hard left, which was also making inroads into the Democratic party.

The long overdue civil rights movement, which it should be remembered was opposed ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY BY DEMOCRATS, was piggy-backed into the “Great Society” of President Lyndon Johnson and was a democrat-for-life social welfare modern plantation system that exists to this day. Keeping minorities in poverty rather than lifting them from it. Still, Americans embraced what was good in it and the result has been a far more integrated and color blind society.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

The advent of talk radio, the internet and instantaneous communications have changed everything. The lies of the left no longer go undisputed. In fact, they are usually challenged in minutes instead of hours or days. We as a people began to start paying attention to what our kids were being taught in our public schools. We came out of the haze that had been produced by the frenetic 60 hour working weeks of the 80s and 90s and saw what our resultant inattention had wrought. We saw our country and our freedoms being stolen from us.

Another miracle occurred… we started talking to each other. People from all over this country rediscovering what is meant by AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM and the blessings that are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – that it is our duty and sacred trust to maintain the freedoms that have been gained at so great a price. Millions upon millions of Americans are rising up and saying HELL NO!

This is it. This is the new year. This is 2010. This is the YEAR OF THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION. LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!!

Semper Vigilans, Semper Fidelis

© Skip MacLure 2010


Self-Funders: The Next Front in the War on the GOP Establishment

The brewing conservative war on the Republican establishment has gotten a lot of ink lately, and we can only expect more of it with the rise and rise of Marco Rubio. 

The main front in this war is ideological: party leaders in Washington supporting moderates when a conservative can win. See: Crist vs. Rubio or Hoffman vs. Scozzafava.
But there's another front in this war that deserves just as much if not more attention: the tendency of gazillionaire self-funders to parachute into races with minimal political experience and a long list of liabilities, and get taken seriously by D.C. and local elites solely because they can plop down tens of millions of dollars on TV ads and a feeding trough of political consultants. 
Last year's Rebuild the Party platform which I co-wrote, and which was endorsed by a number of people in the political community including RNC Chairman Michael Steele, had this to say about the pervasive "money-first" culture of our campaigns: 

This means kick starting a generational transition to the new fundraising model. Right now, we cannot compete with the Democrats' scalable online fundraising machine and if this is not corrected our party will face a long-term financial deficit. A big part of this will be growing a millions-strong network of supporters and giving them something to rally around. Moreover, our candidate recruitment should focus less on a candidate's ability to collect $2,300 checks or to self-fund than on the strength of their message -- which will ultimately attract more small and high dollar donors online and off. Traditional fundraising is still important, but in modern campaigns, it's more like startup venture capital money than a long-term cash cow. 

In February, when the GOP was still in a fetal position after the drubbing they received at the hands of Obama's half-billion dollar online juggernaut, I expanded on this point: 

The lesson here is that fundraising is not an independent variable. Fundraising is a dependent variable and the independent variable is the message. There does not exist an innate ability to fundraise independent of a strong message -- unless the candidate is fabulously wealthy and can self-fund. And in cases where there might be, all the fundraising in the world cannot overcome a poor message. If a candidate is wealthy or has rich friends, but has no message, the GOP should run -- not walk -- away from that candidate.
My own experiences in the trenches this year suggest that establishment Republicans still haven't learned their lesson. They're still addicted to the size of a candidate's personal checkbook or overhyped end-of-quarter stories, and too often neglect building a grassroots organization or developing a strong, early, and authentic connection between the candidate direct to voters. 
Self-funders are particulary popular among money-addled political insiders for a few key reasons. First, their personal money takes the need for much party money off the table, or so it's thought. Second, they can afford to pay consultants, and lots of them, and for eye-popping amounts. Third, they will often refill the coffers of local parties in a wink and nod exchange for much-needed endorsements. 
But the record of self-funders in American politics is notoriously poor. In California alone, about a half dozen of them have spectacularly crashed on the rocks, from the campaign that gave us Arianna Huffington in 1994 to Al Checchi's $40 million gubernatorial campaign in 1998, Jane Harman's effort in the same primary, and Steve Westly's losing 2006 campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor. 
This year, Jon Corzine was unable to put away Chris Christie with his vast personal fortune, ending one of the few self-funding success stories in American politics. And Michael Bloomberg spent $102 million in one city to eeke out a five point victory against bland party apparatchik Bill Thompson. The size of Bloomberg's bank account in reaching for a third term (for which term limits were repealed) was cited as a factor in the last minute closing of the race. 
At the federal level, ask Senator Pete Coors how well self-funding works. Or President Mitt Romney. 
It's not just that these candidates were running unwinnable races. Often they were way ahead after an early barrage of advertising. But they blew it, despite their money. 
The dollar signs dancing around in consultants' heads don't make up for the fact that most self-funders tend to be subpar candidates for important structural reasons. First, they're political dilettantes unfamiliar with the rigors of elected politics. They make rookie mistakes. They assume their records before their recent entries into politics aren't relevant or won't be scrutinized. They have less political acumen or knowledge than many of the people I follow on Twitter, or even most of them. 
And that's just when they start running. Once they do, they run overkill levels of TV, and often resort to slashing negative ads to dislodge better known competitors, which drives their own negatives up. (This was particularly true of the famous Checchi-Harman "murder-suicide" in 1998, opening the path for the underfunded Gray Davis to squeak through in the last two weeks.) The gaudiness of the campaign operation tends to infect media coverage late in the game, and that's when self-funders really get worked over by the traditional press corps, which tends to counter-balance the perceived buying of the election with uniquely skeptical coverage when voters are actually paying attention. And as any student of campaigns will tell you, earned media is far, far more valuable than paid media, even at inflated levels of spending. 
From an ideological perspective, self-funders are political chameleons. Since they're somewhat politically attuned, they're likely to have been a donor, but like most big donors, they're pragmatists who've played both sides. And it's not uncommon for these rich candidates to have made donations to fashionable lefty social crusades. The country-clubbers who have supported Focus on the Family or the National Rifle Association with their philanthrophic dollars are few and far between.
For conservatives, this trend is just as troubling as national party leaders seeking out moderates in states where a conservative can win. While we welcome recent converts, we always have a right to ask whether it's for the right reasons. Rich candidates tend to be disproportionately moderate themselves, and aren't as accountable to the conservative movement because they don't need our dollars.
And there's another element here that shouldn't be tolerated: corruption. To put it indelicately, when a mega-self-funder gets in, people get bought. Local parties are capitalized to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars with endorsements magically appearing shortly thereafter. People who couldn't afford to take salaries before can now take salaries. Others get put on the campaign payroll. Elected officials who've fought hard and risen through the ranks suddenly become fans of political "outsiders", leaving their own integrity and intellectual honesty open to question.  
In any system where money rules, conservatives lose. When endorsements and political support are rooted in money, not principle, that's just as great an insult as choosing a moderate over a conservative in a red state on electability grounds. This is not a matter of being a campaign finance zealot as it of avoiding bad and unreliable candidates who tend to lose at alarming rates. 
To be clear, I don't think everyone who's put in a dime of their own money to a race is the bad guy. We would have been much better off in NY-23 had we chosen that guy. There are many very good local businesspeople running for Congress who will put in some seed money to get started, but ultimately rely on a strong network of donors to get them over the top. The problem is those who pledge to spend at astronomical rates so they can defy the political laws of gravity, and in turn fool (or buy off) the political class who wrongly believe that lots of money can overcome an unknown candidate with a bad message. 


The Teapublican Moment

Why are we so shocked that a generic conservative third party called the "Tea Party" would come out ahead of the Republican Party in a poll?

The notion that there are lots of people on the right who consider themselves conservatives first and Republicans second is not new (though a national reporter once e-mailed me professing shock at hearing someone say this for the first time). What is different this time is that the tea parties lend some modicum of organization to the right's rabblerousing opposition, and the D.C. mandarins are busy trying to figure out if this power can be wielded electorally and whether that helps or hurts Republicans.

Rasmussen's question actually explains a lot. Like the fact that the national GOP is poised to pick up a bunch of seats while their numbers remain in the toilet.

Depending on the poll, approval of Congressional Republicans (and their leaders) is in the high teens or low twenties, close to the GOP number in today's survey. In the progressive blogosphere, this is the most common talking point against the notion that Republicans might win in 2010.

Though a curiosity, Congressional GOP approval is actually irrelevant to next year's election results. That's because a big chunk of the disapproval comes from the "Tea Party" that thinks the GOP is not doing enough fast enough. Combined, the Teapublicans get 41 percent of the vote to the Democrats' 36 percent. If I'm solely concerned with electoral strategy, I want people to be highly motivated to vote, because turnout is everything in a midterm. And the more Tea'd off these voters are, the better for Republicans. The good news for Democrats is that a mythical right-wing splinter party splits the base down the middle. The bad news is that they still vote Republican in a two-way, and the Tea Partiers are singlehandedly driving a massive enthusiasm gap over the left that renders a Republican victory even more likely. As we saw in 2006 and 2008, enthusiasm gaps matter.

The prevalence of the Tea Party movement does hold a cautionary note for the GOP -- if they win. The danger is that Republicans will interpret a victory as a sign that all is well in the party, and that they can go back to their old ways pre-2008. In other words, they'll confuse a Teapublican victory for an old-school Republican mandate.

However, the reason that Republicans are now at the mercy of the tea parties to drive their GOTV is because they drove spending through the roof (at least in pre-Obama terms) and agreed to the bailouts. The protests were as much a reaction to Republicans selling out as they were to the incipient Obama administration, though the passage of time has shifted the focus to the present Administration. The notion that the Tea Party  -- of all people -- will be unenthused about voting in November 2010 is wishful thinking, particularly when a clear opportunity exists to do damage to the left. The question is whether they'll abide the same Republican Party that set the bailouts in motion to begin with -- after the election.

Right now, the fact that the Tea Party is willing to hate on the GOP Congressional leadership but ultimately be their most enthusiastic foot soldiers is testament to the fact of the Republican Party's powerlessness on Capitol Hill. The party may suck, the reasoning goes, but that's irrelevant now because it can't actually shape policy. There is only one question in this election, and that is whether Congress can put the breaks on the left's unfettered rule. And if the GOP gets some measure of influence back, will it change?

How Low Can You Go? – In More Ways Than One – Obama Bows Again.

The Empty Suit strikes again. This time he’s bowing and scraping to the Chinese Communist Premier. Fresh from kowtowing to the Japanese Emperor and well-rehearsed, Obama doubled over for Wen Jiabao, again acutely embarrassing himself, though I truly don’t believe he’s smart enough to realize what a horribly huge gaffe this actually is other than the obvious – that no head of state bows to another head of state.

Doesn’t this guy have any handlers with any savvy at all, or are they all complete toadies and afraid to confront His Almightiness? Asians, and most of the world in fact, see subservience as weakness. That’s exactly how Barry Hussein comes off, as weak, ineffectual and subservient. His denial of American exceptionalism. Apologizing for America being the greatest country on Earth for fanciful and fancied affronts. His image of himself is hip, slick and cool. Most of the rest of us see him as self-aggrandizing, vapid and ineffectual. His ideological drive to subvert the government, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the will of the American people, engenders a word I won’t use here but it starts with ‘T’ and ends with ‘N’. His popularity is dropping like a runaway elevator. He has a Congress scrambling for political cover and a Senate which is about to be launched into a major battle in the closing weeks of this year, with little or no chance of passage of a monstrous attempted enslavement of the American people by January.

Next year will be pivotal. A mid-term election year in which no less than a full third of the Senate face re-election. Having to face an ever more aware and even more angry and irate populace. Many will be wondering whether walking the plank for Harry Reid, whose own re-election bid is in serious doubt, or for Nancy Pelosi, with a less than 21% popularity rating, or a President whose every word is beginning to be seen as something to joke about, will be worth the price. For a price there will be.

2010 is shaping up to be a political bloodbath not seen since the unlamented days of Jimmy Carter, or the 1994 Contract for America introduced by Newt Gingrich only four weeks before the election. This one is stacking up to be every bit as punishing for the DeMarxists. With the country staggering under unprecedented debt, a flat-lined economy which not even government book-cooking can make look good, and unemployment not seen since the 1930’s. And the only answer Obama’s goofballs have is massive taxation to ’somehow’ create jobs?

The electorate in this country is livid. They are boiling mad. But even worse for DeMarxists, they have become educated on the issues. They see through the hope and change and see changes they do not want and will not tolerate. The Democrats see the resurgence of a revitalized CONSERVATIVE Republican party and this frightens them as well. Because they well know that Conservative ideals and ideas work every time they are tried.

Semper Vigilans, Semper Fidelis

© Skip MacLure 2009


NY-23 Across America

What follows may be akin to one of those crazy ideas Dick Morris used to come up with in the Clinton White House, only one in ten of which turned out to be workable -- but when they worked, oh man, did they work.

The key fact that sticks out in my mind about Doug Hoffman's incredible momentum in NY-23 is that his election would not have been possible had he been the Republican nominee. The fact that we may be about to elect a non-squish from New York has everything to do with the fact that he is running as a third-party independent, and not a Republican (even if the Conservative Party is an auxiliary of the Republicans in most elections).

Hoffman as a Republican would have been too obvious a target and the subject of a relentless barrage of negative TV, websites, mail, and phones branding him as outside the mainstream, anti-choice, anti-worker, etc. But politically, Hoffman has managed to avoid all that until five days out, when it's now clear he's the frontrunner. And as Chris Cillizza points out this morning, Hoffman's success in the polls is built on the back among strong support among independents and (primarily) not Republican regulars disgusted at Scozzafava.

This got me thinking: How many points is an Independent party label worth, assuming you're able to vie for Republican votes in a general election? 5? 10? We know that in races with a plausible third party, that candidate automatically tends to earn more independent and moderate support even if they are ideologically indistinguishable from a Republican (Hoffman) or a Democrat (Chris Daggett in New Jersey).

We also know from Daggett's run in a strong-party, machine state that American politics is entering a phase of third party strength which we last saw in the early '90s with Ross Perot and culminating in the Republican Revolution of '94.

This led me to tweet the following this morning:

Brainstorm: what if Republicans were to withdraw from a series of hot Congressional races and run as conservative independents a la #ny23?

I am not one to believe that a situation exactly like Hoffman's is recreatable across the spectrum. Certainly, we would not want to have to take out every slightly wobbly Republican nominee (Scozzafava's problem was that she was very wobbly) with a third party conservative. With 435 House races on the ballot in 2010, the conservative movement won't have the energy to concentrate its Death Star gamma ray on hapless local establishments in every district.

But what if it were to happen peacefully? Or as a concerted strategy to gain votes?

What if you were to have promising Republican candidates running in Democratic-lean seats say, a few months out from the election, "Let me tell you something. I'm just as sick and tired of the Republicans as I am of the Democrats. So, from this moment forward, I'm running as a common-sense, Independent conservative for Congress."

From one perspective, this would not be helpful to efforts to tie the Republican brand to a broader sense of popular disgust at the Obama/Pelosi overreach. On the other hand, it might be a way for conservatives to invade the center, and thus control the high ground politically.

If you're a party person, don't dismiss this just yet. Say you're the NRCC and you haven't found a good recruit against a vulnerable House Democrat. Say the Republican nominee is a joke, or the incumbent is unopposed. Three months out, you go to your star recruit who turned you down a year ago and ask him to run as an independent. It's a three month campaign as opposed to an 18-month campaign. They don't have to quit their law practice or small business. They enter in the last few miles of the race, and you put serious pressure on the joke nominee to step aside, or put out word through local media and talk radio that this is the guy.

Now, I know one could raise myriad issues here. Ballot access for one. The reflexive aversion to third parties. The relative infrequency of unchallenged vulnerable Democrats, especially because 2010 won't be 2008 or 2006. And the prospect of bloody intra-party battles after the nomination has been settled.

All of these risks are arrayed against a few salient facts. First, the rising disgust at incumbent politicians that will play out over the next couple of years, accompanied by a "pox on both your houses" sentiment. Second, a proven history of entire party blocs picking up and moving to third parties when they need to (NY-23, or Joe Lieberman's 2006 re-election). There are two possibilities for an ideological third party candidate -- they can either flop and pose no serious threat (which happens the vast majority of the time because the candidates are nobodies) or dominate (if they are credible).

In a handful of races, perhaps in places where we can't win with the Republican label alone, it might be more useful for the general election to be a strong Independent versus a Democrat rather than a Republican versus a Democrat. At one extreme of the Cook PVI, let's stipulate that the general election against Charlie Rangel was waged with a Puerto Rican small business owner running on the No More Corrupt Politicians Party line with behind the scenes, logistical support from the GOP. At a minimum, that person would stand a better chance than a Republican in that district.

I'm a strong party guy, but I also believe in Sun Tzu's maxim that you do the unexpected to throw your opponent off balance. Strategically unleashing a swarm of conservative independents may be one such strategy for 2010.

The Democratic Health Care Plan: Get Re-elected in 2010

Democrats say they'll "go it alone on a health bill", which sounds all mavericky and bold and makes progressives quiver with excitement.

Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.

But let me translate that into practical, electoral terms:

Given hardening [voter] opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of [winning many seats in 2010 if they pass a controversial bill], and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks [that allows Democrats to vote whichever way is most likely to get them reelected].

"Go it alone" = optimizing their chances for re-election.  Remember, you don't win elections by winning a legislative fight.  Winners don't need to turn out again; they already won.  You win elections by convincing your base that you are in a fight and victory is just around the corner...if we win this election.

This is how it will likely shake out:

  • YES: Blue District Democrats will vote for the Exciting Progressive Health Care Plan, and then go home and tell everybody how principled they were.
  • POLLING: Swing District Democrats will take a principled stand one way or the other just as soon as their internal polling is finished.
  • NO: Red District Democrats will vote against the unfortunate bill that just isn't right for America but if you reelect me I'll vote for Free Health Care and Unicorns For Everybody.
  • ATTACK: Democratic challengers, unencumbered by actual votes or responsibility, will be free to attack their opponents on whichever grounds seems most useful, and (like Red District Democrats) will promise lower costs, more coverage and a pony.


Why a 2010 Blowout Will Not Mean Things Are Better

After the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans celebrated electoral victories that many thought would put them in the position to maintain a long-term majority. In turn, Democrats pushed the panic button and began looking for ways to turn things around. Likewise, after 2006 and 2008, it was the opposite effect, with Democrats claiming a permanent majority, and Republicans looking to rebuild.

Once again, the political climate seems to be changing, this time in favor of Republicans. President Obama’s approval ratings are continuing to trend significantly downward, with the latest Rasmussen Poll even suggesting that the majority of Americans disapprove. More voters believe that the economic stimulus plan has hurt the economy than helped it. Support for the public health option continues to tumble, too.

Looking at these trends and others, Patrick Ruffini writes that a 2010 blowout is quite possible, and I really don’t disagree at all. However, I wanted to offer a word of caution in the case Republicans win (or win big) in 2010, despite the fact that I recently Tweeted the following:

No more “[Name] for President” group invites on Facebook, please. Let’s focus on winning in 2010 first and worry about 2012 after!

Such a victory in 2010 will by no means indicate that things are better for Republicans long-term. Rather, it would be the result of a number of fortunate circumstances. Just see Ruffini’s suggestions as to why Republicans should prepared for a blow out:

  • The horrendous 2006 and 2008 cycles have depressed Republican totals in Congress to far below the historical mean. Though the fact that there were two successive 20+ seat losses in the House and 5+ seat losses in the Senate in the House is historically unique, collectively they equal one 1980 or 1994-style wipeout — after which Democrats finally began to recover.
  • The unique confluence of youth and African American turnout for Obama padded vote totals for Congressional Democrats by about 4 points — and in a midterm — I’m sorry — those votes won’t be there. We saw this pretty clearly in the Georgia Senate runoff. In 2012, however, those voters might be back — making 2010 an opportune moment for a promising Congressional challenger to gain a foothold.
  • The Democrats are now clearly responsible for everything, and trying to blame Bush and the GOP wears thinner and thinner by the day. Even if the economy recovers somewhat, and with massive job losses still on the horizon, I don’t see people feeling that recovery, let’s remember that the economy was in a clear recovery by 1994 but that didn’t help Clinton and Democrats.

The bottom line — and what Republicans cannot forget, even with a huge win in 2010 — is that these fortunate circumstances are not something around which you can build a sustainable majority. Voters aren’t always going to be ticked about the economy, the Democrats won’t always have a filibuster-proof majority, and although the “unique confluence of youth and African American turnout” may not be there in 2010, as Ruffini notes, “in 2012 … those voters might be back”. And as I’ve been writing about lately, the RNC hasn’t done a darn thing to try to win over young voters while the DNC continues to find new ways to earn their support. While these voters may not show up in 2010, in 10-15 years they will no longer be youth voters — instead, they will represent the kind of middle-aged voters that Republicans will need to turn out, both during Presidential election years and during mid-term and other off years.

So while there are many reasons to be excited about the prospects of 2010, the political climate will likely change again from 2010 to 2012, as it often does.  Although focusing on the short-term may end in positive results in 2010, Republicans still must think long-term about building a sustainable majority. Otherwise, the GOP may soon again face another 2006 or 2008 — but the next time, it may be much harder to turn around.

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