Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
It's true that Brown was considered a long-shot candidate, but take a look at his favorability rating in this early January 2010 Boston Globe poll (which showed him trailing Democrat Martha Coakley by 15 points): 44% favorable/25% unfavorable, with 23% who were uncertain. That's a +19 net favorability rating. Brown's public image was mostly positive; he needed to prove his competitiveness and to become a more familiar presence to voters.
Take a look at O'Donnell's numbers from some recent polls. Fox News: 33% of Delaware voters view her to be qualified to serve as senator while 60% think she's unqualified. That's a -27 net rating. PPP: 29% favorable / 50% unfavorable. -21 net rating.
To point out these statistics is not to talk down O'Donnell's chances in the general election but to note that she has a very different strategic imperative. While voters in Massachusetts were generally favorable and open to Brown, a majority of Delaware voters are actively hostile to O'Donnell. Opinion is not unformed about her (as in Brown's case) but instead has soured against her candidacy.
O'Donnell will need to fight to reverse the media narrative that's grown up around her. Outreach---to Castle's people, to independents, to the media---is going to be crucial.
With that in mind, one might have a few misgivings about her decision to avoid any national television interviews for the rest of the campaign. The 2008 election is instructive in this regard. By mostly keeping Palin in a media bubble after her debut as vice-presidential candidate, the McCain camp indirectly helped solidify Palin's image as a Tina Fey "I can see Russia from my house" caricature. It's understandable for the O'Donnell team to want to avoid a media feeding frenzy, but her campaign should be wary of a similar fate befalling her.
Her campaign has suggested that O'Donnell's going to be pursuing local new organizations. She should be. She should also be getting out there with the voters (which she seems to be doing)---even in less-than-friendly territory. O'Donnell's accumulated something like a $2 million war chest. That spending should help, too, but blanketing the airwaves with advertisements will only do so much good. For O'Donnell to win in Delaware, she will need voters to view her as more than a "conservative" firebrand.
As William Jacobson says, it might be to early to count O'Donnell out of the race. But she does have a lot of work to do, and there are plenty of other Senate races for those on the right to keep an eye on.
Monday, September 20, 2010
In WA-03, Republican Jaime Herrera leads Democrat Danny Heck by nine points (52-43) in the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Brian Baird. Herrera's numbers have been slipping a little bit, though, so she'll have to keep fighting for that seat to ensure a win on election day. A multicultural coalition backs Herrera; it remains to be seen if this coalition can hold together for a win.
WA-09 has some surprisingly good news for the GOP: Republican Dick Muri lags only three points behind 14-year incumbent Democrat Adam Smith (46-49). Prior to this poll, many analysts had ranked this as a "safe" Democratic seat. Muri's lagging big-time in fund-raising; a little cash might tip the race in his favor.
If WA-09 is starting to swing the GOP's way, it could have implications for the closely-contested Washington Senate race. These numbers might also be a sign of further deterioration---even in previously safe districts---of the Democratic brand. If these challengers can pull off these victories and Washington's three Republican incumbent representatives can hold on to their seats, the GOP stands to capture the majority of Washington's House districts.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Chris Wallace presses Miller on this point---asking him multiple times why Miller believes these benefits to be unconstitutional---in part because Miller doesn't really want to answer this question. He looks somewhat uncomfortable and first tries to evade this topic entirely by talking in general terms about the size of the federal government. It's understandable why Miller doesn't want to focus on this matter: in the current economic climate, federal unemployment benefits are distinctly more popular than, say, Obamacare. (A disclaimer: the popularity of something does not reflect on its Constitutionality.)
Republican John Raese is running to replace Robert Byrd in West Virginia. He's walking a very different line about unemployment benefits. He's quoted in the National Review, saying,
“Government has to have a little soul to it. There’s nothing worse than to lay people off, and I’ve had that experience. . . . As long as you have unemployment insurance that is revenue-neutral, I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t like it when they start printing money.”A couple points arise in this contrast. The first is that it gives insight into the ambition of some so-called "Tea Party" candidates, who critique not only the excesses of the past few years or of the post-1960s welfare state but the whole of the New Deal's legacy.
The second is a hunch that many more Republican candidates will be following the example of Raese in talking about unemployment benefits than taking Miller's stance.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Timing. The Tea Party Express swept in at the right moment. They had just enough of a lead time to build up support for O'Donnell but before other facts about O'Donnell could enter the public narrative. Castle might have begun reversing the momentum, but it wasn't enough.
Hopes of a wave. Many conservatives feel empowered in the current environment. This empowerment hurt Castle in two ways. Many conservatives felt as though they could take a loss in Delaware and were willing to risk it on O'Donnell. They also felt as though a wave of public anger could indeed propel O'Donnell into the Senate and restore the GOP to "purity."
Too harsh, too late. The Castle people delayed going after O'Donnell. This delay caused them to have to go after her fiercely in order to be heard in the waning days of the campaign. These attacks were interpreted as too nasty and allowed O'Donnell to portray herself as a victim, a role she gladly took on. With more time, the Castle people might have shifted the media narrative back in their favor. Meanwhile, O'Donnell's supporters launched an all-out attack on Castle, assailing his record and his personal integrity.
Popular alienation. Voters are very unhappy with incumbents, and Mike Castle was an incumbent's incumbent. O'Donnell cast herself as an avatar for wrath against the establishment, and this gambit worked. Castle cast some high-profile votes against certain conservative dogmas, and he paid the price for them in this race. The state GOP's involvement often wasn't helpful in this regard, as it made Castle appear even more "establishment."
A slow cycle. If this race was held earlier in the primary cycle, Castle could have more easily gotten by. O'Donnell depended heavily upon massive national media attention, and this race would probably have gotten lost in the noise of other primaries.
A closed primary. This would have been a completely different race were it an open primary where independents could make their voices heard.
In any case, if the GOP is to have even the slightest hope of keeping this seat, Mike Castle will have to reconcile with O'Donnell and try to send some moderates her way.
The numbers show an opportunity for McMahon:
Blumenthal leads 87 - 10 percent among Democrats and gets 47 percent of independent voters to McMahon's 46 percent. McMahon leads 91 - 9 percent among Republicans. Women back Blumenthal 56 - 41 percent, while men split 47 - 48 percent.If McMahon can emphasize independents' alienation from the Obama administration, she could potentially peel off enough to win in Connecticut. McMahon has plenty of money to spend on this race, and you can be sure she'll keep spending it if the race looks this close.
Among those backing McMahon, 42 percent say their vote is mainly against Blumenthal, while 53 percent say they mainly are pro-McMahon. Blumenthal backers are 22 percent anti- McMahon and 73 percent pro-Blumenthal.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Why are people comparing this race to Nevada or Alaska? In both those races, the Republican---seemingly any Republican---was heavily favored. Angle and Miller are probably as "conservative" as O'Donnell (at least as our self-proclaimed conservative prophets have divined), but they have more of a record of public service (and that's without getting into other qualities of personal history). And Angle, in a state much more right-leaning than Delaware, is now in a very close struggle with Reid.
Why are people being read out of the conservative movement for supporting Castle? Many disagreements in the Delaware primary come down to differences in strategy. Many O'Donnell backers aver that it is better to lose this race than have a moderate win; many Castle backers think that a Republican who votes with you some of the time is better than a Democrat who almost never votes with you. These are not fundamental differences in principle, but different empirical evaluations of the race and how to better achieve the aims of conservatism. Having a different strategic plan should not make you an apostate from a political movement.
When is Joseph Cao getting primaried? After all, Cao actually once voted in favor of Obamacare (unlike Castle). Isn't he a RINO traitor? Why hasn't the Republican party just outright rejected him from the caucus? Sure he comes from a heavily Democratic district, but it's better to have a totally "pure" caucus of 177 (or 77 or 7) than a caucus with any compromises, right? Plenty of other names could be inserted for Cao's but the principle remains the same: if electability should not matter, if it is better to lose elections than settle on an "impure" candidate, then where's his arch-right Republican challenger?
Why do people keep talking about how Mike Castle will swerve to the left once he is elected because he'll supposedly be retiring and won't be responsible to the voters? Though this anxiety is understandable, you have to wonder what's been stopping Castle from being crazily left-wing. The voters of Delaware returned Joe Biden to the Senate for decades; would they really have ejected Castle for being too left-wing? And if Delaware Republicans were unhappy with Castle for being a far-out lefty, he could have easily jumped to the Democratic party (it's not as though Delaware Democrats would have objected to having him in the fold). Castle has been a central political figure in his state for decades, allowing him to move from one party to the other with fewer difficulties. So I don't think Castle's worries about electability were the only thing that kept him from being too leftist (that's if you don't think he isn't already somewhere to the left of Lenin, as some O'Donnell backers seem to believe).
Will O'Donnell's supporters stay with her after tomorrow? While O'Donnell has gotten a lot of press online and picked up a lot of nationwide conservative support, will those financial supporters and activists stay with her in the weeks to come? O'Donnell starts out well behind her Democratic opponent; in no poll has she ever cracked 42% against Coons. And she lacks Mike Castle's huge war chest. So it might take a lot of investment in money and energy for her to close the gap with Democrat Chris Coons. Conservative activists and donors will have to ask themselves whether it is better to invest in a longer-shot O'Donnell-Coons race or to spend their efforts to tip closer races elsewhere in the nation (such as Nevada).
What's bad about the establishment? I don't mean this question rhetorically: there is a lot that is objectionable about certain aspects of the establishment. However, this race has raised certain questions about the Tea Party's critique of the establishment. If the Tea Party's aim is merely to replace one corrupt establishment with another, with its own rigid dogma, sneering elitism, and politics-of-personal-destruction venom, then the movement loses, I think, considerable interest. The notion of the Tea Party as a bottom-up movement for individual liberty and pluralism---a valuable notion indeed---would seem to go against the strategy of hectoring attacks against an individual for not toeing the party line. And by "individual," I do not mean merely Castle but all of those who might have the temerity to support Castle on pragmatic grounds.
The primary battle will be over tomorrow, but some of the questions it raises---about strategy, about principles, about public rhetoric---will stay with us.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The relentless attacks of O'Donnell and her allies have been successful at dragging down Castle's favorability ratings. More and more Republicans in Delaware view him as "too liberal."
It’s clear that Castle’s popularity has taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction over the last month. An August PPP poll found his favorability with Delaware Republicans at a 60/25 spread. Now his favorables within the party are negative at 43/47. That’s largely a product of 55% of voters in his party saying they think he’s too liberal compared to 37% who think he’s about right.While Castle leads with moderates, he has taken a real hit with self-proclaimed Republican conservatives.
However, PPP's latest round of polling has some bad news for O'Donnell: it shows her getting walloped by Democratic candidate Chris Coons. Castle still leads in polling for the general.
Mike Castle's been a big loser in the dynamic of the last week or so; if he ends up losing the primary, it remains to be seen whether O'Donnell or Coons will be the bigger winner.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Then there’s the middle class. The emergence of a service economy created a large population of junior and midlevel office workers. These white-collar workers absorbed their lifestyle standards from the Huxtable family of “The Cosby Show,” not the Kramden family of “The Honeymooners.” As these information workers tried to build lifestyles that fit their station, consumption and debt levels soared. The trade deficit exploded. The economy adjusted to meet their demand — underinvesting in manufacturing and tradable goods and overinvesting in retail and housing. These office workers did not want their children regressing back to the working class, so you saw an explosion of communications majors and a shortage of high-skill technical workers.The supposed prestige of the "white collar" has been with us since the Industrial Revolution.
But there is also an economic motive here. Manufacturing is not exactly the most stable job field right now, with factories closing down left and right and laying off workers. It's ironic that Brooks should write this column in the same week as the publicizing of the closing of the last major incandescent light bulb plant in the US. And the salaries of many "high-skill technical workers" are often at the risk of being undercut by foreign workers through mechanisms such as H-1B visas and outsourcing.
The middle class have sent their children into fields like real estate and finance in part because that's where the jobs are. That might be a good thing or a bad thing (the economic period of 2001-2008 leaned very heavily upon those sectors for growth), but that's how it is. There is an economic motive for some of these social changes.
The Delaware Republican party files an FEC complaint against the O'Donnell camp. Christine O'Donnell suggests that Mike Castle and his GOP allies vandalized her house---in 2008. The internet buzzes with theories elevating the Castle-O'Donnell race to an archetypal clash, between the RINO establishment and pure conservatives.
It seems like it has been very beneficial to O'Donnell's campaign to cast O'Donnell as part of a revolutionary movement. This has allowed the campaign not to focus that much on the candidate and instead to harness the alienation of GOPers across the country. O'Donnell's website is short on policy proposals and long on Tea Partyish enthusiasm and differentiating herself from Castle (her "Why Christine?" page is a chart comparing herself to Castle). Since the beginning of the primary, she has run as the anti-Castle. Running as the anti-RINO (a slightly different intellectual move) has no doubt helped her draw the attention of the Tea Party Express.
Crowning Castle as a RINO par excellence has also led to some distortions. Anyone who even briefly scans some of the comment pages about the Castle-O'Donnell race will soon run into comments declaring that Castle is well to the left of many, if not most, Democrats and has a voting record like that of Barack Obama. You might be told by some talkers that Castle voted for Obamacare (when he actually voted against it), and some campaign advertising suggests that Castle wants to keep Obamacare (when he actually is a cosponsor of the legislation that would repeal Obamacare). The truth is that Castle is a moderate Republican, who has sometimes voted with the left but often with the right.
It probably worth noting that this isn't a final, apocalyptic battle between false Beltway insiders and true, Republican conservatives. (I tend to think that that notion of a supposed battle has a whiff of opportunism about it.) This is one primary race, which is not just about the clash of movements but about the personalities, principles, and policies of distinct individuals. Though some seem to believe that supporting Mike Castle makes you a charlatan who has surrendered any principles for the sake of power, it is also possible to find virtues in Mike Castle (of which electability is one). Likewise, backing Christine O'Donnell does not make you a wild-eyed fanatic. There are legitimate reasons for backing either candidate, as William A. Jacobson reminds us.
As this primary enters the (perhaps even more poisonous) final days, it is worth remembering the virtues of rhetorical moderation and intellectual charity, on and off the campaign trail.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Two out of three ain't bad. He supported the Bush tax cuts, he rejected time tables for withdrawals from Iraq, he opposed Obamacare, he opposed the stimulus, etc. etc. etc. Has he always stood with Republicans in the House? Certainly not. But has he stood with them on many important issues? You bet. Yes, he backed Cap and Trade, but how likely is that measure to pass, if it can't get out of the Senate now, at the high-water mark of Democratic strength? His Second Amendment record has been mixed, but the courts have weakened the ability of Congress to undercut the right to bear arms, and it doesn't seem like the gun issue is one Democrats want to take on right now. He has a lifetime American Conservative Union Score of 52; for this year, it's 56. Is that a hard-right score? No. But it's hardly a dyed-in-the-wool far-leftist score.
Experience has its benefits. Mike Castle has served in government for over forty years. He has great experience in legislative maneuvering, a virtue not to be discounted. If Republicans do regain control of Congress in 2010, they will need more than people who can spout talking points: they will need people who can skillfully craft and interpret legislation. Competence in management will be crucial for a renewal of Republican and conservative fortunes. The electoral failures of 2006 and 2008 were in part driven by the earlier political and policy failures of Republican legislators and administration officials. Legislative policy is a complex issue, and having elected officials who can navigate that complexity will be key for advancing conservative aims.
Diversity is a good thing. There are some people who wish for a Senate with 100 Jim DeMints. This writer is not one of them. No disrespect is intended here for the senator from South Carolina, who has been a strong force in the Republican caucus; I might merely suggest that any political coalition is enriched by a variety of perspectives. A radical search for purity in politics often leads to intellectual staleness. I might not agree with Castle on many issues, but his is still a voice worth having in the Republican chorus.
Moderation can be a virtue. Especially in the legislative realm, achieving success often depends upon reaching across the aisle. One of the things that made Obamacare so unusual was that, as a major reform, it was basically a monopartisan measure. Throughout US history, big reforms often require backing from both parties. Especially since the Republicans are a long way from 60 votes in the Senate, they will need Democratic support if they want to pass major legislation. Castle's position in the middle---with allies in both parties---could make him a helpful powerbroker in the Senate.
Electability matters. Castle's electability is often a subtext of defenses of him from the right side of the blogosphere. (I would guess that online defenders of him would become a much rarer breed if he rather than O'Donnell were lagging 10+ points behind the Democrat.) And there really is no doubt about his electability. He was very popular governor and has been a very popular member of the House. The only reason why analysts are tipping the race the way of Republicans is because of Mike Castle. Even many of O'Donnell's partisans have admitted that an O'Donnell victory in the primary might easily lead to a Republican loss in the general election.
What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.
The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences.
Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
CFLs, as many note, have their own problems (overhype about efficiency being one of them) and health hazards.
Many on the right are blaming Democrats for this blow to US manufacturing and personal choice in selecting lighting, but it should not be forgotten that a Republican president signed off on this measure.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
"But what I'm looking at is my state and the future of my state for my kids. So, I have not made that determination that I'm going to give up. I'm not a quitter, never have been. And I'm still in this game," Murkowski said.
She met briefly Tuesday with the Libertarian candidate David Haase after friends of hers - without her direction, she said - approached his party, asking if the Libertarians would consider a Murkowski candidacy. She said she was prepared to meet with those friends Tuesday but was told that Haase and party Chairman Scott Kohlhaas also were invited. She said she was not "prepared nor interested" in talking with the Libertarian board, which she said Kohlhaas represents. However, she indicated she'd be willing to listen to what Haase had to say "but that's the extent of my interest at this point in time. So I did."
Robert Stacy McCain has more on some of the background to the struggle. Surprise surprise---anti-Palin people are deeply connected to the project of running Murkowski as a Libertarian.
Polls suggest that Murkowski could win in a three-way race against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, but it looks like it would be a very close one.
One understands the appeal of running as a Libertarian for Murkowski: she seems to stand a shot of winning as one, and victory would allow her to continue to hold power in the Senate.
However, there are also significant risks for Murkowski if she does run as a Libertarian. Perhaps the foremost of those is that, if she runs as a Libertarian and loses, it would be hard for her to come back as a Republican. A loss as a Libertarian candidate could end her political career.
At 53, Murkowski is, by politician standards, a relatively young woman, with potentially plenty of a career ahead of her. She may decide that it is in her best interest to bow out today in hopes of running for office another day. There will be another Alaska Senate race in 2014, in which incumbent Democrat Mark Begich would face reelection. As a former senator, Murkowski might have dibs on challenging the Democrat. Certainly, if she were backed by a hypothetical incumbent Republican Senator Joe Miller, she could probably win a primary easily.
Four years is a long time in politics (just ask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), but it isn't that long. The seeds of a later political victory could potentially be sown by a gracious defeat here.
Murkowski no doubt knows this. Part of her dance about running as a Libertarian may be an attempt to lock down the private support of establishment Alaska Republicans for a later race.
Of the 18 competitive Senate races (this number doesn't include Vitter, Burr, or the seat in West Virginia), Republicans would need to win 16 to secure a majority, and certainly logic suggests that the odds of achieving this would be long in any remotely normal year. But the operative term is "in a normal year," which this is most certainly not.
The Senate editor of The Cook Political Report, Jennifer Duffy, notes that the toss-up races don't always break evenly. She points to the Democratic wave year of 2006, when the party won 89 percent of the nine races that The Cook Political Report rated as toss-ups before the election. In 2008, Democrats won 78 percent of the toss-up races, while in 2004, a good year for Republicans, the GOP won 89 percent of the most competitive races. In other words, these wave elections produce a cascading effect in which the close races often break disproportionately toward the wave. The exception was 1982, when the anti-Republican wave that hit the House missed the Senate as the closest races broke in the GOP's favor.
Ace has some more musings on "wave" dynamics.
Monday, September 6, 2010
With voter enthusiasm running nearly three times higher among Republicans than Democrats, GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich leads by 12 points over Gov. Ted Strickland while GOP Senate hopeful Rob Portman tops Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher by 13 points.Both of these numbers are good news for the GOP. This poll suggests that Portman is solidifying the increasing lead he's held over Fisher since the middle of the summer.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
In the first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, Democratic Governor Joe Manchin attracts 48% of the vote while Republican businessman John Raese earns 42%.
How did the race stand a few weeks ago? 51 Manchin/ 35 Raese. Raese is gaining on Manchin.
While West Virginia hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate in over 50 years, it is a state that has begun to move toward the Republicans. Even though Manchin is trying to portray himself as a moderate or even conservative Democrat, Republicans could successfully tie him to the national Democratic party (including his backing of Obamacare).
Saturday, September 4, 2010
- Christie knows what it takes to win as a Republican in Democratic-leaning states. Christie’s been able to fight hard for conservative causes in New Jersey, but he knows when not to go too far. In his epic budget battle, Christie pressed Democrats in the state legislature to the breaking point and won. Part of Christie’s success depended upon picking battles. Though Christie has a huge fan base among the deeply Republican parts of the blogosphere, he realizes that, to use the somewhat hackneyed phrase, politics is the art of the possible.
- This endorsement advances Christie as a national figure. Many big-name Republicans (such as Sarah Palin) have stayed out of this primary campaign, giving Christie an opportunity. Christie’s popularity amongst conservatives gives him a valuable opportunity to reach out and advocate on behalf of moderate Republicans; with a reputation of being a rock-ribbed conservative, Christie can deflect claims that he’s a treacherous RINO sellout. Moderate Republicans could be a key voting bloc were Christie to make a bid for higher office. Especially if Castle wins the general election (a very good bet) after winning the primary, this endorsement will burnish Christie’s record of picking winners.
- Christie knows Castle is a strong candidate in the general election. He’s led in polls since the beginning of this race. He’s won race after race after race in Delaware. This looks like the first real chance for Republicans to gain a Senate seat in Delaware since Republican incumbent Bill Roth lost in 2000 to Tom Carper. Roth wasn't exactly a fire-breathing right-winger, but he was an ally of fiscal conservatives and was key in putting forward a number of important reforms, including the tax cuts of 1981.
- Republicanism in the mid-Atlantic states has taken a beating over the decade or so and may have reached its nadir in 2006. Castle’s election as senator would help rebuild the fortunes of Eastern Seaboard Republicans, a group that could use all of the support it can get. For Republicans to create an enduring majority that can accomplish long-lasting reforms, it will be crucial for them to have significant presences in all regions of the country. Look at the current Democratic majority in the House and Senate: it draws from every part of the country, from the West Coast to the South to the interior West to the Northeast. To get big numbers in the Senate, which will be key for passage of many important reforms, Republicans will need not only a deep but a broad well of potential support.