Election 2014

The Low Information Voter



The author’s inspiration for this cartoon comes in part from this piece from September, about Kentucky voters who love the state’s new health insurance exchange (Kynect) but still disapprove of the Affordable Care act:

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Then there was this piece about disillusionment with Washington last Wednesday. It was full of quotes by people angry about gridlock, but not quite grasping its source:

And in Racine, Wis., Jeffrey Kowalczuk, a 56-year-old account representative for a trucking company, seemed no less disillusioned than Ms. Pizarro after voting for Republicans in that critical state.  “I’m just tired of all the fighting and bickering,”  he said. “We’re all Americans. It’s just getting old with all that stuff.”

The article concluded:

“Obama has not accomplished what he promised to the community,” said Juan Neyra, 69, a retired security guard in Denver. He said he used to vote for Democrats, but this year had voted for the Republican Senate candidate, Representative Cory Gardner, who was challenging Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat. “And Udall supports Obama,” Mr. Neyra said.

Straight outta the GOP playbook.

2014 Election Was NOT A Sea Change

Demographics remain the same, says Pew:

2014 Midterm Exit Polls, AgesYesterday’s elections brought a widespread win for the Republican Party, which will increase its share of seats in the House in the next Congress, and take over the Senate, with a net gain of at least seven seats.

Nationally, 52% of voters backed Republican candidates for Congress, while 47% voted for Democrats, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool, as reported by The New York Times. The overall vote share is similar to the GOP’s margin in the 2010 elections, and many of the key demographic divides seen in that election — particularly wide gender and age gaps — remain.
And well-known generational divides were again in evidence in Tuesday’s election. Young voters have been the Democratic Party’s strongest supporters over the last decade, as they were again yesterday, while Republicans fared best among older voters. But — as in 2010 — an older electorate compared with presidential elections advantaged the GOP.

Fully 22% of 2014 voters were 65 and older — a group GOP candidates won by 16-points. By comparison, in 2012, they made up just 16% of the electorate.

And even though Democratic candidates won the 18- to 29- year-old vote by an 11-point margin, 54% to 43%, this group didn’t carry the same weight as it did two years ago when Barack Obama was re-elected. They made up a much smaller share of the electorate than in 2012, and the Democratic margins among this group also were not as large as in 2012.

According to the exit polls, voters younger than 30 were just 13% of those who showed up at the polls. Though this is little different than the 12% they represented in 2010, younger voters accounted for a larger share (19%) of the 2012 electorate.

And among 30- to 44- year-olds this year, 50% voted for Democrats while 48% for Republicans, but just 22% of yesterday’s voters were in this age range, while 27% of voters were in this age group two years ago.

2014 Midterm Exit Polls, Gender & Age GapsThe age gap in voting preferences, after first emerging in 2004 and 2006, became a major factor in 2008 and has remained substantial in each of the last four election cycles.

This gap is the result both of the youngest voters (18- to 29- year-olds) consistently favoring Democrats over Republicans, while over this same time period voters 65 and older have consistently favored Republicans. Before 2004, there were little to no age differences in vote preferences going back more than two decades.

And the gender gap in elections is at least as wide today as at any point over the last 15 years. Women were ten points less likely than men to support Republicans in yesterday’s election. That gap was eight points in 2012, six points in 2010, five points in 2008 and four points in 2006.

Let’s Not Do What Legislators Do

National Review has an editorial today that’s headlined:

The Governing Trap

Yup.  The National Review is suggesting that governing Republicans should not actually try to govern the country:

The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.

Can we stop and reflect for a moment on the fact that “not governing” is exactly what Republicans have been doing (or… NOT doing) these past six years?  Rather, they have been creating gridlock and finding ways to blame it on Democrats.  NR understands how well this worked and wants to protect Republicans from actually having to do things.

Beyond that, NR is afraid that trying to govern will just upset one faction or another in the GOP’s delicately balanced coalition.  They even admit it.  Who needs a bunch of crazy tea partiers stirring up trouble again? There’s no reasoning with those folks! Better to just lie low.

That said, they are probably right.  They have little to gain and so much to lose.

Election 2014: A GOP Wave (Or Was It?)

So what happened? In retrospect, it was a fairly familiar midterm story. A ruling party went into a campaign with an unpopular President and a discontented electorate, and, on an Election Day characterized by low turnout among the general population, and by intense excitement among activists in the opposition party, it got trounced. What was surprising was how long it took for this story to emerge—right up until yesterday.

How dissatisfied was the electorate? According to the national exit poll, fifty-nine per cent of voters said that they were angry or disappointed with the Obama Administration. Seven in ten said that the economy is in bad shape, and just one in three said it is improving. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that the country was seriously off-track. That last figure is twelve points higher than the equivalent finding in the exit poll taken during the 2012 Presidential election.

This toxic environment created the conditions for a classic midterm backlash against an unpopular President. Something very similar happened to George W. Bush, in November, 2006. What confused the picture this year was the strong and well-financed campaigns that Hagan and several other embattled Democrats ran, which allowed them to outperform the fundaments up until the last few days of the campaign, when things started to crater.

All across the country, it was enough to sweep Republicans home. Naturally, the focus was on the Senate. But, as Scott Walker’s victory indicated, the G.O.P. also did very well in gubernatorial elections. In Florida, Rick Scott scraped by the ex-governor (and party turncoat) Charlie Crist, who had been leading in the polls for much of the year. In Michigan, Rick Snyder handily defeated his Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer. Even Kansas’s Sam Brownback, an irresponsible tax-cutter and budget-slasher who was, at one stage, so unpopular that it looked like he might be run out of the state, got reëlected.

The G.O.P. also scored some big pick-ups in governor’s races. In Maryland, the Republican businessman Larry Hogan came from well behind in the polls to defeat Anthony Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor. In Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman who was one of Bill Clinton’s principal tormentors during the Whitewater saga and the subsequent impeachment trial, emerged victorious. About the only good news for Democrats in governors’ races was a pick-up in Pennsylvania, where the kitchen-cabinet magnate Tom Wolf defeated Tom Corbett, the Republican incumbent, and in Connecticut, with what looked like a hold, as Dannel Malloy claimed victory over Tom Foley. (In the early hours of Wednesday, Foley was still refusing to concede defeat.) In Colorado, with ninety-two per cent of the vote counted as of this writing, the Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper was running slightly ahead of the Republican Bob Beauprez.

And yet, despite all of this, it would be premature to call the 2014 election a major turning point. There’s little evidence that the country has taken a big swing toward the Republican Party’s ideology or policy positions, or, even, that it has any great liking for the G.O.P. The same exit poll that showed fifty-nine per cent of respondents were dissatisfied or angry with the Obama Administration found that sixty-one per cent of respondents were angry or disappointed with Republican leaders in Congress. It found that fifty-three per cent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party and that fifty-six per cent have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.

As for policy, the exit poll showed that the economy remains the biggest issue, by far, in voters’ minds. Jobs and wages are what people care about most, and, in both of these areas, they tended to support Democratic positions. One quick example: at the same time as they were electing a Republican senator and a Republican governor, the voters of Arkansas approved, by a two-to-one margin, a raise in the state’s minimum wage.

We also shouldn’t forget that this was a midterm electorate, not a Presidential-election electorate. According to the exit poll, the number of seniors who voted yesterday was twice as large as the number of eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds.

In short, this was a big protest vote, and a big defeat for President Obama. To that extent, it was a big victory for the Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader-elect, earned his moment of glory. (“It’s time to turn this country around—and I will not let you down,” McConnell told a group of cheering supporters relatively early in the evening, following his thumping of Grimes.) But if a “wave election” is one that signifies important changes in the underlying dynamics of the American electorate, then this wasn’t a wave election.

I pretty much agree with Ezra Klein’s take:

Election 2014: It Won’t Matter (But You Should Vote Anyway!)

One outcome from today’s elections has pretty much already been decided: Whether Democrats somehow hold the Senate or whether Republicans capture it, we are only headed for more polarization, not less.

Presuming Republicans win the Upper Chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will claim a new era of constructive governance has arrived, while simultaneously claiming a mandate to chip away at President Obama’s already achieved policy gains. (Those who profess a love for bipartisan cooperation will politely ignore this absurdity.) But McConnell’s only way to re-litigate Obama’s policies will remain budgetary guerrilla warfare that will only work if Obama allows it to work, which he won’t. This election won’t resolve any of the larger arguments of the Obama era — whether backward looking or forward looking — and while compromises may be possible here and there, the big picture will mostly be more stalemate.

This is the structural reality underlying the battle for the Senate: Because voters increasingly vote for the same party in Congressional elections that they do in presidential ones, it’s becoming harder for either party to hold seats in states won by the opposing party’s presidential candidate. At best for Democrats, the result of this election will be a majority so narrow that it’s almost non-existent. The most likely outcome for Republicans is a majority of two or three seats — far from enough to do any serious damage to any of Obama’s major policy achievements.

“We’re seeing greater consistency across different types of elections,” political scientist Alan Abramowitz tells me. “Aside from the close ones, it’s very hard now for a Democrat to be elected in a Romney state, and very hard for Republicans to win in Obama states.”

Ron Brownstein has a must-read that explains how demographics in the core red state battlegrounds, where older blue collar whites continue to trend away from the Democratic Party, are fueling this trend. Also seeJonathan Cohn’s useful map which captures the situation nicely.

The rub, Abramowitz says, is that in this election, this trend will produce amore polarized Senate. That’s because, in the states where control will mostly be decided, moderate Democrats are likely to be replaced with very conservative Republicans. In Arkansas and Alaska, senators Mark Pryor and Mark Begich will likely be replaced by Tom Cotton and Dan Sullivan. In Iowa and Colorado, Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner, who may well prevail, are more conservative than the retiring Tom Harkin and Mark Udall are liberal.

“The net result will be that we’ll have a Republican caucus that is more conservative than it is now, and a Democratic caucus that is more liberal than it is now,” Abramowitz says. “You’re subtracting moderates from the Democratic caucus, and adding very conservative Republicans to the GOP caucus.”

“As a result, we’ll have a more polarized Senate, with more confrontation and gridlock,” Abramowitz continues. “I can’t see the new Republican-controlled Congress being more willing to work with the president.”

And as Jonathan Chait notes, beyond the Senate, the dominant fact of our politics is that the GOP-controlled House and the President can’t agree on anything, no matter what the Senate does. The notion that the Senate can somehow bridge this divide has long been a pipe dream. But for the aforementioned reasons, it may, if anything, be even more fanciful next year. Which probably means that, whatever happens today, we’re looking at more of the same dispiriting mess for at least the next two years and quite possibly longer.

Election 2014: Here It Is

* THE FINAL FORECASTS: The HuffPollster model puts the odds of a GOP Senate takeover at 79 percent. FiveThirtyEight puts it at 76.2. And the New York Times’ Upshot hast it at around 70 percent.

* THE FINAL POLLING AVERAGES: In Colorado, Cory Gardner leads Senator Mark Udall by 1.9 points. In Georgia, David Perdue leads Michelle Nunn by four points, but he appears short of the 50 percent to avoid a runoff. In Iowa, Joni Ernst leads Bruce Braley by 2.4 points.

In New Hampshire, Senator Jeanne Shaheen leads Scott Brown by 1.4 points. In North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan leads Thom Tillis by 0.7 points. In Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts leads independent Greg Orman by 1.7 points.

All these races could still go either way, but the big picture remains that Republicans lead by more than four points in enough states to take the majority.

* UNCERTAINTY REMAINS IN THE POLLS: Nate Silver explains how lingering uncertainty in the polls means the possibility of Democrats holding the Senate cannot be ruled out entirely. There are two scenarios, one in which they are close to right, and one in which they are wrong:

In the final set of simulations we ran, Democrats won just 14 percent of the time when the overall bias in the polls was less than one point in either direction. This represents what we’ve called the “squeaker” scenario — Democrats eke out victories in just enough of the competitive states to win, even though the polls do a reasonably good job overall. The Democrats’ alternative is the “shocker” scenario — the case where the polls do prove to be skewed against them. In the simulations where the polls had at least a 1-point Republican bias, Democrats won the Senate 61 percent of the time.

So if the polls are a bit off, Democrats can hold. Of course, they could beunderestimating GOP strength, which would mean a bigger-than-expected GOP majority.

 * HOW OLD WILL TODAY’S ELECTORATE BE? Gerald Seib notes that today’s outcome will be determined in part by which side shapes the electorate they want, and offers this polling:

When Journal/NBC News pollsters gauged which voters are likely to actually show up to cast votes, based on their interest in this year’s election and their voting history, they found that just 11% of those most likely to vote this year are under the age of 30. Meanwhile, a hefty 24% of those most likely to vote were those aged 65 and over…it will be a much older electorate overall than the one that showed up for the 2012 presidential election.

Morning Plum polling has found similar disparities, and indeed, this problem has shown up in polls as far back as the spring. Today will determine whether Dems are putting any kind of dent in it.

* OTHER STORIES TO WATCH TODAY: Danny Vinik has an important reminder: The Medicaid expansion and the minimum wage are also on the ballot today in multiple states. If Democrats or independents are elected governor in a number of states, it could result in an expansion of health coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, voters in four states will weigh in on whether to raise their states’ minimum wage.

So even if Democrats lose the Senate, there could be some bright spots for the Democratic agenda here and there.

* WE’RE PROBABLY HEADING FOR RUNOFFS, FOLKS: The Post has an overview of all the plans outside groups are already putting together in the event that Senate control could be decided by runoffs in either Louisiana or Georgia, or both.

If this comes to pass, either one or both states will be absolutely flooded with outside money, political operatives, party lawyers, and preening national media figures. My God, what a zoo that will be.

Things Not Looking Good For 2014 Elections

Nate Silver:

For most of 2014, Republicans’ probability of taking over the Senate has been somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent, according to theFiveThirtyEight forecast. The gambler in me says that’s not quite close enough to describe as a “tossup”; you’d make a lot of money over the long run betting on a coin toss weighted 60-40 to your side. But it still represents a highly doubtful outcome. A 60 percent chance of an outcome occurring means there’s a 40 percent chance of it failing to occur. As 60-40 underdogs, Democrats’ chances of keeping the Senate would be about as good as Ted Williams’s chances of getting a base hit in 1941.

Over the past week or two, the FiveThirtyEight forecast has drifted slightly more toward Republicans. As of Wednesday night, the GOP’s chances of a Senate takeover were up to 66 percent, its highest figure on the year.

Sixty-six percent might seem a lot different than 60 percent; it tends to read as “2-to-1 favorites” rather than “just slightly better than a coin flip.” But it isn’t much of a change, really; Democrats still have a 34 percent chance of prevailing. The difference between a 40 percent chance and a 34 percent chance is one additional “hit” for every 17 attempts. Essentially, Democrats have fallen from Williams’s chances of getting a hit in 1941 to Tony Gwynn’s in 1989.

And he provides this graphette:



Insert sad frownly-face here.

Nate’s Back…. With Bad News

538 is rebooting today and the great oracle Nate Silver delivers a gut-punch:

But if you’re looking for a headline, we have two. First, Republicans are favored to take the Senate, at least in our view; the FiveThirtyEight forecast model gives them a 64 percent chance of doing so.

The reasons for the GOP advantage are pretty straightforward. Midterm elections are usually poor for the president’s party, and the Senate contests this year are in states where, on average, President Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. Democrats are battling a hangover effect in these states, most of which were last contested in 2008, a high-water mark for the party. On the basis of polling and the other indicators our model evaluates, Republicans are more likely than not to win the six seats they need to take over the Senate. This isn’t news, exactly; the same conditions held way back in March.

An equally important theme is the high degree of uncertainty around that outcome. A large number of states remain competitive, and Democrats could easily retain the Senate. It’s also possible that the landscape could shift further in Republicans’ direction. Our model regards a true Republican wave as possible: It gives the party almost a 25 percent chance of finishing with 54 or more Senate seats once all the votes are counted.

The Cost Of Obamacare Repeal

The GOP wants to run on repealing Obamacare in the upcoming elections?  How will that play at the state level?  A new Department of Health and Human Services report documents the impact federal subsidies under Obamacare are having on the insurance costs of people receiving them, and the Plum Line gives the bottom line:

But if subsidies were repealed, people would not lose coverage, instead seeing premiums jump from loss of the tax credit.

– In North Carolina, 357,584 people are paying an average monthly premium of $81 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $300.

– In Michigan, 272,539 people are paying an average monthly premium of $97 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $246.

– In New Hampshire, 40,262 people are paying an average monthly premium of $100 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $290.

– In Louisiana, 101,778 people are paying an average monthly premium of $83 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsides/cost increase of $314.

– In Iowa, 29,163 people are paying an average monthly premium of $108 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $243.

– In Alaska, 12,890 people are paying an average monthly premium of $94 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $413.

– In Georgia, 316,543 people are paying an average monthly premium of $54 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase in premiums of $287.

Let that be known.

UPDATE: Apparently, the courts are doing it for the GOP.  This morning, the D.C. Circuit court (the most conservative of the circuit courts) ruled in a case called Halbig v. Burwell.  Here is the D.C. Circuit Halbig ruling:

A federal appeals court dealt a huge blow to Obamacare on Tuesday, banning 
the federal exchange from providing subsidies to residents of the 36 states it serves.

A divided three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the text of the Affordable Care Act restricts the provision of premium tax credits to state-run exchanges. The two Republican appointees on the panel ruled against Obamacare while the one Democratic appointee ruled for the law.

"We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State,' and section 36B does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges," Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the court in Halbig v. Burwell.

His ruling was joined in a concurring opinion by George H. W. Bush-appointed Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who said it would be a "distortion" to let the federal exchange provide subsidies. "Only further legislation could accomplish the expansion the government seeks," he wrote.

Carter-appointed Judge Harry T. Edwards voted to uphold the subsidies.

"This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Edwards wrote in his dissenting opinion.

The ruling is very troubling for the Obama administration because the subsidies are critical to the success of Obamacare. The law encourages states to build their own exchange, but if they don't the federal government operates one on their behalf. The subsidies, or premium tax credits, exist to help Americans between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line buy insurance. That imperils the practicality of the individual mandate to get covered and the market regulations to protect sick people.

UPDATE #2:  Fourth Circuit to the rescue.  A few hours after this morning's D.C. Circuit case, the also-conservative Fourth Circuit comes out with an opinion in King v. Burwell, which goes in the other direction and upholds the subsidies in Obamacare.  The opinion is here.

Money quote:

No case stands for the proposition that literal readings should take place in a vacuum, acontextually, and untethered from other parts of the operative text; indeed, the case law indicates the opposite. National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 551 U.S. 644, 666 (2007). So does common sense: If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be fine with a pizza from Domino’s, and I then specify that Iwant ham and pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino’s with a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my lunch order. That is this case: Congress specified that Exchanges should be established and run by the states, but the contingency provision permits federal officials to act in place of the state when it fails to establish an Exchange. The premium tax credit calculation subprovision later specifies certain conditions regarding state-run Exchanges, but that does not mean that a literal reading of that provision somehow precludes its applicability to substitute federally-run Exchanges or erases the contingency provision out of the statute.

UPDATE #3:  I didn't realize this before, but the DC Circuit opinion was en banc.  It was not the full circuit.  Therefore, the 4th Circuit "wins" out for now.  The Obama administration is appealing the DC Circuit opinion to the full DC Circuit.

The Cantor Earthquake

The House Republican leadership, so solid in its opposition to President Obama, was torn apart yesterday by the defeat of its most influential conservative voice, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader.  Cantor, with a 96% conservative rating, was defeated by a tea party candidate, David Brat.

Brat spent a total of $200,000 on his campaign; Cantor spent that much just on steakhouses (actually, he spent $168,637 on steakhouses; overall, he spent $5 million).  And yet, this morning, the results show that Brat beat Cantor 55.5% to 45.5%.

What does it mean?  Well, everybody has an opinion.  There's a lot of gleeful talk on the left, and in the center, about the GOP "eating its own".  The GOP loves to have purity tests so pure that nobody is safe.  What you end up with is a circular firing squad; it is no wonder that an occasional Cantor might fall.

Cantor lost for three reasons: first, he made the error of suggesting that maybe possibly he could work with Obama on immigration reform.  Rule No. 1 of conservative politics is that you never work with the "enemy", even if it is reasonable to do so.  Brat exploited this rare vulnerablility in Cantor. His megaphone was conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham, who criticized Mr. Cantor’s positions on immigration.

Secondly, Cantor ran a bad campaign.  He attacked Brat as a "liberal professor" which didn't ring true to constituents.  Towards the end of the political campaign, Cantor tried to rally the GOP establishment.  Rule No. 2 of conservative politics is that the "establishment" — even the GOP establishment — is bad.  So there was a last minute backlash.

Finally, Cantor was a Jew.  Yup, that always worked against him in those conservative districts.

So what does it all mean?  Well, it's not good news for moderate Republicans — that's for sure.

Most on the left are treating this as good news, since most tea party candidates aren't electable.  Or so is the conventional wisdom.  The thinking goes that some Cantor supporters will stay home, allowing a Democrat to win.  But….. that is unlikely in this district.  Still, disarray in the GOP is good for the left, and most are taking this as something good.

NC Elections As Bellweather for the US?

CNN gives us five takeaways from last night's NC primary results:

1. Republican establishment passes early test: The GOP establishment — that galaxy of Washington-based political operatives, national party committees and business groups who care first and foremost about winning — promised early on that they wouldn't let controversial candidates jeopardize their chances of re-taking the Senate this year.

North Carolina was the first test in their mission to make sure that no Todd Akins, Christine O'Donnells or Richard Mourdocks would be on the Senate ballot in 2014.

The Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads spent north of $2 million propping up state House Speaker Thom Tillis when the candidate himself lacked the resources to go on statewide television. A few weeks ago, most Republicans in North Carolina were predicting that Tillis would not be able to break 40% of the vote, thereby forcing a July runoff election. But with the help of outside spending, a largely error-free campaign and the inability of his underfunded grassroots challengers to land a punch, Tillis surged late and cleared the runoff hurdle easily. Republicans are breathing easier, confident they have the candidate with the best shot to beat Democrat Hagan.

2. Democrats open up the extremist playbook: The Democratic National Committee fired off a memo to reporters right after Tillis secured the GOP nomination.

"Thom Tillis: Extreme, Scandal Plagued Conservative: Bring It On," it was titled.

No surprise there: For the better part of a year, Hagan's campaign has been planning to paint Tillis as a right-wing ideologue who, as state house speaker, curtailed voting rights, slashed education budgets and fought to limit women's access to contraception and abortion. They were just hoping he'd have to slog through a nasty Republican-on-Republican runoff first.

Now the general election begins. Democrats will work overtime to render Tillis unacceptable to suburban women and middle class voters by hitting him on issues like women's health and wages. Tillis plans to tie Hagan to President Obama and his health care law at every turn. If that sounds like the dynamic of pretty much every other federal race in the country so far this year, well, that's because it is.

3. Rand Paul stumbles: Rand Paul gambled — and lost. After spending much of the last two years making nice with the GOP establishment as he lays groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid, Paul confounded Republicans by making a last minute trip to Charlotte to campaign for Brannon, a controversial tea party candidate who turned out to be Tillis' most serious primary opponent.

Paul called Brannon a "hero" and a "dragon slayer" at a rally outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Monday, saying he would shake up the status quo in Washington. Brannon supporters hoped it would bring a last minute burst of energy to their upstart campaign. But for Paul-watchers, the appearance was a head-scratcher.

A bloody Tillis-Brannon runoff was precisely the scenario that Washington Republicans who might help Paul in 2016 — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, his fellow Kentuckian — were hoping to avoid. And while Paul had already endorsed Brannon, he was further grafting himself onto a flawed candidate who was recently found liable by a jury for misleading investors in a failed tech firm.

The Kentucky senator said his endorsement was about principle. But Paul has also developed a reputation as a canny political operator who is taking a methodical approach to the presidential race. He didn't look very savvy in North Carolina, where he put his political muscle to the test but couldn't pull his favored candidate over the finish line.

Paul was quick to save face. He endorsed Tillis on Facebook soon after the race was called, and urged Republicans to unite behind him.

4. Immigration fight fizzles: Rep. Renee Ellmers is a rare specimen: A House Republican who backs immigration reform, including a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. She calls it "an earned legal work status." Conservatives, of course, call it "amnesty."

Ellmers, a nurse from North Carolina's 2nd District who was elected in 2010 with tea party support, has been unapologetic, tangling with her constituents over the issue in town hall meetings and calling conservative radio talker Laura Ingraham "ignorant" during a recent on-air debate about immigration.

Her immigration reform cheerleading drew the attention of a pro-immigration reform group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which ran television ads on her behalf. But she also drew a conservative primary challenger: a radio talk show host and GOP perma-candidate named Frank Roche.

Roche hit Ellmers hard, framing his entire candidacy as a referendum on Ellmers' support for immigration reform and her willingness to work with the GOP establishment. Roche's poorly funded campaign gave Ellmers a scare, but in the end she skated to a primary win.

5. Anti-war Republican survives: Rep. Walter Jones, a 20-year incumbent from the state's coastal 3rd District, faced perhaps the toughest challenge of his long career from Taylor Griffin, a Republican strategist and former George W. Bush administration official from Washington who returned to New Bern to run for the seat.

Griffin's critique of Jones centered on the congressman's libertarian drift. Jones famously broke with his party over foreign policy during the Iraq War, calling it a mistake and predicting that former Vice President Dick Cheney will someday rot in hell. Jones became an ardent supporter of Ron Paul, voted to regulate Wall Street, and has been a regular thorn in the side of House Republican leaders like John Boehner, who kicked him off the House Financial Services committee in 2012.

Griffin labeled Jones the "most liberal" Republican in Congress, a questionable line of attack considering Jones' fierce social conservatism. But Griffin worked hard and had the support of hawkish outside groups who ran blistering television and radio ads against Jones, and he picked up a a late endorsement from Sarah Palin.

But it was probably too late. Jones, with his deep ties to the district, survived. Republicans in North Carolina, however, believe Griffin scuffed Jones up enough to make him vulnerable in 2016. That's if he doesn't retire first.


Go On Offense

Just a week ago, things looked bleak for Democrats and Obama for 2014. But then thePaul Ryan Vanity Project collided with 7 million new signups under the Affordable Care Act, and now the Democrats have the makings of a winning ticket for this year:

Go on offense.

One of Karl Rove’s basic tenets of politics was to attack from your area of weakness. In the same vein, Congressional Democrats and Barack Obama need to treat the next seven months as a sprint, an all-out attack campaign against their GOP opponents, day in and day out to push the GOP on defense for having no solutions except to throw millions off their health insurancehurt the vulnerable, and protect corporations and the wealthy. Democrats and the White House should aggressively push the ACA, attack the Ryan budget, and tar the GOP as whores for the Koch Brothers, end of story. Hammer the message every day without apology.

And watch these poll numbers go even higher. Go for broke and double down, instead of crawling into a hole.

Post Shutdown Polls

Post-shutdown polls are coming in and they are brutal:

The numbers:

* Dems lead in the generic ballot matchup by 49-38. Among independents — a key midterm constituency — those numbers are 46-35.

* Only 21 percent of Americans approve of the way the Congressional GOP is handling the federal budget, versus 77 percent who disapprove. Among independents: 20-78. Among moderates: 14-85.  Among seniors: 18-79. Fewer than one in three regard the GOP favorably.

* Only 20 percent think Republicans are “interested in doing what’s best for the country,” while 77 percent think they’re “interested in what’s best for themselves politically.” Among independents: 14-83. Among moderates: 18-81. Among seniors: 24-74.

* Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown by 53-29; moderates by 60-24; indys by 49-29; and seniors by 46-35.

Crucially, large majorities think the shutdown damaged the country. Eighty six percent say it has damaged the U.S.’s image in the world, and 80 percent say it damaged the U.S. economy.

Will all this change by the time of elections?  Many say yes.  And perhaps that is true.  But coming up from a disadvantaged position is worse than coming from an advantaged one, and this is bad news for the GOP.


Check out these numbers from the latest ABC/Washington Post poll (Sep. 15 results) on what Republicans did to themselves during their government shutdown:

Barack Obama, net approval: -1 (0)

Democratic Party, net favorability: -3 (+7)

Republican Party, net favorability: -31 (-14)

Tea Party, net favorability: -33 (-14)

So while Democrats and President Obama saw their net ratings drop by 10 and 1 points, respectively, Republicans and tea partiers saw their ratings drop by 17 and 19 points, respectively.

Too Discouraged To Blog

There's this…

1101130923_600 (1)

which is totally true.    The headlines this week, buried in the back of your favorite newsite, said:

Income Disparity Between Richest 1% And Rest Of US Biggest Since ’20s

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ’20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

One of them, Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

And although a Democrat is president and GOP popularity is at its lowest, it makes no difference, since a minority of Republicans can gum up the works so badly that nothing gets done (including Wall Street reform).

Meanwhile, while progressives care about many issues, those on the right tend to be one-issue voters who act with a passion.  That explains how this could happen:

WASHINGTON — The first recall election in Colorado's history on Tuesday marked a stunning victory for the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists, with the ouster of two Democrats — Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo). The two lawmakers were the target of separate recall fights over their support for stricter gun laws earlier this year.

"The highest rank in a democracy is citizen, not senate president," Morse said in his concession speech, as his supporters solemnly watched, some shedding tears.

What originally began as local political fallout over the Democratic-controlled legislature's comprehensive gun control package quickly escalated into a national referendum on gun policy. Morse and Giron both voted in favor of the legislation,signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in March, which requires background checks for all firearm purchases and bans ammunition magazines over 15 rounds.

Gun rights activists initially sought to recall four Democrats they perceived as vulnerable, but only collected the required signatures to challenge Morse and Giron.

That's right.  Some lawmakers backed a bill for stricter gun laws, and for that, they lost in a recall.  Take note — they didn't lose in the normal course of the election cycle.  They were recalled.

And this happened in Colorado… fourteen months after the shooting in Aurora which killed 12 and left 70 injured.

It's frustrating.

Lack Of Sensitivity

NYC mayorial candidate Bill de Blasio is a meanie:

When New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio first proposed taxing the rich so every child in the city could attend all-day preschool, it was October and he had support from fewer than 10 percent of Democrats in polls.

Now he leads the pack. And some of the wealthy New Yorkers who’d pay more under his plan say it bewilders and offends them.

It shows lack of sensitivity to the city’s biggest revenue providers and job creators,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a network of 200 chief executive officers, including co-Chairman Laurence Fink of BlackRock Inc. (BLK), the world’s biggest money manager.

Days before next week’s primary election, de Blasio, 52, has seized the lead decrying economic inequality. After 20 years of Republican and independent mayoral rule during which crime rates and welfare rolls plummeted and parks, stadiums, shopping, tourism and luxury apartments and office towers rose up, de Blasio speaks of a “Tale of Two Cities,” where almost half of New York residents are poor or struggling.


De Blasio, elected in 2009 to the watchdog post of public advocate, says he’s concerned that the number of middle-income city residents is shrinking. The city's richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012, up from 12 percent in 1980, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York.

“Almost anyone with a self-perceived degree of affluence will be uncomfortable with de Blasio’s tax ideas,” said Michael Steinhardt, chairman of New York-based asset manager WisdomTree Investments Inc. (WETF) While growing inequality is troubling, Steinhardt said, “perhaps even more so is the thought that more government spending is the way out of our problems.”


Right.  21% of all families of four living in New York are living below the poverty level, while the richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012.  How cruel to talk about a tax increase.

More North Carolina Shennanigans

Well, the conservative legislature and governor here in NC have decided to cut back on early voting, and decided not to let students use their IDs to vote.  And they've even gone one step further: an Elizabeth City State University senior wants to run for city council, but they won't let him run.  The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred him from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency.

The student is Montravias King:


Of course.

He is appealing the decision of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections, who have been told not to print ballots until this issue is resolved:

Ms, Kim Strach
Executive Director, State Board of Elections

Mr. Don Wright
Counsel for State Board of Elections

Dear Ms. Strach and Mr. Wright:

Please find enclosed the appeal by Mr. Montravias King from the August 20th order of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections disqualifying Mr. King as a candidate based on residency. From my telephone conversation with Mr. Wright, it is my understanding that the Pasquotank County Board has been directed to not print ballots for the October election until the State Board decides the merits of this appeal. If my understanding is incorrect or the status of Pasquotank’s ballot printing changes, please let me know immediately so I can file a motion to stay the Pasquotank’s Board’s order pending these proceedings.

Excerpt from appeal:

The North Carolina Constitution Article VI § 1 guarantees that “Every person born in the United States and every person who has been naturalized, 18 years of age, and possessing the qualifications set out in this Article, shall be entitled to vote at any election by the people of the State, except as herein otherwise provided.”
Article VI § 2(1) states: Residence period for State elections. Any person who has resided in the State of North Carolina for one year and in the precinct, ward, or other election district for 30 days next preceding an election, and possesses the other qualifications set out in this Article, shall be entitled to vote at any election held in this State.

Equally fundamental is the right of a qualified voter to run for elected office. Under
North Carolina Constitution Article VI § 6, “[e]very qualified voter in North Carolina who is 21 years of age, except as in this Constitution disqualified, shall be eligible for election by the people to office.”

Candidate Montravias King is a rising senior at Elizabeth City State University who has resided on campus since the fall of2009 and who has been an active member of the college community. Ruling on a challenge to Mr. King’s candidacy based on residency, the Board held that a dormitory address could not be considered a permanent address. Combining the Board’s conclusions of law, the Board’s ruling can be summarized as “We do not know where Mr. King resides because he cannot claim to reside here.” The Board’s conclusions oflaw are illogical. Under their conclusions, any student who abandons their former home and goes to a dormitory would be completely barred from establishing domicile anywhere. The Board’s conclusions of law classifying dormitories as insufficient addresses for voting purposes would effectively disenfranchise every student who attempts to register at his or her college dormitory address, in clear violation of United States Supreme Court precedent and holdings of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Evidence presented at the August 13th hearing showed that Mr. King established 1704 Weeksville Road as his permanent address by:
• Registering to vote at that address in 2009 and voting in subsequent elections
• Attending classes every semester and during summer school at that address
• Using that address for the place where he does his banking
• Using that address for medical records
• Obtaining employment in Elizabeth City and using that address with his employer
• Changing his driver’s license to that address
• Removing treasured possessions such as photos and mementos from his parents’s home and keeping them with him in Elizabeth City
• Actively engaging in community life by serving as President of the ECSU Chapter of the NAACP
• Testifying that he intends to stay in the Fourth Ward after graduation

Good luck to Mr. King.

House Bill 589

North Carolina is set to pass one of the most strict voting limitations bills in the country.  Not only does it include a strict voter-ID law and provision shortening early voting and eliminating same-day voter registration for early voting, but it’s also a laundry list of ways to make it harder for people to vote, and which cannot plausibly be justified on antifraud grounds. WRAL describes some of its other provisions:

  • Eliminate pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, who currently can register to vote before they turn 18.
  • Outlaw paid voter registration drives.
  • Eliminate straight-ticket voting.
  • Eliminate provisional voting if someone shows up at the wrong precinct.
  • Prohibit counties from extending poll hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances, such as in response to long lines.
  • Allow any registered voter of a county to challenge the eligibility of a voter rather than just a voter of the precinct in which the suspect voter is registered.
  • Move the presidential primary to first Tuesday after South Carolina's primary if that state holds its primary before March 15. That would mean North Carolina would have two primaries during presidential elections.
  • Study electronic filing for campaign returns.
  • Increase the maximum allowed campaign contribution per election from $4,000 to $5,000.
  • Loosen disclosure requirements in campaign ads paid for by independent committees.
  • Repeal the publicly funded election program for appellate court judges.
  • Repeal the requirement that candidates endorse ads run by their campaigns.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, this measure no longer requires federal approval before it can go into effect. And while we can be sure that voting-rights advocates will challenge this law in court once it passes, they will do so under much tougher voting-rights standards.

But all is not bleak.  A strong law like this is likely to inspire heavy backlash.  Litigation to bar paid voter-registration drives will probably be struck down. Activists will spend considerable energy seeking to negate the effects of these laws and to increase turnout.

Don't think it will happen?  Talk to the Republican legislators in Florida. They passed their own cutbacks in voter registration and early voting before the 2012 elections. Voting-rights advocates eventually got the registration rules thrown out. After Election Day in Florida saw some people waiting hours to vote, and Florida was once again held up as the example of how not to run an election and a friendly Republican home for voter suppression, the Florida legislature repealed the cutback in early voting and other voting restrictions.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, seeing Florida’s experience, abandoned his effort to eliminate same-day voter registration in the state. The story of the 2012 election was a story of voter and judicial backlash against Republican overreaching on voting.

North Carolina is the next battleground, and it is in the national spotlight.

Of course, the cavalry might arrive before there is a voter backlash:

The Justice Department is preparing to take fresh legal action in a string of voting rights cases across the nation, U.S. officials said, part of a new attempt to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that the Obama administration has warned will imperil minority representation.

The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The justices threw out a part of the act that determined which states with a history of discrimination had to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes.

Let's hope.

GOP Priorities

In the constant internal GOP tug-of-war between "tone it down to appeal to sane voters" and "ramp it up for the wingnut base", guess which side is winning?

The Republican-led House on Tuesday sought to shore up their support from conservatives with a vote on one of the most far-reaching anti-abortion bills in years.

The measure to restrict abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception will be ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate but not necessarily by voters in next year's GOP primaries. Supporters see it as an opportunity to make inroads against legalized abortion while Democratic opponents portrayed it as yet another instance of what they call the GOP's war on women.

The legislation, heading for near-certain passage in the House, contravenes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions and invites court challenges that could eventually force the Supreme Court to reconsider that decision.

It's doubtful that the Senate will take up the bill, but if it does, it certainly won't pass.  And if, by some miracle, it passes the Senate, Obama won't sign it.  In other words, this is posturing by the GOP in the House, all of whom know that the law will never come into effect.  It is grandstanding for the base.

Fortunately, their misogyny can easily be turned against them in the upcoming 2014 mid-term elections.