Friday, August 14, 2015

"Shirley" you're joking? Jacksonian Jim Webb Channelling Chisholm?

OVERLOOKED: Is fmr. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia - who has long nagged the Democratic Party for neglecting its once white, working class and Southern base - channelling Shirley Chisholm, the Bed-Stuy congresswoman and first black woman to make a serious bid for the White House?

Stepping up for the Des Moines Register's "political soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair yesterday, Webb fielded a question on campaign finance reform, declaring himself "Unbought & Unbossed" by SuperPACs, mega-donors, etc.  Scroll through to about 13:35 for Webb's answer.

In her trail-blazing 1972 bid, Chisholm - Brooklyn born to Caribbean immigrants - billed herself by that same tagline: "Unbought & Unbossed."

A curious choice, considering how the self-described Jacksonian Democrat is facing the party's "break up" with its Jefferson-Jackson Day rubber chicken dinners thrown by county and state affiliates, a nod to its base that's been diversifying for decades.

Curious, too, considering that in this year of #BlackLivesMatter dominating the discourse in Democratic presidential politics, that Webb, in keeping with his affinity for Southerners of Scotch-Irish descent, has offered a nuanced view on recent efforts to furl the Confederate battle flag.

(Nuanced it should be, as the South's bastions of Unionist, anti-Confederate sentiment during the Civil War were were Scotch-Irish mountain folk who dominated in East Tennessee, West Virginia and NW Arkansas, for instance.)

Resurrecting this memorable slogan offers up a chance to plug this fascinating documentary telling the tale of Chisholm's insurgent bid from PBS' POV, circa 2004.  Check out the doc's trailer here:

Friday, July 10, 2015

New Orleans' love for 'Teddy Bear' Roosevelt bloomed too late to cuddle him in the polling booth

New Orleans, La. - Holed up here in New Orleans' historic Roosevelt Hotel, I've been curious about the origins of the place's name.

A grand hotel built in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th Century might be expected to honor the Crescent City's colonial legacy, named after a now-forgotten French comte or long gone Spanish patrĂ³n.

Or the hotel might have been caught up in the current Confederate controversy. But there's no need to consider wiping the name of a now-disgraced statesman or general of the "Lost Cause" off the edifice's exterior.

It's not named for for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a quite plausible honoree for New Orleanians, as he won near unanimous votes across the Democratic "Solid South" in 1936 from  impoverished Southerners devoted to, and benefiting from, FDR's New Deal largesse.

In fact, it's named for President Theodore Roosevelt, a Yankee and a...Republican!

To find out why, we made sure to schedule a lobby tour featuring the structure's colorful lore, courtesy an extraordinarily knowledgable concierge dedicated to continuing the Roosevelt's legacy.

On the tour we learned that the hotel has only been recently restored as the Roosevelt, Post-Katrina, from a Fairmont property. Workers pulled up the water-logged carpet, installed as a supposedly modernizing amenity in 1965, revealing the magnificent original tile work.

Our concierge-cum-tour guide regaled us with stories of Prohibition-era speakeasies, legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey Long's holding court on the upper floors and the hotel's claim to have first concocted the original Sazarac, with rye and absinthe.

So why, I wondered, "The Roosevelt?" And why does Teddy's name pop up around New Orleans?

Remember, in 1924 when the Roosevelt was renamed from it's original Grunewald moniker, Southern pride was still smarting from Reconstruction, which had wrapped up just a half century earlier.

Theodore's surname only added alliterative reminder of those two of Dixie's then most-detested bugbears: Reconstruction and the Republican Party: objects of so much florid Southern indignation.

Roosevelt was a card-carrying member of the Republican Party! And it was Republicans who in the wake of Appomattox imposed the humiliating program of Reconstruction of the former rebel Confederate states.

But New Orleans seems to not hold his party and Section against him.

TR's NoLa legacy isn't contained within the hotel walls.  Roosevelt's "Teddy Bear" legend has a New Orleans connection.

If you take the self-guided tour of the Crescent Cityh's historic Garden District's grand (mostly) Antebellum homes per the brochure furnished by the famous Commander's Palace restaurant, you'll walk by 2520 Prytania Street, where Roosevelt was entertained by a later Louisiana governor, John Millikin Parker, before heading off on the hunting trip where TR saved the life of the bear cub that inspired the stuffed Teddy Bear craze.

(We had to bring along a "real" Teddy bear, pictured above, decked out in Rough Rider ensemble, purchased in the gift shop at TR's Long Island home of Sycamore Hill in Oyster Bay, NY.)

That hunting trip was in 1907, during Roosevelt's second, but only elected term. Teddy had made earlier connections in 1898 when he was recruiting his Rough Riders for battle in Cuba in the Spanish-American War.  Joining Roosevelt and future Gov. Parker on that hunting trip and in the Rough Riders was John A. McIlhenny, of the Tabasco hot sauce brand-founding McIlhennys.

Roosevelt roots in New Orleans were planted way back to 1811 when TR's great-great uncle sailed a steamer down from Pittsburgh.

So, was it the Bavarian-born founder of the hotel, Louis Grunewald, among some of the South's then-few and far between Republicans, like his German immigrant brethren who settled in a cluster of counties in central Texas' Hill County?

Nope. Grunewald seem to have calculated that his business interests would benefit if he cozied up to New Orleans' arch-conservative, anti-reform Old Regular Democratic organization.

Turns out, the hotel was renamed in 1923-24, a few years after Teddy's 1919 passing.  The real reason New Orleans city fathers came to appreciate Roosevelt and name its grand hotel after him, despite his Yankee Republicanism, was his crucial role accelerating work on the moribund Panama Canal project, which brought in more trading ships from South America into the Port of New Orleans, boosting the city's bottom line in a big way.

Alas, the Panama Canal's completion in 1914 was too late for Teddy to reap any of that good will in the ballot box.

Although he couldn't become a Republican, Parker did join TR's Progressive Party off-shoot from the GOP, and made his first, unsuccessful, run for governor on it's Bull Moose ticket in 1916.  (Post-Progressive, he won a term as a Democrat.) Before Roosevelt abandoned a second White House bid under the Progressive banner earlier in 1916, Parker was even slated to be his hunting buddy's running mate.

In Roosevelt's winning run for a full term in 1904, only 380 voters in Orleans Parish backed the incumbent president - or 2.3%, far below a statewide total that couldn't even crack double digits.

(Maybe the McIlhenny family campaigned for the Rough Rider in Tabasco's home of Iberia Parish.  There Roosevelt pulled in nearly 22%, over double his statewide total.)

Unburdening himself of the "Republican" label so noxious to Southern voters of that era - after he stormed out of the GOP convention in to found the Progressive Party - didn't seem to help TR much in 1912.

Only 15% of Orleans Parish voters picked him in that four-way election, a few points of his 12% statewide.  (Again in Tabasco-land, he fared much better.  Iberia Parish was his second strongest statewide, giving him 27%.)

in 1924, the next election after the hotel's Roosevelt-renaming, a Progressive Party, inspired by TR's Bull Moosers, re-emerged with Wisconsin's "Fightin' Bob" LaFollette as its standard-bearer.

LaFollette wasn't even on the ballot in Louisiana, but you can't help wonder if Theodore Roosevelt had lived and been that Progressive candidate in 1924 if Orleanians would have demonstrated their appreciation for the old Rough Rider in the polling booth.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who's Who in the House: Flippers on Trade from NAFTA to TPA

Notable in the U.S. House roll call vote on TPA (Trade Promotion Authority, a.k.a. "fast track" negotiating authority for the president) is the far fewer numbers of Members who "crossed the aisle" to vote against the majority of their caucus or conference compared to the House roll call to pass NAFTA in 103rd Congress in Nov. 1993.

On NAFTA: Just under 40% House Democrats - then in the Majority - voted "Aye" and
just over 20% of then in the Minority House Republicans voted "No."

On TPA: Again, just over 20% of now Majority House Republicans voted "No" on TPA, but
this share of House Democrats voting "Aye" on TPA fell to just 15% of the caucus.

Here's a handy list of incumbent U.S. House Members who were in office back when NAFTA passed the House, but whose votes on TPA have flipped, either from "pro-trade" to "anti-trade" or vice-versa:

"Aye"on NAFTA to "No" on TPA

Democratic Reps.:

(incumbent House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Xavier Becerra (CA)
Anna Eshoo (CA)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA)
Alcee Hastings (FL)
(incumbent House Minority Leader) Steny Hoyer (MD)
Nita Lowey (NY)
David Price (NC)
Jim McDermott (WA)

Republican Reps.:

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
John Duncan (R-TN)

"No" on NAFTA to "Yea" on TPA

Republican Reps.:

Ed Royce (R-CA)
John Mica (FL)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
(incumbent House Appropriations Comm. Chair) Hal Rogers (KY)


A "No" on TPA, Rep. Doris Matsui's (D-CA) took the seat of her deceased husband, fmr. Rep. Robert Matsui who voted "Aye" on NAFTA.

An "Aye" on TPA, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) took the seat of his late father, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee from 1995-2001, fmr. Rep. Bud Shust who voted "No" on NAFTA.

Then-House Members now serving in the Senate who have flipped on trade votes:

"Aye"on NAFTA to "No" on TPA

Democratic Sens.:

"Dick" Durbin (D-IL)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Ed Markey (D-MA)

"No" on NAFTA to "Yea" on TPA

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Sen. Diane Fienstein (D-CA) voted "No" on NAFTA, but "Yea" on TPA

Monday, June 08, 2015

Prairie Parkway:
Paving a path for Dems' drive into Denny-Land?

As the scandal embroiling fmr. U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has unfolded, reporters have trekked out to Hastert's exurban home base, just beyond Chicago's fabled suburban "Collar Counties."

The predictable rash of stories have been filed, quoting slack-jawed locals in shock and disbelief over possible "prior misconduct" allegedly committed by their humble, hometown boy, Coach "Denny" Hastert.

Hastert's reputation for hometown humility was grounded as much in an apparently middle class lifestyle as it has been on his approachable, avuncular demeanor.  Despite his long tenure wielding the Speaker's gavel, Hastert never appeared to have forsaken Yorkville in Kendall Co. and "gone Washington." profiting from his post-Congress connections.

So reporters have gone digging into where the piles of cash in question came from. Turns out: it wasn't all from the predictable consulting and lobbying gigs.

A WaPo story found that "Hastert made a fortune in land deals" as corn fields were cleared for the strip malls and subdivision construction that have fueled the exurban growth that's exploded in Kendall Co., Hastert's home, and adjoining Kane Co. since Hastert's initial House election in 1986.

(Kane Co.'s schools are bursting with bored suburban teens, but the county seat's civic boosters insist that Aurora has much going on than just Wayne and Garth's basement public access cable TV "studio.")

One deal that raised eyebrows over ethics as far back as 2006 involved a federal earmark for the proposed Prairie Parkway that would cut through both Kendall and Kane cos. Hastert owned farmland nearby that he seems to have figured would reap him a real estate windfall from the growth parkway proponents promised.

Kendall's and Kane's voting patterns have followed a familiar shift: booming exurbanizing counties that see a marked shift from their reliably Republican rural days to a sharp increase in Democratic suburbanite support at the polls.

The "Collar Counties" were once so rock-ribbed Republican that local teenager Hillary Rodham Clinton was a "Goldwater Girl," even as LBJ was burying Barry nationwide. By 2008, the "Collar Counties" followed other affluent suburban counties and voted again for president for a guy named "Barry" - this time a Democrat of color, "Barry" Obama.

The shift in exurban Kendall and Kane wasn't as pronounced.  Republicans still dominate state legislative and county offices, and boost competitive statewide GOP contenders.

But neither county had voted for a Democrat for president for the entire 20th Century, not only snubbing "Landslide Lyndon" in 1964, but never going for FDR, not even in 1936.

But by 2008. suburbanites - and a likely "favorite son" factor - were overwhelming the small town GOP habits, and Obama carried both Kane and Kendall comfortably.  (Obama took a hit four years later, winning Kane and losing Kendall, but in both by narrow margins.)

Although America is littered with public works projects that failed to spur the growth promised,   parkway opponents dubbed it the "Sprawlway," expecting strip malls to strip the land of remaining agricultural areas.

So let's posit that the proposed Prairie Parkway would indeed follow the "if you build it, they will come" maxim that supporters of big ticket public works projects like this lean on to sell the scheme.

Then Hastert, the longest-serving Republican U.S. House Speaker - possibly desperate for hush money to cover-up some very un-"Values Voter"-approved behavior - was plotting a scheme to profit from a project that could help chip away more from the already-chiseled Republican voting bloc in his home base.

- John Vaught LaBeaume
Twitter @JVLaB

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Can Lindsey’s “Grahamstanding” Really Ruffle Rand? It’s important to think back to Ron vs Rudy, SC ‘07

Weeks before yesterday’s formal announcement, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was already spelling out his vision for a potential presidential bid to Politico and WaPo.

How, pundits might wonder, can a senator who’s hardly a household name - despite frequent talking head spots on cable news - and saddled with a record of bipartisanship that’s viewed with suspicion by Republican primary voters, build a campaign that’s competitive?

Lindsey Graham has a plan: make Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and, specifically, his supposedly un-Republican foreign policy, his foil. Playing off Paul, Graham hopes to mark territory as 2016’s most hawkish competitor.

On a debate stage crowded with future also-rans in near uniform agreement over world affairs, Lindsey Graham can’t wait to stand out from the GOP cattle call by pounding Rand in person.

Call it “Grahamstanding:” look for Lindsay to denounce “demagoguery” and “isolationism” in suspiciously demagogic terms (Read: “Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and stay safe by leading from behind, vote for someone else. I'm not your man.”).  We’re sure to hear the senior Senator from the Palmetto State repeat his smear that Rand Paul’s foreign policy is “to the left of Obama.”

A 538 blogger suggests that “Lindsey Graham May Have Already Won” in his long-shot bid by making sure that his hawkish foreign policy is front and center in the conversation on the road to the nomination, and that Paul will not go unchallenged.

But there’s reason to be skeptical if Graham can take off with this strategy.

First off, the political press might hound Graham out of the race, should he “underperform” (a notion still undefined) in South Carolina’s “third in the nation” presidential primary.

Graham can’t reasonably expect a “Favorite Son” effect to take the Palmetto State effectively off the early date on the primary battleground calendar.

Graham’s relations with South Carolina’s GOP base is strained - he’s been lampooned for peddling “Grahamnesty” on immigration.  In 2014, Graham faced down a host of candidates that the Tea Party make a ruckus over.  Graham far outpaced his runner-up, but he won renomination with an unimpressive 54% of the primary vote. An early poll shows Graham back in the presidential pack in his home state.

And Graham may not even have this lane all to himself.  While former UN Ambassador John Bolton has demurred from a bid waving that banner, he’s endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), who may try to sound like even more of a warmonger than  Graham.  Unlikely at this point, but Rep. Peter King of New York has not yet closed the door on a foreign policy-focused bid.

In assessing if Lindsey Graham can gain traction as the “anti-Rand,” it’s important to think back to how Ron Paul became a phenomenon in 2007.

Back in May 2007, before he took the stage in South Carolina for a Fox News-hosted GOP presidential debate, then-Rep. Ron Paul was recognized by the political press as a famously prodigious fundraiser from his fervent mailing list fanbase, but one who barely registered in national polls.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani walked onstage aware that his relatively liberal stances on social issues could be a liability in this Bible Belt state. But he knew that his reputation as “America’s Mayor” during 9/11 could divert attention from those social stances among the famously flag-waving, military-venerating South Carolina Republicans. So when a moderator asked Ron Paul about 9/11, Giuliani pounced.  “As someone who lived through the attack of 9/11,” “America’s Mayor” butted in, spinning Paul’s remarks as asserting that American “invited” the attack.

It played to the hall, drawing enthusiastic backing from the crowd, just as Giuliani had expected. But spat was the first presidential debate moment to go viral and Ron Paul’s profile boomed via social media, setting the stage for his record-breaking online fundraising “money bombs.”

Just a few primaries into the season, Giuliani was out, but Ron Paul soldiered on, the only candidate other than the nominee to make it to the GOP convention.

That viral debate moment highlights the pitfalls with this strategy. Despite not being shared by most GOP voters, it was his unique perspective that carved his niche in the campaign.  It can be tough to succeed by being the loudest or most impassioned among a crowd that shares your position than voicing a view distinct among all of your rivals.

And Graham’s approach, however sharp his remarks, is much less bombastic than Rudy Giuliani’s and lacks a compelling narrative like becoming “America’s Mayor” on 9/11.  So he may not even be able to out-shout Rubio and the rest.

While his more cautious foreign policy may be generally popular with general electorate, Rand Paul remains outside of the GOP “mainstream” on foreign policy.  But in cautioning more military restraint, Rand Paul is distinct among Republican presidential hopefuls in speaking up for a view shared by a not-insignificant minority of his fellow Republicans.

Instead of forcing him out of the race or discrediting his positions, attacks against Rand Paul could just as easily redound back to his benefit.  And remember, Rand Paul’s cautiousness is shared by many more Republicans than Ron Paul’s isolationism.

With the ghost of Giuliani's 2008 bid haunting the path to the Republican convention, why would Graham get in? To answer, consider that so much has changed in how presidential campaigns unfold since that start of the 2008 presidential campaign, just two cycles ago.

Ron Paul was one of the first to harness social media in 2008, a tool now de rigueur. And, post-Citizens United, the possibility of super pac largess dangles before Graham, hoping that it might be spread his way.

One super pac backed by some of the “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” strategists from 2004 launched into Rand Paul the very day of his announcement. Vegas mogul Sheldon Adelson’s - whose super pac kept Newt Gingrich hobbling on in 2012 - holds hawkish views that could back Graham. Support like that could keep Graham on the debate stage long after and despite of a potential single-digit home state primary performance.

A pro-Rand super pac has already called Graham into the ring.

In the end, it could be a wash; a symbiotic deal for both candidates.  Graham’s attacks could cement his standing as the GOP’s pre-eminent hawk, and compare to most of his ilk, a thoughtful one at that.

And attacks on Rand Paul that draw attention to his uniquely restrained Republican foreign policy could attract more support among cautious Republicans than his father could have hoped to win.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Washington Bach Consort: where D.C. can converge, Left, Right & "Indie"

Last Sunday saw the fifth installment of the Washington Bach Consort's 2012-2013 season, held at its usual venue, in the chapel at the National Presbyterian Church's Upper Northwest Washington perch on Nebraska Ave.

Seated on the aisle a few rows back, Orchestra Right, was retiring U.S. Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV.  Rockefeller (D-WV).  Rockefeller is no stranger to these concerts, it seems, as a flip through the Consort's program reveals that Rockefeller is listed as an "Honorary Board Member" of the .org's Board of Directors.

No surprise there, as the fabulously wealthy Senator from an impoverished state has compiled a long track record of philanthropy in the arts.  The Senator and his spouse, Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of the board at WETA, Washington's PBS affiliate, and are famous for throwing fundraising galas at their manse hugging Rock Creek Park.

Despite the decrying in the press of the partisan poison in the Capital's air, the Consort remains refuge from that and serves as comfortable crossroads where those from divergent D.C. social strata can come together and enjoy a common appreciation of classical music.

Yes, Rockefeller is married to the daughter of a former Republican U.S. Senator, but the late Charles H. Percy of Illinois was a Republican of a notoriously liberal stripe.  (FUN FACT: Sharon Percy Rockefeller's father was booted from the "World's Most Exclusive Club" the very same day that her husband was admitted.)

Sen. Percy would certainly be considered "notoriously" liberal by the only other name that jumped out from that Board of Directors: L. Brent Bozell III.

Bozell, a conservative movement scion (Buckley in-law, his father labored in the trenches of the Goldwater insurgency), has compiled his own track record over the years as a social conservative, traditionalist and culture critic.

Bach seems to pass the Cultural taste test with Bozell, who has carried on his late mother's support for the Consort.  But would a of the side projects of a musician onstage that afternoon arch Bozell's brow?

In the orchestra, the program listed Amy Domingues as "principal" of the viola de gamba section.   Domingues has been dubbed by Washington CityPaper to be the "No. 1 cellist-for-hire in D.C.’s indie-rock scene."

The now walking cane-reliant Rockefeller isn't running for re-election next cycle, the first time Republican strategists have openly salivated over taking on the billionaire senator since West Virginia's post-2000 reddening started to set in.  Sitting in that chapel, it wasn't difficult to take the mind frame of an ambitious, mischievous GOP strategist, dreaming up attack ads mocking a billionaire long-term incumbent named Rockefeller nodding along to a viola solo from an indie rock figure at a fancy Bach concerto for being "out of touch with West Virginia values."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Good Geographic Primer For the IL Primary has this really good primer on the political geography of Illinois in preparation for today's voting.  The key takeaway is that Romney's goal is big margins in the Chicago collar counties while Santorum needs huge turnout and margins downstate.

We'll see how things play out and have some analysis tomorrow.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How Crucial Is It To Win Primaries In Swing States???

With Mitt Romney escaping Michigan bruised, but intact, his attention now turns to a perhaps more crucial contest—Ohio.  Among the Super Tuesday contests, Ohio is important not just for the number of delegates it will award but because the Buckeye State will garner intense interest in the fall.  Whereas President Obama’s polling numbers in Michigan have been quite strong, and he won the state by more than 16 points in 2008, Ohio is less friendly territory.

One question we might ask is whether there is a correlation between a candidate’s performance in a state’s primary and how they will fare in November. The ability to pivot from the primary to the general is a skill that all winning candidates must develop.  On one hand, there’s reason to doubt a clear connection between a state’s primary and general contest.  Primaries, we know, bring a much more ideological electorate to the polls.  A losing primary candidate may have been “too moderate” for the party faithful—but consequently more competitive in the more moderate fall electorate. 

On the other hand, primaries give candidates the opportunity to build an organization and campaign infrastructure that can be put to work in November.  Those candidates who can win primaries and caucuses are those who demonstrate the ability to build the massive organization that will be crucial to winning the general.  Much of this organization will be directed toward the larger general election audience once the nomination is secured.  If they fail at this during the primaries, they may fail at it during the fall.
Should a connection between the primary and general exist, it is of most importance in “toss-up” or “swing” states.    Mitt Romney’s primary loss in South Carolina will not—absent complete collapse—matter in the fall.  Clearly more important was what transpired the next week in Florida.  It’s almost impossible to conceive of a Romney (or Santorum for that matter) win in November that doesn’t include winning the Sunshine State. 
So what does history tell us???

Most recent nomination contests—with the exception of the Democrats in 2008—have wrapped up quite quickly.  With the winner rolling through state after state there haven’t been a large number of states that allow us to explore the question of whether candidates can bounce back from primary losses.  However if, as it now seems, the GOP contest is going to go on for a while, we should have the opportunity to dig into this phenomenon some more.  Despite the relative lack of test cases, there are some examples that jump out.

Looking at those competitive or “toss-up” states, we find relatively few instances in recent cycles where a candidate lost his party’s primary or caucus there, and then recovered to win the state in November.  The one exception to this is Barack Obama.  In 2008, Obama lost spring contests in New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Mexico.  Despite this, he won all of them in the general.  In this sense, the long nomination fight that forced Obama to build statewide organizations may have paid off in the fall.
John McCain, who wrapped up the GOP contests more swiftly and with fewer losses, failed to win any swing states that he also lost during the primaries.  In 2004, John Kerry swept to the nomination in even faster order with only a small handful of primary losses.  None were in states seen as competitive at the time.   In 2000, George W. Bush won one swing state he lost in the primary—New Hampshire—while losing another--Michigan.  Bob Dole, in 1996, lost Missouri during the nomination contest but bounced back to win it in the fall.  In 1992 Bill Clinton managed to lose 3 spring state contests that he put in his column in November—New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada.  Finally, in 1988, Michael Dukakis managed one of his few fall wins in Iowa, whose caucuses he lost.  On the flip side, whereas George H.W. Bush only lost nine states in the general, three came in normally competitive states that he lost during the primary season—Iowa, Minnesota, and Washington.

So, despite the small number of cases that fit our definition—primary losses in swing states--there seems to be pretty good reason for Mitt Romney to worry about next week’s vote in Ohio.   Like Florida, Ohio is a state that GOP badly needs in November.  Should he fail to defeat Rick Santorum there next week, the loss may prove to be more lethal than even Michigan would have been.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jesse Jackson in Appalachia

In my exploration of voting in counties heavily dependent on government income, I've found myself digging deeply into the politics of Appalachia.  This region's political behavior seems to confound liberals' expectations that those who are among the poorest and most dependent on policies championed by the Democrats should reward that party with their votes.  As I've shown, that's rarely been the case over the past several decades.  In my last post, I suggested that part of the Democrats' problem is that they haven't always tried to connect with these voters and that some candidates--especially Bill Clinton--offer a blue print for future candidates in the region.

During the 2008 campaign, part of the narrative revolving around Barack Obama was that his race was the primary reason why he wasn't able to win downscale white rural voters.  While there might be some evidence of this, while doing some web surfing on Appalachian politics I came across this interesting article from the great site, Daily Yonder, about Jesse Jackson's 1988 campaign.  The more I read about Jackson's presidential runs, the more I believe they've been overlooked by students of elections.  Too often Jackson is dismissed as either a fringe candidate or one whose campaigns were exclusively about race.  Rather--as this story argues--Jackson was extremely successful in uniting downscale whites and minority voters.  For example, when I dug up the results of the 1988 Kentucky primary, I found some interesting results.  Kentucky was won overwhelmingly by Al Gore, who won all but one county.  However, Jackson ran ahead of eventual nominee Michael Dukakis in 18 counties, highlighted below:

Using Census data, eight of these counties had a population that was 95% or more white.  Only four have an African American population above 10%.  Thus, twenty years before Barack Obama's emergence, in an era much less "post racial," Jesse Jackson was able to perform quite well in an area we might expect to be hostile to his candidacy.  What seems to have helped him was that he didn't write these voters and these areas off.  Like the New Yorker piece I linked to last week argued, showing up, making an effort, and taking these voters and their concerns seriously can go a long way.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some More Data On The Voting Of Lower Income Whites

As I hinted at in my post a few days back, the question of why lower income--or more governmentally dependent--white voters have shown a tendency to vote Republican has vexed many on the left for years.  Over at The Monkey Cage, John Sides provides some evidence--as produced by Larry Bartels--that white working class voters have not, overall, become more Republican:

Among whites without a college degree, income has become a stronger predictor of the vote over time. But actually it’s those with less income, not more income, who are more likely to support Democratic presidential candidates. And again, there certainly no trend by which whites with below-average incomes and no college degree become more Republican.

What shift to the right there has been seems to be confined to the south.  Thus, my highlighting of the Appalachian/Ozark region seems to have some confirmation.  When I was doing some Google surfing last night trying to track down some writing on this region, I came across this story that I remembered from back in the fall of 2008.  In it, you get a sense of the obstacles--and opportunities--that Democrats have among these voters.  While I noted the success of Bill Clinton in both 1992 and 1996, the New Yorker piece uses Virginia Senator (and previously Governor) Mark Warner as a more modern example of how Democrats can win in the hollers.  Here's a map of the 2001 Virginia Governor's race, won by Warner:

As you can see, Warner did exceptionally well in the southwestern corner of the state, allowing him to pad the large lead that he built up in the much more solidly DC suburbs.  Ultimately, Barack Obama wasn't able to duplicate Warner's success in this region.  Nonetheless, he became the first Democrat to win the Commonwealth since Lyndon Johnson.

In the end, as candidates prioritize where they spend their time and resources and how they put together a strategy, they must confront the reality of where they are likely to be successful.  Coalitions (and the size of their component parts) are cobbled together.  The math begins to take over.  Despite the fact that those voters discussed in the NYT story might seem like they "should" vote Democratic, so much history suggests that they won't, regardless of how much effort is expended.  In states like Virginia that offer large numbers of other more reliable coalition members (minorities for example), winning the state remains a possibility.  In other states--say Kentucky--there exists no realistic path to victory given the composition of the electorate.  Hence, a candidate like Obama turns his attention elsewhere. 

A Quick Addendum To The Previous Post

Here's a quick addition to the previous post, looking at the data in a slightly different way.  Whereas the NYT story looked just at spending on government benefits, Talking Points Memo puts this spending in comparison to the amount of money contributed by each state.  While not at the county level, we do get to see the variance across states from those that get relatively little back relative to their tax contributions versus those that receive much more.  Like I discussed previously, those places that not only have a heavy reliance on government benefits, but also contribute relatively little for them, oftentimes vote consistently for the GOP.

As an editorial aside, I'd also point people's attention to the one place that has the lowest return on its tax contributions--Washington, DC.  As a DC resident and taxpayer, it is data like this that drives us Washingtonians nuts.  "Taxation Without Representation" indeed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Don't People Who Benefit From Government Vote For The Democrats???

Since it was published last week, this story by the New York Times has been garnering a lot of coverage.  In great detail and nuance, it tackles a theme and a dilemma that has dominated our politics for at least the last generation.  As the story illustrates, and as their fantastic mapping shows, Americans have become increasingly dependent on government programs, especially entitlements--Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, veterans benefits, and other forms of income support.  At the same time, the willingness to pay for these programs has declined precipitously.  Hence, the current fiscal straits in which we find ourselves.  Ironically, among those most benefiting from these programs has been an attraction to anti-government rhetoric from the right.

In reading this story and exploring the corresponding map, I began to wonder just how those areas most dependent on government income voted over time.  While the story focused in on one county in Minnesota, I wanted to broaden the scope and see if any interesting patterns emerged.  What I decided to do was zoom in on those counties who had the highest degree of what we might call "dependence"--those who received more than 40% of their income from these sources--these are the counties colored dark red on the NYT map. 

In total, there are 82 counties nationwide that fall into this category (I excluded the Alaska census area because voting data wasn't available for it).  I produced a spreadsheet, seen below, that lists these counties--by state--along with their percentage of government "dependence" as well as two other variables that I thought might be revealing: their racial makeup shown as % white; and their poverty rate (both from Census data).  Oftentimes in our politics there has been an assumption that poverty and government dependence is concentrated in minority communities.  This data clearly refutes that.

Next, I wanted to see how each of these counties voted in recent elections.  Rather than code each election, I picked a few that I thought might be of particular interest.  I coded the two most recent presidential elections to see the most recent political behavior of these areas and to explore whether there was any noticeable short term change.  I then decided to look at 1992.  1992 is of note in that it, like 2008, was an election contested during an economic downturn and might produce similar "pro-government" sentiment in those areas of greatest need.  Similarly, I picked 1980.  Also conducted during economic difficulties, 1980 is notable for the rise of Ronald Reagan and the ascendancy of anti-government rhetoric.  Thus, as American politics began to transition away from the New Deal assumptions of the previous generation, we might wonder if areas strongly dependent on government resisted Reagan.  Finally, I picked the 1964 Johnson landslide.  The thinking here is that this election would probably represent the apex of pro-government voting.

In looking at the spreadsheet, very few clear cut trends emerge and there is certainly no correlation between government dependence and support for the Democratic party.  Things are much more complicated (and hence interesting).  Nonetheless, there are a number of things to take note of and explore.  In 2008, of these 82 counties, only 30 voted for Barack Obama.  This is the type of result that makes many Democrats' heads spin.  How is it, they ask, that those voters most benefitting from programs championed by Democrats vote "against their interests"???  This phenomenon garnered a lot of attention a few years back with the publication of Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas?"  If we map this voting--coloring Obama counties Blue and McCain counties Red--we get the following:

The most interesting aspect of this map, I think, is the clustering of McCain counties in the Kentucky, Tennesse, Missouri region.  These counties are, as the data suggests, overwhelmingly white and poor.  They also tend to be mountainous, low population, counties in the Appalachian and Ozark ranges.  Looking at the voting over time, these are also counties that have remained, for the most part, consistently Republican.  Clearly, it seems as if there is more than just economics at play here.  Indeed, these areas have long had a political culture that has confounded Democrats' ability to compete, going back generations.  The one modern Democrat who performed well in this region, perhaps not surprisingly, was Bill Clinton.  Not only did Clinton win 60 of the 82 counties nationwide, he did particurly well in this cluster of KY/TN/MO counties--so much so that he won all three states in both 1992 and 1996.  No Democrat has won any of the three since.

How do we explain this change?  While these counties and regions have changed little over the past  decades, they were receptive to Clinton but not Obama (and Kerry).  Going back further, these counties also supported Carter and Johnson.  Is the shift a result of a broader movement against the Democrats, as hinted at in the original NYT story?  Is it the result of the fact that the most recent Democratic nominees were northerners who were perceived as foreign to this region's culture and people?  Clinton hailed from this area and both Carter and LBJ were southerners so there might be some credence to this hypothesis.

A few other observations. 1980 stands out as the year in which these counties' vote was most divided, with Reagan winning 42 and Carter 40 counties respectively.  Thus, the notion that this was perhaps a "tipping point" election may have some confirmation.

Looking at the race variable, while I've so far discussed the overwhelmingly white KY/TN/MO counties, there are a number of overwhelmingly African American counties represented in the data.  Specifically, Perry and Wilcox County Alabama, Marion County South Carolina, and Holmes, Jefferson, Humphreys, and Quitman Counties in Mississippi.  Here, as expected, there was overwhelming support for all of the recent Democratic candidates (back during the lead up to the 2008 election I did a series of posts on the interesting political geography of these regions--see here and here).  Also remember, when looking at the 1964 vote in these counties, that the Voting Rights Act had yet to be passed.  Next, there are a few counties with large Hispanic populations--see those in Texas as well as Mora and Guadalupe in New Mexico.  Finally, make note of some counties with a large Native American population--Apache in Arizona; Sioux in North Dakota; Buffalo and Shannon in South Dakota.  Like with the heavily African American counties, those with large Hispanic or Native American populations have voted as we would expect.

Perhaps the most confounding set of counties--and those that I will need to research more deeply--are those found in Michigan.  What is interesting about these counties is that they are overwhelmingly white, have high degrees of governement "dependence," but are not terribly poor.  Their poverty rates all hover near the statewide average of 15%.  So what explains this?  Going back to the original NYT map, you can separate out the different components of government support.  These counties show a heavy reliance on both Social Security and Medicare, suggesting a large elderly population.  At the same time, though, these counties also have large reliance on unemployment insurance.  In a lot of ways, these counties seem quite similar to Chisago County Minnesota which was the focus of the NYT story.

These are just a few observations based on a cursory examination of this data.  There's a lot more that I hope to delve into, especially focusing on individual counties or regions, in the coming weeks.  What does come through, though, is that voters and regions have voting histories and behaviors that don't fit into a simple narrative or explanation.  This is especially the case when it comes to the correlation between reliance on government and party support.  As the Times story makes clear, voters possess a series of often contradictory feelings and beliefs.  For those on the left who aspire for an electorate that will vote strictly along economic lines, this data is bound to frustrate. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Visualizing Polarization in Congress

I've written a bit about polarization in Congress.  Every semester, as I teach my students about the nature of partisanship, I try to give them a visual sense of how the membership has changed over time.  Most often, I rely upon the work of Keith Poole, who has pioneered the study of congressional partisanship by creating a methodology that allows for the comparison of the membership over time.  DW-NOMINATE scores give individual members a place along a liberal / conservative continuum based upon their voting behavior.  By comparing individual members with their partisan colleagues, one is able to gauge each party's internal cohesion.  By comparing individuals with members of the opposite party, one can see how much polarization exists between Republicans and Democrats.

When one takes this data across all Congresses, one gets the amazing short video above.  As one plays through the 112 Congresses that we've had, one sees how polarized the current era has become.  Both the Democrats and Republicans have become more internally cohesive and more distant from each other.  Fewer and fewer members find themselves crossing party lines, making the passage of legislation that is broadly accepted across the ideological spectrum more difficult.

Check out Poole's site for more visualization of this dynamic.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Seeking Single Women

I am working my way through Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin's "The Path To 270" and wanted to do a quick post on a fascinating bit of data.  Teixeira, co-author of "The Emerging Democratic Majority," is the primary influence on how I tend to approach election analysis given his emphasis on demographic change and political geography.

In "The Path To 270" Teixeira and Halpin delve into the major components of the coalition that elected President Obama with an eye to how these groups have increased or decreased in number and how they will approach the 2012 election.  Beyond their focus on minority voters and college educated whites (topics which I'll try to cover in future posts), I was struck by the data they present on single women.  To quote...

Unmarried women were also strong Obama supporters in 2008, favoring him by a 70-29 margin.  Unmarried women now make up almost half, 47 percent, of adult women, up from 38 percent in 1970.  Their current share of the voter pool--a quarter of eligible voters--is nearly the size of white evangelical protestants, the GOP's largest base group.  And since the growth rate of unmarried women is so fast (double that of married women) the proportion of unmarried women in the voting pool will continue to increase.

Teixeira and Halpin's analysis draws upon an earlier study of unmarried voters, "A New America," produced by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in 2007.  Further putting the numbers in context, they note "there are over 53 unmarried women of voting age, a number that dwarfs the percentage of seniors, people of color and even union members."  In comparing marital status with other variables, they find that "marital status is a powerful predictor of the vote within other voting blocks; unmarried women tend to vote like other unmarried women, regardless of other powerful demographic variables such as age, income, and education."

To connect these demographic trends with policy, Greenberg and his co-authors make a strong case that unmarried women, in particular, have been strong proponents of health care reform, reduced American military involvement overseas, and economic parity in the workplace.  Given what Obama has achieved in these areas, it will be interesting to see how his campaign messaging targets unmarried women.  While health care reform, specifically, has been a subject that Obama has been hesitant to discuss with broad audiences, I would bet that there will be a great deal of "microtargeting" directed at unmarried women.

If we were to extend our analysis to include unmarried men as well (who also favored Obama in 2008 but to a lesser degree than women), the numbers are even more staggering.  As this recent piece notes (and the visual at top shows) not only are single people becoming more numerous, but they tend to be concentrated in certain geographic areas.  Again, from Greenberg...

From 1960 to 2006, the percentage of the voting age population that was unmarried grew from 27 to 45 percent.  Between the 2002 and 2006 elections, the growth rate of unmarried Americans was double that of married Americans.  If this trend continues, the unmarried will be a majority of the population within 15 years.

So, moving forward it will be worth paying attention to this dimension of the voting public.  While there seems to be little discussion of how marital status affects policy beliefs and voting preferences--at least in more mainstream venues--the data on single Americans is pretty compelling, especially as their numbers increase so dramatically.  In this regard, it would seem as if the recent economic downturn would have been felt particularly hard by single Americans.  A married couple is better able to absorb a loss or decline in income than a single individual.  Thus, how these folks perceive the past four years--and assign responsibility for the downturn--will be crucial to both parties in November.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Short Take on Florida, Including Ominous Turnout Numbers

Mitt Romney's victory yesterday in Florida is obviously a shot in the arm to his campaign, especially after the shock of South Carolina.  Above, I've posted a map of the primary results, courtesy of Dave Leip's U.S. Election Atlas.  The counties highlighted in Green were won by Romney; Blue were Gingrich victories.  To make some sense of the map, I'd refer back to a post I wrote in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election.

Florida's political geography is extremely fascinating.  The northern part of the state, including the panhandle, more closely resembles the neighboring states of Georgia and Alabama than it does the rest of the state.  More rural and with a large military presence, these counties have a stronger "Deep South" flavor--more Evangelicals and social conservatives.  Though less populous than other regions in the state, it favored Gingrich.  Exit polling from yesterday's vote confirms Gingrich's (and Santorum's) appeal to these voters and serves to confirm that Romney has still not sold this important GOP bloc on his candidacy.

On the turnout front, some more troubling news for the GOP.  As I wrote recently, turnout in New Hampshire, while up compared to 2008, did not increase at the rate we might expect for a party energized and positioned to recapture the White House.  I did some quick calculations on the most recent contests.  South Carolina saw an impressive 36% increase in Republican primary turnout over 2008 (603,856 votes vs. 445,677).  In Florida, however--a much more important state in November--turnout was actually down 14% compared to four years ago (1,669,585 votes vs. 1,949,498).

Here's some Florida turnout analysis (including an interesting graph of county data) from Michael McDonald, one of the foremost scholars of voter participation.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Does President Obama Have A "Cushion" In 2012???

As we get more and more polling data about how President Obama stacks up against his potential Republican rivals, it's important to remember that in many ways the national percentages are irrelevant.  Presidential contests are really state by state races.  The ultimate goal is to compile the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.  Because of the vast differences across states and regions--something that this site aspires to capture--neither Obama or Romney/Gingrich will have the same level of support everywhere.

Thus, as we begin to look to November, it's useful to look back at recent elections, especially 2008, and see how the candidates varied across the states.  This will give us the opportunity to see how likely it is that either candidate will be able to bring new states into their coalition. 

Another way to state this is: how much ground must the Republican nominee make up based upon what happened in 2008?  How much of a "cushion" does Obama have?  Does he have any realistic opportunity to build upon his 2008 margin?

To help answer this, I decided to look at how many states were actually closely decided in 2008.  These would be the main targets for both candidates, especially the Republican nominee who needs to improve dramatically on John McCain's 173 electoral votes.  I produced the following table that lists each state based upon the winning candidate's margin of victory.

What we see is that, beyond the 7% national spread between Obama and McCain, the state by state results are even more impressive for the Presdident.  If we use a spread of 5% as an arbitrary definition of a "close" outcome, we see (highlighted in yellow) that only six states were decided by such a margin in 2008.  Of these, Barack Obama won 4 (NC, FL, IN, OH) while McCain won 2 (MO, MT).  If we wanted to be a bit more generous in our definition of "close" to include states decided by 10% or less, we get an additional nine states, 4 won by Obama (VA, CO, IA, NH) and 5 won by McCain (GA, SD, AZ, ND, SC). 

In the final column of the table, I've listed the number of electoral votes that will be awarded by these states in 2012.  Here is where we can get a real sense of the magnitude of the task for the Republican nominee.  If we assume that states in 2012 will vote roughly as they did four years ago, the GOP nominee must win every state they won in 2008, plus North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, AND Iowa in order to caputre the White House.

When we look at previous presidential elections, we see that there were many more "close" states than we saw in 2008.  For example, in 2004 we saw twelve states decided by 5% or less and twenty one with a 10% or less margin:

In 2000 there was a similar bunching of states, also with twelve decided by 5% or less.  Twenty two had a 10% or less margin:

When we look at the data on a state by state basis, the magnitude of each party's win over these past three cycles becomes magnified.   This is especially true, it seems, for 2008.  While Obama's 52.9% of the popular vote was the highest of any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it is also true that he managed to win a lot of states by a large margin.  One might miss this if they were concerned only with the national numbers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is There An Enthusiasm Gap Among Republicans???

Things have been dark here for many months.  Now that the campaign is heating up, I'm going to try getting some things up on a more regular basis.  I've got a couple of posts in the works but let's start with a short little data exploration.

With two Republican votes already in the books and another taking place in South Carolina this weekend, one question that has gotten a bit of attention is whether Republican voters are enthusiastic about their choices, especially now that the field is winnowing.  For any party hoping to win the presidency--or any other election for that matter--turning out your voters is of primary importance.  The assumption going into 2012 for Republicans was that given the degree of opposition on the right to the Obama presidency, and coming on the tails of their success in the 2010 midterms, there would be tremendous energy and activism mobilized to propel whoever won the nomination into the White House.

While we've only had a few contests so far, there is reason to wonder whether this assumption is in fact true. 

If we look at the results from New Hampshire, a total of 248,447 votes were cast in the Republican primary across all candidates, more than in any recent Granite State GOP primary.  When compared to 2008, this year's vote was an increase of 3.6%.

To get a sense of whether this increase is significant or tells us anything about the state of the GOP electorate, though, we need some baseline of comparison.  I decided to look at recent New Hampshire primaries in which one party was trying to take over the White House from the other--a scenario that would seem to be ripe for increased turnout and mobilization.  When we look at these contests, 2012 doesn't stack up well.

For example, in 2008 the Democrats saw a 31% increase in turnout over 2004 (287,556 vs. 219,787 votes).  Also on the Democratic side--and also a successful party flip of the White House--1992 saw the Democrats increase their turnout by an even more impressive 36% over 1988 (167,664 vs. 122,912 votes).  Looking at Republicans, in 2000 the GOP turnout was 16% higher than it was in 1996 (238,206 vs. 205,856 votes).

Unlike in later contests where the eventual nominee becomes established and most candidates have dropped out, New Hampshire primaries have full fields and permissive voting procedures--it is an "open" primary.  Thus, we would expect the voting there to be a relatively good barometer of the party's enthusiasm.  If the turnout results in New Hampshire continue into the later contests, there's reason for GOP leaders--and the eventual nominee--to worry about the fall.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Once Upon a Time There Was Such a Thing as a Liberal Republican

Apologies for the absence of posting over the past few months.  Summers are always more busy than I think they'll be.  Plus, the toxicity of the recent debt ceiling debate hasn't put me much in the mood for writing.  Today, though, is a big day with the Wisconsin State Senate recalls so I'll try to get some posting up tonight as the results come in.  Democrats need to capture three seats to gain the majority.  The most likely gains, in my estimation and in order, would be Kapanke, Hopper, and Darling.

Before we get to that tonight, though, yesterday brought news of the passing of former Oregon governor and senator Mark Hatfield (see obits and rememberances here, here, and here).  Hatfield, who retired from the Senate after 30 years of service in 1996, was someone who would, unfortunately, be completely unrecognizable in today's Congress.  Today we find ourselves in an era when every Republican Senator ranks ideologically to the right of every Democratic Senator.  Hatfield was interesting in that although he was a "liberal Republican," his positions didn't necessarily fall in line with what we've come to understand that label to mean.  Yes, he was more socially liberal, but he was also staunchly pro-life.  Heavily steeped in his Baptist upbringing, his pro-life stance though (counter to what we see today) extended to opposition to the death penalty--an issue he grappled with as Oregon's governor--and most importantly the use of the U.S. military.  Serving in the Navy during WWII, Hatfield saw first hand the devastation of Hiroshima.  Upon election to the Senate he became an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam and throughout his career was a reliable vote against authorizing the use of force, including the Persian Gulf War.

Hatfield's tenure in Congress is also of note in that he embodied the old style independent committee chairman.  He was the top Republican on the powerful Appropriations Committee, both during the Republican majorities of 1981-1987 and 1995-6.  Staunchly protective of his prerogatives as chief appropriator, he famously defended his turf against an intra-party uprising brought about by his refusal to support a Balanced Budget Amendment.  It was his vote that sent the measure down to defeat.

While it's easy to become overly nostalgic when thinking about politicians and Congresses long gone, there can be little doubt that our political system would be better off if there were more people like Senator Hatfield still around.