Monthly archives for November, 2012
Edwin A. Van Valkenburg brought gusto to the Progressive Movement in Pennsylvania a century ago, and he did it in a way that is almost inconceivable to us today.
For Valkenburg, known to everyone simply as “Van”, was a newspaper editor who was also heavily involved in politics and relished nothing more than an all-out partisan battle.
The blurring of these two roles was more common during a time when many more newspapers were published. They often served as a house organ for one political party or even a faction of a party. READ MORE »
Whatever one thinks of Barack Obama’s policies or his presidency (and I am a critic), he is an historic figure. His election and now re-election were not only a signature moments for African-Americans, but for all minorities of color. The percentages of the minority vote reflect that.
The numbers indicate the danger for Republicans that, unless some changes are made, these constituents could be lost for generation. As the country becomes less and less white, Republican will have to receive more than 60% of that vote. This is a daunting but not an impossible task.
The white vote is complex, if not somewhat vexing. For example two of the most affluent white-dominated counties in the country, Montgomery County in Maryland and Marin County in California gave Obama over 70% of the vote. At the same time many of working class white counties in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia went for Romney. What explains that?
I will venture a guess; and its more than coal. As government programs, regulations, entitlements, tax breaks and subsidies have grown over the past 40 years, the rich in the wealthy zip codes around New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles have seen their incomes grow. They see no conflict between the growth of government and their own economic prospects. A modest increase in their income tax rate would do little to impact their affluence. Those at the lowest end of the income spectrum have benefited directly from food stamp programs, Medicaid, rent supplements, and earned income tax credits. Those in the middle are less likely to be the beneficiaries of such programs. Consequently, their economic situation has deteriorated as government programs grew and the economy stagnated.
We have a strange bifurcation of the American electorate. The Democratic base consists of racial minorities, single white women, gays and lesbians, the very poor, urban voters, self-identified liberals (many affluent), and those with post-graduate degrees. On the Republican side there are older white males, increasing numbers of working class whites, rural voters, evangelical Christians, self identified conservatives, and married white women. Despite of the current conventional wisdom, these coalitions are not rigid. Numerous voters in those coalitions can shift from one election to the next due to conditions.
The Democratic coalition had the upper hand in this election. It won the overall popular vote by two percentage points, gained two Senate seats and yet failed to capture the House. Put it in historical perspective. The Roosevelt coalition of the 1930s and 1940s won five straight presidential elections, most with greater margins, and with one exception (1946) carried both houses of Congress. The current Democratic coalition has yet to amass that kind of strength.
As the percentage of the white voting population declines, the demographics give Democratic coalition the potential for that strength. A bromide claims that demography is destiny. That is true except when it is not. People also vote on results, and the party in power, in this case the Democrats, has to produce. Should the economy continue its sluggish growth and weak job creation; no demographic coalition will keep them in power.
Whatever the outcome of any particular election, this political division does not augur well for our country. America seems to be on a collision course with itself. We have a strong pro-government constituency close to colliding with the realities of growing debt and deficits. There is such a collision in Greece. It is a train wreck where no one wins. When more people become disillusioned with democratic politics, authoritarian forces emerge such as the Greek Golden Dawn party. The ultimate nightmare is Nazi Germany.
We are far from that gruesome nightmare. We can stop the collision and prevent any kind of nightmare. The elements of a grand bargain are here; not just for next year but for the long-term future. Conservatives should not object to raising revenue with a modest lowering of the income tax rates combined with a hard cap on deductions and loopholes; liberals should not object to the means testing of entitlements and raising the age of eligibility to perhaps 70 for Social Security and Medicare. This should be the broad concept of a bargain. Constructed sensibly, it could bring in additional revenue, put the brakes on the growth of spending and actually produce greater economic growth.
None of that will happen without presidential leadership. Barack Obama can do things on entitlement and tax reform that no Republican could. His party would swallow such a deal just the Republicans swallowed Nixon’s opening to China and the Democrats Clinton’s welfare reform. The Republicans, chastened by the election, may be ready. As John Kenneth Galbraith said in a letter to John F. Kennedy, “Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” The time has come to make that choice.
If this is to be an election of change, it hinges on the Senate. Should Mitt Romney win and the Republicans gain control of the Senate, changes could be made. Even if the Republicans controlled the Senate by 1 or 2 votes, it would matter a great deal. Budget and revenue bills do not need 60 votes to break a filibuster. According to the Senate rules, these bills can be passed under the reconciliation rule which requires only need a majority of the votes. Obamacare was passed this way since Democrats did not have 60 votes after Scott Brown was elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat.
Obamacare can be repealed, amended, or replaced under the same rule. Any tax plan that Romney’s allies would bring to the Senate floor could be passed by reconciliation. In addition any measure to prevent our falling off the so-called fiscal cliff would have a strong Republican stamp. Should Romney win and the Democrats retain control of the Senate, none of that will happen. It would be very difficult for Romney to change or repeal Obamacare or to make much progress on tax reform.
The outcome of the Senate races would have less meaning should Obama be re-elected. The Republicans would still control the House; and even if they won a majority in Senate, Obama would still have the veto pen. If the Democrats held the Senate, Obama would still need to fashion a deal with the House Republicans to prevent us from falling off the fiscal cliff.
When we looked at the Senate elections earlier in the year, the Republicans had an excellent chance. The Democrats had to defend 23 seats in which 7 of their incumbents were retiring. The Republicans had to defend only 10 seats in which 3 incumbents were retiring.
Today, however, it looks different. Three seats held by Republican incumbents are seriously in play: Scott Brown in Massachusetts is facing a strong challenge from Elizabeth Warren; Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who defeated a very popular incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, made some unfortunate comments about rape and is in trouble; and Olympia Snowe, who decided to retire, finds that her seat is likely to be taken by a Democratic leaning independent, Angus King. Should the Republicans lose all three of those seats, it will reduce their number to 44 and they will need to win seven seats held by Democrats to get to 51. Several of those Democratic seats looked like easy pickings last spring. Now they are anything but that. Their best chances are five states — North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin. Even if they take those seats, the Republicans will need two more victory either in Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, or Pennsylvania. This will be a stretch.
The most likely outcome is for a Democratic Senate. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, there may be little change. Sounds familiar.
Despite the near tie in the latest polling of the nationwide popular vote, Obama appears poised to remain in the White House for four more years.
Running our simulation model with the last set of weekly polls before Tuesday’s election, President Obama once again has moved up to a near certain win for the electoral vote. As of November 2, our model predicts a 96% chance of reelection with Governor Romney’s chance of unseating the President falling back to 4%. While there is still buzz about the possibility of an electoral college tie – and the resulting President Romney and Vice-President Biden – that probability has also fallen to near zero.
At this point, Obama can claim 199 electoral votes as near certainties to Romney’s 159. When the likely wins are included Obama’s total rises to 226 and Romney’s to 173. If you include all of the states that are currently leaning for reelection, the President climbs well past the needed 270 to 332 electoral votes.
The challenge for Governor Romney is to retake several of the states that are leaning blue. The most likely of these is New Hampshire followed by Ohio but at a total of 22 electoral votes that only drops Obama to 310. If Romney can also win both Virginia and Florida he raises his total to 272 and a win – but even losing New Hampshire’s four votes from that mix turns his win back to a loss.
At this point our model is predicting an electoral college vote of 314 for President Obama and 224 for Governor Romney – a buffer of 45 votes. While this is the most likely outcome, the next most likely possibilities have even higher totals for the President. In fact the top fifty percent of the outcomes are all above 294 electoral votes.
A common saying by candidates is that the only poll that counts is the one on election day. And while an upset is still a possibility, that possibility currently appears to be quite unlikely.