Monday, July 20, 2009

When In Decided to Buy Matt Bai's Book

In the midst of a dying newspaper industry, this is what the New York Times is for.

Republicans Like Palin...

...but don't so much want to vote for her.

America Gets Impatient

You know you're in a slump when you're tied with Mitt Romney.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The latest Public Policy Polling poll is a great exercise is masturbation. They test Obama against well-known potential opponents. Against Gingrich, Obama dominates, 53%-36%. But Gingrich is unpopular (30% fav, 47% unfav), you say, how might Obama fair against a stronger opponent? Well, he destroys Romney (40% fav, 36% unfav), 53%-35%, and Huckabee (44% fav, 32% unfav), 52%-39%. but these figures are each unknown to about 25% of poll respondents. What about someone with name ID comparable to Obama's? In that case, Obama crushes Palin (42%-50%), 56%-37%.

The 13-point win over Huckabee (Obama's smallest margin of victory) would represent the largest blow-out since Reagan's 18-point victory in 1984. The 19-point win over Palin would be the largest since Nixon's 23-point romp in 1972.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Attention JD Hayworth!

Rasmussen confirms that AZ GOPers are not happy with McCain.

The best part: Rasmussen thinks we have a lieutenant governor. Sorry, Scotty, we try to avoid such civilized practices here.

And Now You Have Cholera

Saturday, May 9, 2009

One More Reason to Be Uneasy About Specter (D-PA)

He's a bad person. Like, wow, this is maybe the worst thing I've ever seen in politics.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

Replacing Souter

Obama's Philosophy on SC Justices:

"Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

4,508 South Dakotans

Just because I love beating a dead horse on how stupid the Senate is, I thought I'd look through the last few cycles to see which state was responsible for our needing Arlen Specter's cowardice to break a filibuster. The answer is South Dakota in 2004, electing John Thune over Tom Daschle by a margin of 4,508 votes. I doubt that any of those 4,508 South Dakotans had any inclination that their votes would be responsible for allowing Senate Republicans to obstruct the agenda of an extremely popular new Democratic president and his massive congressional majorities five years later. It's impossible to blame them or the voters of Alaska (2004), Florida (2004), Tennessee (2006), or Georgia (2008) for 59 rather than 60 Democratic Senators.

But when you combine six year terms, huge population disparities across states, staggered elections, small chamber size, and an arbitrary 60-vote requirement on major legislation, you get South Dakotans in 2004 deciding the fates of stimulus, healthcare, EFCA, judges, and more in 2009 and 2010.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Specter, 60 Seats, Magic Bullets, and the Absurdity of the U.S. Senate

When I heard that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) had become Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), I was markedly less excited than the Democratic world at large seems to be. Sure, I get that it's a good day for the Democratic Party, but it still leaves me with a bad feeling in my mouth. I thought I'd take this chance to explain that bad feeling.

To get it out of the way, I acknowledge that this is a big day for us. Moving the president's agenda through the Senate did become marginally easier (or will whenever Al Franken is sworn in) and a strong message was sent to moderate voters that the Republican Party no longer has a place for them. These are things to celebrate and we should all pool money together to buy Pat Toomey a big ol' bottle of his favorite brand of crazyface whisky.

Still, I have some reservations.

Not As Big A Deal As It Seems

Yes, this frees him up to vote with us on healthcare. Ambinder writes, "Getting to 60 on health care this year is inevitable now. Giving labor more room to maneuver during the legislative negotiations is also more likely." If that were true, it would be a good thing. But I'm not sure that adding Snarlin' Arlen to the coalition makes negotiations any easier.

Really, this all comes down to one's view of reconciliation as a the vehicle for healthcare. Going that route would allow the White House to pass healthcare (something on which it's particularly important to avoid logrolling and buying votes) without dealing with Sens. Bayh, Bennet, Collins, Lincoln, Nelson, Snowe, Specter and that crew of squishy moderates. Avoiding reconciliation would allow the White House to create a broader based coalition and look "bi-partisan" in the press. Having Specter in a blue shirt would make the 60-vote plan a bit easier, but not necessarily more appealing. On something as fundamental as healthcare, I could care less what the media thinks about the process and I'd be perfectly happy avoiding the kind of giveaways to Sens. Collins, Snowe, and Specter than typified the stimulus bill.

Cap-and-trade will not advance because of Specter as long as there are 4-6 Democrats ready to jump ship (barring the use of reconciliation here, too). The situation on EFCA might not change at all, if Ambinder is correct that Specter today "reiterated his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, saying that he would also oppose a filibuster-killing cloture vote." More generously, "On the one hand, labor folks have some time to convince Specter than an EFCA vote won't be as bad. On the other hand, they don't have their own pro-EFCA Democrat to do it with. 'Card check' legislation really hasn't advanced. Specter will risk being seen as wishy-washy (even more so!) if he changes his mind after saying he wouldn't. ON THE OTHER HAND -- Specter could be the compromise-broker."

Bye-bye Dreams of Senator Sestak

The point about having a "pro-EFCA Democrat" is an important one. Had Specter stayed in his own party, our nominee would have walked over Pat Toomey in a joke of a general election, replacing new Democrat Arlen Specter with a real Democrat like Joe Sestak or Allyson Schwartz, who would have been a reliable vote on not only EFCA, but healthcare, the budget, the stimulus, and the whole shebang.

Now, we'll never get that chance. At least not until 2016, and we can't assume that the Republicans will nominate a Pat Toomey-esque nutjob then, too. And I doubt that Specter will get a real test in the Democratic primary, holding his feet to the fire to vote with the president. I'm sure that Schumer, Menendez, Rahm-bo, and Rendell all promised him that they would squash any talk of a real primary challenge. So while Specter is no longer compelled to vote against the president on certain issues, he is still free not to vote with his new party whenever he wants.

Sure, He Might Be Better Than Ben Nelson, But......

Yes, I expect Arlen to vote with us a little more than he has in his career to date. Still, the man's voting record is considerably more conservative than that of Sens. Bayh, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson, and even Sens. Collins and Snowe. He's also never felt a really strong need to vote with his party, and I don't see that changing. My point here is just that Arlen Specter will not find himself in middle of the Democratic Party, or even the center-right. We just got ourselves another social moderate who is very cautious about anything that smells of social democracy. Congratulations on Blanche Lincoln 2.0!

He's Wishy Washy, To An Extreme

Another reason I feel weird about this is that I just don't trust the guy. He loves compromise soooo much, that he tends to produce policies that are simply incoherent (you haven't forgotten who invented the magic bullet theory, have you?). He couldn't bring himself to vote to convict, nor to acquit President Clinton, so he dug up his old Scots Law textbook and tried to vote "not proven." Yeah, that's not in the rules. And even Ross Douthat was offended by his role in shrinking the size of the stimulus package, saying that he might have crippled the president's efforts by forcing an awkward compromise. I just get the impression that he loves being the swing vote, being in the middle of negotiations a little too much so that he sacrifices coherent policy-making in pursuit of compromise.

An Act of Cowardice

"I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican Primary electorate," he said. "I am prepared to take on all-comers, all comers in a general election." (Ambinder)

All comers? Really? If he were willing to take on all comers, wouldn't he run as an independent so that both parties could challenge him? (Just as an aside, a Sestak-Specter-Toomey race would have been incredible). That's not what he's doing. He's not taking on all comers. He's cherry picking his opponent. As I said above, I'm sure he's been promised a cake walk of a primary. Which means his only real opponent will be Pat Toomey. All comers? What a joke. And what a coward.

The Senate Is Stupid

Finally, I hate that it works like this. How is it that after the biggest one-party blowout since 1964 (in that one party won the presidency and large congressional majorities in the same election), the Republicans mattered in the stimulus negotiations and will continue to matter until 2010? 240 congressional districts are represented by two Democratic Senators, to only 102 represented by two Republican Senators. Split the remainder 50-50 and our Senators virtually represent 65.9% of the nation's congressional districts. Our Representatives actually control 59.1% of the nation's congressional districts. So how is it that we need one man to change sides under pressure from his own party to take away the Republicans' ability to veto everything the American people voted for?

It's Still a Good Thing For Today

None of these reservations dimish the symbolic impact of this move. It's still a strong signal that moderates have no place in the Republican Party. And it will make a difference in moving the president's agenda. I just wanted to lay out why I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

UPDATE: Ambinder confirms, unions looking to challenge Specter, have no idea who would run against him. Their enthusiasm for the switch seems to be diminishing rapidly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So This Is Probably Bad For Us, But...

Since it's also bad for Jane Harman and AIPAC, I think it's worth it.

Oh, it just gets better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Apparently We Messed With Texas

Because they're pissed. So pissed that their legislature is taking time out of its busy schedule to proclaim the sovereignty of the state of Texas.

Here is the full text of Texas Concurrent Resolution 50, endorsed today by Gov. Rick Perry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Walks Win Baseball Games

Since I finished Moneyball a couple of weeks ago, I've been thinking differently about baseball statistics. It doesn't do any justice to the book to boil down it's argument to the importance of on-base percentage, but that's a large part of it. Anyway, because of the emphasis on OBP, I've been keeping my eye on walks in the D-Backs games so far. The season is only 8 games old, but so far the walks have told the tale.

The D-Backs have been out-walked 4 times so far and each of those games were losses. They gave up 16 walks and earned only 6 for themselves, while being outscored 25-9.

The one time the D-Backs have out-walked their opponent was a 9-4 win over the Dodgers (they out-walked them 6-3).

The other three games have been ties (in walks), including tonight's game. The D-Backs are 1-2 in those games, being outscored only 17-16.

I'll keep an eye on walks and their predictive abilities. It was encouraging to see the D-Backs hitters earn 4 walks tonight, but I wonder if they would have managed that had Chris Carpenter not left the game after three innings due to injury.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Shocking new photographic evidence of "fisting" in our military.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rasmussen of the Day 3/21

Americans are waaaay down with putting more troops in Afghanistan.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rasmussen of the Day 3/20

This has some potential, but today there's nothing too interesting.

Almost all Americans think Obama will expand government, but they like him anyway.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The DNC Picks a Frontrunner for 2012?

Whether the DNC actually thinks Sanford is a threat, this ad will help boost his fiscal radical cred, as Chris Cillizza noted.

Rasmussen of the Day

I'm gonna start throwing some of the more interesting polls I get from Rasmussen everyday. I can't say that they have interesting polls everyday, nor that I'll actually put them up everyday, but this is an easy way to have new posts up here fairly regularly.

For today:

Americans are strongly divided on unions and on whether the federal government is doing enough for the economy.

And for all of the talk of a Republican Party in shambles, they're beating us in the generic congressional ballot for the first time in years. On Inauguration Day, we were up 42%-35%. In 2008, we won 53%-44%. In 2006, we won 54%-44%. In 2004, we lost 53%-44%.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jury Still Out

As you know, my forthcoming thesis is on whether a minority party in a legislative district ought to use the single-shot strategy when it knows it cannot win both House seats (the answer is yes). The next question is: once the minority party has a House seat, should it run that incumbent by themself or with a running-mate. I should note that the following analysis includes candidates elected by both strategies, I'm only focusing on how they run for reelection.

There are good reasons to suspect that my model (sorry, you have to wait for the thesis, I'm not going to explain it here) should not fit this case, most notably the obvious differences between running as an incumbent and running as a challenger. In short, my model says that if you run a single-shot: 1) you will unite all Democratic voters behind your one candidate (whereas with two some might only vote once and for the weaker one); 2) you will give intentional ticket-splitters only one Democratic option to unite behind (whereas they also may have voted instead for the weaker of two Democrats); 3) enough Republicans will only vote once that you can steal a seat. At the same time, I acknowledge that there may be Democratic-leaning voters that want to use both of their votes, and they will vote for on of the Republicans. The statistics simply show that the positive effects outweigh that one negative.

An incumbent shouldn't worry as much about #1 and #2, because as the better-known of the two Democrats, they should get the large majority of the votes from people who only vote for one Democrat. Thus, the positive effects of a single-shot might be neglible when the minority party has an incumbent, while the negative effect (Democratic voters voting for a Republican in order to use both votes), is still felt.

As it turns out, history provides ambivalent evidence. I went back as far as 1994 to find cases of minority party challengers winning House seats. I found 11 that went on to run for reelection. I didn't count Jack Brown's return to the House in 2004, because he jumped down from the Senate. Mark Thompson was excluded as well, because in his 2004 reelection campaign he was not the strongest candidate from his own party (Knaperek was).

That only leaves 9 incumbents who ran for reelection, and only two who ran for a third term. Both of those who ran without running-mates lost. Some of the 7 who ran for reelection with running-mates did win (3), but the majority did not (4). That is perhaps an indication that a running-mate helps, but there simply is not enough data for meaningful analysis. Only 9 data points hardly tells us anything. And perhaps it should only be 8. I included Meg Burton Cahill because when she first ran in 2000, LD27 was probably still a Republican district. By 2002 and especially 2004, it may not have been. Cahill and Jennifer Burns are the two incumbents who ran for a third term. Both ran with running-mates and both won, but this likely has more to do with 4 years of incumbency than with their running-mates.

UPDATE: I came up with a rough measure of party strength in each of these districts, averaging Senate and House results over a few elections. The method is not too important as I don't mean this to be definitive. But, the correlation between party strength and reelection is MUCH clearer than any correlation with running-mates.

The following chart shows the year of a candidates original election (and district), rough measure of the partisan breakdown of their district, and whether they won reelection or not. Camarot and Poelstra at the bottom are in italics because they are the only two than ran without running-mates. This may be a case of adverse selection. That is, potential running-mates would be far less likely to run in a district where they understand that their party is a small minority than in a more closely divided district.

2000 (27) Meg Burton Cahill (D) D 50%-50% Won
1996 (8) Gail Griffin (R) D 52%-48% Won
2002 (25) Jennifer Burns (R) D 53%-47% Won
2006 (10) Jackie Thrasher (D) R 54%-45% Lost
2004 (17) Laura Knaperek (R) D 55%-43% Lost
1994 (20) Robert Blendu (R) D 56%-41% Lost
1994 (25) Robert Updike (R) D 56%-39% Lost
2000 (1) Henry Camarot (D) R 60%-40% Lost
2000 (14) Ed Poelstra (R) No measure Lost

Next, I will work on that measure of party strength to provide estimates for our incumbents running for reelection in Republican districts. Remember this is JUST an ESTIMATE, but it is based on recent election results.

Members in Districts of Opposite Party

Jack Brown (D-5) R 43.9%-56.1%
Eric Meyer (D-11) R 42.4%-55.9%
Rae Waters (D-20) R 45.4%-54.6%
David Stevens (R-25) D 53.7%-46.3%
Frank Pratt (R-23) D 53.5%-46.5%
Nancy Young Wright (D-26) R 46.8%-53.2%
Russ Jones (R-24) D 52.0%-48.0%

Compare the two charts. I would guess that everybody from Rae Waters on up is in a real danger zone. Stevens and Pratt are in a lesser degree of danger. Young Wright and Jones should be fine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Starving the Beast" in Reverse

Aside from the final paragraph, which is more Douthat as Republican more than Douthat as political analyst, this post does a good job of assessing the incentives and contraints that govern the existential battle between social democrats on the left and small-government conservatives on the right when it comes to actually implementing their long-term goals.

How Redistribution Works

From Matt Yglesias with cool graphs.


Illust : Election Chart, 90.6 kb, 567x740

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What's the Deal With Rush's Speech?

I've heard and seen rave reviews about Rush Limbaugh's speech at CPAC (see Ross Douthat for those reviews he's reacted to thus far). I've just finished watching it and I don't get what the deal is. Frankly, Democrats should be ecstatic if the Republicans adopt Rushism as their programme.

His speech is Joe the Plumber on steroids. Obama won because McCain was too liberal. Obama = Stalin. Barney Frank wants to give poor people free houses. Tax cuts are the way out of the recession. Democrats hate successful people. Obama doesn't want America to be successful. The welfare state is the reason poverty exists. Obama wants to ruin the public education system so that people will be poor and vote for him. Rush even mocked the very concept of communities.

Now that would certainly be scary if it worked. It might be the most frightening this of all. But it doesn't. The McCain campaign adopted a version of this strategy in October 2008, asking the American people to choose between socialism and capitalism. Barack Obama won, and anyone who thinks that McCain would have won by going even further to the wingnut fringe is completely tone deaf.

I think the most telling part of the speech is near the beginning, when Rush says conservatives are for Life, Liberty (or Freedom), and the Pursuit of Happiness. He then says that America might be wondering why the CPAC audience is cheering that creed so furiously, to which he responds, "because WE think that they are under attack."

The fact that he has to explain the underlying assumption of his camp's ideology is proof enough that it's an ideology that Americans don't connect with. Maybe that's why Rush has a 25%-45% approval rating among Independents. Or why only a third of Americans are willing to call themselves Republicans.

Regardless, the Democratic Party is in great shape if the Republicans adopt Rush's command to cast out any and all who think that the welfare state is not evil or that tax cuts do not amount to an economic plan.

And that's why the administration is so keen on the idea of letting Rush be the leader of the GOP.

How Voters Want to Deal With D.C. Representation

25% Want to give them a Congressman
40% Want to give them to Maryland
26% Are too racist or partisan to care
9% Don't know

What Voters Are Thinking About

Check out how high ethics is on the list.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Partly Because I Wanted to Use the Word "Ute"

I'm not saying Jon Hunstman will be the 2012 or even the 2016 GOP nominee, but he will be an influential voice in the party for the next few years.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Education Does Not Create Jobs"

Thank you, Rep. Andy Biggs for framing the debate for the 2010 legislative elections. Apparently, the AZ Democratic Party is not as grateful. Don't me wrong, the Party put out a press release on the House Ways & Means Committee's vote on the equalization tax repeal, but in doing so they somehow managed to leave out the money quote of the next two years. Perhaps the Party doesn't think the content of their press releases matters, and perhaps they're right. But neither the Republic nor the Tribune printed the Biggs quote as far as I can tell (who knows if either paper even had a reporter there?) and perhaps they would have had someone (anyone!) told them that it was probably the most significant thing that happened in the hearing yesterday. I mean, hell, Tedski just threw the quote up on RRR. Maybe he should be the new Comm Director downtown (he'd certainly be better than what we have now).

I'm not terribly surprised that the Party has dropped the ball so far on this one, but it's still disheartening. What would I have done? I'd be getting in the face of Jan Brewer, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Kirk Adams, and every legislator I could get my hands on asking if they agree with Biggs' sentiment. If we were REALLY lucky, we'd get somebody to agree with him and I'd put the quote on every hit piece of the 2010 campaign attributed to Republican majority. If not, I'd have a follow-up question: so if you agree with the Democrats that education creates jobs, then you'll restore the 2009 ed cuts back to the 2010 budget, right? If not then are you just against education, or are you agaisnt the jobs too? Then the mailer becomes: if the Republican majority really believes that EDUCATION CREATES JOBS, then why did they make such crippling cuts to our schools? The point is, Andy Biggs just offered to make the 2010 election at least largely a referendum on the notion that education creates jobs. I don't get why we're not accepting his offer.


Check it out.

Obama's Joshua Lyman

I want to be Jim Messina.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wherein Ambinder Compares Obama's Early Days to Clinton's

The Loyalists which it turns out was written by some other guy but posted on Ambinder's blog without mention of that fact. Weird.

Wherein My New RSS Feed Subscriptions Allow Me to Aggregate the Very Best of Ross Douthat

Douthat has had some great posts in the last couple weeks. Here are the highlights:

Roe and the Culture War

The Trouble With Centrism

Social Conservatism and the Coates Family


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Saucer that Cools the Coffee?

Of the many kooky aspects of the Senate and their many rationalizations, perhaps none is more celebrated that the six-year term. Six years in office is supposed to allow Senators to get to know one another and gain each other's respect, in addition to developing an area(s) of expertise. Consistency in membership is supposed to be one of the reasons the Senate is the "greatest deliberative body in the world." Staggered elections are supposed to contribute to that consistency, insulating the Senate from the "whims of the public."

Now, whether one still supports six-year terms and staggered elections for Senators, the current situation provides us a perfect opporunity to test some of the assumptions underlying their justifications. For one, in an era when the public's "whims" have tilted heavily in one direction, we should expect the Senate to have been slower at adapting to these whims than was the House. To test this hypothesis, I made some quick lists of 1) the seats in each body that have changed partisan hands since Jan. 1, 2005 and 2) seats that have different members since Jan.1, 2005 even if they are of the same party.

As it turns out, the 55 House seats we have gained between the 109th Congress (202 seats) and the 111th Congress (257 seats) is 12.6% of the House, actually less than the 14% gain - from 45 to 59 seats - in the Senate. Under the measure of seats that have new occupants, which would undermine the enhanced institutional knowledge that the staggered terms are said to ensure, the Senate does not fare much better. My calculations (it is important to know here that I count seats that do not yet have new members - Gregg, Gillibrand, Emanuel, Solis - as if they did, because they soon will and all as a direct result of the 2008 elections) are that 134 House seats have new members since the Jan. 1, 2005 (note that Jim Ryun (KS-2) is not included in this total as he lost his seat to Nancy Boyda (D) in 2006 and subsequently won it back in 2008. That
turns out to be 30.8% of the House. Over the same period 28 Senate seats have changed Senators.

Clearly, the Senate has experienced as much change as the House in these particularly turbulent times. Six-year terms and staggered terms cannot isolate the Senate from political waves.

The full list of Senate seats that have changed is below:

Mark Begich (D-AK) for Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Mark Udall (D-CO) for Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Michael Bennet (D-CO) for Ken Salazar (D-CO)
Ted Kaufman (D-DE) for Joe Biden (D-DE)
Jim Risch (R-ID) for Larry Craig (R-ID)
Roland Burris (D-IL) for Barack Obama (D-IL)
Ben Cardin (D-MD) for Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for Mark Dayton (D-MN)
Al Franken (D-MN) for Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Roger Wicker (R-MS) for Trent Lott (R-MS)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) for Jim Talent (R-MO)
Jon Tester (D-MT) for Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Mike Johanns (R-NE) for Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Bonnie Newman (R-NH) for Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) for John Sununu (R-NH)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Tom Udall (D-NM) for Pete Domenici (R-NM)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Kay Hagan (D-NC) for Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for Gordon Smith (R-OH)
Bob Casey (D-PA) for Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
Bob Corker (R-TN) for Bill Frist (R-TN)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for Jim Jeffords (I-VT)
Mark Warner (D-VA) for John Warner (R-VA)
Jim Webb (D-VA) for George Allen (R-VA)
John Barrasso (R-WY) for Craig Thomas (R-WY)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

America's Four Gods

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Impact of New Registration Numbers on Upcoming Legislative Races

The numbers in every district are important for statewide races, and I will address those concerns in another post. For now, here is what the new numbers mean for the legislative races of the near future.

LD5 - Rep. Jack Brown is still very much in trouble. This district is now 39.8% Democratic, 39.3% Republican, and 20.5% Independent. Of course, many of those Democrats are ancestral and vote Republican.

LD9, LD10, LD11 - These swing districts have been bleeding Republicans over the last 4 years. Independents continue to dominate the new numbers, with more Independents than either Democrats or Republicans in each district since October '08. Total registration numbers are fairly stagnant since Jan. '05, growing only 3.8% in LD9 and 0.7% in LD11, and shrinking by 2.4% in LD10. The totals: LD9 - 42.4% R, 31.2% D, 25.9% I; LD10 - 36.4% R, 34.7% D, 28.0% I; LD11 - 44.3% R, 32.0% D, 23.0% I.

LD12 - This west side district has exploded, growing by 37.1% since Jan. '05 and adding 39,854 voters (15,458 Independents, 13,687 Democrats, 10,478 Republicans). Due to that growth, this district will be carved up before the 2012 election, and there's hope that there will be a genuine swing district in the west side. For now, we've got a real shot at a House seat here if we have a candidate that can raise the kind of money you need in a district with 147k+ voters. The numbers here: 36.1% R, 33.2% D, 30.1% I.

LD17 - We all know about this shift. Until this district's Independents start voting Republican, this is a safe seat.

LD18 - I'm not going to pretend that we can win here yet, but we are seeing the eventual browning of west Mesa start to take hold. Not only is this district bleeding Republicans, it is adding Democrats, even while the overall registration numbers have shrunk by 2.1% since Jan. '05. In other words, it's registration numbers are starting to shift in the direction of a South Phoenix base district. We might be able to win the seats in this area come 2012 depending on what the districts look like. For now: 42.3% R, 28.9% D, 28.0% I.

LD20 - We all know about this too. I just wanted to point out the size of the Democratic shift here. Democrats have gained 2.4% since Jan. '05, while Republicans have lost 4.9% (Independents have gained 2.5%). Right now: 39.7% R, 30.8% D, 28.8% I.

LD21 - Since Jan. '05, this district has gained 11,588 Independents, 7,926 Democrats and 7,047 Republicans, making it one of the fastest-growing in the state. That hasn't been quite enough to make it a genuine swing district, as our close losses in 2006 and 2008 attest. For now: 42.4% R, 27.7% D, 29.2% I.

The rest later.

Some Quick Facts on the Jan. '09 Registration Numbers Compared to Jan. '05

Greatest Increases

- 58,317 (72.4%)
LD12 - 39,854 (37.1%)
LD4 - 35,941 (28.9%)
- 28,438 (23.1%)
LD21 - 26,713 (24.4%)
- 24,247 (21.0%)

Greatest Percentage Increases

- 72.4% (58,317)
LD12 - 37.1% (39,854)
LD4 - 28.9% (35,941)
LD16 - 28.9% (18,048)
LD24 - 24.9% (14,886)
LD21 - 24.4% (26,713)

Greatest Decreases/Smallest Increases

LD17 - -3,580 (-4.0%)
LD10 - -1,805 (-2.4%)
LD14 - -1,482 (-3.7%)
LD15 - -1,403 (-2.3%)
LD18 - -1,371 (-2.1%)
LD28 - -138 (-0.2%)
LD11 - 770 (0.7%)
LD2 - 1,533 (1.5%)

Greatest Gains in Democratic Percentage

from 34.2% to 36.9% (2.7%)
from 28.4% to 30.8% (2.4%)
LD28 from 43.3% to 45.3% (2.0%)
LD15 from 43.4% to 45.2% (1.8%)
from 27.1% to 28.9% (1.8%)

Greatest Losses in Democratic Percentage

LD23 from 45.0% to 37.6% (7.4%)
from 42.6% to 38.1% (4.5%)
LD25 from 45.4% to 40.9% (4.5%)
LD5 from 43.7% to 39.8% (3.9%)
LD16 from 56.3% to 52.8% (3.5%)
LD3 from 29.2% to 26.5% (2.7%)

Only Gains in Republican Percentage

from 29.6% to 31.3% (1.7%)
LD5 from 38.0% to 39.3% (1.3%)
from 30.7% to 31.2% (0.5%)

Greatest Losses in Republican Percentage

LD20 from 44.6% to 39.7% (4.9%)
LD9 from 47.1% to 42.4% (4.7%)
LD18 from 47.0% to 42.3% (4.7%)
LD4 from 51.6% t0 47.1% (4.5%)
LD8 from 51.2% to 46.7% (4.5%)
LD22 from 50.7% to 46.3% (4.4%)
LD7 from 49.5% to 45.3% (4.2%)

Greatest Gains in Independent Percentage

from 21.7% to 28.5% (6.8%)
LD23 from 24.9% to 30.5% (5.6%)
LD3 from 26.2% to 31.5% (5.3%)
from 21.6% to 25.9% (4.3%)
LD7 from 24.8% to 28.9% (4.1%)
LD4 from 23.0% to 27.0% (4.0%)

Greatest Partisan Shifts toward Democrats

LD20 from 16.2% R lead to 8.8% R lead (7.4%)
LD18 from 19.9% R lead to 13.4% R lead (6.5%)
LD17 from 1.3% R lead to 5.1% D lead (6.4%)
LD22 from 27.5% R lead to 21.8% R lead (5.7%)
LD8 from 27.9% R lead to 22.5% R lead (5.4%)
LD15 from 15.1% D lead to 20.5% D lead (5.4%)
LD11 from 17.4% R lead to 12.3% R lead (5.1%)
LD9 from 16.2% R lead to 11.2% R lead (5.0%)

Partisan Shifts toward Republicans

from 15.4% D lead to 6.3% D lead (9.1%)
LD5 from 5.7% D lead to 0.5% D lead (5.2%)
LD25 from 14.7% D lead to 9.7% D lead (5.0%)
LD16 from 39.6% D lead to 36.3% D lead (3.6%)
from 7.2% D lead to 5.4% D lead (1.8%)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Culturally Moderate Majority Part 2a: More From that Newsweek Poll On Gay Rights

The Newsweek poll also tests a whole slew of gay rights, including some that already exist and some that would be part of civil unions. Let's delve into them some.

First, some good news: we seem to acknowledge that gays are people, too. We want them not to suffer discrimination in housing and employment by 82%-13% and 87%-10%, respectively. As understanding as I try to be of cultural conservatives, anyone under 60 who is part of those 13% or 10% is just plain evil. We are also in favor of gays serving openly in the military by 66%-29%. Here I can be more understanding. I imagine some people worrying about unit cohesion (whether those concerns are valid or not) more than discrimination. Also, gays are just too precious:

Four different domestic partner benefits earn widespread support. 86% are for hospital visitation rights, 74% for inheritance, 73% for employee benefits like health insurance, and 67% for Social Security benefits for gay partners (although that might be less should it be proposed in this economy). All of these score higher than civil unions as a package, whether you use the 55% number in the "civil unions, yes or no?" question or the 63% sum of those who prefer marriage and those who prefer unions. So what's the deal here? Why do more people support every element of civil unions than actually support unions themselves?

As it turns out, that's not the case. There is one right that we are still very anxious about: adoption. We only favor adoption by 53%-39%, a little lower than our support for unions at 55%-36%. The closeness of these numbers (they even correlate closely within each age group), and the large gap compared with the other rights, suggest that adoption rights might actually drive our opinions on civil unions. Supposing that we viewed each of the 5 rights tested as of equal importance, we should expect our support for civil unions to be an average of the 5. Instead, it seems that adoption is a deal-breaker for those who oppose it, which is reasonable if you believe that gays are inferior parents to straight people.

The lessons here are clear. First, domestic partner benefits are not extreme. We should not assume that the Phoenix city council and now Dennis Kavanaugh find themselves holding minority positions among their constituents. And many suburban (especially) politicians could use domestic partner registries to make themselves look ahead of the curve without actually standing in the face of public opinion. Second, the gay rights movement will never achieve success as long as most Americans are against gay adoption.

Culturally Moderate Majority Part 2: That Newsweek Poll On Gay Rights

Last month, Newsweek did a great poll on gay rights issues. The poll gives us the most detailed picture of Americans' views on these issues that I've ever sBlogger: By The Time I Get to Arizona - Edit Post "Culturally Moderate Majority Part 2: That Newsweek..."een. And what it depicts is a large moderate majority. To the numbers!

The top-line issue, full marriage rights, is still a hard sell. Respondents turn down "legally-sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages," 39%-55%. "Legally-sanctioned gay and lesbian unions or partnerships," however, win approval by 55%-36%. Now, here's where the numbers get a little odd. When respondents are asked which comes closest to their views: "full marriage rights," "civil unions or partnerships, BUT NOT marriage rights," or "no legal recognition," responents are split into even thirds (31% for marriage, 32% for unions, 30% for no recognition).

So 63% favor AT LEAST civil unions and only 31% prefer marriage to all other options. Yet when the question is just "unions, yes or no?" or "marriage, yes or no?" the numbers are 55% and 39%, respectively. What's going on here? Is it just some error inherent in this poll? A cursory look at says otherwise. These questions yield similar results in other polls.

What appears to be going on is that unions have become a unifying, moderate position. Only 55% prefer unions to not-unions, when that is the question. But when unions are offered as the "moderate" position, between marriage and no recognition, 63% support At LEAST unions. Opposition to unions is 36% when that is the question, but when no recognition is the most conservative of three options, only 30% oppose any legal recognition.

This poll allows us to rank the preferences of groups of respondents. To do so, we make some simple assumptions. Anyone who ranks gay marriage first, will also prefer unions to no recognition. Likewise, anyone who prefers no recognition will prefer unions to gay marriage. We also assume that no one changes their position from one question to the next. And for simplicity, we assume that the very small "no position" group is composed of the same respondents for each question.

The profile of the 32% plurality for unions is interesting. As stated above, 8%, or one quarter of them, favor marriage to no recognition, but also prefer unions to marriage. Depending on which question is asked, they are the most moderate 20% of marriage supporters, or the most gay-friendly 25% of union supports. They are okay with supporting gay marriage, but would prefer not to. Another group of about 8% marks the most conservative quarter of union supporters. This group is the most interesting because they oppose unions when it's a simple yes or no question, but support it as one of three options. Perhaps when the question was "legally-sanctioned partnerships," they heard "marriage" and got nervous. Then the three choice question made their choices clear and they were comfortable supporting unions. Whether this because of a real position "in defense" of marriage or simply an instinct for moderation, it looks like about 8% of Americans can be moved to support unions if they are presented as a compromise position.

Perhaps the lesson here is that unions should be presented as a moderate, "compromise" position until demographic changes and evolving cultural views give full marriage a solid majority (18-34 year olds favor marriage 51%-40%). The poll numbers suggest some risk to that strategy, however. When asked just about marriage, 39% of Americans are willing to support it. And this number is steadily climbing. Offering unions as a compromise, splits off 8% of Americans and might make marriage a minority position forever by salving the consciences of Americans who want gay couples to have rights but are uneasy about democratizing marriage.

Finally, some mention has to be made of the approximately 16% of respondents that are consistent in their support of unions and their opposition to both marriage and non-recognition. This group is well-versed in the debate, they are not confused by questions that eliminate one of the three options. More polling is necessary to determine if this group is shrinking (and, presumably, turning towards full marriage), expanding (as marriage opponents become persuaded by the rights argument) or holding steady.

World Mission Society Church of God

Two missionaries (young white dude, middle-aged Asian woman) just came to my door. Check out their wikipedia page.

DNC's Post-Mortem

Worth the read.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reason to Worry

Here are two reasons from Arizona history that should worry us about Brewer v. Goddard.

1) We re-elect incumbent governors, even if they were never elected to the job in the first place. Since the switch to four-year terms, five governors have run for reelection. All have been reelected. Assuming office only 8 months before his first election, Bruce Babbitt beat Evan Mecham 52%-44% and Leo Corbet 62%-32% in 1978 and 1982, respectively. Fife Symington beat Eddie Basha 53%-44% in 1994. A little more than a year after Symington's resignation, Jane Dee Hull crushed Paul Johnson 61%-36%. Janet Napolitano's reelection over Len Munsil was an even bigger blowout, 63%-35%.

2) We don't elect governors of the president's party. Now this is less of a hard-and-fast rule than 1) but it's still a clear trend. The president's party has lost six of our nine elections in the four-year term era (Castro/Ford, Babbitt/Reagan, Symington/Clinton, Hull/Clinton, Napolitano/Bush twice). The three exceptions are somewhat explanable. Babbitt's 1978 (during the Carter administration) falls under the reelection rule. Mecham's 1986 win was a fluke, as Carolyn Warner (D) and Bill Schulz, who had dropped out of the Democratic primary to run as an independent, split 60% of the vote. And Symington's win over Terry Goddard in 1990 was one of the closest elections in Arizona history, going to an eventual run-off (although his loss in that election is perhaps another reason to worry).

History is obviously not determinate of future elections. Our first 55 presidential elections resulted in white presidents, after all. But given that we'll be running against an incumbent governor, two years into a Democratic presidency, we should be very worried.

Another bit of history, Goddard has out-polled Brewer in both percentage and raw votes in both their 2002 and 2006 races. That's a good sign. So's this 2007 Rocky Mountain Poll matching Terry against Andy Thomas.

At this point, I call it a toss-up. We'll see how the new governor does.

Why Race Makes Us a Red State and Why That's Changing

Few Black voters. White Arizonans voted* almost exactly the same way as white Americans as a whole, giving Bush 59% of the vote (he won 58% nationally). Latino Arizonans held suit, giving 43% to Bush (he won 44% nationally). And lest we forget, the electorate, both in Arizona and nationwide, is overwhelmingly white. Arizona's electorate was only 12% Latino - noticeably higher than the 8% nationwide but not enough to make a dramatic difference in election results.

What we are missing is black voters. Those voters cast 11% of the votes nationwide, but only 2% in Arizona. Since black voters vote nearly as a bloc (88% for John Kerry), we really miss out by not having them. Indeed, that deviation is nearly 20 times as influential as our higher-than-average Latino population.

The black vote was up in Arizona as well as nationwide in 2008 (13% and 4% respectively), but it's not like black people are flocking to Arizona. Latinos are, though. In 2008 their voting share only increased marginally nationwide (8% to 9%), but it surged from 12% to 16% in Arizona. However, Latinos (and whites) supported the "favorite son" McCain at higher rates than their racial compatriots nationally. Had they not done so, and instead matched their racial group nationally (like Arizonans did in 2004), Obama would have won Arizona 50%-48%. That still would have been 5 points worse than Obama's 7-point win nationally, but that's certainly better than 2004 in which we were 10 points worse than the country. The Latino-led shift is on.

* - all quoted polls numbers are from 2004