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Posts in "Republicans"
May 18, 2013
There is no doubt that the three major controversies on which President Barack Obama finds his administration on the defensive — Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives and the seizure of AP phone records — have changed the political narrative of the day. Instead of mobilizing all of his resources to promote his agenda, the president and administration officials are having to spend time and energy answering and rebutting Republican charges.
But it isn’t clear how much of an impact, if any, the controversies will have on the 2014 midterms. Even if (when) those controversies fade, however, there could be short-term consequences for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the area of recruitment.
Are potential 2014 candidates now looking at the environment and concluding that next year won’t be as good a Democratic year as they had hoped? Are they reassessing their intentions, concluding that the IRS scandal, in particular, will produce an energized and united GOP? Full story
May 14, 2013
Former Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s announcement that she is passing on a Senate race in 2014, combined with secondhand reports that U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson (son of retiring South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson) has also decided against a Senate bid, must have put big smiles on the faces of Republican strategists.
It’s early in the 2014 election cycle, but these developments in the Mount Rushmore State definitely affect the two parties’ prospects. The GOP now has an advantage in the contest.
Former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds is already in the race. But the lack of a big name Democratic standard-bearer could encourage the state’s at-large congresswoman, Kristi Noem, to enter the Republican primary.
Noem would be a formidable fundraiser, and conservative support might well coalesce around her.
Some Republican insiders are even speculating that Herseth Sandlin passed on the Senate race in the hope of getting Noem to run for the Senate, allowing the Democrat to jump into the race for her old House seat.
Democrats won’t be without a credible Senate candidate, however. Rick Weiland, a former aide to ex-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, has announced his candidacy and has already won the support of his former boss.
But Weiland’s record of success in running for federal office isn’t good. He lost by about 20 points in 1996, when he faced Republican John Thune in an open House seat contest after Tim Johnson had decided to run for the Senate. Weiland then lost a Democratic primary to Herseth in 2002, when Thune left his House seat to run for the Senate. (Thune lost that race by 524 votes to Johnson but came back two years later to defeat Daschle.)
I remember Weiland, and he wasn’t a bad candidate. But that’s not the same thing as saying that he has Herseth Sandlin’s demonstrated skills or Brendan Johnson’s obvious asset (his family name) in a general election, especially during a midterm election with Barack Obama in the White House.
Bob Burns, a South Dakota State University political science professor, is quoted in an article in the Argus-Leader questioning whether someone like Weiland could win, or whether Democrats needed a moderate like Herseth Sandlin.
Without Herseth Sandlin, Democrats’ prospects of retaining this seat sink. A formal announcement from Brendan Johnson that he isn’t interested would be another blow to Democratic hopes. But even now, Tim Johnson’s South Dakota Senate seat looks increasingly likely to switch parties next year.
Forget background checks and gun control, divisions within the GOP on immigration, and Republican intransigence on negotiating a budget deal with the president. The current triple play of Benghazi, the IRS and now the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records has the potential to be a political game changer for 2014.
It’s hard to overstate the potential significance of the past week. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a dramatic reversal of the nation’s political narrative — from how bad the Republican brand is and how President Barack Obama is going to mobilize public opinion against the GOP in the midterm elections to whether the Obama administration has become so arrogant that it believes it can stonewall Congress and the public.
The series of revelations presents an unflattering picture of an administration that just 10 days ago looked poised and confident. Now it looks out of touch and unresponsive.
The danger for Obama, of course, is that many Americans will start to doubt his administration’s veracity and values. If that happens — and for now it is only a danger, not an inevitability — then the president could well turn into a serious liability for Democrats in next year’s elections.
The recent revelations seem to confirm some of the complaints and accusations coming from some of the GOP’s most conservative elements, and that could both damage the Democratic brand and improve the Republicans’.
In the near term, the controversies could help the candidacies of Gabriel Gomez, the Republican nominee in the June 25 Massachusetts Senate special election, and even Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor of Virginia. Given the administration’s problems, voters are more likely now than they were two weeks ago to use this year’s contests to send a message of dissatisfaction to the White House.
Longer term, it isn’t clear whether the current controversies will hurt the president and his party in 2014. But if the administration’s problems linger or even grow, Democratic enthusiasm could wane, depressing turnout in next year’s elections. Weaker turnout would have serious ramifications for Democratic candidates, particularly in swing and red districts and states. It could also hurt party recruiting and lead to a flurry of retirements.
It’s unlikely that the three controversies will pass quickly. The IRS scandal, in particular, is likely to linger, as drips of news and allegations come out over the next few weeks.
The White House is likely to have to spend many hours and much energy responding to questions and generally dealing with these issues, making it more difficult for the president to push his legislative agenda. If history is any guide, that could add to the impression of an embattled president who is merely trying to keep his administration afloat.
And that definitely is not the message that Democratic strategists have been hoping would carry the party to a successful 2014 midterm elections.
May 8, 2013
Mark Sanford’s victory in the special election in South Carolina’s 1st District tell us little new about the 2014 elections. But it does serve as a reminder about one important factor in American politics that shouldn’t be ignored when the midterms roll around: partisanship.
At the end of the day, most Republican voters in the district decided to vote Republican, even though their nominee had more than his share of warts.
Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch might well have won in a more competitive district, but she could not convince Republican voters — conservative Republican voters — that she was a safe choice or that Sanford was unacceptable. Full story
May 3, 2013
Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics.com joins the growing chorus of political handicappers who have been arguing that we aren’t likely to see a partisan wave next cycle. Trende’s analysis, which also addresses the “six-year itch,” is spot on (as it usually is).
There is no evidence right now that Republicans are headed for large gains in 2014, and midterm House waves for the president’s party are not merely rare. There has never been one in the modern era (describe that however you’d like).
No, that doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be a midterm wave for the president’s party, but given the number of cases — there have been 17 midterm elections since the end of World War II and 28 midterm elections since the beginning of the 20th century — it’s very reasonable to start off with the premise that the president’s party won’t benefit from a midterm wave in 2014.
If events and polls show something different happening, then assessments can change. Full story
April 24, 2013
Republicans are on quite a streak when it comes to throwing away elections.
In 2010, it was Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, Ken Buck of Colorado and Sharron Angle of Nevada. Then, in 2012, it was Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.
And now? And now it might be Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
Apparently uncomfortable that they might win an election, GOP voters in South Carolina’s 1st District decided to nominate the disgraced former governor in the special election to fill the seat of Republican Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.
But Sanford’s ability to win the special didn’t seem all that much at risk until his ex-wife complained that the former governor trespassed at her home, after which Sanford issued an un-persuasive statement explaining his behavior. Full story
April 17, 2013
Not much going on these days, huh? There are only a few things on the president’s — and Congress’ — plate, including:
- A big budget compromise
- Immigration overhaul
- North Korea
- Bombs at the Boston Marathon
- Iran’s nuclear program
- And oh yes, jobs and the economy
Recent events once again prove that while politicians — and particularly presidents — like to believe that they can always set the agenda, much of political leadership involves responding to circumstances.
“Stuff happens” is the way I like to put it. It can be an oil spill, a shooting, a foreign leader firing on his own citizens, a trial of a doctor who killed women and children at an abortion clinic or some crisis manufactured by a largely unknown young political leader who needs to solidify himself at home. Full story
Reports about the recent death of millionaire home builder and Republican donor Bob Perry, 80, have noted his financial support for George W. Bush and Rick Perry during their campaigns for governor of Texas, and his financial bankrolling of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which took on Democrat John Kerry during his 2004 campaign for the White House.
But Perry was also an early and crucial funder of conservative Paul M. Weyrich in the late 1970s and 1980s, when Weyrich and a handful of other conservatives launched a new political movement, The New Right. Among other things, Weyrich, who died in 2008, helped woo politically conservative evangelicals into the political wars some 35 years ago, thereby changing the face of American politics and modern conservatism.
Weyrich’s impact on American politics would have been dramatically reduced without the financial backing of both Perry and multi-millionaire conservative Richard Mellon Scaife.
April 11, 2013
A few observations on the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:
- This is the first time the president’s job approval numbers have been “upside down” — more people disapproving than approving — since June 2012.
- After spiking around the election, the right direction/wrong track numbers have slipped back to where they were last June. More than 6 in 10 people think the country is headed on the wrong track.
- The president’s handling of foreign policy numbers have never been worse. Only 46 percent approve of his performance in that area, which has been a strength for Obama. Interestingly, the president’s job approval for his handling of the economy, 47 percent, is higher than for his handling of foreign policy, 46 percent. That’s a reversal of where public opinion has been since he has been in office. Full story
April 10, 2013
Last week, I wrote a short item about reports that former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott P. Brown was not ruling out a run for the Senate in 2014 — in New Hampshire.
I argued that the idea was a bad one and that running in the Granite State after passing on the 2013 Senate special election in Massachusetts would make Brown look like a carpetbagger who was “seat-shopping.”
Not long after my post, National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brad Dayspring shot back, not by answering my points but by tweeting about a column I wrote in this space in the summer of 1999, about Hillary Rodham Clinton and carpetbagging.
Rothernberg on HRC in '99: "anyone who dismisses the impact of carpetbagging issue in New York probably is offering more spin than insight."— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) April 5, 2013
The column examined a number of races in which carpetbagging or residency was an issue, including Jay Rockefeller’s 1972 West Virginia run for governor, Oregon Rep. Al Ullman’s 1980 re-election bid, John McCain’s 1982 Arizona House race and Robert F. Kennedy’s 1964 New York Senate run.
I noted that sometimes a carpetbagging charge was enough to destroy a candidacy (e.g., Rockefeller’s and Ullman’s) and sometimes it wasn’t (e.g., McCain’s and Kennedy’s). But it was almost always a significant problem for a candidate with weak ties to a state. Full story
April 5, 2013
The jobs numbers just reported for March — an increase of only 88,000 jobs — are horrendous, especially coming after February’s strong job surge (236,000 new jobs revised up to 268,000).
Forget the unemployment rate sliding from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent. As The Assocaited Press noted, that drop resulted “only because more people stopped looking for work.”
One bad month of new jobs data isn’t likely to have a huge effect on President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers, and good news in the April report would quickly erase concerns about the March numbers.
But any sense over the next few months that the growing optimism about the economy has been misguided could send the Dow Jones industrial average down hundreds of points and put pressure on the president. Full story
April 3, 2013
On one level, Maine’s lone Republican in Congress, Sen. Susan Collins, looks like a defeat waiting to happen.
She is a Republican from a state that went comfortably for Democrat Barack Obama twice. And she is from New England, a part of the country where the GOP is all but extinct in federal office.
Collins almost appears to be a Republican version of Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a moderate Democrat who is vulnerable next year because his party label, which once was an asset back home, has become a liability as his state’s politics has changed.
But while Collins’ profile suggests vulnerability as she mounts another bid for re-election, there are no signs of a serious challenge on the horizon. In fact, veteran Democratic insiders scoff at the idea that the moderate Republican will even have to break a sweat in her sprint to a fourth term. A Public Policy Polling (a Democratic firm) survey in January showed Collins with a 65 percent job approval rating and holding leads of 18 points and 25 points over the state’s two Democratic House members. Full story
March 29, 2013
Correction, 2:12 p.m. | There probably isn’t a better demonstration of the nation’s partisan political polarization than the makeup of the Senate. Only 17 states have split delegations, while 33 states have either two Republicans or two Democrats (or two senators who caucus with the same party, in the case of independents).
Compare those numbers to the Senate makeup three decades ago, and the change is clear. After the 1982 elections, 24 states had split delegations, while 26 had two members of the same party.
Some of the changes show how state (and national) politics have evolved.
Thirty years ago, Kentucky had two Democratic senators, Walter Huddleston and Wendell Ford. But in 1984, Ronald Reagan carried the state by almost 20 points, running so strongly that he helped drag in an obscure GOP Senate nominee. That upset winner, Mitch McConnell, narrowly defeated Huddleston to begin the state’s transformation into a Republican stronghold in federal races. Full story
March 27, 2013
Whether you are a staunch supporter of the National Rifle Association or an enthusiastic backer of the effort by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for stronger gun control laws, it now should be clear who is winning — indeed, who has won — the latest skirmish in the gun control wars.
As my friend Chris Cillizza noted recently in an excellent piece, supporters of new gun control measures are poised to fail, yet again, in their efforts to pass significant new legislation.
The Senate’s gun violence bill doesn’t include an assault weapons ban or a ban on high-capacity magazines, so almost any legislation eventually enacted is likely to fall far short of what activists on the gun control side really want — or hoped for after the Newtown, Conn., tragedy.
The assault weapons ban was officially declared dead last week, and even a new requirement for expanded background checks could fail unless its supporters work with congressional Republicans to fashion a proposal that both parties can accept. Full story
March 25, 2013
I certainly agree with pollster Andrew Kohut’s overall assessment of the Republican Party’s image and positioning problems in his March 24 Washington Post piece. I, too, have written about the GOP’s problems.
But in the piece, Kohut compares the GOP’s current position to the Democrats’ “in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” when the Democratic Party became known as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” He argues the Democratic Party’s radicalization back then stood “in the way of its revitalization.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Democrats retained control of the House and Senate throughout the 1960s and 1970s even if the party was significantly to the left of the public and the electorate.
Yes, Democrats lost the presidential race narrowly in 1968 and by a huge margin four years later, but the 1972 defeat had more to do with the party’s nominee than anything else.
I know this next point will shock some, but here it is: Politics is not only about the presidency. Control of Congress matters, too, and Democrats were able to control both chambers of Congress even when the party had an unflattering image — that is, even when the national brand was damaged. Full story