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April 24, 2014

For Democrats, It’s All About (Years) After November

Politics is often about keeping one eye on today and another eye on tomorrow. That’s especially true for Democrats, who should not be completely disheartened about their party’s prospects.

November certainly looks like a challenging election for supporters of President Barack Obama — given the president’s anemic job approval numbers, recent generic ballot tests showing a virtual dead heat in congressional vote intention, the public’s deep dissatisfaction with Washington, D.C., and turnout trends in midterm years.

But Democrats should remember that the 2016 election cycle begins Wednesday, Nov. 5, the day after voters go to the polls to cast their votes in the midterms. And 2016 already looks like a much better cycle than 2014 for Democratic partisans.

The presidential election will bring out more voters, in all likelihood to the benefit of the eventual Democratic nominee. And the early signs point to another bitter primary season for the GOP, as anti-establishment groups, libertarians, social conservatives and pragmatic conservatives battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and for its presidential nomination.

Democrats could, of course, have their own lively contest for their presidential nomination, and the increasingly vocal progressive wing could create divisions that the party has been able to avoid recently. But the Democratic Party simply does not have the deep fractures now apparent in the GOP, and because of that, its presidential nomination process is less likely to result in rancor, division, bitterness — and a nominee who had to prove his or her ideological credentials in order to win the nomination.

Only a fool would insist that the Democratic “lock” on the Electoral College is now so strong that Republicans have little or no chance of electing the nation’s next president in 2016. We don’t know what the economy will look like in the fall of 2016, or how the public will evaluate the concluding Obama presidency.

Still, at this point, at least the fundamentals will favor the Democrats in the 2016 race for the White House.

While presidential year turnout patterns could also help Democrats in the fight for the House next cycle, regaining the chamber won’t be easy for Obama’s party in 2016. That will be especially true if Republicans gain even a handful of additional seats this year, which is not out of the question.

For both Democratic strategists and rank-and-file activists, the real reason for Democratic optimism in 2016 rests in the Senate.

Simply put, the party has a chance to make huge Senate gains that year.

This cycle, Democrats are defending 20 seats (plus an additional seat up because of a special election), while Republicans defend only 13 (plus two more having special elections).

Of those 15 Republican Senate seats up in November, only one is in a state Obama carried in 2012 — Maine. And the Republican senator seeking re-election there, Susan Collins, doesn’t face a top-tier Democratic challenger in the fall.

On the other hand, seven of the 21 Democratic Senate seats up in November were carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, giving GOP strategists a handful of ready opportunities in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Next cycle, the roles are reversed. There will be 24 Republican Senate seats up in 2016 and only 10 Democratic seats, a result of the Republican political wave of 2010, which helped the GOP win back control of the House.

Just as important, not a single Democratic seat up next cycle is in a state that was carried by Mitt Romney in 2012. In fact, only two of the states, Colorado and Nevada, could even be characterized as competitive.

By contrast, seven Republican senators up in 2016 sit in states Obama carried in 2012 — Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and an eighth sits in a state Obama carried in 2008, but narrowly lost in 2012 (North Carolina).

It’s too soon to know if Democrats can win any or all of those states, and with the notable exception of Illinois, they are competitive states, not reliable Democratic bastions. That makes them different from the current cycle, when many of the Democratic Senate seats up are in substantially red states.

The results of the Senate class of 2016 will be particularly important for both parties because the class of 2018 is so unbalanced, featuring 25 Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats) and only eight Republicans.

As many as 10 Democratic seats could be at risk in those midterm elections. If a Democrat wins the White House in 2016, 2018 would constitute the third straight midterm with a Democratic president.

All of that is a long way off. But while you have one eye on 2014, have the other looking at both 2016 and 2018. Wild swings are possible.

  • mabramso

    This is also pretty good new for the GOP. It’s hard to imagine this, but if the GOP is able to crush the Democrats this cycle (10+ net gain, which is unlikely but not beyond reach) and can hold the Democrats off in 2016 like the Dems did to the GOP in 2012, they could actually be in a position to win 60 in 2018. Not likely, but certainly possible.

    • Rob_Chapman

      Dream on Mr. Abrams.

      Read Proofiness sometime, a very readable little book devoted to the statistics behind public opinion polling.

      Two factors are in play now which favor the GOP in these snapshots.

      The outs are very frequently more vocal in their attitudes than those more satisfied with the status quo. The more are busy with their lives. The dissatisfied, feeling overwhelmed tend to reach out.

      Second, at this point in the election cycle people tend to compare the incumbent with God. Except in times when the Republic is under attack people tend to impose all their dissatisfactions, personal and public on the POTUS. The welll know sixth year drop is the result.

      Gerrymandering will protect a lot of US House Republicans who would otherwise be vulnerable. But the partisan packing that gave the GOP the House majority will make the Dem incumbents shoo-ins. The Dems might again exceed the GOP in the magnitutde of the total vote for their respective delegations.

      The campaigns waged for the Senate seats will determine who is elected, not the colors on the political map. The non-enrolled significantly outnumber the Republicans in all the states now and Dems appeal to them in federal legislative elections just as well as Republicans do.

      • mabramso

        I am looking only at statistics that I see. They could change. I only stated what is possible, not what is likely. Right now, I believe the Senate will flip, but only because of all the seats open in very red states — SD, WV, MT, AR, AK, LA. And I think they will win NC as well. The open seat in MI is a toss-up (which is surprising). Other seats are possible, but odds are still against them at the moment.

        • Rob_Chapman

          Capito suddenly has problems in WV stemming from the coal mining spill. She is well known and well financed, but after that spill her opponent will be as well.

          Montana, is not trending red, and with the Lt. Governor in the Senate there, both candidates have won state-wide elections.

          Landrieu appears to be a magic name in Louisiana and the GOP there is divided in ways that only a majority party can be.

          Alaska seems to tilting toward Begich,he has good name recognition, decent approval numbers and good funding. The GOP is going through a divisive primary in which the various factions are sorting themselves out and none appear to be dominant.

          Arkansas is a problem for the Dems, or rather the Dems are a problem for Pryor, but he has won there in other strong GOP years.

          Tillis vs. Hagin will definitely go to the Dems. Should the GOP dump Tillis the resulting party split will help the Dems.

          Things can still go badly for all these incumbents, but as things are shaping up, and as they will continue 2014 is most likely to be a year of returned incumbents, the low polling numbers notwithstanding.

          Remember polls are only a momentary snapshot, descriptive, not predictive.

          • mabramso

            MT and WV still favor the GOP. And you conveniently left out the ethics charges filed against Walsh in MT.

            Pryor won in 2002 only because of a corrupt GOP Senator who deserved to be tossed out, and he won in 2008 because he ran unopposed during a Dem wave year. He is behind in the polls and polling in the high 30′s to low 40s, which is death to an incumbent, especially when the demographics of the state favor the opposing party. And Cotton is acceptable to both the establishment and to the teat party — which is quite rare these days.

            Landrieu has never cracked 52%, and she has only faced voters post-Katrina in 2008, a wave Dem election against a pretty lousy opponent. She has never faced the voters there in a post-Katrina midterm election, when the voters are more conservative. And Romney won LA by double digits. Even the liberal Chuck Todd recently admitted that she probably doesn’t have the numbers on her side any more. The only thing that the GOP candidate really need to win is to come reasonably close to Woody Jenkins’ performance way back in 1996 (and Cassidy is a much better candidate than Jenkins was), and the demographics of Katrina (something 100,000 New Orleans voters permanently left the state) will take care of the rest.

            In NC, Hagan’s numbers are dreadful. In spite of what you say about the candidates, Hagan is running behind all of them in the polls. She is also polling just above 40%, and incumbents running that badly virtually never win.

            Alaska is a very conservative place. Begich currently leads there, but not by much, even though the field is not in place yet, and still way under 50%. And in recent history, the GOP almost always outperforms the polls there.

            I know full well about polling — I am a mathematician by profession and have been studying political polling off and on for roughly 20 years. Polling can actually be very predictive, but not this far out. Actually, this far out, the only number that really has much predictive power is the incumbent’s percentage. Usually, incumbents under 45% are toast.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Thanks for your stimulating and informed response.

            Let’s look at the “corruption,” charge against Walsh a bit more closely.

            The following from the Missoulian gives a sense of the pettifogging nature of that particular issue.

            Walsh sent another email in June 2010. The report
            quoted a subordinate officer testifying that Walsh’s message felt “more like
            coercion” and those senior members of the command talking to him in other
            emails felt “very threatening.”

            *****

            Another subordinate said in an email later that month that “I
            find it a little intimidating and fear that I am being bullied (read Strongly
            Encouraged) into joining,” according to the report.

            Walsh said he strongly believes in the importance of
            the National Guard Association of the United States and the similar
            organization for enlisted men.

            “My supervisors taught me professionals belong to
            professional organizations,” Walsh said. “I learned that early in my career. I
            saw the benefits.”

            As adjutant general, he said likewise he encouraged
            guard professional to join. The association, he said, fights daily to make sure
            the Army and Air National Guard receive the same kind of equipment and benefits
            as the other branches.

            “They just don’t give the National Guard the equipment
            that they have out of the kindness of their heart,” he said.

            I hate to think that our country’s defense rests upon people who are intimidated by being strongly encouraged to join professional organizations.

            But I can agree with the Army IG that Walsh’s position as Adjutant General sets him in a position that precludes his direct involvement in recruiting personnel for professional organizations beyond open letters praising such organizations and stating general encouragement.

            Walsh made a mistake, move on.

            It is interesting that after two lucky coincidences in Pryor’s previous near death political experiences, you are ready to write him off so early. I suppose you are among those who figured, Peyton Manning, the world’s greatest QB guaranteed the Bronco’s a win in the Super Bowl.

            It does not seem unusual that the Arkansas GOP establishment and TEA Party are in synch. The Arkansas GOP simply is not well enough established to have developed the baroque rivalries that led to the TEA Party establishment split seen in other places.
            The whole GOP civil war is just a power struggle between the disparate elements of the party, Their talmudic policy disputes are inconsequential and of little interest to those who are outside that charmed circle of viciousness.

            Campaigns matter and Pryor knows how to run winning campaigns.
            Landrieu will not sweep to victory, but she has shown independence from the Dem leaders in Washington and from the GOP leaders in Baton Rouge. Even Louisians appreciate having a Senator whose loyalties are to the regular people instead of the established powers that be. Whether that is enough to win a state-wide election in the oil soaked politics of Louisiana remains to be seen, but Landrieu is far from dead.

            Perhaps the nation is changing a bit. In many states, incumbents at the state level poll fairly poorly, below 45%, but manage to achieve the magic 50+ one number by election eve.

            Certainly Hagin, Begich, Pryor, Walsh, Hagan would prefer to have stronger numbers.

            But Mr. Abrams, those Senators live in red states, not pink, not even scarlet, but fire engine red. One would expect their poll numbers to be low and to stay low.

            But their incumbency shows that Dems can win state-wide elections in those states, and they are people who have already done it.

          • bishop24230

            Yes it is true that Hagan has won here and after you win once it is possible to win twice. But, look at the dynamic of her win. She had very favorable Obama coattails the first time around. She won’t have that this time (the opposite effect the GOP will face in Senate elections in ’16 when those folks won in ’10 without a dem at the top of the ticket). Her vote for Obamacare is being hung around her neck like an albatross. That one vote is what will doom her fate as a one-term US Senator. There is video now of her running away from reporters who try to ask her about Obamacare. I don’t know about all the rest of the states with vulnerable dems but I can tell you with certainty that Hagan is toast.

          • michaelW1966

            Mr chapman I live in NC. I don’t know about other states but Hagen is toast No way she wins in 2014. I will say this to, if Governor Mcrory doesn’t improve he will get tossed out in 2016 as well

          • Rob_Chapman

            Thanks for your comment Michael.

            As they say in football, that’s why we play the game.

            Your comment lumping McRory with Hagen gives me the idea that 2014 might shape up like 2012. You might recall that year in March the incumbents were considered toast.

            Skol!

          • michaelW1966

            True but I can tell you 2014 won’t be nothing like 2012. Hagen is very much gone. Obama is not liked now in North Carolina and people hate the ACA

          • Rob_Chapman

            Michael, NC was supposed to blood red in 2012, elected its GOP governor in a hound’s age and almost went for Obama.

            Things will look very different in October.

            Live and be well.

          • michaelW1966

            Rob, trust me true things can change but doubtful. Hagen is going to be toast. Mcrory win pretty decidedly in 2012 that race wasn’t even close. But he does have problems and Cooper is a tier 1 candidate. Mcrory might not make it in 2016. But this year it’s pretty well over for Hagen

          • Rob_Chapman

            I just read an article about what a hard time McCrory is having with the NC legislature which appears to be dominated by extremist right wingers.

            It is hard to imagine how a reasonable and moderate chief executive like Pat McCrory can have such problems, but given the orientation of some of the counties in NC it is not so surprising.

            The Dems have only one state-wide office in NC this cycle. It is not unusual for parties which are much smaller in relation to the state’s dominant party to be able to wn elections in such circumstances.

            Hagen is a good candidate and once her opponent becomes clear, she will be running against him instead of perfection. That will change everything.

            The right simply have shot their wad too soon.

          • michaelW1966

            Rob. Wv is done stick a fork in
            Tennant. As for MT that newly appointed Senator seems to be losing bad right now true things can change but doubtful. As for Arkansas. Another stick a fork In Pryor he is done. I don’t see him coming back. Alaska I might have to agree with you fir now but it’s still close. Michigan people really hate Gary Peters not as much as they did Bob Carr in 1994 but Peters could go down but I’m not calling that one just yet. In Iowa. Braley needs to understand people live Charles Grassley there and he would be best to keep his mouth shut. As for Kentucky and Georgia 2 changes. Grimes is coming off as hateful now and if she isn’t careful she could lose. In Georgia it’s the Democrats on a roll. Nunn of the GOP will beat Michelle. Louisiana is anyone’s guess but my prediction is if it goes to a runoff Landrieu loses. Now to the state I know more about North Carolina. Hagen voting for a law that is unpopular than dodging questions about it doomed her. It’s going to take a miracle for her to win and I just don’t see it. That’s the bad news good news is Pat mcrory isn’t looking to good either for 2016 and with Roy Cooper now in the race. I don’t see how he can pull it off. Also word is Burr might retire to in 2016 if he does it’s an open seat anyone can win if he runs again barring some unforeseen circumstance he wins in a rout but I think he will retire. The democrats are not going to win the state Presidentially which frees them to concentrate on other races

          • Rob_Chapman

            Thanks for the comment Michael. I would have more confidence in your predictions if your slang were a bit less dated.

            I don’t think either party is going to do well in the 2014 election. First it will be a good year for incumbents. They rarely lose and 2014 is shaping up as a classic incumbent year.

            The SCOTUS decision on election funding will work against the GOP. There are just too many big money donors associated with the TEA Party for the GOP to make a sweep, even with the electoral map as tilted in their favor as it is in 2014. The average American just doesn’t want his boss to control the government, too.

            Among the open seats, it would appear that WV is continuing its transition from blue to red. People engaged in extractive industries like the GOP. Now that coal mining is done by blowing the tops off mountains instead of mining into mountains, the base of the WV Democracy, coal miners are gone. WV Dems will be going the way of the passenger pigeon, too.

            In SD, the GOP are running the strongest candidate in the state and besides Capito and Greg Abbott, maybe their strongest candidate in the country. The GOP are likely to re-elect their candidate in Maine, precisely because she has shown independence from the TEA Party and the leadership in DC.

            Beyond that the GOP has little going for it but voter registration. Hagin, Walsh, Landrieu, and Pryor all have won state-wide elections, all in contrast to their opponents who have only won district wide elections.

            It is far from being over.

      • Rich-3

        What a load of BS. That gerrymandering line is the biggest load of bull out there because both sides have done it and do it. Look at the wipe out in CA and IL and NY as perfect examples of the left. Secondly, the total votes is another BS line when you are comparing city votes to rural votes. The districts are still districts but without the same population size. Weak people running will be the biggest factor like Aiken and Murdock and Ingle. Without those clowns and the witch in MD the republicans most likely would be running the senate now. Try again.

  • teapartyidiots

    They’re not going to get 10. My guess is 4.

    • mabramso

      4 are in the bag right now — SD. WV, MT, AR.

      • teapartyidiots

        MT is very weird. Rehberg had it “in the bag” too at this point. I think it’s SD, WV, AR are definite’s, and there will probably be one more.

        • View From The Left

          don’t forget to add Lundergan-Grimes in KY and Nunn in GA – they look like they have at least a 50/50 chance of going Dem.

          • michaelW1966

            Grimes is starting to falter. But Nunn is looking better.

        • http://www.gamers-loft.net/ Aaron Deskins

          WV is not a definite. The State still has a Democratic streak. Natalie Tennant just won SOS with 60% of the vote. Capito has never ran outside of her jigsaw puzzle-drawn 2nd district, which encompasses most of the Republican regions of the state. Tennant will win her home area of the 1st district, if she runs the numbers up in the Southern Coalfields, like Manchin, she will be the next Senator. Right now the only thing clear about this seat is it will be West Virignia’s first female Senator-elect. While pundits like to look at Obama’s dismal numbers in 2012, it’s important to remember Sen. Manchin won handily in that same night. WV historically doesn’t vote straight ticket.

          • Rich-3

            WV is solid conservative and the fact the national dem party is in play now is what will cause this to go republican. WV is a solid republican state in presidential elections and it is just a matter of the right person turning the state to where it belongs. Everything the national dems run on is against what WV votes for. Look at the ads from Manchin, he was shooting a gun through Obamacare. Tell me that is the dem party on the national level and you are smoking something.

          • michaelW1966

            Aaron. Tennant won’t run as well in the 1st district as you think. This race is pretty well over really before it began. The fact Tennants family had stock in the company that was responsible for the contaminated water a few months ago doomed her now the news the lady senator from North Dakota is coming down isn’t helping either.

  • blfdjlj

    They blew it the last cycle… little chances they will control the Senate after 2016. Even now, they don’t have competitive candidates in states like IA, NC, and NH, while Todd Akins are still possible elsewhere.

    • mabramso

      Well, consider the following:
      1. In Iowa, Braley is only polling about 5 points ahead of generic, “non-competitive” candidates. If this were the 2012 cycle, he would probably be 10-15 points ahead right now. If I were a Democrat, I would be worried about that.
      2. In NC, Hagan is currently polling VERY badly against “non-competitive” candidates. In fact, her numbers are so bad that they look a lot like Santorum’s when he lost PA by about 16 points a few years ago. She won’t lose that bad, but it is very difficult to win with those kind of numbers. Furthermore, while she won in NC in the VERy big Dem year of 2008 (with Obama winning as well), this is a state that voted for THE most anti-gay-marriage state constitutional amendment in the nation at a 60-40 clip. My guess is that her odds at re-election are at about 30% right now.
      3. In NH, Shaheen currently has better poll numbers that most of her potential opponents, except if Scott Brown runs (with whom she is currently tied with in the latest polls). If that happens, this becomes a toss-up. Furthermore, NH has a VERY strong recent history (last 10-12 years) of dumping ALL their incumbent representatives and senators each election cycle, in accordance with the national mood, which isn’t currently favoring the Democrats.
      4. At this point in the 2010 election cycle, Russ Feingold of WI was considered a shoo-in for re-election. It’s still early, and a lot can happen.

    • bishop24230

      blfdjlj – are you serious? No competitive candidates here in NC? Right now Hagan is running behind every other candidate running in the GOP primary. She even trails Ted Alexander by 7 points. Alexander is the former mayor of my small hometown in western NC who just got in the race and has very little name recognition statewide. And yet he leads her by 7 points. Hagan is toast. She has voted with Obama 94% of the time. That record doesn’t win here in NC.

  • http://www.gamers-loft.net/ Aaron Deskins

    The GOP may make a 50/50 split of the Senate, but the probability that they can outperform their take in 2010 and take control of the Senate in 2014 remains a wet dream for the Republicans. Even if they do, let’s say they get the 51 needed for majority. 2016 will be a Presidential year with all the Tea Party guys from 2010 on the chopping block. I fail to see how this works out for the GOP in the long term.

  • quiller51

    Begich will hold on in Alaska. Key to his victory will be the continued strong support he gets from independent voters. No Landrieu is going to lose in LA.At this point I think NC is the only likely flip but Republicans in the state are doing such a good job of alienating voters that Hagan may hold on.

  • Stephanie Payne

    Always thought that New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland had the dumbest voters in America. Obviously, West Virginia must be added to the top of that list. Why would a person vote against the resource that keeps their state’s economy afloat? Only if they’re dumb as a lump of coal. Only if they’re a Demwit!

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