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The GOP’s tricky electoral math for 2012

Right now, there’s plenty of ink and binary characters being spilled on both parties chances in 2012. Some are comparing this to 1992, others to 1996 in terms of the incumbent’s chances. Some have the Republicans on an unstoppable comeback, others have the GOP nearing implosion. However, we all know that few elections are an exact replay of the one before it. What exactly constitutes a swing or marginal state can change from election to election. Why, in 1980 Hawaii was thought to be winnable for the GOP, as it was in 2004, if only momentarily. Same with Maine in other elections. With that in mind, 2010 did at least give us an idea of which states may still be marginal, given Republicans winning it last year but the Democrats in 2008, often by similarly large margins. And so we present to you Dr. Larry Sabato of UVA’s first projection for 2012.

There’s plenty for both sides to take exception to–Republicans would say New Mexico is much closer to being a marginal state and two straight landslides (thanks to VA’s unique position on the electoral cycle) should put the Old Dominion in the leaners category, while Democrats would argue that Montana at least leans a little closer to them and that there’s no way they lose Maine.

Regardless, however, the map shows just how tricky the math is for Republicans. The fact that New York and California are almost completely out of Republican reach means that Democrats start with a big built in advantage. If you give each party their “leaning” states, Democrats start with 247, while Republicans have just 180. One interesting way to digest these results is to input them into 270towin.com, a fun site that presents an electoral college calculator. Color each state the way you think it will go, and the site will calculate the number of ways, if you give both parties less than 270 votes, the number of ways to get to the magic 270.

The big problem for Republicans? If you input this map into the site, giving both parties their leaning states, there are 14 different combinations that lead to a Republican victory. The problem? All of them require Florida. Again, both sides will have their talking points. Republicans will point to congressional pickups and Rubio’s win in 2010, while Democrats will point to Rick Scott’s cratering approval ratings in the state. However, the fact of the matter is that Republicans just don’t have the same sort of EC base built in that the Democrats do, largely due to the fact that their safest states are amongst the largest. In fact, Texas is the only red or “reddish” state that has more than 12 electoral votes.

That said, 2010 was a positive movement in that Republicans made important gains in PA, WI and MI, as well as North Carolina and New Mexico. The last two aren’t as important–if you give both to the GOP, FL is still a neccesity. However, take any of the first three out of the Democratic column, and a Floridaless path to victory emerges. Again, this is all just the analytical talk of shooting the breeze for the time being. We have quite some time to go in this cycle–more than a year, in fact. However, it should point to the importance of a) nominating a ticket that has a wide personal appeal to a large swath of Americas, both suburban and rural, and b) running on issues that appeal to pragmatic, more centrist voters that do not betray our core principles.

But, until we have a better idea of who those candidates might be, kill some time and come up with your own path to victory. For the record, I’m not 100% on the above, so if you can find a Floridaless path to victory that does not involve MI, WI or PA, by all means, please share! But do note that the the site won’t calculate scenarios where there are more than 12 states in play, as the number of possibilities increases exponentially. Again, many of these are far fetched, but hey, welcome to life with the electoral college!

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Tea Partiers continue to flex muscle

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I find the tea parties that sprung up around the country last spring an absolutely fascinating exercise in political involvement. Though the media and left-wingers are quick to denounce it as “astroturf,” but the fact of the matter is that, regardless of who came up with the term and who puts what events together, run-of-the-mill activists across the country have made it into something much bigger than anyone could imagine. Right now, many groups are getting involved in congressional primaries to turn out a candidate close to their values. Indeed, in our own backyard tea partiers are promising to have a series of debates in Virginia’s Fifth District.

“Our intent is to make the process fair and accessible to all viable candidates and give them the opportunity to prove themselves to the citizens of the 5th District,” Lynchburg TEA Party leader Mark Lloyd said in the release.

Lloyd noted that many TEA party members are independent from the GOP. “…Nevertheless, as Americans we intend to make our voices heard and we intend to be part of the political process.”

Lloyd points out correctly that the are a number of independent conservatives in the effort–however, in speaking to some of these people I find that many are former Republicans who just couldn’t tolerate the party’s full fledged support for certain types of candidates. However, these people appear to have still come out in droves for Bob McDonnell this past year. Therefore, they are drawn to the Tea Parties first as a way to get involved then jettison again if they get burned. The label is so potent that Rasmussen did a poll that discovered that an actual Tea Party would beat the Republican Party in a congressional match-up:

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.
Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

Obviously, dissatisfaction with the Republican label remains so high that nearly a third of people who call themselves Republicans would consider a third-party. No wonder state Republican parties, such as Colorado and Virginia’s, have taken great care to listen to the tea party movement and co-opt its focus on individual liberty and fiscal issues.

I still maintain that the Tea Party is more of a re-branding and re-ignition of a staid conservative movement that became unprincipled early in the decade. The Republican Party can defuse the threat of conservative independents bolting or staying home by a) keeping leaders like Sarah Palin from seeing hope in a third party and b) by not only promising but delivering on issues key to the identity of tea party activists.

As Norm pointed out over at TQ:

It may indicate that Republicans, if they hope to be successful in 2010, would be wise to pay attention to the activists back home who are protesting, organizing, forming PACs, lobbying for legislation and more under any number of tea party banners.

Or they could ignore it. In which case, they had best hope they packed along an extra pair of socks…because it gets mighty cold and damp in the political wilderness.

California Here We Come

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Richard Reeves is not someone I would agree with a great deal, but I’m afraid he was spot on in his column last week where he lamented the downward spiral of his home state:

You may have noticed that the governor and legislators of the Golden State finally produced a “balanced” budget with a deficit in double-digit billions. But, hey, who’s counting?

He lays blame at the feet of California’s often insane patchwork of direct democracy. Both conservatives and liberals have abused this system to the point where voters will simulatenously support huge new spending iniatives and giant tax cuts:

Sure, the state’s chief justice, Ronald George, traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to tell the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that the state is “dysfunctional.” His reasoning:

“California’s lawmakers, and the state itself, have been placed in a fiscal straitjacket by a steep two-thirds-vote requirement — imposed at the ballot box — for raising taxes. … Much of this constitutional and statutory structure has been brought about not by legislative fact-finding and deliberation, but rather by the approval of voter initiative measures, often funded by special interests.”

Read more…

Romney vs. Huck: Part Deux

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the great “B” stories of the 2008 Presidential campaign was the dog fight between Former Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney and Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Both candidates had their own place in the race: Romney had a good fiscal and economic record, but his “Road to Des Moines” conversion on abortion issues and former peddling to LGBT interests was too much for many social conservatives to handle. Meanwhile, Huckabee has a poor record on fiscal issues, having supported a number of tax increases as Governor, but the former Baptist minister simply could not be questioned on values issues. The end result? An extended fight between the two for conservative voters in which Huckabee eventually prevailed but was left too wounded to make a serious challenge to McCain in the final primaries (in retrospect, Virginia was the Huckster’s last stand).

Now, both are back in the running for the nomination in 2012. Romney is already generating buzz amongst establishment types, and he continues to maintain a high media profile. However, right now it would appear that his reputation amongst Republicans is declining. From Hot Air comes a PPP poll showing Mitt below 50%. Their take:

He’s at 48 percent this month after having hit 63 percent in June, before the fade began. Even PPP doesn’t have any explanation for it. I’ll give you two possibilities. One: Huck and Palin are in the public eye these days much more than Mitt is, even if it is for the wrong reasons. Romney had better be careful that he doesn’t become an afterthought and end up being seen as a “minor candidate.” Two: With Huck and Palin natural rivals for the religious conservative vote, the perception may be building that Romney’s the RINO in the race by default. He’s always had that rep to some extent, of course, but being the odd man out among the big three only cements it.

As I’ve said many, many times here, it’s very early. Romney still has a chance in this thing. I see his roadmap to victory being becoming a solid voice on conservative issues in the media and then surviving the aformentioned Palin/Huck fight. His big place to shine? Venues like CPAC, and by cozying up to Fox News as their “legit” commentator over Huck’s more showbiz orientation.

However, the big problem with that strategy is that right now it would appear that it is the moment for the confrontational conservative. Huck is drawing big ratings, and Sarah is dominating pretty much every media outlet from the blogs to Fox News, from People to Newsweek (they say that no publicity is bad publicity). The Chicago Tribune has a great article up about Huck and Sarah’s tours and the draws they’re bringing in.

“Team Huck” rolls into the bookstore like a NASCAR pit crew, red uniform shirts adorned with the corporate logos of Mike Huckabee’s website, his speaker’s bureau, his publisher, and “Huck” emblazoned on their epaulets.

They strip the protective wrappings off a large, heavy object — a podium they install at all such appearances. Mike Huckabee doesn’t sit at tables. He stands, as a president would, even to sign books.

And sign he does. And sign and sign and sign. As many as 600 copies of “A Simple Christmas” an hour with sales to match, and no time lost to opening remarks.

The contrast between Huck and Palin (subtle but important) would indicate that their fight is where the action is. However, as I said, Romney’s slow but steady effort has merit–if he can stick to it. As Palin and Huckabee have found, celebrity can be intoxicating.

The Right’s Rebirthing Pains

November 23, 2009 3 comments

In the aftermath of 2008 alot of conservatives seemed almost as if the life had been completely sucked out of them. Many could be found stumbling along, unshaven, hair akimbo, mumbling, “How could this happen? How could they have elected HIM?” I exaggerate some, yet the fact is that many conservatives were utterly dejected, having worked their tails off for a Republican few could stomach fully before his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Those who just stayed home felt worse yet, wondering aloud if there were any “true” conservatives left.

Yet just a little over a year later the right seems to be energized, coming off huge electoral victories and seeing protests all around the country. In a year President Obama has united a group of voters that it took President Bush six years to disintegrate to the point where each group had its own representative in the 08 dogfight. Talk of the “Tea Party movement” has overtaken conservative circles. From the size and scope of the protests, its clear that SOMETHING is going on. Indeed, the passion is palpable–to the point where some rallies have been taken with violence. Yet the media is hoping to paint a story of emerging discord within the Tea Party. From the Politico:

After emerging out of nowhere over the summer as a seemingly potent and growing political force, the tea party movement has become embroiled in internal feuding over philosophy, strategy and money and is at risk of losing its momentum.

The grass-roots activists driving the movement have become increasingly divided on such core questions as whether to focus their efforts on shaping policy debates or elections, work on a local, regional, state or national level or closely align themselves with the Republican Party, POLITICO found in interviews with tea party organizers in Washington and across the country.

However, in digging into the matter, the Politico only comes up with two strange scenarios within local groups to point at internal discord amongst the “movement.” They also claim that groups such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity are jockeying for credit. This is a good point but misses the mark. These groups were around long before the Tea Party movement began. Indeed, I would argue that there’s really no Tea Party movement at all. Rather, it is just a refocusing and reawakening of the American conservative movement.

Read more…

GOP Victories in…..Alexandria?!!?

Yes, you read that right. Last night the GOP picked up two seats on the Alexandria City Council, one being their nominated candidate and the other an endorsed independent. This comes on the heels of two very close races in Northern Virginia of late, plus a victory in a fairly blue Fairfax Board special election. 

These victories not only speak to the level of enthusiasim on the Republican side, but also the resonance of the messsage that Republicans are using in these races. The GOP nominated three candidates, all of which ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and bringing more business to Fairfax. I think former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker laid out the best path to victory in his editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post:

The core Republican beliefs in less government, lower taxes, more liberty and greater security in a dangerous world united people as different as Mark Hatfield and Jesse Helms during my years as leader of the Senate. Those same beliefs carried Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980 and 1984. Those beliefs still have power today. 

Here here. I think we’re already starting to see this play out in Virginia today–we’ve only just begun. Congratulations to Frank Fannon and Alicia Hughes, as well as Alexandria City Chair Chris Marston, for showing the way to victory for our candidates even in deep blue territory.

Perriello–Not what the package described

The outcome in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District was one of the biggest surprises of last year’s elections. Perriello did the typical rural Democrat move of running as a compassionate Democrat, hoping to confuse voters on just where he stood on important issues as abortion. He even had a volunteer tithing program that encouraged his supporters to volunteer for causes other than his. A bold move, but combined with a surprisingly weak Goode campaign and strong turnout in the major cities. It should be noted the jury is still out on if Charlottesville’s student population, which may have included some individuals registered in another state in addition to the commonwealth. While Charlottesville did see a rise, it was a 3% rise parallel to the state’s own roughly 3% rise. Perhaps someone more intimately familiar with where students are registered with some time on their hands could break down the numbers. I went to UVA but never registered there, as I knew it would never be “home.”  The bottom line, though, is that Perriello squeaked by with about 800 votes while McCain was winning the district by about 2%. 

The bottom line, though, is that some individuals, fed up with Washington and seeing Goode as part of the problem, may have been comfortable enough with Perriello on social issues due to his “faith-based” campaign. Indeed, abortion is not even mentioned on the issues page for his campaign

However, one of my favorites, former Charlottesville Council Member and local radio talk host Rob Schilling (a folk hero during my time at UVA due to the fact that he was the first Republican in a decade to serve on the Council of the People’s Republic) has been watching Perriello’s statements and has found that the Congressman is to the far left on this issue. Indeed, he even made it clear during his own interview with Rob what his position was

On August 12, 2008, then candidate Tom Perriello appeared on The Schilling Show to discuss his candidacy for United States Congress. By popular demand, at the end of this post is the podcast of that interview.

During the November 2008 election, many people were duped by Tom’s “volunteer tithing” schemeand his pious proclamations of “faith.”

Although, asked several times and in several different ways during this interview, by both the host and a caller, Tom Perriello was unable to come up with any instance under which abortion should be legally limited.

It should be pointed out that both Rob and Tom are practicing Catholics, and as such are in a very unique position to discuss this issue.

Rob also cites several other sources, but the post is a must read. With the district being more purple than we thought, this will certainly be a battleground in 2010, particularly without Obama at the top of the ticket.