Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elective Thoughts

There are four conflicting trends that are making this election season quite interesting, though not entirely comforting: (1) Obama is on a long losing streak; (2) the Republicans are making no inroads with Democratic voters; (3) the prospects are bleak for establishment types; and (4) turn out has been surprisingly low. Let’s make some sense of this.

Trend 1: In the past year, Obama has endorsed almost a dozen candidates in races as varied as the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and Senate races in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Every single candidate he endorsed has lost.

What does this mean? It means Obama no longer has the ability to sway the public, or indeed, to sway Democratic voters. It means that Obama, like Bush before him, has become political poison. It means that anyone tied too closely to Obama is doomed.

Longer term, this means that Obama’s agenda is doomed. As the members of his own party start to realize that he’s more albatross than eagle, they will begin to oppose him in favor of their own agendas.

Trend 2: Since Obama’s election there have been various special elections throughout the country, around ten total. The Republican candidate has lost every single one of these, for one reason or another, except for the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Last night, the Republicans lost the chance to pick up Jack Murtha’s former seat.

Here’s the catch. While the media makes a big deal of these seats being “conservative leaning” seats, the reality is quite different. Each of these elections has taken place in deeply Democratic-leaning states. Moreover, most of these seats have been in districts that are heavily unionized. Thus, the only trend that can be drawn from this is that the Republicans are not making any inroads with Democratic voters. But, in truth, they don’t need to. As I pointed out before, the Republicans can win 70 additional House seats without winning a single Democratic-leaning district.

Trend 3: The media is making out a case that incumbents are in trouble. I think this is incorrect. The reality is that candidates who are seen as corrupt or “malleable by the establishment” are the ones who are in trouble. Charlie Crist (I-Florida), Arlen Specter (D/R-Penn), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), and Bart Stupak (D-Mich) showed themselves to be unprincipled opportunists. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) showed they were willing to do Washington’s bidding against the strong wishes of their constituents. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn) were corrupt. And so on and so on.

There is no evidence that incumbents in general are in trouble, but there is evidence that anyone who has partaken of the waters of the establishment is. Anyone who has willfully handed taxpayer money to cronies, flirted with lobbyists, glad-handed and traded favors or proclaimed their power to milk the system, is in serious trouble.

What’s troubling about this, and what bothers me a good deal about the results last night, is that the Democrats are managing to clean up some of their weakest candidates. Chris Dodd easily would have lost to whatever Republican challenged him. The new guy, despite his Vietnam lie, is a much stronger candidate because he has shed the thing that the Democrats of Connecticut did not like about Dodd -- his corruption.

At the same time, Specter would have been a much weaker candidate against Toomey than Sestak will be. Sestak will have the strong support of Democrats, unlike Specter, and will not enrage moderate Republicans like Specter did. Ditto in Arkansas and anywhere else that the Democrats replace corrupt, establishment co-opted candidates with fresh faces.

Trend 4: Finally, we come to the issue of turn out. Turn out has been low, almost bizarrely low, in every election since the Presidential election. This indicates that the public is not as enraged as people wish to believe. Sadly, this means that the Tea Party effect is quite limited, if it exists at all. But at the same time, this means that Obama’s ability to turn out voters has evaporated. The Kool-Aid is gone and his magical ability to mobilize the masses is no more.

So what does this mean? It’s actually good news. Low turn out means that the party that is more energized has the advantage, and that’s the Republicans. Moreover, this low turn out has taken place during contested Democratic primaries, which further indicates that Democratic voters are demoralized.

That’s good. But all in all, these trends are somewhat troubling. With the anger the public showed when ObamaCare passed, there was a hope that a massive wave of public support would rid us of the Democrats and their RINO hangers-on. But, instead, these trends tell us that we are looking at a very tactical, low-turn out election where local personalities have much greater influence than national trends.

I think the Republicans better consider why they aren’t riding the expected wave.


MegaTroll said...

Good analysis. I'm of two minds when it comes to Specter and Dodd and the others. One the one hand, I'm glad to see these jerks finally gone. On the other hand, I agree with you that I would rather they lost in the general election.

AndrewPrice said...

Mega, I agree. I'm happy to see them gone -- good riddance! But I am concerned that their replacements will be stronger in the general election. It's too bad they couldn't hang on until them, and then go down in flames.

Joel Farnham said...

I wonder if this election is a portent of things to come. It was anti-big government-incumbent day. Not simply anti-incumbent.

Plus, the people are still angry, even though MSM didn't cover it. I had to look far and wide for some information. It just wasn't there.

Where Tea Partiers are highly active, they won.

BevfromNYC said...

It was sweet to see Specter lose last night. I have no idea how he thought switching parties was going to help him win. This just proved that PA didn't want him anymore as a Republican or a Democrat!

It only worked with Lieberman because Howard Dean crowed so much about taking him down and stupidly didn't realize that voters in CT really liked Lieberman regardless of party.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think it's hard to say what this election will tell us about November because these elections were (for the most part) in left-leaning areas. I think it does tell us that the Democrats are not enthused. I think it tells us that Obama is no longer a power broker in their party. I think it tells us that there is an anti-establishment theme. Beyond that, I'm not sure yet what all of this means for November.

I'm concerned that the low turn out means that local politics may trump national trends, which could be bad. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I was sweet to see Specter go down. Like I said though, I do wish this would have happened in the general election. But it was a nice victory nevertheless.

I think you're right about Lieberman. Lieberman is a guy who both sides have liked a great deal for a long time. So when the hard-left turned against him, he had a great chance of getting elected in the general election.

Specter, on the other hand, has done nothing but aggravate both sides.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: Fine analysis, and very much on point. As we've warned our readers before, we are courting disaster if we let down our guard for a minute. Your key point was that the party that is most energized is more likely to win, and right now, that's Republicans. We must keep up the clarion call, since November is a very long way off in political terms.

Small sidenote on party politics. Today, The One had a joint press conference with Mexican president Calderon. Obama actually admitted that Arizona had amended the controversial immigration law specifically to exclude racial (actually, ethnic) profiling. But he still prattled on about it having "the potential" to be discriminatory. Then he went on to preach about comprehensive immigration reform, and that's where he pulled another typical Obama-as-Chicago-politician moment.

At a press conference that automatically involves American foreign policy by the very presence of the Mexican president, Obama praised Democrats for their pro-amnesty stands, and hinted that Republicans are bigots for not agreeing by saying that we can have good reform "if we can get enough Republicans to go along."

Someone needs to tell this amateur posing as president that "politics stops at the water's edge" includes the border's edge. No president should be talking partisan politics with a foreign executive present during a joint press conference.

Anonymous said...

The PA-12 races shows that the Dem brand by itself isn't as damaged as I thought.

But they tipped their hand - get a blank slate candidate (like Obama) run right and against the national party.

The people still buy that there is such a thing as a ‘conservative’ Dem. Even after Stupak.

So our candidates need to help connect the dots by asking: ‘If elected to Congress – who will you support for Speaker of the House?” Get them on record.

AndrewPrice said...

Ponderosa, I'm not sure what lessons we can draw from PA-12. The problem is that part of the country (rust belt near Pittsburgh) consists of life-long Democrats who are heavily unionized. Everyone productive has been fleeing that part of the country. And the vast majority of the people who are left, aren't likely to vote Republican except in Presidential elections.

Moreover, with hot Democratic primaries for the Senate and Governor and nothing comparable for the Republicans, turn out was going to favor the Dems.

If we had lost a special election in Georgia or Arizona, then I would be worried. As it is, I honestly didn't expect a better result.

That said, I think the real problem is the low turn out. If the "angry Tea Party" people really are going to have an effect, then the turn out should have been much higher. And if they can't bring people to the polls, then they are finished.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Since when have the Democrats not spent time slandering Republicans overseas? They have definitely tapped into the European left and they feel more comfortable with those jerks than with the rest of us.

As for keeping people excited, I agree. I also think the steady negative drumbeat "the Republicans haven't won me over yet" is not helping. If you spend all your time attacking your own side, why should anyone else want to join you?

Joel Farnham said...

I think the reason Murtha's district stayed in Democrat hands is because of the Registration of two to one Democrat advantage.

It still remains to be seen this fall. If Critz, who campaigned against Obama and as a conservative, can stay away from Pelosi's newest takeover of the United States, he will win again in November. If he is attached in any way to Obama and Pelosi, Burns will win.

Remember this district is bluer than blue, and Critz didn't win over 53% despite having a two to one advantage. If Dems just wanted to vote a Dem in, it should have been closer to 66%.

The rest of the elections are more for the Republicans and Conservatives despite Frum's disgust at Rand Paul.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That's exactly the problem with PA-12 -- it's bluer than blue.

The media made this out as "conservative-leaning" but it's really nothing of the sort. It's a left-leaning district that has some conservative tendancies when it comes to voting for President. That's why we can't judge anything about the Republican's chances in November by that district -- despite the dozen or so articles out today saying this race gives comfort to the Democrats that public is not really angry at them. All it really means is that registered Democrats aren't ready to give up on their party.

I am very enthusiastic about the Paul win. I think that is a huge shot across the bow that average Republicans will no longer tolerate insiders and the selection of hand-picked insiders. This and the Bennett toss-out should help keep the Republicans on the straight and narrow.

Joel Farnham said...

I don't know that the Republican Elite have understood what the rank and file have done on this election. Hopefully, it will take. Bennett and Paul are just two. If it happens to McCain, then I think the Republican Elite will take notice.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think they're getting it, especially after having been burned both in NY by Scuzzywhatever and in Florida by Crist, and now with Bennett and Paul. I think they are starting to realize that their insider friends are becoming a liability and that this issue won't pass.

Whether McCain goes down has nothing to do with the leadership though, as it will be the primary voters who make that decision.

Here's an interesting fact, by the way, everyone that Dick Cheney has endorsed has lost. Weird.

Joel Farnham said...

That is weird.

What is obvious, but no one is talking about, is that Conservatism won every time it was campaigned on. Liberalism lost, strongly.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think the MSM isn't talking about it because they don't like it. In fact, even the West Virginia race followed those lines with Mollohan being replaced by a much more conservative Democrat.

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