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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: November 2011

Creamer: GOP Likely to Cave to Dems on Payroll Tax Holiday

The following article by democratic political strategist Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:
As the Senate considers an extension of the payroll tax holiday, the big question is: why in the world would Republicans in Congress consider raising middle class taxes by $1,000 to $1,500 per household in the midst of an economic downturn and an election year?
This is a particularly vexing question when you recall the ardor with which the GOP has campaigned against raising the taxes paid by millionaires and billionaires by even one dime.
At the beginning of the week it appeared that virtually every Republican in the Senate was prepared to vote no on a Democratic proposal to extend and broaden the current payroll tax holiday.
Now some are beginning to get cold feet. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has now reportedly “opened the door” to considering the possibility of a payroll tax cut extension.
But the real question is why Republicans would contemplate voting against extension of the payroll tax holiday in the first place?
Voting no would be like leaping off a political cliff — taking an iconic vote that would no doubt become emblematic of the fact that they are willing to sacrifice the interests of the 99% to protect the fortunes of the wealthiest people in America. John Paulsen — the Wall Street hedge fund manager who made $5 billion last year (that’s $2,400,000 per hour!) — might consider this a courageous stand. But the everyday worker — who will take 48 years to make as much as Paulsen makes in one hour — might not be so charitable.
Perhaps, you might say, it’s because Republicans are taking a strong principled stand against raising the deficit. But that would not be the case, since the Democratic proposal is entirely paid for by a small increase in the taxes of millionaires.
What on earth could drive Senate Republicans to consider taking such a stupid vote? Four possibilities jump to mind.
1). Possible Reason Number 1: They claim the extension of the payroll tax holiday will undermine Social Security and Medicare.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl made this argument on the weekend talk shows. We can dismiss this talk as a complete smoke screen.
First, Senator Kyl and the Republicans have never given a rat’s rear about Social Security and Medicare in the first place.
Second, the payroll tax holiday that was passed last year does not remove one dime from the Social Security or Medicare trust funds. In fact, the lost payroll tax is replaced dollar for dollar from the Federal general revenue fund.
The payroll tax holiday itself is simply a means of putting money directly into the pockets of working people that is then replaced with money from the much more progressive overall Federal tax structure.
2). Possible Reason Number 2: Some Republicans really don’t believe that taking $1,500 out of the paychecks of everyday consumers will hurt the economy.
There are apparently some Republican lawmakers who have drunk the “Keynesian Economics Doesn’t Work” Kool-Aide. They actually believe that the only way to stimulate economic growth is to shovel more and more income into the hands of the top 1% — the “job creators” — and watch that money “trickle down” on the rest of us.
The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that “trickle down” economics works — or ever worked.
We had an actual experiment with “trickle down” economics during the Bush Administration. The Republicans cut tax rates for the wealthy. The rich got a lot richer, and the median income of everyday families actually dropped. In fact it was the first decade in modern history that the economy did not create one net private sector job.
But — the Republicans say — two and a half years ago Congress passed a huge stimulus bill, and we still don’t have enough jobs.
Of course, they forget to mention that at the time, the economy was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs because the financial system had collapsed as a result of the very same policies they are now advocating once again. And there is the inconvenient fact that since the stimulus worked its way through the economy, we have had 20 straight months of private sector job growth — whereas during the last twelve months of the Bush Administration we lost massive numbers of private sector jobs.
Of course a good deal of that private sector growth has been offset by the Republican refusal to continue the stimulus bill’s aid to state and local governments. That resulted in layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers — and other public service workers who they must presume do not hold “real jobs.”
The problem with the stimulus bill was not that it didn’t work. The problem was that it wasn’t big enough. Republicans remind you of a guy who uses a hose to put out half of a house fire, turns off the water and then contends that water doesn’t put out fires because the entire fire hasn’t been extinguished. The obvious answer is to get more water. Not only do the Republicans want to stop pouring on the water of stimulus — they want to pour on the gasoline of austerity — just the opposite of what is needed to put out the bad economic flames.
When an economy is in recession the problem — by definition — is too little demand to absorb the goods and services that the economy can produce. The way to solve the problem is to generate more demand to jump-start the economy. This is not just a matter of opinion — it’s a matter of mathematics.
Republicans who run around claiming that economic stimulus — money in consumer pockets — isn’t what’s needed to stimulate economic growth are like people in the middle ages who refused to believe that the earth circles the sun. If the evidence doesn’t support their ideological frame, they throw out the evidence — not the ideological frame. They ignore the facts. It makes no more sense for them to vilify “Keynesians” than it did for an earlier generation to vilify “Copernicans.”
There is complete economic consensus that eliminating the payroll tax holiday today will be a disaster for the economy. In fact, economists like Mark Zandi — who advised John McCain’s campaign — argue that if the payroll tax holiday is not extended, it will shave 1.7% off the gross domestic product and throw the economy into a double dip recession.
3). Possible Reason Number 3: The Republicans oppose extending the payroll tax holiday, because President Obama is for it.
That’s certainly their knee-jerk response. They believe that anything that makes Obama look effective hurts Republican chances in 2012.
But they have some big problems here. First, many Republicans supported a payroll tax holiday in the past — and many voted for the original holiday last year. If they form a solid wall of opposition, they will look like hypocrites who changed their position simply to hurt their political opponents.
And, second, the entire issue puts them in political box canyon — with no escape. If they oppose extension they look like they are obstructing something that is good for the economy — and very palpable to everyday voters. If they support an extension, they give the President a victory.
4). Possible Reason Number 4: Republicans actually understand that ending the payroll tax holiday will hurt the economy — and that’s exactly what they want to do.
There are clearly some Republicans in Congress who actually believe that ending the payroll tax holiday won’t hurt the economy. But there are a lot of Republicans who know exactly what will happen and would be perfectly happy to hurt the economy.
In fact, the Republican leadership has laid a bet that if the economy continues to stagnate they are that much more likely to defeat Democrats next fall. They know that no President in a hundred years has been re-elected when the economy was not materially improving. And they are certainly right that a major issue in next year’s election will be who is responsible for the lousy economy.
Their problem is that by supporting an increase in the payroll tax that takes $1,500 out of the pockets of every middle class family, they create an iconic example of why the real problem is the “do-nothing Republican Congress.”
Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe that Congress is completely controlled by Republicans. And even though the Senate leadership is Democratic, the Republican willingness to stop action using the filibuster means that they are, in fact, entirely responsible for preventing action to create jobs.
That’s good news for Democrats, since in some polls only 9% of Americans have a positive view of Congress and overwhelming numbers believe the country is on the wrong track.
That means that Democrats in Congress can run as outsiders who want to break the log jam in Congress and take action on jobs — take action to defend the middle class. It means that the President can lay the blame for the lousy economy directly at the doorstep of the Republican Party – and its nominee.
The battle over the extension of the payroll tax holiday plays right into that narrative. It is a huge problem for the Republicans in Congress. Bad enough that the “do-nothing Republican Congress” is doing everything it can to oppose President Obama’s agenda to create jobs. Taking $1,500 out of the pockets of everyday Americans gets downright personal.
That’s why, when the chips are down, the odds are good that the Republican leadership will fold its hand and support extension of the payroll tax holiday.

Redistricting Debacle Dumps Dem Warhorse

The sudden retirement announcement of Rep. Barney Frank provides an instructive case study in the importance of Democrats paying more attention to the redistricting process. If an influential Democratic congressman in the most Democratic of states can be forced out, something is very wrong.
True, Massachusetts is just one state, and Dems have shown some strategic prowess in redistricting elsewhere, e.g. Texas, even though the GOP runs the show there. Frank’s departure could be chalked off to an unusual situation. But it’s nonetheless disturbing that one of the House’s sharpest critics of Republican policies can be bounced because of lousy redistricting — by his own party.
Perhaps the best inside skinny about the Frank debacle so far would be “Frank says new voting map edged him out” by the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser and Christopher Rowland:

…US Representative Barney Frank yesterday accused Beacon Hill lawmakers of drawing the new congressional map in a way that shortchanged him in favor of fellow congressmen Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch. Had they done otherwise, said Frank, he might have run again.
“Markey and Lynch were protected, and the rest of us got what they didn’t want,” he said. Losing the chance to pick up some choice suburban towns for his district, Frank said, retirement became a more attractive option.
On redistricting, Frank said he spoke with legislative leaders at the State House several weeks ago about the new lines for the Fourth Congressional District, to which he was first elected in 1980. They wanted him to take a reshaped district grounded in Southern Massachusetts, centered away from his base of Newton and Brookline. He rejected that idea, he said, but still ended up with a district that “unpleasantly surprised” him.

Maybe the calculus was that Frank had a better chance of winning in a weakened district than did Markey and Lynch. In any case, Frank saw it as a loser, and he knows these districts as good as anyone. As Frank explains:

Frank asserted that Markey, with a suburban district that now extends west to Framingham and Ashland, and Lynch, from South Boston to the South Shore then west to Dedham, were given good districts. Several others — including himself; William R. Keating of Quincy; John Tierney of Salem; and Niki Tsongas of Lowell — got a bad deal, Frank said, even though those districts are still considered by many as safe Democratic seats.
“I talked to Ed Markey, and frankly I was a little disappointed there,” said Frank. “I think Ed had some influence with them, but it was spent mostly on his own district…”There was stuff that Eddie got that, if I could have shared some with Eddie, it would have been a better district.”…When asked whether he would have run for another term had his district not been altered as significantly, Frank said, “If the district had been substantially similar, I would have felt obligated to run again.”

Markey responded that “independent analysts are concluding that all nine are safe Democratic seats,” and State Rep. Michael Moran, House chairman of the redistricting committee agreed with Markey. But obviously Frank strongly disagrees.
There are always tough calls to make in redistricting and yes, the key decisions are supposed to be nonpartisan and not favoring incumbents. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bay State’s most influential Democratic congressman and one of the Democratic party’s toughest war horses deserved more consideration in the redistricting process. Hard to imagine Republicans making the same mistake.
Massachusetts should have one of the best Democratic Party organizations, one that Democratic state parties can model to good advantage. For now, however, they will have to look elsewhere.

All Together Now: A Vote Is A Vote

J.P. Green wrote yesterday about Tom Edsall’s much-discussed piece on the “abandonment” of the white-working-class vote by Democrats. I’d like to add one pretty simple point, because it involves one of my pet peeves. Check out Edsall’s lede:

[P]reparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

He goes on, as Green’s summary notes, to quote from TDS Co-Editors Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira at considerable length about more realistic goals for Democratic performance among WWC voters in 2012.
But the planted axiom in this account is that anything other than a determination to “win” the WWC represents an “abandonment” of this cohort, presumably in favor of those flashy upscale white professional voters Democrats have been “winning.”
The problem, of course, is that you do not get bonus points in an election for “winning” this or that cohort. A vote is a vote, and gaining more votes in any cohort has precisely the same effect as gaining more votes in another. The loaded term “abandonment” is only relevant if Democrats are actively spurning the WWC vote, which will not be the case so long as there is a labor movement aligned with the party.
To be fair, Edsall makes an entirely legitimate point about the relative coherence of a coalition centered on lower-income voters across racial and geographical lines as compared to one in which upscale white voters are a more significant component:

The New Deal Coalition — which included unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals — had the advantage of economic coherence. It received support across the board from voters of all races and religions in the bottom half of the income distribution, the very coherence the current Democratic coalition lacks.

That’s true, but the New Deal coalition was not so “coherent” when it came to a host of other issues, most notably civil rights, and more recently, on a variety of cultural issues. And any lack of Democratic “coherence” on economic issues today that is attributable to a less homogenous coalition is certainly matched by the anomaly of Republicans relying on a coalition that includes WWC voters while advancing economic policy proposals focused monomaniacally on adding to the ever-increasing wealth of “job creators.”
It is always in order to pay close attention to the components of a party’s electoral profile and their relationship to its values, policies and message, and Edsall is very good at it. But it’s equally important to remember that voter cohorts are often hard to typecast; that their size, propensity to vote, and geographical location are important variables in assessing their political value; and above all, that in the end a vote’s a vote.

The Immigration Issue Strikes Again

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
At present, the Republican presidential campaigns opposing Newt Gingrich must look at the unlikely front-runner as something of a piñata: a big, fat target ready to explode, showering votes on his rivals, once it is decided which angle offers the most decisive blow. There are plenty of ripe lines of attack, most notably Gingrich’s endless flip-flopping on global climate change punctuated by his notorious 2007 ad with Nancy Pelosi. His record of support for an individual mandate to purchase health insurance should also be tempting to opponents, given the issue’s prominence in the news as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on its constitutionality. And though personal attacks are always trickier, you’d figure rivals could find some way to remind the Christian Right leaders who are toying with a Gingrich endorsement that this thrice-married, twice-converted man is hardly a convincing champion of godly behavior.
Of all these possible avenues, however, it is truly a sign of the times that the angle of attack most are choosing is Newt’s recent position on immigration. We have been monotonously told that this election is about the economy and the federal budget, not social issues, and in any event Republicans understand the general election risk of alienating Hispanic voters. But with the smoking ruins of Rick Perry’s candidacy still on display, it’s far past time to reassess both of those assumptions: Immigration remains a key issue to millions of Republican caucus and primary voters–in spite of, not because of, the economy–and they will not accept candidates taking the “wrong” position on the matter for the sake of electability.
Any analysis of this issue must begin with the understanding that immigration is a black-and-white moral challenge to a majority of conservative activists. It’s not the product of some recession-related anxiety about immigrants taking jobs; indeed, in many parts of the country (particularly in the South), the Hispanic presence in the economy and in the population has visibly diminished during the last couple of years. Accordingly, recent conservative immigrant-bashing has been focused not on undocumented workers taking away jobs, but on their families’ alleged dependence on welfare (the main issue in California’s famous Proposition 187 debate during the 1990s) and on their alleged collective conspiracy to use “anchor babies” born in the United States to colonize the country with large families living off the public-assistance fat of the land. That is why Perry’s stubborn defense of public educational subsidies for the children of undocumented workers struck such a powerfully destructive chord with Tea Partiers.
Moreover, a big inspiration behind the Tea Party has been a revolt of movement conservatives against Republican politicians who were willing to bend public policy and spend taxpayer dollars to curry favor with select target constituencies–you know, like Democrats do. It was not lost on conservatives that the Bush-McCain commitment to “comprehensive immigration reform” was central to Karl Rove’s strategy of adding at least a robust minority of Hispanic voters (along with seniors seduced by the Medicare Rx drug benefit and married women attracted to No Child Left Behind) to the party’s base to forge a durable majority. To hard-core conservatives, these abandonments of conservative principle were both morally and politically abominable, locking the GOP into an unwinnable vote-buying competition with the hated socialist enemy at the expense of law-abiding, hard-working Americans. The only surprising thing about the Tea Party backlash against Perry on immigration is that it took a few weeks to develop.
So why is a seasoned conservative ideologue like Newt Gingrich, who recently put forward a plan to offer a highly conditional “legalized” status to those certified as solid non-citizens by local panels, running the risk of saying anything on the subject other than “enforce the law”? It’s possible he’s trying to position himself to remain competitive with Hispanic voters in the general election, though that consideration hasn’t inhibited him from taking a variety of other positions that will cause problems if he happens to get the nomination. It’s more likely he thinks he’s found a sweet spot on immigration, whereby he can claim to oppose not only a “path to citizenship” but, just as importantly, deny public benefits to undocumented workers and their families (a key element of his plan) while avoiding the necessity of explaining how he’d deport 12 million people.
But if Gingrich was calculating no candidate for president would be irresponsible enough to come out for mass deportations, he was wrong, since Michele Bachmann has just done exactly that. And the firm distinction Newt has tried to draw between paths to citizenship (“amnesty,” to conservatives) and paths to legality may fall on deaf ears: Nativist chieftain and Iowa GOP potentate Steve King has already assigned the dreaded A-word to Gingrich’s proposal, in tandem with his opponents.
Whether or not Newt becomes the latest GOP candidate to fall on his sword on account of his stance on immigration, the attention being paid to the issue will undoubtedly fan the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment among conservatives and drive the entire field into ever-more-passionate denunciations of law-breaking Hispanics and their scandalous looting of the public treasury. The candidate most likely to benefit from a Gingrich implosion, Mitt Romney, is now staking out a harsh position on immigration for the second straight presidential cycle, something of a landmark of consistency for him. He won’t be able to shake that positioning if he wins the nomination. All in all, Team Romney and the entire GOP may regret they didn’t choose to whack Gingrich on global climate change.

Political Strategy Notes

WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. has explains why it would be folly for moderates to create “a centrist third party” to challenge for the presidency next year. “We need moderation all right, but a moderate third party is the one way to guarantee we won’t get it. If moderates really want to move the conversation to the center, they should devote their energies to confronting those who are blocking the way. And at this moment, the obstruction is coming from a radicalized right.”
Brad Knickerbocker reports at the Monitor on “Ron Paul’s strategy for winning: Independent and cross-over voters,” an instructive read for Dems who want to initiate some preparation for the possibility of a third party challenge.
Gerald F. Seib has a Wall St. Journal article, “GOP Hopes to Keep 2012 Edge in Voter Intensity,” noting that “…Republican intensity seems to be a kind of negative intensity: GOP supporters appear a lot more fired up about voting against Mr. Obama than they are about voting for any of his potential Republican foes…Still, the numbers represent a big warning sign for Democrats.”
At Forbes, Loren Thompson discusses a tough challenge for the President and Dems, “Why Defense Cuts Could Doom Obama’s Re-election Bid.” Says Thompson: “There aren’t many sectors left in the U.S. economy where old-line industrial unions still have as much presence as defense. And there aren’t many institutions where retirees and dependents rely more heavily on federal funds than the armed forces. Such groups are usually considered core components of the Democratic base, but when they are associated with the military they seem to get ignored in White House political calculations. If Obama’s political team doesn’t wake up soon, these groups will be more inclined to vote Republican in 2012 — potentially denying Democrats the margin of victory needed to carry swing states essential to the president’s reelection.”
The Nation’s John Nichols has an update on the petition drive to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker — more than 300K signatures — more than half of the required signatures (540K) — after only two weeks, with a disproportionately large percentage coming from rural areas, where Walker ran well last year.
Republican strategist Javier Ortiz describes President Obama’s lead in The Hill’s Congress Blog: “…Polling conducted for Univision, the largest and most influential news outlet among Hispanics, reported President Obama experiencing a huge lead among Latino voters,” with larger than 2-1 margins against Cain, Perry and Romney, according to Univision.
And apparently Newt Gingrich isn’t exactly poster-boy for a compassionate immigration policy after all, as Ginger Gibson reports at Politico.
Greg Sargent comments on Thomas B. Edsall’s buzz-generating NYT op-ed, arguing that Dems have decided on a 2012 strategy that bi-passes the white working class. Says Sargent: “My read: Obama’s team knows that he is unlikely to win back blue collar whites in the numbers that he needs, and they are looking at ways to offset that problem…But I don’t see any evidence that the Obama team is writing off those voters as permanently lost. They are hoping to compete aggressively for those voters and for college educated whites, and are pursuing multiple routes to 270.”
Republican Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback shows how to turn a throw-away insult from a high-schooler into a widely-publicized three day story reflecting poorly on him, forcing his apology. A.P.’s Bill Draper has the story here.
Libby Copeland reports at Slate.com on “How To Hit a Woman: The new anti-Elizabeth Warren ad, and how political attack ads differ when the target is female,” an interesting look at the psychology behind GOP attacks vs. women candidates in recent years.
Also at Slate, Christopher Hitchens believes the GOP presidential candidate field may actually be benefiting from it’s endless gaffes, which help to paint a cumulative portrait of regular guy incompetence many find reassuring. Sort of a dog whistle to knuckle-headed voters.

DNC Gets Medieval on Mitt: Too Early or Right on Time?

It’s good to see the DNC is playing hardball in its new political ads, most notably “Mitt v. Mitt: The Story of Two Men Trapped in One Body.” The ad below is tough and creative, and it should get lots of play. We can be sure that the Romney campaign is dithering about how to respond to it.

I gather the strategy behind the ad is that Mitt Romney is the GOP’s most formidable opponent for President Obama, and weakening him now could help one of the more vulnerable Republican candidates get the GOP nod, thereby improving Obama’s reelection prospects. The strategy is a bit risky in any case. The GOP has other candidates who are electable in a declining economy, despite the clown show of recent months.
No doubt some would argue that its a little early for Dems to be spending money attacking a GOP presidential nominee, especially one who seems stuck in the low twenties in polls of the GOP presidential field. Of course it’s a bit of a crap shoot, since no one can predict the twists and turns in the race ahead.
But the Republican attack ads against President Obama are already rolling and they should be answered, and not with defensive whining along the lines of “they distorted my record,” which is always a loser. Dems have to launch attack ads now, and Romney is the obvious individual target. If the ads help Romney’s opponents and lead to further internecine polarization in the GOP, that’s a plus for Dems.
Yet, congressional Republicans are now at an historic low in approval ratings. Dems should also craft some equally-clever ads that target the GOP as the institutional guardian of extreme wealth at the expense of the middle class. Occupy Wall St. has helped make economic injustice a front page issue for the first time, but the MSM is still mired in false equivalence in assigning blame for economic decline. A strong Democratic ad campaign to correct the false equivalence meme can only help.
There’s no evidence that ads are the pivotal element in political campaigns. Any number of other factors, like economic trends, candidate debates and GOTV can be much more important in determining political outcomes. But ads are a significant messaging tool, and Dems have an important message to amplify — that only one political party has the interests of working people at heart, while the other seems wholly dedicated toward protecting the rich from paying a fair share of taxes.

Edsall: Dems Look to New Coalition for ’12 Victory

Thomas B. Edsall’s op-ed, “The Future of the Obama Coalition” in the Sunday New York Times has opened up heated discussions about what Dems should now do about the white working class in terms of the presidential election. Edsall believes that Democratic “operatives” have made their decision:

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

Edsall spotlights what he believes to be the changing strategic orientation of TDS co-editors Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira to bolster his argument:

It is instructive to trace the evolution of a political strategy based on securing this coalition in the writings and comments, over time, of such Democratic analysts as Stanley Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira. Both men were initially determined to win back the white working-class majority, but both currently advocate a revised Democratic alliance in which whites without college degrees are effectively replaced by well-educated socially liberal whites in alliance with the growing ranks of less affluent minority voters, especially Hispanics.
The 2012 approach treats white voters without college degrees as an unattainable cohort. The Democratic goal with these voters is to keep Republican winning margins to manageable levels, in the 12 to 15 percent range, as opposed to the 30-point margin of 2010 — a level at which even solid wins among minorities and other constituencies are not enough to produce Democratic victories.

Noting a shift in the support of white workers from progressive to conservative parties, not just in the U.S., but in industrialized nations in general, Edsall says the goal is now to cut white worker support of Republicans, rather than try to win them for the Democratic nominee. “In order to be re-elected,” writes Edsall, “President Obama must keep his losses among white college graduates to the 4-point margin of 2008 (47-51). Why? Otherwise he will not be able to survive a repetition of 2010, when white working-class voters supported Republican House candidates by a record-setting margin of 63-33.”
Edsall cites a recent memo by Greenberg “that makes no mention of the white working class,” describing instead a “new progressive coalition” made up of “young people, Hispanics, unmarried women, and affluent suburbanites.” He cites Greenberg’s doubts about winning back the ‘Reagan Democrats,’ a concern he and Teixeira both shared as a central priority in the 1990s.
But Edsall appears to be overstating his point about the memo, a section of which says:

Non-college voters across the groups respond in particular to evidence of
strength and conviction. The white non-college-educated voters in these groups
were particularly fed-up with politics altogether. They now say ― “it does not matter
who wins,” even as some are attracted to conservative leaders who show
strong convictions. Re-engaging them will be a difficult project, but it is certainly
possible. More than any other group, these voters are re-engaged when leaders
show strong conviction and say, ―”I’m ready for him to get in there and kick some

Certainly many in the white working-class are increasingly clear that the GOP has little to offer, and, for them a vote for Obama is not out of the question, given the hard-to-justify alternatives. The trick is turning them out.
Edsall nonetheless gives the revised strategy, which was successful in ’06 and ’08, “a 50-50 chance in 2012” and says it’s now all about focusing on states like VA, CO and NH, with their “high percentages of college educated voters.” He lays out two basic scenarios:

One outcome could be a stronger party of the left in national and local elections. An alternate outcome could be exacerbated intra-party conflict between whites, blacks and Hispanics — populations frequently marked by diverging material interests…

The Republicans have unity problems of their own. But Edsall notes that the GOP is more than eager to exploit the fragile tension points of such a new Democratic coalition. Indeed, this may be why most of the GOP presidential candidates (Newt and Perry excepted) are so hot for unbridled immigrant-bashing. But, if that and tax cuts are all they have to offer in terms of economic benefit to white workers a year from now, the GOP may have a tougher sell than President Obama.

Paul’s Isolationism Wins Supporters, Despite Crazy Policies

For your daily dose of political irony, read “Ron Paul backed by workers he’s aiming to show door, The GOP’s most ardent budget hawk is drawing the most money from federal workers and contractors” by Bloomberg’s Nick Taborek in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. As Taborek reports:

Ron Paul, the presidential candidate who says he’ll shrink government the most, is attracting more campaign cash than any of his Republican rivals from two unlikely sources: U.S. government workers and employees of the biggest federal contractors.
…”There is at the bottom of this a truly bizarre set of paradoxes, where many of the people who are attacking government the most are ultimately heavily dependent on it,” said Don Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

According to FEC data,

Paul…has said he’ll cut $1 trillion in his first year in office, leads in donations from federal employees, with $95,085 through Sept. 30. That is more than four times the $23,000 federal employees gave to Mitt Romney, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by Bloomberg…Paul has said he would eliminate the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior and Housing and Urban Development.

It’s not just government employees who support the candidate most likely to gut their jobs, reports Taborek:

Paul, who opposed the Iraq war, has raised $76,789 from employees of the top 50 government contractors, a group led by weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. Romney has raised $65,800 and Rick Perry $16,250.

Taborek notes that President Obama has raised more money from federal employees than any Republican. That makes sense. Paul’s fund-raising success with federal employees, contractors and military personnel, however, is more of a head-scratcher, especially at a time when government workers are under relentless assault from Paul’s party. According to a recent Paul campaign email, he is “the only candidate who plans to cut about $1 trillion of the $3.5 trillion federal budget in the first year of his term.”
As Taborek explains: “Paul said in an Oct. 5 speech at the National Press Club in Washington that he leads in fundraising from the military because troops support his opposition to foreign conflicts.”
Paul has done well in fund-raising and GOP polls, despite his embrace of a range of quackish economic policies. If it’s because of his isolationist clarity, that’s significant.
Paul is no threat to President Obama. But If his gains are built on tapping a large well of dovish isolationism, then perhaps President Obama should take note and speed up our disengagement from Afghanistan. In so doing, the President just might get a bigger bite of the large number of voters who are tired of funding nation-building abroad.

Fantasy-Exploding Time Saver

At WaPo today, Jonathan Bernstein has a brisk and useful summary of slow-news-day thumbsucker fantasies you can expect to hear from pundits before voters start voting in 2012–but that have little or no real merit.
They include: a third-party presidential victory; a late GOP nomination contest entry; a deadlocked convention; a refusal by conservatives to support Romney if he is the nominee; substitution of another veep candidate for Biden; a game-changing general-election debate; a domination of the general election by shadowy money; and a “total flip” outcome where Republicans win the White House and the Senate while Democrats regain the House.
To this list I’d add the fantasy of a presidential landslide for either party, and a last-minute trend that makes fools of all the pollsters.
It’s kind of annoying that what Jonathan calls “pre-debunking” is even necessary, but silly “counter-intuitive” scenarios can fill a lot of space in magazines, newspapers and web sites.

Saturation Ad Sites

As we move closer to the 2012 elections, the landscape for highly competitive areas of the country will become ever-clearer. And as Reid Wilson explains in National Journal, there are some places where overlapping races and intensive interest from well-heeled “independent” organizations will quickly create a seller’s market for paid media time.

Both parties agree there are about 13 presidential swing states, give or take. In 10 of those states, competitive Senate seats are also up for grabs; Indiana and North Carolina feature governor’s races; and in all 13 both parties will battle for at least one toss-up House seat–and as many as five, in the case of Pennsylvania.
That means in key markets as many as two dozen organizations will be vying for air time in the frenzied run-up to next year’s elections. Among candidates, party committees, and outside organizations, the extremely limited television inventory in these markets will go fast.

Wilson goes on to highlight Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Washington (DC) and Columbus (OH) as markets where media budgets will be blown and voters will be treated to saturation advertising for multiple candidates (and in multiple states, for viewers in Washington) and causes.
An accompanying series of graphs shows that in 2010, an astonishing 24,693 political ads were shown on television in the Columbus media market, representing nearly a quarter of all TV advertising. Orlando and Las Vegas were nearly as saturated. And 2012 could be a lot crazier. Brace yourselves, viewers.