This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
With the exception of paid ads, national conventions provide the most controlled environment for messaging any party or campaign can possibly enjoy. Not a word goes into the party platform or onto the podium teleprompters without approval from the nominee’s staff. There are always obligatory speakers, but their order, the time they are allowed, and the topics they are permitted to discuss are entirely at the whim of the managers, just like the music, the staging, and the little message cards distributed to surrogates and delegates instructing them on how to speak with the press.
As a veteran script-and-speech staffer at six Democratic conventions, I figured this GOP gathering would exceed even the usual “daddy party” discipline, given the general ruthlessness of the Romney campaign, and the ardor with which everyone involved (including the conservative activists who were definitively propitiated by the selection of their leader, Paul Ryan, for the vice presidential nomination) wanted victory. And the mission ought to have been clear: communicating a likeable new image for the party with its presidential nominee. Yet looking back at the three nights of the 2012 Republican National Convention, it’s not easy to deduce what exactly how the GOP’s plan was.
Night One presented a party hell-bent on giving the people leaders with the balance, perspective and guts to make the “tough choices” the Obama administration has allegedly avoided or flubbed.
Night Two shifted gears decisively, as Ryan, Mr. Tough Choices himself, depicted the ticket as a safe haven for Americans–especially older, middle-class Americans–afraid of Barack Obama’s radicalism and unwholesome intentions towards the government benefits they rely upon.
And Night Three was a hash, with the first image broadcast television viewers saw and heard being an octogenarian actor blowing off his script, implying obscenities, and debating an invisible Barack Obama, even as he suggested all politicians were essentially worthless in a hall stuffed with politicians. Memories of that confusing distraction were hardly dispelled by a Romney acceptance speech that mostly alternated between soothing “humanizing” bromides and suddenly-shouted stock campaign lines–but never quite settled on a coherent theme or rationale for his candidacy beyond the tired assertion that Obama didn’t deserve a second term.
And thus a party that seemed to have made a clear if risky decision to accept the challenge of a “choice election” once the Romney-Ryan ticket was formed, taking its chances that it could sell a positive agenda alongside a strong ideological attack on the incumbent, concluded its convention by posing as a safe, sane alternative to an administration that had lost its “referendum.”
The only clear common theme across the three nights of major speeches was a remarkable absence of policy proposals, other than Romney’s hackneyed five-point “jobs plan” that is actually a collection of goals along with an education voucher initiative that’s drawn zero attention. The budget legislation drafted by the vice presidential nominee, a specific if often dubiously credible “plan” to which the entire Republican Party has lashed itself like Odysseus in the Land of the Sirens, was barely mentioned by its author, much less by anyone else. Aside from its stated devotion to Medicare and antipathy to ObamaCare, it was not easy to deduce for the unsophisticated swing voter what these people actually wanted to do. Yes, they made it clear they didn’t like unions or foreigners or welfare, and really, really liked small business owners, but beyond that, what did they offer other than a ballot line for people already convinced Obama had failed? That’s hard to say, and again, it’s not the sort of hazy impression national political conventions are supposed to leave.
It wasn’t all a waste of time, of course. The fact that Ryan delivered the convention’s best speech will give further pause to Democrats who might have been under the impression that his very name was a political albatross, and also served as a reminder that all the love and hate he has inspired among insiders and activists is completely unknown to the kind of voters who will decide this election. The constant repetition of various poll-tested attack lines on Obama–particularly the sensationally mendacious but demonstrably effective claims that he’s brought back unconditional welfare and cut Medicare benefits to shower additional benefits on the undeserving poor–had tangible value. The various efforts to “humanize” Mitt Romney probably turned some heads. And after the Todd Akin fiasco, it was a real accomplishment to get through a convention where probably half the delegates care far more about social issues than about the economy with words like “abortion” and “gay marriage” (not to mention, astonishingly, “Tea Party”) being all but left unsaid from the podium.
It’s less clear that other convention preoccupations did much good. The relentless attention paid to speaker diversity (an old GOP habit by now) would have been more influential had viewers been offered any encouragement to minorities other than the theoretical opportunity to own businesses and exult in their freedom from receiving any help from their own government. The byzantine struggle with Ron Paul’s legions was waged ruthlessly enough to give them fresh grievances for future mischief, but not successfully enough to keep them off-camera or out of the platform. And as a convention veteran, I have to say that the production values of this event were not impressive (at least until the final balloon-drop!), and a lot of the speechwriting was mediocre (at least for non-Super-Prime-Time speakers).
But these were trifles compared to the central problems with deciding on and delivering a crisp and compelling message. I’m hardly unbiased, and perhaps we’ll soon see a post-convention “bounce” that will prove there was highly nuanced magic going on, even if the True Believers in the hall often seemed bored and restive and more interested in “USA!” chants than the call-and-response from the podium. For now, the GOP seems to be a party that is attempting in too many conflicting ways to disguise what it actually wants to do with political power. Democrats, if they are smart, will find ways to exploit that next week.
The following article, by Erika Seifert, is cross-posted from DCorps.
Mitt Romney will need to make up a lot of ground tonight if he is to restore his image heading into the fall campaign season. The most recent Democracy Corps survey, which concluded on Monday, finds that almost half of all voters (47 percent) still give Mitt Romney a negative personal rating. This is despite the fact that the Republican ticket dominated the news through much of August — first with the nomination of Paul Ryan, and more recently with abundant headlines leading up to the Republican convention.
This will be a significant challenge for Romney in a close, but remarkably decided election. This year, more than any other, clear lines were established early on and most voters have either selected a candidate or decided to stay home on November 6. This most recent survey finds that just 1 percent of likely voters remain undecided. Even as early as June, just 2 percent were undecided. In the last week of the 2008 election, by contrast, 3 to 4 percent remained undecided.
While the vote remains close — Obama holds a marginal 2 point edge over Romney — the Republican challenger has thus far been unable to make inroads among key voting blocs, largely because of his high personal negatives. Once again, our poll shows that negative personal ratings of Romney are a stronger predictor of the vote than even party identification.
By a significant 11-point margin, voters prefer Barack Obama over Mitt Romney when it comes to looking out for the middle class, and by a 3-point margin on health care reform. By a marginal 2 points, voters say they trust the President more than Romney to make the right decisions for the future.
While Romney holds the edge on which candidate would do a better job on the economy in general, the President is now even with Romney on having the right approach to taxes. This is an issue where we expect Republicans to dominate, but as this recent Los Angeles Times/USC survey finds, voters reject the Republicans’ hard line on tax cuts for the wealthiest.
The following article, by TDS Co-founder Ruy Teixeira, is cross-posted from Univsion News:
The minority vote looks rock solid for President Obama as we head toward November’s election, coming very close to the 80 percent support level he received in 2008.
Part of this of course is due to overwhelming backing from black voters. But it was more or less expected that African-American voters would continue to support the first African-American president by very lopsided margins. It was less expected that Latinos would be as strong as they have been so far for Obama. Indeed, in ten national polls of Hispanics since December of last year, Latino voters have favored Obama over Romney by an average of 44 points, substantially higher than the margin of 36 points they gave Obama in 2008.
It is striking how uniform this support appears to be across segments of the Latino population. In a July Latino Decisions poll, Obama was ahead of Romney 70-22 percent among all voters. This included margins of 72-19 among the foreign-born, 69-25 among the U.S. born, 76-15 among Spanish speakers, and 66-28 among English speakers. In addition, Obama was ahead 72-20 percent among those who said they voted in 2008 (Obama actual margin in 2008 was “only” 67-31).
How important is a strong overall minority vote to Obama? Without it, he cannot absorb the additional losses he is expected to suffer among white voters this November, particularly white working-class voters. But if the minority vote remains as strong as it is now, Obama can still win even if Romney’s advantage among white working-class voters is far greater than John McCain’s 18 point margin in 2008. In short, the minority vote, where a big Latino margin is so vital, is Obama’s insurance policy in a year when he is sure to receive a reduced share of the white vote.
In addition, judging from eligible voter trends, minorities should be a larger share of voters in 2012 than 2008, making that insurance policy all the more potent. Since Hispanics are providing the bulk of the increase in minority eligible voters, without solid Hispanic turnout–still a question mark given relatively low voter enthusiasm among Hispanics–the projected increase in minority voters is not likely to happen. That would enhance the importance of Obama’s white working class problem.
Of course, the election is still two and a half months away. There’s still a chance Romney could undercut Obama’s support among Hispanics and weaken the minority voting bloc backing Obama. But Romney’s recent selection of Paul Ryan as a vice presidential running mate augurs poorly for Romney’s chance of doing so.
Start with Ryan’s positions on immigration. There is essentially no daylight between his positions and those Romney supports; Ryan, like Romney, opposes any path toward citizenship or permanent legal status for illegal immigrants and Ryan, like Romney, opposes the DREAM Act. Ryan has the additional distinction of having voted against the proposal in Congress, something Romney never had the opportunity to do.
Then there are Ryan’s famously hard line positions on massively cutting spending, particularly on Medicare, while ruling out any tax increases for the affluent. Recent Latino Decisions data show that Latinos oppose cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the national debt by an overwhelming 73-22 margin. And just 8 percent think cutting spending without raising taxes on the wealthy is the best approach to reducing the budget deficit. Finally, 55 percent of Hispanics think more federal spending to stimulate the economy is a better way to grow the economy than cutting taxes (31 percent). None of this, of course, is at all compatible with the views of Romney’s new running mate.
Romney still has some time to chip away at Obama’s overwhelming lead among Hispanics. But time is running out and the Ryan selection is just the latest sign that the Romney campaign lacks a strategy for cutting into that lead.
That U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan often stretches the truth to make his points comes as no great revelation to politically aware progressives. But it appears that his jaw-dropping whoppers in his vice presidential nomination acceptance speech have set a new standard for political prevarication.
As Chris Bowers explains in a Daily Kos e-blast:
…It’s a rare day when the media takes a break from he said / she said journalism to point out that Republicans are just flat-out lying. However, Paul Ryan was so blatantly and repeatedly dishonest in his speech last night that dozens of major media outlets spent the day slamming him.
Bowers links to a Kos post, “Lyin’ Ryan: The Media Push Back” by Middlegirl, which includes links to an extraordinary 25 articles calling out Ryan for his lies. I’ve seen half a dozen others, and I’m sure our readers can add even more to the list. “Lyin’ Ryan” googled up 31,700 hits this morning.
When you look at all the downers of the GOP convention, Romney’s nothingburger acceptance speech, Christie’s snarling invective, Eastwood’s lame joke and others, nothing seems quite so emblematic of their campaign as Ryan’s shameless bundle of lies. The GOP message machine clearly believes that even easily-refuted lies will stick, given adequate repetition.
Rummage through American history, and see if you can find another candidate of either party who earned such a disparaging nickname. In this case it is richly-deserved– Lyin’ Ryan.
The following article by political strategist Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:
Going into the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney had one major political mission: to convince swing voters that he isn’t just the guy who fired their brother in law — that he understands their lives and is on their side.
Given his record as Governor of Massachusetts — 47th among the 50 states in job creation — and his history at Bain Capital, Romney can’t really make the case he has any experience creating jobs.
But the thing that really stands between Romney and swing voters is the perception that he has zero empathy — no comprehension of what life is like for everyday Americans.
So the Republicans tried very hard to tell stories that humanized the otherwise robot-like Romney. But here is the bottom line: when multiple speakers have to testify how authentic you are — you’re not.
The first night of the Convention did feature Ann Romney delivering a simple message: you like me, I love Mitt — so he must not be so bad.
But it also featured a cast of governors doing auditions for 2016 saying very little about Romney and a great deal about their own “successes.” When Chris Christi gave the Convention’s Keynote address, he didn’t even mention Romney until the very end of his speech.
Night two featured Paul Ryan whipping up the right-wing base and delivering brazen lies about the Obama record. Ryan’s speech was a feast for fact checkers. From his assertion that Obama failed to prevent the shutdown of the GM plant at Janesville — which was closed before Obama took office — to his attack on the Obama for failing to take seriously recommendations from the Debt Commission which he himself voted to oppose.
Most egregious was Ryan’s claim that Obamacare “cut” Medicare by over $700 billion. In fact, of course, far from “cutting” Medicare benefits, Obamacare actually improved Medicare benefits and achieved $700 billion of savings for the Medicare program by cutting huge overpayments and subsidies to big insurance companies. Not one Medicare recipient has had his or her guaranteed benefits cut by ObamaCcre — and Ryan knows it.
Of course, all the while Ryan was lying about the fake “Obamacare” cuts in Medicare, he and Romney are planning to eliminate Medicare. They have made clear they want to replace it with a voucher program that would provide a fixed amount of money per person and require that seniors shop for coverage on the private insurance market. Their plan will raise out of pocket costs by $6,400 and eliminate the guaranteed benefit that defines Medicare and has meant that American retirees haven’t had to worry about their health care costs for over half a century.
The final night of the Convention, the Republicans made a concerted effort to “humanize” Mitt Romney. They put up a string of former friends and associates to tell stories aimed at trying to make him seem more caring and human.
Then Bob White, the Chairman of Romney for President and former partner in Bain Capital, talked about his business experience. White told the story of how Romney was asked to come back from Bain Capital and return to Bain Consulting to save it from collapse. Of course White ignored the fact that, as a new article in Rolling Stone indicates, he achieved that recovery through a federal bailout.
The essential role of the government, by the way, is a consistent, though never mentioned, theme that continued when it came to Romney’s “turn around” of the Salt Lake Olympics that receive a larger federal subsidy — $1.3 billion — than all of the previous Olympics combined.
Then came Tom Stemberg, the CEO of Staples, which had been funded by Bain Capital, who argued — in one of the stiffest, least “everyman” speeches ever — that when the Obama campaign contends that Romney is out of touch with ordinary people, “they just don’t get it.” In fact, Tom led the assembled delegates in the chant: “they just don’t get it”. Multi-millionaire Tom Stemberg is a strange choice to serve as cheerleader for how Mitt Romney understands ordinary people.
David Corn has some perceptive observations in his Mother Jones article, “With Ryan Speech, Romney Campaign Goes Full Tea Party” including “They’re in a mania,” one former Bush adviser said about the Romney campaign. They think America is ready for a grand reconfiguration of its social insurance system”…With such language–which was vetted by Romney Central Command–Ryan was not pressing the obvious case that Romney is a pragmatic Mr. Fixit who could be a competent steward of the still-struggling American economy. He was announcing that he and Romney aim to remake American society. He was essentially issuing a declaration of ideological warfare: Government is the enemy of freedom and the cause of the nation’s economic woes; it must be crushed. And, yes, taxes must be slashed for all, which would include those on the highest rungs…”
I have mixed feelings about this notion. Certainly, the number of boring speeches should be reduced, as well as the over-hyped “suspense” in conventions when the big issues and choices are already decided, especially since veep selections are nowadays rubber-stamped. The two major political conventions also drain too much media attention and resources, which could be better spent on more in-depth issue reportage. Still, a real political party has to gather and hammer out principles sometime, not that today’s party platforms are all that consequential. Might this be done better in the years between presidential elections?
Lest you remain unaware of how trifling, paranoid and bizarre the Republican platform is, read Adam Serwer’s “The 5 Weirdest Bits in the 2012 GOP Platform” at MoJo.
Ed Kilgore has a revealing post “Affirmative Action baby” about the GOP’s race card strategy, in which he nails the Rovian subtext in Republican attacks on Obama: “…The “affirmative action” meme implicitly endorsed by the likes of Karl Rove has such a nasty undertone: You, white Americans, tried to give those people a chance, but you know what? They turned out to be exactly what you always suspected, even in that half-black, cleaned-up, over-educated version named Barack Obama! So screw ’em!” Kilgore adds, “…it infuriates people like Rove that their conservative-majority-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see was derailed in 2008 by this Ivy League black dude from Hawaii. They can’t believe he beat them fair and square, so they’ll say he’s predictably failed in hopes that they can get the course of history back on track. ”
In addition to impressive Latino GOTV preparation in Arizona, Republicans have another development to worry about. At the Hill Cameron Joseph quotes Sen John Kyl: “Ron Paul has totally taken our [state] party over…His folks have taken over half of our party, as a result of which we are split down the middle, totally ineffective, screwed up.” Juan Cole writes at his Informed Comment blog about Romney’s sabre-rattling towards Iran, concluding that ” Military action in the Gulf would certainly send gasoline/ petrol prices sky high and possibly further derail world recovery from the deep global recession.” Could be the premise for a compelling campaign ad. This can’t be legal.
Nick McClellan and Chris Kirk have a fun graphic up at Slate.com answering the question: “What Are the Most Republican States?” There are no shockers, but the rankings are interesting nonetheless.
And while at Slate, check out Dave Weigel’s “The Last Gasps of the Ron Paul Movement” which addresses “how the GOP’s new rules are meant to make sure no one rises to replace him.” The interesting question is whether or not Paul can be muzzled by the GOP giving his son, Rand Paul, some sort of bribe.
You couldn’t ask for a better capsule description of Romney’s business legacy than the title of David Moberg’s In These Times article “How To Succeed in Business Without Adding Value.” Moberg concludes his argument with what could be a useful soundbite: “…Even when a private equity firm “succeeds” (usually after buying an above-average business), much of their gains are reaped simply by transferring large amounts of wealth to themselves. The losers are usually the companies they acquire, their investor partners, taxpayers, government agencies and workers-ultimately, the entire economy.”
Jonathan Chait has a provocative post up at New York magazine, and if his theory is right, Republicans may be in for an unpleasant shock. Noting President Obama’s seeming confidence in the face of numerous polls showing a close election, Chait speculates:
The best explanation I can muster is that the polls are assuming a much different, and more GOP-friendly, electorate than either party. ABC’s poll assumes that 78 percent of registered voters are white. That is … a whole lot of white people. The white share of the electorate has been dropping steadily for more than twenty years — from 87 percent in 1992 to 83 percent in 1996 to 81 percent in 2000, 77 percent in 2004, and 74 percent four years ago. Ron Brownstein’s recent reporting suggests that both campaigns expect an electorate that’s about 74 percent white. The same problem seems to appear in numerous other polls. Many of them don’t release their racial breakdowns, but those that do seem to imply electorates far whiter than the campaigns are banking on. As pollster Mark Blumenthal has exhaustively shown, Gallup has systematically underweighted the number of minorities in its polls, due to technical issues related to the difficulty of finding and weighting poll respondents.
Now, we don’t know what the racial composition of the electorate will look like. But it is utterly key. Assuming the 74 percent white makeup, and further assuming that Obama’s standing among nonwhite voters holds up as it has with high consistency, then Romney needs to win white voters by more than 20 points, perhaps by around 22 points, in order to prevail. Few polls show him doing that. The ABC poll has him winning whites by eighteen points.
It’s possible that Obama’s confident demeanor is just a reflection of his cool — the guy just doesn’t rattle easily. He has a touch of the FDR temperament in that respect. But Chait may be on to something, considering the explosive growth of the non-white electorate. It’s quite possible that the demographic breakdown analysis of most pollsters is lagging behind reality.
None of which changes the priority challenge facing Democrats — to launch the most extensive and intensive GOTV mobilization of the base constituencies in the history of the party.
The following, by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of “The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:
Amid the hoopla and the crapola that will be the Republican party convention this week, it is important to note again the tough times of the great (but shrinking) American working class. They are the people, at least the white members of it, to whom this Republican convention is speaking. The Republicans have gone completely off the rails in terms of the extremist, hyper-individualist policies they are proposing, but hard pressed middle income folk are open to their ideas not because they think they sound good, but because of the economic pain they are feeling.
A lot of voters are just sick to death with both political parties, because their lives keep getting tougher and tougher and no one inside the beltway seems to care. This has been going on for a long time now, check out this incredible chart.
The folks who did the chart did it to highlight the incredible hyper-inflation over the last few decades of college tuition, which has soared more than twice as fast as even the outrageous growth of health care costs, and it is a dramatic reminder of why just borrowing from your parents, as Romney has suggested to students, isn’t going to work for most people. But the entire chart is a reminder of the way middle income families have been continuously squeezed over the past few decades — especially when you keep in mind that something not on the chart, wages, have been essentially flatlined as compared to inflation over that same period. Middle class folks got a little bit of a reprieve during the Clinton years in the ’90s when new jobs were being created at a record rate and wages were edging up a little, but the Bush years were pretty weak for the first seven and then horrible at the end. The fact that this recession hit so hard and has been so deep and long lasting has created a bitterness and despair among middle income Americans. For decades now their wages have been flat, while energy, health care, and tuition for their kids has gone through the roof. You add the last five years of being slammed by this recession, with the price of their homes declining and full time jobs harder and harder for them and their kids to find, and people are in a foul mood. No wonder they are reluctant to support the incumbent running for re-election.
Fortunately for us Democrats, we have Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and this freak show we call the Republican party running against us. Their economics come from Bain Capital and Ayn Rand fantasy novels: make a few people richer than God by laying workers off, slashing benefits, out-sourcing work, and manipulating the tax code while sending the money into secretive off-shore accounts. Their ideas on social issues are even more incredible: one Senate candidate talks about women not getting pregnant during rape, another incredibly equates rape with having a child out of wedlock, and their VP candidate refers to rape as a “method of conception.” They want to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, and block grant Medicaid, ending almost 80 years of guaranteed retirement security for senior citizens and the disabled, and use the savings to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
Poll after poll, focus group after focus group, make clear that that American people by wide margins and with strong emotion reject these ideas. Literally the only things Romney-Ryan and the Republican party have going for them are the massive edge in dollars for advertising, the voters’ tendency to distrust the generic concept of government, and the natural instinct of voters to kick out whoever is governing in a time of hard economic times. Those are 3 big things to have going for you, and the Republicans are doing everything they can to maximize those advantages. But everything else — Romney’s record at Bain Capital, the Romney-Ryan budget, the Medicare debate (which the Democrats are very likely to win given the polling I have seen), the rape/abortion/contraception/women discussion, Romney’s immigration platform which continues to drive Latinos away, and just the general sense that the Republicans have moved so far right that it’s scaring people- is playing for Democrats. The challenge is that most swing voters are low information voters and more easily swayed by misleading ads being run at saturation buy levels by Romney’s big money friends.
The dynamic as we watch the Republican convention is that given this set of dynamics, the Romney campaign has decided on a gin-up-the-base all right wing all the time strategy. They have made the political calculation that the swing voters left in this race are the working class whites who have been hit hard by this economy, people not likely to agree with them on the specifics of the Romney-Ryan budget plan if they knew them but who are unlikely to know those details. They know they need to fire up their base to vote, and if they mix in some 1980s-style welfare queen ads into their generic ads on Obama being to blame for all their economic problems, that they might be able to appeal to both swing and base voters.
So this convention and this entire Republican election strategy is going to be ugly. Voters don’t support Romney and Ryan’s policies, so to get elected they will have to do some pretty dirty deeds.
Meanwhile the core problems that are crushing the American middle class are not going away. The Republicans only answer is the kind of winner-take-all Bain-onomics that will finish that middle class off. The Democrats had better be ready to win this debate, and if they do, they had better be prepared to actually deliver for the middle class.
E.J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post op-ed “Can Romney show he’s more than a politician?” unearths some Republican convention history to show just how far the GOP has fallen. Dionne notes that Romney’s father, Michigan Governor George Romney actually walked out of the convention speech in 1964 in protest against Goldwater’s extremism. He then quotes from New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s speech to the same convention terming the views of the Goldwaterites “wholly alien to the sound and honest conservatism that has firmly based the Republican Party in the best of a century’s traditions.” Dionne adds, “Nothing better captures the absolute victory of the forces of Goldwaterism than a Romney triumph on the basis of Goldwater’s ideas.”
For an excellent article title, look no further than Joseph A. Palermo’s HuffPo post, “The Republican National Convention: Where Social Darwinism Meets Theocracy.”
Ryan may be laying the macho blue collar hobby stuff on just a tad thick, as Andrew Romano reports at the Daily Beast, quoting Ryan thusly: “My veins run with cheese, bratwurst, a little Spotted Cow, Leinie’s, and some Miller. I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers. I like to hunt here, I like to fish here, I like to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting.” Romano adds “Two days later, Ryan took his introduction tour to Lakewood, Colo., where he somehow managed, over the course of a 20-minute speech, to mention working at McDonald’s, filling the gas tank on his truck, camping and fishing with his family” and “I got a new chainsaw,” Ryan told the magazine. “It was nice. It’s a Stihl.”
Smart people make a pretty convincing case that Rove still runs the GOP .
A worthy challenge for the MSM, from Jeff Jarvis’s “Reporters: Why Are You in Tampa?” at HuffPo. Jarvis asks: “I challenge every journalist in Tampa for the Republican convention — every one of the 15-16,000 of you — to answer this: Why are you there? What will we learn from you? What actual reporting can you possibly do that delivers anything of value more than the infomercial — light on the info, heavy on the ‘mercial — that the conventions have become? Would you be better off back at home covering voters and their issues? Can we in the strapped news business afford this luxury?”
With the internet attracting increasing face-time and political ad time being gobbled up on TV and radio, Dave Nyczepir’s “Know your online ad options” at Campaigns & Elections has an interesting discussion on the benefits of “pre-roll,” “mid-roll,” “post-roll” and banner ads.
Ed Kilgore wonders at The Washington Monthly if maybe all of the fuss about the “enthusiasm gap” is pointless, since “”Enthusiasm” which exceeds the willingness to cast a ballot only matters if it is communicable to other voters” and because “You only get one vote. And if your passion is part of a political message that repels swing voters, and helps mobilize the other party’s base, then it may be worth even less than nothing.”
Jonathan Chait’s “Team Romney White-Vote Push: ‘This Is the Last Time Anyone Will Try to Do This‘” at New York magazine illuminates Romney’s grand strategy — “To squeak out a majority, Mitt Romney probably needs to win at least 61 percent of the white vote — a figure exceeding what George H.W. Bush commanded over Michael Dukakis in 1988…a near total reliance on white votes to win a presidential election.” And this cynical strategy assumes a comparable turnout of white voters, which is by no means a sure thing. Nate Silver, for example, cites “An Above-Average ‘Likely Voter Gap’ for Romney.”
Alternet’s Peter Montgomery takes an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the loons behind the Republican platform lunacy, subtitled “they’re breaking out the crazy down in Tampa.”
The Republican ticket is betting a lot on the white working-class, but there’s an important constituency they better not write-off as a lost cause. Ron Brownstein explains why in his article at the Atlantic, “Romney’s Big Challenge: Win White-Collar Suburban White Voters” As Brownstein puts it, “During the primaries, Romney’s supporters argued that his buttoned-down demeanor and managerial pedigree positioned him to recapture voters in white-collar suburbs now tilting Democratic. Even with his working-class gains, Romney probably won’t win unless he proves them right.”
After sorting through the Alabama results and comparing them to other 2017 special elections, I figured it was time to look ahead, so I did just that at New York.
[T]he [Alabama] results were entirely consistent with the pro-Democratic trend that has persisted throughout 2017’s special and off-year elections. That would have been the case even if Roy Moore had eked out a narrow win. Republicans can, as Donald Trump has done, rationalize this or that 2017 defeat as being an anomaly. But it is impossible to take an honest look at the overall pattern of 2017 contests without hearing the not-so-distant rumbling of a likely 2018 wave for Democrats.
Harry Enten conducted a comprehensive analysis of 2017 special elections — all 70 of them — taking into account the established partisan “lean” of the jurisdiction being contested.
“The Democratic margin has been 12 percentage points better, on average, than the partisan lean in each race. Sometimes this has resulted in a seat flipping from Republican to Democratic (e.g. in the Alabama Senate face-off on Tuesday or Oklahoma’s 37th state Senate District contest last month). Sometimes it has meant the Democrat barely lost a race you wouldn’t think a Democrat would be competitive in (e.g. in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in June). Sometimes it’s merely been the case that the Democrat won a district by an even wider margin than you’d expect (e.g. in Pennsylvania’s 133 House District last week).
“The point is that Democrats are doing better in all types of districts with all types of candidates. You don’t see this type of consistent outperformance unless there’s an overriding pro-Democratic national factor.”
The best elections to examine in order to figure out whether Democrats can win back the U.S. House in 2018 are the seven congressional special elections of 2017. Republicans won five and Democrats two (a winning percentage that’s not surprising since all but one of these elections were triggered by members of Congress joining the Trump administration). But as Enten notes, the average vote-percentage swing to Democrats from prior established partisan levels was 16 points. In a polarized electorate, that’s a large swing indeed.
In thinking about this pattern, keep in mind that the demographic groups most likely to vote Democratic typically don’t proportionately turn out for non-presidential elections, and particularly for special elections. There is a powerful trend under way.
While any single special congressional election is not necessarily predictive of future election results, in larger batches they are highly correlated to the next election coming down the pike. Enten looks at special elections prior to the last six midterms and finds that on average the partisan swing in the former is within three percentage points of the partisan swing in the latter. That would suggest a double-digit Democratic swing (or something close to it) in 2018.
If that seems extravagant, look at the congressional generic ballot (a simple polling question about which party the respondents would like to control the U.S. House), itself highly correlated with the national House popular vote. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Democrats currently have an 11-point advantage, the highest they’ve enjoyed since last year’s elections.
The question of exactly how big a margin in the national House popular vote Democrats would need to gain the 24 net seats required for control of the House is a difficult one. Political scientist Alan Abramowitz has just published an analysis of House elections dating back to 1946, which also takes into account the impact of GOP-controlled redistricting after 2010, and concludes that a Democratic win as small as four points could do the trick. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report thinks a seven- or eight-point win would be necessary.
Despite the clear trends, there remain a lot of unknown variables as we head toward the midterms, most notably presidential approval ratings and retirements. But the current occupant of the White House has a highly polarizing approach to politics that almost certainly caps his approval ratings (which have never been above 46 percent in any event). And Republican retirements are definitely outpacing those of Democrats; 26 House Republicans are either calling it a day or running for other offices. There’s no telling where the much-rumored investigations of sexual misconduct by large numbers of congressmen will lead. But as Jonathan Chait points out, there are 219 Republican men in Congress as opposed to just 132 Democratic men, so the odds of net damage to the GOP (and to a GOP-controlled institution) are high.
There is more at stake next year, obviously, than control of the U.S. House. Thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial elections, and all but a few will hold state legislative elections. Partisan performance at the state level could have a crucial effect not just on the public policies of the jurisdictions involved, but on positioning for the next redistricting cycle, which will begin between 2020 and 2022. And even in Washington, Democrats now see an opportunity to win back the U.S. Senate, which would have seemed laughably impossible a year ago.
All in all, we will probably look back a year from now and see 2017 as a harbinger of a strong Democratic performance in the midterms. Its precise strength will determine whether Donald Trump enters the second half of his presidential term merely embattled or fully caged and cornered.