October 26, 2014

What Could Happen If There Is A Wave

I am writing this BEFORE the votes are counted on election day; in fact, I am writing this several days beforehand. I am NOT predicting any of the outcomes discussed here; I am only suggesting what might happen if the much-discussed political “wave” does (or does not) occur on November 4.

I further want to point out that political waves come in various sizes. Furthermore, it is quite possible that there will be no true wave this cycle, only an election in which the party holding the White House loses some seats in the U.S. house and senate.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, there IS a wave.

If there is a wave, its intensity and impact will depend on how emotionally motivated significant numbers of voters, most of them independents or non-party-affiliated, are on election day. This general group usually make up most of the so-called undecided voters, especially those who make up their minds at the very end of the campaign, and then go to the polls.

At this late date, it is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which “wave” voters would turn to Democratic candidates. If there is a wave in 2014, it will be most likely a conservative and/or anti-Obama wave.

Currently, not taking into account a wave, there is a general consensus that Republicans will pick up 5-7 U.S. senate seats, 5-10 U.S. house seats, and that Democrats will gain a net of 3-4 governorships. That would be a decent night for the conservative party, but no wave. If the Democrats can hold GOP gains in the senate to five or less, it would actually be a relatively good night for the Democrats.

A true “wave,” in my opinion, would require many more undecided voters to vote Republican, and many Democrats to stay home. A true wave would produce a net gain of 8-10 Republican senators, 11-15 Republican house members, and close to a draw in net new governors. A “tsunami” wave, on the other hand, would bring in 11-15 new GOP senators, 16-25 new GOP house members, and the surprise of some net gain in GOP governors.

The “tsunami” scenario in 2014 seems unlikely with about one week to go, but a more modest “wave” does not. Considering the Democratic advantages of cash and their get-out-the-effort, a more modest “traditional” mid-term election with only some congressional gains for the GOP, and Democrats picking a small number of governorships is also quite possible.

I want to repeat what I have said now for many months. Any kind of true wave, moderate or heavy, does not appear visible until either just before election day, or when the vote is counted. Waves are almost always late-breaking. Not only that, waves can peak too soon or, as in the 1968 presidential election, not reach their peak in time for the actual voting. (“President” Hubert Humphrey knew a lot about that scenario!)

This discussion is obviously speculative. Even with only days to go before election day, the dimensions of the 2014 cycle are unclear. Waves are relatively rare electoral occurrences. When they do happen, however, and especially when they are passionate expressions of the voters, they often bring big surprises and great shock in their wake.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 1:34 pm. Filed under 2014, Democrats, Predictions, Republican Party

October 17, 2014

Fair Warning

The past week was generally good to the Republicans, but a true whole picture of the final outcomes of 2014 is not yet in sight.

No political party easily gives up the powers that they have, and the Democrats are  particularly “ferocious” in this cycle to keep control of the U.S. senate, and to make gains in their number of governors of the states.

I have been stressing, despite the voter momentum to the conservative party this cycle, that the liberal party has serious cards to play, and that they are, and will continue, playing them right up to election day. These include much more campaign funds, reliable constituencies, and a proven and effective ability to get out their vote. Republicans this cycle have outfunded the Democrats only in the gubernatorial races (thanks to having more incumbents and the efforts of Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie).

The structure of the congressional map, as well as the GOP trend this year, ensures mostly good outcomes for the conservative party in U.S. house races, despite the Democrats’ financial advantage in these races. The Democrats have now pulled their ads in many of the races where they hoped to defeat incumbent Republicans, and reallocated those funds to saving vulnerable Democrats.

It is in the U.S. senate races where Republicans must most be wary, and not overconfident, with just under three weeks to go. The Democrats know where they still have opportunities, both to save their own vulnerable incumbents and to possibly pick off an incumbent GOP senator or two. They have the money and they have the technology to make a successful last stand.

As in some house races, Democrats have redirected their efforts in some senate races. They appear to be conceding Colorado and Kentucky, but there are several senate races where heavy advertising and aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts might yet save the political day for them.

Just as, following the 2004 election when Republicans had the better ground game, the 2014 mid-term elections are a challenge to the opposition party to adapt to a new election landscape featuring early voting, looser voting rules, high-tech voter I.D methods, and new political media/communication venues.

Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party nomination in 2008 in part by embracing the then new election landscape, and he defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 in part because the Republicans had not learned the technical lessons of 2006 and 2008.

The conservative party has had fair warning.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 5:12 pm. Filed under 2014, Campaign Strategy, Chris Christie, Democrats, House Races, Republican Party, Senate Races

October 14, 2014

It’s Complicated

Three weeks from tonight, if current trends hold, the Republican Party appears poised to achieve a solid, yet not overwhelming, victory in this year’s midterm elections. What we’re about to see is not quite a wave, but might best be described as a correction. The red states are red again, while the blue states remain blue, and the purple states seem willing to give Republicans a chance. The Republicans will almost certainly capture the Senate, and possibly do so quite solidly, and may actually attain their greatest majority in the House in several decades. All of this, however, does not suggest a Republican resurgence, but rather a diminishing Democratic government.

If the national zeitgeist were to be put into words right now, it would probably go something like this. Things just don’t feel quite right in America. We’re not exactly doing poorly. We’re not in the midst of a once-in-a-generation economic depression, or a clash of civilizations against a foreign empire. No, instead, the tableau is more complicated. The economy seems to be growing on paper, but it doesn’t quite feel that way on the ground. America’s economic engine is working, but not roaring. The unemployment rate has gone down, but people are still not getting promotions, not getting raises, and working two jobs to keep afloat. There’s no optimism out there. Instead, there’s acceptance of a new normal, and a creeping feeling that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Internationally, America seems to be faced with a number of difficult challenges. These challenges seem like they could have been prevented, but now that they exist, they don’t seem easily reparable. The spread of ISIS in the Middle East, and the presence of Ebola within American borders, shouldn’t have happened, but did, and solutions to these sorts of challenges seem, like the economic picture, complicated.

And then there’s the Democratic government. Democrats like “complicated.” Democrats are all about “complicated,” because Democrats believe that life is inherently complicated, and are always ready and willing to provide complicated solutions that will somehow make things even more complicated. Democrats will be the first to claim that the current complicated state of things is the best of all possible outcomes given what they had to work with.

But again, I think, the current zeitgeist goes something like this. We don’t quite buy that argument. Both parties made that argument before, in the 1970s, and then the 1980s came, and it turned out not to be true, and that America could make a comeback. So maybe, once again, it’s not so simple as to deem the future of America to be complicated. Maybe it’s just that our current leaders don’t have a better answer.

Enter Hillary Clinton. Once thought to be the inevitable 45th President, Mrs. Clinton has been coming down to earth in the polls as of late. Several polls have found her statistically tied with a number of Republicans in Iowa, an all important swing state won by Republicans in 2004, and Democrats in 2008 and 2012. Should other purple states follow suit, the Democrats may find that they have a fight on their hands, as memories of the Clinton years are eclipsed by the nagging feeling that the Democratic government simply doesn’t know what to do to make the country better.

Meanwhile, the Republicans still seem to lack a unified message, or optimistic tone, and continue to search for a national leader that can give the party meaning and purpose in the modern era, a full decade following its last presidential victory. Such a leader is not simply going to have to speak to the GOP base, but actually bring together the hodgepodge of voting blocs that will give Republicans victories in states like Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire, the purple states last won by George W. Bush.

Asking for a charismatic and optimistic leader who will end up on Mount Rushmore might be a bit much given the prospective field of Republican candidates. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Democrats thought they had found the same in Mr. Obama, and look how that turned out. The nation may not be opposed to electing someone with less panache this time around, someone a bit more sober and perhaps just a tad boring, but at the same time, any such leader is still going to find that a personal connection with the American people remains a prerequisite for the presidency.

That personal connection was something that Mr. Romney, who is rumored to be considering yet another run, was never able to attain. Despite winning all three debates with Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney was unable to garner the support of a majority of Americans. The Republican Party, hungry for leadership, appears to be considering Mr. Romney again, but it is still far from clear whether Mr. Romney has the ability to be relatable, and to truly reach through the television screen and have a human moment with the American people.

Contra Mr. Romney is Mr. Huckabee, his former primary opponent, and continued outspoken former governor and cultural conservative. Mr. Huckabee is not lacking in human moments, but may not quite capture the zeitgeist of the era, which isn’t really about cultural conservatism versus cultural liberalism, and which is more about a Democratic government promising stagnation in perpetuity, and an American people that want an optimistic alternative filled with opportunity. Mr. Huckabee’s recent weigh in on same sex marriage, an issue on which the country seems to be moving away from his point of view, probably does represent the former’s governor’s genuine beliefs, but doesn’t necessarily bode well for a presidential campaign.

And then there’s Mr. Bush. The former Florida governor seems to be setting his sights on becoming the third member of the Bush family to find his way into the Oval Office, and, in ways that were unthinkable just six years ago, is beginning to seem to be a reasonable bet for the nomination were he to run. The zeitgeist, acting as confessor, seems to have given the most recent president named Bush absolution, and the nation’s problems no longer seem to be the result of an inept Republican president, but the inevitable woes of a nation that had once believed that peace and prosperity could last forever, with the focus now being on how to regain America’s lost prowess.

Mr. Bush’s argument for the nomination goes something like this: “Republicans, I am you. I am just as competent and intelligent as Mr. Romney, but I can avoid being branded just another rich guy. I proved that in Florida. I am no less pro-life than Mr. Huckabee, but no one can pigeonhole me as a socially conservative former preacher. I can appeal to Latino voters, and my wife and son prove that, and I can do so with the gravitas that my friend Mr. Rubio can’t yet muster. I can improve the country’s economic policies, without coming off as wonkish like Mr. Ryan, and I can do so without scaring seniors. Heck, I governed a state filled with seniors. I can win a majority, unlike Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz, but I also have no animosity for the followers of Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz, nor do they for me. I know how to win Florida. I’ll hold North Carolina. I can take back Virginia, because I know how to appeal to the concerns of the military without sounding brazen or hawkish. And we can take back Ohio, because despite my family name, I don’t come off as an elitist. And if we all work together, we can win back the swing voters of the Midwest and the Southwest who instinctively know that we as a nation can do better than this, but who need to hear it from someone who sounds eminently reasonable.”

And that may be what Americans will be looking for in their next president — someone relatable without being a rock star, and someone more competent than charismatic. If so, at least a couple of dark horse contenders who believe that they meet such criteria, such as Mr. Walker of Wisconsin, and Mr. Kasich of Ohio, may also begin to more seriously look at a country in need of a leader whose primary claim to fame will be uncomplicating that which is hopelessly complicated.

Then there’s Mr. Christie, a man who appears to be eyeing the White House, despite his own path to the Oval Office being quite complicated in and of itself. Mr. Christie most assuredly has the charisma and the ability to personally connect with the American people and to make a formidable candidate in a national election. But where does Mr. Christie find his base? Is Mr. Christie going to bring lots of new voters into Republican primaries, tilting the culturally conservative Iowa caucus or the gritty, provincial, slightly paleoconservative New Hampshire primaries towards his own personal version of conservatism and Republicanism? If so, Mr. Christie has no time to spare in starting to build such a coalition, and in coming up with the ideas on which this coalition is to be built, neither of which has happened yet. Despite a personality that is larger than life, Mr. Christie will need more than personality to establish a foothold in an early primary state, or put together a coalition that will take the nomination, let alone the presidency.

To be sure, Mrs. Clinton is still the frontrunner for 2016. But a bit less of a frontrunner than she was six months ago. And perhaps six months from now, she’ll be even less of a frontrunner, as Americans, tired of economic and global complications, decide to send the Democratic government a Dear John note with the message, “It’s complicated.”

October 10, 2014

It’s The Ground Game, Smart Guy

There are now less than four weeks to go until election day. Nominees have been chosen. Initial TV and other media ads have been run. Campaign strategies are being carried out. TV debates between the candidates have begun. What remains to be done?

A very great deal, and it can be summed up in one phrase, “ground game.”

The ground game is the unglamorous, media-invisible and most labor intensive side of a political campaign. It consists of the time-consuming work of identifying a candidate’s most likely voters, keeping in touch with them by phone, with mailings and the internet, and then creating an effective organization that makes sure they get to the polls on election day.

Since 2006, the national Democratic Party, and most of the state Democratic Parties, have clearly had the better ground game. I think the liberal party’s ground game made the difference in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of their ticket. Even though the Democrats don’t have a presidential candidate running in 2014, and despite the fact that their own presidential incumbent has become quite unpopular, they will conduct a massive and effective ground game in most areas of the country this year.

Although it is undeniably a cycle favoring Republicans, the conservative party would make an enormous mistake if it does not achieve a major catch-up in its ground game in the closing days of the 2014 national mid-term elections. So far, all polling shows a higher intensity for Republican voters this year, and many Democrats are demoralized by the performance of President Obama, but that does not mean that most Democrats, effectively identified and prodded by their party’s ground game, won’t go to the polls and vote for Democratic candidates.

A so-called political “wave” could help Republicans, especially Republican U.S. senate challengers, this cycle, but if there is not a truly effective GOP ground game in the competitive senate, house and gubernatorial races, the Republican Party, its candidates, and its aspirations will fall short on election day.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 2:46 pm. Filed under 2014, Campaign Strategy, Democrats, Republican Party, Senate Races

October 8, 2014

Surprises Are Coming

The political turnabout in Kansas does not fully qualify as a last-minute surprise, the kind of which almost always appear on a national mid-term elections night. The collapse of the GOP in that state is real enough, but it has occurred enough in advance of the actual election for the Republican incumbent to make a serious effort to recover.

The real surprises percolate either on election night itself when the results are being tabulated, or at most, a few days before in the final polling when little or nothing can be done to affect the outcome.

Somewhere in the list of “Safe” Democrats and/or “Safe” Republicans is a candidate or two (or more) who is not so safe at all. Why the dynamics of these campaigns are so sudden and come so late is often unclear, but invariably they occur. And they can occur in either party. The Kansas example demonstrates this. It is shaping up to be a GOP year in the midwest, if not most of the country, and Kansas is usually as red as red can be, but both the conservative governor and the conservative U.S. senator are in trouble.

Early possibilities for a last-minute surprise include Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The four former are “safe” Democratic seats, the latter race is considered now “safe” Republican. But a “wave” could defeat the Democrats, and a third party candidate could upset the Republican. In fact, there are several third party candidates this year who could alter the final results. Most of these races are now considered likely Republican, but Democrats could pull out surprise victories because some Republican voters might be moved to vote for independent or libertarian third party candidates.

I have been covering national mid-term and presidential election cycles for a very long time, and I cannot remember even one of those many election years when there was not at least one or two true surprises on election day.

I think this is one of the most wonderful and reassuring aspects of U.S. representative democracy. As much as my fellow pundits, myself included, labor to analyze and prognosticate the behavior of the American voter, it is the single voter, counted in an aggregate, who has the last, and often surprising, word.


-Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 3:27 pm. Filed under 2014, Democrats, Predictions, Republican Party, Senate Races, Third Parties

September 19, 2014

In Search of the Establishment Insurgent

The headline you never thought you’d live to see: “Bob Dole returns to save Kansas for Jittery GOP.”

During a favorable Republican election cycle, the party needs to recruit a 91 year old political has-been, whose 1996 presidential run remains the symbol of haplessness, in order to save an incumbent Republican from losing – in a state that hasn’t sent a non-Republican to the Senate since 1932.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is a symbol of much of what is wrong with American politics – and the GOP in particular. The 78 year old senator has been in Congress since 1981. He may be a fine man, but is really, really, past his prime in office. Roberts’s interest in campaigning and legislating has waned, and he’s reeling from reports that he doesn’t even own a home in the state he represents.

Now that Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race and his name is tentatively off the ballot, we have a real race.  Three fresh polls – PPP, Fox News and Rasmussen – show independent Greg Orman, who will likely caucus with Democrats, with a respectable lead in a one-on-one matchup with Roberts.

Roberts may very well still get reelected.  Republicans and their allies will bombard the state, and Orman’s image is set to get tarnished. The state will potentially revert to its conservative bona fides and refuse to help tip the national balance in Democrats’ favor. PPP found that Kansas voters favor GOP control of the Senate by a 10% margin.

However, even in the best case scenario for Republicans, the party will have squandered precious resources in a state that should have been in their pocket – and voters will be unhappy with their GOP senator for the next six years. Per PPP, Roberts’s approval/disapproval rating is a disastrous 29%/46% – with no more than a 43% approval among Kansas Republicans.

Why is the GOP in this position?

Because the only person ready to wage a serious primary challenge against Roberts was Milton Wolf, an amateur candidate who managed to turn many people off, particularly following his x-ray scandal. The feeble 7% margin with which Roberts defeated Wolf leaves little room for doubt that a more qualified, agreeable primary challenger would likely have defeated Roberts in the primary and kept the seat in GOP hands without any headaches.

Ditto for Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran – 76 years old and in Congress since 1972 – who cannot even count on half of his party’s voters in his state to approve of his job performance or commit to vote for him in November, and whose effectiveness over the next six years is in serious question.

Once again, it’s obvious that a strong mainstream Republican would likely have easily defeated Cochran in the primary. Cochran was barely able to defeat the erratic Chris McDaniel, whose past statements are an oppo researcher’s dream, even after the infamous nursing home photo scandal was added to the mix.

Unlike Roberts, Cochran appears to be safe in November, but the question still begs: Is this the best Republicans can do as they seek to attract and energize voters?

Herein lay the uncomfortable facts behind the GOP’s intractable establishment vs. Tea Party battle: Establishment politicians are so bent on protecting the status quo that they’ll virtually never work to unseat a weak incumbent or “heir apparent” in their party. For the most part, the only ones with the desire and chutzpa to do so are weak and/or loony candidates.

Hence, the establishment believes that Tea Party supporters and candidates are often unqualified and/or radical. And Tea Party supporters and many grassroots voters believe that the establishment is too weak, self-serving, and unwilling to move past the vanilla status quo.

Both are right.

Certainly, some level of loyalty to incumbents and others who’ve “earned their turn” is just. No party can thrive when its elected officials are thrown under the bus simply for being imperfect or because someone a tad more attractive came along. But it’s about time to lower the “it’s time to go” bar from the age old live boy/dead girl level. If you’re clearly out of touch and can’t get the approval of half your party’s voters in your state, perhaps we can all agree that you’re the wrong candidate.

Republicans champion the free market. If the GOP would eliminate the stigma and party pressure for credible mainstream Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbents and heir apparents – voters can have a real choice and make wiser decisions.

There are some Tea Party attributes that the GOP establishment is wise not to adopt. But the struggling party would do well to adopt some of the movement’s chutzpa.


-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.

by @ 4:13 pm. Filed under 2014, Conservatism, Opinion, Republican Party

September 8, 2014

The Home Stretch

The 2014 national mid-term elections have now entered the final turn of their campaigns. Less than two months remain, and the number of truly undecided voters is beginning to diminish with greater velocity.

A few weeks ago, some pundits asked aloud whether a potential “wave” election was in fact going to occur. I wrote at that time that “wave” elections rarely appear visible until the final weeks and days of a political cycle, but that signs do appear to indicate that one one is forming.

I have suggested that a clear pattern of increasingly vulnerable U.S. house and senate seats now held by Democrats was just such a sign. I also suggested that most of the notable “gaffes” of the 2014 cycle were happening in Democratic campaigns (unlike 2010 and 2014 when they occurred in Republican campaigns).

The latest example of the latter took place in Alaska where incumbent Democratic Senator Mike Begich, seemingly holding his own in a close race with Republican challenger Dan Sullivan, ran a spurious and self-destructive ad against his opponent, an ad which he had to quickly withdraw. But the damage has been done, and it has changed the race.

Earlier, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, his party’s senate nominee in Iowa, made absurd remarks about his Iowa GOP senate colleague Chuck Grassley, belittling the fact that Grassley was an Iowa farmer. Braley, at that point, was comfortably ahead of his eventual GOP opponent Joni Ernst. The race is still competitive, but Braley has not regained his momentum, and is now behind in most polls.

Appointed Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh had acquired incumbency in his contest against GOP Congressman Steve Daines, but revelations of earlier plagiarism forced Walsh to resign his nomination, and the race is no longer in play.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who is part of a powerful family dynasty in Louisiana, had been narrowly leading her GOP opponent Bill Cassidy, a physician, but new revelations that she is spending more time at her residence in DC, and claims her parents’ home in Louisiana as her state residence, has not been helped by assertions that she is hailed by DC politicians as the District of Columbia’s “51st senator.” The race could end in a December run-off, but if Republicans win control without her, her claim of senate influence would disappear, and she would likely lose the run-off.

For a while, it looked that the Republicans were going to get by “gaffe-free,” but the senate race in Kansas has been turned upside down by allegations that GOP incumbent Pat Roberts spends little time in the state, and has run a weak re-election campaign. His Democratic opponent has just withdrawn from the race, leaving independent Greg Orman, a moderate businessman, as the suddenly new frontrunner. Roberts might still win, but if he does not, it might not be a net loss for the GOP since Orman has declared he will caucus with the party which has the majority in the new senate. Nevertheless, the unexpected political reversal is an embarrassment to the Republicans.

Another late-developing surprise have been polls in heavily liberal (or blue state) Illinois. Not surprisingly, controversial Democratic incumbent Governor Pat Quinn is trailing is GOP opponent, but no one I know ever suggested that incumbent Democratic Senator Dick Durbin was anything but a shoo-in for re-election. Durbin, however, is under 50%, and his unknown Republican opponent only 7 points behind, an unexpected political shock. Durbin will still probably win, but now has to take his race seriously in its final days.

Otherwise, several hotly contested senate races remain close, including in North Carolina, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan. Potentially close races exist in Minnesota, Oregon, Delaware and Virginia. Vulnerable GOP seats remain in Kentucky and Georgia. How these races “break” in the final days of the 2014 elections will signal whether or not a true “wave” election is about to happen.

Unless there are more and new gaffes by individual candidates, the month of September should be relatively quiet politically on its surface. Most of the undecideds, many of them independents, will likely make their minds in October as election day approaches. A second group of pivotal voters, disaffected Democrats, will also decide whether or not they will vote at all.

This election cycle and its consequential dimensions are not yet concluded.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 4:13 pm. Filed under 2014, Democrats, Predictions, Republican Party, Senate Races

June 11, 2014

Susana Martinez!

The governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has been gaining national attention in recent years. First elected governor in 2010, she had spent the previous 25 years as a public prosecutor, including three terms as the elected district attorney in her home county. She was the first Hispanic woman elected a governor in the nation.

Enormously popular in her home state, she is heavily favored to win re-election this year. A divorced Roman Catholic, she has remarried, and has one son. She is 54 years old and an attorney.

In 2012, she was frequently mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential choice, but in 2016, she will likely be one of the front runners for the post, no matter who the GOP nominee is. There is also some political speculation that she could be a dark horse presidential candidate herself.

With the growing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, Governor Martinez becomes one of the logical frontrunners to be on the Republican ticket.

Martinez’s parents were legal immigrants to the U.S., and her great grandfather was the legendary revolutionary general of the 1910 Mexican revolution, Toribio Ortega, who led one of the first bands tot take up arms that year against the Mexican dictator.

Since it is so very early in the 2016 presidential race, especially in the contest for the Republican nomination, it is particularly speculative to discuss possible GOP vice presidential nominees. But Governor Susana Maritnez’s background, experience and public record are so pertinent to likely GOP aspirations in the next election for control of the White House, it seems inevitable that Americans of all parties will now become much more familiar with this formidable American political figure in the months ahead.

Mark my words.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 2:41 pm. Filed under 2016, Predictions, Republican Party, Susana Martinez, Veep Watch

May 9, 2014

The Emerging Tone Of The 2014 Midterm Elections

I noted a few months ago that it appeared that the Republican Party and its grass roots were indicating they wanted to win the 2014 national midterm elections decisively with their best candidates for competitive U.S. house and senate seats.

Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina reinforces my initial observations. Most notably, North Carolina state house Speaker Thom Tillis won enough votes to become the GOP nominee without going to a runoff. Tillis had been opposed in the primary by two so-called Tea Party protest candidates, and as they have done in recent elections, Democratic Party strategists spent money against him hoping it would elect one of the protest candidates (who would of course be easier to beat in November). Democrats did this successfully in races in 2010 and 2012, most notably in Missouri where they spent more than $1 million to defeat a strong GOP senate candidate, The result was a weak and gaffe-prone Republican senate nominee who lost in November to an otherwise vulnerable Democratic incumbent.

(There has been, incidentally, little media discussion of the political ethics of one party interfering and intruding in the candidate selection process of the other party. This has been particularly true of the biased so-called “mainstream” media, which in fact have mostly cheered this practice on, resulting in the success of their preferred candidates. After two cycles of this, however, the Republican electorate has evidently caught on to the mischief, as North Carolina and other primaries have demonstrated. Led by Harry Reid in competitive senate races, the practice continues, but it is now likely to turn out to be mostly a waste of campaign dollars that might be more needed in November. Doing this is not illegal, of course, but it might be interesting to see how loudly Democrats and their media friends complain if Republican strategists resorted to the same practice in future elections.)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who led the fight to block Mr. Tillis’s primary win in North Carolina by campaigning for an obviously flawed Tea Party candidate, then did the right thing by immediately and strongly endorsing Tillis on primary night. Mr. Paul, who is emerging as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, hopefully learned an important lesson from this experience, especially as he has been reaching out beyond his libertarian base to gain support for 2016. As Governor Chris Christie learned in 2012 when he “embraced” Barack Obama in the closing days of that campaign, a certain party loyalty is necessary if one expects then to obtain party support for oneself. (It will be interesting to observe how Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another GOP protest figure with national ambitions, will conduct himself during the rest of the 2014 campaign.)

As I have pointed out repeatedly, the Tea Party movement was born as a legitimate economic protest by conservative voters, most of whom were Republicans, but also included many disaffected  independents and some centrist Democrats. As their numbers grew, and their success, social issue factions began to dominate, especially in candidate selection, and the “Tea Party” brand began to acquire a negative image in Republican Party circles that were trying to win elections. Most of the grass roots Tea Party members by 2014 seem to have now rejoined the party, but some social issue partisans remain to create intraparty challenges.

More contests with intraparty challenges lie ahead, most notably in Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Iowa. In these races so far, the strongest GOP candidates appear to be ahead, although surprises can yet happen. On the Democratic side, the left wing of the party appears to be stirring, especially against the prospects of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in 2016, but so far Democrats are not indulging in intraparty fights against their own U.S. house and senate candidates. Democrats, to their advantage, avoided these squabbles in 2010 and 2012, and reaped rewards for their self-discipline.

Public opposition to Obamacare remains the largest issue of 2014 so far, but other issues are emerging, including President Obama’s stubborn refusal to permit the construction of the Keystone pipeline to please a few rich supporters (but not his union friends), and some pocketbook issues such as a sluggish economy and raising the minimum wage.

Although foreign policy issues very rarely affect midterm elections, the constant headlines featuring Russian aggressiveness in Ukraine, Chinese aggressiveness in Asia, North Korean provocations, and bestial murder and kidnapping by warlords in Africa, to name only the most prominent, could have an affect on voters, especially if they want to protest Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.

The curious advice by administration supporters and some Democratic strategists for candidates to “double down” by supporting unpopular and controversial Obama policies so far does not seem to be working for most of these vulnerable Democratic candidates. Those who early on have tried to separate themselves from Washington, DC seem to be having the most success. In the U.S. senate, now controlled by the Democrats, majority leader Harry Reid is becoming more and more erratic in his speeches and public comments, and thus further enabling the 2014 election to be nationalized, something which in this cycle clearly helps the Republicans.

With six months to go, and a potential electoral catastrophe for the Democrats approaching, it would seem only a matter of time before Mr. Reid, Mrs, Pelosi and other liberal hardliners are superseded or abandoned by cooler heads in their party who still want to win.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 8:48 am. Filed under 2014, Campaign Issues, Conservatism, Rand Paul, Republican Party, Tea Parties, Ted Cruz

December 15, 2013

Poll Watch: Des Moines Register/Selzer & Co. Iowa 2016 Republican Caucus Survey

Des Moines Register/Selzer & Co. Iowa 2016 GOP Caucus Poll 

Favorable / Unfavorable {Net} 

  • Paul Ryan 73% / 10% {+63%}
  • Mike Huckabee 66% / 17% {+49%}
  • Rick Santorum 58% / 21% {+37%}
  • Rick Perry 55% / 19% {+36%}
  • Scott Walker 46% / 11% {+35%}
  • Marco Rubio 46% / 15% {+31%}
  • Ted Cruz 46% / 17% {+29%}
  • Rand Paul 51% / 23% {+28%}
  • Jeb Bush 51% / 26% {+25%}
  • Chris Christie 51% / 30% {+21%}

Survey of 182 Republican adults was conducted December 8-11, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 7.3 percentage points.

-Data compilation and analysis courtesy of The Argo Journal

by @ 12:00 pm. Filed under 2016, Iowa Caucuses, Poll Watch, Republican Party

December 1, 2013

Is It “It’s Obamacare, Stupid!” Or “Time For A Woman President!” in 2016?

As the 2012 presidential campaign began to form seriously in 2011, some conservatives suggested that the by-then commonplace slogan “It’s the economy, stupid!” would be replaced by  new slogan “It’s Obamacare, stupid!” as the emblematic theme of the Republican attempt to replace the president, then in his first term, the next year.

It was based, quite understandably, on the performance of the 2010 mid-term elections when the Republicans  regained control of the U.S. house with a pick-up of 60-plus seats, and a significant pick-up of U.S senate seats, primarily due to negative voter reaction to the just-passed medical care reform law known as Obamacare. Republicans, it should be remembered, became increasingly confident that they could win the 2012 presidential election, and they nominated someone who, because of his support of a similar program when he was governor of a northeastern state, was going to have a difficult time making Obamacare a dispositive issue. Mitt Romney had other political problems, to be sure, and the election was close, but the GOP slogan did not materialize as the difference.

Going into the 2014 mid-term elections, Obamacare is once again driving voters away from Democratic candidates. In fact, it is potentially more serious than in 2010 because the legislation is now being implemented — with disastrous early results.

I am suggesting, however, that a focus on Obamacare by Republicans beyond 2014 is a very bad strategy. The reasons are simple. If voter dissatisfaction with the legislation does resonate in the 2014 elections, it will be repealed or dramatically altered whether or not President Obama agrees to it. Members of Congress of his own party, having seen the writing on the electoral wall of 2014, will vote to override any veto. It will be a matter of political survival, and Mr. Obama will be a very lame duck. If, somehow, Obamacare miraculously (it would take a miracle) succeeds suddenly in 2014, including getting by its inaugural technical glitches, and its implementation is not put off until 2015, there will obviously no issue. In either case, Obamacare would cease to confront voters after 2015.

At the same time, Democrats are developing, as their prime slogan for 2016, “It’s time for a woman president!” This, of course, presupposes that the current Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, is their nominee. There are two problems with this slogan-as-strategy. First, in spite of her huge lead in current polls, the election is almost three years away. Mrs. Clinton enjoyed a similar “insurmountable” lead in 2005, and three years later, she came up short when Mr. Obama won the party nod. Second, and perhaps more important, relying on an abstraction, albeit a sympathetic one for some voters, is a very risky strategy, and not ultimately complimentary to Mrs. Clinton’s qualifications.

I happen to believe it IS time for a woman (from either party) to be elected president, but I certainly would not want to vote for a woman primarily because of her sex. The nation leads outstanding leadership, now more than ever, and the only true major consideration should be a vote for the best person, either liberal or conservative, to serve in the nation’s highest office. Historically, it was theoretically time for a Catholic to be president in 1928 when Al Smith was the Democratic nominee, but it was not until 1960 when John Kennedy was elected. It was time to have a Jew on the national ticket in 2000 when Joe Lieberman was the Democratic vice presidential nominee, but he did not win. Jesse Jackson ran twice for president, and many said that Republican Colin Powell could have won if he ran, but it was Barack Obama who was the first black president.

Today, notably more women already vote Democratic, and notably more men vote Republican. It is difficult to imagine that an even higher percentage of women would vote for a Democratic nominee. It is thus illusory to think that primarily because she is a woman, Mrs. Clinton would win in 2016.  Nor will her “resume” alone give her victory.  American voters historically don’t vote for “resumes,” including most recently in 2008. If she is her party’s nominee, Mrs. Clinton will have to give voters very good reasons to vote for her, especially after two terms of a president of her own party, the resulting Obama-fatigue that will exist in 2016, and despite her own many controversies, personal and political.

It is, of course, a long time until 2016. In addition to the 2014 elections, numerous events, many of them unanticipated, will occur. Hillary Clinton could indeed be elected president in 2016, but I suspect the main reason would not be simply that she is a woman. (What if, by the way, the GOP nominee chooses the talented New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez as his running mate?) A Republican might indeed be elected president in 2016, but I suspect the main reason would not be voter dissatisfaction with Obamacare.

Slogans, or other short rationales, do rarely win national elections. Long before it was verbalized by the Bill Clinton campaign, the “economy” was almost always was the major factor in a presidential election.


-Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 12:12 pm. Filed under 2016, Campaign Strategy, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, Republican Party, Susana Martinez

August 11, 2013

Trump, Sister Souljah and the GOP

This morning brought news that should make every Republican who actually wants to win in 2016 groan; Donald Trump is talking once again about running for President.

Of course, this is an old game for Trump, who has been flirting with running for President since at least 2000 (he wanted to run with Ross Perot’s Reform Party back then). Trump has proven to be nothing if not good at publicity-seeking. The media, either out of a desire to embarrass the GOP or attracted to Trump like people are attracted to a car crash (or a bit of both), even gave him an interview on ABC News. It was about as useful as you’d expect, with Trump not only raising the Birther nonsense about President Obama, but also about Senator Ted Cruz as well. In short, it was nothing short of an embarrassment for all involved.

While the idea of Trump clogging up the airwaves by mulling, but never actually pulling the trigger on running for President is enough to give us a stomach ache, this could be a real opportunity for one of the potential GOP candidates. It has been a mistake I believe for the GOP and the conservative media to give any sort of credibility to Trump. He’s a circus clown; colorful, attention-grabbing, but ultimately not worth much and he should be treated as such. One of the candidates running for President needs to, with as much publicity as possible, tear into Trump, the Birthers, and others who would use the serious business of running for President as a self-promotional exercise. These people are not entertaining, they are deeply damaging to an already damaged Republican brand. We have no need for carnival barkers when trying to decide who should be the leader of the free world.

We’ve seen what needs to be done before. Back in 1992, Bill Clinton, running as a “New Democrat” attacked the musician Sister Souljah over her comments on the LA Riots. This was immediately picked up on by the press as Clinton showing a willingness to take on a representative of an extreme faction in his party. Now, Sister Souljah was a trivial figure of minimal importance, but the symbol of a Democrat willing to take her (and by extension folks like Jesse Jackson) was a great message for a Party desperate to show that it had changed. The now famous “Sister Souljah Moment” was critical in establishing the idea that the Democrats of 1992 were different from 1984 or 1988.

Who should be the one to call out Trump and his ilk? Really, it could be anyone of the 2016 prospects. Christie seems the most likely to do it, given his personality and persona. Someone like Paul Ryan might do it, given his reputations as an intellectual leader of the Party. Marco Rubio could do it too in order to curry favor with the more moderate wing of the Party. One of the lesser-known possible contenders, like Governors Walker or Jindal might do it to try and get some publicity. But I believe that the two gentlemen who would do themselves the most favors in denouncing Trump would be Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Both Senators have their own problems with being seen as rigidly ideological and perhaps willing to tolerate some of the more rabid folks in their own fan base. If Sens. Paul or Cruz were to stand up and publicly denounce Trump in no uncertain terms, they could reap a lot of publicity as well as surprise the press and others within the Party. It would signal that they are more than just rigid ideologues. It would also show that they are serious about advancing their ideology without having clowns like Trump associated with it.

The appearance of Trump on the GOP presidential scene is a bad reoccurring headache that sprouts up every couple of years. In the past, the GOP has made the mistake of indulging the publicity-seeking mogul. I believe that the time has come for someone in the Party to stand up and say “enough is enough”. With any luck, one of the gentlemen wanting to lead our Party into the next election will be the first one to do it.

by @ 6:03 pm. Filed under 2016, Donald Trump, Presidential History, Republican Party

July 31, 2013

Fourteen for 2014: Tom Cotton (3/14)

This week’s installment of Fourteen for 2014 couldn’t have been timed better if I had planned it myself (cue conspiracy theories). This is because today, Politco reported that Congressman Tom Cotton is going to challenge Mark Pryor for the Senate seat in Arkansas. Congressman Cotton has been touted as the GOP’s top recruit to go after Pryor, who didn’t even have a Republican challenger in 2008.

Congressman Cotton, who was just elected in 2012, made waves even back then. The Weekly Standard did a glowing profile of him, and talking him up as a future party leader. Knowing about the Congressman’s background, it’s not hard to see why. Cotton, who is only 36, is a native Arkansan who graduated from Harvard undergrad magna cum laude and also graduated from Harvard Law School. In 2005 Cotton became an officer in the United States Army and later went on to become a U.S. Army Ranger. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne and won the Bronze Star. After being honorably discharged in 2009 he worked in a management consulting firm, as a clerk for a judge on the Fifth Circuit, and at the family cattle farm. He won his seat in Congress by a huge margin, 59-37 and is only the 2nd Republican in history to serve Arkansas’s 4th Congressional District.

It is a good time to be running in Arkansas as a Republican. Arkansas was once seen as one of the few places in the Old South where Democrats could win statewide. Until 2010, Arkansas had only 1 Republican Representative and was in the minority in both houses of the legislature. Today things are very different. Republicans, for the first time since Reconstruction, control both chambers of the legislature and for the first time ever, all four Congressmen are Republicans. John Boozman trounced Blanche Lincoln in their Senate race in 2010 and Mitt Romney won Arkansas by a nearly two-to-one margin. Much like West Virginia, Arkansas voters have been heavily turned off by President Obama and his agenda. The President is wildly unpopular in Arkansas; he even lost 40% of the Democratic primary in 2012 when he was running against laughable opposition.

All that being said, toppling Mark Pryor won’t be easy. He’s tried mightily hard to show voters that he’s an old-fashioned Democrat, like the ones they used to be comfortable with. He also has a famous name; his father was Governor and Senator of Arkansas. And Pryor can count on a lot of money; he already has over $4 million in the bank, which can go far in an inexpensive state like Arkansas.

However, if there is one candidate who Republicans think can beat Pryor, it is Cotton. His voting record in Congress is conservative, but with a definite hawkish streak. If he does get elected to the Senate, expect some interesting debates between Cotton and folks like Rand Paul over the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

Here’s the Congressman’s speech at CPAC this year:

For more information on Cotton, you can visit his official House website (his Senate campaign one isn’t up yet).

by @ 4:43 pm. Filed under 2014, Republican Party, Senate Races

July 24, 2013

Fourteen for 2014: Greg Abbott (2/14)

In the second installment of the Fourteen for 2014 series, the next Republican candidate to watch comes from the Lone Star State. Texas is the largest consistently red state in America and as such, is very important in Republican politics. Since 1980, every open Republican primary has had at least one candidate hailing from Texas. In 2016, it’s already looking like there will be at least one Texan run (Cruz) and maybe another (Perry). Much like New York and California for the Dems, Texas is also important for the money primary. In short, when it comes to Republican politics what happens in Texas does not stay in Texas.

2014 promises to bring change in Texas. Rick Perry is stepping down after 14 years as Governor. The race to succeed Perry has been focused on one man: Attorney General Greg Abbott. The Attorney General has raised a huge amount of money: over $23 million so far in fact, and seems to have a clear path to the Republican nomination and the Governor’s Mansion. Abbott has managed a feat that eludes most Republican candidates in uniting Establishment and Tea Party Republicans. He has appealed to more conservative Republicans by taking a fiercely combative stance against the Obama Administration. Abbott has filed 27 lawsuits against the Administration, on issues ranging from Obamacare to the EPA. He once described his job as “I come to work, I sue the federal government and I go home”. Abbott has also shown an ability to win statewide. He won both his first election 56-41 and his reelection 59-37.

Abbott also has an inspiring personal story. When he was 27, a tree fell on him while he was jogging, making him a paraplegic. If Abbott is elected, he will be Texas’s first Catholic Governor. His wife Cecilia is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and Abbott speaks fluent Spanish. The Democrats by contrast are looking at State Senator Wendy Davis who launched the filibuster against the abortion law that Perry just signed into law. But Texas is a red state, the majority of voters in the State are pro-life and Davis has nowhere near the money that Abbott has. Nominating her might make the Democrats feel good, but it won’t stop Abbott.

Below is a video of Abbott’s announcement. For more information, visit his website:

by @ 6:52 pm. Filed under 2014, Republican Party

July 18, 2013

Fourteen for 2014: Joni Ernst (1/14)

Even though it is 16 months away, the 2014 Election is in full swing. Candidates for office are either testing the waters or have jumped into races already. With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a new segment here at Race, called Fourteen for 2014. The purpose of this is to raise awareness about Republican candidates running for statewide or federal office that could become future leaders in our Party. Congressional, senatorial, gubernatorial and other statewide races are where future party leaders are first noticed. Some of these candidates are incumbents running for reelection, others are challenging Democratic incumbents, and still others are looking at open seats.

So, without further ado, let’s meet the first candidate: State Senator Joni Ernst who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin in Iowa. Ernst has been a State Senator since 2010, taking the seat of now Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. Before that, Ernst was the Auditor of Montgomery County, the same county that she was born in and grew up in. In addition to being a State Senator, Ernst is a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa National Guard and served in Kuwait and Iraq. She has described herself as “a mother, a solider, and a conservative”. Even though he is officially neutral, Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds have both been encouraging Ernst to jump into the race.

Below is her first speech of the campaign where she touts her conservative credentials:

Ernst is one of several Republican candidates running, including radio talk show host Sam Clovis, attorney Matt Whitaker, and Sen. Grassley’s former chief of staff David Young. The winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Bruce Braley, who is the Congressman from Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. If Ernst wins, she would be the first woman to represent Iowa in either House of Congress. For more information about Joni Ernst, visit her website.

by @ 6:59 pm. Filed under 2014, Republican Party, Senate Races

June 21, 2013

Rubio May Have 2016 Challenger for Senate Seat

Long time away, but thought this little tidbit may be newsworthy enough for a front page mention.

Marco Rubio may very well be gearing up for a run at the GOP nomination. However, former Congressman Allen West is considering mounting a challenge to unseat Rubio.

From The Daily Caller:

In an interview on Washington, D.C.’s WMAL 105.9 FM “Mornings on the Mall” radio show on Wednesday, former Florida Republican Rep. Allen West inidcated that he might be open to challenging Sen. Marco Rubio in a 2016 GOP Senate primary.

“That’s a pretty heavy lift, because you’re talking about running against a sitting senator, and then, of course, that creates that schism that the other side would love to see happen,” West, who has ruled out a 2014 run, told host Larry O’Connor.

West, who said he wanted to “serve this country in whatever capacity I possibly can,” explained that his frustration with Rubio stemmed from the possible GOP presidential candidate’s support of the current immigration reform bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate.

by @ 8:42 am. Filed under 2016, Marco Rubio, Republican Party, Senate Races

June 18, 2013

Bobby Jindal’s Puzzling Advice

Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has an op-ed today on Politico that essentially tells the Republican Party to stop analyzing the 2012 election and start doing…something:

Let’s stop defeating ourselves, get on offense, and go kick the other guys around. If you’ve followed the news over the past month, they are certainly asking for it. We are the conservative party in America — deal with it. We have a lot of dissenting voices. So what? Deal with it. The American public waxes and wanes. Fine. It will wax again soon enough. Deal with it, and start fighting for our principles instead of against them, so we can be in position to create the next wave.

I find this to be an odd piece of advice from the Governor. We Republicans have lost two elections in a row. Yet, the Governor feels that our Party needs to stop looking at what we have done wrong and what we need to do differently and instead get on with implementing a strategy to get back to winning.

This would be great advice, if the Republican Party had unanimity about what to do next. Instead, what we have now is a Party that is divided on strategy, tactics and policy. We can’t move forward with a policy or strategy because the people in the Party don’t agree on the path forward. On issues like immigration, foreign policy, and gay marriage, there are real, passionate opinions on both sides. These opinions can’t be swept under the rug, and in fact should be debated. Moderates, conservatives, libertarians and people who are combinations of all three are in the Republican Party and they aren’t going to agree on everything. Even if there was a unanimous opinion on policy, there are divisions between pragmatists, who think that the Party has to change with the times, and hard-liners who think that the GOP must return to Reaganite conservatism. Again, these are real, passionately held beliefs and they are not likely to give them up anytime soon in order to “move on” or “get over it”.

Governor Jindal himself has, since the November election, offered up his two cents on what the Party needs to do, often in harsh tones. He has called the GOP “the stupid party” and has said that the Party is too obsessed with fiscal issues. Of course, the Governor might want to focus a little closer to home, but I digress.

After two electoral defeats, a Republican post-mortem was inevitable. McCain’s loss could be dismissed. With the financial crisis, the deep unpopularity of the Bush Administration, and the Messianic nonsense of the Obama campaign, victory by November 2008 was virtually impossible. 2012 was different though; given the poor economy, and that the President’s signature legislative accomplishment wildly disliked, defeat was not inevitable. Republicans felt towards the end of the 2012 campaign that we had at least a decent chance of winning. That was shattered on election night. For the Party to simply ignore what happened in 2008 and 2012 would be a folly in the extreme. Governor Jindal might have a lot of good ideas, but simply moving on for the sake of moving on is not one of them.

by @ 8:17 pm. Filed under Bobby Jindal, Republican Party

April 2, 2013

How Many Republican Parties Are There? A Very Simple Answer.

Many commentators have been suggesting recently that the Republican Party is actually two parties. The problem with this analysis is that there are so many different suggested pairs of the Party’s identity.

Some say the GOP is split between Tea Party devotees and establishment conservatives.  Others say the division is between social conservatives and economic  conservatives. Still others see the two groups as rural Republicans and urban/suburban Republicans. Some analyze the GOP as differing by regions (in which case there are four parties). There are those who say that today’s GOP is divided between rich voters and blue collar (“Reagan Republican”) voters.  One more theory has it that the major difference is between young Republicans and older Republicans.

There is some truth to each of these analyses, and if this is so, there are more than a dozen overlapping large factions in the Republican Party, and that does not further divide GOP voters by specific issues (in which case there are almost a hundred identifiable factions).

With so many factions and so many divisions, how will it be possible for the American conservative party to win a national election?

I suggest that as long as the various elected officials, spokespersons, radio hosts, TV personalities and political consultants emphasize, screamt, focus on exclusively, and obsess about their differences, and insist on them, they are very unlikely to win back control of both bodies of the Congress, and later, the White House.

The best way to win elections is for a political party to figure what its members agree about.

A political party that does not want to win elections is not fit to govern, no matter what their written or stated policy principles.

Winning isn’t everything, differing opinions always exist in any group. but not winning is not governing.

It’s that simple.


-Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

by @ 10:46 am. Filed under 2014, 2016, Republican Party, Tea Parties

March 18, 2013

The RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” Report

As you may have heard or seen on the news, the Republican National Committee has released the report compiled by a special committee which makes recommendations as to what the party needs to do if it is to improve its position among voters.   When reading through this document, my reactions tended to be one of HELLO as it carefully acknowledges that “we have a problem.”  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has, I believe, done the best he can and hopefully this will lead to something positive.  Yet, I see the official GOP as struggling more with mechanics rather than with the character, substance, and reception of its message.  There is no better demonstrable example of the importance of message and how it is presented than the fact that Ronald Reagan was the oldest elected president in history but received one of the highest percentages of the 18-29 year old vote in history.  Message, both explicit and implicit, and especially the character of the message is important.  It is awfully hard to get people to vote for us if we continue to tell them, implicitly, that we don’t like them.  Unfortunately, that is the perception of most ethnic minorities, singles (especially single women), younger voters, and gays.   

Here’s a link to the report courtesy of the Washington Post.

by @ 10:17 am. Filed under 2012 Postmortems, 2013, Republican Party

February 21, 2013

Measuring Effective Conservatism—Statistics and Accomplishment

Yesterday, Kavon called our attention to an interesting analysis by Nate Silver in his New York Times Five Thirty-Eight column.  A few points made by Silver as well as certain aspects of his statistical results measuring “the conservatism” of past and potential presidential candidates have provoked me to offer thoughts of my own as to what these statistics actually mean and what they tell us (or don’t tell us) about candidates and their prospective success.

First of all, statistical ratings of politicians tend to be subjective in that they often reflect a covert or overt bias of those making the determination as to what to count and how.  That being said, Silver seems to have done a good and credible job of analyzing and scoring in support of his commentary.  The question is what does it all really mean and what does it tells us about the future of these prospective candidates and their likelihood of success both in an election campaign and once in office.

Silver’s table compiling the conservatism scores of potential presidential candidates (past and present) identifies a particularly glaring and illustrative point:  that being Ronald Reagan’s score of 44 compared with George W. Bush’s score of 46.  Well now, anyone care to compare the record of these two-term Republican presidents from the standpoint of successful conservative governance, of developing and implementing constructive conservative reforms?  Bush had a GOP controlled Congress for most of his first six years; Reagan only had a GOP Senate during his first six years.  In addition, anyone want to compare the overall posture of the country (including the economy) at the end vs beginning of their respective presidencies?  Or, the strategic position, credibility, and popularity of the Republican Party and the conservative movement at the end of their respective presidencies?  Hmmm.

Perhaps the respective Reagan and Bush scores, as well as the scores of the more contemporary candidates, tell us more about what passes for Conservatism and titilates Republican-Conservative activists these days who seem to focus more on rhetoric than on substance or actual net accomplishment.  Note that in the category of public statements Bush scored 47 while Reagan scored only 37.  The scoring methodologies used in this analysis may be interesting and fun to talk about, but they tell us very little at this point as to what we can actually expect from any of  the prospective candidates.  What’s missing is some measure of performance and accomplishment that can be compared to rhetoric or support from interest groups and ideological commentators.  For executive office holds that is easier than for members of the legislature, but legislators also have a track record beyond a simple voting record.  Some are able to demonstrate an ability to develop constructive reform initiatives and build support for such, even among those who might not be initial allies, and to appeal to non-traditional constituencies.  Jack Kemp was legendary in this regard.  Marco Rubio shows signs of such ability but he is only beginning his third year in the Senate while in the national spotlight, so only time will tell.  He did have a track record in the Florida State House which should be evaluated.

While I would have chosen Bill Clinton as a better example than Obama (who I consider to be arrogant and polarizing), the closing point in Silver’s article is spot on:

One measure of political talent, and something that characterized both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama, is the ability to sell ideas to voters across a wide range of the political spectrum. Perhaps Mr. Rubio will prove to be such a talent. Otherwise, if Mr. Rubio holds a fairly ordinary (and conservative) set of Republican positions, his popularity ratings may wind up being ordinary as well.

What Silver is saying here, albeit somewhat subtly, is that if Rubio plays only to the existing GOP base as it is currently configured he is likely to fail.  But, if he is able to create a coalition that includes those who have not recently identified with the GOP base— thus creating a new base of sorts—while holding most of the existing base, he may likely succeed.  That is how both Reagan and Clinton succeeded within their respective parties and among the general electorate.  They brought new people into the nominating process and expanded their parties’ coalition beyond what had been its traditional character.  A similar strategy will be required for any successful GOP candidate in 2016.

by @ 11:57 am. Filed under 2016, Conservatism, Marco Rubio, Republican Party

February 11, 2013

Poll Watch: PPP (D) Republican Survey on Immigration

PPP (D) GOP Poll on Immigration 

Do you think illegal immigrants who are living in America should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship, or do you think they should all be deported back to their native countries?

  • They should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship 46%
  • They should be deported back to their home country 42%

Very Conservative

  • They should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship 36%
  • They should be deported back to their home country 53%

Somewhat Conservative

  • They should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship 50%
  • They should be deported back to their home country 37%


  • They should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship 43%
  • They should be deported back to their home country 46%


  • They should be offered a chance to apply for legal citizenship 49%
  • They should be deported back to their home country 38%

Survey of 508 Republican primary voters was conducted January 31 – February 3, 2013.  The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points. Political ideology: 41% Very conservative; 41% Somewhat conservative; 14% Moderate; 2% Somewhat liberal; 1% Very liberal.

-Data compilation and analysis courtesy of The Argo Journal

by @ 1:15 am. Filed under Poll Watch, Republican Party

January 8, 2013

President Obama Nominates Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense

Yesterday, President Obama went against pretty much everyone’s advice and picked former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, setting up a major fight in the Senate. On its face this pick is trying to perpetuate the myth that Obama is some kind of “post-partisan” President but looking at the response from Senate Republicans punctures another hole in that myth.

Senator Cruz of Texas said this:

Chuck Hagel is not the right choice for Secretary of Defense, and if he is nominated, it is
difficult to imagine any way I could support his confirmation. Hagel has not been a friend of
Israel, our most important ally in a very troubled region of the world. And he has repeatedly
been soft on our enemies. Bullies do not respond to weakness, and Hagel’s stance on Iran —
the most serious national security challenge America currently faces — makes conflict more
likely, not less likely.

America needs someone leading the Pentagon who understands that peace comes through
strength. And we need a Defense Secretary who will stand unshakably alongside the nation
of Israel, because that alliance is vital to preserving U.S. security.

Although, if nominated, I will listen to what he has to say in a confirmation hearing, Chuck
Hagel’s record strongly suggests he is not that man.

Senator McCain commented:

“Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam and I congratulate him on this nomination. I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

And Senator Kelly Ayotte said:

“While I deeply respect Senator Hagel’s brave service in Vietnam, I am concerned by several positions he took as a senator – particularly his long-standing opposition to increased Iran sanctions and his views regarding Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as our close ally Israel.  As the Armed Services Committee reviews his nomination, I will vigorously question him on these and other issues.”

The concerns that all three of the Senators mention come up for one simple reason; Hagel’s record and rhetoric shows a contempt for one of the United States’ closest allies, the State of Israel. His comments about the “Jewish Lobby” are a pernicious old myth of anti-Semitism; that there is some kind of Jewish cabal pulling the strings of the world. A vicious piece of garbage called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, made by Tsarist agents at the turn of the twentieth-century, essentially said that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Modern anti-Jewish leftists have taken this myth and updated it using phrases eerily similar to Hagel’s “Jewish Lobby” remark.

Even beyond that, Hagel also voted against sending a letter to the government of Russia asking them to combat anti-Semitism. He voted against sanctions on Iran and has been in favor of talking to the terrorist group Hezbollah. He thought the Surge in Iraq was a major mistake. In short, if there has been a foreign policy issue, Hagel has been wrong about it.

So this is the man that President Obama should be in charge of our defense policy. Combine Hagel with the oh-so-brilliant John Kerry at Foggy Bottom and you have the makings of a disastrous foreign policy that will make the mistakes of the last four years look like the good old days.

Elections have consequences. I highly doubt that a President Romney would nominate Hagel for dog-catcher, much less the Cabinet. Even sadder is the fact that barring a truly terrible confirmation hearing, he is likely to be confirmed; Democrats control the Senate after all. A Republican Senate would likely have killed a Hagel nomination in its cradle. Elections have consequences folks.

by @ 7:16 pm. Filed under Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Republican Party

January 1, 2013

Operation Dixie: History, Myths and a Plan for the GOP

Perhaps one of the most sobering facts about the 2012 election is the fact that Governor Romney of Massachusetts, who picked a Midwesterner as a running mate, failed to carry a single solitary state in the Northeast. President Obama swept the Northeast, mostly by very heavy margins, and racked up 109 electoral votes in the process. That is the equivalent of 2 California’s and aside from New Hampshire, there wasn’t even an effort by the RNC or the Romney campaign or frankly the state parties to put their states in the Republican column. Most Republicans write off the Northeast as hopelessly liberal and Democratic, hardly worth the fight. Best to concentrate on states like Ohio or Colorado than to make a play for Connecticut or New Jersey.

In the short span of time that a presidential campaign occupies, that makes sense. After all, a candidate or campaign has only 6-8 months after winning the nomination to assemble 270 electoral votes and win the White House. But for the Republican Party, this seems like a foolish strategy. Writing off 109 electoral votes in a presidential campaign is deleterious to the Republican Party overall, not just to a presidential campaign. An ineffective Republican Party harms candidates down the ballot as well. If we want more Republican Governors, legislators, Senators and Congressmen, we need to start making a play for the Northeast once again.

Luckily for the GOP, we already know how to do this. Before the 1950’s the South was so overwhelmingly Democratic that it won the nickname “The Solid South”.  To put it in perspective, back in 1920 when Warren G. Harding beat James Cox 60%-34% in the popular vote, Cox won South Carolina with 96%, Georgia with 72%, and Louisiana with 69%. Harding became only the second Republican candidate in history to carry Tennessee, and only by 13,000 votes. The South was the electoral bedrock of the Democratic Party.

By the 1950’s, the South had begun to change and after Dwight D. Eisenhower took several Southern states in his elections, the RNC begun to think that the South was finally willing to listen to the Republican Party. The RNC set up a project called “Operation Dixie” which was to work for the long-term build-up of the Republican Party. The RNC spent resources, time and talent in Dixie to start winning in the South.

Here is where fact and myth start to grow apart. The conventional wisdom, particularly given by Democrats and liberals is that the GOP began to replace the Democratic Party as the party of Jim Crow and by using racist “code-words”, began to swing the South. While that might make the left feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s also not true. Subscribers to this theory forget that there were other developments that helped turn the South. Issues like right-to-work and the GOP’s moving towards an internationalist, anti-Communist foreign policy, along with an increasingly liberal Democratic Party on non-racial issues were very important. The most critical development though was the migration of people after WWII to the Sun Belt. Places like Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida became very appealing to young families eager to get away from cold northern winters. Many of these families that came to the South were Republicans. It was this group of voters, generally middle-class suburban dwellers who were the base of the new Southern Republican Party. For instance, in my state of Florida, the first real Republican county was Pinellas where St. Petersburg is. Pinellas County became a GOP stronghold while the most Dixiecrat part of Florida, the Panhandle, stayed Democratic long into the future.

The most important part of Operation Dixie was that it took time. Launched in 1957 the year after Dwight Eisenhower took 5 Southern states, the next cycle in 1960 saw Richard Nixon only win three states. Goldwater won 5 states of the Old Confederacy in 1964 but was annihilated everywhere else. It wasn’t until 1968 when Nixon carried 5 Southern states and won the White House as well. In other words, it took 11 years before Operation Dixie saw its goal obtained.

The lesson from Operation Dixie is that with long-term investment and dedication, even a region as hostile to the GOP as the South can, eventually be brought to consider voting Republican. It is true that outside factors like those mentioned above helped the GOP, but the infrastructure and resources had to be in place to take advantage of these developments.

Honesty compels me to say that the person who got me thinking about this was Newt Gingrich. The former Speaker issued a lengthy memo to the RNC (seen here) where he suggested that the GOP start an “Operation California” to try and make the Golden State competitive once again. While certainly a good idea, I think the better use of resources could be an “Operation Yankee”. Not only does the Northeast have twice as many electoral votes as California, there are many more down-the-ballot races, such as Governorships, Senators and Congressional seats to harvest by building up the GOP.

If there is one undeniable takeaway from the disappointing 2012 election results it’s that we Republicans simply cannot write off huge portions of the country if we want to win national elections. The failure of the GOP to win a single electoral vote in the Northeast should be a red-light to the Party. We need to start winning back that section of the country if we want to really be a nationally competitive Party once again.

by @ 1:00 pm. Filed under Newt Gingrich, Presidential History, Republican Party

December 17, 2012

Rep. Tim Scott is the Choice to Succeed Jim DeMint

The New York Times has the Story:

Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has chosen Representative Tim Scott to replace Jim DeMint in the United States Senate, according to three Republican officials. The move will make Mr. Scott the first black senator from the South since the late 19th century.

The governor will make the announcement at noon at the State House in Columbia. She began informing the roster of finalists on Monday morning about her decision to go with Mr. Scott, who was the preferred candidate of many conservative leaders and groups in Washington.

Full story here.

by @ 9:16 am. Filed under Misc., Republican Party

December 11, 2012

Michigan Is Now a Right-to-Work State

From the department of keep-your-hopes-up:

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation making Michigan the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.

“I’m confident this is in the best interest of Michiganders,” Snyder said Tuesday evening.

In dramatic fashion, the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon sent Snyder two controversial right-to-work bills as thousands of rowdy protesters demonstrated outside the Capitol.

The House first approved House Bill 4003, 58-51, establishing a right-to-work law for public sector unions. A second bill, Senate Bill 116, which applies to private sector unions, was approved more than an hour later, 58-52.

“This is a major day in Michigan’s history,” Snyder said. “I don’t view this as anti-union at all. I view this as pro-worker.”

So yes, Michigan, the birthplace of the United Autoworkers Union is now a right-to-work state. Not only is this good public policy, it also can help the Republican Party try to convince the electorate to trust us. While the news out of Washington DC might be depressing for those of us on the right, we can at least take heart that an overwhelming majority of state governments are in Republican hands. This does give us a platform to demonstrate conservative ideas and how Republicans can govern. If more people see how the GOP governs them at the state level, they might be more willing to give us a chance to run the national government.

by @ 6:04 pm. Filed under Misc., Republican Party

December 6, 2012

Bombshell: Jim DeMint Leaving U.S. Senate to Head Heritage Foundation

Whoa… All I can say is that you should read Erick Erickson’s post over at Redstate here.

by @ 9:43 am. Filed under Conservatism, Jim DeMint, Republican Party

December 2, 2012

2014 Senate Recruitment Off to a Solid Start

After two disastrous cycles in which the GOP had chances to recapture the Senate, it looks like the initial Republican efforts for 2014 are off to a much stronger start. With the overwhelming majority of House seats now set due to redistricting, Republican efforts to maintain control of the House look easier. With Boehner set to keep control of the Speaker’s Gavel, the GOP’s main effort should be to finally remove the rancid Harry Reid from the being Senate Majority Leader.

With 20 of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs, Republicans need to start knocking off Democratic incumbents, particularly in states that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Luckily for the Republicans at least two red state Democratic incumbents are set to have serious challengers. In South Dakota former Governor Mike Rounds has decided to challenge Senator Tim Johnson. Back in 2002, Senator Johnson defeated now-Senator John Thune by only 524 votes. In 2008 with the awful year facing the GOP there was no major attempt to challenge Johnson. With Governor Rounds, who won reelection by a 61%-39% margin in the bad 2006 cycle, Republicans have a challenger with a proven record at winning statewide. Another factor in this race is the health of Senator Johnson who suffered bleeding in the brain in 2006. If he is faced with a grueling campaign, the Senator might decide to retire instead. The Democrat most likely to run for the seat if Johnson retires is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who served as Congresswoman-at-large from 2004-2010 before losing to Kristi Noem.

The other big GOP recruiting coup so far is in West Virginia. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, the longtime Congresswoman from the 2nd District, after years of wooing from national Republicans, has finally agreed to run statewide for the Senate. The incumbent she’s challenging is long-time Senator Jay Rockefeller who was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Moore Capito is the daughter of former Governor Arch Moore, one of only two Republican Governors since 1933. The Congresswoman is considered a moderate and the Club for Growth (the most wrongly named group in America but I digress) has already made it clear that they don’t approve of Capito. However if she gets through the GOP primary, Capito would make a fierce opponent for Rockefeller, who has been making headlines recently in the state for attacking the coal industry. President Obama is also despised in the Mountain State; Mitt Romney won every single county in West Virginia, a feat that no other Republican has ever managed to accomplish (h/t to Tommy T). Even if Rockefeller does not run, the Democratic bench in West Virginia is pretty thin. Governor Tomblin just won reelection; the longtime Democrat Attorney General went down to defeat in November, and Republicans made major gains in the West Virginia Legislature in 2012.

These are just two of the potential pick up opportunities for the GOP. Seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina are all Democratic seats where the Republicans might have a chance to win. Not to mention Massachusetts if Senator John Kerry is appointed to the Cabinet and Scott Brown runs for the open seat. Others will need to have the incumbents retire (Iowa, Michigan and Montana in particular) and all the seats will need strong candidates recruited.

Speaking of recruiting, let’s get something out of the way. Republicans of all stripes; moderates, social conservatives, tea party and establishment lost in November in winnable seats. It wasn’t so much that one wing of the party or the other squandered the chance to pick up Senate seats, it was that bad candidates cost the GOP all over. After all in Montana, Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota Mitt Romney over performed our Senate candidates, some of them by substantial margins. Republicans in Washington, and those primary voters in the target states, are going to have to work together to recruit and nominate appeal candidates who can win in their states.

It will take winning 6 seats to recapture the Senate, a difficult though certainly not impossible task. If Republican recruiting efforts are as good as they’ve been in South Dakota and West Virginia, then the GOP might finally achieve the goal of winning both branches of the Congress.

Update: One of our regular readers, Marque, who is from West Virginia said this about the Senate race:

“Rahall isn’t so strong statewide, and locally he was given a serious run for his money by a plain ol’ general contractor. Senator Goodwin statewide would cause voters to emit a “Who?” The only person on the Dem bench with statewide profile and charisma would probably be state SOS Natalie Tenant. If Rockefeller retires (which seems unlikely to me, anyway) and Tenant jumps in, Capito might not have such a sure shot, IMHO.”

by @ 8:05 pm. Filed under 2014, Republican Party, Senate Races

November 24, 2012

Trashing the Brand Won’t Help the Republican Party or Those Doing It

As often happens  after an electoral defeat, the losing side is going through a period of soul-searching. Right now a whole variety of figures on the right are proposing their own remedies and solutions to help the Republicans out of our current rut. Some are suggesting changes in policy, others in style, and others are for hunkering down. Regardless of what prescription is the way the party will go forward, I feel that any sort of trashing of the GOP brand is the absolute wrong way to go.

By trashing the brand I am referring mostly right now to Governor Bobby Jindal who is calling on the Republicans to stop being the “stupid party”. Not only is this offensive to millions of Republican voters, activists and candidates but it is also very unhelpful to both the Party and to Governor Jindal himself. Firstly, by having a Republican refer to the GOP as the “stupid party”, it is giving the media further license to do so. We Republicans can be furious at the overt bias in the media, but it does exist and we have to adapt to dealing with it. Now the media can turn to every other Republican politician and ask “do you think the Republicans are the stupid party?” or “what is it about the GOP that makes it the stupid party?” It puts other Republicans in a very awkward spot and gives the left and the media (but I repeat myself) a new cudgel to whack the Republicans in the head with.

More important than just causing headaches, the big problem with trashing the Republican brand is that the public will start to hear it and believe it. A Republican politician denouncing the Republican Party is one of the things that can get into the public consciousness. That means that the next time we present a policy, the damage done to the Republican brand by Republican politicians will make it that much harder for Republicans to persuade the public on that policy.

If this is not enough to persuade politicians to stop tarnishing the Republican brand, then one thing above all should; self-interest. After all, attacking the Republican Party is very likely to alienate Republican voters who’ll decide who leads the party in 2016. Look at Jon Huntsman’s bid in 2012. The Ambassador’s disdain for his own party was extremely self-evident during his run for the nomination and Republican voters rewarded him for it by making him place third in the one state he competed in.

So, you may ask, how do we change without going after the Republican brand? It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but a skillful politician can do it. British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Bill Clinton are two examples of politicians who changed the image of their party without directly trashing their own parties. It caused some headaches and it was definitely a bumpy road, but the Democrats in 1992 and the Conservative Party in 2010 managed to persuade enough voters that their parties had changed to propel both back into power after long droughts.

With our defeat in 2012 the Republican Party does need to do some soul-searching. It’s the healthy and right thing to do as we look towards the future. But the idea that the only way we can move forward is by telling everyone how awful Republicans are is not the way to go. All the self-loathing will do is give more ammunition to those who have no interest in helping the Republican Party.

by @ 5:50 pm. Filed under Bobby Jindal, Republican Party

November 21, 2012

Romney Advisor Dan Senor on Morning Joe

In the interest of equal time…

by @ 8:00 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitt Romney, Republican Party

November 20, 2012

What Republicans and Hispanics Can Learn from the Jews

The back-and-forth carnage between Israelis and Palestinians appears to possibly be headed towards a (temporary) lull. As we reflect upon this harsh period of rockets and sorties, we cannot overlook one of Operation Pillar of Defense’s greatest bombshells: Credit where credit is due, President Obama and his administration have clearly articulated Israel’s right to self-defense and have only very tepidly urged any restraint.

This has no doubt been the most pro-Israel posture that this administration has taken during any trying period between our respective countries since Barack Obama took office. Perhaps Obama woke up after being reelected and suddenly recognized the wisdom of hawkish military operations initiated by Bibi Netanyahu, a man he implied was a liar and who subtly urged Americans to vote for Mitt Romney. But perhaps Obama’s changed attitude had –at least something- to do with American Politics 101.

Little noticed in Romney’s slaughter by minorities on November 6th was the fact that –even on a terrible night- he garnered 30% of the Jewish vote, the highest GOP share in 24 years. In the last 5 presidential elections, the GOP nominee garnered an average 18.4% of the Jewish vote.

How did Mitt Romney beat that number so significantly?

A close look reveals some crucial lessons for the GOP as it desperately attempts to gain ground among Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities. Jews have for long been a tough nut for Republicans to crack. A very large segment of American Jews descend from immigrants who arrived to major urban centers during the World War Two era, who saw FDR and labor unions as sacred cows to be idolized from generation to generation. Outside staunchly Orthodox circles, Jews’ outlook on life tends to lean to the left as well.

At the same time, Jews have shown a little-known openness to voting Republican in the mid-to-late 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush in 1988, all earned over 30% of the Jewish vote – but it was downhill from there. Bush 41’s share of the Jewish vote slid from 32% in 1988 to 11% in 1992 and the GOP never quite recovered from that until this year.

Yes, even George W. Bush, minority friendly and regarded by many Jews as the most pro-Israel president of their lifetime, could not get more than 24% of the Jewish vote against John Kerry in 2004. John McCain, another hawkish pro-Israel stalwart, could not get more than 22% against Barack Obama, a man with links to Palestinian sympathizers and notorious anti-Semites.

These numbers suggest that Bush 41 did heavy residual damage to the GOP brand. It is fair to say that the primary factors in this are Bush’s perceived weak support for Israel, and particularly his outspoken cool-to-Israel underlings such as Chief of Staff John Sununu and Secretary of State James Baker. Most importantly, you cannot underestimate the damage that Baker’s infamous comment, “(Expletive) the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway,” and Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” convention speech inflicted on the GOP image among Jews.

The Republicans and their Jewish allies have been playing catch-up ever since and it appears to have taken over a generation to have finally been corrected. (Jews remain overwhelmingly Democratic, but a much larger segment of them are at least open to voting for either party.) It took extensive grassroots outreach by Jewish Republicans, a staunchly pro-Israel Republican president for two terms and a Democratic president whose first term was more hostile to Israel and its leaders than any administration in memory for that to occur.

Additionally, it took a GOP ticket comprised of a northeastern Ivy League educated businessman from a historically persecuted religious minority and a soft spoken young Catholic from Wisconsin to finally make the sale. Fair or not, Sarah Palin hurt McCain’s prospects among Jews and polls showed, for instance, that Newt Gingrich fared worse than Romney among Jews despite his unflinching pro-Israel record. The ability to culturally relate to a candidate matters.

It takes a scenario as peculiar as Election 2000, when the fate of the presidency rested upon a sliver of Floridian votes, to have a swing among the Jewish vote decide a presidential election. However, even relatively mild swings among Hispanics can have an outsized influence on national elections, and Republicans would be wise to learn from their journey with the Jews to woo more of this demographic into their camp.

Like Jews, Hispanics have always voted solidly Democratic –even, as conservatives like to note, when pro-amnesty Ronald Reagan was the GOP nominee- but the GOP trajectory among the group was likewise headed upwards not all that long ago. Elections 2008 and 2012 saw the trajectory turn sharply downward, with a historic near-lethal resistance to national GOP candidates. No doubt, fierce GOP opposition to immigration reform in 2007, Arizona’s immigration law, and Romney’s heated anti-immigration stand during the primary scared off potential Hispanic GOP voters.

As Republicans scramble to win Hispanic support, they must bear in mind that it won’t be simple –or quick. Changing policy and tone regarding immigration will merely stop the damage. It can easily take a decade or more to go from Romney’s 27% of the Hispanic vote to the 40% or so earned by George W. Bush, and even longer to potentially gain parity. It will take years of aggressive community outreach and a series of culturally relatable GOP candidates –Hispanic or otherwise- to make significant inroads.

At the same time, Republicans can take heart that –like the Jews- Hispanics have historically shown a far greater openness to voting Republican than, say, African-Americans have. These voters are there for the taking. Even if Republicans will see little or no progress among Hispanics during the initial post-2012 cycles, they should not despair. Patience and perseverance will ultimately win the day.

For their part, Hispanic voters would be wise to listen to Obama’s new found courage on behalf of Israel and recognize the enviable clout they can gain if they show even a modest level of flexibility between the two major political parties.


-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.

by @ 3:00 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Mitt Romney, Republican Party

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