News from the Votemaster
Heidi Heitkamp Wins North Dakota Senate Seat
Republican Rick Berg has conceded defeat in a very close Senate race for an open seat in North Dakota. Former state Attorney General, Heidi Heitkamp, will replace the retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) in a surprising victory for a Democrat in a deep red state. Heitkamp ran a top-notch retail campaign and in such a small state, probably talked to nearly every voter personally. She rarely talked about national issues, preferring to explain how she could bring home more bacon than Berg. North Dakotans bought it. She is the first female senator from North Dakota. Her win brings the number of women in the Senate to 20, an all-time high. Here is the list of women in the new Senate.
If we break this down by the senator's party and who won the senator's state, we have 12 Democratic senators from states Obama won, four Democratic senators from states Romney won, two Republican senators from states Romney won, and two Republican senators from states Obama won. Senators from parties that lost their states are clearly vulnerable in the next election. These are Mary Landrieu, Claire McCaskill, Kay Hagan, Heidi Heitkamp, Susan Collins, and Kelly Ayotte. They also have to be careful about voting in the Senate, because any votes they make according to their party's wishes can be used against them in the next campaign.
Florida Hasn't Been Called Yet
President Obama won the in-person votes in Florida by 47,000, 49.86% to 49.29%, but the number of absentee and provisional ballots exceeds that total, so they must all be counted. That process is going on now. Fortunately, the election results don't hinge on it. Can you imagine another national election where the results depended on a disputed hand count of ballots in Florida? Nevertheless, state officials are striving for a quick and accurate final tally. Many of the absentee ballots are from populous counties that went big for Obama on Tuesday: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, and Pinellas. Four small, but Republican-oriented counties, Duval, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Putnam also have absentee ballots that have not yet been counted.
Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy Has Hit a Demographic Wall
When Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he said that he understood he was turning the South over the Republicans for a generation, but it was the right thing to do, so he signed the Act. Actually, Johnson underestimated the effect. Two generations later, the South, which had been a Democratic bastion for 100 years, is still solidly Republican. But Nixon's fundamental strategy of appealing to racist white men is being undone by demographics. White voters comprised 72% of the electorate this year, down from 74% in 2008 and 77% in 2004. It is expected to be around 70% in 2016 and below that in 2020. About 89% of Mitt Romney's votes came from white voters, but as whites shrink as a percentage of the electorate, Nixon's strategy of making coded appeals to racism is becoming a major problem. Witness the enormous discussion about Obama's birth place. It is just coded racism. John McCain was not born in the United States. He freely admits that. He is a Zonian. But Democrats never made a big deal about it or alleged he was ineligible to be President even though the Constitution is vague about what consitutes a "natural-born" citizen.
Case in point: Prince William County in Virginia. It used to be rural countryside where Republican politicians went to reap white votes. No more. It is now the first majority-minority county in Virginia and the seventh richest county in the country. Democrats now flock here to seek votes. Similar changes have taken place in Colorado and other states. The Republicans are gradually seeing that they must do something about their demographic problem, but change is complicated by the rise of the tea party, whose motto seems to be "just say no." It is hard to change when a large piece of your party is very resistant to accepting the new reality in many ways.
The Democrats are keenly aware of the changes the nation is experiencing. For the first time in history, white men will form a minority of the House Democratic caucus. The women and minorities in the caucus will not let the party leaders forget this, not that it was likely with the President being (half) black, the House minority leader being a woman, and the official head of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also being a woman. Of the four top positions, only Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is a white man. In contrast, the Republican nominee for President and the top three Republican officials, Reince Priebus, Mitch McConell, and John Boehner, are all older white men.
Liberals Did Well on Tuesday
Although Republicans like to say the United States is center-right country, liberals did quite well in this year's election. Among other things:
- The new Democratic Senate caucus will be more liberal than the current one
- Same-sex marriage was approved in three states and an attempt to ban it was defeated in one
- Tea party superstars Allen West and Joe Walsh were beaten in House races
- An openly lesbian woman, Tammy Baldwin, was elected to the Senate
- A rising tea party star, Mia Love, was defeated in a House race
- Billionaires spent close to a billion dollars and got nothing to show for it
- The use of marijuana for recreational use was approved in Colorado and Washington
- The much-maligned 18-29 year-olds showed up in great numbers and 60% voted Democratic
The first point may need a bit of explanation. Here is a list of new Democratic senators who are more liberal than their predecessors.
|State||New senator||Old senator|
|Connecticut||Chris Murphy (D)||Joe Lieberman (I)|
|Indiana||Joe Donnelly (D)||Richard Lugar (R)|
|Maine||Angus King (I)||Olympia Snowe (R)|
|Massachusetts||Elizabeth Warren (D)||Scott Brown (R)|
|Virginia||Tim Kaine (D)||Jim Webb (D)|
|Wisconsin||Tammy Baldwin (D)||Herb Kohl (D)|
The only new Republican who is more conservative than his predecessor is senator-elect Ted Cruz of Texas. Although his predecessor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, had a moderate demeanor, in practice, she rarely crossed her party.
Puerto Rico Wants to Be a State
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens although the ones living in Puerto Rico cannot vote in U.S. elections. Puerto Ricans who are permanent residents of one of the 50 states of D.C. can simply register to vote there. If Obama wins Florida, a good part of his victory will be due to Puerto Ricans living in the central part of the state.
Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth that also had elections Tuesday. A new governor was elected, for example. Of more interest to U.S. residents, however, were two ballot initiatives. The first one asked if residents wanted to change their current status as a commonwealth. The second asked if they were to change it, should Puerto Rico become an independent country or a state of the United States. The winning propositions were (1) yes, it's time for a new arrangement and (2) Puerto Ricans would like to have the island become a state, like Hawaii.
Since Puerto Ricans are generally Democrats, becoming a new state would mean two new Democratic senators. If D.C. were to become a state, that would mean four new Democratic senators. It should not be hard to guess how a bill in Congress to grant either of them statehood would play out. But if Harry Reid were to bring the matter up and Republicans were to filibuster it, the Republicans would become even less popular with Latinos than they already are.
Senate Races in 2012 Will Affect 2014
The unexpected Democratic gains in the Senate have implications for 2014. At the start of this year, just about all observers assumed the Democrats would either lose their majority this year, or would reduce it so much that they would lose it in 2014. After all they had 23 seats up for grabs this year and the Republicans had only 10 as a result of the Democratic wave of 2008. In 2014, the Democrats will have 20 seats up for reelection to the Republicans' 13. While not quite as bad, in some ways it is worse since at least four of the seats are vulnerable because they are in red states. Other factors play a role, of course, including seniority and raw power. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is in much more danger than Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) because Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which writes the nation's tax laws. It is an immensely powerful position and campaign donors act accordingly.
None of the Republicans' seats are vulnerable, unless one of the senators loses a primary to a tea party candidate. It is not standard practice for the DNC to provide financial aid to tea party candidates in primaries, but given recent history, anyone proposing the idea to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz might get a serious hearing. Here is the list of Senate seats up in 2014.
Now that Heidi Heitkamp has won the last undecided Senate race, the Democrats will have 55 seats in the Senate, assuming Maine senator Angus King caucuses with them as expected. Simple arithmetic shows that the Democrats can afford to lose four seats in 2014 and still hang onto their majority. In fact, they could lose five seats and still have a working majority since the President of the Senate will still be Joe Biden until Jan. 20, 2017.
Unless the tea party manages to install a candidate who can't win in one of the races, the only realistic hope the Democrats have of winning a Republican seat is Susan Collins' seat. She is personally popular and in contrast to the retiring Olympia Snowe, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, definitely middle class and very folksy. But Maine is a blue state and the Democrats have two House members who are well known, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, who could run against here. Pingree might have the advantage because Democratic women who like the idea of having a female senator, could switch allegiance easily. Pingree was going to run for the seat Angus King just won until DSCC chairwoman Patty Murray pleaded with her not to, to avoid splitting the vote with King. Murray owes her one now. Pingree wouldn't run attack ads against Collins, since she is so popular, but could effectively run against Mitch McConnell with the slogan: "We can't let them take over the Senate."
The five-seat majority gives majority leader Harry Reid some flexibility. Republicans are likely to try to force votes just for the purpose of making Democrats get on record supporting things unpopular in red states. With votes to spare, Reid could allow up to five vulnerable Democrats vote against the party line, thus sparing them attack ads in 2 years.Email a link to a friend or share:
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