News from the Votemaster
Louisianans have gone to the polls and dealt Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) a crushing defeat, giving the governor's mansion to Democrat John Bel Edwards by a 56% to 44% margin. Vitter, who was enmeshed in a series of scandals involving his love life and his underhanded campaign tactics, concluded that the writing was on the wall. In his concession speech, he announced that "I've reached my personal term limit" and said he would not seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2016.
Vitter's decision, which was not entirely surprising, increases the chances that the Republicans will hold his seat in 2016. While the Democratic candidates—whomever they may turn out to be—will not be in a hopeless position, their chances would probably have been stronger against a damaged Vitter than they will be against a strong newcomer. It is also worth noting that the two other Republicans running for statewide office on Saturday—Lieutenant Governor-elect Billy Nungesser and Attorney General-elect Jeff Landry—also won by 56% to 44% margins. So, there was clearly a lot of ticket-splitting going on, and no real sign that red, red Louisiana is trending blue.
Beyond the impact on the 2016 Senate math, it is difficult to draw any broader conclusions from Vitter's defeat. All three statewide winners have political experience, so this election was not a rejection of "insider" candidates. Similarly, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of Vitter's last-minute attempt to curry favor by promising to bar Syrian refugees from the state. Because Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) ended his presidential campaign on Tuesday, Lousiana's already-thin press corps was divided between two major news stories this week, and Vitter's declaration did not get the attention he had hoped for. Insiders believe that Jindal's timing was not coincidental, as he and Vitter despise one another, but in any case there is no clear indication that Louisiana voters either rewarded or punished Vitter for his stance. As such, we can expect the status quo to hold steady on that front, with the GOP presidential candidates and most of Congress remaining opposed to the admission of Syrian refugees, and the Democratic presidential candidates and President Obama remaining in favor.
The race to fill Vitter's Senate seat in 2017 has already started. Louisiana representatives Charles Boustany and John Fleming, state Treasurer John Kennedy, and other Republicans are champing at the bit. The only Democrat with a chance is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, but Landrieu passed on a gubernatorial bid this year and might pass on the Senate as well. No matter who runs, remember that Louisiana is a very red state and remains so. Vitter's defeat was a rejection of him personally, not a rejection of the Republican Party. (Z)
Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have been arguing about health care all week. Clinton spoke in South Carolina yesterday and defended the ACA, saying she wants to build upon it, not replace it. In contrast, Sanders prefers a single-payer health care system, like Canada has. Sanders admits that taxes would have to go up to pay for it but says that people would be better off because there would not be any premiums or deductibles to pay.
The Democratic primaries are so different from the Republican ones that it is like they are in different countries. Clinton and Sanders both have plans that are plausible and could be implemented and they are each trying to convince the voters that theirs is better. That is the way politics is supposed to work. In contrast, the Republicans are arguing about whether Muslims should have to register with the federal government, which is both unconstitutional and unworkable. Except maybe for taxes, where all the candidates want multitrillion-dollar tax cuts, actual discussions of policy issues where the candidates differ and where each candidate claims to have the best plan are almost completely absent. If a candidate is against admitting Syrian refugees but so are all the other candidates, why should someone vote for that candidate? It doesn't matter who is nominated if they all want the same things. (V)
Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, as expected, but she is also putting in a lot of time in the states that vote in March and is trying to push her total fundraising to $100 million by the end of the year. All this activity is a clear sign that she wants to have a commanding lead of actual delegates by the beginning of April, effectively making her the nominee even if Sanders stays in the race until the convention.
In addition to making appearances in the early-voting states, Clinton has dispatched highly visible surrogates to help her, including Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-VT) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). In contrast, both Sanders and Martin O'Malley are betting everything on Iowa and not making much of an effort in the Super Tuesday states that vote on March 1, as Clinton is. Both of them realize that if Clinton wins Iowa, they are in deep trouble because a Sanders win in New Hampshire will be discounted because he is a neighbor. After New Hampshire come Nevada and South Carolina, where Clinton has huge leads and then Super Tuesday. So Clinton can afford to lose Iowa but the others really can't. This explains their differing strategies. (V)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who is running to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate, was supposed to be a shoo-in. It's not working that way. Her campaign is in turmoil and she just fired her campaign manager. Two finance directors have already left this year and the campaign's burn rate is double that of her main challenger, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). In short, things are not going well for Harris. Nevertheless, much of the party establishment is on her side, so she is not finished yet. California has a Louisiana-style jungle primary, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election. Most observers think that Harris and Sanchez will face off in the general election, with no Republican in the race then. (V)
Another day, another controversial statement from Ben Carson. Speaking to a group of black lawmakers and activists on Saturday, Carson was asked about racially-biased police, and declared that "I'm still waiting for the evidence." He might want to peruse the recent Justice Department report on that subject, or perhaps read Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. In any event, one wonders what Carson was thinking in making that assertion before that particular audience, since he was not only booed, but was also immediately confronted with several different examples of racially-biased policing, forcing him to back off his position on the fly. Surely there can be no further question that Carson has no real support in the black community, and that his polling numbers are driven almost entirely by conservative white voters who are happy to hear a black man saying what they were already thinking.
The bad news for Carson, if he was hoping to be president—which is itself a big assumption—is that conservative white voters also tend to be national security hawks, and the doctor has not performed well on that front since the Paris attacks. His polling numbers are dropping, both nationally and in Iowa. The beneficiary of Carson's decline seems to be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who also says things that make white conservatives happy, while also being more credible on national security. In short, Carson looks to be on the same trajectory as Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain—little more than a passing fad. (Z)
In Iowa and elsewhere, Republican are very afraid that their world is collapsing. Immigrants are taking their jobs and getting government handouts. ISIS terrorists could kill them. Racial tensions are everywhere. Gay marriage is legal. The world they have known is being turned upside down and they are very upset. The story linked to above has quotes from ordinary people like:
- Just give it all to the Muslims and we can be their subjects
- We are willing to pander to anyone, as long as it is not a Christian conservative
- Is it going to get to the point where we all have to watch every word we say for fear of offending someone?
Many of these people are conservative Republicans and they are fed up with the Republican leadership. This is why candidates like Donald Trump are doing well. He is not a conventional politician with a 14-point program to improve the economy a little bit. He is as angry at the Republican establishment as they are. When people are scared, they sometimes vote for an authoritarian leader who promises to make everything right again, even though a rational person would say no one can turn back the tide. (V)
Following the election of Republican Matt Bevin to the Kentucky governorship, much of the commentariat wondered what Kentucky's poorest voters were thinking. Kentucky's Obamacare exchange, KyNect, was one of the most successful in the nation, and Bevin has promised to dismantle it. Ergo, it appears that a great many poor Kentuckians voted to take their own health insurance away.
The New York Times' Alec MacGillis has examined the question, and reached what seems to be a sensible conclusion. He makes a statistical case that Kentucky's poorest voters simply did not show up to the polls, and that the people who elected Bevin were those on the next-highest rung of the economic ladder: middle-class and lower-middle-class voters who are resentful of their poorer brethren getting a "free ride." He discusses, as an example, 43-year-old nurse Pamela Dougherty, who took advantage of welfare programs in order to recover from a divorce and get a nursing degree. She landed a job at a kidney dialysis center, but became irritated at the sense of entitlement and lack of initiative she perceived among her patients. Thus, despite having benefited from Democratic programs earlier in her life, she is a staunch Bevin supporter.
MacGillis suggests two important lessons for Democrats. The first is that the party has to make sure to get the beneficiaries of its programs to the polls. The second is that the party has to find a way to reduce the resentment that middle-class voters feel about various entitlement programs. And so, he may have done more in 2,500 words than the DNC was able to do in 18 pages. Another way of putting this is that when the Republicans frame the debate as the middle class and the rich against the lazy poor, the Republicans win. When the Democrats manage to frame the debate as the poor and the middle class against the greedy rich, the Democrats win. In Kentucky, the Republicans got it right. (Z)
Maybe it is a coincidence, but the signup period of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "ObamaCare") for 2017 begins Oct. 1, 2016, just five weeks before the presidential election. The scenario will be pretty clear. Democrats will be saying: "Be sure to sign up." Republicans will be saying: "We intend to kill ObamaCare." That will put the health insurance law in the spotlight just before the election. It will also make the stakes fairly clear for the tens of millions of people who got insurance through the exchanges the Republicans want to abolish. If the Republicans don't have an alternative plan by then, it may be a tough sell to tell people if elected you will take away their health insurance. On the other hand, it worked in Kentucky, so maybe it could work nationally.V)Email a link to a friend or share:
Nov21 CNN Announces Polling Thresholds for the Dec. 15 Debate
Nov21 Runoff Election in Louisiana is Today
Nov21 How Do the Paris Attacks Affect Individual Candidates
Nov21 What to Do About Islamophobia?
Nov21 Refugees are Not the Problem
Nov21 The Media is to Blame for the Media Circus
Nov20 Nationally, Trump Still Ahead By a Wide Margin
Nov20 Trump Would Require All Muslims to Register with the Government
Nov20 Can Trump Survive the Establishment Onslaught?
Nov20 Rubio Gets Another Big Donor, at Jeb Bush's Expense
Nov20 Both Parties Pretend to Write Laws Addressing Terrorism
Nov20 Cruz and Rubio Begin Attacking Each Other on Terrorism
Nov20 Carson Unveils His ISIS Plan
Nov20 Carson Compares Syrian Refugees to Mad Dogs
Nov20 Mayors Fight Governors on Refugees
Nov19 Rubio Skips Intelligence Briefing for Fundraiser
Nov19 Catholic Bishops Declare Same-sex Marriage To Be an Intrinsic Evil
Nov19 Obama Says Republicans Are Helping ISIS Recruit New Terrorists
Nov19 Republicans All Striking a Pose
Nov19 Democrats Can Also Be Jingoistic
Nov19 Paris Terrorists Communicated Using Unencrypted Text Messages
Nov19 Democrats Release Autopsy of the 2014 Elections
Nov19 Republicans Have a New Hampshire Problem
Nov19 Seattle Adopts Voucher System for Political Contributions
Nov18 Jindal Calls It Quits
Nov18 Latinos Don't Like Republicans
Nov18 Carson's Advisers Say He Doesn't Understand Foreign Policy
Nov18 Clinton Picks Up Major Union Endorsement
Nov18 Vitter Trailing in Louisiana Gubernatorial Race
Nov18 Salt Lake City Elects an Openly Lesbian Mayor
Nov18 Words Matter, Part II: Terrorism
Nov17 Steve King Endorses Ted Cruz
Nov17 Will the Paris Attacks Really Be a Game Changer?
Nov17 Words Matter, Part I: Declaring War
Nov17 The World Is Not As Dangerous As You Think
Nov17 O'Malley Reduces Headquarters Staff
Nov17 Poll: Americans Like Old Presidents
Nov17 Interested in a Sane Horse Race Debate Right Now?
Nov16 Polls: Clinton Won the Debate
Nov16 Republicans Urge Aggressive Action after Attacks on Paris
Nov16 Can Donald Trump Survive?
Nov16 Can Ben Carson Survive?
Nov16 Democrats Wish Trump and Carson Would Survive
Nov16 Trump's Wall Would Not Be the Only One
Nov16 The General Election Campaigns Are Pointless
Nov16 Marco Likes Susana
Nov15 Democratic Debate a Draw
Nov15 Clinton Has 359 Delegates Months Before the Voting Starts
Nov15 Paris Attacks Already Reshaping Presidential Race