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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Understanding Our Hollow Centrists

The puzzling thing about politicians of either party who claim to be "centrist" or "moderate" is how much they sometimes sound like party-line right-wing Republicans.

A Commentary By Joe Conason

Distinguishing among these species of politicians can be almost impossible during the current struggle over health care reform, especially when a senator like Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Arkansas tries to explain herself.

Like so many of the Republicans they try to emulate, the conservative Democrats claim to worry about spending and deficits -- except with respect to programs that benefit them, their favorite constituents or the lobbyists who pay their campaign expenses.

Facing re-election and plummeting poll numbers, Lincoln voted to commence debate last weekend. But then she turned around and warned that she would probably join a Republican filibuster against the Democratic health reform bill. Why? Because the Democratic legislation, favored by a clear majority, is likely to include a public option.

Last July, Lincoln published an essay on the op-ed page of the largest daily paper in Arkansas that stated clearly why a public option should be part of a broader reform plan: "Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."

That makes perfect sense in her state, where Blue Cross-Blue Shield controls 75 percent of the insurance market, and throughout much of the South, where similar monopoly conditions prevail.

But over the summer, Lincoln and certain other members of her party were simultaneously spooked by low poll numbers and persuaded by big insurance and pharmaceutical donations. So more recently, she has learned to parrot the Republican talking points about the public option and the general topic of health care. The fact that those talking points are largely untrue doesn't seem to trouble her or the other nominally Democratic senators who have likewise threatened to join the filibuster.

"For some in my caucus, when they talk about a public option, they're talking about another entitlement program, and we can't afford that right now as a nation. ... I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that," she has said.

Yet if Lincoln has actually read the Democratic health care bill -- and the analysis provided by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office -- then she knows that none of those complaints are valid. The public option is not an entitlement program, although the health care bill will provide subsidies to help families that cannot afford health insurance to buy either public or private plans.

Second, the public option proposed in either the Senate or House versions of the bill would not be funded solely by the government, because both bills require the plan to be supported fully through premiums paid by the insured.

Third, the proposed bill is not only deficit-neutral but is estimated to reduce the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades.

Now, of course, Lincoln -- just like her fellow self-proclaimed moderates -- is well aware of all those basic aspects of the bill because she insists that she has read every word. Still, she tells the world that we cannot afford real reform.

What can we afford? According to these worthy senators, we can afford to spend a million dollars per soldier to send another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan -- an amount that would add up over the coming decade to approximately $400 billion, with no obvious benefit. And according to Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, we can afford to spend $14 billion a year or more on subsidies that mainly enrich corporate farms and wealthy growers. Back home in Phillips County, Ark., for example, where her family owns considerable acreage in rice and soybeans, big farmers have cashed U.S. government checks totaling more than $300 million over the past 10 years.

So when these centrists warn that we cannot afford health care reform, double-check their facts -- and ask why they prefer to spend tax dollars on wasteful wars and corporate subsidies rather than health care for every American.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kaine Explains Why Deeds Strategy Failed

Tim Kaine Explains Why The Creigh Deeds Strategy Failed And Warns Blue Dogs That Deeds' Fate Awaits Them.

To be kind, Obama's DNC head, Tim Kaine, isn't exactly from the Howard Dean mold and doesn't quite represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Generally speaking, the outgoing governor of Virginia represents the Establishment or, in Paul Krugman's words about his kind of Democrats, "corporate tools, defending special interests." What he has in common with Dean, though, is that he's smart and he likes to win. There aren't many people better positioned to analyze the spectacular defeat earlier this month of conservative Democrat Creigh Deeds to succeed him in the governor's mansion. Deeds turned Obama's startling 6-point win in Virginia last year into an 18-point ass-whooping this year. How did he do what Republicans haven't been able to accomplish?

Kaine admitted Deeds was "unable to energize his base, falling into a Republican trap that led him to shrink from the president and his policies," exactly what Blue Dogs and cowardly conservative Democrats are doing across the country, where quasi-Democrats like John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and John Adler (D-NJ) are preparing to cede their seats to Republicans by re-enacting Deeds' catastrophic campaign strategy.

In a meeting with editors and reporters of the Washington Post, Kaine (D) said Deeds squandered the opportunity to sell his own appealing life story as a guy who had overcome long odds and economic disadvantage. Instead, the rural state senator took the advice of campaign consultants who wrongly assumed Deeds's Democratic support was solid and believed he should instead focus on wooing independents by attacking Republican Robert F. McDonnell.

"After the [June] primary was done, his advisers basically said, distance yourself from the president. We think we have our base locked down, we've got to win independents. And we're going to win by being negative about McDonnell," Kaine said. "That was the basic strategy they pursued, despite some significant urging to the contrary."

Asked about his own advice to Deeds, who lost to McDonnell on Nov. 3 by 17 percentage points, Kaine said: "I'd rather not talk about my personal conversations. But what I will say is that I always believed from the very beginning that the paradigm in Virginia had changed and that the way to win the race was to energize voters who had demonstrated they would vote for Democrats. That I did advise him very, very early. I advised all the candidates, prior to the primary, that was a path to victory."

When Deeds declared he would opt out of the public option-- the public option being a winner nationally and an overwhelming winner among Democrats-- he opted out of any chance for a victory. What Deeds did was completely de-incentivize the Democratic base to turn out-- why bother if he's just going to be the same piece of crap as the Republican?-- and not only doomed his own chances but killed Democrats in state legislative races where a strong turnout from the base was essential.

Now, look at that motley list of supposed Democrats above. Let's start with their overall voting records this session. These are the ProgressivePunch rankings of substantive votes this year:

John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- 29.41

Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL)- 17.65, worse than 3 conservative Republicans!

Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)- 25.29

Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)- 25.49

Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)- 23.53

Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)- 29.41

Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)- 34.00

John Adler (D-NJ)- 38.00

All of these "Democrats" vote far more frequently with the Republicans than they do with their fellow Democrats-- especially on the important issues that are meaningful to people's lives. Remember Krugman's words. He was talking about this crew: "corporate tools, defending special interests." It describes each and every one of them. On top of that, let's take a look at how they voted on two issues that are of the utmost importance to the Democratic base-- the ones who propelled Obama to victory, gave both houses of Congress to the Democrats, and are essential if any of these galoots hopes to not repeat what happened to Creigh Deeds and last year's most pathetic losers, Don Cazayoux (Blue Dog-LA) and Nick Lampson (Blue Dog-TX). Both votes came up 2 weeks ago on the same extraordinary Saturday session, one to make it more difficult for women to exercise their constitutional right to reproductive choice and the other for the highly popular health care reform bill.

Among the 64 Democrats voting against women were Boehner Boys Barrow, Bright, Childers, and Griffith. And among the 39 Democrats to cross the aisle and vote with Republicans against health care reform were Adler, an egregious Insurance Industry shill, Barrow, Bright, Childers, Griffith, Kratovil, and Nye. Although these corrupt members are already looking forward to their lives as K Street lobbyists, Kaine is hoping more reasonable conservative Democrats-- like himself-- will take the right lesson from Deeds' massacre and "be more supportive of Obama's policies, not less, as they contemplate their reelection efforts next year."

Kaine said the key to victory for Democrats in a highly competitive Virginia is recognizing that party members need not be "apologetic" about their affiliation to find success. He noted that about 200,000 more people voted in the Democratic primary for president on a frigid February day in 2008 than cast ballots for Deeds this year, and said McDonnell successfully spooked Deeds by suggesting that Virginians had grown anxious about the Democratic agenda.

"I think the issue of being nervous about the Virginia electorate was overdone and I think Creigh did exactly what the McDonnell campaign hoped he would do, which was distance himself from the president and national issues," Kaine said.

We are running an ongoing campaign to replace Blue Dogs with real Democrats, and we are already in gear with Regina Thomas and Marcy Winograd, respectively running against John Barrow and Jane Harman. Are these the kinds of people-- regardless of what party they happen to claim they're in-- you want to see in leadership positions in our country?

Deeds did much poorer than his Democratic predecessors, outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine and former Gov. (now Sen.) Mark Warner, in most of the state. Up front no one would have dreamed such a poor campaign could be waged. Even a sensible candidate with no money would have done better. Deeds had Millions of dollars to throw away, Millions of dollars and not one appealing idea.

Democrats should be concerned about low turnout of core constituencies including minorities and younger voters (these groups often vote at much lower rates in off-year elections). They also must worry about independent white voters, especially men, who had helped Democrats retake the House and Senate in 2006 and had given Obama a decent proportion of support in 2008 but largely abandoned Deeds in areas like Fairfax and Loudon counties in Northern Virginia.

Where Deeds got absolutely crushed, though, was in Appalachian Virginia -- the western and southwestern part of the state. An area called Deeds Country by the Deeds campaign, What a Joke? This should concern national Democrats for three reasons. First, Deeds is an Appalachian Virginian himself, yet outside of his home base of Bath County and next-door Alleghany County, he was beaten silly in his home region, losing by proportions of 2-1 and 3-1 in many counties.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sabato Looks at the 2010 Elections

Larry Joseph Sabato (born August 7, 1952) is the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia (Richmond Campus), director of their Center for Politics, and a political analyst. He also founded Sabato's Crystal Ball, an online newsletter and website that provides free political analysis and electoral projections. He has been called "the most-quoted college professor in the land.

Now that we've put the 2009 races to bed, we can start to focus heavily on 2010. Since June, some critical Senate contests have undergone a transformation of sorts. We still don't know the status of them all, since a few critical candidacy decisions remain to be made. But overall, the picture is getting clearer for the 36 Senate contests to be decided in 2010 (38 if you add the Massachusetts special to be held in January and the Texas special that might be held in May).

Let's stress this from the outset: Democrats will almost certainly retain control of the Senate. Some bloggers aside, few of the top analysts on the Republican side question this conclusion. The GOP's real hope is to cut the Democratic margin by a few seats, so that they can regain the power to stop legislation (assuming they stick together--a giant "if"). And this will be a significant development, should it happen. As we can already see, Senate Democrats can have difficulty passing major legislation even with 60 seats. There are some moderate Democrats who can easily defect, such as Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). In addition, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is probably best described as a Republocrat. (So ironic, isn't it, given his vice presidential bid on Al Gore's 2000 ticket.)

Remember, any 2010 analysis must start with the seats not up in 2010. The Democrats will automatically retain 41 seats and Republicans 21--that is, these 62 seats aren't on the 2010 ballot. Given Vice President Biden's tie-breaking vote, Democrats need to win a mere 9 seats in 2010 to retain control, and just to begin with, they have 10 reasonably secure incumbents on the ballot. By contrast, the Republicans would have to win 30 seats to take the Senate, which would require holding all their own seats plus capturing 11 currently Democratic seats.

Let's get real. That's not going to happen unless there is a complete collapse on the Democratic side.

The election results in 2010 will add seats to each column. Democrats and Republicans have an equal number of seats up in 2010 (19 Democratic, 19 Republican). This gives the Democrats a large head start in retaining control since, in order to take the chamber, the GOP would have to sweep every competitive contest and make some currently uncompetitive races into major upsets.

First, the GOP has a big job on its hands just holding its seven open seats in FL, KS, KY, MO, NH, OH, and TX. Kansas is a near-certainty for Republicans, regardless of which U.S. House member is nominated in the party primary; the current sense in GOP circles is that Congressman Jerry Moran is the likely nominee over Congressman Todd Tiahrt.

Florida looks likely for the GOP, though Gov. Charlie Crist is no longer the unassailable frontrunner. Conservatives much prefer former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is backed by allies of former Gov. Jeb Bush (and eventually, Bush himself). Either Crist or Rubio would be the November favorite over Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek.

Right now, the Republican nominee would have to be slated as a slight favorite in conservative, anti-Obama Kentucky, if the nominee's name is Secretary of State Trey Grayson--who has a serious primary battle with well-funded Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. This tiny tilt in Grayson's direction assumes the primary doesn't damage him too much, if he wins at all. It is too early to assess Paul as a general election candidate, though Kentucky Democrats believe they could defeat him. As for the Democrats, they have two potentially competitive candidates in
Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, though Mongiardo shot himself in both feet and several other places in a recent profane recorded conversation where he attacked Gov. Steve Beshear (D). Beshear had endorsed
Mongiardo, but the lieutenant governor was angry that Beshear was soaking up the available campaign cash for himself. ("I am close to saying f--- it all...I do not need this job...a U.S. Senate seat," exclaimed Mongiardo.) Despite this embarrassment, Mongiardo still leads Conway in the primary. Many Democrats fondly remember that Mongiardo nearly defeated U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R) in 2004.

In two other states where a Republican senator is retiring, New Hampshire and Ohio, the likely GOP nominees (ex-Congressman Rob Portman and ex-state attorney general Kelly Ayotte) are somewhere between slight favorite and even-money bet, depending on whose polls and analysis you believe. Portman will likely face Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), while Ayotte's opponent will be Congressman Paul Hodes (D). Democrats are confident they can elect Fisher and Hodes, but the Buckeye and Granite States are sensitive barometers of the national drift, which could be in the GOP's direction in 2010.

In Texas, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison--who is in a tough March GOP gubernatorial primary with incumbent Rick Perry--had long said she would resign her Senate seat this fall. Last weekend she announced a change in plans, saying
she would resign in March, after the primary. We'll see. If she loses to Perry, Hutchison can change her mind again, since her seat isn't up until 2012, and many Texans would not want to lose her considerable Senate seniority. The Lone Star State normally leans Republican, but without knowing (1) exactly when--or even whether--Hutchison will resign, or (2) the identity of Gov. Rick Perry's interim appointee, if there is one, or (3) the number of other Republicans who will run, or (4) the name of the Democratic opponent for Hutchison's seat, it is impossible to rate. We'll revisit this seat once the circumstances become clearer.

If 2010 becomes a solidly GOP midterm election, it's possible, even likely, that the Republicans could sweep all seven of their open seats. But the seven represent broad exposure in widely different states, so even top Republicans privately worry that they will lose one or two.

Most GOP Senate incumbents appear robust politically, but there are two potentially competitive contests. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) still has not overcome some of the negative effects of his prostitution scandal, and Democratic Congressman Charles Melancon might be able to make Vitter sweat. It's also still possible that another senior Republican (such as Secretary of State Jay Dardenne) will challenge Vitter in the party primary. Vitter's innate advantage is that the Bayou State has become increasingly anti-Obama and, post-Hurricane Katrina, tilted to the GOP. Many African-Americans who were forced to leave New Orleans and resettle in other states may never return. In 2008, Barack Obama received a mere 14% of the white vote in Louisiana--a figure that underlines the challenge for any statewide Democratic candidate.

In North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has dodged the toughest Democratic challengers. Most recently, Congressman Bob Etheridge (D) turned aside national party pressure, and refused to run. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall may well be the Democratic nominee. It is a surprise that stronger Democrats aren't jousting to be the nominee since this seat has changed party hands every six years since 1974. Burr has the burden of beating this remarkable curse. Burr's personal and job approval ratings are consistently mediocre, not so much from built-in dislike of him as from a lack of knowledge about him. Burr is widely viewed as competent yet also very low-profile.

Obviously, Republicans hope to make up for any losses in GOP-held seats by defeating incumbent Democrats or taking open Democratic seats in Delaware, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Congressman Mike Castle (R-DE) has caused GOP hopes to soar with his decision to run the Senate race against state Attorney General Beau Biden (D), Vice President Biden's son. The moderate Castle leads the early polls, though not by much. Delaware has become a solidly Democratic state, and the Biden family (plus the Obama White House) will pull out all the stops to support the Biden dynasty.

The GOP appears to have an even chance in Illinois with moderate Congressman Mark Kirk (R). The Democratic frontrunner is state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, though he has real competition from Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson and possibly former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman. This is President Obama's former Senate seat, and so as in Delaware, we can expect the White House--full of Chicago pols--to do everything within its power to keep the seat Democratic.

Republicans have no chance at all in the Bay State. The Massachusetts Democratic primary field is plentiful, and the eventual Democratic nominee is all but guaranteed to retain Ted Kennedy's seat. Attorney General Martha Coakley is the heavy frontrunner in the December primary, with Congressman Michael Capuano and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca in the hunt. Pagliuca is worth $400 million, which doesn't hurt, but he is a former Republican with a spotty voting record--clear vulnerabilities in a Democratic primary. Capuano is running to the left of Coakley, trying to position himself as Kennedy's ideological successor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former state first lady Kitty Dukakis have endorsed Capuano.

There are several Democratic incumbents who look to be vulnerable in 2010. Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT) has a plateful of problems, not least that he is identified with the banking system at a time when "banker" is even more unpopular than "lawyer". Even Ralph Nader is considering an independent run for Dodd's seat. For the Republicans, former Congressman Rob Simmons (R) is a respectable challenger. However, others are running for the GOP nod, and we don't completely rule out the possibility that an out-of-the-box GOP candidate like wealthy World Wide Wresting CEO Linda McMahon could upset Simmons in the primary. A wrestler has a natural advantage in politics--and today's Senate.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-turned-D) may or may not be nominated by his new party, and Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak is a tough foe, though currently behind Specter in the primary polls. Despite the backing of President Obama and Governor Ed Rendell (D), Democrats aren't sure Specter is actually one of them--and the left is enthusiastically supporting Sestak. Awaiting either Specter or Sestak in the fall is former Congressman Pat Toomey (R), originally not considered an especially threatening contender but, if the GOP has a sweep in '10, a possible

Should Gov. John Hoeven (R) decide to challenge Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), then Dorgan would face his strongest foe ever. Hoeven leads in early match-ups, though Dorgan will stress his seniority in the majority party caucus for his small state. A Dorgan-Hoeven contest would become a headliner small-state Senate battle, with many millions spent to influence a relative handful of voters.

In Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) cannot feel secure when early polls show her weak in a state John McCain carried in a massive landslide. Several Razorback Republican candidates are running and state Sen. Gilbert Baker may be the early favorite. National Republicans smell blood in the water here. Lincoln's vote on health care reform is sure to make her many enemies on either the left or the right.

Probably the biggest surprise in Democratic vulnerability is Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Majority Leader. It is the top Senate position that has Reid in trouble--the "Daschle effect," referring to the 2004 defeat of Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Conservative states do not seem to take well to their senators serving as a partisan battering ram for the liberal party. In early polls Reid is losing handily to two second-tier GOP candidates, real estate developer and son of a legendary basketball coach Danny Tarkanian and GOP state chair Sue Lowden, the likely eventual nominee. Yet no one should cavalierly write off the wily, long-term incumbent. Reid has raised over $11 million and already is airing reelection TV ads. He will almost certainly set a spending record for Nevada, and he will have every resource the Obama White House can supply him.

Rounding out the list of potential Democratic vulnerabilities are two appointive senators, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Bennet was the surprise choice by Gov. Bill Ritter (D) to replace Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D), and while bright and wealthy, he was and is unknown to many Coloradans. Bennet is being opposed in the Democratic primary by former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, and the primary alone could be a tight one. Waiting for the winner in November will be former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who will be staunchly backed by national Republicans. Colorado was a 2008 Blue state that, like Virginia just did in its gubernatorial election, could turn Red again in '10.

As for Gillibrand, New Yorkers seem underwhelmed by her appointment to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some of the broad unpopularity of Gov. David Paterson, who picked Gillibrand over better known Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy, could have rubbed off. Still, national and state Democratic leaders have muscled out several tough primary challengers, leaving Gillibrand almost unopposed for the moment. The Empire State's Republican Party has such a weak bench that Gillibrand may also get a virtual free pass in the general election. National and state Republicans are trying to convince former three-term Gov. George Pataki to toss his hat into the ring. He'd be a heavyweight contender and a real threat to Gillibrand. Yet few believe he'll actually return to the fray.

The long and short of the 2010 Senate line-up is that Republicans have an opportunity to become relevant again by netting a few seats. They might do better. GOP leaders dream of holding every one of their seven open seats and securing their two shaky incumbents in LA and NC. Then Republican challengers could take AR, CO, CT, DE, IL, ND, NV, and PA. This would yield a Senate of 52 Democrats and 48 Republicans--still not enough for outright control but sufficient to tie the Senate in knots most of the time.

As proof that their dream scenario could happen, Republicans point the effect that a national tide can have: near-sweeps of contested Senate seats for the GOP in 1980, 1994, and 2004, as well as Democratic near-sweeps in 1986, 2000, 2006, and 2008. But in order to come close to this ideal, GOP candidates will need very favorable atmospherics in 2010 such as mediocre-to-poor ratings for President Obama, continued high unemployment, and deep disillusionment among the Democratic base. (Democrats are attempting a cure for the latter by passing health care reform.)

Democrats scoff at the GOP vision for 2010, characterizing it as somewhere between delusion and hallucination. Too many of the GOP's own incumbents are retiring, and too many secure Democrats are on the ballot next year for a truly game-changing Senate election, they say. The odds of Republicans keeping all their open seats and protecting their endangered incumbents are quite low, insist Democratic strategists, and the chances of some currently threatened Democrats to fend off Republican challengers are high. From the Democratic perspective, Republicans will be lucky to net an additional two or three Senate seats. If the economy gets a head of steam, Democrats argue they can hold their own or even add a seat or two--though at the moment, that appears to be bravado.

It's too early to say which party has the better prospectus for 2010, but it will be surprising if the GOP doesn't make some progress in whittling down the large Democratic majority. And in the Senate, as we have all seen over the decades, movement of even a few seats in a party's direction can change the outcome on the Senate floor for major legislation. A year in advance of a tumultuous midterm election, that possibility is the GOP's realistic hope for 2010.

As the above essay shows, Democrats are benefiting from the equal split of Senate seats up in 2010. Even though Democrats have a large majority of senators, it just so happens that both Democrats and Republicans are defending 19 seats each in the midterm election, which makes it exceedingly difficult for the GOP to gain enough seats to capture the Senate. However, the balance shifts dramatically in 2012 and 2014, when Democrats have 24 and 20 seats on the ballot to the GOP's 9 and 13 seats.

Clearly, Democrats will need a strong performance by President Obama in his 2012 reelection race if they are to avoid losing seats. Moreover, if there's a second Obama presidential term, the "sixth year itch" in 2014 could be a doozy. When one combines both 2012 and 2014, Democrats will have to defend 44 Senate berths, while Republicans will be much freer to roam the landscape on offense, having only half as many seats (22) to worry about.

Larry J. Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Party of Fiscal Babies

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Nearly every Republican these days calls for tax cuts and lower deficits, and in the same sentence. Point out that these goals clash -- that taxes pay for government and not paying for government causes deficits, and the Republican counters, "We must shrink government, instead."

Sure. And you're just the boys to do it.

There hasn't been a balanced budget since the last Democratic administration. During the George W. Bush years of mindless tax-cutting, the national debt doubled, and GOP claims to fiscal rectitude became a bizarre joke. The last fig leaf fell off this summer when Republicans demagogued efforts to save over $100 billion by ending subsidies for the private Medicare Advantage health plans.

Here was the lowest-hanging fruit in the fastest-growing government program. It was something most Medicare beneficiaries would barely notice was gone, yet Republicans hollered that Democrats were pulling the plug on grandma.

That dashed any residual Republican pretenses that Bush had led them astray on spending, and a lesson was learned. Clearly, they're not changing a thing.

Bruce Bartlett, an economist in Ronald Reagan's Treasury Department, has criticizing such inconsistencies for several years. Republicans could have embraced his 2006 book, "Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," as evidence that they truly regretted the fiscal wreckage of the Bush years. Instead, they turned Bartlett into a Republican pariah.

Bartlett has just come out with another book, "The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward." It has received an equally chilly reception from the right-wing media and associated think tanks. That is, they're making no mention of it.

I asked Bartlett whether he feels beaten up by former fellow Republicans. (He's now an independent.) No, he said, "One of the funny things since 'Imposter' came out is the refusal of people on the right to even debate me."

One can't entirely blame them for trying to smother his book sales. Democrats would be hard-pressed to find better talking points anywhere else -- though Bartlett does find fault with them, too.

Bartlett's main point is that there's almost no place to cut domestic discretionary spending. Subtract money going for defense, entitlements (such as Medicare) and payments on the debt, and there's precious little left. Domestic discretionary spending in fiscal 2008 last year totaled $485 billion, while the deficit was $459 billion. You would have had to kill nearly every domestic program to balance the budget. That would have meant nothing for education, agriculture, housing, border patrols, the FBI, highways.

Taxes must go up, and on that subject, Bartlett takes issue with the current president. "You have to look at some other broad-based revenue raising," he said, "but then you run up against the problem that Obama has made the promise not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000." He deems that approach "irresponsible." The rich can't bear all the costs of government.

The answer is a value-added tax, which is basically a national sales tax. The VAT would tax consumption, rather than income, and at low cost to economic growth. Europeans use a VAT to pay for their cushy benefits.

Bartlett thinks that Congress should commit itself to a number, say $1 trillion, for deficit savings over 10 years. Then it should ask a commission to find a third of that money from higher revenues, a third from entitlement cuts and a third from discretionary spending.

Welcome to the world of grownups, where tax cuts don't magically pay for themselves -- and where middle-class people must pay more for middle-class benefits. When it comes to addressing deficits, Democrats may be lax adolescents, but Republicans are total babies.

Froma Harrop (born March 18, 1950 in New York City) is an independent-minded, liberal writer and author.

She is best known for her twice-a-week syndicated column which appears in about 200 newspapers including the Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Denver Post, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Detroit News, and Miami Herald.

Media Matters for America ranks Harrop 20th among the top 100 syndicated columnists for total reader reach and 14th based on average circulation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How Did This Thumping Happen?

Deeds says he's not an Obama Style Democrat. 2 Million Virginia Voters Picked Obama Last November. Deeds turned out 0.8 Million Voters.

I don't know about you but I was bothered by the thumping the democrats took in the recent election and wondered how we ended up with our losing candidate so lets look at the primary in Amherst County to see how it began. Primary turnout of voters for the entirety of Amherst County was 727 people or just 3.76% of total voters. Of those 727 who voted 427 went for Deeds, 221 for McAuliffe and 79 for Moran.

Voters of any affiliation may vote in the primary as long as they only cast votes in one primary. Republicans had no primary so Amherst Counties 727 votes could have been cast by democrats, republicans, independents or other.

Lets look at the seperate precincts in Amherst County to get an idea of how important your one vote is. We'll start with WRIGHT SHOP where Terry R. McAuliffe got 18 votes (33.96%), Brian J. Moran got 2 votes (3.77%) and R. Creigh Deeds received 33 votes (62.26%) of the total of 53 votes cast.

As you can see a dozen people working together can do great things in a precinct to sway the outcome. Here's the raw data on the remaining precincts:


Terry R. McAuliffe - 16 - 25.39%
Brian J. Moran - - - - 7 - 11.11%
R. Creigh Deeds - - 40 - 63.49%

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 5 - - - 31.25%
Brian J. Moran - - - - 1 - - - - 6.25%
R. Creigh Deeds - - -10 - - - 62.5%

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 43 - - 29.05%
Brian J. Moran - - - - - 22 - -14.86%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - - 83 - - 56.08%

Terry R. McAuliffe - - - - 8 - - 18.18%
Brian J. Moran - - - - - - 7 - - 15.90%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - - 29 - - 65.90%
301 - MONROE

Terry R. McAuliffe - -17 - -32.69%
Brian J. Moran - - - - -7 - -13.46%
R. Creigh Deeds - - -28 - - 53.84%
302 - ELON

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 32 - -32.32%
Brian J. Moran - - - - -10 - - 10.10%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - - 57 - -57.57%

Terry R. McAuliffe - -8 - - 42.10%
Brian J. Moran - - - - -3 - -15.78%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - -8 - - 42.10%
401 - AMELON

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 22 - -24.44%
Brian J. Moran - - - - - 7 - -7.77%
R. Creigh Deeds n- - -61 - -67.77%
402 - LONCO

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 5 - - 35.71%
Brian J. Moran - - - - 3 - - 21.42%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - 6 - - - 42.85%

Terry R. McAuliffe - - 42 - - 37.16%
Brian J. Moran - - - - - 8 - - 7.07%
R. Creigh Deeds - - - - 63 - - 55.75%
AB - Central Absentee Precinct

Terry R. McAuliffe - - - 5 - - 31.25%
Brian J. Moran - - - - - -2 - - 12.5%
R. Creigh Deeds- - - - - 9 - - 56.25%

These results are typical for the entire state which means complete lack of interest decided our fate in the election.

319,168 voters of 5,071,226 total voters state wide (6.293%) participated in the primary as compared to the Primary turnout of voters for the entirety of Amherst County was 727 people or just 3.76% of total voters. Amherst county voters demonstrated a little less than 60% of the dismal interest the voters state wide showed. There are 19,333 total voters in Amherst County and 6.293% of that number would be 1216 voters. That would be 489 more voters if Amherst County demonstrated the same interest as the State of Virginia as a whole.

Complete figures on all elections and primaries are available at:

Here's a comment on the election itself and what those numbers mean. These figures are also available from the State Board of Elections for all the cities and the 95 counties in Virginia.

If Creigh Deeds had managed to motivate Obama/Biden voters at the same rate as Bob McDonnell managed to motivate McCain/Palin voters, he would have won. Easily. Even if he had only managed to motivate them at half the rate McDonnell did, he would have won. If Deeds had been half as good a candidate as his republican opponent he would have won. Instead, the geniuses - David Petts, Joe Abbey, Monica and David Dixon, Susan Swecker - at the Deeds campaign decided it was smarter to run away from the very things that got those "Obama voters" out to the polls last year. As if that's not bad enough, the Deeds' geniuses decided to spend way too much time tooling around the mirage known as "Deeds Country" (I say "mirage" because Deeds got absolutely wiped out there on Tuesday) instead of focusing on African American voters and the "urban crescent" more broadly. This is almost criminal negligence, utterly mind boggling in its stupidity. And yes, I'm real sorry Deeds diehards got their feelings hurt, but as Jim Webb says, "the fish rots from the head down," so Creigh Deeds is ultimately responsible for this. He hired those folks, let them "plan their work and work their plan." And boy, did they ever. Deeds is the one who said he's not an "Obama Democrat." Deeds and his campaign dragged others down with them.

Last November, Barack Obama received 2.0 million votes and John McCain received 1.7 million votes in the State of Virginia. This November, Creigh Deeds received 0.8 million votes and Bob McDonnell received 1.2 million votes. Deeds "underperformed" Obama by 1.2 million votes, while McDonnell "underperformed" McCain by only 0.5 million votes. The difference between those two "underperformances": 700,000 votes, or more than twice the total that Deeds lost by.

Back to the local level and Amherst County. After the primary there was nothing you could do to change the outcome of the Deeds/Mcdonnell race. From the very moment he won the primary Deeds did everything dead wrong and took the party down with him. Even had 500 more local voters showed up and changed the counties totals to another candidate Deeds would still have won the primary and gone on to lose the race.

If there's a bright spot it is that Deeds can't keep his promise to opt out of any health care reform that President Obama signs.

If you are searching for the legendary city of Atlantis it is located just beyond Deeds Country, turn left on Fantasy Lane. Best of Luck on your journey.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Deeds Under Excells

We spent 20 Million Dollars on This????

By now you are aware that Virginias next Gov. is republican. It is 11:24 am Nov 4th, the day after the thumping and as we review the numbers the story unfolds. There are 2,516 precincts in Virginia and 2,508 of them have reported the vote. Who knows what the problem is with the 8 precincts still not reporting?

The total number of voters in Virginia is 4,955,755. 1,973,993 people voted. Thats 39.83% of total voters.

There are 4,713,061 active voters in Virginia. 1,973,993 voted. 41.88% of active voters showed up.

The bulk of those who showed up to vote were republican.

McDonnell got 1,157,697 (58.64%) votes and Deeds got 814,068 (41.23%) votes. The republicans won in a landslide while the democrat candidate attracted only minimal interest.

In any statewide race each party has a 35% base. That leaves 30% of the electorate that is open to vote for either candidate based on their appeal and the interest they generate. This 30% is identified as independent. The race is fought out among these 30% of the voters.

For all the money Deeds spent and all the campaign time the democrats put in they won 6.23% of the votes over their 35% base. McDonnell and his campaign captured 23.64% over their 35% base. Expressed in its most simple form: If Deeds had remained in Bath County and walked with his mule in the field each day instead of spending millions of dollars campaigning he would have garnered 35% plus of the vote. His efforts produced almost nothing.

There are 95 counties in Virginia. Deeds won in Alleghany, Arlington, Bath, Charles City, Greenville and Surry. McDonnell carried the remaining 89 counties. In the grand scheme of things some of these counties Deeds won produce few votes. Since there are so few Deeds counties I will list them and their vote.




Charles City.....Deeds...1,



Good candidates spark interest, clearly state their values and visions and fire up the voters to support them. Democrats can ill afford to run another Deeds. In many ways it would be better to sit the race out than to tie their party image to this level of loss. Many of our democratic supporters and friends were unwilling to be involved in this race and some of our very best supporters openly opposed Deeds.

The old smoke filled room produced better candidates and without doubt the primary system needs revisions to insure better candidates become the banner candidate. The down ticket damage from a weak candiate at the top of the ticket is huge. Please note that McDonnell's win was a sweep that went thru the entire ticket.

You can hide from the lesson or you can learn from it. Which will it be?

Here's the Spin from Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine says Democratic losses in Virginia and New Jersey had more to do with local issues than the first-year performance of President Barack Obama.

Exit polling showed support for Obama remained steady despite Virginia's Republican sweep, led by Bob McDonnell's landslide victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in the governor's race.

As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Kaine said he will try to figure out why independents who helped Obama win last year voted overwhelmingly for Republicans on Tuesday.

Kaine discussed the election at a news conference Wednesday in Richmond.

In Virginia, many of the young people and minorities who helped make Obama the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1964 didn't vote Tuesday.

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