Campaign Finance & Elections

What Happened to Moderate Voters?

Philip Bump: “We’ve noted previously that Sanders’s party is more likely to refer to itself as liberal than it used to be, according to polling from Gallup. The Democrats still have more space under their umbrella for moderates, but they’re getting crowded out.”

“The Republicans, on the other hand, have been consistently and heavily conservative for some time.”

“That Democrats identify themselves as moving to the left across the board may help explain why Hillary Clinton is running further to the left than she did in 2008 — which helps explain why she’s been successful. (No data for Nevada in 2004 was available.)”

“The question is the extent to which this will be a long-term trend. Will the Democrats keep moving left, further polarizing the electorate? Or could a moderate candidate do well on other side and reshape who turns out?”

What Motivates Republican Voters?

Philip Bump asks what’s the “thing that’s turned Donald Trump from the never-gonna-happen outsider of last June into the how-can-he-be-stopped candidate of February? Nevada offers one hint: Anger.”

“Trump wasn’t supposed to win Hispanics, but he appears to have won them … Trump wasn’t supposed to win evangelicals in South Carolina or here, really, but he won them in both. In Nevada, he won 4 out of every 10 evangelical votes. He wasn’t supposed to win conservatives. Won ’em — even the ‘very conservative’ ones. Wasn’t supposed to win better educated voters. Won ’em.”

“This is an electorate that does not care about what it is supposed to do. Voters who decided later, those who took their time and considered the candidates, one would assume, went more heavily for Marco Rubio than Trump. It’s one of the few groups he lost. But the people who’ve been mad at politics for a long time and decided weeks ago who they were going to back? More than half backed Trump.”

 

The Democratic Race: ‘Dishonest’ Vs. ‘Socialist’

Gallup: “Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have multifaceted images among the American public. But the most common responses Americans give when asked to say what comes to mind when they think of each are “dishonest” and “dislike her” for Clinton, and “socialist” and “old” for Sanders. On the positive side, a fair number of Americans view Clinton as capable and experienced, and Sanders as a fresh face and honest.”

Top Unaided Reactions to "Hillary Clinton," February 2016

Cruz on Military Spending is Big Government

Daily Kos: Sen. Ted Cruz has “talked about giving our nation’s bloated war budget a big boost if he becomes president. As if spending more than the next 14 countries combined isn’t enough.”

“His proposal to increase the Pentagon’s budget … to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product during his first two years in office would raise the 2017 fiscal year budget to $738 billion, a 26 percent increase from what President Obama has proposed. That compares with the peak war budget of $699 billion in 2011.”

“Cruz doesn’t want to raise taxes to accomplish this—golly, no. Rather, he wants to pay for it by dumping the Internal Revenue Service and four Cabinet-level departments: Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Commerce.”

“Fifty-four percent of federal discretionary spending now flows to the military. But that’s only so when a narrow view is taken regarding what comprises military spending. The overall Veterans Affairs budget including benefits and health care adds another 7 percent in discretionary spending. There is also national security spending for international FBI activities, Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, and other miscellaneous defense-related activities that add another 4 percent. An additional 5 percent goes to Homeland Security functions that are not part of the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. So federal discretionary spending that actually goes for national security purposes is 70 percent.”

What Does the Post-Obama Black Electorate Look Like?

Theodore Johnson, writing in The Atlantic, argues that ‘The nation is witnessing the emergence of a post-Obama black electorate. It is a constituency that has grown impatient with elected officials’ generational promises that their programs will eventually pull blacks from the doldrums of society into a fairer America where opportunity is accessible and hard work is rewarded equally. To combat institutional lethargy, this wave of young people is employing a variety of tactics—from protest to pop culture—to influence the political agenda. They are the offspring of six decades of activism, growing voting power, and increased intra-racial class diversity.”

“If recent trends are sufficient indication, the post-Obama black electorate will probably be characterized by three things: stratified voter participation, increased reliance on alternative methods of political pressure, and initial signs of growing partisan and political diversity.”

“Older blacks are more likely to rely on the vote to bring about policy change, whereas young voters place less confidence in electoral strategies. In the short-term, this may translate to an overall drop in black voter participation rates. But decreased voter turnout should not be mistaken for disinterest.”

“The post-Obama bloc employs a different strategy to bring about change—one rooted in creativity and energy. It is because of them that Black Lives Matter exists.”

 

Who Gets Jeb’s Votes?

Philip Bump: “With Jeb Bush now out of the race and Ben Carson out of the race in the eyes of literally every person paying attention to the presidential race, save Ben Carson (if he’s even paying attention), it’s worth wondering where their supporters might go. The thinking is that all those Bush supporters will go to a Rubio or Kasich, for example, but is that true?”

“It’s hard to say. The problem is that supporters of Bush and Carson are so few that polling on where they’ll go next is necessarily a tiny sample size. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, only 20 people said they planned to back Bush and only 13 signed up for Carson. That’s the problem, right? They have little support, so they have to drop out.”

“Here’s where those 33 people would go. This is not representative! But it reinforces that the idea that all of the vote will go to opponents of Trump is flawed.”

A “race that narrows to just Trump vs. Rubio or just Trump vs. Ted Cruz is a race that Trump probably loses. But that requires Kasich and Carson and Rubio or Cruz getting out. March 15 is the Ohio primary and the Florida primary, which both Kasich and Rubio will want to hang around for — making it even less likely that Trump will suddenly start trailing a consolidated centrist candidate.”

Is Charles Koch Feeling the Bern?

Charles Koch contends that he and Bernie Sanders agree on the fact that “the political and economic system is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged.”

“Democrats and Republicans have too often favored policies and regulations that pick winners and losers. This helps perpetuate a cycle of control, dependency, cronyism and poverty in the United States. These are complicated issues, but it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.”

“That’s why Koch Industries opposes all forms of corporate welfare — even those that benefit us.”

“The United States’ next president must be willing to rethink decades of misguided policies enacted by both parties that are creating a permanent underclass.”

“I applaud the senator for giving a voice to many Americans struggling to get ahead in a system too often stacked in favor of the haves, but I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives. This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.”

“It is results, not intentions, that matter. History has proven that a bigger, more controlling, more complex and costlier federal government leaves the disadvantaged less likely to improve their lives.”

Anti-Incumbent Mood is Strong

Gallup: Barely half of U.S. voters think their own member of Congress deserves re-election, and just 27% say most members deserve another turn. These findings are on par with voters’ attitudes in October 2014 and slightly improved from the historically weak levels seen in early 2014 but otherwise are among the weakest for incumbents since 1992.

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“The historically low levels of Americans saying that their own and most members deserve re-election reflect Congress’ dismal job rating, mostly registering at or below 20% in Gallup’s monthly polling for the past five years. If the anti-incumbent mood continues into the fall, Congress could see relatively high turnover, similar to 1992 and 2010 when fewer than 93% of incumbents were re-elected. On the other hand, incumbents did quite well in 2014 — with a 95% re-election rate in the House — in spite of historically low ‘deserves to be re-elected’ numbers. The turnover that did occur was all in the Republicans’ favor.”

“When anti-incumbency fervor coincides with a presidential year, the other possibility is that the losing party in the presidential race takes the brunt of the seat losses, which happened to Republicans in 2008. And while that’s not a guarantee, the heft of the Republicans’ current majority means the GOP has the most to lose from the public’s desire for change in Congress.”

How Trump’s Campaign Embodies the Real GOP

Eugene Robinson claims that Trump’s campaign “has done a tremendous service by forcing the GOP establishment to deal with truths it would prefer to ignore. Trump runs around letting cats out of bags, and they are not easily put back in.”

“Republicans love to talk tough about illegal immigration, for example, and use the issue to bludgeon Democrats. But when Trump takes the bombast to its logical conclusion — all right, then, let’s deport the 11 million undocumented — the establishment has to hem and haw about how all that partisan rhetoric wasn’t meant to be taken literally.”

“Likewise, Republicans love to suggest that Democrats are somehow soft in the fight against terrorism here and abroad … But when Trump called for temporarily banning all foreign Muslims from entering the country, other candidates who try their best to sound hawkish had to acknowledge that Islam itself isn’t really the problem.”

“Trump challenges his party’s economic orthodoxy as well. He calls himself a ‘free trader’ but opposes existing trade pacts as unfair; Republicans have historically championed free trade but are loath to examine what agreements such as NAFTA have really meant for working-class jobs. Trump promises to somehow reduce the $19 trillion national debt but wants to expand entitlements, not shrink them; many GOP voters, it turns out, feel the same way.”

The Economy Finally Takes Center Stage In the Primaries

Five Thirty Eight: “The presidential race is at last shifting to two states — Nevada and South Carolina — that are actually experiencing the economic turmoil that has often dominated the campaigns of both parties. The results there might provide a clearer window into which candidates are most successfully tapping into voters’ economic anxieties.”

“The first two nominating contests played out in states that are, as commentators have repeatedly noted, far whiter than the country as a whole. Less noticed has been that Iowa and New Hampshire are also extremes economically. Both are small, rural and — especially in the case of New Hampshire — relatively wealthy states with strong local economies. Both states have unemployment rates below 3.5 percent, significantly better than the national mark of 4.9 percent. Neither experienced the worst of the Great Recession, and both are among the most equal states in terms of household income.”

“The next two states on the primary calendar, by contrast, much more closely embody the economic issues that polls show are at the top of voters’ minds.”

casselman-south_carolina-1

Would Scalia Approve of GOP’s Delay Tactics?

Ezekiel Emanuel in The Washington Post argues that “a true ‘originalist’ would reject the Republican position” of blocking a presidential supreme court nominee in “order to defer to the American people.”

“An originalist would begin by looking at what the Constitution says about choosing a Supreme Court justice. An originalist would note that the framers clearly wanted the court to be insulated from the people’s wishes. To put them above the clash of politics, the Constitution gave justices lifetime appointments, to which they were nominated, not elected. Furthermore, justices were nominated by a president who was elected by an Electoral College — not the American public — and confirmed by a Senate elected, at the framing, by state legislatures — again, not the public. Originalism clearly argues against deferring to public opinion on the composition of the Supreme Court.”

“The history of the founding generation itself also makes clear that the framers wanted the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process not to depend upon the outcome of an election.”

Even With a Republican Win, How Obama Could Win the Supreme Court Battle

Ari Melber of NBC News argues that “even if the Senate refuses to confirm Obama’s pick and a Republican wins the White House, there is one way Obama can still get his nominee confirmed.

“It could all come down to 17 crucial days in January.”

“If Democrats win back the Senate and lose the White House in November, they would control both branches of government for about two weeks before Obama leaves office. That overlap in the transition of power is set in stone. The Constitution mandates the new Congress begins work on January 3, while President Obama stays in power until January 20.”

“So if Democrats take back the Senate, President Obama could send a Supreme Court nominee to that new Democratic majority, which would have 17 days to change the filibuster rules and ram in a vote before a new President takes power.”

“Democrats could apply the ‘nuclear option’ to Supreme Court nominations, and vote in Obama’s nominee by a simple majority.”

“The prospect of a January power play sets up a potential alternative outcome — where the Supreme Court vacancy actually turns on the result of the Senate races.”

“In fact, if Republicans completely block a ‘consensus’ Obama nominee all year and then lose the Senate, Obama might be tempted to appoint an even more liberal replacement for Scalia in January.”