Campaign Finance & Elections

History Supports Obama Naming a Supreme Court Nominee

Timothy Huebner in The New York Times argues that “President Obama has constitutional and historical precedent on his side and should announce a nominee.”

“In fact, history supports Mr. Obama. On 13 occasions, a vacancy on the nation’s highest court has occurred — through death, retirement or resignation — during a presidential election year. This does not include the most recent and frequently cited example, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in November 1987 to fill a vacancy and won confirmation from a Democratic-controlled Senate in February 1988.”

“In 11 of these instances, the Senate took action on the president’s nomination. In all five cases in which a vacancy occurred during the first quarter of the year the president successfully nominated a replacement.”

“To be sure, the Senate has rejected nominees for political reasons, increased the size of the court (for instance, during the Civil War) or reduced it (immediately after the Civil War). But in cases when vacancies have arisen during election years, the weight of history is clearly on the side of the president naming a successor and the Senate acting on that nomination.”

“The Republicans, who frequently cite the Constitution and look to historical precedent, have an opportunity to be true to their principles. They should ignore Donald Trump’s urging to ‘delay, delay, delay,’ and help ensure our Constitution functions as it should — and as it has in the past.”

Americans Say Experience in Government is Best for Presidency

Gallup: “Almost three in four U.S. adults — 72% — say that governing a state provides excellent or good preparation for someone to be an effective president. This number is slightly higher than the percentages who say the same about being in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives (65%) or serving as secretary of state (63%). Smaller majorities believe that serving as a member of the president’s Cabinet (56%) or being a business executive (51%) provides this level of preparation.”

How Well Occupations Prepare Candidates for the Presidency

“Similar percentages of Republicans (76%) and Democrats (74%) say that being a governor helps prepare someone for the presidency, but there is a major split between the parties on the perceived effectiveness of serving in Congress. About the same percentage in each party thinks serving in Congress is good preparation (43% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans), but only 16% of Republicans believe it is excellent preparation, compared with 30% of Democrats.”

“With majorities still saying they think experience as a governor or a member of Congress is an asset, one of the keys to this year’s election will be how much value voters attach to such experience. If Trump can overcome those views and succeed in winning the election, he will be the first president who has been neither a governor nor a member of Congress since Dwight Eisenhower left office in January 1961.”

The Rhetoric Behind the Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans

Robert Litan in The Wall Street Journal writes that the winner of 2016’s presidential election may be forced by the score-keeping of the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office “to at least account for the fact that CBO has projected the steady retirement of baby boomers and increasing health-care costs, both of which will add to the federal deficit in absolute dollars and relative to gross domestic product.”

“None of the Republican candidates left in the race has put forward a plan to reverse this projection. To the contrary, there seems to be a bidding war among them to add to the deficit through their tax plans. Independent analysis of the plan of front-runner Donald Trump found that it would reduce revenue (in turn increasing the deficit) by $9.5 trillion over 10 years. The plan of former Florida governor Jeb Bush would cut revenue by $6.8 trillion over the same period.”

“An independent analysis found that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s proposed tax increases would fall short by at least $3 trillion over the next decade. Hillary Clinton’s spending and tax plans are much less ambitious, but what her campaign has proposed so far has not promised any cuts in the projected growth of the deficit.”

“Whoever wins the White House this fall will find that the JCT and CBO are watching closely. Voters might keep this in mind as they consider the promises coming from the campaign trail.”

Is it Time to Change our System of Government?

Charles Lane in The Washington Post comments on “The Perils of Presidentialism,” by Yale University’s Juan J. Linz, in which Linz argues that the Westminster-style parliamentary system is inherently more stable than our ‘presidentialist’ systems that divide executive and legislative power between separately elected presidents and assemblies.

“Linz identified the fundamental disadvantage of “presidentialist” democracy: “Whereas a prime minister owes his power to the same majority that produces parliament, the president and legislature in a presidentialist democracy can both claim to represent the national majority, a source of competition that can spawn conflict, even chaos, when rival parties control the two branches.”

“Presidential systems include a fixed term for the chief executive, to add predictability and to curb dictatorial tendencies. However, this intended stabilizer actually makes politics ‘rigid,’ … The rise and fall of prime ministers might give parliamentary countries … [an] appearance of political instability; but … their revolving door is actually a source of stability, since short-term kerfuffles help ‘avoid deeper crises.’”

“Adding to the drama, presidentialism makes the chief executive a personal repository ‘for whatever exaggerated expectations his supporters may harbor. They are prone to think that he has more power than he really has or should have.’ For his part, a president may ‘tend to conflate his supporters with ‘the people’ as a whole,’ making the ‘obstacles and opposition he encounters seem particularly annoying.’”

Which Key Issue was Ignored at Last Night’s Democratic Debate?

Think Progress: “When it comes to climate change and energy issues, both Democratic and Republican primary debates ignore them, even now, as a matter of routine.”

“This was bizarrely true again Thursday night after the PBS/Facebook-sponsored debate in Madison, Wisconsin between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This week, the Supreme Court surprisingly dealt what could be a significant blow to a speedy national response to climate change when it held up the Obama administration’s centerpiece in its plan to cut carbon pollution and transition to a renewable energy, the Clean Power Plan.”

“The repercussions of the Supreme Court’s decision will likely stretch beyond Obama’s term and pose one of the first challenges for the new president. Yet neither Gwen Ifill nor Judy Woodruff, the night’s moderators, asked the candidates about the Clean Power Plan, nor anything broader about the energy or environment.”

“The broader trends affecting climate policy, such as the decline of the coal industry and the expansion of renewable energy as prices drop, make it feasible to think that the U.S. can continue to cut its carbon emissions even while the Clean Power Plan sorts out its legal hurdles.”

“The next president will have the ability to use the levers of executive power to either hasten these trends or stand in their way.”

The Lingering Challenge of Universal Health Coverage

Drew Altman: “Both Democratic presidential candidates are calling for universal health coverage, though they disagree sharply on how to get there. Here’s the bottom line: There is no single program or policy likely to achieve full coverage of the complex collection of subgroups who make up the remaining uninsured in the U.S. except for a single-payer strategy. But Sen. Bernie Sanders has acknowledged that single-payer health care is not politically feasible in the foreseeable future and has said that it is unlikely without, among other things, campaign finance reform first.”


Kaiser Family Foundation chart of eligibility for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act among non-elderly uninsured Americans in 2015.

“More than 17 million people who previously did not have insurance have been covered so far by the Affordable Care Act. That’s enormous progress on one of health care’s biggest problems. But as the chart above shows, slightly more than 30 million people in the U.S. remained uninsured as of last year.”

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have staked out strong positions on universal coverage. The makeup of the uninsured population and political realities suggest that the most likely path to universal coverage is a series of incremental steps–implemented in combination or sequentially– that build on the progress made by the ACA and chip away at the remaining uninsured in the U.S. group by group.”

The Upcoming Primary Race: More Like Iowa Than New Hampshire

Aaron Blake in The Washington Post: “The next few weeks of the GOP race look a whole lot more like Iowa than New Hampshire. And that is fantastic for Ted Cruz …. The most evangelical states are pretty heavily front-loaded in this process — thanks in large part to the “SEC Primary” on March 1.”

The below chart, from The Post’s graphics team (more here!) is in order of nominating contests.

It’s About the Issues, Stupid

Gallup: Americans are about twice as likely to prefer that their party nominate a candidate who agrees with them on almost all the issues they care about but does not have the best chance of winning, rather than one who has the best chance of winning but doesn’t agree with them on the issues they care about. Republicans and Democrats have similar preferences.

Americans' Preferences for Their Party's Nomination, by Subgroup

“While Americans of all age groups prefer a candidate who largely agrees with them on the issues they care about, the percentage who have this preference is much higher among voters younger than 30. Between 46% and 59% of adults aged 30 or older are focused on issue agreement, compared with 82% of younger adults — those 18 to 29.”

“The preference for a nominee with greater issue agreement can prove challenging for ‘establishment’ candidates like Clinton, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. Each walks a shaky political tightrope on myriad issues in an effort not to alienate key voting blocs — compared with some of their competitors who don’t seem to shy away from divisive positions that could complicate their chances in a general election.”

Young Americans: Socialism is Fine, But Don’t Take My Money

Nate Silver: “Bernie Sanders proudly describes himself as a ‘socialist’ (or more commonly, as a “democratic socialist”) … Views of socialism are highly correlated with a voter’s age. According to a May 2015 YouGov poll, conducted just before Sanders launched his campaign, a plurality of voters aged 18 to 29 had a favorable view of socialism. But among voters 65 and older, just 15 percent viewed socialism favorably, to 70 percent unfavorably.”

“That doesn’t mean America is undergoing a leftist or revolutionary awakening, however. The biennial General Social Survey has a long-standing question about wealth redistribution, asking Americans whether the ‘government in Washington ought to reduce the income differences between the rich and the poor … perhaps by raising the taxes of wealthy families or by giving income assistance to the poor.'”

“I’ve translated [the General Social Survey] responses to a 100-point scale, where 0 represents the most conservative/right-wing position (no redistribution!), and 100 the most liberal/left-wing position (hell yes, redistribution!). The chart below summarizes how both Americans overall and Americans aged 18-29 have responded to the question over time.”


“In part, then, the “revolutions” that both Sanders and Paul speak of are revolutions of rising expectations.”

Bernie’s Brand is the Future of the Democratic Party

Matthew Yglesias: “Whether or not Bernie Sanders wins in New Hampshire, or wins the Democratic nomination outright, he’s already won in another, perhaps more important way: His brand of politics is the future of the Democratic Party.”

“There are racial and demographic gaps between Clinton and Sanders supporters, but the overwhelming reality is that for all groups, the young people are feeling the Bern.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 11.38.51 AM

“What’s clear is that there’s robust demand among Democrats — especially the next generation of Democrats — to remake the party along more ideological, more social democratic lines, and party leaders are going to have to answer that demand or get steamrolled.”

“Though Democrats are certainly the more left-wing of the two parties … they’re not an ideologically left-wing party in the same way that Republicans are an ideological conservative one. Instead, they behave more like a centrist, interest group brokerage party that seeks to mediate between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community.”

“The Sanders contention is that if liberals want to change America in fundamental ways, they need to start by creating an ideologically liberal political party. Once you have control of a party, the chance that your Reagan-in-1980 moment may arrive is always lurking out there in the mysterious world of unpredictable events.”



How 2016 Will Differ from 2012

Philip Bump: “Last week, Pew Research released data showing that 2016’s electorate would likely be more diverse [than 2008.] They arrived at that conclusion thanks to some relatively simple math. Take the voting-eligible population in 2012, add the number of people turning 18 and become citizens, subtract the number of people who have died, and see the result.”

“Overall, the number of eligible voters will grow by about 5 percent — but the number of eligible white voters will grow only 2 percent, compared to a 6 percent jump in the number of black eligible voters and a 17 percent jump in the number of eligible Hispanic voters.”

“As a raw total, the 2016 election will see more eligible Hispanic voters added than eligible white voters, 4 million to 3.2 million. That’s despite whites outnumbering Hispanics by a wide margin nationally.”

“Given how demographics are shifting, this will probably also be the least diverse electorate for every presidential election here on-out. The ballyhooed 2008 election will likely, in a few decades’ time, be seen as stunningly white.”

‘Redistribution’ is no Longer a Dirty Word

Vox: “Bernie Sanders wants a political revolution. And most Americans think one might be necessary, according to a new poll conducted by Morning Consult and Vox.”

“Fifty-four percent of respondents to our online poll — which reached a sample of 1,884 registered voters nationally from Friday, January 29, through Sunday, January 31, 2016 — agreed that a ‘political revolution might be necessary to redistribute money from the wealthiest Americans to the middle class.’ Just 30 percent said they disagreed.”

“Liberals and liberal-leaning demographics were most likely to agree with the statement. But majorities of independents, white voters, evangelicals, and even Tea Party supporters in our sample agreed too — showing that redistribution may no longer be a dirty word in American politics.”

“Yet Sanders supporters shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Because we also asked our entire sample: ‘Which do you think is a greater potential threat to the country’s future — Big Businesses or Big Government?’ The results weren’t as promising for his agenda on this front. Fifty-five percent of registered voters thought big government was more dangerous, compared with 29 percent who thought big business was.”

Are Democrats Split by Age or Ideology?

Scot Clement in The Washington Post: “Do young Democrats have ‘Clinton fatigue?’ Does Sanders’s plainspoken style hit home with a demographic that also flocked to Obama’s lofty rhetoric? Or is the split all largely about policy, with liberal younger Democrats flocking to Sanders’s push for single-payer health care and other progressive ideals?”

A deeper analysis of Iowa entrance poll results shows that “among those aged 40 and older, Clinton’s margin against Sanders was largest with moderate and ‘somewhat liberal’ Democrats, while Sanders performed best among the very liberal contingent.”

2016-02-04 Dem divide age ideology

“But that pattern is erased — or even reversed — among younger Democrats. Clinton lost younger voters by at least 40 percentage points, regardless of their ideological leaning, and the margin was actually largest (58 points) among those calling themselves moderates or conservatives.”

“The lack of any greater support for Clinton among younger moderate Democrats suggests many are not supporting Sanders for his policies, but for his broader message and novelty on the national stage.”