November, 2014

GOP Outplayed Democrats in State Races

“As Republicans took control of an unprecedented 69 of 99 statehouse chambers in the midterm elections, they did not rely solely on a bench of older white men. Key races hinged on the strategic recruitment of women and minorities, many of them first-time candidates who are now learning the ropes and joining the pool of prospects for higher office,” the New York Times reports.

“The wins, by candidates carefully chosen to challenge the traditional notion of the Democratic base, bode well for Republicans in future elections. They had a net gain of 59 women in state legislatures; Democrats lost 63 women. Republicans added 10 Latinos; Democrats lost five. Republicans reported 17 newly elected blacks; a comparable figure for Democrats was not available. In 2008, only about 31 percent of women in state legislatures were Republicans; in 2015, that figure will rise by eight percentage points.”

Hagel’s Side of the Story

“Two months before he was pushed out as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel penned a private letter to the White House, arguing for new measures to rein in Russian President Vladimir Putin and greater efforts to reassure anxious European allies,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Shortly after the September letter, he wrote another memo calling for the administration to clarify its approach to the conflict in Syria. The two messages capped a year of frustrations for Mr. Hagel, who repeatedly found fault with what he saw as indecisiveness by the White House National Security Council.”

Said one Hagel confidante: “One of the things that Hagel values most is clarity. That’s not something that this White House has always done well.”

GOP Hopefuls Miss on Tech Policy

“Republican presidential prospects like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have tapped the tech industry’s fat wallets and mined its big-data expertise — but these 2016 hopefuls couldn’t be further from Silicon Valley when it comes to policy,” Politico reports.

“A series of major divides — from the fate of net neutrality to the future of surveillance reform — still splits this trio of prominent pols from Internet giants in the country’s tech heartland, which helped catapult President Obama to well-funded victories in 2008 and 2012.”

Republicans Seek to Change Budget Math

“The incoming Republican majority in Congress is preparing to give number-crunching a controversial twist, and the new math could make it easier for the GOP to cut taxes,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Budget scoring now is fairly straightforward: Just figure out how much more money a tax increase would produce for the Treasury or how much a tax cut would cost in lost revenue. Republicans, however, want two key congressional offices to use complex models to try to predict the broader effect of hikes and cuts on the economy. The process is called dynamic scoring.”

No Clinton or Bush in 2016?

Steve Rose: “Charlie Cook, one of the most respected political experts in the country, believes Hillary Clinton has only a 25-30 percent chance of running for president, and in any case he thinks she is either ‘rusty’ or ‘she has lost her fastball.’ He bases that on her disastrous book tour, in which she said some very inappropriate things and also did not sell many books.”

“The author of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report newsletter for almost 30 years also disappointed a local audience when he did not give Jeb Bush much of a chance of gaining the Republican nomination… He expects the next Republican nominee to be either a tea party Senator or a governor from the Midwest. He wouldn’t predict beyond that.”

[speech_bubble type=”std” subtype=”a” icon=”pwdome.jpg” name=””]If you look at Hillary Clinton’s favorable ratings, it’s not unreasonable to think she might be hesitant. [/speech_bubble]

GOP Lawsuit Says Obamacare Never Properly Funded

“In mounting the latest court challenge to the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans are focusing on a little-noticed provision of the law that offers financial assistance to low- and moderate-income people,” the New York Times reports.

“Under this part of the law, insurance companies must reduce co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for some people in health plans purchased through the new public insurance exchanges… House Republicans say the Obama administration needed, but never received, an appropriation to make these payments to insurance companies.”

Christie Vetoes Pig Crate Ban

“Decrying what he called ‘partisan politicians’ seeking ‘a political cudgel’ with which to beat him, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation banning the use of pig gestation crates in New Jersey,” the Newark Star Ledger reports.

“The bill, which Christie called ‘a solution in search of a problem,’ gained national notoriety not so much for the effect it would have on New Jersey’s actual swine – there are only 9,000 in the state, according to USDA statistics – but on Christie’s political fortunes: Iowa is not only home to the first-in-the-nation political caucuses for the 2016 presidential election, but to 20 million pigs. Nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs are raised in Iowa, where hog farming alone represents $7.5 billion in total economic activity for the state, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.”

Early Voting Shows Bad News for Mary Landrieu

Bloomberg: “Landrieu is struggling through the final days of the runoff election, set for Dec. 6. Early balloting trends suggest a spike in interest among white voters and Republicans, while blacks—who nearly universally support the incumbent—are proportionally making up a smaller part of the vote. The first four days of voting in Louisiana show that whites made up about 72 percent of the early electorate. That’s above the 65 percent of whites who voted early before the Nov. 4 election.”

Study Shows Gerrymandering Distorts Election Results

In a new study, Duke University researchers Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a random series of North Carolina congressional district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders, North Carolina Public Radio reports.

After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn maps, the simulated election results found Democrats winning an average of 7.6 House seats out of 13. In fact, 95% of the random redistricting simulations found Democrats winning between 6 and 9 House seats. These finds are in stark contrast with the 4 Democrats actually elected in the 2012 elections with the same vote counts.

[speech_bubble type=”std” subtype=”a” icon=”pwdome.jpg” name=””]A fascinating study that shows how gerrymandering subverts the “will of the people.” [/speech_bubble]

Warner Appointed to Senate Democratic Leadership

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is joining the Senate Democratic leadership team, even though he voted against keeping Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as Democratic leader, Roll Call reports.

Warner is seen as a counter-balance to liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who joined the leadership team after the midterm elections.

[speech_bubble type=”std” subtype=”a” icon=”pwdome.jpg” name=””]That this was announced on the Friday after Thanksgiving suggests no one was too interested in drawing much attention to the move. [/speech_bubble]

Straight-Ticket Voting Rises

Bloomberg: “The 2014 election accelerated a trend of straight-ticket voting, the phenomenon of people voting for the same party for Congress as they did for president. With the ideological distance between Democrats and Republicans growing bigger than ever, the result is a Congress sharply divided along party lines, with a shrinking bloc of centrists more open to compromise.”

Rick Perry Gears Up for 2016

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) “is inviting hundreds of prominent Republican donors and policy experts to a series of gatherings next month that are intended to rebuild his damaged national brand and lay the foundation for a potential 2016 presidential campaign,” Politico reports.

“The small-group sessions kick off Tuesday and Wednesday in Austin with a pair of lunches and dinners held in the governor’s mansion wedged between policy briefings at the nearby office of Perry senior adviser Jeff Miller. In all, Perry’s team expects he will meet in person with more than 500 major donors and bundlers from around the country in December as well as a slew of operatives, Republican National Committee members and policy experts.”

Is Portman Running for Vice President?

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is “making all the right moves for a dark-horse presidential run. And even some of his top supporters say he could be a front-runner for the veep spot,” Politico reports.

“The low-key Ohio Republican is fresh off playing a pivotal role in the GOP’s Senate takeover; he’s traveled to early states Iowa and New Hampshire; and party insiders and fundraisers can’t speak highly enough of him. His résumé goes on and on: former House member, George W. Bush’s U.S. trade representative, director of the Office of Management and Budget and now a swing-state Republican senator.”

Emanuel Cashes In Due to Quirky Campaign Rule

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) “has received $400,000 in political donations that he was able to keep only because the state’s campaign contribution limits were eliminated through the actions of an obscure candidate who threatened to run, but didn’t,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The contribution limits were lifted for everyone in the Chicago mayoral race last month after frequent local candidate William J. Kelly filed paperwork in October showing he gave his own campaign $100,000. Under state law, once a candidate in a local race contributes $100,000 to his or her own campaign within one year of an election, the state contribution caps no longer apply. But Kelly didn’t file the necessary petition signatures by Monday’s deadline to appear on the ballot. Nonetheless, the lifting of the campaign limits remains in place.”