P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism
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Saturday, November 09, 2002
What We Should Do Part III
Elections Are Won By Occupying the Center – A History Lesson
After the great liberal triumphs of the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society, Democrats increasingly came to be seen as outside the center of American politics. By 1968, they were perceived, incorrectly in our view, as being unpatriotic, soft on criminals, captives of their most radical elements, big government lefties who were eager to tax the middle class to spend money on programs that had little appeal or benefit to most Americans.
Democrats had lost their position in the center of the political spectrum. The upshot of leaving the center was that Republicans occupied the White House for 20 of the next 24 years. The one Presidential election won by the Democrats in the period of 1968 to 1992 was the result of the Nixon administration crumbling in corruption and scandal.
That period of Republican domination ended in 1992. Bill Clinton ran as a third-way politician. He dragged the Democrats back to the center on economic policy, trade policy and social policy.
At the same time, Republicans were being dragged by their right wing away from the center. Pat Buchanan gave his Culture War speech at the Republican Convention. The Republicans came to be seen as the party of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
The great center of American politics rejected the extreme rhetoric of the Republican convention, accepted the third-way of Bill Clinton and returned the Democrats to the White House for the first time in 12 years. When Republicans lost their hold on the center, they lost the White House.
In Clinton’s first two years in the White House, the combination of gays in the military, health care reform, and the Republican media machine’s treatment of other issues combined to convince the public that Clinton had campaigned in the center but was governing from the left. As a result of that perception, Clinton and the Democrats lost the political battle for the center.
In the 1994 mid-term elections, the great center of American politics again abandoned the Democratic Party and brought Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole to majority status in the Congress.
After the Republicans came to power in the Congress, people were openly wondering whether the Presidency was relevant. People were referring to Clinton as having only one-half a term as President.
The Republicans overplayed their hand. They moved out of the center by trying to cut middle class benefits like Medicare and by shutting down the government for what appeared to the public to be personal and ideological reasons.
Clinton, on the other hand, pursued the politics of the center. He triangulated between the right wing Republicans in Congress and the alleged liberalism of the Democratic congressional minority. He found many small policy proposals that put him squarely on the side of middle America. Having claimed the center as his own, Clinton won reelection handily in 1996.
After the 1996 elections, the Republicans could not bring themselves to offend their right wing base. They did not move to the center. They pursued a strategy of scandal rather than attempting to implement policies that favored the center of the spectrum. Eliminating the Department of Education, removing regulation of the polluters and cutting Medicare simply were not within the center of American politics. As it turned out, neither was scandal.
Despite the Lewinski scandal and the right wing’s attempt (with their media fellow travelers) to gin up scandals from the thin gruel of Whitewater, the Travel Office, the Vince Foster suicide, the billing records, Kathleen Wiley, Paula Jones, the fundraising coffees, the Lincoln Bedroom, Waco, the alleged political influence of China, the alleged passing of missile technology to China and many, many other alleged scandals, Clinton retained his double-fisted hold on the center. As a result, in the mid-term elections of 1998, the party of an impeached President won seats.
By 2000, the Republicans wanted desperately to win the White House. The entire Republican establishment united behind George W. Bush. Bush ran not as a Gingrich revolutionary but rather as a Republican version of a third way, Clintonian centrist. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative.” He promised to end the partisan, personal battles (caused primarily by his Republican cohorts) and bring a bipartisan tone to Washington.
At the 2000 Republican Convention, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson were nowhere to be seen. If one did not know better, the convention could have led one to believe that only women, African Americans and Hispanics were allowed on the podium during prime time. The 2000 Republican convention wanted to fund the Department of Education not kill it. There was no talk of culture wars at the 2000 convention.
Despite the Clinton “scandals” and the Republican’s move to the center, the Democrats retained substantial credibility with the center in 2000. The Clinton administration not only talked of a third way, it delivered substantial improvements in the lives of most Americans. America was richer after two Clinton terms. The stock market was up, unemployment was down, incomes were rising, welfare rolls were cut dramatically, inflation was tame and opportunity for advancement seemed realistic to most. America was safer after a historic reduction in crime. We were at peace. Those benefits are not taken lightly by the center of the political spectrum.
In the end, Democrats were not pushed from the center in the 2000 election. Al Gore won a plurality of the popular vote. Gore lost the Presidency as a result of self indulgent, ideologically pure Greens, a fiction writing media, Republican shenanigans and a disgracefully political Supreme Court. The Democratic Party, however, picked up seats in the House and pulled even in the Senate.
In the 2002 election, the Democratic Party lost two Senate seats and a handful of House seats. They picked up several important Governors. Despite the efforts of the Republicans and the media, Democrats have not yet been driven from the center.
Indeed, the Republicans gained seats in the 2002 election partly by taking centrist positions usually championed by Democrats. No Republican of whom we are aware argued for privatization of Social Security in the 2002 election. Republicans fell all over themselves arguing that they wanted to provide a prescription drug benefit to seniors. Republicans maintained the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility while blowing the surplus and plunging us ever deeper into debt.
The fact that Republicans in 2002 were cynically taking Democratic/centrist positions on important issues shows that the Democrats, on domestic policy at least, still occupy the center. That is very good news. If Democrats remain in the center they can return to power and enact policies that positively impact the lives of ordinary Americans.
If Democrats abandon the center voluntarily, they might gain some short-term emotional satisfaction of being ideologically pure, but they will surely lose elections and have no hope of regaining power in the near term.
Friday, November 08, 2002
No Offense Intended
Georgia has a Republican Governor-elect for the first time since reconstruction. Sonny Perdue came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent Governor Roy Barnes. One issue that helped Perdue was the Georgia flag. In 1956, after the Supreme Court ordered the public schools integrated in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, die-hard segregationists in Georgia looked for a way to express their defiance.
The segregationists found one. They changed the Official State Flag of Georgia to include the Confederate Battle Flag.
In the 1990s, the continued use of a Confederate symbol became controversial. Democratic Governor Roy Barnes, in an act of political courage, changed the flag to eliminate the Confederate symbolism.
Those in Georgia who still wish that the Confederacy had won the Civil War were deeply offended by the change. They felt that part of their Southern heritage being taken away. Apparently, their Southern heritage only extends back to 1956. Some of those same people have had junked cars on blocks in their yard longer than that.
Sonny Perdue ran against Roy Barnes, in part, on the issue of restoring the Confederate symbol to the State Flag. Perdue favored having a referendum on whether or not to return to the flag bearing the symbol of Jim Crow.
After Mr. Perdue’s upset victory, he celebrated by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, saying: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last.”
Mr. Perdue was quick to say that he meant no offense to anyone. Of course, he also means no offense by the use of an official state symbol that harkens back to a time when a significant portion of the people he is to govern were considered chattel and not people.
Mr. Perdue, as a supporter of the symbols of Jim Crow, segregation and slavery, has no business quoting Dr. King on the subject of freedom. We hope that the many people of Georgia who, like us, oppose the return to official sanctioning of the symbols of segregation and slavery will remember that Governor Perdue mocked Dr. King.
We hope that they will remember it on Election Day in four years. Even if it is raining.
Thursday, November 07, 2002
What we Should Do Part II
Unity and Discipline Beat Chaos and Backbiting Every Time
Many have already called for new leadership among the Democrats. Apparently Dick Gephardt is stepping down as Minority Leader of the House. Some have suggested that Tom Daschle and Terry McAuliffe do likewise. We will support whomever the Party chooses for the Leadership. We think, however, that Democrats should consider the qualities needed in our Congressional Leaders.
The most important characteristics of anyone in a leadership position of the Democratic Party in the current environment are the abilities to end the intra-party backbiting, unite the Party and focus the Party on a national agenda. The process of uniting the party is a prerequisite to winning back of the House and Senate and the White House.
If the party goes through a prolonged purge of those seen as at fault for Tuesday’s results, and then goes into a bruising primary battle for the Presidential nomination, all hope for regaining the White House, the Senate or the House will disappear in a storm of recrimination. In that event, the only happy Democrat will be Mickey Kaus.
After Dick Gephardt resigns as Minority Leader, the selection of a new Minority Leader in the House must be made quickly and decisively.
If Nancy Pelosi, a liberal, is chosen, then moderates and DLC Democrats need to immediately cease any whining and complaining and get with the program. No DLC Democrat will chair a House Committee if they are busy complaining about the leadership.
Similarly, if moderate Martin Frost becomes the new leader, liberals should salute and get on board. If a Republican remains Speaker after 2004, the House will not enact liberal policies.
In choosing a new House Minority Leader, each of the following characteristics is essential:
1) The ability to unite Democrats of all stripes. The new Minority leader must be able to unite House Democrats in the first instance and keep them united in the face of what is likely to be a number of legislative defeats. To the extent that the party can remain united and pursue a common agenda with common rhetorical themes, the chances of electoral success are greatly increased. The new leader must be viewed by all factions of the Democratic Caucus and the Party at large as being an honest broker for all Democrats;
2) The new House Minority Leader must have no Presidential ambitions. This characteristic alone makes it wise that Gephardt has stepped down. In the Senate, Daschle should either renounce Presidential ambition or step down as Leader.
The Leadership must be viewed by all members of the Party and particularly the Democratic Caucus as pursuing the interest of the Party as a whole. A Minority Leader must not be seen as pursuing personal interests or the interests of one wing of the party.
3) An ability to effectively communicate on television is essential. One of the most important tasks of a new Minority Leader will be to promote the agenda of the party (more on the development of such an agenda in a later post). Democrats in the House will not be able to pass legislation or even to significantly alter Republican legislation. It is therefore essential that the House Minority leader be able to persuasively articulate an agenda in ways other than through the enactment of legislation. The logical medium is through television.
4) The ability to develop and coordinate a unified message and strategy with the Senate Minority Leader, the Presidential nominee and Democratic officials of all types. If each member of a band is playing in a different key, the result is noise, not music.
The Democrats will not regain power by running a series of unrelated local races. They must nationalize the race around issues of their choosing. The only way to nationalize an election is to have all members of the party playing the same tune in the same key at the same time.
5) The new House Minority Leader must have the discipline to stay on message and keep other members of the caucus on message. Democrats must fight not only the Republicans but also the Republican echo chamber of the media. In order to do so, the leaders of the party must stay relentlessly on message. The discipline of staying on message will provide the media with little choice but to report the message so as to keep up the fiction that both sides were presented.
The qualities necessary for a successful Minority Leader in the Senate are similar. There are three additional qualities necessary in for a Leader in the Senate. First, the Minority Leader must know the Rules of the Senate backwards and forwards. Only through tactical use of the filibuster and other rules will the Democrats be able to derail the most egregious pieces of the Bush agenda.
Secondly, the Senate Minority Leader must be able to take a pounding. When the Minority Leader inevitably uses the Senate Rules to delay or defeat legislation, the Republicans and their minions in the media will seek to demonize the Senate Minority Leader. That Leader must be able to deal with such attacks. He or she must be indifferent to Beltway Conventional Wisdom and the opinions of President Bush, Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh and Tim Russert.
Third, the Minority Leader in the Senate must be a tactician who decides which battles are worth fighting and which battles will only serve to split the caucus.
We should choose our leaders carefully and wisely. Once chosen, however, all Democrats should close ranks and support the Leadership.
Just for the Record Part VI
Growth of Federal Spending
In the Just for the Record series of posts we look at various aspects of economic or fiscal performance for the forty-year period from 1962-2001.
We chose 1962 for the starting point as it was the first budget submitted by President Kennedy. Thus, for our purposes, the Kennedy term runs from 1962-1965. The Johnson term runs from 1966-1969 etc. During the forty-year period, each party controlled the White House for a total of twenty years.
In Part I, we looked at the budget deficit. In Part II we looked at the growth of non-defense employees of the federal government. In Part III, we looked at GDP growth. In Part IV, we looked at unemployment. In Part V we looked at inflation.
We received an e-mail from Aziz Poonawalla of Unmedia requesting that do a Just for the Record post concerning the growth of Federal non-defense spending. We decided to analyze both the growth of total Federal spending and the growth of Federal non-defense spending. For both, we got our raw data here at Table 3-1. The Cogent Provacateur has noted that the data is also available here.
First, we look at the growth of total Federal spending.
Total Federal Spending
During the Kennedy years the growth rate of total Federal spending was 9.31%, 4.20%, 6.48% and a reduction of 0.25% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 4.94%.
During the Johnson years the growth rate of total Federal spending was 3.79%, 17.05%, 13.13% and 3.09%, respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 9.27%.
During the Nixon (and Ford) years the growth rate of total Federal spending was 6.54%, 7.42%, 9.76%, 6.51%, 9.67%, 23.38%, 11.87% and 10.07%, respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 11.73%.
During the Carter years, the growth rate of total federal spending was 12.10%, 9.87%, 17.24% and 14.77%. Those four years average a growth rate of 13.50%
During the Reagan years, the growth rate of total Federal spending was 9.95%, 8.40%, 5.38%, 11.10%, 4.65%, 1.38%, 6.01% and 7.44% respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 6.79%.
During the Bush years, the growth rate of total Federal spending was 9.58%, 5.68%, 4.32% and 2.01% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 5.40%.
During the Clinton years, the growth rate of total Federal spending was 3.72%, 3.69%, 2.95%, 2.61%, 3.21%, 2.98%, 5.10% and 4.20% respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 3.56%
For the twenty years of Republican submitted budgets the average percentage growth of total Federal spending was 7.57%
For the twenty years of Democratic submitted budgets the average percentage growth of total Federal spending was 6.96%.
Next, we look at the growth of non-defense Federal spending.
Growth of Non-Defense Federal Spending
During the Kennedy years the percentage growth of Federal non-defense spending was 13.20%, 6.31%, 10.11%, and 6.01% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 8.91%.
During the Johnson years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was 13.04%, 12.60%, 11.81% and 5.13% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 10.65%.
During the Nixon (and Ford) years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was 12.67%, 15.22%, 15.38%, 11.60%, 12.38%, 29.37%, 14.79% and 10.56% respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 15.24%.
During the Carter years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was 13.55%, 9.44%, 17.87% and 13.96% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 13.70%.
During the Reagan years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was and 7.70%, 6.71%, 4.34%, 11.08%, 3.37%, 0.70%, 7.20% and 8.52% respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 6.20%.
During the Bush years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was 13.54%, 10.19%, 3.07%, and 3.24% respectively. Those four years average a growth rate of 7.51%.
During the Clinton years the percentage growth of federal non-defense spending was 5.53%, 5.38%, 4.10%, 2.78%, 4.01%, 3.10%, 4.71% and 4.09% respectively. Those eight years average a growth rate of 4.21%.
For the twenty years of Republican submitted budgets the average growth rate of Federal non-defense spending was 10.08%.
For the twenty years of Democratic submitted budgets the average growth rate of Federal non-defense spending was 8.34%.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
What We Should Do - Part I
Democrats and those of us to the left of center of American politics had a bad night on Tuesday. After losing control of the Senate, a few House seats and failing to make predicted gains among the Governors, it is only natural for Democrats to take a hard look at the lessons to be learned (or, rather, re-learned) from the debacle. We intend to try to identify some of those lessons and to make specific recommendations in a series of posts.
Before we begin that analysis, however, it may be useful to recall some first principles of politics. In particular, in formulating a strategy for going forward we should remember the following:
1) Politics is never over;
2) Unity and discipline beat chaotic backbiting every single time;
3) Elections are won by occupying the center;
4) You do not beat something with nothing; and
5) Politics is about substantively improving people’s lives.
This post will discuss the first issue. Subsequent posts in this series will discuss the others.
Politics Is Never Over
The result of last Tuesday’s election was disappointing but it is not the end of the world. Democrats are now in essentially the same position that they occupied in 2001 before Senator Jeffords became an Independent and allowed the Democrats to organize the Senate.
Democrats lost only two Senate seats and a few House seats. Democrats retain sufficient seats in the Senate to block the most egregious proposals of the Republicans.
The Democrats’ situation is far from hopeless. They hold more Senate seats and more House seats than the Republicans held going into 1994. Small swings in the House and Senate in 2004 could return Democrats to majority status. Democrats now have Governors in some important swing states.
There is a substantial chance that the Republicans will overplay their hand, abandon the center and give the Democrats the opportunity to win back some or all of the government in 2004.
Mr. Bush is now responsible for the condition of the nation. If his policies work, that is to everyone’s benefit and Democrats should be happy for the improved conditions. We think that Mr. Bush’s foreign policy, economic policy, environmental policy, social policy and retirement security policies are simply wrong. We believe that they are destined for failure. In that event, Mr. Bush and the Republican Party will be vulnerable in 2004 if, but only if, Democrats use the intervening period to prepare to once again be the governing party.
There is another election in two years. While it is useful to learn from past mistakes, Democrats do not have the luxury of wallowing in defeat for a couple of years and then hoping that some miracle will return them to power.
Democrats must move quickly away from an analysis of the 2002 defeat and begin to reorganize for the next battle.
Senate Election Results -- Republicans Roll
In the post immediately below, we predicted the result for each of the 34 Senate races. Our last prediction was that “some of our predictions are just wrong." That, at least, was accurate. Seventeen of the 34 Senate races were easy calls in safe seats. There were no surprises among the safe seats held by either Democrats or Republicans.
In the closer races, we misjudged three races. We predicted that Shaheen would win over Sununu in New Hampshire. Sununu won. We predicted that Mondale would win in Minnesota but Coleman took the seat.
Finally, and most distressingly, we misjudged the Senate race in our home state of Georgia. Our pick, Max Cleland, lost to Saxby Chambliss by what was, in the end, a comfortable margin. If we had known ahead of time that Max Cleland would attract as many votes as Governor Roy Barnes, we would have been sanguine about our prediction. Barnes lost as well. The Democratic base, particularly in Fulton County, simply did not turn out for Barnes or Cleland.
We predicted that if everything broke for the Republicans, they could win as many as 51 seats. Everything did break for the Republicans and they did win 51 seats (with a possible 52 if they win the run-off in Louisiana).
In addition, the Republicans expanded their majority in the House of Representatives and held their loss of Governor races to close to the minimum possible.
The driving force behind the Republicans' victory was undoubtedly President Bush. He showed both leadership and courage by spending his political capital in an effort to expand his mandate, and he now reaps the reward of control of the entire Federal Government.
Mr. Bush campaigned harder and longer in mid-term elections than any President in our memory. He had a swing through 15 states in the last days of the campaign and the results of that effort are remarkable. Among the Governors who owe their election, in some degree, to President Bush are those in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Minnesota and Arkansas.
In the Senate races, Mr. Bush campaigned for and aided in the victories of Talent in Missouri, Alexander in Tennessee, Cornyn in Texas, Coleman in Minnesota, Dole in North Carolina, Graham in South Carolina and Chambliss in Georgia. House races in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and elsewhere were significantly influenced by Mr. Bush's diligence, leadership and popularity.
The late movement in the polls towards the Republicans was undoubtedly caused, in some part, by the energy and support of the President. Mr. Bush sought to energize his base, and he succeeded. Mr. Bush sought to nationalize the election, and he succeeded.
One does not have to support the policies of Mr. Bush to admire his use of the Presidency as well as his willingness to risk his own political capital to assist his party in the mid-term elections.
By winning control over both the House and the Senate, Mr. Bush controls the agenda and has the power to muscle his policies through the legislature and into law. On issues such as Homeland Security, prescription drugs, balanced budgets, economic growth, tax policy, faith-based initiatives, corporate reform, accounting reform, Social Security privatization, crime, social policy and others, Mr. Bush has been given the power to govern. With the power comes the responsibility. Those issues and others are now Mr. Bush's and the Republican Party's responsibility.
It is now Mr. Bush's job to grow the economy, balance the budget, reduce crime, improve the culture, end partisan sniping and protect us from terrorism.
Mr. Bush came into office after a campaign in which he ran as a "compassionate conservative." He promised to change the tone in Washington and end the partisan bickering. With control over both houses of Congress, Mr. Bush is in a position to dictate the tone. He will choose whether or not the tone remains vituperatively partisan.
Mr. Bush’s control over the agenda enables him to demonstrate that he is the more moderate version of 1990’s Republicanism that the “compassionate” portion of compassionate conservative implies. He must now choose whether or not to govern in a bipartisan, compassionate way.
Mr. Bush and the Republican Party are to be congratulated on their victories. They overcame the historical trend of the White House party losing seats in off-year elections. They overcame a sluggish economy, corporate scandals and the failure to apprehend either Osama bin Laden or the anthrax terrorist. They overcame a declining stock market and a rising unemployment rate. As a political matter, Mr. Bush’s performance is to be acknowledged and admired.
Mr. Bush will be judged by how he wields the power he has been given. He is responsible for solving the nation's problems and leading us back to peace and prosperity. The American people have given him the power to meet those responsibilities. We hope he wields it wisely.
Sunday, November 03, 2002
This article will predict the outcome of each race for the United States Senate. This article is written for non-political junkies. For political junkies, please head directly over to the DailyKos or MyDD as you already know this stuff and our predictions are no better than yours.
In order to regain control, the Republicans need to have fifty Senate seats (as Vice President Cheney will cast the deciding vote in the event of a 50-50 split). To maintain control, the Democrats also need fifty Senators as the lone Independent Senator, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, will vote for a Democratic controlled Senate. Jeffords is not up for reelection.
The Democrats start with 37 Senators (including Jeffords) that are not up for reelection. The Republicans start with 29 Senators not up for reelection. There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs.
The Republicans have eleven incumbent Senators up for reelection who have little or no competition. Those eleven are Cochran of Mississippi, Craig of Idaho, Domenici of New Mexico, Enzi of Wyoming, Hagel of Nebraska, Inhofe of Oklahoma, McConnell of Kentucky, Roberts of Kansas, Sessions of Alabama, Stevens of Alaska and Warner of Virginia. If any of those eleven lose, it will be a very long night for Republicans.
Similarly, there are six Democratic Senators up for reelection who are safe. Those six are Biden of Delaware, Durbin of Illinois, Kerry of Massachusetts, Levin of Michigan, Reed of Rhode Island and Rockefeller of West Virginia. If any of those six lose, the Republicans will take over the Senate.
After accounting for safe seats, the Republicans hold 40 seats; the Democrats (including Jeffords) hold 43 seats and 17 races remain.
Of those seventeen races, five are reasonably easy calls:
In Maine, incumbent Republican moderate Susan Collins is running against Democrat Cellie Pingree. Collins has never developed the reputation and following of her fellow moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. At one time, Collins was thought to be vulnerable. The Pingree campaign closed a very large gap in the early fall but recent polls show Collins up by 53-38. Collins wins easily.
Running Total: Dems 43, Reps 41
In Iowa, old time liberal Democrat Tom Harkin defends his seat against Republican Greg Gangske. Harkin is always thought to be in trouble as he is to the left of mainstream Iowa. A tempest arose when a videotape surfaced of a Gangske meeting. The Gangske campaign alleged that the Harkin campaign violated the law by taping and leaking the tape. Gangske hyperbolically charged that Harkin was guilty of a Watergate style dirty political trick. The person taping the meeting was invited by Gangske and openly used the recorder. No charges were ever filed and the tempest passed. The latest polling (released November 1) shows Harkin with an insurmountable 60-38 lead. Harkin wins a fourth term in the Senate.
Running Total: Dems 44, Reps 41
In Oregon, first-term incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith faces Democratic challenger Bill Bradbury. The Bradbury campaign gained some momentum in early autumn but has faded fast. The latest polls show Smith with an 18 point lead. Smith wins in a walk.
Running Total: Dems 44, Reps 42
Three-term incumbent Senator Max Baucus is seeking reelection. The Republicans nominated Mike Taylor. Baucus was considered vulnerable on the basis that any Democrat is vulnerable in Montana. Taylor failed to raise sufficient funds to mount a real challenge.
Then, in one of the more bizarre episodes of the campaign season, Montana Democrats ran an ad showing a portion of an infomercial Taylor had made and aired to promote his hair salon business. The ad accused Taylor of ripping off the Government in a student loan scam related to his hair care schools. Taylor was shown dressed as a 1970’s disco king with an Afro, open neck shirt and gold chains. He was applying lotion to another man’s face.
The Republicans screamed that the ad was gay baiting as they viewed the ad as suggesting that Taylor was gay.
It seems difficult for Taylor to complain, however, since the video clip was taken from an infomercial Taylor himself had produced.
At any rate, Taylor quit the race, apparently upset that the voters of Montana would see the infomercial he ran on Denver television.
A short time later, in a Perot-style turnabout, Taylor restarted his campaign. Taylor’s strategy of quitting because his opposition showed an infomercial that Taylor had made and then restarting his campaign did not prove effective.
Baucus leads in the latest poll by a huge margin. Baucus will return to the Senate.
Running Total: Dems 45, Reps 42
5) New Jersey
The New Jersey race has also been bizarre. It originally pitted ethically challenged Robert Torricelli against Republican Doug Forrester. Forrester’s campaign was completely based on his central asset of not being Torrecelli. Given that Torrecelli was and is corrupt to the core, that seemed a winning strategy. The strategy of not being Torrecelli was working as Forrester was up in the polls and seemed headed to victory.
Forrester, noting Torrecelli’s ethical problems, called for the incumbent Democrat to quit the race. To Forrester’s great surprise, Torrecelli followed that advice and did, in fact, quit.
The Democrats put former Senator Frank Lautenberg up as a replacement. The replacement of Lautenberg deprived Forrester of his best issue because Lautenberg also was not Torrecelli.
Having gotten what he asked for (Torrecelli’s resignation) Forrester sued to keep Torrecelli in the race. A unanimous Supreme Court of New Jersey rejected Forrester’s claim and allowed Lautenberg to be substituted on the ballot for Torrecelli. The Supreme Court of the United States, have lost both face and dignity in Bush v. Gore, declined to intervene.
Forrester having no winning issue other than not being Torrecelli, was suddenly faced with an opponent who also was not Torrecelli. Forester was out of issues.
Forrester’s lead evaporated and Lautenburg now leads in the polls by a margin of 51-41. Lautenberg will win and New Jersey voters will get what they wanted from the beginning, a Senator who is not Torrecelli.
Running Total: Dems 46, Reps 42
The remaining 12 races are closer. The Democrats need to win 5 of the 12 to maintain control. The Republicans need to win 8 of the 12 to regain control.
1) South Carolina
The South Carolina race is for the open seat being vacated by Strom Thurmond. Senator Thurmond, who ran for President in 1948, is finally retiring. Regardless of who wins, Senator Fritz Hollins, who has served in the Senate for more than 30 years will finally become the Senior Senator from South Carolina.
The South Carolina race pits Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham against university president Alex Sanders. Graham has long been the favorite in the heavily Republican state. Graham may have some personal baggage but Sanders, to his credit as a human being, has failed to go negative on personal issues.
Sanders has run a good campaign but it will not be enough in solidly Republican South Carolina. Graham leads in the polls by a substantial margin and will be the next Senator from South Carolina.
Running Total: Dems 46, Reps 43
The Tennessee seat also is open as a result of the retirement of Fred Thompson. Thompson would have won reelection easily but decided instead to take an acting role on TV’s Law and Order. If the show gets canceled, it serves him right.
The current race pits former Tennessee Governor, Education Secretary and Republican presidential candidate Lamar (Lamar!) Alexander against Democratic Congressman Bob Clement.
Lamar! had a big lead but Clement has closed the gap by focusing on some shady insider business deals from which Lamar! profited. To emphasize the business deals, the Democrats have printed up fake dollar bills with Lamar!’s picture and “Corporate Greed of America” printed on them.
When one Democratic campaign worker, who had been handing out the bills, shook hands with Lamar!, the candidate crushed the campaign worker’s hand and the two had to be separated by the police. Never, ever, ever get into a handshaking contest with a politician. You will not win.
The latest polls show Alexander in the lead by 11 percent. In a Republican state, that gap is too large for Clement to close in the last days. Lamar! takes his plaid shirt to the Senate.
Running Total: Dems 46, Reps 44
The Arkansas Senate race pits incumbent Republican Tim Hutchinson against Democrat Mark Pryor. Pryor is the Attorney General of Arkansas and is the son of former Arkansas Senator David Pryor. Pryor has run a good campaign and leads in the latest polls by margins of 5-8 points. In one poll, Pryor, the challenger, is above 50%. That spells serious trouble for the incumbent.
Tim Hutchinson is not to be confused with his brother, former Congressman and current Drug Czar, Asa Hutchinson. Tim Hutchinson is a Baptist preacher and a graduate of uber-conservative Bob Jones University. He is the poster boy for Republican family values. He dumped his wife of many years and married a congressional staffer 20+ years his junior.
Hutchinson says that God has forgiven him. The voters of Arkansas have not. Pryor wins.
Running Total: Dems 47, Reps 44
Georgia’s Senate race pits incumbent first-term Senator Max Cleland against Contract with America Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss. Cleland has led all the way but the race is tightening significantly. Chambliss has run a good campaign by which we mean that he has been relentlessly and unfairly negative in his ads.
His ads have even suggested that Max Cleland lacks courage. That is a remarkable contention since Mr. Chambliss, an avid jogger, avoided service in Vietnam claiming a bad knee while Max Cleland enlisted and lost three limbs in the war.
President Bush has pulled out all of the stops for Chambliss and both he and Vice President Cheney have repeatedly visited Georgia for Chambliss. President Bush will be back in Georgia this weekend.
The latest poll shows Cleland up by five percent. Many of the undecided voters are women. That favors Cleland. In addition, President Bush’s popularity in Georgia has fallen from 71% in September to 64% now. That drop is also good news for Cleland.
Georgia’s very popular Senator, Zell Miller, has recently made a television ad in which he suggests that Chambliss should be ashamed of himself for his untrue negative attacks on Cleland. That should help Cleland.
This race is close and turnout is crucial. The Georgia Secretary of State predicts heavy turnout. That favors Cleland.
We guess that Cleland survives. If Chambliss wins, the Republican hopes of capturing the Senate are greatly increased. This is a race to watch. Polls close relatively early in Georgia and the result of this race could give a good indication of what the night holds for both parties.
Running Total: Dems 48, Reps 44
The Louisiana race has first-term incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu against three Republicans. Landrieu will get many more votes than any challenger. Louisiana, however, has a quirky election law. Unless Landrieu gets more than 50% of the votes, a runoff between her and the top Republican vote getter is required in early December.
The latest polling has Landrieu getting 44% of the vote with her closest competitor getting less than 20%. We think Landrieu has a good shot at 50% to win the seat outright. If she falls short, however, she should, with one caveat, still win the runoff.
The caveat occurs if next Tuesday’s election requires a runoff in Louisiana and that seat will determine control of the Senate. In that event, the money and pressure on the runoff election will be like nothing we have ever seen. The happiest people in the world will be the folks that sell advertising on Louisiana television and radio.
Control of the Senate and, therefore, the composition of the Federal Judiciary could be determined by the state that elected a governor with the slogan, “Vote for the Crook, it’s Important.” Landrieu survives.
Running Total: Dems 49, Reps 44
6) North Carolina
The North Carolina race is for an open seat being vacated by the retiring Jesse Helms. With Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond both retiring from the Senate, the quantity and quality of Dixie whistling, race baiting, Confederate flag waving and drooling will decrease substantially.
The race pits Liddy Dole (twice a Cabinet Secretary, formerly head of the Red Cross and wife of former Senate Majority Leader and Presidential candidate Bob Dole) against businessman and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Bowles is smart but charisma challenged. Dole is politically well connected with high name recognition but charisma challenged. It has not been a charismatic campaign.
Bowles has run a campaign focused on the economy and has attempted to downplay his Clinton connection in conservative North Carolina. Dole has attacked Bowles’ business background (and that of Bowles’ wife) but has run a generally vacuous campaign.
Dole held a large lead in the beginning of this race and went into a prevent defense. Like the football team that goes into a prevent defense too early, she lost momentum and allowed Bowles back into the race.
Dole leads by a substantial margin in the Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point triad while Bowles leads in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill triangle. Which way Charlotte goes may determine the race. The latest polling shows Dole retaining only 6 points of her once substantial lead.
Bowles got a boost when his primary opponent, Dan Blue, began campaigning for him. GOTV efforts are crucial to any Democratic hopes for this race and Blue might help turn out the African American vote. Momentum is on Bowles side but N.C. is a basically conservative state. We think that Dole hangs onto just enough of her lead to follow her husband to the Senate.
Running Total: Dems 49, Reps 45
7) South Dakota
This race is very, very close. Nominally, it pits incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Johnson against South Dakota’s only Congressman Jim Thune. Politically, it also pits Johnson’s mentor, Majority Leader Tom Daschle against Thune’s political patron President Bush.
President Bush’s White House convinced Thune to forego a run for Governor (which he would have almost certainly won) for a problematic race for the Senate. President Bush has stumped for Thune. Tom Daschle, now that the Senate is out of session, is in South Dakota campaigning for Johnson full time.
Thune tried to make an issue out of voter fraud but that may have backfired as the only evidence of fraud to surface to date was perpetrated by one low level Democratic worker and involved only 15 ballots. Democrats have been working hard to register Native Americans who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. South Dakotans stand to lose a lot of clout if Tom Daschle loses his position as Majority Leader.
The polls have been close throughout this race. The latest Mason-Dixon poll had Johnson with a slight lead. The latest Keoland poll has Johnson with a three-point advantage, well within the margin of error. The Keoland poll shows independents breaking for Johnson. This race is likely to be decided by GOTV efforts of each party.
While we have very little confidence in the result of this race, we think Johnson will survive.
Running Total: Dems 50, Reps 45
The Minnesota race began as a contest between two-term Democrat Paul Wellstone and the Republican Mayor of St. Paul, Norm Coleman. Coleman was one of President Bush’s “three amigos” (along with Talent of Missouri and Thune of South Dakota). The White House penned its hopes of retaking the Senate on the success of the three amigos.
The Republicans counted on the Iraq vote pushing Coleman over the top. Wellstone followed his conscience and voted against the Iraq resolution. He was the only Democratic Senator in a close race to do so. That vote did not hurt Wellstone. In fact, it vaulted him ahead of Coleman by a significant margin. We were gaining confidence that Wellstone would be reelected when he tragically died (along with his wife, daughter, staffers, and pilots) in an airplane crash.
The death of Paul Wellstone is likely to energize Democratic voters in Minnesota. His memorial service, to no one’s surprise, had a pro-Democratic political tone. The Republicans claim to be outraged that a memorial service for a very political Senator would have political overtones. We suspect that had Senator Helms died in an election race, the Republicans would have had Carol Mosely-Braun deliver the eulogy and lead the crowd in singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
At any rate, the Republicans are likely to be energized by the alleged outrage generated by the usual suspects on the right.
The Democrats replaced Wellstone on the ballot with Walter Mondale. Modale is a Democratic warhorse. He has been a Senator, an Ambassador and Vice President. He last ran in 1984 when he lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan in the Presidential race. The one state Mondale won was Minnesota.
This race is in serious flux. No one knows how the death of Paul Wellstone and the controversy over the memorial service will play out. Polls taken after Mondale’s candidacy was announced show Mondale with an eight point margin.
We predict that Mondale returns to the Senate. The spirit of Paul Wellstone will prevail.
Running Total: Dems 51, Reps 45
In a replay of the election six years ago, incumbent Republican Senator Wayne Allard faces Tom Strickland. Allard has done nothing in his six years in the Senate to distinguish himself. He is a generic conservative. Colorado is a traditionally conservative state that is changing to one in which Democrats are competitive.
The polls have been close all along. Allard has had trouble cracking 40% in the polls. Traditional theory says that incumbents polling below 50% are vulnerable. Incumbents polling at 40% are usually terminal.
Despite Allard’s weakness, Strickland has had trouble taking advantage. He has gotten little or no traction with his campaign. The campaign has been terribly negative all the way around.
The latest polls show Allard with a very small lead, well within the margin of error. Turnout will be crucial in this race like so many close races. We expect Allard to survive by a hair but would not be surprised if Strickland won.
Running Total: Dems 51, Reps 46
10) New Hampshire
New Hampshire is an open seat by virtue of Republican Congressman John Sununu’s defeat of incumbent Senator Bob Smith in the primary. Sununu is the son of former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Sununu’s opponent is current New Hampshire Governor Jean Shaheen.
New Hampshire used to be a bastion of Yankee conservatism. It has changed. Many Boston transplants have invaded and New Hampshire’s high tech industry has brought many socially liberal voters to the state. Al Gore lost New Hampshire by only a very few thousand votes.
Shaheen is better on the stump than Sununu. She is charismatic while Sununu is stiff and prickly. Shaheen did better in the debates than Sununu.
The margin of loss for Sununu may be the blowback from the contested primary with Bob Smith. Smith resented the White House’s preference for Sununu over a sitting Republican Senator. He also resented the negative attacks by Sununu in the primary.
Smith has not campaigned for Sununu in the general election. A number of hardcore Smith supporters have mounted a write-in campaign for their candidate. Smith has done nothing to stop those efforts. If a few thousand Smith supporters write him in or simply stay at home on election day, that may be enough to prevent Sununu from winning. In that event, one suspects that Smith will shed few tears.
The latest polling gives Shaheen a small but useful four-point advantage. If Democrats turn out, Shaheen will win. Karl Rove’s decision to back Sununu in the Republican primary will not look good if Shaheen prevails. We predict Shaheen in a nail biter.
Running Total: Dems 52, Reps 46
Jean Carnahan was appointed to the Senate after her husband, Governor Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash. Mel Carnahan stayed on the ballot after his death and defeated John Ashcroft in the 2000 election. Senator Carnahan is running in a special election against Republican former Congressman Jim Talent.
Ms. Carnahan is a moderate to liberal Democrat running as a centrist. Talent is a Contract with America Conservative running as a moderate. Talent is the last of the three amigos designated by the White House as the candidates to lead the GOP back to majority status in the Senate.
Talent is better on the stump than Carnahan. Carnahan, however, had the better of the recent debate when she shook her finger at a chagrined Talent and upbraided him for questioning her patriotism.
Missouri has two vastly different electorates. St. Louis and Kansas City are large urban areas with large minority populations that consistently vote Democratic. Rural Missouri is largely white and is solidly Republican.
The polls have moved back and forth in this very close race. The latest poll is within the margin of error and shows Talent with a four-point lead at 50-46. That is bad news for Carnahan as incumbents polling less than 50% are vulnerable and having the challenger with 50% is particularly troubling. New polling will be out Monday (Zogby) that may shed new light on the race.
As it stands now, the race will be decided on the ground by the respective get out the vote efforts. If the urban voters in St. Louis and Kansas City turn out in large numbers, Carnahan will likely win. If not, she will definitely lose. We predict Talent to prevail but will not be surprised if Carnahan wins.
Some have suggested that if the Democrats retain the Senate but lose Missouri, the Republicans will take advantage of the fact that Missouri is a special election to have Talent sworn in immediately. The Republicans would then have a Senate Majority until January. It has been suggested that the Republicans would use that temporary majority to confirm judges, make the tax cuts permanent and pass other legislation. We doubt that would occur as the political costs of such a move would be substantial, Senate rules make quick action difficult, and moderate Republican Senators might not go along.
Running Total: Dems 52, Reps 47
This is an open seat now held by Senator Phil Gramm (R-Enron). The Democrats are running the popular, charismatic two-time Mayor of Dallas, Ron Kirk. Kirk is a moderate Democrat who happens to be African American. He hopes to put together a coalition of minorities (Democrats have nominated an Hispanic for the Governorship), liberals, union members, yellow dogs, teachers and some Republicans to win the race.
The Republicans have nominated John Cornyn, the Texas Attorney General. Cornyn has suffered from his ties to Enron. He is a conventional conservative of the type that usually wins in Texas. Kirk is a much better campaigner and did very well in the last debate.
The latest public polls show Kirk behind by three. Democratic polls show Kirk tied or slightly ahead. The Cornyn campaign has released no Republican polls lately showing a large lead. That suggests that Cornyn’s internal polling also shows Kirk close.
George Bush is expected to stop in Texas before the election. That suggests that Karl Rove is worried about this race.
Democrats have put much effort into a get out the vote effort aimed at blacks and Hispanics. Early voting in minority areas has been very high.
All of those factors seem to add up to a Kirk upset. Nonetheless, we predict a Cornyn victory. The big picture is that Texas is a very conservative state. A Texan who is still very popular in Texas is in the White House. A Kirk victory would be a substantial black eye for Texas’s favorite son.
Cornyn by a nose.
Running Total: Dems 52, Reps 48
The state-by-state analysis suggests that the Democrats will hold the Senate and pick up one seat. That analysis is conservative from a Democratic perspective. The Democrats have 43 seats that are either not up for reelection or are safe. The have large leads (10+ points) in Montana, Iowa, New Jersey and Louisiana (note the Louisiana caveat). That would give them 47 seats. They also have between 4 and 8 point leads in Minnesota, Georgia, New Hampshire and Arkansas. Victories in those races would allow the Democrats to retain control of the Senate.
Democrats also have good shots at South Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Missouri and North Carolina.
If everything breaks the Democrats’ way, they would have 55-56 seats. If everything breaks the Republican’s way, they would have 50-51 seats.
If Democrats win the races in which they have small leads, they will control the Senate. Republicans have to win all the races where they have small leads, and pick off some Democrats who now have leads. That is a tall order.
We think that the wind is at the Democrats’ back for several reasons:
1) The Democrats have momentum. Have a look at the recent chart from the Iowa Electronic Markets to see that the bottom has fallen out of the Republican’s chances to win the Senate. Recent polls have shown a trend towards the Democrats in the generic balloting as well.
2) Off year elections favor the party out of the White House. This year does not rate to be the exception to the rule.
3) President Bush’s impact is not as strong as might be expected given his high approval ratings.
4) Iraq has lost much of its saliency as an issue and the economy and Social Security have arisen as important issues. Support for a war with Iraq was a 55% in a recent poll and that support drops to 27% if we do not have the support of the United Nations. When Paul Wellstone voted against the Iraq resolution, his poll numbers went up.
5) Democrats are better at the ground game than Republicans. Republicans, with their fund raising advantage, get more commercials on the air. Democrats, with union, teacher and minority activists usually win the get out the vote efforts.
6) Democrats are still upset about having the Presidency decided by the Supreme Court instead of the voters. This is their first chance to exact retribution.
7) The public prefers divided government.
8) Democrats lead Republicans in the generic ballot polling and the economy/jobs is the number one issue.
We expect the Democrats to do better than the pundits predict just as they did in 1998, and 2000. We also expect that our state-by-state prediction of 52-48 is at least one seat low for the Democrats. We would not be surprised if the Democrats emerge with 54-55 Senate seats.
We expect that some of our predictions are just wrong. We will see on Tuesday. In the mean time, think good thoughts and VOTE DEMOCRATIC.