Archive for category 2010 Elections

The Democrats Must Fight

“It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.”
Republican operative Mike Lofgren, upon retirement  (full article here)

I have been amazed at the change in the Republican party during my life time.   Today’s Republican party looks nothing like what it used to be.    That’s also the message of Mike Lofgren’s parting shot at a party he served for over thirty years, driven by his amazement that the GOP could engage in what he called “economic terrorism” in the debt ceiling crisis and other issues.    Where once Eisenhower could defend extremely high marginal rates on the wealthiest taxpayers (up to 90% on the highest incomes), now when Obama suggests closing loopholes during a time of crisis to pay to create jobs — keeping taxes on our wealthiest the lowest in the world — some make the claim that’s “class warfare.”   More accurately class warfare is refusing to close loopholes so that the poor do all the suffering in a time of crisis!

Here’s another interesting bit from that article:

“A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”

That kind of cynicism — to try to foster distrust of the institutions of democracy for electoral gain — is profoundly and deeply anti-American and of course anti-democratic (with a small ‘d’).   So are the arguments made recently that only those who pay taxes should vote, or here in Maine wild hysterics with no supporting evidence that Democrats were ‘stealing elections.’   Vote suppression has become a tactic across the country, embraced proudly by Republicans who believe that making it harder to register and to vote will help them at the ballot box.

After listing some of the vote suppression efforts, Loftgren notes the purpose – to stop “those people” from voting.

“You can probably guess who ‘those people’ are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn’t look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama’s policy of being black. Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some “other,” who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.”

Lofgren charges the media with being complicate in this attempt to subvert democracy.    Thanks to Fox news there is pressure to be ‘fair and balanced,’ which means treat each side the same.   Be no more critical of one side than the other, and blame both parties when things go wrong.   A commenter to my blog (classicliberal) has accused me of the same thing.   Beyond that, the far right uses talk radio and emotion-driven media to get their themes through.  Having studied German history I find I cannot listen to people like Limbaugh and Hannity.   To call them “entertainers” and dismiss their over the top vitriol understates just how much their methods, use of emotion, demonization of whole classes of people and simplification of the world into “us good, them bad” are so much like the tactics of Joseph Goebbels.

The author also blames the Democrats for ceding ground to the Republicans on this (again, echoing classicliberal’s criticisms of Obama’s center-right drift in comments on this blog).    The result is a country with dysfunctional politics, a major party that is in the hands of extremists who sound like any taxation is bad, play to fears (of Muslims, the poor needing assistance, Obama, etc.) and refuse to compromise because their goal is not to solve the country’s ills but to take power to realize their ideological vision.

All this coming from a Republican insider who knows what’s happening behind closed doors gives it immense credibility.   The author also doesn’t believe that most Republicans, not even most Republican politicians, share such a perverse perspective.   In Maine neither of our two Senators, my GOP State Senator nor my state Rep are like that — they reflect the true values of the Republican party.   However, at the national level the party seems to have been taken over by extremists who are so caught up in their own cause that they ignore the impact this has on a country that has functioned by competition between two parties who realize solving the nation’s problems is more important than electoral politics.

I am coming around to realizing that classicliberal was right.  I still defend Obama’s pragmatism — it demonstrated an effort to treat the Republicans as an opposition that should be taken seriously.   Perhaps they spat in Obama’s face more than he should have tolerated, but no one can accuse him of not making trying.   And on the debt ceiling Obama had to ultimately give in — the Republicans were crazy enough to sabotage the economy if he did not, the 14th amendment was not  a constitutionally valid approach (to do that to win a political fight would have been the equivalent of what the GOP was doing — to save the constitution you can’t abuse it), and it made clear who was at fault for the impasse.   It’s no surprise that since then the ratings of Congress and the tea party have plummeted.

But no more.   With all due respect to my conservative friends, Republicans who I believe do not represent the extremes and have legitimately skeptical views of many government programs, the Democrats and the President have to go on the offensive.  Call it class warfare if you want, but they have to point out the fact I’ve shown in this blog that the middle class have been net losers while the wealthy have had their incomes expand dramatically in the last thirty years.  Our taxes are the least progressive, our wealth distribution the worst in the industrialized world, and the wealthy haven’t made jobs with their gains, but produced bubble after bubble as the country went greater into debt and lost its productive edge.  Our infrastructure is falling apart — in part because that’s one of the things you need government to do!   In education we rank near last in the industrialized world in terms of PISA scores (standardized tests given to 15 year olds), and our country is in serious decline.

Cutting taxes and government won’t solve this.  Removing regulations isn’t some kind of simple miracle cure that will magically produce jobs (indeed de-regulation was a major cause of this crisis).   Easy, simple, painless answers have been GOP stock in trade (or pain only for those whose benefits are cut — people often dismissed as freeloaders anyway).   The Democrats have to shift tone to a more aggressive defense of their proposals, challenging the GOP.

However, they can’t become like their opponents.   They can’t ignore the middle ground to pursue their own ideological war.   They have to recognize that, as I think President Obama clearly enunciated in numerous speeches, the American people deserve better from their politicians.   But he has given the Republicans every chance to compromise and has shown a willingness to work with them to solve problems.   They’ve responded with insults, holding the economy hostage, and deriding the President.    The Democrats have to fight back.   Hard.


Obama Channels Truman

President Obama put the Republican party on notice last night that while he would still talk the bi-partisan talk, he was done merely calling for unity and an end to bickering.  It was clear that was making him look weak as the Republicans rejected compromise and continued their unrelenting attack on the President.  From now on he’s going to “give ’em hell,” as evidenced by his speech before a joint session of Congress.

Besides evoking the same kind of blunt straight talk as President Truman, he also set the Congress up for the charge of being a do-nothing Congress.   The most important parts of Obama’s jobs plans — the parts that can genuinely reduce unemployment — cost money.   President Obama’s plan pays for this by closing corporate and individual tax loopholes.  It does not constitute a significant tax hike on the wealthy, and it’s easily defensible politically.

This puts the GOP in a bind.   If they reject Obama’s plan outright, labeling it just ‘the same failed policies,’ they’ll be refusing to act on the biggest problem Americans perceive in the country right now.   Obama’s approval ratings are low, but they are above those of the Republican Congress and especially the tea party!   His bit at the end about how there are 14 months before the next election so playing politics with this is wrong will resonate.   If the Congress doesn’t act, he can run against Congress and, as his speech showed, with a new kind of fire that will rally his base and bring independents sick of tea party rhetoric back.   He may not have the level of support and hope he had in 2008, but a vote is a vote.

The GOP could pass his plan pretty much as is.   While that would undercut complaints about a do-nothing Congress, it would also under-cut claims by Republicans that Obama isn’t a good leader.   Right now the GOP blocks everything Obama wants in the House, and then uses that to show that Obama can’t get anything done.   That’s a good gig — all they have to do is refuse to cooperate and he looks weak.   Obama has called them on that.   Yet passing his plan would also divide the GOP because either it would add to the deficit, or they’d have to accept closing tax loopholes.    Even if Boehner wants to do that, his party will not follow (he’s actually the weaker leader).

The GOP could decide to pass the plan, not include revenue increases, and make spending cuts elsewhere.   That would appeal to the tea party base, but force them to defend wanting to cut programs that might hurt in the coming election.   Moreover, such proposals would probably not get past the Senate and would take time to develop.   That would play into the image of a ‘do nothing Congress’ in the hands of extreme elements of the GOP.

Worse news for Republicans: the President plans to double down by offering a major deficit reduction plan.   This will undercut the argument that he wants to simply tax and spend, and again challenge them to do something other than just play politics.   No doubt this will also include tax increases on the wealthy, but those are not unpopular with the general public.    I know a myriad of average and even active Republicans who are open to some tax increases to share the burden of paying back the debt.   Again, the Republican party appears to be stymied by extreme elements in their own party.

Obama goes into the fall with a new deficit reduction plan, a new jobs plan, a firey attitude, and increased public dismay about the Republican House and the tea party movement in general.     While Obama’s approval rating has been down at about 43%, at least 15% of those are Democrats angry that he’s veered right.  If he wins back his base — which started to happen already with his speech last night — he’s still in good position even with his worst poll numbers of his first term.

While Republicans were right that this was in part a campaign speech, it also was a speech about the number one issue facing Americans and it is 14 months until the election.   Obama is framing the campaign to be about politicians in Washington acting responsible and not with partisan blinders.   He is positioning the GOP and the tea party as the villains, or at least as not being responsible and reasonable.   People may not love Obama in 2012 like they did in 2008 but they’ll find him a safer bet.

Even worse news for the GOP: the House may well be in play.   If the Republicans don’t rally around a reasonable candidate and Congress appears unable to act, tea party types that rode the anger of 2010 to victory will find that independents are disappointed by their desire to play politics rather than solve problems, and shift back.

I believe the bold and risky act of calling Congress back for a joint session will mark the point where Obama’s Presidency turned around and took on new vibrancy.   He’s now setting the terms of the argument, not the GOP.   He’s using the bully pulpit not just to plead for civility but to push for change.     He let the GOP paint themselves into a corner, and now he has the upper hand.


Has the tea party ‘jumped the shark’?

President Obama announced last week plans to speak next Wednesday night to Congress in order to propose a bi-partisan set of steps to address the number one issue facing the country: jobs.   When such a request is made, normally the decorum is for the Congress to accept — having the President come to speak on the biggest issue facing the country, and to offer suggestions on how to move forward is a big deal.

Instead, after initially signalling acceptance (which is why the White House went public) Speaker Boehner changed his mind, and decided that he would not accept Obama coming on Wednesday and instead invited him for Thursday.   This would mean he’d have to speak earlier since at 8:30 EDT much of the country would be watching the Packers-Saints game, a rematch of the Super Bowl to open the 2011 NFL season.

The reason was totally political.  First, many Republicans are still in a tea party “take no prisoners” mood, and rather than working to solve the country’s problems their most important job is to try to defeat and humiliate Obama.   If they can make him change the date of his speech he looks weak, and they act big and tough.  It’s rather pathetic, but apparently for some this brings great satisfaction.

A less convincing reason is that a Republican primary debate was being held.   I believe a few have already been held, and primary debates in the late summer of the year before the election are hardly big events.   Viewership is limited to only the political junkies, and it’s on cable.   In terms of relative importance, the debate is meaningless — and could easily be moved if they really wanted to.

So the President again is reaching out to Republicans, set to offer a bi-partisan approach on jobs, and Boehner is again acting childish.   The GOP muffed a huge compromise that would have cut spending by $4 trillion and brought non-military domestic spending to the lowest level than anytime since Eisenhower, all because they couldn’t accept closing a few tax loopholes on the very wealthy.   Given the massive shift of wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy, the idea that the cost of getting the budget in line should be born by the working middle class and poor while those who benefited the most and have the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world should play nothing is perverse.

The left hated Obama’s compromise.   They correctly noted it was the kind of compromise you’d expect a moderate Republican to propose, with Democrats proposing an increase on actual tax rates.   Obama knew that was impossible for the Republicans to support so he offered something he thought anybody could accept.

Nope, the GOP is in a no-compromise, slash and burn mode, with tough talk, bravado, and anti-Obama rhetoric that reaches absurd heights not seen since the right’s attacks on Clinton in the early 90s.    Perhaps a bit drunk on the success of the 2010 election, it’s all political, all partisan, and more extreme than the Republican party at any time since the early fifties.   It’s not all Republicans, it’s just that the tea party wing has the moderates running scared.

Eisenhower once responded to a Democratic call to cut taxes by saying cutting taxes when you have budget problems is wrong — Eisenhower was trying to keep the budget under control.   Republicans always had the anti-tax wing of the party, but it was small; the tea party partisanship, often very extreme, anti-government and ideological, rarely dominates the party.    Again, only in the early 50s during the McCarthy era has the GOP drifted into such extreme territory.   Fiscal conservatism traditionally trumped anti-tax ideology for conservatives.

Most people know I was once a Republican.  I was a state officer of the South Dakota College Republicans.   I was at the Detroit convention that nominated Ronald Reagan, and I worked for a Republican Senator in the eighties.   It’s not just that the party moved away from me, though I did like Ford and Dole, but I also started to study advanced economics and political science, and realized that a lot of the free market slogans of the GOP are simply wrong.   The market is not magic, without a state to regulate and guide it the powerful elite will dominate and control — third world conditions happen without a good legal regulatory system.    Those who try to defend a total free market approach always drift into abstract theroy; it doesn’t work in the real world.   I also rejected the Jerry Falwell “moral majority” idea, which seemed to be big government at its worst — trying to implement religious ideals with the power of the state.

Yet I resisted the Democrats.  I voted third party most of the time and yearned for a perspective where community is taken seriously and ideology gives way to practical problem solving.   There is a wing of the Republican party that believes that way (Jon Huntsman is probably the best example – and I’ve voted for both my moderate Republican Senators), but right now they are being shouted down by the ideologues.   Preisdent Obama (and earlier President Clinton) are moderate/pragmatic Democrats who often angered their left wing, but yet have been villified as “socialists” and “unamerican” by the far right.    Talk radio sets the meme, and many on the right follow, egged on by partisan blogs.

John Boehner’s snub of the President is the latest example of this effort to humiliate, put roadblocks in front of, and refuse to compromise with the Democrats.   For the left wing of the Democratic party, this is fine — it proves that you can’t work with the Republicans like Obama is trying to do, so therefore it’s better to simply match their partisanship and play hardball.   Obama’s resisted that.   I believe he sees the office of the Presidency as above that — and he’s right.

I think this may be the point where the right wing of the GOP has jumped the shark.   As the rhetoric remains shrill, and Obama takes the bully pulpit to make a call for bipartisanship to solve the country’s problems, the Republican primary is going to give the Democrats oodles of material for the general election.    Given what I wrote about a few days ago on the 13 keys, Obama is in a stronger position than Republicans realize.   Moreover, his current disapproval ratings are driven up by people on the left who are disappointed with Obama’s  centrism.   Most will come home in 2012, especially in swing states during an emotional campaign.   And don’t forget the way the Republicans are making it relatively easy for Obama to get Latino votes — their stance on immigration or in some cases “English as the national language” make a group that should lend the Republicans considerable support a solid Democratic bloc.

A defeat in 2012 (especially if a significant number House seats are lost — which is very possible) would be a repudiation of the tea party rhetoric and the extremist wing of the party.     Right now the extremists know they have power in primaries and are scaring the moderates.   I suspect this is their peak.    Obama got Bin Laden, had success in Libya and may have success in Syria before the election.   As he makes a push on jobs there is some evidence that the economy is slowly moving forward.   Given how bad economic conditions have been, Obama’s personal popularity has remained surprisingly high.   If the Republicans lose, moderates like Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown (if he gets re-elected) and Jon Huntsman can offer a new vision for the party and be poised to have a couple very good election cycles.

Because if the GOP is Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry…well, that appeals to a small segment of the population and is not the stuff of a major party.


Lessons from the Wisconsin Recall

The recall elections in Wisconsin are almost finished — the final two Democrats up for recall are not considered in serious trouble — and overall it looks like the Democrats managed to recall two of six Republican Senators, not enough to put the State Senate in the hands of the Democrats.

Republicans are happy with the result.  They kept control of the Senate and can claim a victory despite losing two members.    Democrats can take solace in the fact that they were going against Republicans who had won their districts in 2008, a year when Obama took Wisconsin and the public was in a far more Democratic mood.   The fact that the Democrats could bat .333 in such districts — and come within two percentage points of taking a district that hasn’t gone Democrat since 1896 — should give them pause.   They didn’t get a victory so much as dodge a bullet.

Democrats privately had admitted they were only likely to win two — though they hoped for the third (and got close).  But many on the more liberal wing of the party had convinced themselves that public rage against Governor Walker and the GOP, along with voter enthusiasm on the left, would give them more — some thought a sweep possible.   For them this is disappointing, their chance to send a message failed.

The other day I had a post critical of a group Norbrook named the “Frustrati,” — progressives convinced that the only thing Democrats lack are leaders willing to take strong liberal stances and refuse to compromise.  They believe the public will reward strength and principle, and that Obama and Reid have been too willing to work with the GOP.    This election should give them pause.   Even with a very energized and hard working base fervently trying to win at least three elections voters didn’t vote that much different than they did before.   Republicans can also argue that the two who lost were in trouble for personal reasons, that stronger candidates would have won.

Put bluntly: people on both sides of the political spectrum over-estimate how much the voting public agrees with their side.    Each will cherry pick issue polls, look at particular races (e.g., the Democratic victory in a Republican district in New York earlier this year) and read into them a national mood or trend.  The fact is that the country voted overwhelmingly Democratic in 2006 and 2008, willing to elected an untested Barack Hussein Obama who was accused of being far left and somehow not truly American.   Then in 2010 an admittedly smaller electorate turned around and voted a stunning number of Democrats out of office in the House to take control.    The only reason the Democrats held the Senate was that they had few seats up for re-election.   If the 20+ seats up in 2012 had been on the line in 2010, Mitch McConnell would again be Majority leader.

There’s only one way to read that.   The voting public is neither liberal nor conservative.   People do not equate political ideology with principle.   Principles are what guide every day personal choices and ethical perspectives.   Politics is about making deals, compromising, and solving problems.   Pragmatism is the quintessential American philosophy.    People will vote one year for someone whose principles are informed by liberal or even Social Democratic values, then turn around the next time and vote for someone who embraces very conservative views.

Any party that over-estimates the appeal of its own ideology risks overreaching and causing the public to correct the situation in the next election.   Any party that refuses to compromise or show an understanding of different perspectives will be seen as intransigent and unable to govern.   And, though parties must keep their bases in line, giving their base too much power can doom them in the next election.

Right now the Republicans believe Obama is vulnerable in 2012 and the GOP can gain control of the Senate.   They see the potential of repealing the health care reform, dramatically cutting spending, and steeply downsizing government.   Many think that’s the only way to deal with the economic crisis.    If they hang around right wing blog sites and talk with like minded folk, they’ll bolster each others opinions and start to believe their view is self-evidently correct, and that compromise is therefore weakness and wrong.     But so far the more Social Democratic countries of Scandinavia are in less economic trouble than we are, their way is one way to respond, but not the only way.

Obama is vulnerable (though not dead in the water as some believe), but it’s not because Americans have done an ideological flip flop.   Rather, Americans are frustrated about the economy and if they see Obama as ineffective they’ll consider trying something else.    If the Republicans over-reach or show too much ideological stridency, they could lose the House (many tea party Congressfolk are in clear danger) or even cause people willing to vote against Obama to see him as a safer bet.

Democrats have to take from this that the energy of their base is not enough to win the hearts and minds of  voters.   President Obama isn’t having trouble because he’s weak or a bad President, anyone would be having trouble with this economy.  Moreover, you can’t just give beautiful speeches and stand firm and expect the other party to crumble.  The Republicans control the House — some on the left fall victim to groupthink and under estimate the ability of the GOP leaders in the House to play a high stakes game.   Obama can’t force them to vote for what he wants.

Rather, they have to recognize that given the current economic conditions the ideological appeal of big government is probably at a low ebb.  The public wants someone who will talk seriously about reducing debt, solving problems and making compromises.   Despite the problems Obama’s had with the economy, his approval isn’t any worse than Ronald Reagan’s was in the third year of his Presidency.   Obama’s obvious pragmatism and patience is one reason he is still favored by many to win re-election — people may be upset he hasn’t been able to fix the economy, but the 2010 image of Obama as an over-reaching liberal has given way to Obama as a conciliator.     The Democrats best bet in 2012 is to grab the center and hold it as firmly as they can, allowing the tea party rhetoric sure to be flying furiously in the primary season define the GOP.   That doesn’t guarantee victory (though if it were combined with a rebounding economy in 2012 it could come close), but it assures a competitive election.

The Republicans dodged a bullet but risk not learning their lesson.  The bravado of John Boehner saying he got 98% of what he wanted may mollify the base, but risks turning off a public not keen on ideology.    Did 98% of what he wanted guarantee a downgrade?   They have every reason to believe that 2012 will be the second part of the kind of two election cycle the Democrats enjoyoed in ’06 and ’08.   But it’s not guaranteed — and too much red meat for the base may come back to haunt them, they could be their own biggest obstacle to a successful 2012 election.

Both sides should take Wisconsin seriously.   Democrats have to realize the country isn’t mad at the GOP and willing to march boldly to the left.   Republicans shouldn’t think the US embraced tea party ideals and is swinging to the right.   Whoever occupies the center in 2012 is most likely to win.   For the Republicans that would be the safest strategy.   For the Democrats it’s essential.


Time for Political Responsibility

The elections last night seem to show an almost schizophrenic American public.   In 2008 they embraced change, giving Barack Obama a massive victory and convincing many on the left that the US was embracing a progressive agenda.  In 2010 the public embraced change again, giving the GOP control of the House by a healthy margin, convincing many on the right that the public was embracing conservatism.    The good news is that the two sides now share power, and that’s a necessary condition to being able to have the long term capacity to solve the problems we face.  The bad news is that this would require the two parties to do something they haven’t been adept at: compromising to pass legislation making tough choices.   Now is the time for political responsibility.

Those reading this blog since 2008 know that I have been intensely bearish on the US and global economy.   I believe we are in the midst of what I’ve labeled “Global Depression II,” the effects of which can be masked for awhile with fiscal and monetary policy moves.   Ultimately we have to deal with a  massive debt, and an imbalance between too much consumption and too little production.   The US in some ways has a harder task than many other industrialized countries.   While other countries have debt — the entire world is in tremendous debt — our imbalance between consumption and production is intense.  Germans still produce more than they consume; we’ve been consuming far more than we produce.

This was not a problem President Obama and the Democrats could fix, and the belief that the stimulus would work makes some sense.  If you stimulate the economy by investing in projects that will increase future production then you might boost growth enough to start restructuring the economy.   However, the drawback of such an approach is increased debt, which risks inflation and currency devaluation.   Since we accumulated so much debt by deficit spending in booms (1982-90; 2002-07), the risks of increasing debt are magnified.

The Republican solution — to balance the budget and live within our means (though that requires more cuts than they’ve suggested) — is good in theory for addressing the debt problem.  Ultimately our debt level is unsustainable, and we need to restructure our spending to take into account economic realities.   However, cutting spending during a recession could drag the economy down further.   One thing Republicans are wrong on is that tax cuts would help.   Tax cuts are an inefficient stimulus, likely to simply increase consumption of foreign goods.   Over consumption of foreign goods is part of the problem.

Simply, the world is in an unprecedented crisis.   Never has so much debt been globally accumulated, and never have domestic policy tools seemed so unable to deliver a solution.    Not only that, but it’s a global crisis, so even if the dollar should lose value due to high debt, the alternative currencies are also weak.   Ultimately, this may be a grand restructuring of the global political economy to the detriment of the US and Europe in favor of Asia and Latin America.    If so, we are only in the first phase.

So what does this have to do with the election?  The public, quite simply, doesn’t understand the depth of this crisis.  They’ll go to Obama in 2008 then to the GOP in 2010, and seem impatient that nobody can fix the problem.   People want things to get back to “normal.”  The opposition arguments, be they Democratic in 2008 or Republican in 2010 are persuasive because chosen policies are if not failing, show no appearance of working.

Although there is no obvious solution to the crisis, a few factors seem clear: a) the US needs to increase production, creating jobs in sectors that produce stuff people want to buy.   This not need be traditional manufacturing jobs — it could be intellectual property or high tech — but it has to be something that can be sold on the world market; b) US debt (and the debt of the industrialized world in general) is unsustainable and must be cut; and c) US consumption of foreign goods must be cut (but not via protectionism).

A Republican claim that tax cuts can grow us out of debt is non-sensical.  Tax cuts could have a positive effect back in the early sixties when we still had primarily a national economy, but even by the 80s and 00s the Reagan and Bush tax cuts were augmented by higher debt.   Tax cuts in a globalized economy lead to higher consumption of foreign goods.   Yet Democratic dreams of expanded government programs and spending also is unrealistic.  In fact, the traditional Democratic “go to” arguments — we will protect social security and medicare — have to called into question.   It’s unrealistic to alter the economy without entitlement reform of some sort.   In fact, it may be necessary to both increase taxes and cut spending.

The problem is that such an “austerity program” would be hugely unpopular.   Republicans who vote for something like that would be in jeopardy in 2012, and Barack Obama would face a serious primary challenge and perhaps become unelectable if he signed something like that.   When the medicine tastes bad, the public yearns for a message “psst, here’s some yummy stuff that will fix you up just fine with no pain.”   Politicians first pay attention to their own careers, and unpopular decisions are avoided.

There is one way it can happen.   A core group of Republican and Democratic leaders — including younger ‘stars’ from each party — need to focus on finding a way to pass legislation that can try to achieve the above goals.   While the Democrats may want an activist government focused on investments and stimulus and the Republicans prefer to leave it all up to the market, they need to find a middle ground.   Military spending needs to be slashed, perhaps requiring a complete rethinking of US foreign policy.    Entitlements need to be reformed and perhaps means tested.   Tax increases may be necessary, both to repay the debt and to cut over-consumption of foreign goods.  Spending cuts on discretionary spending need to be thoroughly reviewed.

Simply, both parties need to agree to sacrifice some of their holy cows.   Both parties have to compromise their core principles.   Both parties have to stop pretending that there is an easy solution — that the market will magically fix things, or government policies will undo the damage.

The result will be a severe recession.   People will suffer.  The hang over from the thirty year party we started around 1982 will be intense.   Structural transitions are heartless.   Republicans will have to accept that we need to care for the people being displaced by the recession, Democrats will have to recognize that this can’t just be transfers of wealth.   In fact, we need to create new productive capacities, and that needs to involve government investment and training.   (To “let the market do it” may not only not work, but could cause unrest and political instability).  Ultimately, the transition will take place.   We can put it off with political theater and electoral shifts from right to left to right to left, or our political leaders can come clean about the scope of the current crisis, and the need for the country to rethink the conventional wisdoms of the last thirty years.   As with any problem, the longer we put off dealing with it, the greater the difficulty in overcoming it.

Too gloomy?   Too extreme?  I hope so.   But I don’t think so.


GOP Wave or Cultural Groupthink?

I’m hoping the Democrats defy all odds and hold the House, though not primarily because of politics.   True, I like Obama and Pelosi, and would prefer the House in Democratic hands.  But given the economic condition of the country and the need for policy change, it’s probably a good thing for the Republicans to share policy responsibility.    Moreover, this is normal — when the economy gets bad, voters want change.

What I’d really like to see is the collective reactions of all the prognosticators if they got this election so wrong.   I’ve scoured the news for any optimism about Democratic possibilities and have found only one, a New York Daily News article about the possibility of high black and Latino turnout changing election dynamics.   Democratic insiders and Republicans alike are quoted as expecting loses of 50 to 70 seats.   Most think the Senate will remain in Democratic hands, but see the possibility it won’t.   There is remarkable consensus, and little if any Democratic wishful thinking.   People consider this a done deal.

Yet the polls are very close in most individual races, and at least 70 to 80 races still show leads so small that a slight mistake in methodology or miscalculation in turnout dynamics could give us a GOP gain of a range from 20 to 80 (or even 0 to 100, but that gets in very improbable territory).   We could be watching a case of cultural group think in place, and it would be wild and entertaining to watch an election night where that got thrown asunder.

But can the experts all be wrong?   If pollsters/analysts from Rothenberg to Cook to Rasmussen to Gallup all expect massive GOP gains, and Nate Silver hurls everything into his computer model and predicts 53 seats (though, to be fair,  he’s been consistent in warning about the uncertainty in this election), who can doubt that the Republicans will pick up massive numbers of seats?   After all, the pollsters were right about Obama in 2008.

Yet, there is some reason to doubt.   First, the Republicans (and the pollsters/analysts) are assuming a “wave.”  A wave happens when all the races break one way — the toss ups go almost completely Republican, and ones with small Democratic leads (2 to 4% in late polls) swing GOP as well.   Waves happen; in 1980 and 1994 the GOP enjoyed a classic wave election.   Yet most waves aren’t predicted in advance by so many people (in ’94, when the GOP picked up 52, most prognosticators thought they were set to win 20-25), and sometimes expected waves peter out (e.g., 1982).   So the breadth of the assumption that all these close races will go Republican may be off base.   In 2008 I published a state by state prediction of the Presidential race, predicting Obama would ride a wave.   He didn’t, and I over-estimated his margin of victory by about 40 electoral votes.

If there is no wave, the Democrats could still lose the House, but it would be close.  If there is a small wave, we get into the 45-55 seat loss margin (which is what the most cautious prognosticators seem to expect), and if there is a massive wave, GOP gains could be over 70 (which is what many Republicans expect, and Democrats fear).    Given the dynamics of the race, it looks like a wave year, so it’s rational to assume a wave probable.    But it’s not certain.

There are a couple reasons why the wave may be small or non-existent.  First, Republicans peaked early, and Democratic malaise was intense most of the election season.  Only recently do Democrats seem to be paying attention, and it’s hard to increase GOP enthusiasm from what it’s been for months.   Granted, independents are tending Republican and they are the “stuff” of the wave, but in very close races with previously popular incumbents, I don’t think you can assume a tsunami.

Second, groupthink can be contagious.  Look how many financial analysts predicted housing price increases back in 2007, declared fear of economic breakdown as misplaced in 2008, and told Americans that the economy was healthy and sound.  They believed it, and the consensus was so broad that naysayers were laughed at or ignored — or presented as a token opponent of the consensus (a ‘devil’s advocate’) — and the public was shocked by the depth of the crisis.

Cultural groupthink is different than standard decision making groupthink.  In the standard version, internal group cohesion makes unanimity a goal, and leads to self-censoring and a lack of realism.   Decision making in the Bush White House in 2002-03 on Iraq showed traditional Groupthink, even to the point that Vice President Cheney and UN Ambassador Bolton distrusted CIA information and sought their own, so certain they were that they were right.

Cultural groupthink involves the mass media and experts who for various reasons grab the same narrative.   Democratic leaning pollsters and analysts don’t want to be accused of wishful thinking so they embrace what seems to be a very clear electoral analysis.   Others see that too, and it gets echoed in media, blogs and the like.    On the right, blogs talk about the “wave” as inevitable, a force of nature as certain to hit as a category five hurricane bearing down on a city.   On the left there had been hope in early October that things would turn around, but now there is resignation, as if they’re attitude is ‘two years ago we had a great time with an awesome election, they say, now it’s the Republicans turn.  2012 will be different.’

Yet early voting does not show a wave (yet does not show a Democratic resurgence either).  It’s ambiguous.   Late polls are ambiguous.   So what do we know?   We know that there are up to 100 seats in play, and most of these are held by Democrats.  Its not rocket science to realize that makes the Democrats very vulnerable.    About 40 races look promising (or even certain) for the GOP, so if they win what they’re expected to win, they’ll have a good night.  If they win their fair share of the toss ups, they’re in 50 – 55 seat territory.  If they sweep the tossups, it’s a wave and Democrats then have to worry about the seats they’re expected to win.   If the GOP wins many of those, it’s the Republican tsunami.  The Democrats would have to run the table on the toss ups to keep the House, and pick off close races now leaning Republican.

I see no reason to expect the Democrats to keep the House — the consensus does exist for a reason, the signs point to a massive victory for the Republicans.   Hope that late enthusiasm or perhaps the “Restore Sanity” rally would provoke a late Democratic mini-wave seems implausible, but we really don’t know.  It would be entertaining to see what happens if the Democrats defied the pundits and held the House.   Everyone looked back and said, “what the hell did we get wrong?”  And, to be sure, it’s in the voters hands.  Enjoy the election!  (Here is my guide to the competitive election night races).

UPDATE: Another entertaining scenario is put forth by Nate Silver who sees the possibility that the Republicans may win in such a landslide that it confounds the Democrats and goes beyond conventional wisdom in the other direction.   Indeed, that “GOP Tsunami” theory is more likely than the Democrats keeping the House.  And that’s why, ultimately, this election is so much fun to observe.  The range of possibilities is immense.  After the fact it will seem like a sure thing (and those who predicted it will say “duh, it was obvious to me,” but in reality the realm of possibility going into tomorrow is greater than in most off year elections.

UPDATE 2: Silver gives a second scenario similar to what I describe above, focused on potential flaws in polls leading up to the election.   Now, let the voting begin!

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Restoring Sanity: Stewart and Snowe

The “Restore Sanity” rally hosted by Jon Stewart and (to a lesser extent) Stephen Colbert Saturday drew over 200,000 people, easily doubling the rally Glenn Beck hosted in August, which he vowed would “change the world.”   Yet while both claimed their rally was not political, Beck’s was — having speakers like Sarah Palin and others with a clearly partisan tilt.  The Stewart-Colbert rally actually remained above politics.  The message was simple:  most Americans know how to compromise and figure out how to deal with problems when people disagree.  Thanks to the 24 hour sensationalized cable media and politicians living on emotional sound bits, the government lacks that ability.  Unfortunately, the government has lots of power.

This is certainly a clear shot at folk like Beck and his ilk who want to paint those with a different world view than his (non-Christian, secular, liberal, etc.) as evil, destroying the country, and perhaps even disloyal.  That kind of emotion-driven “paint the other as strange and evil” attitude has a long sordid history in politics, and it usually leads to very dark places.   Ironically, Stewart’s message reminded me of a conversation I had Thursday with Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican here in Maine.

I told her that I used her as an example in my class of how politics should be about compromise and working with people who have different views on a subject.   She expressed dismay at the partisan market-driven emotion of ideological politics, noting that conservatives have even forgotten who Reagan was.  Reagan was not an ideological “make no compromise” tea party type.  Reagan compromised and worked with Democrats, cutting deals and thus getting things done.   His ability to work with Gorbachev rather than continue Cold War confrontation helped assure a peaceful end to the Cold War.

What if more people thought like Stewart and Snowe, and focused less on demonizing the other than reaching out and saying “OK, we have different views, let’s figure out what we can accomplish.”  That’s the only way our system can work, no party will ever have the power to unilaterally make significant long term change.   At a time when our economy faces crisis, and there are really serious issues involving terrorism and foreign policy, we should be having serious conversations and coming together as a nation.  Instead tea partiers call Obama a Kenyan born socialist, the far left calls tea partiers racist, and when we need to act like adults, the country acts like fourth graders.

Or do we?   Stewart’s final message was one of hope.  Americans are not reflected by the tea party candidates or ideologues from the left.   Americans are not primarily Democratic or Republican, and do not think in terms of “us vs. them.”  Americans do not think compromising on issues of principle is inherently bad; rather, it is inherently necessary just to solve the problems which arise every day.  Americans are not what we see on the cable news or arguing in the Capitol Building.  Olympia Snowe may be a rarity in the Senate, but she’s typical of most Americans — she wants to figure out how people of different views can get work together.

Might I suggest a Snowe-Stewart (or Stewart-Snowe) ticket in 2012?

The Republicans are poised for historic gains on Tuesday, turning around huge loses in 2006 and 2008.  The GOP loudly proclaims that Americans are embracing conservative values, even though two years ago they seemed to embrace what many Republicans labeled socialist values.   In 2008 Democrats thought Americans had embraced their view of the future.  Yet what Americans want is problem solving, not ideology.   They want compromise because without compromise, nothing gets done.  Our system is designed for either compromise or gridlock.   The great Democratic victory of 2008 may give way to the great Republican victory of 2010, and in 2012 things may break again the other way.

In some ways it was ironic to watch so many on the left enjoy themselves watching or attending the Stewart-Colbert rally.   If your party is about to suffer huge defeats, it’s not typical to have such a fun time.   But hey, why not?   Being miserable and stressed doesn’t help the situation, and a well attended mass rally may do some good.   Still, the larger message will hopefully get through:  real Americans talk, debate, compromise, and collaborate.   For ratings big 24 hour cable news thrives on emotion, division, and anger.   So far, the politicians have let themselves be guided by that emotion-driven urge to demonize and simplify.  That has made problems worse, rather than better.

Can sanity be restored, and can the politicians start reflecting real Americans again?   We’ll know answers about the 2010 election in just a few days.   But it’ll take a bit longer to find out if the Stewart- Colbert rally led to any progress on our need to restore sanity so we can make the decisions we need to for our future.


Maine’s Wild Governor’s Race

Paul LePage (R) is poised to become the next Governor of Maine, despite the fact most Republicans and most voters overall would prefer someone else.  In a crowded Republican primary full of quality candidates, LePage surprised the establishment by winning a plurality with just over a third of the votes.   As a tea party favorite, his supporters were committed and enthused, and with the rest of the GOP field splitting the vote, he came out on top.

Now he is running against a Democrat Libby Mitchell, and three independents.   One, Elliot Cutler, is splitting the vote with Mitchell.   A plurality is all it takes to win, and in those terms LePage is costing into election day with a large lead.   Democrats had hoped that independent Shawn Moody would siphon away votes from LePage, especially after scandals emerged around accusation of tax evasion and some well publicized temper tantrums from a candidate used to running a business and not being questioned and pressured.   Unlike Cutler, Moody lacks money and thus was buried beneath the ads and noise of the campaign.

Earlier it appeared Cutler wasn’t gaining traction.  Mitchell got close to LePage in the polls, and Cutler stayed at around 10%.   But he has been spending lots of money, and a lot of Mainers who think Mitchell is too liberal and LePage too conservative have rallied to Cutler.   Yet in a three person race, it’s hard to know what will happen.

For some this is proof that we need a run off system — the way the current ballot is structured someone can get elected that a large majority of the people don’t want in office.    In one recent poll Le Page got 37% and his opponents 53% — but LePage would win.  But those are the rules of the game, and if either Cutler or Mitchell had generated the core support LePage has achieved, they’d be doing much better.   Here are the scenarios:

1.  A Cutler win is unlikely, but possible.   Although he’s improved in the polls, there is a lot of early voting, and that is likely benefiting Mitchell.   At first I was suspicious of his leap in a couple of recent polls, but today two more corroborated earlier polls, one showing Cutler within 6 of LePage (37-31, with Mitchell at 22).   Maine does have a reputation of supporting independents, and Cutler’s clearly got the wind at his back.

2.  A Mitchell win remains possible, but unlikely.   Until Cutler’s rise in the polls I thought that a mixture of LePage’s mistakes and Mitchell’s organization would eek out a narrow victory for her.   However, she has not run a very effective campaign, while Cutler has saturated the air waves and has ads appear on everything from “Facebook” to the Maine website “Pine Tree Politics.”    Mitchell hasn’t inspired the kind of hard core support that both LePage and Cutler have generated.

So going into the final weekend the race has become wild.  LePage still seems likely to win; he’s staked out about 40% of the vote, leaving Cutler and Mitchell to fight for the other 60%.   Yet he is within striking distance of either challenger.  Strategic voters who want “anyone but LePage” have a dilemma.  Do they vote for Mitchell, in second place most of the race and with the unions and the better organization on her side?  Or do they vote for Cutler, who seems to be doing better in the polls and has a devoted core group of supporters alongside a well funded campaign?   My hunch is that Cutler’s riding the wave now and Mitchell blew her chance.   Yet just two weeks ago it seemed Cutler hadn’t caught on, and Mitchell was surging.

So…all one can do is wait and see.  The Republicans clearly hope that Cutler and Mitchell split the vote evenly, allowing them to win both the GOP primary and the general election on the backs of about 35% of the electorate.    What a strange year this is turning out to be!


Can the Democrats Hold the House?

(NOTE: click – or scroll down – for my color coded “election night guide” designed to make it easier to follow the results on election night and visualize just how the night is going.)

Can Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives?   Of course.  Are they likely to?   Probably not.   Indeed virtually every political pundit and specialist dismisses talk of a Democratic comeback as wishful thinking.   The depth of that consensus is both impressive and troubling.  It’s impressive because with such clear expert consensus, it’s hard not to consider a GOP House a done deal.   It’s troubling in that whenever there is too firm and consistent a consensus, it feels like a kind of groupthink.   Moreover, elections can bring surprises.   So today I’ll explore the scenarios that see the Democrats defying the odds and remaining in control of the House.

1.  Winning the close ones. Let’s start with the New York Times rankings of races.   The NYT has 152 safe Democratic seats, and 39 leaning Democratic.  There are 174 safe Republicans, and 28 leaning Republican.

If both parties win all their leaners, then it stands at 191 Democrats and 202 Republicans.   That leaves 42 “tossups.”  Assuming that toss ups can go either way, the Democrats would have to win 27 and lose only 15 to hold the House.   That is certainly conceivable.   The Democrats would have a harder time holding on to the races leaning their way, however, which increases the opportunity for the Republicans to expand the size of their gains, and is one reason some are predicting a Republican wave.

Still, winning the close ones is not out of the question for the Democrats.  Most of these are held by Democratic incumbents who, despite the anti-Washington mood, can use the incumbency to their advantage.   There are also some signs that Democrats are “coming home” and efforts to enthuse voters may increase Democratic turn out.    In very close races get out the vote efforts and personal contacts matter; often the incumbent can do better on those fronts.

2.  Systemic bias in the polls.   Polling of House races is often less precise and sophisticated than polling of Senate or Presidential races.   Moreover, it’s spotty.  Yet there could be assumptions about GOP turnout that cause polls to weight their data in favor of one party more than they should.  Rasmussen, for example, has been accused of tending to error on the side of increasing GOP vote count (and there is evidence backing this up).  Finally, there is the recurring concern that people without land lines are not polled, which may under count Democrats.  Much of that, though, can be adjusted in how the data is weighted.

A casual scan of House (and Senate) polls over the past two weeks show that numerous races, including leaners for both parties, have single digit differences, a large number of them under 5%.   Even if the systemic bias is small, that could mean a false read on ten or more races.   Flip ten races and you get a significantly different result.   Instead of, say, the Republicans up 49, the Republicans could be up only 29.  Or they could be up 69.

The chance of systemic bias built into the assumptions of pollsters is real, but it’s also the easiest to grasp if you’re a Democrat wanting to believe things are closer than they appear (or a Republican counting on a wave).     It’s possible, but pollsters have their reputations on the line, and tend to be very careful about their methods and assumptions.   Historically such systemic errors are rare (though it happened to Gallup in 1998), though clearly if that happened this cycle, it could be an historic and dramatic development — and it’s possible.

3.  A Late Democratic Surge.   Some Democrats believe that people on the left have been late to focus on the election, in part because the news has been so bad.   But stories of tea party excesses along with efforts to engage the youth, including a major rally being held by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, will cause an uptick in Democratic enthusiasm and support that will create a mini-wave for the Democrats.

This is counter-intuitive, but conceivable.  If the GOP peaked and Democrats play the last week well, given the closeness of the races a slight improvement to the Democrats might save a significant number of seats.    However, working against them is the fact that most late deciders are independents, and they have been tending Republican in a big way.   Still, so many races are extremely close, and the Republicans have provided fodder for the Democrats to drum up interest — the tea party rhetoric, a Kentucky campaign volunteer smashing the head of an activist from the left, extreme comments by GOP candidates — that the possibility cannot be dismissed.

4.  The Rules of the Game Have Changed. Finally, some Democrats look at the 2008 election and say that although enthusiasm is down, the Obama machine can still turn out a disproportionate number of youth, something pollsters don’t expect in off term elections.  Anyone on facebook has no doubt seen the “commit to vote” messages and certainly the Democrats are working hard to inspire younger voters.   The idea that the dynamics of elections have fundamentally changed due to early voting, social networking, and youth engagement is unpersuasive.  It reminds me of the arguments of late 1999 by dot com traders saying that we had a “new economy” and concern for stock valuations and fears of a bubble were off base.

Perhaps the one way “new rules” could alter the game is if the money being spent on Latino and Black voter outreach significantly improves turnout in those populations.   That is conceivable; some who voted for the first time in 2008 may decide to stick with the habit.    There is a black President, and the immigration issue has evoked often vicious tea party rhetoric against Latinos.   However, there is no way to know if that will translate into anything significant until after the fact.

The biggest problem the Democrats face in these scenarios is that campaign dynamics work both ways.    Each side has similarly plausible scenarios that things will “break their way,” and each is imbued with a dose of wishful thinking.  Still, the Republicans should have some concern.   They are celebrating early, perhaps losing some focus, and thinking about leadership positions and potential internal rivalries after they take control of the House.   That isn’t as harmful in politics as it is in sports, but in very close races losing focus can make a difference.   And that’s probably the greatest hope the Democrats have — the Republicans are assuming victory, and in the last week of the campaign that might make them a bit more mistake prone.

So yes, the Democrats can hold the House.  It would cause great consternation and even anger among many Republicans, and be an embarrassment for most pundits and prognosticators.   Yet it isn’t very likely.  It’s like being behind 35-3 early in the second half, the odds are strongly against a comeback.   Just ask the 1991-92 Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills.

UPDATE: This article by Nate Silver discusses the fact that “robopolls” tend to favor Republicans, but notes that it’s hard to know precisely what to make of that in terms of figuring out this election cycle.


Guide to the 2010 Midterm Elections

(UPDATE: Senate added at the end)

Will the Republicans ride a wave to a 60 to 70 seat pick up?  Will the Democrats manage to defy odds and hold the house, limiting loses?  We are nearing the day when these questions will be answered in one of the most fascinating off year elections in recent history.   There are not only nearly 100 seats in play, but the polls show so many of them very close, there is extreme uncertainty.

If you wish, you can print out this post and use it as a guide to election night.   It’s designed to help one see if a Republican wave or a Democratic resurgence is forming, and early on get a sense of how the election is going.   This is difficult to organize since so many races are taking place.   I have decided to: a) organize by poll closing time for states; and b) color code the races to make it easier “at a glance” to see how things are going.   I am not including “safe” seats, but only the seats considered most “in play.”  The code is as follows:

Red: Races Republicans are expected to take easily.
If the Democrats win any of these, that is a good sign for the Democrats.  If they win many, they could well keep the house.

Orange: Races Republicans are considered likely to win.
If Republicans pick up 45 – 50 seats, these are the ones they’ll likely win.  If many of these go the Democrats way, then the House could go either way.  If the Republicans sweep these, then they could well be in for a “wave” election.

Green: Pure toss ups.
These could go either way.   If it splits rather evenly, then the GOP will have the predicted big win.   If most are GOP, then it’s a wave election.   If most go Democratic, the House could still be won by the Democrats.

Blue:  Races the Democrats are expected to win.
These are races the Democrats should win even if it is a big GOP night.  If these go to Republicans, it’s likely a victory of historic proportions for the GOP.

Purple: Races the Democrats are likely to win.
These are the races that lean Democratic.  If the Republicans do good here, they should have an even better than expected night.

Below I have 106 races in play.  If it goes as expected, the Republicans would gain at least 39 seats (expected GOP wins, not including 29 tossups), exactly what they need to control the House.  If the GOP wins half of the toss ups they would gain 53 seats, which is about what people are predicting.  On election night if you see either party dominating the toss ups, or gaining seats that the other party expected to win, that will be a hint of what is to come during the evening.

Polls Closing at 6:00 or 7:00 (For ease I will list the Republican first in each race.  An asterisk at the end means it’s a projected pick up for the party whose color is indicated; for toss ups the current party will be listed)

IN 8: Bucscon vs. Van Haaften *
FL 8: Webster vs. Grayson*
FL 25: Rivera vs. Garcia
FL 24: Kosmas vs. Adams*
VA 5: Hurt vs. Parriello*
IN 9:  Young vs. Hill*
VA 2: Rigell vs. Nye*
FL 22: West vs. Klein*
GA 8: Scott vs. Marshall*
SC 5: Mulvaney vs. Sprat*
GA 2: Keown vs. Bishop (Current: Dem)
VA 11: Fimian vs. Connolly (Current: Dem)
FL 12: Ross vs. Edwards (Current: Rep)
KY 6: Barr vs. Chandler
VA 9: Griffith vs. Boucher
IN 2: Walorski vs. Donnelly
KY 3: Lally vs. Yarmuth
FL 12: Ross vs. Edwards*

Polls Closing at 7:30

OH 15: Stivers vs. Kilroy*
OH 1: Chabot vs. Driehaus*
OH 6: Johnson vs. Wilson*
OH 16: Renacci vs. Bocieri*
NC 8:Johnson vs. Kissel (Current: Dem)
NC 7: Pantano vs. McIntyre (Current: Dem)
NC 11: Miller vs. Schuler (Current: Dem)

OH 18: Gibbs vs. Space (Current: Dem)
WV 1: McKinley vs. Oliverio (Current: Dem)

NC 2: Elmers vs. Etheridge

Polls that Close at 8:00

FL 2: Southerland vs. Boyd*
IL 11: Kinzinger vs. Halvorson*
MS 1: Nunnlee vs. Childers*
NH1: Guinta vs. Shea-Porter*
PA 3: Kelly vs. Dahlkemper*
TN 6: Black vs. Carter*
TN 8: Fincher vs Herron*
TX 17: Flores vs. Edwards*
MD 1: Harris vs. Kratovil*
PA 7: Lentz vs. Meehan*
PA 11: Barletta vs. Kanjorski*
IL 17: Schilling vs. Hare*
AR 1: Crawford vs. Causey*
AR 2: Griffin vs. Elliott*
PA 8: Fitzpatrick vs. Murphy (Current: Dem)
PA 10: Marino vs. Carney (Current: Dem)
RI 1:   Loughlin vs. Cicilline (Current: Dem)
AL 2: Roby vs. Bright (Current: Dem)
IL 14: Hultgren vs. Foster (Current: Dem)
TN 4: Desjarlais vs. Davis (Current: Dem)
IL 10: Dold vs. Seals (Currrent: Rep)
NY 19: Hayworth vs. Hall (Current: Dem)
CT 5: Caliguiri vs. Murphy (Current: Dem)
NJ 3: Runyan vs. Adler (Current: Dem)
MA 10: Perry vs. Keating*
MI 17: Walberg vs. Schauer
MI 9: Razcowski vs. Peters
MS 4: Palazzo vs. Taylor
NY 1: Altschuler vs. Bishop
NY 13: Grimm vs. McMahon
NY 23: Doheney vs. Owens
NY 25: Buerkle vs. Maffei
NH 2: Bass vs. Kuster
CT 4: Debicella vs. Himes
MO 4: Hartzler vs. Skelton
DE AL: Urquhart vs. Carney*

Polls Closing at 9:00

CO 4: Gardner vs. Markey*
KS 3:  Yoder vs. Moore*
LA 3: Sangisetty vs. Landry*
MN 6: Bachmann vs. Clark
NY 29: Reed vs. Zeller*
WI 7: Lassa vs. Duffy*
WI 8: Ribble vs. Kagan*
MI 1: Benishek vs. McDowell*
SD AL: Noem vs. Herseth-Sandlin*
CO 3: Tipton vs. Salazar*
TX 23: Conseco vs. Rodriguez (Current: Dem)
CO 7: Frazier vs. Perlmutter (Current: Dem)

NY 20: Gibson vs. Murphy (Current: Dem)
NY 24: Hannah vs. Arcuri
MN 8: Kravack vs. Oberstar
MN 1: Demmer vs. Waltz
ME 1: Scontras vs. Pingree
LA 2: Cao vs. Richmond*

Polls closing at 10:00

AZ 1: Gosar vs. Kirkpatrick*
AZ 3:  Quayle vs. Hulburd
ND AL: Berg vs. Pomeroy*
AZ 5: Schweikert vs. Mitchell*
NV 3:  Heck vs. Titus (Current: Dem)
AZ 7: McClung vs. Grijalva (Current: Dem)
AZ 8: Kelly vs. Giffords (Current: Dem)
IA 3:  Zaun vs. Boswell (Current: Dem)
NM2: Pierce vs. Teague (Current: Dem)
IA 2:  Miller-Meeks vs. Loebsack
IA 1: Lange vs. Braley

Polls Closing at 11:00

WA 3:  Herrera vs. Heck*
CA 3: Lungren vs. Bera
CA 11: Harmer vs. McNerney*
CA 45: BonoMack vs. Pougnet
WA 8: DelBene vs. Reichert
OR 5: Brunn vs. Schrader (Current: Dem)
CA 20: Vidak vs. Costa (Current: Dem)
WA 2: Koster vs. Larson
WA 9: Muri vs. Smith

CA 47: Van Tran vs. Sanchez

ID 1: Labrador vs. Minnick

HI 1: Djou vs. Hanabusa


The Senate elections are much easier to handicap.   Because there are fewer of them in play, I’ll simply rank them and not worry about the order.  The Republicans need to pick up ten seats to gain control of the Senate.  Indiana, North Dakota and Arkansas, currently in Democratic hands, are sure to go Republican.  To gain the Senate the GOP would have to pick up 7 more seats.  Of the expected GOP wins,  only two are pick ups.   That means they must win five more, which would be all of the toss ups and one of the three currently leaning Democratic (without losing any of those leaning GOP).

In Florida and Alaska moderate Republicans are running as independents due to their dislike of the tea party candidates who won the GOP nod.  This is more likely to make a difference in Alaska where Miller is a very weak candidate (while Rubio in Florida is running an excellent campaign).   Delaware and Nevada would probably be certain GOP if they had not chosen an untested “tea party” challenges.   Murkowski would certainly caucus with the Republicans if she wins Alaska, Crist is more unpredictable.  Again, the Republican candidate is listed first.

FL:  Rubio vs. Meek vs. Crist (I)
LA: Vitter vs. Melancon
IN:  Coats vs. Ellsworth*
NC: Burr vs. Marshall
OH: Portman vs. Fisher
MO: Blunt vs. Carnahan
NH: Ayotte vs. Hodes
KY: Paul vs. Conway
WI: Johnson vs. Conway*
AK: Miller vs. McAdams vs. Murkowski (I)
CO: Buck vs. Bennett (Current: Dem)
NV: Angle Vs. Reid (Current: Dem)
PA: Toomey vs. Sestak (Current: Dem)
IL:  Kirk vs. Giannoulias (Current: Dem)
WV: Raese vs. Manchin
WA: Rossi vs. Murray
CA: Fiorina vs. Boxer
CT: Blumenthal vs. McMahon
DE: Coons vs. O’Donnell
NY: DioGuardi vs. Gillbrand

I hope you all find this useful!