Posts Tagged ‘elections’

The German Election (update)

In yesterday’s German federal election, the Christian Democrats dramatically increased their seat share and moderately increased their vote share, while their coalition partners, the classical liberal Free Democrats, lost all their seats for the first time in party history. Since the Christian Democrats came five seats short of a majority, it looks as if they will have to form a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats, who improved slightly. A few observations:

  • The right improved their vote share, despite the FDP’s losses, because of the good performance (but not quite enough to win seats) of the moderately euroskeptic Alternative for Germany. The left lost vote share. Nevertheless, the central result of this election will be that the German government will move to the left, replacing the FDP with the SPD as the CDU/CSU’s junior partner.
  • Looking at the party list votes, 15.8% of the vote went to parties not winning seats. This is, by far, a new record.
  • The foregoing outcomes are due to the relatively high 5% threshold parties face for winning seats in the Bundestag.

As for what this means for the future of the Eurozone, I have no idea. Status quo, I suppose. But if the economy remains poor in four years’ time, I think we can expect quite a shakeup. The two biggest parties are now in the hotseat.

UPDATE: These interesting charts show that the euroskeptic AfD received almost as many votes from former supporters of left parties as from the right. That may explain why the left, overall, is down.

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I am a policy guy, so my expertise in electoral politics (i.e., “the talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,”  to quote Publius) is quite limited. But I will put my Sharon Angle “man pants on” and challenge my fellow Pilieus bloggers to do the same. Here are my predictions:

The Senate: the GOP will end up with a slim minority of 49 seats

Of those that are currently toss ups, the GOP will take Illinois (Kirk), Colorado (Buck), Angle (Nevada) and Pennsylvania (Toomey).

  • All this could change if the Democrats are successful in throwing Meek under the bus in hopes of preventing Rubio from being elected (the horror! A young charismatic Latino conservative!)
  • Alternatively, if the wave is as big as some predict hope, the GOP could take Washington and West Virginia, thereby claiming a slim majority (BTW, if this happens, there are two words that will never be used together by the media when discussing the actions of the minority: Democratic obstructionism).
  • The wave will be a Tsunami if Fiorina beats Boxer in California
  • Abandon ye all hope if O’Donnell throws a spell on the Delaware electorate

The House: Obviously going GOP. My best guess is that the GOP will pick up 64 to give it a 242 to 193 margin.

Like I said earlier, I am a policy guy. My prediction: even if the GOP wins a majority in both chambers, all of the populist, small government rhetoric will dissipate quickly. No one can look back to the last GOP majority and harbor any hope of responsible governance, balanced budgets, transparency, etc. If the GOP does what the GOP has done in the recent past, the 2012 elections will likely flip things once again.

So I am throwing it down. Grover, Sven, James, Jason and Marcus…time to pull on the “man pants” and put some numbers down.

Reader predictions are most welcomed!


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This Time Will Be Different?

The new Gallup generic ballot for Congress shows that things are tightening as the midterm elections approach. In August, Republicans enjoyed an unprecedented 49% to 43% lead. As of today, the lead has dwindled to 46% to 45%. Assuming that the change in the polls is accurate, what explains the tightening numbers? Certainly, the Democrats have done nothing in the last month to show that they are any more capable of governing than they were in August. The economy remains mired in a sluggish recovery and the largest legislative accomplishment of the past two years—health care reform—remains unpopular.

Democrats have made the case that the Republicans have no positive agenda. They are simply the “party of No.” They have made the case that a vote for the GOP would be tantamount to a return to the Bush years. Republicans have countered these claims by… And this is the problem.

For decades it appeared that the Left had lost the war of ideas.  The Right, in contrast, seemed ready to make the intellectual case for bold changes in public policy in areas ranging from education to trade. In 2000, candidate Bush promised to cut taxes and reduce the size of government to 16 percent of GDP. This would be combined with the promotion of further trade liberalization, deregulation, and a host of market-based reforms including social security privatization and school choice. In the end, under unified Republican control, all that remained were tax cuts. When combined with expanded entitlements, the final product was a growing debt and an expansion of government from 18.2 percent of GDP to 21.7 percent of GDP.

Can Republicans expect to offer a credible alternative to the Democrats—can they make a credible claim that this time will be different—without making an assertive intellectual argument in support of a positive agenda?

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The new jobless figures are out. The US lost another 54,000 jobs, pushing unemployment from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent. There should be no real surprises here. (See the WSJ coverage). Following the release of the job numbers, the President remarked the economy is moving in “the right direction; we just have to speed it up” and promised  “a broader package of new ideas next week.”

The “broader package of new ideas” has been under consideration for some time. According to Glenn Thrush (Politico): “Administration officials have been huddling almost continuously during the past week, brainstorming for ideas that would boost employment without hiking the massive federal deficit.” Regardless of the outcome, Thrush predicts: “the administration will have a tough time selling nearly any package to terrified, Obama-phobic Hill Democrats who increasingly blame the president – and his ambitious, expensive legislative agenda – for their dismal prospects this November.”

A piece by Anne E. Kornblut and Lori Montgomery in yesterday’s Washington Post conveyed a similar sense of crisis. As the administration weighs its options—including a pay-roll tax holiday—“panic is setting in among many Democratic candidates who fear it is too late for Obama to convince voters that he understands the depth of the nation’s economic woes and can fix them.”

Yet, even if the administration can steer additional stimulus through the Congress, it is doubtful that it will make a difference by the elections.

If administration officials can agree on a policy path, it is not clear that it would be approved in the current environment on Capitol Hill. And even if Congress did approve new measures to bolster the economy, they would probably come too late to make a difference in the lives of recession-weary voters before the midterms. “Substantively, there is nothing they could do between now and Election Day that would have any measurable effect on the economy. Nothing,” said the Brookings Institution’s William Galston, who was a domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Regardless of the administration’s “broader package of new ideas,” all of this may be moot. At this point, there would seem to be few incentives for House and Senate Republicans to cooperate with the administration given their rather stunning lead in recent polls.  Absent some exogenous shock, the GOP seems on a glide path to electoral victory.

Of course, two things should temper Republican elation. First, there is evidence that current voter preferences are best interpreted as being as much a rejection of incumbent Democrats as they are an embrace of the GOP.  As a new Gallup Poll reveals: “Among voters backing Republican candidates, 44% say their preference is ‘more a vote against the Democratic candidate,’ while 48% say it is ‘more a vote for the Republican candidate.’” The implications: “negative voting may be the pivotal factor.”

Second, if the GOP prevails in the elections it will have to do something other than rely on worn talking points.  It will have to prove that it is capable of governing and delivering a set of policy outcomes that are superior to those provided by the current Democratic majority. Those of us who remember the last  GOP majority might find this  to be a tall order. Unfortunately for the GOP, the most detailed proposals to date have focused on serious entitlement reform that will be

(1) difficult to sell in the midst of a deep recession, and

(2) all  too easy to portray as part of a “reckless privatization  plan” designed to force old people to eat dog food while favoring big business (I can already imagine Krugman’s columns).

Absent serious progress on the economy, the same fickle majority that votes against the Democrats in 2010 may well vote against the Republicans in 2012.

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Hope and (Party) Change?

There has been more than enough bad news for Democrats lately. The other day, a new Gallup poll gave Republicans a historical 10 point lead over Democrats in the generic ballot for Congress.

Today Gallup released more dire news. “Americans saying the Republicans in Congress would do a better job than the Democrats in Congress of handling seven of nine key election issues. The parties are essentially tied on healthcare, with the environment being the lone Democratic strength.”

After spending more than a year (and a fair amount of political capital) on health care (remember the “big f’ing deal,” to quote the vice president), the Democrats’ lead on the issue is 44 to 43 percent.

Those of us who remember the circumstances surrounding entry into Iraq, might find it interesting that the GOP holds a thundering lead over Dems (55 to 33 percent) on the issue of terrorism.  Those of us who remember the dramatic post-2000 expansion of federal spending and the introduction of Medicare Part D might find it odd that the GOP also leads on the issue of controlling spending (50 to 35 percent).

Do voters suffer from amnesia or is the recession-induced hatred of incumbents and the controlling party so great that they are hoping that this time will be different?

Unless there has been something of a conversion experience in the past few years, can we reasonably expect the GOP to exhibit a level of responsibility and a fidelity to foundational principles that was sorely lacking when they held the reigns of power?

If the November midterms go the GOP’s way and there has not been some serious reflection on the mistakes of the past, my guess is that many of these numbers will quickly flip by 2012.

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The media is seeking to draw lessons from the primaries that were held yesterday in a number of states, including Connecticut. As a resident of the Nutmeg State, the victory of Linda McMahon of World Wide Wrestling fame was entertaining.  But the most interesting and potentially revealing event was the Democratic primary for governor where Dan Malloy defeated Ned Lamont.

Hope and Change?

Some of you may remember Ned Lamont. He successfully defeated Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary for the Senate (Lieberman ended up winning in the general election as an independent).  Lamont was a dark horse candidate.  He rose to prominence through the support of MoveOn.org, the netroots, and young voters (precisely the kind of coalition that would prove so influential in the 2008 presidential election).

Yesterday, this coalition—combined with $7 million of Lamont’s personal fortune—proved insufficient. Dan Malloy, who had the support of the party machine and organized labor, claimed an easy victory (58 to 42 percent).

Some questions that Democrats should be asking themselves:

  1. What explains this outcome?
  2. Has the anti-war position that was so productive for Lamont in 2006 lost its appeal?
  3. More troubling: is the “hope and change” coalition less durable than many might have hoped?
  4. What are the implications, if any, for the 2010 midterms?

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In politics, it’s rare that one gets to say “I told you so” quite this quickly. So forgive my being a little smug after yesterday’s post about how the left is underestimating Rand Paul, when a Rasmussen poll has come out today showing Paul up 25 points over his general election opponent.

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Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky Senate primary has befuddled and deranged much of the left. Matt Yglesias calls Paul a “lunatic,” while the Daily Caller reports on Democratic attempts to portray him as “out-of-touch, elitist, and selfish.” Ed Kilgore says Paul’s “radicalism,” identified by his association with the Tea Party and calls for “massive budget cuts,” is “politically perilous.” (What this misses is that ordinary voters don’t see the Tea Party as being a partisan Republican or far-right phenomenon, and Paul’s trumpeting of that connection is unlikely to hurt him among swing voters. Furthermore, polls show strong evidence that voters want large cuts to government spending, if necessary to close the deficit. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says Paul has to specify what he wants to cut.)

The trouble is that Paul is not a carbon-copy right-winger, and he left himself enough room, if not to move to the center in the traditional sense, at least to distance himself strongly from Bush-era Republicanism. Given that swing voters are not all that politically knowledgeable, for the most part, and interpret ideological cues rather straightforwardly, Paul should be able to create constructive ambiguity about his position on the left-right ideological spectrum.

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Over at fivethirtyeight, Ed Kilgore pooh-poohs the notion that Rand Paul’s expected victory in today’s Republican U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky represents an anti-incumbent, insurgent mood among voters:

Kentucky has a closed primary system with a very early cutoff date for registration changes, so independents are quite literally not going to be a factor in Paul’s win or in the Democratic results, for that matter. Furthermore, there’s no incumbent in the race, and the actual incumbent, Jim Bunning, has endorsed Paul. . .  Paul’s status as the candidate of “movement conservative” Republicans rather than tea-party independents or self-conscious libertarians, is buttressed by the endorsements he received from Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and (in a reversal of an earlier Grayson endorsement) James Dobson.

What this analysis ignores is two facts. First, the polls show Paul with a lead outside the margin of error against both Democratic candidates, so his popularity is not just evidence of partisan polarization. Second, the endorsements from establishment figures have come very late in the game, after Paul had already built up his polling lead. Going back to December, Paul’s lead over Grayson has always been in the double digits.

It’s true that Paul has won over movement conservatives, including Internet activists like RedState.com, but his message has been about as libertarian as any Kentucky politician could ever afford to be: opposing the stimulus, opposing TARP, opposing Obamacare, and supporting reductions in spending to eliminate the deficit, while making noises about “strong national defense,” saying the Iraq War was a mistake, and arguing for a “more local approach to drugs.”

The fact that Paul’s message is popular does not mean that it’s not anti-establishment.

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Well, it might be.  And maybe even weirder.   But the recent weirdness–the ousting of long-serving Senator Bob Bennett in the state convention–is quite remarkable, but for different reasons than most people are led to believe by the national media.

There has been a lot of national reporting on this important story.  As is usual, the media is taken up with looking for recent trends in voter opinion.  They always want a horse race, something new, something that can reveal how in touch they are with the storms that are brewing.   Currently the trend is talking about the importance of Tea Partiers and (according to the Left) how they have taken over the Republican Party.  The storyline is that even a Senator as conservative as Bob Bennett cannot survive.  The country has gone whacko.

The real story is more mundane and has to do more with Utah’s institutions than with Tea Partiers.   Bob Bennett lost without even facing a vote and having voters, even primary voters, decide whether to accept the boot.  In Utah a Republican candidate has to get 40% of the vote at the State Convention to qualify for the primary.  If he/she gets 60%, there is no primary.  Thus the convention delegates are enormously powerful in either putting a candidate on or keeping him off the ballot in the Fall.

Delegates are chosen in a closed caucus system that essentially nobody knows about.  Now I say this because, as a long-term resident of the state and one who follows politics very closely (though admittedly more at the national than the state or local level), I have never in my life gone to a caucus, even though I am a registered Republican.  This is because I have never known when the caucus is, not because I don’t want to attend.  Prior to caucus day (which is sometime in March, I think) there is very little media coverage, there are very few campaign signs, and I have never received an announcement from the Party or from anyone else telling me to go participate.   Caucuses are very much under the radar.

Of course the candidates know about them.  The try to recruit delegates to vote for them, which can be a little hard since delegates aren’t committed to any candidate.  And the activists know about them.  And all the nutjobs know about them.  Now  spending an evening with party officials, campaign workers, activists and nutjobs is not how I would spend my time, even if I were to know when the caucus was happening.

It is also impossible for Bennett to pull a Lieberman and run as an Independent.  If he could, he’d win.  But he would have to run as a write-in candidate.  It would take a very charismatic and popular person to win when one’s name is not even on the ballot.   Bennett is not that person.

So, Bennett’s loss is less about movements and more about institutions.  The media, though, cannot illustrate institutions the way they can show Tea Partiers waving signs and shaking their fists at the Convention.

This is often the case.  Back in 1992 when I was living in Chicago, Carol Mosley Braun beat Al “The Pal” Dixon in the Democratic Primary by getting 38% of the vote.  She became a media darling and poster girl for the “Year of the Woman” media stories (remember those?).  She then went on to be a joke in the Senate.

Of course the reason Braun won was not because it was the year of the woman, it was because the institutions allowed a self-financed candidate, Al Holfeld, to peel off Dixon’s support.  Dixon would have easily trounced Braun in a two-person runoff, but the rules didn’t allow for that.   Institutions are a huge part of the story, but they are unglamorous.

So Bennett lost primarily because Utah has institutions which allow extreme views and fringe candidates to take hold of the selection process, not because the Tea Partiers have moved the state’s voters so far to the Right that not even Bennett can survive.

Of course we are weird for other reasons, too.

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