The (temporary) home of practical progressives

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election results

The Democrats have retaken the House, likely with gains of 28-32 seats.

I am also predicting at this late hour (2:15 am) that the Dems will retake the Senate by winning the two outstanding races in MT and VA. In both states, the Democratic candidate has a slight lead and, more importantly, most of the outstanding votes in both states are from largely Dem areas (Bozeman and Billings in MT, and Fairfax County in VA).

This will give the Dems a 51-49 edge in the Senate, counting the votes of Lieberman and Sanders.

Night, all.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Predictions Part 1: House and Senate

First, I want to give my best and worst-case scenarios for Democrats on November 7.

Best-Case Scenario: Dems net 8 Senate seats (PA, OH, MT, RI, MO, TN, VA, and AZ; lose none).
Worst-Case Scenario: Dems net 2 Senate seats (PA, OH, and MT; lose NJ)

Best-Case Scenario: Dems net 40-45 seats
Worst-Case Scenario: Dems net 6-10 seats (lose the two seats in GA)

Best-Case Scenario: Dems net 12 Governor's mansions (NY, OH, MA, AR, MD, CO, MN, NV, FL, AK, SC, GA)
Worst-Case Scenario: Dems net 4 Governor's mansions (NY, OH, MA, AR, MD; lose OR)

As always, the truth will almost certainly be somewhere in between. The Dems still have a strong tailwind. The NJ Supreme Court decision was surprisingly a one-day story, which probably helps Dems because it means that social conservatives are not likely to be as riled up as most people thought they would be.

I won't make specific predictions for the House, except to say that the following seats appear to gimmes for the Dems:
AR-08, TX-22, PA-08, PA-07, IN-08, OH-18, FL-16, CO-07

And the only two Dem districts the GOP has legit chances of winning are the 8th and 12th districts in GA. Of the two, Jim Marshall (D) in the 8th District is the stronger incumbent, but is facing a tough opponent in Ex-Rep. Mac Collins in a district made tougher by redistricting. Freshman Rep. John Barrow (D) is not an overwhelming candidate in the 12th District, but he won the district in 2004 with 52% of the vote, and is now facing the same opponent as an incumbent and in a district which may have been made slightly more Democratic by the redistricting (which increased the district's black population from 42 to 45%). The wild card in all this is the GA governor's race, where incumbent Sonny Perdue (R) looks like he's going to win in a rout; but I think it will be closer than most people think.

In any case, there are no other endangered Dem house seats in the country. If the GOP can't pick up the two GA seats, it's probably going to be the first time in a recent memory that a party has failed to pick up a single House seat during a national election.

The Senate and Governor's seats are another story. Whereas House seats are extremely susceptible to the winds of the national climate, Senate and Governor's seats can turn more on the personalities, positions, and political prowess of the individual candidates.

That said, here are my assessments of the most competitive Senate seats this cycle, listed here in order of their likelihood (in my humble opinion) to flip from one party to another. As you will see, I'm predicting that the Dems will pick up 5 seats, which would make for a 50-50 Senate (with Dick Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote):

1) Pennsylvania - Rick Santorum (R) is running for reelection
Santorum has consistently trailed Bob Casey, Jr. (D) by 8+ points throughout this cycle. Everyone predicted that the race would tighten down the stretch, but it hasn't. Santorum threw everything he had at Casey, and none of it made a dent. Voters' opinions on Santorum were simply too firmly entrenched. Add in the fact that Rendell romping to victory in the Governor's race, and the best Santorum can hope for is making this one a little closer than expected.
PREDICTION: Casey by 12

2) Ohio - Mike DeWine (R) is running for re-election
DeWine is the victim and Sherrod Brown (D) the beneficiary of a perfect storm. Gov. Bob Taft (R) is the least popular governor in the nation's recent history, and has been a drag on all GOP candidates in the state. Democrats have been riled up ever since the close '04 election, and the subsequent allegations of voter fraud. Conservatives were angered by the relatively moderate DeWine's participation in the Gang of 14, and liberals were angered by his continued support for the Iraq War. DeWine was torn apart by political currents beyond his control; like Casey, Brown could have won without lifting much of a finger.
PREDICTION: Brown by 9

3) Montana - Conrad Burns (R) is running for re-election
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this race is the fact that Jon Tester (D) has consistently led Burns in polls, but has never hit the magical 50% in any polls except those run by Rasmussen (which had perhaps the least accurate polling results in the '04 cycle). That said, Burns hasn't polled in the lead in this race for 6 months, and the race doesn't seem to be tightening.
PREDICTION: Tester by 5

4) Rhode Island - Lincoln Chafee (R) is running for re-election
A tough GOP primary with conservative Steve Laffey drained Chafee's energy and resources, which allowed Shelden Whitehouse (D) to leap out to a solid lead after the primary. Chafee finally seemed to catch his stride a couple weeks ago, but it might have been too little and too late. Though he is by far the most liberal member of the GOP caucus, Chafee had the bad luck of running in what is probably the bluest state in the country. This is the first race that I wouldn't be surprised with a result either way, but the advantage is definitely with Whitehouse.
PREDICTION: Whitehouse by 4

5) Tennessee - Bill Frist (R) is retiring
Three reasons I think this is more likely to flip than Missouri: 1) Harold Ford has won the media war over Bob Corker's (R) ads during the past few weeks, which has lead to 2) Polls showing Ford with the momentum during the past week; and also 3) Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) is going to win re-election in a rout. Democrats have two reasons to turn out on 11/7; Corker doesn't have anyone else to help him motivate voters.
PREDICTION: Ford in a nail-biter

6) Missouri - Jim Talent (R) is running for re-election
McCaskill seems unable to pull away from Talent, who always seemed like a remarkably weak candidate to me. Polls show that Talent has had the momentum over the past few weeks. I'll be very curious to see if the coverage of the Michael J. Fox ad moves this race at all. If it doesn't, and if there isn't a nationwide Democratic tidal wave, I think Talent hangs on.
PREDICTION: Talent in a nail-biter

7) New Jersey - Bob Menendez (D) is running for a full term
Polls seem to show the race tied or with Menendez slightly ahead. The continuous corruption charges levied against Mendendez seem to have worn thin, and the Menendez campaign team has dealt with them well. Tom Kean (R) just can't seem to break it open, and this is one state where the Dems have a significant advantage in getting out the vote on Election Day.
PREDICTION: Menendez by 3

8) Virginia - George Allen (R) is running for re-election
Is it just me, or did Allen's book-quoting attack on Jim Webb (D) seem a bit of a strange move for a candidate who was a few points ahead in polls? Maybe he just wants to close the deal, but it could also be that his own polls show this race is a dead heat, and that Allen is getting nervous. This is the toughest race for me to handicap, but I have a tough time believing that Allen won't pull it out, since he somehow managed to weather the Macaca fiasco with his lead intact.
PREDICTION: Allen by 4

9) Maryland - Paul Sarbanes (D) is retiring
Michael Steele (R) has run a good campaign, but polls show that he hasn't been able to attract any more support from blacks than most GOPers do. He needed to make a significant dent in the Dem base to have a chance, and that doesn't seem to have happened. Ben Cardin (D) is perhaps the dullest campaigner of the cycle, but that hasn't hurt him in the polls. The GOP is making a big last push here, but I don't think it makes up the difference.
PREDICTION: Cardin by 5

That's all for my specific predictions, since I don't think any other races will determine who wakes up with control of the Senate on 11/8. A major wave could result in the Dems taking GOP-held seats in AZ and NV, but that won't happen unless all the seats listed above go to the Democrats as well (in which case the Dems would have at least a 2-seat Senate majority anyway).

And of course...
Connecticut - Joe Lieberman (I) is running for re-election
I probably shouldn't say anything here, but frankly, this race was over the moment Ned Lamont decided to run the "Turncoat" ad campaign rather than pounding Lieberman on Iraq. They released a good ad featuring Wes Clark recently, but it was 6 weeks too late. Lamont waited too long to go back on the offensive, and consequently failed to expand his base much beyond the people who supported him in the Dem primary. The GOP realized that Schlesinger had zero chance of winning, and quietly decided to back Lieberman over Lamont as by far the lesser of two evils from their point of view. The debates doubled Schlesinger's support, but not really at the expense of Lieberman (unsurprisingly, most of the new Schlesinger voters were previously undecided). It seems that voters' opinions on Lieberman were already set by the time Lamont decided to re-engage Lieberman.
PREDICTION: Lieberman by 6

And no, I don't think there's any risk at all of Lieberman jumping to the GOP caucus. Reid is not an idiot, and will offer him his seniority and Chairmanship (or ranking member status) of the Homeland Security Committee. That's all Lieberman really cares about. Even if that weren't the case, he promised too many times during the campaign that he would caucus as a Democrat if elected; his political career would be over if he broke that pledge. GOPers gave him money this cycle because there was no way they were going to elect a member of their own party, since Schlesinger refused to step aside. But no amount of GOP funding could overcome the hit he would allow him to overcome the hit he would take if he broke his pledge; they wouldn't be too likely to contribute to a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, anti-FMA candidate again anyway. Lieberman is not so stupid as to make a mistake that would ensure this would be his last term in the Senate.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I never thought I'd say this...

but watch Fox News Sunday tomorrow. Fox bamboozled Clinton into thinking they would do an interview with him about the $7 billion he has raised for his charitable foundation. Instead, they ambushed him with a "Path to 9/11"-style question asking him why he didn't do more to get Bin Laden. Fortunately, Clinton was sharp enough to turn the question back around - not only on Fox, but also on his hypocritical GOP critics.

This looks like one of those interviews that people from all over the political spectrum will be talking about for weeks, so catch it on YouTube if you can't catch it on Fox.

Here's a link to a transcript of the interview from ThinkProgress:

And a brief preview clip of the interview. Ignore the tabloid-esque title of the YouTube page (if I were Clinton, I'd have freaked out too):

Have a good weekend, folks.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

In tort law, the concept of res ipsa loquitur plays a prominently role in the theory of negligence. It's a Latin phrase which literally translates to "the thing speaks for itself." It embodies the idea that under some circumstances, the mere fact of an accident occuring strongly infers that the defendant was negligent.

For instance, if someone is just walking down the street and is suddenly struck in the head by a bag of flour, and there is a flour-bagging factory on the second floor of the building he was walking past at the time, one can easily infer that the bag of flour came from that factory. And since the bag could not have fallen on him without some negligence on the part of the factory workers, one can assume that the victim's injuries were due to the factory's ignorance. Res ipsa loquitur.

By the same "it's so obvious that you have to be blind not to see it" reasoning, Republicans are obviously responsible for the problems the nation is facing today. There is no doubt that they should be held liable at the ballot box for their handling of key issues.

Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. They control 28 of the nation's 50 governorships. On the Supreme Court, 7 of the 9 current justices were appointed by GOP presidents (although it must be granted that 3 of those appointees have proved to be far more progressive than the individuals who nominated them).

This helps explain the GOP's main strategy during this election cycle: Don't acknowledge the problems the nation is facing. I've gotten the impression that this seemingly blind optimism is not actually much the result of stupidity or stubbornness, as many progressives have suggested. Rather, I think it's because GOP leaders have realized that the nation is facing problems, and that there is no way they can honestly argue that they aren't responsible.

You're worried about health care? Look at the great Medicare bill we passed. Iraq? Things are going great. Education? Just look at all the smiling children at White House photo ops.

It also explains their occassional strategy of bringing up futile and divisive measures (read: Flag burning and gay marriage) every once in awhile. Whenever they realize that the public is becoming too focused on the real problems facing this country, they bring up measures that only a small number of people really care to focus on.

The end result of all this is that they never actually confront the problems that America is facing today. Their only hope of victory is to forestall the debate on real issues long enough that the American people won't truly notice them until after the election is over. After that, they'd have two years to think of new ways to avoid taking responsibility for the nation's problems (as in 2004) or blame Democrats for them (as in 2002). In essense, they hope to run out the clock one more time.

Fortunately for this country, I don't think it will ultimately work. Polls show that more than 60% of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. And for all the attention that gay marriage and flag burning got this summer, the debate over those issues seems a distant memory to the vast majority of Americans today.

As long as Democrats succeed in pointing out who has all the power - and refuse to let the GOP change the subject - common sense should carry the Democrats over the electoral finish line in November.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Iraq and the War on Terror: What the Dems' Message Should Be

Yesterday, Ned Lamont suggested what was, without his realizing it, the most practical and politically astute solution that has yet been proposed for the Dems' continuing inability to overtake the GOP in earning Americans' trust on national security.

An NBC poll released today showed some seemingly head-scratching numbers. 57% of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq, compared to just 38% saying they approved. But when asked which party they think would do a better job dealing with Iraq, the GOP still led Democrats, 34%-29%. The GOP had an even wider lead in dealing with the global war on terror (GWOT), leading Dems in that category 38%-28%.

Perhaps the most striking statistic is the high proportion of voters who are undecided or think that neither party would be good at dealing with these vital issues. 37% of respondents to today's NBC poll were in the undecided/neither category on Iraq, and 34% were in the same category on GWOT. The GOP's continuing lead is not because the public has faith in the GOP's policies; it's because they have even less faith in Democrats.

Another fascinating part of this poll was the inclusion of two generic ballot tests, with each test given to half the poll's respondents. The wording of the generic GOP candidate's position was identical in both tests. The Democratic position was divided thusly:

Position A
The Democratic candidate says the United States should reduce the current troop level now that Iraq has adopted a Constitution. The Democratic candidate believes that our military has done all that it can and now is the time to set out a timetable for phased troop withdrawal over the next year or two. The Democratic candidate says that the Republicans favor a stand-still policy.

Position B
The Democratic candidate says that the United States should have an immediate and orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The Democratic candidate believes that our military has done all that it can. Our continued presence is causing the never-ending insurgent attacks and we have created a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. The Democratic candidate says that the Republicans favor a stand-still policy.
Using Position A, the generic Democrat led his GOP opponent 53-40. Using Position B, the GOP candidate led 48-41. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, it's not enough to slam Bush and call for an end to the war in Iraq. We have to propose a solution that is not simply bringing all the troops home.

Polls clearly show that the public has lost faith in the War in Iraq - a recent Gallup poll showed that 54% of Americans thought the US military actions in the Middle East is creating more terrorists than it was eliminating. But they still feel GWOT must be fought somewhere, and simply don't trust Democrats on that yet - even a Democratic polling firm found that the GOP maintains double digit leads over Democrats on dealing with both terrorism (47-33) and national security (47-34).

And that's where Ned Lamont's statement comes in.

Lamont proposed that troops in Iraq be shifted to Afghanistan to fight the terrorists there. This could be the silver bullet for Democrats if other candidates pick up on it. It's the perfect middle ground between the "cut and run" and "stay and pray" mantras that both sides are hurling at each other, and are all too unwilling to disavow as equally unworkable.

From a practical standpoint, it would get our troops in Iraq out of the continuing quagmire that is unfolding there, where there is little hope of eradicating the major terrorist networks, but much risk of creating more terrorists. From an electoral standpoint, it would severely undercut the GOP's "cut and run" message, since the suggestion could not be viewed as a retreat, but only as a refocusing of our troops to where they should be - hunting down Bin Laden and eradicating the people who harbored him.

That's the message the Democrats can win on, and finally end Americans' GOP-created fears that the Democratic party is either unwilling or unable to keep the country's safe. Now, the Democratic candidates need to find the brains and the guts to make Lamont's suggestion a party-wide platform for the home stretch of these elections.

No Shame at All

I find I don't engage righties any more simply because of the overwhelming need to take a shower afterwards.

Unfortunately, the same has become true of Lieberman supporters. I don't even read the comments here any more for that reason. I don't need the aggravation.

Democrats have shown they can go just as disgustingly negative as Republicans. Honestly; a man devotes time to teaching inner-city kids and Dan Gerstein thinks that's somehow a liability.

What the hell is wrong with Dan Gerstein, or anyone who buys into these repulsive attacks? Very simple. They're Republicans.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Proof Found: Lieberman Campaign Lied about David Sirota

David Sirota found the emails that prove beyond a ghost of a shadow of a doubt that the Lieberman campaign simply and deliberately lied about Sirota asking them for a job. Game, set, match.

This is not a misunderstanding; these are not good people. I will not support them, and neither should you.

Keep the Pressure on ABC

The most important thing any Democrat can do today is put every ounce of pressure possible on anyone connected with the despicable "Path to 9-11" debacle.

Call your local ABC affiliate and ask to speak with the program director. Tell them how many TVs you have in your house and then politely but firmly swear a mighty oath that the ABC network will not appear on any of them for a solid year if they air this show. Tell them you intend to target the advertisers that support their local news, and then do so, politely but doggedly.

If they say they are forced to air it because they are owned by ABC, tell them that's fine, you understand, but it changes nothing, and a responsible program director should probably communicate this sort of drastic direct public action upstairs to their corporate owners.

Contact Scholastic and tell them that their rethink about their complicity in putting this despicable program out to our children in their very schools is a good try, but not good enough. They must completely drop their association with this project. Atrios and Kos both totally wimped out on this one, declaring victory when it's nothing even close. Keep the pressure on.

Senate Democrats today wrote a thinly-veiled threat to ABC that they had better make this thing right, or come November, ABC and the Mouse are due for some very unwelcome attention.

This really is one of those litmus-test issues. If you call yourself a Democrat and aren't outraged by this blatant attempt by Disney, ABC and Scholastic to rewrite history in the minds of millions of low-information voters and schoolchildren, two months before an election, change your registration; you aren't a Democrat.

Excuse me if I don't blog much for a while, real life intervenes sometimes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Florida races

Next Tuesday is primary day for two of the most fascinating Senate races in the country, with Sen. Linc Chafee trying to stave off Steve Laffey in Rhode Island's GOP primary, and Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume (along with a few others) facing off against each other in Maryland's Dem primary. I'll hopefully be posting my thoughts on those races, particularly the Maryland race, this weekend.

But there was another important primary day this week, with Florida's primaries for both Senate and Governor taking place on Tuesday. None of the contests yielded any surprises. Congressman Jim Davis (no, not the same guy who does Garfield) defeating big sugar-backed State Sen. Rod Smith in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Davis will face off against FL Attorney General Charlie Crist, who routed State CFO Tom Gallagher in the GOP primary.

Crist is one of the few GOPers from the South (inasmuch as Florida can be called "the South") who progressives can at least respect. My personal favorite blogger, progressive Ron Gunzberger of Politics1, has expressed some admiration for Crist, who supports civil unions, favors a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, and opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. Jim Davis also seems a good person and a good candidate, and the race between the two of them seems likely to be a healthy exchange of ideas from both sides.

Over on the Senate side, the situation could hardly be more different. Katherine Harris is no Charlie Crist. Not even close. She's probably the least palatable Republican in the entire country who has run for statewide office in the past decade. Mitchell Wade, the same defense contractor who bribed Duke Cunningham (R-Federal Prison), also wooed Harris with a $2800 dinner and then funneled more than $30,000 in illegal contributions to Harris's campaign (Harris says all the money has since been given to charity). She also has made many statements expressing her opposition to separation of church and state, which she calls "a lie," and advocates open theocracy as fervently as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And oh yeah - she did everything in her power to disenfranchise Democratic and independent voters in 2000.

Harris's candidacy has devolved into a bad, almost sick joke. The chances of an enlightened exchange of ideas between Harris and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson are less than zero. Both the state and national divisions of the GOP have long distanced themselves from Harris's candidacy, and her victory in the GOP primary does not appear to have made any impression on them. Nelson could beat Harris by 25 points without running a single ad. He could probably win by 50 if he really tried.

The presence of Harris's name at the top of the ballot is also sure to have some drag on downballot GOPers, including Crist, although I highly doubt that many people will condemn the moderate Crist merely because of he shares his party label with the reactionary Harris. The biggest casualty of Harris's candidacy will be the opportunity for Floridians to hear a reasoned exchange of ideas on issues of national importance. And while I am happy that the Dems don't have to worry about defending this seat, that's never a good thing for democracy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dr. Frist? Not so fast!

Bill Frist may have just lost his medical license.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist acknowledged Tuesday that he may not have met all the requirements needed to keep his medical license active - even though he gave paperwork to Tennessee officials indicating that he had.

He was widely criticized last year for injecting himself into the debate over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed. Frist viewed a videotape of the woman, then publicly questioned the diagnosis of her doctors. An autopsy later confirmed their judgment, not his.

(Insert joke about video diagnostic techniques here)

It's too bad, really. I understand that he was a far better at being surgeon than he is at being a Senator...but that's not saying much.

Hopefully, Harold Ford will win Frist's Senate seat, and then we can all watch gleefully as Frist fails miserably in his run for President.

At long last, Senator...

... have you NO sense of decency?

Hey, Ned... are you still in this race? Would it be asking too much for you to WAKE UP and start making some noise?