Election 2012

Do Republicans Have a Southern Problem?

(Flickr/change-of-venue)
One of the more interesting elements of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory was his strong performance in the South. He won Virginia and Florida—again—and came close to a win in North Carolina, where he lost by just two points. “Obama’s 2012 numbers in the Southeastern coastal states,” writes Douglas Blackmon for The Washington Post , “outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates.” Indeed, Blackmon—who won a Pulitzer for the book Slavery by Another Name —sees this as a crack in the Republican Party’s otherwise solid hold on the South. A growing African American population, combined with greater Latino immigration and a shrinking white electorate (the share of white votes in Florida dropped to 66 percent, for example) has allowed Democrats to make gains in states that were once GOP strongholds. Judging from Election Day, this is most true in the five states that hug the coast: Virginia,...

Another Defeat for the NRA

Earlier this year, I did a lengthy series for Think Progress detailing how the National Rifle Association's power to influence elections is wildly overestimated by nearly everyone in Washington (here's Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , and Part 4 ). The group's advocates argued that I was wrong, and in fact the NRA retains the ability to get its friends elected and defeat its enemies. So how did they do in this year's election? The answer is, abysmally. The Sunlight Foundation put together data on outside spending from a variety of interest groups, and the data show how poorly the NRA did. At the top of the ticket, of course, they failed to defeat the man whom they have promised is coming to take everyone's guns (despite the fact that he is not actually coming to take anyone's guns). Through their two political committees, the Political Victory Fund and the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA spent $13.4 million on the presidential race, to no avail. But the Senate is where their...

Scott Walker Figures It Out

What does a 2016 presidential aspirant do when his state votes Democratic? Rig the next election, of course. Wisconsin didn't turn into the swing state Scott Walker, Mitt Romney and the GOP had wished, with Obama carrying it by more than six percent and Democrat Tammy Baldwin winning an open Senate seat. Walker, the union-busting Koch brothers buddy, has pinpointed the source of the GOP's woes in Wisconsin—its liberal voting laws. "States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems," Walker Those senior citizens aren't Walker's real problem, of course—it's Wisconsin's voter-friendly election laws. Since taking office he's been itching to dismantle them. In 2011, Walker signed a bill to implement a photo-ID requirement. The courts eventually overturned the proposal as unconstitutional. Dismantling same-day registration, however, likely wouldn't violate the state constitution—but could prove just as suppressive as a photo-ID law. The eight states with same-day...

Remember that Provisional Ballot Problem?

(Flickr/Joe Hall)
Ohio has finally begun to tally provisional ballots. This was supposed to be the moment we were all waiting for—back when the presidential election was going to be airtight and everyone was worried about elections administration in the ultimate battleground. Instead, the Obama campaign won a decisive victory, so few kept following the counting in Ohio. But even without an audience, the state's court battles continued well after Election Day. While the presidential race may not hang in the balance, the outcomes of two legislative races will determine a whether Republican lawmakers have a supermajority—which would allow them to easily pass a conservative agenda, including more attempts at voter suppression. “I think Ohio dodged a proverbial bullet,” said Ned Foley, the head of Ohio State’s Moritz Law Center. Still, Foley is quick to point out, “The focus has gone away but that doesn’t mean the vulnerabilities don’t exist.” The most recent fights have been over how to count provisional...

Rush's Dream Journal

Republicans drifted through much of 2012 in trickle-down fantasyland, self-deporting to a mystical world where Mitt Romney's rightward shift during the primary helped their candidate. Election Day shook the party awake, forcing Republicans to reckon with their purity problem. Louisiana Governor and 2016 wannabe Bobby Jindal disavowed Romney's they-just-want-gifts comment all last week, and the Sunday shows featured a barrage of Republicans disparaging the man they had envisioned as president. "We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration," said Senator Lindsey Graham. "And candidate Romney and the primary dug the hole deeper." On Meet the Press, GOP strategist Mike Murphy shared the view that "the biggest problem Mitt Romney had was the Republican primary." But Murphy strayed a little too close to the third rail of conservative politics when he said the party shouldn't base its views on "Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal." Rush, of course, never...

Anti-Testing: Unlikely Common Ground?

(Flick/ cliff1066â„¢)
At first glance, the 2012 elections didn’t seem to have much bearing on education policies. After all, the fundamental debates around schools—whether to increase the role of testing, merit pay, charter schools, and school choice—are, for the most part, outside the realm of partisan politics. Among both Democratic and Republican leadership, there’s a fair amount of consensus in the self-proclaimed reform agenda, which seeks to make schools more like a marketplace and relies on testing to offer metrics for success. It’s the one area where the parties seem to agree. Heck, Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, is delivering a keynote speech at Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education summit at the end of the month. But while the politicians might agree, this year’s election turned out to offer a surprising message: Many still support the idea of charter schools, but a whole lot of teachers and parents aren’t so pleased with the elevation of testing, the new regimented days with little...

The Great Society's Next Frontier

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) A copy of H.R. 3200, America Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, sits on the desk of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California. A s The Washington Post ’s Ezra Klein declared shortly after voters re-elected President Barack Obama, one of the major winners last week was health-care reform. With Democrats holding on to the Senate and the White House, Republicans will be unable to repeal the law before all of its provisions go into effect in 2014—after which, the theory goes, the public will come to accept that government has the responsibility to ensure health care is available for all. This is the end of a long battle for progressives: Health care has been the major missing piece of our welfare state for nearly a century, and for decades making it part of our system of social insurance has been a primary goal of politicians, think tanks, and activists. With this piece of the progressive puzzle in place, the natural...

Nobody's Fault but Their Own

(Flickr/George Allen for Senate)
George Allen for Senate Former Virginia senator George Allen meets with supporters. I f there was anything Republicans should have been surprised about in this month’s elections, it was their rout in the Senate. Not only did they lose races against vulnerable Democratic incumbents in GOP leaning states—Missouri, Florida, and Montana, for instance—but they also lost almost every competitive open race and failed to hold a vacant one in Indiana. Politico reports that GOP leaders are working to prevent a repeat of this scenario by exerting more control over the nomination process. Republicans believe that they would have done better had they kept politicians like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock out of the picture. The goal for the next four years is to erase the Tea Party-versus-Washington narrative that has made it difficult to get establishment Republicans through the primary process: “We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires,...

Nationalizing the Vote?

I want to thank every American who participated in this election whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time—by the way, we have to fix that," President Obama said as he kicked off his victory speech last week by throwing a bone to the liberals who spent much of the past year fighting Republican efforts to restrict voting rights. The laws didn't end up tipping the final results but certainly disenfranchised scores of voters and created a needless hassle for others across the country. In Northern Virginia, long lines forced voters to wait three hours past the time polls were set to close, while in Florida voters rushed to vote the weekend before the election to take advantage of the reduced early-voting window. Democrats in Congress are ready to answer Obama's call for solutions. On Thursday, Senator Chris Coons and Representative George Miller both released bills to reform the election process. Coons's bill, the Louis L. Redding Fair, Accurate,...

Putting Faith in the Conservative Creed

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
As Democrats continue to bask in the post-election schadenfreude of watching Republicans weep and gnash their teeth at losing the presidential election, the sense that conservatives are the architects of their own misery is only enhancing liberal glee. It seems the initial shock hasn’t warn off: In a conference call with his fundraising team, Mitt Romney is still blaming his loss on those freeloading Americans who wanted stuff. Clearly, the only explanation for all this delusion is that conservative media and campaign consultants, steeped in years of confidently lying about everything from global warming to the causes of the deficit, got a little too bold about their ability to create their own realities. The only question is whether conservatives will learn their lesson and exhibit more skepticism about their self-selected news media in the future. The answer is almost surely no, for a very good reason: Conservative credulousness is so baked into the culture of the right that it...

When Majorities Don't Mean Control

(Flickr/ johan weiland)
In the Empire State, winning elections doesn’t always translate into power it seems. Next year, Democrats will likely have a majority of seats in the state’s upper chamber. But they aren’t likely to control it. It’s one of the stranger outcomes of the latest election. Just getting a majority of seats was impressive. Since 1965, the Democrats only controlled the chamber once, in the 2009-2010 session. The party had conceded easy victories, agreeing to a deal in which the GOP drew Senate districts in exchange for a more favorable Democratic map in the state Assembly. But in the end, they had a lot to celebrate. Two Democratic incumbents held their seats against tough challenges, while an open seat in Rochester, previously held by the GOP, switched hands. Perhaps most exciting for the long-suffering party, in the “super Jewish” district, former Councilman Simcha Felder beat the incumbent senator with a commanding 67 percent. In total, Democrats have a 31-30 majority, with two races still...

Republicans Return Romney's "Gift"

Today's Ringside Seat: The Republicans have abandoned their presidential candidate, but imagine great things for the VP pick.

After kowtowing to every conservative whim during the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney could have eased into retirement, maintaining the moderate, nice-guy image he cultivated during the final month of the campaign. Alas, rich uncle moneybags needed to bash the 47 percent on his way out the door. "The president’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift," Romney said Wednesday on a conference call with his donors, portraying African Americans, Hispanics, women, and young voters as moneygrubbers whose votes were up for sale. His post-election takeaway squashes any lingering doubts about who the real Mitt is. For Pete's sake, he's no longer running for office, so we can stop wondering whether the 47 percent video represented his true beliefs. What is, however, surprising is the condemnation the Republican Party has rained down on Romney. "We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent," said Bobby Jindal. "...

The President We Hoped For?

We’re about to find out, in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, whether President Obama plans to govern the way he ran for re-election—and whether, as a result, he just might become the kind of president liberals hoped he’d be in the first place. The single most surprising thing about the 2012 campaign (unless you’re a Republican still shell-shocked over the outcome) was that the “man from Kumbaya” completely rejected the Bill Clinton re-election model. It was the polar opposite of triangulation: This time, the Democratic incumbent won with a resonant message of liberal populism. And damned if it didn’t work—not just because Obama won, but because the central arguments he made to raise taxes on the wealthy and preserve government as a force for fairness and opportunity changed Americans’ minds in fundamental ways. When the man asserts, as he has been doing, that “voters agreed with me” on issues like tax increases for rich folks, he’s not blowing smoke. Check out these numbers: A year...

47 Percent, Part 2

Flickr/Austen Hufford
Earlier in the week I wrote about the increasing conservative complaint that too many Americans are mooching off the labors of genuine hard-working job creators. Well now Mitt Romney himself has extended this analysis to the ballot box, telling his big donors in a post-election conference call that the reason he lost was, essentially, that Barack Obama bought off those moochers with promises of free stuff. When the 47 percent video came out, I couldn't have been the only one who wondered just how many times he had delivered that riff; it seems unlikely it was the first and last time he said it. But now the election's over, and he isn't stopping. Romney seems appalled that Obama would be so diabolical as to pursue policies that were beneficial to people who then went to the polls to vote for him. It's worth quoting at length: "With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," he said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young...

Romney Says He Lost Because Obama Gave "Gifts" to Blacks and Latinos

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday. When the “47 percent” video first hit, there was a question as to whether this was the “real Romney,” or someone pandering to the prejudices of the Republican donor class. If you stepped away from the passion of moment, you could easily see a scenario where Romney felt that it was in his best interest to adopt another bit of right-wing rhetoric, for the sake of cash and support. Then again, by that point it was more than clear that the Republican Party had been infected with a Randian mania. It wasn’t—and isn’t—hard to find conservatives who attack the mass of Americans as “takers” who rob the “makers” of their rightful wealth. Indeed, this was Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s central message until he was chosen for the national stage. And given the constituency for this ideology—wealthy (white) hedge fund managers and assorted rich...

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