Saturday, November 15, 2008

UPDATE: Outlook for the Next Senate

In Alaska, Democrat Mark Begich has passed Republican incumbent Ted Stevens in their race for the US Senate. As of yesterday, Begich now leads Stevens by 814 votes. The before-mentioned 40,000 uncounted ballots will be completely tallie by Tuesday - the majority of them being counted today.

In Georgia, Democratic challenger Jim Martin is still within reach of upsetting GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss in their December runoff election. A Dailykos/Research 2000 poll shows Martin trailing Chambliss 49% - 46%. Pundits have long assumed that a runoff would favor Chambliss.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Democrat Al Franken filed a lawsuit for access to voter data of rejected absentee ballots in Ramsey County. According to the AP, the goal was for a favorable ruling to eventually be applied for the entire state.

Senate Democrats must win all three of these races in order to achieve a filibuster-proof majority. DSCC Chairman, Sen. Chuck Schumer, told reporters yesterday that this was possible but an "unlikely" prospect. Despite the electoral pessimism, Schumer said "but we certainly added enough Democratic seats in the Senate to create real change."

Friday, November 14, 2008

New History Was Made - But Our Old History Lingers On

In his recent editorial in the Miami Herald, African-American columnist Leonard Pitts writes "we shall overcome." But it was not a declaration referring to his race, but rather to the millions of LGBT Americans discriminated against nationally.

Pitts wrote this column in regard to the recent outcomes of the gay marriage referenda in Florida, California, and Arizona. He points out that although black voters came out in record numbers to elect Barack Obama the first African-American President, they also supported a ban on gay marriage by a 2 to 1 margin.

Pitts acknowledges that the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in indeed different from the gay rights movement today, but writes:

"…that's not the same as saying blacks and gays have nothing in common. On the contrary, gay people, like black people, know what it's like to be left out, lied about, scapegoated, discriminated against, held up, beat down, denied a job, a loan or a life. And, too, they know how it feels to sit there and watch other people vote upon your very humanity, just as if those other people had a right. So beg pardon, but black people should know better. I feel the same when Jews are racist, or gays anti-Semitic. Those who bear scars from intolerance should be the last to practice it."

Although the civil rights movement is not over, and the chains of discrimination have not been fully lifted from the black community, a great deal of progress has been made over the past half century. Progress is equally likely - says Pitts - to come to the LGBT community as well.

Gay marriage is likely to become more accepted in the future, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is likely to pass in the new Congress and signed by President Obama, and hate crime legislation is likely to be extended to LGBT individuals as well.

Yet, hate crimes have been part of the American judicial system for some time, and the violence still continues - as demonstrated by this disturbing video sent to us today.

Perhaps the saddest part of the story is how it is unsurprising. The anti-immigrant rhetoric mentioned by Ruben Navarrette is an obvious fuel for the fire. It is unsurprising because we've seen this movie before. As Bob Dylan wrote about the murder of Medgar Evers:

"A South politician preaches to the poor white man / "You got more than the blacks, don't complain / You're better than them / You been born with white skin," they explain / And the Negro's name / Is used it is plain / For the politician's gain / As he rises to fame / And the poor white remains / On the caboose of the train…

… He's taught in his school / From the start by the rule / That the laws are with him / To protect his white skin / To keep up his hate / So he never thinks straight…

… And he's taught how to walk in a pack / Shoot in the back / With his fist in a clinch / To hang and to lynch / To hide 'neath the hood / To kill with no pain / Like a dog on a chain…"

Dylan wrote "Only a Pawn in Their Game" over forty years ago - but today the words are still a reality to families like the Luceros. And the LGBT community, like the Latino community, has become a direct target of conservative politicians in recent years.

So even as the United States made history by electing its first black President, the old history of hate and discrimination sadly continues - and in new forms.

Or as Pitts writes, "Sometimes progress carries an asterisk."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Battle for Congress Continues


In Alaska, the Senate race between long-time Republican incumbent and convicted felon Ted Stevens and Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich rests on approximately 90,000 uncounted absentee ballots (or 30% of the electorate). Stevens currently leads by over 3,000 votes, but Begich is wisely waiting to see the results of the uncounted ballots.

The statewide House race in the Alaska is also in question as a result of the 90,000 ballots. Republican incumbent Don Young - who has had his fair share of troubles with corruption issues - leads Democrat Ethan Berkowitz by nearly 17,000 votes. Although the election could be overturned by these ballots, it is unlikely to see a scenario in which Berkowitz can win.


The extremely competitive Congressional race in California's 4th District is down to a recount. As of Sunday night, Republican State Sen. Tom McClintock led Democratic challenger and former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Brown by 889 votes.

By yesterday afternoon, McClintock's lead grew to 1,192 votes (or from half a percent to two-thirds of a percent) after the recount in Roseville County was completed. 40,000 ballots are still to be recounted, and both campaigns have begun new fundraising efforts to pay for election lawyers.

In an email to supporters, McClintock said "this is still too close to call, but I'd rather be me than the other guy." In an email to Brown supporters, campaign manager Todd Stenhouse said that the votes yet to be recounted are in counties which did well for Brown, who originally ran for the seat against an incumbent in 2006 against the retiring GOP Rep. John Doolittle.


In Georgia, Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss faces a runoff with Democrat Jim Martin. Chambliss has recruited this year's GOP Presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to stump with him in Cobb County tomorrow. Former presidential candidate and governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) will be stumping for him as well, possibly on Sunday. Chambliss is also reported to have invited Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), though neither have confirmed.

While it is unlikely that Martin will be able to bring President-Elect Barack Obama out to Georgia, Martin is receiving GOTV help from now unemployed Obama staffers in the Peach State. This will be immensely important for him in order to bring back the large

African-American demographic that voted in record numbers on November 4th - but mostly because Obama was on the ballot.

According to Martin "Those ground troops are more important than big-name politicians for getting voters back to the polls."


Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was hardly at risk for his seat this year, but new speculations are being raised about the replacement for his colleague - the junior Senator from Illinois - Barack Obama.

Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich is facing pressure from African-American groups to choose a black successor - currently, Obama is the only African-American in the Senate. The most likely contender that comes to mind is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a national co-chair of the Obama campaign. But Jackson has a long and well-known feud with Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, and a lesser known antithesis with Blagojevich.

The other prominent names that are being thrown out there (both Democratic) are Tammy Duckworth (the Iraq War veteran who lost her legs and ran for Congress in 2006) and Emil Jones (the73-year-old black State Senate President).

But as Josh Kraushaar of Politico points out, Blagojevich is an extremely unpopular governor, and an appointment from him could be a "kiss of death."


One competitive House race in Louisiana will also come down to a runoff election on December 6th. In the 4th Congressional District, Democratic Caddo DA Paul Carmouche faces the former Republican Webster Coroner Josh Fleming, to replace the retiring GOP Rep. Jim McCrery.

According to, Carmouche has conducted a new internal poll which shows the District Attorney is up by ten points. The Democrats are already running an ad for the runoff, attacking Fleming for supporting a large national sales tax and privatizing Social Security. The NRCC says they will be running ads soon too.


The Baltimore Sun reported last night that GOP State Sen. Andy Harris of Baltimore County has conceded defeat to Democratic State Attorney Frank Kratovil. He appears to lead Harris by about .6% in this hotly contested race in a conservative district.

According to Political Scientist Matthew Grenson of Johns Hopkins University, the national Democratic successes this year played a role, as well as the Libertarian candidate who managed about 2.5% of the vote.


The most anticipated recount in the nation is the Minnesota Senate race between GOP incumbent Norm Coleman and the Democratic former comedian, Al Franken. Since Election Day, Coleman's lead over Franken has dropped from 725 votes to just 221.

Most surprisingly, nearly all of those new Franken votes came from only three precincts. The new numbers are a result of correcting typos made by "exhausted county officials" according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The recount will begin on November 19th.

And if this race wasn't tense enough, Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said on MSNBC today of the Coleman campaign "Their goal is to win at any price."


In Ohio's 15th Congressional District, GOP State Senator Steve Stivers leads Democratic Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy by the closest margin of all House races nationally - 149 votes (according to Congressional Quarterly).

As of now there are more than 20,000 ballots to be counted in Franklin County. If the margin is within half a percent when the official results are released November 25th, there will be an automatic recount. Obviously, we will have to follow this race closely.


The 5th Congressional District race in Virginia is looking good for the Democrats. Tom Perriello, a faith-based initiative organizer and Democrat won his race with a 407 vote lead over GOP incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode, according to the State Board of Elections.

But Goode is hanging on, claiming that roughly 20% of the precincts in the district reported irregularities. "We will continue to fight to make sure that every single legitimate vote in the Fifth District is accurately counted and reported," he said. The Goode campaign is sure to demand a recount.

Stay tuned to WAYLA where we continue to update the House and Senate spreads daily - until the last seat is finalized.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on Realignment and the Scrambling GOP

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a good summary of the battle within the GOP in today's edition of the New York Times.

According to Brooks, there are currently two camps within the Republican Party - the "Traditionalists" and the "Reformists." Brooks says the Traditionalists are the typical right-wing hard-liners including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the Club for Growth, the Federalist Society, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Family Research Council.

The Traditionalists believe that the reason for recent GOP defeats is because the Party has not been conservative enough. They blame big-government policies of George W. Bush and East Coast conservatives who are now losing their offices for a reason. They argue for all of the typical neo-conservative points of view.

The Reformists, on the other hand, believe that the Republican Party has to modernize because the conservative hard-liners are making Americans become disillusioned with the highly ideological GOP. They want to address middle-class economic anxiety and global warming rather than abortion, gay marriage, and consistent calls for tax cuts as the only means to solve the nation's problems. They want the new GOP to be similarly modeled after what David Cameron is doing with the Tories in the UK.

But despite the fact that the Reformists might have the better argument as to where to take the Republican Party, the Traditionalists will have the upper-hand for some time.

"[First] Congressional Republicans are predominantly Traditionalists. Republicans from the coasts and the upper Midwest are largely gone. Among the remaining members, the popular view is that Republicans have been losing because they haven't been conservative enough.

Second, Traditionalists have the institutions. Over the past 40 years, the Conservative Old Guard has built up a movement of activist groups, donor networks, think tanks and publicity arms. The reformists, on the other hand, have no institutions.

There is not yet an effective Republican Leadership Council to nurture modernizing conservative ideas. There is no moderate Club for Growth, supporting centrist Republicans. The Public Interest, which used to publish an array of public policy ideas, has closed. Reformist Republican donors don't seem to exist. Any publication or think tank that headed in an explicitly reformist direction would be pummeled by its financial backers. National candidates who begin with reformist records — Giuliani, Romney or McCain — immediately tack right to be acceptable to the power base.

Finally, Traditionalists own the conservative mythology. Members of the conservative Old Guard see themselves as members of a small, heroic movement marching bravely from the Heartland into belly of the liberal elite. In this narrative, anybody who deviates toward the center, who departs from established doctrine, is a coward, and a sellout."

Brooks finishes by noting that the GOP will probably move further to the right in coming years. But the trend of realignment will hold true. As issues change and the Reformists - with their finger on the pulse of the issues - grow in number, the cycle will swing the Republicans back from a hard-right minority status into a new age of competition with the Democrats or even to a clear majority.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Democrats Speculate Dean's Successor

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean will be stepping down from his post in January. The former Vermont Governor and 2004 Presidential Candidate who helped reignite the Democratic Party has always said he would only serve one term.

But the Huffington Post reported today that there may be other reasons for his departure.

Despite his promise to not seek re-election at the DNC, many Democrats thought he would do well to stay on given the recent successes he brought to the party. But as President, Barack Obama will be the new leader of the Democratic Party and his choice for a new Chair will almost certainly be approved by the DNC when they hold the upcoming elections. And Obama's new Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is known to have been at odds with Dean.

In 2006, Emanuel, then Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the architect of the Democratic takeover of the House, criticized Dean within the party ranks for the 50-State-Strategy, which Emanuel felt was wasting resources on unwinnable races.

While Emanuel was certainly not the only critic of the 50-State-Strategy, most Democrats have come to see the operation as a success. It was perhaps the riskiest of Dean's successful (and often revolutionary) accomplishments, including the Neighborhood Leadership Program and the long overdue advances to the party's Voter File technology.

According to the article, the DNC will likely return to the leadership style they used in the 1990s, with a sort-of honorary Chair and an "Operational Chair" who will deal with the day-to-day priorities of the party. The article also lists Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as a possible Chair and Steve Hildebrand, Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager, as the Operational Chair.

Dean is reported to have told a party operative that he will seek a promise from his successor to preserve the current DNC model - including the 50-State-Strategy - which seems likely to happen given its success.

As for Dean's future, there has been talk of him earning a position in the Obama Administration, but others say his wife will not be willing to give up her medical practice to move to Washington.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Republican Politicians: "When are the next elections?"

It's Sunday, November 09, 2008. Here is what we're looking at.

GOP leaders deny ambitions for Presidential bids in 2012. But former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal already plan to visit Iowa before the year is out.

The recounts in Minnesota are getting closer. Senator Norm Coleman is trying to use the courts to stop as few as 32 previously uncounted absentee ballots from being included in the recount. Brace for another Florida.

Future White House Chief of Staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) speaks with Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.