Friday, April 17, 2009

Has America Flip-Flopped?

It’s Friday, April 17, 2009. Here’s what we’re looking at:

With this week’s Tax Day Tea Party protests, the Daily Show takes a humorous look into whether America itself has flip-flopped.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Nationwide Tax Protests
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

But could there be more truth to the comedy than Jon Stewart realizes? Earlier this week, Nate Silver at pointed out some interesting Gallup findings on America’s confidence in Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. The partisan split on his support has completely reversed itself.

In light of both the reversal of support for Bernanke and the Tea Party protests, it seems that Americans simply have greater confidence in their government when their party is in power - and are more likely to talk about “revolution” when their party is in the minority.

Obviously this is not surprising - what’s surprising is how it all happened so fast.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are the Democrats Underperforming in Virginia?

In the race for Virginia’s governor, three Democrats will face each other in a June Primary while the GOP has their candidate all but officially nominated.

Who Are the Candidates?

•Terry McAuliffe - Democratic political consultant, former DNC Chair, and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign

•R. Creigh Deeds - Democratic State Senator and the 2005 nominee for Attorney General

•Brian Moran - formerly a Democratic House of Delegates member and the House Democratic Caucus Chair, also the brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)

•Bob McDonnell - formerly the Republican Attorney General

What’s Happening?

Recently Governor Tim Kaine convinced the three Democratic candidates to sign a petition to expand unemployment benefits so the Commonwealth could tap out the appropriate stimulus money. The GOP-controlled House of Delegates recently shot down a bill to do so.

Republicans are calling it a political stunt for an election year. But even if it is, it will probably work. With underemployment increasing as fast (if not faster) than unemployment, Virginians will appreciate the effort Democrats are making to look out for them.

Of course, the Democrats have a lot of ground to make up.

According to a recent poll released by Daily Kos and conducted by Research 2000, if the election were held [last week] McDonnell would beat each of the Democrats in a General Election.

If the general election were held today, the poll shows the results would go like this:
McDonnell 37% Moran 36%
McDonnell 40% McAuliffe 33%
McDonnell 38% Deeds 31%

Part of the reason for McDonnell’s lead is that the Democrats are all attacking each other - they have to: it’s a Primary. And it’s a wide-open Primary. The same poll also tracked support among the Democratic candidates for the Primary…

Moran is ahead with 24%, McAuliffe (who was leading in February) is behind with 19%, and Sen. Deeds is in last with 16%. That means 41% of Primary voters are still undecided. There are still two months before the Primary comes to a close, but that will be plenty of time for McDonnell to stay ahead of the divided Democrats.

What is the Party Doing?

The Democratic Party of Virginia is certainly concerned about keeping the Governor’s office, but they’re also becoming increasingly invested in taking the House of Delegates - one of the last places of GOP control in the Commonwealth.

The extent of their pressure on McDonnell appears to be press releases.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Governors Association has put some money into the race. They gave $100,000 to Common Sense Virginia, an anti-McDonnell PAC. That group is using the money for web ads.

Common Sense Virginia today is rolling out online commercials attacking the all-but-official Republican gubernatorial nominee for his views on women’s issues…

…With three Democrats battling for their party’s nomination for governor, McDonnell is using the preliminaries of the 2009 campaign to reposition himself as a moderate interested only in practical solutions…

…The ads will run for at least two weeks. They’re being posted on sites popular with women. Among them: Martha Stewart Living, Every Day with Rachel Ray and Women’s Entertainment Television.

But using new technology is not always useful. Common Sense Virginia clearly put a lot of time into their website, which is simply not the most effective thing they can do in their efforts to beat McDonnell. Meanwhile their web-ads are too long and require the viewer to do a lot of reading.

And for the few people that will see it, they won’t help but notice the majority of the comments under the video and on the PAC’s YouTube page.

jtvagop (1 week ago):
So the attacks on McDonnell's religion have finally started. You should be ashamed of Your intolerance.

perfidious2 (17 hours ago) :
your ads are false and all of virginia knows.

fishbait888 (17 hours ago)
"the common sense virgina ad is totally false"
-the post



At this point it seems that Virginia Democrats are either lacking the organizational skills or resources to mount an effective campaign against Bob McDonnell. Luckily there is a good five-month period between the Primary and General Elections for the nominee to do the grunt work. And McDonnell has planted the seeds of his defeat himself by opposing the stimulus package.

But if the current lackluster campaigning continues, Virginia’s Blue Sweep cannot continue in Virginia. GOP backlash to Democratic priorities has already been seen this week in Tea Party protests across the country. The Republican base is mobile and active, even in less exciting times on the political calendar.

In fact, Democrats everywhere need to get the donors and volunteers active again - and soon - to counteract this backlash. Perhaps nowhere is a more critical starting point than the Blue Sweep’s poster child - Virginia.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back in Minnesota…

It has been quite a while since we gave you a detailed update of the Coleman-Franken “race” in Minnesota, so we thought we would do so today.

A 3-judge panel ruled unanimously last week that Democrat Al Franken won the election for U.S. Senate back in November by 312 votes. Norm Coleman argued that Minnesota’s variety of procedures to count absentee ballots violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and disenfranchised over 4,000 voters. Politico reports on how the panel responded.

While acknowledging that errors were bound to happen in any election, the court said that the Minnesota Senate election was free from fraud and that errors did not reach a constitutional violation of equal protection.

"There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state’s election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures," the judges wrote. "To the contrary, the general election resulted in a ‘fair expression’ of the voters of Minnesota."

Attorney Ben Ginsberg - a legend of the Bush v. Gore battle, and is representing Coleman - said the judges spent "so much time in patting their back on the Minnesota system" that they "missed the issue" that thousands of voters are still being disenfranchised. "We’ll be at peace if all Minnesotans are enfranchised."

Staying on message, NRSC Chairman Sen. John Cornyn told supporters in a fundraising email that the Court’s decision was "fundamentally misguided" and that Democrats were being hypocritical. "It’s frankly shocking that many of the same Democrats who so loudly decried voter disenfranchisement during the Florida recount in 2000 have so quickly run away from that principle when it no longer fits their political agenda" said Cornyn’s email.

But the Democrats are hitting back with a radio ad. The ad tells Coleman to "stop putting his political ambition ahead of what’s right for Minnesota."

"Enough is enough," says the announcer, noting that Franken won the original election, the recount and a legal challenge. "America is in an economic crisis - and Minnesota faces unique challenges of its own. Minnesota deserves two Senators and voters deserve to have their verdict stand without delay."

Coming one day after a three-judge panel in Minnesota ruled that Franken "received the highest number of votes legally cast," the ad also represents a coordinated Democratic push to end the race.

The DNC-funded ad is playing on news radio stations in the Twin Cities.

Coleman, however, has already appealed the recent decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which has agreed to review the case. However, there is some question as to whether a quorum of Justices can be reached.

Two of the seven Minnesota Justices have already recused themselves because they served on the State Canvassing Board that has ruled on a great number of issues in this case. Now the legal community is wondering whether there will be three more recusals.

Justices Lori Gildea and Christopher Dietzen donated to Coleman campaigns, while Helen Meyer gave money to Sen. Paul Wellstone, whom Coleman challenged in 2002. These are certainly grounds for recusal.

But in order for a quorum of the Court to be reached - and to therefore decide the case - at least four of the seven Justices must be present. It is pretty unusual for a case to be undecided by the Court due to recusals.

If it does happen, the issue would be dead and Al Franken would finally take his seat in the U.S. Senate. If the Justices do not recuse themselves…well, we don’t know where we’ll be a month from now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Should Democrats Pursue Gun Control?

In recent months there has been a glut of bizarre and often horrifying cases of gun violence in the United States. On Christmas Eve a man dressed as Santa Claus killed nine people at a house Christmas party in California. In March a gunman killed ten people including family members and an 18-month-old girl in Alabama.

On April 3rd a Vietnamese immigrant killed 13 workers in a shooting spree at a New York citizenship center. One day later, a laid-off worker in Pittsburg - convinced that the new Obama Administration was going to ban guns and become tyrannical - killed three police officers with an assault rifle and an AK-47.

And these are only a few of the stories.

Yet little is being done to pass strict gun control legislation in the United States. There are some very practical political reasons behind this.

According to a Gallup poll taken in October, 49% of Americans want stricter gun laws - a significant decrease since the 1990s. And a CNN/Opinion Research poll taken earlier this month shows only 39% of Americans still support stricter gun laws.

Gallup tracking also indicates that support for the Second Amendment is stronger than ever. Over the past 50 years, support for a ban on handguns has been cut in half.

Nonetheless, a substantial majority of Democrats - 6 in 10 according to the CNN poll - support stricter gun laws, and Democrats are the ones in power. But Democratic members of Congress, particularly from moderate and conservative-leaning districts, are not going to support more gun control for a simple reason: gun control support among independents has dropped 17% since 2007.

Americans are evenly divided on the issue by age and region, and women are a little more likely to support stricter gun laws then men. The real demographical disparity is party affiliation. According to Gallup, you are more likely to be against gun control if you are a Republican than if you are a gun owner.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder told the press "There are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstate the ban on the sale of assault weapons." But without the support of Congress - and most importantly, Congresspersons from moderate and conservative districts - those changes are not possible.

Simply put, incumbents fear losing their seats and will not support a bill that too many constituents would oppose. Under this line of reasoning, now is not the time for the Democrats to make a substantial fight for gun control legislation.

The good news is that, despite the increase of headline murders like the ones above, overall gun violence is decreasing. According to FBI statistics, the annual murder rate has decreased from 9,800 killings about two decades ago to about 5,500 killings today. Even if stricter gun laws were implemented, it is not certain they would be the reason for a decrease in gun violence.

At least this appears to be the thought on the minds of an increasing number of Americans.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What We’re Changing at WAYLA

We cannot tell you how happy we have been with the success of What Are You Looking At? so far. To make things even better, we will be trying out some new features in the weeks and months ahead.

So what can you expect?

1) As local races draw down this spring, we will begin to focus less on what is happening on the local scene and start looking at more polls and campaign strategy analysis this summer and fall. But don’t worry! We’ll still devote a post per week or (so to) local politics - perhaps more as the local elections in California and New York draw nearer in May, September, and November.

2) We’ll be trying a new layout soon that will not only be more visually appealing, but easier to navigate as well.

3) We’re expecting some new guest bloggers this summer to give you detailed and comprehensive analysis of some less obvious, but seriously important topics affecting American politics and campaigns.

We have also changed our tagline to “A political website for campaign people, by campaign people”. Unless it has an impact on elections or public opinion, we never really dive into policy issues - campaigns are what we know and campaigns are what we want to bring you.

So thank you for your continued reading. Tomorrow we’ll discuss public opinion on gun control policy in light of the recent and horrifying news stories regarding gun violence.