Friday, November 13, 2009

Top 5 Things Republicans and Democrats Must Do in 2010

Summary: Both parties will be facing tough battles for their seats in 2010. Here are the top five things for each party to pay attention to going into election season.

Yesterday I went through the data and analysis of the new Gallup poll which found the GOP to be leading the Democrats on the generic ballot, and the most recent Cook Political Report ratings.

As promised, I’m using our analysis to bring you the top five things the GOP and Democrats will want to do to maximize their vote potentials in next year’s midterm elections.

Top 5 Thing Republicans Must Do:

1) Don’t get caught up in primaries. If there is any lesson Republicans should have learned from their recent gubernatorial victory in Virginia, it’s that they ought to speak to the middle as quickly as possible. Primaries can be a good thing - particularly for raising name recognition of the eventual nominee, and giving a slew of candidates the chance to bash the other side together - but they also require a pandering to a base that, for Republicans, is a bit outside the political mainstream. Of course, it will be difficult to avoid primaries - Republicans see 2010 as a good year for them, and as such, they all want to take advantage of an opportunity to advance themselves personally - but the state parties, the RNSC and RNCC should all do what they can to avoid such battles for the base.

2) Use the Tea Party folks wisely. These right-wing protesters are fired up and ready to go, and such conservative activists could be a valuable resource to a Republican’s campaign - knocking on doors, making phone calls, and donating small amounts of money. However, they could be a burden. If you, as a GOP candidate, hold a rally with such activists bringing in signs depicting President Obama as Hitler or the Joker, your campaign will end up being sidetracked by your opponents and the media over the actions of your supporters. That would put you in the difficult position of maintaining the base support while looking appealing to the middle. Your campaign should actively pursue the Tea Party folks, but they should also make sure these activists don’t bring offensive signs to rallies, blog, or - worst of all - talk to the press.

3) Steer clear of “special interests” for 2010. PACs bring in a lot of money, which is always valuable, but if there’s one thing that could lose confidence in the Tea Partiers, it’s special interest money. Simply put, the Tea Parties are part of a larger populist backlash to the bailouts and lobbyists who secure grants under the stimulus bill. If your war chest is found to be connected to a banking firm or any other Wall Street group, it could hinder the confidence the base has in you.

4) Work had to find a balanced message. Using Tea Party activists will not always be easy. Democrats are going to want to tie you to Glenn Beck and the rest of the crazy right - but you can’t let them if you want to win. Republicans must appeal to the middle while still firing up the conservative base. The easiest thing to stress, of course, will be deficit spending. This will embolden the base and still sound perfectly reasonable to mainstream voters. There are all sorts of ways to carefully craft a message that achieves both goals, but it’s of the utmost importance to get it right, especially for Republicans and especially for 2010.

5) Don’t hold back on attacks. Relentless criticism of the Democrats is what’s going to win this election. Never miss an opportunity to attack an incumbent Democrat, even if he or she is not in your district. Criticize Obama’s “out-of-control” spending, Pelosi’s no-holds-barred style in the House, and Charlie Rangel’s tax issues as much as possible - and tie your opponent to that culture of spending, corruption, etc. Democrats will want to tout all the good things they’ve done, but you have to constantly remind voters that their governance has not been perfect - and suggest you can do better.

Top 5 Things Democrats Must Do:

1) Make sure the base believes in you. Many moderate Democrats in Congress seem to think that the only way they can win a re-election is by opposing the current healthcare reform bills. But the surest way to be defeated is to fail on healthcare reform. The base believed in you in 2006 and 2008 because you said you would bring change - if you fail them with big margins in Congress and control of the White house they will not help your re-election campaign and they may stay home on Election Day. That would be the surest way for a Democrat to lose. If the base doesn’t show up, you’re finished. If you’re running for re-election, you must fulfill at least some of your basic promises to your supporters.

2) Know your district. No campaign is the same - each one must tailor specifically to the appropriate constituency. If you’re running to replace another Democrat, ask yourself “was he popular?” If not, distance yourself from him, if he was, then win his support publicly. Is your district home to a lot of healthcare provider employees? Then figure out how to frame an argument for reform in a way that proves it will be beneficial to them. Is the district urban, suburban, or rural? Each will have it’s own implications for how you should explain your positions on energy, spending, etc.

3) Make it about you, not your party. 2010 is a backlash year. The Democrats in Washington and in the state capitals have not achieved everything they set out for simply because changing laws and improving government takes time. If you’re an incumbent, make sure to tout all the good things you’ve already done for the district specifically, such as Harry Reid is doing in Nevada. If you’re running for a new office, explain why your experience (doing whatever) makes you a particularly good candidate to help bring change. Don’t let your message get caught up in supporting the president and the ideals of the Democratic Party - show how you personally will be an effective leader with an independent streak.

4) Watch the unemployment rate closely. If your district has high unemployment right now, you need to be concerned - but if the stimulus has not successfully provided more jobs by October of next year you’ll be in a panic. If you’re an incumbent you need to get to work next year helping the unemployed. If you’re not an incumbent you will really need to tout that independent streak, explaining why the stimulus and the bailout hasn’t helped your constituency, and how you will make it better for them. Jobs are the biggest issue for the voter who has lost one - you must give them reason not to blame you for that.

5) Campaign like your job depends on it - because it does. If there’s one thing Democrats should have learned from the Virginia race, it’s that campaigns matter - and lackluster campaigning just won’t do. Democrats everywhere are worried, and rightfully so. Sure, I don’t expect too many Democratic seats to be lost next year, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. It will take a clever campaign staff, experienced consultants, and hard work to win in 2010. Make sure you keep track of how well you’re doing - with internal polls, message testing, Voter ID operations, etc. - and learn where you need to improve. Get out early and get out often to meet voters, raise money, and get positive press coverage. Anything short of everything will put you at risk.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Data and Analysis for the 2010 Elections

Summary: WAYLA looks through the recent trends and makes a few 2010 predictions.

Like everyone else has been doing, I thought I’d use today to review the updates from the Cook Political Report and the recent Gallup poll that find Republicans gaining popularity.

First, the Gallup findings

And it shouldn’t be any real surprise that much of the GOP gains are due to increasing support among independents.

Still, Gallup seems to suggest that a generic ballot is more telling than it really is. Voters don’t select the party they want to see in power, they choose individual candidates. So let’s take a look at the Cook Political Report.

As far as House seats go, I don’t think the Democrats have much to worry about at this point. CPR indicates that 15 seats are toss-ups, 12 of which are held by Democrats. Furthermore, 21 seats are labeled “leaning Democratic” - usually because they’re currently held by a Democrat, but nonetheless it’s a moderately conservative seat. Still, even if the Democratic candidate was to lose all of these seats, the party would still control the House during the 112th Congress.

Even that’s unlikely. In fact, Democrats will probably pick up a few seats, particularly from Democratic-leaning districts currently held by Republicans that plan to move up the political ladder - such as the seats held by Congressmen Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Castle (R-DE) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA).

Some Democrats - such as Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) - have already decided not to pursue higher office, in part no doubt, because the district would likely turn red otherwise. All in all, there are only 3 competitive open-seat races in districts held by Democrats.

For more analysis on this, check out the two posts by’s Tom Schaller here and here.

At this point, I think it’s doubtful that Democrats will lose more than 10 to 15 net seats in the House next year.

The Senate is another story.

While only 10 are open seats and - of those - only 6 are toss-ups, there are a lot of states where incumbent senators are vulnerable.

We all know that Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) are at risk - but two names we haven’t mentioned are Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) who are both in the “lean Dem” category.

Seeing as next year will be a better year for Republicans, I can’t see the GOP candidate losing in a few open seat races like those in Missouri, Texas, and Kentucky - but I do think the Democrats have a shot at picking up the seats in Louisiana (thanks to many missteps from Sen. Vitter), Ohio, and New Hampshire.

It’s tough to say what will happen in Delaware and Florida will probably come down to who wins the GOP primary. Pennsylvania will be another interesting race to watch, which is something we’ve known since Sen. Specter switched parties earlier this year.

All in all, I doubt that the Democrats will lose more than 6 net seats in the Senate - leaving them enough to still control the chamber.

For more analysis, see Politico’s 10 Senate Districts Most Likely to Flip.

Finally, gubernatorial races will be another area to watch, in part because there are 21 open seats (see the map below).

Currently Democrats control 19 of the 37 gubernatorial seats on the ballot next year - the other 18 held by the GOP. A few of those Democratic seats - Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado - are likely to be extremely competitive, and could go red.

However, the same is true for a handful of GOP seats - including Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Hawaii - which could easily go blue.

It’s impossible to make any solid conclusions at this point, but I would doubt the Democrats lose more than 5 net Governor Mansions.

If you do want to know what to watch for going into next year, check out this video from Politico:

For more analysis on all of these 2010 elections, make sure to check out the articles and op-eds on Politico’s new 2010 page.

I’ll continue more on some of these ideas tomorrow as I explain what both Democrats and Republicans will want to do in order to win the most support.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fox News Fabricates Story for GOP Gains

Summary: Could Fox News be in violation of campaign finance law?

Some of you who read the title of this post probably said “duh” - but a recent clip from their broadcast was picked up by the Daily Show last night, revealing that Sean Hannity literally showed false footage to make a recent Tea Party protest look bigger than it was.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

To be fair, the freedom of speech and the press is very much guaranteed in the First Amendment - even to the point of protecting false speech and fabricated press stories.

But a few months ago we mentioned a Supreme Court case which questions the limits of the First Amendment. The case, Citizens United v. FEC, begs the question over whether a documentary film aimed at persuading voters one way or another in an election falls under the limits of campaign finance. These films are funded by corporations which are strictly prohibited from direct spending on campaigns.

In order to make a GOP sponsored rally look bigger, Fox News found clips of a better attended, non-Republican sponsored, conservative protest. In other words, Fox News - part of a publicly traded corporation - was specifically assisting one party over another for that party’s political gains.

Could that be a campaign finance issue?

Inevitably, I want to say no, as many news outlets will endorse one side over another as they have since campaigns first began in this country - but let’s first see what the Court decides.

Either way, it’s food for thought when exploring what constitutes as free speech in the era of campaign finance reform.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Afghan Opinion Weighs on Obama’s Options

Summary: Three things Obama should know before making strategy decisions for the Afghan War

After Dr. Abdullah Abdullah exited the run-off election for the Afghan presidency, President Barack Obama called on incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai to bring a “new chapter” in his country’s history.

Not only is it important for Afghans, but also for American interests as the Obama Administration decides how to proceed with the now eight-year-long involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Obama had been holding off on a decision over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan until after this year’s elections there. Many in the administration felt it was best to wait until the U.S. knew who they would be working with and what kind of legitimacy their reign would bring. After all, in order to win the war, American and NATO forces need to win over the people of Afghanistan.

Now that the race is over, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says Obama will soon be meeting with his national security team to discuss four strategy options.

Knowing the importance of public opinion in Afghanistan, here are a few things Obama’s advisors should know before making any decisions…

1) Afghan Opinions About a “Surge” are Heavily Divided

According to Gallup polls following Obama’s decision to send the first surge to Afghanistan, citizens there were divided by both region and ethnicity over whether such a strategy would work.

One reason the decision over whether or not to send as many as 40,000 additional troops requested by General Stanley McChystal has not happened yet is because the Administration is still waiting to see what impact the original troop increase will have - many of the soldiers called up by Obama’s previous order have just recently arrived. It is possible that Afghan opinion is slowly changing as the original increase finally starts to make an imprint on the direction of the war.

2) Karzai is Trusted by Afghans…Sort Of

Some old Gallup polls also find that a plurality of Afghans believe Karzai is the most trustable person in the country. However, only 25% see him that way, and the runner-up - at 22% - is “no one”…

Furthermore, the poll found that Afghans would be more confident in foreign forces running the country than the Karzai Administration.

Now, this poll was taken last year, and it is more than likely that opinions have changed - especially following the outcomes of recent elections. However, seeing as Karzai has been a trusted figure in the past, he could be a strong ally for the U.S. if he began to turn the country around.

3) Corruption is Rampant and Growing

After the first rounds of elections in August, the entire world began to see Karzai and his inner-circles as corrupt - but this is a widespread problem in Afghanistan that shows no signs of slowing.

Our last Gallup poll - released today - finds that 81% of Afghans believe corruption is widespread, while 69% say not enough is being done to curb it.

Again, these polls were taken in June - before the marred elections - and a perception of widespread corruption is likely to have increased.

Finally, an increasing number of Afghans say they have personally been asked for bribes by government officials.

No matter what decision the president makes, it will not be popular with all Afghans, and no strategy we chose will be 100% full-proof. Winning over the Afghan people is incredibly important but - because of some very real challenges, including differences of opinion and mistrust in a government which is the political reality the U.S. has to deal with - it will also be incredibly difficult.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Far-Right Splitting from GOP

Summary: Are Republicans becoming more vulnerable as far-right leaners move away from the GOP?

A number of stories in Politico today suggest that the far-right of the Republican base is now either leaving the GOP, or at least leaving it more vulnerable for 2010. This comes despite the recent election of Democrat Bill Owens in New York’s 23rd Congressional District where a Conservative Party candidate forced a Republican out of the race.

First, the Scorecard reports that Club for Growth - who endorsed Conservative Doug Hoffman over Republican Diedre Scozzafava in NY-23 - is now endorsing Marco Rubio in the Florida GOP Senate primary over moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

"Marco Rubio is the real deal, one of the brightest young stars in American politics today, and a proven champion of economic liberty," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

“Charlie Crist has repeatedly joined with big government liberals on major economic issues facing America today, from taxes to spending to cap-and-trade. He represents the wrong direction for our economy and our nation."

While Rubio is a Republican, it is well known that he is considerably more conservative than Crist, who actually endorsed the stimulus package earlier this year. If Rubio was to win the primary it would be much more difficult for him to win over independents in a general election than it would be for Crist - perhaps leaving the seat as an easy grab for Democrats.

Also in Florida, a conservative activist has actually established a “Tea Party” - as in, an actual political party to take on both Democrats and Republicans.

"The current system has become mired in the sludge of special interest money that seeks to control the leadership of both parties. It’s time for real change,” says Orlando lawyer Frederic O’Neal, the new party's chairman, who couldn't be reached immediately by phone, in a press release.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State, Jennifer Davis, said the party had registered in August, and that its qualified candidates will appear on the ballot in the state.

O'Neal compared his party's role to that of the Conservative Party in New York's 23rd District. Florida, however, lacks the "fusion" rules that has [sic] allowed third parties in New York to amass influence by offering their ballot line to acceptable major-party candidates.

Of course, Florida does still have a large number of minor third parties - 32 to be exact - including Socialists, Prohibitionists, and even something called the Real Food Party.

Now, WAYLA devotees will remember that there already exists a “Boston Tea Party” which is an off-shoot of the Libertarian Party. Yet despite the recent libertarian trends among the so-called Tea Party protesters, I have to imagine that this new Tea Party is not as liberal on the social issues.

Finally, conservative insider Gary Bauer gives some tips for his fellow right-wingers in an ideas piece today. This was the gist of his argument:

"Hoffman’s strong showing — coupled with the successful uprising against Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava’s candidacy — will embolden some conservatives to consider abandoning the GOP and initiating a broader third-party movement.

As a staunch conservative Republican whose political action committee invested much in Hoffman’s campaign, I believe nothing would hurt the conservative movement, or the GOP, more. National Democrats would love nothing more than for conservatives to start looking for third-party candidates all across the country, because third-party candidates almost always lose."

Well, not entirely. The Boston Tea Party does have two elected officials from within their ranks - albeit, they’re local and non-partisan - but Bauer’s right, there’s nothing we’d love more.