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“For The GOP, It’s Always A Base Election”: Only Change Is The Idea Of How To Give The Base What It Wants

I wonder if anyone has come up with workable definition of a base election. The idea is simple enough. Some elections are won not by winning an argument with the other side and persuading swing voters or independents or undecideds, but by doing a better job than your opponents in convincing your core voters to turn out to vote.

It seems to me that this is roughly how the Republicans won the 2004 presidential election, and also probably how they won the 2002 midterms. It’s definitely how they won the midterms in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, I think the Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 precisely because they convinced people in the middle (and even many Republicans) to come over to their side. I think you can probably make the same case for 2012, although that seems to have been more of a hybrid of the two.

In any case, it seems to me that the Republicans last won a presidential election using a base mobilization strategy in 2004, and we shouldn’t forget how close of a call that was. When the polls closed, most people looking at the exit polls thought that John Kerry had won. And he would have won if Bush hadn’t done such a great job getting out his base in Ohio. Yes, there were also shenanigans in Ohio that may have changed the outcome, but it’s definite that the red parts of Ohio turned out in huge numbers, largely motivated by their opposition to gay marriage.

So, 2004 is a fairly recent example that shows that the Republicans could theoretically win a base election. It won’t be easy to replicate, though. First, demographic changes since 2004 have made it harder for the Republicans to win a base election because their base is now smaller and the Democrats’ base is now larger. Second, it helped Bush a lot that he was the incumbent and could direct media coverage and attention at will. It also helped that he had a willing partner in shenanigans in then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Since 2004, the Republicans have tried and failed twice to win an election by pandering to their base rather than pursuing voters in the middle. All the proof you need of that is that Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan were chosen as running mates, both of whom were supposed to please the mouth-breathers and rally them to the cause.

After the Republicans lost in 2012, the RNC’s after-report was clear about the futility of trying to win a base election again in 2016. Yet, the idea seems more popular right now than it was in the last two cycles. Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the idea of how to give the base what it wants. Does it want someone who is frothing at the mouth about immigration even if they’re pretty inconsistent as a conservative on many other issues? Or, are they looking for the most hated man in Washington, DC, just because they hate Washington, DC so very much?

That’s really the choice they have between Trump and Cruz, although Trump promises to at least change the shape of the Republican base. That doesn’t mean he will enlarge it though.

This is admittedly a weird election season and unpredictable, but I think a base election is close to unwinnable for the Republican Party in a presidential year. If they win, I don’t think it will be because their base turned out and the Democrats’ base did not. If they win it will because the persuadable voters liked their candidate better than the Democratic candidate. And the more their candidate panders to the base, the less likely that the persuadable voters will like them better.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Base Elections, GOP Base, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Death Of The Swing Voter”: The Dominant Fact Of American Politics Is That Nobody Is Changing Their Mind About Anything

Here’s a strange thought to chew on a year before the presidential election: The votes of 95 percent of Americans likely to cast ballots are already determined. People who lean conservative will vote for any Republican who emerges from the scrum (with the possible exception of the divisive Donald Trump). Ditto for people who lean liberal. New research by Michigan State political scientist Corwin Smidt confirms that the percentage of voters who are truly “independent,” swinging from party to party, has plunged from 15 percent in the 1960s to just 5 percent today. Crossing over party lines to vote for the other tribe’s presidential candidate has become unimaginable. As Jonathan Chait put it this week at New York: “The dominant fact of American politics is that nobody is changing their mind about anything.”

It wasn’t always this way. For much of the latter half of the 20th century, there were liberal-leaning Republicans and conservative-leaning Democrats. It was not impossible to find common ground. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both actively sought the votes of people who traditionally vote for the other party, and enjoyed great popularity partly as a result. But since 2004, polarization on immigration, climate change, abortion, religion, and social issues has become so acute that every presidential election seems to represent a major turning point, with the very definition of our nation at stake. Polls suggest that the gulf between the two parties is actually widening. Republicans loathe Hillary Clinton as much as they do Barack Obama; Democrats see Trump and Ben Carson as wackos and frauds, and have only slightly less contempt for the rest of the field. So here’s a safe if depressing prediction: The new president John Roberts swears in on Jan. 20, 2017, will be very quickly despised and distrusted by roughly 45 percent of the nation. Is this a democracy, or a dysfunctional family?


By:Wlliam Falk, The Week, November 13, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Olympia “Snowe” Keeps Falling

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) published a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal the other day, calling for new measures to make the legislative process more difficult. No, seriously, that’s what they said.

For two years in a row, the Democratic-led Senate has failed to adopt a budget as required by law. Meanwhile, our gross national debt has climbed to almost $15 trillion — as large as our entire economy. Our bill puts in place a 60-vote threshold before any appropriation bill can be moved through Congress — unless both houses have adopted a binding budget resolution.

We can certainly have a conversation about the breakdown in the budget-writing process, but let’s think about what Snowe and Sessions are proposing here: they want to make it harder for Congress to approve appropriations bills, regardless of the consequences.

Jamison Foser explained, “Republicans, including Sessions and Snowe, have filibustered even the most uncontroversial of measures — and that knee-jerk opposition to just about anything the Senate majority wants to do is a significant part of the reason why the Senate hasn’t adopted a budget. Now Sessions and Snowe cynically use that failure to justify structural changes that would make it harder for the Senate to pass any appropriations bills.”

Snowe and Sessions went on to call for additional “reforms” that would make it far more difficult for Congress to approve “emergency” spending without mandatory supermajorities, too, because they’re horrified by efforts to “spend money we don’t have,” which might “bankrupt the country.”

Of course, Snowe and Sessions see no need for mandatory supermajorities when it comes to tax cuts, alleged “bankruptcy” fears notwithstanding.

But in the larger picture, have you noticed just how far Olympia Snowe has fallen lately? Last week she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill just one day later. A week earlier, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being wrong.

It’s tempting to think the fear of a primary challenge is pushing Snowe to the far-right, but the truth is, the senator’s GOP opponents next year are barely even trying. She may fear a replay of the Castle-O’Donnell fight that played out in Delaware, but all indications are that Snowe really doesn’t have anything to worry about.

And yet, she’s become a shell of her former self, leading to this op-ed — written with a right-wing Alabama senator, no less — demanding that the dysfunctional Senate adopt new ideas that make it more difficult to pass necessary legislation.

There is some prime real estate in the political landscape for genuine GOP moderates who could have a significant impact. Instead, Congress has Olympia Snowe, who now bears no resemblance to the centrist she used to be.

If I had to guess, I’d say most mainstream voters in Maine have no idea of the extent to which Snowe has moved to the right, which is a shame. I wonder how those who supported her in the past would even recognize her anymore.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 25, 2011

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Income Gap, Independents, Jobs, Middle Class, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Taxes, Unemployed | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Say It”: For Michele Bachmann, Ignorance Is Bliss

What a wonderful world! My daughter brought me a satellite radio for my birthday and I have been listening to the classic hits of the’50s. I call the station “50s on the Five for 50-Somethings.”  Unfortunately every time I hear the classic 1950s song “What a Wonderful  World” by the great Sam Cooke, I think of Michele Bachmann. Why? Because of the  opening words, “Don’t’ know much about history. Don’t know much biology.”

Earlier this year, Bachmann said that the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which started the Revolutionary War, were fought in New Hampshire when every school kid knows the battles were fought in Massachusetts.  Any day, I expect her to say that Kaiser Willy should  have been tried for war crimes for starting World War II.

Earlier this year, the conservative congresswoman described homosexuality as “sexual dysfunction.” She may be surprised to know  that the American Medical Association  doesn’t list homosexuality as a  sexual dysfunction. Representative Bachmann has  promised to release her  healthcare  proposal to the public shortly. Her husband  tries to convince gays that they are straight and my guess is her solution to  the healthcare crisis will be to convince the sick and injured that they’re felling just fine.

I would add meteorology to biology and history on the list  of things  she doesn’t know much about. She said that hurricane Irene was a   warning to politicians to reduce government spending. Her spokesperson  said the  candidate made the statement “in jest”. The congresswoman has a  sick sense of  humor. I don’t think a joke about a disaster that killed  dozens of people and  caused billion of dollars in damage is very  funny. I wonder what other kinds of  disasters Representative Bachmann  thinks are funny.

The congresswoman from Minnesota is chair of the Tea Party Caucus in  the U.S. House of Representatives and her statements make her perfect   for the job. The Tea Party has a new motto, “Just Say It,” which is why a   recent New York Times/CBS News national survey  shows the group’s negative has  doubled from 18 percent to 40 percent  in the last year. The nominee of the Party of Tea, the party formerly  known as the GOP  will drown with the weight of the Tea Party brand  wrapped around him or her  like an anchor.

Ever wonder why Americans dislike the Tea Party? Wonder no  more. At a  recent presidential campaign rally last week in Iowa, Robin Murphy  of  West Des Moines, Iowa, told Representative Bachmann. “I don’t like  what I  see in Obama—him being born in Kenya and trying to cover up the  birth  certificate thing. And him being Muslim and trying to pretend  he’s a Christian.”

As she held Ms. Murphy’s hand, Representative Bachmann made no effort  to correct the misstatements that the Iowan made about the president. The Minnesotan could have responded to her supporter with a criticism of the  president for his economic policies but also reminded her that the  president  was born in Hawaii and is a Christian. But Representative Bachmann didn’t. If  ignorance is bliss, Tea Partyers must be ecstatic.

I lost electricity, Internet, and phones for a day and a half  in the aftermath of Irene. It was actually pleasant to be out of touch with the rest of the world for awhile. I knew what it was like being a member  of the Tea Party.

Robin Murphy’s statements sound sweet to Tea Partyers and religious  conservatives but they taste sour to the independent suburban voters who are sick of right wing rhetoric. As long as Congresswoman Bachmann  and her  supporters lie about the president’s background, they won’t get  any play from  the moderate swing voters who will choose the next  president in November of 2012.  I doubt Tea Partyers will change their rhetoric though because they live in a  wonderful world all their own.

By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, September 1, 2011

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Disasters, Economy, Education, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The GOP Is Fed Up With Its Choices

In theory, Democrats should be nervous about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to enter the presidential race. In practice, though, it’s Republicans who have zoomed up the anxiety ladder into freak-out mode.

To clarify, not all Republicans are reaching for the Xanax, just those who believe the party has to appeal to centrist independents if it hopes to defeat President Obama next year. Also, those who believe that calling Social Security “an illegal Ponzi scheme” and suggesting that Medicare is unconstitutional might not be the best way to win the votes of senior citizens.

These and other wild-eyed views are set out in Perry’s book “Fed Up!” His campaign has already begun trying to distance the governor from his words, with communications director Ray Sullivan saying last week that the book “is a look back, not a path forward” — that “Fed Up!” was intended “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto.”

One problem with this attempted explanation is that the book was published way back in . . . the fall of 2010. It’s reasonable to assume that if Perry held a bunch of radical, loony views less than a year ago, he holds them today.

Another problem is that as recently as Aug. 14, according to the Wall Street Journal, Perry responded to an Iowa voter who asked how he would fix entitlement programs by saying, “Have you read my book, ‘Fed Up!’? Get a copy and read it.

But Perry doesn’t give us time to plow through his tome, what with his frequent newsmaking forays onto the rhetorical fringe. He had barely been in the race for 48 hours when he announced it would be “treasonous” for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to increase the money supply before the 2012 election. If Bernanke did so, Perry said, “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”

The outburst allowed Ron Paul, who has spent years calling for the Fed to be abolished, to say of Perry: “He makes me look like a moderate.

Perry made no attempt to disavow his remarks about Bernanke. Whatever his campaign staff might wish, the candidate apparently does not warm to the task of disavowal.

Soon Perry moved on to the science of climate change, which “Fed Up!” dismisses as a “contrived phony mess.” Perry told an audience in New Hampshire that “a substantial number of scientists” have acted in bad faith, manipulating data “so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.” Perry added that “we’re seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

None of that is true. There is overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that human activity — especially the burning of fossil fuels — is contributing to climate change. Multiple investigations have found no evidence of fraud or manipulation of data. Unless Perry is ready to publish fundamental new insights into physical and chemical processes at the molecular level, his swaggering stance against climate science is all hat and no cattle.

“The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem,” candidate Jon Huntsman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” — a declaration that makes me wonder how familiar Huntsman is with the political organization he seeks to lead.

Also in his first week of campaigning, Perry suggested that the military doesn’t respect Obama as commander in chief — and, when asked whether he believes Obama loves America, told a reporter that “you need to ask him.” This is music to the ears of the hate-Obama crowd on the far right. But mainstream voters, whether or not they support Obama’s policies, generally like the president, do not question his patriotism and want him to succeed.

“I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party,” Huntsman said of Perry, “you make yourself unelectable.”

He’s correct. But maybe we shouldn’t take his word for it, or Ron Paul’s word — after all, they’re Perry’s opponents. Maybe we also shouldn’t take the word of Karl Rove, who called Perry’s remarks “unpresidential,” since Texas apparently isn’t big enough for the George W. Bush camp and the Rick Perry camp to coexist without feuding.

Suffice it to note that two weeks ago, GOP luminaries were scrambling to find new candidates. And now, after Perry’s debut? Still scrambling, I’m afraid.

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 22, 2011

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Independents, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Social Security, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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