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“2014 And The Limits Of Rage”: Voters May Decide That Rage Has Its Limits And Government Has Work To Do

The short-term future of politics in the nation’s capital will be determined in large part by which party ends up in control of the Senate. But for a sense of the long-term future of politics in the country as a whole, watch the governors’ races.

The question to ask: Do voters begin to push back against the tea party tide that swept governorships and legislatures into Republican hands four years ago and produced the most radical changes in policy at the state level in at least a generation?

On the Senate races, two things are true. Simply because so many Democratic seats are at stake, the GOP has an edge. Republicans have probably already secured three of the six pickups they need to take control next year. But in the rest of the races, they have yet to close the deal. This year, late-breaking news and how well campaigns are run will really matter.

But something else is true about the fight for the Senate that is much less relevant in the struggle for governorships. Most of the key Senate contests are in Republican-leaning states where President Obama is not popular. GOP candidates are thus making him a big issue against Democrats. The 36 governors’ races, by contrast, span red and blue states, and many are in battlegrounds that decide presidential elections.

The Senate elections are backward-looking referendums. The governors’ races are forward-looking.

The one exception to the Obama rule may be Florida, where the former governor — and former Republican — Charlie Crist swept to a 3-to-1 victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday over former state senator Nan Rich. The primary was taken as a measure of how well-accepted Crist is in his new party, and the result was heartening for the Democrats’ marquee convert.

Unusually for Democrats this year, Crist has hugged Obama close and has hired many of the president’s key operatives to run his campaign. The former governor is essentially deadlocked in the polls with incumbent Rick Scott, a Republican, and much will depend on the willingness of Democrats to go to the polls in November. Four years ago, turnout was lopsided in favor of the Republicans, as Adam Smith, the Tampa Bay Times political editor, has noted. Crist is one of the handful of Democrats whom Obama may really be able to help this year.

Tuesday’s other major gubernatorial primary was in Arizona, which offered exactly the opposite lesson. Republicans chose the tea party’s favorite, state Treasurer Doug Ducey, a former partner and chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery. Ducey got 37 percent in a six-way race and vastly outspent second-place finisher Scott Smith, the former mayor of Mesa and the moderate in the race. Smith supported Gov. Jan Brewer’s expansion of Medicaid (she endorsed him over Ducey) and also the Common Core education standards.

It was striking on Tuesday night that Smith’s concession speech sounded a lot like the victory speech of Democrat Fred DuVal, who won his party’s nomination unopposed.

“We had a vision about bringing people together,” Smith said. “We gave them a message maybe that wasn’t red meat. Maybe it didn’t fit the primary campaign mode. But it was the truth.”

DuVal, who badly needs votes from independents and crossover Republicans, played down party altogether in his primary-night address. “What’s missing are leaders who care less about party politics and more about building a future together and growing our economy,” DuVal said. “We’re going to stop fighting and start fixing Arizona for Arizona families.” Ducey, who was endorsed by Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, will be pressed to occupy some of the center ground that DuVal hopes to make his own.

The tea party has opened opportunities for Democrats elsewhere to frame this year’s choice as being between right-wing ideology and problem-solving. In Kansas, a poll released this week showed Democrat Paul Davis with an eight-point lead over Gov. Sam Brownback (R). A Brownback loss would be a devastating blow to the tea party’s approach to policy. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, another hero to the right, is in a dead heat with Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.

Democrats also have a very good chance of ousting Republican governors in Pennsylvania and Maine, although they face tough challenges to their incumbents in Illinois and Connecticut.

In 2010, an electorate heavily populated with tea party supporters expressed rage against government at all levels. In 2014, voters may decide that rage has its limits and that government has work to do.

 

BY: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 27, 2014

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Senate, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Relentless Racial Hostility”: GOP Has Done Everything It Can To Make Sure Obama Is The Wrong Color

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said what’s been said countless times and worse acted on by the GOP countless times. That is that more than a few of their numbers have reflexively dithered, delayed, and flat-out tried to torpedo every policy initiative or piece of legislation that President Obama has backed solely as Rockefeller said, “because he’s the wrong color.” Rockefeller should know. He sits on a number of Senate committees and subcommittees and he’s undoubtedly seen and heard the blatant displays of not-so-subtle bigotry from more than a few of his GOP congressional adversaries. But Rockefeller is only the latest political luminary to state the obvious. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist bluntly told an interviewer that he got out of the GOP because of its open hostility to Obama. Crist made sure that he meant hostility based not on legitimate political disagreements but on race when he specifically referred to Obama as the “African-American President.”

The relentless racial hostility toward Obama goes far beyond simply the routine racial lampooning and mocking of Obama in grotesque signs, posters, chants and harangues by loose-hinged tea party elements and unreconstructed bigots. It has been subtly stoked and orchestrated by the GOP with the clear political aim of disrupting, destabilizing and rendering politically impotent Obama’s program, initiatives and proposed legislation.

The final presidential vote in 2008 gave plenty of warning of the lethalness of the GOP’s core conservative white constituency when aroused. Overall, Obama garnered slightly more than 40 percent of the white male vote. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. The only thing that even made Obama’s showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes that he got. They were all Democratic votes.

A Harvard post-election assessment of the 2008 presidential vote found that race did factor into the presidential election and that it cost Obama an added three to five percent of the national popular vote. Put bluntly, if Obama had been white the election would have been a route. During the GOP presidential primary campaign, GOP presidential candidates made sure of that with the stream of race-tinged references Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney made to food stamps, welfare, work ethics and an entitlement society. Then there were the racially-loaded newsletters from Ron Paul that resurfaced. The candidates when challenged ducked, dodged and denied any racial intent, or in the case of Paul’s newsletter, that he even penned them.

His 2012 reelection victory gave even more warning that little had changed. In fact, it got worse, he got a smaller percentage of the overall white vote than he did in 2008, and that included a small but significant defection of younger white voters who backed him in 2008.

There has not been a moment that has gone by that top GOP congressional leaders have not called Obama out on some issue. The framing of their criticism has not been polite, gentlemanly or exhibited the traditional courtesy and respect for the office of the presidency. This has done much to create a climate of distrust and vilification that has made it near legitimate, even expected, that Obama be heckled. The GOP’s official heckling has taken many forms, all mean-spirited and petty, rather than purely the customary expression of opposition to policies that clashing political parties and their leaders show toward each other.

The near textbook example of how the GOP has subtly used race to sledge hammer Obama has been its take-no-prisoners drumbeat attack on Attorney General Eric Holder. He’s been called on the GOP congressional carpet in countless hearings, and pilloried, insulted, and abused for every concocted sin from his alleged master mind bungling of the fast and furious gun sting to his supposed politicizing of the Justice Department. The attacks have all been punctuated by screams for his resignation or firing. Holder is not just a convenient surrogate punching bag for Obama. He is the one top administration official who’s not afraid to punch back at the GOP for its blatant play of the race card. He’s as much said so and this has only made his inquistors even more manic in their racial assault on Obama vis-a-vis Holder.

The GOP also in a cynical, thinly transparent move has even tried to turn the racial tables on Obama by tarring him as the race divider and baiter. His lambaste of the GOP at a keynote speech at Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention in April for doing everything humanly possible to subvert voting rights through its endless legislative ploys and constructing every obstacle it can to enforcement was the opening needed to use this tact. It won’t be the last time for this.

Which just proves again that Rockefeller and Crist as so many others before them got it right. For many in the GOP, Obama is simply the wrong color and that won’t change.

 

By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Huffington Post Blog, May 8, 2014

May 9, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Learning The Right Lesson”: Despite Their Loss In Florida’s Special Election, Democrats Shouldn’t Panic Over November

So here we go: Republicans—and, no doubt, the Koch Brothers—are crowing that David Jolly’s win over Alex Sink in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District Tuesday proves that Obamacare is the death knell for Democrats this fall. Outside groups, led by the Kochs, pumped a few million into the district, largely hitting Sink over Obamacare, which she said needed to be improved although she still trumpeted its benefits for senior citizens.

Republicans will say more: that they had a flawed candidate in Jolly, a former lobbyist; that Barack Obama carried this district in 2012. The Republicans won’t say that Obama carried it over Mitt Romney by just 2 percent, and this is the very definition of a swing district. But both of these statements are factual, and Republicans will spin them hard today and tomorrow.

Most of all, Republican spin doctors will say this is a bellwether: The Democrats put loads of money and troops into Sink’s race, precisely to prove (in a winnable district) that 2014 wasn’t going to be a disaster for them. They still couldn’t win it, which, the GOP will say, just demonstrates what a bruisin’ Democrats are cruisin’ for this fall.

No denying, they might be right. For one thing, this was one of the few Republican-held House districts (held by lifer Bill Young, whose death necessitated this special) the Democrats had a shot at taking. So on that basis alone, it’s a blow to whatever remote shot Nancy Pelosi had of moving back into the Speaker’s office.

It would be absurd to deny that Obamacare, wasn’t a factor in the race and maybe the crucial one. The outside groups went big on it, no doubt about that. But there were other issues in this race. Jolly attacked Sink for using a state plane to “get to a vacation in the Bahamas.” Politifact judged the Jolly ad half-true, but in congressional campaigns, half-true is usually true enough. The ad had bite, and that surely made some difference too. It seems to be the case that the lion’s share of the undecided swing voters broke for Jolly late in the game, and a pile of data suggests that swing voters care about good-government things like the use of state planes. Their minds were probably made up about Obamacare, so it’s not implausible that something else swung them.

But there’s no doubt that the issue going forward is going to be health care. What health-care-related lesson is each party going to take out of this? For the Republicans, it’s easy: push push push. And there’s reason for them to do so: Sink, remember, wasn’t in Congress; she didn’t even vote for the thing. Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich and all the other vulnerable Senate Democrats defending their seats this fall did.

The Democrats are likely to take, as they often do, the wrong lesson. They’ll want to run and hide. But they should look a little more closely. Sink was no warrior for Obamacare. Her campaign was a textbook exercise in trying to thread the needle (unsuccessfully). Does her loss mean that Democrats should run away from it?

I say no. Let’s watch how this result affects the Florida gubernatorial race for starters. Democrat Charlie Crist has been defending Obamacare—in terms of accepting the Medicaid money—far more aggressively than Sink did. Crist leads Republican Rick Scott in recent polls, by about seven points. Watch how hard Scott—who actually supported taking the Obamacare-Medicaid money for a short time—hits Crist on this point, and how Crist responds, and how the polls change, if they do. Rather than just getting the vapors from Sink’s loss, this is what Democrats nationally ought to be watching. If Crist’s lead shrinks, then Democrats really will run for the hills.

There’s other evidence out there in the world that Obamacare is a political disaster only if the Democrats don’t fight for it. The media didn’t write much last week about a very interesting WashPost-ABC poll result. The survey asked people if they’d be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who backed Obamacare. It came out less likely 36, more likely 34. That’s a margin of error tie, but it’s also a huge change from four months ago, when Republican opponents had a 16-point advantage in that realm. The new poll also reported that Americans said they trusted Democrats more on health care by 44 to 36 percent.

Perhaps the best evidence though that Obamacare wasn’t a real issue came from Jolly himself, who didn’t even mention the ACA in his victory speech. He told reporters later, “This was a closely run race, we know that. I don’t take a mandate from this.”

Just hours before Jolly’s victory on Tuesday night, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 4.2 million people have signed up for health care under the ACA. By November, eight months from now, will statistics like this make more difference than what happened in Pinellas County Tuesday night? I remind you that in the one high-profile congressional special election held in the May, 2010, the Democrat won it—Mark Critz in Pennsylvania (Like Jolly, Critz was the annointed successor of a longtime incumbent as well).  Six month later, Democrats lost 63 seats in Congress. In other words, spring special elections shouldn’t be taken as harbingers.

They’re only harbingers if the losing party accepts them as harbingers. The Republicans laughed off the Critz win, sold it to the media as something that didn’t matter for November, and kept on saying they were going to win 75 seats. The Democrats need to be similarly nonchalant about this one. It’s an embarrassing loss but it’s not the end of the world, unless Democrats think it is..

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 12, 2014

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Obamacare, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Standing For What People Will Fall For”: Rick Scott Backs Off Medicaid Expansion Days After Announcing Re-Election Bid

Just after making his 2014 re-election campaign official, Florida governor Rick Scott (R) appears to be backtracking on Medicaid expansion, avoiding questions concerning his past support on the expansion of the program in his state.

During an appearance on Wednesday, reporters asked the governor if Florida would pursue federal funds available through the Affordable Care Act to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Scott ignored the question and instead focused on criticizing the health care reform law, which he says will cause “300,000 people in our state” to lose their insurance before the new year.

The comments echoed those made just a day before, when Scott dodged another question about expanding Medicaid, saying that “the biggest issue we’re dealing with right now” is the health care cancelations he says people in his state are “concerned about.”

“On top of the fact you see the plans that have been proposed, they have high deductibles, so I’m concerned about cost, quality, and access to health care, that’s our biggest problem right now,” Scott said.

The comments hint that Scott is now retracting his support for Medicaid expansion – a stance he surprisingly took earlier this year when he said that he would accept Obamacare funding to expand the program for low-income Americans in his state.

Even though $51 billion in federal funds are available for Florida, the state’s GOP-controlled legislature refused to pass a budget that included funding for Medicaid expansion.

At the time, Scott declared that “while the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the costs, I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians who need access to healthcare.”

Scott’s most recent change of heart is not too surprising now that his re-election bid is official, but it does offer his Democratic challenger — and former Florida Republican governor — Charlie Crist a point of attack.

Considering that Florida has the second-highest uninsured rates in the nation, Medicaid is especially important to constituents, specifically the approximately 850,000 Floridians who do not qualify for subsidized insurance under the federal law, but also do not qualify for Medicaid.

Without an extension of the program, those 850,000 low-income Floridians will continue to go uninsured.

The entire state also stands to lose should Scott decide to reject federal funds to expand Medicaid; a report released by the Commonwealth Fund finds that not extending the program — which “generates a net loss of federal funds” — will cost Florida taxpayers a whopping $9.2 billion by 2022.

 

By: Elissa Gomez, the National Memo, December 12, 2013

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Count On It”: Will The Ghost Of Trayvon Martin Haunt Rick Scott?

Floridians aggrieved by George Zimmerman’s acquittal might get some succor from a federal civil rights charge, or maybe at some point a civil suit. But the one thing for sure they will have at their disposal in a 2014 election in which the case and the concealed-carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws that affected it will be an inevitable issue. At National Journal, Beth Reinhard takes a look at the post-trial politics of the case, and suggests it could be a real problem for Rick Scott, who has been slowly recovering from the intense unpopularity he earned in his first couple of years in office.

Rick Scott couldn’t do much worse among black voters than in 2010, when only 6 percent backed him for governor.

Or could he? African-American leaders outraged by the not-guilty verdict in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin are assailing Scott for supporting the “Stand Your Ground” law that arguably helped Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, go free. Students protesters are camping out in the governor’s office, musician Stevie Wonder has announced a boycot,t and Attorney General Eric Holder denounced the law at the NAACP convention in Orlando earlier this week.

If black voters turn out in force against Scott in 2014, they could swing a race as close as his last, which he won by only 61,550 votes. Black voters comprised between 11 percent and 14 percent of the vote in recent gubernatorial elections, and their share of the electorate is on the rise. Racial and ethnic conflicts, such as the bitter debate in 2000 over custody of Cuban rafter Elian Gonzalez, have a history of shaping elections in the nation’s largest swing state.

To be exact, the African-American percentage of the Florida electorate dropped from 13 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2010 and then went back up to 13 percent in 2012. This represents a relatively normal dropoff in minority voting from a presidential to a midterm election; anything that provides an unusually powerful incentive to high midterm voting by minorities is a big deal in a state like Florida.

Scott’s likely Democratic opponents on Thursday joined the criticism of his leadership after the racially polarizing trial. “I’m troubled that we don’t have a governor that can bring people together after such an emotional and personal public debate,” said Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who switched parties and is expected to challenge Scott. “No law is perfect, and it seems to me that Trayvon’s tragic death provides an opportunity for a real dialogue on how we can improve our laws to ensure that we are protecting self-defense while not creating a defense for criminals.”

Democratic Sen. Nan Rich, who’s struggling to gain traction in the polls after running against Scott for more than one year, mocked him for being out of town during the sit-in in his office, though he returned to Tallahassee late Thursday and met with protesters. “I think he’s afraid to come back,” Rich quipped. “Leadership is lacking, and we need leadership from the governor to change this law.”

Crist, Reinhard notes, did about three times as well as Scott did among African-American voters when he was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2006, and improved his reputation in that community significantly by supporting a restoration of voting rights for ex-felons and expanded early voting opportunities in urban areas in 2008. And even before the Zimmerman verdict, Crist was leading Scott in a June poll by 10%.

A wild card for Scott in 2014 will be fallout from his failure to convince Republican legislators to support the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, after his own flip-flop from opposition to support. If he were to submit to pressure to call a special legislative session to act on the expansion, he could attract a primary challenge. If he does nothing, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Florida, leaving many thousands of low-income Floridians ineligible either for Medicaid or for Obamacare tax credits to buy insurance on the new exchanges, could become a pretty big deal in 2014.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 19, 2013

July 22, 2013 Posted by | Rick Scott, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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