Tuesday, December 22, 2009

RNC Chairman Michael Steele Cashes In

The revelation that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is being paid for speeches outside of his RNC salary is ample reason for the committee members to recall and replace him in the post.

As a former regional political director for the RNC and chief of staff for a co-chairman of the RNC who has a reasonable understanding of the mechanics of the RNC, it is disturbing to learn that Mr. Steele is marketing himself through speaker bureaus for speaking fees. Further, it is unprecedented. No other recent RNC chairman ever accepted fees to speak while chairman. There may be examples of a chairman earning income from other endeavors pre-dating their election to the post, but that is far different from a sitting chairman profiting from a task that is part of the job description.

Mr. Steele's leadership qualities are in doubt, with this episode only casting more skepticism on his ability to lead the GOP to a more fruitful era. Former RNC Jim Nicholson, who deserves credit for his performance in the job, said of the matter: "Taking time out to speak for the benefit of one's own bank account is not appropriate." Usually former chairmen keep quiet about the performance of their successors, so the fact that Mr. Nicholson and former RNC chairmen Frank Fahrenkopf and Rich Bond have criticized Mr. Steele for his speaking fees indicates the gravity of the revelation.

The committee members of the RNC are urged to dismiss Mr. Steele and find a leader who is up to the near Augean task of revitalizing and making relevant the Republican Party.

RNC Silent on Rep. Griffith Party Switch; Allows Hard Right to Denounce Move

The Republican National Committee should be heralding the party switch of Democratic House Representative Parker Griffith (AL-5). Instead the RNC's web site is devoid of any mention of Rep. Griffith switching his party affiliation to the GOP.

Freshman Rep. Parker is a Blue Dog Democrat who has clearly decided Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House majority is not a place he is comfortable calling home. In 2008 he won with 52% of the vote, while Sen. John McCain won the congressional district with 61%.  Clearely Rep. Parker came to understand that as a Democrat he was simply renting the seat.  However, the switch is an opportunity for the RNC to state there is momentum in the GOP's favor going into the mid-term elections in 2010.

Rather than seizing this development to craft a larger story that voters are unsatisfied with legislation coming from House Democrats, the RNC has allowed the story to be co-opted by hard right organizations like Club for Growth and Red State who would rather reject Rep. Parker's conversion than embrace it as indicative of a trend that will propel GOP victories in November 2010.

The degree that the RNC has been smothered by the hard right should be disconcerting to the GOP rank and file. In the past a party switch ten months before a significant election cycle would be fodder for the RNC that demonstrates a mood shift on the heels of the last year of Democratic legislative initiatives. Today it does not even warrant a press release as of this posting; this is no way to rebuild a floundering party that needs all the good news it can get.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Terrified Democratic House Members

There are 13 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are terrified for their political lives. Each of them represents the best opportunity for the Republican Party to pick up House seats in the 2010 mid-term election. The main characteristics they share are: that they are all freshman legislators; each got less than 55% of the vote in 2008 and; to a one they are distraught over the Democratic Party’s deficit spending. They are: Connolly (VA11), Adler (NJ3), Bright (AL2), Massa (NY29), Driehaus (OH1) , Minnick (ID1), Griffith (AL5), Murphy (NY20), Heinrich (NM1), Pingree (ME1), Himes (CT4), Kissell (NC8) and Schrader (OR5).

These freshmen are so distraught over the Democratic House leadership’s deficit spending that they composed a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleading the case that unspent and repaid TARP funds should be earmarked for deficit reduction. Of the 13, eight voted against HR 2847; a $154 billion jobs bill that passed the House by five votes (Democrats have a majority in the House with 258 members).

Of the 22 Democratic freshmen who won in 2008 with less than 55% of the vote, 11 voted to pass HR 2847. This group is the most vulnerable in 2010 despite their political calculations to cast the vote for those in their districts hit hardest by the recession. However, they are all vulnerable to defeat as measured against latest national polling data. Recently CNN reported that 67% of all Americans do not support deficit spending and that balancing the budget should be the priority.

The Republican’s fountain of youth can be found at the intersection of Jobs Street and Deficit Drive in Anywhere, USA. GWU reports that 62% of Americans do not believe congressional economic stimulus measures are working. Yet still the Republican National Committee’s leadership insists on seeking the solution by affiliating with a small segment of the voting population that believes that non-secular intolerance is the path to victory. Rather than establishing GOP bona fides on the economy and the budget, the RNC is busy throwing fuel on the fire that gave the country town hall screaming matches instigated by the Tea Bagging movement during the August 2009 congressional break.

NBC reports that 43% of Americans have a negative opinion of the GOP and that 63% of Americans believe President Obama inherited the current economic conditions from his Republican predecessor. Pew found that Republicans leaders in Congress have a 51% disapproval rating. ABC News found that 52% of Americans believe President Obama is better at handling the economy than the GOP. The GOP is far from rehabilitating itself on these two important issues that will drive the day on November 2, 2010.

The RNC and its House and Senate affiliates should be focused like a laser on candidate recruitment, particularly in the districts with Democratic freshmen who won with less than 55% of the vote in 2008, with an added emphasis on the 11 Democratic freshmen members who voted for Speaker Pelosi’s recent jobs bill that chose reckless spending over deficit reduction. More time on fundamentals and less time on tea bagging its favorite coalition group is where the RNC should be concentrating its time, money and talent.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

GOP Voter Litmus Test

Recently Mr. James Bopp, accomplished GOP ballot access attorney and Republican National Committeeman from Indiana, unveiled a litmus test for GOP candidates to be voted on by the full committee in January 2010. The litmus test stipulates that any GOP candidate seeking support and assistance from the RNC must meet seven of ten conditions. The conditions of the “Proposed RNC Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates (PRRUPSC):

1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;
2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;

This is the RNC’s attempt to refashion a Contract with America (CwA) message for the 2010 elections. The difference is the PPRUPSC actively engages controversial issues where the CwA sought to avoid polarization by focusing on what can be termed as 60% issues; those issues with which 60% of American agree according to survey research. Mr. Bopp has led the GOP into deep and precarious waters by seeking to have the RNC codify what makes and does make a Republican on issues that aren’t salient to a majority of American voters.

The CwA was undeniably successful, helping to deliver a Republican majority to Congress in 1994 by positively and simply defining the GOP in a manner easily understood by the electorate. The PPRUPSC fails in this charge by presenting more as a litmus test than a set of principles due to the fact that the resolution ties support to a candidate's performance on these issues.

The larger problem for the RNC if it passes this resolution is it will be easily manipulated by Democratic candidates to define Republican candidates as intolerant and inflexible. The PPRUPSC directly confronts gay marriage, abortion and gun rights thus choosing to headline issues that are unlikely to be top of mind to the 2010 voter. A recent Gallup survey reported that only 12 percent of Americans think gun laws need to be less strict. Support for same-sex marriage is growing with as many as 42 percent of Americans in support according to CBS News earlier this year. Abortion speaks for itself as a polarizing issue best used in the mailbox and not at the general election ballot box.

With this resolution Mr. Bopp is seeking to fight some legislative battles that have already been determined. Cap and trade is a fact; healthcare reform is soon to be a fact; card check is not broadly a winning issue or relevant to 2010 and; President Obama has already committed more troops to Afghanistan.

The PPRUPSC is bad for the GOP is because it will be used by Democrats to polarize voters against Republican candidates. There is fertile ground on economic issues to give the GOP victories in 2010 and that is where the RNC should craft its resolutions, rather than playing in its preferred sandbox of abortion, guns and gay marriage.  A significant segment of the electorate will be easily persuaded that any litmus test that applies to candidates also applies to voters.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Election Moneyline Gubernatorial OPENS

With the midterm 2010 election cycle looming as well as the 2010 Census, it is worth assessing the odds of the OPEN gubernatorial election contests.

Alabama: Should be a GOP advantage, but if the polarizing Judge Roy Moore of Ten Commandment fame is the nominee it could become a toss-up.
1-5 Republican

California: Should be a Democratic win judging by President Obama’s 61% margin in ’08, but the money advantage goes to the wealthy Republican primary candidates (except for Tom Campbell). If Jerry Brown wins the election will he date Linda Ronstadt again (50-1)?
3-2 Democrat

Connecticut: With popular Republican Governor Jodi Rell not seeking re-election this contest slightly favors the Democrats. Will feature the return of Ned Lamont who slayed Sen. Joe Lieberman only to discover Lieberman can’t die.
6-5 Democrat

Florida: Republican primaries for governor and senator will make Florida a political hot spot going into August. This is likely to be a battle between State AG Bill McCollum and FL CEO Alex Sink.
1-1 No Favorite

Georgia: A crowded field in both primaries the state likely goes GOP as it did for John McCain in ’08 by 52%
1-2 Republican

Hawaii: A probably Democratic pick-up in a contest featuring HI political fixture Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie against Lt. Gov. James Aiona. However, if Gov. Lingle could win the state for the GOP then her running mate has a chance.
3-2 Democrat

Kansas: Senator Sam Brownback wants to be in charge and is probably the next governor.
1-5 Republican

Maine: A crowded primary field on both sides, but all for Republican naught as it is a solidly Democratic state although the angry lobstermen vote could be a factor that makes it more competitive than anticipated.
1-5 Democrat

Michigan: Obama won the state with 57% but the GOP can still mount a good challenge in this relentlessly economic disaster of a state that has been a gold mine for Michael Moore.
1-1 No Favorite

Minnesota: There hasn’t been a Democratic governor here since 1990, but crowded primary fields don’t make the picture any clearer.
1-1 No Favorite

New Mexico: Democratic Governor Diane Denish is the odds on favorite. Daughter of former 1970 gubernatorial candidate Jack Daniels, her chances are sobering for the GOP.
1-5 Democrat

Any state where McCain won in ’08 with 66% should elect a GOP governor, making this a likely GOP pick-up.
1-2 Republican

Oregon: There hasn’t been a Republican governor since a gallon on gas cost $0.89 and Culture Club was a chart topper.
1-5 Democrat

Pennsylvania: The GOP has strong potential nominees in Rep. Jim Gerlach and State AG Tom Corbett, but could also feature Rick Santorum (because the GOP really needs him back in action?).
1-1 No Favorite

Rhode Island: Democratic State Treasurer Frank Caprio is the favorite, but State AG Patrick Lynch (of the Station nightclub fire and Sherwin Williams lead paint prosecutions fame) will mount a strong primary challenge.
1-2 Democrat

South Carolina: Unclear if Mark Sanford’s “Appalachian Trail” behavior taints the GOP, but the advantage is Republican.
2-5 Republican

South Dakota: McCain only won the state in ’08 with 53%, but Republican have lived in the governor’s mansion since “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis!” was a cool thing to say.
1-5 Republican

Tennessee: A likely Republican pick-up that features a GOP primary that will be between Rep. Zack Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
1-2 Republican

Wisconsin: No stand-out Democratic primary candidates, but the Republican primary features Mark Neumann who has run competitively statewide and has something to prove.
1-1 No Favorite

Wyoming: Unless Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal seeks to overturn the state’s term limit law this leans toward a GOP pick-up.
1-5 Democrat with Gov. Freudenthal
2-5 Republican without Gov. Freudenthal

Vermont: This should be a Democratic stronghold, but Republican Governor Jim Douglas has defied the odds and his Lt. Governor Brian Dubie is popular and appealing and even makes his own maple syrup.
3-2 Democrat

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Palin Dismembers the GOP on a Whim

A reliable Republican congressional seat now belongs to the Democratic Party because Sarah Palin woke up one day and decided it would make for good Facebook content to sabotage the Republican Party in NY’s 23rd congressional district special election. Palin, whose sabotage was joined by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), couldn’t have found this congressional district on a map before this election. It did not take long for her and Pawlenty to drop in from nowhere and have a huge impact on the outcome of the race only now to move on to another victim to feed their ambition; like a science fiction character devouring planets.

It clearly hadn’t occurred to the egocentric, selfish nature of Palin and Pawlenty that the Republican Party leaders in New York State knew what they were doing when they nominated Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava as their candidate in this special election. Intervention by the likes of Palin and Pawlenty was not necessary; the challenge was well in hand by those closest who knew best. It is hopeless to try and get Palin, Pawlenty and others like them to hear reason as they are so prejudice they refuse to listen. Palin and Pawlenty enabled the Democratic Party to increase its caucus size in the U.S. House, but they refuse to believe they are now standing in a pile of waste of their own making even though everybody else sees and smells it clearly.

The truth is Palin and Pawlenty stink. They reek of ambition, selfishness, prejudice and self-righteousness that destroyed the Republican Party in NY’s 23rd congressional district and will destroy it nationally if left unchecked. NY’s 23rd congressional district has been a cornerstone of the GOP in New York State represented for decades by Republicans very much like Scozzafava. Perhaps she is not as conservative as Palin and Pawlenty claim to be, but she still had solid support from reliable conservative coalition members like the National Rifle Association and National Federation of Independent Businesses as well as a 60% rating from the NY Right to Life Committee.

Republicans across the country of every stripe should be furious with Palin and Pawlenty and the other meddlers who have decided they own the imperious right to select and reject from afar who is allowed to represent the Republican Party on the ballot.

However, Palin and Pawlenty can now serve a higher purpose. Their shrillness and panic about a moderate in the Republican ranks may have in the end a positive effect by drawing attention to their prejudice and small-mindedness. Palin's and Pawlenty’s folly in NY's 23rd congressional district should awaken Republicans everywhere that if it could happen in upstate New York in can happen in their backyard. With the threat of Palin and Pawlenty showing up close to home to dictate terms, perhaps sensible Republicans, moderate and conservatives, will band together knowing that not to means inevitable destruction at the hands of politicians like Palin and Pawlenty who are driven by ambition, not principle.

The Republican Party requires now more than ever unity of purpose in the face of fiscal mismanagement by the majority party in Washington, DC, not a putsch by the self-righteous.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Election Moneyline

Being Election Day, some odds-making is in order.

New Jersey Governor:
Chris Christie (R)
His Sgt. Schultz campaign ("I know nothing!") was the perfect challenger campaign marred only by his driving record. Having said nothing, Christie will have no mandate in Trenton.

Gov. Jon Corzine (D)
With disapproval numbers over 50 since the start he's as popular as Swine Flu. A heavy reliance on Obama magic likely doesn't get him into the winner's circle.

Chris Daggett (I)
A newly arrived outsider runs a brilliant campaign. Despite the Democratic Party making phone calls on his behalf he has zero chance of winning but made a huge impact on the contest's competitiveness.

Virginia Governor
Bob McDonnell (R)
A Birch Society-like conservative will win wearing moderate GOP clothing.

Creigh Deeds (D)
Deeds starts with D, as does dull. He never figured out a message to excite 1of 4's and 2 of 4's (those who usually only vote in presidential and maybe mid-term elections).

Doug Hoffman (C)
Hoffman caught a wave and is riding the barrel to shore as a protest against everything and no opinion about anything important to district residents. His win invigorates the extreme-right into remaking the GOP in its image.

Bill Owens (D)
His best hope was a three-way contest that disintegrated over the last week, dimming his chances of an upset in this traditional GOP district.

Dede Scozzafava (R)
A terrible candidate who should have locked this contest up early showed poor form by endorsing the Democratic Party nominee - most likely done out of anger and disappointment. Her whine has a Mad Dog flavor.

John Garamendi (D)
CA's Lt. Governor and former Insurance Commissioner wins this traditionally Democratic seat without much opposition.

David Harmer (R)
Generous odds for a zero impact candidate who got no assistance from Washington, DC Republicans who saw him as DOA.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hoffman Is No Friend of America’s Warfighters

Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman is riding a wave in NY’s 23rd congressional district special election that Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava couldn’t catch. Ability to catch and ride this wave was due to the Club for Growth’s effort on his behalf to define Scozzafava as a liberal. Scozzafava proved incompetent to the task of refuting this charge and defining Hoffman as an opportunistic sore loser.

Scozzafava is a moderate Republican whose congressional candidacy was endorsed by the National Rifle Association that accompanies her A rating from them. Scozzafava’s current National Federation of Independent Businesses rating is a 75 and her NY Right to Life rating is a 60 despite her pro-choice position.

Hoffman, on the other hand, has no record. Hoffman’s chief accomplishment in this special election was proper positioning to take advantage of conservatives looking for a place to assert themselves in Republican intra-party politics.

Scozzafava should never have allowed herself to be chased out of this race by Hoffman, and therefore she didn't deserve to win. As a fiscally responsible, socially moderate Republican, Scozzafava is a typical New York Republican akin to Rep. John McHugh who was the previous congressman from the 23rd district. However, the fact that she withdrew will only invigorate right wing conservatives in efforts to define the Republican Party as being exclusively the home of the pro-life movement.

A main Hoffman/Club for Growth criticism of Scozzafava was her support of President Obama’s stimulus package funding of NY’s 23rd congressional district projects, and earmarks in general. Earmarks for NY’s 23rd CD are largely targeted for Fort Drum. This is the issue that Scozzafava failed to leverage in order to beat back Hoffman’s challenge.

Scozzafava should have charged Hoffman as not being a friend of America’s warfighters. In the last ten years $114 million has gone to Fort Drum to improve the quality of life of America’s warfighters and their families, including funding for a family support center. Those funds were important to the preparation and support of our warfighters and their families, but to Hoffman and the Club for Growth it is wasteful spending. Hoffman would have countered with his veteran status, but that rebuttal would have been easily rebuffed by testimonials by active military families insisting on the importance of the Fort Drum earmarks that would accompany the accusation.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda – Scozzafava instead failed a test of leadership and her withdrawal is a shame to those intent on resisting the advances of right wing conservatives to redefine the GOP in their image. In this election Hoffman has proven an ability to see a trend and leverage it into a chance to become a congressman. This is the kind of ambition any candidate must have to compete and win. Unfortunately for the people of NY’s 23rd congressional district Hoffman showed no knowledge of district issues in his editorial board meeting with the Watertown Daily Times and has pledged his commitment to the Club for Growth to no longer support Fort Drum and the warfighters, their families and district residents who depend on its viability and services. With no record to back up his words but a heavy debt to the Club for Growth, it is a mystery what Doug Hoffman would do in Congress.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GOP Schism in NY's 23rd CD Special Election

For the Republican Party to become significantly relevant in Washington, DC it's candidates have to win. This means that any viable candidate should be supported, less those with extremist views that are aberrant.

In New Jersey and Virginia many moderate Republicans are supporting GOP gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell with campaign contributions. While on many social issues these Republicans may not be in agreement with the candidate, they likely understand that winning a statewide election in the mid-year cycle is important for building momentum going into the mid-term elections in 2010.

On the national party level there are numerous high net worth, moderate Republicans who supported both George W. Bush and John McCain for president beginning in 2000 in leadership positions. Similarly, both of the presidential nominees were not moderates but conservatives, yet still the moderate GOP large donors gave considerable contributions and raised even more funds because they understood that agreeing with the candidate 80 percent of the time was a reasonable choice.

Yet now purist, self-centered conservative political characters are unwilling to demonstrate the same deference in the special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district. Most notably are Sarah Palin and Steve Forbes shirking the state Republican Party by breaking ranks to support a sore loser now running for congress on the Conservative Party line. This is wrong coming from a former Republican vice presidential nominee and a two-time presidential primary candidate.

The GOP nominee in NY’s 23rd CD is Dede Scozzafava who is a moderate candidate seeking to fill the seat previously held by moderate Republican congressmen for 26 years (accounting for redistricting between congressional districts 23 and 24). Her Conservative Party opponent is Doug Hoffman who was a candidate for the Republican nomination but was not picked by GOP county leaders to be the candidate in the November 3rd special election. Despite Mr. Hoffman’s previous statement that he would respect and support the GOP’s choice of candidate, he quickly reversed himself and agreed to be the Conservative Party nominee; therefore exhibiting questionable principles and forever placing doubt on his own convictions.

If highly intelligent, principled and committed moderate Republican majopr donors like Lew Eisenberg, Don Bren, John Moran and others are comfortable with an 80-20 solution on issues, it is not too much to expect conservatives like Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) to do the same. It is assured that if any of these people are a future Republican presidential nominee they would ask these same high net worth GOP contributors to financially support their candidacy.

In the event Hoffman is victorious (which inlcudes denying Scozzafava a win) in a low-turnout special election, it sends a clear message to moderate Republicans that it may well be time to seek a new home by supporting Blue Dog Democrats and leaving the Republican Party to the purists who are doomed to small victories while never again having a chance for the GOP to govern as a majority.

Monday, October 12, 2009

22 Days Out From Election Day In New Jersey

For Republican Chris Christie to defeat Democratic Governor Jon Corzine this November he must keep Corzine under 45 percent of the vote. Ordinarily this would signal a landslide, but the independent candidacy of Chris Daggett is the factor that makes plurality the goal line.

Surveys by Rasmussen and Fairleigh Dickinson University have Daggett performing at six percent or less. Quinnipiac has had Daggett trending at nine percent and up to 12 percent since August. Other less established surveys have shown Daggett at as much as 14 percent, but historically this seems unlikely and too high. The general assumption is that Daggett takes votes from Corzine because those looking for an alternative would normally vote for the incumbent but are dissatisfied with the performance yet unready to cast a ballot for the opposition party.

If on Election Day Daggett performs at eight percent, which may be too high an expectation, Christie can win with 47 percent. Given Corzine’s high disapproval numbers demonstrated in all the surveys taken in this contest it is a severe challenge for Corzine to break 45 percent, if one believes he has not yet cracked 41 percent in the ballot test to date.

Yet here is the unknown variable. Rasmussen and FDU both have Corzine at 44 percent as of their recent surveys (Rasmussen: Christie up 3 points; FDU: Corzine up 1 point). Corzine’s disapproval rating is still very high, at 55 percent. However, if Corzine is truly at 44 percent then it is not a stretch for him to get to 48 percent on Election Day. If this is the case, Christie loses if Daggett performs at six percent. This is troubling news for Christie as both surveys are respected and not to be dismissed.

With Election Day being November 3 we are now 22 days out. The most important factor now is money. As of the 29 Day Pre-Election Election Law Enforcement Commission report Christie has $4.2MM, Daggett $109,000 and Corzine (not including whatever he decides to spend between now and then) $20,000.

This means the Daggett variable decreases in value every day less a substantial infusion of cash. Dismissing the surveys that report him at greater than 12 percent on the ballot test but assuming Daggett is as high a eight percent, unless he has more money that ballot test number will drop precipitously over the next three weeks.

$4.2MM allows Christie to be extremely competitive on television and radio going into these closing weeks as there is only so much Corzine will be able to spend in those mediums regardless of the check size he cuts to himself.

At this juncture the advantage is still with Christie. His campaign to date has been long on Corzine negatives and short on issues. More often than not that is how a challenger campaign wins. Corzine has managed to put some lead on the target by bruising Christie’s reformer mantle, but not enough to take Christie out of the contest. Conzine is playing for 48 percent of the vote. If he is currently at 40% on the ballot test Christie has probably won this race. But if Rasmussen and FDU are to be believed, Corzine is on the doorstep of a second term.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Congressional Redistricting Outlook

With congressional redistricting on the horizon it is worth looking at the landscape in context of the importance of the 2010 state legislative and gubernatorial elections in the 22 states that could see apportionment changes.

Gainers, in two sets, include: Most Likely Gainers: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Nevada, and Utah; Potential Gainers: Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington.

Losers, in two sets, include: Most Likely Losers: Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Potential Losers: Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and California (more likely to not see a change – significant because it will be the first time since statehood that CA does not gain a congressional seat).

The purpose of the U.S. Census as it relates to congressional redistricting is to define which states gain, lose or stay unchanged in their congressional district apportionment. As the decennial census has not yet occurred a precise projection cannot be made, but the states above are the likeliest to see changes in apportionment.

This begs the question of potential outcome based on which political party controls the governorship and state legislature in each state. This makes the 2010 election cycle extremely important to the future prosperity of each political party. Below is the current breakdown, but may see changes after November 2010.

Current governorship breakdown in these states is 10GOP/12Dem. The GOP controls seven of these state legislatures, the Democrats control 11, and four are split.

Arizona: Gov: GOP; State House/Assembly: 35GOP/25Dem; Senate: 18GOP/12Dem. AZ draws congressional lines via a bipartisan commission so a two seat gain will be a wash.

California: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 28GOP/50Dem/1IND/1 Vacancy; Senate 15GOP/25Dem. In the likely event the governorship changes hands and if the state gets an apportionment change it will favor Democrats.

Florida: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 76GOP/44Dem; Senate 25GOP/14Dem. Likely apportionment pick-up for GOP.

Georgia: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 105GOP/75Dem; Senate: 4GOP/2Dem. Likely apportionment pick-up for GOP despite only a narrow advantage to the GOP in the gubernatorial contest.

Illinois: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 48GOP/70Dem; Senate: 22GOP/37Dem. GOP would lose a seat.

Iowa: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 44GOP/56Dem; Senate: 18GOP/32Dem. Redistricting map is computer generated so the lost congressional seat will likely produce a competitive swing district.

Louisiana: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 50GOP/52Dem/3IND; Senate: 17GOP/22Dem. Hurricane Katrina dramatically altered this state’s politics for Democrats, who will likely lose a seat.

Massachusetts: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 16GOP/143/Dem/1IND; Senate: 5GOP/5Dem. A win-lose for Democrats as they control everything and will lose a seat.

Michigan: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 43GOP/67Dem; Senate: 21GOP/16Dem/1 Vacancy. GOP would likely lose a seat from a redrawn competitive congressional district.

Minnesota: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 47GOP/87Dem; Senate: 21GOP/46Dem. Democrats likely pick-up the governorship and would redraw two GOP districts into one, so GOP loses a seat.

Missouri: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 74GOP/89Dem; Senate 23GOP/10Dem/1 Vacancy. If MO loses a seat it would be to the detriment of the GOP.

Nevada: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 14GOP/28Dem; Senate: 8GOP/12Dem/1 Vacancy. If Democrats win the governorship the likely outcome is a Democrat pick-up of one congressional seat.

New Jersey: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 31GOP/48Dem/1 Vacancy; Senate: 17GOP/23Dems. As it looks that the GOP could win the governorship but not the Assembly the GOP likely loses a congressional seat.

New York: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 41GOP/109Dem; Senate: 30GOP/32Dem. CD-23 (Rep. McHugh’s old seat) special election is critical as it could mean Democrats lose a State Senate seat (as the likely Democratic congressional candidate is a Democratic State Senator), as is the Democrat’s weak hold on the governorship. The state loses a congressional seat and the loss could go against either party.

North Carolina: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 52GOP/68Dem; Senate: 20GOP/30Dem. A congressional seat pick-up in this state favors Democrats if it happens.

Ohio: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 45GOP/53Dem/1 Vacancy; Senate: 21GOP/12Dem. Democrats have a narrow advantage in the gubernatorial contest. If the Democrats retain the governorship and the state loses two seats it is a wash.

Oregon: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 24GOP/35Dem/1 Vacancy; Senate: 12GOP/18Dem. If OR gains a seat it will favor the Democrats as they are likely to retain the open gubernatorial contest.

Pennsylvania: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 99GOP/104Dem; Senate: 30GOP/20Dem. The gubernatorial contest is currently a toss-up and Democrats have a very narrow advantage in the State House, making for a potential GOP congressional seat gain – but an equal chance for a GOP loss.

South Carolina: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 72GOP/52Dem; Senate: 27GOP/19Dem. If SC gains a congressional seat it would favor the GOP.

Texas: Gov: GOP: house/Assembly: 76GOP/74Dem; Senate: 19GOP/12Dem. TX is likely to pick-up three congressional seats, maybe four. Either way the majority (either two or three) of these seats go to the GOP.

Utah: Gov: GOP; House/Assembly: 53GOP/22Dem; Senate: 21GOP/8Dem. A GOP congressional seat pick-up.

Washington: Gov: Dem; House/Assembly: 34GOP/64Dem; Senate: 18GOP/1Dem. WA has a chance to see a congressional seat gain, but it is unlikely. If there is a gain it will favor Democrats.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The GOP and the Second Amendment

As the Republican Party attempts to rebuild it will have to navigate the coalitions that tend toward its support. The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment lobby are such coalitions. The GOP, to its detriment, is loath to insult this lobby for the sake of electoral practicality.

The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” For the Republican Party this should not be about citizens buying weapons but one of states’ rights, as reference to “the people” is a reference to self-government. Such a position satisfies GOP principles and keeps it within the bounds of common sense.

The intent of the Second Amendment is to protect from the tyranny of the federal government and foreign invaders. The context is the American Revolution. The weaponry of that day was far different from the weapon technology of today. That conflict featured muskets and cannon. The rationale of the Second Amendment is to provide deterrence to a standing federal army when there was no significant gap between the weapon technology of the army and what was common in the 18th Century American home. Further, the assumption of the time was that a standing American army of 30,000 would be no match for state militias numbering 500,000.

This past August saw armed protestors, at least one with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, attending events featuring President Obama. These protestors were operating within the rule of law. However, the symbolism of the semi-automatic weapons was a dull annunciation of their opposition to President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation. One can only deduce that these protestors were symbolically saying that they would bring a gun to a pen fight.

Setting aside reality to host the armed protestors’ extravagant exaggeration that the debate over healthcare reform could culminate in armed conflict on America’s streets; let’s instead examine how that armed conflict would unwind. This also requires a suspension of belief that the general public would idly allow such a gathering storm to reach critical mass. To carry forth this fantasy one must also allow the assumption that America’s military personnel and key federal government officials would act in conspiracy to unilaterally take to America’s streets to violently quash their fellow citizens, armed or not. In the end, even the best shot with an AR-15 is no match for the best armed and trained military in the world.

Nor should it be ignored that the National Guard is a state militia, nullifying the claim by the National Rifle Association that the Second Amendment is violated when the federal government passes laws regulating the sale of weapons to private American citizens.

The Republican Party is so anxious about its relevancy and winning, generally and particularly in the 2010 midterm elections, it has long abandoned all common sense relating to gun ownership. When extremists bring weapons to a public meeting the GOP has the opportunity to condemn the provocation. In doing so the GOP would edge toward the mainstream and provide a precedent to America’s moderate and independent voters to see it as rational and not captive of the extreme right. This can be done without violation of its republican principles if only there were the courage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Most Vulnerable Democratic U.S. House Members in 2010

Democratic U.S. House Representatives who got less than 55% of the vote to win in 2008 are going to be top of the GOP’s 2010 midterm election target list. This list is below.

Some of these 30 congressional seats are located in areas of the country where it will be very hard for the Republican Party to win unless it tones down the extreme right rhetoric and rebuilds the moderate GOP brand. New England and the Mid-Atlantic are prime examples where there are 10 (or 33%) potential pick-ups from the list below.

The struggle between the Republican campaign professionals and the ideologues will be the back-story for the GOP going into the 2010 mid-term elections. For ideologues the campaign process is about adherence to conservative Republican doctrine and – sometimes – inflammatory claims for the sake of controversy. For consultants it is about winning so that the GOP does not become utterly irrelevant – which to some extent is about protecting and sustaining their business model. In between is the solution, but the divide may as well be interstellar for the likelihood of there being any sign of compromise from the hard right wing.

Many ideologues will argue that flexibility on doctrine will be unnecessary as the senior citizen and independent voter revolt against Pres. Obama ‘s healthcare reform will be enough to carry the day. How seniors and independents feel about healthcare in the fall of 2010 is unknown and that is not a strategy for long-term GOP growth.

However, voter discord over the Obama Administration's bailout and stimulus programs presents the GOP with an opportunity to seize the fiscal responsibility mantle. This discord pits the "have littles" against the "have nots" and is a breach in the Democratic Party's lines that the GOP can leverage in 2010.

At the same time the GOP needs to demonstrate tolerance and empathy to those demographics that currently see it as rigid and unwelcoming. This can be done through legislative initiatives and candidate recruitment, which will enable the Republican Party to walk the talk. An important round of candidate recruitment for the 2010 election is on the door step and the GOP gets to decide its future.

Of this list of 30 Members of Congress 73% are freshmen. McCain won 11 (37%) of these congressional districts with 50% or greater. This list does not include NY-23, a traditionally Republican seat, as it is currently open and awaiting a special election.

The list below is color coded to denote freshman, 1+ Term and 3+ Term incumbents and includes the Democratic incumbent’s 2008 election percentage and McCain’s performance in the 2008 presidential election in that congressional district (McCain 50%+ districts are in red).

AZ-08 Giffords 55%; 52%
CA-11 McNerney 55%; 44%
FL-22 Klein 55%; 48%
ME-01 Pingree 55%; 38%
NC-08 Kissell 55%; 47%
NM-01 Heinrich 55%; 39%
NY-25 Maffei 55%; 43%
OR-05 Schrader 55%; 43%
VA-11 Connolly 55%; 42%
MS-01 Childers 54%; 62%
OH-16 Boccieri 54%; 50%
WI-08 Kagen 54%; 54%
AZ-05 Mitchell 53%; 52%
TX-17 Edwards 53%; 67%
AL-05 Griffith 52%; 61%
FL-08 Grayson 52%; 47%
MI-09 Peters 52%; 43%
NH-01 Shea-Porter 52%; 46%
NJ-03 Adler 52%; 47%
PA-03 Dahlkemper 52%; 49%
PA-11 Kanjorski 52%; 42%
VA-02 Nye 52%; 48%
CT-04 Himes 51%; 40%
ID-01 Minnick 51%; 62%
NY-24 Arcuri 51%; 48%
NY-29 Massa 51%; 50%
OH-01 Driehaus 51%; 44%
AL-02 Bright 50%; 63%
VA-05 Perriello 50%; 51%
NY-20 Murphy 50%; 48%

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Geoffrey Raymond on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer

A great segment on Lehman Brothers featuring my talented cousin and his Annotated Fuld.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Is Anybody Surprised Ridge's Terror Alert Controversy Sells Books?

Secretary Tom Ridge (R-PA) has disavowed his book's jacket cover and denied he caved to political pressure to heighten the Department of Homeland Security's "terror alert" on the eve of the 2004 presidential election. Something stinks here.

As an author published by a significant house, Simon & Schuster, I know something about the book publication and promotion process Mr. Ridge has just experienced. After the book is written the publisher puts some pressure on the author to make the book jacket as salacious and controversial as possible - as that is what is going to get attention and sell the product. The author has plenty of say and approval of the book jacket. Ideas on what the book jacket should read are cooked up and kicked around, as is artwork (artwork for a Ridge book most likely never deviated from the traditional photo of thre author). Throughout this process the author - Ridge in this case - has the opportunity to say no to those ideas they don't like.

I was not thrilled with my book jacket cover but in the end decided that it was the best effort to make the book appealing to buyers because it adhered to the facts in the book. My literary agent hated the artwork and I was unsure so more artwork was created until I concluded the original idea offered by S&S was the best one and I chose to use it on my book jacket's cover.

To the point; something stinks about Ridge's recantation of his book's jacket. Ridge had all the power to nix the language on the book jacket cover that hints that he broke to the Bush White House's pressure to up the terror alert going into the 2004 election. So there are really only two conclusions the observer can make: 1) Ridge has taken so much heat from former Bush WH officials about disclosing such a repugnant truth that he has back-peddled; or 2) Ridge caved to pressure from his publisher to print the salacious book jacket in the interest of selling more books. Either way, Ridge comes away looking weak and easily strong-armed.

The more plausible explanation about the book cover is that the publisher used nuance to create controversy. The book cover reads: "He (Ridge) recounts episodes such as the pressure that the DHS received to raise the security alert on the eve of the '04 presidential election." Pressure is not qualified to mean political or any other defined pressure, but surely intimates that it was political pressure to create the controversy.

However, Ridge does write in the book that, ""There was absolutely no support for that position (to raise the terror alert) within our department. None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?'" This is a reasonable question for a politician to ask themselves. It does seem plausible that political pressure was applied, as the Bush White House was largely about making policy decisions through the political prism. Ridge's response to this after the book was published is that he made the decision to raise the alert and did not factor politics; a tough position to square with the statement in the book.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

GOP 2010 Pick-Up List:U.S. House Democrats in McCain 50%+ Districts

As the Republican Party begins to boil down its pick-up prospects for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, the congressional districts where Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) won by a margin of 50% or greater in the 2008 presidential election is a place to start. This list is below.

Another criterion for targeting the best Republican opportunities is where the Democratic congressional candidate got less that 55% to win their 2008 election. That list will follow.

The list below is of the 47 Democratic congressional districts where McCain won by a margin of 50% or greater. Of the 47 Democrats on this list 13 (28%) are freshmen and 11 (23%) have won two elections and are in their third term. The rest are firmly entrenched incumbents (23, or 49%) with three or more consecutive terms in Congress. This last group will be the hardest for Republicans to defeat in 2010. Winning any of these seats, especially the entrenched Democratic incumbents, will depend on candidate recruitment and fundraising – both by the candidates, the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee. Needless to say, viable challenger candidates to the entrenched Democratic incumbents are unlikely.

It is a reasonable assumption that of the list of 47 Democratic House Members only 24 present a potential challenge opportunity. Given that the GOP needs 39 seats to take control of the House it is unlikely that Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) expectation to win control will materialize.

However, this past August saw a great deal of grassroots displeasure over healthcare reform. This instructs the GOP that there is a wave to be caught and ridden onto the shores of the 2010 mid-term election. The problem for the GOP is that the protest over healthcare reform cannot be controlled as it is largely organic, even though there have been Republican efforts to encourage the growth of the movement. By being organic it means that those unhappy with healthcare reform cannot necessarily be corralled to help the GOP pick-up congressional seats. That said, if the energy of the healthcare reform protests carries into November 2010 many voters will cast ballots for Republican congressional challenger candidates in dissent of the Democratic majority in Washington, DC.

The list below is color coded to denote Freshman, 1+ Term and 3+ Term incumbents and includes McCain’s performance in 2008 in that congressional district.

MS-04 Taylor         67
TX-17 Edwards      67
OK-02 Boren         66
TN-04 Davis          64
AL-02 Bright          63
ID-01 Minnick        62
MS-01 Childers      62
TN-06 Gordon       62
AL-05 Griffith         61
LA-03 Melancon    61
MO-04 Skelton      61
AR-01 Berry          59
VA-09 Boucher      59
AR-04 Ross           58
MD-01 Kratovil     58
UT-02 Matheson    57
WV-01 Mollohan   57
GA-08 Marshall     56
TN-08 Tanner        56
WV-03 Rahall        56
KY-06 Chandler    55
PA-04 Altmire        55
AR-02 Snyder        54
AZ-01 Kirkpatrick 54
FL-02 Boyd           54
PA-10 Carney        54
ND-AL Pomeroy    53
SC-05 Spratt          53
AZ-05 Mitchell       52
AZ-08 Giffords       52
NC-07 McIntyre    52
NC-11 Shuler         52
OH-18 Space         52
FL-24 Kosmas       51
IN-08 Ellsworth      51
NY-13 McMahon  51
NY-29 Massa        51
PA-17 Holden        51
VA-05 Perriello      51
CO-03 Salazar       50
CO-04 Markey      50
IN-09 Hill               50
MN-07 Peterson    50
NM-02 Teague      50
OH-06 Wilson       50
OH-16 Boccieri     50
PA-12 Murtha       50

Friday, August 28, 2009

Presidential Moneyline

Red Elephant believes that the Republican Party needs to play small ball and rebuild the party from the bottom up. However, presidential elections wait for nobody and the GOP will put forward a nominee in 2012. Red Elephant believes it should be a person who represents the platform issues that will make the GOP relevant again. That said, the Republican Party bench is bare, but here are some potential players to watch and Red Elephant’s odds on the contest.

Eric Cantor
-5000 or 50/1
Minority Whip Rep. Cantor (R-VA) has been mentioned as a potential GOP presidential nominee, which means he needs some lessons on setting expectations. In June 2009 Mr. Cantor predicted a GOP landslide in the House in the 2010 mid-term elections; highly unlikely as it requires the GOP to pick up 39 seats - hope is not a strategy. His profanity-laden AFSCME video response to that union's ads in his district wasn't funny and made Cantor look childish. Cantor isn't ready to run in the tall grass.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sen. Ted Kennedy: 1932-2009

My only interaction with Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) was non-political and occurred on a shuttle flight from Washington, DC to Boston over ten years ago. I found myself assigned a seat between Sen. Kennedy and Red Auerbach. As the two men had a lively conversation I interrupted and asked if they prefer I move so they could carry on more easily. Kennedy apologized for being rude and talking past me, to which I replied it was a pleasure and I'd rather stay and listen in. That got a laugh and I had a good time listening to these two giants chat like pals about the Boston Garden and the Celtics.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

GOP Rhythm Or Blues?

Listen to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, you all know it even if you don’t recognize these names, and you will understand everything you need to know about the rhythm of a political campaign. This history of the piece is coincidently parallel with the Republican Party’s current angst and misdirection and gives instruction on how the GOP becomes relevant once more.

Ravel was contracted by a dancer to create a piece that drew from previous works by musician Isaac Albeniz. As Ravel set out to perform his duties he discovered that he could not adopt the Albeniz pieces because of copyright restrictions. However, Albeniz gave Ravel permission to proceed. Instead, Ravel decided to reconstruct his own work, but then paused. It is here that Ravel did the brilliant thing; he decided to write an original piece. The result was Bolero.

So what does this have to do political campaigns and the Republican Party? As to political campaigns: The music is composed to build over an unchanging ostinato, or stubborn rhythm played on snare drums. On top of this rhythm is a single theme consisting of two eighteen-bar section each played twice. Tension in the piece is built into a crescendo as more instruments are added to the rhythm and theme, becoming thicker and stronger until an entire orchestra beats out the rhythm that began with only the snare drum.

This is exactly what is performed by a precise political campaign. At first it is a repetitive rhythm, repeating the same message. Slowly different themes are added to the campaign message that reinforces the original rhythm. As an example: perhaps a political challenger campaign chooses fiscal responsibility as it rhythm. As the campaign progresses it adds themes that are examples of wasteful spending by the incumbent and what the challenger would do differently. Every week a new theme; every week the rhythm is reinforced until the rhythm and theme of the campaign climax into a crescendo, ideally on Election Day.

To become relevant again the GOP has to find a simple rhythm and stick with it, adding themes that forcefully build the repetition of the rhythm. While fiscal responsibility and opposition to the Obama Administration’s spending would be an ideal rhythm on which to build themes, the GOP hasn’t much credibility given its enablement of Pres. George W. Bush’s deficit spending and debt. Therefore, healthcare is a better place to begin as it is a salient jutting the Obama Administration into dangerous territory where voters, particularly political independents are wary about this expansion of government.

Disapproval of Pres. Obama’s handling healthcare reform has reached 50%. 46% of American voters disapprove of the government’s creation of new a healthcare insurance plan to compete with private insurance. 50% of political independents disapprove of the public healthcare option. With 54% of American believing the country is on the wrong track, the Republican Party is being given circumstances that could allow them to over-perform in the 2010 midterm elections. Unfortunately for the GOP only 21% of voters trust it will make the generally right decisions for the country, which is why Sarah Palin’s “death panel” hoax will do long term damage to the Republican Party.

Like Ravel, the GOP now needs to be brilliant. So far the GOP composition is far from sophisticated, more Chop Sticks than Bolero. Brilliance will not be found in adopting previous rhythms and themes, as it wants to do by invoking Reagan. Invoking Reagan is easy, and easy never spurred transcendence. The GOP must now compose its own rhythm and themes, not adopt Reagan’s or even it own past compositions that gave it a majority in Congress in the 1990s.

If the Republican Party doesn’t find rhythm and themes, it will be singing the blues in 2010.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Props to Krauthammer

It was welcome to read Mr. Charles Krauthammer's lead in his Washington Post opinion piece today: "Let's see if we can have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling. We might start by asking Sarah Palin to leave the room. I've got nothing against her. She's a remarkable political talent. But there are no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate."

While not a Republican Party leader, his opinions have weight and so his words should have an impact in the GOP offices on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Krauthammer's more subtle point should be taken seriously by the GOP ranks, as it is the root cause for the chaos and conflict of this August's congressional recess town hall meetings. This subtlety is also what was detected by the recent Washington Post-ABC survey that shows diminshing support for healthcare reform, particularly among Independants. This is where Republicans should make their stand and become relevant in the healthcare reform debate. Relevancy begets relevancy. After an earnest effort to offer rational oppositon to the current healthcare legislation the GOP can broaden its message.

In other words, the GOP needs to walk before trying to run - and Palin's "death panel" hoax was an infantile attempt to sprint.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NJGOP Playing Precision Small Ball

In July Red Elephant assessed Republican chances of winning the gubernatorial election and picking up Assembly seats. A recent poll indicates that GOP gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie may have coattails and that the generic ballot test gives Republicans reasons for optimism in additional Assembly districts. This, coupled with recent arrests of Democratic lawmakers, particularly in Legislative District 19 (a traiditonally strong Democratic distirct) spurs Repubican campaign efforts.

Gov. Jon Corzine's (D-NJ) campaign is hard at work using new revelations about former U.S. Attorney Christie's undisclosed loan to an Assistant U.S. Attorney who was working for Christie at the time and remains an AUSA in New Jersey to define Christie as a corrupt politician. Whether or not this issue is salient is to be determined. It is clear though that in the contest for Assembly the Republicans are executing precision small ball, advancing candidates, finding the opportunities as they are presented and taking the advantage where they can. For more details, see the earlier RE post "New Jersey Could Go Red in '09," at: http://redelephantgop.blogspot.com/2009/07/new-jersey-going-red-in-09.html

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Presidential Moneyline

Red Elephant believes that the Republican Party needs to play small ball and rebuild the party from the bottom up. However, presidential elections wait for nobody and the GOP will put forward a nominee in 2012. Red Elephant believes it should be a person who represents the platform issues that will make the GOP relevant again. That said, the Republican Party bench is bare, but here are some potential players to watch and Red Elephant’s odds on the contest.

Michele Bachmann
-7000 or 70/1
The congresswoman from Minnesota is too wacky to be a real prospect, but that doesn’t mean this self-professed “fool for Christ” won’t interpret personal ambition as a call from God to run for president.

*Calculated from electoral performance, survey data, media savvy and fundraising potential.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pawlenty Excited!

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) seems pretty excited about the future electoral prospects of the Republican Party. Speaking at a recent GOPAC event (GOPAC is a 527 committee organized in 1978 by Delaware Gov. Pierre DuPont in 1978 to train Republican candidates) Pawlenty was enthusiastic about the opportunities being presented to the GOP by the Obama Administration’s initiatives on healthcare and cap and trade among others.

Pawlenty is a two term governor who was on Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential shortlist and who now is recognized as a potential GOP presidential nominee in 2012. Pawlenty offered that as the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats over-reach on the issues, the GOP will have the chance to offer a contrast and gain electorally. To Pawlenty’s credit, he did also say that “We (the GOP) can’t just be critics in chief.” By this it is assumed Pawlenty meant the GOP must offer specific counterproposals when criticizing the Obama Administration in order to be taken seriously and this is to be applauded.

However, where are these electoral gains to come from? Red Elephant has offered some analysis on the gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia this year and recent polling in both states indicate that the GOP is poised to win each race. Historically the party in power loses 17 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives during off-year elections, so it is worth taking a brief look at the terrain going into 2010.

There are currently between 20 and 36 House races that could be loosely termed competitive. Mostly they are seats with a Democratic incumbent. Of the 20-36 seats, roughly 10 could be categorized as being a toss-up – nearly all leaning Democratic. Four are pure toss-ups by virtue of being open seats; three are open seats and one is currently vacant (with a special election to be announced in 2009). Three of these seats had a Republican Member of Congress.

It is likely that the Democrats will lose seats in the House in 2010, although it is going to be tough for the GOP to achieve the average gain of 17 seats. There are simply not enough competitive seats for the GOP to pick up the House in 2010. The drama of this summer’s healthcare town hall meetings and the spring’s tea bag protests normally indicate voters are displeased with the majority party. While there is undoubtedly anger among the voting population, it is not yet solely directed at Pres. Obama and the Democrats as it was in 1994 when the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House and Senate. Therefore these protests do not appear to be building a wave of revolt that will crest on Election Day 2010 and deposit GOP victories on the shore.

Of the toss-up races, one currently favors the GOP (NY-23) and the rest lean Democratic. Of those that lean Democratic they are all, but one, occupied by Democratic lawmakers. The exception is IL-10 which is represented by Rep. Mark Kirk who is running for the U.S. Senate to replace the stain of Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL).

So while Gov. Pawlenty is plenty excited about the future; a review of real GOP electoral prospects reveals dimness for the GOP that should make Republican lawmakers, consultants and activists take notice of the one important thing Pawlenty said at the GOPAC event. In other words, the GOP cannot redouble its efforts towards electoral pick-ups until it remembers its aim. Unfortunately for the GOP it is the gang that can’t shoot straight.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Presidential Moneyline

Red Elephant believes that the Republican Party needs to play small ball and rebuild the party from the bottom up. However, presidential elections wait for nobody and the GOP will put forward a nominee in 2012. Red Elephant believes it should be a person who represents the platform issues that will make the GOP relevant again. That said, the Republican Party bench is bare, but here are some potential players to watch and Red Elephant’s odds on the contest.*

NEW Rick Santorum
-5000 or 50/1
Former GOP Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) heads to Iowa to get some attention. This heralds that some in the GOP still favor troglodyte policies like intelligent design, combating "man-on-dog sex" and Terri Schiavo-like intervention in state issues when there’s a media gaggle to be had. Santorum will be able to find eager supporters in America’s Heartland, but is a low tier candidate.

*Calculated from electoral performance, survey data, media savvy and fundraising potential.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two GOP Senators Stand Up & Stand Out

In the last day two Republican U.S. Senators, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Isakson (R-GA) have voiced their offense at Sarah Palin's claim of death panels in the healthcare legislation, labeling it "nuts." This is good news toward identifying the Republican Party as mainstream and not beholden to the troglodyte right.

Sen. Murkowski is decidedly more centrist than Sen. Isakson. Their ratings by conservative interest groups are somewhat instructive in identifying them on the ideological spectrum:

National Rifle Association: Murkowski A; Isakson A
National Taxpayers Union: Murkowski C; Isakson B+
National Right To Life: Murkowski 50%; Isakson 100%
Citizens Against Gov't Waste: Murkowski 50%; Isakson 87%

To the point, two Republicans positioned differently on the ideological spectrum take offense at Palin's nonsense about death penalties - and that's a good sign for the future of the GOP.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Palin's Death Panel is GOP Assisted Suicide

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, recently claimed that the health care reform legislation on Capitol Hill features death panels. Palin asserts that there will be death panels made up of federal bureaucrats that will assess patients’ “level of productivity in society” in order to decide if they are worthy of healthcare. This is of course nonsense. But the stupidity of it is that no Republican has seized the opportunity to scold Palin for making such ridiculous claims.

The advantage for any noteworthy Republican to call Palin on her nonsense is to demonstrate in the context of the healthcare debate that the GOP is not a band of kooks. In other words, it is a Sister Souljah moment that has yet to attract a courageous Republican lawmaker. By repudiating Palin’s claims the GOP would signal to centrist voters that the Republican Party is not beholden to the extremist right. Further, picking a fight with Palin on this is sure to attract media attention and give that brave Republican an opportunity to command the spotlight for the purpose of highlighting valid Republican objections to the healthcare reform legislation.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) have acknowledged that there are no death panels, but that is different from discounting Palin as being nuts. It is not enough to say she is wrong, it needs to be said that she is a rogue seeking attention and does not speak for the GOP.

The ideal group of GOPers to call out Palin’s lunacy is the Tuesday Group, a collection of moderate Republicans in the U.S. House. Within this group are a number of extremely intelligent and capable legislators. Among them is Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO). Thoughtful and experienced, she has represented Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District since 1996, meaning she is a proven entity and not am aberrant political personality like Palin. Rep. Emerson’s House tenure makes her safe at home, providing the political capital to rise to a Palin confrontation.

Another House Republican who would do well in challenging Palin is Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Rep. Lance has offered a healthcare reform proposal that is thoughtful although not encompassing (as it lacks budget specifics). As a long time state lawmaker, Lance has the intellect and legislative acumen to challenge Palin in a manner that would raise his political profile and help him in his re-election efforts as he seeks a second term in 2010.

For Republicans to let Palin run free on her death panel foolishness is to allow the GOP to continue to be defined by its worst messenger. Palin has proven herself to be wacky, strange and egocentric. Yet, she proliferates the media like a virus. In so doing she defines the Republican Party by her conduct and opinions, a definition that will harm GOP chances at the polls in future elections.

Palin does not have the mental tools to be constructively commentating on healthcare reform, much less be the face of Republican opposition. The fact that she is getting headlines for making outrageous claims about healthcare reform should worry every Republican dedicated to making the GOP relevant again. There is a rare opportunity here, if only one daring Republican would take the charge and repudiate Palin’s credibility.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Reagan Did Not Win By Conjuring Eisenhower

Newt Gingrich is active with a live-to-automated survey promoting his Ronald Reagan documentary and his affiliation with the Presidential Coalition. Live-to-automated means a call to a household is made by a teleservice sales representative (TSR) who prompts an automated message which is followed by another TSR who asks the respondent questions.

In this instance Newt’s message cites Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign theme about change, then assesses Carter’s record of being one of unemployment, inflation and deficits. This is then compared to President Obama’s campaign change theme and draws the conclusion that the same variety of unemployment, inflation and deficit spending is to result. Newt then categorizes Obama's agenda as socialism and asserts that a return to low taxes, smaller government and belief in people is needed now as it was when Reagan ran for president in 1980.

Newt then promotes his recent Reagan documentary, citing that his wife Calista collaborated on the project. The call climaxes with a TSR asking if the respondent believes America needs a return to Ronald Reagan-like policies and themes.

Unemployment is currently at roughly ten percent and likely to go higher. Inflation is currently low now with a probability to increase going into 2010. Debt and deficit spending of the Obama Administration speaks for itself and is getting to staggering and worrying proportions. All this is true. However, the morale of the American people does not seem to equate with 1980 – but it is worth mentioning that a recent survey found 60% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

Harkening back to Reagan is not a message that will make the GOP or any particular candidate relevant. Reagan was a great president, no doubt, but that was a different era. Red Elephant has said previously that Gingrich has tremendous intellect and problem-solving creativity as an out-of-the-box thinker. It does remains that Gingrich is also of a different era and not the future of the Republican Party.

Reagan did not get elected president by citing a return to Eisenhower, and the GOP won’t attract any interest by evoking Reagan now. Cherishing the memory of Reagan is all well and good, but does nothing to construct a relevant future for the GOP. Some voters may get a warm and fuzzy remembering Reagan, but it won’t make them forget that they disapprove of Republicans in Congress by a favorable to unfavorable ratio of 1:2. Republicans would do better to stop reminiscing about the past and instead get in the trenches and demonstrate their relevancy through thoughtful policy initiatives and opposition to the Administration and Democrats on the Hill.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gathering Steam

It is a welcomed thing to see more voices being added to RE's objective, as E.J. Dionne, Jr. did in yesterday's Washington Post.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Democrats Morph Into Bush In '09 Elections

Two weeks ago Red Elephant brought up the prospect of Democrats reviving George W. Bush as a campaign theme in New Jersey’s gubernatorial campaign. At the time RE asserted such a theme was a dead end for Democrats. Today, the Washington Post reports that Democrats in Virginia are now doing the same thing. This is good news for Republicans. It means Democrats in both states are afraid of losing and hope invoking Bush will scare voters to cast a ballot for the Democratic candidates.

Bush’s political cadaver was interred in November 2008, and the headstone put firmly in placed on January 20, 2009. Blaming him for New Jersey’s and Virginia’s economic problems after the catharsis of the 2008 presidential election is impractical. This is like blaming the old dog for smelling-up the house a year after it was sent to a "ranch in the country." Clearly Democrats are looking to revive the change theme that the Obama campaign was able to leverage for victory in 2008. That was a different time and a different contest.

Attacking Bush gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House while he was the 43rd President. Now that he’s back in Texas and no longer has his hand on the ship of state’s tiller he is not salient to this campaign election cycle. Obama was a change agent. That change was exacted. Now Obama is the status quo, as is the Democratic Party.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D) has been attempting to revive Bush in that contest this year, with no luck. Voters in that state and in Virginia want to talk about now, not last year. To make Bush a center-theme to their campaigns in those states says that they don’t have much with which to challenge their Republican opponents. Ironically, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates there, particularly Corzine, find themselves playing the role of George Bush rather than Barack Obama this year. Corzine is the incumbent presiding over a faltering economy and thus more Bush than Obama. Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee R. Creigh Deeds is more John McCain than he is Obama as he is following a Democratic predecessor, Gov. Tim Kaine who had an economic meltdown on his watch.

With only ten percent of New Jersey voters saying Corzine attacks on his opponent Chris Christie (R-NJ) are fair, it is clear that dog won’t hunt. Virginia voters likely feel the same. In Virginia the Republican candidate for governor, Bob McDonnell leads Deeds 55% to 40% in a recent survey, indicating that Gov. Kaine does not have much leverage with voters seeking change – making McDonnell the kind of change agent that Obama was in 2008. A further indication that Kaine is the real Bush-like variable in Virginia right now is that his favorable to unfavorable rating is roughly 1:1.

The fact that Democrats are reaching to bring George Bush into these elections means Republicans should be hopeful about the November elections. While neither Christie nor McDonnell are the brand of Republicans that RE thinks is needed for the GOP, neither are they hyperbolically ideological. That neither GOP candidate features a “Values” plank in their campaign platform, but instead feature platforms that are issue and solution oriented is a sign that some in the GOP realize dictating personal values to the voters is not a recipe for victory – and that is a good thing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

McConnell's Augean Heathcare Diligence

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is to be applauded for his diligence on healthcare reform. Nearly daily Sen. McConnell takes to the Senate floor to lead the Republican opposition to President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation, despite knowing the GOP is just spectating. His Augean tenacity is to be admired and some of the points he makes are valid.

While many of the healthcare reform proposals the GOP has offered are tired, recycled talking points, there remains a speck of potential in them because congressional Democrats are manhandling Pres. Obama’s healthcare reform objective. Herein is where the hope resides for the Republican Party. By handing off the legislative process to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the White House has allowed the Democrat’s progressives to veer hard left. Like Homer Simpson at an all you can eat buffet, these Democrats are loading the American taxpayer’s plate in a way that will choke them off. This could prove to be the GOP’s salvation if they can artfully apply a Heimlich-like maneuver to the garroted taxpayer.

The fact that Pres. Obama campaigned on the danger of special interests, lobbyists in particularly, can quickly become a chink in the President’s popularity armor that congressional Democrats are hoping carries the day. Unaddressed in the healthcare reform debate, particularly now that it is being referred to by the WH as healthcare insurance reform, is lawsuit abuse. The problem for the GOP is that by itself it presents as a drained, catchall GOP legislative solution designed to shrink the campaign contribution pockets of trial lawyers who give heavily to Democrats. Coupled with President Obama’s campaign theme, and the fact that it is unaddressed in the legislation being debated in Congress, the hypocrisy of it can become a potent campaign theme for Republicans in the 2010 elections.

Ask nearly any doctor and they will tell you the malpractice insurance policies they must buy to protect themselves from the probability of a lawsuit makes practicing medicine a financial burden. President Obama recognized this problem in his remarks to the American Medical Association in June, saying “I want to be honest with you. I'm not advocating caps on malpractice awards, which I personally believe can be unfair to people who have been wrongfully harmed. But I personally think we need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patients' safety first, how to let doctors focus on practicing medicine, how to encourage a broader use of evidence-based guidelines.” However, congressional Democrats seem to have ignored the President’s sentiments, potentially to their detriment.

The GOP can get good mileage on this narrow topic if they can repeat the message that there is one special interest group that is off-limits in the healthcare reform debate because of their investment in the Democratic Party. From 2008 to now lawyers and law firms have contributed $195 million to Democratic candidates across the country. Republicans have received $57 million in the same period time from this group. That’s 3 ½ times that the Democrats receive over Republicans.

In 2007 the total cost of medical malpractice torts in the U.S. was $30.4 billion. Granted, some of these awards were surely deserved. However, abuse of medical malpractice torts happens and is a cause for a significant increase in healthcare costs. For Democrats not to address this is suspect given the amount of political contributions they receive from lawyers generally – and contrary to Pres. Obama’s stated intention. Clearly, trial attorneys are intent on protecting their ability to earn a handsome living from medical malpractice torts. After all, beneficiaries don’t kill the golden goose, and so the trial attorney lobby is busy fending off any notion that tort reform should be part of the legislation.

With 81 percent of Americans believing that some form of medical malpractice tort reform is needed (24% somewhat agree, 54% strongly agree) the GOP should continue to mine this predisposition among voters to make the party relevant in the debate, and in turn perhaps relevant at the polls in 2010. But in doing so, the GOP should also formulate a counter proposal replete with costs, as Red Elephant has previously posited. GOP opposition that lacks a plan including a price tag will only result in voters dismissing Republicans as obstructionist whiners.

Monday, July 27, 2009

GOP DOA on Healthcare Reform

Depending on the outcome of the healthcare insurance reform legislation being crafted on Capitol Hill the GOP may yet see a crack in the door on Election Day in 2010 that they will be all too willing to try and pry open. 58 percent of all voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who would be a check on President Obama and congressional Democrats. Notably, Ticket-splitters and Independents are very open to casting their vote this way, 62% and 61% respectively. Some in the GOP advocate letting President Obama and the Democrats get their reform on a party line vote so the GOP can later say they had nothing to do with it – perhaps a viable strategy if the guaranteed outcome is failure. The GOP cheerleading failure, particularly on such an important issue, is no way to become relevant.

In the healthcare insurance reform debate the Republican Party does not have the horses to keep up with President Obama. 61 percent of voters view Obama favorably, with Ticket-splitters and Independents being equally supportive – giving Obama a 2:1 favorable to unfavorable ratio. In this contest, Obama is cruising comfortably ahead in a Bugatti Veyron and the GOP is puttering well behind in a Deux Chevaux.

Absent voters believing Republicans are simply obstructionist on this issue, the issue could have been an ideal platform from which the GOP could have mounted a robust comeback at the polls in 2010. As it stands, 65 percent of voters think the GOP falls into one of three categories o the healthcare reform debate: 1) on the side of insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals; 2) would leave too many Americans without healthcare insurance; and 3) are simply in opposition to any plan offered by Pres. Obama and Democrats in Congress. Watching the GOP in this debate is reminiscent of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom when his character responds to a question about the voltage used in his do-it-yourself electrician project, saying “220, 221, whatever it takes.” The GOP looks a whole lot like a home improvement hobbyist who has no clue and risks electrocuting themselves in the process.

Unfortunately, it is likely the GOP will act the obstructionist part, since voters already expect it from them. On the way to a party-line vote Republicans will criticize: the tax increases to fund the legislation; a government bureaucracy making healthcare decisions for patients (and invoking the IRS and DMV as examples of what a government run program will be like for patients); reckless spending to underwrite the legislation; and the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid to fully fund the Obama healthcare reform package. Red Elephant does not advocate such a GOP posture on this generational legislation because it defines the Republican Party as the party of No and does not help the important task of rebranding the GOP in a way that makes it salient.

Coupled with this obstructionist posture, the GOP will likely advocate their Leisure Suit proposals. There’s a reason why these proposals have been in the back of the closet; they’re dated and hard to take seriously. Policy proposals like the obvious needs to reduce and control individual costs; protect the doctor-patient relationship; preserve and improve quality of choice; and end lawsuit abuse to control healthcare insurance costs are all retreads of past GOP talking points that do not address how to fundamentally reform a broken system.

The GOP’s problem on scaring voters about the cost of the Obama healthcare reform package is that 59% of voters do not believe the legislation will increase the debt because President Obama has promised it will be budget neutral. With only 29% of voters trusting the GOP to fix healthcare, Republicans find themselves suffering from a credibility gap, a result of carrying too much water for the Bush White House way back when.

Taxes used to be the GOP’s wheelhouse and should be an issue where Republicans can contrast themselves with Democrats to begin to redefine the party as fiscally responsible. Again, the GOP's past evangelism of Bush budget policies, President Obama’s credibility with voters and facts will haunt the GOP’s efforts on this bread and butter issue. President Obama has vowed that taxes will be increased only on those earning more than $250,000 annually. That figure represents two percent of all U.S. households. And while 71% of voters oppose raising $600 billion in new taxes to fund the healthcare legislation, that number will change dramatically when 98% of voter households realize they are not in the taxable bracket and won’t see a tax hike.

Unable to contend head-to-head, the GOP has chosen a strategy of delay and fear mongering. As the GOP has not done the hard work of redefining itself, voters will not pay much attention to what Republicans have to say on healthcare insurance reform. Using scare tactics too often in the past has dulled voters’ senses; the GOP is the boy who cried wolf. Rather than finding a way to become relevant, the GOP is banking that this time the wolf really is at the door and that it might be better to let it in to terrorize the household so at least they’ll gain some “told you so” credibility.

The alternative plan offered by Republicans provided for a federal-state healthcare insurance exchange. This plan eliminates tax breaks for employers who provide workers health coverage and gives individuals and families tax cuts to pay for their healthcare insurance while providing for captive insurance entities. This exchange would be governed by a non-profit, independent board to police underwriters to make sure applicants are treated fairly and the rules obeyed (because that approach worked so well on Wall Street?). Such a proposal is dead on arrival since it is offered in the aftermath of the financial crisis that should have been prevented by similar oversight architecture. Further, the GOP plan did not include costs, which is like a parent scolding their child for scoring poorly in algebra when the parent doesn’t know the difference between a variable and a constant.

Rather, the GOP should step up and construct a viable alternative (with costs and funding mechanisms) that addresses how to fund healthcare insurance reform. Frankly, this is an opportunity to play some small ball and build credibility with voters. A reasonably constructed alternative plan would present the GOP as diligent and serious and do far more to position it for gains in the 2010 elections than will dusting off the Leisure Suit and trying to get the prettiest girl at the dance to notice them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Presidential Moneyline

Red Elephant believes that the Republican Party needs to play small ball and rebuild the party from the bottom up. However, presidential elections wait for nobody and the GOP will need to put forward a nominee in 2012. Red Elephant believes it should be a person who represents the platform issues that will make the GOP relevant again. That said, the Republican Party bench is bare, but here are some potential players to watch and Red Elephant’s odds on the primary contest. Red Elephant has added President Obama for measurement.*

Obama -300 or 1/3
A hint of flagging popularity starting in Ohio. All hands on deck to get healthcare reform makes passage critical for his POTUS future. An encompassing legislative agenda could give him the best outcome of all; a GOP majority in the House – doubtful given the disarray of the GOP.

NEW John Thune
+3000 or 30/1
The capable Senator from South Dakota exhibited the kind of crusade talk in a Christianity Today interview in 2005 that makes him seem a little kooky.

NEW Condoleeze Rice
+6000 or 60/1
Not sure even Republican primary voters will tolerate her tanks in their streets brand of foreign policy if she decides to make a go of it.

NEW Rick Perry
+3000 or 30/1
A solid record as Texas Governor – hmmm, heard that before – makes him viable. Succession nonsense did not help constructively define him to American voters.

NEW Mitch Daniels
+2500 or 25/1
Budget acumen in Bush’s OMB and as a governor gives him a robust reputation for fiscal responsibility.

NEW Linda Lingle
+5000 or 50/1
An interesting longshot given her locale and moderate GOP politics. Her record of turning budget deficits into surpluses and underdog victory at the polls in 2002 makes her appealing to Red Elephant.

NEW Alan Keyes
+7000 or 70/1
Why not, he tried to beat Obama in Illinois and probably needs the matching funds to keep him clothed, fed and sheltered.

+600 or 6/1
A recent Rasmussen survey giving him a favorable to unfavorable rating of 34:37 drop his odds, for now. RE still convinced Iowans and Granite Staters will come to see him as the future.


+1200 or 12/1
With a favorable to unfavorable rating of 73:19 plus his bank account and his odds improve. Uncomfortable bigoted questions about underwear still loom.


+2000 or 20/1
A sunny, healthy, youthful disposition makes him appealing, but untested nationally and shares a fundraising base with the Bush family. What isn’t known about him…yet?


+2500 or 25/1
Rasmussen survey reveals a weak 38:33 favorable to unfavorable rating among GOPers and hurt his moneyline.


+800 or 8/1
She may become the cult of personality she desperately desires, but odds dropping like a kisaut. How long until the SARAH! pilot?


+1400 or 14/1
Keeping up the Daily Show dialogue with Jon Stewart could make him chic outside of the base. Fox helps keep him in the conversation.


+1500 or 15/1
A brilliant but wandering mind. Lots of base appeal but smacks of GOP values hypocrisy and has the feel of an outdated calendar.

Jeb Bush

+160 or 8/5
No GOP bench gives him a huge advantage – despite the last name. As Eddie Murphy said in The Distinguished Gentleman, “Go with the name you know.”

NEW Jindal

+2200 or 30/1
Where is he on healthcare? He's got the credibiity to make a play for himself on this issue.


+2500 or 25/1
The country has probably had enough of the TX cheerleader type to make her a serious candidate, but she stands out as the only woman being mentioned.


+20,000 or 200/1
Too bad he’s “Jewish” and an “Independent” from New York City. Not sure which is more damning in a GOP primary.


+2000 or 20/1
Sterling credentials and temperament if he’d sacrifice himself in service to his country one more time. The GOP would have to substantially change for him to run.


+4000 or 40/1
2016 seems more likely if he wins the gubernatorial contest in OH in ’10.

*Calculated from electoral performance, survey data, media savvy and fundraising potential.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Jersey Could Go Red in '09

The Republican Party’s path to relevancy begins in New Jersey’s and Virginia’s gubernatorial and legislative elections this year. As noted in an earlier post, the best man for the job of helming the national GOP effort in these contests is Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Both states deserve a look, and this post will inspect Republican chances in New Jersey in the gubernatorial and Assembly elections in the fall.

The Republican candidate for governor in New Jersey is Chris Christie. His opponent is Democratic incumbent Gov. John Corzine. Christie is in play because Corzine’s record as governor is dismal. However, Christie has some faults, thin-skin among them that Corzine must manipulate if he is to win. As it stands today, Christie is the likely winner on Election Day.

Corzine is not beloved by NJ voters by a long shot. His self-stated major achievement is death penalty reform, not ideal in times of economic anxiety. Further, Corzine’s Wall Street guru status is more harmful than helpful in these days of Wall Street demonization amid the financial crisis. Corzine’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is roughly 1:1.5 – meaning more likely voters dislike him than like him. More ominous for Corzine is that polling shows he is losing Unaffiliated (registered voters not affiliated with any political party) voters by 23 percent – devastating in a state where Unaffiliated voters make up 47 percent of the electorate (33% of voters are Democrats and 20% are Republicans in NJ).

With no sturdy record to rely upon, it appears Corzine has few viable options to craft a winning strategy. Among those options are tying himself closely to President Obama’s legislative successes and destroying Christie by defining him as the typical pay-to-play, corrupt politician. The idea that Pres. Obama’s personal popularity in the state can transfer to Corzine is misguided. Pres. Obama can make as many trips to NJ as Corzine requests, but without legislative success for the White House and a brightening of the economy in NJ, one man’s popularity will not revive Corzine’s sinking prospects. Corzine’s best option is to bludgeon Christie to incite an emotional response that reveals any character flaws.

Corzine is vulnerable on core issues such as budget, the economy, and taxes. These have been NJ Republican bread and butter issues in the past and Corzine’s record could return a Republican to Drumthwacket (the governor’s mansion).

Corzine’s biggest asset is his assets, with the assumption that he will spend $30 million of his own wealth to win this contest. Even in a media market as expensive as New York City and Pennsylvania, this is a lot of money that can be used to effectively define an opponent. Corzine’s campaign will have to be careful how it goes about defining Christie as his unfavorable rating is already very high and risks getting worse by attacking Christie without much to say about Corzine’s positive attributes as governor.

As to Christie, he has run an admirable campaign, but is not over the finish line yet. Christie is notoriously thin-skinned. On the other hand he has a very strong record of prosecuting pay-to-play, corrupt politicians; Republicans and Democrats alike (130 government officials with no acquittals). There are three areas where Christie is vulnerable to Corzine attacks. They are:

1) The deferred prosecution of his brother in a securities fraud case (Christie’s brother Todd is the Christie campaign’s finance chairman), meaning Corzine has to convince voters of the allegation Christie pulled strings to save his brother’s hide;

2) Awarding no bid contracts to consulting and law firms (his former boss, US Attorney John Ashcroft among them) to monitor companies settling fraud cases and then raising funds for his campaign from those same firms; and

3) Appearing to lie when asked if attorney John Inglesino raised money for Christie after Christie announced he would not raise gubernatorial campaign funds from any entity awarded no bid contracts while he was a U.S. Attorney (Inglesino worked at the law firm Stern & Kilcullen that was picked by then U.S. Attorney Christie to settle fraud claims at NJ’s medical school).

The last of these three is the most potent because Christie was caught on tape denying Inglesino raised funds for his campaign despite evidence to the contrary that Inglesino hosted a fundraiser and solicited donations. Corzine’s $30 million could put a dent in Christie’s hopes of victory by driving a message that defines Christie as a typical pay-to-play, corrupt politician. Christie will combat this with his unapproachable record as a corruption-busting U.S. Attorney and the fact that the monitoring contracts went to qualified firms to oversee corporate settlements, not taxpayer funds.

The message that is clearly not working for Corzine is trying to tie George W. Bush to Christie. Most noteworthy is that Christie was on the list of U.S. attorneys to be replaced by the Bush Department of Justice, making any reference to George W. Bush in this campaign wishful and stubborn thinking by Democrats that Bush is somehow a salient campaign theme moving forward.

There are enough Christie molehills for Corzine to construct a mountain. However, it will be up to Christie to make a mistake, which is possible given his thin-skin, to give Corzine the victory.

Christie is not exactly the brand of Republicanism that is required for the GOP to become relevant, but he is neither a right wing ideologue. Abiding by the tenet that the GOP needs to practice addition and not subtraction, Christie is acceptable. Christie’s emphasis on fiscal restraint, treating sustainable energy as an industry, urban revitalization and tax reform along with his choice of a moderate, pro-choice running mate (Kim Guadagno) and his support of Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court (demonstrating Christie’s common sense) are all steps toward defining the GOP brand as fiscally responsible and socially tolerant.

Also in play is the NJ State Assembly. In NJ there are two Assembly-people in each Legislative District. There was a scenario for the GOP to regain control of the chamber, needing eight seats for control, but no longer due to the Republican candidate recruitment stars not aligning. The Legislative Districts to watch if you are a Republicans are LD 1, 3, 14, and 36. LD 36 is an unlikely GOP pick-up as it features heavily minority (largely Hispanic) Passaic which will likely turn-out large numbers for the Democrats (this is where the Judge Sonia Sotomayor nomination/confirmation can help Democrats with turnout). LD 3 is a one seat strategy for the Republicans as the other GOP candidate there is referred to as the “KKK Guy,” NJ’s own David Duke without much chance of winning - thankfully.

If you are a Democrat, then LDs 2, 8, and 12 are on your list to watch. LD 2 is an unlikely pick-up for the Democrats because the western part of the district is more Alabama than NJ. The Democrats have zero chance of winning Burlington County’s LD 8. LD 12, which Obama won in ’08, features two moderate Republican freshmen and the best time to beat an incumbent is during the first term.

Now you know nearly as much as the personnel at the Republican Governors Association who will report the same to Gov. Barbour so he may make his own decisions about how to get Chris Christie elected as the 55th governor of New Jersey.