"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
Writings Elsewhere Archives
November 25, 2019
POLITICS/HISTORY: Our Two-Party System Isn't Going Anywhere
NRO: Our Two-Party System Isn't Going Anywhere (Book review of Michael Barone's How America's Political Parties Change (and How They Don't).
November 11, 2019
WAR/HISTORY: America's Veterans, Then and Now
October 25, 2019
POLITICS: Did Trump Abuse His Power with Ukraine?
October 22, 2019
HISTORY/POLITICS: Holding Coalitions Together, Today and in 1840s Britain
October 11, 2019
POLITICS/HISTORY: You Can't Ignore Politics in Impeachment
August 26, 2019
POLITICS/HISTORY: A Squeaker in 2020? Not Likely
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | History | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 2, 2019
POLITICS: Mitch McConnell Didn't Stop Obama from Doing Anything about Russia in 2016
June 28, 2019
POLITICS: How Much Does Gerrymandering Really Matter?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:36 PM | Politics 2019 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
June 19, 2019
POLITICS: Joe Biden's Segregationist Problem
June 7, 2019
LAW/HISTORY/POLITICS: The Court-Packing Peril
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:48 AM | History | In Print | Law 2019 | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Writings Elsewhere
June 6, 2019
LAW/HISTORY/POLITICS: Raider of the Lost Constitution
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 AM | History | In Print | Law 2019 | Politics 2019 | Writings Elsewhere
May 1, 2019
POLITICS: The Differences between Joe Biden and Jeb Bush
April 24, 2019
BLOG: Join the NRPlus Community
NRO: Join the NRPlus Community (my ad for NRO's subscription service)
April 15, 2019
BASEBALL: Baseball Can and Should End Service-Time Manipulation
April 5, 2019
POLITICS/HISTORY: What the Electoral College Saves Us From
Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:53 PM | History | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Writings Elsewhere
March 21, 2019
BASEBALL: Tom Seaver: The Perfectly Balanced Pitcher
NR, in the magazine's April 8 issue: Tom Seaver: The Perfectly Balanced Pitcher
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | Baseball 2012-Present | Baseball Columns | In Print | Writings Elsewhere
March 14, 2019
POLITICS: Five Lanes in the 2020 Democratic Field
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:44 PM | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 28, 2019
POLITICS/HISTORY: How Often Is One State Decisive in the Electoral College?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | History | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 26, 2019
HISTORY: Rethinking President Grant (Part Two)
February 18, 2019
HISTORY: Rethinking President Grant (Part One)
February 11, 2019
POLITICS: Why It Matters If Amy Klobuchar Is An Abusive Boss
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:56 PM | Law 2019 | Politics 2019 | Politics 2020 | Writings Elsewhere
February 8, 2019
BASEBALL: Frank Robinson, R.I.P.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | Baseball 2012-Present | Baseball Columns | Writings Elsewhere
February 5, 2019
POLITICS: The Federal Diner: The Case Against a National Minimum Wage
January 21, 2019
POLITICS: Why We Panic about Immigration
January 18, 2019
POLITICS: Would It Make Sense For Larry Hogan to Primary Trump?
January 4, 2019
POLITICS: Why Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Get So Much Attention From The Right?
January 2, 2019
POLITICS: Boycotts Are Not the Free Market
December 21, 2018
POLITICS: Whom Do You Want on Your Side When Trump Is Gone?
December 18, 2018
POLITICS: How the Polls Broke at the End
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
November 23, 2018
POLITICS: History Doesn't Favor Republicans Recovering the House under Trump
November 7, 2018
POLITICS: 2018: Normalcy's Revenge
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:28 PM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
November 6, 2018
POLITICS: Breaking Down the Polls at the End
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
October 31, 2018
POLITICS: How Are the Senate Races Breaking Now?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
October 19, 2018
POLITICS: How Will the Governors' Races Break?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:51 PM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
October 16, 2018
POLITICS: How Will the Senate Races Break?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | Politics 2018 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
September 26, 2018
HISTORY: America's Biggest Battle, 100 Years On
September 20, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: In Evaluating Credibility, the Signs Point in Brett Kavanaugh's Favor
September 11, 2018
WAR: The Afghanistan War at 17
September 9, 2018
LAW/POLITICS/HISTORY: Constitutional Originalism Requires Birthright Citizenship
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
September 6, 2018
POLITICS: The Bernie Sanders Big Brother Act of 2018
August 29, 2018
POLITICS: In Replacing John McCain, Doug Ducey Should Look to the Future
August 17, 2018
POP CULTURE: Aretha Franklin, an American Original
August 9, 2018
HISTORY: Understanding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 73 Years Later
July 23, 2018
WAR/POLITICS: Trump Goes Nuclear again on Twitter, but Who Believes Him Now?
July 21, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Democratic Desperation on Kavanaugh is Showing
July 13, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Judge Kavanaugh on Lying To Federal Agents
July 12, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Judge Kavanaugh on Battered Women
LAW/POLITICS/HISTORY: Revenge for Merrick Garland?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | History | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
July 10, 2018
LAW/POLITICS/HISTORY: Brett Kavanaugh Should Get a Vote Before the Midterm Elections
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
July 3, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Early Thoughts on The Supreme Court and the Midterms
June 26, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Trump's Revised Travel Ban Survives
June 25, 2018
POLITICS: Don't Throw the Republicans Out: A Response to George Will
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Businesses Still Don't Know The Rules For Moral Judgment
June 21, 2018
POLITICS: The Quiet Republican Check on Trump
June 18, 2018
RELIGION/POLITICS: Romans 13 and the Thorny Moral Questions Posed by Illegal Immigration
June 15, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: The FBI Inspector General Report Directly Criticized President Obama
June 11, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: The Supreme Court's Narrow Decision on Purging Voter Rolls
June 4, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Is a Win for Religious Freedom, But . . .
June 3, 2018
BLOG: Reunions and the Power of Nostalgia
May 30, 2018
POLITICS: The Missouri GOP Just Held One of Its Own Accountable
May 25, 2018
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: The NFL's Anthem-Protest Rule Is Not a Threat to Free Speech
May 23, 2018
POLITICS: The Scarlet Letter Is Back. It Never Really Went Away.
May 22, 2018
POLITICS: How Many Murders Is a National Crisis?
May 21, 2018
POLITICS/RELIGION/HISTORY: The Christian America Paradox
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 AM | History | Politics 2018 | Religion | Writings Elsewhere
May 19, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Jeff Sessions Is Doing More Than Thoughts and Prayers
May 16, 2018
WAR: The Unfixable Tragedy of Gaza
May 15, 2018
POLITICS: Kirsten Gillibrand's Empty Gender Rhetoric
May 11, 2018
BASEBALL: The Misery of the Mets fan
NY POST: The misery of the Mets fan (in this morning's paper)
May 7, 2018
POLITICS: Eric Schneiderman Goes Down
POLITICS: Ronan Farrow's Moment
May 5, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: Repeal The Logan Act
NRO: Repeal The Logan Act
April 27, 2018
POLITICS: The End of an Era at RedState
April 23, 2018
POLITICS: Maybe the British Royal Family Isn't So Silly After All
April 18, 2018
POLITICS: RIP Barbara Bush, 1925-2018
April 13, 2018
WAR/POLITICS: Donald Trump At War: A Conventional American Response to Syria
April 11, 2018
POLITICS: Paul Ryan's Missed Opportunities on Spending
April 10, 2018
POLITICS: Why Failed National Political Candidates Should Go Home
April 5, 2018
POLITICS: How Never Trump Can Avoid Delusion
April 3, 2018
POLITICS: Realism, Not Delusion, about Trump and the Conservative Movement
April 2, 2018
POLITICS: There's No Ban on Studying Gun Violence
March 28, 2018
LAW/POLITICS: The Supreme Court Proves It Didn't Mean What It Said in King v. Burwell
March 21, 2018
POLITICS: How a Pro-Life Democrat Drew an Illinois Nazi as His Opponent
March 12, 2018
POP CULTURE/WAR: Wakanda Has the Right's Foreign-Policy Debate
March 1, 2018
POLITICS: Let's Have Some Common Sense on Arming Teachers
February 26, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: A More Modest Proposal on Young Men and Guns
February 19, 2018
POLITICS: Let the Kids Talk - but That's Not the End of Any Debate
February 15, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Every solution to mass shootings inevitably involves a serious trade-off
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 AM | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
February 13, 2018
POLITICS: Hypocrisy Is Better Than Its Opposite
February 7, 2018
POLITICS: Treason, Trump, and the Democrats
February 5, 2018
POLITICS: Is Trump Serious About "Treasonous" Democrats?
February 3, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: How Congress Can Protect the Mueller Investigation from Trump
February 2, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Quick Thoughts on The Nunes Memo
February 1, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Chaiters Gonna Chait
NRO: Chaiters Gonna Chait
January 31, 2018
POLITICS: Trey Gowdy Is Retiring. What Does It Mean? Six Takeaways.
POLITICS: State of The Union: Five Things Trump Should Say Tonight
POLITICS: The State of Our Union Wants To Be Normal
January 30, 2018
POLITICS: Trump's First Year: The Ominous Signs Ahead
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 AM | Politics 2018 | Politics 2020 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 27, 2018
POLITICS: Trump's First Year: The Bad News
January 26, 2018
POLITICS: Trump's First Year: First, the Good News
January 24, 2018
POLITICS: Chuck Schumer Doesn't Want An Immigration Deal
BASEBALL: Baseball's Steroids Problem Is A Barry Bonds Problem
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:44 PM | Baseball 2012-Present | Baseball Columns | Writings Elsewhere
January 22, 2018
POP CULTURE: Monopoly: The All-American Board Game
December 27, 2017
POLITICS/BUSINESS: GOP Business Tax Cuts Force Other Countries to Compete
November 28, 2017
POLITICS: James O'Keefe Shoots at the Washington Post and Misses
November 27, 2017
HISTORY/POLITICS: Save the Crusader
NRO: Save the Crusader
My half-doomed effort to save the Holy Cross College mascot.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 PM | Blog 2006-Present | History | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
November 18, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Roy Moore Is Not the Cure for Judicial Supremacy
November 13, 2017
BASEBALL: Roy Halladay Shows Why Leaders Matter
November 7, 2017
HISTORY/POLITICS: Tim Kaine Is Wrong about America and Slavery
November 2, 2017
WAR: Yes, radical Islamic terrorism is different
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | In Print | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
October 30, 2017
LAW/POLITICS/WAR: Trump Adviser Pleads Guilty to Lying about Seeking Hillary Emails from Russia
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:19 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
LAW/POLITICS: What The Paul Manafort Indictment Means
October 17, 2017
WAR/POLITICS/LAW: New Russian Nuclear Scandal Raises New Questions About Clinton Foundation
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:13 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
October 16, 2017
POLITICS: How Not to Marginalize the Alt-Right
October 11, 2017
POLITICS/FOOTBALL/HISTORY: Flag Protests and the Power of Symbols
October 8, 2017
POLITICS: Harvey Weinstein and The Wages of The "Nuts and Sluts" Defense
October 6, 2017
POLITICS: The Bump Stock Debate Illustrates Two Competing Models of Political Strategy
October 3, 2017
POLITICS: Bobby Jindal for HHS
NRO: Bobby Jindal for HHS
September 21, 2017
POLITICS: A Bogus Health-Care Number from the Center for American Progress
September 18, 2017
LAW/POLITICS: Eric Schneiderman Needs to Recuse Himself from Trump Investigations
September 14, 2017
SCIENCE/POLITICS: Hurricane Irma Should Teach Us Caution About Predictions
September 4, 2017
POLITICS: Republicans Should Kill This Bad Tax Reform Idea
September 1, 2017
POLITICS: Do Liberal Writers Really Believe In An Obligation To Oppose Everything Trump Does?
August 31, 2017
POLITICS: Editors Podcast on Hurricane Harvey
NRO: The Editors Podcast, on Hurricane Harvey and other topics.
August 10, 2017
POLITICS: WaPo and The Hill Publish 'Troll Poll' about Postponing the 2020 Election
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 AM | Politics 2017 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
July 31, 2017
POLITICS: The Pocketbook Party
July 30, 2017
POP CULTURE/HISTORY: Dunkirk Is A Horror Movie
July 28, 2017
POLITICS: How Republicans Went Wrong on Health Care
July 26, 2017
WAR/POLITICS: Military Fitness Is A Military Decision
July 20, 2017
WAR: Anti-Radical Muslims Need to Organize and Draw Lines
Also up at Fox Nation.
July 12, 2017
POLITICS: It's Not Treason, But It's Not Defensible, Either
June 26, 2017
LAW/RELIGION/POLITICS: Religious Liberty, Trump Win Important Victories at the Supreme Court
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:59 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Religion | Writings Elsewhere
June 20, 2017
POLITICS: In a Bad District for Trump, Karen Handel Persisted
POLITICS/HISTORY: We Should Have Heeded This Warning From Ronald Reagan
June 15, 2017
POLITICS: Who's to Blame for Political Violence?
LA Times: Who's to blame for political violence?
My take on the Steve Scalise shooting.
June 14, 2017
LAW/POLITICS: Yes, The Attorney General Can Have Privileged Conversations With The President
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:42 AM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
June 8, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Comey Wasn't Investigating Trump - But Look Who Said He Was
June 7, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Jim Comey Backs Up Trump's Story, But It's Not All Good News for Trump
June 4, 2017
HISTORY/POLITICS: A Myopic View Of Robert E. Lee
June 1, 2017
BASEBALL: Fighting Isn't Bryce Harper's Job
May 31, 2017
POLITICS: Trump's Problem Isn't How He Talks but What He Says
May 30, 2017
POLITICS: "Never Trump," Winning, and the Duty to Argue in Good Faith
May 22, 2017
LAW/POLITICS: Supreme Court Strikes Down Majority-Minority Districts for Being Majority-Minority
POLITICS/LAW: Here's How Congress Can Fix the Way We Investigate Presidents
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
May 16, 2017
LAW/POLITICS: In Hate-Crime Prosecutions, Thoughts Shouldn't Matter
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 AM | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
May 15, 2017
May 11, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Acting FBI Director Shoots Down Media, Trump Narratives
May 10, 2017
POLITICS/LAW/WAR: Republicans Should Want The Russia 2016 Story Out In The Open
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:10 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
April 27, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Will Slow Staffing Cause Trump and Sessions to Side with Obama against the Little Sisters of the Poor?
April 26, 2017
POLITICS/SPORTS: ESPN Layoffs Should Be a Wake-Up Call about Politicizing Sports
April 24, 2017
POLITICS: Democrats to Pro-Lifers: You Are Unwanted and May Be Discarded
April 21, 2017
POLITICS: Repeal and Piecemeal: A Better Obamacare Strategy
April 11, 2017
POLITICS: Sean Spicer Steps in a Hitler Mess
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:48 PM | History | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
April 3, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Gorsuch Opponents Fall Back on the Last Refuge of Scoundrels
March 27, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Chuck Schumer's Made-Up 60-Vote Standard
March 24, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: No, Trump Isn't Under Criminal Investigation by the FBI
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
March 23, 2017
POLITICS: Hate Crimes Hoaxes Strike Again, Anti-Semitic Bomb Threats Edition
POLITICS/LAW: It Doesn't Matter That Garland Didn't Get a Hearing
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
March 20, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: The Garland Precedent Should Not Stop Gorsuch
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:20 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
March 18, 2017
POP CULTURE: RIP Chuck Berry, The Founding Father of Rock
March 14, 2017
POLITICS: Let's Normalize Trump
LA Times: Let's Normalize Trump
March 13, 2017
POLITICS: What The CBO Score Means
March 7, 2017
POLITICS: Republicans Use the Grandfather Option to Fix the Mess Made by Obamacare
March 6, 2017
POLITICS/LAW/HISTORY: Trump and the Emoluments Clause
My latest NR magazine piece: Foreign Entanglements, on Trump and the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | History | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
March 1, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: There's No Republican Crackdown on Peaceful Protests
February 28, 2017
POLITICS: The State of Trump Is a Work in Progress
February 25, 2017
POLITICS: New Democratic Party Chair Thomas Perez Was Cited By Congress For Official Misdonduct
February 24, 2017
POLITICS: How Republicans Should Check Trump
POLITICS: Democratic Senators Chicken Out From Town Halls
February 20, 2017
POLITICS: The Gerrymander Myth
My latest NR magazine piece, on gerrymandering: The Gerrymander Myth.
February 18, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Following Up On The Foreign Emoluments Clause and Gerrymandering
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:42 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
February 16, 2017
POLITICS: What About Whataboutism? Does It Matter If Obama Did It First?
February 9, 2017
POLITICS/LAW/WAR: Why The Ninth Circuit Ruled Against Trump's Refugee Order
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
POLITCS/LAW: The Threat to the Integrity of an Independent Judiciary
February 5, 2017
POLITICS/LAW/WAR: Judge Robart: Not A Republican Judge
At NRO: Judge Robart: Not A Republican Judge.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:23 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS/LAW/WAR: Trump vs Judge Robart: What Happened?
At NRO: Trump vs Judge Robart: What Happened?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:45 AM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
January 28, 2017
POLITICS/LAW: Two Further Thoughts on Trump's Refugee Order
POLITICS/LAW/WAR: Refugee Madness: Trump Is Wrong, But His Liberal Critics Are Crazy
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
January 23, 2017
POLITICS: Do Democrats Really Want Their Own Tea Party? Be Careful What You Wish For
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 PM | Politics 2017 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 21, 2017
POLITICS: Crowd Sizes Matter To The Media Only When The Cause is Liberal
January 20, 2017
POLITICS: Trump: America First
NRO: Trump: America First
POLITICS: Trump Strikes an Anti-Washington Note
January 18, 2017
BASEBALL: Rock The Hall
NRO: Rock The Hall
January 17, 2017
POLITICS: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 4 of 4
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 4 of 4, looking at where Trump underperformed other Republican candidates.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 AM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 16, 2017
POP CULTURE: At The Movies, Technology Isn't Everything
January 12, 2017
POLITICS: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 3 of 4
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 3 of 4, looking at each side's state-by-state turnout as a percentage of the Voting-Eligible Population.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:18 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 11, 2017
POLITICS: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 2 of 4
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 2 of 4, looking at how Trump performed in the battleground states by historical standards for post-incumbent challengers.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 AM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 10, 2017
POLITICS: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 1 of 4
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 1 of 4, looking at how Trump performed nationally by historical standards for post-incumbent challengers.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 AM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
December 21, 2016
POLITICS: Hillary Clinton: President of California
POLITICS: Hillary Clinton: President of California
Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:47 PM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
December 19, 2016
POLITICS: The Media/Liberal Obsession With Conclusions
December 10, 2016
POLITICS/BASEBALL: A Valentine For Japan?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:31 PM | Baseball 2012-Present | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
December 8, 2016
POLITICS: New York's Vote Was A Microcosm of America in 2016
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:43 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
December 3, 2016
POLITICS: The Electoral College Is Not Like Slavery
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:27 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
December 2, 2016
POLITICS: Congress Should Let General Mattis Serve as Secretary of Defense
November 30, 2016
POLITICS: Trump Needs To Take The VA Secretary Job Seriously
November 23, 2016
POLITICS: Mitt Romney, The State Department, and Loyalty
POLITICS: Haley's Comet Streaks Towards Turtle Bay
November 21, 2016
POLITICS: Hillary Voters: The Minority in 37 States
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:28 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
November 16, 2016
POLITICS: Does Donald Trump Have a Mandate?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:47 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
November 10, 2016
POLITICS: My Cousin Donnie
NRO: My Cousin Donnie
November 9, 2016
POLITICS: A Republican Win, Not Just A Trump Win
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:21 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Where Does Never Trump Go in a Trump Presidency?
POLITICS: We're Going to Need Each Other, America
November 8, 2016
POLITICS: How Will The Senate Break?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:08 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: My Final Prediction: Hillary 303, Trump 235
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Democrats Aren't Preparing Their Voters For Hillary To Lose
November 7, 2016
POLITICS: In Defense of Trump Voters
November 5, 2016
POLITICS: Where Trump Stands Right Now
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:04 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
November 3, 2016
POLITICS: Republicans Coming Home in The Campaign's Last Days
BASEBALL: Baseball Goes Deep: Extra Innings, Game Seven
November 2, 2016
HISTORY: History is Forgotten If We Don't Keep It Fresh
LAW/POLITICS: The Latest Partisan Hit Job on Clarence Thomas
October 31, 2016
LAW/POLITICS: Cliven Bundy, Jim Comey, and the Problem of Political Prosecutions
October 28, 2016
POLITICS/LAW: What Is the 'Unrelated Case' That Caused the FBI to Reopen the Hillary Investigation?
(As we learned out shortly after I posted this, it was the latest Anthony Weiner sexting case).
October 19, 2016
POLITICS: Trump Holds the Line
NRO: Trump Holds the Line
POLITICS: Trump Opens As Best He Can
POLITICS: Republican Senators Still Swimming against the Trump Tide - for Now
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:07 AM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
October 18, 2016
HISTORY/POLITICS: The Real Reagan Record on AIDS
October 15, 2016
BASEBALL: The 2016 Cubs: One Of The Best Defensive Teams Since 1900
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 PM | Baseball 2012-Present | Baseball Studies | Writings Elsewhere
October 14, 2016
POLITICS: Trump The Transgressive Candidate
October 13, 2016
POP CULTURE: Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize
October 12, 2016
POLITICS: Thinking About Trump and "Locker Room Talk"
October 10, 2016
POLITICS: The Death of Compartmentalization
POLITICS: Bobby Jindal's Fiscal Record
My latest NR magazine piece, on Bobby Jindal's fiscal record in Louisiana.
October 8, 2016
POLITICS: Trump Is Not Part Of The Right's Tribe
October 7, 2016
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Oh, NOW David Letterman Thinks Trump Should Be Shunned
October 4, 2016
POLITICS: Pence Beats Kaine, Kaine Beats Trump
POLITICS: Tim Kaine, Pro-Abortion Catholic
POLITICS: The Too-Happy Warrior
POLITICS: Pence's and Kaine's Briar Patches
POLITICS: Kaine The Interruptor
September 30, 2016
POLITICS: Democrats Get Trump Envy
September 27, 2016
POLITICS: We Got The Debate We Deserved Tonight
POLITICS: Trump's taxes
NRO: Trump's taxes
POLITICS: Hillary is worried about her base
September 26, 2016
POLITICS: Watch The Dogs That Don't Bark Tonight
POLITICS: The Not-Hillary Campaign
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:06 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
September 22, 2016
POLITICS: Hillary's Accomplishments Are Her Problem
POLITICS: Overthinking Why Young Voters Don't Love Hillary
September 21, 2016
POLITICS: Polling is Art, Or Craft; It's Not An Exact Science
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:14 AM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
September 20, 2016
WAR: Today in Vox Alumni, Afghanistan Edition
POLITICS: What Would Democrats Do If They Had to Cope with a President Trump?
September 17, 2016
POLITICS: How Trump Compares To Bush, McCain and Romney at this Stage
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:48 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
September 14, 2016
POLITICS: Good Polling News for Republicans, Even Trump
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:59 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Re: A Hillary Experiment
NRO: Re: A Hillary Experiment (Why Hillary took most of August off the trail).
September 11, 2016
WAR: Where I Was on September 11
NRO: Where I Was on September 11 (2016 reprint)
September 9, 2016
POLITICS: Peter Beinart Can't Imagine Any Reason But Sexism For Disliking Hillary Clinton
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Rooting for Reyes
NRO: Rooting for Reyes
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:33 AM | Baseball 2012-Present | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
September 4, 2016
HISTORY: Reagan On The Auction Block
September 1, 2016
POLITICS/LAW: Today in Vox
NRO: Today in Vox
August 31, 2016
POLITICS: Trumpism's Bad Night By The Numbers
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:20 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 30, 2016
POP CULTURE: Fifty Years Ago Today: The Last Beatles Concert
August 24, 2016
POLITICS: Re: Amnesty Is Not the 'Core Dilemma' in Immigration Policy
August 11, 2016
POLITICS: Trump-strapping: Liberal Pundits Use Trump to Win Old Arguments
August 10, 2016
POLITICS: Paul Ryan Wins Big Time
August 5, 2016
POLITICS: How to Tell If the GOP Has Become a Trump Party
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:10 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 4, 2016
POLITICS: Pew: The Voters Lose Faith In The Voters
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 1, 2016
POLITICS/WAR: Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy Failures
Most of my NRO content can be found now on my NR author page, although I probably should update the links here more often anyway.
My first article in the magazine (subscription-only, and those aren't linked in the author archive): Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy Failures
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:33 PM | In Print | Politics 2016 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
July 27, 2016
POLITICS: Hillary Clinton Just Threw Donald Trump Into The Briar Patch
July 26, 2016
LAW/POLITICS: Court Blocks Terry McAuliffe on Felon Voting, but He Won't Give Up
POLITICS: Prosecuting Journalism Is Worse Than Chanting "Lock Her Up"
July 22, 2016
July 19, 2016
POLITICS: How the White House Correspondents' Dinner Gave Us the Trump Campaign
July 18, 2016
POLITICS: How Republican Campaign Consultants Have Failed the Party
POLITICS: The New Yorker Talks to Trump's Ghostwriter
July 15, 2016
POLITICS: Mike Pence Changes A Lot In Indiana, But Nothing Nationally
July 14, 2016
POLITICS: Should The GOP Adopt A No More Trumps Rule For 2020?
July 8, 2016
POLITICS: A Few Thoughts on an Hour of Peril
July 5, 2016
POLITICS/WAR: What Edward Snowden and Hillary Clinton Have in Common
July 4, 2016
HISTORY/POLITICS: The Declaration of Independence: A Demand for Accountability
July 3, 2016
POLITICS/LAW: Why Did Hillary Clinton Spend Three and a Half Hours This Morning With The FBI?
July 1, 2016
WAR: Obama's Holiday Weekend Civilian Drone Death News Dump
June 29, 2016
POLITICS: In Harlem, Democrats Trade Race Cards and Voter Suppression Charges
June 28, 2016
POLITICS: No, This Is Not How We Got Trump
June 27, 2016
POLITICS: The Crazy People Have Taken Charge of the Democratic Party
POLITICS: Donald Trump's One-Day Fundraising Haul Is Probably Bogus
POLITICS/LAW: 'Borking' Shows Why Senators Matter
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
June 24, 2016
WAR/POLITICS: What If The Orlando Shooter Wasn't Gay After All?
June 23, 2016
POLITICS: Has Britain Declared Independence?
June 22, 2016
POLITICS: Patrick Murphy Is a Fraud
June 21, 2016
LAW/POLITICS: Is There Anything to a Lawsuit Accusing Donald Trump of Raping a 13-Year-Old Girl with Bill Clinton's Billionaire Sex Buddy?
RELIGION/LAW/POLITICS: The New York Daily News Smears Catholic Bishop with a Bogus Bribe Charge
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2016 | Religion | Writings Elsewhere
June 15, 2016
BASEBALL: Ichiro Suzuki: A Hit King, But Not The Hit King
POLITICS/HISTORY: Re-Imagining Russell Kirk
LAW/POLITICS: Six Thoughts on Free Speech and the Bankruptcy of Gawker
POLITICS: How Bad Are Trump's National Polls? Some History.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:56 AM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
June 14, 2016
WAR/RELIGION: There Is No Radical Christianity That Compares to Radical Islam
June 10, 2016
POLITICS: Donald Trump Is Down 46-35 To Hillary Clinton In His Favorite Poll
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:59 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Could The GOP Convention Dump Trump for Scott Walker?
June 9, 2016
POLITICS/LAW: With Obama's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton, He Should Appoint a Special Prosecutor
June 8, 2016
POLITICS/HISTORY: A Few More Words About Zachary Taylor and Donald Trump
POLITICS: Yes, Hillary Clinton's $12,000 Jacket Makes Her a Hypocrite about Income Inequality
POLITICS: With a Little Effort, Donald Trump Could Have Appealed to Conservatives
June 7, 2016
POLITICS: A Farewell To RedState
June 4, 2016
HISTORY/POLITICS: Politico Sells Zachary Taylor Short
June 2, 2016
POLITICS: We Get the Candidates Our Undignified Media Deserve
POLITICS/HISTORY: No, Ronald Reagan Didn't Launch His 1980 Campaign in Philadelphia, MS
One of the wearying things about arguing with liberal/progressives is that they never stop trying to rewrite history; a bogus claim that is debunked only stays debunked if you keep at debunking it year after year after year. So it is with the hardy perennial effort to tar the reputation of Ronald Reagan by claiming that his 1980 presidential campaign and subsequent two-term presidency was tainted from the outset by having kicked off his campaign with a speech about "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi - Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel was retailing this one on ABC's Sunday show The Week just two weeks ago, trying to compare Reagan to Donald Trump:
There's all this nostalgia about Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site for where three civil rights workers were killed by white supremacists.
There are many other sources that assert this as fact - see, for example, this Huffington Post column from April by Nicolaus Mills, Professor of American Studies, Sarah Lawrence College:
[I]n going to Patchogue, Long Island this coming Thursday to speak at a controversial Republican fundraiser, Trump is taking a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook. He's following the path that Reagan took in 1980 when he began his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Long Island? Forget it, he's rolling. More examples from one presidential cycle to the next can be found from David Greenberg at Slate, William Raspberry in the Washington Post, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert in the New York Times, and so on. Wikipedia even has a page for "Reagan's Neshoba County Fair "states' rights" speech".
Where to begin? This particular canard has so many things wrong with it, I feel obligated to set them all down in sequence. Hopefully, doing so here should - at least for a little while - collect the context in one place.
Read More »
1. Reagan did not kick off his 1980 campaign in Mississippi. Unlike today, candidates in Reagan's time tended to jump into the presidential race with a formal announcement of their candidacy. Reagan, befitting his skill with television, made his formal announcement with a tape recorded 24-minute speech from a study in New York City on November 13, 1979:
The speech touched on a number of Reagan's campaign themes, ranging from taxes to gas lines to spiritual revival to calls for an early form of NAFTA, and included a passage that would become a regular Reagan staple, discussing the excesses of federal bureaucracy and the need to send more power back to the states:
We must put an end to the arrogance of a federal establishment which accepts no blame for our condition, cannot be relied upon to give us a fair estimate of our situation and utterly refuses to live within its means. I will not accept the supposed "wisdom" which has it that the federal bureaucracy has become so powerful that it can no longer be changed or controlled by any administration. As President I would use every power at my command to make the federal establishment respond to the will and the collective wishes of the people.
Reagan's speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi would not come for another nine months, long into the campaign and well after Reagan had secured the GOP nomination.
2. The speech was not in Philadelphia. Contrary to the mythology that liberals have built around the speech, it was not "the site for where three civil rights workers were killed by white supremacists" in 1964, but at a county fair some 7 miles away. The Neshoba County Fair was not some kind of crypto-Klan event commemorating the murders; in 1980 it was celebrating its 89th year, drew tens of thousands of people annually, and was a sufficiently large popular event that it was profiled in a National Geographic article in June 1980, which is where Reagan's staff got the idea to have him speak there:
Team Reagan found this particular event attractive after reading a June 1980 National Geographic magazine article titled "Mississippi's Grand Reunion at the Neshoba County Fair."
It seems unlikely that the National Geographic article was part of some sort of conspiracy to deliver racially coded messages through the Reagan campaign. The more logical conclusion is that Reagan's campaign saw an opportunity to reach an enormous crowd (accounts of the event said that Reagan spoke to between 20-30,000 people) in a hotly contested swing state as he moved from the GOP Convention into the fall campaign.
3. Mississippi was a battleground state in 1980. It's easy to forget in today's era of red/blue maps - in which Mississippi is one of the reddest spots on the map - but the state was a potentially key battleground in 1980. A reliable "Solid South" state from 1876-1944 after Reconstruction ended and the Klan conducted, essentially, a terrorist campaign to suppress the Republican Party in the state, it had swung wildly with the racial politics of 1948-72, voting overwhelmingly for the Dixiecrat campaigns of Thurmond in 1948 and Wallace in 1968, the Republican campaigns of Goldwater in 1964 and Nixon in 1972, and solidly for the Democratic campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and breaking in a 3-way race for an uncommitted slate of electors against JFK and Nixon in 1960. But Jimmy Carter, a Georgian, had narrowly brought Mississippi back to the Democratic fold in 1976, beating Ford 49.6% to 47.7%; the state was decided by just 14,000 votes, providing 7 of Carter's 57 electoral vote margin of victory (Ford would have been re-elected with just 25,000 more votes in Mississippi and Ohio).
The state was still heavily Democratic in 1980: Thad Cochran was elected to the Senate in 1978 as the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi since Reconstruction; the Governor's mansion would not be occupied by a Republican until 1992; and entrenched Dixiecrat Senator John Stennis would fend off a challenge from a young Republican named Haley Barbour in 1982.
And Mississippi had proven a tough state for Reagan personally to crack: in 1976, while Reagan swept every Southern state's primary except Florida (which voted before Reagan's first victory, in North Carolina), Mississippi held no popular vote and its delegation went for Ford at the convention, put off in part by Reagan's selection of moderate Richard Schweiker. The loss of Mississippi sealed Reagan's fate at the 1976 convention - but its preference for Ford is consistent with the pro-party-establishment tilt of the state GOP in every presidential season before 2016. Reagan claimed the state uncontested in the 1980 primaries, when it voted after George H.W. Bush had dropped out. It would go on to be a close race that fall, with Reagan beating Carter 49.4 to 48.1, winning the state by a little under 12,000 votes (i.e., around half the size of the crowd Reagan spoke to that day). Although the 1980 election was a 44-state landslide, Mississippi was one of eight states decided by less than 2 points, seven of which went to Reagan - the only closer states were Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama, and it was one of just five states (plus D.C.) where Carter cleared 48% of the vote (the others being Georgia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina).
Meanwhile, President Carter opened his general election campaign in Tuscumbia, Alabama, then the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan (there was a Klan rally the day Carter came to Tuscumbia). Reagan actually got in a lot of trouble for blasting Carter for that choice of location, inaccurately describing Tuscumbia as the location of the Klan's founding, prompting Carter to accuse Reagan of stereotyping white Southerners and the Democratic Governor of Mississippi to predict that Reagan would lose votes in the state because "voters thought it showed a lack of understanding about the South."
In other words, especially with polling being a much less precise art than it is today, it would have been very unusual for Reagan not to visit Mississippi in the fall campaign in 1980. It was a major potential swing state, and the Neshoba County Fair was the year's best opportunity to meet a large crowd. That's why it was a common stop for Mississippi politicians, and why Michael Dukakis went there in 1988; Dukakis managed to mention at his appearance that the Fair was near the birthplace of Oil Can Boyd, but not mention the slain civil rights workers. Liberals who argue today that Reagan should have simply ceded a swing state that Carter was vigorously chasing cannot be serious.
4. Reagan deliberately balanced the one-day Neshoba appearance with a week-long pitch to urban black voters in the North. Much of the "symbolism" invoked by critics of the Neshoba speech is focused on the fact that this was Reagan's first appearance of the general election campaign. As noted above, that's rather artificial: Reagan had been running officially since November and unofficially since 1975, and he formally locked up the nomination when Bush dropped out at the end of May. And while Neshoba was his first stop on the trail after the GOP Convention in Detroit two weeks earlier, the decision to put it first was actually a deliberate choice to not look like Reagan was pandering to racists, because it was immediately followed by a full week dedicated to making a (futile, in retrospect) pitch to black voters:
Reagan strategists decided to spend the week following the 1980 Republican convention courting African-American votes. Reagan delivered a major address at the Urban League, visited Vernon Jordan in the hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds, toured the South Bronx and traveled to Chicago to meet with the editorial boards of Ebony and Jet magazines.
Cannon's report at the time quoted a campaign source making explicit that the order of the appearances was staged so the Neshoba appearance wouldn't send the wrong message:
Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan today used rural Mississippi to launch a three-day swing that reflects the diversity and the difficulties of his approach to the campaign.
"I am committed to the protection of the civil rights of black Americans," Reagan told the Urban League. "That commitment is interwoven into every phase of the programs I will propose."
The Christian Science Monitor noted of the Urban League appearance and its stress on the economy that "Mr. Reagan also seeks to bring back into the Republican Party the black voters who followed Franklin D. Roosevelt into the New Deal in another economic crisis."
A little over a decade removed from the end of the political movement to defend segregation, and in an era when forced busing to integrate schools was still a hot-button issue, it's not at all remarkable that Reagan (or any candidate) would want to present himself as a candidate who could appeal both to white Wallace voters and to black voters in the North. It's silly to look at the careful effort to send that message, with much more of the candidate's time devoted to the latter, and charge Reagan with running a coded segregationist campaign.
5. "States' rights" was not even an applause line in the speech. Aside from arguing with the location and timing of Reagan's speech, critics have lambasted him for using the phrase "states' rights" in the speech, to the point where it is often portrayed as the centerpiece of the speech. As noted above, devolving power from the federal government to the states was a regular theme of Reagan's, and had been addressed in his announcement speech and many addresses since then. And as Reagan biographer Steven Hayward has observed:
[A]s a westerner Reagan had fully associated himself with the "Sagebrush Rebellion," for whom "states' rights" had no racial content, but rather meant wresting control of land from Washington. This was far from an outlandish or minority view. The same day Reagan made his "states' rights" remark in Mississippi, the National Governors Association issued what the Associated Press described as "a militant call for reduced federal involvement in state and local affairs." Arizona's liberal Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt wrote in a New York Times op-ed article that "It is time to take hard look at 'states' rights' - and responsibilities - and to sort out the respective functions of the federal government and the states."
But the speech was hardly focused on the issue. Reagan spoke for 15 minutes. You can listen to the whole speech yourself on YouTube, and read it here.
The introductions included Dick Molpus, a representative from the state's Democratic governor, William Winter (in fact, Molpus was Winter's Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Federal-State Programs, in charge of overseeing the state's vast and dysfunctional dependence on Washington aid), who noted Reagan's presence as the first presidential nominee to speak at the fair, and used that to echo Winter's statement in his inauguration that January that Mississippi "is now entering the mainstream of American life." Gov. Winter was a racial moderate, in the parlance of the Southern politics of the day, which meant - like Carter - a Democrat who supported segregation when it was popular but was trying to move beyond it in the 1970s. He supported Carter, not Reagan, and told the Washington Post the following month that "we're seeing a determination, in the South, to stay with a man who understands our own special problems." But his spokesman's choice of words is also telling: white Mississippians in that era felt acutely their isolation from an American mainstream that had (rightly) spent most of the previous two decades scorning the state's oppressive racial policies and attitudes. Reagan's presence in Neshoba, like Carter's presence in the White House, was seen as a valued sign of legitimacy.
Another of the introductions, which included several gifts, stressed that Philadelphia was the headquarters of the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi.
Reagan acknowledged that he was deep in long-held Democratic territory:
I know that in speaking to this crowd, that I'm speaking to what has to be about 90 percent Democrat. [A loud chorus of "No" from the crowd.] I just meant by party affiliation. I didn't mean how you feel now. I was a Democrat most of my life myself, but then decided that there were things that needed to be changed.
About halfway into the speech, Reagan rolled into his discussion of federalism and welfare:
[Y]ou'll never know how rewarding this is, this institution that has existed for so long-and as I said in the beginning, I know there is nothing-I have read all about it in the National Geographic. [Laughs] But, how did you ever accomplish this without a federal program? [Applause]
If you listen to the recording, you can clearly hear that there was a lot of applause at multiple points in this section, but nearly no audible reaction to the reference to "states' rights" or even at the end of that or the following sentence. Nothing in this passage, or anywhere else in the speech, hits anything like a note of racial divisiveness - indeed, this very section of the speech is built around Reagan's defense of the work ethic of welfare recipients, an issue usually portrayed by liberals as a coded racial appeal.
Some critics have argued (see here and here) over whether Reagan had previously used the term "states' rights" in a speech, but this is grasping at straws given how the speech is customarily presented by liberal-progressives as some kind of racist smoking gun.
Listening to the speech itself, the context is impossible to misunderstand, and the reaction of the crowd tells the tale. The people of Neshoba liked what they heard from candidate Reagan, but the passing use of the phrase "states' rights" was clearly not what their minds were on.
« Close It
May 30, 2016
HISTORY: Remember Joseph Warren This Memorial Day
May 25, 2016
POLITICS: The Dog That Didn't Bark: Trump Voters in Down-Ballot Primaries
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:29 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
May 23, 2016
POLITICS: You Won't Believe Why Hillary Bagman Terry McAuliffe Is Under Federal Investigation
May 18, 2016
POLITICS/LAW: Three Thoughts on Donald Trump's Supreme Court List
May 17, 2016
POLITICS: The Never Trump Movement Is Neither Anti-American Nor Hypocritical
May 11, 2016
POLITICS: A Very Different Republican Coalition: Can It Fly?
There's been a lot of attention paid to Donald Trump's appeal to a particular type of voter: white working class, no college degree, not that religious or socially conservative but anti-immigration. Let's look at a few exit poll numbers to contemplate how a Trump coalition might be shaped very differently from Mitt Romney's coalition, which drew together a respectable but insufficient 47% of the general electorate.
I did some simple algebra combining the share of each group in the electorate and the share won by each candidate, to consider what chunk of their voters fell in each group. For example, college graduates were 45% of the 2012 general electorate and Romney won 48% of them, so whereas non-college-grads were 53% and Romney won 47% of them - thus college-educated Romney voters were 23% of all voters, non-college-educated Romney voters were 25% of all voters, and accordingly college-educated voters made up 48% of the Romney vote. For purposes of this exercise I looked back at the Trump coalition in three states that were decisive (Indiana, Florida and South Carolina). While primary and general election coalitions are different animals, this is the data we have to work with so far, and it gives us a clue as to some of Trump's challenges ahead, as well as how a candidate with Trump's appeal to such groups could be an electoral force if that candidate wasn't also as off-putting as Trump is to other core elements of the Romney coalition.
Read More »
As noted above, almost half of the Romney voters in 2012 (48%) had college degrees. Trump matched that figure in Florida,, but in both Indiana and South Carolina, just 42% of his voters had college degrees. The Romney-Obama race actually did not feature a big educational divide, at least around the college/non-college fissure. The GOP primary has featured a larger one. Trump's ability to win educated voters is one of the major question marks for his fall campaign.
49% of the Romney voters in 2012 were women, despite the partisan gender gap and reflecting the fact that Romney did better with white women than any candidate since Reagan in 1984. Trump's primary coalition has been very male even by GOP primary standards - 41% of his voters in Indiana were women, 44% in Florida, 44% in South Carolina.
We don't have applies-to-apples comparisons for all three states, but 52% of the Romney voters in 2012 were at least weekly churchgoers, compared to 45% of Trump's voters in Indiana. 74% of Trump's South Carolina voters said shared religious convictions were important to them. 60% of Romney's voters said abortion should be illegal, a large contingent Trump will have a lot of trouble replacing if he continues to manifest signs of being a lifelong supporter of legal abortion.
71% of Romney's voters were married.
Exit polls often ask a binary yes/no question about whether illegal immigrants should be deported or allowed to stay in the country, a useful question for isolating the true hard-liners on the issue but a more fraught one for capturing the nuances of people who would be willing to entertain "amnesty" but only under fairly stringent conditions. And admittedly, attitudes may have hardened a good deal on the issue since 2012. Anyway, despite running mostly as an immigration hardliner in 2008 and 2012, 54% of Romney's voters in 2012 were on the amnesty side of the amnesty/deportation question, compared to 45% of Trump's voters in Indiana and Florida and just 36% in South Carolina.
Size of government
Do Trump's voters agree with his pro-big-government stances? A whopping 84% of Romney's 2012 voters told exit pollsters that government does too much, when offered the alternative of "it should do more." We haven't seen that question in a lot of primary polling, but it suggests another warning sign. Interestingly, 35% of Trump's Florida voters said that we need to cut Social Security benefits - even though Trump is running on a platform of dissent from the GOP on that issue, he actually did better with those voters than with those who want the status quo.
Lack of education may be a hallmark of Trump's coalition, but lack of money is not as much one as you might have guessed. 67% of Romney's voters made over $50,000 a year, compared to 74% of Trump's voters in Indiana, 66% in Florida, and 71% in South Carolina. 32% of Romney's voters made over $100,000 a year, matched by 32% of Trump's South Carolina voters and exceeded by Trump in Indiana and Florida (36% each). (85% of Romney's voters were not part of a union household; 62% worked full time).
Of course, we've covered previously Trump's issues with self-identified "Very Conservative" voters, the heartland of the Ted Cruz primary vote. But demographically, Trump's primary coalition does look less educated, less churchgoing and more male than the Romney 2012 coalition. Obviously, the optimist's theory (for Trump, and for down-ticket Republicans to the extent that Trump voters might also vote for actual Republicans for the House, Senate and Governorships) is that Trump's coalition looks different because he is adding new groups. But the danger sign is that just to pull even with what Romney did, he may still need more educated, religious, conservative voters and women than he has thus far been interested in appealing to.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:19 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
May 6, 2016
POLITICS: Is #NeverTrump Doomed To Fold?
May 5, 2016
POLITICS: Dear Republican Politician: Let's Talk about Donald Trump
May 4, 2016
POLITICS: Politics Is Still Downstream of Culture
POLITICS: Trump's Next Victim: Pollsters
Donald Trump has proven adept at corrupting everyone and everything that comes into his orbit. He has constructed a kind of cargo-cult imitation of a real political campaign, with press flacks and pundits and elected officials and "policy advisors" and even now speechwriters all acting as if Trump was a real candidate rather than a bad joke told too long. But the one thing Trump has not really needed so far was thoroughly bogus general election polls. Oh, his strength has been overstated in some national primary polls, and the online Reuters poll has been a particular favorite. But Trump in the primaries has mostly been content to tell bald-face lies about his polling against Hillary Clinton, content that any rebuttal could be shouted down with "BUT I AM BEATING YOU IN THE PRIMARY SO YOU MUST BE WORSE."
Read More »
Trump can no longer hide behind that, so he will need to find some pollsters willing to be...flexible...in their methodology in order to show that this is a real contest. Trump's millions of supporters, and his enablers in talk radio and on Fox News and Drudge and Breitbart, will provide a willing market for this. And so will the mainstream media, which as much as it wants Hillary to win, is also addicted to Trump-driven ratings and can't afford to just admit that the election is effectively over in May.
Enter "Rasmussen Reports". Now, if you have followed polling controversies over the years, you know that Rasmussen has been a lightning rod. A minor pollster before 2000, Rasmussen was reinvented by Scott Rasmussen in the mid-2000s into one of the giants of the polling business, with ubiquitous high-volume polling that included one of the most influential daily tracking polls, while Rasmussen himself became a prominent pundit. For the most part, during the Bush years, Rasmussen had a solid record as a pollster, and while it had some embarrassing misses in 2010 (usually due to over-projecting Republican candidates), it was still a reputable pollster. In 2012, I still relied on Rasmussen's national party-ID survey, which had a strong predictive track record over the prior decade. But it failed spectacularly, as did many of Rasmussen's polls, in 2012: the party ID tracker was projecting the most Republican general electorate since the Coolidge years, and we got precisely the opposite. So far as I can tell, the party ID poll was discontinued immediately after the 2012 election.
Rasmussen has stayed in the political polling business since then, but greatly diminished, as Scott Rasmussen himself left the company in mid-2013, and it has refocused more on making money from non-political polls. His departure also ended the firm's GOP tilt, or at least induced an overcorrection; for much of 2014, for example, Rasmussen's job-approval poll showed President Obama to be a lot more popular than any other pollster, a finding totally inconsistent with the 2014 election results. On the whole, my postmortem of the 2014 Senate polls found Rasmussen's polling to be a mixed bag.
But now, in the past few weeks, Rasmussen has emerged as the lone pollster showing Trump competitive nationally with Hillary Clinton:
You will notice that Trump's standing in the Rasmussen polls is no better than in others - he's at 38% in the April 25-26 poll, and 41% in the April 27-28 poll. Every poll in the RCP average since the start of March has Trump between 35% and 43%, with a current average a shade below 41, but most have Hillary in the upper 40s or the 50s. So what gives? Obviously, Rasmussen didn't push soft "undecideds" who are likely to vote Hillary to make a choice, so it shows a lot fewer Clinton voters in the April 25-26 poll:
Nearly one-in-four voters say they will stay home or vote third party if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the major party presidential candidates.
The April 27-28 poll, with Trump up 3, is even fishier because it assumed everybody is forced to vote:
Trump edges slightly ahead if the stay-at-home option is removed. Trump also now does twice as well among Democrats as Clinton does among Republicans.
Well, yeah, you can get different polling results if you pretend turnout will be mandatory. Unfortunately for Trump, that's not how elections actually work.
But don't be surprised if we see more polling organizations, especially in the media, fiddle with their methodologies to prop up a horse race at least into the fall. And watch people who desperately want to believe them fall for it.
That's how things work in Donald Trump's America.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:33 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
May 1, 2016
POLITICS: Yes, Donald Trump Would Be Worse Than Any Prior Republican Nominee
Why now? Why Trump?
Read More »
Haven’t We Voted For Some Terrible Republicans Before?
Many – if not most – #NeverTrump voters have pulled the lever for some or all of Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, and Bob Dole as well as lots of other less-than-pure Republicans for lesser offices. I personally voted for all of them, plus backing some fairly heterodox presidential primary candidates like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. In the years since I became old enough to vote in 1989, the only two semi-serious GOP presidential contenders before Trump that I’d have seriously considered not voting for were Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan, both mainly for national security reasons, but at least Paul and Buchanan were dyed-in-the-wool pro-lifers, in Paul’s case grounded in his life experience as an OB/GYN.
I also voted for some terrible down-ticket Republicans here in New York (Mike Bloomberg, Carl Paladino, Rick Lazio, George Pataki…heck, I even voted for a City Councilman who was the blood-drinking leader of a local pagan sect and was recently sentenced to a decade in prison for selling Democrats access to the Republican primary for Mayor.) It’s an easier answer for the local officials: I live in deep-blue territory, and local electeds may have fewer powers and less important roles in party leadership. Indeed, I’d probably vote for Trump if he ran for Mayor of New York, since he really is not that different from Bloomberg, and the Mayor’s race is almost entirely a single-issue referendum on policing (for similar reasons, I might even vote for Bill Clinton if he ran for Mayor).
We know, from his deeds, words, and even his pronouncements in this campaign, that Trump offers nothing to conservatives – worse than nothing, he would evict us from any position within our own party. He gets his foreign policy ideas from Michael Moore and Code Pink (or worse yet, from Vladimir Putin); his abortion views are grounded in his sympathy with Planned Parenthood; he supports socialized medicine in the form of single-payer healthcare, higher taxes, more government spending, and Herbert Hoover's trade policy. He’s never met a bailout or a crony-capitalist deal he didn't like, or a Democrat he wouldn’t donate to. He’s astonishingly ignorant, emotionally unstable, and wholly incapable of saying no to Democrats. Trump is a spoiled, entitled rich kid who shows not the slightest understanding of the American way of up-by-the booststraps striving to better yourself; in Trump’s world, the rich get richer by having the right friends, and everybody else is a serf who needs the government to protect them from foreign competition.
Let’s compare Trump to some of the prior Republican presidential losers, and I’ll throw in Rudy and Newt for good measure since I’ve written on this site in their defense before:
Mitt Romney: Romney’s flip-flopping on pushed me pretty far, since I wrote tens of thousands of words attacking him in the 2008 and 2012 primaries, predicted that he’d be a bad general election candidates, and basically spent the 2012 campaign carefully avoiding making any affirmative statements about Romney’s commitment to his own stated agenda. I once characterized Romney’s record of standing with conservatives as “a sheet of thin ice as far as the eye can see“.
But even so, Romney was no Trump. Romney, unlike Trump, had an actual record in office, albeit only a single term as Governor, and he did pursue some fiscally and socially conservative positions in office, on taxes, spending and same-sex marriage. Romney was also more loyal to the GOP as an institution and a team than Trump – he’d been a Republican Governor, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, had run against Ted Kennedy for Senate, had built a network of loyalists in the party through endorsements, donations and campaign stops, and was the son of a father who was a Republican Governor, Republican presidential candidate and Republican Cabinet Secretary and a mother who also ran for Senate as a Republican. Romney in 2012 was also on his second run for the White House, which required him to stay consistent and committed to his 2008 platform; he was neither quite as inexperienced nor quite as new to his “severely conservative” platform by 2012 as he had been four years earlier.
And perhaps most important and most unlike Trump, Romney demonstrated by 2012 that he had the capability, the intelligence, the base of knowledge, and the personal character to be Commander-in-Chief. His foreign policy pronouncements in 2012 were not terribly exciting (President Obama memorably mocked them as a throwback to the 80s), but over and over since then he has been proven right by events. And while Romney’s political identity was always questionable, he was and is a man of outstanding personal character – faithful family man, pillar of his church, unfailingly loyal to his business partners and employees, generous with not just his money but his time to charity, personally modest and decent. In every one of these ways, Romney stood as the opposite of Trump, a thrice-married serial adulterer who has left a long trail of wreckage through both his family life and his business career and has become a byword for crassness. As much as I worried about Romney’s ideological commitments and political courage, I came to admire the man personally and trust that he would be a steady hand leading the nation, a leader we could be proud of. Trump is the opposite of all those things.
John McCain and Bob Dole: I actually voted for McCain three times, although in retrospect I regretted supporting him against Bush in 2000, the reasons for which I explained at the time (I do not regret preferring McCain to Romney and Huckabee in 2008). McCain was in many ways a more open moderate than Romney, more consistent in his stances on a lot of issues but also consistently a problem for conservatives. That said, it was not actually that hard to see McCain as a guy who was broadly on the side of conservatives part of the way on a lot of issues, and more to the point, a guy who proved himself fully capable of digging in and fighting for our side on some tough calls. He voted to put Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court – the Thomas vote was a tough one, as he was confirmed by two votes. He voted to remove Bill Clinton from office in the 1998 impeachment. He was a faithful vote for the Reagan agenda in the 1980s, a consistent pro-lifer and a supporter of entitlement reform, free trade, and nuclear power. He backed Phil Gramm in the 1996 primaries. He built his whole 2008 campaign around courageously standing up for finishing the job in Iraq when the war was at the nadir of its popularity. And McCain was and is a vigorous voice on national security issues for decades.
None of that is to whitewash McCain’s problems for conservatives, nor to deny that McCain has his own issues of character (e.g., cheating on and abandoning his first wife, or the Keating Five scandal). But between his political career and his famously heroic POW record, McCain had demonstrated some important attributes of presidential character: seriousness of purpose, deep and abiding patriotism sealed in blood, the ability to take a stand and stick with it come Hell or high water. I knew McCain was a compromise in a bad political environment in 2008, but I also trusted him as Commander in Chief and as a guy who would follow through when the going got tough.
The case for Dole – aside from the fact that I was 25 and more of a knee-jerk straight-ticket voter at the time – is more or less similar to the case for McCain, although Dole’s legislative record was distinctly less conservative than McCain’s. Dole was doomed, of course, as everyone knew at the time, but at least he was a war hero, the sort of man you could trust as Commander-in-Chief, and was nothing if not a party man through and through, with 35 years as an elected Republican and leader of a GOP caucus in the Senate.
Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich: I suppose I need to defend Rudy (my first choice in 2008) and Newt (my final choice and vote in 2012 after Perry and Pawlenty dropped out), although the latter was mostly a desperation protest vote. Rudy was the first candidate I supported for President who was not even nominally pro-life, and will probably be the last. In part that was an effort to square the circle of finding workable common ground on judges, which by the end of his campaign, Rudy had never been able to do, and that’s a story for another day, but also one that drove home the impossibility of making a Republican presidential candidacy work without a clear and explicit commitment to the pro-life cause.
But fundamentally, despite flaws in their personal character (flaws on display again this year as both have disappointingly gravitated towards Trump), what I liked more than anything about Rudy and Newt is that they had actually accomplished an enormous amount for conservatives, both in policy and politics, as well as helping a whole lot of other Republicans get elected over the years. They fought the battles and earned their scars.
Despite his social liberalism, Rudy’s tenure as Mayor of New York was the most consequential real-world domestic policy achievement for conservative ideas since Reagan; he single-handedly changed the trajectory and living conditions in New York City, and sustained a colossal amount of incoming political fire to do so, plus providing tremendous leadership in crisis after 9/11.
Newt’s tenure as Speaker featured its share of missed opportunities and misjudgments, but name me a more consequential and effective Republican House or Senate leader in the last half century; in 1995-96, he got more done for conservative policy priorities in two years with a Democratic President than Denny Hastert did in six with a Republican. And for all their policy deviations, Rudy and Newt are both guys who are well-versed in conservative ideas and expert at defending them in the public square. None of these things – not the accomplishments, not the fights for policy and the political team, not the ability to sell our ideas and solutions – is true of Trump. (Polls show that virtually every position Trump has taken during the campaign is less popular with the general public now than before he ran).
In short: yes, you can find an example of many of Trump’s flaws in prior Republican presidential candidates. But not one of those candidates combined the total package of Trump: the unfitness to be Commander-in-Chief; the total lack of accomplishments, sacrifices or even efforts over his lifetime for any cause we believe in, combined with repeated efforts to assist the other team; the manifest lack of political principle, personal character or demonstrated political character; the ignorance; the catnip for white supremacists; the toxic effect on the brand of both the party and its ideas.
A vote for Trump, even in the general election, is a suicide note for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. I will never vote for Hillary Clinton, but I cannot in good conscience ever give aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the poison he represents. The only cost to abandoning Trump in the general election is the specter of a defeat to Hillary – but Trump’s nomination ensures that anyway. If he wants to sink the GOP at sea against Hillary Clinton, I see no reason to waste a life preserver on him.
« Close It
April 27, 2016
POLITICS: Trump Supporters Already Pre-Spinning November Trump Loss
POLITICS: The Fiorina Pick
NRO: The Fiorina Pick
April 26, 2016
POLITICS: Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz
April 25, 2016
POLITICS/FOOTBALL: Donald Trump Hearts Tom Brady; Does Indiana?
April 20, 2016
HISTORY/POLITICS: Do Not Weep for Andrew Jackson
April 19, 2016
POLITICS: What To Watch For In Tonight's NY Republican Primary
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: When Will Democrats Return Trump's Donations?
April 8, 2016
POLITICS: After Wisconsin, By The Numbers
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:28 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
April 5, 2016
POLITICS: No, Donald Trump Can't "Burn It Down." Washington Would Go On The Same.
Of all the arguments made in favor of a vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States, or at any rate the Republican nominee, probably the most seductive is the argument that Trump will “burn it down”: replace the business-as-usual Washington political establishment with a bull-in-a-china-shop outsider who will do something different. A great many Americans across the political spectrum are deeply frustrated with our system, for many reasons – some of them very good reasons, others understandable ones. Trump speaks to their frustrations, which is a major reason why he has won 37.1% of the popular vote so far in the Republican primaries; so does Bernie Sanders, which is a major reason why Sanders has won 41.1% of the popular vote so far in the Democratic primaries. But even setting aside the many reasons why Trump is highly unlikely to win a general election, anyone who understands the problems with how Washington works also knows that Trump is almost uniquely unsuited to actually change them.
Read More »
The Sources of Anger
There are a lot of different currents of anger running through our politics right now, some of which are contradictory (people on different sides of an issue want opposite things), and some of which are impractical (people are angry at things government is powerless to change, except for the worse). At the roots of the anger is a stagnant economy, which exacerbates every problem that exists in better times. As Jay Cost noted back in December, economic growth or its absence has historically been linked to public trust or distrust of American government, and we’ve been in a period of very weak growth ever since the end of the tech-and-trade boom of the 1990s:
As the Wall Street Journal added in January, 2015 finished as “the tenth straight year that the U.S. economy has grown by less than 3%. Such a long underperformance hasn’t happened since the 1930s.”
That’s the backdrop for the economic snake oil of Trump’s trade-war rhetoric and Sanders’ socialism. But anger at the political system has some common political themes as well. People increasingly feel like the government doesn’t listen and doesn’t change – or that when it does change (the biggest changes of the past decade being same-sex marriage and Obamacare) it either does so without consulting the voters (in the case of SSM) or while completely ignoring their loud protests (in the case of Obamacare). And the system rolls on: everybody who goes to DC gets richer, and few go home when they’re done; nobody gets held accountable for disasters like the 2008 credit crisis; political leaders like Bill and Hillary Clinton walk away from things that would get ordinary citizens fired or jailed; people get elected promising Republican voters that they’ll cut government and stop abortion (or even stop financing it), and promising Democratic voters that they’ll punish the banks and close Gitmo, restrain the surveillance state and stop killing people with drones, and somehow none of it happens, yet well-financed interests and liberal legal activists always get what they want, and the budget never stops growing. The system seems impervious to the voters who elect it. Every decent American must be struck now and then with the urge to grab a torch and a pitchfork, burn the whole edifice to the ground, and start over. Lots of “burn it down” voters have flocked to Trump. But Trump is simply the wrong man for the job.
The “Deep State”
Our Constitutional system of government, as originally designed, wasn’t supposed to be like this. America is a republic, not a pure democracy, so we’re supposed to have checks and balances that operate as sobriety checkpoints that make jarring, far-reaching changes slow at the national level. But this was supposed to be balanced out by keeping most power in the hands of the states and ensuring that the federal government always ultimately answered to “We The People.”
Somewhere along the way, step by step, we’ve been losing that – losing the sense that either our state and local governments or our elected representatives in Washington are actually in charge, let alone have the incentive to change things. The courts have erected ever-growing edifices of constitutional law, taking more and more decisions out of the hands of elected officials even on issues never mentioned when the people were asked to add things to the Constitution, leaving massive, unreviewable power in the hands of 5 unelected judges. The power of the purse used to be a great source of influence for the House, which could simply decline to fund things the voters who elected it didn’t like; now, massive amounts of the federal budget – around three-quarters of federal spending, by some estimates – are already committed to entitlements and debt service before Congress even appropriates a penny, and the budget process is rigged so that the only options presented are shutting down the entire government or funding every last horrible thing that the President or a majority of the House or 40 Senators wants. The federal government draws the states into an ever-growing web of funded and unfunded mandates and joint partnerships, which again roll along unless both parties unite to stop them, and for which nobody can be held solely accountable to the voters. Vast economic powers are delegated to the Federal Reserve, which is unelected and only vaguely guided by written rules, and huge powers are devolved on the bureaucracy, including permanent civil servants and a menagerie of agencies not directly accountable to the President – or to anyone else.
Writers on the Left and the paleocon and libertarianish Right often refer to this complex – sometimes including the big donors, federal contractors and military brass – as the “Deep State,” a permanent political establishment that reacts slowly, if at all, to the elected branches and is expert at capturing them.
If we are going to re-impose any sort of popular control over our government and not simply work within the system as it exists today, the most important element of all is a willingness and ability to tame the “Deep State” by attacking its powers at the roots.
Running The Traps
This is one area in which a President Donald Trump would be such a conspicuous failure. Yes, sure, Trump is a guy who dislikes letting the Beltway Establishment set rules for him. He’d say whatever he wants, and at least try to do whatever he wants. I have no doubt that Trump, in office, would produce a whirlwind of executive orders and other unilateral acts. I have no doubt as well that he would attempt to negotiate deals he likes with Congress and foreign governments. I’m not so sure we would see his famous “you’re fired” as much as we might like – Trump’s campaign has been awfully hesitant to fire people that Trump hired, unlike the contestants on his TV shows, as that would reflect an admission of error by Trump. But it’s one thing to try to do your own thing without paying attention to the rest of the system; it’s quite another to go after the system’s ability to keep doing its own thing, ignoring you and undermining you at every turn.
What in Trump’s background suggests he has either the knowledge of the Deep State system or the personality needed to challenge or dismantle parts of it? The essential characteristic of the whole apparatus is precisely that it doesn’t ask the President’s permission to keep going. You can ignore Supreme Court decisions, but they will keep issuing them, and when you’re gone, they’ll still be on the books and obeyed by lower courts. You can yell at the bureaucracy, but you can’t fire it. This is not a new problem – it’s precisely why ‘outsider’ governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura have gotten steamrolled in office. One is reminded of Harry Truman’s observation about handing over power to Dwight Eisenhower, our last President who had never been an elected official: “Poor Ike. It won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this, do that,’ and nothing will happen.” Eisenhower, as befit his vast military and diplomatic experience, proved a highly skilled and savvy Commander-in-Chief and a determined, hands-on enforcer of the laws, but he never even attempted to reverse the trends of how DC had swollen under the New Deal. And his Supreme Court appointments would go on to massively expand the power of the judiciary. Ike ran the government very, very well – but he never even tried to tame it.
Trump has no intention – he has made this clear – of altering entitlements, so right off the bat, most of the budget is off the table, and his obvious ignorance of the budget process means he would never be able to get far enough into the weeds to actually reform how the system works. He has proposed no reforms that would actually change anything about the bureaucracy or the judiciary or even the Pentagon, nor given any indication of having studied the question. As I noted back in November, in arguing for Bobby Jindal:
Would Trump burn down the system? I’m not even sure he’d know where to set the matches.
Even working within the system, if you haven’t done the homework to understand how the Deep State puts one over on its transient elected masters, you stand little chance of piercing its smoke screens. I’ve made a similar point before about why Trump would ultimately be a bonanza for the GOP’s consultant class – his nomination would actually encourage more of the kinds of candidates most likely to lavish resources on consultants and depend on them, rather than knowing enough (as Ted Cruz does) to impose some supervision and discipline on them and require them to produce results.
Trump’s whole background in real estate development is that of a guy who plays by the rules and within system (hence, his many donations to liberal politicians), not one who tries to change the game, as this shrewd review of his book “Art of the Deal” explains:
Read the whole thing; there’s a lot more where that came from, and a lot to think about even in a review that is broadly sympathetic to Trump’s book.
Think about it: when has Trump shown any interest in changing the rules for anything? When has he shown he even knows or cares what the rules are? As Leon noted yesterday, Trump keeps getting schooled by Ted Cruz just on how to understand and operate within the rules of the Republican delegate system – unsurprisingly, since Cruz is a brilliant Constitutional lawyer whose whole life has been dedicated to rules, but Trump’s failure to plan ahead for how to beat the party establishment at its own game bodes very poorly for his ability to do the same to the Deep State.
And of course, the fact that Trump has no fixed political principles means he is bound to take the paths of least resistance to any end he desires – why dig in for a long, bloody fight to reform how the rules work, when someone with a vested interest in the rules is willing to offer you a short term reward? In 1876, Republicans took a bargain that gave Rutherford B. Hayes a single term in the White House, and gave Democrats the end of Reconstruction and effective control of the South for the next 75 years. That’s the kind of deal the “GOPe” has been making ever since, and yet it’s exactly the kind of deal you and I know Trump would take and declare a “win” because he’s always more interested in being a winner than in the long game.
If we stand any chance of making real change in how the country works over the next four years, we won’t get it from Trump (any more than we would from Hillary Clinton, who is practically the living embodiment of the Beltway Establishment). Fortunately, there happens to be one guy left in this race who actually cares very deeply about the rules of the game and how to change them: Ted Cruz. Maybe Cruz won’t succeed either in burning the whole system down, and maybe he shouldn’t try to bite off such an ambitious goal, but at least he will try and has a track record of being precisely the kind of person who will hold out to get some real results.
« Close It
April 4, 2016
LAW/POLITICS: BREAKING: SCOTUS Rejects "One Man One Vote" Challenge
March 25, 2016
POLITICS: Why Did Almost Nobody See The Trade Issue Coming Before Trump?
March 24, 2016
POLITICS: Can Donald Trump or Ted Cruz Beat Hillary Clinton? A New National Poll May Surprise You
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
March 18, 2016
POLITICS: Mitt Romney: I'm Voting For Ted Cruz. You Should Too.
March 17, 2016
POLITICS: It Is Time To Grow Up And Unite Cruz And Rubio Supporters Behind Ted Cruz
POLITICS: Ted Cruz or Bust: Armageddon Tuesday By The Numbers
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:21 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
March 15, 2016
POLITICS: This Is Not 1980, And Donald Trump Is Not Ronald Reagan
Every piece of evidence we have about the 2016 general election and the world around us points in the same direction: if nominated, Donald Trump would lose, and likely lose badly. The fact that Trump has defied expectations in the primary and survived numerous incidents (seemingly almost daily) that would end any other political career has given pundits and analysts an almost superstitious, gunshy awe of predicting failure for him - thus the "lol nothing matters" response you often get when you discuss both Trump's obvious, glaring weaknesses and his pitiably weak standing in the polls. But the one straw commonly grasped by Trump supporters when confronted by the evidence is Gallup's polling from early 1980 showing that Ronald Reagan was some 30 points behind Jimmy Carter, who of course he went on to demolish in the fall.
The Gallup 1980 polls are a weak analogy, for several reasons.
Read More »
1. Strength of polling: When we talk about general election polls today, we really mean three types of polls (head-to-head national polls, head-to-head state polls, and polls testing the favorability/approval of various candidates with the general electorate). On all of these topics, as I have discussed before at length, we have a lot of polls from multiple pollsters, and we commonly use polling averages to account for the fact that individual pollsters can be wrong, sometimes very wrong.
By contrast, nearly all the public polling from the first three months of 1980 is from a single pollster, Gallup - and Gallup ultimately got the race wrong, showing Reagan trailing through much of October and only polling ahead by 3 at the end (a trend complicated by the fact that there was only one Reagan-Carter debate, it was the
As Nate Cohn has observed of that fall's campaign:
The legend of Reagan's epic comeback is largely the result of anomalous Gallup polling, which even showed a Carter advantage over the final month of the campaign. But if RealClearPolitics or Pollster.com had existed in 1980, the conventional wisdom would have been a little different. In fact, Reagan held a lead from mid-September onward and had a two or three point lead heading into the debates. Private polling conducted for the Reagan and Carter campaigns showed the same thing. Reagan's 10 point victory is a precedent for sweeping undecided voters, but it isn't a model for a come-from-behind victory
2. A temporary Carter bump: 1980 was - unlike this one - an incumbent re-election campaign, in which the dominating issue is always the sitting President. Jimmy Carter was an extremely vulnerable incumbent throughout 1979, as his job approval in Gallup's polling showed him dropping below 50, then below 40, then all the way to 29% in June and again October 1979.
What happened next was the Iranian hostage crisis. On November 4, 1979, Iranian radicals stormed the U.S. embassy and took 90 hostages, including 66 Americans, as part of the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Within a few weeks, the number of hostages was narrowed to 53, later 52.
Americans tend to rally around their President in times of foreign crisis, and this was no different. As Americans tied yellow ribbons for the hostages, they wanted to put their faith in the deeply unpopular Carter to find a way out. Carter's approval rating hit 54% in early December, and peaked at 58% in late January, staying above 50% into the beginning of March. But as the crisis dragged on, Carter's weakness reasserted itself, and was back in the 30s by mid-April when the Desert One rescue mission failed. Carter never recovered; his approval rating even among Democrats hovered around or below 50% the rest of the year.
Even if you look at this Monkey Cage graph of the polls, what you see is that Reagan was steadily building, while Carter's trend was straight downhill from January through July before dispirited Democrats started to rally a bit.
You can see that in the Democratic primary race of 1980. Carter won Iowa by 28 and New Hampshire by 10, and through March 18, he had won 9 out of 10 primaries against Ted Kennedy, losing only Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts. Carter beat Kennedy in Florida by 37, in Illinois by 36, in Vermont by almost 50, in Alabama by almost 70.
But Carter's declining standing as the hostage crisis dragged on showed up in the primaries - Kennedy won New York and Connecticut on March 25 and would beat Carter 9 more times between mid-April and late June, including big states like Pennsylvania and California. In an incumbent election - which 2016 is not - that's a big sign.
3. The Republican primary calendar: On the flip side of the coin, the January-early March polls test Reagan just before he started winning primaries - a winning streak that unified the GOP behind him. In a crowded 7-candidate field featuring two future nominees (George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole), the Senate Minority Leader (Howard Baker), a former Texas Governor and Treasury Secretary (John Connally) and challengers from Reagan's right (Congressman Phil Crane) and Dole's left (John Anderson, who would win 7% of the vote in November as a third-party candidate), Reagan did not get off to the most auspicious start, losing Iowa and winning just two out of the first five votes through March 4. But his one big win, in New Hampshire on February 26, was much bigger than Trump's, as Reagan drew 50% of the vote.
And once Reagan got rolling, starting March 8 in South Carolina, he showed what a tremendously strong party-unifying candidate he was: between March 8 and May 3, he won 9 of 11 states, including winning 55% in South Carolina, 70% in Alabama, 56% in Florida, 73% in Georgia, 49% in Illinois, 63% in Kansas, 74% in Louisiana, 53% in Texas.
Trump's dynamic is precisely the opposite. Despite winning numerous primaries (so unlike Reagan in February he wasn't polled as a second-place primary candidate), he has never been able to win Reagan-style majorities. Entering today, among 26 primaries/caucuses (not counting Guam and the Virgin Islands, where we have no vote totals), Trump hadn't won a majority anywhere, has cracked 40% just 6 times in 26 tries, and has fallen below 30% nine times (he did win 73% of the vote today in the Northern Marianas Islands, in an electorate of 471 people). His overall share so far is 34.8% of the vote. Even if you ignore polling entirely, Trump still faces more resistance at this point than any GOP frontrunner since the start of popular primary voting in 1976. The primary voting itself is consistent with the view that Trump is running a factional campaign that the majority of Republican voters object to.
4. Reagan was already a winner: While it is understandable that some people (wrongly) thought Reagan would struggle to close the deal in a general presidential contest, the idea that Ronald Reagan was incapable of winning outside a divided GOP primary field was already ridiculous in 1980. To start with, Reagan had almost knocked off a sitting president in his own party in a head-to-head two-man race in 1976, in which he won a majority of the vote in 11 states. Moreover, in the largest state in the country, California, Reagan had won two statewide elections by wide margins - he defeated California's sitting Governor, Pat Brown, 58-42 in 1966, and was re-elected 53-45 in 1970. Trump has never faced general election voters anywhere.
5. Trump is really, really well-known and really, really unpopular: Head-to-head polling this early in a non-incumbent race can change, as the candidates get better known by the public. But the problem for Trump, as public polling shows fairly unanimously, is that both he and Hillary Clinton are extraordinarily well-known candidates already, and Trump is significantly more unpopular even though Hillary has been on the receiving end of massive political opposition for most of the past 25 years (including a brutally contested primary in 2008). Just the latest poll averages show Trump at 61% or 62.4% of voters view him unfavorably, compared to 53.3% or 53.6% for Hillary Clinton. Those numbers are unprecedentedly awful for a presidential candidate, they've been consistently awful for months, and lately they've been getting worse, just as Trump falls further and further behind in more recent head-to-head polling and before he has ever faced a sustained negative ad barrage from the Democrats.
Reagan, with his sunny optimism and basic decency, was never anything like this personally unpopular. Pollsters didn't ask the same kinds of questions in those days, but a Gallup survey in September 1980 asked about twelve different concerns voters had with Reagan, and only one of the twelve attracted a majority (52% thought Reagan "puts his foot in his mouth, says things without thinking or considering the consequences"; 48% thought he was too old for the job, and none of the other ten options attracted anywhere near a majority).
Is Trump Unelectable?
There's no such thing as a completely unelectable candidate, as you never know when a deus ex machina event will overturn the tables to the point where the other candidate is no longer competitive. Christine O'Donnell could have won, under the right bizarre set of circumstances; so could Todd Akin or Alvin Greene or Carl Paladino. But it was easy enough for any reasonably intelligent person to see coming a long way away that those were not likely results, and that the reasonable response from their parties was to get as many people out of the blast radius as possible.
Without rehashing all the unique-to-Trump obstacles he would face in a general election, Trump would enter it in much the same situation as Akin, who won 36.1% of the vote in a divided GOP primary in which 603,000 people voted, and got 39.2% in November in an electorate of 2.7 million, and whose gaffe-tastic presence in the campaign created all sorts of collateral damage to other Republicans. In exit polls, 21% of Republican voters didn't vote for Akin (15% went for his Democratic opponent), and he lost independents by 12. Akin narrowly carried white voters 48-45 and won by 12 with voters over 65 (53-41), but lost basically every other demographic badly. He lost suburbanites by 16 points. Now imagine what 2012 looks like with Akin as the presidential nominee.
Primary and general electorates simply are not the same people - in 2012, 18 million voted in the GOP primary, 129 million in the fall - and the ability to electrify a determined minority of one party among several choices is not remotely the same thing as the ability to be the first of two choices among all voters. Trump is banking very heavily on disaffected white working class voters, the fastest-shrinking demographic in the electorate; the same voters who made up 65% of the 1980 electorate were only 36% in 2012.
If we had no polling, we could rely on common sense to tell us that there are hard limits on the general-election appeal of a candidate who is boorish towards women, who has gone out of his way to offend non-white voters, who is running a proudly ignorant campaign based on what amounts to class war against anyone with an education, who consistently draws the opposition of around two-thirds of the party in his own primaries, who has never won an election before in seven decades on this earth, who somehow manages to staff his campaigns with people even more buffoonish than he is, and who has a long record of opposing his own party's platform on nearly every issue of importance to its voters. The fact that we do have polling and it does confirm exactly what you'd have predicted in its absence should tell us not to keep doubting our own sanity just because he keeps winning pluralities in the primary. If Trump is the GOP nominee this fall, the rational response is to get as far away from his campaign as you can.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 PM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
March 9, 2016
POLITICS: It Is Time For Marco Rubio To Join Ted Cruz For The Benefit Of Marco Rubio
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
March 7, 2016
POLITICS: Donald Trump Is A Cowardly Appeaser Who Got Bullied By The Mob
March 5, 2016
POLITICS: Don't Overlook The Importance Of This Weekend's Voting
March 3, 2016
POLITICS: Marco Rubio's Path To Victory After Super Tuesday, By The Numbers
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Will John Kasich Criticize Donald Trump Tonight or Run Interference for Him?
March 1, 2016
POLITICS: New CNN Poll: Trump Loses To Hillary, Rubio & Cruz Would Win
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: A Vote For Trump is a Vote For Hillary Clinton: Why Trump Is A Sure Loser
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 28, 2016
POLITICS: Donald Trump is a Glass-Jawed Coward Afraid to Debate Rubio or Cruz Again
POLITICS: Donald Trump Fails Three Times to Deny the KKK
February 27, 2016
POLITICS: Release Your Testimony, Donald Trump
POLITICS: Marco Rubio Gives Democratic Strategists The Vapors
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: Super Tuesday Preview: Massachusetts
February 26, 2016
POLITICS: Will Donald Trump Bail on Future Debates?
February 25, 2016
POLITICS: America Won Tonight's Debate
POLITICS: Second Florida Poll Of The Day Shows Rubio Closer To Trump
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:37 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: New National Poll of Hispanics: Rubio Popular, Trump Hated
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:36 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 24, 2016
POLITICS: Rubio Campaign Calls On Trump To Renounce Pro-Trump White Supremacist Robocalls
POLITICS/LAW: The Vindication of Rick Perry
February 23, 2016
POLITICS: The Ted Cruz Campaign Will Win Or Lose By March 6
POLITICS: Nevada GOP Caucus Looks Like A Voter Fraud Bonanza
February 22, 2016
POLITICS: 'Amnesty' Is A Majority Position With Republican Primary Voters
POLITICS: South Carolina By The Numbers
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:23 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 20, 2016
POLITICS: Exit Polls From 2012, 2008 and 2000 Tell Us A Few Things About South Carolina
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 19, 2016
POLITICS: New South Carolina Polls Show A BIG Surprise
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 18, 2016
POLITICS: John Kasich's Brokered-Convention-Or-Bust Strategy
POLITICS: The Time For Expectations Management Is Ending
LAW: Antonin Scalia's Political Philosophy
Read More »
Reviews of Justice Antonin Scalia’s career tend to focus on legal philosophy and political outcomes. But generations from now, Scalia's writings will still be studied for his political philosophy: his practical understanding of how and why American government works, and doesn't. And the battle over his replacement will ironically illustrate those same themes.
Scalia often said that separation of powers and federalism were the most important parts of the Constitution: Without those checks on accumulated government power, individual rights would never be safe. He was fond of noting that plenty of countries (even the Soviet Union) had fine-sounding Bills of Rights that were dead letters because no power could make the government respect them. He shared James Madison's cynical (or is it realistic) view that sooner or later every branch of government would expand its powers as far as the others would let it. But he added his own counterpoint: Elected officials would gladly trade away power to avoid accountability.
Two lone 1988 dissents set the tone. Morrison v. Olson let judges appoint an independent counsel to exercise the executive power of prosecution and limited the president's authority to remove him. Scalia thundered that this not only invaded the president's executive powers, it also diffused accountability, allowing runaway partisan prosecutions for which nobody need answer to the voters. That's what undermined Kenneth Starr's investigation a few years later: conducted without the political legitimacy of a congressional or Justice Department investigation, it was dumped in the lap of a Senate that blanched at taking responsibility for its conclusions.
Mistretta v. United States upheld the sentencing guidelines promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission. Scalia argued that nothing so important as criminal sentences should be farmed out to an independent commission that was neither Congress nor a court of law, and presciently predicted:
I foresee all manner of "expert" bodies, insulated from the political process, to which Congress will delegate various portions of its lawmaking responsibility. How tempting to create an expert Medical Commission (mostly M.D.'s, with perhaps a few Ph.D.'s in moral philosophy) to dispose of such thorny, "no-win" political issues as the withholding of life-support systems in federally funded hospitals, or the use of fetal tissue for research.
Scalia's 1992 dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey warned that the Court's own arrogation of power over abortion cases would lead the Senate to retaliate with more litmus tests for nominees:
[I]f in reality our process ... consists primarily of making value judgments ... confirmation hearings for new Justices should deteriorate into question-and-answer sessions in which Senators go through a list of their constituents' most favored and most disfavored alleged constitutional rights, and seek the nominee's commitment to support or oppose them.
Scalia crusaded for years to rule part of the Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutionally vague. His 2011 ACCA dissent in Sykes v. United States highlighted legislative incentives:
[A]s the volume [of federal crimes] increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. ... Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty.
In Talk America, Inc. v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co., a 2011 case involving FCC regulations, he warned that vague regulations were even worse than vague laws:
[W]hen an agency promulgates an imprecise rule, it leaves to itself the implementation of that rule, and thus the initial determination of the rule's meaning ... deferring to an agency's interpretation of its own rule encourages the agency to enact vague rules which give it the power, in future adjudications, to do what it pleases.
Scalia's often acid critiques of the Court's abuse of "legislative history" instead of focusing on statutory text were likewise driven by his practical sense that it is ridiculous to treat the horse-trading business of lawmaking as if it reflected a single "legislative intent" shared by hundreds of legislators. Laws are what they say, not what someone or other "meant." As he wrote in 2011 in DePierre v. United States, "[e]ven if [a witness] had not lectured an undetermined number of likely somnolent Congressmen on 'the damaging effects of cocaine smoking on people in Peru,' ... we would still hold that the words 'cocaine base' mean cocaine base."
Scalia's federalism opinions similarly stressed the Framers' divisions of power and the clear lines of accountability they promoted. From his 1997 majority opinion in Printz v. United States (striking down part of the "Brady Bill" requiring state officials to run federal handgun background checks) to his 2012 opinion on Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in NFIB v. Sebelius, Scalia warned that dragooning states into running federal programs would leave voters unsure who to blame if they went awry.
In a final irony, Scalia's view of power will be graphically demonstrated by the fight over his replacement. The stakes are so high because the closely-divided Court has acted as Scalia so often railed against: expanding its control over as many areas of life and law as it could reach, sometimes with the cooperation of political branches that quietly preferred to let unelected judges take the heat for tough decisions. The once-decorous dance between the president and the Senate in nominating and confirming judges was built on a series of precedential norms, which have broken down over the past several decades under the merciless logic of power.
The likely result: The president will insist on a nominee unacceptable to the majority of senators, and the Senate will refuse to lift a finger to confirm. The battle for control will strip bare many previous fictions, leaving two branches of government fighting openly to limits of their power. As Scalia wrote in Morrison, "Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep's clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf."
Dan McLaughlin is a lawyer in New York City.
« Close It
February 17, 2016
POLITICS: Is Jeb Bush Preparing Himself to Drop Out?
February 16, 2016
POLITICS: New South Carolina Poll From CNN: The Race For 2-3-4
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:17 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
POLITICS: A Nutty Plan To Confirm An Obama Nominee To Replace Scalia - After The Election
February 15, 2016
HISTORY/LAW/POLITICS: Closing The Book On The Silent Generation
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:11 PM | History | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
February 14, 2016
POLITICS: Can Any Republican Senators Afford To Go Wobbly On A Scalia Replacement? Guess Which Ones.
POLITICS: Which Obama Do Republicans Want to Nominate?
POLITICS/LAW: Scalia and South Carolina
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 9, 2016
POLITICS: New Hampshire Primary 2016
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 8, 2016
POLITICS: Almost New Hampshire
February 6, 2016
POLITICS: New Hampshire Fight Night
POLITICS: Road to New Hampshire
February 5, 2016
POLITICS/HISTORY: Are "Electable" Candidates Actually Electable? Part II: Swing State Electability
Is "electability" a meaningless term? It is certainly an overused one, and overused words tend to lose their meaning even when they have something to tell us. In Part I, I looked at "electability" candidates in past Republican presidential primaries. But if we look at recent presidential, Senate and Governor's races, we can get a better fix on what kinds of candidates win and lose in the 17 states that represent the outer limits of "swing states." A lot of things matter in contested elections, notably the national political environment. But like it or not, good candidates is one of the things that matter. They may be conservatives or they may be moderates, and in a few cases in blue states they may even be liberal Republicans, but the answer for conservatives is not to ignore electability entirely but to develop and support conservative candidates who are winners.
One way we can do that is by running candidates with proven experience, as they tend to be less likely to make the mistakes that kill inexperienced candidates. As I noted in Part I, it is mostly a myth that the GOP has repeatedly nominated moderate losers in presidential contests because voters somehow got talked into thinking their opponents were too conservative; it has more typically been the case that we have nominated moderates because conservative opposition was divided or marginalized in the absence of a good conservative alternative, and our contested races have often been between two relatively moderate Republicans. That's what's so unusual about 2016, in which the voting begins with two viable and talented conservatives in the race (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) and real questions about the viability of any of the moderate (Christie, Kasich) and/or establishment (Jeb) candidates.
To complete the picture of electability, let's look at the statewide races going back a decade, to 2006, the start of the current post-Bush-coalition political era, ranking statewide winners and losers by their percentage of the vote.
Read More »
As I've noted before, Ohio has been relentlessly just slightly more Republican than the nation, and for some years now it has been a haven for moderate Republicans, much to the frustration of Ohio conservatives. The three elections won by the GOP in Ohio have been behind the moderate John Kasich and the slightly more conservative, but very staid and establishment, Rob Portman. Both were good fits for Ohio, highly experienced and well-known and seen as sober and "reasonable" by swing voters. Neither was an excite-the-base guy, which is one reason the huge margin of Kasich's 2014 win was mostly the product of depressed Democratic turnout. Romney ran better in Ohio than McCain, but still not that close; conservative Senate candidate Josh Mandel, a bright guy but young and somewhat green on the trail, ran 2.5 points behind Romney in 2012. The Ohio GOP got destroyed in 2006 due in good part to the state-level "Coingate" scandal, but conservative firebrand Ken Blackwell still ran 7.1 points behind establishment incumbent Mike DeWine.
Republicans in years further in the past have won Ohio with conservatives, and certainly the moderate Romney and McCain campaigns failed here, but nobody in the past decade has figured out how to win it with a populist or Tea Party message. Nor has there been a really serious primary in the state since Blackwell's victory over Attorney General Jim Petro, a race that left lingering doubts over whether moderate Ohio Republicans really wanted Blackwell to win.
Let's add to the picture a chart for these swing states of the percentage of eligible voters who voted for the GOP in 2004, 2008 and 2012, as explained previously in this post, with the states ranked from smallest to largest dropoff in GOP votes from Bush to McCain/Romney:
Ohio is better territory for low-key Republicans than fire-breathers. But the serious dropoff in GOP turnout for Romney and McCain compared to Bush in 2004 suggests that a lack of enthusiasm can be a serious problem in Ohio.
Charlie Crist's convincing 2006 win was the last Republican majority in Florida, which he accomplished by running left in a terrible year for the party. Rubio, while running in a better GOP year, arguably had the more impressive win when you consider his 20-point margin over Crist in a 3-way race (Harry Enten at 538 noted that Rubio's margin of victory was greater than you would have projected under the circumstances). Between Rubio and Rick Scott, Florida has been fertile territory for Tea Party conservatives, albeit two different approaches - Rubio's an eloquent political veteran, Scott a businessman who at times has been his own worst enemy on the trail - and both of them beat Crist. Romney and McCain both ran close-but-no-cigar in Florida. By contrast, both the stale establishment Connie Mack and the hard-edged Katherine Harris got bulldozed by Bill Nelson.
Rubio, Scott and Harris all faced electability questions in their primary races, and obviously the first two dispelled all doubters on Election Day, while Harris was a disaster (she was abandoned by the state party - Jeb Bush, then the sitting governor, campaigned with Crist but not Harris) and has never run for office again.
Florida is a big, diverse and querulous state with more than one path to victory. Since the start of presidential primaries in 1976, every winner of the Florida primary has won the GOP nomination, every GOP candidate that lost Florida has lost the election, and every GOP candidate that won Florida has won the election except for George H.W. Bush in 1992. But Rubio and Scott have proven in recent years that being a real conservative is no bar to carrying the Sunshine State.
Few state Republican parties have blown more close races or endured more internal squabbling than the Virginia GOP, whose only major statewide win in the past decade was behind a man who is one Supreme Court case away from having to report to federal prison. In 2009, McDonnell was a fairly classic conservative/establishment "electability" candidate - tall, handsome, smooth-talking, an apparently rock-solid social conservative without a ton of hard edges who could unify the party - and the formula worked, as he annihilated the unfortunate Creigh Deeds. As it turned out, McDonnell was a mediocre governor without a lot of backbone or character.
The other candidates to lose close races in Virginia have tended to be cut from similar cloth in some ways, especially Romney, but also Ed Gillespie, a classic creature of the GOP establishment who might well have won if his race hadn't been written off until the last week. George Allen was a highly successful politician in pre-2006 Virginia but was past his expiration date for a variety of reasons and gaffed his way out of office. Jim Gilmore had the worst showing of any semi-serious GOP Senate candidate in any of the closest swing states discussed here.
The most controversial Virginia nominee in recent years was Cuccinelli, whose race went badly compared to the others. It's not so much that Cuccinelli was too conservative for Virginia as that he was too strident, picking too many hot-button fights too loudly in ways that made him easy to caricature as an extremist. He also had the misfortune of running at the peak of voter dissatisfaction - especially in Northern Virginia, where many federal employees live - with the 2013 government shutdown, dissatisfaction that had long since dissipated by 2014. While Cuccinelli was supported by national Republicans (he received fairly extensive support from the RGA), he also suffered from a divided party in which sore primary loser Bill Bolling remained bitter and threatened to run third party and his partisans sniped at Cuccinelli at every opportunity. And Cuccinelli does not seem to have had much of a well-organized ground operation. Even so, like Gillespie, he made a late charge at the end.
It's not clear that the demographics and economics of Virginia allow the McDonnell win to be recreated now (although the state is more competitive when Obama is not on the ballot to juice African-American turnout). But it seems clear that the biggest challenge in winning Virginia is keeping the state party's fractious factions unified.
North Carolina has been very tight in presidential contests and the 2014 Senate race. Frankly the big down-ballot wipeouts of 2008 were due in good part to supercharged turnout for Obama (especially black voters), as the GOP presidential vote stayed mostly consistent from 2004 to 2008 to 2012; then again, Liddy Dole and Pat McCrory ran well behind John McCain, and Dole's problem was pretty obviously her DC insidery Generic Republican staleness, while McCrory roared back to win handily in 2012 after unpopular Governor Bev Perdue declined to run for re-election. The NC GOP has won with some fairly colorless candidates (Tillis and Burr), but might not have won Tillis' razor-thin race with some of the political amateurs who challenged him in the primary.
GOP turnout seems to be pretty stable in North Carolina regardless of the candidate, but that has yet to be put to the test by a particularly good or bad candidate.
The Democrats had fantastic success "turning Colorado blue" - John Kerry got 31.6% of all eligible voters in 2004, Obama got a staggering 38.1% in 2008. And they've been helped by some truly catastrophic Republican infighting, peaking in 2010 when both Scott McInnis and his primary opponent Dan Maes imploded in the Governor's race, leading to a third party run by the incendiary Tom Tancredo. Ken Buck won independents by 16 points that year and still lost the Senate race, in part due to a weak showing with self-identified Republicans after a bitter primary against Jane Norton, and in part due to turnout problems created by the debacle in the Governor's race. Buck was and is a good conservative, now a freshman Congressman, but he accumulated a number of statements on the trail that played into the "war on women" narrative, and suffered a big gender gap.
Cory Gardner picked the Democrats' lock narrowly against a furious effort to re-run the "war on women" playbook (the Democrats literally ran ads claiming his election would lead to outlawing contraceptives). He managed that, in a year when stolid retread Bob Beauprez couldn't quite win, by being a smooth, charming young guy who deployed a counter-strategy developed by Bobby Jindal of advocating over-the-counter sales of the birth control pill. We still don't know how Gardner did with Hispanic voters, since the networks inexplicably refused to release that line on the exit polls.
The CO GOP has a lot of very conservative elements, and there may be an opportunity somewhere to recreate Bush's big exurban evangelical turnout in the state, but for now it looks very much like a state where a conservative base can't win unless it has a candidate who neutralizes wedge issues that scare off female voters and boost Democratic Hispanic turnout.
Fossilized establishment moderate Republicans may be failing in a lot of places, but Iowans still love Chuck Grassley and Terry Branstad - a lot more than they liked Romney or McCain. Joni Ernst's 2014 win shows that a charismatic younger conservative can win in Iowa, in her case with help from being a military veteran, a woman, and not an abrasive lawyer like her opponent. The trendline is also positive for Republicans in the state, and Ted Cruz showed last week - albeit in the low-turnout environment of a caucus - that energized Iowa evangelicals can be a force to reckon with.
Iowa is a state in flux, but Republicans should be careful not to alienate the Branstad and Grassley voters.
New Hampshire holds a lot of elections, and Republicans in recent years have made something of an art of losing them. They lost with a handsome, charming pro-choice Massachusetts carpetbagger (Scott Brown), with a Beltway establishment veteran scion of a New Hampshire political dynasty (John Sununu), and with a Tea Partier who ran four points behind Romney (Ovide Lamontagne) two years after losing a contested Senate primary to Kelly Ayotte.
Only Ayotte has found the winning formula, running away with her 2010 Senate race (she'll face a tough race this year but nothing like the dire peril that faces Ron Johnson or Mark Kirk). Like the state's current Democratic Governor (Maggie Hassan) and its other Senator (Jeanne Shaheen) and one of its two Representatives (Democrat Ann Kuster), Ayotte is a woman. She's a moderate Republican but no liberal, having made her name in part by taking an abortion parental-notification case against Planned Parenthood to the Supreme Court. She won New Hampshire's numerous independent voters in 2010 by a landslide margin. Ayotte comes across as a classic upper-middle-class suburban professional working mom.
New Hampshire is a challenge for Republicans these days, but Ayotte shows that a likeable Republican with some real convictions can win over its fickle voters.
Pennsylvania remains the Great White Whale of GOP presidential politics, with Romney getting close to his national vote percentage there while scarcely putting any effort into the state and its 20 electoral votes. The state GOP suffered a body blow when Rick Santorum got vaporized in 2006 after making himself too strident a social conservative for the Philly suburbs, and football hero Lynn Swann got buried in the 2006 wave. But then State Attorney General Tom Corbett and former Congressman and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey turned that around in 2010. Corbett's Governorship was a disaster, in part for reasons related to the Penn State sex scandal, but Toomey is in pretty solid shape for his re-election race so far, and seems likely to avoid a primary challenge despite his sponsorship of the Manchin-Toomey gun bill, which won him bipartisan credibility with suburbanites.
Corbett ran as a fairly generic Republican, but Toomey's vigorous economic conservatism led some to assume he was too conservative for the state. Yet he won handily after chasing Arlen Specter out of the party in a primary. Toomey has long had a good touch with blue-collar voters somewhat at odds with his national reputation.
In the right year, a Republican with a solid conservative platform can win Pennsylvania with the support of its rural center if he can avoid getting clobbered in the moderate Philadelphia suburbs.
Nevada was once the sort of conservative mountain state that could elect the likes of John Ensign, but changing demographics have made that unworkable, and bomb-throwing Tea Partier Sharron Angle blew a very winnable race against Harry Reid in 2010 that she led in the polls on Election Day (in part because Angle ran a disorganized campaign without great support from the party). Greater successes have gone to much more moderate Republicans like Brian Sandoval (the state's first Hispanic governor) and Dean Heller.
Nevada is mostly a blue state now, unless Republicans can find a way to reach the state's Hispanics.
I can sum up in two words the kind of Republican who wins in Wisconsin: Scott Walker. And Ron Johnson originally ran as somewhat similar to Walker, a blunt conservative Tea Party businessman rather than a Paul Ryan-style smooth operator. Walker's wins, like George W. Bush's narrow 2004 loss in the state, came in races with fairly high turnout. The Wisconsin GOP is quite conservative despite being in a "blue" state - unlike many other closely divided states, Wisconsin generally has supercharged partisan turnout and very few swing voters. You win Wisconsin with base turnout.
Despite persistent predictions of demographic doom and a state party that is sometimes too complacent, it's been a long time since Georgia Republicans have lost a statewide race. The state's winners have tended to be establishment-conservative types, and as in North Carolina, the same voters tend to turn out no matter who is on the ballot. That said, the Georgia GOP may have dodged a bullet in 2014 by picking the "electable" if unexciting David Perdue over some of his more volatile primary opponents, devoted conservatives though they are.
Georgia Democrats got wiped out so badly with white voters (and were so weak with Hispanic voters) in 2014 that their African-American base didn't matter. Bluntly, the racial divide in Georgia politics isn't going away, and for now it gives Republicans an advantage just as exists in less competitive states like Alabama and Mississippi.
Missouri, seen as a swing state during the Bush years up through the 2006 dumping of Jim Talent (a wonky but otherwise standard-issue foreign policy-oriented establishment conservatives), has snapped back in 2010-12 due to the huge unpopularity of Obamacare, although pre-Ferguson that did not help Republicans at the gubernatorial level. Both Romney and establishment Republican Roy Blunt won easily here. The glaring exception was the now-infamous Todd Akin, who proved exactly how small the social conservative base could be if you frightened off everyone else. Had Republicans picked either Akin's establishment opponent (John Brunner) or his Tea Party opponent (Sarah Steelman), they might well have defeated Claire McCaskill on Romney's coattails.
Missouri will reward conservatives if they don't say something really stupid.
Arizonans like their politics a little rougher, and take the border seriously enough to re-elect Jan Brewer after one of the worst debate disasters in memory, yet John McCain remains popular at home. Jeff Flake, a clean-cut economic conservative who is a little more McCain than Brewer on immigration, squeaked out a win in a bad Senate environment in 2012.
You don't need to be mild or moderate to win in Arizona, and it helps to show its voters some spine.
Minnesota elections are often won below 50%, due to stubborn third-party leftists. Moderate incumbent Norm Coleman was robbed in the 2008 recount there, while mild-tempered Tim Pawlenty got re-elected in 2006. Like Walker and much unlike business magnate Mike McFadden, T-Paw ran on his working-class roots. There's surprising pockets of strength for conservatives in Minnesota (think: Michele Bachmann; Romney didn't run so badly here), but it's a more natural fit for moderates, and a good candidate needs to find a way to connect with blue-collar white voters.
Indiana is a state Republicans have to work at losing, but both John McCain and Richard Mourdock were up to the task, in Mourdock's case due to a poor debate answer that made him collateral damage of the Akin fiasco as well as bad feelings from the Lugar camp after Mourdock's primary win. But the state's voters have rewarded a variety of different types of Republicans, from the moderate statemanlike Lugar to the wonky Mitch Daniels, the conservative Pence, and the warmed-over out-of-mothballs Dan Coats.
Businessman and "one tough nerd" Rick Snyder is the only Republican in recent years to figure out Michigan; a distant second in votes there was Romney, who had deep roots in the state George Romney once governed. Foreign policy-focused Congressman Pete Hoekstra got massacred there in 2012, as did Terri Lynn Land in 2014, a candidate who was so bad at public appearances that she essentially spent most of the campaign hiding from public attention. Snyder is a bit more moderate than Rick Scott, but has similarly marketed himself as a business Mr. Fix-It. This is another Midwestern state where blue-collar appeal is more crucial than ideology.
Republicans have been sinking badly in New Mexico at the national and Senate levels - 30.1% of the state's eligible voters voted for Bush in his surprise 2004 win of the state, but that had plunged all the way to 23.5% by the time we got to Romney, due to a combination of hemorrhaging Hispanic votes and the overall dropoff of voter turnout in the state. The exception has been moderate Mexican-American Governor Susanna Martinez, who put her endearing "how I discovered I was a Republican" spiel on display at the 2012 convention, helping herself but not Romney.
The most important element of a GOP campaign in New Mexico is appeal to Hispanics in the state with the fewest white voters in the country.
There are clearly different recipes for picking candidates suited to each of the competitive states. But some individuals do stand head and shoulders above others in their states, and they tend to have some common characteristics - candidates who are younger, better-spoken, less abrasive, perhaps "diverse" and/or attractive and/or personally impressive; candidates with the common touch in one way or another; candidates who have an identifiable conservative appeal on one or more issues but present more difficult targets for the usual Democratic campaign to paint them as heartless zealots. Ayotte, Toomey, Gardner, Ernst, Walker, Martinez, Snyder, Rubio, Scott, McDonnell, Sandoval...their approaches are not all the same, and that presents challenges in defining "electability" across a national election, and not all of these candidates' electoral strength was quantifiable at the time in the polls, but you can know it when you see it, and distinguish it from candidates who are like playing with live ammunition, or are stale leftovers, or alienate important Republican constituencies on core issues, or just are not good at this. Another commonality is that, while some of them (such as Rubio or Toomey) emerged from bruising and divisive primaries, they stood in a good position to unify the party's various factions behind them, and were not themselves divisive, factional candidates.
As much as the political mood and terrain matter, the ability to connect with more voters than you alienate is a skill. Good candidates matter. We should try, when possible, to run them.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:11 AM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 3, 2016
POLITICS: Ulrich for Mayor?
February 2, 2016
POLITICS: Now With More National Review
As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @baseballcrank or bookmark these links to catch up on my latest work:
and now at National Review
Latest since my last post here:
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:26 PM | Blog 2006-Present | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
February 1, 2016
POLITICS: The Iowa Caucus Expectations Game: What Do the Republican Candidates Need?
January 29, 2016
POLITICS: Last Night's Debate Underlines Why Congress Is a Problem for the "Establishment" Republicans
January 27, 2016
POLITICS/HISTORY: Are "Electable" Candidates Actually Electable? Part I: Presidential Primaries 1948-2012
One of the siren songs raised in favor of moderate and establishment-backed candidates every primary election season is that they are “electable” and their opponents are not. Sometimes, this is frankly code for “not like those conservatives.” But if the idea that conservatives are unelectable is a fallacy, so too is the reflexive assumption that any candidate described as “electable” is actually the opposite, or is not any sort of conservative. History reminds us that good candidates win and bad ones lose, and while ideology can matter more or less depending where and when the election is held, neither conservatives nor moderates have any monopoly on winning elections. And if you look at the history of failed GOP “electability” candidates, you will find that they were usually moderates who faced significantly weaker and/or non-conservative opponents.
Let’s take a two-part walk through the history of electability arguments, starting with a review of the GOP primaries from 1948 to 2012. In the second part, I’ll look at statewide swing-state races over the past decade to consider what kinds of Republican candidates actually do win contested elections.
Read More »
Electability in the GOP Presidential Primaries, 1948-2012
The Republican Party’s internal conservative/moderate divides go back to the era of William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, but we can first see them play out in something like public presidential nominating contests in the post World War II era, and they flowered much more dramatically after the primary system was handed over to 50-state popular vote campaigns in 1976.
1948: Dewey v. Taft
In 1948, the GOP faced a choice between two main candidates: moderate New York Governor Tom Dewey and conservative Ohio Senator Robert Taft. They were not actually the top two vote-getters in the primaries (those were liberal Republicans Harold Stassen of Minnesota and Earl Warren of California), but the process was different in those days (Warren ran only in California, where he was unopposed). Both had been jockeying for the nomination since 1940. Dewey, a 46 year old former Manhattan prosecutor, embodied the Eastern establishment of the day, and had been the nominee in 1944; he got 45.9% of the vote, not an impressive result to our eyes today but the best showing by a Republican since Hoover in 1928. Taft, a 59-year-old foe of the New Deal known for his anti-interventionist foreign policy, was known as “Mr. Conservative” and drove the legislative agenda of the Republican Congress elected in 1946.
Republicans picked Dewey, after a late charge from Stassen, with Warren as his running mate. On paper, this seemed like a savvy choice on electability grounds; Dewey had been the first candidate since 1892 to win Ohio without winning the election, he had just won re-election by a historic margin in New York, and with the New York-bred FDR gone and replaced with Harry Truman – a scrappy Missouri populist without a college education – it was rational to believe Dewey could finally break the Democrats’ hold on New York and the Northeast. It was a golden opportunity, given that the Democrats faced defections on their left (former Vice President Henry Wallace running third party as a Progressive) and right (Dixiecrat Senator Strom Thurmond would carry four states in the Deep South).
That part of the plan worked: Dewey won New York (47 electoral votes at the time), Pennsylvania (35), New Jersey (16), and 19 other electoral votes in Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware, plus Michigan (19) and Oregon (6). Added to his 1944 tally, that was enough to beat Truman – but Truman won back Ohio (25 electoral votes), Wisconsin (13), Iowa (10), Colorado (6) and Wyoming (3), all of them Dewey states in 1944, and won the election. Here’s the 1944 and 1948 maps, with Republicans in blue:
Would the GOP have been better off forgetting electability and going with Taft? It’s unknowable – on the one hand, the post-incumbent dynamic may have been blunted by the GOP re-running 1944’s loser, but on the other hand, Taft would probably have fared better in the Midwest, but may not have been able to compete with Dewey’s appeal to the Democrat-held Northeast. As it happened, Truman ran much of his campaign against the Republican Congress, and Taft was the architect of its agenda and out of step with much of the country on foreign affairs. Dewey and Taft were both serious and accomplished men with distinct appeals, but neither was that charismatic – Dewey was aloof and arrogant, Taft colorless and dull. The Republicans of 1948 lost with the “electable” moderate, but they would probably have exchanged one set of problems for another with the conservative purist.
1952: Ike v. Taft
Taft ran again in 1952, but he ran into the ultimate in “electability” candidates, Dwight Eisenhower. Like Hoover and Zachary Taylor before him, Ike was so popular and his views so unknown that both parties tried to recruit him to run (Republicans had been flirting in 1944 and 1948 with Douglas MacArthur, a more conservative war hero choice). After four straight losses with men in their 40s, the party was desperate for a win and ready for a more mature candidate to promise a resolution to the Korean War; Taft was 63, Ike 62. The party picked the national war hero Eisenhower – due in good part to the support of Warren at the convention – and he lived up to every promise of electability. He won every state outside Kentucky, West Virginia and the Deep South. He easily carried his birthplace of Texas, which Dewey had lost by 41 points; Hoover in 1928 was the only prior Republican to win Texas. He won Virginia, which had likewise been won only once (by Hoover) by a Republican since Reconstruction; Democrats would win it only once (LBJ in 1964) between 1952 and 2004. He similarly broke through in Tennessee, starting the process of eroding the Solid South from three directions. He expanded his reach to Kentucky and West Virginia in 1956. His Vice President would go on to be a two-term President. Sean Trende, in The Lost Majority, would rate Ike’s presidential coalition the most durable in American history, lasting through the last Cold War election in 1988. And while the party could not have known this in 1952, Taft would be diagnosed with cancer just 3 months after Eisenhower was inaugurated, and dead of it in July 1953.
At what cost? Eisenhower’s more internationalist view of the Cold War, mostly adopted by Nixon, Goldwater, Reagan and H.W. Bush, seems vindicated by history; even many conservatives who want a more Taft-like approach today would blanch at applying it to the Cold War. But in domestic policy, the moderate Eisenhower put Warren and William Brennan on the Supreme Court and validated much of the New Deal that Taft had battled.
1964: Goldwater v. Rockefeller
Aside from incumbents, the only post-WWII elections to feature no real contest for the nomination were the 1960 and 1968 Nixon nominations, as the Machiavellian Nixon ran to the party’s center and kept liberals like Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and conservatives like Ronald Reagan in 1968 from gaining the oxygen to mount serious challenges (Reagan in ’68, like Warren in ’48, ran unopposed in California but was barely on the radar anywhere else).
In between was the contest that left party moderates scarred for decades (Bob Dole, then a Congressman, still hasn’t recovered): the nomination of 55 year old Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, over the 56 year old Rockefeller, the liberal Governor of New York.
Goldwater proved unelectable, in the most emphatic terms: Lyndon Johnson, a man deeply mistrusted by liberal Democrats at the time and every bit as lacking in charisma or a reputation for honesty as Nixon, won 61% of the popular vote, the largest tally in the history of the American popular vote. Goldwater’s home state of Arizona was the only one of the 26 states carried by Nixon in 1960 to vote Republican in 1964, although a few Deep South states defected to his column. Almost a quarter of Nixon’s voters defected. The disaster spread far down ticket, with Democrats left with a commanding 68-32 majority in the Senate and 295-140 in the House, majorities they would use to pass long-lasting legislation, almost none of which has since been repealed; to sink the nation into the Vietnam War; and to put two liberals on the Supreme Court, one of whom (Thurgood Marshall) would be there until 1991.
In retrospect, 1964 was probably unwinnable with any candidate, much less the obnoxious, liberal, twice-married New York tycoon Rockefeller. LBJ was riding high on a good economy, the appearance of progress in Vietnam, improving relations with the Soviets, the Civil Rights Act, and the wave of goodwill that followed the JFK assassination. But Goldwater really was a bad candidate. That was partly due to being more conservative than the country was ready for and partly due to his principled but imprudent constitutional objections to the Civil Rights Act, but it was also his hard-edged temperament and personality. Goldwater’s crack about lobbing a nuke into the men’s room at the Kremlin helped convince many voters who had no love for LBJ that Goldwater would start a nuclear war. Nominating Goldwater in an inevitable losing cause had real tradeoffs: he helped lay the groundwork for the conservative resurgence, and Republicans would get a fair amount of ground back in Congress in the 1966 midterms, but the scale of the wipeout had real legislative consequences. The electability critics of Goldwater were right.
1976: Ford v Reagan
The very first popular-vote Republican presidential primary drew the battle lines over “electability” that the party’s conservatives and moderates have been rehashing ever since. Ronald Reagan, having left office in 1974 after eight years as California’s Governor, planned to run for President in 1976 at the end of Richard Nixon’s second term. 44 year old Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook had given voice to conservatives in a futile primary challenge (endorsed by National Review) to Nixon in 1972, but with no obvious moderate or liberal successor to Nixon, Reagan would offer conservatives a rare shot at running as a favorite.
Watergate changed all that, and by 1975, Gerald Ford could run in the primaries as an incumbent. But Reagan ran anyway. The Ford camp made, in public and private, the argument that Reagan was unelectable and a repeat of Goldwater ’64 – you can read some samples here, here and here for a flavor, including efforts at rebutting Reagan’s arguments that his appeal was broader than Ford’s. Ford – at 63, two years younger than Reagan – won after a close, bruising two-man 50-state race. After a bitter convention battle, Ford invited Reagan to the podium in the hopes of restoring party unity, and Reagan gave an electrifying impromptu address that left basically everyone watching convinced they had nominated the wrong man.
Ford started the general election in a huge hole against Jimmy Carter (down by 30+ points in one midsummer national Gallup poll), but ended up losing just 50-48 in the popular vote and 297-240 in the Electoral College, having seen a furious late charge stall out after a debate gaffe.
We can’t know if Reagan would have done better than Ford in 1976, and it’s true that Reagan moderated some of his positions between 1976 and 1980 for a general election appeal, but the fact that Reagan won 44 states (despite a liberal Republican running third party) in 1980 and 49 in 1984 testifies to the epic wrongness of the idea that Reagan was unelectable. If Reagan could not win in 1976, it’s only because no Republican could.
Ford ended up carrying most of the West of the country – Texas and Hawaii were the only states he lost west of the borders of the Mississippi River – and that was Reagan’s base, but he lost nine states in the general election that Reagan had carried in the primaries, including much of the South: Texas (26 electoral votes), North Carolina (13), Missouri (12), Georgia (12), Louisiana (10), Minnesota (10), Alabama (9), South Carolina (8), and Arkansas (6). Some of those, like Carter’s home state of Georgia, were beyond reach, but Reagan could have flipped the Electoral College just by capturing Texas, Missouri and Louisiana, in all of which Carter got less than 52% of the vote:
Of course, much like Dewey in 1948, Ford ran well in parts of New England and his home state of Michigan in ways that Reagan might not have, but then again Reagan in more favorable circumstances swept virtually the whole Northeast in 1980 and all of it in 1984.
1980: Reagan v Bush
The same electability arguments were rehashed against Reagan in 1980, but with less vigor – he was no longer running against an incumbent Republican president, and while he had serious opponents (56 year old George H.W. Bush, 57 year old Bob Dole, 54 year old Howard Baker, 63 year old John Connally), Reagan had easily more endorsements from elected officials than any of them. Of course, after a few early hurdles (including Bush overcoming a 9-point last-week polling deficit in the Iowa Caucuses after an overconfident Reagan blew off the last Iowa debate), Reagan ran away with the primary and blew the doors off the general election.
1988: Bush v Dole
Reagan defeated for good the idea that conservatism could never be sold to a general electorate in the United States, although of course today we live with the question of whether our general electorate is irredeemably different from the ones that came before it. But starting in 1988, the once scrappy, unified conservative movement started splintering in presidential primary fields.
The conservatives in 1988 split between the 53 year old economic supply-side hero Congressman Jack Kemp, who went nowhere, and 58 year old Christian Coalition leader Rev. Pat Robertson, who won an odd-lot group of caucuses (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington). The main event was Vice President Bush against Dole. Dole had long been an antagonist of the Reagan Administration on fiscal issues, and given Reagan’s Iran-Contra doldrums in early/mid 1987, Dole may have banked on the argument that a more moderate candidate with distance from the White House would be more electable. But despite Bush’s moderate history, he embraced Reagan’s record, and GOP voters rallied around him, in the primaries and in a fall campaign dominated by cultural wedge issues. Bush fared less well than Reagan had, and would get destroyed in the 1992 election, but he was by no means too conservative to be electable.
1996: Dole v Buchanan & Forbes
1996, in retrospect, was probably not a winnable campaign by any Republican; Bill Clinton was at the peak of his powers, with peace and prosperity and the power of incumbency at his back, and Clinton ran so hard to the center in cutting deals with Newt Gingrich that conservatives probably got more out of Clinton in one year in 1996 than they would have gotten from four years of President Dole. That said, the 73 year old Dole was marketed as the most electable Republican in 1996, mostly on the basis of the weakness of his two major conservative opponents – 58 year old pundit and speechwriter Pat Buchanan, a lifelong creature of the Beltway, and 49 year old publishing heir Steve Forbes. The paleoconservative Buchanan and the supply-sider Forbes were both vigorous spokesmen for their factions, but neither has ever won an election, and there’s no reason to think either would have done much better than Dole. The “electable” moderate’s loss was likely unavoidable.
2000: Bush v McCain
After eight years of Clinton, electability was a paramount issue in 2000, but ideology played a fairly small role in that. Bush had the party establishment overwhelmingly on his side, and despite a fair amount of grumbling about “compassionate conservatism,” conservatives mostly backed him as well. 54-year-old Texas Governor George W. Bush ran to 64-year-old Arizona Senator John McCain’s right on taxes and judges and McCain ran to Bush’s right on education and entitlements, but their differences were more atmospheric than ideological, as Bush rallied Christian conservatives while McCain touted his crossover primary support by independents and Democrats. McCain attacked Bush’s electability on these grounds and grounds of being tongue-tied and under-experienced, but Bush’s whole campaign was geared towards electability due to his poll leads on Al Gore and huge 1998 re-election win.
Again, we can’t know if McCain would have won in 2000 – he lost in far more unfavorable circumstances in 2008, sinking under the weight of Bush’s political baggage – but Bush’s successes in 2000 and 2004 make it hard to credit arguments at the time that he was less electable than McCain.
2008: McCain v Romney v Huckabee
Much of the complaints about “electability” candidates comes from the last two elections, which unfortunately is a very small sample from which to generalize, especially since two candidates (Mitt Romney and Ron Paul) ran in both years’ primaries and both faced the same general election opponent. But 2008 was an election even a perfect GOP candidate might not have won, with the 1-2-3 punch of catastrophically low Bush approval ratings (which led to a massacre in the 2006 midterms), a “historic” first-black-president candidate, and a devastating September financial crisis. The “electability” theory for John McCain was – somewhat redolent of Dole ’96 & ’88 – less that he was a great candidate than that his distance from Bush would give the GOP an outside shot to win back voters disenchanted with Bush.
Once Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson faded, the 72 year old McCain faced off against 61 year old former one-term Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and 53 year old former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and while Romney tried to whitewash his entire record in order to run as an ideological conservative, really all three were less than orthodox conservatives, with McCain running hardest-right on foreign policy, Huckabee on social issues. Again, McCain was not a great candidate and made some fateful errors, but given the disastrous events of Fall 2008, it’s hard to imagine Romney or Huckabee doing better.
2012: Romney v Santorum v Gingrich
2012, unlike 2008, was an election Republicans could at least conceivably have won, and looked at the time like a close affair, just as 2004 did. The potentially strongest conservative in the race, Rick Perry, flamed out early for a variety of reasons not worth rehashing here, so that when the voting started, the 64 year old Romney was leaning heavily on “electability” arguments against two opponents, 54 year old former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and 69 year old former House Speaker and Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich. There were valid reasons to think Romney was a bad general election candidate, which I argued extensively at the time, and while his final showing was a good deal deeper and stronger than McCain (he won independents and ran ahead of many GOP Senate candidates, ranging from liberals to moderates to establishment conservatives to Tea Party conservatives), his failure to grow the party base hurt him badly and downticket Republicans as well, especially in the contested Senate races in states like Virginia and Wisconsin.
But if the prophets of electability overrated Romney, it’s hard to buy the argument that Santorum or Gingrich was the answer. Santorum was part of the Bush-era Senate leadership and was and is a hard-edged, unlikeable social conservative who got destroyed in his last Senate race in 2006 and is barely a blip now in the 2016 primaries. Newt was on balance an excellent Speaker and a brilliant debater and expositor of conservative theory and populist politics, but his messy personal life and high fixed negatives with the public would have been a brutal barrier to overcome.
The moderates’ “electability” arguments were ubdoubtedly right about Eisenhower and Goldwater, and just as undoubtedly wrong about Reagan. Otherwise, the record shows mainly a series of (1) weak moderates nominated against weak fields in bad years and (2) contests where none of the contenders was a serious conservative. 1976 is the only election since 1948 – and arguably including 1948 – in which conservatives clearly had a good candidate who was defeated by a moderate who then went on to lose a possibly winnable race, while 1964 is the only election in that period in which the moderates’ warnings were disregarded and a conservative went down to defeat. So both factions’ prevailing myths are based on very little evidence.
In Part II, I will look at the broader array of swing-state elections (presidential, Senate and Governor’s races) to consider what kind of candidates are and are not “electable” in the major states on the 2016 map.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:14 PM | History | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
January 17, 2016
POLITICS: Trumpian Motion
January 14, 2016
POLITICS: Rubio, Cruz, Trump
January 4, 2016
POLITICS: End of 2015
My last two essays of 2015 were just before Christmas:
On to 2016.
December 18, 2015
POLITICS: Bomb Aladdin!
One of the favorite shticks of Democrat pollster Public Policy Polling (PPP) is to ask questions designed to make Republican voters look bad. This kind of "troll polling" flatters all the usual sorts of people who love to laugh at what yokels the GOP's supporters are, and as yet no Republican-leaning pollster has gotten into the regular business of giving Democrats a taste of the same medicine. If the last few years have taught us anything, it's not to trust individual polls that can't be checked against a polling average, but by definition these are all one-off polls. But there's a deeper issue here that the latest PPP trolling question illustrates: that average Americans are far too trusting of pollsters, and the ability of pollsters to exploit that trust shows why polling on individual issues is untrustworthy.
Here's the latest poll question that has PPP's followers floating on a cloud of smug this morning:
Read More »
Over six thousand Retweets at this writing! A flavor of what PPP is trying to accomplish comes from the following Tweets:
[UPDATE: Apparently the question was suggested by far-Left arch-feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte, who tweeted: "Idea: Let's come up with a fake country with a vaguely Arabic name and poll GOP voters on whether or not we should bomb it."]
If you look at the overall breakdown on PPP's poll question and how Democratic voters answered the same question, Republicans don't actually come out looking quite as bad as the Tweet headline suggests:
If you're keeping score at home, that means 55% of Democrat voters were willing to express an opinion on bombing a fictional country, compared to 43% of Republicans. PPP is dining out on the 30-19 edge in Republican voters who said "yes," but if you take this poll seriously, the 57-45 edge in Republican voters who were unwilling to answer a question with an egregious falsehood about world events embedded in its premise seems to cut in the opposite direction than what PPP is trying to accomplish here.
But really, you should not take these troll polls seriously, and in fact they should teach educated poll consumers to be skeptical about all issue polling. Why did 55% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans answer a question about bombing a fictional country? Partly, one assumes, because it didn't occur to them that the pollster would take advantage of them by asking a question that assumed facts that do not exist. Partly because people in general do not like to admit there are things they do not know. Partly because people do assume there are all sorts of little countries out there they have never heard of, a fair number of which (e.g., former Soviet republics, parts of the old Yugoslavia, breakaway African states) didn't exist 20 or 30 years ago, and that some of these are unstable places that may house the occasional wretched hive of scum and villainy. And partly because answers to issue polling questions tend to vary a lot by what the pollster says before asking them:
In this particular case, the Agrabah question was Question 38 on a 41-question poll. If you've ever taken a poll, 38 is a lot of questions - you're getting impatient, the kids may be yelling for you, but if you are a good-natured sort and want your voice heard and you've already invested several minutes of your time, you're determined to stick it all the way to the end by this point. (We don't know how many people hung up before they got to the end). Let's look at the issue questions leading up to this:
Question 29 Do you support or oppose requiring a criminal background check of every person who wants to buy a firearm? (6% were not sure)
You'll notice first that the number of people who didn't feel qualified to answer questions about gun ownership and the minimum wage was pretty low, but rose as they moved into the next set of questions and then abruptly more than doubled when they got to bombing the land of genies and magic carpets. You'll also notice how the poll led into this with a series of questions all tied around terrorism and Islam, so respondents were primed to expect that a question about bombing some obscure Arab-sounding place was related in good faith to the questions that came before it - that bombing Agrabah was a thing that our leaders were seriously discussing.
You'll also notice if you dig into the crosstabs that the most liberal (31%) and youngest (46% under age 45) and male (51%) poll respondents were the least willing to refuse to answer (all this is among Republicans; PPP hasn't yet released the poll of Democrats). Interestingly, aside from George Pataki (who polled at 0% so his support can't have been more than 1 or 2 people), the two candidates whose supporters were least likely to answer the question were Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee - 76% of Carson's supporters declined to answer it.
[UPDATE: PPP has now released the full poll. When questioning Democrats, PPP asked only ten questions; the Agrabah question was sixth, and was not preceded by any other issue questions, let alone a battery of questions about terrorism and Muslims. The disparity in how the question was placed in the two polls is stark.
But the crosstabs are beside the main point, which is that people are willing to tell pollsters all sorts of things about which they do not actually have anything like a fixed opinion, let alone an informed one. I very much doubt if PPP polled a single person who went into that call with an opinion about bombing Agrabah, and I doubt very many of them continued to have an opinion the next day. A machine asked them to press a button, so they just took their best guess.
And if you read every issue poll from today forward with that in mind, you will realize how much of the issue polling that gets published is no more useful or predictive than knowing people's opinions about bombing a place that exists in a Disney cartoon. PPP may have been looking to discredit Republican voters, but it really did more to reveal the problem with the trustworthiness of its own industry.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:30 PM | Politics 2015 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
December 16, 2015
POLITICS: Fifth Debate Analysis and Boyd Strategy Essay
My longest deep dive of the year, from the theories of John Boyd: Military Strategist Explains Why Donald Trump Leads - And How He Will Fail
In the LA Times: To understand Donald Trump, look to Europe
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 AM | History | In Print | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
November 26, 2015
POLITICS: The Myth of "4 Million Conservative Voters Stayed Home in 2012"
I have frequently criticized liberal and Democratic commentators for relying on the Static Electorate Fallacy, the idea that the 2016 electorate and results will not stray far from the demographic, geographic and ideological contours of 2012, despite longstanding American electoral history showing that elections following the re-election of an incumbent have always featured shifts in the map to the detriment of the party in power. Candidates make their own turnout, and removing a successfully re-elected incumbent always puts more voters and potential voters up for grabs.
But conservative and Republican commentators need to avoid believing our own comforting myths, and one of those has managed remarkable durability even though it should have gone away within a month of the 2012 elections: that something like 4 million usually reliable conservative voters - voters who showed up at the polls even in the down year of 2008 to support John McCain - stayed home in 2012 because Mitt Romney was too moderate. This theory keeps getting offered as proof that all the GOP needs to do is nominate a real conservative and this cavalry, 4 million strong, will come charging over the hilltop and save the day. In fact, poor a candidate as he was, Romney actually got more votes than McCain did; the belief that he got less is based entirely on incomplete numbers reported in the first 24-48 hours after Election Day, before all the votes had finally been counted.
Read More »
The myth itself first appeared shortly after the November 6, 2012 election. Here's Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator:
On Tuesday night, it comes clear, as this is written using the latest Fox News figures, Mitt Romney lost to President Obama by 2,819,339 votes.
Here's Rush Limbaugh the same day:
So three million Republican voters stayed home on Election Day. Three million predominantly white voters stayed home. The media is all over the place with the fact that the Republicans lost "the white vote." They can't get the white vote. They did lose the white vote, but Democrats didn't get it. They just didn't show up, and it wasn't voter suppression that didn't turn 'em out.
Somehow, Romney managed to pull nearly 2 million fewer votes than John McCain, one of the weakest Republican nominees ever, and one who ran in a cycle when the party had sunk to historic depths of unpopularity. How to explain that? The brute fact is: There are many people in the country who believe it makes no difference which party wins these elections.
Here at RedState, diarist Griffin offered a similar take on November 14, under the title "What went wrong in 2012? The case of the 4 million missing voters":
Over 62 million voters cast their ballot for George W. Bush in 2004. Less than 60 million voters cast their ballot for John McCain in 2008. And somewhere under 57-59 Million voters cast their ballot for Mitt Romney in 2012. The numbers from the latest election seem to indicate that the Republican Party is losing voters while America is gaining them.
These were preliminary analyses, and Griffin in particular cautioned that they were based on non-final numbers. That's fine; all of us who do punditry after an election work with the best data we have. The problem is, this became an article of faith for too many people long after the final numbers were available. The 4 million figure shows up in comments sections and on Twitter all the time, and there are still some prominent voices citing it as if it was quantifiable fact. Rush has kept repeating it for years, like this in March 2014:
The 2010 turnout was not duplicated in 2012. But what about the 2012 turnout stands out to you? What stands out to me is that four million Republicans didn't vote in 2012. Four million stayed home, for whatever reason. I said, it seems to me that if those four million had shown up, we would have won, and we would have won by turning out our base.
[L]o and behold, when 2012 came around, the people that made the 2010 midterm landslide possible stayed home. Remember those four to five million Republicans that did not vote in 2012? They did not show up for Romney. And in 2008 they did not show up for McCain. They show up in the midterms, they stay home.
Since 2008 and 2012 turnout was by any measure higher in absolute terms in all groups than the 2010 and 2014 midterms, I'm not sure that's even a relevant comparison, but leave that aside. Here's Emmett "Bob" Tyrell of the American Spectator in February 2015:
We conservatives have learned a lot from Obama’s election and from his re-election in 2012. The election of 2012 was but a rerun of 2008 with four million conservatives absent...Four million conservatives took a vacation from history in 2012 and the results were four more years of a papier-mâché president. It will not happen again.
“In 2012, four million conservatives stayed home. And in 2006, the last time Republicans controlled the House and Senate, 1 out of 5 self-identified conservatives didn’t vote to punish the Republican Party.”
Obama won by only 5 million votes. Three million Republicans didn't vote in the 2012 Obama-Romney face-off and a hefty number of disgruntled Republicans voted for libertarian Gary Johnson, who garnered 1.5 million votes. Millions of conservatives -- who are not registered Republicans -- also withheld their votes. Imagine if all of those protest votes had gone to Romney?
There’s probably a lot of folks out there right now who would just as soon stay at home on election day. In fact, that’s what happened in the 2012 presidential election. For Republicans, it is estimated that as many as four million conservative voters just stayed home on election day and didn’t show up.
What sounds like the most extreme version of this - more on this below - is from Ted Cruz, who keeps citing a number ten times that in his stump speeches:
“The last election, 2012, 54 million evangelicals stayed home. Fifty-four million,” the GOP presidential candidate told the crowd of about 1,500. “Is it any wonder the federal government is waging a war on life, on marriage, on religious liberty when Christians are staying home and our leaders are being elected by nonbelievers?”
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told the crowd that evangelical Christians made up 27% of the electorate in 2012, a presidential year, and 32% of voters in the 2014 midterm elections.
To the extent that any of these analyses are based on the proposition that Romney got millions fewer votes than McCain, they are provably wrong. What happened is pretty simple: some states and localities take longer to count the votes than others - some big cities are notorious for this, some count absentee ballots slowly, California traditionally counts very slowly, and some of the jurisdictions hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were understandably slow getting finalized. But the final numbers are not what was originally available in the immediate aftermath of the election:
In 2004, George W. Bush got 62,039,572 votes vs 59,027,115 for John Kerry.
In 2008, John McCain got 59,950,323 votes vs 69,499,428 for Barack Obama - in other words, McCain lost about 2 million votes from what Bush had received, while Obama gained over 10 million vs Kerry's total.
In 2012, Mitt Romney got 60,934,407 votes vs 65,918,507 for Obama - a million more votes for Romney than McCain, and 3.5 million fewer for Obama (but still up around 6 million compared to Kerry).
Presumably, some of Bush's voters in 2004 stayed home in 2008 and 2012, while others switched to Obama or one of many minor third party candidates. But even if we compare Romney to Bush, he's off by only a little over a million votes, not such an enormous number in an electorate of around 130 million people. And exit polling doesn't really support the notion that self-identified conservatives were noticeably missing, as Karl Rove noted in the Wall Street Journal back in April:
According to exit polls, self-identified conservatives made up 35% of the 2012 turnout, and 82% of them voted for Mr. Romney. This translates into about 45.2 million conservatives who turned out—roughly 531,000 more than in 2008.
The Actual Opportunity
So, the cavalry isn't coming. The number of people who voted for a past Republican presidential candidate and not for Mitt Romney likely isn't be much above the 1 million to 1.5 million range, not enough by itself to cover the distance between Romney and Obama, and the missing stay-at-home voters did not appreciably cut into the proportion of voters who think of themselves as "conservatives."
But this doesn't mean the electorate really is static, or that there's no opportunity to improve on it. What it means is that the missing potential Republican voters are mostly people who have not been regular voters in the recent past, and many of them may not be politically engaged people who think of themselves as conservatives, whether or not their actual beliefs are. Let's start with the fact that about 93 million eligible voters didn't vote at all in 2012:
By no means are all of those reachable voters; the annual trendline shows pretty convincingly that you'll never get all of them to show up, nor would you want to. But it's a deep pool, and as this chart from my 2014 piece at The Federalist shows, the total vote tends to grow a lot faster for the party out of power after an incumbent re-election (the "Ch TO" column) than it does for either party in the previous election - the party out of power increased its vote total by at least 11.3% in every post-incumbent election from 1868 to 2008 except three elections where there was another incumbent on the ballot (1904, 1944, and 1948 - the chart splits off the elections where there was an incumbent running):
Where might those votes come from? When PoliFact challenged Cruz's "missing evangelicals" number, his spokesman offered this:
By email, Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said Cruz reached his "roughly half" conclusion starting from a 2007 survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center indicating 26.3 percent of American adults identified as evangelical Protestants. The center conducted a "nationally representative sample of 35,556 adults living in continental United States telephone households" from May 8, 2007 to Aug. 13, 2007.
If you credit Tyler's math, you get around 27 million missing evangelical Protestants, which is roughly half Cruz's 54 million number but much larger than Reed's 17 million. 54 million would mean a heavy majority of the eligible non-voters, which is implausible, plus Tyler's email makes clear he's not breaking out those numbers by race, and non-voting black or Hispanic evangelical Protestants - while quite plausibly less overwhelmingly Democratic than their voting brethren - are probably not a heavily majority Republican-friendly group. You can read the rest of the PoliFact "analysis" - as is sometimes the case, it's a more useful endeavor than reading PoliFact's "conclusion" - but even if Cruz's stump speech is off by an order of magnitude, the idea that there are a few million evangelical Christians out there who could be mobilized to vote for the first time is hardly unreasonable and a good place to start.
Rove notes other groups who seem to have been down from 2008 to 2012, including at least one group (white Catholics) that Romney did well with:
There were approximately 4.9 million fewer self-identified moderates, 1.7 million fewer white Catholics, and 1.2 million fewer women who voted in 2012 than in 2008.
There may be factors unique to Romney that caused problems around the edges, as was true of McCain in his own ways - you can read an effort here to extrapolate the potential effects of anti-Mormon bias from some social-science research, and while I don't find it notably persuasive, there may be some spots on the map where the removal of that factor could open new avenues in 2016. Romney was also more of an immigration hawk than McCain and more identified with personal wealth, while McCain was older, had a more polarizing running mate, a messier personal life, and a markedly less favorable political environment to run in.
Then there's Sean Trende's "missing white voters" analysis, which I reviewed back in July 2013 and which you should read in its four-part glory if you want a deep dive into this stuff. Trende's conclusion was that white-voter turnout rates were down much more than voter turnout among other racial groups in 2012 (other than voters categorized as "other" - if you look at the map, one of the unexplained features of 2012 seems to have been drastically lower Native American turnout than in 2008). Trende concluded from close examination that these were "largely downscale, Northern, rural whites. In other words, H. Ross Perot voters." Or Donald Trump voters, today, perhaps.
When I looked at Trende's map, I noted the mixed Electoral College bag in the return on chasing these voters:
[A] good number of the "missing" voters were in uncontested states like New York and Oklahoma where they would not have made a difference. And the big chunks of deep blue in New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota (as well as the heavy dropoff in turnout in Alaska, not shown on the map) are consistent with a dramatic decline in Native American voter turnout.
Here's an overlay of Trende's district-by-district map (with declining turnout in blue and increased turnout in red) against a map that puts up for grabs the states (and one Congressional district in Nebraska) where one party or the other, mostly the Democrats besides Georgia, North Carolina and Nebraska, won with less than 54% of the two-party vote, so that a 4-point or less shift in that vote could change the outcome:
Realistically, Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Virginia are not states where the GOP candidate in 2016 can shift the electorate just by recovering people who dropped out between 2008 and 2012, although a map against 2004 might be rather a different picture, and those states may be more attuned to Cruz's idea of digging more deeply for evangelical voters. But Trende's less religious "missing white voters" could make a bigger impact in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Upper Midwest, if the nominee can appeal to them.
No matter who the Republican Party nominates in 2016, there's a lot of work to be done trying to expand the GOP presidential electorate, whether by appealing to new, young voters, disenchanted Obama 2012 voters, evangelical Christians, working-class white Northerners/Midwesterners, or some other group. History suggests that the opportunity is real, and the task is achievable. The electorate is never set in stone, the battle never over. A clear message, and an appealing candidate who means what he or she says and stands for something and can explain what it is and why, is certainly an important asset in that process. But even then, there's no magic formula, no cavalry of millions of conservatives waiting just over the hill to save the day, and no single issue or message that will flip the switch. The work will be hard, and will take energy and determination and a whole lot of one-voter-contact-at-a-time labor to register, to activate, to persuade. George W. Bush did that work to get Republicans 11 million new votes from 1996 to 2000, and another 12 million in 2004. Barack Obama did that work to get Democrats 10 million new votes from 2004 to 2008. It will need to be done again.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2012 | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
October 27, 2015
POLITICS/HISTORY: How and Why Ronald Reagan Won
Fifty-one years ago today in Los Angeles, a 53-year-old political amateur, Ronald Reagan, gave a half-hour nationally-televised speech, "A Time For Choosing," on behalf of Barry Goldwater's campaign in the following week's presidential election. 16 years later, Reagan would win 44 states and an almost double-digit popular vote margin of victory, kicking off the most successful and conservative Republican presidency in U.S. history, leading to a 49-state landslide in 1984 and the election of his Vice President for a "third Reagan term" in 1988, the only time in the past 70 years that a party has held the White House for three consecutive terms.
Given the extent to which Reagan's legacy still dominates internal debates within the GOP and the conservative movement, it's worth asking ourselves: What did he accomplish? How did he do it? And what can we learn from him today?
Read More »
1. Reagan Moved The Country To The Right
From an ideological/political conservative perspective, the most important measurement of Reagan's success is that he moved the country further Right than he found it. This is an important factor to bear in mind when Reagan's legacy is misused both by those seeking unerring ideological purity and by those trying to capitalize on some of the ways in which Reagan took positions that would now be considered unacceptably moderate, liberal or compromising in today's GOP. Reagan was a creature of his time and - to use Gandalf's great line from the Lord of the Rings - "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." And so Reagan was, on the one hand, more interested in getting results than in demonstrating his 100% adherence to principle: he was fond of saying that "if you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you're an 80 percent friend and not a 20 percent enemy" and "if I can get 70 or 80 percent of what it is I'm trying to get ... I'll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future." On the other hand, if you told Reagan that the party had moved further to the right on some issues since 1988, he would undoubtedly be greatly pleased by the news. He himself moved to the right over time - from a New Deal Democrat in the 1940s, from the bill he signed early in his tenure as California Governor partly liberalizing the state's abortion laws before Roe v Wade. And on other issues, as noted below, Reagan himself either left a lot of work unfinished (as on domestic discretionary spending) or made compromises (as on entitlements) as a concession to the political realities of his day.
Reagan unquestionably (though not alone) shifted the nation further to the right than he found it, in some ways temporarily and in other more lasting ways. Victory in the Cold War was the obvious headline - as late as 1979, there were voices throughout the West arguing that we could never defeat the Soviets and that Communism represented a viable alternative model to the American system, whereas today even an open socialist like Bernie Sanders cites the increasingly more free-market Scandanavian model. Reagan revolutionized the politics of taxes - in 1980, the top federal income tax rate was 70%, and married couples making $30,000 a year paid a top rate of 37%; at $35,000 they hit the 43% bracket. Taxpayers over $200,000 in income paid, on average, a total effective tax rate over 40%. These would be unthinkable tax rates today, when we argue over top marginal rates in the 35-39.6% band. Other long-term policy wins that shifted the conversation included ending the Fairness Doctrine, nominating the first explicit originalist to the Supreme Court (Antonin Scalia), breaking the air-traffic controllers union, finishing the (started under Carter) project of airline and trucking deregulation, and starting the free-trade processes that would yield dividends into the 1990s (he promised a NAFTA-like agreement in his 1979 speech announcing his candidacy). And Reagan's victories laid the groundwork for the welfare reforms of Newt Gingrich (presaged in some of Reagan's own policies as California Governor) and the law-enforcement revolution spearheaded by his U.S. Attorney in New York, Rudy Giuliani.
Or look at the electorate. We talk today about a general electorate dominated by Democrats, because the exit polls showed a D+7 electorate in 2008, D+6 in 2012 (that is, for example, 38% Democrats and 32% Republicans in 2012), and how this gave Barack Obama an unbeatable edge. But the electorate in 1976 and 1980 was D+15, with only 22% of voters in 1976 identifying themselves as Republicans. Yes, many more of the Democrats in those days were fairly conservative-leaning, not just in the South but in the Midwest, but these were still not people you could walk up to and say "I'm a conservative Republican" and have their vote (a March 1979 poll had Reagan trailing Carter 52-38). Even the South had gone heavily Democrat in 1976, with Carter carrying all but one state (Virginia) below the Mason-Dixon Line. Reagan in 1980 carried 27% of Democrats to Carter's 67, and 56% of independents to Carter's 31. And Reagan's success changed the electorate's view of his party - the electorate was D+3 by 1984, D+2 by 1988.
2. Reagan Delivered Tangible Results
Closely related to Reagan's political and ideological success was that he did not just win inside-the-Beltway fights: he delivered real-world changes that voters could judge with their own eyes, which they did not need pundits to interpret for them. Inflation, which had been a dominant issue in the Ford and Carter years and which hit voters directly in the pocketbook, was decisively defeated by Reagan and Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; it has never returned as a major issue. The gas lines of the 70s went away. Tax relief, including not just lower rates but an end to "bracket creep" (inflation pushing people into higher tax rates while their standard of living declined) was something people could see in their take-home pay. Unemployment, while stubborn, was in decline for years, the stock market boom roared, interest rates went down, and the economic growth rates from 1983-86 were out of this world. 15.1% of all U.S. workers made the minimum wage in 1980; by the mid-2000s, that number was down around 2%. The same dynamic was visible in foreign policy: problems that had been described as intractable under Carter suddenly started to give way, with an age of Soviet expansion and U.S. hostages giving way to the growth of U.S. power and the ultimate decline and collapse of the Soviet system.
Here's how Reagan himself described his welfare reforms in California:
One lesson from this is that today's conservatives still need to show people that their policies work. Another is not to focus too much on the abstract virtues of long-range fiscal policy to the detriment of things people can see and feel in their own lives. And listen: Reagan had always been against high taxes, but the 1978 California Prop 13 tax revolt helped convince Reagan to become a full-throated supporter of the Kemp-Roth supply-side tax reforms that would be the central defining feature of Reaganomics.
Reagan didn't go around on the stump pledging fealty to conservative ideals, but rather explaining why his ideas would work in practice and why they were common-sense positions in line with what the voters already believed in, what had worked previously in practice, and what had long been traditional in America. And he wasn't The Great Communicator because his speeches felt good, but because they said something concrete that people remembered. His pitch to voters was fundamentally a practical one: our ideas work.
3. Reagan Did His Homework and Knew What He Stood For
While Reagan's pitch was practical, his grasp of public policy and institutional politics was well-grounded in years of study of both the theory of conservative philosophy (often bandied about in those days in publications like National Review and Human Events, of which Reagan was an avid reader) and the practical details of foreign policy and domestic political controversies (Reagan was also a voracious consumer of public-policy journals in the 50s, 60s & 70s). He was no Johnny-come-lately to the movement, like some of our more recent and nakedly opportunistic presidential candidates. His firm philosophical grounding enabled him to appraise potential compromises to see whether, in fact, conservatives were getting more than they were giving up - and his understanding of the playing field abroad and at home meant that he wasn't learning on the job what the various agendas and procedural traps were.
I'd recommend five books to anyone trying to grasp Reagan - Thomas Evans' The Education of Ronald Reagan, which covers the years in the 1950s and early 1960s when Reagan was evolving into a conservative and becoming more politically active; Reagan in His Own Hand, a collection of Reagan's self-penned 1970s radio commentaries, which shows the breadth of his mastery of public policy at the time; Steven Hayward's 2-part Age of Reagan series, the 1964-80 volume covering Reagan's rise to power in the context of the political landscape of his day, and the 1981-89 volume covering his presidency; and finally Peggy Noonan's What I Saw At The Revolution, her speechwriting memoir that captures the mood, the personalities, and the view of the "Reagan Revolution" seen from the eyes of an idealistic young speechwriter.
And knowing that the media and even the GOP's own party elites would caricature him as an ignorant actor and an ideologue, Reagan put an enormous amount of effort into demonstrating his knowledgeability, and loved to pepper his speeches with statistics and concrete anecdotes. First of all, while he always had an eye on national issues (about a quarter of the 1964 speech was focused on foreign affairs), he didn't dive directly into federal or national politics, but ran for and won two terms as Governor of the nation's largest state, and still only won the White House on his second go-round. And his 1966 campaign focused on showing the voters that Reagan knew what he was talking about. From a 1966 profile:
from a retrospective on the campaign:
Reagan won over 3.7 million votes in 1966, enough votes to have won a majority even in the 2014 Governor's race, after half a century of growth in California's population. (In fact this was not Reagan's first election, either; he'd been elected to two separate terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild). A few excerpts from Reagan in His Own Hand should give a sense of the kinds of things Reagan was talking about a decade later, before he launched his 1980 presidential bid.
On power politics in Africa:
On the Law of the Sea Treaty:
On telecom regulation:
On the SALT II Treaty:
4. Reagan Compromised and Picked His Battles
Reagan would never have been able to get the things done that he did - with the Democratic legislature in California, with a Democratic House in DC, even with the Soviet Union - if he didn't know how to cut deals that gave the other guy something he wanted, a skill Reagan had learned in labor negotiations as both a union head and (with GE) negotiating for management. Thus, the reference to getting 70 or 80% of what he wanted - but thus also the recognition that Reagan could, for example, justify a tax hike here or there (as he did in 1982 and in some parts of the 1986 tax reform) because his overall record was unambiguously one of lowering taxes. But unlike some of today's GOP leaders in DC, Reagan could pull this off because he had delivered enough of those tangible wins in the past to have earned some trust (Peggy Noonan described this attitude as "l'droit c'est moi" - Reagan so embodied the Right that it was impossible to convince voters he couldn't be trusted). His reputation for making deals, but only those deals that benefitted him, let him usually negotiate from a position of strength: for example, he resisted calls for a summit with the Soviet Union until 1985, five years into his defense buildup and after he had clearly demonstrated that he was willing to take the heat for having no agreements with the Soviets at all. Yet while he used that leverage well, he also did ultimately sign a series of arms control agreements, agreements that made some real U.S. concessions in order to get a more broadly beneficial deal and keep a dynamic going that would be a winning one for us.
Reagan also trimmed his sails when needed on the campaign trail. In his 1976 campaign, he had talked about Social Security privatization and criticized Medicare and the Davis-Bacon Act; in 1980, he dropped any criticism of entitlements and won union support by pledging to retain Davis-Bacon. In office, he made only modest reforms to Davis-Bacon and signed a compromise bill on Social Security. He promised a woman on the Supreme Court, and delivered the decidedly moderate Sandra Day O'Connor. And even in his foreign policy, Reagan adhered to the first principle of U.S. foreign policy: triage that sets priorities rather than picks fights everywhere at once or else nowhere. Keeping his eye on the Cold War ball allowed him to get the maximum use of his political capital. At home, he accepted the loss of his pledge to balance the budget because it was more important to retain support for his defense buildup. And he knew when to lure his opponents into picking battles, too: while staging a symbolic and unsuccessful protest against the elevation of William Rehnquist to Chief Justice, the Senate let Scalia through unopposed.
5. Reagan Understood The Complementary Roles Of Party Establishments and Insurgents
Reagan's famous "11th Commandment" - not speaking ill of another Republican - was a defensive tactic, designed to convince other 1966 contenders to debate him on the issues rather than attack him personally. After winning the nomination, he mended fences with the endorsement of moderate party elders like Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan was never averse to upsetting applecarts: he did, after all, run a primary challenge to an incumbent President in 1976. But when the nomination was cinched, after Reagan's last-minute effort to mollify moderates with a liberal running mate (Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker) Reagan publicly stood on the dais with Gerald Ford. Reagan wore down establishment opposition - by 1980, while the moderate establishment preferred George H.W. Bush, Reagan actually had more endorsements from elected officials (and picked Bush as his running mate). And he was unafraid to debate others on the Right - witness his vigorous 1978 debates with William F. Buckley over the Panama Canal Treaty.
In short, Reagan saw the value of populist insurgencies, but also the practical value of translating them into a new governing structure side by side with the old bulls. Reagan's CPAC speech in 1977 was explicit about the fact that bringing people along to join the party would have to mean being more open to listening to the new converts:
That was in line with his overall philosophy as set forth in his 1979 announcement speech:
I believe this nation hungers for a spiritual revival; hungers to once again see honor placed above political expediency; to see government once again the protector of our liberties, not the distributor of gifts and privilege. Government should uphold and not undermine those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded—religion, education and, above all, family. Government cannot be clergyman, teacher and parent. It is our servant, beholden to us.
6. Reagan Understood The Role of Culture, Humor and Meeting The Voters Where They Are
Reagan was not, as our party sometimes appears, distant, dour or perpetually angry. He was legendary for his humor (even when being wheeled into the operating room after being shot), unafraid to make jokes at his own expense but also expert at wielding mockery against the nation's enemies. But his years in Hollywood also meant he still had friends in show business:
Reagan reached out to voters where he could find them, not always successfully but with a great overall record. He won young voters in 1984 by 19 points. He won 37% of Hispanics in 1980. He won self-described moderates, the only Republican candidate since 1976 to do so. He spent almost a full week in August 1980 pitching for black votes - speech to the Urban League, interviews with Ebony and Jet magazines, tour of the South Bronx. He touted to unions his background as a labor union president. In 1981, he got one Democratic Congressman to vote for his tax cut plan by calling in to him on a live radio show. Reagan argued for the GOP as a club anyone could join. And he loved to explain his conversion from a New Dealer and why he had become a Republican, rather than simply trying to convince people that he was - to pick a phrase - severely conservative.
7. Reagan Wasn't Perfect
Finally, the challenge of adapting Reagan's lessons to today includes recognizing that he, too, made mistakes. Some he came to see: the California abortion bill, his decision to send "peacekeeping" troops to Lebanon. Others were revealed by events: the 1986 immigration amnesty, the failed late-80s pursuit of "moderates" in the Iranian government, the Bob Jones tax fight. But this too should offer us perspective: even the best political leaders are not perfect. We should not be afraid to criticize our own leaders, nor expect of them perfect judgment. We must, instead, ask whether they have left our country, our party and our movement a better place than they found it.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:30 PM | History | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
July 10, 2015
BLOG: Welcome Back, Blog!
I've been neglecting this blog rather badly for altogether too long - the archives say I haven't posted here since September 21, 2014. I've been busy in the interim on Twitter, of course, and publishing elsewhere. I probably need to post archived versions of some of those posts here. For now: links.
I will start with The Weekly Standard, where I have this issue's cover story, just posted today: Giving Thomas His Due, on Justice Thomas' opinions over the past year and what they tell us about his philosophy. [ETA: Link to the archived original now available here, the print version here, and the live version at the Washington Examiner here]
Then there's The Federalist, where I tend to post my longer essays these days. I ran a lengthy 5-part essay prior to the Obergefell decision, "Can Gays And Christians Coexist In America?". Part I looked at the Biblical reasons why Christians believe in one-man-one-woman-for-life marriage. Part II looked at the history of Catholicism and other Biblical Christianity in the battles over slavery and Jim Crow. Part III looked at the Christian concept of scandal and the battle between liberty-based and equality-based views of "LGBT rights." Part IV looked at the legal arguments over the rational basis for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. And Part V traced possible ways forward for coexistence post-Obergefell, which admittedly are not looking especially promising at the moment.
The First Principle Of U.S. Foreign Policy looked at various approaches to our foreign policy.
Others from the fall, including some of my poll-analysis posts:
Polling Postmortem: The Best And Worst Senate Polls Of 2014 (I keep meaning to run the companion piece on the Governors races before 2016 polling heats up).
Do Democrats Always Win Close Statewide Elections? (covers the 1998-2013 elections; I should update this with 2014 results).
And of course, if you missed it last time, my essay on how History Is Not On The Democrats' Side In 2016 is still an important read on the coming election, undoubtedly the most significant piece I will write on the 2016 election.
The Rise & Fall of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina - I wrote this a few weeks back, but it's very relevant to today's news.
Reading Tea Leaves on the 2015 Supreme Court Term - Basically just some educated speculation on who would write what and when, which ended up having mixed results.
Democratic Party Now Literally Selling Hate - a Father's Day gift post!
Bernie Sanders, Deodorant and Diversity - a meditation on central planning and markets.
Marco Rubio Recounts The History of Obama’s Treatment of Israel - quick hit on a great Rubio floor speech. Rubio isn't my first choice in 2016, but he's done nothing but impress this year.
From the fall:
2014 and Republican Morale - a GOP victory lap and a reflection on what it meant.
The Breakers Broke: A Look Back At The Fall 2014 Polls - A personal victory lap on my 2014 poll analysis and how it relates to the polling controversies of 2012.
The 2014 Polls And The 2012 Exit Polls - An earlier look at the same topic and at some specific issues with exit polling and poll methodology.
BREAKING: Supreme Court Takes Obamacare Subsidies Case (on King v Burwell).
First Cut: 7 Polling and Elections Lessons From 2014 (Immediate 2014 election aftermath)
Why I Voted Yes On Question 1 (NY) (Election Day post on a NY ballot initiative)
A Sad and Desperate Attack on Chris Christie - Actually a fairly deep dive on voter fraud controversies.
Introducing The Senate Breakers Report - September 26, 2014, the start of my Fall 2014 stretch drive when I started getting too busy to cross-post here.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Blog 2006-Present | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2014 | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 31, 2014
POLITICS: Quoted in the Wall Street Journal
WSJ front page, "Senate Control Comes Down to Eight Races":
Recent election data supports the belief that Democrats dominate in the closest races. Since 1998, Democrats won 13 of 16 Senate and governors’ races that were decided by one percentage point or less, according to a recent analysis by Dan McLaughlin, a lawyer, on the conservative website the Federalist.
September 17, 2010
POLITICS: Posting Up
I have a column in the NY Post this morning on the great missed opportunity that is 2010's Republican Party in New York (it's on p. 25 of the print paper).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | In Print | Politics 2010 | Writings Elsewhere | Comments (41) | TrackBack (0)
August 28, 2002
WAR/BLOG: 'Very Smart Inactivist'
I'm obviously still at the stage of just dropping some archival and random stuff in here while I figure out whether there's time in my schedule to blog. Here's one of my little scraps of broader publicity: an email I sent to Jonah Goldberg that got posted in The Corner on the National Review Online.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 PM | Blog 2002-05 | War 2002-03 | Writings Elsewhere | TrackBack (0)
January 25, 2001
BASEBALL: Link From The Prospectus