Currently viewing the tag: "Red Squad"

Charlie Crist is running for Governor of Florida as a Democrat.

I’m actually quite pleased with this. Crist was essentially purged from the Republican Party for being too moderate–for instance, appointing pro-choice judges to the state Supreme Court, backing cap-and-trade, saying nice things about Pres. Obama, stuff like that. He’s moved a bit more to the left since leaving office, and as a Dem governor he’d probably be even more liberal still, as he’d have to answer to Democratic interests.

Essentially, what you get here is someone who is well and positively defined by the electorate, who won’t have to face questions about competency or extremism, and whose very existence as a candidate is sure to infuriate Republicans unhappy to see their chickens coming home to roost. These are all invaluable in the state of Florida, against a moneybags candidate like Rick Scott. I’ve never entirely bought the idea that Scott is a sure loser because there’s a reason why the Democrats haven’t held this seat since the mid-1990s, but Crist makes me think it’s fairly likely he’ll lose. And Crist will be able to remain in office through the next round of redistricting if he wins two terms, something that could be of real consequence to Democrats down the line.

At this point, I figure that Democrats are frontrunners to dethrone governors in Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. Ohio and Wisconsin are stretches but probably still possible. After that you have the other groups of red-state right-wingers who might just be too much for their states and contests like Iowa and Nevada that are presumed to be Republican-leaning, but of which there’s been precious little polling.

Anyway, last time Charlie Crist had to post this ego-buster for using a David Byrne song without permission:

It would be pretty cool if this time Byrne campaigned with Crist, don’t you think?

Ohio Gov. Kasich says yes to Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett says no.

This is actually pretty easy to explain. Kasich runs a less liberal state, but he evidently doesn’t have to worry about a primary challenger, so he can go ahead and take the odd liberalish stance that will set him up for a re-election bid. Corbett does have to worry about a primary, so he’s making decisions that will make his re-election even harder, and it’s going to be hard to begin with. In any event, it’s interesting to see the 2010 Red Squad Governors break up over a big issue like this.

I'm happy to see some items like this one, pushing back on the notion that Democrats are destined to have big losses in two years:

Only three of the last seven two-term presidents who were in office for both midterms had a bad second midterm in both chambers — George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan both lost control of the Senate in their second midterms but actually performed better in the House the second time around.

None of this is to say that Obama has a good chance at his party winning back the House for the final two years of his term in 2014. In fact, over the past century, only one president’s party has gained seats in the sixth year of his presidency — Clinton. (He only gained five seats in the House and the Senate stayed the same.) [...]

But the idea that there is something perilous about the sixth-year midterm, as opposed to the second-year midterm, isn’t really borne out by the numbers — particularly in the House. And if anything, the fact that Obama sustained huge losses in 2010 suggests his worst midterm is behind him, and the itch has been sufficiently scratched.

This is one of those anecdotal stories that bugs me. If you look at all the two-term presidents we've had since FDR (this won't take long, because not many actually served two full terms) and try to explain the "six-year itch" for each of them, here's what you get:

  • Bill Clinton: didn't have one. Democrats did well in 1998 and Clinton would have won another term if possible.
  • G.W. Bush: had a disastrous itch thanks to Iraq and other factors, like corruption/scandal.
  • Ronald Reagan: had a bad one, due to Iran-Contra and a general sense he wasn't really up to the job anymore. Also, while the economy was recovering, it was still particularly awful in rural areas. Which is how we got Tom Daschle, among others.
  • Dwight Eisenhower: another diastrous sixth year, but this was due to a recession also, particularly in rural areas.
  • Harry Truman: pretty bad sixth year, due to Cold War setbacks, corruption/scandal and limpid economy.
  • FDR: suffered bad losses in his sixth year due to his meddling with the Supreme Court and a noble but doomed effort to make the Democratic Party less racist , won a third term in 1940 anyway.

The thing about the "six-year itch" is that it assumes all of these are somehow connected, that there's some sort of inevitable trend to them. But as Blake argues, there isn't one, and plenty of presidents (*coughcough Carter) exhausted their goodwill within four years. Others, like Roosevelt, Clinton and arguably Reagan, were still in good enough shape to run again. There's nothing magical about the number six. This list doesn't have a coherent theme running through it, other than that if you're a Republican and you preside over a rural recession, you're in for a pretty rough time at the ballot box. In some cases, the president's party lost because of military mistakes. Other times, like FDR and Woodrow Wilson, bad political decisions are to blame. Or it could be economics. Or, perhaps something that hasn't come up yet. Or nothing! This is such a small dataset that any grand theory extracted from it is going to be crude, and would have to have outliers. In scientific terms, this is a non-publishable finding.

This is how I see it: Barack Obama seems to run a pretty tight ship in his White House, so serious scandals are less likely, though obviously always possible. The economy is visibly starting to recover, which could obviously stop any time, but we're starting to get into the time period after a financial crisis where even the most stubborn economies start to bounce back (cf. Reinhart-Rogoff). Obama intends to scale back Afghanistan operations in 2014. I don't expect big gains in 2014, because the rare times the presidential party has done that in a midterm (like 1934 and 2002) clearly had more to do with frazzled, dumbfounded opposition than with the strength of the president's popularity, but I hardly see the makings of a rout there. Midterms are usually about voters letting off steam, how bad the circumstances are usually predict how much is let off. Holding all else equal, if trends continue 2014 should probably see some nominal Senate losses for Democrats as well as single-digit House gains, as Democrats are pretty close to their floor in that chamber and there are more vulnerable Republicans than Democrats remaining there. The one area where we could see significant turnaround is for governors: most of the 2010 class of "Red Squad" governors are quite unpopular, today's batch includes John Kasich and Nikki Haley, remarkably. Rick Snyder is also busy immolating himself politically. The sheer number of Tea Party governors who face significant obstacles to another term is staggering, and it includes Rick Perry, Rick Scott, Tom Corbett of PA, Paul LePage of Maine, and possibly Nathan Deal of Georgia. Add in the steep climb Ken Cuccinelli is going to face to hold onto the Virginia statehouse, and it's very plausible that a lot of prominent GOP talent will be wiped out in 2014. Though obviously much depends on the quality of opposing candidates, perceptions of the economy, primary challenges, etc.

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Tuesday night turned out to be a very good night for Democrats, easily the best since Obama’s victory in 2008. The major wins here are, in rough order of importance:

This is all good news for Democrats, though obviously to differing degrees. The Ohio win is a big deal for a few reasons, namely that it’s helped the state’s Democrats regroup and mobilize, and it’s very nearly crippled John Kasich’s governorship with three years left to serve (Ohio has no recall mechanism, so short of resignation or impeachment they’re stuck with him). The double-digit margin of victory is a real accomplishment, and a sure sign that Kasich’s leadership of the state has completely foundered. This should* also likely mark the end of the GOP’s push to kill off public sector unions for the near future, as electoral defeats almost can’t get any more resounding.

The Mississippi initiative is reminiscent of South Dakota’s failed attempts to pass similar laws a few years back, in that it goes too far for all but the most radical of pro-lifers. Commentators insist on describing the abortion issue as hot-button, but it really isn’t–the public has pretty much decided how it feels about the issue and it actually has a pretty coherent position: keep abortions generally legal under Roe, but add some restrictions to the current regime. This stance is closer in substance to the Democrats’ position than to that of the Republicans, though the issue continues to be contentious largely because this consensus is unsatisfactory to activists and donors on both sides of the debate. Which, fair enough. But those folks (and particularly pro-lifers) often tend to interpret the equal numbers of self-identified pro-choicers and pro-lifers as significant rather than symbolic. In reality this is often more of a marketing category, neither group is a uniform bloc, as you can see by following the links. The notion of a personhood amendment is therefore going to be enticing to people who think that fortysomething percent of the public favors their ideas, but in the real world it’s a very tough sell: according to the Gallup Poll, only about 20% of the public believes in a complete ban on abortions, and the personhood concept goes even further than that to target some birth control provisions. Obviously a state like California or Pennsylvania would never enact such a law, but in heavily conservative Mississippi, you might figure that the 20% might carry the day. That didn’t happen, which almost certainly marks the end of this particular pro-life strategem for now, and it’s not every day you see reproductive rights winning at the ballot box in Mississippi! We’re arguably past the point where the pro-life movement has become considerably more radical than pro-life people in the country, and it’ll be interesting to see where the backlash leads.

The others are significant too. Iowa’s Senate flipping would have been a big deal, perhaps a shift toward a more Red Squad-ish Republican strategy in that state going forward. That didn’t happen, thankfully. Pearce’s defeat is satisfying to be sure, but he did lose to another Republican, albeit one who has less caustic views on immigration. This apparently answers the question of how out there you have to be to get kicked out of the GOP for being too xenophobic (reminiscent of how Ozzy Osbourne got kicked out of Black Sabbath for doing too many drugs, if nothing else). Beshear’s re-election is a boost for Democrats, but probably not very important more broadly, as he was facing one of the more inept opponents of recent years.
All in all, not a bad showing for Democrats. Not that it necessarily means anything going forward. San Francisco, for what it’s worth, gave interim Mayor Ed Lee a full term as expected, which matters to me because somehow several of the mayoral candidates somehow got my name put into their mailing lists and the resulting spam was annoying. Congrats Ed!

Still outstanding: the Virginia legislative races, which look to be pretty tight.

* Should, but I’m not taking odds.

John Kasich–the dollar store Scott Walker–is now hilariously backing away from his maximalist anti-union legislation (via TPM):
Kasich said avoiding a fight over state Issue 2 is in “best interest of everyone, including public employee unions.” He asked the unions to “set aside political agendas and past offenses.” [...] Niehaus said Democrats expressed no willingness to meet in middle during the legislative process. “We did reach out. Made concerted effort,” he said. “Delete, delete, delete” is what the Democrats wanted to do.
The other side’s response to this was pretty dismissive, and rightly so. You don’t make a deal when you’re winning. But really, this whole thing is all about Kasich and his friends trying to position themselves as the reasonable ones and Democrats as the hard-liners. Problem: in the real world, ramming through unnecessary and unpopular legislation (and it was rammed through, they reshuffled committee assignments to do it, and forced some legislators to break commitments they made with voters) simply precludes the victim approach. It’s not going to happen. And since the real world isn’t much like Fox News, where logic is suspended and anything can be connected by anger and fear, this is a lesson Kasich will have to learn the hard way.

Some months ago, I dubbed a small group of Republican governors elected in 2010, “Red Squad,” after a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode in which a group of cadets of the same name was undone by hubris and overreach. I’ll admit that I was worried that some governors, like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, would rebound in popularity after time passed and the controversy over collective bargaining rights faded. But I’m happy to be wrong, as Walker’s now roughly in line with all the other Red Squad members (PA’s Tom Corbett, Ohio’s John Kasich, Florida’s Rick Scott, and maybe Chris Christie and Michigan’s Rick Snyder too), at a lousy 37%. Obviously, the collective bargaining fight is just beginning, so that’s an ongoing drag on Walker’s approval for sure. But I think that the truth is that most of these guys are just crappy politicians. And, indeed, few of them have the sort of resume that screams successful governor: between them you have a fraud suspect, a FOX News pundit*, a guy who used to run a computer company and a former US Attorney, which is sort of an executive position but not a signficant one, and usually not a stepping stone straight to the governor’s mansion.

The irony is that Walker has probably the best resume for the job–running popular big-city mayors or county executives for governor is the logical move, while Christie has arguably the weakest resume for the job, and would have been a more logical candidate for state Attorney General or for Congress. And yet Christie is doing the best of these guys and Walker is doing the worst. But the thing is that Walker continues to undo himself with a combination of poor decisionmaking and risk assessment, amateur messaging, and an unappealing public persona, all of which is driven by a desire to play only to his Tea Party followers. I mean, this is a guy who wanted to take legal action to keep gay people from being able to visit their partners in hospitals. Can there be more than 10-15% of the population who even opposes that? And taking on public sector unions has led to months of avoidable conflict, not to mention that the recalls are forcing the state GOP to ram through a bunch of unpopular stuff like voter ID laws before those elections. That is likely further eroding his standing. By way of comparison, Chris Christie is not all that much more liberal than Walker from what I can tell, but he’s a much better politician. He’s presented himself, accurately or not, as an essentially nonpartisan opponent of corruption and privilege, and he’s focused like a laser beam on spending and bargaining issues, like Walker has. But Christie has formed partnerships with Democrats–admittedly out of necessity, but he’s nevertheless been good at dividing the opposition and getting stuff done. He has maintained professional messaging, without perpetually cracking asides about how he was going to hurt Democrats with his moves. He has not waded into contentious social issues. Christie’s popularity might be slipping, but it’s a damn sight better than all the other Red Squadders, because he actually does care about how he appears to the average voter. All the others seem to have bought the Tea Party propaganda and seems to think that about 51% of the electorate is hyperconservative and that taking uncompromising extremist positions is the path to victory, and they’re seeing the results of that.

Christie, of course, is a model by which many of the Red Squaders try to measure themselves. Walker is clearly influenced by him, but he evidently doesn’t understand Christie’s success all that well. Christie, much as I dislike his goals, is a disciplined and professional executive, outside of when he yells at teachers, but I guess that’s sort of his “thing.” Walker’s got the fanaticism but nothing else, though I suppose his political incompetence has gone over well with the national Republicans who like that he’s stuck his finger in the eyes of Democrats, but don’t really care that he’s probably crippled his governorship in the process. They can just blame that part on liberals! And all that applies just as much to Kasich and Corbett as well, though Snyder is a bit more of a complicated case. Polls indicate him to be perhaps the least popular of the group, likely because he campaigned as a moderate but has governed like a Teabagger. Was he a stealth wingnut? Maybe, maybe not. My suspicion is that Snyder is out of his depth having never been a politician before, is therefore a weaker governor than most, and that the tone is being set instead by Republicans in the state legislature. Just a reminder: when given the option between an “outsider” and an actual outsider, go with the “outsider,” if for no other reason than that he’ll know where to find the office supplies.

* Yeah, I know he was in Congress like fifteen years ago. So what? Things have changed quite a bit since then, haven’t they?

I was very amused to discover the latest poll of Gov. Lex Luthor’s Rick Scott’s job approval rating in Florida:

A new Sunshine State News poll in Florida confirms what other recent surveys have found: Gov. Rick Scott (R) is horribly unpopular.

Scott has a 58% disapproval rating among Florida voters while just 27% approve of the way he’s doing his job.

Yup, 27% is the consensus number for what percentage of the country are wingnuts (It’s also close to the percentage that are fundamentalist Christians, which I’m sure is no mere accident). This is a good news/bad news sort of situation for Democrats: the bad news is that Scott has probably hit his bottom and there’s likely nothing he can do to push his popularity down much further, which is to say that there’s nowhere he can go put up. The good news is: he’s Rick fucking Scott. He’s so politically self-destructive he’s George W. Bush times Scott Walker cubed. The only question I have is: is Charlie Crist going to try to take Scott out in the Republican primary, or is he going to run as a Democrat in the 2016 general election? Okay, I admit it, I just want an excuse to post this clip:

It remains hilarious to me. But, honestly, David Byrne really is kind of a dick.

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