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July 31, 2006

Dems Rethinking Redistricting Demographics

In the wake of the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, The Boston Globe's Joseph Williams has an article discussing the pros and cons of "majority-minority" districts from a progressive point of view. As Williams explains, celebrations of the Act's renewal are tempered with a growing concern about the dilution of the African American vote:

But the renewal overshadowed a quiet but growing debate among Democrats: whether mostly black voting districts in cities like Petersburg -- which helped elect the state's first African-American House member in more than 100 years -- should be diluted to spread around liberal voters and help elect more Democrats get to Congress.

While most black politicians and activists agree with the concept of ``majority-minority" districts, others say they're a mixed blessing: By sweeping a concentrated number of black voters into fewer districts, the Voting Rights Act's unintended effect may be to increase racial polarization and help preserve Republican congressional power

Williams adds,

Some Democrats, including some African-Americans, believe their party has better odds of retaking Congress if African-American voters are divided among many districts, leaving just enough of a percentage in any one district to elect minority candidates while helping more Democrats run competitively in surrounding districts.

Since African Americans vote about 90 percent Democratic, finding the right balance is a difficult challenge. Democrats squeemish about addressing such raw political calculations should take note that Republicans' are more than eager to overload districts with African American voters. As Williams notes:

...Republican-dominated legislatures try to design districts with the maximum possible number of minorities -- such as the 2d district of Louisiana, which is 63.7 percent black and elected Representative William Jefferson to Congress with 79 percent of the vote.

The point is echoed by University of Virginia elections expert Larry Sabato "The Democrats have an enormous number of excess votes in these majority-minority districts." Maryland Political Scientist Ron Walters disagrees, pointing out that 60 percent African American voters may not be enough to secure minority representation in some districts.

The debate will continue to intensify at the state level, where congressional districts are redesigned. If Democrats do as well as expected in the gubernatorial races this fall, and win a few key state legislatures, they will soon be faced with increasingly difficult redistricting decisions to secure the Party's future.

July 30, 2006

New Group to Help Chart Dem Victories

Democrats interested in longer-range strategy should check out a Sunday WaPo article by Chris Cilliza and Zachary A. Goldfarb, "Atlas Group Strives to Map Out Success for Democrats." According to the article, three veteran Democratic strategists, Mary Beth Cahill, Steve Rosenthal and Michael Whouley are launching "The Atlas Project" to design a "comprehensive strategy" to win votes in a dozen 'battleground' states. The authors say the innovative project will "analyze election data, interview local Democrats, and mount a polling and targeting effort" beginning right after the November elections. Rosenthal, former head of America Coming Together (ACT), says the Atlas Project will provide

a more thorough targeting analysis than has ever been done before...In the heat of an election, it seems we're always playing catch-up...Our goal with this project is to bring together the best strategic thinkers -- the innovators at the state and national level -- to learn from what's been done over the past several elections.

Polling firms Garin Hart Yang Research Group, Penn Schoen & Berland and Brilliant Corners have already been retained, and Copernicus Analytics has been recruited to analyze the data so political messages can more effectively win specific constituencies. The first Atlas Project strategy 'road maps' should be available by January '08.

July 27, 2006

Dems Gaining in 50 Most Competitive House Districts

A new bipartisan poll of likely voters in 50 of the most competitive districts of the U.S. House of Representatives indicates that Democratic candidates have a significant advantage three months ahead of the November elections. The poll, conducted 7/19-23 by Democrat Stanley Greenberg and Republican Glen Bolger for National Public Radio, indicates that Democrats have an aggregate 6-point lead over Republicans in the 50 districts --- up 18 points from 2004, when Republicans won these districts by 12 percent.

The 50 districts were selected according to rankings by leading political analysts, including The Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Rothenberg Political Report and National Journal’s Hotline. Of the 50 selected districts, Republican congressmen held 40 of the seats, with 9 for Democrats and 1 Independent. 12 of the 50 seats were open, with 10 held by Republicans, 1 Independent and 1 Democrat. As Bolger says of the 50 districts:

This is where the effort is going to be made. This is where the money’s going to be spent , and this is where the messages are going to be the sharpest…This is where the House hangs in the balance.

Less than a third of the respondents, 29 percent, said they planned to vote for the incumbent. Only 14 percent said they would “definitely” vote for the incumbent, compared to 24 percent who said they would “definitely” vote against the incumbent. The Democrats’ largest -- and most surprising -- margin of support, +13, came on the so-called “values” issues, including flag-burning, stem-cell research and gay marriage.

However, the poll indicated that values issue ranked 7th among voters priorities in chosing a candidate, behind the war in Iraq; jobs and the economy; taxes and spending; health care; and terrorism and national security.

Two thirds (66 percent) of Democratic respondents said they were “very interested” in the November elections, compared to 56 percent of Republicans saying the same. Among all LVs surveyed, 54 percent said they were “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” compared to 41 percent who said so during the last mid-term election in 2002. Generic Democratic candidates had a +7 point advantage over Republicans among LV’s “if the election were held today.” Dems had a +31-point advantage in voting for competitive Democrat-held seats and a +4 point advantage in contests for GOP-held seats.

President Bush’s job approval among LVs in the 50 competitive districts was 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproval, slightly better for him than recent figures for the nation as a whole.

Support for Nonintervention Grows in New Poll

Support for U.S. intervention in international conflicts is down, according to a poll conducted 7/21-25 by New York Times/CBS News. As Jim Rutenberg and Megan C. Thee note in their wrap-up story on the survey:

By a wide margin, the poll found, Americans did not believe the United States should take the lead in solving international conflicts in general, with 59 percent saying it should not, and 31 percent saying it should. That is a significant shift from a CBS News poll in September 2002 — one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — when the public was far more evenly split on the issue.

The poll also found that 58 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. "does not have a responsibility" to resolve the conflict between Israel and other Mideast nations, but do support an international peacekeeping force on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Rutenberg and Thee cite "a strong isolationist streak in a nation clearly rattled by more than four years of war" and add that 56 percent of those polled support "a timetable for reduction of United States forces in Iraq." Further, a majority of respondents support U.S., withdrawall "even if it meant Iraq would fall into the hands of insurgents," say the authors. And a large majority clearly see U.S. Iraq policy as a fiasco:

More than twice as many respondents — 63 percent versus 30 percent — said the Iraq war had not been worth the American lives and dollars lost. Only a quarter of respondents said they thought the American presence in Iraq had been a stabilizing force in the region, with 41 percent saying it had made the Middle East less stable.

The poll had some good news for Dems, with 53 percent of respondents saying they held a "positive view" of the Democratic Party, compared to 37 percent saying the same for the GOP. Asked who they would vote for "if the election were held today", 45 percent of RV's chose the Democratic candidate in their district, compared to 35 percent for the Republican.

July 25, 2006

Dems Need More Women Candidates

One of the great failures of American democracy is our inability to produce even a semblance of gender parity among elected officials in our federal, state and local political institutions. For example, the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) reports that women hold only 14 of 100 U.S. Senate seats (9 Democrats), 67 of 435 House of Reps. Seats (43 Democrats) and 8 of 50 governorships (6 Democrats). The shortfall raises an interesting question: Would women voters be more likely to vote for women candidates, and which party would benefit?

It’s a hugely complicated question and one of the subjects addressed in an interesting scholarly paper presented in April to the Midwest Political Science Association by Kathleen Dolan, a University of Wisconsin political scientist. While the aforementioned statistics suggest Democrats would likely derive the greater benefit from fielding more women candidates, the answer is more complex. As Dr. Dolan explains in her paper, “Women Candidates in American Politics: What We Know, What We Want to Know”:

Analyzing the NES data for congressional races from 1990-2000 indicates that there are some circumstances in which women voters more likely to choose women candidates than men voters do, but the relationship is not overwhelming. Here the effect seems to be conditioned by the office being sought – women voters were significantly more likely to choose women candidates for House races than were men, but there was no sex difference in voting for women candidates in Senate races (Dolan 2004). Too, the effect in House races was not overwhelming. Women’s probability of voting for a woman candidate in these elections was .59, while for men the probability was .50. Clearly, this doesn’t signal a wholesale embracing or rejection of women candidates by either sex. So, while women may be more likely to vote for women than are men in some cases, this relationship does not hold in all circumstances. Nor does it hold true all of the time. When each election from 1990 to 2004 is analyzed separately, women were more likely to choose women candidates in House elections in only one year, 1992, the so- called “year of the woman.” And, interestingly, in 1994, men voters were more likely to choose women candidates in Senate races than were women voters. These findings would cause us to conclude that the potential for women voters to favor women candidates is there, but may not be strong enough to determine a person’s vote in specific electoral situations and is rarely strong enough to overwhelm traditional influences like party identification and incumbency. …But, as my work on vote choice indicates, party identification and incumbency drive voting for women. At the same time, some scholars suggest that some women will cross party lines to support women (Brians 2005; King and Matland 2003). So, it would be interesting to know more about what factors pull people away from their baseline preference and what it takes for that to happen.

Dolan has a lot more to say in her lengthy paper, and students of political strategy should find the entire paper of interest. For more on the gender gap with respect to political parties, see Anna Greenberg's "Moving Beyond the gender Gap."

Democrats may well have much to gain by fielding more women candidates, and the November elections offer an opportunity to increase women’s congressional representation substantially. Although filing deadlines for ’06 have passed in at least 46 states, CAWP reports that 13 Democratic women (and 6 Republicans) are running for U.S. Senate and 116 Democratic women are running for U.S. House seats (56 Republicans), with 8 Democratic women running for governorships (and 8 Republicans).

Democrats would do well to make a point of recruiting more women candidates, not only because we want to win more, but because it will make our democracy stronger and our society better. As the late Coretta Scott King said:

The lack of gender parity in government is not only unjust; it goes a long way to explain why children and families are being shortchanged by government policies. For improving the quality of our lives, where we really need some more assertive women is in the halls of congress, our state and local legislatures… Gender alone is no guarantee of effectiveness in leadership. But it is important that women achieve the full measure of opportunities guaranteed by all of the great democracies. Our world will never be in balance until women have a fair share in political decision-making.

July 24, 2006

New WaPo Election Guide Tracks Issues, '06 Races

The Washington Post today launches a new guide to the '06 elections, "Bellwethers: Key Issues in the Battle for Congress." The feature focuses on how voting may be affected by eight major "issues," including: Iraq; immigration; President Bush; corruption; "pocketbook" concerns; GOP chances in the northeast; Democratic chances in the "upper south"; and ballot measures. The feature includes dozens of cross-links to useful data, including candidate bios, district and state demographic profiles, opinion polls, financial information and voting records -- much of it nicely illustrated with clickable maps and jazzy graphics. WaPo says 'Bellwethers' will be an "organic" feature, which presumably means it will be updated and expanded with new developments. 'Bellwethers' offers substantially more easily-accessible content than the New York Times 2006 Election Guide and promises to be the best election tracking gateway offered by a daily newspaper.

July 20, 2006

Reed Defeat Shows Corruption Issue Resonates

In today's WaPo, Jim VandeHei addresses the national political ramifications of Ralph Reed's defeat in the Georgia GOP Lt. Governor primary. VandeHei's article hones in on the nut question for political strategists: Does the corruption issue have legs after all? A strong possibility in several races, suggests VandeHei.

Republicans worry that more than six candidates for the House and Senate could be hurt by Justice Department investigations, the courts and revelations in the Abramoff affair. Topping the list are Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), both bruised by Abramoff connections and facing tough races.

...Other members threatened by corruption charges include Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), John T. Doolittle (Calif.) and Richard W. Pombo (Calif.). A court ruling could force former majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) back into the race in Texas's 22nd District, a potential boon for Democrats.

Hotline's Jonathan Martin credits an aggressive campaign by GOP State Senator Casey Cagle, as well as strong media reporting on Reed's ethics issues. Martin explains:

...Metro Atlanta Republicans decided they could not take the risk of supporting a tarnished candidate. Cagle won the four big counties (Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett and DeKalb) in and around Atlanta by a combined 19K votes. Add in the further afield exurbs (including Cagle's native Hall Co) and over half of Cagle's margin came from just the Metro area.

Alternet's David Donnelly shares this take:

This spells trouble for scandal-ridden members of Congress...it also should put every vulnerable member of Congress on notice. Those who have voted in the interests of their contributors on issues critical to voters on prescription drug costs, renewable energy, and others should have to answer for their actions...voters are in a throw-the-bums-out kind of mood, and candidates who capitalize on this by showing how they're going to clean up Congress (like by signing the Voters First Pledge supported by Common Cause, Public Campaign Action Fund, Public Citizen, and US PIRG can tap into voter discontent.

The Reed defeat indicates that corruption and scandal clearly affect the votes and perhaps the turnout of Republicans concerned about ethics. With six Republican candidates mired in scandals, compared to two Democrats, it looks like a net gain in House seats for Dems in November.

July 19, 2006

Hispanic Vote -- A Deepening Shade of Blue

New Democratic Network's Hispanic Strategy Center has just released a new poll of Spanish-speaking voters, and the news is quite good for Dems. There's lots to chew on in the poll, and MyDD's Chris Bowers takes it for a spin here, while Kos mulls it over here. We'll just offer the following juicy nugget and encourage readers to check out the poll and Travis Valentine's summary at NDN.

In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable. When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage (59% - 23%). For Republicans this is a dramatic drop from the 52% - 48% Kerry-Bush result with the Spanish-speaking sub-group in 2004.

Another poll, the National Survey of Latinos of the Pew Hispanic Center (conducted (6/5 to 7/3), reports that "the share of Latinos who believe the Republican Party has the best position on immigration has dropped from 25% to 16%." The effect of the GOP's immigrant bashing on non-Hispanic voters may still be in flux, but a growing number of Latinos have clearly had enough.

July 18, 2006

'50 State Strategy' Sinks Roots in Red Soil

Kos riffs on US News & World Report's update on the progress of DNC Chair Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" and the conflict with the agendas of DCCC's Rahm Emanuel and DSCC's Chuck Schumer. Explains Kos:

Folks at the DSCC and DCCC have to think short-term. That's their job. That's why we have a DNC -- to work towards building a long-term, healthy, viable national party. That there's friction is perhaps a feature, not a bug of the system...in the long-term, a healthy national Democratic Party will make the jobs of future heads of the DSCC and DCCC much easier.

In the US News article, author Dan Gilgore reports on the DNC's promising progress in Mississippi, and gives fair vent to the DCCC's and DSCC's concern that '06 campaign funding is being damaged by the DNC's long-term focus:

Grousing about insufficient funds from the DNC, Emanuel recently told Roll Call "there is no cavalry financially for us." Emanuel declined interview requests, but DCCC sources say more money should go to Democratic candidates in tight races, not to field organizers in long-shot red states.

The stakes are high indeed, as Gilgore notes:

A big bet. With the future of the Democratic Party at stake, Republicans are watching closely, too. "Dean could wind up looking like a genius eventually," says a top GOP strategist. "Or this could be the election that could have been."

...the 50-State Strategy, for the time being, is focused more on keeping or regaining control of state legislatures, which have taken on more national political value because they draw the lines for U.S. House seats. In Mississippi, Democrats control the Legislature but have lost dozens of seats recently. In Arizona, Republicans are three seats away from veto proof majorities in the state House and Senate. The state Democratic Party there has used its DNC field organizers to do aggressive outreach to American Indians and Hispanics, particularly during the huge immigrant rights protests earlier this year. "The DNC has enabled us to become part of the fabric of these communities," says Arizona party chair David Waid. "There used to be this sense of coming around only when we wanted your vote."

It's a tough call, and the article has a lot more to say about the consequences and choices involved in allocating resources short-term vs. long term.

July 17, 2006

Dems Lead in Battle for Youth Vote

Zachary A. Goldfarb has a WaPo update on the battle for the youth vote in the mid-terms and '08, which should be of interest to Dem campaign staffers and strategists. According to Goldfarb, Dems can be cautiously optimistic about younger voters. First, with respect to turnout:

In 2004, young people voted in the highest percentage they had since 1992, and in the third-highest percentage in the nine presidential elections since a constitutional amendment in 1971 lowered the voting age to 18...in the 2004 presidential election, when the overall electorate showed a four-percentage-point increase in turnout from 2000, the turnout rate among people ages 18 to 24 increased by 11 points -- to 47 percent from 36 percent. In 2005, overall voter turnout declined in the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, except for the student-dense precincts with big voter turnout projects.

Goldfarb's article highlights the efforts of a new organization, Youth Voter Strategies and cites an encouraging trend for Dems:

...Recently, the group has been showcasing the results of a poll on young voters done with prominent pollsters Ed Goeas, a Republican, and Celinda Lake, a Democrat. The poll found that young people believe Democrats are better equipped to handle their top concerns -- gas prices, education and the economy -- by a wide margin.

Democrats are emphasizing college affordability as a hot button issue with young voters, according to Goldfarb. He also offers an interesting clue for longer-range Democratic strategy from pollster Lake.

Lake said she has told Democrats they have "a major opportunity" to nurture the future of the party. "The long-term studies show that if you capture a cohort in their youth three times in a row, then you hold their party identification for the rest of their life," she said.

But, as Goldfarb's article points out, it's not all about text messaging, cell phone and internet chatter, and stresses the importance of "peer-to-peer efforts in the offline world" and good, old-fashioned Election Day reminders.

July 13, 2006

Awakening Immigrant Vote Can Help Dems

USA Today may not be known for cutting-edge political reporting, but they have an article that should be clipped and posted on the bulletin boards of every Democratic campaign. The article, Martin Kasindorf’s “Immigrant Groups Aim: Turn Marchers to Voters” provides an encouraging introduction to the current and potential power of immigrant voters.

Kasindorf notes that applications for citizenship have increased by 20 percent over last year, an indication of “immigrants’ growing determination to counter anti-immigrant legislation and rhetoric.” He cites statistics from the “We Are America Alliance” voting and citizenship campaign “Democracy Summer”:

The alliance estimates that the nation's immigrant population represents an untapped resource of 12.4 million potential new voters. According to a report prepared from U.S. government statistics and released last month by the alliance, they include: 9.4 million foreign-born residents eligible to become citizens; 1.9 million children of immigrants, ages 18-24, who have not yet registered to vote, and another 1.1 million children of immigrants who will become old enough to vote by the 2008 presidential election.

The lesson of 1994, when California’s Republican Governor Pete Wilson pushed Proposition 187, denying state benefits to immigrants, may be repeated, suggests Kasindorf:

In reaction to Proposition 187, California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez says, naturalizations of Mexican-born California residents surged more than tenfold from 14,824 in 1994 to 151,959 in 1996. Nationally, "the big Prop 187 surge" resulted in 1.1 million more Hispanic registered voters in 1996 than in 1994, says Antonio Gonzalez of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

Faced with the loss of Social Security, Medicare and fear of deportation, many became citizens and an estimated 90 percent of the new Latino voters cast ballots for Democrats, according to Sergio Bendixen, a Miami-based pollster. Further, Kasindorf, says:

Núñez credits that upheaval for elevating him and other Hispanic Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "Now we can take this California experiment and move it across the country," Núñez says. Cecilia Muñoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, says: "The potential for impact is greater now because Latinos are now a bigger presence across the country.

The author points out that only 47 percent of voting-eligible Latinos cast ballots in 2004, compared to 67 percent of eligible white voters and 60 percent of eligible African Americans. The Alliance is seeking to raise $20 million to increase immigrant voter turnout by one million. Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union who is working with the Alliance says that the greater impact will be felt in 2008, but notes that there are currently “10 or 15 districts” where more Latino voters could “make a difference.” Kasindorf Spotlights races in four of those districts in one of several informative sidebars accompanying the article.

Stopping Rove's 'Slime Machine'

Jonathan Alter's MSNBC/Newsweek column "How to Beat Cut and Run," provides penetrating insight into Karl Rove's battle plan:

For more than a quarter century, Karl Rove has employed a simple, brilliant, counterintuitive campaign tactic: instead of attacking his opponents at their weakest point, the conventional approach, he attacks their strength. He neutralizes that strength to the point that it begins to look like weakness. When John McCain was winning in 2000 because of his character, Rove attacked his character. When John Kerry was nominated in 2004 because of his Vietnam combat experience, the Republicans Swift-Boated him. This year's midterm elections will turn on whether Rove can somehow transform the Democrats' greatest political asset—the Iraq fiasco—into a liability.

Sounds about right. Rove is clearly a master at exploiting timidity in political adversaries. Alter explains further:

After escaping indictment, Rove is focused again on what he does best: ginning up the slime machine. Anyone who dares criticize President Bush's Iraq policy is a "cut-and-run" Democrat....The object is instead to either get the Democrats tangled up in Kerryesque complexities on Iraq—or intimidate them into changing the subject to other, less-potent issues for fear of looking like unpatriotic pansies...Rove's notion is that strong and wrong beats meek and weak.

Alter's take on the Dems' best '06 campaign message may be a little simplistic for some:

Unless things improve dramatically on the ground in Iraq, Democrats have a powerful argument: If you believe the Iraq war is a success, vote Republican. If you believe it is a failure, vote Democratic.

It's a message that will have more resonance in Senate races, where foreign policy issues always hover at center stage. House candidates will have to address in considerably more detail issues like health care, education and other leading concerns of voters in their districts. But all issues are affected by the squandering of billions of dollars on the unpopular war in Iraq, and Alter is surely right that the worst mistake Dems can make is to try and hide from the issue.

July 11, 2006

Dems Benefit from 'Enthusiasm' Gap

Despite the glut of articles decrying the Democrats lack of vision, message, unity etc., when it comes to rank and file "enthusiasm" for voting for Democratic candidates, the Party is in exceptionally-good shape. According to the most recent Pew Research Center poll conducted 6/14-19, Democrats hold a "sizable" voter enthisiasm advantage over the GOP, with 46 percent of Democratic RV's saying they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual," compared to just 30 percent of Republican RV's saying the same. As the Pew report concludes:

...the level of enthusiasm about voting among Democrats is unusually high, and is atypically low among Republicans. In fact, Democrats now hold a voter enthusiasm advantage that is the mirror image of the GOP's edge in voter zeal leading up to the 1994 midterm election.

...What is particularly notable this year is the anti-incumbent sentiment expressed by independent voters. Fully 38% of independents want their member of Congress to be replaced, significantly more than said the same in 1994 (29%).

The poll also found that 51 percent of Americans favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared to 39 percent favoring Republican candidates.

July 10, 2006

Addressing Immigration Issues -- Mid-terms and Beyond

Nicholas Riccardi and Mark Z. Barabak illuminate the GOP's immigration strategy dilemma in their article in today's L.A.Times. The authors discuss the hard-liners vs. moderates internal conflict among Republicans and their efforts to avoid being viewed as Latino-bashers, while appearing tough on illegal immigration. They also provide revealing examples of how it's playing out in different mid-term campaigns.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum has launched an ad accusing his challenger of favoring amnesty for people in the country illegally and giving them "preference over American workers." Rep. Bob Beauprez criticizes his Democratic opponent in the Colorado governor's race for supporting state benefits for illegal immigrants. In the Chicago suburbs, congressional hopeful David McSweeney is attacking Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean on immigration — even though she voted in favor of the crackdown bill that passed the House in December.

Barabak and Riccardi note that part of the Republican hard-liners mid-term strategy is to demonize the more moderate Senate immigration legislation by branding it the "Kennedy-Reid" bill, even though GOP Senator John McCain is a primary co-sponsor. Not likely to work, as Jonathan Singer notes in his MyDD post on the LA Times piece:

If the Republicans believe that they can throw red meat to their nativist base while at the same time continue to court Hispanic voters, they are in for a rude surprise.

The Los Angeles Times might believe that Republicans can get away with talking out both sides of their mouths on immigration reform, but every time Republican politicians go out and bash immigrants in quasi-racist terminology they counteract the superficial Hispanic outreach pushed by Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove.

Despite the GOP spin machine, Democrats currently enjoy a double-digit lead on "handling of immigration issues," favored by 34 percent of respondents in a L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, conducted 6/24-27, compared to 23 percent expressing more confidence in Republicans. Further, Ruy Teixeira's Democratic Strategist article cites a Latino Coalition poll showing the Dems with "a stunning 61 percent to 21 percent lead over the GOP" among Hispanic registered voters.

For a more in-depth discussion of longer-range immigration politics, demographics and economic policy, read Roger Lowenstein's "The Immigration Equation" in the NYT Sunday Magazine. Reuters has an interesting WaPo article on what is being done to increase the Latino vote by 3 million in '08 over the 7.5 million Latino ballots cast in '04. Reuters says 8 million "legal resident" Latinos now qualify for naturalization --- 3 million in California alone.

July 7, 2006

A Dem Exit Strategy ---Via Afghanistan

Former Assistant Secretary of State James P. Rubin has an interesting suggestion for Democratic strategists in his NYT op-ed "A War Democrats Can Win." Rubin says:

Back in Washington last week, partisan warfare had erupted over a Democratic proposal to establish a timeline for withdrawing American forces from Iraq. Even though the top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., was working on just such a plan, Republicans battered the Democrats as quitters, unwilling to hang tough in the fight against terrorism.

Next time, the Democrats should try a different strategy. Instead of calling for troop cuts in Iraq, they should call for transferring forces and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan.

It's not a new idea, and it has been suggested from time to time by different Dem leaders in recent years. But making it a major, unifying theme just might provide a credible exit strategy for Democrats. Rubin argues further:

By forcing a debate on transferring American forces back to Afghanistan, the Democrats can avoid the trap of allowing Republicans to claim they are weak. They can argue that their proposal is not a withdrawal from the front, but rather a deployment to an equally important front where American leadership can make the difference in securing a long-term victory....If nothing else, such a debate would focus attention on the Bush administration's failure to finish the job in Afghanistan.

Americans know that Iraq has become a drain on our resources and reputation, but they are wary of giving up. On the other hand, since the Sept. 11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, public support for finally finishing off the Taliban and their allies in Al Qaeda can be sustained for a long time to come.

Rubin doesn't explore the political fallout of different scenarios we might leave behind in Iraq. But the merits of Democratic candidates talking about transferring troops instead of withdrawing them deserve consideration.

July 6, 2006

Should Dems Play Redistricting Hardball?

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding most of DeLay's redistricting scam, WaPo's Charles Babington assesses the Democrats' opportunity and willingness to pursue a more aggressive redistricting strategy of their own. Babington's article, "Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas's Redistricting," says that the list of states where a stronger Dem reapportionment strategy is feasable is "remarkably short":

Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.

The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas's: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane's impact.

However, the balance of power in the states could change significantly in November if the Dems pick up a few key state legislatures and governorships, opening up fresh redistricting opportunities. (For a map depicting which states have both of their state legislatures controlled by the Dems or GOP, click here.) More disturbing is that the Democratic will to play redistricting hardball may not be there, according to Babington. He quotes DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel describing the response to his efforts to get some pro-Democratic redistricting in the states: "I couldn't get enough fellow Democrats to see the benefits of that." Babington cites similar reluctance on the part of Democratic leaders in other states.

The SCOTUS decision serves notice that the rules of redistricting have changed. We can be sure only that the Republicans will not hesitate to ruthlessly exploit every possible chance to tweak reapportionment maps in their favor in the years ahead, and their Texas pick-ups could be replicated in several other states. If Democrats don't respond with equal fervor, securing and retaining a stable majority of congress is unlikely.

For a comprehesive guide to the redistricting methods of the 50 states, click here, and then select states in the left-hand column.

July 5, 2006

Dems' 'Edgy' Campaign Leaders Break Tradition

L.A. Times reporter Janet Hook's "Meet the Powers Behind the Democrats' Strategy" profiles DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, chair of the DCCC. Hook credits both men with "an aggressive intensity." She also discusses their conflict over campaign spending with Howard Dean and the politics behind some of their controversial decisions on strategy, including Schumer's tradition-breaking endorsement of primary candidates.

July 4, 2006

Dem Consensus on Iraq Drawdown Evolving?

A couple of articles about the politics of Iraq withdrawal merit a read by Democrats searching for policy consensus on this issue. Trudy Rubin's Philly News column is generating some buzz among the progressive blogs. She points out that Iraqi leaders want US toops "drawn down" within 18 months, but don't want "an explicit timeline":

Instead, they favor a "road map" for troop reductions, that depends on achieving a set of goals for improving Iraqi security. They want dates, but dates that depend on meeting those targets...As for Democrats, they should stop obsessing over timelines. The Republicans and Iraqis will set those soon enough.

Instead, Democrats should focus on the issue of competence. They must convince voters they are more capable of salvaging the Iraq mess than the incompetents who created it.

And The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum explains in his post on Rubin's column that she and Iraqi leaders:

..appear to believe that an open-ended commitment to the occupation of Iraq is a bad idea, and that a vague commitment to drawing down U.S. forces that's something short of a firm timetable is a good idea. On that score, 38 out of 44 Senate Democrats seem to agree.

...This is not precisely what the Reed-Levin resolution called for, but it's pretty close: make at least a small start on troop drawdowns this year; don't set a specific timetable for further drawdowns; but do insist that the Bush administration submit a redeployment plan by the end of the year that specifies "estimated dates...with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise."

Meanwhile, over at Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal offers insightful analysis in several posts on recent polls measuring U.S. opinion on Iraq withdrawal.

July 3, 2006

Dems' Game Plan Taking Shape

Ari Berman's article in The Nation, "Where's the Plan Democrats?" should be of interest to anyone involved in Democratic politics. Berman assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the Dems' readiness for the November elections, and explains what the DNC, DSCC and DCCC are doing to get the vote out for '06 and beyond. He sees a stronger-than-usual GOP GOTV effort, but credits the Dems with significant improvement in fund-raising and mobilizing key constituencies. Berman also discusses Howard Dean's emphasis on longer-term strategy, compared with the focus on November '06 advocated by Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel.

July 2, 2006

GOP '06 Strategy Hinges on Iraq, Terrorism

The GOP appears to be anchoring its '06 campaign hopes on stigmatizing Democratic candidates as weak on Iraq and terrorism, according to L.A. Times reporters Doyle McManus and Peter Wallsten.

GOP leaders, including President Bush and Rep. John Boehner this week accused Democrats of "defeatism," advocating "special priviledges for terorrists" and wanting to "wave the white flag of surrender." But blaming the Democrats may be a very tough sell for the GOP, and their timing is not the best, as the authors explain:

The environment is not entirely hospitable. A car bomb killed scores of people in a busy Baghdad market Saturday, a day after the Army announced that American soldiers were accused of raping an Iraqi woman and then killing her and three family members. Polls find most voters say they want to see Democrats take control of Congress this fall.

Democrats will likely be ready for the GOP to do its worst. Responding to Boehner's accusing the Dems of being soft on al-Qaeda, Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Minorty Leader Nancy Pelosi replied:

Republicans are resorting to their tired tactics of distort, distract and divide. Instead of actually doing something to protect our nation, such as implementing the 9/11 commission recommendations or hiring more border control agents, they are doing what that always do: trying to incite fear and attack Democrats. It won't work.

A good strong reply, and it is likely that other Dem leaders will not hesitate to point out the Administration's failure to secure America's ports and the weak response to disaster in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as an indication of the Administration's preparedness for possible terrorist acts. As the authors point out, races in the House, where the Dems are more likely to win a majority, will be less likely than the Senate to turn on foreign policy issues.