Quote of the week from E.J. Dionne:
Republicans are betting that Obamacare and its travails
will be the deciding issue in next year's elections.
Obama thinks... health care and the minimum wage can be linked
to other proposals in a larger battle for economic fairness.
The broader the playing field, the better his chances.
The Daily Strategist
Writers all over the world are today mining their stock of superlatives to honor Nelson Mandela. And there have been many musical tributes to Mandela. Senegalese super-star Youssou N'dour did an entire album in tribute to him, and numerous artists have recorded songs honoring Mandela, including Nickleback, Johnie Clegg, Raffi, Elvis Costello, Dolores Keane, Christy Moore, Hugh Masekela, Zahara and many other African musicians. Probably the biggest global hit was "Free Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA from Coventry U.K., which goes like this:
The following article by TDS founding editor Ruy Teixeira is cross-posted from ThinkProgress:
As the Obamacare situation stabilizes, Democrats are starting to come to their strategic senses and realize their best course of action is to defend the program, not run away from it.
But that's not enough. If Democrats want to maximize their chances of holding the Senate in 2014 and making at least some progress in the House, they need to go on the offensive on issues that will mobilize their base and split their opposition. A new poll from National Journal shows how.
In the poll, respondents were asked first about whether legislation would be passed in the next year to address various issues. Of the issues tested, three were deemed more likely than not to generate successful legislation: "Creating jobs by increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges" (56 percent likely/39 percent not likely); "Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales" (53-43); and "Reforming the immigration system to increase border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally" (49-46).
This expectation is borne of desire, not fatalism. The poll followed up by asking respondents whether they'd be pleased or disappointed if legislation actually passed in these areas. The results were quite one-sided. By 77-21, Americans said they'd be pleased rather than disappointed if legislation was passed to create jobs through infrastructure spending. By 74-22, they said they'd be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales (including an astonishing 56 percent who said they'd be "very" pleased, the highest of all the issues tested). And by 66-28, they said they'd be pleased to see a pathway to citizenship make it through Congress.
So the public wants and expects action in these three areas. Who's standing in the way? Congressional Republicans, of course.
And here's the beauty, tactically speaking: not only do these issues hugely appeal to the Democratic base, they also appeal to the majority of Republicans, thereby making these issues potential vehicles for splitting the GOP vote. A large majority of Republicans would be pleased to see more infrastructure spending to create jobs; 66 percent would be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales and 57 percent of GOP identifiers would like to see immigration reform happen.
Mobilize the base, split the opposition -- these issues are political gold for the Democrats. And while we're speaking of political gold for the Democrats, it would be remiss not to mention raising the minimum wage, an issue not tested by the National Journal poll but likely to be voted on in the Senate shortly. This is also an issue that gets overwhelming public support, particularly from the Democratic base, but splits the Republican party. Moreover, this split in support has a very distinct class character. In a recent Pew Research poll, working class (non-college) Republicans supported the proposal by 58-40, while college-educated Republicans opposed it by 60-34. Similarly, low income Republicans (less than $30,000) supported raising the minimum wage by 68-31 while high income Republicans (over $75,000) opposed such a raise by 57-40.
Job creation through infrastructure spending. Universal background checks for gun sales. Immigration reform. Raising the minimum wage. Music to Democratic ears and a prescription for political success. Maybe Democrats should think about taking their medicine.
GOP strategist Ed Rogers worries at WaPo that Democrats could well benefit from stock market and oil booms, and be sitting pretty come next November.
Elizabeth Warren says she is not running for president, and The Fix's Sean Sullivan explains some of the reasons why.
...And Esquire's Charles Pierce channels a little Gore Vidal to explain (via Reader Supported News) why that's a good thing.
At Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende analyzes "Democrats' 2013 Drop-Off Problem" and what it might mean for 2014. "What does this mean for 2014? Possibly nothing. There is a lot of football left to be played, the president's job approval rating could rally significantly, the Democrats could become enthused, and drop-off could become a non-issue...But if that doesn't happen, Democrats have a real headache coming on. Let's assume they can expect a drop-off of four to five points from Obama's 2012 performance, all other things being equal. Twenty-eight House Democrats occupy seats where Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote..."
Kyle Kondik notes at Sabato's CrystalBall that "Late filing deadlines give Republicans a chance to find better candidates in places where they're lacking." Same is true for Dems, however.
A new poll of 2,089 18- to 29-year-olds, which was conducted online by GfK between Oct. 30 and Nov. 11 by Harvard University's Institute of Politics suggests Dems need a better Obamacare pitch to young voters. As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports at the News York Times, "A solid majority, 56 percent, disapproved of the law when it was called the Affordable Care Act. Just 17 percent said the measure would improve the quality of health care; 78 percent said quality would either stay the same or get worse. Half said the law would increase costs, while 46 percent said costs would decrease or stay the same."
Be that as it may, Tracy Seiple reports at the San Jose Mercury-News that "The startling finding by the Public Policy Institute of California says that young and healthy people are overwhelmingly more likely to seek health insurance than older and sicker people...The PPIC numbers on young people who plan on signing up for insurance appear to mimic an early analysis by Covered California, the state's online health exchange, that trumpeted its first-month enrollment figure of 30,830 people, including 6,900 who are between 18 and 34."
Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy point out at HuffPollster: "In a CNN poll released in November, opinion on the health care bill was split among those aged 18 to 34, with 48 percent supporting the law, 33 percent opposing it because it was too liberal, and 12 percent because it was not liberal enough. Younger Americans were also more optimistic on the law's prospects. Just 25 percent in that age group called the law a failure, compared with 40 percent or more in older age groups. Seventy-one percent said the law's problems would be solved, while 50 percent or fewer of older Americans predicted they would."
One of the most potentially-powerful, but most underutilized message points Dems could use more aggressively to mobilize young voters against the GOP is conservatives' unflagging assault on the environment, nicely documented in "ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners in assault on clean energy" by The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington.
From a strategy memo entitled "The Polling Lay of the Land" by Obama pollster Joel Benenson:
Our data continues to show, unequivocally, that the nation's economic health remains voters' overriding priority.
Even amid a cascade of news cycles focused on the Affordable Care Act, Syria, the government shutdown and the NSA, voters' primary focus has never shifted from their economic well-being and financial security.
While we have seen a marked increase in voters ' sense of financial stability throughout most of 2013 - worries about the immediate loss of jobs or homes had subsided - we have a long way to go before voters feel truly secure in their economic futures, and that of the nation.
Fully aware of the long road ahead, voters are extremely eager to see Washington once again put economic issues at the center of their attention.
Over the course of 2013, we have seen improvement in voters ' views of the economy. Four years of deeply entrenched pessimism around the economy has finally begun to give way to a brighter outlook.
After steadily improving since January, this June we reached high points on two key metrics we have been tracking since 2009:
68% of voters described the economy as "getting better", a 9-point increase over our 2012 average. Just 29% - mostly Republicans - said the economy is "getting worse".
21% of voters rated the economy as "excellent" or "good". This number was in almost invariably in single digits from 2009 until 2012 , and averaged 13% throughout that year.
However, the government shutdown and debt ceiling fight all but wiped out this burgeoning optimism. We are starting to see these metrics slowly creep back up, but the shutdown and ongoing dysfunction have had a lingering effect on views of the economy.
The number saying the economy is getting better dropped to a shutdown low of 50% in mid-October...By last week, this figure had ticked back up to 56%, still well below the highs of the first and second quarters of this year.
Our guiding light needs to be our focus on creating a more secure economy for hard-working American families, with smart investments now and for the next generation.
Benenson has more so say on this topic of critical importance, and we urge Dems who want to win in 2014 to give it a thoughtful read.
For more video clip testimony showing how the Affordable Care Act saves lives, see here, here, here and here. You could also see here, here, here or here.
The National Journal's Shane Goldmacher asks an important question about the 2014 elections, "Can Democrats Still Win With a Women-Centered Strategy?" Subtitled "Democrats want 2014 to be a Year of the Woman (and women's issues), betting that the GOP's 2012 gender gap holds for another cycle," Goldmacher's post adds some clarity to the discussion about Democratic grand strategy for the 2014 campaign.
Democrats are appropriately nervous about the relatively low non-presidential year turnout of their key constituencies and the correspondingly high voting percentages of the more pro-GOP demographic groups. Historical patterns are hard to deny, and it's an uphill argument to counter that 2014 will somehow be different. Yet some unusual trends emerged during the last year, including rock-bottom approval ratings for the GOP, which includes a sharp downturn among senior voters, who tend to lead off-year turnout percentages.
Then there is the GOP shutdown wild card, which many believe will be largely forgotten a year from now. But Democrats might pick up a small number of seats with some well-targeted reminders, and the explosive growth of Latino voters should also help contain the Republicans' expected gains. Dems hope, further, that gridlock fatigue and an economic uptick in the coming months will also give them enough of an edge to hold the senate and cut deep into the GOP majority in the House.
Many believe, however, that the Republicans' rapidly declining support among women could be the pivotal factor next November. As Goldmacher notes,
The Democratic Party is hoping 2014 will be a Year of the Woman--again...As party operatives prepare for the 2014 midterm elections, Democratic women are being cast in starring roles, on the ballot and at the ballot box, as the party tries to take back politically important governor's mansions and keep its fragile majority in the Senate.
"The importance of women to the Democratic Party in 2014 cannot be overstated," said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for EMILY's List, which recruits and supports Democratic women candidates. "They are running in our biggest, most important races in the country."
Goldmacher notes that Democrats are fielding some strong women candidates in high-profile state-wide races in 2014, including Wendy Davis (TX Gov.) Alison Lundergan Grimes (KY Senate), Mary Burke (WI Gov.), Allyson Schwartz (PA Gov), Michelle Nunn (GA Senate) and Natalie Tennant (WV Senate). Democratic strategists "believe the slate of prominent women on the 2014 ballot will make the contrast with Republicans all the clearer ," says Goldmacher.
He warns, however, that Democratic U.S. Senators Landrieu and Hagan hold two of the most endangered seats being heavily-targeted by Republicans, and GA, WV and KY remain tough states for Democratic candidates. The GOP is fielding some women candidates as well, but most of them seem lackluster in comparison to Democratic women candidates, like Wendy Davis. Further, ads Goldmacher,
The recent victory of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race showed that issues of abortion and contraception remain salient. McAuliffe bombarded the airwaves on those topics en route to running up his margin of victory among unmarried women voters to 42 percentage points, according to exit polling.
"It's a deep problem for the Republicans," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The Supreme Court's announcement last week that it will take up a case about whether employers may refuse to provide contraceptive coverage means that the volatile issue of birth control again will be injected in the midst of the 2014 campaign. The case will be decided in the middle of next year.
Democrats have made plain that the "war on women" playbook will be key to their efforts to unseat McConnell. Last week, Grimes rolled out the endorsement of Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the pay-equity law signed by Obama, and her campaign issued a memo on women's issues, noting that Grimes is an "advocate for women" and would be "Kentucky's first female United States senator."
While reproductive rights are key concerns of women in general and unmarried women in particular, women candidates are addressing the full range of socio-economic concerns that influence swing voters, including men. "There are lots of reasons women make great candidates," [Democratic pollster Anna] Greenberg said. "It's not because they can just talk about abortion."
Goldmacher notes that "men also can appeal to women voters on traditionally women's issues," and adds:
...McAuliffe is the latest example. Anna Greenberg...noted that television ads about abortion, birth-control access or defunding Planned Parenthood aired in nearly every competitive congressional race last cycle, whether the contest featured a Democratic women against a Republican man, or vice versa.
While some pundits have noted that the gender gap is racial in that most white women voters have voted for Republicans in recent elections, the percentage is still significantly less than for white men. And McAuliffe's stunning margin of victory among unmarried women in a bellwether state also underscores the wisdom of Democrats recruiting more women candidates and male candidates who can address issues of concern to women voters in a positive way.
At present 10 percent of Republican House and Senate members are women, compared to 25 percent of all Democratic members of both houses, according to the congressional record. In 2012, "Of the more than 1700 women serving in state legislatures, roughly 60 percent are members of the Democratic Party," reports the Center for American Women and Politics.
In the last non-presidential election year, 2010, the gender gap favoring Democratic candidates was "more widespread in this election than in any other," said Susan J. Carroll, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics. "Typically, we see gender gaps in about two-thirds of all statewide races. This year we saw gender gaps in all but a couple of contests," despite significant Republican gains nationwide. With respect to House races, 49% of women compared with 42% of men voted for Democratic candidates in their districts.
The following article by TDS founding editor Ruy Teixeira is cross-posted from ThinkProgress:
Remember when Republicans were the masters of the "wedge issue" -- masterfully manipulating public opinion splits on same-sex marriage and other policies to divide the Democratic coalition and cruise to victory? No more. Marriage equality, in fact, now seems to work as a wedge in the other direction, splitting the GOP coalition and forcing moderates into the Democratic camp.
Though few have noticed, it's starting to look like immigration reform is following the same agenda. Immigration used to divide the Democratic coalition, but now it threatens to split the GOP -- and for reasons entirely independent of losing the Latino vote.
Check out these results from a new Public Religion Research institute poll. PRRI asked respondents how the immigration system should deal with undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and found that the vast majority -- 63 percent -- of Americans said they should be offered a pathway to citizenship. 18 percent said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, while a mere 14 percent said they should be identified and deported:
Here's the amazing thing: while 63 percent overall supported a path to citizenship, so did 60 percent of Republicans! The latter number is actually higher than support levels among independents (57 percent). Support for a path to citizenship has clearly gone mainstream -- and bipartisan.
So if there's bipartisan support, where's the bipartisan action? The answer is simple: division in the Republican Party. Tea Party Republicans tend to be adamantly, furiously opposed to immigration reform, and they wield a huge amount of influence inside today's GOP. The chart below from Alan Abramowitz illustrates the extent of that influence:
Tea Party supporters are 52 percent of all Republicans, 57 percent of general election voters, 64 percent of primary voters, 76 percent of rally attendees and a remarkable 80 percent of donors. No wonder immigration reform isn't getting anywhere.
So where does that leave Republicans who favor a path to citizenship? Until things change -- and the Tea Party looks as strong as ever after some post-2013 election rumblings -- the issue is pushing them right out of the party.
Immigration reform is generally viewed as an issue where GOP intransigence could wind up supergluing Latinos to the Democratic Party. That's right, but these data suggest there's another part to the equation. The GOP could wind up not just failing to gain Latino support but actively losing part of their own coalition. For a party that's already battling the effects of long-term demographic change, that's very bad news.
According to "Obamacare Impact on Virginia Vote Steers Strategy in 2014" by Bloomberg's Julie Hirschfeld Davis & John McCormick, quoting McAuliffe pollster Geoff Garin: "Cuccinelli's focus on the health-care measure had "actually been counterproductive," even with voters who disapproved of the law. It solidified their view that he was an ideological candidate with a national agenda that had nothing to do with Virginia, said Garin."
Craig Harrington and Albert Kleine explore how "How Print And Broadcast Media Are Hiding Obamacare's Success In Controlling Costs."
At The Atlantic Richard Florida explains why "The Suburbs Are the New Swing States.As Florida puts it, "...The key political footballs - the new "swing states," so to speak - are the swelling ranks of economically distressed suburbs, where poverty has been growing and where the economic crisis hit especially hard. There are now more poor people living in America's suburbs than its center cities, and as a recent Brookings Institution report found, both Republican and Democratic districts have been affected by this reality."
Salon.com's Micheal Lind discusses "How to beat libertarians on the economy: While the right is united economically behind one main agenda, the left lacks such a consensus. Here's the solution."
Zachary A. Goldfarb reports at Washington Post Politics on why "More liberal, populist movement emerging in Democratic Party ahead of 2016 elections." Says Goldfarb, "The arena where the populist push is likely to play out most clearly is in the nascent 2016 presidential campaign. [Sen. Elizabeth} Warren is the object of admiration among liberals, drawing huge audiences for her speeches. She has said she doesn't plan to run for president, but she hasn't made a firm commitment to stay out of the race..."
Kelly S. Kennedy writes at the Tucson Citizen that "States' numbers will likely tell HealthCare.gov's story" better than the federal exchange website. "There are a lot more resources available in the states that are doing their own exchange," [Urban Institute Fellow Stan] Dorn said. Those states received federal funds to market their exchanges...And, he said, it's easier for one state to handle marketing, technology and enrollment for just one exchange than it is for the federal government to manage all of those issues for the 35 states that chose not to create state-based exchanges."
At The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters reports that "Abortion Cases in Court Helped Tilt Democrats Against the Filibuster." As Peters explains, "Very quickly and unexpectedly, abortion and contraceptive rights became the decisive factor in the filibuster fight. First there were the two coincidentally timed decisions out of Texas and Washington. Then momentum to change the rules reached a critical mass when Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and a defender of abortion rights, decided to put aside her misgivings, in large part because the recent court action was so alarming to her, Democrats said."
At The Plumline, Ryan Cooper explains why "Dems should not hesitate to further streamline the Senate rulebook," and punctuates his argument with a simple point: "if Republicans continue to use procedural tricks to block the nomination process. Republicans will not be so generous when the tables are turned."
Obama's field director Jeremy Bird has a TNR post discussing how Dems can improve turnout, noting that "We Can't Just Play Defense on Voting Access. It's Time to Make Voting Easier."
At Daily Kos, David Nir spotlights a tough strategic challenge facing Democrats: GOP/NRA successes in recalling Democratic state legislators. Here's Nir on the most recent incident in Colorado:
... In the face of a likely recall election, Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak has opted to resign, a move that short-circuits the recall effort. A Hudak loss would have handed control of the Senate to Republicans, who are now just one seat shy of the majority following two successful recalls of other Democratic lawmakers earlier this year. Now, however, the recall won't take place, and Democrats will be able to appoint a replacement (though that person will have to seek re-election in 2014, whereas Hudak would have served until 2016).
Hudak's decision, while highly unusual, isn't actually that surprising, and we discussed this very possibility when news of a new recall drive first emerged. Hudak's seat is only light blue, and she won both of her prior races by very narrow margins, plus she was also term-limited. Given the ugly dropoff in Democratic turnout in the prior recalls, she'd have been looking at steep odds. Instead, she decided to truly take one for the team...But while Democrats will retain their majority, the gun activists who have forced and threatened all of these recalls can claim another victim....
Nir adds that there are many more vulnerable seats held by Dems in state legislatures, though it remains an open question, whether the Colorado recall template will work in less NRA-friendly purple districts. Nir concludes with a challenging question for Dems regarding 2014:
...This falloff in Democratic performance in non-presidential races is a deeply disturbing phenomenon, given that it's now gone so far as to turn lawmakers out of office without even conducting an election! Who out there is working on fixing this?
There are lots of strategic possibilities worth discussing in answering the question, including more assertive opposition to the NRA, which functions a tool of the GOP and putting more resources into off-year turnout mobilization. Dems must also focus on getting a bigger share of the pivotal senior vote in non-presidential years, especially since polls indicate that they are turning off to the GOP.
Nir notes elsewhere that at least one Republican has voiced concern that the recall strategy could backfire, as it did on Dems in Wisconsin. That may be a concern. But so far the GOP has succeeded in dumping three Dem legislators in CO.
Control of the state legislatures has been key to GOP gerrymandering in recent years. It's hard enough to get Democrats elected in swing districts. But now Dems must formulate a workable strategy to defeat GOP/NRA recall campaigns.
It should be safe to say that most analytically-oriented Democrats know that hanging onto the Senate in 2014 will be difficult, though hardly impossible. The landscape is bad in two respects: 20 of 33 seats up are Democratic; seven of those 20 are in states carried by Mitt Romney; and there were five Democratic retirements. Then there's the turnout factor; as regular readers know, the normal "falloff' in youth and minority voting in midterms has become especially damaging to the Donkey Party of late.
On the other hand, it will take six pickups for Republicans to gain control of the Senate. GOPers can't afford many mistakes, and fractious primaries are on tap in KY, GA, SC, TN, WY, and perhaps other states.
Still, it is deeply annoying to see this pro-GOP tilted Senate landscape being touted in support of the latest conservative/MSM narrative of collapsing Democratic support-levels. I issued a protest and warning at Washington Monthly today:
We might as well get used to this sort of headline: "The Hotline's Senate Race Ratings: Democrats On Defense."
Now such headlines promote the ever-popular "Democrats in Disarray" meme, at present all the rage in light of the widespread pundit belief that Obama's popularity is in free fall, and that the midterm elections will be all about negative feelings towards Obamacare. The subheader of the National Journal piece--"thirteen of the 15 seats most likely to switch are Democratic-held"--certainly reinforce that impression.
But if you actually read the National Journal piece on the rate ratings, the main news is no news....The main changes in the Hotline ratings involve lifting four races (CO, MN, NH and OR) into the lowest tier of possible long-shot turnover possibilities just in case things generally get worse for Democrats. In some cases the odds of an upset have been marginally upgraded because GOPers have managed to recruit actual candidates, but that's a long way from projecting a "wave." And nothing's happened lately to reduce the possibility of GOP primaries in KY and GA producing a general election nightmare.
Still, reproduction of the same difficult fundamentals for Democrats in Senate races will be exploited by Republicans, and by some sensation-seeking MSM folk, into scary new developments. Don't buy it.
It does make you wonder if we'll see equivalent treatment of the next Senate cycle:
In 2016, the Senate landscape will turn sharply in favor of Democrats, as will the turnout patterns. Will we read a ton of "GOP In Disarray" stories then? We'll see, but I doubt it.
Experiencing a bit of vertigo over assessments that Obama and Democrats were riding high and ready to crush the GOP in 2014 just a few weeks ago, but are now doomed to oblivion today, I took a look at some numbers at the Washington Monthly, and regained a bit of perspective. First, I quoted Jonathan Bernstein:
Obama's popularity is probably at the low point of his presidency (again, depending on the adjustments, he's either a bit below or a bit above his previous low. But it's not any kind of unusually low low point (he's nowhere near Truman, Carter, Nixon, W.), there's no particular reason to expect the slump to continue, and myths aside no reason to believe he won't recover if the news turns better. Granted, it's hard to know what to expect from healthcare.gov, but it's not as if it's getting worse over time. I'm not saying his numbers will go up. Just that it's more or less equally likely as further drops....
As for electoral effects? I wrote an item dismissing direct electoral effects of the shutdown against Republicans back last month; that post pretty much works now, in reverse for effects against Democrats. I should say: it's far easier for sentiment against the president to translate into midterm electoral losses than it is for feelings against the out-party. So if Obama is unpopular in November 2014, it will hurt Democrats. But today's frenzy about the ACA is going to be mostly forgotten by then, one way or another, just as the shutdown seems forgotten today. That's probably even true, believe it or not, if the program totally collapses, although I don't think that's going to happen.
Then I gave a gander of my own to Gallup's approval rating numbers:
After reading Jonathan Bernstein's essay on the massive over-reaction to the president's sag in approval ratings--some of it based, no doubt, on media cherry-picking of whichever polls had the lowest numbers--I went back and looked at Gallup's weekly approval rating averages over the last few weeks.
The CW is that Obama and the Democrats were riding high--on the brink, perhaps, of a history-defying 2014 sweep of Congress--when the government shutdown ended. That week Gallup had Obama's approval ratio at a 43/51 average. Now the CW is that Obama is sinking into second-term Bush-like oblivion, with Democrats abandoning him and Republicans roaring towards a conquest of the Senate. The latest Gallup weekly average of Obama's approval ratio is at 41/52, a booming one-and-a-half point deterioration since the shutdown ended.
Looking at the two junctures in terms of internals, Obama's approval rating among liberal Democrats has gone from 84% to 85% among Liberal Democrats, from 75% to 74% among Moderate Democrats, and from 69% to 62% among Conservative Democrats. His ratings are the same as before among Pure Independents, and actually up four points among Moderate/Liberal Republicans.
What does it all mean? Probably that most people aren't breathlessly following events in Washington other than to register their heat and noise.
Democrats didn't win the 2014 elections in October and they aren't losing them in November. It's time to chill a bit.
In the media-driven panic over cancellation of individual insurance policies that aren't "grandfathered" and aren't ACA-compliant, Democrats are in danger of forgetting they are going to be associated with the success or failure of Obamacare no matter what they do. That's true of the congressional Democrats backing potentially Obamacare-unraveling "Keep Your Insurance" bills in Congress, and it's also true of single-payer fans who are taking a bit too much pleasure in the problems with the private-insurance exchanges. Here was my comment at Washington Monthly about the need for "owing Obamacare:"
[I]t's perfectly understandable that proponents of a single-payer system or those who thought a public option was absolutely essential to the kind of competitive system the ACA set up would note some of their concerns may have been vindicated, or that even as the Obamacare exchanges founder, the Medicaid (thought of as a single-payer program, though actually semi-privatized in many states) expansion is enrolling new people at a fairly robust pace in the 25 states where it's proceeding.
Atrios--nobody's idea of a neoliberal squish--offered a reminder of the political realities of Obamacare right now.
Whatever the merits of ACA, it is now something the Dems own. For decades I've watched Dems try to run away from things which have been surgically implanted on any politician with a D next to their name. It's always bizarre and pointless. You're the party of gay marriage, abortion, and Obamacare whether you like it or not.
That's as true of single-payer fans as it is of those chasing after GOP "fixes" of Obamacare. If Obamacare doesn't work, we go back to the status quo ante, not to some magic moment where Medicare For All becomes the national rage overnight.
Perhaps non-destructive "fixes" of this or that short-term problem with the exchanges or the cancellation of individual policies before the exchanges are functional can be found. But even as it took left-center Democratic unity to enact the Affordable Care Act, it will take left-center unity to prevent its destruction by a now-united Republican opposition.
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Since the off-year Election Day, I've been noodling around with some exit poll comparisons for NJ and VA in 2009, 2012 and 2013 (sadly, there were no exit polls in either state in 2010, which would be useful to know about in looking ahead to 2014). I quickly discovered the composition of the electorate in both states was quite similar in 2009 and 2013--with one glaring exception in VA, as I wrote about at Washington Monthly:
In New Jersey the 2013 electorate looked an awful lot like it did in 2009, and quite different from its composition in 2012. The racial breakdown was 73% white, 14% African-American and 9% Latino in 2009, and 72% white, 15% African-American and 9% Latino in 2013. By contrast, it was 67% white, 18% African-American and 10% Latino in 2012. You see a similar pattern with the vote by age: in 2009, voters over 50 represented 55% of the vote while those under 30 were 10%. Yesterday voters over 50 were 59% of the vote while those under 30 were 10%. In 2012, over-50s were 49% while under-30s were 16%.
So New Jersey followed the expected pattern of an off year election producing a significantly older and whiter electorate than in a presidential year. Christie would have won with either electorate, but he did have a stiff wind behind him this year.
The age breakdowns in Virginia follow the same pattern. Over-50s were 54% in 2009 and in 2013, but only 43% in 2012. Under-30s were 10% in 2009 and 13% in 2013, but rose to 19% in 2012.
But the racial breakdowns broke the mold a bit: in 2009, the Virginia electorate was 78% white and 16% African-American (with 5% Latino or Asian). In 2012 it was 70% white and 20% African-American (with 8% Latino or Asian). And yesterday it was 72% white, 20% African-American (with 5% Latino or Asian). It's unclear whether the McAuliffe campaign did an unusually good job of turning out the African-American vote, or something else was going on, but it is clear it was a key factor in his victory, since the additional 4% of the electorate that were African-American as compared to 2009 represented close to 90,000 votes. He won by just over 54,000.
Since I wrote that quick analysis, there's been a lot of talk about the composition of the VA electorate resembling that of 2012, but little or no focus on the African-American vote specifically. This, too, I mentioned at Washington Monthly:
Now comes the magisterial Ruy Teixeira at TNR with a deeper look at Virginia, and he, too, focuses on the unexpected composition of the electorate:
In 2009, Virginia voters were 78 percent white and 22 percent minority. In 2013, they were just 72 percent white and 28 percent minority--not far off the 70/30 split in the 2012 presidential election. There you have the key to McAuliffe's victory: Despite performing much better among white voters than the hapless Creigh Deeds, McDonnell's Democratic opponent, McAuliffe would nevertheless have lost this election if the white/minority voter distribution had mirrored that of 2009. It was the increase in the minority vote that put him over the top.
But here's the thing: according to the exits, the Hispanic/Asian percentage of the vote came in this year at 2009 (5%), not 2012 (8%) levels. And the age composition of the electorate was very much like that of 2009, not 2012. Nor was there any "super sizing" of the overall electorate; total turnout was up a bit from 2009, but nowhere remotely close to presidential levels. So what we are looking at is not some sudden change in the overall size or configuration of the off-year vote, but a pretty isolated but very significant surge in African-American turnout.
Ruy has no particular explanation for this phenomenon; nor have I. I've heard a few random folk cite the pre-election voter purge executed by Virginia (about 37,000 people suspected of dual registrations were disqualified, not the kind of purge most likely to overwhelmingly target minorities) as a provocation to black voters. And there's a general sense that the McAuliffe campaign devoted a significant portion of its abundant resources to GOTV efforts, which would naturally affect African-American turnout. But that was quite a surge in the black vote, and Democrats looking ahead to 2014 ought to go to school on it.
So the mystery remains, but I'm sure there's an answer that some Democrats in Virginia are chortling about.