Predicting 2014: Democrats have an uphill climb (though it’s not impossible)

The Wall Street Journal has an early line on the 2014 midterm elections.  Though Democrats are hopeful that they hold the Senate but retake the 17 seats in the House, the odds (and history) are against them. 

Based on historical measures, it would take a massive popular preference for Democrats to overcome their logistical disadvantage, perhaps an almost unheard-of lead of 13 points in the generic ballot questions pollsters use ("will you vote Democratic or Republican for House in the next election?"). Currently, the generic ballot shows a slight Democratic lead of two to three points.

But what if the more competitive chamber in 2014 is the Senate? Democrats are defending seats in seven states that Mitt Romney won in last year’s presidential race: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Mr. Obama won an average of just 40.5% of the vote in these states. In addition, the retirements of longtime Sens. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) and Carl Levin (D., Mich.) make those previously safe seats much more competitive. Factor in some freshmen Democratic senators elected from swing states in Obama’s 2008 wave (the last time this batch of seats was contested), and Republicans could run competitive challenges in 10 or more Democrat-held seats. Incompetent GOP nominees could change the picture, but almost all of the seats that Republicans are defending are in solid-red states.

GOP’s report on the 2012 election

The GOP released it’s report about the 2012 election in this PDF.  Reince Priebus discusses how to get the GOP back in the political game

Arthur Brooks nails it: what ails the GOP isn’t its policies, but in its approach to the less fortunate

Arthur Brooks writes in the Wall Street Journal an interesting piece analyzing what is really ailing the Republican Party. As you might imagine, he doesn’t put forth the issue of policies as the “number one” issue. His prescription is not to moderate Republican brand, but rather to reemphasize its attention to assisting the needy.

Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

The left talks a big game about helping the bottom half, but its policies are gradually ruining the economy, which will have catastrophic results once the safety net is no longer affordable. Labyrinthine regulations, punitive taxation and wage distortions destroy the ability to create private-sector jobs. Opportunities for Americans on the bottom to better their station in life are being erased.

If the GOP wants to win the next round of fiscal debates, maybe they should adopt some of Obama’s tactics

Marc A. Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post, urges the GOP to act more like its chief antagonist, President Obama.  First, the President put forward a questionable stimulus package (which all indicators seem to show, didn’t work).  He did so over a chorus of objections from the minority party.  But he held fast.  Next, the President pushed a massive (and arguably far too costly) health care reform.  At the time, the GOP (and America) was stoutly against

(Source: Pool/Getty Images North America)

Obamacare, and offered a high-profile rebuke of his planned policies by electing Scott Brown (in Massachusetts of all places).  What did he do?   He pushed it through anyway.  Eventually, he was rebuffed in 2010 when the house was taken over by the GOP in a history defeat which made 1994 seem mild.  No matter, President Obama pushed forward.  (Perhaps there’s something to that motto of his: “Forward.”)  Whether you agree with his principals or not, Obama sticks to them…come what may.  Marc Thiessen says that this pattern should be followed by the GOP in the looming budgetary fights:

Republicans should take a page from Obama’s playbook, do what they think is right, use all the leverage at their disposal and stop worrying about the electoral consequences. If they learn anything from Obama’s victories, it should be this: Voters reward conviction politicians who fight for what they believe in — even when they disagree with them. Pandering does not work.

The GOP’s next test comes in a few weeks time, when the deadline to raise the debt limit is reached. Democrats are gearing up to demand $1 trillion in new taxes as the price for any spending reductions. Republican leaders have said that they will not accept any more tax increases, [period — and that spending cuts are the price for a debt-limit increase.

Obama will be forgiven if he sees this as a bluff. Let’s hope he is wrong.

In the last debtlimit showdown, Republicans set an important benchmark with the “Boehner rule” — requiring at least one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar in debt limit increase. This is the absolute floor of what the GOP should demand. Unlike the fiscal-cliff standoff, Republicans hold all the leverage in the debt-limit fight — because Obama cannot allow the country to default. Republicans should emulate Obama and use their leverage without hesitation — demanding deep spending cuts and structural reforms to entitlements as the price for any increase in borrowing authority.

Make no mistake: If the roles were reversed, Obama would not hesitate to use the threat of default to break his political opposition. He didn’t flinch from using the threat of a recession to force Republicans to break their no-tax pledge. He didn’t hesitate to use arcane parliamentary strong-arm tactics to pass Obamacare. Obama uses every ounce of political power at his disposal to get what he wants. It’s admirable, really. He has core beliefs and is willing to put everything on the line for them.

It’s time that Republicans did the same. If the GOP wants a path out of the political wilderness, they should start acting more like the current occupant of the Oval Office.

The Political Risks of Cliff-Diving

In his latest piece, Karl Rove describes the political realities of going over the fiscal cliff.  His bottom line is that the result from such an event may harm both the President and Congress, however, the lasting effect could cripple Obama during his second term.

If negotiations stall and Washington plunges over the fiscal cliff, it will weaken Mr. Obama’s ability to bend Congress to his will, hasten the moment when congressional Democrats become more concerned about their standing than that of a lame-duck president, and further poison relations with Republicans.

On top of all that, a second-term president has total ownership of the economy. If the Congressional Budget Office is correct and going over the fiscal cliff causes the economy to shrink and unemployment to rise—while Americans see tax bills going up an average of nearly $3,500—then Republicans won’t escape blame but neither will the president. The damage to him may be long-lasting.

A weakened Mr. Obama makes recruiting and preparing for the 2014 midterms easier for Republicans and harder for Democrats.

 He also spells out the strategy that the GOP should follow in navigating the fiscal cliff issue:

The key for Republicans is to appear flexible rather than intransigent, willing to compromise rather than eager for a political smashup. This requires them to keep offering sensible alternatives and emphasizing that the country’s problem is too much spending. It will eventually sink in with many voters that Mr. Obama previously endorsed the GOP’s approach of generating more revenue through tax reform (not increased tax rates) and that his real goal is bigger government, not smaller deficits.

Republicans, therefore, must continue to volley.  Always put the ball back in the President’s court and make him decide that he’s out of ideas.

Marco Rubio speech at Jack Kemp dinner

GQ Interviews Senator Marco Rubio (as usually, Senator Rubio crushes it)

GQ interviews Marco Rubio and gets some good material.  If you haven’t seen the piece yet, please navigate to this link and check it out for yourself.  What you’ll find is more evidence that Senator Rubio is a naturally effective communicator of the conservative solutions to today’s problems (yes, including immigration).  Here’s my favorite interchange:

GQ: We’ve seen people tend toward inspiring transformational figures. You know you had Barack Obama in 2004…

Marco : I don’t know how inspiring I am to people on the left [laughs], but I’m not a big believer in transformative people in politics. There are people that have a historic opportunity to speak the truth and take on issues of the historic moment.

GQ: Do you want to be one of those people?

Marco Rubio: That’s not something you can choose to be. That’s something that just happens and falls on your lap. Usually, it falls on your lap during periods of extreme trial and I don’t think any of us want to experience extreme trial for our country. We would much prefer to be not historic on those terms. I think I’ve been given a unique opportunity to serve during an important time in American history and I would like to make a contribution. I am troubled that sometimes in our political discourse we spend all of our time focused on the challenges of the next century rather than on the opportunities of the new century.

Senator Rubio is particularly adept and re-molding negative or “anti” views on topics into positive, forward-thinking strategies.  He’s at his best when given a chance to reformat the context of the question put to him.  What’s more, he’s able to do this without appearing annoyed or off-put by the line of questioning.  Need some evidence?  Watch him handle Jonathan Stewart:

Party affiliation – GOP gaining

Summary of Party Affiliation – Rasmussen Reports™.

 

Sep 36.8% 34.2% 29.0% 2.6% 2.6%
Aug 37.6% 33.3% 29.2% 4.3%
Jul 34.9% 34.0% 31.1% 0.9%
Jun 35.4% 34.0% 30.5% 1.4% 1.8%
May 35.7% 33.8% 30.5% 1.9%
Apr 35.1% 33.1% 31.8% 2.0%
Mar 36.4% 33.4% 30.2% 3.0% 3.3%
Feb 36.0% 32.4% 31.6% 3.6%
Jan 35.9% 32.5% 31.6% 3.4%

Romney’s foreign policy speech (preview)

Weekly Standard previews Governor Romney’s foreign policy speech set to be released Monday, October 8, 2012. Here is a highlight:

Source: foreignpolicy.com

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope.  But hope is not a strategy.  We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.  …

… It is time to change course in the Middle East.  …

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf the region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.  For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated. …

… I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world.  The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.  I will reverse that failure.  I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.