The Republicans: a party stuck in the last century

Robert Draper’s article in today’s New York Times Magazine about the Republican Party and its future is a must read for anyone interested in American politics.

But it must be most depressing reading for all Republicans, because the party’s future seems very dark.

As a young Republican pollster puts it in the article:

“We’re not in the 21st century.”

And when female and male so-called ”swing voters”  in various focus groups respond to the question of what they think of when the word “Republican” is mentioned, they say:

”Corporate greed; Old; Middle-aged white men; Rich; Religious; Conservative; Hypocritical; Military retirees; Narrow-minded; Rigid; Not progressive; Polarizing; Stuck in their ways; Farmers; Racist; Out of touch; Hateful.”

And here is what the same “swing voters” say when asked about the word “Democrat:”

”Young people; Liberal; Diverse; Bill Clinton; Change; Open-minded; Spending; Handouts; Green; More science-based.”

And Marco Rubio, the new Republican star and the party’s savior in the next election, is dismissed rather mercilessly by president Obama’s campaign strategist David Plouffe, who says:

“The Hispanic voters in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio, the Tea Party Cuban-American from Florida. You know what? We won the Cuban vote! And it’s because younger Cubans are behaving differently than their parents. It’s probably my favorite stat of the whole campaign. So this notion that Marco Rubio is going to heal their problems — it’s not even sophomoric; it’s juvenile! And by the way: the bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.”

As I said, read it!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/magazine/can-the-republicans-be-saved-from-obsolescence.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

Shocked Republicans face a new political reality

The air during the walks in the woods outside Washington, DC a few days after Barack Obama’s convincing victory is somehow easier to breathe under the clear, blue November sky.  It’s been a long, an awfully long, campaign, emotionally draining. Most are just happy that it’s over, and at least 61 million voters are happy about the outcome.

The American voters chose the man they trusted to continue to lead them in these difficult economic times, while Mitt Romney, his challenger, beckoned to an old America as he asked the voters to trust a man they really did not know, a man who would not release his tax returns, who never explained why he invested money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands or in Switzerland, who denied his own moderate political record as a governor of Massachusetts, supportive of a woman’s right to choose, implementer of universal healthcare in his home state.

The bruising Republican primary campaign forced him steadily further to the right, and by the time he won and became the party’s presidential nominee, it was too late change in a credible way. 

As conservative columnist Kathleen Parker writes in the Washington Post today:

“The truth is, Romney was better than the GOP deserved. Party nitwits undermined him, and the self-righteous tried to bring him down. The nitwits are well-enough known at this point — those farthest-right social conservatives who couldn’t find it in their hearts to keep their traps shut. No abortion for rape or incest? Sit down. Legitimate rape? Put on your clown suit and go play in the street.  Equally damaging were the primary leeches, who embarrassed the party and wouldn’t leave the stage. Nine-nine-nine, we’re talking about you, Herman Cain. And Gov. Oops?  You, too. And then there were Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, who never had a real shot at the nomination and certainly could never win a national election, yet they refused to surrender to the certain nominee.”

The name of Newt Gingrich should be added to these names.   

The result was that the “Etch-a-Sketch” in the last month of the election campaign, when “severely conservative” Romney suddenly turned moderate, never worked. By then, the Obama campaign had already defined him for the voters and they did not trust him, he did not care about the ordinary voter.

The end result was an Obama victory by 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 – way more than the necessary 270 to win.  Of the nine battleground states, Obama only lost North Carolina. That means that Obama captured 61,7 million votes compared to Romney’s 58,5 million, or 50,6 percent compared to 47,9 percent.

The Romney campaign, which up to the last moments really believed they would win, never knew what hit them according to John Dickerson in a fascinating piece in Slate Magazine.

“Mitt Romney says he is a numbers guy, but in the end he got the numbers wrong. Even on the morning of the election, Romney’s senior advisers weren’t close to hedging. They said he was going to win decisively…How did the Romney team get it so wrong? According to those involved, it was a mix of believing anecdotes about party enthusiasm and an underestimation of their opponents’ talents.”

Instead, Barack Obama won among Blacks (93 percent), Hispanics (71 percent), and Asians (73 percent), among women (53 percent) and among working women with children under 18 (62 percent), among gays and lesbians (76 percent), among those between 18 and 29 (60 percent) and those between 30 and 44 (52 percent), among those in big cities (69 percent) and those in cities up to 500 000 people (58 percent), among Jewish voters (69 percent) and Catholics (52 percent,)  among those without a high school diploma (64 percent) and among those with a post-graduate degree (62 percent,)  and among those earning less than 50,000 dollars (56 percent).

Romney won among men (52 percent), among those above 45 years of age, among white voters (59 percent) among those with incomes above 50,000 dollars per year, among Independents (50 percent), and among those in the suburbs (50 percent), the small towns (56 percent) and in rural America  (61 percent). And he won the protestant votes, including the white born-again or evangelical Christians (78 percent).

His support was white, old, and rural, when all demographic trends point to a younger, multi-ethnic, and more urban America.  That’s a losing proposition. It’s the old America vs. the new America, and the Republicans, in a state of shock, have suddenly come face to face with this political reality. A long and fierce internal debate is expected whose outcome is far from certain. 

That debate is taking place as America faces a fiscal cliff by year’s end, when almost one trillion dollars in automatic budget cuts will be implemented at the same time as taxes are raised for everyone, if a new budget deal is not struck before that.  The cliff is of Congress’s own making when it failed last year to reach a budget deal.  The question is: are the players more ready now? We will soon know.

America’s voters chose Obama and the future

And so, America did the right the ting and chose the future.

The historic election of 2008, when the American voters made Barack Obama the nation’s first African-American president and bade farewell to the old America, was re-enforced yesterday when Barack Obama got enough support for another four years in the White House.

His victory was not quite as overwhelming as four years ago, when Obama beat John McCain by ten million votes and won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173, but it was a solid, even sweeping, victory. The coalition that Obama built up with the young, women, African-Americans, Hispanics and white union members in the Rust Belt, lost only two states, Indiana, traditionally Republican, and North Carolina, both of which Obama surprisingly had won in 2008. Yesterday, he won the rest of the battleground states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida, although his victory in Florida is not yet official. If his lead there is confirmed he will win 332 electoral votes against Romney’s 206.

When Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago, the joy and jubilation from the Obama coalition of whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young, old, knew no bounds. They belonged to the new and once again victorious America, and they represented the country’s new politics. Over 90 percent of the country’s black voters chose Obama; over 70 percent of the Hispanics and the Asians voted for the president; over half of the women gave him their support; and the trade unions members in the Rust Belt also voted for the man who had saved the auto industry early in his first four years in the White House.

They did not want to retreat and turn back to a time that had led to two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to the deepest U.S. economic crisis since the ’30s depression, to return to the old America, dominated a white electorates, like that overwhelmingly white crowd in Boston who had voted for Mitt Romney but who now somberly, almost in shock, listened to their candidate’s concession speech.

That old America was not enough yesterday, as it had not been in 2008, to win a presidential election. The conclusion must be that it is no longer possible for the Republicans to win a U.S. presidential election only with the support of the country’s white voters. There are simply no longer enough white voters – 72 percent of all voters yesterday were white – to win. That trend will continue and even strengthen in the coming years because of the continued demographic changes in America’s population. America will be less and less white. Republicans need to think about and change, but if they are able to do so is an entirely different matter.

Much of the campaign focused on polls and forecasts and many questioned if they were right in their predictions. They were. Forecasters such as Nate Silver on his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight had predicted 307 electoral votes for Obama, and Simon Jackman, the Stanford professor, who in his Huffington Post blog also had predicted over 300 electoral votes for Obama

More later today. Meanwhile, here’s President Obama’s rousing victory speech last night in Chicago.

Victory for Obama…if all the polls are not wrong

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continue to stump frenetically to utilize every last hour of the remaining presidential election campaign, their most important message is about the importance of voting. And tomorrow, we will see how good the two campaign organizations really are in getting people to actually go to vote.

There is optimism in both camps, especially from the Obama campaign while the Romney’s campaign is “cautiously hopeful,” as Carl Cannon writes in RealClearPolitics today.

From the media, apart from Fox News, there is a steady message that Obama will win. Larry Sabato, the highly respected professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, joined this chorus today on his Crystal Ball blog. He predicted 290 electoral votes for Obama against 248 for Romney in that Obama would win in six of the nine swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin. So even if Romney would win in the other three, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, it will not enough to capture the necessary 270 electoral votes and win the election. Sabato also predicted continued Democratic majority in the Senate and continued Republican rule in the House of Representatives.

So if you believe all the polls and most of the pundits, president Obama will be reelected — if they are not all wrong, which is unlikely, but, perhaps, still possible.

Howard Kurtz, media critic at the Daily Beast:

“If Obama somehow manages to lose, it will be a stunning defeat for the nation’s first African-American president. But it will be overpriced a crushing blow for the punditocracy that headed into Election Day filled with confidence that Obama had it in the bag. And Fox News will not let the mainstream media hear the end of it.”

And Mike Allen at Politico in his daily email:

“And yet, enough is uncertain about the samples and the mood of the nation, that lots of people we respectfully would not be SHOCKED if Mitt Romney pulled it out. They’re not expecting it, or betting their own money on it – but it’s not impossible. Put another way: Most Democrats will be surprised if they lose; many top Republicans will be surprised if they win. And that’s what makes this such a delicious 36 hours for political junkies: The great political minds THINK they know where things are headed. But most of them realize they could be wrong.”

But let me remind you that not only the polls are on Obama’s side. History is also on his side, for it has proven extremely difficult to defeat a sitting president. That has only happened four times since 1912, when Woodrow Wilson defeated William Howard Taft, 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt beat Herbert Hoover, 1980, when Ronald Reagan won over Jimmy Carter and 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated George HW Bush. Should Romney win tomorrow it will be something of a historical sensation.

The last week of campaigning has gone well for Barack Obama. He was strengthened politically in the wake of the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, not least because Romney was forced to the sidelines, with no role, unable to conduct his election campaign. But Obama was also strengthened by the words of praise from Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as from the country perhaps leading independent voice, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The campaign somehow took a new direction and Obama got new wind in his sails. It may prove to be decisive tomorrow.

Here’s the situation in the campaign’s last frantic hours

Less than 48 hours before Election Day and the pace is frantic. The candidates jump from state to state in search of voters while new pieces of information about early voting, opinion polls, rumors, predictions, and speculation in the media are now sweeping across the country.

By Tuesday, the last chance to vote, around 60 percent or 130 million Americans are expected to have cast their ballots. Let’s look at the numbers in the final phase of the presidential contest, but also in the Senate elections, where 33 seats are at stake, the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are contested, and in the eleven governors races.

The President:

It’s very even, everyone says. Those who really keep track of all numbers and all the polls predict a decisive victory for Barack Obama, while the more traditional political pundits are more cautious. It remains to be seen who gets it right, but if the polls do not prove completely wrong, I am willing to put my money on political statisticians like Nate Silver and Simon Jackman.

Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight in the New York Times assesses President Obama’s victory chances to be 85 percent and for Obama to win 307 electoral votes — 270 are required for victory. In 2008, Obama won 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s 173.

Simon Jackman, professor at Stanford University and like Silver a political statistician, writes on his blog in the Huffington Post that the most likely scenario is that Obama gets 332 electoral votes. Jackman thinks that in seven of the nine battleground states — Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida – an Obama victory is likely, even very likely. In crucial Ohio, Obama’s victory chances are 90 percent, in Wisconsin nearly 99 percent, in Iowa and Nevada over 90 percent, in New Hampshire just under 90 percent, and in Colorado 70 percent. Florida is too close to call while North Carolina is likely going to Romney.

The Senate:

Only twelve of the 33 Senate seats are really contested. In the end, most think the Democrats will retain their majority, even increase it a bit from today’s majority of 51 with two independents voting with the Democrats, against 47 Republicans.

Arizona: Republican Jon Kyl retires and the battle to replace him is surprisingly even in this normally solid Republican state. Democrat Richard Carmona has a chance to beat Republican Jeff Flake. If so, it would be a huge upset.

Connecticut: Independent Joe Lieberman retires and Democrat Chris Murphy is favored to take his place against wrestling queen and millionaire Republican Linda McMahon, who has already failed once to become a Senator from this democratic state.

Indiana: Republican and veteran Senator Richard Lugar was upset in the Republican primary election by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock, who now seems to have to pay for his extremism on abortion and rape, as Democrat Joe Donnelly is favored to win. A sensational outcome in this solid Republican state, where Obama won in 2008 but where he has no chance to win this year.

Massachusetts: Democrat Elizabeth Warren is favored to defeat Republican Senator Scott Brown in one of the most Democratic states in the country. Brown won surprisingly a special election a couple of years ago after Ted Kennedy’s death, but with Obama on the ballot this year, Brown is heading for a probable defeat.

Missouri: Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is heading for a surprising re-election in this conservative state due to another Tea Party favorite Todd Akin’s many stupid statements about abortion and rape.

Montana: Extremely even race between Democratic Senator Jon Tester and his Republican challenger Danny Rehberg, although Romney is the clear favorite in this state.

Nevada: Republican Senator Dean Heller is expected to defeat Democrat Shelley Berkley, but if Obama wins big in Nevada, Berkley might squeeze out a victory.

North Dakota: Democrat Kent Conrad retires and Republican Rick Berg is expected to take his Senate seat by beating Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, but the race is very even.

Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown is expected to be re-elected.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Bob Casey is expected to be re-elected.

Virginia: Democrat Jim Webb retires and two ex-governors are fighting to replace him, with Democrat Tim Kaine a slight favorite over Republican George Allen. Obama and Romney are also involved in a tight race in this state.

Wisconsin: Democrat Herbert Kohl retires and his party colleague Tammy Baldwin is expected to beat Republican Tommy Thompson, albeit extremely narrowly.

The House of Representatives:

The Republicans are expected to retain their majority – 240 to 193 with 3 vacancies – among the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Although the Democrats are expected to pick up a few seats, it will not be enough, and Speaker John Boehner is expected to continue to lead the House for another two years.

The Governors:

There are elections for governor in eleven states. No matter what happens, the Republicans will continue to dominate on the state level, controlling at least 30 of the 50 governorships.

Some good news for Obama in the final campaign days

Ninety dead, including 38 only in New York City, and around 50 billion dollars in damages — Hurricane Sandy could be the costliest hurricane in the United States, ever.

And suddenly, in the last frenetic hours of the presidential election, the environment, climate change, and global warming have become part of the campaign. When New York City’s independent Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, endorsed Obama’s re-election yesterday, he referred particularly to the president’s vision on global warming, a priority issue for Bloomberg, but something that neither Obama nor Romney unfortunately have talked about at all in this campaign.

“Our climate is changing. And while the Increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the danger that it might be – given this week’s devastation – Should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action … . One (Obama) sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet, one (Romney) does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”

The think tank Center for American Progress writes in a new report about the links between extreme weather and climate change. The report, called Preventing Future ‘Frankenstorms’, states that Sandy is unfortunately just the latest in a long series of extreme weather events over the past two years. These include droughts, heat records, forest fires, floods, tropical storms, hurricanes, winter storms, and they have collectively caused nearly a thousand deaths and over 110 billion dollars in damage.

However, only four days to Election Day, the environment and climate change are unlikely to decide the election. But Hurricane Sandy has given Obama a new wind in his back. According to a new Washington Post/ABC survey 79 percent of the respondents said that Obama did a good job during Sandy. And today, the president got more good news when jobs figures from October pointed to the continued rise — 171,000 new jobs in October – far more than the expected 125,000. Unemployment rose slightly, from 7.8 to 7.9 percent, but that was mainly due to the fact that many more Americans now actively are looking for jobs, another positive signal for the economy and its future.

Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt has a president been re-elected with an unemployment rate of more than 7.2 percent. It was in 1984 and Ronald Reagan. Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 as well as in 1940 with unemployment at 16.6 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. When Obama became president in January 2009, unemployment was 7.8 percent. That’s almost exactly like today. Will that be enough to bring Obama four more years? I think so.

Obama won the last debate but will it matter?

And so the last of the four TV-debates in the presidential election campaign is over and in only two weeks, America will choose a new president.

The debates have played an important role in this campaign, more important, perhaps, than in many a year, maybe since John F Kennedy met Richard Nixon in the very first debate in 1960 and upset the favorite, the sitting vice president.

In the first debate in this year’s campaign, the challenger Mitt Romney knocked the socks off a sleepy Barack Obama and became a serious challenger to the president. Obama’s listless performance let Romney into the race, a race that the president at that time led comfortably. And then, Romney held his ground pretty well, although the judgment is that Obama won the two following debates –last night’s by 48 percent to 40, according to CNN’s first quick poll, and by 53 percent to 23 according to CBS News.

Still, it was a fairly even debate where neither candidate committed any major mistakes. In fact, you could argue that there was no real debate, for Romney had decided to hold back, lie low, be cautious, and be presidential, or something. All his earlier criticism of Obama’s foreign policy was gone, replaced by broad consensus between the two about America’s role in the world and president Obama’s foreign policy.

On Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, the war on terror including the drone attacks against terrorists in various countries, and, yes, even on Libya, Romney took positions very close to Obama’s. By refraining from attacking Obama, Romney had clearly made a decision not to seem like a war hawk, not to seem belligerent and someone seeking new conflicts and new wars for America in the Middle East. By doing so, he moved towards the political center, towards a more moderate policy – he became a “man of peace,” as someone said, probably jokingly, afterwards.

Romney’s transition seemed to startle Obama a bit, although the president kept up his attacks, calling Romney’s foreign policy “all over the map” and charging him for trying to “air brush history.” And while expressing his satisfaction that Romney now supported the administration’s diplomatic efforts in that volatile region, Obama could not refrain from sticking it to Romney when possible. Romney’s charge that the U.S. navy now has fewer ships since 1916 was met by, maybe, the “zinger” of the evening – Obama saying that the military now also had fewer bayonets and horses than in 1916…

Why the subdued, cautious Romney? Was he playing it safe in a race that now seemed more even than ever? Maybe. But as a result, he came to stand in stark contrast to a firm, straight talking, decisive president, who said he had done what he promised to do when he became president, and that he was the best one to lead America in the next four years.

Will what happened in this final debate matter? We don’t know yet. The two previous debates between Obama and Romney had each been watched by almost 70 million people. Last night’s debate most likely had fewer viewers. Foreign policy is not the main theme of this campaign. And most voters seem to have made up their minds by now. The number of undecided are very few and the remaining two weeks of the campaign will be more about getting out the vote — turnout can decide this election, which is so crucial for America and this country’s future.