Tags: Elections

What’s It Like to Lose an Election to a 17-Year-Old Girl?


For West Virginia Delegate Larry D. Kump, the 2014 midterm election brought an additional sting beyond the pain that normally comes with being a man of a certain age. The libertarian-leaning Republican had to watch the person who defeated him in the primaries, 18-year-old Saira Blair, cruise to a commanding victory in the general election. At the time of the primary, Blair was all of 17, not yet old enough to vote.

But when National Review caught up with the 66-year-old Kump Wednesday, he was magnanimous. The Mountain State, he noted, has a citizen legislature, and after serving a few terms Kump is placid about leaving office when his current term ends. The former case manager at a maximum-security prison notes that he was already retired when he entered the West Virginia House of Delegates.

“She won fair and square,” Kump tells NRO of his primary opponent, “and she won real big in the general election.”

So what went wrong? Kump speculates that party bigwigs may have been displeased by his votes against a law that allows police in West Virginia to collect blood samples from drivers stopped for DUI and against new regulations on pet ownership that were adopted after the Great Zanesville Zoo Massacre. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kump specifies, “I am a constitutional libertarian, not a libertine libertarian.”

“I’ve been a very independent legislator with a strong libertarian streak,” Kump says. “I voted principle rather than party. It was a low-turnout primary, and the party regulars wanted somebody more loyal to party. In the primary, the Democrat had no opposition, so many independents voted in the Republican primary.” Although Blair is the daughter of a state senator whose father helped with her run, Kump gave the young politician credit for her campaign.

“She worked the numbers real well,” Kump says. “She ran a real strong, and positive, campaign.”

Kump says he has been contacted about future political efforts, but he is still assessing his options. “I don’t even buy green bananas,” he says. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 2016.”

Tags: Elections

Who Was the Democrats’ Stealth Winner In Tuesday’s Election?


The 2014 midterm election is a gift that keeps on giving, offering both good news in se and derivative good news. Larry Hogan’s stunning election as Maryland governor, for example, not only brought coattails for state legislative offices but accomplished something that has not so far been noted: It derailed any hope outgoing governor Martin O’Malley had of becoming the Democrats’ second-string 2016 presidential hope. 

As National Review’s Christopher B. Summers notes, O’Malley’s eight-year tenure has been rough on the people of the Old Line State, and now the whole country knows that. O’Malley had been not-subtly hoping to spin a vague impression that he did a decent job running Maryland into a position as the guy the Democratic Party will turn to when or if Hillary Clinton self-immolates. The total shellacking of O’Malley’s lieutenant governor and direct party heir makes the M.O.M. 2016 pitch a non-starter.

Now it is highly probable that Hillary Clinton will stumble badly in the next two years. She is a stiff and unlikable public figure. She has nowhere to go ideologically, neither to the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party nor to the faded DLC brand of New Democrats her husband led. That husband will be a curse as well, ostensibly helping her but in fact undermining her in ways so weird and Machiavellian we will need to invent new words for them. And as Hillary showed with her recent job-creation comments, she will also do a pretty good job of shooting her own foot.

As Hillary fails to launch, the thinness of the Democratic bench will become more glaring. The very fact that M.O.M. 2016 was almost a thing indicates how little presidential timber the Democrats have after Barack Obama leaves office (presuming he agrees to do so).

So who still fits the suit? A little American hero named Jim Webb, that’s who. Webb has recently been flirting with the idea of a 2016 run, and that flirtation will get heavier. He’s got one of the most impressive résumés in America: Vietnam War hero; secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration; author of some extremely good war novels as well as the excellent popular history Born Fighting; Emmy-winning journalist; Democratic senator who served without scandal (the most important mark against him is that he voted for Obamacare) and crucially decided not to run again, reportedly out of disillusionment with Obama. He’s a successful politician and a lifelong public servant with the soul of a poet. 

This is not to claim Webb will be a perfect presidential candidate for the Democrats. The very qualities that make him attractive as a public personality — his strong sense of outrage, his seemingly unquenchable populist resentment, and his penchant for gruff-but-lyrical narrative flights — could very easily become toxic in the course of a presidential campaign. But just by virtue of having spent the election on the sidelines, he’s looking like the only prominent Democrat who gained anything in the midterms (the best thing you can ever gain in politics: the downfall of a same-party rival). Go, Jim, Go!

Tags: Elections , 2016

Witnessing Election Shenanigans? There’s an App for That.


Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, appearing on on Monday, said:

Our election system presumes honorable activity, and it presumes ethical behavior [among participants]. . . . As you look at some groups have intentionally subverted the process, like ACORN, these elections can be won and lost by these special interest groups exploiting the weaknesses. If citizens don’t show up, then the process goes to those who show up. And unfortunately it’s these special interest groups with interests beyond making sure the people’s voices are heard.

Engelbrecht urged people concerned about voter fraud to volunteer as poll workers whenever possible, although the deadline to perform that role on this Election Day has passed in most or all localities.

Her organization has unveiled the VoteStand app to report incidents of voter fraud, electioneering in polling places, or other suspicious behavior at polling place across the country.

Tags: Voter Fraud , Elections

The Pro-Illegal-Voting Advocates Begin to Speak


Also in today’s Jolt, a quick look at the coming argument that illegal immigrants voting in United States elections in violation of the law is a good thing:

The Pro-Illegal-Voting Advocates Begin to Speak

A letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic:

Mona Charen is worried about non-citizen immigrants voting fraudulently and tipping the scales of close elections, probably in favor of Democrats (“Voter ID laws help address election fraud,” Opinions, Thursday).

Even if the one study she references is correct, where’s the harm?

Considering the pitiful voter turnout among ID-holding voters, these “frauds” should be commended for risking prison time to participate in an election process that their citizen counterparts don’t care enough about to get off the couch or lick an envelope.

Those election criminals pay taxes and work low-wage jobs, their children attend our schools, and they join us in church. They are vested in the community, and if they vote, it shows.

And if their votes should change election results, fine. The citizen couch potatoes have no right to complain.

Let’s concede a molecule of agreement here, in that I can’t stand people who complain about government but don’t vote for the candidate they deem least contrary to their interests.

But . . . we, as American citizens, have the right to not vote. It can be interpreted as an assent to the status quo, or a disavowal of all of the options. If I move to a new community, and they’re holding local elections, and I know none of the candidates or issues, am I being a “couch potato” by not voting? Or simply responsible in choosing to not weigh in when I wouldn’t make an informed choice?

As for “where’s the harm?” — a gentle reminder that it’s against the law. And if non-citizens can vote, then we might as well outsource our governance to the United Nations. A core element of sovereignty is that the leadership of a particular country is chosen only by the citizens of that country — otherwise you might as well allow Russians to cross the border and vote in Ukrainian elections. For that matter, if there is no benefit to citizenship — i.e., the right to vote, a right that non-citizens do not get — then there is no value to it.

And if there’s no value to it . . . why be a citizen of the United States?

Tags: Illegal Immigration , Voter Fraud , Elections

Double-Check Your Final Ballot When You Vote!


Stories like this are just pouring gasoline on a fire:

The [Maryland Republican] party said Tuesday that it has received complaints from about 50 voters in 12 Maryland counties who say machines at early voting centers “flipped” their Republican votes to count toward Democratic candidates.

Marsha Epstein of Pikesville said she ran into the problem when she went to vote at the Reisterstown Senior Center’s Hannah More campus. She said she tried to vote for Republican Larry Hogan for governor but the machine recorded a vote for Democrat Anthony G. Brown.

Epstein said she pointed out the problem to an election judge, who told her to try again.

“I had to do it three times to keep it on Hogan,” Epstein said. She said she had no problems voting in the other races on the ballot. Voters from Howard and Harford counties called The Baltimore Sun to report similar problems.

William Childers of Havre de Grace said something similar happened to him when he cast his ballot Sunday at the Higher Education and Technology Center in Aberdeen. He said his vote for Hogan registered without a problem but when he tried to vote to re-elect Republican Rep. Andy Harris, that line lit up temporarily but then switched to Democratic challenger Bill Tilghman.

Maryland Democratic Party spokesman Jared Smith and Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said they were not aware of any similar concerns being raised by voters on their side.

I’ll bet.

State elections board officials said they had received reports that fewer than 20 machines statewide had displayed votes for candidates other than the ones the voters selected. Deputy administrator Nikki Baines Charlson said 12 had been tested and no problems had been found.

“These units are back in service because they couldn’t replicate it no matter how hard they tried,” Charlson said.

Another five were not tested because there was only one reported problem, she said. In three cases, Charlson said, machines were removed from service because of calibration problems — the place a voter touched did not line up with their intended votes.

As for the machines with only one reported problem . . . if there is a calibration error — and we’re assuming it’s only a “calibration error” — how can the elections-board officials know if other people had the same thing occur to their vote and didn’t notice?

But relax, Republicans. We’re only hearing stories about this happening in Maryland. And Illinois.

In this case, all turned out well for Jim Moynihan, who is running for State Representative in the 56th District.

Moynihan alerted an election judge and was allowed to cast a correct ballot on the first day of early voting in Illinois.

“He did what he is supposed to do by contacting the election judge,” said Cook County Clerk spokeswoman Courtney Greve.

The machine was taken out of service and Moynihan’s initial Democratic votes were never registered.

The issue is hardly widespread, with only 5 out 35,000 voters in suburban Cook County so far experiencing any issue, Greve said.

Again, even if the reports of machines switching votes are rare, how many are noticing? And elsewhere in Illinois:

Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney addressed concerns about her handling of absentee ballots after a judge ruled in her favor Monday.

Kinney’s office has been the target of a Republican Party attack that not only is she opening ballots early and counting them but that her voting machines are calibrated in such a way that switches votes from Republican to Democrat.

Rock Island County Circuit Judge Lori Lefstein denied the GOP’s emergency injunction on the counting of absentee ballots.

“There is nothing wrong in this office,” Kinney, a Democrat, said afterward.

Republican Bobby Schilling’s spokesman Jon Schweppe said he heard from 20 voters last week who tried to vote for a Republican when the Democratic choice was selected on the machine’s touch screen. Schilling is running against Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos.

Dave Weigel makes the argument this is not as nefarious as some believe:

Like every vote-rigging story, this led to a bureaucrat huffing about a “calibration error.” Occam’s razor: That’s what it is. If you’re going to rig a machine — and, for the record, you should not — you will not rig it to reveal its trickery while the voter is still watching. NBC’s briefly popular Heroes made this clear, revealing the wisdom of vote-rigging after the voters have left and the machines can be tampered with, preferably through the use of undetectable powers.

When will voters stop worrying about partisan forces stealing their elections? Likely never. Conspiracy theory research is clear about this; trust in the “establishment” is low, trust in government is lower, and voters are very willing to believe the worst about the people who want to run them. Until their candidates win. Then the election was probably fair.

I’d just note that recent experience tells us that it’s not unthinkable for government officials to behave in simultaneously malicious and incompetent manners.

Tags: Elections

What Happens in Places Without Competitive Statewide Races?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Looks Like Nevada Democrats Are Sitting This Year Out. Who Else Will?

Let the great Jon Ralston lay out just how horrific the early-voting numbers are for Democrats out in Nevada:

The turnout nightmare continues for Democrats, who tried to juice it on Saturday by handing out Bill Clinton tickets at The Dooilttle Center in the heart of West Las Vegas. It did not work. Republicans lose early vote by 42 votes out of 12,000 cast. Dems have six more days to turn this around and/or hope for Election Day miracle . . . 

Clark [County] totals with mail: 39,982, GOP; 38,715, Dems; 15,851, others.

Before you start saying, “so what, registered Democrats are still ahead,” note this county is the Democrats’ stronghold in the state. They need a huge advantage here to balance out the GOP advantages elsewhere.

Ralston notes, “It’s 42 percent for GOP and 41 percent for Dems, which means Republicans still 11 points over their registration and Dems 3 percent below theirs. How many different words can I find for ‘disaster’ for the Dems?”

As we noted last week, some of this reflects the fact that there isn’t a really big, competitive race on the ticket this year — no Senate race and Democrats effectively conceded the governor’s race. But the “meh” mood among Democrats is going to have a potentially huge impact on one Democrat-held U.S. House district, all of the non-governor statewide posts (currently held by Democrats), and races for the state legislature.

And if Nevada Democrats are tuning out because there’s no big statewide race on the ballot this year . . . how about all these other states with neither a competitive Senate or governor’s race this year?

Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington are states holding only elections for U.S. House of Representative seats, state legislative seats, and non-gubernatorial state officials.

Quite a few more states have gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races, but not particularly competitive ones: Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee. (Some would argue places like Texas and Ohio don’t have competitive governor’s races anymore, either.) Are we going to see Democratic turnout plummet in places like this, where there isn’t a convenient Republican bogeyman to motivate their grassroots to turn out?

Tags: Nevada , Elections

Jaw-Dropping Study Claims Large Numbers of Non-Citizens Vote in U.S.


 This study’s claim is pretty eye-opening

Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

(Note that they keep using the term, “non-citizen,” without specifying whether they mean immigrants who have entered the country illegally or immigrants who are in the process of legally becoming citizens — lawful permanent residents, a.k.a. “green card” holders, or both. It’s a crime either way, but it’s easier to imagine a lawful permanent resident mistakenly thinking they have already earned the right to vote.)

If they mean 6.4 percent of 11 million illegal immigrants… we’re talking about roughly 700,000 votes being cast by non-citizens in 2008. Stunning. If true, it refutes my earlier contention that proven cases of voter fraud would only swing elections in races that come down to a few hundred votes. 

But this section is fascinating:

We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

Is it really that a significant number of illegal immigrants now have a fake photo ID that looks realistic enough to fool voter registration and ballot box authorities? If that’s the case, it’s not really accurate to call them “undocumented immigrants,” now is it? More like “forged document immigrants.” Or is it that the poll workers manning the polling places that day aren’t really bothering to examine the IDs shown to them?

Keep in mind, people’s memories could be faulty. And we’re not dealing with a ton of examples from these interviews:

Of the 27 non-citizens who indicated that they were “asked to show picture identification, such as a driver’s license, at the polling place or election office,” in the 2008 survey, 18 claimed to have subsequently voted, and one more indicated that they were “allowed to vote using a pro- visional ballot.” Only 7 (25.9%) indicated that they were not allowed to vote after showing identification.

Tags: Elections , Voter Fraud

GOP Candidate Fires Gun in New Ad


Joni Ernst is back with another eye-catching campaign ad, and this time she’s taking aim and ready to “unload” a round on Obamacare.

After sharing her pig-castrating past in a previous ad, the Iowa Republican senate candidate takes target practice to highlight just how she feels about the health-care law.

“Joni Ernst will take aim at wasteful spending, and once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s going to unload,” the narrator says as the candidate fires at a bull’s eye. “Oh, and one more thing — Joni doesn’t miss much.”

Ernst is the latest in a string of politicians to show off their marksmanship in a campaign ad. In 2010, for example, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin fired a rifle through the Cap and Trade bill. The colorful Iowan has garnered a raft of prominent endorsements, including the Senate Conservatives Fund, Michale Reagan, and just today, Senator Marco Rubio.

Tags: Obamacare , Elections

Wasserman Schultz: ‘We’re on Offense’


Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) said Sunday that the Democrats are in a strong position for the midterm elections despite a growing litany of wobbly statements from party officials, elected politicians and liberal commentators.

Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats who are distancing themselves from the Affordable Care Act are a demonstration of “Legislation 101″ and evidence that her party is on course to perfect the unpopular law.

“The president is right and Jeanne Shaheen is right,” Wasserman Schultz said in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, responding to criticisms of Obamacare by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who faces a potentially tough challenge in November.

“I will match up our ground game and our turnout operation . . . any day of the week,” Wasserman Schultz told host David Gregory. “We ran circles around the the Republicans in 2012 and 2008.”

Gregory countered that the president’s leadership on Obamacare, the Keystone XL pipeline and other matters has drawn criticism from major figures including former Obama advisor David Axelrod, Shaheen, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and other prominent Democrats.

But Wasserman Schultz denied that the November elections will be a referendum on Obama’s leadership. She asserted that only three House seats are seriously endangered by Republicans in November and that Senate races are “absolutely not” about the president and his policies.

“Each of these candidates have to run their own race,” Wasserman Schultz said. “They have to talk about the issues that are important to their constituents. If you look at the success rate and track record of these incumbents — Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich — they are all ahead of any of their Republican opponents. And these Republicans are mired in a civil war where the Tea Party has won. And they’re consistently nominating the most extreme candidates. And we’re on offense in states as well. So you’ve got Georgia and Kentucky and even Mississippi, where we have a very good chance to pick up those seats.”

Tags: Elections , Democratic Party , Debbie Wasserman Schultz , Sunday Shows April 20 2014

Do We on the Right Still Trust the People?


The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt, making its way through the piles of snow mostly rain in northern Virginia, features the death of Hugo Chávez, Donald Trump joining the roster of CPAC speakers, the administration’s claim that it can kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil with drones, and then this big question for conservatives to tackle . . .

Our Big Challenge: Do We on the Right Still Trust the People?

My fellow conservatives . . . the state of our movement is not strong. Let’s face it. We’re depressed. We feel betrayed by the American electorate.

We feel betrayed by inner-city African-Americans, who can see the abysmal results of decades of Democratic governance all around them and who suffer the most from those failed policies, yet somehow keep sending the same crooks and losers back into office. Put aside Obama and these voters’ obvious pride of electing and reelecting the first African-American president; why is there no functioning alternative party in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Newark, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and barely one in New York or Los Angeles?

We feel betrayed that anyone, let alone a significant chunk of the electorate, could believe that our belief that this country should control its borders is driven by racism, xenophobia, and a hatred of immigrants.

We feel betrayed by young people, who also have suffered greatly from these failed policies. They’ve been told that a college education was the ticket to a good life, and they’ve taken on crushing debt for jobs that don’t exist and may never exist. Their professors failed to teach them the skills to thrive in a competitive job market and overcome adversity, and yet they haven’t yet seemed to turn on them in outrage. No, instead, they turn to government, enticed by the promise of free birth control.

Anyway, since the election, we’ve been marinating in this very grim story: we, a bunch of Americans who love freedom and believed that we can live happy lives if the government will just get out of the way, got swamped by a growing swarm of voters who believe that government — the very same government that had disappointed them and failed them time and again — will solve their problems.

So . . . what’s our story to come back?

I don’t quite mean our policies, although that’s part of it. What is our story? You get stories from Obama all the time. The story is pretty simple, deliberately so, and large chunks of it are hogwash. But it’s believable enough for enough people:

In the beginning, there was Bush, and Bush was bad. There was war, and it was bad; the war created the deficits, and so did Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Because all the money went to tax cuts and wars, the government didn’t make necessary “investments” in “roads and bridges” and “green energy.” People couldn’t get health care. The oceans were rising.

Then we elected Obama, and it started getting better immediately! Okay, not everywhere, and maybe the progress and improvement was really hard to measure, but Obama inherited the worst crises of any president ever. Nobody could have generated better results than he did. The arc of history bent more toward justice, and better days are ahead, just you wait and see . . .

Now, you can come up with dozens of objections to those few sentences, but for the average Obama voter, that’s the gist of the state of the country from 2001 to today. It’s not all that different from your usual religious narrative, you have a fall of paradise (the election of Bush) the Devil (Bush), the messiah figure (Obama), the coming of a new kingdom and ultimate utopia. The purpose of the believer is to continue to believe in the redeeming messiah figure in the face of skepticism and doubt, because belief in him makes you one of the special and enlightened ones, and so on.

So . . . keeping in mind that we want to avoid all the creepy messianic vibes . . . what’s our story?

It’s going to be written by minds wiser than me, but I think we all know some of the key elements:

The American people have the tools they need to succeed and thrive. Now, when you look around you and see Snooki and the marching phalanx of idiotic reality stars, you may begin to wonder about this. But a core element of a philosophy built around individual rights is the notion that the vast majority of individuals are doing just fine as they are. Grown adults don’t need some sort of robed master or political or cultural elite to tell us what to do, how to think, how to live. If we do seek out teachers, mentors, wise men and women to help us make better decisions, it is best to find them outside of the coercive and inherently corrupting power of the state. We don’t need some massive social engineering or reeducation to cure us of backwards ways. In fact . . .

We are right to be wary of the powerful, because most of the folks who are supposed to be better than us, smarter than us, more wise than us, and more virtuous than us have failed us miserably. Where shall we start, the Wall Street Wizards who thought it was a good idea to start making six-figure loans to just about anybody, wrecking the old-fashioned virtue of credit? How about the government that takes in record tax revenue and still has trouble keeping this year’s deficit below $900 billion? The media botches stories regularly, our political leaders get caught in scandals like clockwork, epic mismanagement turns beautiful parts of the country like California into places nobody wants to live, or can afford to live . . .

We must deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. While diplomacy will always have a role in our foreign policy, the world is always going to have hostile states and hostile forces, who can only be deterred through military force. Foreign populations do not care if our leader lived abroad as a child, nor do they oppose us because our leader is too much like a cowboy. No amount of self-proclaimed “empathy” or “smart diplomacy” can overrule geopolitical realities. If we intervene in the world’s trouble spots, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, foreign leaders will demonize us and blame us for everything that goes wrong. If we do not intervene, horrific bloodshed on a grand scale follows (see Syria). Perhaps we need some variation of “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

Right now, there’s a conundrum at the heart of the conservative movement. Our entire philosophy is about trusting the people, in faith that they know what’s best for themselves, can spend their own money more wisely than the government can, and find the solutions that work best for their communities . . . and right now, we don’t really trust the people.

Tags: Conservatism , Elections , Political Discourse

How Do Conservatives Want to Talk to Non-Conservatives?


Jeff Goldstein asks a couple of questions in response to today’s piece, focusing upon, “Why doesn’t progressive contempt cost them many votes?”

First, are we so certain it doesn’t? Would anyone dispute that the Left’s constant mockery and sneering at rural America, and its characterization of the South as a bunch of ignorant hicks, contribute to why Democrats usually run poorly in rural counties and in the South?

I wholeheartedly endorse Goldstein’s call to “fight back against the caricature.” But don’t conform to it, either. Part of the problem is that the Right has given the Left and its allies just enough examples to further those caricatures.

If the average voter is hearing from the Democrats that folks on the right are racist, we cannot afford to have anyone associated with our causes advocating genuine racism (as opposed to the insane insistence that “golf” and “Chicago” are code words for racism). If the average voter is hearing from the Democrats that folks on the right are ignorant, we cannot afford to have a Senate candidate justifying his position on abortion by completely misunderstanding Biology 101.

(I suppose the first point in my analysis that some might dispute is to whether there is a middle, or persuadable folks unaffiliated with the Right or Left, to fight over any more.)

One of the frustrating and predictable responses to the piece was the characterization that I’m saying “be nice to Democrats” (which is not quite how Jeff describes it). No, I’m saying be “nice,” or at least respectful, to those whom you want to persuade, or recruit into our movement, or vote for our candidate.

Of course, some of those folks may be Democrats at the moment, or have voted for Obama in 2008 or 2012. Do we want to persuade these folks or do we want to berate them? Do we want to demonstrate to them why our ideas and policies look better, or will we just feel better about ourselves if we dismiss them as hopelessly lazy and selfish and incapable of much better?

Want to win over votes in the Arab-American and Sikh community? Don’t use the term “raghead,” and when someone does, loudly emphasize that it’s an un-American, un-Republican, and un-conservative thing to do.

Want to win over gays and lesbians and members of their families? Don’t compare their relationships to bestiality, and object when someone does.

Want to win over women? Don’t begin the discussion of the abortion issue by declaring that if you had your way, rape victims would carry their attackers’ children to term. Don’t begin your objection to a legal mandate to force religious institutions to  cover the cost of contraception by arguing that the primary problem is the promiscuous sex life of young women.

Jeff seems to suggest that these sorts of rules — “don’t compare homosexuality to bestiality,” “don’t use the term ‘raghead,’” “don’t call women ‘sluts’” — are some sort of liberal trap to cut off discussion and force us to have the debate on their terms. I think they’re just a basic reflection of how we ought to treat people, left, right, and center. Dare I say, looking back over the tradition of Reagan and Buckley, this is a very conservative approach.

Tags: Elections

Not Less Painful as the Day Goes On


The last Morning Jolt until November 19:

And Now, the Most Depressing Morning Jolt Ever


I wish I could point to silver linings, reasons for optimism, areas to build in the future, and so on. But I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This is a much, much, much tougher loss than 2008.

Looking back, we could justify 2008 to ourselves: the economic meltdown, fatigue of eight years of George W. Bush. The McCain campaign had a slew of problems, and the opposition promised America a chance to make history with the first African-American president. They had hope and change; we had an elderly vet who was never an economics-focused guy at a time when the economy was collapsing.

In 2010, we saw epic Republican gains in that smaller turnout traditional to a midterm election, and we persuaded ourselves — I certainly persuaded myself — that 2008 was a historical anomaly, a confluence of factors that created a perfect storm for Obama and the Democrats. Things would be set right.

In 2008, Obama had been elected on the promise of things to come. In 2012, he would be judged on his record.

The American people looked at that record and said, “Eh, looks pretty good, four more years of that.”

After Fast and Furious. And Benghazi. And the stimulus. And Solyndra. And Obamacare.

There will be a lot of finger-pointing at Mitt Romney, but I’m not so sure that he ran that bad a campaign. Certainly, not many folks were making that argument after the first debate. I suspect we’ll hear a lot of “Romney was a terrible candidate” talk in the coming days and weeks, but if you’re saying that, get specific. He focused on the preeminent issue on voters’ minds, and was winning on that issue. He won independents, according to the exit polls (more on this below).

Are we really going to look at the Ohio numbers and conclude that the failure to support the auto bailout was what crushed him? The auto bailout?

Ross Douthat offered this grim assessment: “Lesson of this election is always bail out, never touch entitlements.”

Phil Klein noted that the exit polls indicated Romney won voters 65 and older by 11 percentage points. So one could argue that the Ryan reform proposals weren’t quite as politically difficult to sell as some warned, but . . . the Romney-Ryan campaign offered serious reform of runaway entitlement programs. And the American people — or at least enough people in enough states adding up to more than 270 electoral votes — rejected it.

I feel a bit like when Jerry Brown beat Meg Whitman out in California: If you really think that the guy with the tired promises of spending more and taxing more is really going to save you, I can’t help you.

The American people voted Tuesday; reality votes in the weeks and months to come. The markets will take into account the fact that we’re likely to see similar gridlock in Congress for at least the next two years. The fiscal cliff and sequestration will have to be dealt with in one way or the other. Those who set the national credit rating will have to contemplate whether the outlook warrants another downgrade. The ticking time bomb of our entitlement programs will show less and less time before detonation. Taxes are probably going to go up.

Oh, and the world, full of those seeking a weaker America, may become a more dangerous place. You may see those hostile to our values testing their luck.

Those Pollsters Were Right; We’re a Much More Democratic County, at Least in Presidential Years

The exit polls indicate a 39 percent Democrat to 33 percent Republican split, only a percentage point behind 2008. I was incorrect in my skepticism that the electorate would be closer to D+3 or D+4. Nate Silver, take a bow. Public Policy Polling, your samples weren’t as wacky as I believed they were.

The Obama campaign has put together a fantastic get-out-the-vote machine. We saw in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 and Massachusetts in early 2010 and all over the country in the midterms that Obama’s personal charm did not transfer to other candidates like Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds and Martha Coakley.

Republicans need to confront the fact that because of demographics and a party infrastructure that has gotten very, very good at bringing out the vote in presidential years, Democrats are going to be very, very tough every four years. One of the strange aspects of this year is that I would have argued that Obama wasn’t all that charming. His favorable numbers dipped. He was dismissive in that first debate, snarky and combative in the second, constantly saying things that his campaign had to explain — “you didn’t build that,” “the private sector is doing fine,” “Romnesia,” “voting is the best revenge” . . . and he still won.

Ari Fleischer points out the silver lining is that so far, Romney is winning independents. That’s not a silver lining, that’s worse news: Democrats don’t really need independents anymore.

Jedidiah Bila: “I always hear “We are a center-right country.” No. A center-right country does not elect Barack Obama twice. Time to re-evaluate.”

We’ve seen two billion-dollar campaigns, and the result is the flipping of Indiana and North Carolina. Lah-de-dah.

What is rather astounding is that the right-track/wrong-track numbers are so lousy, and yet we kept a Republican House, a Democrat Senate, and President Obama.


We can point to particular candidates in particular races who may have been mistakes. We will wonder if the best way to follow upon the insurgent, anti-Washington mood of the 2010 midterms was to nominate retreads like George Allen and Tommy Thompson in the key Senate races of Virginia and Wisconsin.

Hey, Todd Akin, are you still so sure staying in that race was God’s will? Because I kind of figured He would have spoken through the polls that came out before the withdrawal deadline.

Richard Mourdock is a good man who made a terrible statement, in an environment he should have recognized was fraught with danger. Once it became clear that the Democrats thought they had a winning issue on abortion in cases of rape, he had to be prepared for that question. Banning abortion in cases of rape or incest is a challenging position to defend even without the media ready to pounce.

Jon Henke pointed out that conservative groups and Republicans sunk hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads, and asked what impact they really had. The immediate, harsh, possibly inaccurate answer: none. Remember when the Citizen’s United decision was going to transform American politics forever?

Silver Linings

Okay. The Obama coalition that didn’t show up in the elections of 2009 or 2010, despite his efforts to bring out those voters for other Democrats, reappeared in 2012. It may be personal to him, and it may not reappear in 2013 or 2014. Republicans can attempt to come back and win the Senate in 2014.

Buyer’s remorse is going to be a pain for Obama. Bush ran into trouble in 2005. Second terms tend to be rough on presidents.

Considering how badly the GOP did in the presidential and Senate races, it’s rather striking that they didn’t see worse results in House races. I can’t believe Mia Love couldn’t beat Jim Matheson in Utah.

As of Wednesday morning, the popular vote was close.

ADDENDUM: And just think, Obama thought he inherited a lot of problems back in 2009.

But wait, just in case this wasn’t bad enough, here’s a look at Obama’s vote margin in some key states as of this afternoon (these figures will change a bit as those straggling precincts report in):

Virginia: 107,339

Ohio: 100,763

Florida: 47,493

Colorado: 111,094

Nevada: 66,379

Total: 433,068

So for less than 500,000 votes where it counted, Mitt Romney could have had 281 votes in the Electoral College this morning. There have been about 118 million votes tallied nationwide so far.

Tags: Elections

Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results!


The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt examines what looking at recent history can, and cannot, tell us about the likely course of this year’s presidential race.

By the way, if you are having trouble receiving your Jolt newsletter, and you have checked your spam folders and are certain it is not arriving, direct your questions, complaints, and other problems to [email protected]. You’ll need to tell them what email address you are currently using for your subscription so they can check the list and see what the issue is.

Things Stay the Same, Until They Don’t

Remember the “Redskins Rule”?

Wikipedia summarizes it:

If the Redskins win their last home game before the election, the party that won the previous election wins the next election. If the Redskins lose, the challenging party’s candidate wins.

The Redskins Rule was first noted by Steve Hirdt, executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau, in 2000

In 2004, the Redskins lost their last home game before the presidential election, indicating the incumbent should have lost; however, George W. Bush (the incumbent) went on to defeat John Kerry. Steve Hirdt, credited with the discovery of the rule, then modified it to refer not to the incumbent party in the White House but to the party that last won the popular vote.

No one would argue that the American electorate takes its cues from the performance of the Washington Redskins. At least, I hope no one would seriously argue that. If you’re taking your cues on who to vote for based upon the performance of the NFL team with the most manic-depressive fan base in the National Football League then . . . (sigh) go Carolina Panthers, I guess.

Anyway, the point is that you can find a lot of trends or formulas or rules by looking back and finding events that align . . . but correlation does not prove causation. Thus, political scientists are always going back and calculating that the incumbent “always” wins as long as unemployment is above THIS and GDP is above THIS and median income change is above THIS and inflation is HERE and the price of gas is between HERE and HERE and the moon is rising over Saturn for Gemini . . .

A presidential election is made up of the decisions of millions upon millions of people — the decision to vote or not vote, the decision to vote for this candidate or that one, the decision to volunteer for the candidate, the decision to donate to the candidate, and so on. Those decisions are shaped by all kinds of outside influences — by economic factors, yes, but also by the quality of the candidates and their campaigns, by the state of the world, by the dominant issues in the final weeks, by events and October surprises.

David Frum observes in light of Romney’s surge, “Political science proclaims, ‘debates don’t matter.’ After this election, we may need to retire a lot of political science.”

Ezra Klein, among those who would like to believe Romney’s debate performance won’t have much of a lasting effect, argues that the political scientists’ assessments are to be trusted much more than (sniff, sniff, sneer, sneer) mere pundits! (Hey, does Ezra Klein consider himself a pundit?)

Perhaps last Wednesday’s presidential debate will decide this election. According to Gallup, which has also thrown cold water on the idea that debates routinely decide elections, Romney’s victory in the debate was more lopsided than any other debate victory in the history of their polling. So maybe this really is a game-changer.

But then again, maybe not. When political scientists say debates don’t tend to decide elections, note that they use the plural. They’re looking at the change in polls from the beginning of the debates to the end, not the change in polls from the beginning of the debates to the end of the first debate . . .

I would say that the last week has been an object lesson in why it’s worth paying attention to the evidence gathered by political scientists and tuning out some of the more excitable pundits. Pundits have every incentive to make sweeping pronouncements based off incomplete data. The work political scientists have done gives us some body of past evidence against which we can check those sweeping pronouncements. It’s too early to say how much this debate mattered, but the wild reaction it’s generated among political pundits has convinced me, more than ever, that political science matters.

The thing is, every election is a little different. Some years, the stage is set so thoroughly in favor of one side that by the time the debates occur, they’re almost superfluous to the pre-existing momentum. In 2008, the debates were pretty mild factors in Obama’s win over McCain, compared to the economic meltdown, the country’s Bush fatigue, frustration over the war in Iraq, desire to make history with an African-American president, and so on. Remember, Lehman collapsed right before the first debate; one might argue that by mid-September, the financial meltdown created a political environment where a McCain victory was almost impossible.

This year pitted an incumbent whom most Americans found pretty disappointing, against a challenger who was largely unknown and who had been caricatured relentlessly by his opposition all summer long. This challenger has no natural geographic base, is a religious minority, and was viewed warily by a significant number of Republicans in the primary. For whatever reason, swing voters and those wavering on Obama didn’t tune in to the GOP convention, which was expected to be Romney’s first big opportunity to make his sales pitch. But this year, the stars aligned for the debates to have an enormous impact — a strong performance by the challenger, a weak performance by the incumbent, a monster audience with a significant number of voters willing to give Romney a real look.

Tags: Barack Obama , Campaigns , Elections , History

Democrats’ Advantage in Voter Registration Slipping in Key States


This news release – announcing that there are now roughly 20,000 more registered Republicans in Iowa than registered Democrats – suggests that Hawkeye state Republicans can crow about a dramatic turnaround, pointing out that back in January 2009, Iowa Democrats enjoyed a 110,000 voter registration advantage.

In terms of how many voters are registered with each major party, Democrats continue to hold advantages in several key swing states, but in all of those states, their advantage is considerably smaller than it was in 2008.

In Florida, as of last month there are 4,627,929 registered Democrats and 4,173,177 registered Republicans, which amounts to a a 454,752-voter advantage for Democrats. (Keep in mind, Florida has 11.5 million registered voters, so there are a lot of unaffiliated and third-party voters.)

In 2008, there were 4,800,890 registered Democrats in Florida and only 4,106,743 registered Republicans, a 694,147-voter advantage. So while the number of voters who registered with the GOP is up from four years ago, Democrats are down roughly 170,000.

In Nevada, there are 447,881 registered Democrats to 400,310 registered Republicans, a split of roughly 47,000. (Keep in mind, the state has 1.4 million registered voters right now.) In 2008, the state split 531,317 registered Democrats to 430,594 registered Republicans, a split of roughly 100,000.

In New Mexico, as of July 31, there are 582,656 registered Democrats to 385,898 registered Republicans, a Democrat advantage of 196,758 voters. In 2008, there were 594,229 registered Democrats and 375,619 registered Republicans, an advantage of 218,610 voters.

In North Carolina, as of Friday, there are 2,778,535 registered Democrats and 2,008,609 registered Republicans, a 769,926-voter advantage. But on Election Day 2008, there were 2,866,669 registered Democrats and 2,002,416 registered Republicans, an 864,253-voter advantage. This is another state where Republicans have already gotten more voters registered with their party than the preceding cycle.

In many states, residents who wish to cast ballots must register to vote within 25 to 28 days before an election.

In Pennsylvania, as of today, there are 4,185,377 registered Democrats to 3,099,371 registered Republicans, a 1,086,006-vote advantage for Obama’s party. But as daunting as that sounds, it’s smaller than in 2008, when there were 4,479,513 registered Democrats to 3,242,046 registered Republicans, a 1,237,467-vote advantage.

Virginia does not register voters by party.

One state where the GOP had and continues to have a small advantage is in Colorado. In that state, as of September 1, there are 837,732 active registered Republicans and 739,778 active registered Democrats, about a 98,000-voter advantage. On Election Day 2008, the GOP had 1,065,150 registered Republicans and 1,056,077 registered Democrats, about a 9,000-voter advantage.

Tags: Elections , Independent Voters , Republicans

Why 2012 Probably Won’t See 1980-Level Results


I would love to see a presidential election result this year that reminds us of 1980, but there are some pretty big differences between the America that elected Ronald Reagan to the Oval Office and the one we live in today. I take a look at three of the most significant factors on the home page today: changing demographics, the intense sense of crisis that pervaded the national mood then, and a series of dramatic events pushing the electorate Reagan’s way in the final week.

Tags: Elections

Off-Year Elections, the Preseason Football of Democracy


Off-year elections: Catch the fever!

Fairfax County, Virginia: “Eight hours after polls for Tuesday’s elections opened in Fairfax County most precincts have seen just 200 to 400 voters pass through their doors, county election officials said. General Registrar Cameron Quinn said she’s currently expecting a 25 percent voter turnout, but she’s still holding out hope for a last-minute surge at the polls.”

Elsewhere in Virginia: “Election officials estimate there will be a very low turnout and more voter confusion than there has been in years because of district lines being redrawn during this spring’s 10-year reapportionment.”

Kentucky: “Predictions are that it will be a very light turnout, with perhaps only 25 percent of the eligible voters throughout the state, with a slightly higher number predicted in Jefferson County.”

Maine: “Voter turnout was uneven, with clerks in some communities such as Auburn and Bangor reporting moderate voter traffic, while others reported lower-than-expected numbers.”

Baltimore: “By 1 p.m., six hours after the polls opened, 14,779 voters had cast their ballots, election officials said. That figure represents about 3.9 percent of the 371,799 registered voters in Baltimore.”

Philadelphia: “At the Amos Rec Center at 16th and Berks Streets in North Philadephia, only five residents had cast ballots by lunchtime. In Philadelphia, voters will choose a mayor and members of the City Council.”

Okay… some places are seeing healthy levels of turnout.

Mississippi: “Officials reported brisk turnout among voters Tuesday as Mississippians went to the polls to choose a new governor and decide whether to add three amendments to the state constitution, including one that could provoke a national fight about abortion.”

Tags: Elections

The Election and the Economy


A couple of thoughts for a pre-election Friday afternoon:

1. The End of . . . Clintonism: The all-but-inevitable historic pounding that the Democrats are about to suffer is, of course, a repudiation of Obama’s overreach specifically, of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi model of unified Democratic government, Obamacare, stimulus, etc. It also, I think, spells the end of the Clinton economic aura. Since Carter, Democrats had had the worst sort of reputation when it came to the economy, and for good reason: Everybody remembered the gas lines, ridiculous stagflation, etc. And then along came Clinton. Amazing man, Bill Clinton: He inherited a recovery from George H. W. Bush, handed off a recession to George W. Bush, and somehow, in the middle, made himself look like an economic genius, claiming credit for the booming growth of the 1990s and the nominal budget surplus.

In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that just as every investor looks like a genius while he’s riding up the bubble — and the dot-com stock market was a big one — every politician looks like a genius when the bulls are on the rampage. Clinton’s Big Government ambitions — see Hillarycare — got nipped in the bud well and early, and the Gingrich-Armey monkey-wrench gang kept the Clinton machinery in check. But subtract the bubble and the whole decade looks a lot less impressive, and the Democrats’ campaign paeans to the Clinton economy do not sound as impressive in 2010 as they did in 2000. Americans are starting to internalize the meaning of bubbles, and to re-evaluate.

2. Revenge of the Rubes: As of this morning, the DJIA is down 18.25 percent from where it was three years ago. NASDAQ is down 10.61 percent. Wall Street is a gloomier place. But: Commodities prices are hitting record highs, especially farm products. Cotton is at a record high. Wheat prices are up. Rice is rising so fast that the Chinese are enacting controls on futures trading. Part of this is regular old demand, particularly in China. Part of it is that the specter of the Fed engaging in more “quantitative easing” — debasing the dollar to prop up securities — is directing money from cash to commodities. (And: Guess which country in the world is a great big giant exporter of a lot of this stuff?) In other words, after a few years of bailouts and free-money economics for the benefit of Wall Street, brought to you by Barack Obama (D., Goldman Sachs) the result is likely to be a significant wealth-and-power shift from the financial world to the farming-and-mining world. (My cotton-growing friends in West Texas are a happy bunch just now.) Meaning that Lamborghini will sell fewer of these to second-year investment bankers and more of these to third-generation commodities producers.

That’s one possible outcome, anyway. The future is unknowable and is largely what we make of it — something to keep in mind Tuesday.

Tags: Bill Clinton , Democrats , Elections , Fiscal Armageddon , General Shenanigans , Politics

Dino LaVerghetta: A Wall Street Republican for Glass-Steagall


Dino LaVerghetta, a 28-year-old New Yorker, does not outwardly seem to be the least bit retro, but he might be a generation or two out of place, with one of those stories that you sometimes forget are still happening every day: He’s the child of Italian immigrants, and his father ran a pizzeria — “total Italian stereotype,” he grins — before getting into real estate. LaVerghetta married his high-school sweetheart, and, just as the children of immigrants have for generations, advanced through higher education and a profession: Today, he’s a securities lawyer at a prominent international firm. He probably wouldn’t call it a white-shoe firm, but it’s a white-shoe firm.

LaVerghetta is a throwback in another way, too: He’s an Upper East Side Republican, an increasingly rare urban species whose habitat has been decimated — the formerly Republican-dominated expanse of middle Manhattan populated by financial professionals has largely abandoned the GOP — and whose political leadership is endangered, if not quite extinct. LaVerghetta has his eyes on New York City’s 14th Congressional District, which encompasses eastern Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, and part of Queens, a seat that has been occupied by Democratic incumbent Carolyn Maloney for 16 years. From the pizzeria to Congress in one generation: It won’t surprise you to learn that LaVerghetta talks about the classic American values of free enterprise, limited government under the Constitution, and fiscal responsibility. 

What might surprise you is his take on the Glass-Steagall Act. The 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that had prohibited the combination of regular deposit-taking banks with investment banks, insurance companies, or other kinds of financial operations, has long been cited by the Left as the root of all bankster evil. Democrats have framed it as another case of deregulation-mad Republicans acting as the running dogs of their corporate masters to the general detriment of the Republic. The real story is, of course, more complicated than that: The repeal of Glass-Steagall was signed into law by a Democrat, Pres. Bill Clinton, after every Democrat in the Senate voted for it, along with 155 Democrats in the House — three-quarters of the Democratic caucus at the time. One of the Democrats who voted for the repeal of Glass-Steagall was Carolyn Maloney, and LaVerghetta intends to remind voters of that fact, often.

“The 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was supported by Carolyn Maloney, was a mistake,” he says. “It is no coincidence that the nation faced a near financial meltdown within ten years of its repeal. The financial system would be far better off if we tossed out the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act and simply put the 34-page Glass-Steagall Act back on the books.” As a securities lawyer, LaVerghetta knows a little something about financial regulation, and he’s under no delusion that Glass-Steagall would have prevented all of the financial turmoil that rocked the world following the subprime meltdown. It is difficult to say what Glass-Steagall would have changed at Bear Stearns or Lehman Bros., to say nothing of AIG.

What it would have done, LaVerghetta argues, is establish a pretty good firewall around the depository banks, the places where Americans park their paychecks and savings accounts. With those insulated from the shenanigans that the investment banks were up to, he believes, we could have avoided the bailouts. “The only way to avoid the need for future bailouts is to ensure that our depository-banking system is insulated from speculative investments,” he says.

The Democrat in the race is not exactly Larry Kudlow when it comes to understanding Wall Street. Her ideas on financial reform are utterly conventional ORPism, (Obama-Reid-Pelosi-ism), but the GOP is not girding its loins to do political battle in Manhattan. LaVerghetta knows he has a tough race ahead of him. “It’s a shame that the party of free enterprise has abandoned the center of the financial universe,” he says.

LaVerghetta’s main primary opponent is Ryan Brumberg, who advertises himself as the “true fiscal conservative” in the race and whose candidacy is supported by, among others, the libertarian investor Peter Thiel, who founded PayPal. Like LaVerghetta, Brumberg comes from an archetypal New York background, although one of a different sort: He’s a McKinsey management consultant.

Brumberg is popular with New York conservatives (both of them), and his program for financial reform — winding down Fannie and Freddie, a “pre-commitment for the government to never bail out the banks” — is orthodox Republican stuff. Asked what kind of guarantee mechanism would be necessary to make that “pre-commitment” against bailouts credible, he was unable to produce a convincing answer — which is understandable, because there is not one. The only way to head off future bailouts is to elect to Congress men who will not vote for bailouts. TARP passed the Senate 74–25 and the House 263–171. You do the math.

And it still is far from clear that our government was capable of implementing a superior plan, even if anybody had offered one.

Brumberg scoffs at the idea of reinstating Glass-Steagall. Judge Richard Posner, the eccentrically libertarian legal and economic critic, has endorsed reinstating it, for reasons similar to those articulated by LaVerghetta. As is often the case — on issues ranging from drug legalization to financial regulation to health-care reform — the real intellectual action is on the right, but the operational politics are moving things to the left. LaVerghetta is a Ron Paul guy arguing for the reinstatement of an FDR-era body of banking regulations so that the next time around the markets can destroy the investment banks but not grandma’s passbook account. Brumberg is a libertarianish conservative who will talk your ear off about capital-requirement rules and pre-packaged bankruptcy plans. Clueless Carolyn is not exactly bubbling with innovative thinking on the financial issue that matters most to her constituency.

Thirty blocks uptown, Charlie Rangel is probably taking a nap and thinking nothing of it, his slumber troubled, if at all, by financial matters touching Wall Street only incidentally.

– Kevin D. Williamson is deputy managing editor of National Review.

Tags: Banks , Elections , Financial Regulation , Republicans

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