In the Morning Jolt, I try to put last night’s fantastic special election victories for Republicans in context for the 2012 presidential election. Sure, special election victories don’t always foreshadow how the subsequent national elections will turn out. But last night’s eye-popping results wouldn’t have occurred without a vivid national political environment, and it’s one that is extraordinarily ominous for Democrats.
About Last Night
Congratulate two new Republican members of Congress: Mark Amodei of Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District and Bob Turner of New York’s 9th Congressional District.
Regarding the latter, “Democrats have held [this district]for 88 consecutive years,” observes Brent Teichman.
Redistricting will force New York to lose a congressional seat in the 2012 elections, and so it’s possible that Turner will find himself running against an incumbent next November.
It’s worth noting that special-election victories don’t always foreshadow the trend of the following elections; Democrats enjoyed special-election wins by Scott Murphy and Bill Owens in New York, Ted Deutch in Florida, and Mark Critz in Pennsylvania in 2009 and 2010 before getting thrashed in the 2010 midterms; the GOP won special elections with John Campbell and Brian Bilbray in California in 2005 and 2006, and then went on to lose the House and Senate in 2006.
But Democrats shouldn’t fool themselves – which is, perhaps, what they’re best at. If Obama’s approval rating was in the high 50s and unemployment was 6 percent, these races would have looked different. While we never know what the future holds, there are not many folks who are predicting or projecting an economy that looks significantly better in autumn 2012 than it does in autumn 2011. And if that’s the case, how high can Obama’s approval rating be by Election Day next year? 50 percent? The mid-40s? Based on trends, it can and probably will be lower, and perhaps much lower, as he will be assessed in voters’ minds through the prism of four years of hard times.
I listen to Democrats today and I hear a lot of echoes of Republicans in Bush’s second term, after his numbers really took a tumble post-Katrina. A lot of Bush’s supporters were convinced that sooner or later it would turn around, that it was just a long slump, etc. It never really did turn around much, and then when Lehman collapsed and the economy tumbled at the end, the bottom fell out.
A friend reminded me yesterday that I (apparently) said, shortly after Obama’s election, that if you run on hope and fail to deliver, you’ll find yourself running for reelection in a supremely cynical nation.
Liz Mair concludes, “I’m thinking that ethics/sleaze issues + less-than-awesome opinion of Obama = combo that gives Republicans a shot in even unlikely places.”
If you’re looking for results in the special elections in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District and New York’s 9th Congressional district, you can find them here (Nevada) and here (New York). At this hour, the early count looks fantastic for both Republicans.
In New York, Bob Turner leads, 51 percent to 49 percent, with 121 of 512 precincts reporting.
In Nevada, Mark Amodei leads 61 percent to 34 percent, with about 12,400 votes counted so far.
UPDATE: AP calls it for Turner. Marshall has called and conceded to Amodei. The night ends with the GOP going two-for-two.
Meanwhile, in the other special election today, Nevadans go to the polls to select a congressman to replace Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate earlier this year. Polls are open until 7 p.m. local time, and Nevadans in the 2nd Congressional District will choose among Republican Mark Amodei, Democrat Kate Marshall, and two other candidates, Tim Fasano and Helmuth Lehmann.
So far, 40,190 registered Republicans, 25,621 registered Democrats, and 9,297 voters registered with other or no party have voted early.
Mark Amodei is running in a special election on pretty friendly territory for a Republican in Nevada, the R+5 2nd Congressional District. But he appears to be surging ahead, despite Democrat Kate Marshall running multiple television ads accusing him of trying to “end Medicare.”
Public Policy Polling has a new survey out, showing Amodei ahead 50 percent to 37 percent; I looked in the crosstabs and found that among those 65 or older, Amodei leads, 59 percent to 34 percent.
But just as a lot of candidates suddenly started appearing with their trucks after Scott Brown’s surprise win, I think we might see a lot of candidates bring out their mothers:
I myself find it a little cheesy when candidates bring out their mothers; inevitably, the response ad from the rival is promptly denounced as, “they’re so low, they’re attacking my mother!”
It’s easy to forget, but Tuesday will be Election Day in two corners of the country.
In Nevada, residents of the 2nd congressional district will select their representative in Congress for the remainder of 2011 and 2012, choosing between Republican Mark Amodei, Democrat Kate Marshall, and two other candidates. Tim Fasano and Helmuth Lehmann.
Early voting has been brisk, with 20,038 registered Democrats, 32,068 registered Republicans, and 7,208 other voters casting ballots so far. That’s a healthy 12,030-vote margin for the Republicans, but there’s no guarantee that that translates to a 12,000-vote margin for Amodei.
Amodei’s closing negative ad compares Marshall’s cookie-cutter campaign rhetoric to that of some other well-known Democrats who aren’t polling well in this district these days:
And Amodei’s closing positive message is that “we’ve been promised recovery, and we’ve been given misery. Let’s send a message to Washington.”
A late-August poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling put Amodei ahead by only one, but there are signs that Washington Democrats are giving up:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s investment has been limited to a few field staffers dispatched from Washington. In truth, the party has all but given up on winning; early-voting numbers show a sluggish Democratic turnout, suggesting that Amodei is en route to a big win.
The two districts are mirror images of each other, in that Nevada’s is an R+5 while New York’s 9th congressional district, the district once represented by the infamous Anthony Weiner, is D+5 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. But Democrats seem nervous about the chances of their nominee David Weprin, who’s apparently barely head of GOP candidate Bob Turner. For what it is worth, a poll of 2,055 likely voters by Magellan Strategies shows Turner with a four-point lead over Weprin. Patrick Brennan, NRO’s 2011 William F. Buckley Fellow, laid out why Turner could be “the Scott Brown of Queens” here.
Redistricting will force New York to lose a congressional seat in the 2012 elections, and so it’s possible that the winner of this special election will find himself running against an incumbent next November.
It’s worth noting that special-election victories don’t always foreshadow the trend of the following elections; Democrats enjoyed special-election wins by Scott Murphy and Bill Owens in New York, Ted Deutch in Florida, and Mark Critz in Pennsylvania in 2009 and 2010 before getting thrashed in the 2010 midterms; the GOP won special elections with John Campbell and Brian Bilbray in California in 2005 and 2006, and then went on to lose the House and Senate in 2006. But a GOP sweep on Tuesday would help set the conventional wisdom that 2012 is shaping up to be a tremendously difficult year for the Democrats.
Mitt Romney gives a preview of his own “jobs plan” speech in Nevada, in today’s USA Today. The most intriguing proposals, from where I sit:
I will direct every government agency to limit annual increases in regulatory costs to zero. The impact of any proposed new regulation must be offset by removing another regulation of equivalent cost. Every one of President Obama’s regulations must be scrutinized, and those that unduly burden job creation must be axed.
Where President Obama left America’s trade interests untended, I recognize the job-creating potential of international commerce. I will create the “Reagan Economic Zone,” a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade. It will serve as a powerful engine for opening markets to our goods and services, and also a mechanism for confronting nations like China that violate trade rules while free-riding on the international system. I will not stand by while China pursues an economic development policy that relies on the unfair treatment of U.S. companies and the theft of their intellectual property. I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender.
China is, indisputably, one of the villains of recent campaign seasons, a phenomenon likely to accelerate in 2012. Earlier this year in Nevada’s special House election:
[Republican Mark] Amodei is running a dramatic Web and television ad (running sporadically in the Reno market), featuring a fictional futuristic Chinese newscast in which the anchor cheerfully describes how debt and borrowing led to American subservience to a new Chinese empire. “Once upon a time, America became its own worst enemy,” says an English-language voiceover with a Chinese accent. “When all their borrowed money ran out, they kept spending out of control. Their President Obama just kept raising the debt limit — and their independence became a new dependence. As their debt grew, our fortune grew — and that is how our great empire rose again.” Amodei appears at the end of the ad, declaring in a gravelly voice, “It’s not too late to stop this nightmare.” (The ad emulates a commercial from Citizens Against Government Waste, which featured a Chinese professor in the year 2030, explaining how runaway spending and government growth put America in crippling debt to China and “now they work for us.”)
Out in Nevada, the secretary of state is tracking the early voting results for the September 13 special U.S. House election pitting Republican Mark Amodei against Democrat Kate Marshall.
As of this morning, 11,559 registered Democrats have returned absentee ballots or voted early, 19,178 Republicans have returned ballots or voted early, and 4,134 members of other parties have returned ballots or voted early.
While it’s not certain that every registered Republican is voting for Amodei and that every Democrat is voting for Marshall, it still represents a margin of 7,619 more Republicans than Democrats.
Under its current lines, Nevada’s 2nd congressional district is the most Republican in the state, geographically encompassing almost the entire state outside of Las Vegas, including Reno and the capital, Carson City. It may be the single most bizarre district in the country, encompassing ghost towns, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nevada Test Site, Yucca Mountain, legal brothels, and Area 51. The non-extraterrestrials in the district tend to vote Republican; it scores an R+5 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Heller won increasingly easily, earning 63 percent of the vote in 2010. In 2008, John McCain and Barack Obama effectively tied in the district, while Obama won the state’s other districts handily.
The NRCC takes to the airwaves in Nevada, hitting Democrat Kate Marshall for supporting tax increases. They also imply that Nevada’s recent severe economic troubles can be laid at her feet, but I’m not sure how much voters will blame the state treasurer for high unemployment, loss of tourism dollars, and the most severely collapsed housing market in the country. (UPDATE: See below.)
Having said that, the Nevada treasurer is responsible for “ensures the state’s investments and debt obligations are managed prudently and in the best interest of the people of Nevada” and the state has the worst debt-to-budget ratio in the country, hitting 54 percent earlier this year.
The Republican in the race is Mark Amodei, who’s up on the air talking about “the human toll of this recession.”
“Instead of getting better, things have gotten worse.” Somehow, I suspect we’ll hear a lot more of messages like that in the coming year and a half, both in Nevada and nationwide.
Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District will select its next representative in a special election held on Sept. 13.
UPDATE: Then again, when a candidate campaigns by declaring, “I have taken the state through this fiscal crisis, steered it with a steady hand,” perhaps it’s fair to suggest she’s taking ownership of the state’s economic condition. And I suspect in the minds of many Nevadans, the crisis continues: The unemployment rate in the state is the highest in the nation at 12.4 percent, the housing market and commercial real estate markets are described as “bouncing along the bottom,” and regional executives are projecting that the state’s economy may not come back for another three to five years.
Remember that extraordinarily complicated and messy situation in the special House election in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district, where the Democratic secretary of state ruled that there would be no primaries, and anyone who filed the right paperwork would appear on the ballot? Republicans were and are nervous, because they had at least four candidates with significant bases of support, and the Democrats only had three (with one better known than the others). Under the winner-take-all, “free-for-all” election system, the fear was that the Democrats could eke out a win in an R+5 district.
In a ruling from the bench after two hours of oral arguments Thursday, [Carson District Judge James] Russell said state law was confusing, but he was concerned the rules set down by Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller that would have allowed a free-for-all election amounted to “picking and choosing” different provisions of statutes.
Russell, who joked during the hearing that his decision was bound to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, set in motion a process where the central committees of the Nevada Democrats and Republicans will select their lone nominee during central committee meeting next month.
The Republicans have scheduled their central committee meeting for June 18 in Sparks while the Democrats will meet June 25 in Tonopah.
Nevada’s minor parties will select their representatives by a meeting of their executive councils, Russell ruled. Non-partisan candidates will need at least 100 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
If this ruling is upheld by the state supreme court, it would, on paper, improve the GOP’s chances. I say on paper, because whoever the GOP central committee picks, there are going to be three other candidates who will be anything from disgruntled to furious.
To refresh your memory, the Big Four on the GOP side:
On the Republican side, the biggest name is probably former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle, known nationally for her very well-funded Senate bid against Harry Reid last year. Angle raised $27 million and led in many pre-election polls, but she finished with only 45 percent of the vote.
Angle will face one of her former primary foes in state senator Greg Brower, a former U.S. attorney. Brower served two terms in the assembly before losing in the 2001 primary to Angle. Earlier this year, the Washoe County Commission appointed Brower to serve out the final two years of the term of state senator Bill Raggio, who had retired citing health problems.
One GOP candidate with a unique biography is Kirk Lippold, a retired Navy commander who piloted the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen by al-Qaeda in October 2000…
Nevada Republican party chairman, former Army JAG officer, and former assistant United States attorney Mark Amodei also is running.
Of course, the state supreme court could overrule this decision . . .
Over on the home page, I take a look at the free-for-all that is emerging in the special House election scheduled for September 13 in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district. (Rep. Dean Heller, the former incumbent, is now a U.S. senator.) There will be no party primary; the ballot will be open to anyone with 100 signatures. While the vast district is generally Republican-leaning, there are at least four major GOP candidates: former state assemblywoman and Senate candidate Sharron Angle, state senator Greg Brower, former U.S.S. Cole commander Kirk Lippold, and Nevada Republican-party chairman Mark Amodei.
At this point, only three Democrats are running, and state treasurer Kate Marshall appears to be the best-known. Whoever gets the most votes wins, so it is quite possible that a Democrat could win the seat.
With no primary scheduled, and the obvious problems of the state party somehow unilaterally appointing its nominee (COUGHscozzafavaCOUGH), the GOP needs its voters in this district to coalesce behind a candidate. But which one and how?