In GOP Shutout, Were Dem Voters Shut Out? Ctd

Why Not Vote

Christopher Ingraham passes along the above chart on Americans who didn’t vote:

Republican vote-suppression efforts have already received plenty of attention, and rightfully so – it’s an embarrassment that one political party sees a smaller electorate as the path to victory. But voters turned back at the polls represent at best a tiny fraction of the 10 percent who didn’t vote for technical reasons. Pew’s numbers suggest there’s a lot of work to be done to help the 35 percent of voters who couldn’t accommodate a trip to the polling place in their work or school schedules.

Frank Barry dismisses Wendy Weiser’s claim that voter restrictions suppressed so much Democratic turnout last week as to influence the outcomes of some close elections:

Weiser’s argument has been picked up by other voting-rights advocates and pundits, but it falls apart upon closer scrutiny. Even with seven fewer days, early voting in North Carolina increased this year compared with 2010 — by 35 percent. Statewide turnout also increased from the previous midterm election, to 44.1 percent from 43.7 percent. Even if turnout was lower than it would have been without the new voting law — something that’s impossible to establish — it was still higher than it had been in four of the five previous midterm elections, going back to 1994. In addition, based on exit polls and voter turnout data, the overall share of the black vote increased slightly compared with 2010.

Rick Hasen, an expert on election law, says he’s skeptical about Weiser’s analysis, and rightly so. When voting-rights advocates fail to include any balancing points in their discussion of the election, they undercut their credibility and give ammunition to Republicans who suspect that they are mostly interested in electing Democrats.

 

In GOP Shutout, Were Dem Voters Shut Out?

Juan Thompson claims that voter suppression tactics were at least partly responsible for the turnout trouble among Democrats last week:

In Georgia … nearly 40,000 new voters mysteriously vanished from the rolls, possibly due to scrubbing by a controversial software system known as Crosscheck. Turnout was only 34%, which is down six percentage points from 2010.

Over the past two years Raphael Warnock, leader of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, worked with the New Georgia Project to register some 80,000 new and mostly black voters. New Georgia Project’s efforts was the state’s largest voter registration drive in 50 years, according to reports. “It’s a fundamental, basic American right to vote”, Warnock told me. Such thinking explains why he was so angry when half of those new voters failed to appear on the rolls this fall. “The Georgia Secretary of State’s office had no explanation at all as to where those voters went”, Warnock explained.

A person in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office declined comment (after alerting me to the fact that “the election’s over”). But earlier this year, that same office accused the New Georgia Project of voter registration fraud. In the end only 50 questionable forms were found. Georgia, it must also be noted, is one of 27 states using the controversial software Crosscheck to weed out supposed voter fraud.

Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice even suggests that new restrictions may have suppressed enough votes to turn some close races:

In the North Carolina Senate race, state house speaker Thom Tillis beat Senator Kay Hagen by a margin of 1.7 percent, or about 48,000 votes. At the same time, North Carolina’s voters were, for the first time, voting under one of the harshest new election laws in the country — a law that Tillis helped to craft. Among other changes, the law slashed seven early voting days, eliminated same-day registration, and prohibited voting outside a voter’s home precinct — all forms of voting especially popular among African Americans. …

Some numbers from recent elections suggest that the magnitude of the problem may not be far from the margin of victory: In the last midterms in 2010, 200,000 voters cast ballots during the early voting days now cut, according to a recent court decision. In 2012, 700,000 voted during those days, including more than a quarter of all African-Americans who voted that year. In 2012, 100,000 North Carolinians, almost a one-third of whom were African-American, voted using same-day registration, which was not available this year. And 7,500 voters cast their ballots outside of their home precincts that year.

Naomi Shavin’s early tally of calls into the Election Protection Hotline also painted a picture of an unusually problematic election:

The hotline handles calls from voters who need to know if they’re registered, find their assigned polling locations, and report difficulties in their attempts to vote. Yesterday, the national hotline had taken over 16,000 calls by 8 p.m., with 3.5 hours to go until polling ended. (By comparison, the hotline received 12,857 calls all day on Election Day in 2010.) Texas, Georgia, and Florida seemed to be experiencing a particularly problematic Election Day. The hotline took roughly 2,000 calls from each of those states. Chris Melody Fields, the manager for legal mobilization and strategic campaigns at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that the call center received hundreds of calls from Georgia yesterday morning aloneso many, in fact, that calls had to be rerouted to call stations for other states.

Meanwhile, True The Vote’s new fraud-reporting smartphone app only turned up a grand total of 18 reported irregularities and just one claim of voter impersonation in the entire week leading up to the election.

A Pro-Life Election? Ctd

Olga Khazan discusses what the failure of “personhood” ballot initiatives in last week’s election – in contrast to Tennessee’s successful constitutional amendment paving the way for more restrictions on abortion – reveals about the split between the “incrementalist” and “absolutist” wings of the pro-life movement. While voters can’t stomach the radical changes the absolutists are demanding, that’s cold comfort to Kat Stoeffel, who argues that the incrementalists are in some ways a greater threat to abortion rights:

Rather than offering sweeping amendments for a hypothetical post-Roe future, [Target Regulation of Abortion Providers laws] revoke abortion access piecemeal, starting now. … Part of the insidiousness of TRAP laws is that they are so tedious they fly under the radar of all but the most dedicated pro-choice advocates. But another part of the problem is that TRAP laws don’t frighten the voter who is indifferent to abortion but also has the resources to navigate restrictions. She’s free to think, But I’d still be able to get one if I needed to and skip voting this year, as young people (who are traditionally pro-choice Democrats) disproportionately opted to do this year.

How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived. In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.” In Utah, a woman gave birth to twins; one was stillborn. Health care providers believed that the stillbirth was the result of the woman’s decision to delay having a cesarean. She was arrested on charges of fetal homicide. In Louisiana, a woman who went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding was locked up for over a year on charges of second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Jessica Grose, meanwhile, pleads with her fellow left-feminists to stop describing the midterms as “bad for women”, as it’s a bit condescending to the millions of women who voted for Republicans like “combat veteran and hog castrator Joni Ernst in Iowa, black Mormon Mia Love in Utah, and youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress Elise Stefanik in New York”:

It’s not just candidates that women disagree on. It’s the issues themselves. Let’s take access to abortion, which is seen as a pivotal “women’s issue.” According to the Washington Post, polling over the years has shown that there’s actually not that much difference between men and women’s views on abortion. And women may be more supportive of restrictions on late-term abortions than men are. Particularly in this election, issues like the economy and security have outweighed social issues among all voters. Which is to say, though the right to choose is incredibly important to people like me and Ann Friedman, it’s not as important to a good portion of the female electorate.

Comeback Christie?

In a radio segment yesterday, the New Jersey governor hinted that he’s still got his eye on 2016, calling the time he spent on the road stumping for other Republicans this campaign season “a good trial run” for himself and his family. Joseph Gallant casts Christie as the biggest off-the-ballot winner in this week’s elections:

Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville, says Christie, as he heads into a likely 2016 run for the GOP presidential nomination, stands to benefit in three significant ways: messaging, fundraising, and favor-trading. “First, he got to try out his message all across the nation,” Dworkin told the The American Prospect. “One question about Christie is whether his political style will play in Topeka. He’s now had a chance to travel everywhere across the country to see what works and what doesn’t, all on the RGA’s tab.” …

“He got to meet every major donor in the Republican Party and all of the key political operatives,” Dworkin continued. ”Running for president is a massive undertaking and you need to build a national team that already knows the battleground states. He’s gotten to do that.” 

But Dworkin’s third point could be the clincher for the Garden State governor. “Christie was at the helm when Republicans won huge victories around the country. Not only will he be able to take credit for those wins, but he will have the invaluable resource of governors ‘owing him’ for all the help he provided.”

His actions on Ebola also scored him some points with constituents:

A new poll from Monmouth University shows New Jerseyans approve of his handling of the Ebola situation 53 percent to 27 percent — about two-to-one. The federal government’s response, by contrast, earns negative marks at 37 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval. In addition, Christie’s constituents approve 67-19 of quarantining Hickox after she landed at Newark Airport. Where Christie gets more mixed results is in his decision to release Hickox, amid pressure, to a quarantine in her home in Maine — a quarantine that she later flouted. Thirty-eight percent approve of Christie’s decision here, while 40 percent disapprove. … A recent poll showed 80 percent of Americans supported the concept of some kind of quarantine. So, quelle surprise.

Still, Kilgore just doesn’t see Christie’s tough-guy persona winning over anyone who isn’t already into it:

Here and elsewhere, we’re given the impression that Christie’s now “over” Bridgegate, and back to being the big brawling dominant force the MSM and Republican elites have always loved. … Let me ask you, though: does anyone think being a figurehead for the RGA in a good year is going to cut a lot of ice with the actual on-the-ground activists and voters who will determine the Republican presidential nomination? Is anyone impressed by this other than the people who never stopped loving him? I’ll believe it when Christie no longer has by far the worst approval/disapproval ratio among likely Caucus-goers in Iowa.

Don’t Count On A Democratic Comeback

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Ambinder warns Democrats against overconfidence for the next presidential election:

Obama has noted that he won’t be on the ballot in 2016. Not technically, of course, but every open general election uses as a point of departure the shared wisdom of how the last eight years went. Obama’s approval rating by the time he leaves office needs to be higher than it is now. The collective “sense” that his administration was successful needs to be shared more widely than it is in order for Democratic presidential candidates to have a basic foundation for messaging. And since Obama won’t be on the ballot, it might be harder to replicate the exact “Obama coalition” that proved critical to his election and re-election. Will he be a net negative for the Democratic nominee? How will the nominee work with the White House? Will they run together? Can they run together? Obama won’t be on the ballot, but he’ll be around the ballot, and how voters feel about this will be determined by what happens over the next few years.

My view is that the only way the Dems come back from this is if they embrace this administration and this president, make the case for the progress they have made since 2008, and fight proudly to entrench its achievements. Running away from Obama in 2016 will be as effective as running away from him in 2014. The obvious precedent is Al Gore’s decision not to run as the proud natural successor to Bill Clinton. That alone probably cost him an election he should have won easily. Now, of course, we are no longer living in an elysian late 1990s bubble economy before the 21st Century hit us like a ton of bricks. So you tell that like it is – and make the case for the success of the strategy since 2008 and the need to keep its gains and extend them further. I wish I believed the Clintons could see this. Their unity with Obama was critical in 2008; it will be just as critical in 2016.

Beinart draws a similar lesson from the midterms:

Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?

He urges Clinton to take a stand (good luck with that):

In general, young people don’t have the same passion for Hillary that they had for Obama. Neither do African Americans. Neither do many liberals. If she’s going to rouse them to the polls in the same remarkable numbers that Obama did, she’s going to have to take the risk of actually saying something. She’s going to have to find a big issue that she truly cares about and speak about it with reckless conviction.

But what if her last moment of actual, genuine conviction was 1994? Nyhan adds:

[T]he widespread Democratic losses weren’t a “repudiation” of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who played a minor role). But despite claims that they actually offer her a useful opportunity to contrast herself with a Republican Congress, she doesn’t face a “great situation” for her prospective 2016 presidential candidacy either.

Historically, midterm results, which are typically unfavorable to the president’s party, tell us relatively little about the coming presidential election … The record shows that the president’s party can rebound from major losses to win at the polls in two years. Bill Clinton, for instance, bounced back from the 1994 Republican landslide to easily win re-election in 1996. Similarly, President Obama, whose party suffered major losses in 2010, went on to defeat Mitt Romney in 2012, and George Bush won the 1988 election after Republicans suffered major losses in 1986, President Reagan’s sixth year in office.

But Andrew Prokop pushes back on the narrative that Dems will easily retake the Senate in 2016:

It’s not easy to defeat a Senate incumbent. Even in this wave election, Republicans will only have managed to knock off five at the most (Mark Udall, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor, and probably Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich). … [T]he most Senate incumbents who have lost in any one cycle recently is six. Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a useful breakdown of these losing incumbents by party.

Now, those tallies may be a bit incomplete, because some incumbents who believe they might lose opt for retirement rather than another run. But, in general, the tendency of incumbents to win is well-known. So if the GOP manages to prevent retirements in potentially competitive states, Democrats will have to knock off a pretty high amount of sitting senators, historically.

Albert Hunt sizes up the next Senate races:

In 2016, Republicans will have to defend 24 of the 34 Senate seats that are up; and 17 of those will be in states that President Barack Obama carried in 2012. Even before last night’s vote, Democratic operatives were eyeing Republican targets in blue states, including Senators Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk in Illinois and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, where Democratic strategists hope to persuade Governor Maggie Hassan, who was re-elected yesterday, to run for the Senate in 2016.

Nonetheless, Democrats may have some problems of their own, starting with the Nevada Senate seat held by Harry Reid.

(Photo via Getty Images)

How The Democrats Ran From Their Own Success

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 11.35.59 AM

So the number one issue in the midterms was the economy. And a Democratic president has managed to halve the unemployment rate in the wake of a historically grim near-depression, and his own party decided never to mention this – or him – in the campaign. I wish I were surprised. He also managed to slash the deficit at the same time. But shhh … just tell women the GOP is out to get them.

Voters do not always have access to all the relevant data – but they sure can detect political fear. And fear, after all, is what the Democrats have wallowed in for decades since Reagan. Many of them privately believe that their ideas or proposals, however sensible, can never win majority support. So they hide them, or argue for them only before certain constituencies, or play the usual defensive crouch on foreign policy, and bob and weave until the voters are offered a choice between a decisive extremist from the GOP and a quivering pile of jello from the Democrats. The one figure who broke this cycle was Obama in 2008. He managed to do so again in 2012. And yet the default DNA of the Dems is to go back into a defensive crouch, the masters of which are, of course, the Clintons.

You can see it again with the ACA. You couldn’t have a stronger argument: we have given everyone more security in their health, and removed some of the cruelest aspects of the previous system. We have gotten huge numbers of people insured for the first time. And we have managed to halt the rise in healthcare costs in ways that could truly make a dent on future debt. These are huge achievements, but the Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to utter them, let alone craft a narrative of success to contrast with the fear-mongering and nihilism of the Fox News right.

And here’s my point: the defensive crouch doesn’t even work. Waldman marshals some evidence:

Democratic candidates gave Democrats lots of reasons to stay home, particularly those most loyal to Obama. Now let me take a counter-example. The one Democratic Senate candidate in a close race who won on Tuesday was New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen. How did she avoid the fate that befell so many others?

While Shaheen wasn’t exactly begging for Obama to come campaign for her, she didn’t try to “distance” herself from him either. She also didn’t try to execute some double-twisting salchow when it came to the Affordable Care Act, channelling voter displeasure and pretending she shared whatever ill-informed opinion whoever she was talking to happened to have. When she got asked whether she was still proud of it, she said, “Absolutely.” To be sure, she was critical of things that didn’t go well (like the web site roll-out), but no Democratic voter would think she was turning her back on the most important Democratic domestic policy achievement in decades, or dissing their party’s leader.

And for whatever combination of reasons, while turnout was down from 2010 in most places in the country, New Hampshire was one of the few places where it actually increased this year.

A GOP strategist argues along the same lines:

“They sidelined the president,” Rob Collins, the Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) told reporters at a backslapping post-election briefing. Instead, Collins argued, Democrats shouldn’t have been scared off by Republican attempts to tie Obama to their candidates.

Collins said NRSC polling had long identified the economy as the issues voters cared about most, and one where Democrats stood to gain. “We felt that that was their best message and they sidelined their best messenger,” he said. Collins added that in many states, Democratic candidates had positive stories to tell. “In Colorado, unemployment is 5.1 percent and they never talked about it,” he added.

“They were so focused on independents that they forgot they had a base,” Collins said of Democratic Senate candidates. “They left their base behind. They became Republican-lite.”

They’re a bunch of clueless cowards, as far as I can see. And they have reaped the dividends of fear.

(Chart: the Upshot.)

A Pro-Life Election?

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Rebecca Leber worries that the GOP’s victories on Tuesday, especially in statehouses across the country, spell danger for abortion rights:

Before Tuesday, Republicans controlled 60 of 99 legislative chambers. Thanks to the election, they will soon control at least 66. Majority status in two others remain undecided, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The only two Democratic “successes” of the night were holding onto majorities in the Iowa Senate and the Kentucky House. The GOP also picked up three gubernatorial seats. This has bad implications for women, particularly on abortion rights. State legislatures were responsible for 200 new abortion restrictions between 2011-2013.

At the federal level, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser celebrates the fact that “the next Congress will usher in a record-breaking number of pro-life women”:

The Congress that convenes in January will have at least 21 pro-life women, breaking a high of 18 following the 2010 elections. In 2010, there were no pro-life women in the Senate. In the next Congress, Iowa Senator-elect Joni Ernst will become the third pro-life woman to serve, joining Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R., Neb.).

While prenatal “personhood” initiatives failed by wide margins in Colorado and North Dakota, Robin Marty worries that personhood activists are already working on a new strategy focusing on the local level:

While North Dakota and Colorado were busy pushing for yet another statewide voter referendum, groups like the Personhood Alliance, a “life at conception” pro-life group formed by Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, intend to launch a “ground-breaking campaign” for 2015 that will introduce “pro-life ballot initiatives at the county and municipal level.” … By moving to a city-by-city strategy, anti-abortion activists can target just the places where actual abortions are being performed. There, at the clinic doors, they hope they might find some moderate success, since their statewide plans to pass personhood have been nothing but one failure after another.

Emma Green has more on at Tennessee’s Amendment 1, which will allow the state to enact more restrictive abortion laws:

The amendment language is specifically framed in response to the state Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Planned Parenthood [v. Sundquist]. In that ruling, the court overturned several state statutes, including requirements that abortion procedures must take place in hospitals; that women must get counseling from physicians before getting an abortion; that they must then wait two days until having the procedure; and that “a physician may bypass the requirements of [these statutes] only when ‘necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman,’ regardless of her health.” …

Now that the amendment has passed, the General Assembly may have more flexibility to legislate what women must do in order to terminate a pregnancy, including those “resulting from rape or incest.” State legislators still can’t create statutes that violate federal legal standards on abortion—it can’t be outlawed entirely, for example. But they will “almost certainly” have a greater ability to pass restrictions on how and where women get the procedure, said [Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee]—and they plan to, she added.

 notes that Tennessee was previously “something of an anomaly in the South, where it was the only state without significant abortion restrictions on the books”:

That meant a large number of women from surrounding states such as Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky would travel to Tennessee to receive the procedures. About a quarter of the abortions in Tennessee are performed on women traveling from out of state, the Tennessean reported.

Anita Wadhwani talks with a supporter of the law who “believes Tennessee lawmakers will now have the ability to pass laws that deter out-of-state women from coming to Tennessee for the procedure”

“If we have an informed consent law and a waiting period, the incentive for women to leave their home state to come to Tennessee will be reduced,” said David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee and a former state senator who originally proposed the constitutional amendment in 2001. “Tennessee in my opinion took the notion of abortion on demand to a new level, saying you can show up in the morning, have an abortion and leave that afternoon,” he said. “When the state has a waiting period law, I think you will see fewer who will find it expedient to travel to Tennessee.”