Saturday, November 9, 2013

Election 2013 Postmortem and other thoughts

Long time since I have written as this was a slow summer politically...but as things are starting to ramp up, it is time to begin anew.

Election 2013

The results of last week's elections in VA and NJ were not very surprising.  NJ Governor Chris Christie was reelected by a broad coalition, including women and minorities, and has set the stage for a potential presidential run in 2016. Many see him as the best possible GOP candidate as he has won the governorship in a blue state (twice) and shows the ability to attract moderates and suburbanites, qualities many GOP candidates are sorely lacking.  Christie's issue will be satisfying the hard-core conservatives who increasingly dominate Republican electoral politics in the key presidential primary states.  The boisterous NJ Governor will have his hands full campaigning among southern evangelicals and anti-immigration activists.  Major talk radio hosts who do have considerable influence describe him as a RHINO (look it up) at best and a traitor to conservative ideals.  The next two years will be telling as the 2016 invisible primary ramps up.

In Virginia, the Democrats captured the governor's seat.  Former Clinton aid, Terry McAuliffe, beat the GOP tea-party backed candidate and a Libertarian who took 6% of the vote.  The vote was closer than recent polling showed, but demonstrates that once solidly red Virginia has gone decidedly purple fueled by the liberal Washington DC suburbs. Many are saying that McAuliffe's successful campaign was a test run for Hillary Clinton in 2016 as he appealed strongly to suburban women and traditional Democratic constituent groups. Again, time will tell.

The City of Boston elected a new mayor.  After over 20 years, Mayor Menino is retiring thus paving the way for Mayor-elect Marty Walsh.  Walsh's election on Tuesday with strong backing from labor again demonstrates the power of organization and door to door GOTV efforts overwhelming city councilor John Connolly's rather hapless and unorganized campaign.  Union shoe leather will trump newspaper endorsements and the accolades of the punditocracy almost every time.

In other news, the Casino went down in East Boston, Mayor Lantigua may be going down in Lawrence (pending a recount with ballots under police guard), and New York City is now going to be governed by a liberal true believer in city hall.

National Politics

There have been two major items of note on the national scene, the roll-out of of the ACA (aka Obamacare) and the government shutdown last month.  Each party has been affected negatively by these.

The Shutdown was pinned squarely on the GOP by the public and Congress's already abysmal rating continue to sink.  Ironically, it temporarily distracted from the very poor launch of the ACA.  In short, governmental dysfunction continues and the "can" has only been kicked down the road. Politically it hurt the GOP more - does this prompt the Democrats to "hope" for another shutdown next year...say closer to the November 2014 midterms?  Does the GOP hierarchy put down the open revolt of the tea party faction?  Some sort of real Republican Party split, although unlikely, cannot be discounted in the next few years.

The Democrats in general and President in particular have been hurt by not only the very real National Exchange website issues, but even more so by people getting their policies cancelled after repeated assurances that "if you like your plan, you can keep it."  The Administration is trying to back-peddle and parse words on that infamous line now, but the damage control effort does not seem very convincing.

Some polls now show Obama's approval falling below the 40% threshold - approaching George W. Bush territory.  Second terms are usually problematic and Obama's second term is no exception thus far.  This does not bode well for immigration reform which is perhaps his biggest initiative and would be a real legacy accomplishment if he can shepard it through a hostile congress.

Neither party is acquitting itself well.  Recent polling shows that over half of Americans are open to a third party and a general malaise about our political culture is very evident.  A quick note - it is VERY unlikely that a third party can make a serious run at any major office for a host of reasons.  Also, third parties as a concept poll well, but in practice perform very poorly and act as spoilers at best.  However, stranger things have happened in politics and if well-known elected officials of both parties decided to break off to form a moderate centrist party that could well be something...nah!

And now for something completely different...

It is still a year before the 2014 midterms, but The Prof is all over it and will be reporting frequently.  And getting back to local politics, there will be a competitive governor's race in Massachusetts in 2014, culminating 360 days hence.

By the way - this marks my 100th post since launching this site in 2009.  Looking forward to the next 100!


The Prof

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Markey wins - no surprises

Last Tuesday, Markey defeated Gabriele Gomez in a ho-hum election that generated little interest.  I was remarkably close in my predictions - maybe I am getting better at this...

  • I predicted a margin of 57%-43%.  The final result was 55%-45%.
  • My turnout projection was 35%.  It ended up being 27%.  Elections on a 90 degree day in late June are only going to bring out the die-hards.  Toss in the fact that there was no real suspense in the race and the 27% is not surprising.
  • As predicted, Markey ran up big victories in Western Mass, the Route 2 corridor west of Boston, and in the cities.  Markey did very well in the Happy Valley (89-11 in Amherst), liberal suburbs (75-25 in Lexington and Newton) and Boston where Mayor Menino helped him win 76% of the vote.
  • Gomez was able to win five of the 14 counties (Barnstable, Plymouth, Worcester, Bristol and Hampdem), and won a majority of towns in Central Mass, Metro Springfield, the Merrimack Valley, and the North and South Shores. However, he just could not compete elsewhere in the state to the level to make it any closer.

Below is the Boston Globe's map of how the communities voted.

As we can see, the communities colored red and blue fairly accurately reflect the regions where each party dominates.  The advantage of the Democrats is that they are able to win and win convincingly in populated areas.

What ifs, maybes, and might-have-beens

Markey's organization and advertising combined with a rookie GOP candidate made this race a snoozer.  Would another GOP candidate, say Scott Brown have yielded a different result?

My instinct is that in this hypothetical that it would have been very close. I think Markey would have prevailed, but by just a couple of points.  The Democratic machine would have been more revved up to turn out a larger vote.  Brown may have had trouble fundraising.  But Brown is a far superior candidate to Gomez (and in my opinion Markey is a lackluster candidate at best) and maybe, just maybe, he could have pulled it off.

Brown was clearly not interested this time around as it would have meant his third race in three years and that takes a huge toll. Brown is still smarting after losing to Warren last November. Also if he lost, his political future would be damaged as he may have trouble raising money after two consecutive senate defeats. But...the seat is up for reelection yet again in 17 months as the special election was simply to fill the remainder of John Kerry's term.  Brown will be thinking very carefully about a run and if Markey is smart, he will be working very hard to cultivate a statewide organization to fend off any potential challenge.  That being said, I still believe that Markey is in good shape for reelection in 2014 considering the political physics of Massachusetts.

Oh yes...2014 with a Governor's race (Martha Coakley vs Charlie Baker??), a senate race, and state legislative and constitutional offices up for grabs.  Candidates are even now beginning to position themselves.  The Prof will be all over this in the very near future.


The Prof