Thursday, November 05, 2015

There Is No Reasonable Case To Be Made For A Democratic Take Back Of The House, Not While Steve Israel Is Still There


As venal as Rahm-- but with fewer functioning brain cells-- DCCC wreckers, Israel and Van Hollen

There is virtually no serious coverage of the colossal failure of the DCCC under Chris Van Hollen and Steve Israel, two incompetent Pelosi allies who have presided over the loss of dozens of Democratic House seats in 2010, 2012 and 2014-- and for countless missed opportunities. (Guided by the conservative "ex"-Blue Dog, Israel, Pelosi's latest disaster-in-the-making, Ben Ray Luján, looks like he won't do any better.) DCCC incompetence and fundamentally flawed recruitment strategy is completely responsible for Democratic seats that were lost in Alabama (1), Arizona (3), Arkansas (3), Colorado (2), Florida (5), Georgia (2), Hawaii (1), Idaho (1), Illinois (6), Indiana (3), Iowa (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Mississippi (2), Missouri (1), Nevada (2), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New York (10), North Carolina (5), North Dakota (1), Ohio (6), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (6), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (3), Texas (4), Utah (1), Virginia (3), Washington (1), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (2). This week, Kyle Kondik wrote a story in Politico to make the DCCC feel good about themselves, How Democrats Could Win the House. Really. It's really about how Republicans could lose the House by nominating a crackpot like Trump or Carson. Kyle never mentions that the reason the "Republicans have a seeming lock on the majority" is because of the incompetence of the DCCC. That's not part of the Beltway conventional wisdom.
It’s true that the Democrats’ odds of flipping the 30 seats needed to win back the House of Representatives are just a couple ticks greater than zero. But the two current polling leaders for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump and Carson, happen to be the two candidates almost perfectly designed to turn off voters in the districts Democrats need to retake the House.

We know from Republican primary polling that Trump, as explained in a great analysis by National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, does far better among Republicans who do not have a college degree than among those who do. We also know, through polling and by virtue of his new lead amongst Iowa’s heavily white, conservative and evangelical Republican caucus electorate, that Carson is a candidate of the religious right.

Let’s assume these bases of support would continue into a general election. There are 10 states that rank in the top third for both smallest percentage of college graduates over 25, according to the U.S. Census, and for highest percentage of white evangelical Christians, according to the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas polling. These are some of the states where Carson or Trump might do best. They are, in alphabetical order: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming. All of these states voted for Mitt Romney by at least 10 percentage points in the last election. They have something else in common: None of the most competitive House seats are in these states.

The 38 Republican-held seats rated as at least potentially competitive in the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball House ratings all lie outside their borders. The nation’s increasing political polarization suggests Republicans would largely unify behind their standard-bearer. But Carson, through his highly conservative rhetoric on culture war issues, and Trump, through his anti-immigrant stances and lack of traditional political polish, could really hurt Republicans in the affluent suburbs, which just so happens to be where future Democratic House majorities are almost certain to be made.

Carson and Trump, through their lack of experience and long histories of overheated rhetoric, could easily turn off some of the voters who might have otherwise happily supported someone like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio but don’t think Carson and Trump pass the smell test as a potential president. That could lead to depressed GOP turnout in crucial swing districts, robbing some incumbents of votes, or could even prompt a wholesale rejection of the Republicans in certain districts down the ticket, effectively making 2016 a Democratic wave year.

In the places one might expect Carson and Trump to best retain their strength-- Appalachia and parts of the South-- Democrats do not have any House seats they can plausibly target. Outside of a handful of urban and majority-minority districts in these areas that Democrats already hold, they cannot credibly compete there, at least right now.

Whenever the Democrats next control the House, it’s likely that their majority will include hardly any seats from Appalachia and the Deep South, which would be a change from any of their previous House majorities. The seats Democrats are likely to target in the future are in places like suburban Philadelphia, Greater New York and New Jersey, suburban Denver, Greater Chicago, Northern Virginia, Las Vegas, Minnesota’s Twin Cities and other suburban areas. These are districts where the number of college graduates is generally higher than the national average and where there are below-average numbers of white evangelicals. It is not outlandish to suggest Carson or Trump would perform poorly in these places.

A widely-cited obstacle to Democrats winning back the House is that, even while Barack Obama was defeating Mitt Romney by four points, Romney won 226 House districts. There’s no question the House map is skewed toward Republicans, thanks in part to the GOP controlling redistricting in many key states after the last census. But what would those House districts look like if, in 2016, the Democratic nominee did better than Obama did in 2012? Again, a historically poor Republican nominee could help make that happen.

Let’s say the Democratic nominee wins about 53 percent nationally in 2016, two points better than Obama in 2012 and matching his 2008 win. Obama won 237 House districts in 2008 under the current lines. Many of these districts are more Republican than the nation as a whole, but a rising Democratic tide could lift many boats. If the GOP nominee is bad enough, it may be difficult for the rest of the party to quarantine itself from a top-of-the-ticket electoral affliction.

...At the moment, Republicans are only defending six open seats in districts that the Crystal Ball rates as competitive. Generally speaking, open seats are riper for takeover because the power of incumbency is removed-- for all the supposed resistance in American life to establishment, insider candidates, incumbent re-nomination and reelection rates remain quite high. Since the end of World War II, on average about 98 percent of House incumbents win re-nomination and 92 percent win reelection. So far 10 members of the House have announced their retirement, according to Roll Call’s running tally. Given that the average over the last 40 years is 23 per cycle, more retirements are coming, but there’s no reason at this point to expect a GOP exodus, and many of the open seats will come in seats where the competition will be in the primary, not the general.

Ultimately, though, most Americans don’t care about the House and what it does, unless it becomes so toxic that it makes persistent and damaging national news (like during a shutdown, although we saw in 2013 how the polling effects of shutdowns are ephemeral).

To the extent that Americans pay attention to electoral politics, they focus on the White House. If they did care about the House, more of them would vote in midterms (turnout is typically 15-20 percentage points less in midterms than in presidential races), and their votes in midterms wouldn’t be almost uniformly so reactionary against the party that holds the White House (after last year, the president’s party has now lost ground in the House in 36 of 39 midterms).

This is a long way of saying that, while House Republicans over the last few weeks have done a good job of taking care of their business, they do not necessarily control their fate if conditions for them are bad next year. After all, there were fewer House members elected from districts that the other party’s presidential candidate won in 2012 than in any presidential election since 1920. While there are entrenched swing district members on both sides who can weather these trends, we’re not in an era where there’s a high level of House ticket-splitting.

Now, in the event of a weak GOP standard-bearer, the voters might not punish the whole party. That was the case in Richard Nixon’s “lonely landslide” on 1972, when voters separated George McGovern from his fellow Democrats. Or maybe the whole party would falter-- Democrats went into the 1964 presidential election with a big House majority and added 37 seats to it as Lyndon Johnson routed Barry Goldwater. We just don’t know.

But the point is just to say that the districts are there for Democrats to make a move if conditions are terrible for the Republicans because of a disastrous presidential nominee.

Even if they lose the White House, Republicans still remain heavy favorites to hold the House next year. But a presidential candidate who alienates the middle of the country poses a threat, precisely because the middle of the country-- the swingy suburbs-- now represents the Democrats’ path back to the House.
This week Connie Perez, the weak DCCC/EMILY's List recruit for CA-21 (all of heavily Hispanic Kings County and parts of Fresno and Kern counties in the Central Valley), the D+2 district represented by Republican David Valadao, quit the race. This leaves the DCCC without a candidate in a district won 55-44% against Romney, an increase for Obama of 3 percentage points since beating McCain there.

Why bring up one little district in the Central Valley? It's a random example of something that happen just hours ago. Hours pass and the DCCC loses another district and another and another. The DCCC decides to help conservative New Dem shithead David Calone's campaign against Lee Zeldin in eastern Suffolk County. But Steve Israel wants to get into Anna Throne-Holst's pants-- not even a Democrat but in the process of re-registering-- so he drops $10,000 on her and rounds up a bunch of his crooked cronies to give her even more money. So Zeldin, in an R+2 district is almost guaranteed to be reelected-- while the DCCC completely ignores the more vulnerable Peter King in the bluer (R+1) district next door (NY-02), because Israel hates progressives with a passion and has already been undermining the strongest opponent King has ever drawn, DuWayne Gregory, the head of the Suffolk County Legislature.

There's barely a state in the country where DCCC bumbling, corruption and incompetence isn't ruining the Democrats' chances to take back the House. I admire and respect Nancy Pelosi but until she and Hoyer go, the DCCC will, inadvertently, serve the interests of the Republican Party. Van Hollen was rewarded for the most catastrophic failure of any DCCC chair ever and Israel was rewarded for proving it was possible to be even worse than Van Hollen. It's what made me feel that Nancy just doesn't want to be Speaker again... no matter what fantasies Kyle Kondik can spin. Trump or Carson or Cruz will certainly help the Democrats take back the Senate but the House... the DCCC is simply beyond help. It wouldn't surprise me if they actually lose seats in the most favorable year for Democratic victories in ages. The only hope the Democrats have would come in 2018 and that would depend on crackpot Republican David "Bull" Gurfein beating Israel next year, in the third Long Island congressional district.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to help build a base of independent-minded progressives in the House who won't become lackeys to Steve Israel and his destructive clique... we have a page just for you.

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At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is virtually no serious coverage of the colossal failure of the DCCC under Chris Van Hollen and Steve Israel."

Yup, that's why I'm here. I wondered why an excellent candidate of mine in 2012 got no support from the DCCC even though he put a lot of his own money into the race and was surrounded by much less effective candidates who were put on Red to Blue early. We had to swim against the tide of serious early donors who wanted know why we weren't on Red to Blue and they were. Good question. I resisted the answer - that the DCCC doesn't really care about the success of the Democratic Party, only its corporate wing - as long as I could. Then I came here and saw the evidence.


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