So we are a year out from the 2016 elections. Where are we exactly? Not sure, but some observations:
A new GOP generation advances – The generational wheel took a significant turn this week with strong debate performances from Rubio and Cruz, and Paul Ryan’s ascension to the Speakership. The rise – and strength – of the 40something Gen X Republicans is becoming a significant event in American politics. While the Democrats may be winning the hearts and minds of an emerging America of the 21st century, the GOP may have short term advantages i having a new and better prepared “next” generation rising now, one aided by the incredible exposure the aggressive GOP debate schedule is offering them. Be sure to read more from me on this new GOP generation, one I’ve called the “children of Reagan.”
Clinton leads the Dems, still waiting for the Rubio surge– Not clear that the dynamics of the race have changed in the past week. Hillary continues to put impressive numbers across the board, and is seeing more of the Party leadership rally to her side. Bernie Sanders has gone up on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is signaling that he has the resources and commitment to give Clinton a real challenge.
Nothing much appears to have changed on the GOP side, and for all the hype around Rubio, he is still way back in the back nationally and in the early states, has never polled regularly in double digits, and is not well funded. Roughly a third of the GOP electorate falls into the restrictionist anti-immigrant camp, and I remain skeptical these voters will fall in line behind a Rubio candidacy if he wins the nomination. As of today four GOPers seem to have momentum - Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz - an odd lot for sure.
Obama's job approval remains in a healthy place for Democrats in 2016, something we will be discussing more in future editions of MM.
The debate over debates continues – The ongoing disquiet from almost all the candidates in both parties over the debates this fall highlight just how important these events have become in choosing our leaders. At its core GOP candidate concerns about the toughness of the debate questions coming from a TV network long associated with conservative politics – particularly when it is now clear that Rubio, Carson and Trump offered huge whoppers as responses – reinforces how new to the game many of these candidates are. But in each party’s debate over their debates important principles are being discussed now, and I remain concerned about the how little exposure the Democratic debate schedule is providing its candidates and future leaders this cycle.
Tally so far: 3 GOP debates, 60-62m viewers. 1 Dem debate, 16m viewers. Rs have debates scheduled on Tue Nov 10th and Tue Dec 15th. Next Dem debates are Sat Nov 14th and Sat Dec 19th. By year’s end Rs will have had 5 weekday primetime debates. Dems will have had 3 debates in total, w/only 1 during the week in primetime and 2 on Saturday nights, one of the least watched times in television. And as a reminder, there is NO evidence so far suggesting the more aggressive debate schedule is hurting GOP candidates.
For a change, the latest Census Bureau data on what’s happened to the incomes of Americans is good news. For the first time since the 1990s and 1980s, household incomes rose substantially in 2014, and did so across all demographic groups. You might miss the good news if you looked simply at everyone’s median income or median wage. What’s actually happening becomes clear only when you track, as I have, the income paths of various “age cohorts,” year after year as they grow older. Using this approach, the new data show that across households headed by people in their late 20s, their late 30s and their late 40s in 2013, median household income grew an average of nearly 2.7 percent in 2014.
This is a big and important change: As documented in my recent Brookings Institution report on income progress since 1980, the median income of households headed by people of comparable ages in 2001 declined an average of 0.1 percent per year from 2002 to 2013.
Drilling into the new data, we also see that households headed by minorities made considerably greater progress in 2014 than their counterparts headed by whites; and households headed by men had larger income gains than those headed by women. Yet, all of those groups saw significant income growth. Most striking, households headed by high school graduates, as well as those headed by college grads made substantial income progress in 2014; and even those households headed by people without high school diplomas had significant gains. While all of these happy developments reflect just one year’s data, they nevertheless bear watching.
Let’s step back and put these new data in their larger context. The Brookings study covered the period 1980 to 2013. I followed the incomes of households headed by people who were 25 to 29 years-old in 1975, until they reached age 59; and then repeated that process for households headed by people who were 25 to 29 in 1982; as well as 25 to 29 in 1991, and 25 to 29 in 2001. The analysis showed that across age groups and across gender, race and ethnicity, and education, Americans made strong, steady income progress as they aged through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2002, however, the median household incomes of the same groups have declined, stagnated or grown much more slowly, depending on their demographics.
I also examined the income progress of three age cohorts under each of the last five presidents, tracing the income paths of households headed by people who were 25 to 29, 35 to 39, and 45 to 49 at the beginning of each president’s administration. (For these income records by president, I began in year two of each administration and ended in year one of the following administration, because economic conditions and income results in the first year of any presidency are set by the preceding administration.)
As expected, the new 2014 data improve Barack Obama’s record. Over his presidency thus far, income growth across the three age cohorts has averaged 1.2 percent per year, as people aged from 2010 to 2014. That’s a big step up from George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush: Income progress across comparable age groups averaged 0.2 percent per year under Bush I and 0.3 percent per year under Bush II. The income progress under Obama is also a big step back from annual gains averaging 2.6 percent under Bill Clinton and 2.4 percent under Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless, income growth in 2014 roughly equaled the strong, sustained gains under Clinton and Reagan.
The question is, why did this happen? First and probably foremost, employment accelerated sharply last year: The United States created 2.95 million net new jobs in 2014, compared to an average of 528,000 net job gains per year from 2002 to 2013; and 1.78 million per year from 2010 to 2013.
Strong job creation can have powerful effects on incomes, especially for people working near the margins of the economy. This effect is evident in the 2014 income progress by people without college degrees. Across the three age cohorts, incomes increased 4.8 percent among households headed by high school educated graduates and by 2.6 percent among those headed by people without any diplomas. In stark contrast, the median incomes of comparable households decline substantially from 2002 to 2013.
Beyond jobs, U.S. businesses also enjoyed relief in 2014 from fast-rising health care and energy costs, which allowed them to attract and retain employees by raising wages and salaries. Spending by employers on health insurance for family medical coverage, for example, rose less than 2 percent in 2014, as compared to increases averaging nearly 7 percent per year from 2002 to 2013 and nearly 5 percent per year from 2010 to 2013. Similarly, energy costs for industrial and commercial businesses, which rose by an average of more than 6 percent per year from 2002 to 2008, virtually flat-lined in 2014.
Yet, even with 2014’s strong gains, years of flat or falling incomes for many Americans have left us with stark inequalities within the middle class. Across our three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by men averaged $71,382 in 2014 — 25 percent greater than the $56,946 median income of households headed by women.
Inequalities based on race and ethnicity are much larger, even though 2014 was a very good year for minorities. In 2014, the median income of households headed by whites across the three age cohorts averaged $74,149, or 85 percent greater than the $40,049 level for the households headed by African-Americans and 56 percent greater than the $47,440 average for those headed by Hispanics.
Finally, the vast income disparities based on education keep expanding. Across the three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by college graduates averaged $101,298 in 2014 — 113 percent greater than the $47,560 average for households headed by high school graduates and 269 percent more than the $30,146 average for households headed by people without any diploma. With such gaping differences, it is no surprise that many of this year’s would-be presidents, especially among the Democrats, have plans to reduce or eliminate tuition burdens at public colleges and universities.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.
Hillary rising – the big story of the week is the clear rejuvenation of the Clinton campaign. Epic GOP missteps on Benghazi, strong debate and hearing performances, far more aggressive free media (SNL, Maddow etc), Biden deciding not to run has made this a remarkable few weeks for Hillary Clinton. Her public performances are far stronger, the bunker mentality has been shed, and her poll numbers are rising and Sanders falling. She is in a very commanding position now in the Democratic primary.
Things to watch now: how will her new strength translate into Iowa and New Hampshire, and whether her standing improves in the general election matchups against the GOP field.
Carson appears to be making a move – Two new polls out this week have Ben Carson moving ahead of Trump in Iowa. Trump and Carson still dominate the field, with Cruz, Rubio and Bush placing in 3/4/5 in different orders in different polls. What is remarkable however is that in almost every GOP poll, Trump, Carson, Cruz – outsiders/extremists/radicals/whatever we call them – are getting 60% between with no sign of any of them losing ground. While the national media continues to spend a lot of time on Bush and Rubio, there just isn’t a lot of evidence that either of them have a real shot today. Things may change but the more mainstream GOPers continue to struggle to get out of single digits.
The big question of 2016 remains whether any of these candidates can unite a highly fractured and contentious GOP next year. Sure is hard to see at this point.
And I think Donald Trump is right - the views of Carson's fringey church deserve far more attention than they've gotten to date.
The debate debate – NDN continues to make our case that the DNC must do more to close the gap with the far superior RNC debate schedule. I appeared in a Time magazine piece on the debate debate, and published a new analysis that finds evidence the entire GOP field is benefitting from all the early attention their more aggressive debate schedule has provided. The 2nd Democratic debate is scheduled for Sat November 14th in Iowa.
The Republicans gather for their third debate this Wednesday on CNBC, and be sure to read our new report on how recent Democratic Presidents have outperformed their GOP counterparts as background. And note that this will be the 3rd GOP debate during the week in primetime. The DNC only has 2 weekday primetime debates scheduled this entire Presidential cycle.
Next Wednesday the Republicans will gather for their third debate. This one, hosted by CNBC, will focus on the economy.
To help prepare for this welcome event, NDN has updated our April report comparing the economic record of the last two Democratic and Republican Presidents. The report shows that the contrast between the performances of the two parties when occupying the White House is stark: Republican Presidencies have led to recessions and larger deficits; Democratic Presidencies have led to growth, job gains and lower annual deficits. In short, the Democratic approach to the economy over the past generation has worked. The Republican approach hasn’t. And this dramatic difference becomes even more pronounced when one considers the how shockingly wrong the GOP’s bet the house predictions of the failure of both the 1993 Clinton budget and the “job-killing” ACA have been.
The full report can be found in pdf form below. Some highlights:
Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, over 30m new net jobs were created. Over the two Bush Presidencies, 3.5m. On a yearly basis, perhaps a more fair comparison, the two Democrats have produced jobs at 7 times the rate of the two Bushes: 2.1m vs. 300,000 per year.
Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic Presidents saw more than a 3% point job in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.
Deficits: Both Democratic Presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton during large structural deficits to annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by two-thirds. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his Presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history. Illustrative graphs follow.
In this update, we’ve added a new section on the health care and energy sectors vital to the well being of the American people and our economy. While not offering a direct comparison with recent Republicans, our analysis finds dramatic improvements in both these critical areas:
Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs, a significant driver of the US budget deficit, has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.
Energy: The President’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.
Taken together, what this data makes clear is that the last two Democratic Presidents have done a very good job as stewards of our economy in a more competitive, global era. The same cannot be said of the Republicans.
Update - Be sure to see this new analysis from Rob Shapiro. There is a growing body of evidence that after many years of flat or declining incomes for far too many Americans, incomes ticked up in 2014.
The Dems debate - The big news for Democrats was their first – and very successful – debate last week. I offered up my take in this post from last week. It’s far too early to tell if the debate changed the Democratic race. Focus groups the night of were very good for Sanders, and he gained more ground than Clinton in a new CNN poll. But like many I felt the strong performance by both of them made everyone else’s path much harder, including the Vice President.
But as I argue in a new analysis piece, there is a great deal of evidence now that the superior RNC debate schedule has lifted the entire GOP field vs the Democrats. My hope is that this piece showing the GOP Presidentials outperforming their party, competitive if not ahead in the general election next year and creating a more excited base of supporters will bolster the hand of those trying to improve the lackluster DNC debate schedule.
The dysfunctional GOP – I think we are all struggling to put in words what we are seeing from the GOP these days – Trump gaining significant ground in new polls, no new Speaker or a path to get there, the shame and embarrassment of the Benghazi committee, a former GOP Speaker pleading guilty to a case involving his sexual abuse of an underage boy and persistent rumors of an extra-marital affairs by Kevin McCarthy. The next true test for the GOP comes in just a few weeks as we crash into the debt limit on November 3rd (will be exciting to watch how this is addressed in the CNBC Presidential debate on 10/28). Fasten your seat belts friends – sure to be a bumpy ride.
One of the arguments you hear from the defenders of the current DNC debate schedule is that all this extra exposure that Republican candidates are getting from the superior RNC schedule will end up hurting the GOP. It is an interesting argument. But a cursory look at the current state of the race doesn’t back it up.
Let’s first look at Presidential general election match ups. In the Real Clear Politics general election averages, the strongest announced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is essentially tied with all the major GOP candidates. She has a slight lead over Trump and Rubio, but trails Carson, Fiorina and Bush. Worrisome for the Democrats is that in these five match ups Clinton is between 42% and 45%, which is lower than one would expect at this point. While early, Democrats cannot be satisfied with their well known nominee in such a tight race with unknown and fringey Republicans.
But compare this data set with the Huff Po’s assessment of where the overall Democratic and Republican brands are. In Party ID, Dems leadthe Rs by 9, 33 to 24. In favorability, Dems also have a very strong lead, 40/49 to 33/55. The President’s approval rating has been bouncing around in the mid to high 40s these last few months, so it isn’t a drag. Democrat Jack Conway is leading in the Kentucky’s governor’s race, and early polling in 2016 Senate races are showing the Democrats in good shape. So there is no evidence of a drag on the Democratic ticket, or a collapse of the Democratic brand in any other early publically available data. Given this landscape, it is surprising that what is considered a weak GOP field is slightly ahead of the strongest Democratic 2016 candidate at this point.
What the data suggests then is either the GOP Presidentials are over performing or the Democrats are under performing their respective brands. The obvious explanation for why this would be the case would be the extraordinary level of attention the GOP candidates have gotten this far, including their two high performing weekday prime time debates. Yes, it is early, and this data doesn’t take into account this week’s successful Democratic debate. But remember, the far superior GOP schedule is likely to generate three times the impressions for GOP candidates over the course of the primaries. So rather than closing the gap with the GOP in the next few months the early advantage the GOP Presidentials have could grow, not dissipate.
It is still early and things will change. But a look at the data suggests that the extra attention the GOP candidates are getting is doing exactly what one would expect – improve their standing against a Democratic field getting far less exposure to the public. While this trend may not over hold over time, it should bolster the argument of those wanting a better Democratic debate schedule. It also suggests that the central rationale the DNC is using to stubbornly stick to a clearly inferior schedule cannot be backed up by data, or frankly, common sense.
Monday, 10/19 Update - A new CNN poll finds more evidence of impact (or lack of evidence of negative impact) of the early debates. At this point Rs are more enthusiastic about voting next year, with 86% showing enthusiasm, 68% higher levels of enthusiasm and 12% not. Dems are 80, 58, 21. While the differences are not great, it reinforces the need to more aggressively engage Democrats, improve the standing of its candidates.
After more than a year and a half at NDN, working both as Assistant to the President and an Economic Policy Analyst, I am moving onto a new role on Capitol Hill.
It has truly been a pleasure to work and learn under Simon's leadership as well as with Alex, Brandon, Dr. Shapiro, Morley, Andres and many other partners and friends. From the early days helping out on the Central American Migrant Crisis to Political Reform, economic updates, events with DHS on immigration actions and border security to working with USTR on the digital economy, my time at NDN has been filled with exposure to new policy ideas and interesting people.
I am fortunate to have met many of you through our events, and I hope to stay in touch in the years ahead. It has been great working closely with some of you and learn about your own policy passions and the stories of how you came to work in Washington.
Thanks especially to Simon for his continued guidance and support. It has been a lot of fun over the past year, and I look forward to working with you all in the future.
The best way to remain in touch is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who Did Well - I think Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley accomplished their missions last night. With a commanding performance, Clinton re-asserted herself in a campaign where she has been far too often been on the defensive. As many have noted, she did a great deal to calm nerves about her recent decline, and reminder all of us why she has been so admired for so long. Sanders had a strong performance, crossing a threshold of credibility for more skeptical insiders and the press. Post debate focus groups and social media tracking indicated he may have gained more ground than Clinton, but certainly reinforced that he a good night in his first national debate.
O’Malley did all he could do in a single debate – held his own with Clinton and Sanders. Will be interested to see if he can pick up a few points in the next few weeks. Assume he will need to do keep his campaign funded and alive. Not sure how Webb and Chafee stay in the race much longer, and will be interesting to see how the next round of debates set their criteria for participation. Far less qualified and accomplished GOPers like Christie and Huckabee have hung around for months long after it was clear they had no shot so who knows….
All in all Hillary had a big night with insiders, the media, her own supporters and staff. Given the breadth of her support even if she just shored up what she already had, and got her supporters and team fired up it will be a big accomplishment. Sanders seemed to do better with voters themselves but let’s see what the polls show in the coming weeks.
One additional thing both Sanders and Clinton did through their strong performances was make it harder for the Vice President to enter the race. I’ve been pretty vocal that I both hoped he would enter the race, and that if he did he needed to do so by this debate. We will see what happens in the next few weeks but it is possible the Vice President’s window has closed, as he will now have to beat both Clinton and a far stronger than imagined Sanders.
I also agree with the many who have opined that the serious discussion by serious people about serious things we all saw last year provided a powerful contrast with the nuttier GOP field, something that was good for all Democrats.
What’s Next? Iowa - If Clinton can win Iowa, she has a significant chance to bring this race to an early end. Sanders is leading in New Hampshire and is competitive in Iowa. If he wins both early states he will become a formidable candidate in the next round no matter what happens in Nevada and South Carolina. And while he may not win he could end up extending this race till the late spring and anything can happen the longer we go. But if Clinton goes in and wins in Iowa, given her revitalized campaign and strength in the next set of states, she could functionally end this thing there. So look for a great deal of intensity now to shift to Iowa, a state where a candidate like Sanders could do very well. Lots of Iowa activity in the coming weeks – the all important Jefferson Jackson day dinner and the second Democratic debate. All going to be consequential.
The Debate Debate – While the audience for the debate last night was good – 15m – it was far less than either of the first two GOP debates each of which attracted over 23m people. Assuming these viewership numbers hold, the 11 GOP debates will be seen by about 260m people. The 6 Democratic debates will be seen by 92m. And given how many Democratic debates are on the weekends and that one is in Spanish, the number could be much lower. This gap is almost 200m debate views – simply an extraordinary and dangerous number for the Democrats. In a new piece I lay out some ideas on how the DNC can close the gap, both by improving the debate schedule and taking other steps.
But one thing Democrats have to stop saying, and believing, is this additional exposure a superior RNC debate schedule will provide their candidates is somehow good for Democrats. As of today, there isn’t a single recent poll showing Clinton or Sanders definitely ahead of a fringey GOP field after these last few months of dominant GOP media coverage. In fact one could argue there is more data showing these debates are helping the GOP field as intended - recent polls show the GOP field outperforming the overall GOP brand which remains far less popular than the Democrats. Which one would expect from the unbalanced coverage of the last few months. Press, attention, free media matters. Sort of a campaign 101.
And friends, if impressions didn’t matter, why would advertisers the world over pay millions of dollars to buy advertising to get these kind of impressions being offered to the Democrats for free? It is long past time for the DNC to take decisive action to close this dangerous free media gap. And given how serious and thoughtful the debate was, creating more opportunities for the contrast with far more feckless GOP would seem be a strategic imperative now. Particularly as this was the only Democratic debate of the entire primary season in prime time, during the week, in English with a modern media partner.
The State of the GOP – The most interesting question about 2016 now may be can any of the top GOPers unite a fractured party next year? The struggle to replace Boehner mirrors the GOP Presidential dilemma– a deeply fractured party, without leaders strong enough to bring the factions together. It is hard for me to see how any of the top tier GOP Presidentials now will be strong enough to bring this party together next year. When I discuss this with others, people often site Rubio as the one most likely to be able to pull it off if he wins. But I just have a hard time believing after all the anti-immigrant and Hispanic rhetoric of the last few months this GOP will turn over the keys to a guy who may look and sound like “one of them.”
The deeply divided and weakly led GOP is becoming one of the most important early 2016 dynamics to watch.
The Rise of the Reactionaries - What a week. The GOP repudiation of its establishment – something evident in the Presidential – has gone to a whole new level now. This dynamic may be the most important early dynamic in the 2016 cycle so far. And with all sorts of important work to do in Congress – a budget, debt ceiling, TPP, Ex-Im, transportation/infrastructure, the Middle East, immigration reform – there isn’t going to be a honeymoon for the new Speaker and House GOP leadership team. Be sure to read my long form magazine piece on what is driving the rise of reactionary politics inside the GOP.
Polling – No significant shifts this week. Trump and Carson still stand atop the GOP field, with Bush showing continued weakness and everyone else fighting to get in the game. On the Dem side, the story remains Bernie Sanders’ very strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire and his ability to match Clinton on money. Clinton still holds a strong national lead among Democrats and has established what some consider a firewall in South Carolina and Nevada. While I am not a big believer in political firewalls, her strength and Sander’s weakness in these late February states is meaningful.
The Democrats Debate – The 1st Democratic debate is tomorrow, Tuesday October 13th on CNN at 9pm. Be sure to watch and encourage everyone you know to do so too. Clearly will be a big moment in the campaign. I offered some thoughts on how the Democrats can improve their debate schedule and close the gap with the GOP in a new op-ed here. Also recommend this new piece from Greg Sargent on why it is time for the Vice President to make his decision.
HRC and TPP – At this point, I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s opposition to TPP will make a big difference in what is likely to be a spring vote. The Dems who supported TPA are likely to hold, though her opposition may make it harder for the President to pick up support in his own party. The real question now is how the new anti-establishment dynamic affects the GOP and their ability to work with the President in a Presidential election year.
The five year long effort to update and modernize the global trading system through the innovative Trans-Pacific Partnership took a giant step forward on Monday with the announcement of a final deal. This was a huge accomplishment for the Obama Administration and USTR Mike Froman. Now comes debate over the terms of the deal in the 12 countries, including our own. Our assumption is that the vote in the US will come in the spring of 2016, giving the American people and its leaders six full months to debate the deal. We will be gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious but meaningful debate - saddle up NDNers! For more from us, see this new TPP "Backgrounder" we've put together, and for a deeper dive you can see me on what was a terrific panel discussion on Wednesday at the Washington International Trade Association. Of note in that package is the two polling presentations - well worth a review.