Events of recent weeks have changed the outlook for 2008.
On the Republican side, Frist and Allen have been very damaged. Many of the other leading candidates - Romney, Guliani, Gingrich - have significant problems. And their frontrunner, John McCain, has been damaged by his embrace of the President's failed policy in Iraq, the issue that is causing the GOP so much trouble. McCain has also been weakened in the Republican Primary universe, as his championing of immigration reform has made him unacceptable to a sizeable part of a the electorate he needs to win his nomination. Their frontrunner and field look much less formable then a few days ago.
On the Democratic side, Warner's exit and Kerry's stumbles have opened the door for Barack Obama much wider. If he gets in, the Democratic field all of a sudden looks much more interesting, dynamic and stronger than the weakened Republican field.
In terms of the electoral college, the Dems have significantly strengthened their national position. They have deepened their hold on their base in the northern part of the country. Ohio, the most important swing state in the country, has swung wildly towards the Democrats. More gains will be made in the West, a region of the country trending much more Democrat. In the West, immigration has dramatically alienated Lations from the Republicans, further pushing states like AZ, CO, NM and NV towards the Democrats.
Looking ahead to 2008, I think it is fair to say that Democrat's chances have significantly improved in recent weeks, and the big loser of the night is John McCain.
Here's information from a chart that GOP insiders...are using as a cheat sheet:
Eight in the most likely gone category: PA-7, Weldon, OH-18, Ney open, IN-8, Hostettler, CO-7 Beauprez open, AZ-8, Kolbe open, NY-24, Boehlert open, PA-10, Sherwood, CT-4, Shays.
Eight in the expect to lose most of these unless something changes: TX-22, DeLay open, NC-11, Taylor (chart notes unfavorable trend in this race), IN-9, Sodrel, IN-2, Chocola (chart notes a favorable trend), FL-16, Foley open, OH-15, Pryce, PA-6, Gerlach, NH-2, Bass (unfavorable trend).
Here's the press realease from NCLR. It mentions immigration2006, which NDN is greatly involved with:
IMMIGRATION ISSUE DRIVING LATINOS TO THE POLLS, NEW SURVEY FINDS
Washington, DC – Half of Latino voters say they are "more enthusiastic" about voting this year than in previous elections, according to a new poll released today by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Seventy-five percent rated their interest in the election between 8 and 10, compared to 56% in a survey conducted in late September. The survey of 1,050 registered and likely voters, which has a margin of error of + or - 3.2%, was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies November 2-6.
"From all indications, Latinos are clearly fired up about the 2006 election. And this poll bears out what previous elections have demonstrated - that while immigration is not the Latino community's greatest concern, the issue continues to be its greatest motivator," noted Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO.
The survey found that education, the economy and jobs, and the war in Iraq continue to be the top concerns for Latinos, in that order. Yet, while only 9% ranked immigration as their top concern, a majority of Latinos (51%), including half of young voters, reported that immigration was the most important or one of the most important issues in deciding their vote.
"This poll shows that attempts to use immigration as a wedge issue in this election will backfire. All of the evidence suggests that candidates' positions on immigration will not make a difference with the vast majority of mainstream voters (see, for example, www.immigration2006.org), but will have a profound influence on whom Latinos will vote for today," stated Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund.
Among its findings, the survey notes the key role that Spanish-language media and nonpartisan voter mobilization efforts are playing in Get Out the Vote efforts. About half of Latino voters overall and nearly half of young Latino voters 18-24 years old have heard ads or programs on radio or television urging them to vote or to get involved politically. Most Latinos also report being contacted about voting and the election, but only about one-third recalled being contacted by either political party. "Clearly, the work of our community and dozens of other organizations is being felt at the grassroots level," said Vargas.
The survey results also suggest strong linkages between likely voters and participants in the marches and rallies last spring in support of immigration reform, especially among young Latino voters. Nearly a third (29%) of voters overall and nearly half (45%) of young voters said that they, a family member, or close friend participated in the marches.
"This extraordinary level of participation confirms that interest in the rallies and marches spread far beyond the immigrant community. That, coupled with the survey's findings of strong and growing interest among Latinos in the election, should come as a warning to those elected officials who believe that immigrant bashing is a strategy without consequence," said Murguía, adding, "Not only has that strategy been rebuffed by the broader American electorate, but Latinos are taking notice of politicians willing to malign their community just to get elected."
One of the themes that is likely to be discussed over the next few days is the rise of Democrats in the West. Progressive with a libretarian streak, these Democrats are rapidly breaking the Republican hold on the West, and that red-to-blue trend should continue tonight, as reported by the Boston Globe:
...demographic changes have shifted the political landscape in a region that was long considered rock-red Republican.
Western Democrats pointed to House races and statewide races in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and even Wyoming that are unexpectedly competitive, given the GOP's traditional strength in the region.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been forced to make appearances for candidates in four Western states where GOP victories were considered almost assured earlier this year. Denver is a finalist to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and Western lawmakers believe the Mile-High City will win the competition if Colorado elects a Democratic governor today.
"Colorado is definitely moving from a red state to a short stop at purple, and it's conceivably going to be a blue state" after today's elections, said Floyd Ciruli , an independent pollster based in Denver. Demographic changes and frustration over the war in Iraq "are all contributing to what looks like a really historic transformation here."
For all of you searching the internet for exit polls, you're probably wondering where all the data is. Rest assured - not even Drudge has it. The LA Times has a very interesting piece on how networks are approaching exit polling this time around.
Sorry I couldn't come up with a Z word. But If you're getting tired of pacing and biting your nails waiting for election returns, here are some of the political ads that stood out this year. Also make sure to read James Crabtree's picks in the Guardian.
It's been a landmark year in political advertising, with new approaches taken to breaking through the media clutter and connecting to voters. Sure, there were plenty of grainy attack ads that made the usual distortions and took words and votes out of context. There were also soft-focus bio spots with uplifting music that showed candidates with any combination of children/men in hard hats/senior citizens /their families, etc. But what made this cycle of political advertising stand out was the new wave of political ads that Simon described as "more real, more intimate, more authentic."
Here is my personal and incomplete (especially since it barely touches on the rise of YouTube and viral video) list of some of the best, worst and most original ads of 2006:
Jon Tester is Montana, from his haircut to his boots. And his early ad "Haircut" made that very clear. Republicans hit back immediately, but the MDP's response to the response was definitive and effective.
Elliot Spitzer (up by dozens of points in the polls) made the obvious choice to run a positive campaign.
Bill Richardson also faces token opposition, but he went in a little zanier direction.
I really enjoyed Arkansas Gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe's first two campaign ads, and anyone who thinks Democrats can't win in the South should watch them. The first has Beebe talking into the camera about growing up in a single parent home. The connection between his mom waiting tables and the need for a raise in the minimum wage is heartfelt, convincing and puts him on the side of the little guy. He follows that by calling for the elimination of the highly regressive grocery tax, which is both good policy and a way to insulate himself against charges of being a high-tax DemocratThe second Beebe ad has the best soundtrack of finger-pickin' bluegrass guitar this cycle. Maybe it's the only ad with bluegrass music this cycle, but it works, with Beebe again looking straight into the camera and talking about his support for gun rights.
Republican Kerry Healy in MA took a page from the Lee Atwater handbook and ran a really despicable ad intended to scare Bay Staters into not voting for Deval Patrick. Maybe her team didn't realize that while the "Willie Horton" ads may have contributed to Michael Dukakis' defeat in 1988, he still won Massachusetts.
In Tennessee, Harold Ford defined himself before his opponent could with an ad on faith. The RNC responded with the now infamous "Call Me" ad. Watch it and decide if the obvious race-baiting was even the most effective part of the ad. If nothing else, "Call Me" further tarred Ken Mehlman's reputation, since just a year ago he apologized for the Republican Southern strategy and promised an end to racial politics. He also told Tim Russert that as RNC chair he had no control over the ad and could not pull it. That gives Ken Mehlman the trifecta of lying, being hypocritical and straining credulity. His reward: a hilarious spoof on the “Call Me” ad, referencing the rumors about his sexuality.
Michael Steele's "Puppy" ad in Maryland was one of the most creative of the year and helped him reinvent himself as an independent candidate. We'll know how effective the Democratic response was sometime tonight.
Desperate Republicans like Colorado Congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell tried to make illegal immigration a campaign issue. For more on how demonizing Hispanics worked out, visit www.immigration2006.org.
The Republican Party made one final attempt to use the scare tactics of '02 and '04 in this election with their ticking time bomb ad.
A handy map from The Swing State Project lists when polls close. (All times are EST.) This morning's post says we might have a sense of the results early. But, on the other hand, there is no national poll that will be a good guide to the House races. And my colleagues tell me that the LA Times recently wrote that all American pollsters are being held in a blackberry free basement to stop leaking, so we might not know until later. Who knows? Roll on 6pm.
I was 17 when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. Since then the great back story of American politics has been the ascendency of the conservative movement, and its ally, the Republican Party. One of the big questions we will all be talking about in the days to come will be whether or not this story of conservative ascendency has come to an end, and whether we are entering a new period in American history.
I believe we are.
The last 100 years of American politics can be put into three rough historical periods. Period 1 ran from TR to FDR, and was a battle for the mastery of a new reform-minded and modern politics eventually captured by the Democrats, and philosophically located squarely in the progressive camp. Period 2 was FDR to Reagan, and was an era of Democratic ascendency and consolidation of power, and a triumph of progressive values. Period 3, the conservative ascendency, began in 1980 and saw great triumph in 1994, and again in this decade. Today as a result of their recent success, the Republican Party and the conservative movement has more political and ideological control over the government than any time since the 1920s.
The question about conservatism has always been could it mature enough as a governing philosophy to replace 20th century progressivism, and provide America with a true alternative governing approach? I believe the Bush era has answered that question, and the answer is no. Given the extraordinary failure of conservative government to do the very basics - keeping us safe, fostering broad-based prosperity, protecting our liberties, balancing the books and not breaking the law - I think history will label this 20th century conservatism a success as a critique of 20th century progressivism, but a failure as a governing philosophy. It never matured into something more than an ivory-tower led and Limbaugh-fed correction to a progressivism that had lost its way.
Despite the many billions spent in building this modern conservative movement, history will label it a grand and remarkable failure. And I think we will look back at 2006 as the year this most recent period of American history - the conservative ascendency - ended.
So like two heavy weight boxers stumbling into the 15th round of a championship fight, the two great ideologies of the 20th century stumble, exhausted, tattered and weakened, into a very dynamic and challenging 21st century. My own belief is that this next American era will not be one dominated by these two exhausted ideologies of the past, but will be a battle for the mastery of a new, as yet unarticulated 21st century governing approach suited to the challenges we face today and built around the media and people of our time. The core direction of this battle is not the left-right one fought at the end of the last century, but will be more about forward and backward. Meaning that the way we will have to measure progress from now on is to look at how a party or ideological movement captures the three main dimensions of this emergent, post-liberal/conservative politics of our day - a new governing agenda capable of tackling the challenges of our time, and new political arrangements built around the emergent media and people of the 21st century.
I believe 2006 will become known as the year American conservatism reached its peak, and our 20th century politics fought one its very last battles. The future will belong to those who master this "new politics" of the 21st century. Friends, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that it is our movement, and our values, that leave these old and tired battles behind and get about mastering this new politics of the 21st century.
For a video presentation of about this idea of the "new politics," visit our New Politics Institute site at http://www.newpolitics.net.