The National Journal has a fantastic article off its front page called “Follow The Money” that analyzes the record-breaking amount of money spent on TV ads in the 2006 cycle. The article is only available to subscribers so we will tease a bit of it for you to taste. The lede goes like this:
If couch potatoes thought that they were hit with an unusually high number of campaign ads in 2006, it's probably because they were. Analysts are reporting record spending on TV advertising during the midterm cycle. But perhaps more notable than the bombardment of ads was the rise of new strategies that helped candidates target voters more effectively, thus earning them more bang for their buck.
Total spending on broadcast TV political advertising surged to more than $2.1 billion in 2006, a $1 billion increase from the 2002 midterm election cycle, Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence recently told AdWeek. A report by the non-partisan research firm PQ Media also found that political advertising hit a new record in 2006, fueled by the number of competitive races. TV "[a]dvertising expenditures will account for 69 percent of all political media spending in 2006, up from 67.5 percent in 2004," the report states.
The sheer numbers ($2.1 billion) and percentages (69 percent of all media spending) show how important it is to make sure progressives develop the best possible strategies to maximize their impact in this still critical television space. And the bulk of the piece explained how the shift to cable television buys is a central part of those new strategies.
This is something that the New Politics institute has been championing for the last year, most notably in our New Tools campaign in the fall. Our Buy Cable memo made the rounds during the fall and may have made some difference in changing habits, though there still is a long way to go. From the article:
The PQ Media report found that broadcast TV remains the dominant medium for political advertising and "will command the largest share of political media spending in 2006" with 50 percent. That is still lower than 2004, however, when campaigns spent about 53 percent of advertising expenditures on broadcast TV, and from 2002, when they spent 56 percent.
The whole piece is anchored by an extended quote from the NPI Buy Cable memo that sums up the trend:
"Advertising across an entire media market is a little like hammering a nail with a sledgehammer," a report [PDF] by the New Politics Institute, an offshoot of the Democratic group NDN, suggests. The report estimates that viewers of an ad for a New Jersey Senate candidate on Philadelphia broadcast TV will be viewed by almost three times as many voters in Pennsylvania and Delaware as in New Jersey. The report goes on to note that "cable allows you to ensure that almost all of your advertising dollars go into the targeted state or district -- in some cases down to the precinct or zip code."
Obama in '08? While we're all tempted to take the results of our jump to conclusion mat to heart, we shouldn't assume anything about Senator Barack Obama's political aspirations. Yet it's pretty hard not to after the Senator presented his plans for troop withdrawal in Iraq. Taking a somewhat firm approach today during his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Sen. Obama said:
I have long said that the only solution in Iraq is a political one ... the days of asking, urging and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end. No more coddling, no more equivocation.
For those of you who need a refresher, Sen. Obama opposed the war before it started. (Also watch this where he discusses Iraq at a Town Hall meeting earlier this year.)
This piece from The New York Times (also pasted below) offers a look at how approaching comprehensive immigration reform, an issue on which NDN has been a leading voice, has potentially found new life.
Signs of Hope on Immigration
The political earthquake in Washington has knocked loose some of the big obstacles to fixing the immigration system. A decent solution is now there for the taking, if President Bush and the newly Democratic Congress are willing to grab it.
It won’t be easy. Some of the debate’s loudest shouters, liars and dead-horse beaters were ushered by voters from the room — people like J. D. Hayworth and Randy Graf in Arizona, John Hostettler in Indiana and Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. But the public is still in a prickly mood. All those shrill Republican ads about Mexicans stealing your Social Security failed as an electoral strategy, but that doesn’t mean politicians always lose by being immigration hawks. Voters approved tough ballot measures. In Arizona, they made English the official language and restricted illegal immigrants’ ability to sue, receive bail and qualify for benefits.
And except for the losers on the border-fixated fringe, not many in the restrictionist camp seem particularly chastened by the election. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, an opponent of the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate this year, won his race, as did several new Democrats who ran as immigration hard-liners. Local lawmakers in Texas and other states are still going after illegal immigrants with fervor.
The roots of a divisive, grinding immigration debate have not gone away. But it is crucial that the Democrats find their voice. The effort to revive immigration reform should start in the Senate. There is a decent bill under the barnacled hulk of legislation that passed the Senate last May. It used to be called McCain-Kennedy, before other senators tacked on tough-posing amendments that made it fundamentally unworkable and unjust. The Senate should strip those away, like the ones that divide immigrants into three arbitrary tiers of worthiness and needlessly force those seeking legal status to trek to a border state to apply for it.
The principles that guided the original McCain-Kennedy bill are those that should guide the coming reform effort: laws should be enforced at the border and workplace, fairly and evenhandedly; temporary worker programs must not be used to create a permanent official underclass; and any reform must be designed to work and not just create another smothering bureaucracy.
Immigration remains a high-voltage issue that Congress may be too timid or distracted to touch. The new Democratic leaders, including Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, have conspicuously not listed immigration among their most urgent priorities. Even Senator John McCain, who is an architect of the most reasonable bill out there but also has presidential primaries on his mind, spent a lot of time this fall stumping for misguided restrictionists like Mr. Graf. We hope he and his moderate colleagues have the integrity to honor their sensible immigration views now that the dismal ’06 campaign is done.
Many voters who scorned Republicans over immigration reacted as you would expect them to after being mocked and exploited by a party that elevated the issue into an urgent crisis and then offered nothing to solve it but faux hearings, strident campaign ads and a pretend fence. The same fate may await any Democrats who posture, deceive and dawdle over immigration reform in the next Congress.
On Saturday the New York Times ran an op-ed from a Duke professor named David Rohde which ran hard against the early conventional wisdom coming from the elections:
..."THE midterm elections have been widely viewed as a sudden change of direction, with Democrats seizing the wheel from Republicans. While that may be true, the big electoral news — news that has gone largely unnoticed — is this: After decades of weakness, after sideswipes from independent candidates, the two major parties are back. Indeed, they are more potent and influential than at any time in the past century."
There are really two pieces to this argument. The first is the role of the Parties themselves in relation to other organizations and leaders in the political firmament. I will not tackle that argument today, though I do agree with him, and a lot of it has to do with the way the internet allows people to have a much more intimate and direct relationship with their parties. What I do want to write about is a related trend, the increased partisanship of the electorate.
In the last two elections, 2004 and 2006, 74% of all voters identified themselves as a partisan, either a Republican or Democrat. Only a quarter, 26 percent, identified themselves as independent. These ratios did not change from 2004 to 2006.
In 2004 37% of the electorate described themselves as Democrat, the same Republican. In 2006 Democrats picked up a point as a share of the electorate, Republicans lost a point, leaving it 38D/26I/36R. Remarkably stable ratios given that the vote changed from 51/48 R to 52/46 D.
The early storyline then is that the shift from 2004 to 2006 came about from how independents swung. They did swing 17 points, from 48R/49D to 39R/57D. But a far greater shift happened inside the two parties, where there was an 8 point shift within the Democratic electorate, and a 4 point shift inside the Republican electorate, or a total of a 12 point shift. The Democratic vote went from 89/11 to 93/7, and the Republican vote 93/6 to 91/8.
While less in percentage terms this 12 point shift happened in what is 3/4 quarters of the electorate, and this 18 point shift happened in what is 1/4 of the electorate. So this means a far greater number of votes shifted in the last two years between and among the parties than shifted with independents - meaning that Democrats owe their victory much more to gains with Democratic and Republican partisans than they do to the gains they made with independent voters.
This reduced role for independents was evident even in 2004. John Kerry did what every Democrat was told was necessary to do win the Presidency - he won independents - and yet he still lost the election. Why? Because the Rove machine pushed the percentage of the electorate that was Republican to an all time high, 37%, equalling the Democratic share, and they kept 93% of these Republicans. Kerry while winning independents, only won 89% of Democrats. This difference - between Rove's 93 and Kerry's 89 within their own parties - cost Kerry the election.
Tim Kaine, writing about his impressive win in Virginia in 2005 in the DLC's magazine recently, described his "Democrats first" strategy, one that seems very much in touch with the notion that winning elections in this more partisan era starts first with expanding and holding one's own partisans:
"Just as Warner had done in 2001, I had to accomplish three things to win in a red state. First, I had to find and energize Democratic voters. Second, I had to share my story with the voters. Third, I had to reach out to independent and Republican voters in a strategic way. And that's exactly what we did."
I'm in no way suggesting that winning with independents was not an important part of how Democrats won in 2006. Of course the big swing with independents was impressive and critical. But with so few people considering themselves independents these days, we have to be careful not to overstate their impact. It is clear from the exit poll data of the last two years that what has been far more important in determining the outcomes of the two elections is what has happened within and between the two parties, which is today about three-quarters of all voters.
Additionally, Democrats should not discount the power of what Rove, Mehlman and his team did and have left behind. Despite their epic collapse this year, the Republicans only lost a single point of market share as a percentage of the electorate, and today almost 40 percent more Americans consider themselves Republicans than independents, an historically very high number. As Mehlman said after the 2004 elections, they spent a great deal of money persuading Republicans to vote and to vote Bush. Their "Republicans first" strategy was actually very successful in many ways, as this investment they made in creating more Republican voters has changed the nature of the American electorate, dimished the influence of traditonal independents, and has indeed made more Republicans than there used to be.
The problem they had this year wasn't these voters becoming independents and fleeing the party, which one would have expected. They may have voted Democrat this time, but in this year's exits they still consider themselves Republicans. To repeat, independents did not gain a single point as a share of the electorate despite the tremendous collapse of the Republican brand.
Update: Blogger James Hupp has challenged my math in a new post. He was right about one thing, I had the change in independents to be at 18% when it was 17%. I changed that above (thanks James). But in reviewing his calculations, his raw numbers still indicate what I wrote above: it still seems that a 12 point net shift in 74% of the electorate is greater than a 17 point net shift in 26% of the electorate (add the two point net shift for Democrats and away from Republicans) Hey, if I am wrong with my numbers here I will chuck it. In reviewing his math this morning am still not convinced (and James of course I had these numbers weighted - a little unfair there. If we can talk of a 17 point shift with indies you can talk 12 with partisans). Open to your thoughts.
Another in a long line of pieces about the Republican meltdown with Latinos, and the role immigration played in bringing it about.
Update: the Manhattan Institute's Tamar Jacoby weighs in through the LA Times with a similar message:
"ACROSS THE NATION, Republicans are asking what they did wrong in the 2006 midterms. This is a question with many answers. But few missteps were more foolish — and few will be harder to correct — than those made with Latino voters. The appointment this week of Cuban-born Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida to chair the Republican National Committee is a good way to make a new start. But the damage done in the last year goes deeper than symbolism, and it will take more than one appointment to undo it."
Although the Republican implosion was the main reason for the Democrat landslide, Pelosi deserves partial credit for the result. First, she instilled discipline. An old American bumper sticker joke is “I’m not a member of a political organisation. I’m a Democrat.” Pelosi has gone some way to squashing this stereotype. A study by Congressional Quarterly showed Democrats at their most united for 50 years. She has achieved this unity at least partly by frightening her party into line. Under her leadership, Democrats might not land many blows, but they make far fewer mistakes.
Second, she achieved the near impossible task of uniting her party on Iraq. The war presented Pelosi with a dilemma. She voted against it. But her lack of credibility on military matters meant that she could not argue for withdrawal without playing into Republican hands. She cleverly got around this by using Congressman John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran, to make the case for withdrawal. She also managed to hammer out an uneasy truce among her colleagues. Democrats would go into the election arguing for “strategic redeployment.” The policy was close to meaningless. But when Iraq began to deteriorate over the summer, Democrats were just unified enough to take advantage.
Third, Pelosi successfully denied the Republicans victories. Most important was the 2005 battle over social security. Bush had made reform of America’s state pension system a signature issue. Pelosi spearheaded a smart fightback. She cannily mixed denials that the system was broken with a campaign to scare American OAPs about Bush’s plan. This ruthlessness was evident elsewhere, not least in her approach to corruption. When the FBI found $90,000 in the freezer of a prominent congressional Democrat, Pelosi quickly fired him. Such decisiveness surprised her colleagues and helped insulate her party from the charges of sleaze besetting the Republicans. It also meant that Democrats could take full advantage of the Foley scandal, a major tipping point in the campaign cycle.
(As ever, this is not to be taken as NDN's view - merely my own musings.)
Be sure to read this e-mail Simon just sent out - there's a ton of good stuff in it. (Note: this can also be found in memo form on the NDN website here)
We’ve all had a week to think about it, and there is now little question that 2006 was an historic event. It doesn’t matter if you call it a wave or a thumpin. This election now takes its place alongside the other the game-changing elections in our nation’s recent history: 1994, 1980, 1974, 1964 and even 1932.
Here at NDN we’ve been thinking a lot about how to think about what just happened, as I’m sure you have too. To help make better sense of this historic event, I wanted to send along a compilation of all the four key documents we have put out, trying to contextualize and explain the magnitude of last week’s events.
My initial narrative, highlighting a “day of reckoning” and discussing the end of the generation-long conservative ascendancy, along with a second piece on the same theme.
Our post-election analysis, highlighting some of and the practical reality that the Republicans are no longer America’s dominant party.
An analysis of the importance that the economy played in the victory, and the clear mandate for economic action that follows from this.
A memo outlining the strategic importance of our victory, and the republican failure, in the year long battle over immigration.
We also recommend the following essays that you might find helpful - some of the best analysis on the elections from friends in the progressive family.
NPI fellow Joe Trippi in the Washington Post talking about an election that kicked "open the door to a new era in American politics."
Matt Bai, of the New York Times, in a preview of an essay to come out this Sunday, on the "last election of the 20th century."
John Podesta, of the Center for American Progress, gives his view on the impact of the election for the conservative movement.
Bruce Reed, head of the DLC, gives his thoughts on the election, and our lame duck president, in his columns over at Slate.
Tom Schaller’s post-election analysisfrom The American Prospect (here and here).
Ezra Klein, at The American Prospect, rebutting the notion that last week’s elections were a victory for conservatives.
The website immigration2006 to get an even more in depth look at how immigration played in the election.
Our government was designed to be a contentious, dynamic, messy, ineffecient thing. A system where people with diverse views could come together, debate, argue and hash out a rough consensus on the best course for the nation. By designing a system that allocated power in such a diffuse manner, our Founding Fathers respected the rights of an individual, and protected these rights. To work, our government requires a diversity of views, and requires that those views are not transformed or subsumed into a single national path. Tolerance, an early and vital American ethic, becomes the paramount ethic for leaders in such a system and for the system itself to succeed.
To succeed in such a system, a political party must then best understand how to encourage and manage diversity, finding again and again a dynamic and ever changing consensus on the major issues of the day. To that end Steny Hoyer's election as majority leader seems to be a good thing.
The new Democratic Congressional Majority is a diverse lot. There is great generational, regional, racial, ethnic, gender, and ideological diversity in this new group. There is no "majority way." There are liberals, blacks, moderates, Hispanics, conservatives, Southerners, Mormons, moderates, Westerners, business people, Midwesterners, farmers, Asians, cityfolk, Northeasterners, ranchers, surburbanites, Catholics, immigrants, vets, countryfolks, the first woman Speaker and even a Muslim. Sure sounds like 21st century America to me.
From this diverse Party, The Democratic Congressional Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will have to craft a rough consensus of the major issues of the day. But this is what our system requires - negotiated and hard fought settlements. The more diverse Nancy's leadership team is the more likely they will be able to manage this process of finding rough consensus in Congress, something the Republicans were so unable to do. Wherever you came down on the Murtha/Hoyer battle, it feels to me as if the Hoyer win was somehow the best outcome for a Party right now that has no settled path forward on the big issues of the day, but will have to hash them out, together, in a respectful way, in the days and months ahead. Having Steny there, who clearly comes from a different part of the Party then Nancy, will make it much more likely that the Democratic rough consensus is more representative, and thus more durable, than perhaps it would have been under a Murtha tenure.
As America itself grows more racially and ethnically diverse, this capacity to show tolerance, manage diversity and find consensus will become even more essential for political success. The events of this week show the Democrats seem comfortable with this type of the politics, the Republicans not. Their new RNC Chairman, a minority himself, is lambasted for his support of immigration reform, and Trent Lott, a leader with a history of racism, is elevated up in his Party. As we move further into the 21st century, it is increasingly clear that this comfort with diversity - ideological, regional, ethnic, racial, generational and gender - will be one of the Democratic Party's greatest stengths.