Republicans

Donald Trump’s Chutzpah: His Tax Plan Doubles Down on Inequality and Gives His Own Company a Huge Tax Windfall

Donald Trump, often a master of snide generalities, has been very precise about not only his plans for undocumented immigrants and Obamacare, but also his approach to taxes. The presumptive GOP nominee has laid out detailed proposals to cut tax rates, expand the standard deduction, and sharply shift the approach to business taxes. I’ve reviewed his proposals, and the conclusions are sobering. For a starter, Trump’s tax cuts are so expansive, they would decimate either the federal budget or the U.S. credit rating. Moreover, the GOP “populist” channels most of the benefits from his tax cuts to the country’s wealthiest individuals and businesses. So, Trump characteristically doubles down on the Democrats’ central meme of income inequality, and ensures that one of the biggest winners would be the Donald himself, through a giant tax windfall for The Trump Organization, LLC and other privately-held enterprises.

Just to begin, Trump’s proposals are wildly reckless as fiscal policy. According to the Tax Policy Foundation, a joint enterprise of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, Trump’s tax plan would gut federal revenues by $9.8 trillion over 10 years. In 2020, his plan would reduce personal income tax revenues by $695 billion or more than 36 percent, and gut corporate income tax revenues by $196 billion or 50 percent. All told, the revenue losses under Trump’s plan in 2020 come to $915 billion, equal to all defense spending projected for that year ($570 billion), plus 44 percent of all Social Security retirement benefits in 2020 ($793 billion) . If Trump wants to finance his tax plans by borrowing instead of cutting spending, he should know that such a large, additional burden on credit markets would push up interest rates and slow growth, and likely trigger a U.S. debt crisis.

Turning to the details, one feature of Trump’s plan that would help some middle-class Americans is his proposal to expand the standard deduction from $6,300 to $25,000 (singles) and from $12,600 to $50,000 (couples). His plan also simplifies and lowers marginal income tax rates to 10 percent, 20 percent, and 25 percent. But these changes provide nothing for the 45 percent of U.S. households with low or moderate incomes, because they are not liable today for any federal income tax.

Apart from the big standard deduction, Trump channels virtually all of his tax benefits to high income people and businesses. Trump’s plan would save an average household that pays income taxes $2,732 in 2017, mainly from the expanded standard deduction. Those in the 95th to 99th percentile, however, would save $27,657 in 2017, 10 times the benefits for an average taxpayer. Further, households in the top 1 percent would save $275,257 in 2017, 100 times the benefits for the average taxpayer. And those at the very top of the income ladder, the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of households including Donald Trump, would save $1,302,887 in 2017, or 480 times the benefits for average taxpayers.

These windfall gains are driven mainly by Trump’s proposals to reduce the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and slash taxes on businesses. So, Trump would cut the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. Trump’s enthusiasts will note that his business tax reforms include ending the right of U.S. multinationals to defer their U.S. tax on income earned abroad, much as President Obama has proposed. But only Trump would cut the U.S. corporate rate to 15 percent. Some 96 percent of the foreign income of U.S. companies is earned in countries that tax corporate income at rates of 15 percent or more, and those U.S. companies get U.S. tax credits for the taxes they pay abroad. So, under Trump’s 15 percent corporate tax rate, 96 percent of the foreign-source income of U.S. multinationals would be free of any U.S. tax – much more than under current law.

Trump provides equally large tax windfalls for non-corporate businesses such as LLCs and partnerships, which account today for more than half of U.S. business revenues and profits. Here, Trump appears to agree with Obama and Hillary Clinton about closing down the “carried interest” loophole, which taxes most of the income earned by hedge fund and private equity fund partners at the 23.8 percent capital gains rate. But Trump’s version of this reform is meaningless, because he also cuts the top tax rate for income earned in all “pass-through” entities such as hedge funds and private equity funds to 15 percent: So, they would pay even lower taxes under Trump’s plan than under the current, carried interest loophole.

That’s not even the worst of it: This 15 percent rate would apply not only to hedge funds and private equity funds, but to all partnerships and privately-held businesses, including the Koch Brothers’ companies and The Trump Organization, LLC. Instead of paying taxes at the current 39.6 percent top personal rate, or the current 23.8 percent capital gains rate, or even the 25 percent top personal rate under Trump’s plan, the Koch brothers, hedge fund partners and the Donald himself would pay 15 percent. Under Trump’s plan, he and his company would pay a lower tax rate than an average American earning $47,750 today. That’s chutzpah even for Donald Trump.

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.

Heading into Super Tuesday, Trump and Clinton Remain in the Driver’s Seat

This week’s Monday Musings memo finds Trump and Clinton still in the driver’s seat, with each appearing to have a very commanding lead in their Party’s fight for the nomination.  Both are doing well in the Super Tuesday states, and while neither may win every state it is hard to see how their current path to victory gets dramatically altered tomorrow.   Let's drill down a bit: 

Democrats – The most important polling we’ve seen these last few days is in Massachusetts, where two different polls in this Sanders must-win state show Clinton ahead.  If Clinton denies Sanders in CO, MA, MN and OK tomorrow very hard to see a path for victory for him, despite what is shaping up to be a record setting fundraising month for his spirited campaign.  Clinton continues to improve and grow on the stump, becoming ever more comfortable in the language and terrain of this challenging campaign in an unsettled time. 

An issue we’ve been raising for months – the enthusiasm gap – has gotten a bit more attention this week.  See this piece from Zach Carter in the Huffington Post, and this from Rachel Maddow.  Our latest debate audience tally has the GOP now at 158m for their ten debates, and the Dems at 55m for six.  The difference remains vast, and worrisome.    

Republicans – I move on this morning to the general election for a bit of a reality check on the Trump insurgency.   Using the 2012 Obama map as a guide, it shows how challenging it will be for Mr. Trump to win.  Assuming NY, NJ/New England and all the southwestern heavily Hispanic states remain out of reach for him (and that is without Arizona, which could be in play for Dems this time), he has to take 63 electoral college votes from either the 83 in IA, MI, OH, PA, VA, WI or the 112 if Florida is in play.  Of these states if Dems hold PA and FL, they only need to win one other of the five remaining states to win.  In some of these states there are 2016 specific winds blowing the Democrats’ way: in Michigan, the Flint water scandal has weakened the Governor and his party; in Wisconsin, the incumbent Senator Ron Johnson is being routed by his opponent Russ Feingold, and Scott Walker is no longer the same strong governor after his washout Presidential bid; in Pennsylvania, the Democrats were able to reclaim the governorship in 2014 and will have their convention there; and in Virginia, one knows that the current governor, Terry McAuliffe, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest allies, will move heaven, earth and maybe more to get Hillary elected (and there may be a Virginian on the ticket).  The path for Mr. Trump is challenging indeed.

It should also come as no surprise that when the choice for Republicans narrowed these three – a nationalistic Anglo and two Hispanics with recent immigrant roots – we discovered that the Hispanic candidates had a very low ceiling and the Anglo started grabbing most of the remaining outstanding votes.   Was just too much of a leap for a party that could produce Trump to end up going for Cruz, or Rubio, who has, so closely identified with his Hispanic immigrant roots. 

Another worry for the Republicans this fall is the unusual campaign Trump has run.  As he hasn’t raised money, put folks on the ground and bought television ads, he and his team will not have had the experience of working through all this in the primaries as most campaigns do.  It means that he if begins to put on the trappings of a traditional campaign, which one will assume he will need to do against the Democrats this fall, he will be doing it all for the first time, reducing his chances of doing it well.   Perhaps he can muscle through the general as he has the primary, but the Democratic Presidential machine has won more votes than the GOP 5 of the last 6 elections, is very modern and sophisticated, and has a built in electorate college advantage.  Trump's refusal to learn and build a traditional campaign apparatus means he will have fewer tools at his disposal in what will be a tough election this fall.  

Rubio and the "children of Reagan - In a 2014 post-election memo, I discussed the significance of the rise of the "children of Reagan" to national prominence in the GOP.  Marco Rubio has started using this phrase in his campaign, and even cut an ad with it last week.  Learn more about the idea behind the phrase here.  

A note on the coming “GOP crackup”- Last week I wrote about why the rise Trump should be no great surprise.  But I want to add one more observation to what is certainly one of the bigger stories in the campaign this year. 

Looking back over the past generation of American politics, perhaps the starkest difference between the two parties is that Democrats have produced two successful Presidents, and the GOP have given us what were in essence two failed Bush presidencies (we cover this in a different memo here).   There simply is far more reason for Republican voters to be angry at their establishment, for it has been almost 30 years since GOP voters have had a leader who they could be truly proud of; and in that time, the analysis goes, the failures of the GOP allowed the Democrats to bring far too much lasting change to the nation.   It is literally astonishing that in the past year the House Republicans deposed a Speaker who had given them their largest majority in almost 80 years, and that the three remaining Republicans in the Presidential have all run explicitly against a failed GOP establishment.  The “crack up” is much bigger than Trump, and where it goes and what it means very hard to tell right now.

Frankly, the nominees of both parties this time are going to have a harder time putting it all back together again than is typical in US politics. 

More on the2016 Map - The emerging 2016 map makes the Dems choice of Philadelphia for their convention look more prescient now, while strengthening the case for Senators Cory Booker and Tim Kaine for Vice President.  On the GOP side, the map suggests a northern Rustbelt or Florida VP strategy for Mr. Trump, putting Governors Christie, Kasich and Walker at the top of the list, with Senator Rubio perhaps a bit of a long shot.   Will be talking about this more in the months ahead. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   It also appears each week on the U.K. progressive site,Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.  

Rubio and the "The Children of Reagan"

In my 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call for Democrats," I wrote about the emergence of the "children of Reagan," a powerful new generation of elected officials rising on the right. Here is the excerpt:

"the scale of Republican success in recent years outside the Presidency has altered the balance between the two parties now, and may even leave the GOP a stronger national party than the Democrats over the next decade.

By power I mean all that comes with politics – strength of candidates, bench, staff and consultant talent, fundraising capacity, use of technology and of course control over government and policy. Part of what we are witnessing is the coming to power of the children of Reagan – forty something Gen Xers who came of age during the Reagan era. This age cohort is the most Republican of any age cohort in the US, meaning there are lots of them and they have a great deal of generational support for their politics. This generation of politicians is young, gaining in experience, and will be a force to be reckoned with in national and state politics for a generation to come. To regain power Democrats will have to take on and defeat this increasingly successful and energetic generation of politicians over the next decade, perhaps starting with the Presidential race in 2016 (Christie, Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Ryan, Walker)."

I've have discussed this idea, an extension of the generational theory work NDN has been involved with for more than a decade, many times in public, on TV and most recently in this interview with conservative author Matt Lewis.   So it was a bit of a surprise to hear one of the leaders of this new generation, Senator Marco Rubio, explicitly use this term this week, and even feature it in a new ad central to this next phase of the Presidential campaign.

To be fair, in cruising around the Internet I found a 2006 book by Hans Zeiger, "Reagan's Children," which may have first introduced this concept (trust me, never heard of it!). But however this phrase worked its way all the way to Marco Rubio's team, these "children of Reagan" have begun to make their mark in US politics and are primed to do so for decades to come.

Taking Trump Seriously

2/26/16 - The Washington Post's Greg Sargent refers to this memo in his very smart new piece on Christie's endorsement of Trump today.  It is very much worth a read. 

Some hastily tossed together observations the morning after Trump’s huge win in Nevada:

Strength of Reactionary Forces in GOP Not News – Hard to know the exact date when reactionary forces began to truly assert themselves in the modern GOP. You could argue these sentiments were there from the beginning, congealing around Nixon’s Southern Strategy and its response to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. You could point to 2005 and the emergence of the Minutemen, and the GOP House’s passing of the Sensenbrenner Bill, which called for the arrest and forced deportation of all 11m undocumented immigrants in the US. Perhaps it was in Barack Obama’s ascent to the Presidency in 2009 and the rise of the Tea Party. Or in 2015 with the forced abdication (self-deportation?) of Speaker Boehner just months after he gave the GOP their biggest House majority in 80 years. As I wrote in my long form magazine article in Letras Libres in late 2012, whatever date you cite you could see this descent of the modern GOP into a reactionary, angry mess coming for years now. What it lacked was a charismatic leader to pull it altogether from an inchoate jumble of grievances into a coherent, compelling argument and movement. Well in 2015 that leader emerged. Donald Trump.

But let’s be clear about one thing – if you don’t think exploitation of racial fear hasn’t been at the center of Republican politics for 50 years now, you just haven’t being paying attention. So Trump’s new found dominance in the GOP, particularly when his two remaining opponents, are, dare we say it – Hispanic! – should be no great surprise to anyone.

The Risks of Trump - The risks for the GOP in embracing Trump are most easily found in the new voter registration numbers in California. Twenty years after Pete Wilson took on the immigrants in California, the Republican Party is on its way to minor party status. Dems hold all statewide offices in California now and large majorities in both houses. By 2020 unaffiliated voters will outnumber Republicans, and for all intents and purposes the GOP will cease to exist in California. That this could be replicated across the country is of course the GOP’s nightmare scenario.

Will McConnell and Ryan Act Before the Trump Storm Hits? Will be interesting to see if GOP Congressional leaders move on a few important priorities for them - tax reform and TPP come to mind - prior to Trump assuming total control of the party this summer.

But Can He Win The General? – It is my belief that Democrats should be more worried than they are about Trump. The Rs are putting up big numbers with their debates and with turnout in the early states, indicating their voters are very excited and engaged. Democratic turnout and debate audiences so far are off their 2008 pace, and are trailing the Rs now. While early and not predictive, these are not good signs for Democrats.  

Will be possible perhaps for the Democrats to really motivate Hispanic, African-American, women and progressive voters scared of Trump this cycle, and if Obama plays the role Bill Clinton played in 2012, perhaps Millennials too. The Hispanic opening could cause the Democrats to go all out in Arizona and even Texas, and will be interesting to see how Florida breaks given Trump’s long presence there (and that many Hispanics there are not of Mexican descent and do not immigrate to the US). But the real demographic question is whether Trump can break through in the Rustbelt states that have been so critical to recent Dem Presidential victories but which have trended significantly towards the GOP in recent years. An early sign of this comes in the new Quinnipiac poll of bellwether Ohio which finds Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich all ahead of Hillary Clinton even while she holds a 15 point lead over Sanders in the Democratic Primary. My assumption is Trump will try to get a Kasich or Walker on the ticket with him, bringing on a well regarded Midwestern/Rustbelt GOP governor to double down on this regional approach, help with managing the government itself while reaching out to the more establishment parts of the GOP (who knows if any reasonable person will take the job).

The Broken System -  There are many different things going on with Trump, which is one of the reasons he is growing as he plows through the GOP primary.  Trump is no single issue candidate, and his "Make America Great Again" slogan is powerful and artfully integrated into his narrative. One strain of Trump that I think Democrats have to really come to understand better is his basic argument about he has gotten things done in the real world; that political elites are ineffective, corrupt and have left the nation down; and the system is so broken it needs an outsider "do guy" like him to come in and fix it.   Democrats should not underestimate the appeal of this argument, and it is one reason I've been so vocal about the Clinton campaign developing a more compelling narrative around how she is going to bring fundamental change to Washington.. The last three Democrats to get to the White House - Obama, Clinton and Carter - all ran against the system.  She will have to at some point too (and this does not mean distancing herself from Obama who is still in the high 40s and holding his own).  

Put me in the don’t keep underestimating Trump camp. My assumption is that he will make a very formidable candidate in the general election, and the demographic impact of his candidacy is not yet well understood. This thing could be a blowout for the Dems, and he could become the Pete Wilson of the national GOP. But sure would be a mistake to assume weakness now from him and not political acumen and strength. Could be that this time it is the Rs are who “fired up and ready to go.” For Democrats in 2016, it is far better to plan for the worst rather than hope for the best. Time to take Trump seriously. 

Apology to Sanders folks - I've written this piece as if Clinton will become the nominee.  I promise to write a new version with Sanders as the nominee after Super Tuesday if he can put up good numbers in CO, MA, MN and OK.  

My previous columns on 2016 can be found here. 

Trump and Clinton In The Driver's Seat

For this week's Monday Musings on 2016 column some initial thoughts on Saturday's contests in South Carolina and Nevada:

The Republicans – After strong wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Trump appears to be in control of the GOP race now. Yes, lots could happen, and Rubio continues to gain strength as the mainstream alternative, but Trump has emerged from this huge GOP scrum in better shape than anyone else. Compare his vote totals and shares at this point to the last two GOP nominees:

McCain '08: 251,840 (31.5% of total)

Romney '12: 294,616 (30.5% of total)

Trump '16: 385,684 (31.9% of total)

Yes, Trump has 50% more votes at this point than McCain did in 2008.

We have another GOP debate this Thursday, which will be one of the most intense yet. Everyone will be gunning for the Donald, and with fewer candidates on the stage more time will be spent on him.  It will be one of his most important tests to date.  Watch for how his opponents play his attacks on George W. Bush for not keeping us safe, an issue that I assume with continue to resonate and disrupt the GOP conversation even after Jeb's hasty departure from the race.

As for the departure of Jeb!, it was always a mystery to me how he thought he could overcome the legacy of his father and brother. Both in their own ways were failed Presidents, and certainly many Republicans saw them as unworthy successors to Ronald Reagan. Despite raising and spending extraordinary sums of money, the Bush dynasty failed to re-assert control over the GOP, for now (there is another – George P. Bush is rising in Texas and is worth watching). The epic Bush crash in some ways makes Hillary’s early success even that much more impressive, while being a reminder that unlike Bush, Clinton has been part of two successful Presidencies. 

The Democrats – Saturday was a big big day in Clinton land. The remarkable Sanders insurgency was halted, but importantly, not ended. After three early contests this long shot and eccentric campaign has earned the same number of pledged delegates as Clinton (51); received at least 47% of the vote in all three states which are also important battlegrounds in the general election; has matured in a serious national political effort capable of matching Clinton in organization and money and outperforming them in media and creativity.  So while Bernie clearly suffered a blow on Saturday, he isn’t done and will go on to the 20 states voting in early March.  But his task is much harder now, and he has little room for error in the days ahead. 

Starting with Hillary's New Hampshire concession speech and picking up over the past week, you could sense that the Clinton campaign had finally begun to rise to the Sanders challenge. After months of unmemorable media, the campaign has produced a series of powerful ads that present their candidate in a far more favorable light (my favorite). Clinton’s own television speeches and appearances have gotten far sharper and better. The campaign is aggressively deploying its many and varied surrogates, allowing them to be in more than one place at a time while reminding voters of the lack of validation and support Bernie has been able to garner (I helped develop and oversee the surrogate program in the 1992 campaign and know how historically important this has been to Clinton land). And clearly a lot went right on the ground in Nevada on Saturday (also see this terrific piece about Senator Harry Reid’s role in Clinton’s victory).

What comes next? Clearly Hillary is in the driver’s seat now. She is likely to win South Carolina and head into the 11 contests on Tuesday, March 1st with a lot of momentum and rising confidence. Bernie will have to perform well that day to stay competitive. Importantly, he has a shot in at least 5 of the 11 – Colorado, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont. Look for the Clinton campaign to ride their advantage with African-American voters in the other 6 states and concentrate on knocking Bernie out in CO, MA, MN and OK. If she runs the table on March 1st the Democratic nomination could come to a rather rapid resolution.  

Not a Fan of the “Single Issue Candidate” Line – One area where I think the Clinton campaign is making a big mistake is in their labeling of Bernie a “single issue” candidate. First, it just isn’t true, and attacks that are not grounded in reality don’t usually work that well over time. Second, it is offensive to both Sanders and his passionate followers, whom Clinton will need by her side if she wins. Bernie is much more than about breaking up the big banks. And that brings me to the third – it suggests that the Clinton campaign still doesn’t really understand what is propelling his candidacy. To me what is driving Bernie, and to some degree Trump, Cruz and Rubio too, is that they represent a break from the current political establishment. There is enormous disquiet in the American people now, and Hillary simply must begin to tap into this sentiment in some way. The answer to this is in part someone who can “get things done,” but it is also someone who is willing to bring fundament change to a system everyone views as terribly broken. I’ve been writing about this for months; why Clinton hasn’t become more of a forceful advocate of the very thoughtful political reform agenda she has already proposed remains another one of the big political mysteries of 2016 for me. 

Turnout/Enthusiasm – I will have more on this in a day or so, but Republicans continue to significantly outperform Democrats in television audiences for debates and townhalls and in turnout. While this gap is not determinative, it is illustrative. Republicans are far more engaged and enthusiastic about this election right now than Democrats. And given that in two of the past three elections Democrats have had enthusiasm and turnout challenges, these numbers continue to be a cause of concern.

But they are not only a concern for the fate of the Democratic Party in th fall.   If HRC does indeed wrap up the nomination by March 1st (an early winner was goal of current Primary schedule), then more than three quarters of Democrats, including ones in very large states like California, Florida and New York, will be able to cast a meaningful vote for their nominee.   As we've written before, the current political system is both making it harder for people to participate, and offering them very few chances to cast a meaningful vote for Federal offices.  We believe this dynamic is contributing to the rising alientation from the political system many feel today, and more perniciously, begs the question whether our system can still convey the consent of the governed as our founders had hoped. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   It also appears each week on the U.K. progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

Monday Musings: On to Nevada and South Carolina

On to Nevada and South Carolina - The race changed quite a bit last week with Sanders and Trump scoring significant victories in New Hampshire. The unorthodox nature of the race was captured in two stats: “extremist” Trump won the vote of moderate Republicans, and “extremist” Sanders beat a Clinton in NH (a state long favorable to them) among independents by 3 to 1. Sanders and Trump continue to defy easy ideological classification, and the traditional “left-center-right” way of understanding US politics, long overstated and exaggerated, is proving to be particularly unhelpful this cycle. Discontent with the elites and the DC political class continue to be a significant – if not paramount – sentiment driving 2016 on both sides.

On the Democratic side much comes down to the Nevada Caucus this Saturday. If Sanders prevails in such a diverse state, the Dem contest could go on for some time. If Clinton prevails, given her advantage in South Carolina, it could be the beginning of the end of the spirited Sanders insurgency.  There is, however, a growing body of evidence (here, here and here) that despite the conventional wisdom, Sanders now has a larger, better funded and deeper campaign, something that could become truly significant in the early March states. It sure appears now that the Clinton campaign simply did not contemplate or plan for a competitive Sanders effort, raising over $80m for the DNC and their SuperPAC over the last few months that would not be accessed until after the nomination was settled. That so much effort was expended raising this much money not designed for use in the primary itself will be a decision long debated; but it leaves the Clinton campaign with the very unpleasant reality that they may be out-spent and out-organized over the critical month ahead (though some of Bernie's possible advantage will be mitigated by free media advantage of Clinton's powerful surrogates, including her husband and daughter, allowing them to be in more than one place a time). 

The good news for Hillary is that she is a vastly improved candidate.  In my mind she bested a tired Sanders in the debate last Thursday and in general is putting in strong performances when it really matters now.   She has also found what may be her first successful and durable attack on Sanders - that she will be far more effective at building on the Obama legacy (i will have more on both the pros and cons of this argument in a later post).   I am less convinced the "single issue" attack will work, as Sanders has been anything but a single issue candidate in the election so far.   There is a difference from having a powerful overarching narrative (rigged economy, corrupt political system) and being a single issue candidate. 

Given that over 50 percent of eligible voters will vote in the two weeks from March 1st through March 15th momentum and organizational strength really matters now. If Clinton wins both Nevada and South Carolina, she will a big advantage heading into our March Madness. If they split, given Bernie’s apparent organizational advantage, expect this period to be very competitive and potentially dangerous for the Clinton candidacy.

On the Republican side, it is a different story. Trump has once again become a powerful and capable frontrunner, and he question of whether any of the next four – Bush, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio – can emerge to go one on one is the big one on the GOP side. As long as the anti-Trump vote remains split, he remains the front runner. The sad truth for Republicans is that just isn’t clear that any of their remaining four challengers is strong or capable enough to defeat Trump. And all of these candidates are going to start having money problems soon, and may not even make it to the all important March window. The unprecedented compression of the primary season into this extraordinary March run benefits candidates like Trump and Clinton with strong name ID and money. Sanders appears to be the only other one with enough of both to seriously challenge after Nevada and South Carolina.

What’s Next – On Thursday, the Democrats have one of their television “townhalls,” this one with MSNBC and Telemundo. On Saturday, the Democrats caucus in Nevada and the Republicans have a traditional primary in South Carolina. Another big week ahead!

GOP Silliness on the Supreme Court – The Republican argument on the next Supreme Court justice boils down to “we don’t want to do it.” Isn’t any more to it than that. And of course that just is not good enough.  Yes this is a big new development in 2016.  More on this next week. 

GOP’s debates continue to outperform the Dems – We have updated our report on Presidential primary debate audiences to include the latest debates. Summary: GOP on track to 5x their 2008 debate totals, Dems will just barely top theirs. So far the R debates have generated 143 viewers, the D debates 55m. It is a large and consequential difference.

Showing Up In the Press - You can find some of my recent 2016 media appearances and quotes here, and have fun with my segments on Bernie and Hillary and Trump and the Supreme Court from yesterday's MediaBuzz show on Fox News.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   Full disclosure: I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

After Iowa, A Different Race for President

On Wednesday, February 3rd, this version was revised, and corrected, from the original.  See note below.

Those pesky voters did their thing last night and created a brand new Presidential race in both parties. Cruz, Rubio and Sanders all outperformed expectations, and head into New Hampshire with renewed vigor. Trump disappointed, though one would assume he will do better in a primary state where organization matters a bit less (if he doesn’t collapse). Hillary Clinton retains a huge structural advantage in the Democratic race, but received a very real warning that she will need to continue to improve, grow and respond to current circumstances or face a far more serious challenge than her team has seemed prepared for (see this recent Greg Sargent piece in the Washington Post for more on this).

What happens next? As I wrote last week, we all have to more humility in our projections about this race, as it is volatile and uncertain. Conventional wisdom has Trump and Sanders winning New Hampshire next week, but we have a week of campaigning, town halls, debates and other things that could once again toss the CW of 2016 on its head. Remember that in both 1992 and 2008 New Hampshire was very very good to the Clintons, and could be again. I have no real thoughts about the race post New Hampshire at this point though my assumption is that Sanders will close the gap with Clinton nationally and in most states, and raise enough money to allow him to compete with Clinton head to head for as the election moves beyond the four state early window.

A few additional observations on the Tuesday after Iowa:

The Democratic debates – Last week the Clinton campaign advocated for a debate to be added this week in New Hampshire, the Sanders campaign agreed but only if they and the DNC could agree to three more debates. The issue of a new debate schedule remains unresolved as of this morning, and of course all debates and forums for the Democrats going forward will only be Clinton and Sanders now. For the DNC this negotiation is an opportunity to erase the impression of favoritism they have clearly showed in the debate schedule to this point; or reinforce it. The outcome of the talks could have a huge impact on 2016.

Enthusiasm – Democrats should remain worried about enthusiasm. As we’ve documented elsewhere, the GOP debates are getting far larger audiences than the Democrats. Compared to 2008, the Rs debates are generating 5 times the viewership while the Dem debates are only up twofold. Similarly, the 2016 Iowa caucuses saw a 50% increase in turnout for the Rs from 2008 (120,000 to 180,000), while the Democratic turnout number was off by 40% from 2008 (240,000 to 171,000). While these numbers are not predictive of outcomes this fall, and the two primaries are of course very different, given the enthusiasm problem Democrats have experienced in 2010 and 2014 any evidence of an enthusiasm gap in 2016 has to be worrisome to party leaders.

Young People – According to the entrance polls last night Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 70 points with voters under 30, 84-14.. 70 points!. Will be important to watch if this gap begins to show up with voters of color in the coming states, mitigating Clinton’s much noted early advantage with nonwhites (particularly in higher turnout primary states). I will have more on issue later, as it is emerging as perhaps the most significant demographic story to watch on the Democratic side.

Political Reform/Changing the Clinton Narrative I made the case last week that Clinton’s refusal to take up the political reform mantle has been a bit inexplicable. She can run as both an experienced hand who can make the system work better, and argue that those who know the system best are most able to change it. But the agenda she offers on reform has to be real, meaningful, biting and persuasive. My piece from last week offers some ideas on what that agenda could be but it has to start with a commitment to close the Clinton Foundation and have family members forgo all speaking fees while she is President.

David Axelrod had a great related insight last night on CNN.  Paraprhasing, he said that when you run on "experience" the campaign is all about you, not about the country, the voters, an agenda.   Bernie has made it all about us, the future, the country.   As a Clinton 1992 guy I remember, deeply, about how we made our entire campaign about his argument, about the future, about the US.  Perhaps it is time for Clinton to invert her campaign, and make her pitch about us and her compelling agenda for the future, and not so much about her and her complicated family.

Note 2/3- In the original version of this memo, I mistakenly attributed the difference between Sanders and Clinton in the Iowa Caucus to coin tosses in six precincts.  While there were coin tosses, I misunderstood what type of delegate they were awarding.  As this good piece from Media Matters explains, those six delegates awarded by the coin tosses due to the arcane system used in Iowa would have not have been enough to wipe away Hillary Clinton's 3.77 delegate lead as of yesterday afternoon.  So I stand corrected, and have removed the incorrect passage from the current draft of the memo.  

This column takes the place of my regular "Monday Musings" column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here

Full disclosure: I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary, and given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

Monday Musings: Trump Rising, Dems Battle, Thoughts on Political Reform/Dem Bench

The trend lines we discussed last week continued into this one: Trump appears to be in the process of besting Cruz in Iowa and everywhere else; and the Democratic race remained too close to call in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some observations:

Humility About What Comes Next – Given the poll mistakes/errors of recent years, the challenges with getting an accurate likely voter screen rate, lots of political volatility, rapidly changing demographics, voters having far more access to political information than before, it is important that all of us have a bit of humility about predicting outcomes this election season. I’ve tried to stick with poll aggregates and trends, which while not predictive, are instructive. Doing a deep dive on the numbers this morning it sure seems as if Trump is in a very strong position to win the GOP nomination, while the Democratic race is too close to call. If Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, I have far less faith in the Clinton “fire wall” than others. Wins in those early states along with a very strong grassroots money machine and organization could make Sanders a significant threat to Clinton as the map gets bigger. But if Hillary wins Iowa she will re-assert a degree of control over the race she doesn’t have right now.

Likewise, I am not convinced at this point that Trump ends up being a disaster for the Rs in the general. Possible, but so is a long transformation into a more conventional figure enhanced by extraordinary Trumpian media instincts and skills. Folks have been underestimating him from the get go, and it would be unwise to write him off in the fall.

Returning to the Democrats, it is also important to remember that the last three Democrats to get to the White House ran against the “establishment” and beat the conventional wisdom of their time. Democrats are just not in the coronation business. Along these lines be sure to review Greg Sargent’s recent piece which explains why the Sanders challenge is important for Clinton. What happens now with the Democrats? All comes down to strategy and execution. A great window into this final week is the new Sanders and Clinton “closing” ads. And be sure to watch the CNN “town hall” tonight at 9pm - will matter!

Clinton and Political Reform – One of the more puzzling elements of the 2016 campaign is why Hillary Clinton hasn’t run more aggressively on her very ambitious and thoughtful political reform agenda. I think there is an obvious way to turn her experience and understanding of the dark side of politics into a broader argument that it takes an insider to fix the system from the inside. She can not only run on her articulated plans, but could commit to suspending the foundation if she were to become the nominee and closing it if elected, leading a government wide effort to modernize the treatment of data and email in a new cyber age, tying Congressional pay to getting budgets done on time (no budget no pay), creating a minimum number of days Congress must be in session each cycle, etc. The reforms she could offer to change the system have to be biting, real, and bring about real change. While I think she is smart to hug Obama and offer continuity as a matter of core strategy, this is one area she should offer a sharper break with him. Trump, Sanders and Cruz all are offering some version of a radical overhaul of the system. She needs to join this chorus in her own way, recognizing that part of her argument – first women President – is unlikely to be sufficient.

Reflections on the Democratic Bench – The strong reviews Senator Cory Booker received this weekend while stumping for Hillary Clinton brought to mind the ongoing debate about the strength of the Democratic bench. My own take on this debate is that the high end of the next generation of Democrats is very strong, and can match the Ryan, Rubio, Cruz cohort – Booker, Newsom, Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Patrick Murphy, Castro, Cuomo, Kaine, O’Malley. If Democrats didn’t have such an usual election this time we may have seen many of these candidates take a run and audition on the national stage the way the Rs have done this time. Part of what is holding back this next generation of Democrats is the success of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and their larger than life allies – Gore, Hillary, Kerry, Biden, Reid, Pelosi – who occupy a space that has no equivalent on the Republican side. There is only so much space in the political universe, and the Democrats have a highly successful aging boomer cohort that is just not leaving a lot of room for the next generation. The next gen Rs – a group I call the “children of Reagan” – have no successful set of Presidents and allies to crowd their progress. So the “lack of a Democratic bench” insight is actually the result of a good problem to have, one the Rs don’t have – the presence of two living successful Democratic Presidents and Administrations (filling the Cabinet over 16 years also took many potential Senators and Governors out of electoral play). 

While this upper end of next gen Democrats can hold its own with the upper end of the Rs, the problem for the Democrats is what comes underneath this talented tier. This is where the enormous GOP advantage in the state legislatures and governor’s mansions will, over time, become an enormous structural problem for the national Democratic Party. The pipeline the Rs have now will allow them to produce far more higher and medium tier politicians capable of winning elections and exercising power. Add to this the exposure a more open party is giving to Ryan, Rubio, Cruz, Christie etc and you can imagine the Rs being able to maintain a degree of political power in Washington and in the states for a decade or more, even as the nation as a whole moves closer to the Democrats. My analogy is the Democrats have a better product but the Rs have a better management team right now. No Democrat should be optimistic about how this competition is likely to play out in the short and medium term.

Tuesday morning update - The Dem Town Hall.  I thought all three candidates performed well, continuing to show growth and improvement on the trail (why you have these things on TV).  Sanders was probably seen by the most people by going first, and did well, adding more information to people still wanting to learn more about him.   Hillary was unusually animated and effective last night too, showing her experience and facility on a wide range of issues.   I don't know if the Town Hall was seen be enough people to be a difference maker, and was hard to see how last night could have swayed people one way or the other (and Clinton did get dinged up a bit).  But Clinton and her campaign have clearly begun to rise to the serious Sanders challenge now, and are throwing everything they got into this final week in Iowa.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here

Full disclosure - I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary.

Some Thoughts on Election Day, 2014

Some thoughts on this very close election on a beautiful fall morning in Washington, DC:

2014 Predictions: A Dead Even Race – We enter Election Day with an enormous number of critical races in statistical dead heats.   Making predictions in this environment is a bit tricky (wish the media had held back a bit more), but my predictions for 2014 were once again submitted to the Hill’s Election Prediction contest.  Proud to have won this competitive contest in both 2012 and 2008, I predict Democrats will end up with 51 Senators and control the Senate after the Georgia run-off.   My admittedly optimistic analysis has been bolstered by the final WSJ/NBC poll, the last major media poll in the field this year.  In what might be the poll closest to the actual results, it shows the national race dead even.  Democrats have a 46-42 advantage with registered voters, and are tied in the Congressional Generic, Senate Battleground and in vote interest.  These findings comport with many of the polls in the individual races these last few days showing them true toss ups, and the effect of strong Democratic ground games kicking in.  Analysis of the poll from Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann has this fascinating data showing the Congressional vote preference (Congressional Generic) progression from their previous polls:

Aug. 2014: GOP 49%, Dem 41% (GOP +8)

Sept. 2014: GOP 49%, Dem 44% (GOP +5)

Mid-Oct. 2014: GOP 46%, Dem 44% (GOP +2)

Now: GOP 46%, Dem 45% (GOP +1)

If the GOP Takes the Senate, Tenure Likely to Be Unstable, Short – Even if the GOP takes the Senate, it is not clear who will really be in charge of the Congressional agenda.  Whoever is the GOP’s Majority Leader will face challenges from a bigger pool of Tea Partyish hardliners in his conference; struggles with aligning with the even more conservative House; the challenge of having up to 4 members of the conference run for President; and perhaps most importantly, the difficult math of passing anything through the Senate.

For argument’s sake, let’s give the Rs 51 in the Senate next year.   This means they will still need to get 9 Democrats on board to break any filibuster.   Of the 34 Senators up for re-election next year, 24 are GOP held seats, just 10 are Democratic, and only 2 Democrats are likely to face tough races (even these – CO, NV – fair far better for Democrats in a Presidential year).   For the Republicans 7 of these 34 seats come in states Obama won twice and are likely to go Dem again in 2016 – FL, IA, IL, NH, OH, PA and WI.  Of these 7, 4 – FL, IL, PA and WI – were won with less than 52% of the vote in a high water mark GOP midterm election.   These Senators are simply going to have a hard time aligning consistently with the more conservative part of the conference as they will be facing Democratic electorates in their states next cycle.   There will be no similar gang of Democrats being pressured to vote with the Rs, however.   Given this it may be hard for the GOP Senate Leader to get to 50 votes on some major GOP priorities next year, let alone 60.

Pulling against this GOP “gang of 7” will not only be a more conservative Senate, but a more conservative House.   Speaker Boehner had a hard time rallying his caucus behind his priorities in this Congress.   The anti-establishment Tea Partyish wing of the GOP will be stronger, and the establishment wing weaker in the coming Congress.    This means that whatever comes out of the House over the next two years is likely to be even more conservative than before.   This will make getting to 50, and to 60, even harder in the Senate next year.  Certainly one would expect President Obama to be far more aggressive in issuing veto threats early in these legislative fights to put even more pressure in the Senate for Dem heavy Rs and more conservative Dems to oppose whatever comes out of the Republican House Majority.  

The Senate map is so favorable to Democrats in 2016 that it will put the Rs on the defensive politically from day one, something that may encourage McConnell’s team to be even more cautious of the hard line House than usual.   Taken together, it is a bit hard to see how the Republicans can make their possible new found control of Congress anything other than messy.   The issue next year will not be what President Obama does – his agenda is well established at this point – but what can this new unstable and fragile Congressional majority do.  

Not A Lot of Good News in the 2016 Map for the GOP – At this point, it doesn’t look like the GOP has done very much to weaken the Democratic Electoral college advantage of recent years.  Most of their Senate wins will come from outside the Presidential map.   In critical 2016 states – FL, GA, MI, PA, WI – the GOP is showing ominous weakness in Senate and/or gubernatorial races.   Hard to argue that dead even Senate races in CO and IA are big bright spots, though the GOP’s success in Ohio this cycle could become significant in 2016.   Whatever GOP strategic gains might come from Ohio moving to be a true Presidential toss-up are likely to be offset by Democrats adding two Red states – AZ and GA - to their 2016 targets. 

All of this comes against the backdrop of an electorate becoming 2 percentage points less white every four years, making the GOP’s 2016 Presidential Hill that much higher to climb.   In 2012 the electorate was 72% white.  Due to inexorable population trends, it is estimated to be just 70% white in 2016.   Additionally, far more Millennials will be of voting age in 2016, and though the Dem advantage with this group may not be what it was, it is still significant and there will be more of them in coming elections.   The math means that even a lower vote share for Democrats with Millennials in 2016 might not translate into the GOP gaining any additional net vote given the expanding voting age Millennial population. 

No Evidence of Any Big Shifts in the Hispanic Vote - Election Day may tell a different story, but today there is no evidence of a statistically or politically significant shift in the Hispanic vote in the US.   The most recent Pew Hispanic poll – perhaps the most credible independent poll of Hispanics - released just a week ago has the 2014 Hispanic vote at 2-1 Democrat, 57-28, or about where Obama ended up in 2008. Diving deeper into the data, the favs/unfavs also show 2008 level numbers, which of course may leave the GOP a bit better off than 2012 but far away from being competitive at the Presidential level.   In their pre-election poll from a few weeks ago, the Democratic leaning pollsters at Latino Decisions have the numbers even worse right now for Republicans: 59-25 in 2014, and 55-20 in 2016.  And in their recent state polls in CO, FL and NC traditional Democratic advantages are holding, and there is no sign of Republican gains. 

The Pew Hispanic poll has data which suggests that advocates on both sides may have exaggerated the impact of the President’s delay in taking Executive Action on the Hispanic vote.   Only 24% of Hispanics in this poll say they are unhappy (disappointed/angry) with the delay in Executive Action, and only 6% say they are angry.   76% either had no opinion about the delay, or supported it – three times as many as were disappointed or angry.   These findings reinforce that what we are seeing is a slight dip in support for Democrats in this community but no real structural change. 

Claims from Republican interests of their gains with Hispanics thus seem to be far more wishful thinking than data-driven analysis at this point. 

And while the possibility of a Bush on the ballot in 2016 might improve the Rs standing with Hispanics, the underlying trends are far worse for the Republican Party than is commonly understood.  The last four years has seen a dramatic escalation by the GOP in advancing policies hostile to Hispanic and immigrant interests, while Democrats have perhaps advanced an agenda that is among the most pro-Hispanic and immigrant of the modern era.   Depending on the candidates the two sides choose, and the agenda their allies in Congress advance, it is far more likely that over the next two years the Democrats will be able to make this stark contrast clearer they have this cycle than the opposite taking place - the Republicans switching core positions on things like the ACA, minimum wage, opposition to CIR and the President’s coming Executive Action, deportation of DREAMers, cutting federal education spending and advocating voting restrictions.   Remember that the only potential 2016 GOP candidate with an unequivocal embrace of Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Jeb Bush.   So there is no real evidence in the data of GOP gains with Hispanics, and the path for them to regain critical lost ground seems politically out of reach.   

Our System Needs Reform – Assuming the GOP takes the Senate tonight, in just three elections the US political system will have given one Party its biggest back to back majorities at the Presidential level in 70 years will also stripping both Houses of Congress from that Party and giving it to their opposition.  From a political science/design standpoint, it is frankly hard to produce election results like this in a political/electoral system even if one tried.  

And it gets worse.  In 2012 Democrats won more one than 1 million more votes in the House than the GOP but didn’t win the chamber.   In 2014, according to the latest major national poll, registered voters favor the Democrats 46-42, and likely voters are split evenly 46R-45D.  Yet the Republicans are likely to make significant gains in both the Senate and House.  It is at this point a realistic possibility that the Democrats could win more votes nationally in 2014 and end up with the GOP controlling both Houses of Congress.   Results like these should raise legitimate questions about whether something has gone wrong with the way our democracy works these days, and reinforce the need for the center-left to make political reform one of its highest priorities in the years ahead. 

In a recent essay, I raised related questions about whether with so few people voting in contested races every two years our democracy is still capable of providing the “consent of the governed” as imagined by The Founding Fathers. And of course there are many other issues – the role of money, the difficulty of voting, the pernicious development of a true small state basis in our Congress, the anachronistic Electoral College and more.  I hope in the coming months the chattering classes in Washington can start having a serious conversation about what is happening in our political system, and whether there are things we can do to make it better.  

The DNC Should Have A Single Minded Mission: Expanding the Electorate – The return of the mid-term turnout problem for Democrats, and what appears to be early evidence of success in mitigating it in targeted Senate races, suggests a new and very concentrated mission for the DNC:  single minded focus on closing this gap, and advancing efforts to make it easier for people to vote in all 50 states.   While these efforts are already underway at the DNC, they needed to be stepped up, funded and staffed at a level commensurate with the challenge.   

Can a Party Run Away From Its Own President in the Mid-Terms?  I have long doubted that a Congressional Party has the capacity to distance itself from its own Presidential candidate or President.   I fall in the camp that believes Democrats should have found a way to run on their record this cycle, as 6 years of a Democratic President has made once again made the nation far better than he found it (been true of both Clinton and Obama, not true of either Bush).  Whether that narrative was an easy one to sell or not we will never really know for while it is statistically true it was never really tried.   Democrats managed to get all of the downside of President Obama this cycle and far too little of the upside.

The across the board policy successes of President Obama on the economy, deficit, health care reform energy policy and border security also leaves the GOP very little running intellectual and policy running room in the next Congress, and reinforce how little of a mandate the GOP will have in 2015-2016.   Will be interesting to see how exactly GOP leaders criticize plummeting deficits, gas prices, unemployment and uninsured rates; declining costs of health care; very strong stock market valuations and GDP/growth rates; significant advances in renewable and traditional energy production;  and a net undocumented flow of zero and declining crime rates all along the US-Mexico border.    Do we think in any kind of serious and sustained debate the GOP will be able to convince the US public that Obama has been a bad President given all this, and that they somehow could have done a better job?  Assume this is possible, but it sure isn’t a given.  

Finally, in what should be one of the major stories of 2014, the total meltdown of the conservative experiment in Kansas, and the struggles/loses of GOP governors in FL, PA, MI and WI reinforce that while 2014 might be a good election for the GOP politically, it has not been a good one for them ideologically.  A dead even national vote, power potentially granted by a handful of races decided by a few thousands votes, no big argument, significant setbacks and struggles in big states does not a mandate make.   The potential for overreach by a new GOP Congressional majority is very real, and may be hard to avoid. 

More to Come - Look for an update (and perhaps corrections) later this week. 

NDN’s Corey Cantor also contributed to this memo. 

Other Items We Found Helpful

Ronald Brownstein: “The Tectonic Plates of 2014,” National Journal.

Norm Ornstein: “A Republican Victory Could Splinter The Party,” National Journal.

Nate Cohn: “Why 2014 Isn’t Good As It Seems for the Republicans,” New York Times.

Joe Rospars: “Obama  Digital Guru to Democrats: Stop Being Lame,” Time Magazine.

Jill Lawrence:  “A Wasted Opportunity for Democrats,” National Memo.  

2 New Polls Show Significant 7 Point Gains for the Democrats

More evidence this morning confirming the argument we've been making for the past few weeks - the Republican wave has crested, and a new dynamic in election 2010 has taken hold.  New Rasmussen and Washington Post polls each show a 7 point swing towards the Democrats in the national Congressional Generic in the past few weeks.  As we wrote yesterday this movement tracks similar movement seen in other polls released over the past few days, indicating that the Democrats have made substantial improvement in their position over the past month. 

The national media had been a little slow to acknowledge the significance of the dramatic change in the election but has clearly come around.  Look for new analyses in the Politico, Reuters, Slate and this video "Fast Fix" piece from Chris Cillizza.  John Dickerson's piece in Slate is particularly thoughtful, and it has this passage:

When voters were asked whether they would vote for a Democrat or a Republican, the GOP had a steady lead over the last two months in an average of the polls. Now the two parties are almost tied. The Gallup poll shows the same narrowing, as does the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Democrats usually discount Rasmussen polls as biased for the GOP, but even Rasmussen shows a nine-point Democratic surge. "There is life left in this baby," says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network, who has been arguing the case for a reappraisal of the election for weeks.

There is a clear understanding now in the political class that things have changed, but the big hedge is still on.  In the lead Washington Post story on their new poll, the 7 point Democratic gain was "modest," and the 6 point Republican lead "significant."  Not sure how that got by their editor this morning but shows how fundamentally invested much of DC's political class is in the September version of this story which had Democrats losing the House, a wave election and big Republican gains were already "baked in the cake." I am not sure where we will be in November but it is clear now that the election is going through a fundamental late shift, and this new dynamic has become, appropriately, a major topic for discussion now in the national media.  I just think most commentators are understating the significance of what is going on.

Two more observations this morning:

- When a new clear dynamic emerges in any election this late in the cycle, it is very hard for that dynamic to be altered or dissipate.  In the case of 2010, I think this will prove particularly true.  The Democrats have more tools to effect the national environment in the final month.  They have a much more powerful closing argument.  They have the bully pulpit of the White House, and a charasmatic President who has found his voice in recent weeks on the number one issue for all voters - the economy.  The Republicans, on the other hand, have tired and unappealing leaders, have failed to present a compelling election agenda, have fielded far too many fringe candidates, and the country still holds them - accurately - accountable for the mess we are in today.  The inherent weakness of the GOP's offering failed to close the deal with the public, and has left the door open for the apparent Democrat revival we are seeing now.   Given current trends it is reasonable to conclude that the Democrats could pick up another 3-6 points in the national polls before election day, which would have a significant impact of course on the many close races across the country.  One of the shortcomings of many of the current political analyses of this endgame electoral dynamic is the reluctance of the authors to acknowledge that the current trend lines are likely to continue to through election day, and if they do this really is a whole new ball game.  No candidate or political party wants to be losing ground - particularly 6 or 7 points - as they head in the final month.

-  The current American electorate is unlike any electorate most political observers have ever seen.   Democrats went in to the 2010 cycle having completed their strongest electoral performances in over 40 and perhaps even 70 years.   Democrats won 52% and 53% of the vote in 2006 and 2008, with 2008 being the best Presidential performance since 1964 and only the 2nd time since 1944 Democrats won more than 50.1% of the national vote in a Presidential election.  Simply put more people voted for a Democrat in 2008 than in 44 years.   In contrast, the Democrats went into 1994 having only won 43% of the vote in 1992, giving them a very different relationship to the electorate than the current Democrats.   In essence the ceiling for Democrats is higher in this midterm than it has been in a very long time, which may help explain why the Democrats are defying conventional wisdom and gaining ground in the end game of 2010. 

I am struck that in most national polls the Republican number is that very same 46% they got in 2006 and 2008.  Meaning that despite all that has gone on the Republicans have not improved their standing with the American public at all since their wipeout elections in 2006 and 2008.  For the Democrats, starting again back at 53%, the question in this end game of 2010 was could they got those who had wandered from them but not yet gone to the GOP to return.  And what seems to be happening now is that the Democrats are reclaiming some of that majority vote they received in the last two elections.

So lets do some math here.  If the Republicans have peaked at 46%, and the Democrats are somewhere between 43% and 46% and gaining, what do we believe is the most likely outcome in this final month?  Can Democrats regain half of their lost 2008/2006 vote, and get their national number up to 48/49% given the Republicans have shown no capacity to grow?  Somehow I think this feels like the likely outcome in 2010.  We end up with the Democrats even or ahead few points in the Congressional Generic, ahead or even in all regions of the country outside the South, and with a result that will be disapointing to the Republicans who started their victory laps just a little bit too early.  

Morning Update - The always sharp John Heilemann cites our analysis in his weekly New York Magazine column, and the equally savvy Mike Tomasky has an interesting riff on all this in The Guardian today.

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