Hagan shows how it’s done

Kay Hagan is a Democratic Senator.  Therefore she owns Obamacare.  Period.  There’s just no running away from it.  Unlike some others, she seems smart enough to realize this and therefore is making a strong defense.  From TPM:

“Last year in North Carolina, our state legislature and governor decided against expanding the state’s Medicaid program,” Hagan said as she started her questioning, “and as a result, about 500,000 people who would have qualified for coverage through Medicaid are not now able to do so.”

“These are some of the most vulnerable in our society,” she said, “who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged, which we know is detrimental to their health and the economy.”

Not only is Hagan’s argument right to support Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion on policy merits, I think this is the smart political play as well.  A Democrat who runs from Obamacare simply is not going to win over Republicans on this and will only appear weak and alienate their base.

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Two kinds of voters

Really, really loved this piece from Sasha Issenberg.  It’s going on next Fall’s Campaigns & Elections syllabus.  Nicely summarizes and applies a ton of political science research on midterm elections and political campaigns.  On the longer side, but well worth a read.  He writes a lot about “reflex” voters who favor Republicans and “unreliable” voters who favor Democrats.  Here’s a great infographic that nicely summarizes this:

I think his most important argument is that for Democrats, it’s all about securing the money and support from activists right now:

If Democrats fail to see midterms as sufficiently sexy, the problem may lie not with the party’s rank-and-file but with its donors and activists. The strategists engineering the party’s campaigns now have at their disposal databases containing the names of every Unreliable voter in the country, as well as guidance on where, how, and when they can be reached. (Democratic analysts have developed predictive models to anticipate which voters are most likely to actually open and read their mail.) Volunteers who live near those passive sympathizers can be dispatched; when in-person contact is unfeasible, carefully crafted letters can be sent instead. But all of these increasingly powerful tools also require money and manpower. This is why it’s not intensity scores on polls but rather the bustle of field offices and the sums on fund-raising reports that are the best guide to the Democrats’ midterm prospects. When those indicators sag, says Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director and chair of the Analyst Institute’s board, “the effects are cascading.” For a party populated with Unreliable voters, the midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments. Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.

Of course, even knowing all this, it’s a heavy tide the Democrats are against.  Still can’t hurt to have smart social science on your side when swimming against it.  Though, money would be nicer.

Tea Party won while losing

Sure, Tuesday’s results were a victory for “Chamber of Commerce Republicans.”  But, it’s really not that simple.  The truth is that while mainstream Republican have not embraced the Tea Party’s no compromises, shrink government no matter what nihilism, they have largely embraced the far right ideological positions of the Tea Party.    As much as Thom Tillis was the favorite of the establishment, there really was not a lot of ideological daylight between him and his opponents.  The biggest difference is that Greg Brannon was just typically Tea Party nuts.  Nice post from David Firestone in the NYT:

The national Republican Party is exulting that the “establishment” won in North Carolina’s Senate primary yesterday. That’s only because they have redefined the term “Republican establishment” to include adamant adherents of a far-right ideology.

In yesterday’s voting, state House Speaker Thom Tillis won the right to face Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in November. He beat a series of fringe candidates like Greg Brannon, who believes food stamps are a form of slavery and wants to save the poor by abolishing the Department of Agriculture. But in fact Mr. Tillis is a far more dangerous candidate than Mr. Brannon and the other Tea Partiers. While he generally refrains from nutty soundbites (though not always), he has been quite effective as the point man in the state party’s anti-government project…

The right-wing project led by Mr. Tillis, which turned a state with a reputation for farsightedness into a laughingstock, has infuriated many North Carolinians, leading to regular protests at the state Capitol.

Yep.  Just because Tillis was not Tea Party does not mean he’s not far right.  I was intrigued to learn in a conversation with my father-in-law (who’s very much a “mainstream” conservative Republican) that he sat out the primary because he’s been unhappy with the extremism of the legislature and saw all these guys as too far right.

The Tea Party has won because even those who are not “Tea Party” have pretty much embraced its far right ideology.   The center of gravity in the GOP just keeps shifting right.  Regardless of the Tea party winning elections, there’s no doubt they are winning the party.   Nice post on this from Drum:

The tea party basically took over the GOP four years ago. Sure, there are still candidates who are more or less conservative than others, but even the “establishment” candidates these days are creatures of the tea party. As Dave Weigel says, there’s really not much contest left. The tea party has already won:

In 2014, the biggest target of the year so far was Thom Tillis, the leader of the ultra-conservative North Carolina legislature, which was elected with the help of Americans for Prosperity’s Art Pope — who, following the 2012 elections, is now the state’s budget director. The “Tea Party,” as seen in the movement’s best-funded national organization, had already won in North Carolina and made it a test kitchen for ALEC model legislation. Where, as I asked last week, was the space to the right? There wasn’t any. This is why Democrats, who quietly gave up hope of a Republican runoff over the last week, have been trying to remind people that Tillis is perfectly right-wing.

If Tillis is the best example you can find of an “establishment” candidate, then the conservative establishment is well and truly toast. These days, the tea party is triumphant everywhere. The only thing that’s changed is its name. It’s now called the Republican Party.  [emphasis mine]

And Molly Ball:

If this race is any indication, the “Republican civil war” storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired. The Tea Party has got what it wanted, in large part—a party that, out of fear or respect, meets its desire for conservative standard-bearers—and it has run out of easy targets like the ones it toppled in 2010 and 2012.

Lastly, the latest Gallup Poll finds less support for “the Tea party” among Republicans.  But, this poll is ultimately mis-leading.

Americans' Tea Party Affiliation by Party ID

When the Tea party views have been embraced by the majority of GOP voters and politicians, it doesn’t matter what its called.  The Tea party has won the heart and soul of the Republican party.   Now, we need more not-totally-close-minded Republicans to see this reality.   Though, as usual, I’m not optimistic.   I don’t think it’s an accident that my father-in-law does not actually get his news from Fox.

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