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Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Seven, Growing Democratic...

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(Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you've missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive Districts. Day Two, Turnout Problems. Day Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. Day Six, Present Opportunities. And as always, at the end of the diary there is a poll! Thank you for reading, and have a happy 2014!)

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...

Encouraging signs of growing Democratic trends in the state's largest counties and most competitive districts!

Take a look at the vote trend between 2001 and 2013 from Daily Kos. There's a lot of red there, but it's in the most rural, slow-growth parts of the state. All of the major population areas, from Northern Virginia to Richmond to Tidewater, are trending blue. The population growth in the state is heavily concentrated in this urban crescent. Favorable demographic trends and the alienation of moderate suburban voters by the hard-right have combined to turn Virginia into a blue state ... at least statewide in higher turnout elections.

Yeah, but what about in the General Assembly?

National Election Results Open Thread / Live Blog

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The polls are about to close on the Eastern United States.  At 7pm EST we'll see polls close in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and across most (but not all) of Florida.  Virginia is of course, the first of the major swing states to close.  So, to start out the night the big question:  Are "you on your own" or we "all in this together"?

IF YOU ARE IN LINE, STAY IN LINE.  DO NOT LEAVE THE LINE!

Electoral College Total of Called Races:  Obama 303 - Romney 203.

Update 1:00am:
President Obama's Victory Speech:  

*  "These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty."
*  "Our economy is recovering, a war is ending, and a long campaign is over. Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to your voice ... and I will return to the White House more determined than ever."
*  The President identifies his Second Term Agenda:  Deficit Reduction, Immigration Reform, Energy Independence.

Update 1:00am:
Mitt Romney concedes, graciously.
Barack Obama Wins Virginia!

Update 12:15:
Mitt Romney is disputing the election results in Ohio, but with the President's victory in Colorado this point is now moot.  With or without Ohio, President Obama has been reelected.

Update 12:00:
President Obama wins Colorado and Nevada.
President Obama leads Virginia and Florida but they are still too close to call.

In an astonishing and pitiful move, the Romney campaign is disputing the Ohio result.  A fitting end to a truly despicable campaign.  

Update 11:12:
PRESIDENT OBAMA REELECTED!
OBAMA WINS OHIO, IOWA, OREGON

Update 11:00:
Obama Wins California, Washington, and his home state Hawaii.

Romney Wins Idaho and North Carolina.

Oregon, Iowa, Nevada Too Early to Call, Leaning Obama

Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado Too Close to Call.

Update 10:00:
CONGRATULATIONS SENATOR ELECT TIM KAINE (D)!
Obama wins Minnesota
Romney wins Missouri

Update 9:50:
NEW HAMPSHIRE GOES FOR OBAMA!

Kaine raises $2.2M in first quarter as Allen trails badly

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Senate fundraising numbers are out today, and while the fact is that neither Gov. Tim Kaine nor George Allen will be without adequate funds come November -- given the intense national interest in their race -- the early numbers clearly suggest that Gov. Kaine's campaign is generating some real enthusiasm among Democrats, while Allen's is showing itself to be a worn out effort touting a candidate without any new ideas and little to offer.

In the throes of a primary campaign, Allen's fundraising was pretty anemic.

Gov. Kaine announced $2.2 million in fundraising for the first quarter and he has more than $4.4 million cash on hand,- a nice showing at this point in the race.

Even more significant, however, is the fact that 6,000 new grassroots donors made contributions of $200 or less, bringing the total number of low-dollar donors to more than 14,000 overall.  This follows Kaine's submission last week of more than 30,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. In a federal campaign, where there are contribution limits, such broad grassroots support is essential.

Meanwhile, Allen announced only $1.4 million raised, with $2.66 million cash on hand. He provided no other data.

(more on the flip)

Barack Obama: Many Paths to 270 Electoral Votes in 2012

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Barack Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, explains a few of the many ways (he says there are "over 40 different pathways") for Obama to get to 270 electoral votes in 2012. I particularly like the Virginia/North Carolina path, but I also see no reason why President Obama can't carry any or all of the following states next November: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, and even Arizona (note: according to a new Pew poll, Latinos strongly favor Obama over Romney).

Meanwhile, for Republicans, the map is much more difficult, as they basically have to run the table, including in states with seriously unpopular Republican governors, like Ohio and Florida. Plus, Willard "Mitt" Romney gets to spend the next year explaining to the 99% of Americans why "corporations are people," why his work for Bain Capital buying up companies and laying off workers would be a good model for the country, why his flip flops away from universal health care, from strong action on clean energy and climate change, from a woman's right to choose, from LGBT rights, etc. mean we should trust him as far as we can throw him on anything. Answer: we shouldn't, and we won't. Sorry Willard (er, "Mitt")!

Should Occupy Declare Victory and Go Home?

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Two events last week reassured the Occupy moment of its effectiveness. The first, and most covered, was the President's much-ballyhooed speech in Osawatomie, Kansas on December 6th; he echoed a number of themes present in the “New Nationalism” speech given in the same town by President Theodore Roosevelt as he prepared to run for a 3rd term under the Progressive Party banner. Both speeches spoke of a desire to end the pay-to-play, business interest-dictated behavior in Washington. While this represented a new level of thinking for the evolving politics of TR at the time, it hearkened back to speeches from the 2008 campaign trail for Obama. It wasn't anything terribly new, in this respect.

What has gotten the most play in the media has been the direct nature in which the President addressed issues of income inequality in the speech. He made the case that income inequality hurts us all. When the old columns that held up Fordism (the ability for workers to buy the products or services they produce) and the few elements of the welfare state that we have here collapse, we end up with a nation that serves the interests of the top 1% as opposed to the other 99% of us.

Now, hold on a second. Does this mean Obama gets the central tenant of Occupy Wall Street and its kindred movements? To the extent that OWS has defined its central tenants (disclosure: I have been a fierce critic of the unwillingness, deliberately or not, to formulate a political program for OWS), it does seem to be articulating a clear belief that income inequality hurts us all. And Obama’s speech doesn't come at a time when the Occupy movement is enjoying runaway success in the eyes of the mainstream media. What media sympathy the movement might have had at the start has dissipated, not due to a dislike for the message, but rather due to confusion by the masses of Americans who haven't “Occupied” as to what the motives of the movement are. All they've seen recently are the pictures of the park evictions, the pepper spray, and, if you live in the Washington, DC area, destruction of one small house.

This brings us to the second important, symbolic event of the last week. For the uninitiated: Occupy DC has been set up in a park supervised by the National Parks Service since early October. The site has been covered with tents for most of its life as a flashpoint in DC and American politics. The DC City Council has supported the occupation, and the NPS has largely left the alone. However, at some point last week, it was decided that Occupy DC would have to leave its park, much like Occupy Wall Street and many other Occupies before it. But by the time this decision was made, Occupy DC had entered a new phase: a house (or fort, or shelter, depending on who you ask) had been constructed on the site by Occupiers. Negotiations with building inspectors failed; a General Assembly Meeting to discuss the immediate future of the Occupation produced only allowance for “autonomous actions” by individuals who wished to make a statement in the face of the coming raid. Subsequently, police descended, and the structure would come down. Prior to this- there was a stand-off. Some Occupiers remained on the roof of the structure, refusing to leave, with one guy apparently remaining on top for 8 hours. Police finally had to pull them off using a cherry picker. What did all of this accomplish? What did it mean?

Some have theorized that this was meant to draw attention to the foreclosure and eviction crises happening daily in our neighborhoods. Others, including Dave Weigel of Slate.com (an even handed guy, despite being a former Reason magazine correspondent) have labeled it, simply, performance art. It's hard not to see much of this event as such. There was the house built in a National Park. One guy peed off the side of the house (some witnesses say it was because he legitimately had to go). Another shook his ass at the police for some time. Another was apparently well-known as a guy who once circumsized himself for a public art installation. I'm sure plenty of people disagree with the characterization of this event as performance art, but to the casual observer, it was at best “autonomous action” artwork, and at worst a collective freakout by a bunch of hippies. Do I wish people saw it as some sort of statement on housing issues? Sure, if that's what Occupy wanted to portray. But it's not important at this point.

If Occupy is to continue to be a cultural phenomenon with a political conscious, it's going to have to move out of the parks and play to its momentum. The conversation has been completely flipped. There was no expensive ad campaign. No barnstorming politicians. There was a Canadian magazine, but how many people showed up in these parks because of them and not because of the 99% message? It's that message that has become for our political discourse what debt and deficits were this past summer during the Debt Ceiling Crisis. The president has now given a major speech centered on that theme, one that will probably go into the archives next to his one from the 2004 DNC. Occupy didn't have a political program or a set of demands, but it had a message. That message is at the core of our political discourse (as long as we can peel people away from “shocking” entertainment-news like Michelle Bachman's latest thoughts on the gays or how Muppets are communist or whatever else bored Fox producers shove on us), and if the park phase, where the 99% message started, is over, then it's time to declare victory.

Even if Occupy heroically survives the cold winter, the story won't be the message, it will be the spectacle. The spectacle brings attention, much like the Occupy DC performance art, but the message will still be the same regardless. Continuing on as performance art risks turning Occupy into a new Yippie movement. I loved the Yippies for their sheer guts and sense of humor, but they were the comic wing of a larger New Left, and the New Left was collectively despised (or at ignored) by Middle America, blue collar joes, white collar stiffs, suburban housewives, rednecks, and the fracturing working and middle class of the early 1970s. In other words, most of the 99% didn't stand them. Before Occupy loses this moment in the sun, where even a president who very well could have taken December 6th to raise money from Goldman Sachs, rather than to channel the early 20th century Progressive, it's time to declare victory on the major central tenant of the 99% movement and move on to the next phase.

GOP Debate Warmup: Ken Cuccinelli Reviews the Candidates

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Late last night, our all-time favorite Attorney General ever, Ken Cuccinelli, sent out his latest "Cuccinelli Compass" (see the "flip" for the whole thing). They Compasses are always a hoot, a window into the mind of a smart, but also completely-off-the-deep-end, right-wing extremist. Even by the high standards of the Cuccinelli Compass, though, this one was particularly fascinating, as it provides Cuccinelli's take on the Republican Presidential candidates, as he viewed them in the South Carolina forum put on by Jim "It will break [Obama]" DeMint, with questioning by uber-xenophobe/nutjob/bigot Rep. Steve King (for instance, King once said: "if [Barack Obama] is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. Additionally, his middle name (Hussein) does matter."). In other words, this was the perfect crowd for someone like Ken Kookinelli, who indeed appeared to enjoy it immensely, per his "Compass."

Anyway, since there's a big Teapublican't Presidential debate tonight, I thought that Blue Virginia readers might be interested in Cucci-cuckoo's take on the candidates. The entire thing's on the "flip," but here are a few highlights -- the world according to Kookinelli!

*"Bachmann and Cain answered the best in my view, demonstrating an internalization of first principles that, frankly, I expect from these candidates."
*"Bachmann presents well, though as a lawyer I continue to take exception with her unsupported statement that an individual mandate by a state (e.g., Massachusetts) would be unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution."
*"A political concern I have here is that [Bachmann's] conclusion isn't so much a legal one, but is an over-the-top play for tea party support."
*"Romney was clearer on his points than Paul, while Paul demonstrated a passionate commitment to the importance of first principles in governance."
*"I couldn't help noticing that from the moment [Gingrich] was walking out, he was very lackadaisical in his personal presentation.  He was intellectually engaging but did not have the presence of either Bachmann or Cain before him, nor Romney after him."
*"Ron Paul suffered from a similarly non-Presidential presentation as Gingrich..."
*"Last of the evening was Romney, and after much reflection, I think he clearly outshined the other candidates, though not in all respects...presidential as usual without being haughty..."

So, there you have it, radical right-wingnut Ken Cuckoo-cinelli's take on the radical right-wingnut Republicans (Romney being the exception; I'd say he's more of a mainstream or even liberal Republican, having signed universal healthcare with an individual mandate into law in Massachusetts, which makes it even more striking that Kookinelli seems to favor him) who are running for President right now. Has anyone ever heard of a high-ranking Virginia official putting something like this out publicly?  What, is Kookinelli auditioning to succeed Larry Sabato or something, when we finally boot him out of Virginia government? Who knows, but it sure is entertaining (kind of a brain teaser) to listen to his strange ramblings and try to make sense of them!

The Only Sane Republican Presidential Candidate Is…

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There's no longer any question about it: Jon Huntsman is the only sane Republican presidential candidate right now (sorry, Jon, I won't call you "crazy!"). :)

What about Mitt Romney, you ask? He's not totally bonkers, right? Well, if you can figure out this gobbledygook from Mitt Flip Flopper, then more power to you. I sure can't. So the jury's kind of out on that question.

As for the rest of the GOP field? Well, Rick Perry doesn't even believe in evolution, let alone climate science (he thinks it's all a big conspiracy, of course, no doubt of the Freemason-Marxist-Atheist-Terrorist-Muslim alliance), so he's completely bonkers. Michele Bachmann? Let's just say, quotes like these make Christine O'Donnell look sane and brilliant. Rick Santorum? Herman Cain? Are you seriously even asking that question? Anyway, as I said, it appears that Jon Huntsman is the only sane Republican currently running for president. Which means, of course, that he'll get crushed.  

WSJ/NBC Poll: Palin, Republicans, Tea Party Get Thumbs Down

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A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll is out, and the results are interesting if not terribly surprising. A few highlights:

*Barack Obama has the highest net positive ratings, 49%-37% (+12 points).
*The Democratic Party is about even in terms of positive/negative ratings, at 38%-39% (-1 point).
*Republicans and the Tea Party get major thumbs down, with the Tea Party at 28%-41% (-13 points), the Republican Party at 30%-44% (-14 points), and Sarah Palin at 24%-54% (-30 points). Oh, and forget about Newt Gingrich; almost nobody likes the poor guy.
*Americans are not happy with the direction of the country (29% "right direction" vs. 62% "wrong track"), but they don't particularly blame President Obama. In fact, only 10% of Americans say that Obama is "solely responsible" for the recession, while 24% say he's "mainly responsible" and 48% "only somewhat responsible." In comparison, 14% of Americans say that George W. Bush is "solely responsible" and 33% say Bush is "mainly responsible." That's right, 47% of Americans believe - correctly, I'd point out - that George W. Bush is "solely" or "mainly" responsible for the current economic mess we find ourselves in. Only 34% of Americans say the same about Barack Obama.
*Reinforcing the previous bullet point, 62% of Americans feel that the recession is a "situation Obama inherited," while just 25% think his policies are "mostly responsible for" the recession.
*With regard to the Republican candidates for President in 2012, Mitt Romney's way ahead at 30%, with Sarah Palin far behind at 14%, Herman Cain next at 12%, Rick Perry at 8%, Ron Paul at 7%, Newt Gingrich at 6%, Tim Pawlenty at 4%, Rick Santorum at 4%, Michele Bachmann at 3%, and Jon Huntsman at 1%. We'll see how it goes, but right now it looks like Mitt Romney is the definite Republican front runner for 2012. As for Jon Huntsman? Perhaps he should try his luck in the Democratic Party in 2016? :)

PPP: 2012 Starting to Look Better and Better for Democrats

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I don't know about you, but I like the looks of this new PPP poll:
PPP's newest national poll finds that after a little more than 3 months in charge House Republicans have fallen so far out of favor with the American public that it's entirely possible Democrats could take control of the House back next year.

43% of voters think that House Republicans are doing a worse job now than the Democrats did, compared to only 36% who think the GOP has brought an improvement. 19% think things are about the same. 62% of voters thinking that the Republicans have either made things worse or brought no improvement to an already unpopular Congress does not bode particularly well for the party.

Particularly amusing is the rapid move away from Republicans, if not "towards" Democrats per se, by independent voters, who have quickly soured on the reality of Republican (mis)rule. Heckuva job, Can'tor and BONEr! LOL

I'd also add that in 2012, House Democrats will be playing on much friendlier turf, and also in a much more favorable political environment, than in 2010. For starters, many of the seats Republicans picked up in 2010 are in districts carried by President Obama in 2008 (see Democracy Corps for more on that subject). Those seats are all highly vulnerable in 2012. Second, after two years of Teapublican threats to shut down the government if they don't get 100% of their demand; to allow a disastrous default by the United States on its debt, again if they don't get their way; and to push its extreme social, anti-labor, anti-environmental, and pro-corporate agenda; it's highly likely that Democrats will be fired up and independents sick of the extremism. Finally, with the "max turnout" of a presidential year, including among many Democratic "base" voters who stayed home last November, and with the economy continuing to recover, there is basically zero chance that Republicans will recreate the unique "enthusiasm gap" they enjoyed in their 2010 "wave" election year. Sure, the Donald Trumps of the world will continue to play on racist charges that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, despite absolutely conclusive evidence to the contrary, but that's only likely to fire up a small percentage of the far-far-far-right wingers, while turning off just about everyone else.

Obviously, things could change greatly between now and November 2012. But for now, it's looking a lot better to be a Democrat than a Republican running in 2012.

Barack Obama Launches 2012 Reelection Campaign with Video

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Not that it's a big surprise or anything, but now it's official -- Barack Obama today is launching his 2012 reelection campaign. I watched this video and was struck by a few things -- its slick production, of course; its images of people from key groups (white male, Latino, white female, young people) and key states (North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado) that Obama is going to need in large numbers in 2012; its focus on grassroots volunteering for Obama in 2012, but perhaps in a more sober way than the frenzy of 2008; its emphasis on the importance of winning this reelection and how much more there is left to do; its subtle acknowledgment that the intense excitement and historic nature of the 2008 campaign won't be replicated in 2012; also, its subtle acknowledgment that Barack Obama now has a record as an incumbent, so of course we're not going to agree with everything; its catch phrase, "It begins with us," which is a different - and again, more sober, less "movement" feel - way of saying "yes we can."

Clearly, President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign can't - and won't try to - recreate 2008, which was an obvious "change" election from 8 years of George W. Bush and Republican (mis)rule.  However, to the extent the Obama campaign can do so, it will need to bring the coalition that came together in 2008 together once again in numbers close to those seen in 2008. Can the Obama campaign compensate for the passion and historic excitement of 2008 with discipline, organization, a record of accomplishment, a recovering economy (instead of a collapsing one in 2008), upwards of $1 billion, and possibly a very weak Republican candidate? That's the challenge of 2012: whether "Yes we can!" can be translated into the more sedate "It begins with us." We're going to find out, starting now.