primary elections

Primary Night Open Thread

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 19:30

Tonight's a busy primary night, with wignut chances to wreck havoc in NH, NY and DE probably at the top of the list, plus chances to send the Edu-Quislings packing in DC.

Crisitunity at Swing State Project has a pretty awesome concise yet comprehensive cheat sheet on the races tonight here.

Share your thought, hopes, fears, even primal inarticulate noises if you must, on the flip.

[Update]: O'Donnell: 55.4 / Castle: 44.6, with 36.6% of precincts reporting. Looking pretty good for the Dems.

[Update 2]: O'Donnell: 53.9 / Castle: 46.1, with 77.5% of precincts reporting. Narrowed margin, but closing window. Again, looking pretty good for the Dems.

[Update 3]: O'Donnell: 53.7 / Castle: 46.3, with 85.5% of precincts reporting. That's gotta be done! Great news for Dems.

[Update 4]: NH 33 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 34% (6,616 votes) / O. Lamontagne 48% (9,397 votes).  More good news.

[Update 5]: (DE FINAL) O'Donnell: 53.2 / Castle: 46.9, with 98.5% Reporting.
Looks like NH will be next!

[Update 6]: NH 44 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 35% (7,650 votes) / O. Lamontagne 47% (10,470 votes).  Still looking good. But still early.

[Update 7]: NH 54 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 35% (10,417 votes) / O. Lamontagne 45% (13,378 votes).  Tightening a bit, but still looking good.

[Update 8]: NH 2nd: Kuster Beats Lieberdem Swett! Results incomplete, but it's a route & Swett has conceded. 26 out of 188 precincts, Kuster 74% (3,659 votes) / Swett 26% (1,304 votes)

[Update 9]: NH 69 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 37% (16,529 votes) / O. Lamontagne 42% (18,771 votes).  Narrowing, looks to be a nailbiter in the making.

ALSO: NY GOV: Paladino Romps: 67% (167,952 votes) to 33% (82,862) for Lazio.  Only 6,983 precincts out of 15,385, but AP has already called it.

Update (Adam): In other NYS news, State Sen. Bill Stachowski, who represented South Buffalo and nearby locales (about 25 minutes from where I grew up) for the last 30 years, was defeated in a primary by County Legislator Tim Kennedy. Kennedy is a johnny-come-lately on plenty of LGBT issues, but is supportive of marriage equality, while Stachowski was one of the eight Democrats who voted no last winter. If Kennedy keeps to his word (a big if, as I told Gay City News), he would be the 3rd pro-equality vote our side picked up since we lost the vote 24-32 (Onorato from Queens retired, and Monserrate was beaten in a primary- both replaced by good Assemblymen).

However, I think it will still be a tough general for Kennedy against Republican Assemblyman Jack Quinn III.

Elsewhere, turncoat Pedro Espada, who led the coup to switch parties and throw control of the State Senate to the Republicans, lost in his primary to Gustavo Rivera, who is great. New York State Senate stinks just a little bit less.

[Update 12 (Adam)]: Carolyn Maloney beat her Wall Street opponent, Reshma Saujani. More good news.

NYTimes has Schneiderman for Attorney General nominee, whom we're come out for at OpenLeft (here and here), up by one over Rice.

[Update 13]: NH 99 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 38% (22,039 votes) / O. Lamontagne 40% (23,461 votes).  If this narrowing trend keeps up, Ayotte should squeak by.  If it slows, then who knows?

Also: DC Mayor--Only 13% reporting, but Fenty is getting crushed, (D) 29% (3,558 votes) to 69% (8,427 votes) for Gray.

[Update 14]: NH 114 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 38% (24,111 votes) / O. Lamontagne 40% (24,991 votes).  Lamontagne's margin is under 1K now. At this rate, Ayotte wins.

[Update 15]: DC Mayor--Fenty coming back. 18% reporting, Fenty 43% (7,202 votes), Gray 56% (9,485 votes).

[Update 16]: NH--Ayotte edges into very slight lead: 173 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 38% (32,821 votes) / O. Lamontagne 38% (32,520 votes).  

Also: DC Mayor--Fenty atalled. 28% reporting, Fenty 42% (11,335 votes), Gray 57% (15,172 votes).

[Update 17]: NH--Ayotte increases slight lead: 219 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 38% (39,627 votes) / O. Lamontagne 37% (38,767 votes).  

[Update 18]: NH--Ayotte maintainses slight lead: 257 precincts out of 301: K. Ayotte: 38% (46,331 votes) / O. Lamontagne 37% (45,352 votes).  

Also: DC Mayor--Fenty DEFEATED. 90% reporting. Fenty 46% (50,850 votes) / Gray 53% (59,285 votes).

Discuss :: (25 Comments)

Choice Becomes More Clear; Carole P. Kaye for Florida House District 86

by: Betsy L. Angert

Sun Aug 15, 2010 at 16:36

Carole Kaye Democrat for House 86

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

"I don't really want to stop the show,
But I thought that you might like to know,"

That the choice becomes clearer.
"So let me introduce to you
The one and only"
Carole Kaye, Candidate for Florida House District 86

Local Election Days are upon us.  For months now candidates for elected office have roamed their regions.  Everyday people have had ample opportunity to meet, greet, and yes, even eat a meal with aspirants.  Often, one challenger's name is better known. He or she may be an incumbent, or closely associated with one. Consider the Florida House race in District 86. Two very different Democratic candidates Carole Kaye and Lori Berman appear on the ballot. Who are these office seekers?  What will they do for my community, commerce, our children, and me? Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, and parts of Boca Raton constituents, who have not made politics their lives, search for answers as they travel to the polls.

Citizens are inundated with "information."  Posters dot the landscape.  Banners fly on Boulevards.  Constituents don pins and place placards on their lawn.  Windows and automobile bumpers have not escaped unscathed.  Today, the message heard on avenue is "The time is now."  Indeed, it is.  Early voting began on August 9 and will continue through August 22, 2010.  In Florida, while technically Primary Election Day is August 24, 2010, in reality it is today. In Palm Beach County House District 86, Primary Election Day is the final deciding date. Democrats with different styles compete for state House 86 seat.  there is no Republican challenger in this race.  The winner of the Primary will represent South Palm Beach County communities. Yet, many people do not feel equipped to decide.  Whom might I cast a ballot for, the much lauded Lori Berman or the lesser known, highly qualified, Attorney, Educator, and person who for years has shared and cared for my backyard, Carole Penny Kaye.  

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1786 words in story)

Halter's primary challenge in Arkansas on brink of costing biggest banks billions

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 18:02

After Blanche Lincoln narrowly won the Arkansas Senate primary, 52%--48%, a Senior White House Official told Ben Smith of Politico the following:

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise," the official said.

Well, its looking a lot less pointless now.  The derivatives language (also known as section 716) Blanche Lincoln put in the Wall Street reform bill in order to make herself look like a populist fighter is now, stunningly, likely to survive.  David Dayen breaks it down:

Earlier, I noted the House offer on derivatives, which will be a focus of tomorrow's final FinReg conference committee meeting. It's not bad, it actually strengthens in places (like closing the enforcement loophole, something sought by Maria Cantwell), and the weakening pieces aren't all that crucial. The exchange and clearinghouse requirements remain, as does Section 716, which would force the mega-banks to spin off their lucrative swaps trading desks into separately capitalized subsidiaries.

That's the House offer. It was determined by House members only, and so if the New Democrats or other coalitions wanted it changed or weakened, that was their opportunity to do so, though there will be others.(...)

There's now an investment in making Blanche Lincoln a derivatives hero. The leadership has other options but so far hasn't used them - the House offer is largely inoffensive. They really do look afraid to change Section 716. And that's good news for those who want to see a saner banking system.

The Democratic leadership even threw in a staged meeting where Lincoln supposedly confronted them, and made them keep 716 in the bill.  Then, they leaked that meeting to the press, effectively turning it into a Lincoln re-election ad.

While it would be wrong to celebrate early, it now looks like section 716 will remain in the  bill, and will pass into law.  This will cost big banks literally billions of dollars every year--as much as $10 billion per year and $100 billion per decade.  It will take just as much of a bite out of their concentrated power and wealth as the swipe fee regulations would (assuming that passes, too).

This would never, ever have happened without Bill Halter's primary challenge.

So, how much should it cost to take $100 billion out of the biggest banks?  Frankly $10 million seems like a bargain.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Progressive primary challenges, 2008-2010: Another 15%, and we take over the party

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 09:55

Here is a look at the primary challenges that were made against incumbent Democrats in Congress, from 2008-2010:

Notable primary challenges made to the left of Democratic incumbent members of Congress, 2008-2010
Year District Incumbent vote % Notes
2010 GA-12 NA July 20
2010 MA-09 NA Sept 14
2008 MD-04 35% 2nd run, broad coalition
2010 PA-Sen 46% Incumbent switched parties
2010 PA-11 49% Two challengers, both pro-life
2010 AR-Sen 52% Broad coalition
2008 IL-03 53% Multiple challengers
2010 CA-36 59% 2nd run
2008 IA-03 61%
2010 NC-11 62%
2010 NC-08 63%
2010 PA-17 65%
2010 UT-02 68%
2008 GA-12 76%
There were some other primary challenges to less-than progressive Democrats, such as IN-09, OH-06, WV-01, WV-03, and multiple challenges in predominantly African-American districts, but they were not made explicitly to the ideological or partisan left of the incumbent. I don't think Colorado Senate qualifies in that category, either, but I could end up being proven wrong.

Some notes:

  • The median incumbent result from the twelve campaigns that have already occurred is 60% for the incumbent.

  • The similarity of results in Blue Dog districts across the nation--Iowa, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Utah and California--is striking.  With the exceptions of GA-12, where an Obama radio ad skewed a predominantly African-American district, and IL-03, where multiple challengers made the incumbent's numbers look lower than they really were, there is a narrow range of 32%-41% for explicitly left-wing challenge to the incumbent Blue Dogs.  So, for the first time, we have an estimate of the anti-Blue Dog, progressive base in Democratic primaries.

  • If this progressive base were to increase its share of the Democratic party by 15%, then all of these primary challenges would either have won, or at least been serious enough to make the incumbent fundamentally change his or her behavior in Congress.  In other words, we need another 15% to take over the party and put the Blue Dogs out of business.

  • The number of progressive primary challenges significantly increased from 2008 to 2010, from 4 to 10.  However, it still lags behind the number of right-wing challenges, by at least a 2-1 margin.
All of this is extremely useful in letting us know where we stand in our efforts to reform the Democratic Party.  It certainly will not be easy to get the last 15% we need, but at least it feels like an achievable goal.  It's a helluva a lot more doable than left-wing third parties ever making any headway.
Discuss :: (5 Comments)

June 22nd primary results thread--Elaine Marhsall Wins!!

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 20:32

Update--The AP has declared Elaine Marshall the winner in North Carolina! Head over to her website, and sign up for her campaign!

It's primary day in Utah, and run-off day Mississippi and the Carolinas.  Politco has all of the results, while Swing State Project has good updates and resources.

The key result so far is in North Carolina, where progressive champion Elaine Marshall is crushing DSCC backed cal Cunningham. With over 30% of the vote in, Marshall leads by a whopping 62%-38%. Awesome!  (Update--The AP calls it for Marhsall!)

Another result of note is in the GOP run-off in SC-04.  Incumbent Bob Inglis is currently losing by an absurd 72%--28%, with over 30% in.  That has to be the most lopsided result in a primary ever, at least for an incumbent who has no obvious scandals.

Finally, in Utah, check out the Democratic primary in UT-02, where progressive Claudia Wright is challenging Blue Dog Jim Matheson.  Wright is unlikely to win, but a strong showing would still be a positive sign for future primary challenges.

This is an open thread to discuss the results. Talk amongst yourselves.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Right-wingers outpacing left-wingers 2-1 in serious primary challenges, performing 6% better

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 17:05

At Swing State Project, DavidNYC has a cool chart showing the 31 times so far this cycle when an incumbent member of the House of Representatives faced a serious primary challenge ('serious," for the purposes of this post, is defined as the incumbent not receiving 30% or more of the vote).

The chart shows incumbent Republicans facing 19 serious primary challenges, and incumbent Democrats facing 12. On average, incumbent Republicans received 57% of the vote in their primaries, while incumbent Democrats received 62%.

However, the Democratic primary challenges to Alan Mollohan, Danny Davis, and Shelia Jackson-Lee were definitely not challenges from the left.  If those are removed from the Democratic totals, then so far there have nine serious progressive primary challenges, averaging 37% of the vote.

Overall, this means that right-wing primary challenges outnumber left-wing primary challenges by a little more than 2-1, and are performing 6% better in those primary challenges.

Granted, even before the emergence of the tea party, it is not exactly breaking news that incumbent Republicans face far more serious primary threats than incumbent Democrats. However, actually seeing it quantified in this way is quite enlightening.

Whether you take this as a sign that conservatives are doing a better job of putting together insurgent campaigns to hold their party accountable, or that conservatives are far more to blame for polarization than Democrats, is probably a matter of taste.  Both are actually true, so whichever lesson you decide to draw will be correct.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

A tough loss, but an important message

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 23:59

First, let me just say that we lost, and there is no covering that up.  Even though it was close, a win would have been almost 100% better than a loss.

Now, with that said

  • Anti-Wall Street messaging works: Blanche Lincoln produced strong language on the derivatives portion of the all Street reform bill.  She went to the left of the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate leadership in her language.  Further, it ended up in the bill that passed the Senate because of her primary challenge, and then she proceeded to campaign on it:

    [corrected: had the wrong video up overnight]

    Even if the Chamber of Commerce went to bat for Lincoln, that is a strong, anti-Wall Street message.--and it is the message that voters heard  Democrats should follow suit, keep Lincoln's language in the Wall Street reform bill, and run on it themselves.  Honestly, it might be the only thing to save them in 2010, as it saved Lincoln.

  • Very few incumbents are challenged this hard: Primary challenges rarely come tthis close.  For all the blather about the anti-incumbent mood, as Larry Sabato noted over Twitter:

    So that's 4 incumbents down, 200 renominated. Um, how's that "anti-incumbent wave" going, my dear headline writers?

    Incumbents almost  never lose in primaries.  Even the losses that have occurred this year all come with asteriks.  Arlen Specter and Parker Griffith switched parties.  Alan Mollohan had ethics problems. Bob Bennett faced a caucus, not a primary.  A Halter win would have been the ultra-rare, straight-up defeat of a Senator largely because that Senator angered her base and progressive organizations.  Those defeats happen less than once every two years.  Getting challenged this hard is almost as rare.

  • Low union, netroots denisty: Arkansas is one of the weakest states for the labor and netroots organizations backing Halter.  As Eddie Vale points out, Arkansas is 49th out of 50 in terms of union density. It probably isn't too much higher in terms of netroots density.  If we can come close in this state, then Senators in almost every other state better take notice.
It is a tough night, but there are good reasons to be proud.  We might get some good legislation from this campaign, primary challenges very rarely come this close, and it was this close despite Arkansas being a terrible state for labor and the netroots.  Winning would have been a helluva a lot better, but that ain't nothing.

And, most importantly, we are going to keep running these primary challenges, no matter what,  bad Dems don't get a break because of what happened here.

Discuss :: (64 Comments)

Super Tuesday results thread

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 20:11

Results from Politico.  You can also follow my coverage tonight on Twitter.

Update 11:02: AP calls Arkansas for Blanche Lincoln.  Suck.  No more vote updates below. New thread coming soon-ish.

Arkansas Senate, 84.5% precincts reporting
Halter Lincoln
% 48.2% 51.8%
Votes 109,465 117,782

Update 10:40 Thinking ahead for a moment, the questions now are if we still get the good derivatives language, if a message has been sent anyway, and how we prevent voting problems in the future.

Update 10:38 And, its over. Turns out Pulaski was a mistake. Lincoln is going to win tonight, and then get creamed in November.

Update 10:35 Swing State model now projects Lincoln by only 1.1% due to massive 18-20% pro-Halter swing in Pulaski county. Some think the Pulaski report might be an error since it is so against the trend tonight. A wild an developing story...

Update 10:25: Halter moves into the lead, at least for now.

Update 10:12: The swing is pro-Lincoln by just under 3%  Halter is improving, however.  Also, even with a swing to Lincoln, Halter can still win. Taniel explains how on Twitter:

Only way for Halter to win despite these shifts is if turnout balance has shifted in favor of his counties. Which we can't know easily.

Update 9:48: Swing State model slowly improving for Halter, but he is still behind where he needs to be by about 4.8%.

Update 9:38: Halter underperforming in many counties according to the Swing State Project model.  Still early though.

Update 9:11 pm: Absentees compose almost all of the early voting so far. Lincoln appears to have won that group narrowly.


Personally, I will also be following the Republican Senate primaries in Nevada (10 pm eastern) and California (8 pm pacific), as well as the potential teabagger upsets of incumbent House Republicans in SC-04 and NJ-07 (polls already closed in  both campaigns.  You can discuss any campaign you like in the comments.

Four incumbents have already been defeated for renomination this year.  That number should go up tonight.

Discuss :: (20 Comments)

Reminder: Blanche Lincoln lied about choice, card check, and the public option

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 11:26

The media narrative around the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary is that labor and the netroots opposed Lincoln because she wasn't progressive enough.  However, that is not exactly correct.  Labor and netroots groups are largely piling on against Lincoln because she broke public promises on key issues that had previously earned her the support of various progressive groups.  To put it more bluntly, she won the support of many groups by lying, and now it is payback time.

Unfortunately, Lincoln's betrayal of progressive groups is largely absent from the media narrative on the campaign.  For example, take this write-up on today's primaries from The Hill:

But the spotlight will shine brightest on Lincoln, who earned union scorn for opposing a public option in the healthcare bill and refusing to back card- check legislation championed by the labor movement.

The campaign dynamic present here is a simple left-right spectrum: Lincoln is being opposed because she is not sufficiently left-wing.  This is actually a narrative that Lincoln is pushing in her own ads.  In a recent TV spot, Lincoln says to the camera:

The labor unions are spending millions of dollars against me because I won't vote with them 100% of the time.

However, Lincoln did not simply oppose card check and a public option.  She made public commitments of support for both policies, before flipping when it was crunch time.

On November 21st, 2009, Blanche Lincoln stood on the floor of the Senate and declared that she would filibuster any health reform bill that included a public option.  However, earlier in the year she signed a document stating that she supported the public option.  Further, even as she spoke, her Senate website said that she still supported a public option, she is still cool with the public option:

Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies.  Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans.  Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan.

And here's a screenshot:

She told progressive groups that she supported their priorities, but then she completely flipped her position when it came time to actually vote.

The same dynamic took place on card check.  She voted for an Employee Free Choice Act with card check in 2007, but cimply flipped her position in 2009 once it had a chance to pass:

In the Ozark Mountain town of Rogers, Ark., more than 250 business owners gathered for lunch at a construction company last month to focus on what they saw as a major threat -- a proposal in Congress to make it easier to form labor unions.

At each place setting, attendees found pre-stamped postcards and pre-written letters to be sent to Arkansas' U.S. senators, Democrats Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, who had supported the labor bill in the past. After lunch, the business owners were ushered to computers to send e-mail messages as well.

Five days later came the good news: Two Senate votes had been stripped from the pro-union bill. Lincoln said she would oppose it outright, while Pryor declared the current version "dead" and said he would look for compromises.

It isn't just the public option and card check, either.  EMILY's List had also previously supported Blanche Lincoln, but did not do so in 2010 because Lincoln lied to them.  From Ellen Malcolm, EMILY's List chair

In 1998, EMILY's List helped elect Lincoln to the U.S. Senate. We believed her when she told us that that, if and when the Senate took up right-wing Senator Rick Santorum's bill to ban what he called "partial birth" abortion, she would insist on a health exception that protects women.

Our members gave generously to her campaign, believing that she would steadfastly stand by the pledge she made to us to protect women's reproductive freedom.

She took our members' hard-earned money to get elected. Unfortunately, when the Santorum bill came up for a vote, Lincoln voted for it even though it provided no exception to protect women's health.(...)

Since she wasn't there for us, we won't be there for her.

Sure, there is an ideological element to this campaign.  Sure, there is an anti-incumbent mood.  Sure, it is unusual to get a primary challenger as strong as Bill Halter.  However, to ignore Blanche Lincoln's repeated betrayals on key issues to progressive groups who had once supported her ignores a central dynamic of this campaign.

Blanche Lincoln brought this primary challenge on herself by going back on several important public commitments she had made in order to win organizational support for her previous campaigns.  She simply would not be in this sort of primary trouble if she hadn't lied and if groups like EMILY's List and labor unions were still supported her.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

AR-Sen: Bill Halter on the brink of victory

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 14:28

Research 2000 has a new poll in Arkansas showing Bill Halter leading Blanche Lincoln, 49%-45%.  This is still a very close campaign, given not only the margin but also the poor record of public opinion polling in primaries.

However, the trendline from Research 2000 suggests that Halter is still in a very good position to win on Tuesday.  In the eight polls Research 2000 has conducted of the primary, Blanche Lincoln's share of the vote has remained static, while Halter has consistently gained:

Research 2000, Arkansas Senate primary polling, December 2009-current
Date Halter Lincoln
June 03 49% 45%
May 25 47% 44%
May 11 37% 46%
Apr 27 35% 43%
Apr 13 33% 45%
Mar 23 31% 44%
Dec 01 26% 42%
Lincoln's support is almost entirely unchanged over the past six months.  She has hovered in the mid-40s the entire time, with no upward movement whatsoever.

Given that Lincoln was only 2% ahead of Halter on May 18th in actual votes, given her inability to win over new supporters, and given that upwards of 12% of the vote is up for grabs, Bill Halter looks pretty darn good for Tuesday.

Let's get another primary victory in the old onion bag. You can give to Bill Halter here. Or, sign up to volunteer here. . You can volunteer from anywhere in the US.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Senate forecast update: Democrats making big gains during primary season

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 12:36

June 3rd update: Democrats 53.43 seats
May 28th: Democrats 52.67 seats

While the tea party wave in Republican primaries is dragging down GOP hopes in the 2010 Senate elections, progressive primaries are actually improving Democratic chances.  The net result is that Democrats are making big gains on Republicans during the 2010 primary season.

Since April 14th, Republicans have slid backwards in the general election polling averages in 10 of the 12 states that have featured both competitive primaries and competitive general elections. The average general election loss for Republicans has been significant: 3.7% on the mean, and 4.9% on the median.

Here are the changes in those 12 states.  The April 14th Senate forecast can be seen here, and the current Senate forecasat is in the extended entry of this article:

Change in Republican general election position, Senate campaigns, April 14-current
12 states with competitive primaries and general elections
State Republican loss
Nevada 14.2%
Florida* 10.2%
Iowa 7.0%
North Carolina 6.1%
Pennsylvania 5.2%
California 5.0%
Kentucky 4.7%
Ohio 3.0%
Colorado 2.7%
Arizona** 2.0%
Indiana -5.5%
Arkansas -9.8%
* = Compares mid-April status of Rubio vs Meek general election to current three-way standings
** = For both April and current forecasts, J.D. Hayowrth is considered to be the likely Republican nominee in Arizona, not John McCain

These nearly across the board improvements for Democratss come during a time when Democrats have not improved their standing nationally.  According to, President Obama's net approval rating has dropped by about 2.5% since mid-April, and the national, generic congressional ballot has been stagnant, with perhaps a slight GOP gain.  In other words, Democrats are improving in these states due to local campaign developments, not national trends.

A reasonable conclusion from this is that Republicans are being hurt by their primaries, while Democrats are benefiting from their primaries.  This is as strong as any evidence yet available that the tea party wave in Republican primaries is a decided, net negative for the Republican party..

By contrast, Democrats have seen improvements as a result of their competitive primaries in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and possibly Colorado (although in that case the Democratic improvement is more likely due to Jane Norton's emerging weakness).  The only exception appears to be Arkansas, although Bill Halter's position against John Boozman has only deteriorated by 1.0% over the past two months, if the recent, absurd Rasmussen poll is removed from the averages. Blanche Lincoln's position has entirely collapsed.

The only clear case where Republicans were helped by a primary is in Indiana.  In that state, the Democratic primary was brilliantly cleared by Evan Bayh's late retirement announcement, thereby allowing Republicans to suck up all media attention and get a boost as a result of their competitive primary.  Oh yeah, and two tea party candidates were defeated by the establishment GOP choice in Indiana, too.

The tea party and other right-wing primary efforts are eroding Republican chances in the general election, while progressive efforts are doing exactly the opposite on the Democratic side.  This primary season has been a tremendous help to  Democratic Senate chances.  In fact, without Rasmussen polling, Democrats now lead in enough campaigns to hold 55 seats in the Senate, which is a long way from an electoral disaster.

Complete Senate forecast can be found in the extended entry.

There's More... :: (9 Comments, 296 words in story)

The White House needs to stay out of primaries

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 22:41

According to a statement and an email released by Andrew Romanoff, the White House Jim Messina kinda, sorta, suggested that Romanoff pursue an administration job rather than challenge Senator Michael Bennet in the Colorado Democratic primary for Senate. Politico:

In his statement, Romanoff said that in September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported his plans to run for the Senate, he received a call from Messina. "Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run," the statement said.

"Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina's assistance in obtaining one," Romanoff said.

Later that day, Romanoff said he received an email from Mr. Messina containing descriptions of three positions. "I later left him a voicemail informing him that I would not change course," Romanoff said. "I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then."

I gotta say "ouch" for the White House on this one. It will now look like the White House made a regular business of suggesting administration positions to Democrats who were considering primary challenges to incumbent Democratic members of Congress.  It will look like that, because it was like that.

There are some caveats here.  For one, Romanoff was actively pursuing administration positions during much of 2009, so it is not like this was an entirely unsolicited suggestion from the White House:  Also, Romanoff himself says that he was not actually promised a job by the White House.  Further, the White House says that Democrats in Colorado were actively promoting him for administration positions.

Whether this will hurt the Obama administration is based on two factors.  First, is this a story that is getting enough play for a meaningful amount of voters to actually notice?  Second, do people actually care?

I am not as convinced as many professional commentators that this makes Obama look bad to his  supporters.  Other than political junkies, almost no one gives a shit about process stories.  Further, almost no political junkies are both Obama supporters and naïve enough to feel burned by transactional  politics like this.  I just don't see what part of the Obama coalition actually feels surprised and upset at Obama over this.

However, I am convinced that this is not helping Obama.  As I noted in the post below this, Obama's net approval rating dropped 3.5% in May, even though more jobs were created in May than in any month, like ever.  It seems possible, even likely, that stories about the White House trying to clear primary fields, and the BP leak, are wiping away any potential political gain for the improving employment situation.

The lesson for the White House here should be to stay out of primaries. These stories are costing them a lot of news cycles, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars they sunk into Arlen Specter's campaign.  Further, these primary challenges are actually helpful to the administration's legislative agenda, as they do a lot more to prevent defections on big votes from Specter and Bennet than any backroom deal ever will.  If the White House had just let these campaigns play out, they would be a lot better off right now.

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Progressives running lots of red district primary challenges-are third-parties next?

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 15:56

Ten years ago, the 2000 elections changed the broadly accepted parameters of progressive challenges to incumbent, center-right Democrats. Given that we all  had to suffer through the Bush administration even though Gore and Nader voters combined for a majority of the electorate, two de facto rules were laid down:

  1. Keep progressive challenges to center-right Democrats confined to Democratic primaries, not general elections;

  2. Keep those primary challenges confined to blue and swing districts, not red districts.
The basic idea behind these two rules has been to find ways to engage in progressive primary challenges that do not endanger Democratic chances to defeat Republicans.  Thus, there can be progressive accountability that does not actively help Republicans.

A counter-argument to these rules is that Democrats from red districts are exempted from any accountability, thus making it virtually impossible to build a progressive majority in Congress.  With Democrats now the governing party in D.C., this argument appears to be winning the day.

Progressive frustration at at right-wing Democrats who seek to water down, or outright block, even a modest, center-left agenda has entirely ended the self-imposed ban on the second rule (no primary challenges in red districts). There are numerous examples of this:

  1. Most obviously, Bill Halter's primary challenge against Blanche Lincoln has been strongly supported by labor and netroots organizations alike.  This is even though Arkansas Arkansas has a Cook Partisan Index of Republican +9, making it a very difficult state for any Democrat to win this year.

  2. In North Carolina, two progressive primary challengers with literally no funding scored nearly 40% of the vote against Democrats Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler. Both Kissell and Shuler have voted  against a range of progressive priorities (they are under 50% for key votes on Progressive Punch), and the vote against came came primarily from the more liberal parts of their districts.

  3. In Utah, Jim Matheson was forced into a primary against Claudia Wright by progressive activists at the state caucus convention.  This is even though the district has a Cook PVI of Republican +15.

  4. In the Pennsylvania 17th, a district with a Cook PVI of Republican +5, the AFL-CIO withheld support from incumbent Blue Doog Tim Holden in the Democrats in his primary against progressive challenger Shelia Dow Ford.  In the end, the underfunded Ford did not do as well as the primary challengers in North Carolina (likely because she faced a 19-year incumbent rather than a freshman or a sophomore), but still scored a respectable 35%.

  5. There are also the examples of the Pennsylvania Senate (Joe Sestak), and Georgia 12 congressional district (Regina Thomas) primaries, both of which are pretty purple and not be easy to win in a year such as 2010.
There is actually more in the way of primary challenges to incumbent Democrats in red districts than in blue districts this year.  In many cases, these primary challenges have the official, or at least implied, support of netroots organizations and unions. This is a stark change from 2006 and 2008, when on many occasions I personally saw suggestions of primary challenges against Democrats in red districts dismissed outright, with no discussion, by leaders of these groups.

It is also a welcome change. If progressives are afraid of running progressive candidates in competitive or red districts, then we might as well just give up our whole movement right now.  To do so would be to simply cede the possibility of a progressive governing majority in D.C. at the start of the process, to to mention basically enable Blue Dogs who water down and block a center-left agenda.

I am far less convinced of dumping rule #1, not challenging center-right Democrats in general elections.  However, at least one major organization is starting to go down that path, too:

The Service Employees International Union and its North Carolina affiliate did not gather the 85,000 signatures by Tuesday's deadline, meaning the third party, North Carolina First, will not be recognized on the general election ballot. But organizers said they are drafting an independent candidate to challenge Rep. Larry Kissell, a first-term Democrat from a swing district who voted no on health care.(...)

"We're trying to give the voters in the district a choice that isn't just the same old thing," Rideout said. "The same old thing is a Democrat who goes to Washington and votes with the health insurance companies and a Republican who goes to Washington and votes with the health insurance companies."(...)

This is an unusual move that Democratic officials warn could take away votes from Kissell and effectively hand the seat to a Republican.

Well duh, on that last point.  You would have to be pretty dense to not see that defeating Kissell, and having it serve as a warning to other Democrats in red and purple districts, was SEIU's entire goal here.      They want Democrats in red districts to fear them.

While in general I do not agree with this accountability tactic, it is at least playing with a lot less fire than a left-wing third-party challenge in a presidential election. Perhaps an experiment in one or two congressional districts is at least worth a  try, to see if it does change Democratic behavior in any way.

From my vantage point, as a two-time Nader vote in 1996 and 2000, it seemed like this tactic woefully backfired for Nader and his supporters after 2000.  Instead of Democrats being forced to bow and respect of the Greens, Democrats ended up loathing them and fighting back harder.  Nader lost over 80% of his support from 2000 to 2004, and lost his place as a credible national figure on a wide variety of issues. Maybe it will turn out differently this time, but ten years ago this method truly stank as an effective accountability tactic for progressives.

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June 8th primaries could further shake up 2010 elections

by: Chris Bowers

Thu May 20, 2010 at 10:12

New polling shows that the June 8thh primaries could shake up the 2010 elections as much as Tuesday's primaries already did.

California Senate, Republican primary and general election
Two new primary polls in California show former Representative Tom Campbell's lead over Carly Fiorina shrinking in the Republican Senate primary.  M4 shows Campbell up 33%--28% (with 15% for Chuck DeVore), while PPIC shows Fiorina ahead 25%--23% (with DeVore at 16%).  This puts the 15-day average at 30.3% for Campbell, 25.7% for Fiorina, and 15.3% for DeVore.

A Fionia win--or, for that matter, a shock DeVore win--would certainly be good news for incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer.  In the general election, Boxer now leads Campbell by 3.5% (87% current win %), Fiorina by 8% (98% current win %), and Devore by 8.5% (again, 98% current win %).  Given Boxer's 72% current win % in yesterday's Senate forecast update, this improve the overall Democratic seante position by 0.13 seats (adjusting for slight error I made in Connecticut-should have been 98% win % for Blumenthal, not 100%).  Democrats are now forecast at 52.20 seats, their best total since Evan Bayh's retirement announcement.

California 36th Congressional district, Democratic primary
Another interesting poll on a June 8th primary comes from the Marcy Winograd campaign.  The poll, which was not released in full (not a good sign), shows incumbent Blue Dog Jane Harman at only 43%  support.  This conflicts significantly with an internal Harman poll released earlier in the week, showing her at 58%.

My takeways from these polls are that Harman is strongly favored in the campaign, but Winograd can score over 40%, improving on her 2010 performance.  To win, she is going to need a huge improvement in name ID and favorables over the final three weeks, combined with very low Democratic turnout on June 8th.  Given the relative lack of major statewide Democratic primaries in California compared to Republicans, this isn't impossible.  But it is a huge longshot.

Nevada Senate, Republican primary
Another big primary to watch on June 8th int eh Republican Senate primary in Nevada.  In the wake of her Chickens for Checkups fiasco, one-time Republican frontrunner Sue Lowden has crashed in the polls.  The 18% lead she enjoyed from late February through early April has been cut to only 5% by wingnut fave Sharron Angle.  Harry Reid is competitive with Sharron Angle in the general election, trailing by only 5.5%.  If Angle were to win the Republican primary, Reid might be able to hang onto his seat.

Arkansas Senate, Democratic primary runoff
Finally, to toot our own horn for a bit, the first poll on the runoff for the Democratic nomination in Arkansas Senate was first released here on Open Left yesterday by Democracy for America.  It showed Bill Halter leading incumbent Blanche Lincoln 48%--46%.  With Lincoln receiving less than 45% of the vote in the primary on Tuesday, there its a good bet that a a wave of anti-incumbent incumbent sentiment will lead to her defeat on June 8th.


Overall, while perhaps not quite as exciting as the May 18th primaries, June 8th seems ready to keep the anti-incumbent, anti-establishment buzz going strong.

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Wall Street reform update: Uncertainty, anger and drama running high

by: Chris Bowers

Wed May 19, 2010 at 14:53

Update--Cloture vote will fail: Cloture is about to fail.  Collins and Snowe voted for cloture, while Feingold and Cantwell voted against it. Specter and Begich did not vote.  So, even when Specter and Begich come back, Dems will need to find one more vote. Hopefully, that will be accomplished by getting Cantwell a vote on her amendment to reinstate Glass-Steagal.


Wall Street reform legislation continues to unfold in the Senate, with several dramatic developments over the past 24 hours.  Here are where things stand at 2:55 pm:

1. Cloture vote delayed
The cloture vote on the overall bill had originally been set for 2:00 p.m. today, but is now delayed indefinitely.  Senate Democrats are caucusing to figure out what to do next.

2. Susan Collins and Ben Nelson on board, but progressives blocking passage
Republican Susan Collins, and uber-ConservaDem Ben Nelson came out in favor of cloture today.

If all other Democrats held together, this would mean there are enough votes for cloture to succeed.  However, many progressives--Cantwell (reinstating Glass--Steagal), Dorgan (ending naked credit default swaps), Harkin (capping ATM fees at $0.50), Merkley (reinstating Volcker rule), Levin (same as Merkley) and others--remain angry that their strengthening amendments have not received votes, and as such are not promising to support cloture.  In fact, Cantwell just said she does not support cloture, as of right now.

Progressive anger over this turned into chaos--or as close as the Senate ever gets to chaos--on the floor last night.  Tom Harkin openly angry at Harry Reid, Senators huddled every which way to strategize, strange procedural moves were employed (see bullet point below for the prime example), and more. Ryan Grim and David Dayen have good rundowns of the events.  

3. Big strengthening amendment attacked to big weakening amendment
Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin are two of the progressive Senators pissed that their amendment (to reinstate the Volcker rule) did not receive votes.  Republicans had been objecting to holding a vote on the Merkley-Levin amendment (unanimous consent is required for amendment votes), and the amendment was also not deemed germane by the parliamentarian for a post-cloture amendment vote.  Basically, there was no way to get a vote on their amendment.

So, to "solve" this problem, Merkley and Levin attached their amendment to a horrendous weakening amendment, filed by Republicans, which has been deemed germane for a post-cloture amendment vote.  That amendment, filed by Sam Brownback, exempts auto dealers from new consumer protection laws, even though auto loans are the biggest instances of financial malfeasance against consumers, especially military personnel.

Now, to prevent a vote on Merkley-Levin, Republicans would have to also block a vote on the Brownback amendment.  From a statement by Senator Merkley:

The Merkley-Levin amendment must now be voted on before the entire Wall Street reform bill receives a final vote. For the Merkley-Levin amendment to ultimately be included in the final Wall Street reform bill, the Merkley-Levin amendment must pass and then the Brownback amendment to which it is attached must pass.

The Merkley-Levin amendment will ban high-risk trading inside our lending and depository institutions to help prevent a future financial crisis and prevent bank capital from being diverted away from loans into trading. The amendment will also end conflicts of interest in cases such as Goldman Sachs and will send a strong message to Wall Street that betting against the best interests of their clients will no longer be allowed.

This leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but it isn't actually a bad bit of gaming from Merkley and Levin.  The best way to approach this is to try and get the votes for Merkley-Levin, and simultaneously work to the Brownback amendment anyway.  It is still preferable that the Brownback amendment is defeated, thus defeating both amendments, but at least this way there is no way for the Brownback amendment to pass without a big strengthening amendment simultaneously passing (at a 51-vote threshold, Merkley-Levin should be a sure thing).  We can't get the best of both worls-passing Merkley-Levin and defeating Brownback, but at least we won't get the worst of both worlds now.

4. Arkansas Senate primary saves derivatives reform (for now)
And here is the most dramatic development of all.

Last night, Chris Dodd (who is managing the Wall Street reform bill), introduced an amendment to gut the derivatives regulation that is at the heart of the bill.  The original derivatives language had been written by Agriculture Chair Blanche Lincoln.  It was pretty strong, as it required the biggest banks to sell off their derivatives departments.  Dodd's proposal would delay implementation of Lincoln's language by two years, and probably forever, by requiring a series of studies led by people opposed to those portions of the bill (such as leading Obama administration figures).

Dodd had planned this course of action all along, but had waited on doing so to prevent embarrassing Blanche Lincoln, who faced a left-wing primary challenge from Bill Halter.  If Democrats were to strip Lincoln's populist legislation from Wall Street reform, it would cause her real trouble, as Halter is challenging her from a populist and progressive angle. Lincoln can't afford to look ineffective, like a suck-up to Wall Street, or like someone who only wrote the legislation to get elected.

However, now that Bill Halter not only forced Lincoln into a June 8th runoff, but only polled 2% behind her overall, Lincoln is still in real danger of being defeated in the primary.  As such, Dodd withdrew his proposal to gut derivatives regulations.

This is a remarkable example of both good timing, and bow primary campaigns are an effective means of changing Democratic behavior in Congress.  Without the progressive pressure on Lincoln specifically, and on Senate Democrats more generally, the derivatives portion of the bill would already be gutted.


More developments as they come in.  Everything is up in the air right now.

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