Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Republican comeback in the Northeast?

While the big story for 2009 was the takeover of the governor's mansion in New Jersey and Virginia, there's more good news for the GOP, and the disasters of 06 and 08.

2006 and 2008 was a disaster for the GOP. Republicans were wiped out in much of the country during those two election cycles with unpopular incumbents and struggling state and local parties. It was very tough in the Northeast and Midwest, for different reasons. In Ohio, you had Taft. Here in Michigan, it was the economy and "outsourcing" tag. Indiana had their own issues. Illinois is Obama's home state. Minnesota and Wisconsin have long held democrat leanings.

Michigan's State Senate District 19 is a bellwether district covering Calhoun and most of Jackson Counties. It voted for Granholm twice, Bush twice, and Obama.

I found this interesting National Review article by Jim Geraghty.. They looked at some of the recent results in suburban northeastern counties. Keep in mind that most of those are much more liberal than the two big suburban counties here (Oakland and Macomb).

Consider these six numbers: 62, 53, 54, 60, 60, 53.

Those numbers are the percentage of voters who supported Barack Obama last year in Westchester and Nassau Counties in New York, Bergen and Middlesex Counties in New Jersey, Fairfax County in Virginia, and Bucks County in Pennsylvania, respectively.

Now, here are the percentages of the vote that the top-of-the-ticket Democratic candidates got in each of those counties this year: 43, 48, 48, 44, 49, 45.


But as the stack of 2009’s defeated Democrats piles up to include Westchester county executive Andrew Spano, Nassau county executive Tom Suozzi (probably), and state supreme court nominee Jack Panella in Pennsylvania, with a roughly proportional slide in the Democrats’ share of the vote, perhaps that party’s problems go well beyond the flaws of any individual candidate. Perhaps the suburbs of the northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are looking at the party and concluding, to adapt a recurring phrase from Obama’s days as a candidate, “This is not the Democratic party I knew.”

Westchester County? Ouch. Nassau? Ouch. Bucks County? Ouch. Those have recently been almost base counties at the top of the ticket. Westchester and Nassau are base counties across the board. Bucks will swing at times, but still has dem leanings.

After 2008, the declarations were blunt: Obama won 50 percent of suburban voters, the most by a Democrat since exit polling began in 1972. Democrats benefited from increased turnout among young voters and African-Americans, but the suburban shift from Kerry’s modest 47 percent was the real sign that they were winning over skeptics.

Kerry ran better than Gore in SOME suburbs (Fairfax, Bucks), and the same or worse than Gore in others (NYC suburbs, Oakland, Macomb). Obama ran better than both Gore and Kerry there. The article then mentions a poll with some of the shift since 08 election, as the memory of Bush goes back into the distance.

Page two of the article though really says something. Keep in mind, this is the Northeast, and not the Midwest here.

What is crystallizing in the northeast is voters’ incredulity that government at every level should be demanding more while delivering less at a time when people feel strapped and anxious about their futures. Almost all voters feel an ever-sharper pinch from the economic downturn, but they look at government, from their county seat to Washington, and find little or no sign of frugality or careful budgeting. There was also a time when conventional wisdom dictated that a pro-life Republican could not win a race in the northeast. Here are three candidates who suggest a lot of what we know about politics in the northeast is wrong:

The northeast is the most pro-government area of the country outside of California. It is the home of the rich white regressive (so called progressive) democrat. They have a lot of influence up that way. However, the swing voters are not buying what is sold anymore. I think there's several reasons for that, most importantly is Bush gone and Obama being just another politician not living to the hype.

Nassau County:
Republican challenger Ed Mangano is, as of this writing, not quite the next Nassau county executive. But he leads Tom Suozzi by 353 votes after a weekend of absentee and affidavit ballot counting, a process of counting that is expected to extend past the Thanksgiving holiday.

A county-executive race doesn’t dominate the headlines the way a presidential race does, but Suozzi entered this race the heavy favorite. In a county with more registered Democrats than Republicans, in a state where the GOP is supposed to be dead, an incumbent with a huge fundraising advantage ought to be able to win in his sleep. Perhaps that is a good way of describing what Suozzi attempted; he finished the race with perhaps $2 million in his campaign war chest unspent.

Nassau County is one of the two Long Island NY Counties. It's the more democrat of the two (Suffolk is the other). It went 53.84% for Obama, 52.25% for Kerry, 57.93% for Gore, 55.7% for Clinton 96, 46.4% for Clinton in 92.

Hillary Clinton 06 - 60.47%
Charles Schumer 04 - 66.45%
Hillary Clinton 00 - 45.15% (Rick Lazio was from Long Island and won there, and Hillary carpetbagged)
Charles Schumer 98 - 46.5% (Al D'Amato was from Long Island and won there)

Elliot Spitzer 06 - 64.88%

Nassau can sometimes be competitive though. The GOP has a congressional district still based in Nassau (Peter King), although the democrats have two districts there, one of which is winnable in a very good year. Part of the problems on Long Island were local scandals and a sweep of the county offices. If that's straightened out, there is a good chance for a comeback, at least of competitiveness.

Westchester County is much more democrat, and this was the real big upset. Westchester County is just north of the Bronx. Yonkers, White Plains, and Chappaqua, where the Clintons now live.

Rob Astorino is supposed to be the kind of Republican candidate who can’t win in the northeast anymore. He ran a fairly explicit campaign emphasizing fiscal conservatism, depicting the county’s management as wasteful, bureaucratic, inefficient, corrupt, and out of touch. He hammered his rival, telling voters that the incumbent county executive, Andy Spano, “raised your taxes almost 60 percent in the last seven years alone. Mr. Spano has ballooned the annual budget by $1 billion in the past 12 years, from $800 million to $1.8 billion per year. He spends more than 87 nations do, and you pay for it.” Intriguingly, while the pro-life Astorino didn’t put his faith or social views front and center, his conservative bona fides are impeccable: He is a radio host and program director for the Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio and hosts a Thursday-night program with Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York.

Astorino shellacked the three-term Democrat, 57 percent to 43 percent, in a county where Democrats have nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration. This is a county where Al Gore and John Kerry carried 58 percent of the vote, the county Bill and Hillary Clinton call home. It may be a bit self-serving, but Spano contends that his defeat reflects voters’ anger at Democrats at the state and national level. “It has nothing to do with me, as far as I’m concerned,” he told the New York Times. “They’re mad at Albany, and Washington.”

Westchester went 63.36% for Obama, 58.1% for Kerry, 58.63% for Gore, 56.9% for Clinton 96, and 48.6% for Clinton in 92.

Hillary Clinton 06 - 66.50%
Charles Schumer 04 - 70.48%
Hillary Clinton 00 - 51.09%
Charles Schumer 98 - 54.5%

Elliot Spitzer 06 - 69%

The two districts that cover Westchester are both democrat (one based, one partial), although one of them had been republican until 2006 due to other counties in that district. The other has been democrat since 1988. Westchester is about as Democrat as Ingham County (Lansing) here at home. It's not a county that republicans are supposed to win.

Pennsylvania is a more competitive state than New York, but has gone democrat recently, largely in part to the Philly Suburbs swinging left and having more population than the Pittsburgh suburbs which have swung independent. It was close in 04, but not in 02, 06 and 08 with Ed Rendell and the Philly area machine. Some good news came in a Supreme Court race. Supreme Court is a partisan race in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s supreme court race pitting Republican Joan Orie Melvin against Democrat Jack Panella didn’t attract much national attention; while there was plenty of television advertising, it had two relatively unknown candidates, and the dominant issues of Washington were largely non-factors. The Democrat began with significant advantages: The state currently has 1.2 million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and Panella’s campaign raised $2.35 million, outdoing Melvin’s by almost 3-1, according to statistics compiled by an advocacy group, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

Instead, Melvin won 53 percent to 46 percent, and won every suburban county around Philadelphia except Montgomery, which the Democrat carried by 1.4 percent. While the Democrat Panella garnered 70 percent of the vote in Philadelphia, traditionally the engine that drives Democratic wins in statewide races, the city had a miserable turnout of 12 percent.

That says something. Right now, the GOP only has one and 3/4 districts there. Jim Gerlach has a 50/50 district based in Chester County (and has part of Berks, Leigh, and Montgomery County where he loses). Charlie Dent has a Leigh valley based district that has a small part of Montgomery County. Joe Pitts has a heavy GOP leaning district with Lancaster County and part of Berks and Chester Counties.

Montgomery County - 60% Obama
Delaware County - 60% Obama
Bucks County - 53.74% Obama
Chester County - 54% Obama
Berks County - 53.76% Obama
Lancaster County - 55.21% McCain

Montgomery County - 55.57% Kerry
Delaware County - 57.15% Kerry
Bucks County - 51.10% Kerry
Chester County - 52% Bush
Berks County - 52.97% Bush
Lancaster County - 65.80% Bush

Montgomery County - 53.54% Gore
Delaware County - 54.36% Gore
Bucks County - 50.46% Gore
Chester County - 53.33% Bush
Berks County - 52.68% Bush
Lancaster County - 66.09% Bush

For President, the GOP last won Bucks in 1992, and last won Montgomery and Delaware Counties in 1988. The irony is that Dukakis almost won Pennsylvania in 1988 due to winning big in Western PA. Most of those counties for Dukakis went for McCain and GW Bush.

Geraghty makes his point here.

While these six counties have their differences, they are all classically suburban and among the wealthiest in the nation. There are 3,141 counties in the United States; ranked by median household income, Nassau ranks 12th highest nationally, Westchester ranks 47th, Bucks ranks 76th. Of the other counties mentioned earlier, Fairfax County ranks 2nd; Bergen ranks 28th, Middlesex ranks 68th. A wholesale rejection in the varied races of 2009 suggests that voters in these places are changing what they think when they hear the word “Democrat.” A year ago, it represented change from a wearying and disappointing Bush presidency; today it represents runaway spending, an arrogant dismissal of cries of over-taxation, and a fundamental disconnect from the daily life and problems of constituents.

After the 2008 election, Robert Lang, a demographer at Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute in Alexandria, scoffed to the Washington Post, “The Obama campaign clearly understands where the battleground of this election was. Do [the Republicans] have the basic math skills to sit with an Excel spreadsheet and figure out where the growth is, or are they out of their minds?”

The good thing about 09 is that the talking heads who say the GOP is just a southern party can sit down and shut up. I said a few years back about the special elections where the GOP lost three in a row (either 05 or 07). One doesn't mean much. Two has my guard up. Losing three in row is a real problem.

Here's the opposite. Winning Virginia is important, especially Fairfax County which is a "non-Southern" part of Virginia at least in culture. That stopped the bleeding. Winning in New Jersey shows some offense. Winning the Philly burbs and some of the New York suburbs now is sending a message. Add the 19th district here at home for another swing district with a much different cultural area. Several distinct areas went GOP.

That doesn't mean that we're back. We're not. What it does mean is that the bleeding has largely been stopped for now. There's still a lot of work to be done with 2010. Most important in 2010 is the gubenatorial races and state legislatures. Why? They draw the boundaries in most states. While I don't care for the redistricting decision making process, it is what it is, and knowing the rules of the game is most important. Needless to say, for that reason alone, three republicans will automatically get my vote. The nominees for governor, state senate, and state rep.

The 09 elections were hopefully the beginning or a nationwide comeback against the radical leftist policies of Mr. Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, Mr. Reid, and Ms Pelosi.

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