Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get out there and VOTE!

I'll be posting my own views later on, but for now here is the final posting from the Power poster from Lewis and Clark:

As we live through another day of voting in America, I, like many of you, think back on other elections and highs and lows. For lows I personally look back to 2000 where we left Capitol Hill in the middle of the night not knowing the outcome of the presidential contest, after having celebrated with great jubilation earlier in the night as Gore picked up the three states everybody know were the ones to put him on the glidepath to victory, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida. I also look back 12 years ago to the biggest political bloodbath I have witnessed in my nearly two decades in Washington, the night when the Republicans had a net gain of 8 seats in the Senate to take control and a whopping net gain of 52 seats in the House to take control and end 40 years of Democratic rule of that body. Our own victory of Oregon 3 in the Wyden office never in question that election, I spent most of that election night upstairs in the office of Rep. Long from Indiana where I counted most every person on that staff as a friend dating back to my days working for Jontz in the Indiana delegation. They lost badly and lost their jobs. They took it pretty well, even as we had to listen to the cheers coming from Republican offices on the floor every time a new election result was announced. When an election like that happens, not only do all the staffs of the losing Members lose their jobs (they have two months until the change officially happens as mandated under the Constitution on January 3), but if majority control changes, that flips all the committees as well. Traditionally the majority party gets 2/3 of the committee staff hires and the minority gets 1/3 of the hires in their own minority office for each committee. In 1994 because so many members lost and both chambers flipped, thousands upon thousands of jobs turned over.
As I walked through the Longworth House Office Building that night, amidst the
cheers coming from the Republican offices, there were Democratic staff hugging and crying, and there were even a few people in the fetal position against hallway walls crying.

As I think back to happier elections and those highs, I think of 1992 and being in Ron’s House office in the Rayburn House Office Building as the Democratic majorities in Congress grew and Bill Clinton knocked Daddy Bush out of the presidency. At the moment that Clinton secured the electoral votes necessary to win the presidency and the networks announced him as the winner, a woman came out of her office down the hall from ours and let out a huge “Bush is a loser!!!!” to which all the Democratic offices began to cheer. Later that night we joined Democrats from all over the nation’s capital in driving in circles around the White House honking horns so that all the Bush staff could hear us. We ended the night a few blocks away at the Capital Hilton where the Clinton/Gore Washington party was being held and had such numbers that 16th Street had to be closed as the crowd had overflowed from the hotel out on the street in celebration. I also think of the best election night I’ve ever personally been involved with when we came from behind and Ron won election to the Senate in 1996 by 1 percent, the culmination of what Ron and I have both described as the most arduous thing we’ve ever been through in our lives. The celebration went through the night and I only got sleep between 4 and 6am when my phone rang with our press secretary calling me to work on Ron’s airplane victory thank you tour of the state, which was to begin at 10am that morning.
Her first words through the phone were “Can you believe that we won???!!!!!”
The night before she had chastised me for holding out any hope of victory by saying to me, “You don’t get outspent by $2 million and win an election Bruce.” In the following days of taking down the campaign office that had been our home for months, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day, as a boombox blasted music, campaign staff just walking past each other would randomly hug such was the lingering feeling of euphoria of that victory. We had an all night staff victory celebration in Portland two night later.

Politics is a rough business and it’s a business with clear winners and losers. People may often say that everybody in politics is nuts and/or corrupt, and they may say that there are no differences between the parties, but that’s not true and as so many of you know through incredible personal experiences, it does matter who wins. The very lives of our fellow Americans depends on who wins. No matter what your party or your philosophy, it can’t be denied that the decisions made here in Washington determine life and death for our wonderful and incredible troops, it determines the quality of health care and education for millions, it determines how much our paycheck goes to taxes and what that money is used for, and it determines the kinds of roads we drive on or the ease with which we can fly, just to name a few major ways the outcome of any election impacts us. So today, people on both sides who believe they are right about the best courses for America to follow are on edge. Last night on CNN, David Gergen and James Carville both agreed in a bi-partisan way that heading in to tonight Democrats have to be nervous that as the races in some places have gotten tighter, they could see their chances slip away, but that at the same time Republicans have to be downright terrified that it could be a bloodbath that approaches the numbers of 1994.

In the final analysis of the final polling tracks done in to yesterday, the following is the final verdict on what is to transpire from the consultants’ professional viewpoint:

All Democratic incumbents or Democratic held seats In the Senate will stay Democratic. Senators Santorum and DeWine will lose by wide margins to Casey and Brown in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Senator Chafee will also lose in Rhode Island to Whitehouse but by a closer margin. Though it will be the closest of races, the conventional prediction based on polling numbers is that Senator Allen will lose narrowly to Webb in Virginia and that in the second closest race, Senator Talent will lose to McCaskill in MO. Senator Burns will lose by a fairly close but not a narrow margin to Tester in Montana. All other
Republican incumbents or Republican held seats will be maintained including the TN seat where Corker will beat Ford and out in AZ where Senator Kyl will be re-elected to hold those seats in Republican hands. However, that will be the net gain of six seats that the Democrats need to take 51-49 control of the Senate.

Democrats will have a net gain of about 35 seats to take control of the House. The only two Democrats who might lose are in Georgia where two of that state’s House seats could flip to the Republicans.

This is the prediction of the pollsters but now we have to see what the reality is tonight. So far voter turnout is light, as in most mid-term elections. Normally a light turnout would be of great concern to Democrats because it’s a proven fact in many states that higher turnout helps Democratic candidates because that means that the electorate is made up of more than the voters who most reliably turn out to vote—motivated social conservatives and higher SES Republicans who will vote in election after election. We all know that a lot of times, Democrats need to be led to the polls by the hand with flowers being thrown in front and behind while flute music is playing. However, this particular election has long indicated that it was going to be a depressed Republican electorate not turning out so it is truly tough to read in to what the light turnout so far today means. It might benefit the Democrats. I live in a very affluent and Republican precinct in western Fairfax County where the average home sells for $2-3 million and the average townhouse sells for $500,000. Though Fairfax County as a whole has begun voting suburban Democratic majorities very reliably, my particular precinct is Allen territory. There was nobody at my precinct when I voted this morning. I walked right in and voted. It’s tough to read this.

Additionally, weather can play a huge factor in turnout. Democrats never like to hear of snow or rain because generally speaking, bad weather causes Democrats to stay home while Republicans are more often apt to vote no matter what the weather is. It’s raining in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and later Maryland today. If this weather causes Dems to stay home, and it could reduce turnout by as much as 3 percent, then some of these Senate battles could be tipped. The other big factor of course is voter problems. Electronic voting problems are already being reported in Ohio and Indiana.

Tonight if you’re watching election coverage, it will be known early on how things are looking. The PA, RI, and OH Senate race returns will come in early in the evening as will returns from Republican held House seats which are supposed to flip in NH, CT, OH, IN, and PA. If any of those returns has a surprise in them such as the Republican incumbent winning re-election or the margin of Democratic victory not being what was forecast in a place like the OH or PA Senate races, then it could be a big turnaround night for the Republicans where they hold off the Democratic challenge this year. If on the other hand all those early announced races in those three Senate seats and those House races go as the polls have predicted, then it will likely be the kind of Democratic night that has been forecast. Polls in Virginia close early, at 7pm Eastern. That Senate race will probably be too close to call for hours and as you’ve seen in the numbers, control of the Senate could come down to a few votes in Virginia. If Allen wins in Virginia, it’s lights out for a Democratic takeover of the Senate. End of story. The Rs will maintain control. As things head west tonight, MO in the Central Time Zone will be crucial as will Montana in the Mountain Time Zone. If either Burns or Talent wins re-election to the Senate in those two states, it’s lights out for Democratic control of the Senate. Little change is expected on the West Coast in either the Senate or the House so control of Congress should be known from the Mountain Time Zone with the Senate race in Montana and House races that are supposed to flip from R to D in Colorado. Most of those polls close at 10pm Eastern.

A number of you have asked me what a Democratic majority in either house of Congress will really mean so let me just toss this out here. On legislation, the Democrats will not have veto proof majorities in either house even if they have control. Therefore no major Democratic led policy changes can be expected during the final two years of the Bush Presidency. On the other hand, Bush would in no way be able to push through any of his remaining agenda items including making his tax cuts permanent instead of having them set to expire between 2010 and 2012. What would occur would generally be legislative gridlock unless Bush makes a concerted attempt to build a legacy through bi-partisan compromise aimed at getting through various laws with his stamp on them but with major elements of Democratic input. Mostly though, gridlock would be viewed as a Democratic victory in this climate because “stopping Bush” from doing anything more during his final two years in office would be considered a major plus by Dems. The other thing that the Ds would do is to potentially pass bills which highlight Democratic priorities and either force Bush to veto them, thereby gaining ammunition for the 2008 races, or force Bush to accept modified versions of them and claim that only by having Democrats in Congress were such outcomes possible—and use that in the 2008 races. Issues that can be expected on this front will include education and health care. If the Ds have both houses of Congress that task becomes easier because the legislation from both chambers would be pretty close to the same version and could serve as a clear distinction with Bush. If on the other hand the Ds control just the House, then there will have to be compromise with the Senate first before anything could be sent to Bush and that would make the task of a clearly defined separate agenda from Bush hard to highlight because the bills would have been watered down some in conference committee. On the oversight and investigative front, I would not expect Ds to get overzealous with going after Bush lest it make them look punitive and petty ahead of the big year of 2008. However, I would expect them to conduct aggressive oversight on such things as the Bush post-911 domestic surveillance program, the conduct of the occupation of Iraq and the intelligence that led up to the invasion, as well as a number of other things. A huge outcome would be that the Ds in Congress and Bush would sit down to examine the future of the Iraq occupation and figure out a new course of action. Given the polling, if they win a majority, the Ds will view this as the mandate they were elected to take care of more than any other issue—that of changing the situation in Iraq for the US military. If the Rs maintain control of both houses it will be by vary narrow margins, such as 50-50 in the Senate and by a small handful of seats in the House. That would also lead to legislative gridlock as the Ds will have enough numbers to block just about anything Bush and the Rs in Congress want to get done. So bottom line, no matter the outcome tonight, don’t expect a lot of production from the next Congress on legislation but do expect a lot of highlighting of differences to occur with Bush on issues to set everything up for 2008, do expect a major push to stop Bush in his tracks from accomplishing any more of his agenda items no matter which party is in control, and do expect if the Ds have at least one chamber for there to be big efforts at oversight and an effort to change the approach in Iraq as well as change the approach on issues such as civil liberties, all the while blocking any extension of the Bush tax cuts so that revenues can increase to the government at the end of the decade in an effort to get the budget to stop bleeding red ink and to be able to pay for things both domestically and for things that folks like the Army Chief of Staff can’t even get money for now because the government is so broke.

Best regards.

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