Tag Archives: 2014 Elections

Time to change our political system.

The current political environment in our nation attracts a certain type of individual to run for office. Unfortunately, such people are not the ones we need running the country. With Russia and Ukraine on the brink of war, ISIS galvanizing strength with its penchant for brutality, storm clouds forming in East Asia, and a host of domestic issues plaguing this nation, we need a new breed of leaders not the same old politicians.

We need men and women who place the welfare of this nation first, not their own reelection. Instead we have politicians who say anything to get elected, irrespective of how deceptive or inaccurate their comments. They convince themselves and their constituents that politics requires such behavior because their opponent will say or do anything to defeat them. As a result, we have two chambers of Congress filled with lying, conniving, self-serving men and women.

In contrast, we need individuals who speak with honesty and integrity and demand the same of their political allies and supporters. We need men and women who serve with humility – who serve their constituents not their party. Humility requires senators and congressmen recognize they don’t have all the answers and work collaboratively with the other side of the aisle. Their first instinct is to identify common ground with peers and develop solutions for the nation’s problems, not lock horns, saber-rattle, and frustrate progress. Sadly, most politicians do what their party wants and adopt an all-or-nothing approach to legislation. Compromise is viewed with disdain.

It should surprise no one, then, that the men and women who would serve admirably in Congress and achieve significant results for our nation rarely entertain the idea of running for office. They are unwilling to subject themselves and their families to the ruthless, despicable, and mean-spirited rhetoric that courses through most campaigns. They are equally unwilling to level such corrosive discourse against their opponents because they value integrity and respect more than victory. Sadly, our current system appeals to those who value victory more than veracity or gentility.

We need a new political structure that displaces the two party system currently in place, which is destroying America. Leadership from both parties focuses too much attention on securing and maintaining majority power and too little on making the nation great. They exploit for political gain every misstep of the other party and its leadership. They play political gotcha with each other’s statements.

Both parties frame elections in ridiculously inflammatory terms. One side argues the other side opposes our nation’s safety, promotes lawlessness, and despises freedom. The other side insists its opponents are waging a war on women, hates the poor, and is racist. Such extreme language accomplishes nothing except fuel the bombastic cancer corrupting the capital. Unfortunately, painting opponents as extremists appears to persuade a majority of voters and so the season of silliness continues. On that point voters bear a portion of the blame for the decline of our government’s effectiveness.

We need a new system and new breed of politician because the two parties share disturbingly similar positions on critical issues, despite their supposed differences. Perhaps most problematic is that both parties are beholden to advancing the interests of wealthy individuals and corporations, at the expense of the middle class and poor. Money funds campaigns. So neither party will ever prioritize the good of the country over those with obscene wealth – they can’t afford to. The ubiquitous campaign ads in which candidates claim to support the middle-class are fraudulent, mere rhetoric to hoodwink voters. Politicians advance the interests of the middle-class only when it aligns with the interests of the elite.

Additionally, both parties covet power and will do anything to retain it. Sitting senators and congressmen exert enormous power and influence. So it’s no surprise federal elections attract those who lust for power and want to monetize that clout. In contrast, those lacking a passion for influence and affluence rarely possess political ambitions. Any desire to make a difference in Washington is outweighed by the sleaziness they would have to subject themselves. Capital Hill is not for anyone unwilling to get a little shady.

Bottom line is, we can do better. We must do better. Our current system serves the interest of no one except corrupt politicians, the well connected, industry elites, and the uber wealthy. We cannot afford to maintain a political structure designed to help those groups. It’s time we replace the current construct with one that genuinely serves the people rather than gives it lip service.

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Polls suggest GOP Senate takeover.

A slew of new CBS News/NYT/YouGov polls of Senate races suggest a growing likelihood the GOP reclaims the Senate in elections this fall. Let’s inspect the polling data and methodology of those polls first before examining the results.

Unlike most polls, these were conducted entirely online and not via telephone. Also, these polls surveyed registered rather than likely voters, meaning they probably underestimate the performance of the more motivated political party – the GOP this year. Finally, the pollsters weighted results to align with 2012 voting demographics, which again probably underestimates GOP performance since President Obama’s presence on the 2012 ballot motivated greater numbers of Democratic voters who typically sit out off-year elections.

With those caveats noted, the polls generally produced a margin of error (MoE) in the 3.0% range for any given state, suggesting a reasonable point-in-time poll. Results should encourage GOP leaders that a takeover of the Senate this fall is well within reach. The GOP currently holds 45 seats which means it must capture an additional 6 seats to control the Senate. Let’s consider the likeliest scenario for achieving that number based on these recent polls (I recognize other polls have slightly different results but focused on the CBS/NYT polls since they offer a consistent methodology and occurred over the same time period).

The Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia seats have always been considered the most likely to flip parties and polling in those states certainly support this. In fact, Steve Daines now leads incumbent (by appointment) John Walsh by sixteen points, 56-40. How much Walsh’s recent alleged plagiarism plays a role in these results is unclear, but a sixteen-point deficit at this stage in an election is a nearly insurmountable challenge.

Next, let’s consider incumbents who poll under fifty percent, which generally suggests a seat is in serious jeopardy. Four Democratic Senators currently poll under that threshold: Mark Pryor (AR) who trails Republican Tom Cotton by four points (50-46); Kay Hagan (NC) who is a one-point underdog to state-house leader Thom Tillis (48-47); Mary Landrieu (LA) trails Bill Cassidy by a single point (47-46); and Mark Begich (AK) who leads Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (47-45). While each of these contests is within the margin of error and is appropriately considered a toss-up at this stage of the race, history suggests that undecided votes break for the challenger on Election Day. The GOP needs to pick-up three of these seats to control the Senate and that seems very possible, perhaps even probable at this moment in time (assuming that Landrieu does not avoid a run-off and Treadwell wins his party’s nomination over his far less electable opponents).

There are, however, two seats Democrats have set their sights on flipping from the Republicans: Kentucky and Georgia. In the former, Senator McConnell leads Alison Grimes by four points (50-46) and in the latter freshly nominated David Perdue (R) leads Michelle Nunn (D) (50-44). Perdue comes out of the gate strong after his recent primary victory and seems well positioned against Nunn who has been an accomplished fund-raiser to this point. It is possible the Democrats could steal one of these seats but the combination of conservative voters and President Obama’s sagging popularity make such a scenario unlikely.

There are a couple states that lack an incumbent and where the GOP candidate has run surprisingly strong: Iowa and Michigan. Joni Ernst leads Bruce Braley in the Hawkeye state (48-47) after a series of verbal flubs by the Democratic Congressman. In the Wolverine state Congressman Gary Peters trails Teri Lynn Land by a point (48-47). Though the two female GOP candidates lead by a narrow margin in both polls, the Democratic lean of both states makes the climb to victory more difficult for these two women. That said, both states are definitely in-play and provide solid evidence of how the GOP has expanded the field of contested seats held by Democrats.

We also ought to consider Colorado a competitive race where Democrat incumbent Mark Udall leads Congressman Cory Gardner (51-47). That is too narrow a lead for an incumbent to feel safe with less than a hundred days until the election, though he is better positioned than his colleagues in the South.

So where does that leave the two parties as we head into the final three months before Election Day? They remain in an intensely competitive race for control of the Senate. Watch where each party spends its resources over the next month to get a sense of where each believes it has the best chance of winning.

If I were advising the two parties I would urge Democrats to cut bait in Montana, Arkansas, and Louisiana and focus on winning Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Alaska. I would counsel Republicans to avoid wasting cash in long-shot races in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Oregon and focus on the elite eight: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina.

At this time I would place the odds of a GOP Senate takeover at 65% with a likely pick-up of between 7-8 seats. But much campaigning remains and with it plenty of time for more gaffes – and those can quickly transform a race or two.