TIME 2014 elections

No, Republicans Aren’t Yet Winning the Women’s Vote

Jeanne Shaheen,Scott Brown
United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), right, listens as her Republican rival, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown speaks during their debate , Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 in Conway, N.H. Jim Cole—AP

One poll doth not a trend make

The Associated Press dropped its latest national poll Wednesday ahead of the midterm elections due to be held in less than three weeks. The poll had a spate of expected findings: likely voters favor Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate, the top issue remains the economy, and no one likes either party very much. Then, buried in the seventh paragraph of the story, was this nugget about women voters:

Women have moved in the GOP’s direction since September. In last month’s AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

Given Democrats’ unrelenting drumbeat on women—their women’s economic agenda, the GOP’s “War on Women”—for the last six months, this looked like surprising news. Democrats have staked the fate on the Senate on turning out one demographic: unmarried women, who vote reliably Democratic but tend not to show up in off presidential elections. Democrats have won women every year since the Reagan era except for 2010 and in losing them they lost control of the House and six Senate seats. Thus their strategy this year to turn out unmarried women in order to prevent a 2010 from happening all over again. If the AP poll is correct Democrats are in deep trouble.

Needless to say, paragraph seven led the Drudge Report much of the morning: “Poll shock: Women want Republicans!” That spawned a spate of headlines from conservative news sites. Townhall led with: “Poll: More Women Plan to Vote For Republicans in Midterms.” And Hotair blared: “Republicans closing the [gender] gap.”

But the poll is just one data point, and there is a good reason to be skeptical of a major shift in the female electorate. The reason is the voter screen that the AP used.

“Their likely voters screen in this survey is very similar to the 2010 electorate—i.e. more conservatives than moderates are likely to vote,” says Dave Winston, a GOP pollster. “But if you’re looking at variety of different surveys, the voter screening differences are huge, so you’re depending on how they phrase a question—are you likely to vote—or a series of questions to come up with who’s in the poll.”

Winston says the AP took steps after its polls proved off course in 2012 to correct what they saw as flaws in their survey-taking. But their new processes remain unproven. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he says.

Granted, every midterm electorate skews older, more conservative and more male and Democrats face an uphill battle trying to turn out a demographic that doesn’t usually vote, but this poll is either wrong or “it’s a precursor to a trend that none of us have spotted yet,” says Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who together with GOP pollster Ed Goeas does George Washington University’s Battleground State polls. “But I haven’t seen any other poll that shows that.”

“It seems off, honestly” Lake says. “We aren’t seeing any place where there isn’t a gender gap. We haven’t’ seen any polling that shows women trending Republican. You see men more enthusiastic for Republicans than women are for Democrats, sure. And women are sitting more undecided, which is why both parties are looking to convince women voters before election day, but we haven’t seen anything even approaching gender parity, let alone women trending Republican, in our polls of likely voters.”

The only other recent national poll that breaks out likely voters by sex came out with opposite results. Fox News found Dems winning women 44% to 35% amongst likely voters in a survey conducted Oct. 12-14. And polls in battleground states have Dems winning women by double digits and unmarried women by as much as 30 points in many cases.

“This just isn’t what we’re seeing in competitive races. North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan all have insane and historic gender gaps with women favoring Democrats,” says Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, which helps elect pro-choice female Democrats. “The GOP can cling to this this national poll, but the reality is that they continue to be underwater with women voters in key races—and women don’t trust them on the economic opportunity issues that matter to them, ie, equal pay, min wage, access to health care and birth control.”

In 2012, Democrats benefitted from a couple of GOP senatorial candidates who said dumb things about women and rape, comments that turned off female voters, helping President Obama and the Democrats win big with women. This cycle, Republicans have avoided such missteps. Both Mark Udall in Colorado and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen have turned away from War on Women ads and attack lines in the last week. But are Republicans winning women? The preponderance of state and other national polls indicate that isn’t happening.

TIME Congress

Record Number of Black Candidates Seeking Office

Cory Booker
Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits a campaign center Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Willingboro, N.J. Mel Evans—AP

(WASHINGTON) — More than 100 black candidates will be on the ballot in statewide and congressional races next month, a post-Reconstruction record that some observers say is a byproduct of President Barack Obama’s historic presidency.

At least 83 black Republicans and Democrats are running for the U.S. House, an all-time high for the modern era, according to political scientist David Bositis, who has tracked black politicians for years. They include Mia Love in Utah, who is trying to become the first black Republican woman to be elected to Congress.

Four other black women — Bonnie Watson Coleman in New Jersey, Brenda Lawrence in Michigan, Alma Adams in North Carolina and Stacey Plaskett in the Virgin Islands — are expected to win seats as Democrats, Bositis said. If they all win, and no black female incumbents lose, there should be 20 black women among House members, an all-time high, Bositis said.

There are at least 25 African-Americans running for statewide offices, including U.S. senator, governor or lieutenant governor, also a record number.

The previous record for black candidates seeking House seats was 72 in 2012, the year Obama, the nation’s first black president, was re-elected to a second term. The previous record for statewide contests was 17 in 2002, said Bositis, formerly of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank in Washington that focuses primarily on issues affecting African-Americans.

Those statewide numbers include Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, the U.S. Senate’s only black members.

Booker is seeking a full term next month, having won a special election last year to replace the deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Scott, appointed last year, is seeking to finish out the two years remaining in the term of former Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned from the Senate in 2013.

An Obama “coattails effect” is partly responsible for this large candidate pool because it spurred blacks to vote, and encouraged them to pursue offices they might not have sought in the past, said political science professor Fredrick C. Harris, director of Columbia University’s Center on African-American Politics and Society. America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It may be that this is a reflection of political opportunity,” Harris said. He noted a similar increase in black candidacies in 1988, when Jesse Jackson made a second, unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Bositis said the increase may also be a result of changing political demographics in regions like the South. “The fact is that many of the increases are occurring in states (especially in the South) where most whites are withdrawing from Democratic Party politics — leaving black candidates the nominations by default,” Bositis said.

Republicans have been heavily courting minorities, spending millions to woo black voters and to recruit women and minorities to run for state and local office. “If elected, these candidates will be great representatives for all their constituents and will continue to play a major role in the party’s efforts to expand the electorate,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Orlando Brown.

While the GOP is building up its numbers, the Democrats have a record number of African-Americans running for statewide and congressional offices, according to Bositis. There are at least 65 Democratic nominees, surpassing the previous high of 59 in 2012.

“The historic number of black Democrats running for office at all levels this year once again confirms that the Democratic Party is a broad coalition of Americans from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds, focused on expanding opportunity for all and building ladders to the middle class,” said Kiara Pesante, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman.

TIME Campaign Finance

FEC Clears Doubling of Donations With Convention Ruling

US Campaign 2012
The Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Charles Ommanney—Getty Images

Separate convention funding will allow parties to tap as much as $250,000 per donor every four years

Four weeks before the midterm elections, the Democratic and Republican Parties set aside their political differences to celebrate a development they could both agree on: raising more money.

The rare bout of bipartisanship follows a Federal Election Commission decision to allow the parties to raise extra cash to put on their increasingly irrelevant quadrennial prime time love-fests: the presidential nominating conventions.

Congress decided earlier this year to strip each party’s convention of public financing—$18,248,300 a piece in 2012—in hopes of diverting the funds to fund pediatric medical research.

As a result, the committees faced the prospect of funding the conventions from their existing “hard money” accounts, taking dollars out of field campaigns or television advertisements to pay the expensive three- or four-day long events.

To get around that problem, the parties jointly asked the FEC to let them set up separate committees to raise funds and pay for the conventions.

Last week the FEC’s attorneys prepared dueling opinions for the commission to vote on. One argued that the separate convention committees would be arms of the party and should be subject to the same limit. That opinion lost. The other argued the parties should be allowed to have a separate limit. Democratic Vice Chair Ann Ravel joined commission Republicans to pass that option by a 4-2 decision.

The result was a big win for both parties. Instead of tapping core budgets, which are built on maximum donations of $32,400 per donor annually and fund nearly everything the party does, the parties can double dip, raising another $32,400 from the same donors, just for the convention.

Campaign finance reform advocates blasted the outcome Thursday, noting that individuals can now cumulatively donate over $250,000 to the RNC or DNC each presidential cycle. “This is a disgraceful and activist decision that ignores the laws passed by Congress to combat corruption,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center in a statement. “One has come to expect such efforts to dismantle the current contribution limits brick by brick from the current Republican Commissioners, but Vice Chair Ravel’s vote to give the national party committees a new way to tap wealthy donors is incredibly disappointing and irresponsible.”

The Campaign Legal Center warned in comments submitted before the meeting that it could lead to a slippery slope where different party functions are broken off into separate accounts with their own contribution limits, subverting longstanding laws designed to limit the amount of money in the nation’s political system. (The Republican National Committee has filed suit to lift those individual contribution limit to national parties.)

The RNC and DNC celebrated the ruling as “an important, if modest, first step for the parties in continuing to meet their historic responsibility to conduct conventions, which play such a vital role in our democratic process.” But in recent decades the carefully-scripted conventions have become increasingly irrelevant to the political process, as nominees lock up the required delegates well before the gatherings and the party platforms are frequently ignored by candidates for president on down. And while they are opportunities for each party to promote its message on television for a week in prime time, viewership is down and they rarely move the polling dial to lasting effect. Indeed, nominating conventions have become little more than expensive opportunities to reward party insiders with swanky parties and access to political figures.

In fact, the new convention funds are separate from the tens of millions raised by both parties’ “host committees” which are exempt from FEC contribution limits and accept millions in corporate and individual donations. The FEC justifies this separate fund arguing that the host committees are primarily engaged in promoting the cities in which the convention is held, not nominating the party’s presidential candidate. But that distinction is tenuous, at best, particularly when the party’s candidate is asked to step in to help close a shortfall, as Mitt Romney was asked to do in Tampa in 2012. Not to mention longstanding research showing that conventions don’t actually boost the economic development of the host cities.

President Barack Obama’s 2012 host committee secured a loan from Duke Energy that was later forgiven by the Charlotte, NC-based energy company, skirting the candidate’s pledge not to accept corporate funds.

“We appreciate the FEC’s recognition that, as the party convention committees adjust to the loss of public funding, they have authority to raise funds that will help pay the costs of their national conventions,” both parties said in their unusual joint statement.

TIME 2014 Election

Democrats See Obamacare Silver Lining in 2014 Playbook

From fierce opposition to a "fading issue"

A year ago, the health care reform law was an albatross around the Democrats’ collective neck. Its disastrous roll out dominated headlines. Republicans gleefully predicted they would build on their House majority and take back the Senate in the midterm elections thanks to the unpopularity of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Republicans may well still pick up House seats and win the Senate—but if they do, it won’t be because of Obamacare. The “incredibly fading issue,” as U.S. News and World Report recently called it, it has become “background noise” in an election dominated by parochial interests, as Politico put it. Indeed, some Democrats are going so far as to predict that Obamacare could end up a silver lining come Election Day.

The Affordable Care Act is now the second-most important issue for unmarried women, according to a new poll by Democracy Corps for the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a key demographic Democrats are hoping to turn out this November. Unmarried women vote reliably Democratic, but tend not to turn out in midterm elections. If Democrats can turn out that one group at the same levels they voted in 2012, forecasts indicate Democrats would keep the Senate and take back the House.

That kind of turnout is highly unlikely. But every little bit counts as Democrats try to fend off the kind of wave election that drowned them in 2010. That year, a genuine backlash against Obamacare helped Democrats lose the women’s vote for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and the House with it. In most battleground Senate races, Democratic candidates are winning by double-digits with women, particularly unmarried women

The law is also popular with minorities, another demographic with which Republicans have struggled. Some 74% of minorities support the Affordable Care Act, according to the Democracy Corps poll. “The health care law has become much more important as a reason why people are voting for Democrats,” says Stan Greenberg, a co-founder of Democracy Corps. “The threat of repeal appears to be giving unmarried women and minority voters a reason to vote.”

Republicans seem to have felt the tide receding. In April, Obamacare was the subject of 54% all political TV ads; by July that number had fallen to 27%, according to a July report from nonpartisan analysts Kantar Media CMAG. “Obamacare will not be the most important issue,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres, co-wrote in an August memo outlining 57 alternate lines of attack for outside spending groups such as Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network.

Still, opponents still use the issue far more than supporters; overall this election cycle, anti-Obamacare groups have spent 15 times as much on ads than groups supporting the law, the Kantar Media CMAG found. “Did Obamacare dominate the midterms as some Republicans had predicted? Definitely not,” says Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “But has it been used widely by GOP candidates for House and Senate in their TV ads and on the stump? A resounding yes. And that makes sense. Midterm elections are low-turnout battles between the two party bases. Any hot button issue that gets partisan voters to cast a ballot is used extensively. Obamacare still causes Republicans’ blood pressure to rise.”

The Affordable Care Act almost surely remains a net negative for Democrats. “It helped bake voters’ opinions into the general election cake,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “The early advertising effort also kept vulnerable Democratic incumbents on the defensive. This was particularly helpful in states in which Republicans had primaries.”

Support for Obamacare remains in the red, with 51.1% opposing the measure and only 38.7% supporting it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls. Which is why the handful of positive ads Democratic candidates have attempted to run on behalf of the law—most notably in Arkansas and West Virginia—have been resoundingly mocked by Republicans.

But all the negative attention paid to Obamacare also had another side effect for Democrats. The four states that have seen the highest per capita anti-Obamacare ad spending—Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina—have conversely seen higher rates of enrollment, according to a July study by the Brookings Institution. “In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future,” wrote the study’s author, Niam Yaraghi. “People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.”

TIME politics

This Is the Most Sexist Republican Ad of the Year

The College Republicans National Committee ad aimed at women describes Florida Governor Rick Scott as the perfect wedding dress

Updated October 2, 11:45 a.m. EST

In case there is any debate about whether 1) Republicans really want young women on board for the midterms and 2) they’re confused about how to do it, the College Republican National Committee ad for Rick Scott (produced, ironically, by women) will settle the question once and for all.

The ad features Brittany, a young undecided voter, who appears to be shopping for a wedding dress, but she’s actually shopping for candidates for the Florida Governor’s race, get it? Because women don’t like dirty old politics, women like wedding dresses!

She has her heart set on the “Rick Scott” wedding dress, because “Rick Scott is becoming a trusted brand — he has new ideas that don’t break your budget.” But then, frumpy old mom chimes in with some Democratic drivel and tries to get her to buy an ugly dress with sleeves called “Charlie Crist.” The ugly dress comes with “additional costs” like “$2 billion in taxes, $3.6 billion in debt, and 15% tuition increases” which are represented, of course, by an ugly veil, ugly sash, and ugly necklace. Because veils are easier to understand than debt, obviously.

There’s also an identical ad running in Illinois, to endorse Bruce Rauner for Governor.

And we wonder why women think Republicans don’t get them.

 

TIME republicans

Louisiana Governor Cheers Holder’s Resignation

“My only request is that the next Attorney General actually read the Constitution before he takes the job"

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal rejoiced Friday in the impending resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, asking a conservative audience, “Isn’t it great that he’s about to be out of a job?”

Jindal was closing out Friday’s session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington. The potential 2016 presidential candidate has been one of many GOP critics of Holder, who sued Louisiana last year over a school voucher program that the Justice Department alleged disrupted the “racial balance” in public schools, violating desegregation laws.

“My only request is that the next Attorney General actually read the Constitution before he takes the job,” Jindal said Friday.

Jindal tossed red meat at the audience throughout his speech, saying President Barack Obama “does not believe in American exceptionalism” when discussing Obama’s approach to combatting the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Our enemies don’t fear us,” Jindal said. “Our friends don’t trust us anymore.”

TIME republicans

Sarah Palin Knocks Obama’s ‘Latte Salute’

And knocks the “lamestream media”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin needled President Barack Obama for his now-infamous “latte salute” Friday, haphazardly raising a Styrofoam cup to her head after thanking U.S. troops.

Palin took the stage at the Values Voter Summit to much pomp and circumstance, rousing the largely Christian conservative audience to uphold the values she said liberals and the “lamestream media” have tossed aside.

“The media is trying to say our basic core values divide,” the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate said. “How about truth and liberty and opportunity and life. … Do they divide?”

The part pep talk, part liberal media roast included questions like“why are the liberals so intolerant?” and “do you think it’s time to abolish the IRS?” Palin also got the address of the White House confused, referring to “1400 Pennsylvania Avenue” (it’s 1600). Palin later had fun with her mix-up on Twitter.

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