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Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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News from the Votemaster

Romney Wins CPAC Straw Poll

Mitt Romney won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a meeting of conservative activists in Washington last week. The breakdown was as follows.

Mitt Romney - 20%
Bobby Jindal - 14%
Ron Paul -13%
Sarah Palin - 13%
Newt Gingrich -10%
Mike Huckabee - 7%
Mark Sanford - 4%
Rudy Guiliani - 3%
Tim Pawlenty - 2%
Charlie Crist - 1%
Other - 4%
Undecided - 9%

Here is a PowerPoint presentation of the results. As with a lot of things, the devil is in the details. First, the voters were only 1757 people, all of whom paid the registration fee (and their own travel and hotel expenses). The basic (early) registration fee was $125, but students could get in for $15. Tickets to the dinners were $250 per night so the students probably went out for pizza. So what happened? Well, 52% of the voters were conservative activist students, hardly a mirror of Republicans in the country as a whole. Of all the 1957 voters, 95% somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of what President Obama is doing. Nationally, Obama's approval is 67%, not 5%. In addition, 70% of the registrants approve of the job the Republicans in Congress are doing. Nationally, their approval is 25%.

Interesting, the core ideology of 74% is libertarian (reducing the influence of the federal government on people's lives). Only 15% selected traditional marriage and abortion as their main concerns. Conclusion: Mitt Romney is the slight favorite among a small nonrandom sample of libertarian college students who don't give a hoot about gay marriage and abortion. But this story was carried all over the media all weekend as if it had some bearing on a nomination contest that will take place in 3 years. What was missing was the context--that Romney is the favorite of one fifth of the libertarian college students, hardly a mass movement for Romney.

A short video of the conference featuring WaPo columnist Dana Milbank is available here. It has the ambience of any other academic, business, or political conference. Worth watching just to get a feel of what people are talking about.

Sebelius to Be Named to Cabinet

In a very surprising move, President Obama is expected to name Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) as Secretary of Health and Human Services today. If he hadn't named her, she would probably have run for the open Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and might well have won. Now the Democrats' chances of winning the seat are basically zero. Thus by making this pick, Obama is giving up a better than even chance of picking up a much-needed Senate seat in 2010. While Sebelius will probably be an able cabinet secretary and has a reputation for working closely with the Republicans, there are no doubt a dozen other people who could also do the job, whereas Sebelius is the only Democrat in Kansas with a decent chance of winning the Senate seat. Needless to say, Obama is not going to explain the political calculus, but will merely give some boilerplate statement about how he picked the second-best person for the job (the first, Tom Daschle, withdrew when it came out that he owed back taxes). Most likely, revamping the health care system is such a high priority with Obama that he was willing to sacrifice a good shot at a Senate seat to have a trusted ally running HHS at a time it will be in the center of the coming maelstrom.

History of the Filibuster

The role of the filibuster has changed radically in recent years, according to a piece in the NY Times. In the past, it was a last-ditch effort by an obstructionist minority to gum up the works. In all of the 19th century, it was used fewer than two dozen times--despite the endless debates about slavery. During FDR's administration, it was used exclusively by Southerners to block antilynching legislation, not by Republicans to block the New Deal, with which they profoundly disagreed. In the current Senate, a filibuster is threatened on every bill, so now 41 senators get a veto on all legislation. Although some Republican senators are from big states like Texas and Florida, in theory, senators from the 21 least-populous states--representing 11% of the population--can block all bills. That was never the intent of the founders. They simply wanted to allow senators to be able to finish their speeches and not be cut off in midsentence by some artificial time limit.

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-- The Votemaster