Happy Election Year
If you think 2009 was a politically active and contentious year,
you ain't seen nothin' yet. While the midterm elections are never as exciting as
presidential elections, there are so many hotly contested races coming up this year--starting
as early as March (the Texas gubernatorial primary)--that there will be plenty of food
for political junkies. At some point we will start updating the map with polling data,
but it is much too early now. Case in point. In May 2009, Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL)
former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio 53% to 18%. A
taken two weeks ago puts them in a tie at 43% each. By the August primary, who knows where
things will be.
Another problem with trying to do the map this early is that while in
some states the Senate candidates are known now (e.g., in Missouri it will Robin Carnahan vs.
Roy Blunt) in other states the candidates won't be known until the primaries (e.g., in the
Kentucky Senate race it will either be Jack Conway or Daniel Mongiardo for the Democrats against either
Trey Grayson or Rand Paul for the Republicans). Averaging the polls for the four possible
races is probably close to meaningless, certainly this far out. But at some point, this
will all be sorted out and we will know the general election candidates and then it will
make sense to starting updating the map daily.
Top Ten Political Surprises of 2009
To reaffirm the adage that in politics a week is a long time, here is a list of 10
that very few people were predicting on Jan. 1, 2009.
Producing such a list is tricky enough, let alone trying to order the events, so they are in
No doubt an analogous
list for 2010 can be produced a year from now.
- Arlen Spector jumped ship and became a Democrat
- Barack Obama was not the liberal his supporters wanted and his opponents feared
- Charlie Crist is no longer a shoo-in as the next senator from Florida
- Jon Corzine managed to lose his reelection race in very blue New Jersey
- Mark Sanford ruined his presidential prospects due to his love of hiking (and Argentinian women).
- Rod Blagojovich was impeached and convicted for trying to sell a Senate seat
- Sarah Palin resigned as governor, wrote a best seller, and became more popular than ever
- Tea parties captured the national spotlight all summer
- Ten 2010 Senate races have shaped up without the 2004 winner*
- The Democrats elected a congressman in NY-23 for the first time since the Civil War
* Arlen Spector won in 2004 but now he is running as a Democrat, which is clearly different from the normal reelection battle.
Politico has a
top 10 White House surprises list and
has a top 12 political surprises of the decade list.
Democrats May Muzzle the Superdelegates in 2012
Although nobody is expecting a contentious primary season for the Democrats in 2012 (but see above), the DNC
has set up a committee, the Democratic Change Commission, charted with the mission of setting
the rules for future presidential nominations.
In particular, the role of the superdelegates, was to be examined.
Originally, the superdelegates--Democratic governors, senator, representatives, and party officials,
were made free agents in an attempt to block the will of the people in case the people did
something stupid. But in 2008, Hillary Clinton made a big effort to win the nomination by
getting these insiders in her camp, even though her opponent, Barack Obama won more elected
delegates. This whole process infuriated many Democrats (mostly Obama supporters), and since
Obama won, he got to appoint the head of the DNC, which makes the rules.
The Commission has now made a recommendation to keep the superdelegates but strip them of
their free-agent status. In the future, they would be
required to vote
the way their states did.
The recommendation will next by debated by the DNC's rules and bylaws committee, where anything
could happen. One possibility is to require all the supers to vote for the person who got
the largest popular vote in the state primary or caucus. Another is to have them vote for the
person who won the most delegates, which is not always the same thing due to the intricacies
of the primary/caucus rules (e.g., Texas has a primary based on state Senate districts in the
daytime and a caucus in the evening). Splitting the supers proportionally might be hard
because they are actual people who show up and telling some of them to vote for Jones and
telling others to vote for Smith won't go over well, whereas telling all of them to vote for
their state's winner, however determined, would be easier. To the extent that all the supers
have to vote the same way, the Democratic primaries and caucuses become a bit more like the
Republican winner-take-all elections, which are arguably less fair (you get 49% of the vote,
you get 0% of the delegates) but lead to choosing the nominee faster.
The Commission also recommend shortening the primary process by not having any races
before Feb. 1. However, in many cases, it is the states that set the primary/caucus dates
so such a recommendation wouldn't have any effect unless the Republicans agreed to it
and both parties got the state legislatures to change their laws.
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