Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 1918 Mid-Term Elections Deja Vu?

On November 5, 1918 American voters went to the polls for
the mid-term elections during President Woodrow Wilson’s
second term. Six days later, World War I would end. In that
month a worldwide pandemic of “Spanish” influenza was

In 1913, a constitutional amendment changed the election of
U.S. senators from election by state legislators to direct
election by all state voters. The first national direct election
of senators had occurred in 1914. The senate, because of its
constitutional powers of confirming presidential appointments
and its role in foreign policy was the key election that year. The
Democrats had 50 seats, the Republicans had 46. Control of
the senate was crucial to the direction of post-war foreign
policy, control of the U.S. supreme court, and the outcome of
the 1920 presidential election that would follow two years later.

When the votes were counted, the Republicans had picked up
a net of six seats, and had control of the senate 52-44. (There
were only forty-eight states in 1918, and thus only ninety-six

A year later, President Wilson suffered a stroke in office, and
his wife became the de facto president. In 1920, Republicans
won the presidency, and held the White House for the next
twelve years. (Ironically, the defeated Democratic vice
presidential candidate in 1920, Franklin Roosevelt, would win
back the White House for the Democrats in 1932.)

The circumstances of 1918 are very different from those of 2014,
although there is the curious coincidence of an international
pandemic occurring during both years. For example, in 1918
the Democratic senators from the South were segregationists.
Most black voters voted for Republicans, as they had since the
Civil War. In 1918, women did not have the right to vote.
Democrats had blocked this for decades. Historically, the
Republicans were the champions of women's rights, and the
election of 1918 made possible the passing of a constitutional
amendment in 1920 giving U.S. women the right to vote.

What is similar, of course, is the vital question of who controls
the U.S. senate, and the implications for the next presidential
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


In a race-by-race analysis of the national mid-term elections
sent to current subscribers to this website (directly to their
e-mail addresses) earlier today, I suggested that the past week
was generally good to the Republicans, but that a true picture
of the final outcomes is not yet in sight.

No political party easily gives up the powers that they have,
and the Democrats are particularly “ferocious” in this cycle
to keep control of the U.S. senate, and to make gains in their
number of governors of the states.

I have been stressing, despite the voter momentum to the
conservative party this cycle, that the liberal party has serious
cards to play, and that they are, and will continue, playing
them right up to election day. These include much more
campaign funds, reliable constituencies, and a proven and
effective ability to get out their vote. Republicans this cycle
have outfunded the Democrats only in the gubernatorial races
(thanks to having more incumbents and the efforts of
Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie).

The structure of the congressional map, as well as the GOP
trend this year, ensures mostly good outcomes for the
conservative party in U.S. house races, despite the Democrats’
financial advantage in these races. The Democrats have now
pulled their ads in many of the races where they hoped to defeat
incumbent Republicans, and reallocated those funds to saving
vulnerable Democrats.

It is in the U.S. senate races where Republicans must most be
wary, and not overconfident, with just under three weeks to go.
The Democrats know where they still have opportunities, both
to save their own vulnerable incumbents and to possibly pick
off an incumbent GOP senator or two. They have the money and
they have the technology to make a successful last stand.

As in some house races, Democrats have redirected their efforts.
They appear to be conceding Colorado and Kentucky, but there
are several senate races where heavy advertising and aggressive
get-out-the-vote efforts might yet save the political day for them.

Just as, following the 2004 election when Republicans had the
better ground game, the 2014 mid-term elections are a challenge
to the opposition party to adapt to a new election landscape
featuring early voting, looser voting rules, high-tech voter I.D
methods, and new political media/communication venues.

Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party
nomination in 2008 in part by embracing the then new election
landscape, and he defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 in part because
the Republicans had not learned the lessons of 2006, 2008 and

The conservative party has had fair warning.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Ground Game, Ground Game, Ground Game

There are now less than four weeks to go until election day,
Nominees have been chosen. Initial TV and other media
ads have been run. Campaign strategies are being carried out.
TV debates between the candidates have begun. What remains
to be done?

A very great deal, and it can be summed up in one short phrase:
ground game.”

The ground game is the unglamorous and most labor intensive
side of a political campaign. It consists of the time-consuming
work of identifying a candidate’s most likely voters, keeping in
touch with them by phone, with mailings and the internet, and
then creating an effective organization that makes sure they
get to the polls on election day.

It is not a casual effort. It requires large numbers of
carefully trained and prepared volunteers or paid staff, and in
2014, it also requires up-to-date technology and techniques.

Since 2006, the national Democratic Party, and most of the
state Democratic Parties, have clearly had the better ground
game. I think the liberal party’s ground game made the
difference in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of their
ticket. Even though the Democrats don’t have a presidential
candidate running in 2014, and despite the fact that their own
presidential incumbent has become quite unpopular, they will
conduct a massive and effective ground game in most areas of
the country this year.

Although it is undeniably a cycle favoring Republicans, the
conservative party would make an enormous mistake if it does
not achieve a very serious catch-up in its ground game in the
closing days of the 2014 national mid-term elections. So far,
all polling shows a higher intensity for Republican voters this
year, and some Democrats are demoralized by the performance
of President Obama, but that does not mean that most Democrats,
effectively identified and prodded by their party’s ground game,
won’t go to the polls and vote for Democratic candidates.

A so-called political “wave” could help Republicans, especially
Republican U.S. senate challengers, this cycle, but if there is not
a truly effective GOP ground game in the competitive senate,
house and gubernatorial races, the Republican Party, its
candidates, and its aspirations will fall short on election day.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Plan For Surprises

The recent turnabout in Kansas does not fully qualify as a
last-minute surprise, the kind of which almost always appear on
a national mid-term elections night. The collapse of the GOP in
that state is real enough, but it occurred enough in advance of
the actual election for the Republican incumbent to make a
serious effort to recover.

The real surprises percolate either on election night itself when
the results are being tabulated, or at most, a few days before in
the final polling when little or nothing can be done to affect the

Somewhere in the list of “Safe” Democrats and/or “Safe”
Republicans is a candidate or two who is not so safe at all. Why
the dynamics of these campaigns are so sudden and late is
often unclear, but invariably they occur. And they can occur in
either party. The Kansas example demonstrates this. It is
shaping up to be a GOP year in the midwest, if not most of the
country, and Kansas is usually as red as red can be, but both
the conservative governor and the conservative U.S. senator are
in trouble.

Early possibilities for a last-minute surprise include U.S. senate
races in Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, and South
Dakota. The four former are “safe” Democratic seats, the latter
race is considered now “safe” Republican. But a “wave” could
defeat the Democrats, and a third party candidate could upset the
Republican. In fact, there are several third party candidates this
year who could alter the final results. Most of these races are now
considered likely Republican, but Democrats could pull out
surprise victories because some Republican voters might be
moved to vote for independent or libertarian third party candidates.

I have been covering national mid-term and presidential election
cycles for a very long time, and I cannot remember even one of
those many election years when there was not at least one or two
true surprises on election day.

I think this is one of the most wonderful and reassuring aspects
of U.S. representative democracy. As much as my fellow pundits,
myself included, labor to analyze and prognosticate the behavior
of the American voter, it is the single voter, counted in an
aggregate, who has the last, and often surprising, word.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Special Subscriber Advisory

Subscribers to The Prairie Editor website were 
just sent Mid-Term Countdown #2 directly to 
their e-mail addresses. This detailed race-by-race 
Countdown will be updated at least once a week 
from now until the election. These analyses will 
also be sent to current (paid-up) subscribers only. 

Special election night coverage, including
results and analysis will also be available for
"subscribers only" all evening of November 4.

Any reader who wishes to subscribe should 
scroll down on this page on the right side to
the "SUBSCRIBE" button, and click on it.
The annual fee is $45.00, and it can be paid'
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Why I'm Cautious About 2014

Faithful readers of The Prairie Editor have noticed a certain
caution about making predictions for the 2014 national midterm

There are good reasons for this.

In 2010, and in earlier cycles, The Prairie Editor made predictions
with a certain abandon, if you will. In 2010 particularly, he was
probably the first national pundit to see the “wave” of that year
coming. As early as late 2009, he wrote that the Republicans would
likely pick up about 70 U.S. house seats. But in 2012, he misread the
political tea leaves, primarily because he overrated the GOP
get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort. He did write a column about two
weeks before that election to remind his readers that the
Democrats had a superb and effective GOTV organization and
program, yet he did not see the final presidential election result.

All the signs so far point to a good year in 2014 for the Republicans.
They are likely to increase their number in the U.S. house, and
almost certainly will increase their number in the U.S. senate.

But will the GOP re-take control of the senate? Will there be a
political “wave?”

As we come closer and closer to Election Day on November 4, the
number of “undecided” voters (most of them independents) will
diminish, and by the week before the election, there could be a
a reasonable portrait of the eventual results drawn. It is now very
late in the campaign for any new defining issues. President Obama’s
unpopularity might move a few points either way, but he is unlikely
to be of any help to his party’s candidates this cycle. 

Late-developing events such as the resignation of the Democratic
senate candidates in Montana and Kansas (the former dooming
their chances, the latter helping them), and gaffes and revelations
can happen, but the remaining days of this election cycle will most
importantly be devoted to technical matters such as voter ID and
GOTV.  In this general area and in most (but not all) states, the
Democrats have the recent historical advantage. Republicans say
they learned their lesson in 2012, and have initiated catch-up
ID and GOTV efforts using the latest technologies. Two states
to watch in this regard are North Carolina and Colorado. In
Minnesota, this effort is being managed primarily by the state
party. At least two national GOP consulting firms are involved in
dozens of other races, but their  ability to deliver on Election Day
is yet to be proven.

But it’s not just ID and GOTV. The Democrats clearly have the money
advantage in the 2014 cycle. There is a certain irony (conservatives
would say “hypocricy”) in the national Democrats complaint about
rich GOP donors; the fact is that most of the billionaires and
millionaires contributing to candidates in 2014 are liberal Democrats.
Nontheless, the Democrats are seriously outspending Republicans,
with some exceptions, across the country. Much of this money has
been used for personal attacks against GOP challengers (an exception
to this is in Kansas where the GOP has been attacking the now
frontrunning “independent” candidate who is running against a GOP

Many U.S. big business donors, historically leaning to the conservative
side, switched to Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2008 and 2012.
So far, they have seemed reluctant to switch back to the GOP, in spite
of what conservative partisans contend is the clear anti-business bias
of the Obama administration.

Turnout and cash now come center stage in the 2014 cycle. In these
two important areas, the party in power, the Democrats, still have an
advantage, at least judged by precedent.

As Election Day approaches, the polls will become more accurate,
albeit still inexact. The Prairie Editor cannot repeat enough that
true evidence of a political “wave” election will likely not appear
until just before the actual voting (although much early voting is
already taking place).

There are good reasons for caution about making predictions
about 2014. At the same time, signs are beginning to abound that
the final results might be historic. The reader should stay tuned.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

[NOTE TO PAID-UP SUBSCRIBERS:  Watch your e-mail address
for the next installment of the race-by-race Mid-Term Countdown (#2) 
which will be sent shortly to subscribers only.]

Saturday, September 20, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Mid-Term Countdown #1

With a bit more than six weeks to go before Election Day, 2014,
I begin a series of weekly reports on the national mid-term
elections campaigns now in full throttle.

As I have predicted, this cycle is not going in a straight line. The
Republicans, most signs indicate, have momentum and
advantage, but in several key senate races Democratic incumbents
are showing some resilience in the polls, and in one case, a
previously “safe” Republican is now in trouble.

No race is final, of course, until the votes are counted and
reported, but certain contests appear to be over, either because
of the mood of a state or congressional district voters, or because
of extreme gaffes by one of the candidates.

There seems to be general agreement that U.S. senate seats in
Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia are going to change
political party control. Revelations, gaffes and bad tactics have
seemed to plague the campaigns of incumbent Democrats in
Iowa (Bruce Braley), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu
(Lousiana) and  Mark Udall (Colorado). These latter campaigns
are not over yet, but their Republican challengers seem to have
the upper hand for the time being. In Arkansas, Democratic
incumbent Mark Pryor also seems to be fading from the
challenge of GOP nominee Tom Cotton, as does Democrat
Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire following a surge by GOP
candidate Scott Brown. Both of these races remain too close to
call, as does the race in North Carolina between vulnerable
Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and her Republican
challenger Thom Tillis.

In Michigan, an open seat previously held by a Democrat, the
Democratic nominee Gary Peters holds a lead in a race that might
yet tighten.

Republican incumbents who have been considered vulnerable
are generally doing well, including GOP senate majority leader
Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee),
and Thad Cochran (Mississippi). In Georgia, an open seat
previously held by a Republican, GOP nominee David Perdue
has pulled ahead of his Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn,
although this race is not “over.” On the other hand, veteran GOP
Senator Pat Roberts (Kansas) is in deep trouble. His Democratic
opponent has withdrawn, allowing an independent candidate
Greg Orman to pull ahead in this race. The contest is not over
yet; Orman is now being vetted for the first time, and his centrist
positions challenged, but the race does lean to a non-GOP
takeover. (Although Orman says he will caucus with the party
that has the majority.)

There are a number of races in which Democratic incumbents
have a notable lead, but which could become competitive in the
closing days of their campaigns as large numbers of undecided
voters make up their minds. These contests include Oregon,
where incumbent Chris Markely has a comfortable lead over
his GOP challenger; Delaware, where incumbent Chris Coons
leads his Republican challenger; Virginia, where incumbent
Mark Warner has a big lead; and New Jersey, where Cory Booker
won a special election last year, and has a substantial lead.
Any of these races might have a surprise result in November,
but it would take a true political “tsunami” (something not yet
visible) to alter their outcomes.

Finally, there is Minnesota. Incumbent Democrat Al Franken
has been leading by high single digits, but has been in most
polls under 50%. Still controversial after his recount victory
over GOP Senator Norm Coleman in 2008, Franken has been
mostly invisible in the senate. On the other hand, he has raised
a substantial campaign money war chest. If his GOP opponent
businessman Mike McFadden, making his first political race,
puts some of his own money in the contest, and a national
“wave” does hit this midwestern state, it could be very close on
election day.

In races for state governor, Democrats have their brightest
hopes. They almost certainly will defeat incumbent GOP
Governor Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, and have
opportunities to replace Republicans in Maine, Kansas and
Georgia. They could also pick up governorships in Florida,
Wisconsin and Michigan. Republicans, on the other hand,
are ahead in Illinois, Arkansas and Connecticut. Minnesota
Governor Mark Dayton, now rated “safe” by most pundits,
could have an election surprise on November 4 (he’s under
50%), but so far seems well ahead of his GOP challenger
Jeff Johnson. This race, like many others this cycle, might
develop late in the cycle.

Republicans not only expect to keep their majority in the
U.S. house of representatives; GOP leaders privately expect
to pick up 5-10 seats. There are about 20 house seats rated as
toss-ups. One of those, Minnesota 8, now represented by
Democrat Rick Nolan, is beginning to look more and more
like a GOP takeover with a spirited campaign by businessman
Stewart Mills turning this normally blue district red in 2014.

Some observations from many years of covering mid-term

With no presidential election this cycle, turnout for the
    party in power will be diminished. This might be
    accelerated in 2014 because Democratic President Barack
    Obama is at, or close to, his historical popularity lows. On
    the other hand, the Democrats have the proven better voter
    ID and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation. Republicans say
    they have caught up in GOTV, but it remains to be seen if
    they have.

A much-discussed potential political “wave” is, at this point,
    only theoretical. Such “waves” usually only become evident
    at the very end of a campaign, so any impact of one will
    have to await later campaign countdowns.

There is always one (or more) true surprises on Election
    Night when the results are announced.


Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.