Monday, November 21, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Second Acts

The recent elections in Brazil and Israel illustrate

the phenomenon of a political comeback in an era

when such career electoral revivals in democratic 

nations are otherwise considered unlikely.


In Brazil, Luiz Inicio da Silva, known as “Lula,” 

was a left populist president from 2003 to 2010,

then defeated for re-election, later indicted for 

corruption, convicted and sent to prison in 2019. 

But in 2021 he was released when the  

Brazilian supreme court nullified his conviction,

enabling him to run for president again in 2022

against the controversial incumbent Jair

Bolisaro (a right populist). In both stages of this

election, polls predicted Lula would win by much

larger margins than he did, but Lula is once

again president of Brazil.


In Israel, long-time prime minister (1996-1999

and 2009-2021) Benjamin Netanyahu, known as

“Bibi,” led his party coalition, thus regaining the

premiership, to a surprise decisive victory when

the coalition formed to defeat him in 2021 

collapsed, and required Israelis to go to the 

polls for the fourth time in five years. Polls just

prior to the election predicted Netanyahu would

likely come up short of the necessary 61 seats in

the Knesset (parliament) to form a government, 

but Bibi’s coalition actually won 64 seats.


In the United Kingdom, former Prime Minister

Boris Johnson (2019-2022), returned to England

from a Caribbean vacation intending to run for

Conservative Party leadership, and therefore 

return as prime minister, when his successor Liz

Truss resigned suddenly after only three months

in office. Finding his former chancellor of the

exchequer Rishi Sunak probably already had 

the votes to win, he chose not to run now, but is 

expected to make a comeback attempt in the 

future.


Although political career revivals are rare in the 

U.S. (only Grover Cleveland in the 19th century

lost his presidential re-election, but came back to

win four years later), they are more common in

the United Kingdom where prime ministers have

routinely lost, but had second non-consecutive

terms in office. Some of them did this multiple 

times, most notably Benjamin Disraeli and 

William Gladstone in the 19th century. After a 

shocking defeat in 1945, Winston Churchill 

returned as prime minister later in the postwar

period.


Former U.S. President Trump, who was defeated

for re-election in 2020, announced, as expected,

his candidacy for 2024 just after the 2022 midterm 

elections. But although he has remained popular 

with a large base of GOP voters, and would be 

formidable for his party’s nomination, his sharply 

unfavorable standing outside his base make it 

problematic for him to successfully emulate 

Grover Cleveland. Mr. Trump will be over 80 

years old in 2024.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Voters Have The Last Word

As readers of this column know, I have become

very cautious about predicting what voters will do,

and in spite of the expectation of most Republicans

and, yes, Democrats, too (as well as most pundits,

myself included) that the 2022 national mid-term

elections would be a rout, the voters' decisions

were more mixed and localized than anticipated.


A so-called "red wave" did not fully materialize,

although about 4 million more votes were cast

for Republican congressional candidates than

Democrats across the nation. This fact paradoxically

matched most pre-election generic congressional

polls that were interpreted to predict a red wave.


The explanation of how this happened can be seen

by examining the results by states. The 2022 GOP

generic advantage was assumed by most to follow

the 2020 national election model in which very large

states such as California and New York gave

candidate Joe Biden huge margins, thus giving him

millions of popular vote margin, a single digit

generic advantage. But in the 2022 mid-terms, total

votes for congressional candidates in those and

other blue states were much closer than in 2020,

with the consequence that more of the Democrat's

generic vote was distributed to other states, and

particularly to close races.

Nevertheless, Republicans gained seats in 2022

and will, when all races  are settled, have enough

to control the U.S. House of Representatives,

which was one of their two primary goals.


One senate contest is still too close to call.

Georgia will go to a December 6 run-off. The

end result for the Republicans will be the status

quo: control by the Democrats.


Some states had electoral wipeouts. Minnesota

went almost completely blue (except for 4 of their

8 congressional seats), and neighboring Iowa

went completely red, including all of its U.S. house

seats. Republicans gained four seats each in

Florida and New York. Democrats held on to

most of their vulnerable house and senate seats

elsewhere.


Democrats picked up governorships in Maryland

and Massachusetts, but both of these states are

very blue. Their outgoing term-limited GOP

incumbents were an anomaly. Republicans picked

up a governor in previously blue Nevada, and

Democrats gained a governor in Arizona. The

majority of state legislators are still Republican.


In short, no GOP rout, but a small red wave with

a blue breakwater. There was something for both

Republicans and Democrats to cheer about, as

well as each had their disappointments.


Now the 2024 presidential election cycle begins.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Polls, Trends And Presumptions


The current polling trend indicating voters shifting to

Republican candidates in many, but not all, races

across the country is just that — a speculative trend

and not necessarily what will be decided when the

the ballots are cast and counted.


The American electorate is in a volatile state, trying

to absorb and adjust to a post-pandemic period,

significant inflation, an unsettled stock market,

challenges to societal institutions, general economic

uncertainty, and an unstable global environment.


There is an entire industry dedicated to trying to

influence voters and predict what they will do, and it

includes not only the campaign organizations of the

contesting candidates, but also their political parties;

independent political action committees (PACs); the

media and its reporters, editorialists, and practicing

pundits; various political consultants and advisers,

ad designers, printers and sign makers; and various

political meeting venues.


Republicans are no doubt cheered by so many

election races now being  “in play,” competitive or

toss-ups, but in spite of current momentum, few of

these close races are truly yet decided. Democrats

could ultimately win many of these contests.


As a case in point, the trend in recent days in

Minnesota has been favorable to the GOP, with

the statewide races, according to credible polls,

considered as toss-ups. But the Democratic 

Party (Democratic-Farmer-Labor or DFL) has a

strong urban voter base and an outstanding

get-out-the-voter (GOTV) organization to get its

voter to the polls. While Republicans dominate

rural and exurban areas of the state, the DFL

majorities in Minneapolis and St. Paul, in

recent years, have overcome outstate GOP

majorities. Will 2022 be different?  Will

Republican campaign efforts in Minneapolis

and St. Paul — and in particular, with minority

communities, make gains this cycle? Will DFL

efforts outstate make gains for them? Which

voters will be most motivated to go to the polls?


No one knows with any certainty the answer

to these questions until the votes are counted.


My message to everyone is don’t presume 

outcomes, even this close to Election  Day.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.






Tuesday, October 18, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Blue Typhoon Or Red Cyclone?


There are a number of words we use to describe a

powerful storm, including tornado, hurricane, gale,

cyclone, typhoon, and tempest — and words we use

to describe a powerful influx of water, including flood,

tide, wave and tsunami — so just the right word to 

describe a powerful mass human action might 

employ any of these.


A few days before the 2022 national U.S. midterm

election, there is growing evidence that the voters in

this cycle might deliver a powerful message to those

who hold political power, but it is not clear if this

electoral statement will be relatively uniform across

the country or more localized to a particular region.


If the electoral message were to be from the West 

and West Coast, we might prefer to call it a typhoon

like  the storms in the Pacific Ocean, If it comes from

the Midwest, we might prefer tornado or cyclone, If

from the South, we might call it a hurricane like the

storms that rage through the Caribbean and Gulf of

Mexico. If from the East, the word we might choose is

a gale. If it occurs in all regions, it will likely be called

a wave.


It is not known if the voters will make any kind of storm.

Like weather forecasting, political predictions are 

ultimately guesswork. Both use a variety of statistics,

and often rely on precedents, but until a storm hits or

voters actually vote no one knows with certainty what

will happen.


Pundits also designate a partisan nature to their

assessment of a vote by applying “red” to Republicans,

“blue” to Democrats, and “purple” to a mixed result. 

This color code acts as a shorthand method, but it only

describes the winners and losers. There is no color

applied to independents or non-affiliated voters

because candidates who are neither Democratic nor

Republican very rarely win elections. An exception to

this are the occasional environmental issue voters and

candidates who are labeled “green.”


The 2022 national mid-term elections do not seem

likely to fail to make an interim judgment of the voter

mood. In 1934, newly-elected (in 1932) President

Franklin Roosevelt was so popular that his party gained

nine seats from Republicans in the U.S. house, and

Republicans lost ten U.S. senate seats. The only other

times that happened was in 1998 and 2002. More

frequently, the party of the incumbent first-term president

loses seats in the Congress, sometimes dramatically, as

happened in 1994 and 2010.


[Incidentally, one of the 1934 Democratic senate pick-ups 

was by a former haberdasher in Missouri named Harry

Truman.]


Democratic Joe Biden has one of the most unfavorable

voter ratings in the first two years of his first term of any

president in U.S. history. How this will color the results of

the imminent 2022 midterm elections, however, is not yet

clear. Both houses of Congress are currently controlled

by his Democratic Party.


It is very unlikely that 2022 will resemble 1934, but it isn’t

yet likely it will resemble 1994 or 2010. 


Voter-made storms often don’t become visible until a few  

days or weeks before Election Day.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Control of the U.S. Senate

With less than four weeks until election day, control of

the U.S. senate, appears to be settled by ten races

in Washington state, Nevada. Colorado, Arizona,

Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire,

North Carolina and Georgia.


Senate races in Vermont and Florida, thought to be

toss-ups at the outset of the cycle, seem likely from

latest polls and observations on the ground to have 

Democrat Peter Welch in Vermont and Republican

incumbent Senator Marco Rubio in Florida with 

solid leads.


The previously mentioned ten, however, are toss-ups

with only small poll differences within a true margin of

error. [NOTE: Margins of error published by the 

politers are almost always undrerstated. Current 

polling conditions have changed the percentages

of these margins substantially.)


Republican senate candidates have small leads in 

Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina.

Democratic senate candidates have small leads in

Washington state, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania,

New Hampshire and Georgia. Some of these races

were not close even recently, including  Washington

state, Colorado, Arizona and Pennsylvania, but have

tightened considerably in recent weeks. Because

these the Democratic candidate leads in these four

have narrowed, Republicans are increasingly

optimistic that that an earlier predicted red wave 

might yet happen.


On the other hand, three of those four, Washington state, 

Colorado, and Arizona, have well-funded Democratic

incumbents running, and potential GOP pick-ups of these

seats is an uphill battle. Pennsylvania, is an open seat

now held by Republican Senator Pat Toomey who is

retiring. The Democratic nominee John Fetterman has

seen his once double-digit lead collapse to a virtual tie

in his contest with celebrity physician Mehmet Oz.


Republicans have asserted that most polls undermeasure

conservative voters (presidential polls in 2016 and 2020

clearly did so), so they are particularly optimistic about

Adam Laxalt in Nevada, incumbent Senator Ron Johnson

in Wisconsin, J.D. Vance in Ohio, and Ted Budd in North

Carolina this cycle.


Democrats, however, are optimistic about Senator Maggie 

Hassan in New Hampshire and Senator Ralph Warnock

in Georgia where the incumbents are considerably 

outspending their GOP challengers.


In fact, several of these contests which are in relatively

small states are seeing huge campaign expenditures by

candidates and PACs supporting them. Arizona, Nevada,

Wisconsin and Georgia are examples of this outsized

spending.


President Biden and former President Trump have been

campaigning for their party’s candidates in many of these 

races, and numerous pundits, political strategists and

others will be looking for implications of their efforts in the

final results.


Although the current U.S. senate is divided between the

two major parties by a 50-50 tie, Democrats control it

through the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamal

Harris. That most narrow majority is at stake in the

national 2022 midterm elections, and it is conceivable

that another tie would result, or that either party would 

have a fragile 51-49 majority. With the vice president still 

presiding in 2023, Republicans are looking to pick up

2-4 seats in November — but such an outcome with less

than four weeks to go is speculative and in the hands of

the voters.

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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

 

Friday, September 30, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: How Will Mid-Terms Turn Out?

The long-brewing 2022 national mid-term elections are

now only a few weeks away, and expectations are high for

Democratic and Republican partisans with control of both

houses of Congress at stake.


Depending on who is read or listened to in the punditocracy,

there are grounds for optimism on both sides, but the

long season of widely differing and controversial polling

now enters a period of relative sober results as pollsters

and pundits who themselves are not partisan seek to

foresee what voters will do when they actually cast votes.


There was at the outset of the cycle a commonplace

anticipation, in light of President Biden’s chronic 

disapproval, of a red (Republican) wave in U.S. house

and senate races, accompanied by gains of the already

dominate GOP control of most state governments.


Over the summer, however, President Biden’s numbers,

still in negative territory, rose; the U.S. superme court

overturned Roe vs. Wade, returning the abortion issue to

the individual states; and a U.S. senate stalemate was

broken, enabling the passage of a trillion dollar plus

spending legislaion — all perceived by Democrats as

game changers in voter mood, as was the strategy of 

making former President Donald Trump a campaign

issue.


Until Labor Day, there were some polls which indicated

that some vulnerable Democratic candidates, especially in

U,S, senate races, had significantly improved their 2022

prospects, reinforcing the new Democratic optimism.


Since Labor Day the news has become mixed. State

races for governor and legislative candidates remained

positive for Republicans who are still expected to pick up

a few governorships, state constitutional officers and state

legislators.  Red wave results in U.S. house races seem

also likely — although the forecasts for GOP gains still

vary widely. Control of the U.S. senate, now split 50 to 50,

with Democratic Vice President Harris giving her party

control, remains, however, uncertain — with new polling

indicating up to 11 seats, six with Democratic incumbents,

five with Republican incumbents, as toss-ups.


Each mid-term cycle has its own set of issues and 

political circumstances.  When an incumbent president

and his policies are net unfavorable, as they, are now,

the results are almost always good for the opposition

party. On the other hand, when the leader of the 

opposition is a lightning rod for disapproval, the impact

on voters can be mixed. The abortion issue brings out

partisans of both sides, and perhaps helps Democrats

more, but the economy, battered by inflation, gives

Republicans an important advantage.


All polls are inexact, some are indeed erroneous, but the

polls close to the election usually are more accurate than

earlier in the cycle, and from mid-October on could signal

2022 voter mood and direction. Voters are now paying

much more attention to the election, candidate and party

advertising is filling airwaves and mailboxes, and political

strategies have been decided.


It now depends, as it always does, on which party’s voters

are most motivated, and which party wins the most

independent voters.


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Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.