Thursday, July 15, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2022 Senate Races Taking Shape

With filing dates still months away, and the 2022 national
mid-term elections more than a year distant, next cycle’s
U.S. senate battleground races are not yet fully formed, but
fundraising and political necessity are bringing many of
them into some shape earlier than usual.

Although 34 senate seats are up in 2022 --- 14 Democrats and
20 Republicans --- only 8-12 seats are now considered likely
battleground or competitive contests..

Most vulnerable are four Democratic incumbent seats
(Nevada, Georgia, New Hampshire and Arizona) and four
Republican incumbent seats (Wisconsin, Florida, North
Carolina and Pennsylvania). Colorado, Vermont, Missouri,
Ohio and Alaska additionally could become close contests,
depending on future decisions by incumbents and
potential challengers.

Unexpected vacancies, local and national issues, and a blue
or red election “wave” could also change currently-rated
“safe” races into battlegrounds.

Two of the four most vulnerable GOP seats are the result of
already announced retirements --- North Carolina Senator
Richard Burr and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Three major GOP candidates, including former Governor
Pat McCrory, and four major Democratic candidates,
including former state supreme court  chief justice Cheri
Beasley, are in the race so far in North Carolina. Slight
lean Republican.

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic early field has five major
candidates, including Lt. Governor Fetterman, the early GOP
field has two major candidates announced, businessman
Jeff Bartos and military veteran Sean Parnell, but more are
expected. Toss-up.

If Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson decides to run again, he
will be he slight favorite, but it would likely be close.  If he
does not run, the Democrat would be favored in this “purple”
state.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio faces a formidable
challenge from Democratic Rep, Val Demings, but the state
narrowly leans Republican.

Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won in
2016 with 47% of the vote, and if Adam Laxalt, son of a former
New Mexico senator and grandson of a popular former
Nevada senator runs, she might not be the favorite in the race.

New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan also
faces a possible challenge from a Republican with a legendary
political family name --- in this case, popular GOP Governor
Chris Sununu., son of a former senator. If Sununu gets in
the race, he would be the favorite to win.

Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock narrowly
won a post-election run-off victory over a GOP incumbent.
Many blame then-outgoing President Trump for the loss.
Warnock must run again in 2022, and might have to face
Georgia football legend Herschel Walker as his GOP
opponent. Such a race would be a toss-up.

With former President Trump standing in the way of GOP
Governor Patrick Ducey running for the seat now held  by
Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly. the former
astronaut remains the favorite to win re-election in the
purple southwestern state where the GOP is divided.

Races for the GOP senate nomination in Ohio, Missouri,
Colorado and Alaska could also change the battleground
map, as would the retirement of Vermont Senator Leahy.

The U.S. senate is now tied 50-50 --- but Democrats control
because of the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. A net gain
of one seat would return control to the Republicans --- so
there is extra attention this cycle to the relatively few seats
where the outcome is perceived to be in doubt.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What If Biden Doesn't Run In 2024?

Most speculation about 2024 so far has been about whether
Donald Trump will run or which Republicans would run if he
doesn’t. Normally, it is a given assumption that a first-term
incumbent, in this case Democrat Joe Biden, would be his
party’s nominee again.

But what if Biden, who would be 82 in 2024, decides not to run?

The answer to that question depends on the political and
economic conditions of late 2023 and early 2024 --- something
we can only guess at now.

If the economy is strong, and Biden is popular, his retirement
would be genuinely voluntary, and assuming Vice President
Kamala Harris is well-regarded, she would be heavily favored
to be the Democratic nominee --- and win the election, She
might be challenged, but especially if she had Biden’s support.
she would be unbeatable. That is the Democrat’s best-case
scenario.

If relations between Biden and Harris are not good, or Harris
fails to shine in her role as  vice president, there would be a
major battle for the nomination reminiscent of 2020 when more
than 20 credible candidates ran in the primaries. Bernie Sanders
and Elizabeth Warren would not run, but their younger lefitist
surrogates would. More moderate figures such as Pete Buttigieg
(now Secretary of Transportation), Senator Amy Klobuchar,
Governor Steve Bullock, and businessman Andrew Yang are
likely to give it another try.

Other possible contestants might be Senators Cory Booker,
Bill Casey or Sherrod Brown. Former First Lady Michelle
Obama might run.

The 2022 national mid-term elections could bring new faces to
the Democratic field of candidates. In any event, the 2022
elections will be a test of voter attitudes about current
Democratic policies and those who voice them.

Should  Biden retire in 2024, and Harris does not immediately
become the party’s consensus nominee, there will almost
certainly be a large number of announced presidential
candidates, including a number of aspirants who have no
chance to win. That is because if one can raise a relatively
minimal amount of money (no problem for most elected
officials or self-funding businesspersons), a presidential
campaign prior to the primaries is a bonanza for publicity,
self-promotion and trial runs.

Since age would be stated as or perceived as the reason for a
2024 Biden retirement, youth and vigor would be advantages
for his successor should he not run.

Not surprisingly, they could also be advantages for
whomever the Republicans nominate.

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

Saturday, July 3, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New York City Debacle

Many persons I know who support ranked choice voting (RCV)
are thoughtful, well-meaning and sincere, and want to improve
the voting system. Most RCV supporters, with some exceptions,
are Democrats or independents.

I have been an agnostic about RCV because although it has
strengths, it also has weaknesses, including delays in reporting
results and a very complicated ballot process.

A few days ago, voters in New York City went to the polls to
choose a new mayor (the incumbent is term-limited) using
RCV for the first time, and the results so far have been chaotic.
First results were almost immediately withdrawn when it was
realized that test votes had been mistakenly counted with actual
votes. A total counting initial second-choices of candidates who
have already conceded or been dropped has now been published,
but since no candidate has exceeded 50%, more will have to be
dropped and their second or third choices counted.

This delay has been exacerbated by an extended deadline for
absentee ballots which reportedly number 125,000, and which
have not yet been counted. It might be some time before final
results are known. Already, at least one major candidate has
gone to court challenging the results, and there are many calls
to abandon the system in future New York City elections.

At a time when many voters of all parties are questioning the
integrity of voting systems and procedures, the New York
debacle could not have occurred at a worse time.

Years ago, some states modified their nomination process
with a precinct caucus system, but it proved to be elitist and
undemocratic, and has been largely abandoned.

The jury is still out on RCV, but the kind of problems which
have arisen in New York City will have to be solved, especially
those which result in delays of vote reporting, if it is to
survive as a credible electoral option.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2024 Parallels?

Some history-minded folks are now looking back to the terms
of President Grover Cleveland (1885-89 and 1893-97) because
he is the only person to serve in two non-consecutive terms.
But those doing so are not finding other parallels for s possible
2024 outcome. Cleveland was a Democrat, and won the popular
vote in all three of his presidential elections (losing narrowly
the electoral college vote to Republican Benjamin Harrison in
1888).

Other folks are looking back to the attempt of President
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) to win a non-consecutive third
term in 1912 as a third party nominee, but although Roosevelt
got more popular and electoral votes than the GOP incumbent
William Howard Taft, he came in a distant second to Democrat
Woodrow Wilson (who clearly would have lost to Taft had
Roosevelt not been running).

In fact, throughout the history of U.S. presidential elections,
the most that third party candidates accomplish is to enable
underdog major party nominees to win as happened in 1860
with Abraham Lincoln, in 1912 with Wilson, in 1968 (perhaps)
with Richard Nixon, in 1992 (probably) with Bill Clinton, and
in 2000 with George W. Bush.

2024 is very far away politically. The 2022 national mid-term
elections will be quite important as a voter test of Biden
administration policies and results. Because of his age, Mr.
Biden could be the first modern president to retire voluntarily
after one four-year term. (Presidents Theodore Roosevelt,
Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman each was only elected
once, but each also filled out most of the term of a president
who died in office.)

Historical parallels seem harder to come by these days. Old
patterns are replaced. John Kennedy was the first Catholic to be
elected president; Ronald Reagan the first movie star to win the
top job, Geraldine Ferraro the first woman vice presidential
nominee (and the first Italian-American on a national ticket),
Joe Lieberman the first Jewish vice presidential nominee,
Barack Obama the first black president, Mitt Romney
the first Mormon presidential nominee. Hillary Clinton the first
woman presidential nominee,  Donald Trump the first TV
celebrity president, and Kamala Harris the first black woman
vice president.

In 2016, 2020 and almost certainly in 2024, both parties fielded,
or will field, serious presidential candidates with a great variety
of religious, racial, gender, ethnic and occupational backgrounds
and heritages.

Since every voter belongs to multiple interest groups (e.g., a
female Catholic Hispanic physician) and has views on a variety
of “hot button” issues (e.g., abortion, guns, political correctness,
etc.), the stereotypes of the past have mostly evaporated. Further
complicating presidential election forecasting and use of past
history patterns is the recent surge of media bias and inaccurate
polling.

In short, looking ahead to 2024 is more speculative than such
activity has ever been.

The odds might better at a local race track.


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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.







Monday, June 14, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Netanyahu Replaced And Other News

NETANYAHU REPLACED
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was
replaced by Naftali Bennett in a vote by the Knesset, the nation’s
parliament. The vote was 60-59. The one-vote margin indicates
the fragility of the coalition supporting the new government, a
coalition made up of parties from the left and the right, and
including for  the first time, a small Arab party. A no-confidence
vote at any time would precipitate a new national election, the fifth
in four years. The protracted negotiations to form the coalition
was motivated primarily by personal antipathy to Mr. Netanyahu
who, in a fiery final speech, vowed to return to power.

VIRGINIA COULD BE 2021 BATTLEGROUND STATE

There are only three major races, all for governor, this year, and
Democrats are favored to win all of them. But the contest in
Virginia could become very competitive because Republicans have
nominated an appealing outsider, self-funding private equity
investor Glenn Youngkin to take on former Democratic Governor
Terry McAuliffe in November. Controversial Democratic Governor
Norhrop is retiring. McAuliffe  is well-known not only as a
former governor, but also as a former national Democratic
chair, and for his close ties to both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In
contrast, Youngkin is virtually unknown to most Virginians, and
has no political track record to attack. Both candidates face
divided factions within their own parties, reflecting similar
divisions across the country. The GOP is strong in outstate
Virginia, but this is usually offset by heavy liberal DC suburban
voters who work in DC, but live in Virginia.  This race will be
watched nationally to see if Youngkin’s skillful nomination win
can be repeated in a general election. Just as McAuliffe, a liberal,
must keep more radical voters in his party on board, Youngkin
needs both pro-Trump conservatives and anti-Trump moderates.

COURTS COULD DO MANY STATES’ REDISTRICTING

Although reapportionment of U.S. house seats, based on the
2020 census, has been completed, redistricting within many
states has not been done because the final numbers for each
state have not yet been released,  and reportedly won’t be
until September --- an unusually late date. But district
boundaries must be drawn by December 31, 2021 if they are
to apply to the 2022 national mid-term elections. States unable
to meet the deadline will likely have it done by the courts.

INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION BIPARTISAN?

Five U.S. senators from each party have negotiated a
preliminary bipartisan approach to pending infrastructure
legislation, but its impact so far is uncertain.

WESTERN U.S. DROUGHT LOOMING

The western U.S., especially California and southwestern
states, are 77% in severe drought.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 31, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Fuzzy Big Picture

At any given moment in political time there is a larger
perspective possible, but often in electoral cycles, that “big
picture” evades reliable conclusions.

The 2022 national mid-term elections will be primarily
about control of the two houses of Congress --- and whether
the Biden administration will be able to enact its goals and
policies beyond what it was able to accomplish in its first
two years. That much is clear and obvious.

But because voters in each major party are somewhat divided
among themselves, and Democratic control of the U.S. house
and senate is very slight, it is unclear what President Biden
and his party will achieve in the next several months before
they go again to the voters. This is further complicated by the
apparent end to a traumatic national and global pandemic,
and the consequent effort to revive the economy.

A consensus is now emerging that Democratic control of the
U.S, house might be lost in 2022.  Most observers list more
than 40 incumbent Democratic seats as vulnerable, but less
than 20 GOP seats at risk. In addition, reapportionment and
redistricting appears to have given Republicans the advantage
for 5-10 additional seats. But these advantages are so far only
on paper. Actual voting is 18 months away, and present trends
could change to the Democrats’ advantage. On the other hand,
a ”red” wave election might switch 25-50 seats to the GOP
next year.

There is no current consensus about who will control the U.S.
senate in 2023. Each party has 4-5 vulnerable incumbent seats.
With 5 GOP incumbents retiring, the conservatives face an
uphill battle to break the current 50-50 tie, which with Vice
President Kamala Harris’s vote gives Democrats control.
It is sill early enough in the cycle for more retirements. Since
so much money is required for a senate race these days, most
vacancy and vulnerable 2022 races are already heavily
populated with aspiring candidates. As in the recent past, the
quality of he candidates recruited and nominated will be a
major factor in the outcome of the senate races.

There will be some colorful gubernatorial contests in 2022,
including New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin
and Nevada, but Republican dominance of states is likely to
continue. The liberal urban and conservative rural/exurban
divide is expected to persist --- although local elections in
2021 could signal some new rends in these areas.

The biggest unknown about 2022 will be public reception to
the Democratic policies agenda that includes packing the U.S.
supreme court, open immigration, defunding police, growing
anti-Israel attitudes, and energy policies unfavorable to U.S.
consumers and workers --- an agenda which even veteran
liberal pollsters and strategists say now has uneven support
among traditional liberal voters, and  overall majorities
against them in the general electorate.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Breaking Stories - May, 2021

There are a number of breaking news stories now underway,
important in their potential consequences, but which appear
far from resolution.

PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE IN ISRAEL
After years of relative quiet, Palestinian rocket attacks from
Gaza and Lebanon on Israeli cities, as well as civil unrest by
Arabs in major Israel cities, has flared up again. Led by
Hamas, the timing seems confusing because it appears to
have saved Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from
losing his job, just as a coalition of his opponents seemed on
the verge of replacing him.

VACCINATION DELAYS IN ASIA AFRICA.
SOUTH AMERICA AND EUROPE

Although vaccination efforts in the U.S. (“Operation Warp
Speed”) and several smaller nations, e.g., Israel and Uruguay,
have gone well, in much of the rest of the world, inoculations
are going erratically. Reasons for this vary from government
ineptitude or corruption, lack of supplies of vaccines, fear of
individuals for the medical procedure and difficulty in
reaching distant and rural populations. Health officials worry
that the delays might enable new virus variants.

HOW BASEBALL IS DOING

Interest in baseball in the U.S. has been equaled or exceeded in
recent years by other sports such as football and basketball,
but it remains the national game, and a bellwether for public
recovery to post-pandemic “normalcy.” After an abbreviated
2020 “pandemic” season with no fans in the stadiums, major
league baseball has returned to a full schedule and in-person
attendance. 2021 might also be a good year for pitchers --- in
the first month alone, four of them have thrown  no-hitters.

EARLY SIGNS OF U..S. INFLATION
After years of relatively stable prices, prices in some major
sectors such as food and fuel have risen notably. Some
economists suggest Biden administration economic policies,
including higher taxes, new regulations and significant new
government deficit spending programs are the principal
cause of these early signs of inflation. Defenders of the
president contend that his multi-trillion dollar stimulus/
infrastructure spending proposals will prevent inflation.

MEXICAN BORDER CRISIS

The Biden administration attempts to downplay the
surge of illegal immigrants at the Mexican border is drawing
not only widespread criticism from Republicans, but from
border officials of his own party, including senior Democratic
Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. Attempted illegal
entries are reportedly at a 20-year high with no end in sight.
The Biden administration policy of not returning illegals to
their country of origin (reversing the policy of the previous
administration) is also reportedly increasing the surge.

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Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.