Saturday, February 4, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2017 Weekend News Update 1

France will elect a new president in a few months, and the
French voters’ choice could have much to do with the future of
the European Union (EU). The political contest was proceeding
predictably until a few days ago when two surprise
developments took place. The race had been a showdown with
Francois Fillon emerging as the right-of-center candidate after
he defeated a former president and former prime minister;
socialist Benoit Hamon; and Marine Le Pen, the nominee of the
very conservative National Front. Mme. Le Pen was leading in
polls, but Fillon was expected to win the presidency after a
run-off with her (gaining most of the left wing votes). Then,
however, M. Fillon found himself in a major scandal over hiring
his wife when in office. His poll numbers have dropped, and
many in his party are pressuring him to drop out. Second,
former socialist minister Emmanuel Macron quit the leftist
party and formed a new maverick centrist party En Marche
(“On The Move”). A new poll shows M. Macron now in second
place, behind Mme. Le Pen, but slightly ahead of M. Fillon and
way ahead of M. Hamon. In an almost certain run-off, the
maverick Macron wins by an even larger margin than the now
fading Fillon. With four major parties,  France’s politics are
resembling those in neighboring Spain where, after decades of
a two party system, there are also now four major parties
dividing the votes and producing stalemate. Should nominee
Fillon drop out, it could bring back controversial former
French President Nicholas Sarkozy (who had retired after he
recently lost the nomination), a development that further would
confuse an already unexpectedly unpredictable Gallic
campaign. Although Mme. Le Pen has been claiming to be the
French “Trump” candidate. it might be Emmanuel Macron
who provides France with its biggest upset since World War II.

The 2018 national mid-term elections, now less than two years
away, are already taking some shape, particularly because there
are so many vulnerable incumbent Democratic seats at stake.
In fact, 10-12 (or almost half of those running) liberal senators
could face serious GOP challengers. On the Republican side,
only 8 incumbent seats are up, and most of them are secure.
The reverse circumstances were true in 2016 (24 GOP incumbents
and only 10 Democrats), but conservatives held their net loss to
two seats, and maintained their majority. Of course, the outcome
next year will depend in large part on the performance of the
Trump administration, but a senate race these days usually
requires challengers to spend almost two years in assembling a
campaign organization, fundraising and establishing a critical
narrative about the incumbent. So far, most of those who have
either declared their candidacy, or are seriously considering it,
have been GOP members of the U.S. house. Exceptions to this
are Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel who is challenging
incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown for the second time, and
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke who might be the challenger to
incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin Several of
the vulnerable Democrats, including Brown and Baldwin,
represent states that were carried by Donald Trump in 2016.
The senate races will be the biggest political story next year.

There are only a few special congressional elections scheduled
for 2017, and two state governorships, but there are numerous
big city mayoral contests. This is one of the few geographic areas
where Democrats dominate the political market, and it is of interest
because, lacking currently a formidable national reservoir of
political leadership, big city mayors could now begin to supply
many of tomorrow’s liberal members of Congress, governors and
even presidents. Republicans, trailing badly in inner city precincts,
will need to improve their urban support over the long-term if they
intend to maintain current national majorities.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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