Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Beyond the Ballot: Liveblogging

1120Am Right into panel. What Does Election Mean for Partisanship?

The room is still standing room only, but there are more empty chairs at this time. Power may cut off before panel is over.

There are 5 news cameras set up in the middle of this room. If they do host this conference next year at Tulane, they're going to need a bigger room.

Moderator - Key insight of 2004 Bush reelection is that independent swing voters were small group. Country was quite polarized.

Matthew Dowd: There is a "big middle" but the lack of political choices by party force a choice, and choice affects vote down ticket. That's why GOP national wave in 2010 ended up with hundreds of new GOP state legislators.

Because someone says they are a Republican, it doesn't mean they want all lower taxes, socially conservative for "smaller" government. In 2004, Bush represented only a small demographic of the country that he governed.

Most elections are nationalized. People tend to vote straight ticket based on national perceptions. Explains major swings that affect country from top to bottom.

Moderator: Is the Tea Party an ideological force, or is it a group of people in the middle? Kate Zernike: Tea Partier core not of independents, most identify as Republicans. Started out libertarian, but as it swelled, individuals came to it out of frustration not politics.

Moderator: What is the Tea Party and how suseptible will they be to leaders who work with Obama?

Todd Harris: GOP looks at Tea Party like a Doberman Pinsher, glad to have them around, but kinda terrified of them. Marco Rubio was able to win talking about changing Social Security. Anger will only intensify if GOP doesn't let Tea Party pariticpate in substnative way, "get some of what they want." If anger continues, it will affect GOP primaries in 2012.

Moderator: Nancy Pelosi stays on as Minority Leader, good thing or bad thing?

Steve McMahon: Complicated thing. Most sucessful Speaker in a long time, got everything they needed passed. Demonized by GOP, numbers reflect that. Deserves to be the leader, but numbers may keep her from being leaders. She will get reelected because she is strong. Even though GOP says it will be great if she becomes Minority Leader, she is tremendously effective.

Moderator: GOP weighted to South, now Speaker is from Ohio.

Ayers: Speaker from Midwest is a good thing for GOP (last speaker was from Midwest), demonstrates national victory for GOP.

Moderator: Does Obama need to change things by communication and keep going with agenda, or sit tight and let GOP make first move.

Greenberg: President Obama will learn from this and make moves; has already signaled that he will focus on economy. Obama has to have a narrative that tells voters where agenda is going. Instinct was to overcome bipartisan nature of Washington.

Moderator: Is Obama too insular with group advising him?

Greenberg: Every President has a change after elections like this. Dowd: President is in different, more problematic spot than Clinton. Clinton didn't have terrible economy, was able to correct. Obama will not be rewarded for management change if economy doesn't get better. Obama's destiny is tied into economy, like Ronald Reagan, but can't change 70% top marginal tax rates to affect change.

Moderator: If economy had been in even slightly better shape, would context of election be different?

Ayers: Thirty-seat losses are explained by bad economy, wipeout requires more explanation. Harris: Election was about Big Things. Vote was about fundamentally changing direction of entire nation.
McMahon: Panelists talking about President as if stimulus, auto takeover, bailouts, economy and job losses were something he chose to do, as if he campaigned on those issues instead of being left those issues by the GOP. (applause) Choice was Health Care Reform, was part of the campaign.
Harris: Obama also didn't campaign on allowing signature issues to Pelosi and Reid.

Moderator: Will GOP do anything, or will they sit and play for 2012.
McMahon: GOP is not going to try and get something done. Tea Party folks came with an agenda to say no, Boeher has been rewarded for saying no for two years. They aren't going to schedule votes to release the pressure on culture.
Ayers: Independents expect some kind of action to address problems facing this country. Republican voters are more adamant about sticking to core principles, but Independents closer to GOP core principles.
Morris: Are the leaderships (GOP, Obama) going to pay attention to small demographic, political sects on both sides, or are they going to listen to voters and get some things done. Independents want something done, but don't have megaphone to do so. Will be minor, loudest voices in GOP.

Moderator: Is there tension in Tea Party to get stuff done by cutting government?
Zeinike: Tea Party isn't party, it is state of mind. TP candidates want gridlock, some TP voters want government rollback, others want gridlock. Voters for Rand Paul want to change Washington. Tea Party not monolithic.
Greenberg: Polls show 2 to 1 that voters want government to work together, while GOP voters claim 2/3 that focus should be on principles. GOP and Dems will need to pass something to show country still governable, President still has opportunities.
Harris: Enough adults in Washington to get things done so Tea Party can vote the way they want.
Ayers: Tea Party movement is fundamentally economically middle class folks who feel fear and frustrated. Truly believe people in Washington are just not listening to them. They are not children, they are not blind to choices. Saying they don't want country to keep spending children's money.

Moderator: Would those voters (and politicians) welcome government shutdown.
Ayers: They want government to work effectively to address problems that affect them, aren't into symbolic behaviors like government shutdowns.
Harris: Rubio said during victory speech that election was GOP second chance. Not being put back into power because people love us.

Moderator: Is dismemberment of two party system a possibility, if voter anger continues?
Harris: Tea Party could marginalize GOP, voters could stop voting. GOP's best interest to get some things done.
Greenberg: Country could support a third party candidate, out of frustration. Lot of space for 3rd party movement.
Morris: Best thing for our system would be emergence of a new party, but more likely that parties will change. Parties change and adapt. Democratic Party and GOP are very different from even 60 years ago. Contingent on what happens in 2012. Voters have lost faith and trust in every major cultural and political institution all at the same time: government, business, churches, sports, etc.
Harris: Mistake to narrow third party to only Presidential election. If Meg Whitman had run as an independent, and didn't have to run as a Republican in California, she may have had better positives. Possibilities for independent runs for state and local offices.

Moderator: Is media an obstacle to acheiving results for American people and helping find solution, or is media only describing problems.
McMahon: Internet has changed everything, used to be four or five newspapers, 3 networks, reporting balanced. Viewership is way down. People are going to get news they agree with, people go to sites based on point of view. Nonbiased media has becoming less relevant.
Ayers: Rubio built a two-to-1 lead inside own party without running a single tv political ad.
Greenberg: Cable-driven, aligned media is an obstacle to bipartisan solutions. Major stories in print journalism affect issues.
Zienike: People are hungry for what is on own side. Try to create balanced material(conservatives think she's not objective, liberals think she's too objective), but people don't seem to be interested.
Harris: Total decimation of state press corps in state capitols is alarming. Candidates and stories are not getting vetted or written, and this is a disservice.

Power's about to flip. Be back after lunch.

1110AM Questions. Carville suspends "free speech," and demands questions come quickly, to chuckles from the audience. First question about Marxist Hegelian philosophy and is cut off.

Second question about minority vote. Marco Rubio will be a game changer with Latino community.

Third question: How are voters angry with Obama's agenda since he was elected for that agenda? Carville approves of question (to laughter and applause). Gillespe: voters were looking to change Washington, not change America. Voters angry that agenda isn't what they voted for in specifics. Greenberg: it is about attention on economy. Some is not real - young voters did not participate in this election. Polling is about who asnwers polls. Lot of energy for Tea Party and GOP.

Fourth question: why aren't there any African American Republicans, Democrats and Independents on the panel?

Fifth question: Four wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for lunch? (WUT?) Greenburg: Voter thought they were voting for change on economy and jobs; economic policies of President were not big enough, vision not big enough to explain what policies were about.

Carville's really on to keep the questions moving.

Sixth question: Are polls accurate when they don't interview very many people. Carville: this election had very accurate polls. Greenburg: real polls were accurate, shoddy polls were not. Ayers: if you do your poll well, you will get a lot of information.

11AM Wrapping the first Group. Ed Gillespe. Look at how independents line up with GOP. Issues about economy, jobs have to be created. The GOP has to tie everything they do back to jobs. "Finish the sentence," to explain how policies create jobs. That will help GOP keep independent voters.

Significant gap between elitist view of Tea Party and "heartland" view of Tea Party. Real staying power, Tea Party to remain engaged. Will be advantage to GOP. Maybe efforts to "demonize" Tea Party will stop, and media should recognize that Tea Party has real concerns.

(Of course, the Tea Party has done plenty to publicize their own demons HR)

1045AM Still First Group. Stan Greenberg.

Election was 1994 style wave. Big election, voters had a very big message for Democrats and President Obama. Voters very consious of what they were doing, wanted to take Congress away from Democrats. Unhappy voters, especially on economic matters, apparent Democratic inattention to the economy. Health Care diverted attention from economy, unhappy with lack of vision or message regarding why policies were being persued. Angry about partisan fights (and they blame the Democrats??? HR).

Back to having Reagan Democrats, lost blue collar workers, Democrats will have a long way back among industrial Midwest.

Have to be very careful about message. This was about Democrats. Standing of GOP was no higher than GOP in 2006 or 2008. Democrats crashed down to level of GOP. This isn't about liking the GOP.

Issues specific to election:

Seniors participated in this election, with a 7 point rise; young voters dropped out. You can't assume this electorate behavior will be repeated. Young voters will be back. Seniors worried that Health Care will affect Medicare.

"Conservative" ideology election; Democratic President (Clinton/Obama) first two years create backlash. Tea Party a big part of turnout and GOP surge. Historically, this can play out in many different ways.

Mandate: Many things that produced this landslide call election into question almost immediately. Electoral demographics will change in next election. Young voters, single mothers, senior turnout.

Deficits and austerity. Voters believed that Democrats spent too much and ran up debt, but that should not be interpreted as support for austerity budgeting. "More" or "less" government is close to an even split. 52% of voters wanted government to fight corporate interests. Support for spending on internal investments. Voters want to both address the deficit, and have a government that works.

Cooperation between the parties: message for all candidates is "work together and get things done." On virtually every question, GOP base wants GOP to fight for principles and to stop President Obama. That creates a platform for Democrats and restricts GOP freedom of movement.

Health Care: Only a small plurality wanted repeal and replace. Health care was not on specifics, it was on lack of focus on economy; process drove it. If GOP spends all their time on Health Care, they may lose favor with voters.

1030AM: First Group. Whit Ayers, Ed Gillespe, James Carville, Stan Greenberg. Bipartisan poll by Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps. Several handouts from the pollsters were included in the entry packet. Releasing a combined poll. Full results here.

Whit Ayers:

Polling conducted on November 2, focused on 2010 voters, and those who voted in 2008 but not in 2010.

Wave last Tuesday was constituted by Independent voters. Swung 2006 and 2010. The chart is very explanatory, as 1998 - 2004 included similar independent voter trends. In 2006, the wave started, almost mirror of what happened in 2010.

Independents look far more like Republicans than Democrats on the issues. Direction of the country, 8 out of 10 independents think country is going the wrong direction; 9 out of 10 Republicans look that way. Most Democrats think country is going in right direction. Three-quarters of Democrats think government should be doing more, Independents and Republicans think the government is doing too much. President's approval looks similar.

2012 Presidential Election: 50 - 40, generic Republican vs. Obama. Independents prefer generic Republican by 2 to 1.

Tax Cuts: 51 - 40 percent of independents want to extend Bush tax cuts.

Health Care Law: 51 - 49, independents oppose. Nearly 60% want to repeal and change Health Care. Overwhelming majorities believe Health Care will increase premiums, taxes, cost of health care, the deficit, and hurt the quality of care. Independents reflect this view at the ballot.

Trust: Independents trust GOP more than Democrats more than 2-1. Taxes, government spending, deficit, and economy.

Democrats only trusted more than GOP on education.

Completely different climate, politically.

1020AM: Jason Grumet, President of Bipartisan Policy Center is giving a welcome and breif history of the Center. Purpose is to bring together a kind of dialouge that allows nation to address problems. Many thanks to James Carville and Mary Matalin, as they are introduced.

Mary M.: Starts with a joke about James Carville's attire, he is decidedly casual, wearing what appears to be a purple, green and gold Perlis collared shirt. "Nothing wrong with being a proud, principled partisan." Partisanship is emotional because we love this country.

James C.: Wearing a Perlis shirt to support Louisiana seafood, "triple tested, safest in the world." (Applause) New Orleanians don't speak of quality of life, they speak of a way of life. "You're in a different place. We're proud of our otherness." Want guests to enjoy New Orleans' hospitality. Hopes this conference will continue in New Orleans.

Introduces first panel.

Standing room only at this point.

1015AM: Welcome and Opening Remarks

First of all, let me mention just how much paperwork and information I was given on my way in the door. Glossy programs, position papers, and printouts. One printout is a Washington Post article by Tom Daschle How to Govern in a Deeply Divided Congress.

Tulane Provost Michael Bernstein: Mentions degrading manners in politics, with "You Lie" and gubernatorial baseball bat concession speeches, refrencing the New York GOP candidate. Five years after Katrina, "in this town, its all about solutions."

Technical: If you're interested, you can follow the program by podcast online here.

10AM Packed house in the room at Tulane University. I see polisci professors, national media types and middle school kids, so someone's getting a good educational experience today.

I'll try to keep the updates coming (if anything interesting does happen), but there are a lack of available outlets in the room, so this may pause.

Coming up, welcome and keynote.

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