March 15, 2013
Clutch State Update
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By Kirk Clay
Evidence Based Data Shows a Tectonic Shift In The Political Landscape
I attended a meeting of political leaders recently and someone raised a point that struck me as insightful. The comment, “It’s sad to say but the GOP hasn’t made any progress in reducing their enormous cultural blind spots,” was referring to Jeb Bush. Recently he described a path to citizenship as an affront to our legal system.
The point made by the political leader was that this statement sounds like self-deportation to most progressive whites and People of Color (POC). While that might not have been the intent, this is the exact “dog whistle” that not only turned off Latino voters in 2012 but helped turn them out in historic numbers. This time, it may not only cost the GOP eight seats in the House but the majority.
In 2012, the Democrats won over 1 million more votes than Republicans nationally and took out eleven Tea Party members from the class of 2010. If this trend holds, the 2014 midterm election will look a lot like 2006. The Democrats, powered by the new rising electorate, could produce the 17 seat gain that flips the House.
It’s hard to miss the facts explaining this tectonic shift in the political landscape:
- Over 6 percent of GOP House members are representing districts won by President Obama; there are more than 17 GOP members in susceptible districts.
- Redistricting has placed a significant number of Voters of Color (VOC) in 223 districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election.
- A number of these districts of influence are Republican and “ideologically” hostile to VOC. This may boomerang and drive progressive voters to enthusiastically express their discontent.
- GOP House members no longer have the 2010 “obstruction card” to play. They have played that card a few times before and this electorate is inoculated so the conservative vote share may drop to 2006 levels next year.
It’s not just that many of these POC districts of influence were fluid last year; it’s that the President won many of these districts in a hyper partisan environment. That’s probably why Virginia GOP House member Scott Rigell didn’t hesitate to join the President on stage during the contentious economic fight. His district, which President Obama won with over 50% of the vote, is 6% Latino, 21% African American, and close to 5% Asian.
I believe that forecasting election results are about more than knowing past statistics. It’s also about identifying where voting trends meet demographics.
It is true that the current political landscape is hyper polarized and the last redraw packed Republican districts to be smaller and whiter. That just means the fundamentals will solidify faster and there will be fewer surprises.
This also means the opportunities in POC districts of influence have become prime openings for good candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough. Regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, if the electorate is engaged with the right message, a good candidate, and a voter registration campaign – Congress may soon feel this epic POC electoral impact.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC
March 14, 2012
Clutch State Update
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By Kirk Clay
Analyzing Ohio’s Voters and Making Final Four Predictions
I have to admit, I love it when the March Madness season comes around. There is something about completing bracket sheets for both the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments and developing a strategy for my favorite teams to go all the way. The best part is identifying all of the opportunities for “cinderellas” or “underdogs” to win games they are not supposed to win.
As we get closer to the final four teams and realize that there are simply too many long shots for our favorite teams to survive the entire tournament, we scrap the entire bracket and start all over again. The trick is to gather as many statistics as possible and choose the best path forward. Sometimes, we have to follow our heart and go with our gut instincts.
Watching the excitement of the “First Four” match up in Dayton reminded me of Ohio’s recent “Big Four” electoral impact events. I began to ask myself, “what did Representatives Kaptur, Kucinich, Schmidt, and the “Underdog” Congressional hopeful Joyce Beatty all have in common?” They all were affected by Congress’ abysmal 10% approval rating.
Does the results of their Congressional bids reflect the voters’ gut instincts? Clearly, there is a sentiment that Washington’s obstructive behavior–like the current fiasco over judicial vacancies, the stalled transportation bill, and the assault on women’s healthcare–will not be rewarded in 2012.
As our economy continues to recover and U.S. manufacturing is becoming this years “Cinderella story,” voters are becoming hopeful. Toledo added about 1,800 manufacturing jobs last year and more are coming this year with General Motors and Chrysler committing to hiring over 1,600 people by 2013. Correspondingly, unemployment has fallen to 7.9% and manufacturing now comprises 18.3 percent of Ohio’s economy. We now see that middle and working-class voters are rejecting the old strategy of “wining by demonizing the opposite party on a bumper sticker.” In November, they may counter 2010′s dysfunctional hate wave with a wave of “economically coherent” leaders.
To win the heartland, politicians have to revive Franklin Roosevelt’s “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition.” In fact, a modern coalition which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and Young Voters is the best path forward.
Remember the 2006 elections when Governorships and Senate seats flipped to blue in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri? That was the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in action. A significant factor in the election outcomes were Voters of Color (VOC). For example, look at Ohio’s Cuyahoga County. That county, which includes Cleveland, was 12% of the vote share while VOC were 14% of the electorate.
This dynamic has played a significant role in Ohio where African American mayors have been elected in the seven major cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, and Mansfield. Ohio voters have always been able to come together through a “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” and elect candidates of color.
Looking forward to November 2012, I remain hopeful. Although the 2010 census data shows Ohio losing two Electoral College votes, cities like Columbus grew by 10.6% to 787,033. This increase gives Columbus more than 145,000 “key” Voters of Color. That means the Democratic Primary winner Joyce Beatty, who is the first African American Congressperson from central Ohio to make it to the primary, can win in November.
Beatty has already demonstrated the impact of the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in Ohio’s new 3rd Congressional District by mobilizing the second largest VOC voting block of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. Her strategy to embrace the heart of the coalition by targeting high performing VOC precincts like the Southside, Northeast, and Eastside gave her strong voter support in precincts like 35-B, 17-F and 28-E. What’s more, Beatty won all but one of the twenty highest-turnout precincts in the district and received 15,231 votes district wide.
As the big dance towards November begins, it’s important to keep in mind that middle and working-class voters are not interested in obstruction by Congress. Why should they? Ohio has increased its manufacturing jobs by about 4 percent since June, 2009. That’s 24,600 jobs for working families. Imagine how many more new jobs could be created if Congress worked together? As Beatty said on election night “our voice will be part of doing new things.” We want our political leaders to get something done.
I agree. Voters have little patience for bumper sticker solutions. We always root for the underdogs, even if that means voting for a slate of bracket busters. That’s popping the clutch.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC