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R.I.P Isolationism

July 18th, 2014

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The foreign policy civil war inside the Republican Party is spilling onto the op-ed pages. The latest battle began Friday when Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to brand Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as an isolationist for Paul’s stance on Iraq. The senator was quick to reject the label.

Why was the senator so eager to dodge the isolationist moniker? Because it’s electoral kryptonite with the American public, whom, despite what you may have heard, do not support isolationism. Americans are not asking for a retreat from the world. They’re a pragmatic public that’s rejecting neo-conservative interventionism, but they’re also opportunistic, engaging and diplomatic. And, they’re looking to Washington for a foreign policy that matches those traits. Read the rest of this entry »

The Election Results No One is Talking About

November 12th, 2013

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Which is the most important result of Tuesday’s election?

A. A Republican governor won a landslide election in a blue state.

B. A Democrat was elected governor in a purple state during intense criticism of a new federal government program.

C. An outspoken liberal Democrat was elected mayor in a big city — where opposition parties had been in power for 20 years.

D. An education funding amendment lost in a mountain state.

If you said D, you’re correct.

On Tuesday, Amendment 66 was defeated in Colorado, with preliminary results suggesting a drubbing of two-to-one opposed. It would have improved education funding with slight tax increases and changed Colorado’s flat tax to a two-tiered, progressive structure.

The goal was a major overhaul of education finance, with reduced disparities at the local level and increased spending — including funding for early childhood programs, rural education and at-risk youth programs.

Millions of dollars poured into the state to support the amendment. High-profile backing came from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Melinda Gates. But the more than $10 million spent in support of the amendment wasn’t enough to convince skeptical voters.

The defeat of Amendment 66 should worry Democrats. This is about as close as you can get to the main thrust of the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda: raise taxes on wealthier people to fund investments in the future.

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Virginia & New Jersey: Democratic Warning Flags & Republican Opportunities

November 6th, 2013

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The narrative of 2013 thus far has been the victory of pragmatism over dogmatic adherence to ideology, moderation and bipartisan compromise over extreme partisanship. Those on the Left may be tempted to view their victory in Virginia as a demographic inevitability, running up numbers with voters who are all but guaranteed to be Democrats for life. But buried within the polling are warning signs for Democrats and opportunities for Republicans.

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe won the 18-29 year-old vote by a bare margin of 45% to 40%. A surprising 15% voted for Robert Sarvis, which marked the highest level of support the libertarian candidate received from any age group. By contrast, President Obama won 60% of younger voters in 2008 and 2012 in Virginia. But last night’s election proves that President Obama’s large margins of victory among younger voters cannot be assumed to simply transfer to other Democratic candidates. McAuliffe may have secured a plurality of the youth vote, but he was down 15 points from President Obama’s margin.

Indeed, buried in the exit polls, Ken Cuccinelli actually won more voters ages 18-24 than McAuliffe, by 45% to 39%.* [McAuliffe did better among 25-29 year olds, winning them 50% to Cuccinelli's 35%.] Younger Millennials, those who likely have scant memories of a pre-September 11 America and entered adulthood during a recession, appear more open to Republican and libertarian candidates than their slight elders. While Republicans’–and Cuccinelli’s, in particular–views on gay equality are generally highlighted as a symbol of youth alienation from socially conservative Republican candidates, he still garnered 45% support from the youngest voters last night. That means Democrats cannot simply assume that a few social issues will necessarily drive the youth vote from the GOP and into their ranks by overwhelming margins.

In election eve polling among Hispanics and Asians, McAuliffe won 66% of the Hispanic vote and 63% of the Asian vote. However, the polls demonstrate that those voters are not die-hard partisans–58% of Hispanics and 68% of Asians have voted Republican in the past, and only 47% of Hispanics and 36% of Asians call themselves Democrats. Immigration emerges as a key issue for these groups. McAuliffe’s support for a Virginia DREAM Act, coupled with Cuccinelli’s opposition to comprehensive immigration reform and harsh language towards immigrants, not only propelled these communities to support the Democrat but also spilled over to tarnish the Republican Party brand–70% or more of Hispanics and about 60% of Asians reported that Cuccinelli’s statements about immigrants made them less favorable to the Republican Party.

But all of that could be remedied. Views of the GOP would improve markedly if the House held a vote and passed comprehensive immigration reform. Nearly 70% of Hispanics and 47% of Asians would view Republicans in Congress less favorably if there is no vote while about 40% of each group would view Republicans in Congress more favorably if a vote was scheduled. Republicans have a genuine opportunity here. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie out-right won the Hispanic vote. In Virginia and elsewhere, winning over just a few Hispanic or Asian voters could have propelled Republicans to victory.

Recently, we noted that despite President Obama’s impressive wins in 2008 and 2012, Millennial, Hispanic, and Asian voters were neither reliable partisans nor liberal ideologues. If anything, both gubernatorial races in 2013 confirmed that perspective.

*The sample size for the 18-29 year old vote in the exit polls is about 308, which would result in a margin-of-error around +/-5.5.

 

Are Liberals Taking Over?

September 27th, 2013

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Immigration reform. Defunding the ACA. Marriage for gay couples.

Polls suggest there’s a gulf between Republicans and the public. And some Democrats have become emboldened, arguing that a new, liberal, Democratic majority has arrived.

Over the past few short weeks, everything from Syria to de Blasio to Summers has been touted as evidence of the growing strength of liberals. In a sprawling tome, Peter Beinart weaves all of these threads together, arguing that Occupy Wall Street should be the Democratic playbook and Sen. Elizabeth Warren should be the QB come 2016. President Obama? He’s been put on the Clinton DINO bench.

All of this is based on the prognosticators’ faith that what voters really want is a “real” Democrat. Translation? Liberal ideologue.

But what if that’s not what voters want? In our report on the new electorate, we examine ideology and partisanship among key growing demographic groups—Hispanic, Asian, and Millennial voters. We found that they are not overwhelmingly liberal, nor have they aligned strongly with the Democratic Party.

Ideology

Liberal Moderate Conservative
Hispanics 30% 31% 32%
Asians 31% 37% 24%
Millennials 28% 38% 28%

Source: Pew Research Center 

Partisanship

Democrat Independent Republican
Hispanics 32% 50% 13%
Asians 33% 34% 18%
Millennials 31% 45% 18%

Source: Pew Research Center and Gallup

Despite the temptations of recent events, Democrats should heed this data and be cautious to not take the support of Hispanic, Asian, and Millennial voters for granted. Independents and moderates represent large swaths of these groups, and of voters overall. Republicans may have ceded the center recently, but if history is any guide, they will adapt. And when they do, Democrats need to be ready.

Battle for the Senate: North Dakota

October 15th, 2012

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North Dakota’s Senate race is shaping up to be a surprising toss-up in 2012. The most recent poll from Mason-Dixon (October 3–5) has the race tied at 47% apiece, with former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Berg (R), both well-known and evenly matched in the state. In order to clinch a victory in this often red state, Heitkamp will need to dominate among moderate voters—who compose about half of North Dakota’s electorate. If Heitkamp can use the two upcoming debates to appeal to those moderates (one today and the other on October 25th), she may be able to pull the 65% of moderates we predict she’ll need to win in November. By contrast, because the number of conservatives far exceeds the number of liberals in the state, Berg may be able to declare victory if he can peel off just 36% of moderate voters.

In a recent poll, both had favorable name recognition among North Dakotans, with few people unfamiliar with the candidates.

Statewide Name Recognition

Recognize Favorable Recognize Unfavorable Recognize Neutral Don’t Recognize
Heitkamp 46% 35% 18% 1%
Rep. Berg 42% 37% 20% 1%

 

In May Third Way released a report highlighting the importance of moderates in the 2012 Senate Battlegrounds races. Throughout October, we will assess how well the candidates are doing in appealing to this crucial group in the middle. Below, we take a look at Nevada and the Senate race between Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Rep.Rick Berg (R).

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Battle for the Senate: Nevada

October 11th, 2012

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Moderates aren’t sold on either candidate seeking Nevada’s Senate seat in November. They disapprove of Senator Dean Heller’s job performance by 8 points (37% approve to 45% disapprove), and they have an unfavorable view of Representative Shelley Berkley (45% favorable to 47% unfavorable).

Heller and Berkley square-off in Las Vegas for their second debate and while scoring points with their respective bases might be tempting, to win in November, Heller and Berkley need the support of Nevada’s largest ideological bloc of voters: moderates. Third Way predicts that if Heller garners 40% of the moderate vote, he’ll win in November. But if Berkley earns the support of 61% of Nevada’s moderate voters, then she’ll be Nevada’s next Senator.

In May Third Way released a report highlighting the importance of moderates in the 2012 Senate Battlegrounds races. Throughout October, we will assess how well the candidates are doing in appealing to this crucial group in the middle. Below, we take a look at Nevada and the Senate race between Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) and Sen. Dean Heller (R).

Read the rest of this entry »