Beyond 2008: Redistricting

John Fund wrote about the future of 20% of the US Economy and over 10% of the population:

Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of state politics, says that if Democrats retake the governorship after Mr. Schwarzenegger’s departure in 2010, it’s "pretty clear" that they would use their control of the Legislature to push for the mother of all gerrymanders. "Democrats will use their mapmaking power to try to achieve a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature, thus wiping out the ability of Republicans to influence budget and tax legislation, which require a supermajority to pass," he wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

The Dems might have the power to do this because of a failure to take up a non-partisan redistricting proposal. So the Gov. has to push it:

He argues the political climate will be different in June 2008 than it was in 2005. Back then less than 70% of Republicans supported the overly complex measure proposed by their own party’s governor. But today Mr. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating is 59%, 25 points higher than in 2005. The Legislature’s approval numbers have hovered around 30% throughout the last three years. At the same time, support for the general idea of taking away the power to draw districts from the legislature has remained popular with voters, who support the general idea by a 3-to-1 margin in most polls.

This failed in 2005 because the Dems spent $250m on fighting the Governor’s proposals. (The Chamber also screwed him. They didn’t want to spend the money) But they can try again. And they should. And Republicans should support this precedent. The rest of the country can’t afford to let California turn dark blue.

Several other states could benefit from this (from a Republican perspective). Illinois, where the Dems are likely to go after Rep. Mark Kirk. Probably New York. On the other hand, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida all have partisan gerrymanders that go the other way. It is a mess. But it is probably the right thing to do.

Rotten boroughs in California

District Winner Total Votes
California 34 (Los Angeles) D+53.6 74,818
California 31 (Los Angeles) D+100 64,952

Neil Stevens has an interesting post at Redstate about "Rotten boroughs" in California, among other states. He points to some interesting issues. He points to illegal immigration more than I would and less to legal immigrants in the Los Angeles area, in particular.

I want to point to a different thing. The Caifornia GOP primary is winner-take-all by congressional district. That is, in some of these districts, like the ones to the right, there are 4-1 D-to-R registration rates. Assume turnout that is half of general election turnout. In CA-34, we are talking about 7,000 voters in a GOP primary. In CA-31, it is closer to 6,000.  If it takes 40% to win these primaries, that means about 3,000 votes in CA-31 and 2,500 in CA-34. Compare that to heavily GOP districts in which 60k or more voters will allocate those delegates.

Is that right? Are the campaigns really prepared for the rotten boroughs of California?

Time for Doolittle to retire

Jon Fleischman has some polling data on John Doolittle re-election. They are bad:

  • In a one-on-one match up, if the election were held today, Democrat Charlie Brown gets 51% of the vote to Congressman Doolittle’s 31%.
  • Those surveyed were also asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Doolittle.  Respondents came back with 28% favorable and 56% unfavorable.
  • In the survey, GOP primary voters were asked whether Congressman Doolittle should run for another term.  33% of those asked said he should.  A staggering 50% said that the Congressman should either resign or should not run again.

Of course, the Congressman’s staff are getting subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury on Abramoff:

Two of GOP Rep. John Doolittle’s top aides have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury investigating ties between Doolittle, his wife and jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia were issued to Chief of Staff Ron Rogers and Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Blankenburg. They were announced on the House floor as Congress returned from its August recess Tuesday after the aides informed the House speaker about the subpoenas, as required under House rules.

Tom Cole at the NRCC has already thrown Doolittle under the bus. Perhaps it is time for him to get out?

I think that it is additionally significant that Jon is writing this and pitching a candidate, Assemblyman Ted Gaines. Jon is a leader in the conservative wing of the party. The fact that he is moving this suggests that conservatives are ready and willing to attack Doolittle

Another view of North Carolina delegate allocation

The member of the North Carolina House who was manager for the bill has a different story [emphasis in the original]:

As the House member handling Senate Bill 353, which purported to allocate North Carolina’s electoral votes by Congressional district, with two votes reflecting the North Carolina’s popular vote, I moved this bill back to House Election Laws Committee after a successful vote on 2nd reading on the House floor but before the final vote on 3rd reading. The reason is NOT because of Howard Dean’s call, but rather because we did not have the votes to pass the bill on 3rd reading. Several Democrats who supported the bill on 2nd reading indicated to me they received tremendous pressure from constituents to change their vote to NO on 3rd reading. There were enough Democrats changing their positions to shift the balance against the bill’s passage. By moving the bill back to committee, we enable the House to consider it during the short session.

This should make it clear just how close this is to passing. Therefore we should continue to push in California and push the grassroots in North Carolina to push back on this. Let’s make it clear that a vote for this bill is a vote for Hillary Clinton.

And the situation in Caifornia is becoming increasingly interesting. The Christian Science Monitor has a story, and it looks like they are focusing on the June ballot:

In California, the measure’s passage would probably be determined by voter turnout, and that could favor Republicans, experts say.

"The state will have just voted in February, and there is no US Senate race so June turnout will likely be low, which works against the Democrats," says Quinn. Democrats, who usually argue for more fairness in elections and the end of the electoral college system, are in a quandary over how to fight this, he says.

"The Democrats are being hoisted on their own petards," says Quinn. "They say, ‘Let’s make elections fairer,’ and Republicans are saying, ‘Okay, let’s do it this way,’ and Democrats are beside themselves because they know what it will likely do."

Don’t stop electoral college reform in California!

Redstate’s Erick Erickson noted yesterday that the electoral college reform in North Carolina stopped because because Howard Dean realized it would give them no feet to stand on in California:

The measure raced through the North Carolina State Senate, the State House was preparing to pass it and the Governor was prepared to sign it, until Howard Dean intervened.

All is good, right? Nope. Reread that carefully and note below:

There is a similar measure out in California, which would guarantee the GOP candidate about 20 votes. The Dems cannot honestly oppose that effort if they support the one in North Carolina. So they aborted the North Carolina measure.

So, all stop on the Electoral College reforms. The Dems don’t want a Republican candidate to get any votes out of California.

The Dems could restart this in what? 24 hours? What if they do that in September of 2008? Therefore, the California initiative has to continue to keep the Dems honest. (unlikely I know…)

Perhaps it should be on the November 2008 ballot just to keep things clear. (although that reduces chances for passing. Perhaps both June and November ballots…)

Cole throws Doolittle under bus?

And, perhaps, well he should. From the Sac(ramento) Bee:

But in a telephone news conference Monday, NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., indicated that the political ground has a way of shifting.

"There’s a factor outside of normal politics that needs to be resolved," Cole said. "We’re keeping a close eye on the situation. We hope it resolves itself. We hope it turns out OK for John. …

"But it sure would be helpful to him and to us if a 3-year-old investigation was brought to a conclusion one way or the other," he said. "I am concerned as much with John’s situation as a friend and colleague as I am with that seat as a political prognosticator."

Now, surely Tom Cole knew at the time of the interview that this was an interview about primary challengers to John Doolittle. And, surely, this would be taken as encouragement to possible primary challengers. No? Why? Ethics problems:

Doolittle said after the raid that federal prosecutors think that Abramoff paid Julie Doolittle’s company for work it never performed as a way to funnel money to the congressman for help he gave the lobbyist’s clients. Doolittle has insisted that neither he nor his wife has done anything wrong.

Doolittle’s wife was also on campaign payroll and getting a percentage of funds raised. In other words, every $5k PAC check that went to Doolittle’s committee put $500 in his pocket. So Eric Egland, one possible opponent is making this the issue:

Egland said Monday he believes Doolittle cannot win if there is another matchup between the congressman and Brown.

"If John Doolittle is the nominee, we will surrender our conservative voice in Washington, D.C., for a generation," Egland said in an interview.

In a prepared statement, he said that "change is needed in Washington and the district."

"I have seen firsthand how failures in congressional ethics and leadership have corrupted our government and made our troops, our economy and our nation more vulnerable," he said.

California splitting electoral votes too?

This would be an earthquake. Huffington Post has the story:

A Republican-backed ballot proposal could split left-leaning California between the Democratic and GOP nominees, tilting the 2008 presidential election in favor of the Republicans.

California awards its cache of 55 electoral votes to the statewide winner in presidential elections _ the largest single prize in the nation. But a prominent Republican lawyer wants to put a proposal on the ballot that would award the statewide winner only two electoral votes.

Simply put, this would transfer 20 electors to the GOP candidate. (19 GOP congressmen, but Bush won 22 districts in 2004) What a clever idea. This is a brilliant rebuttal to the strategy that the Dems are using in North CarolinaMyDD gives a rundown of the political consequences:

The difference here is that the California proposal is not going through the legislature as the North Carolina measure did, rather it has been filed for one of CA’s 2008 ballots (if it gets enough signatures) for approval by voters. Democrats control both houses of the legislature in California, so, as with so many issues, Republicans have no choice but to bypass the legislative process and go directly to the voters via a ballot measure system that is deeply flawed. The good news is that in recent years the public’s  default position on ballot measures has been "No;" the bad news is that if the measure does make the ballot, Democrats would be forced to spend millions of dollars to defeat it.

MyDD asserts that this is a Republican operation to "rig" the election, quoting from HuffPo:

Democratic consultant Chris Lehane called the plan "an effort to rig the system in order to fix the election."

"If this change is made, it will virtually guarantee that a Republican wins the White House in 2008," Lehane said in an e-mail.

Rules are rules. There is a reason that the state legislature is the most loathed institution in California.

Note that, depending on when it qualifies, this would be on either a Feburary or a June ballot, both closed primaries. If this qualifies, it might create a counter-incentive for the GOP to open up the primary, something that is opposed by the activist conservative base of the party, but strongly supported by its moderate donor base..

Why foreclosures matter: The numbers are huge

State 1/x Households
in  Foreclosure
# of Households
Bush 04
EVs Primary
Nevada 40 25,208 21k 5 1/19
Colorado 60 34,287 100k 9 2/5
California 69 189,560 -1.2m 55 2/5
Michigan 80 55,896 -160k 17 1/26??
Florida 81 102,213 380k 27 1/29
Ohio 82 60,728 120k 20 3/??

I know that I keep harping on the housing market as an important issue in the 2008 election. Let’s look at some numbers from RealtyTrac’s first-half of 2007 report, just released on Monday, in the worst 6 states. (ranked by % of households in foreclosure) So that you can get a sense of the possible electoral impact of these numbers, I have also included the margin by which Bush won (or lost) these states, the number of electoral votes that these states have, and the primary date. Some things jump out:

  • In the first half of 2007, more houses moved into foreclosure than the number of votes that Bush won by. (Note also, that "households" probably is something like 1.3 adults)
  • In Ohio, the number of houses that moved into foreclosure is approximately the same size as Bush’s swing.

RealtyTrac believes that this pace of foreclosures could stay stable or increase over the remainder of the year:

“Despite a slight drop in June, foreclosure activity shows no sign of slowing down,” noted James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Based on the rate of foreclosure activity in the first half of 2007, we could easily surpass 2 million foreclosure filings by the end of the year, which would represent a year-over-year increase of over 65 percent.”

So, if you assume another 6 months as bad as these 6 months (and that the rates stay relatively stable in these states), Florida, Colorado, and Michigan would have a number of foreclosing households greater than the swing of the 2004 election results in those states.

Now, I am not saying that these are all Republican voters. Indeed, many of them will not be. But, by and large, people who think that their incomes will go up tend to vote Republican. In any case, with these large numbers, it is clear that this has the potential to become an election issue. Furthermore, with Nevada, Michigan, and Florida having very early contests, there is a real chance that Presidential candidates will have to take positions on these issues.

Candidates will need a message on this. Maybe they will need policies. In any case, electorally significant numbers of people will be effected by this issue.

If I were really clever and had a message, I might even target these people. After all, you can buy their addresses. In Nevada, we are probably talking about enough numbers to win a caucus.

Will independents vote in California?

Rules fights are fun, obscure, and usually well behind the scenes. Not the fight over whether independents (normal speak for California’s "Decline to State" or DTS) can vote in the GOP primary. They can in the Democrat’s primary.

For the most part, this fight is breaking down along ideological lines. Moderates want DTSers to vote. Conservatives do not. There was a forum earlier in the week in California about this issue. The Flash Report has details:

I will mercifully spare you the host of arguments made in support and opposition to such a suggestion, if only because it really boiled down to two fundamental considerations:  The practical reality that allowing DTS voters to participate would likely increase the number of votes cast in support of Republicans and, in contrast, the belief held by Fleischman, me and many others in the party that electoral gains are not a sufficient justification for diluting and, in limited exceptions, rejecting fundamental Republican principles.

The interesting question is going to be whether Presidential politics really enters into it.

The room for possible conflict is Rudy Giuliani. Rudy is a moderate who probably does better with DTSers voting. But a good chunk of his in-state infrastructure is from the conservative wing of the party which strongly opposes this change. If the campaign decides that they need DTSers, then will they try to put pressure on their delegates at the CRP convention?

There’s another way that this could play. There is jockeying among the moderates between Rudy and John McCain. Will this become a test of "moderateness" among the moderates?