Political reports and reaction from the Parliamentary Precinct, Wellington.

Midterms: my breakdowns

In August, I stated a number of midterm election races that were ones to watch. So, with nearly all of the results in, I thought I should go through and see how they went.


Michigan(Is it the AMWAY?)

It wasn't AMWAY's day: Gramholm securing her second term, beating Dick DeVos. Expect to see her star rise in future years.

California (Can Westley terminate the Governator?)

Perhaps the most dissapointing of races, Schwarzenegger getting home in a canter. But it is perhpas the first time an incumbant has been able to win on (for the most part) 'green' issues...food for thought in later elections, even in NZ.


Connecticut (A Three Way Dance)

This one as well failed to live up to expectations. Lieberman winning the only race that mattered, after losing the DNC nomination. Still, he has vowed to work within the Democrat caucus, which could be seen as an olive branch to his former party, or an attempt to consolidate his position and shut down notions of a repeat in 2012, or it could be that he just could not take the leap to the GOP.

Missouri (History never repeats)

Well, it did, but not for Talent. This was a barn burner, with the result being close, and a campaign that was muddied with the state referendum on stem cells and the appearance of actor Michael J. Fox, and the controversial comments of Radio Talk show host Rush Limbaugh in response. In the end, McCaskill picking up the swing state.

Rhode Island (it’s all about the electoral math, stupid!)

A bittersweet victory for the Democrats, with Lincon Chafee, one of the most liberal republicans losing his seat, means that the Republican's caucus will be even more on the periphery than before. Bipartisanship just got a bit harder. Unsurprisingly Sheldon Whitehouse won the primary and the Senate election by seven points.

New Jersey (No One Likes Anyone in the Garden State)

Seen by some analysts as a referendum on State Governor (and former Senator) Jon Corzine, this eventually was superseeded with the states dislike for the President's performance, Robert Menendez being elected for a full term (he served the remaining year of Corzine's term)beating the republican candidate, Thomas Kean, Jr by 8%.


Arizona 8 (Kolbe’s out, who’s in?)

This race lived up to it's expectation. Gabrielle Giffords won over a number of challenges for the blue ticket in a marginally red state, going up against Randy Graf (who narrowly lost to the outgoing Jim Kolbe in the 2004 republican primary). Giffords easily beat Graf in the election, replacing the retiring Jim Kolbe, who again, a quite liberal republican (Kolbe is also an openly gay republican) and so the victory is bittersweet for bipartisanship.

Florida 22 (Unlucky 13?)

Another big win for the Democrats, removing stalwart Clay Shaw, a 12 term congressman. Shaw had perhpas his toughest rival in Rob Klein. Klein, who had the weight of the DNC behind him, strong credentials as a fundrasier, and Shaw's own controversies (Shaw had been criticized for refusing to return $30,000 in campaign contributions from ARMPAC: the organisation at the centre of the Tom DeLay scandal)in the end took the state away from the Republicans, in a blue district.

Indiana 8 (The bloody eighth!)

With its long history of incumbents being ousted, this did not dissapoint, with John Hostettler beaten comprehensively by Brad Ellsworth. Hostettler was unable to claw back his dismal popularity (in October they were in the 30-40% range), in spite of his history of wining tough re-elections.

Iowa 1 (Watch the signs)

In a battleground state like Iowa, any race is a useful indicator for the 2008 Presidential Elections. The blue state (although Jim Nussle, a Republican held the seat for 16 years), picked Democrat Bruce Braley over Republican Mike Whalen.

Illinois 8 (The empire strikes back)

Democrat Melissa Bean will be returning for a seond term, consolidating her 2004 win, with 51% of the vote, but well ahead of her major rival, David McSweeney.

Ohio 18 (another Ambroff casualty?)

Robert Ney's involvement in the Abramoff' scandal has cost his party this seat. Zack Space, a suprise winner of the democrat primary, beat Joy Padgett (who also won a tough primary). The result, a 30 point win to Space in a typically red state, is a real slap in the face to the GOP.

Pennsylvania 6 (Run to the hills)

Jim Gerlach repeated his 2004 win against Lois Murphy, right down to the 51% to 49% margin, his tactic of distancing himself from fellow republicans State Senator Rick Santorum (who lost his senate seat) and President Bush paid off...but only just.

Texas 22 (You reap what you sow)

This one will be put into a trophy and hung in the offices of the DNC headquarters. In a seat that only the Republicans could lose, they followed though with aplomb. Because of Tom Delay's bumbling, there was no Republican on the voter form, and the Republicans messing up their campaign for a “write in candidate” (which was expected to be local mayor David Wallace but the party went with Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, creating disunity within the local party apparatus), Nick Lampson won back part of his old district (that DeLay acquired in the 2003 redistricting) as well as his nemisis' seat. Vengance.

An animated version of the midterm results is avaliable here


Humour - Politicians Sweep Midterms

Rumsfeld's fall...wrangling the news cycle

The media is reporting that Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld has quit. Considering that Democrats including newly elected Senator for Missouri Clare McCaskill had demanded for his resignation, was his departure not just a sacrifice for the appeasement of what looks to be a Democrat dominated Congress but a strategy to wrench the media cycle away from the Democrats. The shock annoucement certainly suggests that they pushed the annoucement...even more so when President GW Bush gave his support in Rumsfeld only days earlier.

And how so!

The vote was anticlimactic, with a 23 vote blow-out. The media specualtion that the vote would be too close to call was in the end unfounded. The NZH has the voting list. I think that the Government's proposed review would have swayed a few to vote no, but this was no sideswipe. It is also the course which might actually bring to light the issues of under enforcement and low resources devoted to education on promoting safer drinking. I don't think that the bill's defeat last night is a success for surmounting New Zealand's drinking culture, but it is a blow for harshly thought out, knee-jerk legislative responses.

I think that the efforts of a united political youth, as part of the “Keep it 18” campaign should be congratulated. They worked very hard and the bill’s defeat should serve as a big pat on the back. I hope that the movement continues to work for more education and enforcement, protecting at risk youth.

PS: The Select Committee report for the defeated bill is here

Kerry's bushism and a hidden truth

Remember 2004? Remember when people waxed lyrical about Democratic Candidate John Kerry’s ability to speak with confidence and quality, well if there was a time where this bubble burst, you could not pick a worse time (apart from his own doomed presidential race) to step all over himself.

Kerry’s statement below could be as disastrous to the DNC as OBL’s video release in the days up to the 2004 race:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Is this a big deal…well it’s hard to say. Certainly with all the negative campaign advertising in all the senate, congressional and gubernatorial races (I have heard of a four to one ratio of spending on negative to positive ads), the muck raking would eventually reach the free media.

Kerry stepped all over the joke. I see how the joke could have worked, but it’s a bushism to be sure. The problem is that its timing was misplaced. It’s no wonder Kerry is not stumping for others in the few days left before the midterm elections.

But his comments belie a truth, which perhaps their republican opponents may have missed. The US military is a volunteer military. But I would not be surprised to see if that if you had a higher family income, you are more likely to go to college than the military. Likewise, I would not be surprised if you have a higher SAT score, then you will be more likely to go to college than the military.

But let’s also acknowledge that many people join the military in spite of the opportunities afforded them. There are intelligent people in any army, but to presume that the armed forces are a microcosm of the wider American nation is a misnomer. And we should not expect it to be. When have armies been directly proportional to the public? Never! Maybe the Spartans or the Russians in the Second World War. A military career is, has and always will be a one that is available to almost all, but is not desirable to all.

Don’t whinge, get a positive frame!

I don’t think that Wellington Airport will ever disclose their reasons as to why they refused to place a billboard paid by the National party attacking the Prime Ministers numerous scandals. Which is a real disappointment, because some insight may be useful for National.

I have noticed a trend by National over the past year, to overstep the mark. They have been able to put the PM and the Government on the ropes, but then they go just a little too far and the public blasts back. While I cannot presume why this is continually happening, I wonder if National needs a new political strategist that can read the wind change.

I like to think that the airports decision was one of their disappointment with the over-reaction by National’s advertising campaigns. On TV3 news, they were able to find 3 “people on the street”, all of which were ambivalent or annoyed with the style of negative campaigning. I’m sure that had they picked people off the street in Clutha or Tamaki, they might find a different response. But I do think that the public has a low tolerance for muck raking, especially over old news. It makes you wonder if they even put these banners through a focus group.

What made things worse was according to TV3 National’s “whinging” over the airport’s refusal, and categorising the fear that the Government will retaliate is not just specious, it is ridiculous. I don’t think Auckland or Christchurch airports are worried about their position.

If we looked at this as any other company putting up advertising space on their property, we can see that in the end, it is at the discretion of the owner as to what goes up on their hoarding space. I not saying that telecom wouldn’t put up a hoarding from Labour praising the unbundling of the local loop, but they have that discretion. Discretion seems to be something that National does not understand at the moment.

So, could National have tried something different? Could it suggest something more positive? The answer is yes. Had the billboards pushed the party’s Blue-Green policy, it certainly could shift to the positive frame, tacitly attacked the government for their as yet absent policy, and got people thinking about an issue that will have a direct impact on their lives, or at the very least a tangible one.

National is stumbling over itself to win, and if it does win in 2008 with this strategy, it will be more because of luck than guile.

PS: With the Stern Report, the Blue-Green banner, would have been a master stroke, publicising National's opportunity for discussion in line with the dominance of the report in the media cycle would be a master stroke. What a pity it did not happen.


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