Will Texas turn Blue?

By Ian Rosoff

The state of Texas has a population of a little over 26 million, that’s good enough to garner the Friendship State 34 votes in the Electoral College. For the Republican Party Texas is their most important state. Two Senators and 24 Congressman roam the halls of the Capitol during the week and head back to the ranch on the weekends.

The governor of Texas is probably the best stepping stone to the Presidency for any Republican. Remember that before people realized Rick Perry didn’t know how to tie his shoes, let alone run a country, he was leading in the polls.

So what would happen to the political world if the impossible happened, Texas turned blue?

A million years ago Texas was blue. Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democratic President from Texas, but looking at the state’s political landscape over the last few decades the only way you could possible see a Democratic Texan taking the White House is if you watched the last season of The West Wing.

One of the reasons Dems have such a hard time in Texas is that the party runs laughably bad candidates in most Congressional districts. What Democrat in their right mind would volunteer to spend money and time running a race they are sure of losing? The result is that turnout on both sides becomes abysmal.

Gerrymandering certainly doesn’t help the situation. According to the NYT 2012 election map Texas had zero toss up districts and only the Texas 23rd was even close and it’s still leaning red. None of this is likely to change as long as the Republican Party controls the governorship and the statehouse, but the demographics of the state are changing in an interesting way.

Almost all of the Democratic districts in Texas are clustered together in the Deep South up against the border with Mexico. According to the last census 38% of Texans are of Hispanic decent. Electorally that translates to 4.2 million eligible Hispanic voters.

More importantly this is an extremely young constituency. According to Pew some 32% of eligible Hispanic voters are age 18 to 29 and the national average is 22%. That means Texas has a large, young, and growing minority population whose political allegiance is (if the fact that districts bordering Mexico are moving blue means anything) slightly left on non-abortion issues.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but Texas is going to get contentious. If Democrats want to compete they will have to start putting money into developing the party in a state that they have essentially abandoned.

Republicans must no longer take Texas for granted and begin to court the Latino vote in serious ways. Currently turnout in Texas is predictably low. When there is no competition that’s bound to happen, but competition is the lifeblood of our democracy. For example Rick Perry was able to win the Republican primary for governor with only 2% of the voting-age population. Beating the Democrat’s sacrificial lamb was a forgone conclusion so essentially less than half a million people in a state of 26 million decided the governorship.

I don’t think Texas will go blue in a Presidential race anytime soon, but the next race may see a Hillary or Biden or Cuomo at least make a stop in Austin. This is one argument for why more money in politics is potentially a positive. It gives the parties the chance to use precious resources in districts that seldom see any. The Electoral College places undue import on established swing states and both parties ignore opportunities to try and create new ones. Texas may be an opportunity.   

Swing State Series: Ohio

By Nick Davis

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It’s Election Day in America and arguably the most important state for either candidate’s campaign – Ohio - lies in the hands of the few undecided voters. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are making their final pushes all over the country, which undoubtedly includes the Buckeye State.  Obama holds a slight edge over Romney according to the latest RealClearPolitics poll of averages, leading by 2.9% of the vote. However, more recent polls including the final poll conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, indicate the race may be even closer with Obama just two points ahead and within the margin of error.

If you’ve been keeping up with the political commentary lately, it should come as no surprise that many pundits believe Ohio to be absolutely critical for both campaigns, especially Mitt Romney’s. No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio and it seems this election is no different. While there are other scenarios where Romney could conceivably win the White House, Ohio is important due to its large amount of electoral votes -eighteen.

In the last two elections, Ohio favored both parties choosing Obama in 2008 by a margin of 4.6% and 2.1% in favor of George Bush in 2004. Both candidates are hoping to ride the state’s prediction record and each is fighting to the very end. Each campaign brought in big name entertainers on the eve of the election.  Predictably, Bruce Springsteen was on tour with Obama like he has been for several weeks but he had an additional star at his side at the 11th hour, hip-hop mogul, Jay-Z. Romney was joined on his stop by the Marshall Tucker Band.

Mitt Romney has tried to make the election in Ohio a referendum on Obama’s economic record. He has promoted his own economic and tax policies while criticizing the 7% unemployment report for the state in the month of September. Obama had a broader platform in Ohio. He touted his plan for the economy while criticizing Romney for his stance on abortion rights and energy policy.

After last night, there’s nothing either candidate can do now but sit and wait as voters across the country head to the polling booth. We’ll know as soon as tonight whether Ohio will continue its streak of winners.

Here’s to the next four years.

Swing State Series: Florida

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By Nick Davis

With one day left in the election season in what has seemed like an eternity, voters in Florida are getting their last helpings of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The Republican challenger is clinging to a one-point lead in the Sunshine State. Florida looks to be one of the absolutely critical states for both candidates due to its large amount of electoral votes, 29.

In the past, Florida has gone back and forth between both parties. In 2008, Obama won the state taking 51% of the vote while in 2004, George W. Bush won by a margin of 5% over his Democratic opponent, John Kerry.  Before Barack Obama, the last Democrat to win Florida was Clinton in 1996. Florida picks winners and that’s why each candidate isn’t taking the state lightly.

It’s likely that whoever wins Florida (and Ohio), will win the election, but don’t take my word for it, just look at numbers. In the last week alone, each candidate along with their running mates hasmade a combined 12 appearances. On top of that, the Wesleyan Media Project reported that a combined $133 million has been spent on just television advertising, breaking a Florida record.  

Another interesting, but relatively unknown fact about Florida that may explain it’s excellent presidential picks is Florida is the state where its demographics most closely resemble the nation’s as a whole. The proportion of young, old, white, black, Latino, men, and women are on par with the rest of the country according to University of South Florida political scientist, Susan MacManus.

 Not only do the candidates know the importance of Florida, the people do as well and they aren’t afraid to make a scene either. A recent Yahoo News article compiled letters from voters in Ohio and Florida, arguably the most important swing states, speaking to the political chaos and culture the state is embroiled in. One local university student attests to the overkill of political speeches, candidates, and media coverage surrounding his home. Another witnessed a band of older women shouting to anyone who would listen about the dangers of another Obama election win. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of hostilities from either side.

While it seems like many people have made up their minds on who they are voting for, there is small chunk of independent voters in Florida who have yet to decide on a candidate. A recent poll of independent voters conducted by the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times indicated an advantage for Romney by a margin of 6 points. However, a more intriguing trend emerged among an unscientific email poll. Many who replied indicated that they were voting for their candidate in spite of the other, meaning that Florida voters may be unsatisfied with either candidate.

Given where the other states stand, it seems that Florida may be more important to Mitt Romney this campaign season than it is for Obama.  Florida is the only swing state among the top electoral vote holders, and of those, New York and California are sure bets for the Democrats. Together they combine for 84 votes, almost a third of the necessary 270. Anything can happen in the next 24 hours as evidenced by Superstorm Sandy and the ensuing chaos. Florida is surely going down to the wire.

Swing state series: Iowa

By Nick Davis

Iowa is no stranger to presidential politics as it proudly hosts the first in the nation caucuses and yet again, both campaigns are vigorously courting voters with two weeks left to go before the elections.

The most recent RealClearPolitics average of polls has Barack Obama leading by two percentage points, 49-47 with the more urban neighborhoods leaning democratic and the rural areas more conservative.  Similar to New Hampshire, which I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs, Iowa managed to avoid the economic crisis that has saddled this country. At the peak of the crisis, Iowa sat at 6.3% unemployment, well below the national average.   

Both candidates have made the state a priority in the weeks leading up to the election. Each has made appearances in the state and have more scheduled. Obama recently made a stop on the campus of Iowa State University as part of his college campus tour.  He hammered away at his support of Pell grants and other educational support and subsidies.  In addition to his campus stop, Obama also has plans to visit the state. He was scheduled to be in Davenport on Wednesday.

Mitt Romney has also made inroads in the state, speaking in Cedar Rapids today as well as in Ames this Friday in addition to his campaign stop at a family farm in Van Meter. His running mate, Paul Ryan, has also made stops, including Sunday when he spoke in Council Bluffs. Romney has made it his priority to discuss his 5-point plan to get the economy back to full speed. In Ames, his appeal to students will likely be that his economic plan will make it easier for college graduates to find employment. 

Early voting was a key factor in Obama’ 2008 victory. Talking Points Memo reports that among early voters in Iowa this year, ballots cast lean Obama by a margin of 2 to 1.

As a resident of Iowa and a student at Iowa State University, it’s very clear that Obama has the larger footprint in the state of late.  In Ames specifically, Obama has made more campaign stops (but not after Friday) in addition to appearances by celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Justin Long.  

However, Romney isn’t shy about having his friends make the rounds for him in Iowa, either. His campaign will have several high profile politicians speaking to Iowans in the coming days, including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in Davenport, Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Preibus, in Council Bluffs, Davenport, and Des Moines. The sitting governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, will also be stumping in Des Moines and Mason City.

Iowa has another ballot measure that has been getting a lot of press lately. There are strong efforts to remove and retain a justice on the Iowa Supreme Court, Justice David Wiggins. Advocates of removal state that Wiggins along with others on the bench overstepped their authority when they struck down a law that prevented people from marrying people of the same sex. The removal could very well happen. Three justices were removed at this time in 2010, the first time it has ever happened in Iowa.

Much like everyone else in the country, Iowans are looking forward to November 7th when all the political ads and phone calls will end. Iowa will play a major role in which direction the country will take as well as define how  perceived “judicial activism” is viewed around the country.

Diary of an Undecided Voter, part 1

By Audrey Sullivan

Growing up in the perpetually blue state of Massachusetts, I felt that my vote in presidential elections never really counted.  So when I was given the chance to register to vote in North Carolina (where I attend school), I jumped at the opportunity.  North Carolina has typically trended Republican, but just four years ago broke that mold by only a few thousand votes. I felt that either way I cast my ballot I would be making a difference.  Now one question remained: whom do I vote for?

I know what you are thinking. The election is only about two weeks away, how on earth could anyone, especially someone whose job involves political blogging, still be undecided? I guess I’ve managed the impossible.  Like so many people, I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Graduating high school four years ago, the social aspects were more important to me. Now, as I watch each class above me graduate and struggle to find jobs, I can’t help but think the economy is my number one priority, and that it may be time for a change. 

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