Posts Tagged elected

Winners and Losers


One of the many quirks of our political system is that each year there are winners and losers among politicians whose names are not actually on the ballot.  This year is no exception.  Neither Governor Tom Wolf nor State Senator Scott Wagner was up for election this year, but results of the balloting sent their career paths in opposite directions.

Governor Wolf has had a tough first two years in office dealing with a Republican-controlled legislature. His efforts to dramatically expand government spending, and to implement the historic tax hikes needed to pay for that agenda resulted in the longest budget stalemate in state history.  Legislative Republicans won.

Tuesday voters rewarded the GOP with even larger legislative majorities. Democrats in the state senate are now on life support.  Two Democratic incumbents were defeated by challengers; a third Democrat seat went Republican after the incumbent gave up several months ago and resigned from the ballot.  Combined, the three seats give Republicans a 34-16 edge and something rarely if ever seen in state government: a veto proof majority.

Meanwhile, across the rotunda in the House of Representatives Republicans saw their already historically high majority expand by three seats as four incumbent Democrats and one incumbent Republican lost.  The Republican pick-ups came in southwestern Pennsylvania which has been trending toward the GOP for several election cycles.  In fact, the most endangered species in Penn’s Woods might well be the non-urban legislative Democrat, with only a handful of Democratic lawmakers representing districts outside of the state’s urban cores.

All of this matters because next year’s state budget battle is shaping up to be even tougher than the first.  Republicans caved into Governor Wolf’s spending demands this year, but failed to fully fund the budget.  That coupled with revenue sources that either never materialized or have failed to meet projections presages a major fiscal fight next year.

Not only have Republicans added to their numbers, but this year’s legislative elections moved both chambers further to the Right.  Moderate state senators like Cumberland County’s Pat Vance and Lancaster’s Lloyd Smucker have been replaced by far more conservative legislators.  The continued drift of the House GOP caucus from moderate southeastern dominance to conservative central and western Pennsylvania influence means tougher sailing for those wanting to raise either taxes or spending.

Governor Wolf also saw his agenda rejected in another race; that the battle for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat.  The Democratic nominee, Katie McGinty, was Governor Wolf’s first chief of staff and architect of the tax and spend plan that triggered the epic budget battle.  Incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey made hay of that effectively painting McGinty as out of touch with the financial needs of average Pennsylvanians. He won, she lost.

How then do the fortunes of one state senator rise on all of this? Senator Scott Wagner was an establishment pariah when he ran for an open seat in York County in 2014.  Shunned by his own party Wagner accomplished an historic first in Pennsylvania: He won a special election on a write-in defeating both party nominees.

The upstart senator has quickly gained clout and was tapped by his colleagues to lead the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.  The SRCC as it is known is tasked with recruiting, funding and electing Republicans to the state senate.  After playing a major role in helping to win several seats two years ago, Wagner effectively recruited candidates like Senator-elect John DiSanto of Dauphin County who upended Democratic incumbents last week.  Much of the credit for the senate’s now veto-proof majority goes to Wagner.

This is important because Scott Wagner has made no secret of his desire to run for governor in 2018 and is widely expected to announce his candidacy within weeks.  Having built a strong senate majority gives him a leg up both on the Republican nomination and on a grassroots organization for the battle against Tom Wolf who is expected to seek re-election.

Thus the 2016 election has set the stage for the beginning of the next big electoral battle in Pennsylvania. Political fortunes have risen and fallen. And the never ending cycle of campaigns has already begun anew offering no respite for weary voters.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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The Circle Game


By Lowman S. Henry

After the longest and most expensive election cycle in American history we are

. . . right back where we started. President Barack Obama has been re-elected by a narrow margin – even more narrow than his 2008 victory over John McCain, Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate – although holding less than the magic 60 votes needed to move legislation; and the GOP has maintained, even increased its hold on the House of Representatives.

Voters have opted to gridlock the federal government. Given President Obama’s razor thin 2.5 million vote win in the popular count, and the GOP’s failure to capture control of the Senate, Congress will continue to be polarized and paralyzed. Thus in the coming weeks as the nation faces a series of critical fiscal tests including raising the debt ceiling, dealing with the expiration of Bush era tax rates and the need to enact a 2012-2013 budget, the national government will be deeply divided.

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat, pressure will be on Republicans to cave and compromise. They should not. This election was not a repudiation of conservative economics. If anything it was a continuation of the deep, even division among the American electorate that was ushered in at the beginning of this century when the 2000 Presidential race ended up essentially tied.   The re-election of President George W. Bush hinged on a few thousand votes in Ohio; the movement of less than a half million votes in a few key states powered Barack Obama’s victory in 2008; and, less than 100,000 votes in three or four key states decided Tuesday’s election.

Thus voters have been remarkably consistent over the past four presidential elections. The big swings have come in the composition of Congress, with Democrats affecting wave elections in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP staging a historic resurgence in 2010. This year, voters appeared to have sated their appetite for legislative change and embraced the status quo.

The 2012 election was not an electoral repudiation of either party, rather it served as validation of each.   In short, there is no consensus among the electorate on a way forward. Under those circumstances we should not expect our elected officials in Washington to arrive at one. Republicans were put in office by their voters to rein in government spending and reduce the federal deficit. Democrats embraced a tax and spend approach and have been rewarded by their constituents. It is unlikely either side is going to back down because to do so would be to alienate the very voters who sent them to Washington in the first place.

In the days and weeks ahead the failure of the GOP to capture the White House amidst dire and deteriorating economic circumstances will be the subject of much discussion, debate and finger pointing. But, Republicans should resist the urge to be swayed by denizens of the Left who will claim the party’s historic conservative economic principles caused that failure. It did not. Mitt Romney was never a disciple of the Right and his rejection at the polls was not a rejection of conservative principles.

In fact, perhaps the time has finally come for the national GOP to realize that nominating moderates for President simply does not work. Despite the fact he performed admirably throughout the campaign, Mitt Romney was never an effective spokesman for the conservative wing of the party. Aside from a pivot to the Right in the early primaries he did not try to be. He was nominated in an effort to appeal to independents and to moderate voters. In the process, the GOP did not develop the bold sharp contrast needed to convince the broad electorate to fire a failed president.

This is the fourth time in recent decades this strategy has failed. George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, and now Mitt Romney in 2012 all fit the moderate mold. All lost. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush flew the conservative flag, and won. With Barack Obama the Democrats were not afraid to embrace their party’s left-wing ideology. They won because they stood for something, just like Reagan and George W. Bush did in achieving their victories. The GOP sacrificed its core message and lost.

And so, here we are back where we began. Hopefully – finally – some lessons will be learned. As we move forward, Republicans in Congress must embrace the GOP’s core ideology, start drawing those bright lines of distinction and put together a strategy for effectively communicating it to the American people.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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PA GOP National Convention Delegation: Government An Adversarial Force


Ninety-eight percent of delegation is conservative, just 2% moderate

“Our rights come from nature and God, not from government. That’s who we are. That’s how we built this country. That’s who we are. That’s what made us great. That’s our founding. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.”

Those were among the first words spoken by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin upon becoming Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate. Those few sentences cut to the core principles upon which America was founded and resonated with a Republican Party base longing to rekindle the fervor of the Reagan years.

A Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research survey of Pennsylvania Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention found Ryan’s words struck a chord. Ninety-eight percent of those responding to the survey agreed that our basic rights as Americans are God-given, while just 2% felt such rights were granted by government.

The Pennsylvania delegation also strongly views the Federal government as part of the problem, not part of the solution, with 90% saying the federal government is an adversarial force, and the rest believing the federal government is a positive force.

National Issues

In terms of the issues facing our nation, Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation rated the most serious problems as: the economy, federal government spending, federal budget deficit, Obamacare, and the unemployment rate.   Rated as the least serious issues were global warming, gay marriage, the mortgage/banking crisis, the war in Afghanistan, and abortion.

Pennsylvania’s GOP delegates/alternate delegates were strongly united in their view that the Obama Administration’s foreign policies have made the United States less secure with 89% holding that opinion. Even more, 92% disapproved of the President’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. There is less agreement on two other pressing foreign policy issues. Seventy-three percent think the United States should intervene militarily in Syria, but 28% disagree. Sixty-one percent believe America should intervene militarily to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, with 39% in disagreement.

On no issue, however, is there more agreement among the delegation than on the economy. Unanimously, 100% view the economy as off in the wrong direction. And, 93% place the blame squarely on President Barack Obama. Sixty-one percent also fault congress, and 59% place blame on the Federal Reserve. Twenty-six percent hold former President George W. Bush culpable for the nation’s economic ills.

Speaking of the former president, 70% of Pennsylvania’s Republican National Convention delegation believes the Bush-era tax rates should be made permanent for all Americans regardless of income. Nine percent want the tax rates made permanent for families earning under $250,000 per year. Another 13% think the Bush era tax rates should be temporarily extended for all Americans. Only 4% support reinstating the pre-Bush tax cut rates. The delegation is split over the future of the payroll (Social Security) tax cuts. Forty-eight percent favors extending the Obama payroll tax cuts, 52% oppose any extension. Wide agreement returns among the delegates on the subject of cutting rates on capital gains, with 83% supporting such cuts. Eighty-nine percent supports eliminating the estate or “death tax” entirely, while 7% favor cutting the rate.   Ninety-three percent of the delegation supports lowering personal income tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth.

Spending cuts are the weapon of choice for balancing the federal budget. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention favors spending cuts only to reduce the deficit. Another 26% support a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Not a single respondent supported only raising taxes to reduce the deficit. There is also strong opposition to raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling. Ninety-six percent oppose raising it. Unanimity among the delegates was also achieved on the issue of allowing younger Americans to invest a portion of their Social funds in personal savings accounts outside the current Social Security system, with 100% in agreement. Sixty-seven percent think Social Security will be around for future generations of Americans, but with substantial changes. Thirty-four percent believe the system is headed for bankruptcy.

Seventy percent of the delegation supports term limits on members of Congress, while 30% oppose term limits. A sizable majority of the delegation, 81%, also believes that earmarks, or specific spending directed by Members of Congress, are wasteful spending. Twenty-three percent feel earmarks are an appropriate way to allocate funds.

State Issues

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research also asked the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention their views on a range of state issues.

On the subject of taxes, 58% said that the state personal income tax rate is too high, 39% say it is about right, and 6% say personal income tax rates are too low. However, 92% of the respondents said business taxes are too high, and 8% said they are about right. Nobody thought business taxes were too low. Seventy-five percent said they would not support an increase in the state gasoline tax to fund infrastructure (highway) improvements. Twenty-five percent would back higher taxes for that purpose. Sixty-percent also oppose an increase in vehicle registration and/or driver license fees for highway improvements. Forty percent said they could support increasing fees for such a purpose.

Seventy-one percent of the delegation said they feel the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, counties and local government to fund services is unfair to most segments of their community. Twenty-nine percent see property taxes as fair. Fifty percent of the delegates/alternate delegates participating in the poll said they would favor a more broad based state sales tax at the current rate as a means of replacing real estate or property taxes. Twenty-six percent said they would support replacing property taxes with a combination of local sales and earned income taxes while 18% percent would back local sales taxes only. Another 13% would support increasing the state sales tax rate to replace property taxes.

In terms of public education; 65% of the delegation feel the Corbett Administration’s cuts in K-12 public education are about right; 19% say they are not deep enough and 17% say the cuts are too deep. Eighty-six percent of the delegation supports the concept of school choice when that involves giving vouchers or grants so that students can attend a public school in a district other than their own.

There is also concern over the level of the Commonwealth’s indebtedness. Ninety-six percent of the state’s delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention believes the commonwealth’s debt load is currently too high. Another four percent say debt levels are about right. When it comes to Pennsylvania’s general fund budget, 63% say overall state spending is too high, 35% believe it is about right, and 2% say it is too low.

Labor power issues have been at the top of the agenda in many states. Ninety-six percent of Pennsylvania’s national convention delegates and alternates support enactment of a Right to Work law, meaning that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a labor union. Eighty percent support a ban on allowing public school teachers to strike.

Finally, there was unanimous opinion behind a proposal to privatize the state’s liquor store system. Eighty-four percent of the delegation strongly supports such a ban, with 16% somewhat in favor.

Ideology

When asked their political ideology, not a single member of the Pennsylvania Delegation to the Republican National Convention admitted to being a liberal, with just one claiming to be a moderate. Ninety-eight percent of the delegation labeled themselves conservative, with 58% saying there are very conservative.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted its survey of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention electronically from August 14, 2012 thru August 22, 2012. A total of 56 members of the delegation participated in the poll. Complete numeric results are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org

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