St. Louis Oracle
St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.
- Name: St. Louis Oracle
- Location: Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
The author of this blog has been a political junkie in St. Louis for over 50 years and was formerly involved in progressive politics. He is a retired attorney. Twitter: http://twitter.com/stloracle
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Stenger seeks to ride Jay Nixon's Newtonian strategy to victory
Since the exodus of sizable numbers of African Americans from the City of St. Louis to St. Louis County in the mid-1990s, blacks have reliably delivered St. Louis County to the Democrats. County whites lean slightly Republican, while the monolithicly Democratic black vote provides the margin of Democratic victory.
But a political version of Newton's Third Law of Motion -- that every action generates an equal and opposite reaction -- may save the day for Stenger and white Democrats. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has ridden this phenomenon to victory in this increasingly red state his entire career, and Stenger's post-Ferguson actions suggest that his strategy is to do the same.
This political phenomenon is based on a resurrection of 1960s "white resistance" to the civil rights movement. Many whites have recoiled at the actions of protesters in Ferguson. Seemingly increasing black-on-white crime, sometimes explicitly in the name of the fallen Michael Brown, have increased their fear and resentment. As a result, the anti-Stenger actions by the black officials may actually increase Stenger's support among whites. Since white voters still far outnumber black voters in the county, this won't be just an "equal" reaction. Stenger may well gain more whites votes than lost black votes.
Nixon has long played the Newtonian strategy in Missouri politics. He has retained the support of many rural white voters who flipped from Democrat to Republican over the past 20 years, by posturing himself as a Democrat who stands up to blacks and resists their demands. The most notable instance was his opposition, as state attorney general, to state financial contributions to school desegregation. Black leaders objected vociferously, but their cries actually helped Nixon in rural Missouri. More recently, Nixon's actions and inactions in the Ferguson crisis have visibly angered blacks, while quietly reassuring many less-than-progressive whites. In the 2012 election, Nixon came close to breaking even in rural and exurban counties where Obama barely scratched out 35%. And Nixon did so while still riding Democratic strength in urban and suburban areas. Black voters supported him substantially as well as they did the rest of the Democratic ticket. Win/win for Nixon.
Stenger hopes to ride the same white backlash to victory next month.
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Will Obama save the senate by going to war?
On the other hand, the Presidency provides an unparallelled opportunity to create game-changing events, a so-called "October surprise." This often involves a total about-face by an unpopular president in an important policy matter. Lyndon Johnson's halting of Vietnam War bombing in 1968, literally the day before the election pitting his Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, against Richard Nixon (and third-party candidate George Wallace), is generally regarded as the ultimate October surprise. The move failed to elect Humphrey, but it is regarded as saving a number of Congressional Democrats, including Missouri's open seat (won by Lt. Gov. Tom Eagleton, 51-49%, over Rep. Tom Curtis (R-St. Louis County)).
A "peace move" like Johnson's is not really possible for Obama, who took office with a Nobel Peace Prize already in hand. Obama's October surprise would have to be the opposite - asking Congress to declare war. To the extent that war is ever justifiable, the brutal actions of the new Islamic State could easily provide a justifiable pretext that most swing voters would support and appreciate. A recent poll claims that Americans support war against the Islamic State by a 63-16% margin, in contrast with opposition to military intervention in Syria, 20-62%, just a year earlier. With most Obama critics harping on his alleged timidity and indecision in the face of the ISIS/ISIL/IS threat, asking Congress for a declaration of war would indeed be the kind of 180-degree turn that comprise classic October surprises.
Moreover, Americans tend to rally behind their president in times of war, even if they think the President might have been at fault. Note the otherwise unexplainable spike in George W. Bush's popularity following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 (from 51% on September 10 to 86% on September 15), in spite of his befuddled initial reaction.
On the other hand, would playing the war card alienate the Democrats' anti-war base? I'm not aware of any polling data that specific, but one could surmise that the 16% opposing such action is composed primarily of people who instinctively oppose military action on principle, i.e., part of the Democrat base. No, these voters won't defect to Republicans, but with very few progressive independent or third-party alternatives, they might not vote at all.
And then there is the question whether the President would take action contrary to his base instincts in order to save fellow party members. Would improving the chances of congressional approval of the remaining parts of his agenda be enough to get him to take action he seemingly finds so distasteful?
Monday, August 04, 2014
2014 Missouri primary predictions
Sunday, June 22, 2014
County Democrats alienate crossover voters
Monday, March 04, 2013
Slay must overcome voter complacency to stop Reed
The first major challenge is Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, whose quest to wrest City Hall away from the mayor has history on its side. Since the city began electing mayors to four-year terms, no one has ever been elected four times. The only other one who tried, Raymond R. Tucker (after whom the downtown stretch of 12th Street is named), was defeated by Alfonso J. Cervantes, who, like Reed, was then the Aldermanic President. That, in fact, was the office Slay himself held when he unseated former Mayor Clarence Harmon twelve years ago.
But Reed has more than just history in his corner. While racial consciousness has settled down to irrelevancy among the city's increasingly progressive white voters, it seems to be on the upswing among African-American voters. Last August, when it appeared that newly drawn districts and well-known white candidates might eviscerate city black representation in the Missouri legislature and the Post Dispatch endorsed exactly zero black candidates (see link to my post about that situation), black voters turned out in unusually high numbers for a summer primary and won all of the contests in question. President Barack Obama's tough but successful reelection campaign added to black racial consciousness and accelerated the momentum. The Reed campaign is well positioned to ride any continuing wave. The Clay endorsement looks good for Slay on paper, but it is paper thin. The worst kept secret in town is that Clays' endorsements are payback for Slay's active support of the younger Clay last election when he beat back a challenge from displaced white Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan. Black voters recognize that Clay is doing what he has to, but few of them will follow his lead this time. Even the elder Clay's former chief of staff, Pearlie Evans, is backing Reed. While Slay has faced at least one significant black challenger in every mayoral election, he will get his lowest share of the black vote this time around.
Reed complements his solid black support with some significant pockets of support from whites. He made the right promises to get the support of the firefighters union, whose members are suing the city over pension issues. The teachers union backs Reed due to old resentment over Slay's past intervention in school board elections and support for charter schools. The St. Louis Police Officers Association is officially neutral, but many officers resent Slay's backing of local control. Of less importance is Reed's endorsement by former 24th Ward (Dogtown) Alderman Tom Bauer, one of only two aldermen to be recalled by voters midterm.
Reed used a similar pattern of solid black support and spotty inroads of the white vote to unseat Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury six years ago. However, consistent street talk at the time said that some of Reed's white support was from Slay backers who were upset with Shrewsbury's independence on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Those folks are back with Slay in this contest.
A second challenger, former 27th Ward Alderman Jimmie Matthews, is also running, but he is not Slay's second major challenge. If anything, a black candidate like Matthews could help Slay by splintering his black opposition. But that's not likely to happen here, even though Matthews is gamely attending candidate forums on both sides of town. As the other alderman (besides Bauer) to be recalled by voters of his own ward, the Matthews candidacy will have a miniscule impact.
Slay's second major challenge is the possible complacency of his own supporters. His south side base sees an overwhelming majority of Slay signs on lawns and nothing but Slay ads on television, and they don't think Reed has much of a chance. The mayor and his campaign do not suffer from such complacency and are working very hard. But motivating complacent supporters to get out and vote, especially in the bad weather that is predicted for Tuesday, will be a challenge. Reed's supporters are more motivated and more likely to vote.
These factors make this contest hard to call. Slay will win big in his base in southwestern St. Louis (Wards 12 (his current home), 16 and 23 (where he grew up and served as alderman), and he will win other south side wards by smaller margins with lower turnouts. Reed will win big on the north side, and the size of the turnout will be important. The election will be decided in the central corridor. Reed should do well in Ward 6 (his home ward), but not as well as on the north side. The election will be decided in Wards 8, 17 and especially the high-turnout 28th.
A big Slay win is possible, but a close election that could go either way is more likely.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Re-examining Missouri's urban/rural electoral split
Friday, October 26, 2012
POTUS 2012: Another split decision
Recent national polls have trended towards Republican challenger Mitt Romney. I see that trend continuing through election day, with Romney winning the popular vote by as much as 7 million votes and five percentage points, 52% to 47%. Romney will also lead in electoral votes when the local news airs (11:00 eastern, 10:00 central), with leads in most of the uncalled swing states, but awaiting results from traditionally late reporting urban areas. But as the sun comes up the following morning, the urban vote in most of those states will push President Barack Obama over the top, giving him a comfortable majority of electoral votes, possibly as much as 313 to 222.
This historic result will be the largest popular vote deficit of any Electoral College winner, both by percentage points and raw vote. Until now, Rutherford B. Hayes' 3-point popular vote deficit to Democrat Samuel Tilden in 1876 was the largest such deficit by far. Both Benjamin Harrison (1888) and George W. Bush (2000) lost the popular vote by less than a percentage point. Bush's 543,000 vote deficit is the current raw vote record.
How can the popular and electoral votes diverge so much? Because of the President's conscious campaign strategy to devote his resources almost exclusively to nine "swing" states. He will win most of them, including those with the most votes (maybe not Florida, but he won't need Florida). Obama will also win 18 "blue" states that he is taking for granted, but by smaller margins than in 2008. And he will lose all 23 states that he has written off, including Indiana (which he won in 2008) and Missouri (which he lost by a fraction of a percent). In most of the 41 states where virtually no Obama campaign resources are devoted, Obama will significantly underperform his 2008 results.
Romney's surge in popular votes will come primarily from the 41 neglected states, but all but Indiana will nevertheless deliver their electoral votes the same way they did in 2008. Obama will do well enough in enough of the contested swing states to pull out a comfortable Electoral College win.
There shouldn't be any whining from Republicans about this loss. George W. Bush noted when accepting his own minority victory in 2000 that he had campaigned to win electoral votes, and that he would have campaigned differently if the popular vote had determined the outcome. That is exactly what President Obama has done in this campaign, and it is working.
With the veto pen securely in the President's hand for four more years, the Affordable Care Act is assured of implementation, regardless of who controls Congress.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Game on: Battle of the Perfect 10s
One can argue till the cows come home (did I write that?) about the effect on the election of the tickets' contrasting views on the economy, the Affordable Care Act, Ryan's controversial budget proposal, Bain Capital, same-sex marriage, the importance of government assistance to small business success, or even the traded cheap shots over transporting a dog on the car roof vs. actually eating dog meat as a child. Like the illogical but persistent recurrence of hemline lengths' and Super Bowl winners' accuracy in predicting stock market behavior, presidential elections over the past half century have turned more on the number of letters in the names of the respective tickets' nominees. (I wrote about this phenomenon four years ago after then-Sen. Obama picked then-Sen. Biden as his running mate.)
Since 1968, a presidential ticket whose surnames added up to exactly ten letters has won eight times out of nine:
1968 and 1972: Nixon AgnewNow, for the first time during this period, two ten-letter tickets go head-to-head! As I also wrote back in 2008, then Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (six letters) could have called Obama's ploy by matching him with a four-letter pick of his own (such as retiring MO Sen. Kit Bond, then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), or then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice). But McCain picked then -Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), who was, among other things, one letter too long.
1980 and 1984: Reagan Bush
1988: Bush Quayle
2000 and 2004: Bush Cheney
2008: Obama Biden
Romney didn't repeat McCain's mistake (in spite of successive gaffes during the veep announcement ceremony). The cool, calculating Romney picked a four-letter veep to set up the showdown.
Barring an unlikely third-party surprise, we are now assured that a ten-letter ticket will be victorious again for the ninth time since 1968. But which side does history favor in this head-to-head clash? The only historical signal is ambiguous. The election in which a 10-letter ticket lost was in 1992 (Bush Quayle). On one hand, that contest's 10-letter losers were Republicans. On the other hand, they were also the sitting incumbents, presiding over a bad economy.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Primary could dilute African American clout in St Louis
First Congressional District. This classic member vs. member contest pits Rep. Lacy Clay against Rep. Russ Carnahan, who currently represents the 3rd District that was relocated in redistricting due to Missouri's loss of a congressional seat in reapportionment. Demographically the district is barely a black plurality (and not a majority). The St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed Carnahan, but hardly anyone reads the Post any more. Clay will win over 90% of the black vote and will probably come close to breaking even with Carnahan among whites, many of whom are unimpressed by Carnahan. Clay will win overall by about 2-to-1. So African Americans will retain black representation in the most visible contest.
But French's concerns about the legislative contests may be well-founded.
State Senate: The city's shrinking population now leaves it with only one complete senate district and a bare majority in another that it shares with St. Louis County. The shared district is represented by Sen. Joe Kaveney, a white Democrat, who has two years remaining on his term. The other district, up this year, is represented by scandal-plagued Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, who is opposed for renomination by state Reps. Jamilah Nasheed (who, like Wright-Jones, is black) and Jeanette Mott Oxford (who is white), in a district with just a small black majority. Oxford"s progressive record has earned her strong support from the progressive community, including many blacks. As the first openly gay woman state senator, she enjoys especially strong loyalty among the city's gay population, much of which resides in this district. African Americans are divided between Wright-Jones and Nasheed. If those two split the vote fairly evenly, Oxford will win, making the city's senate delegation entirely white for the first time since 1960. Oxford has represented a racially diverse house district well, and will do the same if elected to the senate, but black pride, as evidenced by French's column, will be hurt if she wins. The Oracle believes Wright-Jones is toast. While I don't subscribe to identity politics, I believe French is correct in suggesting voters who believe that it is important to preserve black representation for the city in the senate need to unite behind Nasheed.
State House: Six of the city's current ten House seats situated entirely in the city are held by African Americans. Population loss and slicing and dicing by the bipartisan redistricting commission reduce the number of all-city seats to just eight. (Some portions of the city are tacked on to four other districts that are centered in neighboring parts of St. Louis County.) The commission drew five of the all-city districts with black majorities, but that majority in three of them is less than 65%. French's warning that blacks might not win any of them is exaggeration, but blacks could be left holding just the two with black super-majorities. African American Rep. Chris Carter is unopposed in the primary, and all three contenders for the open seat in District 77 are black. But each of the other districts has a serious white contender. In two of them, two serious black contenders could split the vote and create an opening for the white.
Rep. Penny Hubbard is the incumbent in the 78th District, which is 62.3% black. The St. Louis Business Journal, though, reported that the district's voting age population is only 52.8% black. The polarizing Hubbard political family always draws African American opposition, and Samuel J. Cummings, III is doing so now. But also running is Ruth Ehresman, a white former staffer for the progressive Missouri Budget Project who appears to be a very serious challenger. The district is hard to peg geographically, because the district's portion of the city's predominantly black north side includes a substantial and growing white minority in Old North St. Louis, while its portion of the predominantly white south side includes most of the south side's black migration in the southern wing of the 6th Ward.
The 79th District is an open seat with a one-on-one contest between Michael Butler, a black former legislative assistant to Wright-Jones, and Martin Casas, a white businessman. While Casas does not have the advantage of a split opposition, he nevertheless appears to be garnering significant support among blacks, including French himself.. Casas would appeal to the Washington Avenue loft district, if he can persuade those yuppies to vote.
The most interesting contest is probably the 84th District, where incumbent Karla May squares off against the rep she ousted last election, Hope Whitehead. The seat was represented by Clay before his election to the state senate. The white candidate in the 84th District is the very well known Mike Owens, former Channel 5 investigative reporter turned lawyer and husband of 28th Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson. Owens' and Krewson's ward is the highest turnout ward in the district, and its organization is one of the city's most effective in delivering votes in the primary.
For its part, the American has endorsed Clay, but no candidates in these other contests.
UPDATE: In addition to Carnahan, the St. Louis Post Dispatch also endorsed Oxford for the state senate. The Post no longer bothers with state rep races. All-told the Post endorsed zero African American candidates for the primary.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who may face a challenge from African American Board President Lewis Reed in the spring, endorsed African American candidates Clay, Nasheed, Hubbard and May, and joined French in backing Casas.
The concern described by Rogers and French is that African Americans could become very dispirited by white wins in historically black districts. While President Obama is likely to motivate African Americans to go to the polls, they might just vote for Obama and leave the rest of the ballot unaddressed. The appearance on the ballot of Gov. Jay Nixon (whom the American declined to endorse over token primary opposition), who has historically based his political success on appealing to rural white voters by using African American interests as a foil, could reinforce black inclinations to skip down-ballot races.
Former Rep. Bill Clay, the father of Lacy Clay, warned over a month ago that the Clay-Carnahan primary fight could have a "chilling effect" on turnout in November. Rogers echoed that not-so-veiled threat: "It is time for a show-down in the Show Me State." To supporters of white candidates who are running for office in good faith, that sounds a lot like extortion.