Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: What To Expect When You Run For Office

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Silly season is upon us.  It is officially the midterm election cycle.  Between the newly arrived primary season and November's general election, we will be bombarded with pleas from congressional and gubernatorial candidates, from parties, for our vote. Yours Truly would like to focus on a couple subjects: What to expect and what the candidates should do if they want to be successful.  Before we get going, Blogger wants to apologize for not posting yesterday.  Blogger had a massive headache and a swollen eye (Yours Truly poked herself in the eye trying to fish out a contact lense).  The combined to make writing impossible.  Onward and upward.

First of all, what should we expect in the 2018 midterms?  We can expect a lot between now and November.  The short answer is the success or failure of a particular party will depend on how the country feels about Mr. Donald Trump and a variety of issues.  In their Brookings Institution article "The Primaries Project: What to expect in the 2018 Midterm," (; Mar. 5, 2018; date accessed Mar. 7, 2018) Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul write, "These primaries will also tell us a great deal about the divisions within each political party, and about what we can expect from the Congress that will convene in 2019."

The Brookings Primaries Project (Ibid) will be examining and presenting real facts as we make our way through the season.  Taking a look at the political landscape, the Republicans incumbents are facing increased competition from their Democratic challengers from two important sources.  The co-authors report, "...many more Republicans incumbents are being primaried (i.e. challenged) by well-funded opponents from their own party.  Second, in a telling measure, there are many more competitive Democratic primaries in Republican-held, in a telling measure, there are many more competitive Democratic primaries in Republican-held districts than competitive Republican primaries in Democratic-held districts."  Competitive elections can emanate from more higher-quality candidates.  This attracts media attention.  Thus, more Repbulican incumbents will have to face better-funded challengers and better-funded and test general elections rivals who can garner media attention-something incumbents dread.  Further, there are over twice as many Republican retirements as Democratic retirement in the House of Representives-an indication that members are leaving because they believe it is going to be a bad year for their party.

As of today, it is all speculation and not much agreement on the possible outcomes.  If you cruise the social media, hashtags #bluewave and #bluetsunami, are pretty popular.  The implication being that the Democrats will take over Congress and be a "powerful counterforce to President Trump."  Others seem to believe that the "blue wave" will not be as strong because of  healthy economy and the tendency for Democrats to shoot themselves in their collective feet.  Before we look forward, it is helpful to take a look back at what the 2014 and 2016 (Ibid; Sept. 2014) (Ibid; Jan. 2017) primaries revealed.
The co-authors write, "The status of the horse isn't the only revealing element of congressional primaries, however.  Studying the candidates who are running in these primaries also tells us a great deal about the division within and between the political parties.  Here is what the co-authors found studying 2014 and 2016:

House incumbents were consistently re-nominated (only three sitting members lost a primary in 2014 and only five lost in 2016)

Progressive Democratics candidates made up nearly 30 percent of Democratic primary candidates in 2016.

Conservative Republicans candidates made up 50 percent of Republican primary candidates in 2016.

The top issues mentioned by Republican candidates in 2016 were taxes, Obamacare, immigration, debt, and the Second Amendment while top issues for Democratic candidates were Obamacare, Social Security, education, the minimum wage, and climate change.

Primary margins of victory for incumbents have been consistent across the past two cycles with median margins near 50 percent for Republicans and near 65 percent for Democrats...

In 2016 a presidential primary year [we wrote] "The drama in the presidential primaries, however, has not been mirrored in the congressional primaries.  [While we] see more divisiveness at the congressional level among Repbulicans than among Democrats, the levels are small...

In addition to studying the congressional candidates in 2016, the co-authored looked at the voters in congressional primaries.  In their paper (Ibid; Jan. 2017), the co-authors asked the question, Are primary voters different?  Sort of, here is what they found:

Republican voters were more likely to say that they chose to support their preferred House candidate because that candidate "shares my values" or "can bring about needed change" while Democratic voters were more likely to support a candidate who "has the right experience" or "cares about people like me"

On demographics, we found primary voters to be older and more educated than the general public.

What can we learn from the two previous cycles?  We learn that "the congressional primaries were nearly predictive of what happened in Congress."  One glaring lesson we learned from the 2016 congressional election is "Republican majorities were focused on two issues that were at the top of the agenda form most congressional primary candidates: passing a tax cut bill, on which they succeeded, and repealing Obamacare, which they failed."  Additionally, as the Republican Party continues to fall under the control of the very conservative Republicans, the Democratic caucuses have taken on a more moderate tone.  However, Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul caution, "Both of which could have been anticipated from the factional divisions apparent in the congressional primaries."

What can we expect this year?  For the Republicans, pay attention to what degree "Trumpism"--"sharing the president's issue positions and attitudes toward government"--has filtered down to the congressional primary level.  Who are the Trump mini-me running in this year's primaries and how successful they wil be, particularly how successful they will be against more mainstream Repbulican candidates.  For the Democrats, the key thing to watch is the resurgence of the progressives--a byproduct of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) near-successful run for president in 2016.  Look for whether or not there more self-proclaimed progressives running and whether they are specifically aligning themselves with Sen. Sanders and his movement.

Both the Democratic and Repbulican parties are big enough to accommodate multiple points of view. Over the next several months we will look at how specific issues are filtered through multiple perspectives and at some of the races.  Speaking of candidates, what will it take to win a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives?

The formula is simple, tell the voters about yourself.  Voters want to know about you, where you come from, what motivated you to run.  Be your real self.  While this may annoy some campaign managers but voters will relate to you being you, instead of some blow dried candidate.  Tell your constituents what you stand for and how that separates you from the pack.  We want to know how your positions will translate into policy.  Can you connect them to our values.  One big do not do is make your campaign about the president.  Yes, the scandal plagued Trump administration is front and center but your campaign is not a referendum on the administration.  These are just Blogger's suggestion, hopefully some one will pay attention.      



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