Category Archives: 2014 Governor’s Race

Why Brown & KKT Lost

Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown did not lose because of poor Democratic turnout. Neither did Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. It is a dangerous myth in our party Montgomery and  Prince George’s Counties, combined with the City of Baltimore, are enough to win a statewide election.

The even more dangerous corollary to his theory is that, if the Big Three jurisdictions are enough to deliver victory statewide, the key is to nominate a candidate capable of driving turnout among the Democratic base voters in those three very progressive bastions. Sadly, this is not the case. Even if turnout in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore City had been 10 points higher, Larry Hogan would still be the Governor-Elect.

The truth of the matter is that Democrats cannot win a statewide election if they get killed in the Baltimore suburbs. Democrats still need to win some moderates to take the prize. For years, Martin O’Malley appealled to working class Democrats in places like Dundalk and Essex, as well as a certain number of wealthier suburb and exurbanites in places like Bel Air and Towson.

This–in addition to the D next to his name in Baltimore City, MoCo and Prince George’s County–gave him a winning statewide coalition in 2006 and 2010. O’Malley nearly won Baltimore County in 2006 before taking the prize outright in 2010. In 2010, O’Malley received 35% of the vote in Harford County, while Brown barely cracked 20% four years later. Barbara Mikulski frequently wins counties in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.

Interestingly, Mikulski, O’Malley, Brown and Townsend are all center left to progressive Democrats with little policy disagreement of any true substance among them. So, why the difference in performance in these key areas?

As the legendary Virginia operative Mudcat Saunders oft moans, people vote based on culture not the issues. A guitar playing, Catholic school educated Irishmen with a disarming charm like O’Malley went a long way towards making gay marriage and the Dream Act–and progressive taxation–palatable to swing voters from Easton to Essex. A grandmotherly, Polish-American social worker like Mikulski can do the same.

But a stiff, Harvard-educated, former DC lawyer originally from Long Island, who happens to be black, like Anthony Brown has limited appeal outside of the polyglot Washington suburbs and Baltimore City. Likewise, a Kennedy from Greenwich, CT had limited appeal outside of Bethesda and Roland Park in 2002.

Right now, we don’t need someone to drive out mythical hard core progressives, who came out and voted for Anthony Brown anyway. We need someone who is as comfortable at Dundalk’s Fourth of July parade as at Takoma Park’s.

New Yorker on Hogan’s Win

The key paragraph from the liberal weekly on the Maryland gubernatorial race stunner:

But there is another, broader story about what happened to Brown, one that should make Democrats even more nervous and Republicans even more cheerful. The backlash against O’Malley and the implosion of Brown show how vulnerable Democrats are, still, to being identified as a party that is insufficiently interested in economic growth and insufficiently allergic to taxes. A popular candidate or a sudden crisis might shift voters’ attention elsewhere, but the issue of taxation doesn’t tend to stay out of the spotlight for too long. Even in deep-blue states, voters have the sense that Democratic politicians don’t hate taxes as much as they do. And sometimes it doesn’t take much—maybe only thirty-nine dollars—to remind them.

 

The Racial Math for a Brown Win

TheMath

I looked at the Gonzales (R) poll to get a sense of what Brown or Hogan would have to do in order to achieve a victory tomorrow. I’ll analyze the electorate from a racial prism because solid black turnout is critical to Anthony Brown’s chances.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s 2002 victory rested in large part on unusually low African-American turnout–blacks composed an astonishingly low share of the electorate in that year. In 2006, the CNN exit poll indicates that African Americans were 23% of the electorate, a major increase from 2002.

Gonzales estimates black turnout this year at 25%, at the low end of predictions but not at all out of the realm of possibility in our state where African Americans comprise 28.1% of the voting-age population. Moreover, African Americans have formed a greater part of the electorate in presidential years since at least 2000.

Let’s assume Gonzales is right and blacks form only one-quarter of the electorate. The share of the white vote that Brown needs to reach 50% depends on the the percentage of blacks who support him. Gonzales reports that Brown possesses an 87-5 advantage among African Americans.

Exit polls indicate that Gov. Ehrlich gained 15% of the black vote in 2006, when he lost his bid for reelection. It seems unlikely that Hogan could do as well against Brown, who would be the State’s first African-American governor. If one splits the undecideds in the same 87-5 proportion, Hogan still has just 5% of the black vote. But let’s say Brown’s share could fall in the 5% to 10% range.

If blacks are 25% of the electorate and Brown receives 95% of their votes, then he needs just 35.0% of the (mostly white) non-black vote to win election–this is 10% less than O’Malley won in 2006. If Brown gets 9 in 10 of black voters, however, Brown needs 36.7% of non-black voters to reach 50% of the total vote.

Obviously, Brown’s path becomes easier the higher the turnout among African Americans and the more solidly he is able to consolidate their votes. If black turnout inches up to 27% and Brown wins 95% of their votes, he would need just one-third of the non-black vote to win a majority.

Crucial to Brown is not just the racial composition but which non-blacks vote. In particular, reading the tea leaves of the Gonzales poll, whites in Baltimore City and the DC suburbs seem more likely to support Hogan. If they turn out at low rates, it would be easier for Hogan to reach the very high share of the non-black vote he needs. In contrast, Hogan would likely benefit from higher turnout in the Baltimore suburbs, Western Maryland, and the Eastern Shore.

Although Hogan is winning Republicans solidly, independents lopsidedly, and even a chunk of Democrats, his path remains difficult. Here is the share of the white vote won by a series of  Democrats according to exit polls:

Ben Cardin in 2012: 39%
Barack Obama in 2012: 43%
Barack Obama in 2008: 48%
Martin O’Malley in 2006: 45%
Ben Cardin in 2006: 48%
Barbara Mikulski in 2004: 56%
Townsend in 2002: 34% (estimate)

According to the Gonzales exit poll, Hogan leads Brown among whites by 59% to 31%.  If you divvy up the undecided voters in the same proportions as decided voters, then Brown would have 34.4% of the white vote. The last time Democrats scored this low in a statewide election was when Ehrlich beat Townsend in 2002–and blacks will certainly end up a higher share of the electorate than in that year and probably vote at a higher rate for Brown. Moreover, only the Gonzales survey, which was conducted for Republicans shows Brown with this low level of white support.

Lots to watch for tomorrow night. But if Brown gets at least 37% of the white vote, he is almost certain to win. And the share of the white vote he needs will decline if (1) black turnout goes above 25% and (2) the share of blacks who vote for him exceeds 90%. Another sign to watch is changes in turnout in Montgomery relative to the rest of the State. If Montgomery turnout drops relative to other jurisdictions, that could spell trouble for Brown.

Hogan Slammed for NRA Support

In the final days of the gubernatorial campaign, attention is rightly being focused on Republican Nominee Larry Hogan’s refusal to release his responses to the NRA questionnaire on this issue. A good question: candidates should be prepared to share their views not just with special interest groups but the general public.

Moms Demand Action

Jennifer Coulter of Moms Demand Action is asking exactly what did Larry Hogan do to receive an A- rating from the NRA and this robocall funded by the NRA in support of his campaign:

Maryland Democrats are also pressing hard on Hogan’s unwillingness to share with the public what he promised the NRA in exchange for their support:

MDP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
Contact:  443-221-4779
JSmith@mddems.org

BREAKING: NRA Robocalling Marylanders to Prop Up Larry Hogan

Payback – Gun Lobbyists Spending for Hogan After He Put Secret Promises in Writing to Earn NRA’s Endorsement

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Last night, reports across the state confirmed that the National Rifle Association is opening up their wallet to defend their endorsed candidate for Governor, Republican Larry Hogan. The robocall says that “there’s only one candidate in the race for governor of Maryland who has stood strong against the Obama Bloomberg gun control agenda, that candidate is Larry Hogan.” It goes on to attack Lt. Governor Brown because he “helped to enact one of the largest gun bans in the history of Maryland” – the ban on the sale of assault rifles contained in SB 281.

Larry Hogan, who filled out the NRA’s questionnaire, earned an A- rating, and was recently endorsed by the NRA, has continually refused to release the promises he put in writing to gun lobbyists.

“Larry Hogan opposed common sense background checks to prevent criminals from getting handguns and opposed banning the sale of assault rifles and high capacity magazines, so it’s no surprise that the gun lobbyists at the NRA are spending money to prop up his campaign,” said Jared Smith, Maryland Democratic Party Spokesman. “Larry Hogan has refused to release the questionnaire that earned him the NRA’s endorsement because he knows that Maryland families don’t support his dangerous pro-gun agenda.”

You can listen to the NRA’s pro-Hogan robocall by clicking here.

“Hello, this is the NRA calling from 703-267-1200 with an important election alert. There’s only one candidate in the race for governor of Maryland who has stood strong against the Obama Bloomberg gun control agenda, that candidate is Larry Hogan. His opponent, Anthony Brown helped to enact one of the largest gun bans in the history of Maryland last year. That extreme anti-gun legislation, Senate Bill 281 was enacted over the objections of thousands of Marylanders who voiced their strong opposition. Anthony Brown would expand the Obama Bloomberg gun control agenda as governor and further restrict the rights of Maryland’s law abiding gun owners. This race could be decided by just a handful of votes so your vote could make the difference. Please vote Larry Hogan for governor on November 4th and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Thank you”

Nate Silver Gives Brown 93% Chance of Victory

FiveThirtyEight has released its gubernatorial forecasts. They say Brown will win by 9.7%–an outcome that would thrill Democrats in an increasingly hot contest.

Nate Silver’s forecast of a solid Brown win is squarely at odds with Charlie Cook’s forecast of a very tight race with an edge for Brown. It’s a great face off between people often regarded as the nation’s top polling aggregator and top political analyst.

We’ll find out who is closer to being right on Tuesday.

Cook Report: Governor’s Race Rating Now a Toss Up

From the Cook Political Report:

Maryland: Both parties acknowledge that this contest between Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and GOP businessman Larry Hogan has gotten very close in this very blue state. Neither side thought they would be spending seven figures here, particularly this late in the race. Democrats believe that they caught Hogan’s surge, and have had enough time to define their own candidate. We tend to agree and believe that Brown enjoys a slight advantage, but polling and the barrage of television ads from both sides suggest that this belongs in Toss Up.

The Cook Political Report is an extremely highly regarded source of political analysis. His team has had their ear to the ground for decades and is scrupulously nonpartisan. I’m also pleased that Charlie Cook and his family have been longtime residents of the Town of Chevy Chase here in Montgomery County.

Republicans Claim Voter Fraud

In an eerie reflection of a past Simpsons Halloween special, Republicans are claiming that the Democrats are trying to steal the election in Maryland:

fraudclaim

This sort of claim fits in with the Republican meme (and form of denial) that there is no way Democrats could win elections honestly, even in deep blue Maryland.

Here is why the fraud claim doesn’t make sense to me:

(1) Brian Frosh doesn’t need to steal an election. He is going to win. Easily. And unlike Nixon, he’s not paranoid enough to do it anyway.

(2) If one was going to program the machines to commit fraud, it makes no sense to show it on the final overview ballot page.

(3) But let’s imagine this is how it occurred anyway. Even if only 1 in 5 voters noticed the fraud on the overview page, there would be numerous reports of the problem.

(4) Democrats want to replace the machines. Let’s hope we can get a bipartisan consensus to spend the money in the next General Assembly.

I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories from either party. If something went wrong with this machine or this ballot, I look forward to it being investigated. But the cries from the GOP of fraud have consistently been far louder than their commentary when such claims are debunked.

Fiscal Fantasy

 The Second Gubernatorial Debate

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan has an opening with genuine discontent about taxes. He has certainly pressed it home virtually to the exclusion of all other issues.

Tax Cuts for You, Tax Cuts for Me

Hogan has put out the idea of a panoply of tax cuts. At a forum in a Baltimore populated by retirees, his idea of eliminating all taxes on retirement income was unsurprisingly popular among this demographic that votes at very high rates.

He also wants to lower taxes on corporations as part of an effort to improve the State’s business climate along with cutting back income taxes more broadly. Since he repeatedly talks about repealing all tax increases that occurred over the past eight years, that means that the gas tax and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fee (a.k.a. the “flush” tax) should also go.

But Before We Even Get to Tax Cuts

However, before engaging in any new tax cuts or spending, the next governor will have to deal with a major revenue shortfall. Tax revenues are often hard to predict. While the federal deficit has declined rapidly, Maryland will need to close a gap of $405 million in order to balance its budget.

Illusory Plan to Pay for Them

Hogan promises we can have it all by cutting “$1.75 billion in waste and abuse that we have identified.” Cutting waste, fraud, and abuse has a long history as the savior of politicians who want to cut taxes or increase spending without making tough choices. Just recall the Grace Commission report 30 years ago.

Hogan has now dusted off this strategy. Except that his figure is woefully inaccurate–inflated by a minimum of $843 million— as a review of just a portion of Hogan’s claims by the Baltimore Sun revealed. Sloppy math, such as a misplaced decimal point, undermines the Hogan meme that as “just a small businessman” who will watch our pennies carefully.

Even more embarrassing is that another error to the tune of $285 million relied on collecting more in property taxes–not exactly the theme of his campaign–but also on the assumption of tax rates of 100%. My guess is that not what they were going for when they unveiled their plan.

Hogan’s campaign concedes that the Sun‘s report is correct, as  Campaign Spokesman Adam Dubitsky creditably acknowledged. (Smart: admit the mistake, move on, and pivot back to the campaign’s core message.)

And the Costs are Unknown

Hogan doesn’t know the cost of all of the various tax cuts that he has proposed. However, the Washington Post reported that a nonpartisan analysis revealed that the cut in retirement taxes alone would cost the State over $1 billion in revenue.

Incredibly, despite the welter of promises, Hogan simply hasn’t looked into it. As Dubitsky explained to the Post, “It’s not going to be until we dive into the budget after we win the election.” An amazing admission about the leader of Change Maryland who just said in a debate “I don’t want to over promise and under deliver.”

Since Hogan promises so much but there is little on the table in the way of real cuts, I worry that they may fall on the state’s universities–not just in terms of tuition but also in other funding that has been vital to its steady positive trajectory. And my view is that any pro-business economic strategy has to rely both on continuing that movement and taking better advantage of it.

Hogan 2.0?

Speaking with Dubitsky and listening to Hogan in the debate, one also perceives a more reasonable version of Hogan. Dubitsky told me that Hogan is committed to maintaining the State’s AAA bond rating and getting the fiscal house in order before moving forward with tax cuts. Makes sense to me.

Certainly, working to make Maryland more attractive to business is  a perfectly reasonable goal, as is the idea of restructuring state government to improve efficiency and focus it on future challenges. But so far, all Marylanders have received is theme and message without an iota of content.

Avoiding specifics may well be the way to go in a campaign–too many Democrats get bogged down in the specifics of plans. Anyone remember the endless and pointless 2008 debates between Obama and Clinton about who had the better health care plan?

Even just the outlines of an approach and concrete examples backed up by facts would put meat on the bones and provide badly needed credibility. Even more welcome would be if Hogan would stick to not over promising by ceasing to hand out impossible tax cuts like lollipops on the campaign trail.