Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Legislatosaurus Rex?

There's been plenty of hype -- some of it justified, some a little over the top -- about the prospects of Libertarian congressional candidates this years. The lion's share of that hype has gone to Texas and the campaigns of Michael Badnarik and Bob Smither. The attention is justified, based on Badnarik's warchest and Smither's status as the only non-Democrat on the ballot in a heavily Republican district.

Of course, I'm skeptical. The latest polls I've seen show both candidates in single digits (granted, the last Badnarik poll was awhile back). I think they'll do better than their polling numbers would predict, but I'm not convinced that a victory is in the offing. I hope they both prove me wrong. Either way, I believe we'll see a number of "balance of power" showings in which the LP's candidate has a significant impact on outcome. Those may include US Senate candidates Frank Gilmour in Missouri and Bruce Guthrie in Washington.

The more likely prospect for outright victory is that Libertarians will be elected to state legislatures in two or three states: New Hampshire, Vermont and, just possibly, Indiana.

In Vermont, five "fusion" candidates (Benjamin Todd, Jeff Manney, Bob Wolffe, David Atkinson and Hardy Machia) won their districts' Republican primaries to run on both the GOP and LP tickets. There's a good chance that some or all of them will be elected to office.

New Hampshire has been the site of "fusion" victories in the past, and a number of LP candidates are seeking legislative seats there this year as well. Notably, state LP chair John Babiarz is running as a Democrat. The trend there seems to be away from fusion per se and toward seeking major party nominations. That hasn't been a reliable way of winning office in the past, but it sometimes works and in particular areas it may be key (not just for state races -- Frank Gonzalez ran as a Libertarian for Congress from Florida in 2004, and is the Democratic nominee in that same district this time around).

And in Indiana, Rex Bell is apparently polling in the 30%+ range, slightly behind the Republican incumbent and slightly ahead of the Democratic candidate for a legislative seat. I haven't seen any hard information on the poll's methodology and such, but if it's accurate the Indiana LP may finally see its years of hard work pay off.

Best of luck to these candidates, some of whom are personal friends. I'll be thrilled and surprised if we elect a congresscritter this year, but I'm actually confident that we'll see some Libertarians in the statehouse.

Update/Correx -- Thanks to Seth Cohn for two factual corrections: 1) The trend in New Hampshire isn't just "away" from fusion, it's off it altogether as the New Hampshire LP isn't on the ballot. 2) John Babiarz lost his Democratic primary, but a number of other Granite State Libertarians made the election cut, including Don Gorman (see here for a list of 132 candidates endorsed by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance). Also thanks to Seth for this analysis contesting the notion that Bob Smither is really polling in single digits. FWIW, I predict that both Smither and Badnarik will do better than 10%, polling or not (partly because I think they'll get out a higher percentage of their voters).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Win one for the GOPer

It's not very often lately that you'll hear me saying nice things about "libertarian Republican" politicians, mostly because such creatures are much more rare than Republican Liberty Caucus types would have us believe. As a matter of fact, if the "libertarian Republican candidate" ever existed as a species per se, I'd say it's just about at the point of extinction.

However ... there are one or two Republican politicians who proudly own, and try hard not to shame, the name "libertarian" -- not just when it's convenient, but when they're being slammed for it and when their enemies are using it against them. One of them is US Representative Ron Paul. Another is Michigan's Leon Drolet.

After several terms in the state legislature, Drolet is seeking election to the Macomb County commission (on which he served before going to the legislature). The Detroit Free Press says that he's "notably hostile to government programs" and that his "ideas are often impractical or extreme, like privatizing or selling the public library." I'd be hard put to come up with a better endorsement than the Free Press's characterization.

If you're looking for a "libertarian Republican" to support, head on over to Leon's web site. He's in a tough fight, and your $10 or $20 could make the difference.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pickin' and grinnin'

If you're a gambler, don't bet the ranch on my election predictions. I'm not, to put it daintily, the most accurate political prognosticator. But I make my calls every election and live with those calls, win or lose. This article is a slightly revised version of a post to an Internet discussion group. The only substantive revision is that I had previously listed Missouri's US Senate race as "iffy" -- I've since moved it solidly into the "Democratic pickup" column. So, here we go:

I don't think the Dems will take the Senate, but it's just barely possible.

Solid Democrat gains:

- Casey over Santorum in Pennsylvania
- Tester over Burns in Montana
- Brown over DeWine in Ohio
- McCaskill over Talent in Missouri

Possible, but iffy:

- Webb over Allen in Virginia
- Whitehouse over Chafee in Rhode Island

I don't foresee any GOP pickups. The most likely one is in New Jersey, but I think that Democratic incumbent Menendez will beat GOP candidate Keane. I also think Lieberman will win as a faux-Independent in Connecticut.

The current Senate is 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and an Independent.

If the Democrats get those four likely seats, the GOP doesn't pick up New Jersey and Lieberman is elected, it will be:

51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents.

The Democrats would have to win both "iffy" seats to reduce the GOP to 49, and they'd then have 49 as well, although Sanders and Lieberman will presumably caucus with the Democrats for leadership elections and such. I don't see that happening. I'm tentatively picking Webb to win in Virginia, but I think Chafee will hold on in Rhode Island. So, final:

50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents.

In the House, I predict that the Democrats will pick up 16 seats -- 15 from Republicans plus Vermont District 1, which Independent Bernie Sanders is leaving for the Senate. Once again, I don't foresee the GOP picking up any seats it didn't already have.

Predictions for Dem pickups:

- Giffords beats Graf in Arizona District 8
- Perlmutter beats O'Donnell in Colorado 7
- Courtney beats Simmons in Connecticut 2
- UPSET -- Farrell beats Shays in Connecticut 4
- Donnelly, Ellsworth and Hill beat Chocola, Hostettler and Sodrel in Indiana 2,8 and 9
- Braley beats Whalen in Iowa 1
- Shuler beats Taylor in North Carolina 11
- Space beats Padgett in Ohio 18
- Murphy beats Gerlach in Pennsylvania 6
- Lampson beats the hyphenated lady (and Bob Smither) in Texas 22
- And, of course, that Vermont seat -- Welch beats Rainville in Vermont 1

That leaves three seats to meet my prediction. I think Tammy Duckworth will upset Roskam in Illinois 6. That's one. I think Kilroy will unseat Price in Ohio 15. That's two. And I think at least one more seat will be an upset Democrat gain ... it might be one of a couple of close Kentucky races, or Florida 22. There's at least one close-to-tossup in New Mexico, but with the LP excluded, the GOP may gain. There's another race in Minnesota that's a possible (Wetterling v. Bachmann in the 6th district).

That's my prediction, but I have a disturbing sense that it's probably wrong. I have a gut feeling that one of two things will happen: Either the GOP will hold on by the skin of its teeth, or the Democrats will break out even bigger than I'm predicting (i.e. a number of those possibles I listed, instead of just one or two, will go Democrat, and maybe even some others that didn't look likely at all).

Friday, October 06, 2006

First Look 2008: Series End

I doubt that my endorsement carries a great deal of weight, and to the extent that it carries any at all, it would be silly to assume that that weight is all positive. Furthermore, I had intended to refrain from actively involving myself in a presidential campaign for some time yet. It's still early, and I'd hoped to be more chronicler than participant until some time next year.

But ... I'm beyond the point where I can honestly posture myself as an objective observer. Early as it is, and even knowing that the field of aspirants to the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination may grow, I've settled on a candidate to support. Please don't think of this as an announcement/endorsement so much as a notification that from here on out, where the nomination is concerned, I'm no longer engaged in analysis and journalism, but rather in support and propaganda. The "First Look" series ends now.

Order Kubby 2008 buttons from RadicalButtons.ComSo: Why do I support Steve Kubby for the LP's 2008 presidential nomination and for election to the presidency of the United States? I've offered a few reasons elsewhere. I'd like to add a few more to the list (but first, to mention that you can order Kubby 2008 buttons like the one pictured on the left at Carol Moore's site):

- Taking solid libertarian positions on the issues isn't everything -- but it's the first thing. Steve Kubby isn't the only candidate I expect to see campaigning on a truly libertarian platform, but he's one of them.

- Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future success ... but that's the smart way to bet. Steve Kubby is not the only candidate who has previously engaged in credible political efforts, but his record on that point does stand out from the field both externally (as one of the leading activists in putting Proposition 215 in California over the top) and internally (among the announced candidates, he has received a higher percentage of the vote in internal LP elections at national conventions than any of the others).

- It's inevitable that Steve Kubby will initially be painted as a "single issue candidate." As you'll soon see, he isn't ... but even though the accusation is and will remain incorrect, it is also useful. In a tight 2008 election to which other issues are central, it's very possible that a Kubby candidacy will finally break the duopoly logjam on the drug war and that we'll see one or both of the "major party" candidates trying to outflank us by coming out in favor of medical marijuana ... and maybe even more than that (industrial hemp, reining in the FDA on supplement/treatment issues, etc.) in search of those last few "marginal" votes.

- If the LP has a future, that future lies in appealing to a number of huge unrepresented constituencies ... on the Left. We've given the Right its shot and then some. It's time to admit to ourselves that that approach has failed. Those Republicans who were going to defect to the LP have already done so, and those who remain in the GOP -- "libertarian" Republicans included -- have amply demonstrated that party loyalty trumps their interest in liberty. It's time to go after the anti-war, anti-drug-war, pro-immigration thirty-somethings who have (sensibly) never trusted the Right and who have voted Democrat as "the lesser evil" (if they've voted at all!) for the last 16 years while the LP has positioned itself as "to the Right of the GOP." Steve Kubby is not the only candidate who can appeal to these voters (George Phillies is an ACLU leader, and Christine Smith is obviously sensitive to Left appeal -- witness her admiration for Gore Vidal), but I believe that Kubby will have the most cachet with that demographic.

- The LP presidential campaigns have become serious very early in this election cycle, and that's a good thing (for which George Phillies deserves much of the credit). I want to see the LP's presidential candidate get a good "running start" and as a matter of fact, I hope that the Libertarian National Committee schedules the presidential nominating convention for the earliest possible time under the bylaws (I believe that would be the autumn of 2007) so that the LP has a nominee campaigning as the nominee for a full year and then some instead of just a few months. In my opinion, Steve Kubby is the only candidate who has a chance of building the kind of momentum which could withstand a "late entry" candidacy by The Evil One or some similar "same old Right-Wing-Lite" candidate who would piss away yet another opportunity to build a bigger, better, more successful and more relevant LP.

Since I'm in propaganda mode, I haven't really covered the down side of the Kubby candidacy. Frankly, I don't know if there's a down side to cover (I'm sure one or more commenters will believe there is, and will be happy to explain). It's too early to tell what kind of campaign organization he'll put together, whether he's got a good fundraising strategy in place, etc. And that's probably the ultimate reason I've decided to sign on as a supporter of, and volunteer for, Kubby's campaign ... this is too important to not get started on now.

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