ISIS takes control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Several nations agree to take in Southeast Asian migrants. And the U.S. and Cuba move closer to full restoration of diplomatic ties. A panel of journalists joins guest host Indira Lakshmanan for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Morning after 2011 election analysis: Voters in states across the country weigh in on issues including union rights, health care, personhood and immigration: 2011 election results and what they may suggest ahead of next year’s presidential election.
- Amy Walter political director, ABC News.
- Ron Elving Washington editor for NPR.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Voters in Ohio turned down restrictions on collective bargaining rights for public workers, and Mississippi voters turned down an anti-abortion measure known as the personhood amendment.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about these results and others from around the country: Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR, Amy Walter, political director for ABC News, Chris Cillizza, he's author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of postpolitics.com. We do invite your calls, 800-433-8850, your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning, Diane.
MS. AMY WALTERGood morning.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
REHMFirst, Ron, let's talk about turnout. Ordinarily, in these off-year elections, you have fairly low turnout. What was it?
ELVINGIt wasn't enormous turnout. It wasn't regular even-numbered year turnout. It certainly wasn't presidential turnout, but it was pretty healthy turnout in those places where it seemed to matter. And it did seem to overwhelm a few voting places around the country. The turnout, I think, indicated that there was a certain amount of frustration among voters, anger among voters. We've seen this in every poll.
ELVINGWe've been talking about this for many weeks about just how energized people seem to be in their frustration and their anger. But it was not directed in ways people might have expected. And, in fact, it would seem that overreach was the main culprit here, the main villain, the main loser in yesterday's elections -- overreach in all kinds of directions by all kinds of different people in all kinds of forms. Social issues, economic issues, personal issues, that was what people were expressing. Their greatest fear of -- was overreach.
REHMAnd, Amy Walter, the question is, angry at whom?
WALTERRight. I think it's right to Ron's point. It is they're angry at the overreach. Really, what they're angry at is this idea that they feel like they've sent a pretty strong message in these last three elections. Get something done on the economy. Pretty simple, right? We just want you to go and fix stuff. We don't want to talk about whether there's -- it's a personhood amendment. What does that mean?
WALTERShutting down or reorganizing collective bargaining rights -- they don't see the connection between that and creating jobs or helping the economy. So it seems as if what voters have come to the conclusion is to say, if we knock all of these ideological battles down, we are going to let our elected officials know that. It's very clear. We want them to actually fix something.
REHMAll right. So, Chris, Ohio voters sent a message to Gov. John Kasich.
CILLIZZANo question. You know, Diane, this law, it went by SB 5, Senate Bill 5, which was -- what become known as -- was it -- kind of a fascinating case study in that I think if you ask anyone what was the biggest labor union fight of 2011, they would say Wisconsin. Scott Walker became a national story. This bill actually went further than Wisconsin. Scott Walker, I think somewhat smartly, politically, exempted firefighters and policemen from the ban on collective bargaining. That was always a caveat and remains a caveat in the Wisconsin law.
CILLIZZAThat was not the case in the Ohio law. And again, I return to Ron's point, which I think is the exact right one, overreach. I think there is a willingness among some -- and it may even be a majority of people that say, you know what, we -- maybe we do need to reign in some public sector unions. But when you go into firefighters, when you go into police, when you go into essential services, people who are respected and valued in the community, that's when you get into trouble.
CILLIZZAJohn Kasich learned that one the hard way. And I do think -- look, the labor -- organized labor has been much maligned in the last few elections. They've targeted Blanche Lincoln in a primary in Arkansas. In 2010, they lost that. They targeted the Wisconsin State Senate for turnover. They got two seats. They needed three seats earlier this year. They won this one, and they deserve credit because they won it overwhelmingly. This was not a 51-49.
CILLIZZAThis was a 60-40 or even larger. So this is -- this theoretically emboldens labor in a state that Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominees are going to need in 2012.
REHMBut aren't they -- that is proponents of what John Kasich was trying to do with restricting labor unions in collective bargaining -- aren't proponents going to come back and try to do parts of what he wanted to do?
ELVINGThat's right. Next year, there'll probably be a bill in the Ohio legislature by which public employees will be required to contribute, say, 15 percent of their medical cost premiums or the medical premiums for their insurance. That will probably pass, and that will not result in a referendum or a recall election as in Wisconsin...
REHMBecause people feel...
ELVING...because we will accept that. The public employee, unions will accept that, and the public will be 100 percent behind that. And that will be successful. And there could be several other things like it. But what happened in Ohio and in Wisconsin and a number of other states was that when they won smashing victories, one year ago this week in 2010 when the Republicans won these victories, they said, all right. Now, it's time for our agenda. And they emptied the shelf.
ELVINGThey brought out everything they wanted to have, including the busting of public unions, particularly public unions, but also by implication, collective bargaining in general throughout the economy, which they have been opposed to, of course, back in the 1930s, 1920s, 1800s. So they really emptied the shelf, and now the voters are pushing back.
WALTERRight. And I think this is exactly what we saw on the other side though, too, this idea of a -- that there is no such thing as a mandate from voters right now. They did not give it to Republicans in 2010, and they didn't give it to Democrats in 2008 either. So the other issue on the ballot was one -- and it's mostly symbolic to say that you do not have to accept an individual mandate. We can't -- you can't be really pushed into that legally and some -- that win by an equally large margin as the anti-collective bargaining law loss.
WALTERWhat it's saying is, in both cases, what voters are thinking is, one, there was no mandate for this sort of health care legislation or for this collective bargaining legislation. And, number two, what does this have to do with jobs? What does this have to do with fixing the economy? We sent you guys to Washington or to the state capital to do that. Anytime you diverge from that, we're going to punish you.
REHMBut that individual mandate is going to still move into the court and up to the highest place.
CILLIZZADiane, this is a -- this will be decided by the Supreme Court. I think the day it was signed by President Obama into law, we expected that. I think the only debate at this point is when it will be decided and how will that play out. I just wanted to return very quickly though, Diane, to a point Amy made, which is I think you can go back and look at that unpopularity of the health care bill. Now, the White House argues that it's because Republicans sold the bill of goods. They lost the message war.
CILLIZZABut in some ways, I think it's to Amy's point, which is when President Obama was elected, people wanted him to do something about the economy, hope and change. He -- the first thing he did was health care, and I think -- again, I think Amy's got it exactly right, which is that in some meaningful way, people said, well, wait a minute. Sure, health care is important. We want people to be covered, all of those things.
CILLIZZABut job A, B, C, D, E, F and G should be jobs, and I think it's the exact same thing with Mississippi and the personhood amendment with John Kasich and Scott Walker kind of on their union-busting agenda. I think all of it fits in the piece. It's not a Democratic -- it's not a Republican issue.
REHMThat's interesting. So, I mean, in that sense, you would put that Mississippi personhood vote on the same par. It was off message.
ELVINGThat's right, but there's also another issue there in Mississippi, which is that the pro-life movement, the anti-abortion movement in Mississippi was quite divided on this. Gov. Haley Barbour -- very popular governor, term limited, was leaving office, but got his lieutenant governor elected in his place -- said I don't know. I'm undecided.
REHMI'm uncomfortable, yeah.
ELVINGI voted for it, but the more I think about it, the more I have my doubts. And a lot of pro-life people said, no, no. This is not the way to bring this issue back to the Supreme Court eventually. We don't want to do it on this fertilization cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
REHMOr birth control.
ELVINGAnd it, of course, brings up the issue of certain forms of birth control.
ELVINGTherefore, it really was a split in the pro-life movement in Mississippi that defeated the personhood.
CILLIZZAAnd I would just note, worth pointing out, too, that this is -- a similar effort has failed in Colorado in 2008 and 2010.
CILLIZZASo I think -- while I think there was an expectation Mississippi is more socially conservative than Colorado, et cetera, et cetera, to Ron's point, it suggests that this is not a pure -- it's either A, or it's B for social conservatives on the issue.
REHMBut at same time, it's not over. You're going to perhaps have other southern states take up these amendments, even though Mississippi, Colorado, other states have failed.
WALTERWell, and it also goes to the point that social issues aren't necessarily off the table in this upcoming election. I think we're going to still see an issue like abortion play a role in defining the candidates as either mainstream or out of the mainstream.
WALTERSo you're going to see Democrats try to use -- whoever the Republican nominee is, they're going to try to paint that person as way out on the mainstream on women's reproductive rights and use it as an opportunity to talk to suburban women who may be on the fence with President Obama right now and the economy, but to say, look, if you put this guy in, he's going to take us way too far off on this category. Oh, and by the way, also jobs in the economy.
ELVINGYes, I believe there are six more states that have initiatives along the same wording as this personhood and a couple of others considering it in a state legislature. It may influence turnout in some states next year. It may play something of a role. But I think this basic split over whether or not this is a good way to attack the abortion issue will continue and that personhood as an approach to the issue will fade.
REHMWhen we did a program on this a week or so ago, a young college-aged woman called in and said, you know, I am organizing my own fellow students on campus because I believe this is a dangerous amendment. But still, other southern states look as though they may go in that direction. Ron Elving, Amy Walter, Chris Cillizza, we'll take a short break. I'd like to hear from you this morning, 800-433-8850.
REHMWelcome back. We are talking about the results of yesterdays 2011 elections across the country, where you had some wins for Republicans, some wins for Democrats. You had of lots initiatives out there. Here's an email from Barbara, who says, "I am angry at an incompetent, stupid government.
REHM"It seems to me this mess we're in is a repetition of messes we've been in before, resulting from mistakes we've made before, and politicians seems too stubbornly wedded to their ideology to learn from mistakes and act in the best interest of the country. I keep going back to the preamble -- to the Constitution. One of the purposes is to promote the general welfare." Amy.
WALTERShe couldn't be more right that this is so frustrating, even for those of us who cover it and haven't seen anything quite like this. And I think for many voters, it's sort of the law of unintended consequences. They came to the 2006 election saying they really disliked the direction that the country was going, and they certainly didn't like what President Bush was doing on Iraq. And they felt the economy was struggling.
WALTERThey voted out Republicans, brought in Democrats. Two years later, they -- hope and change, right? Brought in more of that. 2010, voted out many of those Democrats, elected Republicans. Well, who lost in all of those elections? Moderates. That's who you beat in wave elections. You beat those people who are the compromisers, who are the swing people in the middle.
WALTERAnd so what voters have done in their desire to shake things up and their -- and, I think, a very good intention to say to Washington, we need change. We need you guys to stop doing whatever it is you're doing. What they did instead was voted out the very people who could help to implement that change. And so we put in place then very ideological partisans who don't have any reason to see the other side.
CILLIZZAJust to back up Amy's point, and to Barbara's point, I think there was a number in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which was released earlier this week, that even my jaded cynicism that kind of opened my eyes, Diane, they asked, would you approve of many members of Congress, House and Senate -- they didn't say party -- many members of Congress who had been in Washington for 15 years and more losing their election in 2012?
CILLIZZAFifty-one percent strongly approved of that idea. If you need a number that gets at the frustration -- and I would always -- it's to Amy's point, 2006, 2008, it was frustration aimed at Republicans. 2010, it was frustration aimed at Democrats. This is not -- I think we are caught in the Democratic versus Republican bifurcated way of viewing things. I think people now view it as doers and sayers, some combination of that. Those numbers are -- if you're an incumbent, have to be shocking.
REHMLet's talk about Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce. He was the lead architect at that state's tough immigration law. He was voted out. Was that a surprise, Ron?
ELVINGIt was certainly a surprise. I'm sure it was a great surprise to Russell Pearce.
ELVINGThis is the man who was not only the architect of their most famous law, but also the president of their state Senate. He was a major figure in the state, and he assumed that he had his Republican Party with him. Now, let's bear in mind the person who defeated him in this recall election was another Republican. He started the effort, and he put his own face on it. And he carried it forward, and he said, this is too much. We don't want this kind of extremist politics here in Arizona.
ELVINGNow, a lot of people would be surprised to hear that because they've heard a lot of things about Arizona that tend to caricature the state or to stigmatize it as being extreme. There are many people -- most people in Arizona are not extremists of any political stripe, but their politics has recently been dominated and periodically been dominated by some people who are. Here is the more ordinary, more typical Arizona Republican pushing back and saying, we don't want to be known for that.
ELVINGAnd Russell Pearce may be a fine man, but he has become the symbol of this kind of extremism we want to push back. That, I think, is one of the two or three things about this election we had this week that, I think, is most interesting and, for some of us, creates a reaffirmation of the deep wells of, if you will, old-fashioned Americanism.
ELVINGI think that's a good word.
ELVINGPeople saying, no, we don't want to have that kind of politics. Politics is all built around constituencies. We know about the constituencies of money -- we talk about that a lot -- constituencies of race and income and class, constituencies of ideology. And if there's an American idea, it is that there is something else in politics, a greater general welfare, as you said a moment ago, that should transcend that. And we need to get back to it.
WALTERAlthough from just a pure political perspective, right, not to be the cynical one to jump in here, but Republicans also understand that there is a demographic issue here that Arizona and many states in the Southwest are dealing with, which is, obviously, Latino voters. And it's a -- you know, you think about it like a snake that has swallowed a big rat. And what's happening is the population in those states, the boom hasn't even really occurred yet because that snake is still swallowing -- that's these younger people, right?
WALTERPeople under 18, Latinos under 18 are going to come of age very soon. When they do, that is going to be a huge, huge boom in terms of the demographic advantage that Latinos are going to have in places like Arizona. If you turn off those voters today, Republicans are not coming back.
REHMWell, but what about the legal implications of what Arizona was trying to do and other states were sort of following suit, Chris?
CILLIZZAWell, it's hard, Diane, because I think it's tied so much up in the politics of it. Look, Jan Brewer, who is the governor of Arizona, I feel relatively confident, would have lost a Republican primary. She was the secretary of state. She ascended to be the governor after Janet Napolitano was named the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Every poll I saw suggested that she was going to lose a Republican primary, and if she was the Republican nominee, she would lose the general election in 2010.
CILLIZZAThe bill passes -- the immigration bill that we're talking about passes the state legislature. She decides to sign it in a very high-profile decision. Everyone running against her in the Republican primary drops out because they know they can't win, and she walks to victory in 2010. And that's what's hard, I think, is because -- to Amy's broader point about the ideological makeup not just of our Congress, but of our, in a lot ways, of our governors, of our state legislators at this point, there isn't a huge incentive for someone like Jan Brewer to say, you know what, let's take a step back here.
CILLIZZARussell Pearce makes me take a step back because, in a lot of ways, Jan Brewer has that immigration law to thank for being the governor of the state because Republicans who vote in a Republican primary in Arizona like that bill. And I know that for some people -- many people may be listening to the show, it's hard to wrap their minds around, but they do. I can assure you, as a political reporter, that is why Jan Brewer is the governor of Arizona and that, I think, that political reality runs very much into that reasonableness calculation that we're all talking about.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to the governor seat in Kentucky. Amy, what happened there?
WALTERWell, this is good, bright spot here for Democrats, and it's not a place that Democrats traditionally do very well at the federal level. But Gov. Beshear racked up a huge win there. It was never really in doubt, partly because his Republican opponent wasn't particularly strong partly because -- and again, this is an interesting sign for incumbents coming up next year. There was nothing really that -- you know, the case to be made against him was not made particularly strongly.
WALTERThe one place that I also want to take a look at is Virginia, though. And, you know, Bob -- we're obviously right across the river here -- Bob McDonnell is getting mentioned very often as a potential VP pick. And the results in that state last night...
WALTERWith anyone. Well, with the Republican.
REHMWith anyone? Okay.
WALTERNo, I mean, the talk is, no, no, no.
CILLIZZANot Barack Obama.
WALTERThe talk is -- yes. It would be the Republican. It would most likely be Mitt Romney, who is the likely Republican nominee right now. Part of the reason is, here's a guy who is sitting in a swing state with a very high approval ratings, somewhere in the 60s. His party picked up the state Senate, well, theoretically.
REHMStill, yeah, you may be in a recount there.
WALTERStill, we're 86 votes. It could be. Sure, sure, sure, sure. But the point is -- I just want to make two points. One, that was -- certainly, if you're Bob McDonnell, that's a good night and another reason why he stays in the spotlight and why Republicans continue to promote him as potential vice presidential nominee. But I -- as the real dork, political geek that I am, I went through and looked at all the state Senate districts that were on the ballot last night.
WALTERAnd what you find is that, I think, going back to the point we made at the very beginning, whatever wave hit in 2008 and 2010, these big partisan, big elections that were about sending a message, that seems to have receded now. And I think we're back to whatever level of normal we have back in this country, or at least back in a swing state like Virginia, where how the candidates performed at the state level pretty much mirrored how other candidates have done -- how Barack Obama did, how John McCain did -- suggesting that we're going to look at a very close race in that state in 2012.
REHMYou're frowning, Ron.
ELVINGI'm frowning only 'cause I'm thinking hard about whether or not I should say something cynical here.
ELVINGBut just to balance off that seemingly positive thing I might have said a moment ago, I'm not sure that the governor of Virginia wants to have full control of the Virginia legislature next year. I think they probably will have. It appears they will have. But what we have seen around the country is that when you have full control -- whether it is the national legislature, the Congress, or whether it is a state legislature -- if a governor's got everything working for him, if he's got every lever there is, his constituency says, all right, now we want everything we want, and we want it now.
ELVINGAnd everybody else gets a little frightened and backs off and pushes back. I think that's the lesson we learned this week. So, in a sense, the governor of Virginia would have been a little bit luckier to stay just one twist to the dial south of total control.
REHMAll right. So thinking now as political strategists do, what key points are you -- put yourself not as a reporter, but a political strategist -- what are you going to pick up on, Chris?
CILLIZZAI think, one, I would echo Amy's point that I think we are now -- I hesitate to say at equilibrium because I think the American electorate remains frustrated, anxious, uncertain. But I think that that is less directed at one party or the other than it has been, in 2008, at Republicans, 2010, at Democrats -- so kind of a partisan equilibrium. The other thing I would say is that this is nothing new under the sun, Diane.
CILLIZZACampaigns and candidates still matter, particularly when you're not on a national playing field that is heavily tilted toward one side. Steve Beshear is a perfect example. At the start of this election, Barack Obama got into the 30s in Kentucky. You would think a Democratic governor, no matter how conservative he is, would be in deep, deep peril. Steve Beshear raised a lot of money. He went out and defined his opponent, David Williams, state Senate president, very negatively.
CILLIZZADavid Williams gave him plenty of fodder to define him very negatively, as did Richie Farmer, former University of Kentucky basketball player and David Williams' running mate as lieutenant governor, a really poor campaign run by the Republicans. And Beshear focused on what he could focus on. Things are not great, but they're getting better. And I'm a better option than the other guy. I think that if you're an incumbent, you should either call Steve Beshear today or study Steve Beshear's ads and his messaging because that is a very important thing to do.
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Going to open the phones. First, we'll go to Cincinnati. Good morning, Mary Anne. You're on the air.
MARY ANNEGood morning. Hi. Well, I called to briefly speak about our issue two here in Ohio. But I am surprised that this issue three didn't make it on a bigger level, on the national stage, because this is Ohio having the chance to opt out of the so-called Obamacare, as they call it. And, quite frankly, the wording was a little tricky there on the ballot language. And I don't know if this is true, but it seems like probably people who would have really rather us not have our so-called freedom to not -- they're calling it freedom.
MARY ANNEOhio wants to choose their health care. I think a lot of people probably voted yes for that when they, you know, should have voted no and so forth. So, anyway, with the Senate Bill 5, I wanted to particularly say, though, that there were some things that were actually kind of good in the law. But like the gentleman said in the opening, it overreached and -- because, in itself, requiring performance-based pay for teachers in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.
MARY ANNEBeing able to possibly lay off teachers based on their -- above being based on their seniority is not necessarily a bad thing. But the thing about it is when he got into the -- eliminating people's ability to strike or negotiate for critical safety equipment, I think that's what, you know -- it turned me off 'cause I...
REHMAll right. Mary Anne, thanks for calling. Overreached.
ELVINGYes. And, you know, this health care issue that is still so much on people's minds -- and it's come up several times here -- one thing that happened yesterday got overwhelmed in all the other news, national news, international news, was a decision made here in the District of Columbia, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This is sometimes called the little Supreme Court. It handles cases of importance to the federal government.
ELVINGA decision was written by Laurence Silberman, who is a good friend of Clarence Thomas who is a conservative justice with absolutely impeccable credentials as a conservative, and who wrote the opinion -- and, in one way or another, I believe all the members of the court who were on the panel agreed with, although they had some disagreements in the specifics -- that the Obamacare, as it's often called, or the Affordable Care Act of 2010, is constitutional.
ELVINGAnd they rejected the idea that the individual mandate, which is the focus of such things as this vote in Ohio and many other states trying to opt out, the individual mandate is constitutional. And they provided a philosophical judicial basis on which the United States Supreme Court, including some of its most conservative members, could approve the law when they take it up sometime next year.
REHMAll right. A caller here in D.C. Good morning, Dan.
DANGood morning. Well, I guess my comment was about the initial impression that was made that somehow the electoral result were a response to sort of random overreach by both sides or Republicans and Democrats. It seems, actually, the overreach, at least my read was, you know, on this -- on the Republican Party in Ohio that really -- you know, Republican governor that pushed this, you know, anti-labor union legislation in Maine, where the Republican Party really wanted a -- you know, did away with the, you know, the voter...
DANYeah, yeah. The voter registration, you know, and the Republican Party in the city that really pushed, you know, for the abortion law, so...
REHMAll right. What do you think, Chris?
CILLIZZAYeah. I mean, I would say that I don't think we -- well, I'll speak for myself. I would say if I look broadly at everything that happened last night, that if you're a Democrat, it was a pretty good night for you, particularly coming off the last big election being 2010 when you lost 63 House seats in the House majority. I think the common thread -- and it's hard. I think, as reporters, we always try to look at these elections in Maine, in Mississippi, Oregon -- there was a special election -- and say, oh, well, clearly the knot that ties all these things together, sometimes there aren't.
CILLIZZAThe one thing I would say, though, in Ohio and Maine at least, as it relates to overreach, brand-new Republican governors elected with a pretty big majority, and I do think probably went too far with what they were pushing.
REHMChris Cillizza, Amy Walter, Ron Elving. Short break, right back.
REHMWelcome back. As we talk about yesterday's election, here is an email from David in Baltimore, who says, "Health care is very important to deal with when discussing the economy. Let's not pretend that trying to affect health care inflation in a sector that takes up 15 percent of GDP and growing is not a pressing issue to the future of our country's economy. The first thing the president did was absolutely not health care reform. It was stimulus bills and the help for the automotive industry among other things. I listen to a lot of political punditry. Much of it's simply untrue."
WALTERWell, you know, they -- Chris Cillizza, I don't know if you can trust him.
WALTERThey -- I think that is correct that -- the caller/emailer is correct in that it was not the very first thing that the president had done.
WALTERYes, it was the stimulus. Yes, he had to continue to work as President Bush had on the auto bailout. But the fact that it -- that the health care bill took over a year to pass through the system, that is what, for the average voter...
REHMSlowed everything else down.
WALTEROh, it was about everything. And while the president and Democrats said we can walk and chew gum, we can do multiple things at once, it really didn't. And so I think it was -- the message that was sent was two-fold. One, that the stimulus went through, it passed, but there was not a tangible benefit that people saw. There was not an immediate benefit. And there still, three years later, has not been a meaningful impact on the unemployment rate in this country.
REHMAll right. To Rochester, N.Y. Good morning, David.
DAVIDI have a question. It's basically a question, a perception I have that I want to pose to a question, ask your political commentators' opinion. People perhaps, maybe with the new -- with social media communications beginning to see that propositions placed on ballots in states like, you know, the one in California, the one down in Mississippi and Ohio, the situation in Ohio, that the technique -- now, I'm an independent voter.
DAVIDThe techniques used by the Republican Party to a much more disproportionate extent of using wet issues to draw people to the polls and thereby manipulating election.
ELVINGThe most successful example of that I can think of was 2004 when Karl Rove organized a number of efforts around the country to have ballot referenda on gay marriage. And he managed to get a lot of states considering the issue of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a man and woman, things of that nature, ban gay marriage. And while the results aren't all that -- were mixed in terms of changing the society, it clearly brought out a more conservative strain of voters in certain states, particularly Ohio where the out -- the turnout concentration for both parties was very high in 2004.
ELVINGBut in the end, even though the Democrats blew out all of their numbers and projections, the Republicans did just a little better, and in South -- in Southern Ohio and also in the African American community where George W. Bush did surprisingly well. Only 16 percent, I believe, was the number. But that was big for George W. Bush against the Democratic candidate John Kerry. And that was just enough to guarantee just about 100-, 120,000 vote margin of victory for George W. Bush in Ohio, which was his winning margin in the Electoral College.
WALTERAlthough, I will point out in 2008, when you had Proposition 8 on the ballot in California, obviously, President Obama did exceedingly well. Their Proposition 8 ended up winning as well.
REHMLet's talk about another issue playing out on the national stage, which has, so far, not been on the ballot, and that is the candidacy of Herman Cain. We've got a number of women who have now raised their hands and said, me, too. Where do you think, considering yesterday's elections, is there any clue? Is there any correlation? Is there any indication of how our voters reacted in their own states to what's happening with Herman Cain, Chris?
CILLIZZAI mean, I think the election yesterday was an affirmation that voters are frustrated, fed up, in some ways. I would point out -- and Amy's got the details on her yellow piece of paper -- here in Virginia, lots and lots of Virginia incumbents won. Steve Beshear, the incumbent in Kentucky, won.
CILLIZZAOf course, I wrote something yesterday that said incumbency is a dirty word, and I still believe that because I do think the nature of politics at the moment is if you say -- if you have Rep., Sen., Gov. before your name, people look at you a little askance. I think that's what Herman Cain has largely capitalized on. Do I think his explanation that the reason these women have come forward is because there are people in the country uncomfortable with a businessman in the White House? No. That doesn't make any sense to me.
CILLIZZABut I do think his appeal -- and in some ways, you have to date that appeal too. Before last Sunday when we -- when Politico first reported on this, his appeal, his rise in the polls is fueled by the fact that he, in fact, does not have any record of serving in politics. He does not sound, look, act like a politician. Now, he's trying to turn that in his favor as he reacts to these sexual harassment allegations.
CILLIZZAI actually think he would do well to have a little bit more organization and follow a tried and true crisis communication plan, which he's not doing, and neither is his campaign manager Mark Block. But his appeal, Diane, is, without question, tied into the fact that he has never been a senator. He has never been a House member. He has never been a governor. He has never been in the state legislature. I think that is at the essence of why people like Herman Cain.
ELVINGThis is a moment when I would believe that, normally, a businessman would have a certain kind of strong appeal to say, it's time we get back to free-market principles. This is what a Republican candidate ought to be saying right now, both for the primaries and also, to some degree, for an election year in which unemployment will continue to be high in storied terms. And even if we don't have any further downturn in the economy, the economy is going to be relatively weak.
ELVINGAnd this sense that if you just turn it all over to a business executive who really knows how to create jobs, everything will be fine, it has a certain amount of resonance with the voting public. Now, Mitt Romney is trying to do that. He's going to have a little bit of trouble because of his own record as a businessman creating jobs but also eliminating jobs. And that's going to be a big issue for him next year. But Herman Cain can just come on and say, I'm a businessman.
ELVINGI know how to do this. I've never been in the government. I have a very simple plan for fixing everything about our country's fiscal problems. Taxation, everything else, it's just 999. You don't have to ask any questions. Please don't ask any questions. And that's it. It's simple. Just trust me.
REHMAnd what about all these allegations, Amy?
WALTERI mean, at some point, you say, all right, one woman, my word versus hers. You can -- definitely, you can raise questions about whether she is telling the truth, whether he's telling the truth. Two women, three, four, five, at what point is the tipping point? And I think we're to the point where he may be reaching it, and we may be at a point right now. We've heard -- one of the other previously anonymous accusers came forward yesterday, talked to The New York Times.
WALTERRight. She's -- again, most of these women were in their 20s when this happened. This was back in the '90s. So they are now grown up. They have real jobs. And many of them are married. They have families of their own. It's understandable why they may not want to go public right now. They have a lot at stake in terms of their -- keeping their privacy and their family's privacy intact. And yet, you know, at some point, you know, that you do believe that this is -- it's going to have to tip over a second.
WALTERThe one reason why I think, you know, people wondered, well, why didn't he collapse initially right when the first claim or the second claim or even after -- you know, we saw a poll since these allegations have been out there that show Herman Cain is still at the top of the polls. It's not simply -- I think Chris is exactly right. One is because he's not a typical politician, so there's -- there-- the messenger has a certain level of credibility that a candidate won it who has senator, governor, congressman in front of their name.
WALTERThe second is, I think, if you want to talk about cynicism against Washington, the cynicism against the media is as high as it's ever been, too. And so I think for many conservatives, for many Republicans, they hear that the media is saying there are problems with Herman Cain. They see that this is, again, maybe generated by a system that drives and drives its viewers from taking down conservatives.
REHMYou know, I heard the defense lawyer who has been hired by Herman Cain now, a libel lawyer who's won lots of cases, big cases, say that this -- these allegations have been generated or put forward by the media. I did not get that. I mean, I don't understand that.
CILLIZZAI took to my -- Diane, I took to my preferred method of communicating these days, which is Twitter, but I couldn't agree more. I was -- this shows you my level of nerdiness. I was caught in traffic, but I was listening on C-SPAN radio to the press conference. It was one of the first things he said.
CILLIZZAThe -- I just want to be -- the allegations that Politico first reported on the settlements that we now know have been paid up, the media didn't create those...
REHMThe media did it.
CILLIZZA...allegations. We didn't pay out the $35- or the $45,000. The national Restaurant Association did that. We covered it. I know we're an easy scapegoat and -- lots of myself -- we are self-flagellating. We beat ourselves up, too. But this is not what -- this story did not begin with the media making something up about Herman Cain. What is indisputable is that the several women received settlements. Now, what we don't know is was there any wrongdoing for what.
CILLIZZABut these women received settlements. You go back to the original Politico story, that is what was reported on that Herman Cain has never taken issue with. That is a fact. How would we not report on that? This is someone who is running to be the most influential person in this country, probably the most powerful person in the world.
ELVINGBut if you are Herman Cain and you're trying to decide whom you want to demonize as your tormentor, you start out with your Republican rivals. And that's where he started out last week, said it was coming from Rick Perry's campaign. They had to back off with that.
REHMAnd then they blamed it on Democrats.
ELVINGAnd then he said it was -- well, and he's still saying it's a Democrat machine.
ELVINGIt's what generating these people, even though, of course, as we know, at least some of these people, two have publicly identified themselves, are actually registered Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. And so that seems a bit odd. But on the other hand, if you bring out this particular lawyer, L. Lin Wood, I believe is his name, and this is what he does. This is his stock-in-trade.
ELVINGHe will portray the entire thing as a figment, if not a figment of the imagination of the media, more specifically an obsession of the media in order to attract audience.
WALTERAnd he's raised a ton of money off of it.
REHMYeah. He sure has.
WALTERI mean, he is boasting about the fact that he has raised a lot of money since these allegations begun. He joked with Jimmy Kimmel about this that, you know, it's made him stronger as a campaigner and helped his candidacy. He's up on TV now with ads in Iowa. His campaign is still moving along, and we'll see for how much longer he can hold on.
REHMAll right. To Glen in Panama City, Fla. Good morning. You're on the air.
GLENHi, Diane. Thank you for providing this great and valuable service. Hello, Ron. Hello, Amy.
GLENI wanted to say...
GLENI wanted to say that I think that this personhood thing in Mississippi is just revisiting Roe v. Wade. It's an enormous amount of energy being wasted. And the Supreme Court is -- and meanwhile, with this big smokescreen intact, meanwhile the Supreme Court has given personhood to corporations.
CILLIZZAI would say, despite the fact that you didn't say thank you to me...
CILLIZZAI'm just kidding. I would say that I think the Republican political professional class, strategists, people who are involved in campaigns would agree 100 percent with what he said, that this is a distraction. This is pointless. It does not help the Republican Party win over independents. It's not going to change anything, that Roe v. Wade, if it is ever changed, will change in a legal, not a political venue.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Thanks for calling, Glen. Here's an email from Virginia, who's in Hudson, Ohio. She says, "Issue 3 in Ohio was so deceptively worded that the yes vote cannot be considered a rejection of the Affordable Care Act. The language was as follows, 'to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.'" Ron.
ELVINGWell, all those who are implacably opposed to freedom for Ohioans, I suppose, would have no problem at all voting on that. Most people would be confused by that, I believe. And I'm sure that polling will show that there was a certain amount of confusion in terms of whether or not people knew exactly what they were voting for there. I don't know that that particular referendum is going to have any particular legal affect.
ELVINGWhereas the one that we have been talking about, Issue 2, which was the repeal of Senate Bill 5, in Ohio, is going to have an enormous amount of effect because it keeps that law from taking effect. It was going to take effect once it had gotten past this particular hurdle, did not get over the hurdle, so it doesn't take effect. The other -- I don't know will necessarily affect how health care is delivered in the state of Ohio at anytime.
CILLIZZADiane, can I just make a quick point?
CILLIZZAI think that the emailer hits on something that's important, is that drawing -- it makes it difficult sometimes to draw broad conclusions from these ballot initiatives because, remember, the people who put this on the ballot tend to be political strategists and consultants. Amy and I have talked about this many times. What you typically want in a situation like this is for your position to be the no vote because these are low information.
CILLIZZAMost times, you do not know much about these ballot initiatives. The natural human tendency is, when you don't know about something, to say, that doesn't sound like a good idea. So creating this as a 100 percent informed electorate about all of these ballot initiatives, voters very rarely even know who their member of Congress is, much less down ballot initiatives. So you have to be careful about analyzing too much of what it meant.
CILLIZZANot -- to Ron's point, that doesn't take away their impact because it will stop, in some ways, in Ohio, it will stop the collective bargaining repeal. But I always -- I'm careful to draw too broad a conclusion of what it means.
REHMAll right. Amy, I want your take on what yesterday's elections could mean for 2012.
WALTERYou know, I think the watchwords are competence and compromise and that they are not dirty words. And I know that in the battles that we have here in Washington, compromise does seem to be a dirty word. I think what voters are saying clearly is they don't want something that goes to the very extreme. And they are willing to listen to and even support something that seems reasonable and that has been hashed out by both sides.
WALTERAnd that, I think, if you're running for office this year, Chris is right. You take a sheet from Beshear's notebook or from some other folks who are running this year and focus on the things that you have been able to do well, even though they may seem small.
REHMDo you think that yesterday's elections could have an impact on the super committee, Ron?
ELVINGI wish I could think that something would have an impact on the super committee. Right now, they seem like a concrete bunker, that bunker-busting bombs that they've been absolutely hammered with, all fall long, have not been able to affect. But I hope that they would catch the spirit of what the voters were saying.
REHMRon Elving, Amy Walter, Chris Cillizza, thank you all. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
Most Recent Shows
The NSA's bulk data collection faces a Friday deadline. A massive airbag recall could take years to complete. And the State Department makes plans to release the first batch of Hillary Clinton's emails. A panel of journalists joins guest host Indira Lakshmanan for analysis of the week's top national news stories.
For years President Andrew Jackson was locked in a battle over Indian lands with a Cherokee chief. NPR’s Steve Inskeep on the history of that rivalry, how it led to the "Trail of Tears" and helped set the stage for the Civil War.
Los Angeles voted to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Dozens of other cities have passed or are considering similar measures. We dive into the debate over minimum wage laws across the country.