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Leading Off:

Ideology: Here's one of those topics where a picture—or in this case, two pictures—really is worth a thousand words: The Guardian's Harry Enten features a pair of charts from (the guardians of the DW-NOMINATE archive) that track the average DW-N score of the two parties over the decades, going back to the 1870s. DW-N scores empirically rank each legislator (and each party) along a spectrum from negative 1 (most liberal) to positive 1 (most conservative) without making any judgment calls about which votes to include and which to exclude, because it automatically counts every vote.

The first graph below is for the Senate and the second is for the House; both show parallel movement, suggesting that polarization isn't just limited to the extensively gerrymandered lower chamber (click the images for larger versions):

Senate polarization chart
House polarization chart
Importantly, the charts also show just how one-sided the increasing polarization of Congress has been, as, since the early `70s, the Democrats' average score has stayed level (in the -0.35 range) even with the gradual loss of the southern white conservaDems ... but the Republicans have gotten a little more conservative each cycle, moving up to at least a 0.5 (meaning they're significantly more conservative than the Democrats are liberal).

There are probably a variety of explanations for this shift beginning in the early `70s—the solidification of each party's base in the wake of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," the beginnings of the rise of the "religious right"—but one important, often overlooked factor may be the steps take by the conservative movement toward the development of a right-wing Beltway financial and intellectual infrastructure (in the wake of the Powell Memorandum), which was instrumental in instilling greater conservative discipline within Republican members of Congress. (David Jarman & David Nir)


ID-Sen: Hmm. GOP Sen. Mike Crapo says he won't contest drunken driving charges when he appears in court in Virginia in January, stemming from a recent arrest in Alexandria where his blood-alcohol level was well over the legal limit. But we still don't know what Crapo was doing when he got pulled over, seeing as all his colleagues had gone home for the Christmas holiday—and seeing as he'd always been known as a teetotaler, in accordance with Mormon doctrine. It sounds like he wants this to all get swept under the rug as quietly as possible, but I wonder if he'll have to allocute in some fashion when his case is heard.

LA-Sen: It's a pretty vague quote, but I can't imagine we've seen the last of a young true believer like Jeff Landry. The outgoing one-term GOP representative, who just lost a redistricting-induced runoff in December but is only 41 years old, says of his future: "I'll be available if an opportunity comes to promote conservative values." So I've got to believe that means he'll at least consider a challenge to Dem Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2014—though of course that would mean getting through a Republican primary first. Given how much of a rogue wingnut Landry is, Democrats would probably prefer to face him most of all, so if he gets in, I'd love to see Landrieu engage in some Claire McCaskill/Harry Reid-type ratfucking to help push Landry past the line.

MA-Sen: Last Friday afternoon, we saw the Democratic establishment—John Kerry, the DSCC, Vicki Kennedy—rally around Rep. Ed Markey at the party's standard-bearer to succeed Kerry in the Senate special election expected some time in the middle of 2013. Not long after, one of the top names still considering the race, Rep. Mike Capuano, offered a bristly response in a statement:

"It seems that the big names of our party are trying to choose our nominee for us. When I became Mayor of Somerville the establishment wasn't with me. When I became a Member of Congress the establishment wasn't with me. If I make this run it will be the same way—from the streets up, not from the elite down."
That's some big talk from Capuano, who is making an entirely process-based argument that has nothing to do with any ideological differences between himself and Markey. While I can't say I've conducted an exhaustive study, I suspect those sorts of complaints often fail to resonate loudly enough to make the difference in a primary (for example, see Andrew Romanoff's failed "it's my turn" run against Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Colorado Democratic primary).

What's more, Capuano didn't perform well in the primary for the prior Senate special, taking just 28 percent of the vote in a four-way field, raising only $2.6 million in his losing effort. To put that monetary figure in perspective, Markey already has more than that in the bank right now. So if Capuano wants to run a campaign centered around resentment toward the establishment, it's not at all clear to me that he has the kind of track record to pull something like that off. Don't get me wrong: Markey could stumble, or prove unpopular on the campaign trail. But right now, if Capuano wants to get in, he'd have a lot going against him.

One other less well-known name is still weighing a bid, too: state Sen. Benjamin Downing, whose campaign issued a statement claiming that Markey's entrance wasn't going to affect his own decision making. Downing would have one potential advantage Capuano lacks: geography. Downing is from Pittsfield in the western part of the state, whereas almost all of the other would-be contenders hail from the more populous eastern half of Massachusetts. But that phrase—"more populous"—is key: There simply aren't a ton of votes where Downing hails from, and he'd likely need someone to split the Boston-area vote with Markey... someone, like, say, Capuano.

Anyhow, on a related note, there is one member of the establishment who isn't taking sides: Gov. Deval Patrick, who says simply: "I look forward to supporting the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she may be."


KY-Gov: The future of the Kentucky Democratic Party sure looks... unusual. Democrats control almost every statewide elected position and have a bumper crop of strong candidates, but because winning on the federal level is so difficult, just about everyone is looking to move up via the governor's mansion. That should create a titanic primary in 2015 when the seat is open, and now you can add one more name to the long list of possibles: state House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who—in some rather atypical phrasing—says he's "not necessarily" interested in running for governor. I guess that means he is potentially interested, though. For a comprehensive list of names on both sides, click through the link.

Grab Bag:

Maps: Here's a cool interactive, dot-based map of the 2010 U.S. Census, overlaid on to Google Maps, from cartographer Brandon Martin-Anderson. Every dot represents a person, so you can see very clearly just how dense the urban parts of the country are—and just how empty most of the rest of the nation is. Sort of like a pointillist painting, you'll need to zoom in way close to see individual dots, but the patterns are more interesting when you're zoomed out.

Polltopia: Okay, got something for ya: PPP has a "where should we poll" poll for their first 2013 survey. Choices: Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia. I don't have strong feelings, but how about VA?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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