This post first appeared on Daily Kos. The rise of the tea party, and the pending Republican gains in Congress have led quite a few observers to declare that the country is shifting to the right ideologically. Those calls will only grow louder after the election. Even many on the left share this sentiment. Shocked at the statements of candidates like Sharron Angle and pundits like Glenn Beck, many will think that contemporary incarnations of conservatism are far more reactionary than previous manifestations. Additionally, many on the left will express the age-old progressive complaint that the rightward drift of the country is not limited to Republicans, and that today’s version of the Democratic Party is far more right-wing than the glory days of The New Deal and The Great Society. The problem with these sentiments is that they are just flat out wrong. Completely inaccurate. Demonstrably false, and easily so. The country has shifted dramatically to the left from where it was 40, 30, or even 15 years ago. Many positions that were quite recently liberal and contested are now mainstream to the point of being unchallengeable (or, at least, it is shocking when they are challenged). Many others that were lefty-fringe positions only 20 years ago are now held by a majority of the country, or at least a substantial, mainstream minority. Further, the current incarnation of the Democratic Party has managed to expand public sector social investment spending to heights that are the equivalent of the New Deal and the Great Society combined. The main flaw in the thinking that the country is moving to the right is a lack of context about where the country has been. Consider: 1. In the 1980s, interracial marriage was less accepted than same-sex marriage is accepted now. Check out Gallup’s long-term trends on approval of interracial marriage in the United States. In 1983, a majority still disapproved of it. Even in 1994, only 48% approved:
Compare that trend to the the 20-year trend on same-sex marriage:
Twenty years ago, less than 15% of American favored legalizing same sex marriage. It was a fringe position, but now polls show it to be a majority.  By contrast, twenty years ago, disapproving of interracial marriage was a majority position. Now, it’s a fringe position, and even the President of the United States is interracial. There have similarly dramatic shifts on public option about LGBT service in the military, whether homosexuality should be considered acceptable, and whether schools should be allowed to fire teachers who were out of the closet. There have been sharp, leftward shifts in favor of LGBT rights across the board over the last 20 years. 2. Declining gender income gap For another dramatic way the country has shifted to the left in recent decades, consider the following chart of the female-male income gap since 1951:
The gap has closed dramatically over the last 35 years. While the rate of change has slowed, long-term prospects are quite positive since, in 2005, "women under 25 working full-time earned 93.2% of men's salaries." 3. Marijuana While not yet a majority position in the United States, views on marijuana legalization have changed from being a fringe position in 1990 (only 16% support), to a very mainstream position today (41% support). Pew charts the trend:
The General Social Survey found very similar results that were even more favorable to the pro-legalization position. Further, as with many other social issues, it is only a matter time before marijuana legalization in a majority. According to Pew, strong majorities under the age of 30 support marijuana legalization, and narrow majorities under the age of 45. Once again, it is difficult to reconcile the rapid rise of a recently fringe left-wing position into mainstream, even majority, status with the notion that the country is moving to the right. 4. The Social Safety Net Many lefties reading this might object to the examples listed so far in this article as overly focused on social issues. Sure, the country has shifted dramatically to the left in just the past twenty years, and is poised to do so even more in the future. But what about economic issues? On that front, you may be surprised to learn that public sector social investment spending is easily at the highest percentage of GDP that it has ever obtained in the past:
When defense, law enforcement and interest payments on the debt are removed from overall public spending, the public sector is much larger now than it has ever been in the past. In fact, not only have the last two years seen the first significant gains on this front since the mid-1970’s, but public sector spending as a percentage of GDP is now roughly equal to its peak under the New Deal (14% in 1940) and the Great Society (19% in 1968) combined. Even when the stimulus is over, and unemployment finally begins dropping, public sector social spending should remain higher than any pre-2009 level in the entire history of the United States. *** The point of this article is not to say that progressives should be satisfied with our current levels of progress. Certainly not. A new report released this week by the Census Bureau shows poverty reaching 15-year high. Additionally, income inequality continues to rise, as it has for decades. We still have big problems, and we need to keep pushing to rectify them. Also, the point of this article is not to imply that progressive victories are guaranteed. Even as you read this, there are big pushes to tear down much social investment spending, including Social Security. And yes, that threat does come from a Republican Party that is far more right-wing than its predecessors (at least on economic issues, which is all that is measured in the chart below):
As the two parties continue to sort out into ideological, rather than regional, coalitions, it is far more possible than ever before for conservatives to dominate Congress. That is a serious threat to progress. The point of this article is to provide context to lazy claims that the country is moving to the right. Such claims are irreconcilable with 20-year trends on LGBT rights and marijuana legalization, 40-year trends on gender equality, 50-year trends on minority rights, and 80-year trends on social investment spending as a percentage of GDP. The country has moved dramatically to the left in all of those areas. Many liberal positions that were fringe just 15-20 years ago are now majority positions. Many conservative positions that were the majority just 20 years ago are now fringe. And the social safety net is now as large as it was under FDR and LBJ combined. Before you claim the country is moving to the right, be cognizant of where it has been--even of where it was back when Kurt Cobain was topping the charts. We really have come a long way.
This post first appeared on Daily Kos. For a party that denounces “big government” and “socialism” at every turn, Republicans are oddly terrified of the alternative: privatization. Case in point: Republican Senatorial candidate and former Club for Growth chair Pat Toomey. Although Toomey favors moving Social Security out of the public sector and into the stock market--aka, privatization—he will never, ever use the word privatization. Further, he will adamantly deny that he favors privatization. Consider how Toomey reacted to a question at the National Press Club yesterday when asked about Social Security privatization:
Q: Do you continue to favor privatizing Social Security? A: I’ve never said I favor privatizing Social Security. It’s a very misleading — it’s an intentionally misleading term.
Privatization is exactly what Toomey supports. He wants to take Social Security money out of the public sector of the government and put it in the private sector of the stock market. That is why it is called "privatization." The DSCC catalogued 36 instances where Toomey supported exactly that policy. What Toomey, and most other Republicans, oppose is not actual privatization, but the word “privatization.” Republicans used to use the word when discussing their plans for Social Security but in the fall of 2002, they made the linguistic slide away from the term en masse. They did this once it became known how poorly variants on the word “private” poll in regards to Social Security. Talking Points Memo documented some Republicans making this shift:
Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana before word came down from party headquarters (Nov. 1, 2000) ...
Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized. It's not a 'risky scheme.'
Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana after word came down from party headquarters (Sept. 3rd, 2002) ...
I do not support the privatization of Social Security.
Bob Novak before the word came down from party headquarters (Capitol Gang, Sept. 14th, 2002 where we find Mark Shields at mid-Outrage of the Week) ...
Mark Shields: In an Orwellian abuse of the language, conservatives, including even the respected Cato Institute, insist that they're now for Social Security choice, not for dreaded 'privatization'. Yes, and war is peace. Robert D. Novak. NOVAK: I'm still for privatization.
Bob Novak after the word came down from party headquarters (Crossfire, Oct. 28th, 2002) ...
[Democratic consultant] Steve McMahon: I thought they were accusing the Republicans of wanting to privatize Social Security which, after all, is what Republicans wanted. NOVAK: That's a Democratic term.
Conservatives favor turning Social Security over to the private sector. However, they will vehemently deny wanting to privatize Social Security because it polls poorly. With the possible exceptions of Muslims, the LGBT community, and immigrants, there may not be anything Republicans fear more than the use of the word, “privatization.” As such, Democrats need to keep hammering away at Republicans with the term. Maybe if enough Democrats do so, all of them will come to oppose privatization, too.
This post first appeared on Open Left. One of the main problems facing the Democratic Party on a national level is that it caters to the 20-30% of its elected officials who are primarily center-right when it comes to public policy. (For a list of the ways the party caters to this 20-30%, read my article "BREAKING: I am now a conservative Democrat.").  In the upcoming 2010 elections, the net result of this catering is likely to be a a minimal electoral boost for that 20-30% of the party, and a massive electoral setback for the entire party, including that 20-30%. This prediction is based on available empirical studies on electoral outcomes.  It rests first on a study showing that candidates who appear moderate gain about 2% at the polls.  Andrew Gelman:
There is definitely some evidence that moderate candidates do better. Steven Rosenstone discussed this in his classic 1984 book, Forecasting Presidential Elections, and others have looked into this as well.  For example, my 2008 paper, "Should the Democrats move to the left on economic policy?" We also have some graphs in chapter 9 of Red State, Blue State, one showing the (estimated) benefits of moderation in congressional elections, and another graph for presidential elections.  The short story is that moderation can get you something like 2 percentage points of the vote (or, if you want to look at it another way, extremism can lose you something like 2 percentage points).
Now, 2% isn't nothing, and can make the difference in many campaigns.  However, this 2% swing is dwarfed by the impact that changes in real disposable income has on elections. Ezra Klein:
"In presidential elections," Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels says, "a 1 percent boost in election-year income growth has typically increased the incumbent party's vote share by about 2 percent. So an incumbent party that won 51 percent of the vote in an average economic year like 2004 would be expected to win only 46 percent in a recession year like 2008." Which is, as you may remember, pretty much exactly what happened. Congressional elections are a bit more difficult because they're more local, but they end up being predictable, too. Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego, has a model that uses the number of seats the majority party holds, the approval rating of the president and the change in real disposable income, and predicts about 70 percent of the change from one election to the next.
The accompanying graph that Klein produced is also worth a look.  The bottom line is that changes in real disposable income can, and do, have much more impact on electoral outcomes than does the appearance of moderation. Real disposable income is the dominant ideology among swing voters.  This should not come as a shock, or even a mild surprise.  The mushy middle is not full of political junkies, but it is full of people who worry about their pocketbooks.  As such, whether things get better or worse for their pocketbooks, those voters will blame the governing party, and vote accordingly. In an ideal world, Democrats would get credit for moderation, and institute public policies that significantly increased real disposable income nationwide, thus creating a massive electoral landslide in their favor.  Readers of Open Left might remember this as the old eleven-dimensional chess strategy of appearing to be moderate in public, but in fact being a secret progressive when it came time to write legislation (Chris Matthews supported that line of thinking in the first question he asked me back when I appeared on Hardball).  However, following the current "moderate" line of slashing stimulus spending to reduce the size of the deficit is antithetical to getting more money in the hands of voters. Blocking unemployment benefits will result in less money in the hands of voters who are unemployed.  Blocking the Medicare "doc fix" will result in less money in the hands of doctors who vote.  Blocking an extension of COBRA and a public option will result in voters who have to purchase individual insurance having less money in their hands.  Cutting aid to states to prevent layoffs will result in state workers who vote having less money in their hands.  Blocking a cap on ATM fees means less money in the hands of voters.  Blocking $100 billion in the first stimulus resulted in voters of all sorts having less money in their hands.  And that is just a partial list. As a governing party, if you want to win elections, you have to get more money in the hands of voters than they had the year before.  That is simply impossible if your policy focus is on cutting spending, which is the current, dominant mantra of being a "moderate."  Those same "moderates" even want to cut Social security and Medicare payments in order to slightly cut the deficit, which would be a truly disastrous electoral move. Talk about taking money out of the hands of voters! Democrats want to help the center-right members of their party win by allowing them to appear "moderate" to swing voters, and thus water down every piece of legislation the party proposes.  However, all Democrats, including the center-right Democrats, are all going to lose big because they failed to enact progressive public policies that would have resulted in putting more money in the hands of voters.  Whatever benefit the blue Dogs get at the ballot box for appearing "moderate" will be canceled out, several times over, because voters are pissed that they have less money in their wallets. The dominant ideology of swing voters is disposable income.  As such, enact public policies that increase real disposable income, or else face defeat at the ballot box.  It really is that simple.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Last night the AP reported that an aide to Harry Reid said the jobs bill (which extends unemployment benefits, various tax cuts, aid to state to pay for Medicare and Medicaid, and more) would be dropped if it failed a cloture vote today. Earlier this morning, I spoke to an aide in Harry Reid's office who confirmed this story to me. Here is the state of play:
  1. The bill is two votes short, as it faces united opposition from Republicans and assistance from Ben Nelson.
  2. Republicans are offering a one-month extension, and Democrats are rejecting that offer.  While it is not impossible that a deal would be struck before the vote today, it is unlikely.
  3. If the cloture vote fails, then the Senate will not take up the bill again.  Procedural delays have created a quagmire where many other pieces of legislation, including the Wall Street reform bill and others which can create jobs rather than just protecting them, need to be dealt with.  A 30-day extension would just back up the process even further, as it means there would be another fight before the august recess.
  4. Here is what will happen as a result of this bill being defeated:
    Come Friday, 1.2 million people will lose access to the extended unemployment benefits, a number that will grow by several hundred thousand every week after that. Fifty million Medicare claims from June are currently in process at the reduced rate, which the AARP says has already caused some of its members to have trouble finding a doctor. And the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that dropping the $24 billion in aid to states will lead to cuts in services and thousands of layoffs, and that spending cuts to close states' aggregate budget shortfall absent new federal funds in 2011 would lead to 900,000 public- and private-sector layoffs.
The aide stressed that while the outlook is grim for today's cloture vote, and while you never know what will happen in the Senate, there is no path forward on the bill right now.  It's just dead. This is a monstrous defeat.  This is going to hurt a lot of people, and Republicans won't pay any political price for it.  No one is writing about this, and with Democrats in charge, they will be blamed for it.  A huge, huge victory for Republicans.  Looks like they didn't even need the 2010 elections.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. One of the most disappointing outcomes in the Wall Street reform fight to date was the resounding defeat of the Brown-Kaufman amendment to strictly limit the size of large financial institutions.  To put it bluntly, the amendment would have broken up the big banks, thus reducing their almost unprecedented concentration of power and wealth (and the control over our democracy that comes with that concentration of power and wealth). However, even though this sweeping amendment failed, a series of piecemeal efforts to break up the big banks continues.  Here are updates on three ongoing efforts that aim to reduce the size and power of our largest financial institutions:
  1. Move Your MoneyThe Move Your Money campaign is a grassroots driven effort to break up the big banks without waiting for Congress to act.  The idea is simple: move your money out of the big banks that caused the financial crisis, and into community banks with a strong record of sound, local investment.In the same way that you buy locally to help build a sustainable, local economy, you can do the same thing to help end Too Big to Fail.  Join with Open Left sponsor, Democracy for America, and pledge to move your money, too. It makes a big difference, is easier than it seems, and doesn't require the help of Congress in any way, shape or form.
  2. "Swap desk" spin-off  gaining steam In an attempt to gain some populist credibility during her primary with Bill Halter, Arkansas Senate Blanche Lincoln inserted strong derivatives regulation language into the Wall Street bill.  The language forces banks to spin-off their derivatives trading sections into separate entities, a requirement which would cost banks billions of dollars a year.  Now, in the wake of Lincoln's victory in the primary, this legislation is actually gaining steam.  From the Financial Times, via David Dayen:
    Banks are likely to lose a key lobbying battle in the US over whether they will be forced to spin off their lucrative swaps desks, according to people familiar with financial reform negotiations in Congress. Defeat, which would be a further blow to Wall Street, has been made more likely by Paul Volcker, the influential former Federal Reserve chairman, softening his opposition to the provision.
    This battle is far from won, given that many in the Obama administration still oppose it. However, it was considered all but dead just a week ago,a nd is now gaining support at least partially as a result of Lincoln's primary victory.  Bitterly disappointing as that victory was, it might yet have a surprisingly positive outcome in the battle to break up Wall Street.
  3. Retailers gaining ground in "swipe fee" battle. The banks are also reeling in a third front in the fight to reduce the power of the nation's largest financial institutions.  Credit card companies and credit card-issuing banks are locked in a battle with retailer associations and consumer advocates to put limits on the size of credit card processing fees.  This could cost banks up to $20 billion a year, further eroding their power and transferring that wealth to the wide range of businesses--small and large, god and and evil--that rely on consumer's making purchases with credit and debit cards. Senator Dick Durbin is leading on the charge on this fight.  Last month, he as assembled a bipartisan coalition of 47 Democrats and 17 Republicans in favorof the proposal, thus inserting it into the Senate Wall Street bill. The language is not in the House proposal, where Debbie Wasserman Schultz is leading the fight on behalf of the banks and credit card companies. The issue will be decided in the ongoing Wall Street reform conference committee, and Durbin has the advantage by a good margin. Now, you may ask why you should care about a fight between Visa and Wal-Mart--don't consumers and working families lose no matter who wins?  Admittedly, this is not a clear-cut fight, but on the side of the retailers are also small businesses and local businesses, not to mention your donations to charities and political candidates.  Additionally, fitting in with the overall concept of this article, it is still a means of breaking up the largest financial institutions, and your local pizza shop poses a far lower risk to the overall economy than Citigroup, for example.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am currently or, in the case of #2, recently been employed in all of these efforts.  However, I am not embarrassed to be involved in advocacy efforts that will, collectively, significantly reduce the overall concentration of wealth and power megabanks have on our economy and our democracy. Despite the defeat of Brown-Kaufman, we can make real strides--to the tune of tens of billions of dollars annually--in breaking up the big banks this year. If Move your Money really takes off, we could even be talking about hundreds of billions annually.  That will make a big, concrete, positive difference for our democracy and our economy,.  Pledge to move your money, today.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. The media narrative around the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary is that labor and the netroots opposed Lincoln because she wasn't progressive enough.  However, that is not exactly correct.  Labor and netroots groups are largely piling on against Lincoln because she broke public promises on key issues that had previously earned her the support of various progressive groups.  To put it more bluntly, she won the support of many groups by lying, and now it is payback time. Unfortunately, Lincoln's betrayal of progressive groups is largely absent from the media narrative on the campaign.  For example, take this write-up on today's primaries from The Hill:
But the spotlight will shine brightest on Lincoln, who earned union scorn for opposing a public option in the healthcare bill and refusing to back card- check legislation championed by the labor movement.
The campaign dynamic present here is a simple left-right spectrum: Lincoln is being opposed because she is not sufficiently left-wing.  This is actually a narrative that Lincoln is pushing in her own ads.  In a recent TV spot, Lincoln says to the camera:
The labor unions are spending millions of dollars against me because I won't vote with them 100% of the time.
However, Lincoln did not simply oppose card check and a public option.  She made public commitments of support for both policies, before flipping when it was crunch time. On November 21st, 2009, Blanche Lincoln stood on the floor of the Senate and declared that she would filibuster any health reform bill that included a public option.  However, earlier in the year she signed a document stating that she supported the public option.  Further, even as she spoke, her Senate website said that she still supported a public option, she is still cool with the public option:
Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies.  Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans.  Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan.
And here's a screenshot:
She told progressive groups that she supported their priorities, but then she completely flipped her position when it came time to actually vote. The same dynamic took place on card check.  She voted for an Employee Free Choice Act with card check in 2007, but cimply flipped her position in 2009 once it had a chance to pass:
In the Ozark Mountain town of Rogers, Ark., more than 250 business owners gathered for lunch at a construction company last month to focus on what they saw as a major threat -- a proposal in Congress to make it easier to form labor unions. At each place setting, attendees found pre-stamped postcards and pre-written letters to be sent to Arkansas' U.S. senators, Democrats Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, who had supported the labor bill in the past. After lunch, the business owners were ushered to computers to send e-mail messages as well. Five days later came the good news: Two Senate votes had been stripped from the pro-union bill. Lincoln said she would oppose it outright, while Pryor declared the current version "dead" and said he would look for compromises.
It isn't just the public option and card check, either.  EMILY's List had also previously supported Blanche Lincoln, but did not do so in 2010 because Lincoln lied to them.  From Ellen Malcolm, EMILY's List chair
In 1998, EMILY's List helped elect Lincoln to the U.S. Senate. We believed her when she told us that that, if and when the Senate took up right-wing Senator Rick Santorum's bill to ban what he called "partial birth" abortion, she would insist on a health exception that protects women. Our members gave generously to her campaign, believing that she would steadfastly stand by the pledge she made to us to protect women's reproductive freedom. She took our members' hard-earned money to get elected. Unfortunately, when the Santorum bill came up for a vote, Lincoln voted for it even though it provided no exception to protect women's health.(...) Since she wasn't there for us, we won't be there for her.
Sure, there is an ideological element to this campaign.  Sure, there is an anti-incumbent mood.  Sure, it is unusual to get a primary challenger as strong as Bill Halter.  However, to ignore Blanche Lincoln's repeated betrayals on key issues to progressive groups who had once supported her ignores a central dynamic of this campaign. Blanche Lincoln brought this primary challenge on herself by going back on several important public commitments she had made in order to win organizational support for her previous campaigns.  She simply would not be in this sort of primary trouble if she hadn't lied and if groups like EMILY's List and labor unions were still supported her.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Congress returns to session this week.  In case you missed it, after passing Afghanistan war funding without battling an eyelash, last week Blue Dogs slashed an economic relief bill by nearly $100 billion.  It was a glorious "victory" for them:
The Blue Dogs won a significant victory by forcing House Democratic leaders to cut $79 billion in spending, including subsidies to help laid-off workers buy health insurance and ease state budget cutbacks.
This is only a victory if self-immolation is considered a victory.  Consider:
  1. Blue Dogs slash aid to states;
  2. In response, states will engage in massive layoffs of public sector workers;
  3. These layoffs will exacerbate an already dismal employment picture;
  4. Voters will likely turn against Democrats as a result;
  5. More Democrats in vulnerable seats will lose re-election;
  6. Blue Dogs are disproportionately from vulnerable seats.
So yes, truly a big victory for the blue Dogs.  They managed to reduce their own chances of re-election.  Awesome! Of course, the Blue dogs don't think they are doing this.  Instead, they think they are following the will of the voters:
"We are hearing from the public, 'You're adding to the deficit, you're adding to the deficit,'" said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, a member of the conservative Blue Dogs who have held together against many proposals that require even more borrowing by the Treasury to pay for them.
Yeah, sure they are.  That is why, when Americans are asked to list the biggest problem facing the country today, and are not prompted with a list of problems, only 5% cite the budget deficit:
CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 5-12, 2010. N=1,580 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" Open-ended Economy/Jobs: 49% Health care: 8% Budget deficit / National debt: 5% Poverty / homelessness: 4% War / Iraq / Afghanistan: 4% Big government / bureaucracy: 2% Moral values: 2% Other: 21% Unsure: 5%
The country cares a a lot more about jobs than about the deficit. So, naturally, to fulfill the will of the voters, Blue Dogs slash aid to states that will result in huge layoffs, all in the name of reducing the deficit. Genius. The name "Blue Dog" derives from supposedly being choked blue by the left-wing of the party, but it seems to me that Blue Dogs are engaged in a self-asphyxiation right now.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. There is going to be a lot of news today about the latest Gallup generic congressional ballot poll showing Republicans with their largest lead ever in that poll, 49%--43%.  While that certainly is not good news for Democrats, it cannot be emphasized enough that this poll is still just one of twenty-four generic congressional ballot polls to be released this month.  In the overall average of those 24 polls, Democrats still hold a slight edge, 44.17%--44.04%: Generic Congressional Ballot, June 2nd Polls can be found at Pollster.com and Pollingreport.com (Note: Zogby interactive also released generic congressional ballot polls during the past month, but they are not included in these averages due to their horrendous track record) Some might object to this poll averaging methodology, arguing that including all of the polls over the past month, and also including multiple polls from individual polling firms, will miss developing trends. However, not including multiple polls from the same polling firm, and including only the most recent polls, has been shown to produce less accurate poll averaging results (I would know, since I used that type of less accurate methodology in 2008, and conducted research to find a more accurate method for 2010).  To put it a different way, removing older polls and multiple polls from individual pollsters produces results in a less accurate poll methodology that often finds trends which do not exist. The methodology I am using in 2010 has found minimal movement--less than 2.3% on net--in the national generic ballot over the past fours months.  This is a lot more believable than the idea that the country is swinging 5-6% points in favor of one party in a single week, even if it isn't uncommon for individual polls to show such a trend (Quinnipiac showed such a result for Democrats last week, for example).  The entire difference between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections was less than a 10% net swing--how could one week of news early in the campaign season possibly result in half of the net swing from 2004 to 2008?  A swing like that requires a mega-story like a presidential convention or the financial metldown of September 2008, not run of the mill political tit for tat during the spring legislative and primary season. Shorter version of all this: one generic congressional ballot poll means very little.  As always, look at the complete polling picture.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Concurrent with today's primary action, Wall Street reform continues to move forward in the Senate. Here is the state of play: Cloture filed, vote tomorrow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed for cloture on the Wall Street reform bill. The vote will take place tomorrow. If cloture does succeed, amendments and debate will continue for 30 hours Even if cloture succeeds tomorrow, the final vote will take place on Thursday evening or Friday morning. Also, the debate and amendment process will continue. There will still be 30 hours of debate and amendments, possibly during an all-night session. The only difference is that the amendments must be ruled to be germane, which might cause problems for amendments such as the ones related to the oil spill, secret holds, and health insurance industry anti-trust exemption. If cloture does not succeed, there will be a vote a day on it until it does succeed If Republicans block the bill and cloture is not invoked, then Senate Democrats will employ the same tactics they successfully used to get the bill on the Senate floor: hold a vote on the bill every day, generating negative media coverage for Republicans, until they let it pass. Corker expects "four or five" Republicans to support FWIW, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker expects cloture to succeed, with four or five Republican votes:
At least four or five Republicans will break ranks with the GOP to support Democrats' Wall Street reform bill, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday. Corker, a key negotiator on the bill to overhaul U.S. financial regulations, said he would not be among those Republicans to support the overall legislation, which has been the subject of debate and amendments in the Senate this month. "I think that we know that there are probably at least five Republicans who are going to vote for this bill," Corker said during an appearance on CNBC. "I think we've seen that in the voting patterns."
No matter what happens on cloture, amendments continuing today Some amendment highlights today:
  1. The Senate will take up the Carper weakening amendment starting at 2:15 pm, eastern. This amendment strips the authority of state Attorneys General to enforce state laws against large financial instutions, and has some Demcoratic support. Zach Carter explains:
    Over the past decade, state regulators tried to crack down on subprime outrages, but federal regulators stepped in to protect the megabanks. If we want to establish a fair financial system, we have to empower states to take action against abusive banks. That's what makes a new amendment from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., so dangerous. Carper's plan is to ban states from enforcing their own laws against big national banks like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America. This is an overt attempt to take cops off the beat and allow banks to get away with outright abuses. While doing lipservice to "strong consumer protection," Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., John Ensign, R-Nev., D-Mark Warner, D-Va., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., have all gone to bat for America's largest banks. This is the kind of amendment that can actually sink the bill if adopted. For years, federal bank regulators at the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) asserted broad powers to preempt state laws, and courts generally backed them. But in 2009, the Supreme Court reversed those decisions, giving states the ability to go after big banks through the court system. Carper's amendment wouldn't just institutionalize a destructive status quo-it would actively deregulate, further empowering banks to take advantage of the public.
    This is a very dangerous amendment. Read Zach's whole piece for more.
  2. Cantwell joins Dorgan in threatening filibuster if her amendment does not receive a vote: Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who is looking to reinstate Glass-Steagall, has joined Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in threatening a filibuster if her amendment does not receive a vote:
    "Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has said he will filibuster the bill unless the Senate votes on his amendment banning a speculative financial instrument known as a "naked" credit default swap. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has done the same, saying she needs a vote on her amendment separating commercial and investment banking operations. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said any Democratic defections are a cause for concern."
    Progressives are winning a lot of these strengthening amendments, so it would suck it Cantwell and Dorgan are not given their votes.
  3. Volcker rule whip count. Another key strengthening amendment is the Merkley Levin amendment to reinstate the Volcker rule. As a sign of of important this amendment is, opponents may make it face a 60-vote threshold, instead of the 50-vote threshold all but two amendments have faced thus far. Here is a whip count I have seen on the bill:
    • Democratic No (2): Hagan, WarnerWith two Democratic defections, three Republicans to reach the 60 vote threshold. One Republican defection has already been secured:
    • Republican Yes (1): LugarWhich means two of the following six potential votes are needed:
    • Republican Lean Yes (1): BrownRepublican Undecided (5): Collins, Snowe, Voinovich, Grassley, McCainAnd, even if we make up enough votes from the Republicans listed above, we have to hold these Democrats, especially the first two:
    • Democratic Leaning No (2): Klobuchar, Ben NelsonDemocratic Undecided (5): Lieberman, Gillibrand, Schumer, Carper, Byrd Democratic Leaning yes (1): Byah
    The keys are the six potential Republican votes undecided and the two Democrats leaning no. Four of eight Senators will be needed for passage. Even then, the vote would need to be held on a day when all Democrats are available for votes, and all Democratic undecideds would need to be secured. So, hopefully the vote will come on either Wednesday or Thursday, rather than today. Otherwise, it will be difficult to reach 60 votes on this one.
Debate and voting restarts at 2:15 pm. Watch it live on CSPAN2.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. The final Quinnipiac poll of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary shows Jose Sestak leading Arlen Specter by a single point.  While a one point lead is far from a blowout or a sure thing, what is significant about this poll is that there are now exactly zero polling firms showing Arlen Specter ahead.  Here are the final polls from the six pollsters to conducts surveys of this campaign in May: Final polls, Pennsylvania Senate primary, May
Pollster End Date Sestak Specter
Quinnipiac May 16 42 41
Muhlenberg May 15 44 44
Research 2000 May 12 45 43
Suffolk May 12 49 40
F & M May 9 38 36
Rasmussen May 6 47 42
Across these six polls, Sestak leads by 3.2% on the mean, and 2% on the median.  The 15-day average I use for other forecasts shows Sestak up 2.6%. None of those leads make Sestak anywhere close to a sure thing.  However, Specter is only competitive in this primary due to his ongoing advantage in name ID, an advantage which averages 20% across five of these six polls (excluding F & M).  That means Specter still has a big advantage among low information voters (who have still never heard of Sestak), and as such will need high Democratic turnout to win (since these low-information voters are less likely to vote).  With Democratic turnout sharply down in primaries do far this year, that ain't too bloody likely. I expect Sestak to win as this point, and to become the first Democrat to defeat an incumbent backed by Obama in a primary.  Admittedly, Specter's party switch made this campaign far more winnable than any of the other primary or legislative campaigns when progressives staked out a position to the left of the administration, so it may not really be a breakthrough moment yet.  From the very beginning of the campaign, Sestak was always ahead among Pennsylvania Democrats who had heard of both candidate, and he held a 2-1 lead among Pennsylvania Democrats who thought Arlen Specter switched parties to win re-election.  In the environment, Sestak did exactly what he had to do to win: run a grueling slog of retail politics and fundraising to gather up just enough ground supporters and resources in order to raise his name ID and run ads of Specter saying he switched parties to win re-election.  It wasn't easy to do that with the entire Democratic establishment working against him, but on the eve of the primary it seems likely that he has pulled it off.