All in Moderation?

All in Moderation?


At first glance, mini-Super Tuesday No. 2 – which was bigger than the last with races in twelve states – didn’t provide the anticipated drama.  The headliners that sucked up all the political oxygen weren’t all that explosive, leading some observers to opine that a bit of moderation from centrist voters helped maintain some sanity … at least, for the moment.   In key states like Arkansas, California and South Carolina, machine-backed candidates appeared to fend off the ideological extremes.  The internal party deals may have been cut, proposals put on the table and allegiances shifted to ensure political survival for the general as bruised primary candidates reached Election Day faced with the prospect of drained momentum by November.  Politico’s Charles Mathesian offers a cogent take on Tuesday’s outcome:

On the biggest primary night of the year so far, the wild 2010 plotline took a turn for the familiar: The political center — and the conventional politicians that gravitate there — showed some enduring power. Yes, the barbarians are at the gate. They do indeed have pitchforks. But the forces of rebellion they represent are looking less potent on Wednesday morning than 24 hours before.

But, did the center really show that much clout or was it simply a matter of party wings – both left and right – going through a readjustment phase?  The left is still angry; the right is still stubborn.  And neither party seems able to control their hardcore ideological wings. Was Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D) win in Arkansas really all that surprising?  It was hard fought, sure, and it required a run-off, but did we really think hard left labor interests dropping $10 million into the center-right Southern state would really create an upset?  Is Carly Fiorina’s (R) clinching the GOP Senate nomination in California all that surprising, a state where the bling of celebrity name-drop and candidates with the most cash win? And, in frontier state Nevada, should we really sleep on the Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November?

There were some underreported, yet bright spots of encouragement for the Black political landscape on Tuesday evening.  The illustrious, rising-star San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris rose from obscurity and lackluster fundraising to beat out opponent Chris Kelley in the Democratic primary for California Attorney General.  This is a fairly significant political development that garners the top Google News ranking when conducting a simple search on the topic.  Reports Robin Caldwell:

Harris’ next campaign challenge will be facing Los Angeles D. A. Steve Cooley in the general election in November to replace Democrat Jerry Brown, a candidate for governor.  If she wins, Harris will be the first woman to hold the office of attorney general in California.

Perhaps the most stunning, surprise development out of Tuesday’s primary is the sudden rise of Alvin Greene, a 32-year old unemployed African American male and former Air Force and Army veteran who came from out of nowhere and clinched the Democratic nomination for South Carolina’s U.S. Senate seat.  Greene trounced attorney Vic Rawls 59% to 41%.   Why is this big news?  Seanna Adcox in the Associated Press reports:

Thirty-two-year-old Alvin Greene of Manning defeated 64-year-old Vic Rawl of Charleston in Tuesday’s primary. Rawl is a former judge and legislator, who had about $186,000 cash available and had already scheduled a fundraising event for Thursday.

Greene raised no money in the contest, had no signs and no website.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler says she hasn’t seen Greene since he filed to run. She says Greene will be a much weaker candidate than Rawl going into November against tea party favorite DeMint.

Fowler clearly isn’t privy to the high unemployment rate in South Carolina and the fact that over a quarter of registered voters in the state are African American.  A look at South Carolina’s cultural demographics, from growing urban centers to its high Black population (which accounts for 30%), to the dominance of a younger demographic in the state and a growing influx of Latinos could explain the rise of Greene and Niki Haley (R) as a favorite in the GOP Gubernatorial nod.  South Carolina, battered by higher-than-national-average unemployment, is looking for something different.

Both Democrats and Republicans still have much to worry about moving into the fall.  The summer will be long and hot, and the masses are showing signs of restlessness – if it’s not Tea Party activists it’s the unemployed; if it’s not insurgent candidates stirring the pot up, it’s malcontent, struggling homeowners stuck with foreclosure.  Democrats will desperately pitch a tale of economic recovery in a climate that’s not feeling that way on the streets; Republicans will attempt to tap into a tale of common people rage, while unsuccessfully diminishing their fringe base of birthers, anti-immigrants and cut-everything-at-all-costs wing nuts.    Incumbents on both sides should bite nails raw as Michael O’Brien in The Hill reports:

A wide margin of voters said in a new poll on Tuesday that they prefer newcomers to incumbent candidates in this fall’s elections. Sixty percent of voters — and 69 percent of self-described independents — said they would rather vote for a candidate who has never before served in Congress. Thirty-two percent of all registered voters told the Gallup Poll that they would prefer a candidate who has already served in Congress, underscoring a growing anti-incumbent streak in elections this year so far.

Candidates like Alvin Greene, then, look attractive.  The Gallup poll analysis, released on the eve of this latest stretch of primaries, strikes a worried tone for conventional partisans:

A stronger-than-usual anti-incumbent bias is another challenge for a majority Democratic Party that is trying to minimize the losses usually dealt to the president’s party in a midterm election year. Gallup’s Daily tracking of registered-voter candidate preferences this year has typically shown Republicans and Democrats tied or the Republicans with a slight lead, either of which would generally predict a strong Republican showing at the polls on Election Day. That day is still nearly five months away, but typically, voters’ attitudes toward incumbents do not change dramatically over the course of an election year. To the extent change has occurred in a given election year, it has usually been toward a more negative rather than a more positive view of incumbents.


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