Sunday, May 9, 2010

The LDP Fizzle, Bennett Kicked to the Curb, FInancial Reform Moves Along

It's Still a Hung Parliament, But the LDP Faded Fast
Just a couple of weeks before the British Parliamentary elections, it looked as if the LDP might win the most popular votes after Nick Clegg mopped the floor with the two "major" parties in the first debate. Clearly, the LDP faded faster than the polling had indicated, as my election-eve projection had them almost even with the incumbent Labour party, a mark that they decidedly fell short of. I warned you my margin of error would be larger than in a U.S. election, as I'm simply not as familiar with the ins and outs of British politics, and I missed the mark by a considerable margin. Here's the scorecard on the elections:
(1) Popular Vote
Projected: Tories = 35.5%, Labour = 27.7%, LDP = 27.5%, Minor Parties = 9.3%
Actual: Tories = 36.1%, Labour = 29.0%, LDP = 23.0%, Minor Parties = 11.9%
Error: Tories +0.6%, Labour +1.3%, LDP -4.5%, Minor Parties +2.6%

So, you can see, the margins for the other three buckets were relatively close, the LDP just underperformed all around and the votes distributed to all three groups.

(2) Seats
Projected: Tories = 282 Seats, Labour = 258 Seats, LDP = 81 Seats, Minor Parties = 29 Seats
Actual: Tories = 306 Seats, Labour = 258 Seats, LDP = 57 Seats, Minor Parties = 28 Seats
Note: 1 seat still to be decided pending May 27th special election, following the death of a candidate leading up to the normal election date.

So, you can see exactly what happened versus my predictions -- the LDP underperformed, allowing the Tories to take 24 swing districts and pad their plurality.

The Tories did not reach the 326 that you need to govern, so the LDP is still in the driver's seat in terms of "king-making". Although they are more ideologically aligned with Labour (both hold views to the left of the Tories on economic policy), Clegg severely dislikes incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, therefore the only two outcomes that I see are that Clegg forges an unlikely marriage with David Cameron and the Conservatives, or Brown agrees to step down and Clegg forms an alliance with a new Labour leader.

Bennett Kicked to the Curb
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) has been cast aside by the Utah GOP nominating convention. Utah has a strange party selection process that is two-tiered, whereby the party has a caucus to determine the top two candidates, who then move on to a primary. Bennett finished third in the caucus and therefore will not be on the ballot in the GOP primary. He also cannot run for re-election as an independent, a la Joe Lieberman, because the filing deadline in Utah has passed. His only recourses are to either retire quietly or to run as a write-in candidate.

So what went wrong? Most of the anger in the Utah GOP centered around Bennett's vote for the original TARP bill, although there were other minor criticisms. This is kind of a shocking turn of events to me, as Bennett is a pretty conservative guy, scoring a mere 10% voting record from the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action, half that of the 20% vote scored by his fellow Utah Senator, and renowned conservative, Orrin Hatch.

But, there are a number of environmental things to consider:
(1) The state caucus is the most conservative of the conservative
The odd system in Utah lends itself to turns like this. Bennett surely would have won a primary had he been on the ballot, but the state caucus largely represents the most loyal, active and conservative Republicans.

(2) Anti-incumbent sentiment cuts two ways
Sure, it looks like a bad year for the DEMs....that's because they are in power. People aren't specifically ticked at the DEMs, they are ticked at government in general and Bennett is part of the system.

(3) It is Utah, after all
If this were Illinois or New York, this would be a true shocker. But the GOP can lean far to the right in Utah, a state in which Bill Clinton finished 3rd in the 1992 Presidential race, and still win.

So am I sad to see Bennett go? Not really....not because we aren't ideologically aligned, heck, he's probably more ideologically aligned with me than whoever will wind up being Senator. But because he reaped what he sowed. Bennett, like a number of Republicans, ran in 1992 on a promise of a two-term limit as part of his advocation for term limits in general. He got three. Seems like he got 6 years more than he deserved from his promise.

Just a thought, and it's a long shot, but wouldn't it be crazy if Bennett runs as a write-in and somehow splinters the GOP vote, allowing a Democrat to take the Senate seat? It's unlike Bennett will even run, but it's fun to conceive these crazy scenarios.

Financial Reform is Moving, Albeit Like a Snail
The Senate this week voted on a series of amendments to financial reform. All indications from my seat are still that in the final tally, Democrats will comfortably have the 60 votes that they need for passage. But the GOP is doing a good job of running clock, just as I said would be a politically wise move for them.

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