Ticket Splitting in the 2022 Mid-Term

Politico has a piece whose headline is narrative-friendly but buries the lede: Voters who backed GOP governors helped keep the Senate blue . The headline emphasizes a narrative from the mid-terms that a lot of voters split their tickets between gubernatorial candidates and senatorial ones, such as in Georgia where clearly some voters voted for Republican Governor Kemp and then either abstained in the contest of Walker v. Warnock, or actually voted for the Democrat. However, the piece notes that really, ticket-splitting has declined.

Indeed, as the piece notes:

Democrats have ticket-splitters to thank for maintaining their hold on the Senate.

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan trampled her Republican rival, even as the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, did the same to his opponent.

In Nevada, voters helped Democrats seal the Senate majority by reelecting Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto even as they tossed out the sitting Democratic governor.

So, all cool for the narrative that focuses (understandably) on some key races. However, the real story as it pertains to national partisan trends is the opposite and reinforces our understanding that the nation is pretty polarized and that existing partisan preferences are the key variable to understanding outcomes:

The results are enough to make it look like this year’s midterms represented a return to the old days of de-polarized statewide politics, when large numbers of voters would support one party’s candidate for Senate and the other party for governor.

But it was actually the opposite. A POLITICO analysis of the results shows that ticket-splitting in those races declined to the lowest point of any midterm since at least 1990.

So, while it is clear that some states did see important splits in partisan voting between governor and US Senate contest, the reality is that the overall trend is clearly to more unified partisan voting.

Two observations.

First, clearly, we are seeing that candidate quality matters, although even that fact is influenced by the partisan context (as we are seeing in Georgia wherein Walker is objectively one of the worst candidates for Senate one could conceive of, and yet has a shot at winning).

Second, I would note that governor is an office that appears to have a bit more influence of localized politics than several others which are more nationalized (which helps explain some of the ticket-splitting in general). For example, in 2019 a Democrat won the Kentucky gubernatorial race (by a very slim margin –49.% to 48.8%) even as the state went heavily for Trump (62.1% to 36.2% ). I have thoughts on why this is the case, but will simply leave this as an observation for now.

At a minimum, these results do suggest that the general trend towards polarized, calcified electorates with nationalized parties continues, even if there are some notable exceptions.

Why Biden Won’t Be Primaried

White House photo

Jonathan Martin reports for POLITICO Magazine Newsom Told the White House He Won’t Challenge Biden.” After several paragraphs of the California governor repeating such assurances, we get to the larger story:

[W]alking through Sacramento back toward the mansion it was hard not to think of the difference between him and the last two California governors who chose to live in the three-story Victorian.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged a sitting president, Gerald Ford, and four years later Jerry Brown did the same against Jimmy Carter. Both incumbents would lose the general election, as would George H.W. Bush in 1992, the last year a president would face a remotely serious primary.

This fear of wounding your own president and only ensuring his defeat in the fall is partly the reason why primaries against incumbents have faded, and it’s certainly top of mind for younger challengers who don’t want to hurt their future prospects within the party.

Yet there’s something else at work now that was lacking when Reagan and Brown mounted their challenges. Today’s intense polarization and the contempt the two parties have for one another has fostered an internal cohesion within the two coalitions that, far more than ideological unity, acts as a retardant against insurgencies.

Put another way, there’s a perceived penalty for confronting one’s own leaders because to weaken them would risk the unthinkable — helping the opposition.

Understandably, then, the only forcing mechanism that can alter this dynamic is if remaining loyal to a leader poses the greater risk of aiding and abetting the other party. That’s why some Republicans believe (or at least hope strongly) that their mediocre midterm performance may finally free them from the grip of Donald Trump — because while GOP voters are willing to tolerate a great deal from Trump they can’t abide him ensuring Democratic success.

It’s also Trump who explains why a Democratic Party that spans lapsed Bush Republicans to devout social democrats is now operationally closer to the House of Windsor than the pirate ship it once resembled. Look no further than the orderly succession by which, in a period of mere hours and with barely a whisper of dissent, they effectively swapped in three new House Democratic leaders to replace three Octogenarians — 50 years and a world away from George McGovern giving his acceptance speech in the middle of the nightafter the unraveling of the party’s 1972 convention.

Stopping Trump’s comeback is priority one for the party and anything else is a dangerous distraction, including any open discussion, at least for now, about whether it’s in the best interest of Democrats to renominate the oldest president in American history. (Trump is no spring chicken, either, one can already hear party activists yelling at their screen, as they read this.)

I fully expect that, if he remains healthy, Biden will run again. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, he’s already running.

Partly, that’s because he’s an ambitious politician who has spent his whole adult life wanting to be President. Nobody willingly gives that up after a single term if they think there’s any chance at all of winning re-election. Partly, it’s because he thinks he’s the Democratic Party’s best chance of keeping the White House away from Trump or a Trump-like figure.

But, yes, while I’m old enough to have vague memories of Reagan’s attempt to primary Ford (who, it must be remembered, was never elected President to begin with) and Kennedy’s attempt to replace Carter—and more clear memories of Buchanan’s run against Bush the Elder—the last of those was three decades ago. I just don’t see it happening in our current political climate.

Germany Open for Immigration

POLITICO (“Germany plans overhaul of immigration system, citizenship laws“):

In a new effort to attract talented foreign workers to the country, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced plans to reform Germany’s immigration system and citizenship laws.

On Monday, Scholz reiterated his backing for Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s plans to overhaul the rules to make naturalization easier for immigrants, who he has lauded as playing an integral role in rebuilding and strengthening Germany. Naturalization figures in Germany are stagnating, with 1.3 acquisitions of citizenship per 1,000 persons; according to Eurostat, that’s below the EU average of 1.6 acquisitions per 1,000.

With job vacancies at an all-time high — 853,315 openings were reported in 2022 through October, according to data analytics firm Statista — Berlin is looking at high-skilled labor from abroad to fill that gap.

Scholz announced at an event in Berlin that his Cabinet will decide on “key points” for skilled labor immigration reform on Wednesday. The chancellor said that a “transparent, unbureaucratic” points-based system will be introduced, as has long been standard practice in other countries. It will also become easier for foreigners to take up studies or vocational training.

According to Faeser’s plans for the citizenship law reform, immigrants will be allowed to have dual citizenship. Furthermore, they will be able to become naturalized Germans in five years instead of eight, according to a 39-page draft of the plan previewed by some media outlets on Friday. In the case of “special integration achievements,” such as voluntary work or exceptional language skills, naturalization will be possible after three years. And children born in Germany to foreign parents can become German if one or both of their parents’ official residence has been in Germany for five, instead of eight, years.

“Those who live and work here permanently should also be able to vote and be elected … with all the rights and duties that go with it,” Scholz said on Monday. However, he cautioned that there are limits to the country’s ability to absorb immigrants.

While this seems like a no-brainer from an American perspective—we’ve long renewed ourselves by accepting immigrants and allowing them to become full-fledged citizens—this is a stunning move for Germany. Generations of Turkish immigrants came to work in Germany but they remained Gastarbeiter (guest workers) and their German-born children and grandchildren remained Turks. On his last day in office, President Reagan quoted a letter writer, “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.”

That has slowly changed. Germany loosened up their citizenship and immigration laws in 2000 and 2005, and there are now large numbers of Germans of Turkish descent. Still, this is a huge step and, naturally, one not without controversy.

Not everyone is on board with the plans. Criticism comes from the opposition, as well as Scholz’s business-friendly coalition partner, the FDP. “Selling off German citizenship does not promote integration,” said opposition politician Alexander Dobrindt of the center-right CSU.

The FDP’s secretary-general, Bijan Djir-Sarai, meanwhile, said it is too early for such a far-reaching reform, adding that first, repatriations must be enforced more quickly.

A spokesman for the interior ministry reiterated Monday that the draft law for the citizenship reform is “as good as ready.” It will be coordinated within the government “in the next few days” and discussed by the Cabinet “soon.” Responding to the criticism from the government’s coalition partners, the spokesperson said the draft was “exactly in line” with the coalition agreement.

Ultimately, the Germans, like other post-industrial societies, have little choice. They’re not producing enough ethnic Germans to keep their economy going. Immigration is the only viable way to solve that problem, even if it creates others in a relatively homogeneous society.