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LA Senate: Kennedy Switches Parties

Louisiana state Treasurer John Kennedy announced earlier today that he would switch party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, the most tangible sign yet that he is preparing to challenge Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in 2008.

"I believe that Louisiana state government needs to change," wrote Kennedy in an e-mail to supporters on his decision. "It has to change....I feel I can best contribute to that change as a Republican."

As treasurer, Kennedy is up for re-election this fall. (Louisiana is one of a handful of states that conducts off-year state elections.) He is not expected to face a serious fight but does have more than $2 million in the bank. While Kennedy can't transfer that money directly into a Senate race, he can spend it this fall on building up his name identification across the state and getting voters comfortable with the idea of him as a Republican.

And, unlike in other states where party switching is anathema, it's a regular occurrence in Louisiana and hence less politically damaging. In fact, the strongest Democratic candidate running for governor this year -- state Sen. Walter Boasso -- switched parties to make the race.

Kennedy's switch is the best news that Senate Republicans recruiters have received in quite a while. By their own admission finding candidates in such a bad political environment for the party has been difficult to say the least.

Despite those challenges, GOP strategists have continued to insist they will beat Landrieu ,who they believe has watched as the state has shifted underneath her. Now they appear to have their candidate in the form of Kennedy. Whether Landrieu is as vulnerable as some within the GOP believe, count this as a recruiting success for Senate Republicans.

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 27, 2007; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Landrieu will run to the right of Kennedy on taxes. In the 2004 Senate race where Kennedy managed 15% against David Vitter and Chris John, Kennedy was an outspoken critic of the Bush tax cuts while Landrieu voted for the first Bush tax cuts. Those debates are also a treasure trove of sound bites against Kennedy.
In 2008, Louisiana reverts to a closed primary for federal elections so this should help Landrieu go head to head against Kennedy in the higher turnout November general election.

Posted by: gomer | August 30, 2007 2:38 AM | Report abuse

Landrieu will run to the right of Kennedy on taxes. In the 2004 Senate race where Kennedy managed 15% against David Vitter and Chris John, Kennedy was an outspoken critic of the Bush tax cuts while Landrieu voted for the first Bush tax cuts. Those debates are also a treasure trove of sound bites against Kennedy.
In 2008, Louisiana reverts to a closed primary for federal elections so this should help Landrieu go head to head against Kennedy in the higher turnout November general election.

Posted by: gomer | August 30, 2007 2:37 AM | Report abuse

It's kinda surprising to me that it's "less politically damaging" to switch parties in Louisiana. This reminds me of Chris Matthews' advice, from his book Hardball, to keep your alliances straight because traitors are not usually welcomed back, and once loyalty is broken its hard to rebuild. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Posted by: victoria | August 29, 2007 2:53 AM | Report abuse

"There was a mandatory evacuation prior to landfall given by Nagin"

I should have clarified, I know Nagin's mandatory evacuation was in effect which was echoed by state and national officials, I'm talking about a step or two beyond that, with an enforceable order that would have police or National Guard going door to door forcibly removing people. Even with the flood being as likely as it was, there would still be folks who have seen Hurricanes before and thought this would be like past ones, some who refused to leave their property, some who simply didn't trust the government, and some who took a calculted risk knowing the cost of evacuating (it's not free). I think that accounts for most of the 10% who ignored the orders to get out, as opposed to people who were trying to leave but stranded (of course, thet's what all of their stories become after the worst case did happen).

Posted by: Michael | August 29, 2007 2:50 AM | Report abuse

So, let me get this straight, you're grateful to the President because this is a bad bill because you may lose your coverage, but others who coverage may be extended to are victims of a fascist (as opposed to socialist...) government conspiracy to make them dpendent on the government. Okkkkkaaaaaaaaaaayyyy.....

Posted by: Michael | August 29, 2007 2:44 AM | Report abuse


well the Republican party can use new blood, though why anyone would like to join that Clown troop more than I can understand!
Let us take one of the new bills passed by the Democrat majority, the SCHIPS bill just not signed.
For those of you under medicare part C, medicare Advantage, if this bill is signed you will loose this coverage. That means that instead of paying $1,500.00 for your hospital stay as a max, it may be more than $15,000.00+++ or $150,000.00. Have you checked the price for comparable medigap insurance? The president has said that he would VETO this bill, thand G-d!! That and this bill makes a Man under 26 years a child and he may have a wife and 2 or more children all dependents of the state for health insurance. Seig Heil!!

Posted by: hammy | August 29, 2007 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Michael,

Valid points. My perception however is that Bush and FEMA would not be absolved of blame regardless of the actions taken (or not) at the local level or the blame placed there. They are by no means clean. I would submit that rescue and recovery, evacuation and other operational activities in the days that followed the flood required strong leadership at the local level - something that was missing in NO. You are correct that the longer time after the disaster, the bigger the role the Fed government should play (and get more of the blame for mucking it up).

There was a mandatory evacuation prior to landfall given by Nagin. And the 90% rate was very good indeed. But the possibility of the city flooding was a surprise to no one - I knew about it and I live in Virginia plus it's flooded numerous times before. FEMA named it one of the three major scenarios that were the most serious threats to the nation in early 2001. The NWS predicted most of what occured the day before Katrina hit. Officials knew that there were people that did not have the means or ability to evacuate and there was, supposedly, a plan for them that did not get carried out (the school buses). The aftermath was a total disaster with no plan, no communcation, little action and no leadership in dealing with the 100,000 or so people trying to make their way out. Yes it was hard to get around and communication was challenging to say the least. But that is what happens in disasters and why people work on disaster plans. For those that could make it to "safety", they should have been evacuated effectively. They weren't. The Gretna situation should have been dealt with by the local officials, the Superdome and convention center planning and organization were fubared, rescue efforts were weak and un-coordinated and law enforcement was virtually non-existent. Again, these are things that local governments are supposed to do, things they have planned for.

Posted by: Dave! | August 28, 2007 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I still think the arguments about getting people out BEFORE Katrina hit are a distraction. they got well over 90% of the city out, which is a pretty successful evacuation without a legally required evacuation, which could have been problematic.

The big problem with the evacuation was after the fact, with so many stranded while the whole country knew exactly where most were and little effort at all levels to rescue them. Again, failure at all levels with plenty of blame to go around, but the burden is too often shifted to the pre-disaster evacuation I think because it directs the blame squarely at the local level and absolves the President of most blame, whereas the longer after the disaster hit, the more the blame shifts upward to the state and federal level. New York had areas to fall back to within their city and most of their economy, infrastructure, and public services were still working, almost all of New Orleans was under water and out-of-commission.

Posted by: Michael | August 28, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Ohio Guy,
I have re-thought it and I'll stick by my comparison (so in your eyes i may outdo myself in my dumbness award). It was her attempt to remove any blame from Mayor Nagin for failing to evacuate over 100,000 people. The comparison lies on effective response to disasters. Part of the NO Disaster plan was to use school buses to help facilitate the evacuation. Nagin failed to follow the city's evacuation plan and press the buses into service. In contrast, the Disaster Response Center in NY was destroyed in the attack yet they managed to relocate, re-adjust, follow through, coordinate and provide the response and services to the people of the city. Neither were perfect but NY was competent. She was simply making excuses for incompetance. As I said before, there was plenty of that to go around including the Federal response but that does not excuse Nagin's actions or Landrieu's statement.

Landrieu - "Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane. And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the difficulties that mayors . . . face. In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out."

Posted by: Dave! | August 28, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"Ohio guy, I wasn't talking about "middle" in regards to political philosophy. Idaho is geographically in the middle of America."

Not really, it's pretty much in the NW corner

Posted by: Michael | August 28, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Ohio guy, I wasn't talking about "middle" in regards to political philosophy. Idaho is geographically in the middle of America. Middle America. Get it?

I'm not sure that a former Congressman represents a serious challenge unless he can really get the lewd conduct thing to stick. LaRocco hasn't had really solid name recognition for a decade and Craig really has been in Congress a very long time.

I think he can win even if he doesn't resign but if he does then there is probably no way for the Dem's to win against a decent Republican candidate for the seat. Not in Idaho.

Posted by: JasonL | August 28, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

'A Republican senator pleaded guilty earlier this month after his arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to state criminal records. Roll Call newspaper reported Sen. Larry Craig was apprehended by an officer investigating complaints of lewd behavior in the men's room.'

what is it with republican men? why are so many in the closet?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2007 7:48 AM | Report abuse

hey Che (4:27PM), sounds like Dems might need to get some popular humane propositions on the CA ballot in 2008.

You're sure right about the disgustingly undemocratic basis of the Electoral College. And the procedure for electing presidents if no one wins a majority of the electoral college is way more disgusting that the Electoral College. Wouldn't you know it's the party of the powerful that benefits.

I don't know if the Republicans stole Ohio in 2004, but I do know that they tried to led by the Republican Ohio Secretary of State and that they did steal 2000 and that this administration is a criminal enterprise. A questionable Republican win in 2008 will be a true American nightmare.

Posted by: newageblues | August 28, 2007 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Dave -

"The mayor of NYC during 911 did not have any problems with getting people to work."

Congratualtions, that may have been the dumbest thing I have ever read on this forum. EVER. How you could even think about comparing 9/11 to Hurrican Katrina is simply beyond my comprehension. In the aftermath of 9/11, half of the residents' of New York City home's were not UNDER WATER AND/OR DESTROYED. That was the case in New Orleans. How is everyone going to go to work when their place of employment is destoyed, when there are no customers to serve b/c the city is evacuated or under water, and their own homes are destroyed or uninhabitable?

Seriously, think things through a little harder from now on.

Posted by: Ohio guy | August 28, 2007 12:06 AM | Report abuse

The comment that was not posted had to do with the party of "Family Values". With the latest news about Senator Craig and Senator Vitter, it appears the dem party has a lock on the recovering "Drunks", with the exception of GW.

Posted by: lylepink | August 27, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Tonight is the first time a comment of mine has not been posted.

Posted by: lylepink | August 27, 2007 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Ohio guy,
"- Her service in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and since have been exemplary." Compared to Blanco and Nagin I'd have to agree. But that does not say much. There is nobody that has been exemplary wrt Katrina. She can't run on the slogan "I didn't screw up as much as everyone else". Her comments such as her complaint about "the staggering incompetence of the national government" and the comment that "most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day" don't exactly help her case. As a Senator, SHE IS part of the national government. I guess everyone but her is incompetent? The mayor of NYC during 911 did not have any problems with getting people to work. Exemplary my eye.

Her biggest political win was garnering 52% of the vote in 2002. I will say that she should remove Katrina from her stump speech and stick to talking about her voting record which is pretty moderate. Aside from being a member of the horrible Gang of 14 judicial filibuster screw-ups, what has she done? Voted for drilling in ANWR, voting to eliminate the estate tax and voting for tax cuts, voted against renewing the ban on semi-automatic firearms. It's going to be hard for Kennedy to be anything other than a Republican-labeled version of her or be better connected than her. But with the tide going against Repubs, in a state where party affiliation means little and connections are everything, Landrieu wins with her biggest margin yet, getting 53% of the vote.

Posted by: Dave! | August 27, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Landrieu has been the only rep consistently putting Louisiana's interests ahead of partisan politics. Even when Jindal could see Brown and Chertoff screwing over the state it took him weeks to offer even a lukewarm criticism of the White House's response to Katrina. Landrieu has spoken against the Republicans and the Democrats when actions were taken which were detrimental to Louisiana, and also worked with both parties when those actions were needed by the state. The one consistency to Landrieu is that she's always been pro-Louisiana issues. That's the one quality I desire and expect for an elected official.

Kennedy hasn't done anything special. His latest turncoat antics don't inspire me to expect anything more than a Zell Miller-type experience from him in the future.

Posted by: New_Orleans Aaron | August 27, 2007 11:01 PM | Report abuse

It never stops....I've seen how nepotism, cronyism and corrpution and parochial politics all have destroyed Louisiana as a state for generations and yet, still in all, the beat goes on.....Senator Landrieu has done an excellent job representing Louisiana but fatalism is a cultural thing for the state of Louisiana which never see anything wrong with cutting off the nose to spite the face....

Posted by: Sharon Mounier | August 27, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, last number should have been 55.

Posted by: Michael | August 27, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Zouk (or whoever the troll of the day is), maybe you should check out this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/opinion/26mann.html

US House
(103rd = 93-94 Dem, 104th=95-96 Rep, 109th = 2005-2006 Rep, 110th = 2007 Dem)

Legislative days
103rd 97
104th 109
109th 87
110th 111

Rollcall Votes
103rd 410
104th 635
109th 453
110th 846

Substantive Measures Passed
103rd 48
104th 67
109th 52
110th 90

Public Laws signed by the President through Aug Recess:
103rd 81
104th 28 (2 vetoes)
109th 60
110th 65 (2 vetoes)

Doesn't it suck when the facts are against you?

Posted by: Michael | August 27, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

"Calvin, the Democrats message doesn't tend to play well in Middle America. Despite his lewd conduct, I'm not sure he'll face a serious challenge. He's been in one house of Congress or another forever."
- JasonL

JasonL, do you really think a far-right state like IDAHO represents "Middle America"? Really??

And for the record, former Rep. Larry LaRocco, who was unseated in 1994, is the Democrat who is running for Craig's seat in '08. He declared shortly after the '06 midterms and is at least a credible candidate, having served in Congress before. His chances of winning would probably be decent if Craig remained the Republican candidate, but that is highly unlikely. Craig will most likely resign, either by choice or due to pressure from other Republicans who are probably freaking out about losing the seat to Larocco if Craig remains the nominee.

Posted by: Ohio guy | August 27, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that when GOP U.S. Sen. Diaper Dave Vitter was trying to recruit La. Treasurer Kennedy to switch parties that Kennedy held out until Vitter finally agreed to give him some phone numbers for where he could get some GOP family values "massages"?

Posted by: mike f. | August 27, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

is anyone else worried about the implications of there being a senator John Kennedy R-LA? among other things, i'm worried about the possibility of the universe imploding.

Posted by: taylor p | August 27, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

No - see Landrieu hasn't hired ANY prostitutes. I mean, what kind of message does that send to the chi'ren of LA?? GO Vitter!

Posted by: NuttyRepub | August 27, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Larry Craig has switched teams too!! What's with all these republican closet cases??? And who will the gay-hating "value-voters" vote for now??

Posted by: rainbow | August 27, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to Rob, Colin, and Ohio Guy for your look at the candidates (Though I don't think the "Rethug" comment was necessary. Lets keep it civil.). I don't follow local southern politics much but it seems like the national conditions and the financial conditions give the advantage to Landrieu.

"the dems," your post was not only factually incorrect it was also off topic. Do you really think comments like that elevate the discussion or convince anyone of anything?

Calvin, the Democrats message doesn't tend to play well in Middle America. Despite his lewd conduct, I'm not sure he'll face a serious challenge. He's been in one house of Congress or another forever.

Posted by: JasonL | August 27, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Kennedy will now join those other famous Wrong Ways.... Riegels and Marshall.... as he takes the political football and runs toward the losing end zone.

http://whathappenedtomycountry.blogspot.com

Posted by: Truth Hunter | August 27, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

so, my guess is that zouk goes 'off duty' at 6. on at 12, off at 6. sounds like a work schedule, doesn't it?

how much do they pay you, zouk/'the dems'?

why aren't you in iraq instead on on here all day?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Do Idaho Democrats have a shot at grabbing Larry Craig's senate seat in 2008?

Posted by: Calvin | August 27, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, we are away on vacation now. we may eventually get to the military budget next year. In the meantime remember - support the troops.

Posted by: the Dems | August 27, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

We have conducted over 600 investigations and not passed any laws. We are the Libs. What are we supposed to be doing here? No convictions yet, but lots of face time. vote for us again, we promise to keep it up. you don't need any new laws anyway.

Posted by: the Dems | August 27, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

George from NOLA: Sorry, dude, but VITTER is our embarrassment as a Senator. Don't ya think?

Landrieu has gained ground on her potential Republican opponents following Katrina--the election will be close, as usual, but she should win, as usual.

Posted by: LSUvet | August 27, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

CHICAGO Moody's Investors Service kept its ratings of The New York Times Co.'s senior unsecured and Prime-2 commercial paper at investment grade Monday -- but changed its rating outlook to "negative" from "stable." "The negative rating outlook results from increased pressure on the company's retail and classified advertising from cross media competition and the downturn in the housing market," Moody's said.

air america - we will follow you anywhere.

Posted by: result of constant lies | August 27, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

WALLACE: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton, who, I think it would be fair to say, has run an almost error-free campaign up to this point but hit a bump, a speed bump, this week.

She told New Hampshire voters what will happen if there is another terrorist attack. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: That will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world, and so I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Because everyone knows the Libs won't do anything if we're attacked - that they are weak, that an attack will remind the country what is at stake. Even Hillary knows it.

Posted by: we are the weak | August 27, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

..."Another, "TURN COAT" we as Democrats don't want or need. My God, "WHAT AN IDIOT John KENNEDY IS for LEAVING THE DEM OCRATIC PARTY WHO WITNESSED along with the rest of America the "REPUBLICANS DISTEROUS RECORD OF THE LAST 12 YEARS!!!

This is the record they cost America to loose...."THE MORAL HIGH GROUND."

Wow....it will takes decades to restore....

AMERICA" Once stood for, JUSTICE FOR ALL" NO MORE....this changed, when, THE REPUBLICANS CAME INTO OFFICE AND THE WORLD GOT TO SEE....The republican "RUN THE WAR IRAQ AND WE SAW....

"ABU GRAB Photos of "TORTURE" under the Bush Adminstration and the republicans who where running the war, their policies toward enemy combatants, where pictures, of "TORTURE" by the U.S. Prison's Quantanomo Bay, Barqueba Iraq, all "TORTURED" under Rumsfeld, and the republicans.

"PICTURES" THE WORLD SAW OF HOW BADLY THE U.S. Was RUNNING THE WAR" No Wonder Russia is flying Bombers again, and backing out of the Arms Treaty with the U.S. and moving missiles to the West Coast of Russia so they could strike the U.S. quicker, and "TARGETED EUROPE, because the "Bush Adminstration's "DISASTEROUS FOREIGN AND Domestice Policy failure and the "RECORD SPEAKS FOR ITS SELF, and the republicans have in 12 short years in power.....

"DESTROYED AMERICA's IMAGE AROUND THE WORLD!

Boy I know I wanno belong to that party, the one we as "Democrats are going to investigate until we find the "TRUTH" and "PUT THEM IN JAIL" for "WRECKING America's Image around the world!

My God, the record speaks for itself and the republicans can't lie or "run from it!

In conclusion, "True Patriotism, "Hates, "Injustice, "in Its Own Land, "More Than Anywhere...."Else."
---Clarence Darrow

"Billions Lost in Iraq, Billions, Squandered by the republicans who think that they will get away with it, the way John Kennedy/TURNCOAT" thinks he's going to win!!!

We are going to put alot of folks who think they are going to walk away from "CRIMINAL Actions are sadly mistaken, "WRECKING AMERICA'S IMAGE" is just the beginning, and second, Karl Rove and others can run, but they cannot hide, from a disasterous record that has left America's image and economy in "RUIN."

Sincerely, Tom Birchfield, Voter, Vet USAF,
Class 2007 East Tennessee State University,

...."Master's Program, ETSU....Fall...2007

Posted by: Tom Birchfield | August 27, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Ohio Guy, Kennedy is definetly a good candidate, but he is not a sure thing. He doesn't have a whole lot of money and Landrieu does. I hope the NRSC spends loads of cash trying to make up the difference. Even if they take the seat, something they SHOULD do, they will be forced to spend more on this seat and less on other seats.

Posted by: Rob Millette | August 27, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the party. I can hardly wait to get Landrieu out of office. She's been an embarrassment.

Posted by: George (From New Orleans) | August 27, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Landrieu remains the hands-down favorite.

- She has close to $3 million in the bank.

- Kennedy cannot transfer his $2 million to a Senate run and he still has about $30-$40K in campaign debt left over from his last Senate run in '04 and only $125K left in the account.

- By the time Kennedy wins reelection in November (and then turns around and immediatley declares a run for the Senate - LOL!) and forms a Senate committee and begins to raise money from scratch SIX MONTHS FROM NOW, Landrieu will most likely have about $5 million in the bank, if not more.

- Landrieu has a good, positive net approval rating.

- Her service in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and since have been exemplary.

- The DSCC will spend more money on this race helping Landrieu than the NRSC will spend helping Kennedy, so her money adavantage will only widen.

- Landrieu won in 2002, a terrible, God-awful year for Democrats. 2008 is shaping up to be the exact opposite. The "R" next to Kennedy's name will hurt him, not help him in today's political environment which is toxic (and deservedly so) for Republicans.

Sorry rethugs, but you have nothing to be celebrating about just yet.

Posted by: Ohio guy | August 27, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I suspect the 'R' after his name will help, but has anyone every seen Kennedy on TV? It's seriously hard to imagine a less inspiring candidate. At any rate, as a Democrat I'm actually glad to get this out of the way. If someone really thinks being courted by Karl Rove is an honor, in 2007, then it is probably better that they go ahead and change their affiliation ASAP.

Anyone local have predictions on the now likely matchup? My perception, as an outsider, is that Landrieu is pretty well liked in the State - even if she doesn't necessarily inspire passion - and that she knows how to close the deal during a campaign. On the downside, no one really knows how the demographic changes in the State are going to play out. My prediction is a barnburner, with Landrieu winning yet another VERY close race. If Kennedy were more compelling, he'd probably win handidly...but he's not.

Posted by: Colin | August 27, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

For uncensored news please go to:

www.wsws.org
www.takingaimradio.com
www.onlinejournal.com
otherside123.blogspot.com
www.globalresearch.ca

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/aug2007/cali-a27.shtml

California Republicans seek to rig 2008 presidential vote

By our reporter
27 August 2007

In a transparent effort to rig the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, the California Republican Party has launched a petition drive to place a referendum on the ballot in June 2008 that would split the state's huge bloc of electoral votes rather than awarding them based on the traditional winner-take-all formula.

Since Democratic candidates have carried California in the last four presidential elections, and are heavily favored to do so again in 2008, the goal of the ballot drive is to shift 20 or more of the state's 55 electoral votes to the losing Republican, making it more likely that in a close national vote a Republican who loses the popular vote could still win the Electoral College, as Bush did in 2000 after the Supreme Court awarded him Florida's electoral votes.

The ballot proposition was drafted by a Republican-backed group taking the name "Californians for Equal Representation," set up by Thomas Hiltachk, a lawyer who was involved in the 2003 recall petition that ousted Democrat Gray Davis and installed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Sacramento statehouse. Hitalchk filed the language of the referendum with state attorney general Jerry Brown in late July and supporters have begun gathering the 454,000 signatures required to win a place on the June 3, 2008 ballot.

The plan would award one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district and two additional votes to the statewide winner. Since 19 of the state's 53 congressmen are Republicans, a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 could win the electoral votes of most of those districts and a few held by conservative Democrats if the referendum is approved by voters next year.

If the proposed system had been in effect in 2004, President Bush would have gained 22 electoral votes in California and guaranteed his reelection even if he had lost the closely contested state of Ohio, which provided his actual margin of victory in the Electoral College.

The ballot drive is a political dirty trick, not only in its content, but in its timing. The petition would force a vote in June 2008, the traditional presidential primary date in California, which was abandoned earlier this year when the legislature voted to move up the presidential vote to February 5. The result is that only local offices and statewide referenda will be on the ballot in June, making a low turnout very likely.

The ballot proposition is also deceptively marketed as an effort to ensure "election fairness." When given only this description, respondents to a recent poll in California supported the measure 43 percent to 31 percent. After an explanation that the effect would be to greatly increase the electoral votes available to the Republican presidential candidate, support dropped considerably.

In a further effort to "game" the result of the June 3 ballot, right-wing groups have launched other petition drives to place anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage proposals on the ballot to drive up turnout among Christian fundamentalists.

According to the US Constitution, state governments may determine how their electoral votes are awarded. They may--although no state has done so in more than a century--even award the electoral votes by decision of the state legislature, without a popular vote. That is what the Republican-controlled Florida state legislature threatened to do in 2000 before the US Supreme Court stepped in to halt a recount that would have given the state to Democrat Al Gore.

Currently two small states, Nebraska and Maine, award their electoral votes district-by-district in the manner proposed in California. Because of the political homogeneity of the states, their electoral votes have never actually been split, since the same candidate has prevailed in each district and statewide. Maine has only two congressional districts and Nebraska three.

The electoral college system is inherently undemocratic, not so much in its winner-take-all feature, as in the fact that small states have inordinate weight. Every state has electoral votes equal to its combined total of congressmen and senators. Since each state has two senators regardless of population, there are far more electoral votes per capita in Wyoming or Vermont than in California or Illinois.

The Republican campaign in California has nothing to do with making the electoral vote system more democratic. It is rather an effort to manipulate the outcome of the 2008 presidential election under conditions where the Republican Party is plunging in opinion polls.

Posted by: che | August 27, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

There's a rotten apple in every barrell...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

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