Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) joins Kojo in the studio, fresh off the conclusion of the Virginia General Assembly's 2015 session.
The Washington region’s voters were in the middle of a lot more than a presidential race this week. The area also served as the battleground for hot-button issues like immigration and same-sex marriage, as well as the site of one of the most hotly-contested U.S. Senate races. We take an early look at what the results mean for the region and country.
- Patrick Madden Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
- Tom Davis Director of federal government affairs, Deloitte LLP; Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; President, Republican Main Street Partnership; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-Va, Dist. 11).
- Christina Bellantoni Politics Editor, PBS News Hour
- Charles Robinson Political Correspondent, Maryland Public Television
More Money In National Politics, Less Campaign Cash In D.C.?
The 2012 election was the most expensive in American history. But D.C. campaigns raised far less money during the 2012 cycle compared to 2008. According to data from the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, the top four candidates for D.C.’s at-large Council seats raised 45 percent less during this cycle than they did four years ago.
Source: D.C. Office of Campaign Finance
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The Washington region likes to think of itself as the center of the political universe. But during this past campaign, this area really was ground zero, the site of a nationally significant battleground in Virginia that propelled President Obama to reelection and former Gov. Tim Kaine to a critical seat in the United States Senate.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt was the home of a television market where millions upon millions of dollars were spent on advertising not just on behalf of candidates, but on ballot questions that paved the way for everything from expanded casino gambling in Maryland to affirmation of the Old Line State's law legalizing same-sex marriage. Joining us to explore how the national results are likely to ripple through our local landscapes in Virginia, Maryland and the District and vice versa is Tom Davis.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe's a former member of the United States House of Representatives. He's a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th District. He's now the director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Congressman Davis, always a pleasure.
MR. TOM DAVISOh, great to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Charles Robinson. He's a political correspondent for Maryland Public Television. Good to see you, Charles.
MR. CHARLES ROBINSONAlways a pleasure to see you.
NNAMDIAnd in studio with us -- did you ever leave since last night?
MR. PATRICK MADDENI didn't. It's been a couple of hours since we last talked.
NNAMDII remember sitting here with you just a couple of hours ago. It's Patrick Madden, reporter for WAMU 88.5. Of course, you can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. The president held on to his seat. The Democrats defended their majority in the United States Senate. Progressive causes, like same-sex marriage, carried the day in several states, including Maryland. At one point last night or before, Tom Davis, did it become clear to you that both national and locally the wind, so to speak, was blowing in this direction?
DAVISWell, it was a mixed wind when you really look at it. The Republicans held the House, a strong majority in the House of Representatives. This is a balance of powers government. So we're basically in the status quo election. You can look at the win, but then a president, just to put the spin on it, I mean, was two and a half points under his national totals of four years ago. The House actually lost a couple of Republican seats, still some counting.
DAVISThe surprise here was that in the Senate, the Republicans had a real opportunity to take the Senate if you go back a year, and they ended up losing seats. So the campaigns matter in this sense. It's still a very closely divided country. Both parties have something to look at, but, look, the big enchilada in these things is the presidency. And the president was reelected.
NNAMDIWell, it seemed after that critical first debate that the momentum had swung significantly in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, and therefore some people concluded in favor of Republicans generally. That apparently didn't take significantly.
DAVISWell, it didn't last. I mean, the president came back...
NNAMDIIt didn't last.
DAVIS...for his second and third debates to requite himself a little bit. We had a storm at the end of things that kind of froze the campaign. If Romney was getting any traction at that point, it kind of got frozen in place. This was a close election. I mean, you had a quarter of a million votes switch. This is -- you'll have a different outcome here, in fact, less than that. But at the same time, you've got to hand it the president and his team. They targeted the right states.
DAVISThey ran a better campaign on the ground. And, look, the president is an inspiring political figure, whatever you may think of him, and was able to mobilize and get a vote out that otherwise would be dormant. Now, you just can't do that by spending money. You have to have some message to sell to some group of people, and the president was able to do that.
NNAMDIAnd, Charles Robinson, at what point last night did you feel that the wind was blowing in the direction both of President Obama and, as Tom Davis pointed out, that the Republicans held on to the House, the Democrats basically held on to the Senate?
ROBINSONWell, it's interesting at about 10 o'clock, you know, we started getting the last results that we needed from the six congressional districts where Roscoe Bartlett lost his seat. The legislature had redesigned a district that made it more favorable to Democrat John Daley. And what ends up happening is now we have an entire congressional district that has one Republican in it.
ROBINSONI think the big winner last night was the governor because of his win, especially on same-sex marriage, which he championed, and, of course, in-state tuition for undocumented children. And add to that all the money that was spent on gambling.
NNAMDIOh, we'll get to that in a little while, about the whole money issue. But also joining us in studio now is Christina Bellantoni, politics editor of the "PBS NewsHour." Christina Bellantoni, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. CHRISTINA BELLANTONIHi. Sorry to be late. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDII guess one of the things I should have mentioned before is that it seemed that in the 2010 election the wind was blowing clearly in the direction of the Republicans. They were able to take the House back from the Democrats in the year 2010. They were able to hold on to it in this election. But it would appear that the tide in favor of the Republicans slowed significantly last night.
BELLANTONIYeah. A lot of the gains last night were in part because of redistricting because that Tea Party wave in 2010 had a lot of Republicans taking over state legislatures. So they were redrawing the congressional lines in races that could -- the impacts that could last a decade in places like North Carolina, Georgia, looking in a lot of different states where the Republicans made gains there.
BELLANTONIBut really, when you think about the types of Republicans who were able to win reelection last night, the types of Republicans who lost, Tea Party freshman Joe Walsh in Illinois unseated there. Congressman Allen West in Florida, a very bombastic Tea Party figure, it's unclear if he's going to survive his reelection race, not looking like it. Michele Bachmann barely won her race in a district that was strengthened for her. So this is definitely sending a signal of the types of races where people are winning.
NNAMDITom Davis, what's your immediate reaction as to what the nationwide results mean for the direction of the two major parties?
DAVISWell, I think the Republican Party got more conservative, and the Democratic Party got more liberal, if you want to put it just very, very, very succinctly. It wasn't just Tea Party Republicans that lost seats last night. Dold, Gibbard in Illinois. Walsh was the result of redistricting as much as anything else. And West was running in a completely new district. Bachmann, I'll leave to your listenership to decide what happened there. But, look, I think, at the end of the day, the Republican conference in the House is going to be more conservative than it was before.
DAVISThe Democratic conference will be more liberal. The middle of the road, you had some key -- more moderate Democrats leaving Congress or getting defeated in primaries, and some got knocked off last night. We're in a more polarized atmosphere. A lot of new members, but the partisan balance remains essentially unchanged. And we've got to see if these leaders can get together after a bitter campaign where you had hundreds of millions of dollars spent, pointing fingers at each other.
NNAMDISo you're saying that the status quo that got the Congress the lowest rating ever in its history is not only remaining, but it may now be deeply entrenched?
DAVISThat's what I'm saying. I think it's pretty clear from the (word?).
BELLANTONIAlthough you do have to look at the types of Democrats that were able to win reelection last night that had been distancing themselves from the president, now, you know, Democrats like Sen. Tester in Montana, Sen. McCaskill in Missouri are going to be free to vote a little differently at this point. They might be able to be more liberal than they were being over the last few years as they were looking toward their own reelection races.
BELLANTONIIt will be very interesting to see want ends up happening in North Dakota. But then you have -- obviously, in Indiana, a very conservative state, which elected a Democratic member of Congress, Joe Donnelly, against treasurer Richard Mourdock there, so he'll be one of those conservative Democrats. So it's -- the makeup of the Senate is going to matter a lot about what the president is able to pursue for his agenda.
NNAMDIAnd the point that Congressman Davis was making about them being able -- them having to work together at this point, Christina Bellantoni, I'd like to hear you on that because if the other point that he made -- and that is the status quo is entrenched -- what likelihood, what possibility is there that they are going to work together?
BELLANTONIEveryone wants to read what happened last night in a different way. Democrats are saying that there was a pretty clear indication that the president who ran on increasing taxes on the wealthy and exit polls showing that Americans favored that, you know, by a slim majority...
BELLANTONIYes -- suggested that. And certainly George W. Bush said he had a mandate in 2004 after his reelection. The president won more states than George W. Bush was able to win. But I don't think -- I don't see Republicans saying, oh, yes. This sent a signal to me that Americans want higher taxes. And, in fact, going to the status quo point, you're seeing what the Republican caucus, they're going to be pushing John Boehner to hold the line against the president because they think that they can get him to come along.
NNAMDIPatrick Madden, let's talk about what happened in the District of Columbia for a little bit because it seems that here incumbent candidates almost everywhere in the region defended their turf on Wednesday. But one of the most recognizable names in D.C. politics was taken out in an at-large race for the D.C. Council. Independent Michael Brown was defeated by fellow independent David Grosso. Every other incumbent in every other race in D.C. won this year. What ultimately led to Michael Brown's defeat?
MADDENWell, I think two things: one, Michael Brown had a string of personal and campaign finance issues that were just plaguing his campaign from the start, the biggest being this missing $100,000 that was embezzled allegedly from his campaign bank account. And that not only created this lingering story that he had to keep answering in the public, but it also totally drained his campaign of any funds. So in the final week or so, when his opponent was able to, you know, send out three mailers to all these voters in D.C., Michael Brown pretty much, you know, had to rely on volunteers.
MADDENAnd there were also -- from what I'm hearing and what I saw out in the field, there weren't enough people at the polls to remind folks that you can vote twice. And that's a big issue in these at-large races, that second vote. And so I think ultimately it was the scandals, as well as, as a result of one of those scandals, just not having enough money and not being able to compete which -- and when you talk about the D.C. Council history, that's an incredible phenomena that the incumbent was at a disadvantage.
NNAMDIAnd one of the reasons it has some -- I guess it resounds in this area is because Michael Brown's brand was really based on, in large measure, his father's reputation. He's the son of the late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, late chairman of the DNC. And it looks as if, for the time being, Michael Brown's career in politics might be, well, on layaway, huh?
MADDENIt may be. Although, of course, we will have a special election coming up in, like, three months, so...
NNAMDIOh, yeah. Yes.
MADDEN...who knows? He could change his -- that I to a D and throw his hat in the ring again along with probably half dozen other candidates.
NNAMDIBecause the new elected chairman of the D.C. Council, Phil Mendelson, had to give up an at-large seat in order to do that. And so there's likely to be an election in the spring for his at-large seat, and who knows who might run for that. Let's get back to Virginia for a second because, four years ago when President Obama became the first Democratic candidate to carry Virginia in a generation, Tim Kaine, now senator-elect, famously said that Old Virginia was dead.
NNAMDIIn the years that followed, Republicans ran up the score in statewide races, took back the governor's mansion, strengthened their grip in Richmond, but Kaine and Obama both won in the Commonwealth last night. Tom Davis, what do you think explains the turnaround?
DAVISWell, it is a new Virginia. It's becoming rapidly urbanized and suburbanized. And Republicans have not been able to figure out Northern Virginia. They almost wish -- try to wish it away. But when you're losing the region by a couple hundred thousand votes, it becomes a little more difficult. They also had problems in other urban areas of the state where you have minority populations.
DAVISLook, the Republican equation, it's not complicated, but they're going to have to open up the party a little bit. They've got a coalition over there that's older. It's whiter in a country that is getting younger and browner. And they're going to have to, I think, open up the party and be a welcoming party. And they -- it's a hard lesson sometimes. And in Virginia, we're learning the hard way.
BELLANTONIAnd that sets the table for what could be a very interesting Republican primary between Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. -- then the attorney general...
DAVISOr at the convention, which is even worse.
BELLANTONIOr a convention, yeah. You know, the Republican Party in Virginia, as Congressman Davis can attest to, has been at war with itself for a long time. And this is an election that's next year, by the way. And Virginia has a tradition of always electing a governor who is the opposite party of the president who has just won. Not always, but I guess, for me...
DAVISNine straight times.
BELLANTONIYeah, exactly. So this is going to be a really interesting race. And also, candidates matter, campaigns matter. Gov. Bob McDonnell was able to win in 2011. But Creigh Deeds was not the best candidate for that race, and I think that says a lot about the Democratic Party in Virginia.
NNAMDITo what degree did you think that President Obama benefited from Kaine being on the ticket? Kaine won by a larger margin than the president. Did you think that Tim Kaine had coattails?
BELLANTONII think it was both. The president had coattails, too. They really built an organization together in part with what Kaine was able to do in his statewide win for governor in 2005 and, obviously, his work that led him being named as Democratic National Committee chairman. But this is really -- it's about that changing demographic, as the congressman is also talking about.
BELLANTONIYou know, Latino voters are growing in population in Virginia, also Asian voters, huge, booming population there. They favored the president by overwhelming numbers last night nationally, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Virginia exit polls show that as well.
NNAMDIWell, George Allen, the Senate candidate on the Republican side, worked hard at linking Kaine to Obama, Tom Davis. Kaine never ran away from that. He endorsed it, and apparently it worked for him.
DAVISYou know, and Kaine had his own persona, having been governor for four years. He wasn't introducing himself to the Virginia electorate for the first time. He certainly had some flies on him, and so did Allen from just having, you know, been in there, all the campaigns and governed. But he had his own persona out there, so he was able to define himself. And he recognized the bulk of his vote were people who were coming out to vote for President Obama and that he needed to keep them there in his column for himself.
DAVISBesides, the two are close friends. He -- as you know, while he was governor, he took the Democratic national chairmanship at the request of President Obama, something, I think, he -- and if he'd had his druthers, he would've preferred not to do. So it worked out well. The other thing is -- from my friend George Allen, who I think is a wonderful guy, would've made a good senator, is the state has changed, and we've go to change the way we campaign and the way we articulate and communicate with voters.
DAVISAnd George just was not able to do that. He worked very, very hard. But a lot of his themes were old themes. There's a whole new set of issues coming up to voters in Northern Virginia and Henrico County around Richmond, I point out. Republicans are losing these areas badly. These used to be the backbone of the Republican vote in the state, and they're going to have to recalibrate if they want to stay competitive over the long term.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. What do you think tipped the scales for President Obama and Tim Kaine in Virginia yesterday? What do you think Republicans need to do in the state to come back and regain the momentum they had in 2010? 800-433-8850. When we come back, a closer look at Maryland. 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur conversation about the regional election roundup with Christina Bellantoni, politics editor of the PBS "NewsHour." Tom Davis is a former member of the United States House of Representatives. He's a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th District. He's now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Area Airports Authority. Patrick Madden is a reporter for WAMU 88.5. And Charles Robinson is a political correspondent for Maryland Public Television.
NNAMDICharles, progressive issues carried the day at the ballot box in Maryland, where voters passed questions affirming the state's same-sex marriage and DREAM Act laws, the second of which authorized in-state tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants. When it comes to same-sex marriage, what do you think accounted for the victory? Was it simply a matter of a more progressive electorate? What affect did the governor's leadership have on the issue, Gov. Martin O'Malley?
ROBINSONWell, first and foremost, there was a group that was put together to kind of start this process, a guy by the name of Derek McCoy, the Marriage Alliance group.
NNAMDIWe had him on last night.
ROBINSONAnd the problem was -- is that Derek had a lot of preachers, and he had a lot of big preachers from all over that region. To counteract that, the governor was able to convince Ben Jealous of the NAACP to endorse the initiative, and then he got Julian Bond. Then he convinced all the state NAACP officers, hey, we need you to endorse this. This kind of butted up against the whole idea, well, why do we need marriage? And, you know, and it was this -- it became a racial component.
NNAMDII was about to say it seems that the entire campaign over that ballot question was aimed at African-American voters.
ROBINSONIt was totally racial. It was like, you know, it was -- first of all, it came in with a moral imperative. In other words, hey, black churches are about marriage. I always ask, well, how many of you are saving marriages? 'Cause a lot of single women are in these churches.
ROBINSONYou know, you want to save marriage, but you're not working on the people who you need to save. Then the other one, Heather Mizeur, who is a delegate from Montgomery County...
ROBINSON...interviewed her yesterday, and she said something that was very interesting. She says, first of all, no gay couple is going to go to a church to get married if they don't want you. Why would you go to a church that wouldn't -- to get married that doesn't want you? It's supposed to be your joyous day. Eighty percent of these folks have gone to justices of peace or, you know, county offices. The other part is she made this point 'cause I went to -- I happen to be Catholic, and I went to a Catholic church. And in the bulletin was a vote against this question.
ROBINSONAnd the Catholic Church was really hot to trot about this. Mizeur made the point that, you know, the Catholic Church doesn't allow everybody to get married. Think about this. If you are divorced, you must get an annulment in order to get married in the Catholic Church. And I think some people saw a lot of hypocrisy in that. And then the other part was -- is that young people in the state, and I think all across this country, have different perceptions of what gay means.
NNAMDIYes. There does seem to be a generational divide. Your take on this, Christina Bellantoni? Because it was also approved in Maine yesterday, and this is after being rejected about 30 times on ballots prior to this.
BELLANTONIYeah. And a total of four states gave basically, yes, we're OK with same-sex marriage, and it sends a signal about the changing electorate sends a signal about changing social demographics. I've long said that the Republican Party is it's grappling with what it wants to be. You know, could there be a party for social liberals and fiscal conservatives, that libertarian movement tapping into that?
BELLANTONIBut also -- I hate to get too far ahead of myself, but at the same time, I love it. This is why I'm in this business. Gov. Martin O'Malley, we know he is interested in national politics. He obviously is chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
MADDENSo you stole my thunder.
MADDENShe stole my thunder.
NNAMDIThat's why she said she was going to get ahead of herself. Yes.
BELLANTONIBut there's a lot of this.
BELLANTONIAnd then the other thing is North Carolina, the president endorsed same-sex marriage the day after North Carolina rejected it. A lot of these same issues at play, African-American churches, younger voters, that sort of dynamic, if that vote were to be held again, I wonder how it would go, even just, you know, now, it's six months later. And this is going to be a changing dynamic in this country, particularly as the Supreme Court is thinking about taking up gay marriage issues yet again. It's just a fascinating thing to keep an eye on.
NNAMDIBefore we get ahead to Martin O'Malley's presidential or other ambitions, I want to talk about the effect of social issues across the nation because eight years ago, there was a sense immediately after the election that social issues were a central factor propelling the GOP's electoral success. But last night, socially conservative candidates failed in big races across the country, in Indiana's Senate race, in Missouri's Senate race.
NNAMDIThe president seeking out progressive positions on everything from reproductive rights to supporting gay marriage, to what degree did the results of last night races, Tom Davis, starting with you, require a recalibration of our thinking when it comes to the electoral clout of so-called values voters?
DAVISWell, first of all, you have a lot of values voters who are concerned in those social issues that aren't voting Republican for other reasons: African-Americans in Prince George's County, Hispanic, very religious, great traditional on their value. But the Republican Party has turned them off for other reasons. If they want to be a social values party and be exclusively that, you know, it might be different altogether. Secondly, the two candidates you cited, they weren't just socially conservative. They said some goofy things that even a lot of social conservatives...
DAVISThat even -- yeah.
NNAMDIGood is a good word.
DAVISWell, I'm being polite. We're on public radio.
BELLANTONIInsensitive is how a lot of people describe it.
DAVISYeah, absolutely. And even a lot of traditional conservatives walked away and threw them under the bus, so they lost. We had a lot of social conservatives did win yesterday. It just depends where they were. So I don't think those issues are dead at this point. And, in fact, Kojo, I would maintain the alignment issues in this country tend to be around social issues about -- around race, ethnicity and cultural issues is how people align themselves, not along economic issues.
DAVISPeople who say oh, this is for -- great for redistributing income. That's not Obama's coalition. It's a piece of his coalition. But there are a lot of pro-business types who believe in markets that supported him for the social issues. So it's really a patchwork quilt of coalitions as we go through. And the Republicans right now are on the short end of it.
DAVISThey're in the long end of it for eight years ago.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Christina.
BELLANTONIAnd don't forget that the state of Wisconsin elected what will be the nation's first openly lesbian senator. This is -- again, thinking about what happened in 2004 and all those gay marriage initiatives on the ballot, and now, all of a sudden, you have, you know, a gay candidate who wins that seat and gay marriage actually passing in four states while the president is reelected. It was just such an interesting dynamic.
ROBINSONKojo, let me talk about owning this issue because that is kind of what Martin O'Malley has tried to carve out.
NNAMDIYou're helping me get back to Martin O'Malley also. Yes.
ROBINSONOK. Martin O'Malley needed something to distinguish himself from the people who are going to run. I think the biggest person that people think is going to run is Hillary Clinton. So he needed an issue. So now he has two of them. He's worked on the DREAM Act, and he's done the same-sex.
ROBINSONWhat he did with the same-sex issue, he was able to get this unique coalition of Hollywood types. So he was up in New York, so he got everybody who, you know, Lady Gaga to, you know, some other actors, big name actors. And guess what that becomes? That becomes the bank.
ROBINSONHe even got -- get this, he got the New York Mayor Bloomberg to give him a million dollars for this particular project. People have long memories on these kind of issues. And this is one of those issues that he has carved out his special niche. Hillary can't claim this one. And many of the other potential candidates for 2016 can't claim it.
MADDENBut he also seems to be following -- he's always sort of paired with Gov. Cuomo who, of course, passed this a year ago.
MADDENAnd I think there was talk about why didn't O'Malley do this before. Cuomo, and, of course, they're always sort of mentioned in 2016.
NNAMDIAs a matter of fact, that was cited as one of the motivations for O'Malley upping his profile on this issue in the last election.
ROBINSONYou think he's running for another office?
BELLANTONIAnd don't forget Vice President Joe Biden, by the way, when you talk about next season.
NNAMDIOh, that's exactly...
DAVISWho went out of his way last night to say this wasn't his last campaign.
BELLANTONIYes, he did.
DAVISAnd I don't think he's going back to run for county commissioner.
BELLANTONII don't think so.
NNAMDITom Davis, please, don your headphones because here is John in Pasadena, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi, Kojo. Great fan of your show, by the way. Mr. Davis, is the Republican Party not going to have to embrace the enormous number and growing number of Hispanics in this country if they intend to win another election?
DAVISWell, I think they need to -- look, I think they need to be an open, welcoming party. I mean, would you rather join a church that's chasing out heretics or a church that's welcoming in new converts? And we need to grow the party. It doesn't -- we don't have to throw anybody out that's there, but we need to be a welcoming party. And the Hispanics can be an important part of that. We haven't done that to date. In some cases, we've had some candidates who've gone out of their way to basically give the finger to Hispanics. And I think that's part of the problem.
DAVISAnd we have a branding issue. Even with candidates that tend to be pro-immigration, there's a branding issue. And you saw during the Republican nomination process, how when you had Gingrich and the governor of Texas who had had his own DREAM Act in Texas, got thrown under the bus by Romney and others as they walked through. The tensions in the party on that issue, we're going to have to come to grips with that. But doing those kind of things cost Romney, and it cost the party votes this year under -- with people who otherwise would agree with them.
NNAMDITom Davis, who famously said on this show once, you don't win elections by subtraction and arithmetic. You have to...
NNAMDI...win by addition. John, thank you very much for your call. Speaking of addition, there was a lot of money added in this race between the Question 7 debate in Maryland over gaming, the presidential race, and the Senate race in Virginia. Voters in our region were literally barraged with an ad blitz worth more than the entire GDP of some smaller countries. What did we learn this election cycle about the influence, say, of television advertising, Christina Bellantoni?
BELLANTONIIt's really fascinating because I want to do a study on how much the super PACs actually make a difference here. You had the races where they spent the most, particularly Republican outside groups, Virginia Senate race, Montana Senate race, Ohio Senate race, Florida Senate race. North Dakota, it looks like the Democrat may pull it out there. Democrats won in basically every single contest here. And in a sense, it actually gave Democrats this rallying cry, particularly in the presidential race.
BELLANTONIMitt Romney and his Republican allies (unintelligible) to buy this election. They were able to sort of create this meme that Romney cared about rich people and had rich friends who were funding his election and all the money he was able to raise. And that actually worked to Democrats' advantage. So it doesn't matter. And in the end, it just turns voters off. And that had -- you had that overwhelming sense of people just so disgusted by it all. It certainly helps all the local stations.
ROBINSONI was going to say, the only...
NNAMDIThe two sides on Question 7 spent more than $90 million.
ROBINSONThat was more than they used on the last two gubernatorial races in the state.
BELLANTONIOh, my gosh.
ROBINSONAnd what was even more bizarre is the only...
DAVISThat's just a -- that's a good night at the tables. That's all that is.
ROBINSONWhat was even more bizarre was having a quote from the secretary of state in West Virginia said, we wanted to fail because we're going to make more money. And, you know, that's kind of one of those weird why-did-you-say-that kind of moments. The other thing is, Kojo, the only people in this region who are really going thank you is all the general managers who are going to get these huge bonuses this year from all the money that was spent on advertisement. I was down in Richmond…
NNAMDIYou mean the television station general managers?
DAVISThe for-pay stations, right?
ROBINSONTrust me, I work at a PBS station, and, you know, we got our issues with Big Bird.
ROBINSONBut, look, the bottom line is I was down in Richmond, and in April, it was wall-to-wall ads. I said, they're going to keep this up? -- as a question.
ROBINSONAs a question mark -- and I can't even imagine what it was like the weekend before.
NNAMDII'm glad you said you were down in Richmond because we have a clip from Senator-elect Tim Kaine's victory speech last night in which he talks specifically about the amount of money because this Senate campaign was where the most money was spent than any other across the nation. But here's Tim Kaine.
SEN. TIM KAINEOur victory tonight proves that it's the number of people who stand with you, not the number of zeroes behind a check, that decide elections in the United States of America.
NNAMDIThe number of people who stand with you, not the number of people who stand behind a check, he said. Tom Davis, with all of the money spent in this election, we kept hearing last night that it wasn't the television ads. It was the ground game. People got tired after a while of hearing the phrase ground game in this -- is this money making any significant difference?
DAVISNo, not at that level. So I think after you get a certain level of saturation with your message, you get really diminishing returns. And I would put the money in the people on the ground in the organization. I would say, though, now, I haven't looked at the final turnout figures, so I'm kind of speaking in the dark here. But I think money on the ground, in that case, is just -- is worth more, but you spend so much ungodly amounts of money in these races that you're -- it's not making a difference.
DAVISGeorge Allen took a half million dollars of his own money, put it in at the end. He had a million-and-a-half-dollar contribution from Sheldon Adelson, the (unintelligible). They knew this was close. The problem was how do you take this money and affect an outcome in media, in TV and radio that are so crowded with ads at this point, with an electorate that's already pretty hardened in where they're going? In off-year elections, you may have more of an effect in these down ticket races. But the Senate race basically paralleled the presidential race, came in slightly ahead of the president.
BELLANTONIAnd I would add, in House races, it does seem to have made a little bit more of a difference where you had super PACs starting up just to support one candidate or the other, and that's why there were more -- there was more money spent on a lot of these House races traditionally across the country. And, you know, I'm very curious. Your former NRCC chairman in our ranks here...
BELLANTONI...you know, what that does because you've got the coordination issues. It complicates the messaging for the parties when these super PACs are getting involved.
DAVISWell, Christina, I'll take it, just be frank about it. In primaries, it carries even more weight than in the general election because there's no counterbalance, and the voters, they're all Republicans or they're all Democrats. So how do you distinguish between them? And 80 percent of these races are now decided in their primary, not their general election.
DAVISSo what we've done with the combination of McCain-Feingold -- which basically starved the party and made it harder for parties to raise money, and Citizens United, which said, OK, the parties can't raise money, but everybody else, it's a free-for-all -- is we have moved the money away from the parties, which are a centering and a stabilizing force out to these interest groups. And that's why we have what we have. I think it's a disaster.
NNAMDIThe exception in this case, Patrick Madden...
NNAMDI...was the District of Columbia. You have been following the money in the District of Columbia, and there was apparently a lot less spent in this campaign.
MADDENRight. I did -- this morning, I calculated the at-large race, comparing 2008 to 2012, looking at the four candidates, how much they raised or spent in 2008 versus 2012. And it's remarkable. It is almost half this time around.
MADDENSo we -- there is about a 45 percent decrease in the total amount that the campaigns raised, the top four in '08 to 2012, and this speaks to a couple things. One, we have had major scandals involving campaign finance. So if you talk about Jeffrey Thompson and that investigation, that money isn't in this race. That money wasn't raised. If you talk about the normal businesses that usually will donate multiple, multiple donations, well, that's not happening this time around.
MADDENWhether it's because of concerns about the subpoenas that have been going around or concerns about the new legislation that's trying to tackle these issues, there isn't as much money in these races. And what does that mean? It means incumbents are more vulnerable. And so it'll be interesting to follow this going forward 'cause it is truly an exception. We talk about hundreds of millions of dollars, you know, this Citizens United atmosphere, but in the District here, there's less -- there was less money this time around, at least in this race.
NNAMDIJeffrey Thompson, being the former head of Chartered health care who is alleged to have put more than $300,000 into a shadow campaign for current Mayor Vincent Gray and who is currently under investigation, well, he was not a player in this campaign. And, as a result, you're saying that is one of the reasons why there seems to have been less money in this campaign.
NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation. If you have called and the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Email you can send to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. That's the voice of Tom Davis. He's a former member of the United States House of Representatives. He's a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th District. Tom Davis is now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
NNAMDIHe joins us in studio, along with Patrick Madden, WAMU 88.5 reporter, Charles Robinson, political correspondent for Maryland Public Television, and Christina Bellantoni, politics editor for the "PBS NewsHour." I'd like to go directly to the phones, starting with Graham in Washington, D.C. Graham, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GRAHAMHi. Yes. Thanks, Kojo. Good morning, guys. So I had a question. There's a lot of talk, obviously, about the shifting electorate and how the voters are getting younger and less light, and I began thinking about their caucuses. And, you know, it always struck me, being from cities my whole life, that the caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina brought up issues that I don't necessarily care much about, right?
GRAHAMSo ethanol is a big deal, farm subsidies, large manufacturing plants, and I'd always sort of wanted to know if there was -- you know, I always thought it was somewhat unfair that issues like mass transit and affordable housing never got included because of the sort of the demographics, the populations of those states.
GRAHAMAnd I guess my question is, as this trend continues -- I'd like to think I'm a young voter, but I don't think I am anymore. As this trend continues, will we possibly see an urban state or at least a state with an urban population get a chance to, I don't know, make candidates put issues down that are important to the other demographics? So I'll just -- thanks.
NNAMDIGraham, welcome to the District of Columbia, where we have no voting representation.
NNAMDIBut we do have a statehood party. We'd like to advocate for an urban area.
ROBINSONWe have a perfect reason to have a caucus.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Tom Davis?
DAVISWell, I think the national parties have cut this deal with Iowa and with New Hampshire that keep this thing very skewed as opposed to going direct primaries. I think it ought to evolve eventually. I -- but this is the national party committees basically put penalties on states that try to go out of line on this.
MADDENBut how come -- I mean, the caller raises this point about these issues that at least, when I talk to people around here, you talk about it's education or their transportation. I mean, that's a huge issue around here, and it just seems that never breaks through in the national political discussion.
DAVISWell, two things. I mean, if you -- from a political science point, when you have a one-party state and you have an issue like education, everybody is for education. Everybody is for transportation. Basically, the argument is, how do you implement it? I mean, it just -- there's really no differences in how you do that. You -- the city won't even allow a vote on the voucher program. They discourage having the citizens vote on something like that, which would be a genuine policy argument that, I think, would actually do the city some good.
DAVISSo you say, well, I'm for education. I'm for -- and same in Virginia. And all these guys come up with these plans, and it never builds anything. The only people building anything are these private companies that are doing public-private partnerships 'cause the state doesn't want to kick in any money.
DAVISSo that's -- I mean, that's what happens on those kind of issues and why, I think, they get obscured in the process. But everybody has a position on abortion or on guns. And that kind of grabs you, and it's something you feel you can do something about where these other issues are kind of more amorphous. They're like, you know, pinning Jell-O to a wall.
BELLANTONIAnd on the Democratic side, you know, I covered the 2008 Democratic caucuses and that whole fight between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton. And what you see in Iowa, the issues are the wedge issues on that side. The war was a huge issue, issues about Guantanamo Bay and torture. You had these sort of side issues that ended up not really being that much of a part of the national general election campaign that year.
BELLANTONIBut I will advocate. I'm a Californian by birth, and you don't really matter there. You know, generally, now that the jungle primary is in effect, you've got a little bit of help there. But I'm actually a big fan of these states having first in the nation status. They really hold this responsibility true to themselves. It's part of their upbringing. They hold these candidates accountable for what they say. They make sure they're hearing from them.
BELLANTONIBoth Iowa and New Hampshire now, they're not so, you know, representative or reflective of the national culture, but Iowa is trending. There are more and more Hispanic voters in Iowa now. And look at the results from South Carolina last night. That was not a blowout for Mitt Romney in that state, which I thought was fascinating. And that could be an interesting dynamic in a Democratic primary.
DAVISCouldn't they rotate the states? It's good to have these small states where you get to actually talk to the candidates instead of just going from fundraiser to fundraiser. But why not rotate the states a little bit so you get some African-Americans in the mix and you get, you know, some cities in the mix like the caller had requested?
MADDENOf course, it'll probably always come down to Ohio, though.
BELLANTONIRight. But that was the idea with adding Nevada into the caucuses and in the Democratic caucuses in 2008. That -- they really didn't step up. There wasn't a lot of participation. It really -- they were not holding these candidates' feet to the fire.
ROBINSONAnd, Tom, you know, this is always about money, so it's, you know, about bringing people to a given location where the television market is -- markets are huge markets where you're spending inordinate amounts of money. And, as you say, it's a lot of retail politics. I would like to see a rotation. But, you know, where does that rotation go? You know, does it go to, you know, the Midwest? Does it go to the East Coast? Does it go to the Southern region? Does -- I mean, heck, I know those folks out in California, in Washington, Oregon want something.
NNAMDISpeaking of money being spent, I wanted to get back to the Question 7 last night because when Maryland voters apparently voted for the state's gambling program and a new casino in Prince George's County at National Harbor with so money -- with more than $90 million spent, what do you think ultimately tipped the scale in the direction of the pro-gaming camp? Because, going into this, it seemed as if the anti-gaming people had gained some traction and that it would go that way.
ROBINSONI think it was early voting. You know, we had a large population that went to the polls early, and part of that group was influenced early on about the whole can you get me some money. And Rushern Baker, who is a county executive from Prince George's County, asked people from MGM and the Caesars folks, we need more money.
ROBINSONAnd they put out more ads. But there -- what I thought was even more interesting was the percentage that Prince Georgians actually voted for this particular event. You know, people said this election was about jobs, and I think people were voting with their pocketbooks on this thing. They looked around and said, look, we're also where you're getting jobs from, and this is going to be a job creator whether you like or not, even if you're against the gambling. The question was always, what's going to happen to the money after you make the money?
ROBINSONAnd, look, MGM and Caesars didn't come in here thinking they were going to lose money. They know they're going to make a lot of money from my good friend Tom Davis and his friends down in Virginia. They want him to come across that bridge and bring everything that they have in order to, you know, jack up our coffers 'cause, you know, our secretary of state doesn't want to do the same thing the guy from West Virginia did. Please bring me your money now.
NNAMDIOK. Well, you have exploded my hypothesis. And that is, you think I'm going to tell my pastor and my poster that I'm going to vote for gambling? Come on. Here is Trisha in Washington, D.C. Trisha, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TRISHAHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I wanted to say that I think the big takeaway from last night is women. And I think that it's very interesting to hear how super PACs have affected the race and how spending money has affected it. But I think that facts mattered in this election, and I think that actions mattered. And I think women across the country saw what Republican legislatures were doing to women's rights. And I think, for example, in Virginia where the race was very close, the transvaginal ultrasound law mobilized a lot of women to get out and to knock on doors.
TRISHAAnd I think that...
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
TRISHAI think it had enormous effect, and I hope that the Republicans will listen to that message.
NNAMDITom Davis, do you think that Trisha is correct?
DAVISWell, it certainly got a lot of publicity in Richmond at this point, and I think there are probably some delegates who wish they had their votes on that are on the board for that now and have to run next year. But, you know, it's also the economy. Women aren't one issue, people. Abortion is a part of the equation. There are a lot of pro-life women. But it gets back into the holding. The Republican Party seems to be a bunch of angry white males sometimes in the way that they talk and their toughness on crime.
DAVISIf you'll listen to a successful politician's quiz, they know how to talk to women as well. Our party in Virginia, we don't run women statewide. We don't get active and recruit a lot of women candidates, which I think make great candidates. As you remember, I had a PAC at one point that was dedicated to finding women and minority candidates in the Republican Party.
DAVISThey've just got to have to change that a little bit, I think, to be competitive. There's room for pro-life and pro-choice women, but there is a women's perspective on some of these workplace issues and the like that, even though men may agree or not, they're not sensitive to it in their conversation. So I think the caller makes a point.
BELLANTONIAnd the caller does make a point. And I agree with you, Congressman. But also, the Romney campaign and sort of the RNC, they did a nice job. And American Crossroads, they had some incredibly effective ads targeting women. And there -- it really gets down to that difference between married and unmarried women.
BELLANTONIAnd Mitt Romney did win married women last night. And he also did win independents, I should point out. But it's just a fascinating dynamic where the ways that you're communicating with people, and then they get superseded. And that has to do with the 24/7 media. It has to do with the types of things that people like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are saying out there on the campaign trail and how they get exploded. But the Republicans had a very, very effective economic message to women that Mitt Romney was capitalizing on.
NNAMDIThank you, Trisha, on that women's issue. Let's see if Debbie in Great Falls, Va. differs in any way. Debbie, your turn.
DEBBIEWell, I want to sort of double down on what Trisha said. I think the women's issue was huge, and I think trying to say that there wasn't a war on women and trying to say it was just about Akin and Mourdock when…
NNAMDIWell, Debbie, what do you think about the point that Christina just made, about the fact that Mitt Romney won married women and so that they're -- there may be some, either situation or generational, divide among women themselves?
DEBBIEWell, I'm a married woman, but I'm 63. I remember the days before Roe v. Wade passed and some of the horror stories that personal friends of mine experienced.
DEBBIESo I am very sensitive to the fact that maybe some of the younger women don't realize just how far we've come with birth control and access to legal and safe abortions. But when you have the vice presidential candidate having co-signed legislation redefining rape with Mr. Akin, and you have both candidates...
NNAMDIWell, we're running out of time very quickly, Debbie. But your point is well-taken that women played a significantly role -- significant role in the outcome of this. I wanted to get back to the District of Columbia for a second, Patrick Madden, because have you had a chance to look at the ward-by-ward data in the District yet? What did we learn about the city's electorate from yesterday's race?
MADDENWell, the city's electorate is changing. I think we're going to see Ward 6 is going to -- which is the area that...
NNAMDIPartially Capitol Hill.
MADDEN...partially Capitol Hill, that's going to, in the future, I think, play a much more prominent role. I think voter turnout or registration was up 30 percent. So I think we're seeing -- we're going to see changing -- we're obviously seeing changing demographics in the city, and that's going to play a role in the -- down the road in the future in terms of local elections.
NNAMDIAnd how are the dynamics on the D.C. Council likely to change with David Grosso there and with Phil Mendelson now fully installed as the chairman?
MADDENWell, I think, to me, one of the big takeaways from this election is that this -- you can look at this and say this is the first local election we've had where all -- where you can see the toll that these scandals have taken. And it's not just Michael Brown losing. It's also the fact that Vincent Orange, who was the Democratic candidate, his numbers were way down from when Kwame Brown won back four years ago.
MADDENSo I think there almost is this throw-the-bums-out mentality sort of happening here in the District. You look at who replaced Harry Thomas, and it was Kenny McDuffie, a former U.S. attorney. So you're -- I think you're seeing a new type of candidate that's running in the District.
NNAMDIBut, Charles Robinson, what did we learn yesterday about what it takes for an incumbent candidate to lose? In just about every race in the region, incumbents sailed to victory with the very notable exception that you mentioned of Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who was done in by redistricting as much as anything else.
ROBINSONHe also was done in by some of his more bizarre statements. He had a statement about holocaust, trying to make an analogy, and that just caught him in a bind that he could never get out. He also got outspent. Let me just tell you that John Delaney is now going to be the richest congressman to go in the Congress as well, and he put up a lot of his own money to make that happen. But, you know, I can't leave you without talking about Sheila Dixon.
NNAMDIPlease do. The former mayor of Baltimore, what's up with Sheila Dixon now?
ROBINSONSheila Dixon unfortunately violated her parole, and there is a strong likelihood that they're going to impose some more -- tougher (word?).
NNAMDIThis is a woman who we all felt was thinking of coming back into politics at some point.
ROBINSONOh, yes. She is still thinking, but I don't...
DAVISShe could move to D.C. maybe do well.
NNAMDIStop. We voted in D.C. yesterday...
DAVISJust kidding, just kidding.
NNAMDIWe voted in D.C. yesterday...
MADDENWe have new charter amendments now.
NNAMDI...for three charter amendments that says, if you are convicted of a felony, you have to leave office, and you cannot return to office. The City Council didn't entirely like that, but it is what it is.
ROBINSONThey did the same thing in Maryland.
DAVISWell, then she can run for Congress. OK?
NNAMDI...is a political correspondent for Maryland Public Television. Patrick Madden is a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Christina Bellantoni is the politics editor of the PBS "NewsHour," and former congressman, former Republican Congressman Tom Davis is director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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