Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Tuesday
Dec302014

The Final Score--993,214 To 772,987 (A 12.4% Margin)

The final score was 993,214 to 772,987.

That's a 12.4 percent margin, 56.2 percent to 43.8 percent.

No.  Those aren't numbers for any particular candidates in the 2014 election cycle.

In fact, those are the combined totals from three locations, two states and the District of Columbia.

If I told you the states were Oregon and Alaska, you could probably guess the topic was legalizartion (not just decriminalization mind you, but total legalization) of marijuana.

These numbers are all from a list of all elections available on pollster.com.

In Oregon, Measure 91 passed by more than 11 points (55.6%-44.4%)-- 769,462-614,459.

In Alaska, Measure 2 was a bit closer, but it passed by nearly five points (52.3%-47.7%) --127,639-116,248.

In the Disrict of Columbia, Initiative 71 passed by more than a two to one margin (69.4%-30.6%) --96,113-42,281. 

The average victory margin of 12.4 points is higher than the ten point margins achieved when Colorado and Washington voters approved similar referendums in the last elected cycle.  The 12.4 percent is actually pretty much in line with the average support for legalization in recent opinion polls. 

Congress wasted no time in striking down the results of the D.C. vote.  In fact, the repeal was included at part of the trillion dollar budget passed a few weeks ago (the report printed below is from the Christian Science Monitor).

Go figure.

Politicians apparently feel empowered to strike down the will of the voters, but when people have been given the chance to vote on legalization, five times in a row they have said yes and by margins of not just a few points, but by margins of double digits.

I shall refrain from editorializing. 

The numbers speak for themselves.

It's time to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.

 

Congress poised to nix marijuana legalization, overruling D.C. voters

In November, the District of Columbia voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, but a new congressional budget deal has a provision barring implementation. 

By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer  DECEMBER 10, 2014

  • Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
    View Caption

When residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana last month, cannabis fans cheered. Then they quickly realized that Congress – which has oversight over D.C.’s affairs – could overrule the will of the voters.

Now, it appears, that fear will come true sooner than expected – not in the next Congress, when Republicans will control both chambers, but during the lame duck session currently under way.

Tuesday night, Senate Democrats and House Republicans reached a deal to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 of next year. The full House and Senate have yet to vote on it, but if they pass it, that means no government shutdown. Then there's the fine print, which includes a provision that bars implementation of Initiative 71, the marijuana legalization measure D.C. voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin on Nov. 4.

Recommended: How much do you know about marijuana? Take the quiz

Specifically, a press summary of the spending bill posted online by the House Appropriations Committee says it “prohibits both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District.”

“If reports are true, members of Congress from both parties bargained away the rights of the people of the District of Columbia and in doing so compromised the core democratic values of the United States,” Kimberly Perry, head of the group D.C. Vote, said in a statement to The Washington Post.  

Efforts to secure full voting representation in Congress for D.C. residents have a long history of frustration. The reality is that the federal enclave is not a state, and therefore its residents do not enjoy the same voting rights of states, as granted by the US Constitution. The Constitution also grants Congress jurisdiction over the District.

In 1973, Congress established “home rule” in D.C., allowing local officials to govern the District. But Congress maintains the right to overrule local decisions, including ballot measures.

Most of the time, Congress leaves D.C. alone, but on social policy,congressional Republicans have been known to jump in. On abortion policy, the District is not allowed to use its own tax revenues to fund the procedure for low-income residents. Republicans in Congress blocked sales of medical marijuana in D.C. for 11 years.

In the current Congress, Rep. Andy Harris (R) of Maryland is spearheading the effort to thwart legalized recreational marijuana in D.C. He claims “fairly broad-based support in Congress against legalization.”

But marijuana advocates aren’t taking this lying down.

“Tonight we march!” tweeted Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign, Wednesday morning.

Monday
Dec292014

The Hill's Senate Analysis Is Flawed

Talk about coincidence, just a few days after I explained why Democrats will not recapture the United States Senate in 2016, The Hill has posted an article on ten senators who could lose.  They list the three Republicans I noted as vulnerable (Mark Kirk in Illinois, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Pat Toomey in Pennysylvania) and they also agree with me that two Democrats, Harry Reid in Nevada and Michael Bennet in Colorado, could be in trouble.

However, if you read the article (which I will copy here), details hardly bear out the lead sentence contention that Democrats could well retake the Senate.

All five of the remaining Republicans they claim as vulnerable, even by their own admission, are really not all that vulnerable at all.  

The story acknowledges that Florida will be in play only if Marco Rubio runs for President; he says he will not run for both.  

The writer is way off base if he thinks Kelly Ayotte is in trouble in New Hampshire. In fact, I'm hearing that Governor Maggie Hassan is beginning to realize Ayotte is unbeatable will pass up a chance to run against her.  Ayotte will win by double digits and will have coattails--I repeat what I wrote Saturday--she won by 23 points in 2010 after surviving a tough primary which she won't have in 2016.

While Ohio is indeed a swing state, Rob Portman will win easily, and Lisa Murkowski is about as sure a bet in Alaska as you can find.  After all, she won in 2010 as a write-in after losing the Republican party.

In North Carolina, Richard Burr has the advantage of incumbency; he won by a dozen points in 2010; and even The Hill notes that he'll be tough to compete against.  In polling against four likely opponents, Burr currently holds leads of between seven and 13 points.  No responsible pundit shoud forecast him losing!  

The story also acknowledges that even Toomey will be tough to take out in Pennsylvania, so they really are grasping at straws to get to ten senators who could lose.

The Hill also notes that Reid, especially if Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval decides to run, and Bennet could prove especially vulnerable for Democrrats.

The Hill fails to mention a third potentially vulnerable Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington.  I suspect she'll win, but her margin was less than five points in 2010, and she certainly should be cosidered more vulnerable than Portman, Ayotte, Rubin, and Murkowski.

I'm glad to see this article because while hoping to make the case of major Democratic gains in the Senate, it really convinces me that I got it right when I posted that analysis as I was sipping coffee in The Second Cup in Montreal over the weekend.  

I stand by my early outlook that very little will change in 2016--in either the U.S. House or Senate or in the N.H. House or Senate.  Barring a runaway at the top of the ticket (run, Liz, run!), Republicans should hold everything and might even pick up the New Hampshire Governor's seat which they've held for only two of the last 20 years.

Here's The Hill story with the caveat that I totally disagree with five of the ten picks.  (Maybe The Hill should run my story which included victory margins from 2010). 

December 28, 2014, 03:18 pm 

10 senators who could lose in 2016

Senate Republicans will have to work hard to retain their recently won majority as they face a tough 2016 electoral map.

They have 24 seats up compared to Democrats' 10, including seven in states President Obama carried twice. Democrats won't have any red-state senators facing reelection and could be buoyed by a favorable presidential-year electorate.

 

Republicans do have some margin for error after their sweeping 2014 win netted them nine seats for a 54-seat Senate majority. Democrats won't have it easy either, with Senate Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) facing a strong challenge.

 

But Democrats are cautiously optimistic they can win back control just two years after losing it — and Republicans admit that they have a fight on their hands.

“It'll be tough but it's definitely not impossible. We only need four seats if we win the White House and we start off with four very vulnerable Republicans,” said one national Democratic strategist.

“There are just some hardcore blue presidential states,” said a national Republican strategist.

Here are 10 senators in danger of losing in 2016.

1. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)

Kirk narrowly defeated a scandal-plagued Democratic candidate by less than 2 points in the 2010 Republican wave election. In the 2016 presidential election year, he will likely face a much more Democratic electorate.

The senator has worked hard to bolster his bipartisan credentials, backing immigration reform, gun control and environmental protections. He was also the second Republican senator to embrace gay marriage.

His hard-fought battle to return from a debilitating stroke could also earn him sympathy from voters.

Kirk told The Hill in November that he’s running “come hell or high water,” seeking to dispel rumors he might retire.

But in deep-blue Illinois even the strongest Republicans face uphill battles. Democrats are eying Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and Reps. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Cheri Bustos (Ill.) and Bill Foster (Ill.) as potential challengers.

 

2. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

Polls show Johnson isn’t that well-known or well-liked in Democratic-leaning Wisconsin, where he won by 5 points in the 2010 GOP wave.

He may face a rematch against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in a high-turnout election year. Adding to his worries: No GOP presidential nominee has carried Wisconsin in more than three decades.

Johnson has done little to build bipartisan credentials in the Democratic-leaning state, and Feingold is giving serious consideration to another run.

The big question is whether the former senator has learned his lesson after refusing outside money in 2010, letting Johnson outspend him by a wide margin, and declining to air any attack ads. If Feingold is the nominee and runs a smarter campaign this time around, Johnson could face an uphill battle to hold his seat.

 

3. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Polls show Reid’s approval numbers are underwater in his home state. Strategists in both parties say he’d be the underdog if popular Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who just won reelection with more than 70 percent of the vote, decides to run against him.

Even if Sandoval doesn’t run, Democrats admit Reid may have a tough fight on his hands if Republicans can find a strong candidate.

But Nevada has been trending Democratic due to its fast-growing Hispanic population, and the party tends to do much better there in presidential years. Reid also won by a surprisingly comfortable margin in 2010 against a deeply flawed Republican candidate, and has proven to be a scrappy campaigner.

His numbers, though, just aren’t that good in Nevada — and the soon-to-be Senate minority leader is likely to face a tough fight.

 

4. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Toomey faces a potential rematch against former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who he defeated by a narrow margin in 2010.

The senator has worked hard to shed his image as an unyielding Tea Party candidate, working with Democrats on fiscal issues and taking the lead in crafting gun-control legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Democrats admit he’ll be a tough out — but they believe Pennsylvania’s blue lean in presidential years means Toomey's in trouble.

 

5. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

Ayotte hails from more of a swing state than Toomey, Kirk and Johnson, and Republicans believe she’s done well to shore herself up in New Hampshire.

But Democrats think she’s beatable if they find the right candidate — and are hoping they can convince Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to run.

 

6. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)

Polls show Burr isn’t that well-known in North Carolina, a tremendously difficult state to build name recognition because of its 15 distinct media markets. He also has little money in the bank for his reelection bid.

Burr has worked hard to establish himself as an even-tempered lawmaker and while North Carolina has moved Democratic in recent years it still leans slightly Republican overall.

Democrats are hoping they can find a top-tier candidate to challenge him — potentially outgoing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who lost a close race last month. They concede that the quality of their candidate and the national political climate will likely determine whether or not they can compete in North Carolina.

 

7. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Bennet narrowly won in 2010 against a gaffe-prone Republican and is coming off a rough cycle as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also just lost his home-state colleague, outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), defeated by Sen.-elect Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

Colorado has trended Democratic but remains a pure toss-up state — as Gardner’s win shows. The big question is whether Republicans can find another candidate of Gardner’s quality, as strategists admit they have a relatively thin bench in the state.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) could be a top recruit that could put the seat in play.

 

8. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Rubio has said he won’t run for both reelection and the presidency, and the swing-state seat would become a tossup if he decides to focus on a White House bid.

Democrats contend they have an outside shot at Rubio even if he runs for reelection, and tout potential candidates including Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) and Rep.-elect Gwen Graham (D-Fla.). Both are fresh-faced members who won in Republican-leaning districts. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is another possibility.

 

9. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

Portman recently declared he’ll run for reelection instead of making a White House bid, and strategists in both parties say he’ll be tough to beat. Portman is a fundraising powerhouse and has done little to stir controversy while in the Senate.

But Democrats are hopeful they can compete in swing-state Ohio if they land a top recruit — and are mentioning former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) as the type of candidate who could give him a tough fight.

 

10. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Murkowski is by far Alaska’s most popular politician, and has been preparing for reelection ever since her surprise 2010 primary loss and subsequent write-in general election victory.

But her old foe, 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller (R), may give her another challenge, and her support for abortion rights, gay marriage and centrist fiscal and energy positions gives him fodder to again attack her in a primary.

Democrats also mention outgoing Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) as a candidate who could compete with her and Miller in a theoretical three-way race. She’s unlikely to lose a reelection bid — but her race is one to closely.

Sunday
Dec282014

Ballot Selfies Out; But Casino Selfies Are In

Talk about irony.

  •  
  • Casino de Montréal

At about the same time the New Hampshire Legislature was fighting against technology and making it illegal to take a selfie of the ballot you cast at the polls, photos were being legalized in a place you'd least expect it, a casino.

In fact, the Montreal Casino is now encouraging its patrons to take and post pictures of themselves.  I first saw word of it in a brochure for the new video game room (ZZ Zone) where a hundred people can play the same hand of black jack or baccarat or a spin of the roulette wheel at the same time.

Post a selfie and you are entered in a lottery for prizes.

Among the lowest bets in the casino

Blackjack $5

Roulette $1

Baccarat $5

What will they think of next in an endeavor to part people from their money? Letting children in perhaps?

I've always been told that filming or photography is strictly forbidden in casinos, so I asked the customer service representative, and she explained that times have changed.  You can take all the pictures you want now, as long as you don't include other patrons in your shots (a tough rule to enforce it would seem).

Sure enough, people were posting their selfies and they were up on a large screen in the new room, and the dealer/host/announcer was pointing them out between hands (while people were placing their next bet).

Not long ago, the casino first allowed patrons to drink alcohol at their playing stations.

Profits must be down, so this casino is doing everything it can to generate profits, all of which go to the province of Quebec; the government manages all casinos, so the dollar you throw into that slot machine is being used to defray taxes (or more likely, to spend more).  Yes, it could be considered a regressive tax.  Lower income people tend to flock to casinos, but that's another story.

The new video game room allows five dollar minimum black jack bets, something that was abandoned long ago; minimums were raised to twenty dollars at the tables, the reason I stopped playing--too rich for my blood.  The thinking must be that since there are many more players (everybody has his or her own terminal), the casino can make money with the lower bets again (I was tempted to play after I figured out how the system works but resisted).

You decide whether you want to stand or hit, and the computer instantly flashes an indication of how many people playing hitting.  It's fascinating.  I've always played using what is called "basic strategy" in which you automatically hit, stand, double down, or split based on what you have and what the dealer shows for a hold card.  In simplest terms, you should hit on less that 17 if the dealer has a seven or higher card showing.

Thanks to this new game system, I learned that far fewer people seem to be hitting than basic strategy would dictate.  Fascinating.

There's also an exciting atmosphere in the room with hip music and lots of video; when the house busts (trop), an entire wall is lit up with video confetti.  The crowd tends to be much younger than for other gaming areas.

Call it marketing--alcohol at your table, lower bets again, and selfies actually encouraged with prizes awarded.  Apparently the casino is also making a special effort to draw in the physically challenged; I must have seen a dozen wheel chairs in the short time I was there.  No, I'm not making it up.  

Maybe in New Hampshire instead of banning ballot selfies, we should take a tip from the Montreal casino.  To get more people to vote, maybe we should offer prizes, a lottery for anyone who posts a ballot selfie on the Secretary of State's web site.  Somehow, I don't think Bill Gardner would like that.

 

 

Saturday
Dec272014

Don't Expect Democrats To Retake U.S. Senate In 2016

Hardly had the dust settled from the Republican sweep in the 2014 election than pundits everywhere from MSNBC to Julie Masson's Press Pool and probably even Fox News were saying, "Oh sure, Republicans have the Senate now, but look at the 2016 map; Democrats will win the Senate back."

Indeed, I looked at the map, and yes, it's true that 24 of the 34 seats to be contested in two years are currently held by Republicans; thus, there's more risk.

However, if you look a little bit further, you'll notice that only six of the 34 races were decided by less than ten points in 2010; three close ones were won by Republicans (Mark Kirk by 1.9 in Illinois; Pat Toomey by 2.0 in Pennsylvania; and Ron Johnson by 4.9 in Wisconsin)  and three close ones were won by Democrats (Michael Bennet by 1.2 in Colorado; Harry Reid by 5.6 in Nevada; and Patty Murray by 4.8 in Washington).

Not only that but many of the 24 Republicans up for re-election (and most are choosing to run again) won by 20, 30, or 40 points (yes, even 50 points in one case), not exactly ripe terrain for Democratic gains.

You would undoubtedly trust me...or perhaps I should make all the pro-Democratic pundits look this up for themselves, but I actually printed it out just after the election (before Begich had thrown in the towel in Alaska and Landrieu had lost in Louisiana in fact).  So here's a bit of the data; let's do this quickly.

Lisa Murkowski won as a write-in in Alaska; she beat the Democrat by 15 points (39.3 to 35.5 for Republican Joe Miller and 24.2 for Democrat Scott McAdams).

Richard Shelby didn't even have an opponent in Alabama.

John McCain won Arizona by 24.5 points. He'll be 80 but is likely to run again (unfortunately).

John Boozman won Arkansas by 21.1 points.

Marco Rubio won Florida by 19.2 points.

Johnny Isakson won Georgia by 18.9 points.

Ready for this one--Mike Crapo won Idaho by 46.1 points (71.1-25.0).

Dan Coats won Indiana by 18.3 points.

Chuck Grassley won Iowa by 31.3 points.

Here's another stunner--Jerry Moran won Kansas by 44.1 points (70.3-26.2).

Ron Paul won Kentucky by 11.6 points.

David Vitter won Louisiana by 18.9 points.  He's running for governor, but certainly Republicans should hold this senate seat.  A Mary Ladrieu return perhaps?

Roy Blount won Missouri by 13.7 points.

Kelly Ayotte won New Hampshire by 23.5 points.

Richard Burr won North Carolina by 12.1 points.

Are you ready?  John Hoeven won North Dakota--this is no typo--by 54.0 points (76.2-22.2).

Rob Portman won bellweather Ohio by 18.3 points.

James Lankford won Oklahoma by 38.9 points.

Tim Scott won South Carolina by 24.1 points.

John Thune didn't even have an opponent in South Dakota.

Mike Lee won Utah by 28.8 points. 

We know now that Republicans have a four seat advantage, 54-46, and while it's way too early to make state by state predictions, I'd be surprised if Democrats net more than a two seat gain.

The Illinois seat should be in play; Senator Kirk, who had a stroke, may not run again but if he does, there could be a sympathy backlash.  My printout includes polling data which shows him tied 41-41 with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and beating Michelle Obama 47-42 (yes, her name is being floated; after all, if it's good enough for Hillary, it should be good enough for Michelle).

Ron Johnson is losing by ten points in a rematch with Russ Feingold, so Democrats should have an edge in Wisconisn.  

Pat Toomey will be close (most likely against Joe Sestak again) in Pennsylvania, but I wouldn't bet against him.

Of seats held by Democrats, Harry Reid's fate will depend on his Republican opponent.  The worst case scenario is that Governor Brian Sandoval (who just won with 70 percent of the vote two months ago) will challenge Reid; my cousin in Las Vegas tells me Sandoval has promised to stay as governor, but those promises mean very little.  I'm also told that Sharon Angle is no longer in the picture, good news for Republicans.

Colorado, as with the Udall-Gardner race this year, should be a toss-up.  Michael Bennett won by only a point (47.7-46.5) in 2010, and that was against a rather far right Republican (Buck), so a more moderate candidate conceivably could take the seat from Bennett.

I don't expect Murray will be in trouble again in Washington, so it looks like the four most likely states to change hands are two each way:  Illinois, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Colorado; maybe Pennsylvania.

Despite Republicans having to defend 24 of 34 seats, we could see a wash come 2016.

Just to point out how Democratic leaning media types are grasping at stars, the MSNBC numbers cruncher listed Illinois, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania as the top three Republican seats in play--and rightly so--but the best he could do for number four was our own Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.  If that's the best they can do for number four, forget about it.  Ayotte beat a sitting Congressman (Hodes) by 23.5 points (60.2-36.7) in 2010.  Her favorability is way ahead of any other politician in the state, including Jeanne Shaheen.  Not only will Ayotte win easily in 2016, but she should have coattails like she did last time; and she could end the career of Govenor Maggie Hassan should Hassan be so bold as to challenge Ayotte.

So much for Democrats retaking the Senate in 2016.

Of course, if every sitting senator decides to run for President (Rand Paul is up in Kentucy, Marco Rubio in Florida), the plot might thicken somewhat but barring a blowout at the top of the ticket (President Warren?), Republicans are safer than any pundit would have you believe 22 months out from new Senate elections.

Saturday
Dec272014

Cuba Move Boosts Obama's Standing (Slightly)

With only a few days remaining in the year, Barack Obama is on the cusp; he's hanging in there, not quite down double digits in favorability, but about as close as you could get.  The Real Clear Politics average has him down 9.9 points, slightly better than where he was most of the year when his party suffered substantial losses in the midterm election.  Note the wide gap between CNN (-2), Rasmussen (-3) and ABC News (-18) and Reuters (-17); this is rather puzzling; polls should not be that far apart.  

The GW Battleground Poll (-7 for Obama) is lengthy and includes some interesting data; just click onto it down below.  For example, by a 49-42 margin people prefer government to get out of the way and let the free enterprise system work things out.  Amen.

The recent move to normalize relations with Cuba might explain Obama's slight pop up in popularity. Two new polls have support for the Cuba move in the two to one range, 64-31 percent with the Washington Post and 54-28 with CBS News. Rasmussen has support at 49-28.  Some polls have a rather high number of undecided, but among those who have made up their minds, the Cuba move is clearly a plus for the President (I give him tremendous credit for it; and I'm not exactly known as an Obama fan).

Here are the latest numbers for Obama from RCP.

PollDateSampleApproveDisapproveSpread
RCP Average 12/3 - 12/26 -- 42.6 52.5 -9.9
Gallup 12/22 - 12/26 1500 A 43 51 -8
Rasmussen Reports 12/21 - 12/23 1500 LV 48 51 -3
CNN/Opinion Research 12/18 - 12/21 1011 A 48 50 -2
The Economist/YouGov 12/13 - 12/15 698 RV 44 54 -10
ABC News/Wash Post 12/11 - 12/14 RV 39 57 -18
NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl 12/10 - 12/14 1000 A 45 50 -5
Reuters/Ipsos 12/10 - 12/14 2096 A 37 54 -17
GWU/Battleground 12/7 - 12/11 1000 LV 43 50 -7
FOX News 12/7 - 12/9 1043 RV 42 53 -11
Associated Press/GfK 12/4 - 12/8 1010 A 41 58 -17
McClatchy/Marist 12/3 - 12/9 923 RV 43 52 -9
USA Today/Pew Research 12/3 - 12/7 1507 A 42 51 -9
Bloomberg 12/3 - 12/5 1001 A 39 52 -13

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All President Obama Job Approval Polling Data

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