Military Bastions

December 18, 2012
The election is behind them and the holidays are here, but Americans are in a dour mood about the future, particularly where the economy is concerned. More than half of them, 53%, think the country is headed in the “wrong direction” and more than a quarter, 28%, say they expect the economy will be worse next year than it is now, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers won’t likely bring smiles to the White House, but what they actually mean and represent requires a little digging. Four years of economic ups and (mostly) downs seem to have taken a toll on the traditionally sunny American perspective. And, as one might expect, there is subdued enthusiasm for a year ahead that essentially returns an unpopular status quo to Washington to govern. But there are also deep partisan divides in evidence in this poll. And there is at least some evidence that those attitudes are having an exaggerated effect on how those people perceive the...
December 6, 2012
Over the past few decades the Republican Party has been a kind of three-legged stool, supported by three key elements – an abiding belief in cutting government and taxes, a strong advocacy of social conservative issues and a solid commitment to a strong national defense. Those issues helped build a winning coalition that included tax-cut favoring suburbanites, Christian conservatives and defense hawks. But the last few elections suggest some of those legs may be getting a little rickety – particularly the one built on national defense. In Patchwork Nation, the shift has been particularly noticeable in the counties we call Military Bastions.  Those counties tend to be located near military bases and have large numbers of soldiers, veterans and military contractors. And in the last two elections now – elections that might be considered largely post-Iraq War – the GOP has seen its advantage in the Bastions shrink from double digits to low single-digit...
November 19, 2012
Hyperbole is a staple of Washington political discourse – particularly on the negative side. Speeches are full of references to  “disasters” and “catastrophes” that are lurking just around the corner. But sequestration, the much-discussed “fiscal cliff,” is the rare case where the hazards on the horizon look very real and very far-reaching. The impact of the cuts that would come if the government cannot reach a compromise on a debt reduction plan by January – more than 8% in discretionary funding by estimates – would stretch far beyond the Beltway. When voters think of government austerity, the talk often centers on the halls of congress or the federal agencies that line the Mall in Washington, but that misses the point. The money that comes out of the capital finds its way into cities and towns across the country — and cutting it sharply would affect not only the national macroeconomy, but thousands of smaller...
November 5, 2012
Of all the toss-up states left in the 2012 campaign, Virginia may be the most difficult to get a read on. Driving across the complex mix of communities, economies and politics is like driving through several different states. The growth and increasing power in the moderate, left-leaning suburbs of Washington, D.C., has pushed the state more firmly into the battleground column in the past few elections. But it doesn’t take long to get into territory dominated by socially conservative evangelical voters or to reach the state’s socially liberal college center and the large pockets of military and veteran voters on the southern shore. Somewhere in that mix is a formula of support, turnout and enthusiasm for President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that will determine who will carry Virginia and its 13 electoral votes. But as polls have shown, figuring which way the state will break is not easy and with just...
October 19, 2012
The story of Mitt Romney’s gender gap issues are well-known to most by now. Since he locked down the Republican nomination this spring, the former Massachusetts governor’s struggles with winning women voters have been chronicled in a slew of polls showing he has nearly a double-digit deficit with them. But as we have noted in this space, it’s not really as easy as saying that Mr. Romney has a “women problem.” Women represent more than half of the U.S. population and more than half of the electorate. They are hard to characterize as a single voting bloc. When you look at the gender gap through the filter of Patchwork Nation’s breakdown of 12 different kinds of counties, it dissolves – or at least grows murkier. In counties where Mr. Romney does well overall, he wins the “women’s vote” – by large margins in some places. In places where he generally struggles, he loses among women badly. But he also has a...
October 15, 2012
Every few years America’s major political parties get very interested in getting people registered to vote – or maybe more accurately, in getting the “right” people registered to vote. It’s a lot easier to come up with a winning hand on Election Day when the deck is stacked in your favor. So, for months now, supporters of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have been knocking on doors and standing corners trying to register like-minded people. In a close election every vote may count, particularly in the swing states. To get an idea of who’s ahead in the registration game, Politics Counts looked at the tallies in key states where voters register as Democrats or Republicans – Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. We then compared those figures to previous voter registration counts in 2008 and 2004. Who’s winning? That depends on the state you look at and the...
October 10, 2012
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, unemployment has driven much of the national conversation, and with good reason. Even as the stock market has recovered, the struggles of ordinary Americans in the job market continues, with the latest unemployment report showing the jobless rate finally dipping below 8 percent for the first time since early 2009. But what does the unemployment conversation look like? While the national media and campaign rhetoric often boil the issue down to numbers or anecdotes, it is a much broader topic that carries with it a host of different concerns and fears in people — losing one's pension, losing one's home, losing one's future. To get an understanding of just how different those conversations are, the Jefferson Institute analyzed 20 months' worth of blogs, news stories and story comments in communities around the country, focusing on three crucial presidential swing states: Florida, Ohio and Virginia. We combed...
May 29, 2012
With Memorial Day on everyone's minds, veterans and the military vote have become a more serious focus in the 2012 campaign. In the last few weeks, President Barack Obama has reached out to military voters on the Web and on TV with the aim of slicing away pieces of what has been a reliable part of the Republican base. Since the Cold War, the GOP’s reputation for being the party of a “strong national defense” has generally won it loyal and crucial support from active duty soldiers and veterans. In 2004, President George W. Bush won the veteran vote by a solid 16 percentage points and that was campaigning against a decorated Vietnam veteran in Sen. John Kerry. But in 2008 that margin shrank. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain still won the veteran vote, but by only 10 percentage points. And in 2012 Mr. Obama looks eager to cut into that difference even more. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that presumptive Republican...
May 24, 2012
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. | Memorial Day weekend will feel a little different this year than any in the past decade in this small town in southwestern Kentucky. After years of seeing thousands of local soldiers deployed from nearby Fort Campbell, Memorial Day 2012 finds most of the community's transient citizens home, present and accounted for. And that has had some big impacts on the area emotionally and economically. The recession that has rocked the nation is playing out a little differently in Hopkinsville, a Military Bastion in Patchwork Nation's demographic/geographic breakdown of counties. The effects of the economic downturn were accentuated in some ways by the upheaval of a steady stream of troop deployments and re-deployments, as tens of thousands of soldiers were often missing from the area's population -- and its retail establishments. In recent months, the economic recovery has been reinforced and sped along with the return of those men and women from overseas...
April 30, 2012
If you were searching for a one-word description for the American electorate in 2012, or even in the past few elections, “volatile” would almost certainly be on your short list. Looking at the results from the recent elections is enough to give you a case of whiplash. Big Democratic wins in 2006 and 2008 gave way to a GOP landslide in 2010 and it all sets the table for what most believe will be a close presidential race this fall. Those are some serious mood swings, but they’re not completely surprising when you consider the economic troubles that have been rocking the U.S. in recent years. Volatile times make for volatile voters – and that is particularly true it seems for some places. Working with data from the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Patchwork Nation has broken its 12 county types into three broader groups – Core Democratic Counties, Core Republican Counties and Competitive Counties. Month-to-month numbers slow fluctuations in all...